Sunday, August 8, 2010
Enhedduanna the first known writer in the world
Originally Published at BellaOnline Mythology
Enheduanna was a High Priestess in Ur around 2300 BCE. She held this position for about 40 years. As far as we know, she was the first 'writer' in the modern sense of the word; reflecting her personal ideas, feelings and experiences in her poems/prayers to the Goddess Inanna through metaphor and action. She was the daughter of Sargon, the first ruler in the ancient world to create/control an empire.
The position of High Priestess of Nanna, (the Moon God of Ur), was an extremely important one, as he was the primary God of the Sumerian pantheon at that time. Placed in this role by her father, probably as part of his political agenda, Enheduanna soon declared not the God Nanna but the Goddess, Inanna, to be the supreme being. So, as her father revolutionized the political world of the time, she revolutionized the spiritual one.
In Enheduanna's lifetime, the role of Inanna was perhaps particularly important in part because of her ancient role as Warrior Goddess. She had long been invoked for victory in battle. Mesopotamia at the time was comprised of various city-states that existed together in relative peace. Before Sargon, some rulers had conquered neighboring areas and brought them under their jurisdiction, but no one had attempted to do much more.
Sargon established, through war, a unified government among the city-states, the first empire. To maintain this, constant military action was required. War, rather than battle, became the norm. As it's role grew, it is logical that the role of the Warrior Goddess did too.
Inanna is a complex Goddess, perhaps the most complex we know. Everything in the natural world converges in her and she is full, therefore, of paradoxes, opposites; something like the concept of Tao but in physical form. She is the manifestation of the divine in the material world, embodying all it's beauty and ugliness. She is the only diety in the Sumerian pantheon who embodies this concept, though it is a central and extremely ancient one.
She, and this concept in general, seems to have emerged from ancient, neolithic traditions. Three millennia before the Samarrans, and after them the Ubiad culture, reflect a concept of reality as paradox. Ritual details from the earliest periods of Mesopotamian history match aspects of Inanna, perhaps evidence of the continuiation of a cult throughout millenia up to and beyond Enheduanna's time. She in fact says of Inanna in one of her poems, "You wear the robes of the old, old Gods".
The earliest tablets relating to Inanna found at Uruk describe her as having four manifestations, morning and evening star/Venus, (morning Inanna and evening Inanna), princely Inanna, (androgeny was a principal theme in Summerian mythology and ritual), and Inanna of the Steppe, (perhaps hinting at partial origins from a people who migrated to Uruk from across mountains).
In her we can, as Enheduanna did, see ourselves, our world, all of humanity. She reflects the best and worst of our experience at it's most extreme, unbridled, passionate love, cruel bloody destruction, divine illumination and deathly darkness. She is full of contradictions, as we are, as nature itself is. At her core is chaos, (with it's only opposite chaos). Through her physical manifestation, the chaos is brought to order. She reminds us, however, that this order is an illusion, something created by people. As society and it's rules are.