The dance of Inanna and Kali
Posted by Fredsvenn on August 2, 2015
Inanna was the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, and warfare, and goddess of the E-Anna temple at the city of Uruk, her main centre. She also is one of the Sumerian war deities: “She stirs confusion and chaos against those who are disobedient to her, speeding carnage and inciting the devastating flood, clothed in terrifying radiance. It is her game to speed conflict and battle, untiring, strapping on her sandals.” Battle itself is sometimes referred to as “the dance of Inanna.”
Consider her description in one hymn: “When the servants let the flocks loose, and when cattle and sheep are returned to cow-pen and sheepfold, then, my lady, like the nameless poor, you wear only a single garment. The pearls of a prostitute are placed around your neck, and you are likely to snatch a man from the tavern.”
Kālī, also known as Kālikā, is the Hindu goddess associated with empowerment, or shakti. She is the fierce aspect of the goddess Durga. Tme Kali comes from k, which means black, time, death, lord of death: Shiva. Since Shiva is called Kāla—the eternal time—the nālī, his consort, also means “Time” or “Death” (as in “time has come”). Hence, Kāli is the Goddess of Time, Change, Power and Destruction.
In her most famous pose as Daksinakali, popular legends say that Kali, becoming drunk on the blood of her victims on the battlefield, dances with destructive frenzy. She is about to destroy the whole universe when, urged by all the gods, Shiva lies in her way to stop her. In her fury, she fails to see the body of Shiva lying amongst the corpses on the battlefield and steps upon his chest.
Realizing Shiva lies beneath her feet, her anger is pacified and she calm her fury. Though not included in any of the puranas, popular legends state that Kali was ashamed at the prospect of keeping her husband beneath her feet and thus stuck her tongue out in shame.
Although sometimes presented as dark and violent, her earliest incarnation as a figure of annihilation of evil forces still has some influence. Various Shakta Hindu cosmologies, as well as Shākta Tantric beliefs, worship her as the ultimate reality or Brahman.
Comparatively recent devotional movements largely conceive Kāli as a benevolent mother goddess. She is often portrayed standing or dancing on her husband, the god Shiva, who lies prostrate beneath her. Worshipped throughout India but particularly in Kashmir, South India, Bengal, and Assam, Kali is both geographically and culturally marginal.
Cybele (Phrygian: Matar Kubileya/Kubeleya “Kubeleyan Mother”, perhaps “Mountain Mother”; Lydian Kuvava; Greek: Kybele, Kybebe, Kybelis) was an originally Anatolian mother goddess; she has a possible precursor in the earliest neolithic at Çatalhöyük (in the Konya region) where the statue of a pregnant goddess seated on a lion throne was found in a granary dated to the 6th millennium BCE.
She is Phrygia’s only known goddess, and was probably its state deity. Her Phrygian cult was adopted and adapted by Greek colonists of Asia Minor and spread from there to mainland Greece and its more distant western colonies from around the 6th century BCE. In Greece, Cybele met with a mixed reception. She was partially assimilated to aspects of the Earth-goddess Gaia, her Minoan equivalent Rhea, and the Harvest-Mother goddess Demeter.
Some city-states, notably Athens, evoked her as a protector, but her most celebrated Greek rites and processions show her as an essentially foreign, exotic mystery-goddess who arrives in a lion-drawn chariot to the accompaniment of wild music, wine, and a disorderly, ecstatic following. Uniquely in Greek religion, she had a transgender or eunuch mendicant priesthood.
Many of her Greek cults included rites to a divine Phrygian castrate shepherd-consort Attis, who was probably a Greek invention. In Greece, Cybele is associated with mountains, town and city walls, fertile nature, and wild animals, especially lions. A Gallus (pl. Galli) was a eunuch priest of the Phrygian goddess Cybele and her consort Attis, whose worship was incorporated into the state religious practices of ancient Rome.
Conflation with Rhea led to Cybele’s association with various male demigods who served Rhea as attendants, or as guardians of her son, the infant Zeus, as he lay in the cave of his birth. In cult terms, they seem to have functioned as intercessors or intermediaries between goddess and mortal devotees, through dreams, waking trance or ecstatic dance and song.
