When Inanna arrived at the outer gates of the underworld,
She knocked loudly.
She cried in a fierce voice:
Open the door gatekeeper!
Open the door Neti!
I alone would enter!

''I remembered my aim to have inner stillness and was filled with an unusual sense of calm. I felt very much in the moment, alive and strong like Inanna herself.''

Neti, the chief gatekeeper of the kur, asked:
Who are you?

She answered:
I am Inanna, Queen of Heaven,
On my way to the East.

''As Neti, I tried to switch off my own personality. When I said the first words I felt energy around and in my whole body. I had a sense of compassion for Inanna as I removed the symbols of her power at every gate."

Neti said:
If you are truly Inanna, Queen of Heaven,
On your way to the East,
Why has your heart led you on the road
From which no traveler returns?

Inanna answered:
Because... of my older sister, Ereshkigal,
Her husband, Gugalanna, the Bull of Heaven, has died.
I have come to witness the funeral rites.
Let the beer of his funeral rites be poured into the cup.
Let it be done.

''I remember not feeling nervous. I made an effort to make contact with the audience, and to observe my body while I was narrating. I felt quite solid. This was a new feeling. My voice felt different, as if someone else’s voice was coming out of my mouth, and I was listening to it. The voice was familiar but strange at the same time."

Neti spoke:
Stay here Inanna, I will speak to my queen.
I will give her your message

Neti, the chief gatekeeper of the kur
Entered the palace of Ereshkigal, the queen of the underworld, and said:
My queen, a maid
As tall as heaven,
As wide as the Earth,
As strong as the foundations of the city wall,

''Many times I found myself wondering at the ancientness of the story of Inanna . The thought that we might have been trying to achieve similar objectives to those of an ancient group of people similar to ourselves, many thousands of years ago, through the performance of this myth, brings a strange flavour.''

Waits outside the palace gates.
She has gathered together the seven me.
She has taken them into her hands
With the me in her possession, she has prepared herself:

''I feel we were engaged in an act of transmission. I feel this experience will have even more meaning for me in the future.''


On her head she wears the shugurra, the crown of the steppe.
Across her forehead her dark locks of hair are carefully arranged.
Around her neck she wears the small lapis beads.
At her breast she wears the double strand of beads.
Her body is wrapped with the royal robe.

''Before the performance I had mixed feelings of excitement, fear and tension. Once we got on stage I was trying to remember the words I had to say, but also to remember to be more present, to be behind my eyes and observe myself."


Her eyes are dabbed with the ointment called, "let him come, let him come."
Around her chest she wears the breastplate called "come, man, come."
On her wrist she wears the gold ring.
In her hand she carries the lapis measuring rod and line.

When Ereshkigal heard this,
She slapped her thigh and bit her lip.
She took the matter into her heart and dwelt on it.

''On stage I didn't feel alone. I couldn't see everybody, but I felt their presence. While I was reading, I had a strong sense of myself; I heard my voice; I was trying to remember about breathing between each sentence; and I felt a connection between my feet and the stage.''

Then she spoke:
Come Neti, my chief gatekeeper of the kur,
Heed my words:
Bolt the seven gates of the underworld.
Then, one by one, open each gate a crack.
Let Inanna enter.
As she enters, remove her royal garments.
Let the holy priestess of heaven enter bowed low.

" I felt happiness when we finished - it felt as if we'd managed to build something together."

 

Excerpt taken from "Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns From Sumer" by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer. Harper & Rowe, Publishers.

Quotes are the experiences of the participants in the performance.