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Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  967 Ratings  ·  51 Reviews
A fresh retelling of the ancient texts about Ishtar, the world's first goddess. Illustrated with visual artifacts of the period. "A great masterpiece of universal literature."--Mircea Eliade
Paperback, 227 pages
Published August 3rd 1983 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 1983)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,756)
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Feb 11, 2013 Kate added it
Shelves: 2013
Basically this book is about the most awesome woman who ever lived. One day she was leaning against a tree and she looked down at herself, specifically her genitals, and said, "Wow, I am amazing." So she decided to go visit the God of Wisdom, who concurred that she was the most awesome woman who had ever lived and brought her beer and butter cake, and they partied. And during the party, he gave her every gift he could think of, and after receiving each one, she was like, "Yes, I deserve this, I ...more
Adam Cummings
May 17, 2012 Adam Cummings rated it really liked it
Wonderful myths, well organized, and well presented, by that I mean that Wolkstein did a fine job of explaining the process that yeilded the book, and with that understanding you can take away a good sense of how Inanna (and her cognative forms) were regarded by the ancients. It's a quick read, but that also allows for repeated readings and focusing on particular excerpts.
I also recommend it to those interested in and studying feminism. Often in femminist discussion the question lingers "how did
Aug 02, 2011 Scot rated it really liked it
Inanna is such a magical goddess of Sumeria who brings grace and life to all she touches. This collection captures her essence though stories of how she became a Goddess, her courtship to Dumuzi, her descent into the Underworld and other tales from the age. They authors also collected a series of hymns sung in praise to Inanna that walk through seven different aspects of the Goddess from day break through sunset. There is scholarly essays that follow that take a look into Sumeria and different a ...more
"He put his hand in her hand.
He put his hand to her heart.
Sweet is the sleep of hand-to-hand.
Sweeter still the sleep of heart-to-heart."


That's my personal favorite stanza in the poems :-)

This is a rich, textured, complex text - both the translated poems from ancient Sumer, but also the commentary. I enjoyed it. It makes so much more sense than the very cryptic version I read on-line more than a year ago. I'm also glad to have read more of the context of the Inanna's Descent story we use in B
Kelly Lynn Thomas
Jan 23, 2016 Kelly Lynn Thomas rated it it was amazing
Shelves: myth-and-lore, pagan
This book has both the actual myths, translated from cuneiform tablets, and interpretations of the myths, which make it a well-rounded collection. There are also essays on the translation process, the images used throughout, and extensive end notes. Good for someone causally interested in Inanna, as well as those with more scholarly intentions.
Romeo Saunders
Dec 31, 2015 Romeo Saunders rated it it was amazing
Very good short book about the goddess Inanna and her myths and a bit of history.
Jun 29, 2014 Joseph rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
While this book is not perfect, it is interesting, and visually attractive as well. Samuel Noah Kramer's essay is useful and erudite as usual, Wolksten's less so, and very much a product of the time period. The Sumerian tales have been made very readable, at the expense of accuracy, and also many modern assumptions have been interpolated that are probably not accurate or appropriate (one of the notes has Wolkstein expounding on the significance of the 13th line, when in Sumerian this would have ...more
Stephen Shifflett
May 08, 2012 Stephen Shifflett rated it really liked it
As they are among the first myths ever written down from the first great civilization (arguably), the myths and hymns to Inanna should be more widely known. They tell us much about our common humanity. They also illustrate how important the female and female deities were in a time when agricultural civilizations could thrive before the herding, patriarchal-warrior societies began dominating (replete with all their sky god, misogynistic moralities we've inherited today).
May 11, 2014 Jeff added it
So you think that history and archaeology are boring. Well the way its been presented by academics I must admit that you are right. But the truth is that our ancient ancestors who lived long before the Bible was written wrote some pretty hot stuff that would make most modern faces blush. The the Sumerians sex and agriculture were the same thing. Both needed someone to plant the seed into the deep farrows of the earth which accepted it with passion. This consummation between seed and earth was re ...more
Mar 28, 2015 Chrysoula rated it really liked it
Recommended to Chrysoula by: Robert Moss
Definitely will read this again. And again. I am most intrigued by the story, "The Descent of Inanna," in which we meet Ereshkigal, Queen of the Underworld. Diane Wolkstein's interpretations are especially helpful. Of Ereshkigal, Wolkstein writes, "This underground goddess, whose realm is dry and dark, whose husband Gugalanna is dead, who has no protective or caring mother, father, or brother (that we know of), who wears no clothes, and whose childhood is lost, can be considered the prototype of ...more
Aug 07, 2011 Jessica rated it really liked it
Profound, funny and horrifying in turn - and sometimes simultaneously. What more can one want from a myth cycle?

