The Mouth of Ishtar
November 11, 2016
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Ever think about how we use our mouths to kiss and to eat?
The strongest instinct in all living things is the instinct to eat. We must ritually consume life in order to live, and this rule applies even if you’re a vegan. (Lest we forget, plants are living things too.) But when it comes to creatures that reproduce sexually, our instinct to eat is very closely followed by our instinct to mate. Both of these instincts result in the spending of one organism’s life force (e.g., its pollen, flesh, blood, semen, etc.) to generate new life in one or more other organisms (i.e., its predator, mate, and/or offspring). Therefore, our hunger for food and our hunger for sex are two aspects of the same force, which explains why the ancients so often linked their fertility Goddesses to bloodshed. It also explains why this force is usually seen as female, since females usually benefit the most from how this works (outside of human patriarchy, at least). Males become expendable once they’ve fertilized their mates’ eggs; the next generation can still spawn even if they leave or get killed and eaten. (Hence why the consorts of fertility Goddesses are usually passive males who die a sacrificial death, like Tammuz.)
As an animist, I believe all of nature is imbued with spirit; I think there’s a spiritual counterpart to every physical thing that exists (including people, animals, plants, stars, etc.). But I also think this principle applies to the more abstract forces of nature as well. For me, Ishtar is more than just a mythical personification of our genetic predisposition to bite and fuck. I think this force is actually a living thing – a gigantic animal that lives in all of our flesh – and I believe She has a soul just as we do. Of course, this can get extremely complicated when we stop to wonder just why there are so many fertility Goddesses out there; are the “soft polytheists” right in supposing that They’re just different “masks” for the same soul? If the “hard polytheists” are right, does this mean this force has multiple souls that can somehow break away and act independently of each other? How can anyone ever really know for sure…and does it really matter?
All I know is that Ishtar will always be the number one Goddess in my heart, and that I feel Her eternal soul in the way the Morning Star defies the dawn; in the way cats can switch between innocent play and brutal savagery in the blink of an eye; in the way the “mirage effect” makes the air belly dance over hot pavement in the summer; and in the way I find it difficult to look away from a beautiful woman. Some men find the idea of being devoured by the Scarlet Woman terrifying (as Gilgamesh did), and I suspect this is the original neurosis in which all patriarchy is rooted. But I can certainly think of much worse ways to go; better to be mauled ecstatically by Ishtar’s lovely, blood-splattered mouth than to die by the hand of any mortal man.