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The Sumerian goddess Inanna, whose Babylonian name was Ishtar, was probably the most important of Mesopotamian goddesses. The stories we have of her date to at least as early as the third millennium BCE. Uruk was her primary city. There she was “Lady of the Date Clusters,” a title suggesting her role as fertility figure. It is clear, however, that she was more a goddess of sex, love, and war than a “great mother” nurturer. As “mistress of the me,” the me being the essential laws and offices of civilization – kingship, godship, sexual practices, marriage, and political power – Inanna was the equal of the great male deities of the Sumerian pantheon. In fact, her primary title was “Queen of Heaven.”
Inanna’s consort and lover was Dumuzi, the shepherd. Inanna, as the goddess of love and fertility, calls on Dumuzi in love songs central to the Mesopotamian ritual of the sacred marriage, words which, though more sexually explicit, remind us of the love poetry of the biblical Song of Songs....
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