A Brief Overview on Ereshkigal

by Kat

It drives me NUTS how little information there is on Ereshkigal without having to dig through primary sources that we may not a) have time for or b) have near us when we need it. So here’s a quick summary for those who might be interested.


General Links:











Husband: Nergal, Gugalana (The Bull of Heaven, killed by Gilgamesh and Enkidu after Ishtar sent him out to kill Enkidu)

Lovers: Enlil and the first prostitute

Children: Namtar (by Enlil, also her chief herald and vizier), Ninazu (by Gugalana, an Underworld and healing god)

Associated with: Kur, Ishtar/Inanna, Enki (her twin brother)

Symbols: None specifically mentioned in myth, save the throne and other symbols of the Underworld in Sumeria/Akkadia

Offerings: Beers (Dark especially), clean water, breads, red meats, blood

Appearance: I have seen her in a variety of ways, from very sophisticated and womanly to very “punk rock”. Traditionally she is said to have long, black hair. When angry, her flesh turns blue and her lips black.

Short version of Ereshkigal’s myths:

The Marriage of Nergal and Ereshkigal/The rape of Ereshkigal by Nergal

This can be seen in the Gateways to Babylon link. After disrespecting Ereshkigal, she demands that the god Nergal make his presence known in the Underworld. He does so, heeding all warnings given to him by his father save one: do not sleep with Ereshkigal. He does, and leaves. Ereshkigal, believing herself to already be pregnant, demands that he come back. At first, Nergal hides, but then breaks down all the doors to the seven gates of the Underworld and joins Ereshkigal, and he remains there from there on in.

The other version is that he comes to the Underworld to lay siege after insulting Ereshkigal, and pulls her off her throne by her hair and threatens to cut off her head. She offers to marry him and make him co-ruler, which he accepts.

The Descent of Inanna/Ishtar

This is the sacred texts/Ishtar one. Everyone knows this myth. Though I will point out…notice that ISHTAR is the one who sent out The Bull of Heaven, Ereshkigal’s husband, and pretty much got him killed. Now, when Ishtar descends to the Underworld to mourn with Ereshkigal, I think Ereshkigal responds in a way understandable to most wives.

The rape by the dragon Kur

Ereshkigal and Enki were twin deities. Ereshkigal was once thought to be a sky goddess, and one day, the dragon Kur kidnaps her, possibly rapes her, and forces her to be the Queen of the Underworld. Enki sets off in a boat to defeat/kill the dragon and get his sister back. Though he was successful (or thought to be), it was too late to bring Ereshkigal back from the Underworld.

The first Prostitute

I haven’t been able to find this one since I read it, though it stuck in my mind. There is something Ishtar/Inanna wants that Ereshkigal has. She gets her most faithful handmaiden to travel to the Underworld to seduce Ereshkigal. Ereshkigal sees this handmaiden and becomes especially taken with her, and there’s lots of celebrations going on. This handmaiden eats from her plate, sleeps in her bed, all that good stuff. One night, the handmaiden slips from Ereshkigal’s side with the treasure Inanna wants. Ereshkigal wakes up, realizes what has happened, and curses this woman bitterly: that she would be shunned and used, unloved but and object of love. Inanna sees this and tries to soften the curse, promising that she will be the patron of all like her handmaiden, and that when she lays in the stews and the slums to make her living Inanna will be there with her.

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