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The Fertility Ritual of Inana and Iddin-Dagan

Mesopotamia

1900 BCE
Hymn to Iddin-Dagan

[Editors note: The following is an intense description of a Sumerian marriage ritual performed by the king and a priestess, impersonating the gods Dumuzi-Ama-ušumgal-ana and Innana and intended to bring prosperity to the land. While the translation features many optional edits, we've removed the anotations here so you can read without distraction. For more information see the citation.]

I shall greet her who ascends above, her who ascends above, I shall greet the Mistress who ascends above, I shall greet the great lady of heaven, Inana! I shall greet the holy torch who fills the heavens, the light, Inana, her who shines like daylight, the great lady of heaven, Inana! I shall greet the Mistress, the most awesome lady among the Anuna gods; the respected one who fills heaven and earth with her huge brilliance; the eldest daughter of Suen, Inana! For the young lady I shall sing a song about her grandeur, about her greatness, about her exalted dignity; about her radiantly ascending at evening; about her filling the heaven like a holy torch; about her stance in the heavens, as noticeable by all lands, from the south to the highlands, as that of Nanna or of Utu; about the greatness of the Mistress of heaven!

Her rising is that of a warrior.

When standing in the heavens she is the good wild cow of An, on earth she instils respect; she is the lady of all the lands. She received the divine powers in the abzu, in Eridug; her father Enki presented them to her. He placed the lordship and kingship in her hands. She takes her seat on the great dais with An; she determines the fates in her Land with Enlil. Monthly, at the new moon, the gods of the Land gather around her so that the divine powers are perfected. The great Anuna gods, having bowed before them, stand there with prayers and supplications and utter prayers on behalf of all the lands. My lady decrees judgments in due order for the Land. Her black-headed people parade before her.

Making silver aljar instruments sound for her, they parade before her, holy Inana. I shall greet the great lady of heaven, Inana! Making holy ub and holy lilis drums sound for her, they parade before her, holy Inana. I shall greet the great lady of heaven, Inana! Beating holy balaj and holy lilis drums for her, they parade before her, holy Inana. I shall greet the great lady of heaven, Inana!

Combing their hair for her, male prostitutes parade before her, holy Inana. Their locks of hair at the back are adorned for her with coloured bands; they parade before her, holy Inana. Clothed in the leather of divinity, they parade before her, holy Inana. The trustworthy king and the proud lady, the doyenne of the great wise women, parade before her, holy Inana. Those who are in charge of beating the soothing balaj drums parade before her, holy Inana. Each girded with a sword belt, the strength of battle, they parade before her, holy Inana. Grasping a spear, the strength of battle, in their hands, they parade before her, holy Inana.

Dressed with men's clothing on the right side, they parade before her, holy Inana. I shall greet the great lady of heaven, Inana! Adorned with women's clothing on the left side, they parade before her, holy Inana. I shall great the great lady of heaven, Inana! Competing with skipping ropes of coloured cords for her, they parade before her, holy Inana. I shall greet the great lady of heaven, Inana!

Young men put into neck-stocks sing to her and parade before her, holy Inana. Young women, cugia priestesses, coiffured, parade before her, holy Inana. ...... sword and dagger for her, they parade before her, holy Inana. With daggers in their hands, ...... kurjara priests parade before her, holy Inana. Those who cover their swords with gore spatter blood as they parade before her, holy Inana. Blood is poured on the dais standing in the guena hall, as tigicem and ala drums are made to sound loudly.

The Mistress stands alone in the pure heavens. From the midst of heaven my lady looks with joy at all the lands and the black headed people, who are as numerous as sheep. I praise the lady of the evening, Inana, the august one, the young lady, Inana. The lady exalted as high as the heaven, Inana, is august!

When at evening, the radiant star, the Venus star, the great light which fills the holy heavens, the lady of the evening, ascends above like a warrior, the people in all the lands lift their gaze to her. The men purify themselves, the woman cleanse themselves. The oxen toss their heads in their yoke. The sheep stir up dust in their pens. Because of my lady, the numerous beasts of Cakkan, the creatures of the plain, the four-legged animals under the broad heavens, the orchards and gardens, the plots, the green reed-beds, the fish of the deep, the birds of heaven, all hasten to their sleeping places. All the living creatures and the numerous people bend the knee before her. When called for by my lady the matriarchs plentifully provide food and drink, and my lady refreshes herself in her Land. There is play in the Land, which is made festive. The young men take pleasure in their spouses.

From the midst of heaven my lady looks down with joy. They parade before her, holy Inana. The lady of the evening, Inana, is august; I praise the young lady, Inana. The lady of the evening, her grandeur reaches the borders of heaven!

At night the skilled and beautiful one, the joy of An, the ornament of broad heaven, appears like moonlight; in the heat of the noon she appears like sunlight. After the storehouses of the Land have been filled with fine food, and all the lands and the black-headed people have assembled, and the storehouses of the Land have been made full, those who sleep on the roofs and those who sleep by the walls step up before her with ...... and bring her their cases. Then she makes her orders known, and identifies the evil. She judges the evil as evil and destroys the wicked. She looks with favour on the just and determines a good fate for them.

