What did You do, O Queen of Heaven, for those three long days You hung dead on the hook? Christ probably ascended to Heaven and returned once more in his three days, and Odin must have been absorbing all the knowledge of the universe in his nine nights, so what about you? While Ninshubur wept at Your absence and Ereshkigal writhed in birthing pains, where were You? Were You in Your heavy body experiencing for the first time how mortal flesh rots and decays? Or were You, like Odin, stretching out Your consciousness to touch the vast unknown? If myth be true, death buys the most precious secrets, especially if that death be a willing one bargained for truth. You must have learned something, for there are times when I can see the white skull grinning beneath Your skin or all the darkness of the underworld condensed into Your heavy-lidded eyes. But that is the reward of walking Your road, isn’t it; what knowledge You gained in death can be revealed only if we make such a sacrifice ourselves.
Inanna is the essence of divine autonomy – one may even say divine selfishness. Hers is the supreme confidence to say yes! and the innate audacity to say no! She neither dissembles nor waivers, neither gives up her standards nor gives in to another’s. She does all She desires and nothing She does not desire. She is beholden to no one and thus Her every action is made with absolute freedom of will. The Queen of Heaven has not broken Her chains because She never suffered them to exist in the first place. Inanna is the only sovereign of Inanna, and She can teach you to be the sole sovereign of yourself as well. Every time we exercise our right to self-care by saying yes to something we want or no to something we don’t, we tap into Her willpower. Her road isn’t easy, but it’s the path along which we regain our authority over ourselves and come out the other side wiser and stronger.
A maw of darkness gapes before me. Beyond the cave mouth a pathway descends steeply into the cold, primal earth. There is no light to be had down that trail, nor heat, nor companionship. I am finally here – the mouth of the underworld, the first gate of seven through which I must pass. At the end of this journey awaits my death… and, if I am very lucky and very brave, my rebirth. I need only take the first step. Why can’t I take the first step?
I always knew Inanna’s road would lead me here, though not for what purpose. I believe I finally understand, however, and now I the fool who a year ago swore to run boldly in Her ancient footsteps tremble in fear at the threshold. I’m not ready. I’m not ready. How did She do this? How did She walk into the waiting darkness knowing that at every gate She must surrender a piece of Her identity? I don’t know how to let go so easily as She. I don’t know how to leave behind the things which I have dragged with me all the years of my life: internalized misogyny, unattainable beauty standards, self-hate and self-doubt and self-sabotage. I know how to love someone else’s flaws but not my own.
I’ve wondered for years why I could never quite grasp Inanna’s full appearance, why She came to me naked and unadorned with face hidden in shadow. The answer is obvious in hindsight; She was forcing me to look past Her silk robes and glittering jewels, Her golden headdress and lapis lazuli scepter, past the various trappings of the Queen of Heaven and instead to the plain flesh beneath. I had no choice but to stare at Her round hips, Her soft stomach, all Her folds and curves which were so lovingly depicted in devotional art over 5500 years ago. She wants me to understand – and truly embrace – the fact that what I find beautiful in Her I cannot vilify in myself. I must respect my body for what it is: an extension of the divine.
My body issues feel insurmountable sometimes. I’m not sure I can even make it through the first gate of this journey the goddess intends for me, let alone all seven. I asked Inanna how I can learn to love my body; She gave me the tarot card Justice as a reminder that I am my own judge and jury and therefore control the harshness or leniency of my sentence. To make any progress I must learn to see my body through a loving lens, not one warped by society’s impossible standards and my own insecurities. Is that, then, the first sacrifice on this journey? Should I – can I – surrender that broken mirror so I may pass through the gate?
I lift my foot. I take the first step.
After completing the Bast FAQ I wanted to write one for Inanna. For all that She was an extremely important goddess in the ancient middle east, She doesn’t seem to have much of a following anymore – and often when She does, She just gets lumped in with other similar goddesses. It’s hard to find anything modern about Her worship so I hope my experiences can help anyone else who has been called by Her or is considering working with Her. Again, the following is all based on my own UPG (unverified personal gnosis).
What’s Her personality like?
