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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 11 page 12


Here’s another extract, this time from one of those mass performances I mentioned. It's from the “Hymn to Iddin-Dagan,” who was an actual historical king. The poem records a festive New Year’s rite meant to encourage fecundity and abundance throughout the land in the coming year. There are processions of priests and priestesses, dancers waving ribbons and tossing hoops, musicians playing drums and flutes. The climax (no pun intended) is the sacred marriage ritual where, on a resplendent bed, Inanna makes love with the king. Or maybe they were a couple of stand-ins. Anyway:

When pure Inanna has stretched out on the bed
in his shining lap

She makes love with him on her bed

(She says)
Iddin-Dagan, indeed, you are my beloved

Piling up offerings, making purifications
heaping up incense, burning juniper
bearing food offerings, bearing bowls

The king asks the people to enter
the temple of Egal-mah

She embraces her beloved consort
pure Inanna embraces him

She shines like daylight
on the great throne-dais

The king takes his place beside her
like the sun

The festival continues with lots of music and good eats, lots of fruits, cheeses, syrups, bread, meat, and beer. And we learn that from heaven above the ‘real’ Inanna is beaming down upon the celebrants and suffusing the entire sky with her joyfulness.

Inanna was associated with a wide range of female sexuality, from sacred marriage with the king at the highest level of society to picking up men in alehouses at the other extreme. Her temples would have been a natural place to hang out if you were a sex worker, so it is no surprise that Inanna was the patroness of temple prostitutes. Some of the poems in this collection explicitly include these “daughters of Inanna” who barter their sexual favors in exchange for a measure of barley or — get ready for this — a lamb.

Nevertheless Inanna was referred to as “pure” or “holy.” Her sensuality, being divine, was innocent like nature. She was bursting with sexual energy. She actually sang songs of praise to her genitals, which is a kind of song we don’t much hear in public nowadays.