She realises that there is meaning below ground as well as above and takes one of the great archetypal descents in mythology – to visit her dark sister Erishkegal (her shadow side). As she descends she sheds the outer trappings of success and the world, faces the dark and is killed and hangs on the meat-hook. Meanwhile, above ground, she is betrayed, abandoned, let down, forgotten.Ah, but we are always alone in the underworld. Ultimately we are all alone. Wherever we are.
Now there is a character in this who is usually overlooked in the commentaries. No, not Dumuzi, Inanna’s consort, who frankly doesn’t give a damn that she is stuck in hell. No. It’s Ninshubar, Inanna’s sukkal, her servant. Servant is not really the right word - a sukkal can often have powers greater than his or her master or mistress (which, in itself, is worth pondering).
Bear with me. Now it is Ninshubar who arranges Inanna’s rescue. At which point every woman reading this is probably nodding vigorously. Because, let’s face it, if you wanna be rescued, never rely on a man – your girlfriends are always the ones to pull you up from a pit. Men often fear the dark emotions - they shudder at the meat-hook - despite their love of war, their desire for violence, they generally shy from bloody and messy emotions. But a woman will jump up and hold your weight, won't take a blind bit of notice of the blood and gore, will stand firm and hold you.
But, more than that (and this is – finally – my point); it is Ninshubar who does the ‘above ground’ stuff while Inanna is shifting, changing, going down deep within; plunging the depths of the abyss; being ripped to tiny shreds. And yes, as in all myths, Ninshubar is another part of Inanna – a fraction of the whole.
And so it is in life. Few of us are able to sink totally into our deepest selves when the meat-hook commands. All those who battle with the dark know this. We have responsibilities; we have children; we have partners; we have jobs and mortgages and bills to pay. So somehow – no matter how hard it may be - we have to put on the brave face, we have to strap on a mask and pretend we’re okay – to ourselves as well as the outer world. We have to function – at some basic level – even if we feel like our limbs are being torn apart. And that’s Ninshubar – the quiet, necessary part of the psyche that puts on the semblance of normality; that smiles, that laughs, that says the right things, that keeps everything ticking over. No more than ticking, because that would be superhuman. But ticking is enough.Thank feck for Ninshubah.
Just don’t look too closely. Don’t look into her eyes. Because they are dead. Stone cold dead.