Inanna shows Herself to me as a copper-skinned woman with dark red hair, very reminiscent of the Gerudo race from The Legend of Zelda. Her fierce warrior essence and proud sensuality give Her an alluring “don’t fuck with me” vibe that’s definitely intimidating – She is the Queen of Heaven and you won’t forget it when you’re in Her presence! In the beginning I saw mostly her warrior side, that part of Inanna which rejoices on the battlefield and destroys entire mountains for not bowing to Her. This aspect must be respected; Inanna’s temper is short and Her memory long. Over time, however, I have come to see Her ‘softer’ aspects more clearly. As a goddess of love and sexuality, She embraces all regardless of perceived flaws and encourages self-love and self-care. Though She may lead you through the underworld to face your deepest fears and secrets, She will also lead you back out into the light. Inanna is the embodiment of tough love, which we all need sometimes in our lives. She will expect a lot from you but never more than you can give.
How did She come into your life?
About two years ago I dreamed about a goddess who was totally white – white skin, white hair, white eyes, like a marble statue – and who had a white snake coiled around Her neck so that it looked almost like ram’s horns. In the dream She asked me, “Why have I been summoned?” in a resounding, thunderous voice, and when I woke I had the name Inanna on my lips. I didn’t know She would be a real goddess; I’d never heard of Her before nor knew anything about the Sumerian pantheon. When I googled Her, though, I found out She was THE goddess of the ancient middle east, powerful and greatly worshiped for ages, and even connected with the earliest named author (a woman!!) in human history. Talk about intimidating…
What does your devotion to Her look like?
For the first year or so of my devotion to Inanna it was a lot of “hurry up and wait”. She indicated She had plans for me, but that I wasn’t ready yet. Therefore, for a good portion of that time I just had a small altar for Her at which I would pray and offer food weekly. Every month or so I’d check in to see if things were moving – and sometimes had Inanna AND Bast tell me I wasn’t ready! At the beginning of this year, 2018, things started to pick up. Inanna indicated She is in my life for two reasons: one, to help me better love myself (especially my body) and two, to assist me as I take up witchcraft. So lately I’ve been trying to honor Her by being kinder to myself physically, mentally, and emotionally, as well as allowing myself to really dive into my interest in witchcraft. Basically any time I stick up for myself or feel like a truly capable, badass person, that’s a tribute in part to Inanna.
Can I worship Her if I’m [insert race/orientation/diagnosis/etc]?
Since Inanna’s expertise covers such a wide array of topics – love, sex, war, government, knowledge, the underworld, fertility, freedom, gender equality, queerness, joy, wrath, courage, magic, and more – just about anyone could follow Her as long as they weren’t actively working against something that falls under Her purview. However, I believe certain groups are especially under Her protection and care, including women and queer people. Inanna has historical connections with gender-swapping, androgyny, and trans-ness, and Her role as a goddess of love and personal autonomy make Her a strong ally for anyone who’s queer or otherwise marginalized by society.
How do I go about initially connecting with Her?
Inanna is scary – and it’s okay to admit that! She wants to be scary. She wants to be intimidating. She wants to know that you’re ready to put the hard work in and that you can handle Her at Her toughest. Never forget that She’s a goddess of war who asks a lot from Her followers. Set some time aside to focus before you reach out to Her, then light some candles, offer up something nice (that won’t break your bank, of course), and introduce yourself. While you don’t need to grovel in the dirt or anything, try to remain formally respectful. Use some of Her epithets and state your intention politely. Inanna isn’t a goddess to go to with instant demands or only when you need a quick fix; everything with Her takes time. If your first connection is weak or it seems like nothing “happened”, just wait and try again. Perseverance will get you far with Her.
How should I communicate with Her?
Everyone will have their own method of communicating with a deity so experiment and see what works for you. I usually use tarot to speak with Inanna when I want a more in-depth answer and this works fine for me – though She can be very blunt! She is partial to the swords and pentacles suits and identified Herself to me as the Strength card. I have also had Her communicate with me through signs like finding crow feathers, certain songs, Day of the Dead imagery, and even several fictional characters. Once you make contact with Her, you might be surprised at all the ways and places She suddenly pops up.
What kinds of offerings does She like?