From the midst of heaven my lady looks down with joy. They parade before her, holy Inana. The lady exalted as high as the heaven, Inana, is august! I praise the young woman,Inana. The lady exalted as high as the heaven, her grandeur reaches the borders of heaven.

The beautiful lady, the joy of An, has ascended above like a warrior. She carries there what befits the ...... of heaven. She takes counsel with An in his lofty place. Among youths and heroes (some mss. have instead: heroic youths), may she be alone chosen!

She is mighty, she is respected, she exalted, she is august and great, she is surpassing in youthfulness.

As the lady, admired by the Land, the lone star, the Venus star, the lady elevated as high as the heaven, ascends above like a warrior, all the lands tremble before her ....... The faithful black-headed people bow to her. The young man travelling on the road directs himself by her. The oxen raise their heads in their yoke to her. With her the storehouses of the Land prosper.

Everybody hastens to holy Inana. For my lady in the midst of heaven the best of everything is prepared. In the pure places of the plain, at its good places, on the roofs, on the rooftops, the rooftops of the dwellings, in the sanctuaries of mankind, incense offerings like a forest of aromatic cedars are transmitted to her. They sacrifice alum sheep, long-haired sheep, and fattened sheep for her. They purify the earth for the Mistress, they carry out purification rites for her.

They fill the tables of the Land with ghee, dates, cheese, and seven sorts of fruits as first-fruit offerings for her. They pour dark beer for her, they pour light beer for her. Dark beer, emmer beer, and emmer beer for my lady bubble in the cagub jar and the lamsari vat for her. From pastes of honey mixed with ghee, they bake date-syrup cakes for her. They pour out early-morning beer, flour, flour in honey, honey, and wine of sunrise for her. The personal gods of the people also attend upon her with food and drink. They provide the Mistress with food in the holy place, the pure place. 

From the midst of heaven my lady looks down with joy. They parade before her, holy Inana. Inana, the lady exalted as high as the heaven is august! I praise the young lady, Inana. The lady exalted as high as the heaven, her grandeur reaches the borders of heaven!

When the black-headed people have assembled in the palace, the house that advises the Land, the neck-stock of all the foreign countries, the house of the river of ordeal, a dais is set up for Ninegala. The divine king stays there with her. At the New Year, on the day of the rites, in order for her to determine the fate of all the countries, so that during the day the faithful servants can be inspected, so that on the day of the disappearance of the moon the divine powers can be perfected, a bed is set up for my lady. Esparto grass is purified with cedar perfume and arranged on that bed for my lady, and a coverlet is smoothed out on the top of it.

In order to find sweetness in the bed on the joyous coverlet, my lady bathes her holy thighs. She bathes them for the thighs of the king; she bathes them for the thighs of Iddin-Dagan. Holy Inana rubs herself with soap; she sprinkles oil and cedar essence on the ground.

The king goes to her holy thighs with head held high, he goes to the thighs of Inana with head held high. Ama-ucumgal-analies down beside her and caresses her holy thighs.

Chorus: "O my holy thighs! O my holy Inana!"

After the lady has made him rejoice with her holy thighs on the bed, after holy Inana has made him rejoice with her holy thighs on the bed, she relaxes with him on her bed: "Iddin-Dagan, you are indeed my beloved!"

To pour libations, to carry out purification rites, to heap up incense offerings, to burn juniper resin, to set out food offerings, to set out offering-bowls, he goes into her Egal-mah. She embraces her beloved spouse, holy Inana embraces him. She shines like daylight on the great throne dais and makes the king position himself next to her like the sun.

Abundance and celebration are prepared before her in plenty. He arranges a rich banquet for her. The black-headed people line up before her. With instruments loud enough to drown out the south wind-storm, with sweet sounding aljar instruments, the glory of the palace, and with harps, the source of joy for mankind, musicians perform songs which delight her heart. The king sees to what is eaten and drunk, Ama-ucumgal-ana sees to what is eaten and drunk. The palace is in festive mood, the king is joyous. The people spend the day amid plenteousness. Ama-ucumgal-ana stands in great joy. May his days be long on the splendid throne! He proudly occupies the royal dais.

They praise my lady on my behalf with the hymns of heaven and earth. "You are the Mistress born together with heaven and earth." In the holy place, the pure place, they celebrate the Mistress in songs: "Joy of the black-headed people, ornament of the assembly, Inana, eldest daughter of Suen, lady of the evening, your praise is good!".

From the midst of heaven my lady looks down with joy. They parade before her, holy Inana. Inana, the lady of the evening, her grandeur reaches the borders of heaven!

She is mighty, she is respected, she is exalted, she is august and great, she is surpassing in youthfulness!


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