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THE DESCENT OF ISHTAR TO THE NETHERWORLD


Translated by E.A. Speiser

To the Land of No Return, the realm of Ereshkigal,
Ishtar, the daughter of the Moon, set her mind.
To the dark house, the abode of Irkalla,
To the house which none leave who have enetered it,
To the road from which there is no way back,
To the house wherein the entrants are bereft of light,
Where dust is their fare and clay their food,
Where they see no light, residing in darkness,
Where they are clothed like birds, with wings for garments,
And where over door and bolt is spread dust.
When Ishtar reached the gate of the Land of No Return,
She said to the gatekeeper:
"O gatekeeper, open thy gate,
Open thy gate so I may enter!
If thou openest not the gate so that I cannot enter,
I will smash the door, I will shatter the bolt,
I will smash the doorpost, I will move the doors,
I will raise up the dead eating the living,
So that the dead will outnumber the living."
The gatekeeper opened his mouth to speak,
Saying to exalted Ishtar:
"Stop, my lady, do not throw it down!
I will go to announce thy name to Queen Ereshkigal."
The gatekeeper entered, saying to Ereshkigal:
"Behold, they sister Ishtar is waiting at the gate,
She who upholds the great festivals,
Who stirs up the deep before Ea, the king."
When Ereshkigal heard this, her face turned pale like a cut-down tamarisk,
While her lips turned dark like a bruised kuninu-reed.
What drove her heart to me? What impelled her spirit hither?
Lo, should I drink water with the Anunnaki?
Should I eat clay for bread, drink muddied water for beer?
Should I bemoan the men who left their wives behind?
Should I bemoan the maidens who were wretched from the laps of their lovers?
Or should I bemoan the tender little one who was sent off before his time?
Go, gatekeeper, open the gate for her,
Treat her in accordance with the ancient rules."
Forth went the gatekeeper to open the door for her:
"Enter, my lady, that Cutha may rejoice over thee,
That the palace of the Land of No Return may be glad at they presence."
When the first door he had made her enter,
He stripped and took away the great crown on her head.
"Why, o gatekeeper, didst thou take the great crown on my head?"
"Enter, my lady, thus are the rules of the Mistress of the Underworld."
When the second gate he had made her enter,
He stripped and took away the pendants on her ears.
"Why, O gatekeeper, didst thou take the pendants on my ears?"
"Enter, my lady, thus are the rules of the Mistress of the Underworld."
When the third gate he had made her enter,
He stripped and took away the chains round her neck.
"Why, O gatekeeper, didst thou take the chains round my neck?"
"Enter, my lady, thus are the rules of the Mistress of the Underworld."
When the fourth gate he had made her enter,
He stripped and took away the ornaments on her breast.
"Why, O gatekeeper, didst thou take the ornaments on my breast?"
"Enter, my lady, thus are the rules of the Mistress of the Underworld."
When the fifth gate he had made her enter,
He stripped and took away the girdle of birthstones on her hips.
"Why, O gatekeeper, didst thou take the girdle of birthstones on my hips?"
"Enter, my lady, thus are the rules of the Mistress of the Underworld."
When the sixth gate he had made her enter,
He stripped and took away the clasps round her hands and feet.
"Why, O gatekeeper, didst thou take the clasps round my hands and feet?"
"Enter, my lady, thus are the rules of the Mistress of the Underworld."
When the seventh gate he had made her enter,
He stripped and took away the breechcloth round her body.
"Why, O gatekeeper, didst thou take the breechcloth round my body?"
"Enter, my lady, thus are the rules of the Mistress of the Underworld."
As soon as Ishtar had descended to the Land of No Return,
Ereshkigal saw her and burst out at her presence.
Ishtar, unrefelcting, flew at her.
Ereshkigal opened her mouth to speak,
"Go, Namtar, lock her up in my palace!
Release against her the sixty miseries:
Misery of the eyes against her eyes,
Misery of the sides against her sides,
Misery of the heart against her heart,
Misery of the feet against her feet,
Misery of the head against her head -
Against every part of her, against her whole body!"
After Lady Ishtar had descended to the nether world,
The bull springs not upon the cow, the ass impregnates not the jenny,
In the street the man impregnates not the maiden.
The man lies in his own chamber, the maiden lies on her side.
The countenance of Papsukkal, the vizier of the great gods,
Was fallen, his face was clouded
He was clad in mourning, long hair he wore.
Forth went Papsukkal before Ea, the king:
"Ishtar has gone down to the nether world, she has not come up.
Since Ishtar has gone down to the Land of No Return,
The bull springs not upon the cow, the ass impregnates not the jenny,
In the street the man impregnates not the maiden.
The man lies down in his own chamber,
The maiden lies down on her side."
Ea in his wise heart conceived an image,
And created Asushunamir, a eunich:
"Up, Asushunamir, set thy face to the gate of the Land of No Return:
The seven gates of the Land of No Return shall be opened for thee.
Ereshkigal shall see thee and rejoice at thy presence.
When her heart has calmed, her mood is happy,
Let her utter the oath of the great gods.
Then lift up thy head, paying mind to the life-water bag:
"Pray, lady, let them give me the life-water bag
that water therefrom I may drink."
As soon as Ereshkigal heard this,
She smote her thigh, bit her finger:
"Thou didst request of me a thing that should not be requested.
Come, Asushunamir, I will curse thee with a mighty curse!
The food of the city's gutters shall be thy food,
The sewers of the city shall be thy drink.
The threshold shall be thy habitation,
The besotted and the thirsty shall smite they cheek!"
Ereshkigal opened her mouth to speak,
Saying these words to Namtar, her vizier:
"Up, Namtar, knock at Egalgina,
Adorn the thresholds with the coral-stone,
Bring forth the Anunnaki, seated them on thrones of gold,
Sprinkle Ishtar with the water of life and take her from my presence!"
Forth went Namtar, knocked at Egalgina,
Adorned the thresholds with coral-stone,
Brought forth the Anunnaki, seated them on thrones of gold,
Sprinkled Ishtar with the water of life and took her from her presence.
When through the first gate he had made her go out,
He returned to her the breechcloth for her body.
When through the second gate he had made her go out,
He returned to her the clasps for her hands and feet.
When through the third gate he had made her go out,
He returned to her the birthstone girdle for her hips.
When through the fourth gate he had made her go out,
He returned to her the ornaments for her breasts.
When through the fifth gate he had made her go out,
He returned to her the chains for her neck.
When through the sixth gate he had made her go out,
He returned to her the pendants for her ears.
When through the seventh gate he had made her go out,
He returned to her the great crown for her head.
"If she does not give thee her ransom price, bring her back.
As for Tammuz, the lover of her youth,
Wash him with pure water, anoint him with sweet oil:
Clothe him with a red garment, let him play on a flute of lapis.
Let the courtesians turn his mood."
When Belili was stringing her jewelry,
And her lap was filled with "eye-stones,"
On hearing the sound of her brother, Belili struck the jewelry on...
So that the "eye-stones" filled the...
"My only brother, bring no harm to me!
On the day when Tammuz comes up to me,
When with him the lapis flute and the carnelian ring come up to me,
When with him the wailing men and wailing women come up to me,
May the dead rise and smell the incense."

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