You recently printed a column titled Spirit, (Nov. 10) the subject of which was “Naked Truth.” The author claimed that, “some scholars believe the symbolism [of the myth of ‘Ishtar’] isn’t quite right.”
The symbolism in Ishtar’s story is absolutely correct. The ancient matrilineal, matriarchal people saw the Earth as a paradise, filled with an abundance of blessings. They saw the Earth as their mother and divinity as female. Only women possessed the “magical” powers of bleeding—menstruating—without dying, and giving birth to children.
Transcending the Earth is a later, patriarchal concept. The underworld was not originally seen as evil. It was a place for the necessary work of seeing, owning and integrating one’s “shadow”/twin sibling part of oneself, to become whole, strong and humble.
A heroine’s journey—later, hero’s—to her underworld twin has many versions from many ancient cultures.
The current stories we have been exposed to are rooted in the patriarchal idea of good versus evil, and come originally from misunderstandings of, and deliberate changes to, old Goddess religion stories, like that of Ishtar’s visit to her twin, Eresh-kigal.
An example of a deliberate change to an old Goddess story is the idea that being a virgin means one is “pure.”
I strongly encourage everyone to learn about religious history from a variety of sources. An excellent place to start would be Barbara G. Walker’s book, The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets.
Most of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim stories were stolen from the earliest pagans. This absolutely includes the story of the dying savior/god Jesus, who resurrected and whose mother was believed to be a virgin.