Mesopotamian Goddess Ereshkigal: Powers & Symbols

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson introduces the goddess of the underworld to you, a goddess named Ereshkigal. You'll learn about her family tree, powers, role and the symbols that might be associated with her.

Ereshkigal

Who rules the underworld? The Devil? Nope! It's a goddess called Ereshkigal, also called Ereskigal, or Allatu in Akkadian. She is known as the 'Lady of the Great Earth' or 'Queen of the Great Below (the Netherworld).' In other words, she's the goddess in charge of the underworld in ancient Mesopotamian mythology. She was queen of the dead yet also associated with birth.

Let's learn more about her in this lesson.

Family Tree

Ereshkigal was like a supermom. Despite being a ruler of the underworld, she made time for children in between all of her duties. Her kids included a goddess called Nungal (Manungal), who married a god called Birtum.

Ereshkigal also had a son, a god called Namtar, whose name meant 'fate' or 'destiny'. Namtar's father was a god called Enlil. Namtar was a loyal son who served as minister to Ereshkigal. However, other myths say Namtar was actually born to Enlil and a goddess called Ninlil, but that's another lesson!

Ereshkigal had multiple husbands. It's hard to say who filed for divorce from whom though. In one story, she is wife of a god called Gugal-ana (her first husband), the 'canal inspector of An'. They had a son, a god called Ninazu. Ninazu was another god linked to the underworld.

She is later found married to an underworld king-god called Nergal, who apparently had numerous wives of his own in various stories. This is really sounding like a Jerry Springer show right now. Are you having trouble keeping all the deities starting with the letter 'N' straight yet?

Anyways, Ereshkigal was also the elder sister of a goddess called Inana (Istar). Inana was one of the most important female deities in ancient Mesopotamia.

Powers & Symbols

Ereshkigal lived in a palace at Ganzir, which is where the 'door to the underworld' was located. Actually it was more like a set of seven gates.

As you already know, Ereshkigal is the goddess of death. She gave people their death sentence. But unlike the gleeful Devil portrayed in today's religions, Ereshkigal was not an evil goddess of sorts. In fact, she cried for the men, women and children she sentenced to death.

In addition, her job was to guard the fountain of life and to cure people possessed by evil spirits.

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