ERESHKIGAL (pronounced ay-RESH-kee-gal) is the Sumerian Goddess of death and Queen of the Underworld. She is the daughter of Nammu, Goddess of the primordial sea, and Anu, God of the sky, and twin sister of Enki, God of the waters. Shortly after her birth, she was carried off by the dragon Kur to the Underworld, where she became its ruler. She is also said to be the older sister of Inanna, Goddess of love, war, and fertility, and she is mostly known from the myth of Inanna's descent to the Underworld. Ereshkigal's husband Gugalanna, the Bull of Heaven, had been killed after Inanna sent him to punish Gilgamesh, and Inanna went to the Underworld to pay her respects to her sister. Ereshkigal feared that Inanna was actually coming to take over the Underworld, and had her servant remove an article of Inanna's clothing at each of the seven gates that she had to pass through. When she finally arrives naked at the foot of Ereshkigal's throne, Ereshkigal strikes her sister dead and hangs her body from a hook behind her throne.
Another myth of Ereshkigal tells of how she came to have a second husband, Nergal, God of war and plague. Nergal was first sent to the Underworld with a message from the other Gods to Ereshkigal. He was so impressed that he petitioned the Gods to let him visit a second time, and the great God Anu warned him not to eat or drink anything in the Underworld and not to get too close to Ereshkigal. However, Ereshkigal seduced Nergal and they stayed in bed for seven days. Nergal then left the Underworld and returned to the heavens. Heartbroken Ereshkigal threatened to raise the dead until they outnumbered the living if the other Gods would not send Nergal back, and he returned to the Underworld and married her.
Ereshkigal's name, which means "lady of the great earth," is seen as EREC-KIGALA, and she was also known as IRKALLA, which is another name for the Sumerian Underworld.
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