The Descent of Inanna is one of the oldest known myths, originating from Sumerian mythology around 2100 BCE. This compelling story of the goddess Inanna’s journey to the underworld and her subsequent resurrection has fascinated scholars and storytellers for centuries. In this article, we will retell the myth in an engaging way, explore its themes and significance, and discuss its enduring influence on literature, religion, and culture.

Retelling the Story of The Descent of Inanna

Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love, beauty, fertility, and war, was a powerful and revered deity. Driven by curiosity and a desire for power, she decided to visit the realm of her sister Ereshkigal, the queen of the underworld. To prepare for this perilous journey, Inanna adorned herself with her finest garments and sacred items, symbolizing her divine authority and protection.

Inanna passed through seven gates to reach the underworld, and at each gate, she was required to remove a piece of her clothing or an accessory. By the time she reached the final gate, she stood naked and vulnerable before Ereshkigal, having surrendered all her symbols of power.

Ereshkigal, enraged by Inanna’s intrusion, sentenced her to death. Inanna was struck down and her lifeless body hung on a hook. Meanwhile, on the earth’s surface, Inanna’s absence caused chaos and despair, as fertility and life began to wither.

Recognizing the dire situation, Inanna’s loyal servant Ninshubur sought help from the gods. After much pleading, Enki, the god of wisdom and water, intervened. He created two beings, the kurgarra and the galatur, from the dirt under his fingernails and sent them to the underworld with the mission to rescue Inanna.

Upon reaching Ereshkigal, the two beings empathized with her suffering, earning her favor. She granted them a boon, and they requested the body of Inanna. Ereshkigal, bound by her promise, released Inanna’s corpse. The kurgarra and the galatur sprinkled the food and water of life on Inanna, resurrecting her.

However, to leave the underworld, Inanna needed to find a substitute to take her place. She ascended with demons in tow, searching for someone to replace her. She found that her husband, Dumuzi, had not mourned her absence but instead celebrated. In her anger, she chose Dumuzi to take her place in the underworld. Through negotiations, it was decided that Dumuzi and his sister Geshtinanna would alternate, each spending half the year in the underworld, symbolizing the changing seasons.

Importance and Themes of The Descent of Inanna

The Descent of Inanna is rich with themes of death and rebirth, power and vulnerability, and the duality of existence. Inanna’s journey to the underworld and her resurrection symbolize the natural cycles of life, death, and renewal. This myth also explores the complexities of divine power and the consequences of overreaching ambition.

Influence Over the Years

The Descent of Inanna has had a profound influence on various aspects of culture and religion. Its themes are echoed in later myths and religious narratives, such as the Greek myth of Persephone and the Christian story of Jesus’ resurrection. The motif of a god or goddess descending to the underworld and returning to life has become a powerful symbol in many traditions.


Inanna’s story has inspired countless works of literature, from ancient texts to modern retellings. The themes of descent and rebirth resonate in many epic tales and poetic expressions.


The myth has parallels in various religious traditions, influencing concepts of life after death, resurrection, and seasonal cycles. It highlights the interconnectedness of life and the afterlife, a theme prevalent in many religious teachings.


The enduring story of Inanna continues to influence contemporary culture, inspiring artists, writers, and filmmakers. It serves as a testament to the power of myth in shaping human understanding and creativity.

The Descent of Inanna is a timeless tale that offers profound insights into the human condition and the natural world. Its themes of death and rebirth, power and vulnerability, and the cyclical nature of life have resonated through the ages, influencing literature, religion, and culture. By exploring this ancient Sumerian myth, we gain a deeper appreciation for the enduring power of storytelling and its ability to convey universal truths.

Inanna’s journey to the underworld and her eventual resurrection remind us of the resilience of life and the perpetual cycles of renewal that define our existence. This captivating myth continues to inspire and teach, making it a cornerstone of our shared cultural heritage.

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