Creating Inanna's Illustration, by Mother Julie

Lady of all the divine powers, resplendent light, righteous woman clothed in radiance, Mistress of heaven, …who has seized all seven of its divine powers! My lady, you are the guardian of the great divine powers! 

With your strength, my lady, teeth can crush flint. You charge forward like a charging storm. You roar with the roaring storm, you continually … You spread exhaustion with the storm winds, while your own feet remain tireless. …you confer strength on the storm. 

Great queen of queens, issue of a holy womb for righteous divine powers, greater than your own mother, wise and sage, lady of all the foreign lands, life-force of the teeming people: True goddess fit for divine powers, your splendid utterances are magnificent. Deep-hearted, good woman with a radiant heart, I will enumerate your divine powers.”1

These phrases from The exaltation of Inanna.” remind me of Biblical Psalms exalting God. At first I had trouble imagining Inanna’s mandala. I was a little afraid of her power. I came upon one of her stories, which put into perspective the demoting of Inanna’s essence from Ruler over All to less than other lesser gods.

Inanna and the Huluppu Tree

The poem begins, "In the days of yore, in the distant days of yore…when what was needful had first come forth." “After heaven had been moved away from earth, after earth had been separated from heaven,” A violent storm uprooted a huluppu tree. Inanna rescued it and planted it in her "sacred grove.” She waited as it grew into a place for her to sit and to sleep.

The tree grew big, its trunk bore no foliage,

In its roots the snake who knows no charm set up its nest,

In its crown the Imdugud-bird placed its young,

In its midst the maid Lilith built her house --

The always laughing, always rejoicing maid,

The maid Inanna -- how she weeps!2

Three creatures settled in the tree: in its roots, a snake; in its trunk a lilitu, (female spirit); and in its branches the Imdugud-bird. The poem portrays her as weak and emotional, unable to rid herself of these invaders. She has to request aid. Gilgamesh, Uruk's warrior king, "smote" the snake, the others fled. He cut down the tree, took the branches for himself, and gave the trunk to Inanna to be fashioned into a throne (for the king) and a bed to be used in the Sacred Marriage Rite.

The seemingly innocent poem ‘Inanna and the Huluppu Tree,’ then, constitutes an androcentric account of the reasons for Inanna's involvement in the ‘Sacred Marriage,’ both as herself and as furniture. (my emphasis) It shows well how myth can be remade to serve ideology! A powerful goddess subject, the sacred World Tree, had, over the centuries, been reshaped into limited goddess objects, a bed and a throne, while the goddess herself was co-opted into seeing this limited role as powerful. Independent Inanna had become feminine, a woman reliant on males to get her out of trouble.”3

Now I grieve for her and want to restore “the always laughing, always rejoicing maid, Inanna” (Queen of Heaven) to God’s essence.

With help from insightful interpretations I saw Inanna as the Great Tree, the Tree of Life, Circle of Life, BirthDeathRebirth, Goddess of the Cycle of seasons, of Planets and Stars. She was the Great All In All, encircled and her head in the Stars, her roots in the depths of Earth. To me, she became the Tree.

Researching images of “tree of life,” I was drawn to Celtic knots re-connecting both Heaven and Earth and the Circle of Life. Many Inanna images place her eagle-like feet on lions’ backs. So I included lions (at the base of the trunk), and hung eight-pointed stars (her Venus symbol). The snake is found in the tree’s roots but becomes part of the Circle of Life. Owls represent her sacred wisdom. The shapely tree trunk illustrates the Lilitu and the eagle with lion’s head is a representation of the Imdugud-bird.


I. The exaltation of Inana (Inana B): bibliography

  1. Barnstone, A. and Barnstone, W. (ed.), A Book of Women Poets from Antiquity to Now, Schocken: New York, 1980: 1-8: translation

  2. Hallo, William W., "Sumerian Canonical Compositions. A. Divine Focus. 1. Myths: The Exaltation of Inanna", in The Context of Scripture, I: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World, Leiden/New York/Köln: 1997, 518-522: translation, commentary

  3. Hallo, William W., and van Dijk, J.J.A., The Exaltation of Inanna. (Yale Near Eastern Researches, 3) Yale University Press: New Haven/London, 1968: composite text, commentary, translation

  4. Heimpel, Wolfgang, "Review of Hallo and van Dijk 1968", Journal of Near Eastern Studies 30 (1971), 232-236: commentary

  5. Kilmer, A.D., Bankier, J., and Lashgari, D., Women Poets of the World. Macmillan: New York, 1983, 111-117: translation

  6. Kramer, Samuel Noah, "Sumerian Hymns", in Pritchard, James B. (ed.), Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (Third ed.), Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1969, 579-582: translation

  7. Römer, W.H.Ph., "Review of Hallo and van Dijk 1968", Ugarit-Forschungen 4 (1972), 173-206: commentary

  8. Sauren, H., "Review of Hallo and van Dijk 1968", Bibliotheca Orientalis 27 (1970), 38-41: commentary

  9. Westenholz, J.G., "Enheduanna, en-priestess, hen of Nanna, spouse of Nanna", in Behrens, Hermann, Loding, Darlene, and Roth, Martha Tobi (eds.), DUMU-E2-DUB-BA-A. Studies in Honor of Åke W. Sjöberg (Occasional Publications of the Samuel Noah Kramer Fund, 11), University Museum: Philadelphia, 1989, 539-556: commentary

  10. Wilcke, Claus, "Nin-me-shar-ra -- Probleme der Interpretation", Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes 68 (1976), 79-92: commentary

  11. Zgoll, Annette, Der Rechstfall der En-hedu-Ana im Lied nin-me-shara. (Alter Orient Und Altes Testament, 246) Ugarit-Verlag: Münster, 1997: translation, composite text, score transliteration, handcopy, commentary, photograph

II. The Poem:

III. Johanna Stuckey, Feminist Poetics of the Sacred: Creative Suspicions, eds. Frances Devlin-Glass and Lyn McCredden. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. Pages 91-105.

For Dr. Stuckey’s fascinating interpretation “Inanna and the Huluppu Tree:” One Way of Demoting a Great Goddess, see