Inanna is a little picky when it comes to offerings, I’ve learned. While you can get away with the basics (bread, water, etc) if that’s all you have, She definitely knows when you can do better and She’ll make sure you know She knows. For Inanna quality is definitely preferred over quantity. Buy or make something for Her specifically and you’re much more likely to earn Her approval than if you make Her share an offering with other gods or give Her something thoughtless. Don’t worry, though, She’ll be sure to tell you when She wants something!
Some specific offerings I know She likes include: dark chocolate, baked goods, kombucha, apple cider, pomegranates, rose quartz, carnelian, garnet, lapis lazuli, flowers, skulls (especially bird skulls) or skull motifs, candles (I go with something spicy like frankincense and myrrh), bullets, nails, statues, raven figurines or artwork, moodboards, red and gold, witchcraft-related items (athames, cauldrons, mortar and pestle, etc), celestial motifs, dancing, and jewelry (especially snake-themed).
Does She require ritual purity?
Inanna has never required me to be ritually pure to approach Her altar, though I usually already am because I cleanse myself before talking with Bast. That being said, it’s probably not a bad idea – Inanna expects and appreciates respect, and adhering to ritual of any sort is a good way to show respect.
How does She feel about Her followers worshiping other gods as well?
Not only does Inanna come from a very large pantheon, She is heavily associated with other goddesses such as Ishtar, Isis, Venus, and Aphrodite. Given this connection, I don’t think She would have any issue with a follower of Hers worshiping other gods. That being said, I’ve noticed two pet peeves of Hers. One, She doesn’t seem to like sharing altar space if it can be helped – She is much happier with Her own dedicated space. Two, She wants to be recognized as Inanna Herself, not just a carbon copy of Ishtar or other similar goddesses. Every time I considered getting a statue of Ishtar for Her, since finding one of Inanna is rather difficult, I received a very strong NO. I think the similarities between Her and other goddesses can be appreciated and drawn upon in your practice, but you should remember that Inanna is Her own entity and not just an offshoot of any other deity.
I hope this helps!
Kneeling before Inanna’s altar I eat a pomegranate with my hands, bloody juice dripping down my fingers and chin. Sweet, bitter, I swallow seeds and spit out half-chewed rind. Inanna’s self-love isn’t all rose petals and bubble bath; it’s stained lips, sticky hands, the crunch of firm flesh beneath your teeth. Inanna’s self-love is red, raw, naked and proud of it. It is both the throne and the meat hook, the body and the spirit. She would have me know all of myself, especially those dark depths into which I am afraid to descend. There can be no self-love without acceptance, no acceptance without understanding, no understanding without recognition.
In my dreams I call myself witch.
Inanna has been in my life for some time now, but I have yet to figure out why. I know She has plans for me, but I thus far haven’t been ready in Her eyes. I checked in with a tarot reading that gave me some unexpected answers.
Question: Where your path begins
Card: 7 of Cups
Interpretation: The 7 of Cups is a card of unlimited possibilities, fantasies, and paths. These endless choices muddle the mind and make it hard to act decisively. The head and heart may be at war, and the person may be tempted to eschew the inevitable choice for escapism or wishful thinking. I certainly feel like I’m standing in the intersection of a dozen different roads, and every direction I turn I see another option. In waiting for a strong sign from Inanna, perhaps I have lingered at this crossroads for too long. It may be time to close my eyes and trust my feet to take me down the right path. I have been trying to listen more closely to my intuition, after all.
Question: Where your path leads (the descent)
Card: 2 of Cups
Interpretation: Inanna’s path is a long and hard one, and I have feared where it might take me. I therefore did not expect to draw a card which signifies unity, relationships, understanding, and resolution or reconciliation. The 2 of Cups tells me Inanna’s path leads to an agreement or bond, or otherwise a harmony between two forces. I didn’t understand at first – was the card indicating my bond with my wife? With someone new? When I later pulled the Page of Cups, though, I determined that this card must indicate Inanna Herself.
Question: Where your path emerges
Card: Queen of Cups
Interpretation: I am so very fond of the Queen of Cups. She is a master of her intuition and subconscious, a fount of creativity, and exudes the peace needed for true introspection. She neither fears her emotions nor lets them subjugate her, but embraces and sets them free. She is everything I struggle to achieve; to know she lays at the end of this journey tells me Inanna’s path is the right one, wherever it leads me.
