Written by Ingrid Bal Charan Camal, inspired by Birthing from Within written by Pam England
Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld is a mythical story and one of the worlds oldest written sagas, from the Sumerian culture (Ancient Mesopotamia). It’s a story about transformation, courage, female wisdom, birth and community, with its message of meeting your shadow.
It described the deep journey and symbols traveling through birth and postpartum. The decent to the underworld has later been adapted to the story of Demeter and Persiphone in the Greek mythology and reflects the female cycle of the monthly menses as well as pregnancy and birth.
The warrior Queen Inanna heard a call from the Great Below to decent. She knew that answering this call would be highly disrupting her life and bring a very uncertain future. When her heart was ready, she answered the rhythm of the command and started to prepare for her journey. Inanna was the priestess of seven temples and in order to free up time to retreat, she abandoned her work at the temples and left it for her peers to take care of. She gathered seven royal and powerful adornments for protection on her journey. Lapis, Lasuli neckless, breastplate, royal robe and golden bracelet.
When she informed her family and friends about her plans, they tried to talk her out of it. But Inanna knew that she had to do this journey alone. But she made her friends a promise: if she did not return within 3 days, they would come to get her back.
When the time was right, she entered the first gate of the Underworld where the gatekeeper Bidu asked her her name and what brought her to this dark place. He shared that no one would return unchanged. She was allowed to enter, but had to leave her neckless. The Second gate, the ritual was repeated until after the ninth gate, she was left stripped naked with no ornaments to protect her. Even though she protested heavily, she was encouraged by the gatekeeper to keep up in her journey.
Naked, sweaty and completely exhausted, she crawled to the last gate. She knew that they could take everything except her determination. She pushed one last breath and while giving her last energy, she realised what had called for her to the Underworld. In this transformative moment, the person Inanna died. The next moment, a new Inanna was reborn. In the following three days, she was in a state between worlds and her peers in the Aboveworld started to make a plan to bring her back. Meanwhile, Inanna gathered her strength and could hear another call, that of the Great Above.
Her servant came down to the deep realms and guided her back. At each gate on her return, the Gatekeeper Bidu took something from Inanna that belonged to the Underworld and gave her a gift. At the first gate, he took Self Absorption and gave her Gratitude. At the second gate he took Worry and gave her Relief. At the third gate, he took Sleep and gave her Stamina. At the forth gate, he took old Relationship Dynamics and gave her Renewal. At the fifth gate he took the weight of Blame and gave her Understanding. At the sixth gate, he stopped the Mind from spinning and gave her Grace. At the seventh gate he took Pride and gave her Humility. At the Eight, her took her to-do-list and give her inwards Attention. At the final gate, Bidu lifted the Weight of the whole journey and gave her Wisdom as return.
And the Warrior Princess was not the same when returned from the Descent, her return had transformed Inannas’ mind, body and heart.