They include the armed Kouretes, who danced around Zeus and clashed their shields to amuse him; their supposedly Phrygian equivalents, the youthful Corybantes, who provided similarly wild and martial music, dance and song; and the dactyls and Telchines, magicians associated with metalworking.
The Megalesia festival to Magna Mater commenced on April 4, the anniversary of her arrival in Rome. The festival structure is unclear, but it included ludi scaenici (plays and other entertainments based on religious themes), probably performed on the deeply stepped approach to her temple; some of the plays were commissioned from well-known playwrights.
On April 10, her image was taken in public procession to the Circus Maximus, and chariot races were held there in her honour; a statue of Magna Mater was permanently sited on the racetrack’s dividing barrier, showing the goddess seated on a lion’s back.
Roman bystanders seem to have perceived Megalesia as either characteristically “Greek”; or Phrygian. At the cusp of Rome’s transition to Empire, the Greek Dionysius of Halicarnassus describes this procession as wild Phrygian “mummery” and “fabulous clap-trap”, in contrast to the Megalesian sacrifices and games, carried out in what he admires as a dignified “traditional Roman” manner; Dionysius also applauds the wisdom of Roman religious law, which wisely forbids the participation of any Roman citizen in the procession, and in the goddess’s mysteries; Slaves are forbidden to witness any of this.
In the late republican era, Lucretius vividly describes the procession’s armed “war dancers” in their three-plumed helmets, clashing their shields together, bronze on bronze, “delighted by blood”; yellow-robed, long-haired, perfumed Galli waving their knives, wild music of thrumming tympanons and shrill flutes. Along the route, rose petals are scattered, and clouds of incense arise.
The goddess’s image, wearing the Mural Crown and seated within a sculpted, lion-drawn chariot, is carried high on a bier. The Roman display of Cybele’s Megalesia procession as an exotic, privileged public pageant offers signal contrast to what is known of the private, socially inclusive Phrygian-Greek mysteries on which it was based.
Gallu comes from the Sumerian Gal meaning “great” and Lu meaning “man”, humans or sexually ambivalent demons that freed Inanna from the underworld. They originally seem to have been consecrated to the god Enki.
The Gallus (also called gallu demons or gallas [Akkadian: gallû) were great demons/devils of the underworld. They hauled unfortunate victims off to the underworld. They were one of seven devils (or “the offspring of hell”) of Babylonian theology that could be appeased by the sacrifice of a lamb at their altars.
Inanna (or Ishtar) was freed by gallu demons sent by Enki while she was on a journey to the underworld. An especially fierce gallu demon, the monstrous Asag, was slain by Ninurta using the enchanted mace Sharur.
The Gala (Akkadian: kalû) were priests of the Sumerian goddess Inanna, significant numbers of the personnel of both temples and palaces, the central institutions of Mesopotamian city states, individuals with neither male nor female gender identities.
These priests played the tympanum and were involved in bull sacrifice. Another category of Mesopotamian priests called assinnu, galatur, and kurgarru had a sacred function. These transgender or eunuch priests participated in liturgical rites, during which they were costumed and masked. They played music, sang, and danced, most often in ceremonies dedicated to the goddess Ishtar.
Originally a specialist in singing lamentations, gala appear in temple records dating back from the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. According to an old Babylonian text, Enki created the gala specifically to sing “heart-soothing laments” for the goddess Inanna. Cuniform references indicate the gendered character of the role.
Lamentation and wailing originally may have been female professions, so that men who entered the role adopted its forms. Their hymns were sung in a Sumerian dialect known as eme-sal (EME.SAL, possibly “fine tongue” or “high-pitched voice”), though often translated as “women’s language”, normally used to render the speech of female gods, and some gala took female names.
Homosexual proclivities are clearly implied by the Sumerian proverb that reads, “When the gala wiped off his anus [he said], ‘I must not arouse that which belongs to my mistress [i.e., Inanna]’ “.
In fact, the word gala was written using the sign sequence UŠ.KU, the first sign having also the reading giš3 (“penis”), and the second one dur2 (“anus”), so perhaps there is some pun involved.
Moreover, gala is homophonous with gal4-la “vulva”. However, in spite of all their references of their effeminate character (especially in the Sumerian proverbs), many administrative texts mention gala priests who had children, wives, and large families. On the other hand, some gala priests were actually women.