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An important goddess of the ancient Near East, Inanna was worshiped primarily as the goddess of love and fertility. The daughter of either the sky god Anu or the storm god Enlil, she was also associated with forces of nature such as rain and thunderstorms. Inanna is the Sumerian counterpart of the Semitic goddess Ishtar.

A well-known myth about Inanna tells of her descent to the "land of no return," the underworld ruled by her sister Ereshkigal. Condemned to death there, Inanna is later brought back to life with help from Enki, the god of wisdom. To remain in the world of the living, however, Inanna must provide a substitute for her position in the dark realm. She chooses her husband, Dumuzi (known as Tammuz in Semitic mythology). This myth, as well as others about Inanna, was subsequently adopted by the cult of Ishtar.

In later versions of the story, Dumuzi stays in the underworld during the winter and returns to the world of the living for the summer, when his sister Geshtinanna takes his place among the dead. Dumuzi's annual death and rebirth are sometimes associated with the seasons, similar to the story of Persephone in Greek mythology.

See also Anu; Enlil; Ishtar; Persephone; Semitic Mythology; Underworld.

underworld fand of the dead

cult group bound together by devotion to a particular person, belief, or god

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