Ereshkigal is a Babylonian goddess and ruler of Irkalla, the underworld. She is sister to Ishtar. When Ishtar descended into the underworld to offer her condolences for the loss of Ereshkigal’s husband, Ereshkigal ordered that a piece of Ishtar’s clothing be taken at each gateway. When the two sisters met, Ereshkigal killed Ishtar with a single word and hung her body on a hook. From Ereshkigal’s perspective, Ishtar had transgressed against the boundaries of death and had caused her husband’s death (by sending him to kill a mortal who had spurned Ishtar).
As keeper of the dead, a land where no living male or female may pass from, she is alone and forgotten, separate from the glories of the other gods. In her role, she is lowly yet powerful. Boundaries and respect are important to her– she makes no exceptions for the gods, though she mourns the death of those in her keep, especially infants who were unable to enjoy life. She reminds us of sacrifice, conviction, and duty, while connecting to those who are lonely and ignored.
My Journey to Ereshkigal
When I discovered Ishtar, knowledge of Ereshkigal followed. The story of the descent of Ishtar places Ereshkigal as an antagonist, but understanding Ereshkigal’s perspective made me realize how easy it is to connect to her. Like Ereshkigal, I often feel isolated and forlorn, and I understand the importance of boundaries and law, which Ereshkigal is guided by. It saddens me that there are almost no artistic depictions of her. Regardless of that unfortunate deficit, I have no issue with grasping her importance.
image © Sandra Tabitha Cicero