The Great Mother
Descent of the Goddess Ishtar into
the Lower World
[From The Civilization of Babylonia and Assyria, M.
To the land of no return, the land of darkness,
Ishtar, the daughter of Sin directed her thought,
Directed her thought, Ishtar, the daughter of Sin,
To the house of shadows, the dwelling, of Irkalla,
To the house without exit for him who enters therein,
To the road, whence there is no turning,
To the house without light for him who enters therein,
The place where dust is their nourishment, clay their food.'
They have no light, in darkness they dwell.
Clothed like birds, with wings as garments,
Over door and bolt, dust has gathered.
Ishtar on arriving at the gate of the land of no return,
To the gatekeeper thus addressed herself:
"Gatekeeper, ho, open thy gate!
Open thy gate that I may enter!
If thou openest not the gate to let me enter,
I will break the door, I will wrench the lock,
I will smash the door-posts, I will force the doors.
I will bring up the dead to eat the living.
And the dead will outnumber the living."
The gatekeeper opened his mouth and spoke,
Spoke to the lady Ishtar:
"Desist, O lady, do not destroy it.
I will go and announce thy name to my queen Ereshkigal."*
The gatekeeper entered and spoke to Ereshkigal:
"Ho! here is thy sister, Ishtar ...
Hostility of the great powers ...
When Ereshkigal heard this,
As when one hews down a tamarisk she trembled,
As when one cuts a reed, she shook:
"What has moved her heart [seat of the intellect] what has stirred her liver [seat of
Ho there, does this one wish to dwell with me?
To eat clay as food, to drink dust as wine?
I weep for the men who have left their wives.
I weep for the wives torn from the embrace of their husbands;
For the little ones cut off before their time.
Go, gatekeeper, open thy gate for her,
Deal with her according to the ancient decree."
The gatekeeper went and opened his gate to her:
Enter, O lady, let Cuthah greet thee.
* Ishtar's sister Queen of the Underworld
O heroic one, Ishtar; the immaculate one
of the goddesses,
Torch of Heaven and earth, radiance of the continents,
The goddess Lady of Heaven', first-begotten of Sin, first-born of Ningal,
Twin-sister of . . . the hero Shamash [the Sun-god];
O Ishtar, you are Anu [the supreme god], you rule the heavens;
With Enlil the Counsellor you advise mankind;
The Word, creator of liturgies and rituals of Hand-washing'.
Where conversation takes place, you, like Shamash, are paying attention,
You alter the Fates, and an ill event becomes good;
I have sought you amongst the gods; supplications are offered to you;
To you amongst the goddesses I have turned, with intent to make entreaty,
Before you is a (protecting) shedu[a genie], behind you a (protecting) lamassu [another
type of genie],
At your right is Justice, at your left Goodness,
Fixed on your head are Audience, Favour, Peace,
Your sides are encompassed with Life and Well-being;
How good it is to pray to you, how blessed to be heard by you!
Your glance is Audience, your utterance is the Light.
Have pity on me, O Ishtar! Order my prospering!
Glance on me in affirmation! Accept my litany!
I have borne your yoke; set tranquility (for me)!
I have sought your brightness; may my face be bright.
I have turned to your dominion; may it be life and well-being for me.
May I (too) have a favourable shedu like that before you;
May I (too) have a lamassu like that which goes behind you.
May I garner the prosperity at your right hand,
May I attain to the favour at your left hand.
Lengthen my days, bestow life!
Let me live, let me be well, let me proclaim your divinity.
Let me achieve what I desire . . . .
Greatness That Was Babylon. HWF Saggs, p. 327.
Prayer to Ishtar
Unto the queen of
into whose hands are committed the behest of the great gods,
unto the lady of Nineveh,the queen of the gods,
the exhalted one,unto the daughter of the moon-god,
the twin sister of the sun god, unto her who ruleth all kingdoms,
unto the goddess of the world who deetermineth decrees,
unto the Lady of heaven and earth who recieveth supplication,
unto the merciful goddess who hearkeneth unto entreaty,
who recieveth prayer, who loveth righteousness,
I make my prayer
to whom all confusion is a cause of grief.
The sorrows which I see I lament before thee.
Incline thine ear unto my words of lamentation
and let thine heart be opened unto my sorrowful speech.
Turn thy face unto
O Lady, so that by reason thereof
the heart of thy servant may be made strong!
Ashur-nasir-pal, the sorrowful one, am thy humble servant;
I, who am beloved of thee, make offerings unto thee and adore thy divinity
. . . . I was born in the mountains which no man knoweth;
I was without understanding and I prayed not of thy majesty.
Moreover the people of Assyria did not recognise and did not accept thy divinity.
But thou, O
Ishtar, thou mighty Queen of the gods,
by the lifting up of thine eyes did teach me,
for thou didst desire my rule.
Thou didst take me from the mountains,
and didst make me the Door of my peoples
. . . and thou, O Ishtar, didst make great my name!
As concerning that for which thou are wrath with me,
grant me forgiveness.
Let thine anger be appeased,
and let thine heart be mercifully inclined towards me.