(I will admit that I kind of want to tag this "wondrous-vulva" though; that's a phrase I'll never forget!)
Aug 25, 2015 Joan rated it it was amazing
A careful but colorful translation of the Sumerian Inanna tablets, which illustrates the repetition of the original cuneiform, repetition which probably reflects contemporaneous oral delivery. The poems and tales range in subject from the erotic to the sacred, and have the same joyful flavor that characterizes later Egyptian poetry. The second half of the book consists of essays on the archaeology and translation of the cuneiform tablets (the Inanna tablets specifically), along with commentary o ...more
Feb 28, 2014 Verusex rated it really liked it
Too bad this didn't make it into the Bible like the other myths from Mesopotamia. wonderful insight into a world we hardly know
Alberta Ross
Feb 01, 2014 Alberta Ross rated it it was amazing
This edition of the book combines so many aspects of my interests, I feel it may have been written just for me:) It is collaboration between a cuneiformist expert/specialist and an amazing folklorist. The story and the cycle of Inanna has been pieced together painstaking over decades from ‘fragments’ of clay tablets dating back to 2000BC. Anyone who knows me will know how I delight in these connections, continuations and interpretations of times past. So early language, storytelling, anthropolog ...more
♥ Ibrahim ♥
In the Koran, women are said to be a tilt for their husbands to be plowed. Al-Baqara 2: 223 says, "Your women are a tilt for you" But how can a man plow his wife's private parts erotically?! One has to get into the heart of the ancient Middle Eastern culture (civilizations of the Near East) and stop and listen to Inana:

The High Priestess, acting for Inanna, is speaking to Dumuzi the new king.

My vulva, the horn,
The boat of Heaven,
Is full of eagerness like the young moon.
My untilled land lies fall
J.M. Hushour
May 25, 2013 J.M. Hushour rated it really liked it
You'd think it might be hard to rate and review a smattering of works that are thousands of years old, bear no relevance to our modern lives whatsoever, and read like repetitive third grade erotic poetry. But you'd be wrong. There's a lot to love here, and I'm not just talking Inanna's admiration of her own vulva or her plaintive pleas for some mortal to plough the glistening furrows of her lush agricultural hinterlands or even her entertaining descent into Sumerian hell where her only means of ...more
Nov 30, 2013 Michelle rated it it was amazing
Within mythology, there is a strong tendency towards a more patriarchal narrative. However, these Sumerian myths of the goddess Inanna are unique in that they present a mother earth goddess, who is also a powerful female entity with a personality that overpowers all of the other characters, both male and female. This myth is one of the few myths that revers female sexuality and its ability to reproduce. It does not demonize the goddess, instead it humanizes her. In this way, the Inanna myth beco ...more
Faith Justice
Jun 06, 2015 Faith Justice rated it really liked it
Just about half this book is dedicated to the stories and hymns of Inanna, the second half has commentaries by the sumerologist who collected the original materials and the folklorist who "translated" the stories into rich poetry. I particularly loved the illustrations drawn from images in museums across the world. The stories and hymns are lyrical and the commentaries informative.
Aaron Meyer
Dec 30, 2013 Aaron Meyer rated it really liked it
I wasn't as enthralled by Diane Wolkstein's rendering of the myths as most folks seem to be. She seems to be rather full of herself when she speaks about it. Though I will give her big kudos when it comes to her notes to the stories. These are very good and in many ways give me verification to many of the ideas I had when I was reading the stories. Samuel Kramer's section was his usual, interesting all around. I especially enjoyed the very detailed "Annotations of the Art" by Elizabeth Williams- ...more
Jane Doe
Oct 18, 2015 Jane Doe rated it liked it
Definitely an interesting look at an ancient culture's religious views. The stories hold several lessons and insight as to what the Sumerians valued.
Karen Davis
Aug 10, 2015 Karen Davis rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-faves
An absolutely beautiful translation of ancient Mesopotamian mythological, symbolic verses about Inanna and her lover, Dumuzi--some of them quite racy!
Et Alia
Jun 01, 2014 Et Alia rated it it was amazing
This is the primary hymnal for the Temple of Inanna and Dumuzi, the Sumerian semi-reconstructionist temple I'm about to be ordained in.
Sophia W
Jul 04, 2015 Sophia W rated it liked it
A very interesting ancient story, one of the first written stories.
Nov 16, 2015 Helena rated it it was amazing
This was really hot
Jul 11, 2015 Denise rated it liked it
This book is the result of the collaboration of Sumerologist Samuel Noah Kramer and folklorist Diane Wolkstein. Kramer worked on deciphering cuneiform for most of his long professional life. Wolkstein collected traditional stories from a number of cultures. In her introduction, she writes that she was hoping to find a complete set of stories about a goddess. That goddess turned out to be, with a little work, Inanna.

