Diane Wolkenstein and Samuel Noah Kramer’s
Inanna: Queen of Heaven
When I first encountered Ishtar, I didn’t know who She was; all I knew was that She had something to do with the Middle East. (Actually, I was initially convinced that She was just Seth in female form. He’d appeared to me that way through my ajna chakra many times before, but He always did it with the head of either a donkey or His mysterious sha beast. This was the first time I was seeing a lady who looked like a human belly dancer, but with glowing radioactive skin.) As it happened, I was on my way to a Barnes & Noble bookstore when Ishtar first appeared to me; and when I reached my destination, I stumbled across a copy of Merlin Stone’s When God Was a Woman, which is something of an important book in the history of feminism and contemporary Paganism.
It’s been a while since I’ve read Stone’s book, but I can tell you that her research is not the most historically accurate. (In particular, her theory that Seth is actually a Goddess who was bastardized by the Egyptian patriarchy has never been corroborated by any pre-existing source that I’ve ever seen – except maybe for Gerald Massey, but he’s just ridiculous.) However, the book is still an important read for historical reasons, and I highly encourage everyone to read it if they never have (and if they can find a copy of it). I don’t remember what it was about the book that pointed me in Ishtar’s direction, but it wasn’t long after reading it that I discovered Diane Wolkenstein and Samuel Noah Kramer’s Inanna: Queen of Heaven. That book pretty much answered all of my questions, and it became something like my personal Bible for the next year and some change.
I also saw a really neat movie around the time this was all happening. It was called The Devonsville Terror (1983), and it was about this schoolteacher who comes to teach at a small New England town. At roughly the same time, a feminist radio DJ and an independent female scientist move into the town as well, and all the men of the town become convinced that they’re reincarnations of three witches who were killed in the town 300 years ago. It’s an incredibly bad movie – it’s horribly written, horribly acted, horribly directed and horribly edited – and it’s really not worth reviewing at all. But at the same time, it’s one of those few grade-Z films where you can tell its creators were actually trying to do something awesome. I think the goal they were shooting for was to tell an allegorical tale about the evils of misogyny and the re-emergence of Goddess power in the 20th century; they just totally sucked at making films. Honestly, if ever there was a film that actually deserved to be remade and done better, it’s this one. I don’t think Ishtar cares for these kinds of movies – or at least, not like Seth and I do – but I definitely felt Her with me when I was watching it.
Two other things I was really into while being a priest of Ishtar was KISS and the Omen movies (just the first three; the made-for-TV fourth one’s too stupid to count, and the 2006 remake didn’t exist yet). I explain why The Omen movies make me think about Ishtar in my review of the third film of that series, The Final Conflict (1981). And yeah, I know; KISS is not exactly what anyone in their right mind would call “feminist” music. But it had the allure of being “satanic” (especially in the small Texas town to which my family and I had just moved earlier in 1999), and something about it just spoke to me. The content of the songs is simple enough – they’re all about sex, and we all know Ishtar enjoys lots of that – but something about the goofy makeup made me think about the Queen of Heaven. (Maybe it was Peter Criss’ “Catman” makeup.)