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Ereshkigal

by Micha F. Lindemans
The Sumerian and Akkadian goddess of the underworld, sister of the sky goddess Ishtar. Together with her consort Nergal she rules the underworld, also called 'the big land', from which no-one returns. One day Nergal was sent to her from heaven with an offering of food. They fell in love with each other, and when he had to leave, she was in tears and threathened Anu that she would revive all the dead, over whom she ruled, and send them back to earth, 'so that they will outnumber the living', unless Nergal was send back to her, for ever, as a husband. Her minister Namtar had to go to heaven as her messenger, for Ereshkigal felt that she was already pregnant. At last Nergal came stroming down the stairs, broke down the seven gates and burst into the goddess' palace straight into her passionate embrace, 'to wipe her tears.'

Ereshkigal is dark and violent, befitting her role as goddess of the underworld. As ruler over the shades, Ereshkigal receives the mortuary offerings made to the dead. In the Sumerian cosmogony she was carried off to the underworld after the separation of heaven and earth. She is often praised in hymns. Ereshkigal was probably once a sky-goddess.


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