Please read the rest of the review here.
Barnaby Thieme
Jul 27, 2009 Barnaby Thieme rated it it was amazing
This is a delightful assemblage and rendering of some of the Sumerian myths pertaining to Inanna. Wolkstein does an admirable job of telling these tales in vibrant, clear language with the simple elegance they deserve. Words never get in the way of stark, primal images with their sometimes-astonishing emotional and psychological complexity and spiritual sophistication. These tales may be old but they are not primitive, and they speak today as loudly as ever.
Zainab Jasim
Feb 19, 2014 Zainab Jasim rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It tells the story of Inanna, who is a goddess of Sumerian time. Themes of love, life, and death are ever prevalent throughout the work. It is one of those timeless pieces where we can draw so much from it each time we read it.

Also, I think this is a particularly good translation because it is fairly easy to comprehend and uncumbersome, as some tend to be.
Mar 10, 2010 Donna rated it really liked it
Very interesting....great book to broaden your outlook on what we have been taught or spoonfed religiously. Great to broaden your views if you are open minded. You will see that the bible does not necessarily have its origins where we may have been taught. Also, good to see how ancient Sumerians brought their daily life; sex, weather, explanation of gods and social order into a very poetic form.
Jun 09, 2010 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended by BMcH. Crazy, like a trip to the zog people, only it's my relatives. I once had a "wild-haired enkum-creature" as a pet. My copy is from the Erie, Illinois high school and still has the date due sheet and the pocket for the library card. Nobody ever took it out.
An interesting book on the myth-cycles of the ancient Sumerian goddess Inanna, with a lot of scholarly material on the texts, translation, and interpretation. This edition does have some New-Agey stuff about Inanna as "the first Goddess," but I can overlook that.
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Diane Wolkstein was a folklorist and author of children's books. She also served as New York City's official storyteller from 1968–1971.
More about Diane Wolkstein...

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“Inanna spoke:
"What I tell you
Let the singer weave into song.
What I tell you,
Let it flow from ear to mouth,
Let it pass from old to young:

My vulva, the horn,
The Boat of Heaven,
Is full of eagerness like the young moon.
My untilled land lies fallow.

As for me, Inanna,
Who will plow my vulva?
Who will plow my high field?
Who will plow my wet ground?

As for me, the young woman,
Who will plow my vulva?
Who will station the ox there?
Who will plow my vulva?"

Dumuzi replied:
"Great Lady, the king will plow your vulva.
I, Dumuzi the King, will plow your vulva."

"Then plow my vulva, man of my heart!
Plow my vulva!”
More quotes…