Question: What do you want from me?
Card: 4 of Wands
Interpretation: The 4 of Wands encourages celebration of an initial success to reward one’s hard work. Rest and relaxation have been well earned. This rejoicing can be but temporary, however, for there is much more work to come. Inanna wants to lead me to greater successes, and to celebrate those successes with me, but She also wants me to know my journey isn’t over.
Question: How will I know I’m ready?
Card: 5 of Pentacles
Interpretation: For the last two years, Inanna has been telling me I’m not ready for whatever She has planned. The 5 of Pentacles doesn’t feel like a very positive symbol of readiness, though; it’s all about feeling lost, faithless, and demoralized. You’re so preoccupied with practical difficulties and your personal sorrow that you can’t see the help that waits for you to just reach out. So what does this mean for me? Is Inanna saying that I will know I’m ready when I reach out on my own to her, instead of waiting for something to push me from behind?
I admit, I wasn’t sure what to make of this reading. I decided to draw a single clarifying card just to see if it could put things in perspective.
Question: Why are you in my life? (Asked with some exasperation… sorry Lady!)
Card: Page of Cups
Interpretation: Friendship, comfort, creativity, intuition, psychic ability, introversion and introspection. I am entering a new phase of emotional growth that requires relearning trust and embracing new feelings and attitudes. I must be still and look within, to listen to my inner voice and follow my intuition. Inanna will guide me on this journey, which will strengthen our bond and develop me spiritually in ways only She can show me. This feels like a very positive card.
Other thoughts: I pulled quite a few cups cards, so I know this journey is one of emotion. I pulled no swords, which is odd because Inanna usually uses swords to communicate with me. This reading makes me think I’ve been misinterpreting Her reason for being in my life – I thought She was going to lead me into some majorly dark stuff, because She always appears to me in Her war goddess form. But now I wonder… maybe She’s here to teach me to love myself. That will be fucking hard too, and it’ll require being tough and fierce, but it will also mean letting myself be soft and vulnerable too. I think I’ve been so focused on the Inanna of the descent that I overlooked Her other aspects. Still, it’ll be a hard journey…
They say at the end of that long road You knelt, naked, humbled, stripped of all that proclaimed Your queenship and divinity. They say this, but I can’t quite believe it. What need have You of robes and bangles, jewels and rings? You would stand as tall and haughty whether You bore a crown or not. No, I think You gave up Your raiments so willingly because they meant nothing to You. Naked and unarmed You came before Your sister, yes, but I do not think You bowed Your head or averted Your eyes. I think She struck You down because You were still a queen, still in command even in a hostile realm with Your body on display for all to see. You descended in arrogance, and in arrogance You ascended when Your life was returned. You can be called many things, Lady, but not humble. Not meek. Not vulnerable. Whether dressed in Your finery or brazenly naked, You remain the uncontested, dauntless Queen of Heaven.
four millennia stretch between us
you with your reed stylus
I with my ink and keyboard
four millennia ago, the goddess whispered in your ear
four millennia later, the dark gods whisper in mine
we are not so different, you and I
we are not so different, you and I
with our poetry and our pleading
our devotion and determination
your words reverberate in my chest
your heartbeats echo through the ages
I pray mine stand the test of time
Inanna is a god of many faces and great complexity. She is at once the girl on the dancefloor and the warrior on the battlefield. She is the receptive maiden and the wrathful woman scorned. She is silk and diamonds and bullets and brass knuckles. She presides over the dawn and the dusk, and She has walked the long dark road between on bloody feet. She loves; She wars; She punishes; She guides. She is the kind of freedom that can only be obtained by fighting back, by tearing a place for yourself in a world that would push you down. Inanna will not wage the war for you, but She will put the sword in your hand and show you how to use it – and when you are triumphant, She will dance with you on the battlefield.
at the first gate they take Her shoes, so as She walks the bones crack and cut Her skin, but She is a goddess of war and She is used to treading on the dead
five swords and six wands
you’ve much to surrender yet
you are not prepared