IŠTAR'S DESCENT TO THE UNDERWORLD
Ištar set her mind on the Underworld. To Kurnugi, the dark house of the dead, she would go.
She set her mind, and arrived at the gate of Erkalla's God. She said to the gatekeeper: "Open the gate, gaterkeeper, or I shall break it down! Open the gate, or I shall raise the dead to eat the living!"
The gatekeeper responded to Ištar: "Please don't break the door down, Great Lady! Let me tell Queen Ereškigal that you have come."
He went to Ereškigal and told her that her sister Ištar had come.
When she heard it, Ereškigal was enraged. "Why has she come?" she asked, "what could she want from me? Look at me: I drink water with the Anunnaki, the Underworld Gods; I eat clay for bread, drink muddy water for beer. I have to mourn young men torn from their girlfriends, to cry over girls wrenched from the embraces of their lovers. I have to weep for the stillborn baby and child who dies an infant, and now glorious Ištar has come for a visit! Let her in, then. Deal with her as the ancient rituals direct."
So the gatekeeper went and opened the gate for Ištar. "Enter, my Lady," he said, "may Kutha give you joy. May the palace of Kurnugi be happy to see you."
Ištar entered first gate. The gatekeeper took the crown off her head. Ištar asked: "Why have you taken the crown from my head, gatekeeper?"
He responded: "Go through, my Lady. These are the rites of the Mistress of the Underworld."
At the second gate, the gatekeeper took away Ištar's earrings. When she asked why, he responded: "These are the rites."
At the third gate, he took away her lapis lazuli necklace. When she asked why, he answered the same way.
At the fourth gate, the gatekeeper took away the toggle-pins at her breast. When she asked why, he answered the same way.
At the fifth gate, he took away the girdle of birth-stones around her hips. When she asked why, he answered the same way.
At the sixth gate, he took away the bangles from her wrists and ankles. When she asked why, he answered the same way.
At the seventh gate, the gatekeeper took the robe off of her body. When she asked why, he answered the same way.
Thus Ištar was led naked before Ereškigal. Ereškigal looked at her with awe; as Ištar approached her, Ereškigal pronounced judgement on her: "Namtar! Afflict Ištar with every disease!"
Namtar did so.
Now since Ištar had gone to Kurnugi, all lovemaking had stopped. Animals stopped mating, humans stopped making love.
Papsukkal, the vizier of the Great Gods, saw this and was distressed. He rushed up to the Gods and told them that there had been no lovemaking on earth since Ištar had gone to the Underworld.
Ea listened to his plea and created a word, a person, in his mind: Bright Appearance. Bright Appearance could pass by all the gates of the Underworld without being stopped. Ea told him: "When you get there, Ereškigal will be happy. She will swear an oath by the Great Gods to give you anything you want because you made her happy. Ask for a drink from the waterskin."
When Bright Appearance came before Ereškigal, she was happy and swore to grant him anything he wanted. He asked for a drink from the waterskin.
Then Ereškigal hit her thigh and bit her finger in dismay, saying: "This is the one thing you shouldn't have asked for! Now I must curse you with an everlasting curse. You shall eat only refuse, drink only drain water, find shelter only in the lee of the wall, find rest only on door-steps. Drunks and beggars will despise you as they pass by."
Ereškigal then said to Namtar: "Go knock at the gate of Egalgina; cover the door-steps with cowrie shells; seat the Anunnaki on thrones of gold; sprinkle Ištar with the Waters of Life and bring her to me."
Namtar did as Ereškigal commanded him. Ereškigal commanded her to be released.
Namtar led her out through the first gate, and placed her robe back on her body. He took her through the second gate, and replaced the bangles on her wrists and ankles. He took her through the third gate, and put the girdle of birth-stones around her hips. He led her through the fourth gate, and returned her toggle-pins. He led her through the fifth gate, and returned her lapis lazuli necklace. He took her through the sixth gate, and replaced her earrings. He led her through the seventh gate, and returned the crown upon her head.
Ereškigal said to Namtar: "Say that Ištar has paid you her ransom, and give her back to the world in exchange for him, for Dumuzi her youthful lover. Then wash him with pure water, anoint him with sweet oil, and clothe him in a red robe. Let the lapis lazuli pipe play for him, and let Ištar's girls raise a loud lament."
When Dumuzi's sister Belili heard them lamenting her brother, she tore off her jewellry and mourned him, saying: "You cannot rob me of my only brother forever! On the day when Dumuzi returns, the lapis lazuli pipe and the carnelian ring return with him, the male mourners and the female mourners return with him, and the dead rise up, smelling the incense; then I shall see him again!"