The Beautiful Birch Tree











Heart of Summer

When we met at the Wandering Goat, I told Belle she was going to be like ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’. I am Merlin to Belle’s Vivian. She smiled when I told her there will be Celtic lessons. When I saw Belle’s hands with a message written on them, I saw her lesson on the Beth-Louis-Nion Alphabet had already begun. I couldn’t wait till Belle came over to model so I could show he Robert Graves’s book ‘The White Goddess’.

“There will be signs.”

On the way to the church to film Marilyn’s Gospel Choir. I got lost. An old lady bent over with a cane asked me if I was going to hear the choir. How did she know? I video taped her and learned she was the founder of the Grassroots Gardening program. I was amazed, because I knew Belle was very involved in gardening, growing food for poor people. In the beginning of Sleeping Beauty, there are old crones.

Belle’s mother gathered the people of Eugene together to take a journey into the underworld while Belle’s father built a labyrinth. The Burch name comes from birch tree. B for birch is the first letter of the Tree Alphabet, the Beth-Luis-Nion. Ianna may be the source of the name Hannah, and Anna who were Nazarites who I suspect used a hand sign. They may have come from Minoah.

I have been tracking this Hand Sign for twenty-five years. I freaked when Belle hid the truth she was arrested for championing the homeless and someone wrote on her hands in order to give her message. This has much to do with my conclusion Jesus and John were restoring the Jubilee. Belle looks like DaVinci’s Saint Anne.

I am going to go way out on a limb here, but, a week ago I began to wonder if Belle’s mother is not employing me to give lessons to her beautiful daughter, lessons Belle did not get, and needs. To consider this, is the basis of our greatest Fairy Tales that come from the Celts long ago. Catherine Vadertuin-Burch has a wondrous gift for her youngest daughter, who was fourteen when she died. Belle is stuck at fourteen. I asked her to be my Disciple when I saw was was unfolding.

In the Labyrinth that King Henry build for the Rose of the World, a small stream connected apartments that I suspect were placed in a circle. Messages were sent by putting them in this stream on a branch. I believe Henry knew the Ogham alphabet that is notched on sticks.

In the picture of Belle above, she is using her thumbs to enter my name in her phone. She asks about my name JON. JON is also HANS. To be approached by an old crone you sees you are lost, and your names is HANS, then you know Fairy tales can come true. Note ANNA in the name Johannes (John). This story if FOR BELLE and no one else. I believe the those lurking in the background have been cleared away. As Belle typed, I told her my blog is about Sleeping Beauty and the name Rosamond.

Jon the Nazarite

Copyright 2014

Descent of Ianna

“represents the dying of the green world during winter that is reborn each spring. In our version, he makes an alliance with ancient feminine spiritual power represented by the serpent he calls to for help just before the break in the ancient Summerian tablet passed down to us. He interweaves this serpent with his own authority (reflecting the Sumerian symbol of the caudus still used in medicine today)– and his full humanity, like Inanna’s own, is restored.

To this traditional narrative, I have added an Old Woman-storyteller. I envision her to be something like the priestesses who kept the rituals and myths of Inanna for generations. Like so many grandmothers, storytellers, and women healers I have been privileged to know, Old Woman embodies “all the courage love takes when it opens our eyes.”



Hans is a masculine given name. In German, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, Icelandic and Swedish, originally it is short for Johannes (John) but is also recognized in Sweden, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands as a name in its own right for official purposes.

“Hansel” (German Hänsel) is a variant, meaning “little Hans.” Another variant with the same meaning is Hänschen, found in the German proverb “Was Hänschen nicht lernt, lernt Hans nimmermehr,” which translates roughly as: “What little Hans doesn’t learn, grown-up Hans will never learn.”

Other variants include: Hanns, Hannes, Hansi (also female), Hansele, Hansal, Hensal, Hanserl, Hännschen, Hennes, Hännes, Hänneschen, Henning, Henner, Honsa, Johan, Johann, Jan, Jannes, Jo, Joha,,4444754

Mildred Wilson is the garden’s oldest volunteer at 91-years-young. She sits and sorts garlic at a picnic table in the center of the garden. Pushing a wheel barrow and shoveling compost are activities that she leaves to the younger gardeners. “In the summer I volunteer here just maybe once or twice a week if I can. If they have something I can do because it’s limited what I can do,” she says. “I just think this kind of activity is the hope of the world. I meet so many interesting people of all kinds of education and from so many different places.”

