Ereshkigal, Sumerian Queen of the Great Earth

She is the Queen of the Underworld in ancient Sumerian religion. Ereshkigal and her brother Enki were born when Anu’s (the earliest “Sky Father” god) tears met the waters of Nammu (a primeval sea goddess).

Ereshkigal was kidnapped by the great dragon Kur and taken to the underworld. Her brother Enki attempted to rescue her, but the underworld became her home and place of power. She is the Queen that many other gods and goddesses look up to in this gloomy land and is sometimes called Irkalla, after the name of the underworld itself (much like Hades). She is the only one who can pass rule or judgement in the underworld and not even the gods may return from Irkalla.

Many are more familiar with the story of her sister Inanna, who descended to the underworld through seven gates, giving up something (her jewelry and clothing) at each one until she was naked and powerless. Stripped and having passed the seven gates, one finds themselves in Ereshkigal’s palace where she sits naked on a throne of lapis. When Inanna passed through the gates, her sister had her killed. Enki convinced Ereshkigal to bring her back to life, but as a result Inanna had to sacrifice her husband in her place.

Her consort in the underworld is Nergal, the god of death and fire, who had once been sent from the heavens with an offering of food for the Great Queen. They fell in love, and when Nergal left, she demanded he be returned to her lest she raise the dead, which would greatly outnumber the living.

Ereshkigal is somewhat new to me. I happened across her name in a book a while back and was amazed how how much she resonated with me and how much her underworld and palace rang a bell for me. Lapis, snakes and lions are sacred to her and can make good offerings.

Note: The statue may be the only imagery of Ereshkigal, but no one is sure. It may also be Lilith or Inanna.

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