On Being A “King” For Ishtar
November 28, 2016
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The Accolade by Edmund Blair-Leighton (1901)
The worship of Ishtar already has a special place for women in the role of the holy qadishtu (as well it should); but what might it mean for a man to worship Her? I became fixated on this question during much of my walk with the Scarlet Woman from 1999 to 2001. Mind you, I’m not trying to frame this discussion like I was feeling “martyred” for having a Y chromosome or anything like that. But what place could a man have with a Goddess whose clergy were all women, and whose greatest foes (both mortal and otherworldly) are mostly male?
At that time in my life, I thought the answer might lie in the concept of sacred kingship. Surely the Babylonian kings were some of Ishtar’s most important worshipers (or at least they were when they were helping the qadishtu perform their sacred rites of spring). Based on this, I began to formulate the following paradigm in my head:
- I am the “king” of my own mind, body and soul. My “kingdom” includes everything for which I am directly responsible in life. It is my job to procure a “good harvest” each year, to protect my people, and to prevent the end of the world from happening here at my own existential level.
- The secret to good kingship is humility; I must “marry” Ishtar and be subservient to Her will. This means more than just frolicking with Her in fertility rites; it also means trying to understand things from a female perspective and using that knowledge to make more informed decisions during my “reign.”
- If I serve Ishtar as a just and noble king, I will change the world around me for the better, and my “dynasty” will live on well past my death. But if I should abuse my power and become a wicked king, I will be an abomination to Ishtar, and She will hand me over to the galla demons.
In other words, I thought I had to be friggin’ Hammurabi to be a good male worshiper of Ishtar. This was quite a tall order for a 17-year old boy to be setting for himself, and while I did well with it during my initial year of serving Ishtar as a priest (1999-2000), it became too much for me during the second (2000-2001). By the end of it, I knew in my heart that this particular path just wasn’t right for me. I still think being an obedient “husband” to the Goddess is a remarkably beautiful idea, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for anyone else who might choose to explore it. But praise be to Set, I am just too much of an irreverent jackass to take myself seriously as a “sacred king.”
It has occurred to me that this construct I developed back in 1999 is very similar to that of Godspousery (i.e., a phenomenon in Paganism where individual Pagans become “married” to one or more Divinities as a form of devotional worship). I never heard this term until the 2010s – well after I had already given up on pursuing this kind of relationship with Ishtar – but I think it’s more or less the same thing as what I was trying to do. I also realize that my way of viewing this relationship was quite heteronormative; after all, I was coming at this from a “How can I serve the Goddess as a heterosexual cisgender dude?” angle. However, there is no reason why a woman (cisgender or transgender) or a genderfluid person can’t adapt this construct to fit their own needs. If you don’t like the word “king,” you can always replace it with something like “queen,” “monarch,” “regent,” or “ruler.”