There are numerous well-known myths from ancient times which describe a heroine or hero’s descent into the underworld. One of the more significant is the story of Inanna, the Sumerian Goddess, who hearing the call, made her own eventful journey and return.
Inanna’s story is also known as the Babylonian Ishtar’s Descent, but whereas Ishtar’s tale is told with only 145 lines, the original story from which it was copied, Inanna’s Descent, is told with 415 lines. The difference is attributed to the patriarchy, as it steadily eroded the power and significance of the Goddess during the second millenium BC.
Inanna’s Descent into the Underworld is both a fascinating story and a prime archetype of spiritual initiation. Both are provided in the article entitled “Initiation -- Descent into Hades”, which is included below. A fictional account of the basics of Inanna’s myth is recounted in a television script, Descent into Hades, originally written for the series, Star Trek; The Next Generation, and based on its characters.
Initiation -- The Descent into Hades
Dan Sewell Ward
Copyright 1992 Dan Sewell Ward
The ancient Sumerian myth of Inanna and her descent into the Underworld reveals a series of profound psychological and contemporary messages. This paper discusses the fundamental psychological interpretations of the diverse ingredients of the myth, including the concept of a higher self, the abandoning of old values and artifacts, and the ultimate empowerment of voluntarily making the descent. Also considered are the implications of modern day individuals making their own descent into Hades as a form of spiritual initiation: a seeking of wisdom and growth and the shedding of illusions (a twentieth century Dance of the Seven Veils). Finally, the paper presents the results of research into the idea that our world and society may be in the process of making its own descent, releasing traditional paradigms in preparation for a period of “accelerated growth”.