Wednesday, 26 November 2008

yet another meme - prompting some thoughts

Spotted this time on debsi's site

Pass it on to five other bloggers, and tell them to open the nearest book to page 56. Write out the fifth sentence on that page, and also the next two to five sentences. The CLOSEST BOOK, NOT YOUR FAVORITE, OR MOST INTELLECTUAL!

Well, as it happened, hidden under a bunch of papers on my desk was "Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth" by Wolkstein and Kramer.

P.56 (Inanna is demanding entry into the underworld)

Across her forehead her dark locks of hair are perfectly arranged.
Around her neck, she wears the small lapis beads.
At her breast she wears the double strand of beads.
Her body is wrapped in the royal robe.
Her eyes are daubed with the ointment called, "Let him come, let him come."
Around her chest she wears the breastplate called "Come, man, come!"

It seems beyond coincidence that this meme should crop up now and that it should lead me to the point in the story where Inanna, just prior to her own descent, is being described to her sister, Ereshkigal, the Queen of the Underworld.

This is a story i have told many times in many different places. I remember the thrill of recognition that I felt when I first read it - it felt somehow very familiar and, well, right. It is the earliest literary occurrence - so far translated anyway - of the descent into the underworld motif that appears in so many different accounts throughout our history. It even has the three days of death that is to appear later in the Jesus myth.

Unlike Jesus's myth, however, this was not undertaken in order to "take away the sins of the world" but as a response to some strange, undefined, call - she "turned her ear to the Great Below". It is not a redemptive journey but one of transformation - the Inanna who emerges from the underworld is not the same woman who entered but is one who has confronted and embraced her own inner demons. She is not a "good girl" in any way but has accepted herself in her totality - fully aware of her power and prepared to use it.

In order to get to this point, however, she had to lose all her previous certainties and preconceptions. She had to lose all pretence and become naked and vulnerable as she saw the face of her shadow twin, Ereshkigal, and merged with her - dying to herself in order to be reborn whole by allowing her pain to be heard.

At least this is the way I currently understand this myth. But there is so much contained in this story - as well as the others in her mythos - that I do not see that one lifetime will be enough to do more than scratch the surface. For the tales of Inanna, I believe, hold the keys to both the beginnings of the ills of our civilisation and the beginnings of their healing.

Aspasia, of La Libertine's salon, has written this in response to attacks on sex workers:

Gene Roddenberry lied, ladies; space is NOT the final frontier. Sexuality is and it is also the first frontier. ... When sexuality is dictated by an outside party, by someone else, then no other civil rights will be had. Understand this. Control sex, control the person.

Renegade Evolution has asked in a recent posting why, when and how did sexuality become bound up with so many taboos, restrictions etc. She has also resurrected an old post in which she points out that it is precisely on the pathologising of sex that the porn industry, of which she is a part, thrives.

I have a few vague but developing ideas as to the "why" of Ren's questions but am a little clearer about the when and the how. In the stories of Inanna, we see a woman who is uninhibited in the enjoyment of her own body and that of her lover. In the later Babylonian myths, however, we see the same goddess, now called Ishtar, being labelled "whore" by Gilgamesh. And this label remains to this day, having taken a starring role in the paranoid ravings from Patmos that we now know as the Book of Revelations.

We are still living in that nightmare. But I believe it is possible to wake up before the script that was written reaches its hideous end. Goddess has many names and many faces. For me She is Inanna and I will tell her story as best I can. For, to use Aspasia's metaphor, She is, to me, the first and the final frontier. The goddess of total being.

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