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Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart : Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess [Paperback]

Betty De Shong Meador , Judy Grahn
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 2001 0292752423 978-0292752429

The earliest known author of written literature was a woman named Enheduanna, who lived in ancient Mesopotamia around 2300 BCE. High Priestess to the moon god Nanna, Enheduanna came to venerate the goddess Inanna above all gods in the Sumerian pantheon. The hymns she wrote to Inanna constitute the earliest written portrayal of an ancient goddess. In their celebration of Enheduanna's relationship with Inanna, they also represent the first existing account of an individual's consciousness of her inner life.

This book provides the complete texts of Enheduanna's hymns to Inanna, skillfully and beautifully rendered by Betty De Shong Meador, who also discusses how the poems reflect Enheduanna's own spiritual and psychological liberation from being an obedient daughter in the shadow of her ruler father. Meador frames the poems with background information on the religious and cultural systems of ancient Mesopotamia and the known facts of Enheduanna's life. With this information, she explores the role of Inanna as the archetypal feminine, the first goddess who encompasses both the celestial and the earthly and shows forth the full scope of women's potential.

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Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart : Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess + Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer
Price for both: $33.80

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Editorial Reviews


"That these poems deal immediately with the very popular 'goddess literature' and with an individual woman in a most important historical situation should give this work widespread appeal." John Maier, SUNY College at Brockport, cotranslator of the Epic of Gilgamesh "The Epic of Gilgamesh is well-known as the earliest extant work of literature, but try the Bronze Age poems if Inanna. Written around 2,300BC, they contain fabulous lines: "Lady of blazing dominion, clad in dread. Riding on red fire-power." Stand in the Middle East today and you can feel the heat of the great goddess coming at you." - Bettany Hughes, The Week, May 12th 2012


That these poems deal immediately with the very popular 'goddess literature' and with an individual woman in a most important historical situation should give this work widespread appeal. (John Maier, SUNY College at Brockport, cotranslator of the Epic of Gilgamesh)

Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press (February 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0292752423
  • ISBN-13: 978-0292752429
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #183,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
63 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive book about Enheduanna and Inanna February 10, 2001
This is the book I have been waiting for since I first learned about Enheduanna, the first known writer of the ancient world and high priestess of the Sumerian moon god and was transfixed by her words: "But I am Enheduanna, pure and shining high priestess of the moon God!" I couldn't believe that a real priestess, wrote about herself in the first person, 4,000 years ago, as if she was talking directly to me. Ever since, I have had to trudge through dense, scholarly books and articles to learn any details I could about Enheduanna and now after 5 years this book comes along putting all the pieces, and I mean ALL the pieces together- and it far exceeds what I was hoping for. Meador has culled all the best information about Enheduanna and Inanna--from the overwhelming and hard-to-sift-through scholarly resources on Mesopotamia. She has hand-picked important quotes from women's studies, Jungian psychology, the ancient near east, and comparative anthropology and synthesized it all here, accessibly and VERY thought- provokingly! Meador has translated from the original Sumerian cuneiform three of Enheduanna's poems and presented them in a modern, delicious, poetic style for maximum accessiblity to today's audience. Through Meador's painstaking efforts and through her insightful and outstanding analysis Enheduanna emerges as a literary genius and surprisingly, as a theological radical! The latter was completely unexpected so I won't give away the details. This book is an incredible journey into a numinous, symbolic, mystical language, uncovering a new layer of the evolution of human consciousness, particularly from a female perspective. There is so much in this book which is so beautifully written- the poems alone are worth it. Read more ›
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT POEMS!!! March 28, 2003
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As someone intensely interested in Inanna, as well as the ancient Sumerian gods and religeon, this book was exactly what I needed to better understand some of the most important concepts.
Three complete poems of Enheduanna are represented here, and just the first one, "Inanna and Mount Ebih," is well worth the price of this book alone. There are many other small poems, little titbits of the ancient Sumerian hymns, which are equally enlightening. The translations, as well as the original texts are beautifully done, reading easily as poetry. If you like goddesses and you like poetry, this is a good thing to check out!
I already own "Inanna: Queen of Heaven and of Earth," by Wolkstein, so I am well familiar to Inanna as a goddess of love and warmth. The texts contained in this book are the exact opposite; many show the violent side of Inanna. But this is exactly what is important, because Inanna is a goddess of duality, that symbolizes at many time's man's ancient connection with the spirit and his natural instincts. In ancient Mesopotamia, gods were often feared for their great powers, and harshness upon those that wronged them. Its great to have a new point of view, especially one that is as powerful as this. For the serious student, I'd reccomend getting both books, that way you can have a really clear picture of the glory of Inanna.
The author spends a lot of time giving information about the ancient Sumerian customs, which I find to be very useful. For example, the Sumerian marriage rite, which I had never known much about.
Now, I do have one complaint about this book. The author tends to include WAY too many references to the Bible, as well as a really strong feminist view point.
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39 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good translating, forget most of the commentary March 11, 2002
By ilmk
This up-to-date rendition of Sumerian religious poetry and hymns can be reviewed in two areas. The first: that of the theories around the poems/hymns; the second: the actual translations. Five stars the latter, two stars the former.
The first part is given over to discussion of the Sumerian culture and the mythology of Inanna. The first chapter dupes as an intro and is autobiographical, which is nice, as it's good to see why an author has chosen to write any book. Chapter Two could be summed up by the statement that Inanna is "all encompassing", but the author chooses to spend a dozen pages saying it. To be honest you can safely ignore Chapter Two. Chapter Three is far better, giving a succinct history of pre-Sumerian cultures during the Ubaid period. Chapter Four is also very good as Meador gives a history of the archaeology of the Sumerian period. It continues through Chaprter 5 with an interpretation of Enheduanna's life. Several interpretative anomalies and assumptive theories leap out in chapters 5 to 7. For example, the single disk that was found stating: "Enheduanna..., daughter of Sargon" is interpreted as literal, even though, as the author acknowledges, this presents a dichotomy (as other Sumerian scholars also acknowledge) of incestuous rituals described in Chap6, pg 61. Given all these scholars and the author agree it presents a problem it might be prudent to theorize that the term `daughter' is ritualistic and not literal. But, by taking the literal interpretation, it has allowed the author to present a full princessly/priestessly life of Eduhanna with no primary source to back it up.
Chapter 7 begins to discuss the 42 hymns and 3 poems. Hymn 8 speaks of the `seven seas' which throws up all kinds of questions, given the relatively modern usage of the term.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars a pleasant surprise
The poems were written by Enhudenna, he greatest poet who ever lived, whose work survived centuries and was placed alongside the writings of kings. Read more
Published 1 month ago by s. berger
4.0 out of 5 stars Impressive
This book centers on the three poems to and about Inanna which the High Priestess Enheduanna had written around 2300 BC. Read more
Published 3 months ago by A. Meyer
4.0 out of 5 stars Pure poetry
What a modern pagan can be without poetry? Well, this book is pure poesy. To honor our ancestors and worship our Gods, you must be a poet.
Published 4 months ago by Roberto Quintas
4.0 out of 5 stars En-hedu-Ana is a title
I agree with everything people say about this book, additionally that we don't know the name of the subject. Its a title, not a name. Read more
Published on March 13, 2012 by Roger
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Beautifal.
As I am not a professional in the area of Archeology, I will leave that aspect to the other reviewers. Read more
Published on March 24, 2005 by T. R. LAVALLEY
5.0 out of 5 stars even large enough for highbrough
Not often does one have the profound experience of being drawn through the pages of a contemporary writer, but I must say that the realization of oneself is expressed masterfully... Read more
Published on August 4, 2004 by michael moore
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but misguided views
If all you are looking for is a somewhat sensationalized view of the "First woman poet in history", then this book would serve the purpose. Read more
Published on July 25, 2002
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