Chapter 10

I first found the Beth-Luis-Nion tree-alphabet in Roderick O’Flaherty’s Ogygia; he presents it, with the Boibel-Loth, as a genuine relic of Druidism orally transmitted down the centuries. It is said to have been latterly used for divination only and consists of five vowels and thirteen consonants. Each letter is named after the tree or shrub of which it is the initial:

Beth B Birch
Luis L Rowan
Nion N Ash
Fearn F Alder
Saille S Willow
Uath H Hawthorn
Duir D Oak
Tinne T Holly Coll Hazel etc…

The names of the letters in the modern Irish alphabet are also those of trees, and most of them correspond with O’Flaherty’s list, though T has become gorse; O, broom; and A, elm.

I noticed almost at once that the consonants of this alphabet form a calendar of seasonal tree-magic [?] , and that all the trees figure prominently in European folklore.


The first tree of the series is the self-propagating birch. Birch twigs are used throughout Europe in the beating of hounds and the flogging of delinquents–and formerly lunatics–with the object of expelling evil spirits. When Gwion writes in the Cad Goddeu that the birch ‘armed himself but late’ he means that birch twigs do not toughen until late in the year. (He makes the same remark about the willow and the rowan whose twigs were similarly put to ceremonial use.) Birch rods are also used in rustic ritual for driving out the spirit of the old year. The Roman lictors carried birch rods during the installation of the Consuls at this very same season; each Consul had twelve lictors, making a company of thirteen. The birch is the tree of inception. It is indeed the earliest forest tree, with the exception of the mysterious elder, to put out new leaves (April 1st in England, the beginning of the financial year), and in Scandinavia its leafing marks the beginning of the agricultural year, because farmers use it as a directory for sowing their Spring wheat. The first month begins immediately after the winter solstice, when the days after shortening to the extreme limit begin to lengthen again.

Since there are thirteen consonants in the alphabet, it is reasonable to [?] regard the tree month as the British common-law ‘lunar’ month of twenty- eight days defined by Blackstone. As has already been pointed out, there are thirteen such months in a solar year, with one day left over. Caesar and Pliny both record that the Druidic year was reckoned by lunar months, but neither defines a lunar month, and there is nothing to prove that it was a ‘lunation’ of roughly twenty-nine and a half days–of which there are twelve in a year with ten and three-quarter days left over. For the first-century B.C.’Coligny Calendar’, which is one of lunations, is no longer regarded as Druidic; it is engraved in Roman letters on a brass tablet and is now thought to be part of the Romanizing of native religion attempted under the early Empire. Moreover, twenty-eight is a true lunar month not only in the astronomical sense of the moon’s revolutions in relation to the sun, but in the mystic sense that the Moon, being a woman, has a woman’s normal menstrual period (‘menstruation’ is connected with the word ‘moon’)[1] of twenty-eight days.[2]


The Coligny system was probably brought into Britain by the Romans of the Claudian conquest and memories of its intercalated days are said by Professor T. Glynn Jones to survive in Welsh folklore. But that in both Irish and Welsh myths of the highest antiquity ‘a year and a day’ is a term constantly used suggests that the Beth-Luis-Nion Calendar is one of 364 days plus one. We can there- fore regard the Birch month as extending from December 24th to January 20th.


The second tree is the quickbeam (‘tree of life’), otherwise known as the quicken, rowan or mountain ash. Its round wattles, spread with newly-flayed bull’s hides, were used by the Druids as a last extremity for compelling demons to answer difficult questions–hence the Irish proverbial expression ‘to go on the wattles of knowledge’, meaning to do one’s utmost to get information. The quickbeam is also the tree most widely used in the British Isles as a prophylactic against lightning and witches’ charms of all sorts: for example, bewitched horses can be controlled only with a rowan whip. In ancient Ireland, fires of rowan were kindled by the Druids of opposing armies and incantations spoken over them, summoning spirits to take part in the fight. The berries of the magical rowan in the Irish romance of Fraoth, guarded by a dragon, had the sustaining virtue of nine meals; they also healed the wounded and added a year to a man’s life. In the romance of Diarmuid and Grainne, the rowan berry, with the apple and the red nut, is described as the food of the gods. ‘Food of the gods’ suggests that the taboo on eating anything red was an extension of the commoners’ taboo on eating scarlet toadstools –for toadstools, according to a Greek proverb which Nero quoted, were ‘the food of the gods’. In ancient Greece all red foods such as lobster, bacon, red mullet, crayfish and scarlet berries and fruit were tabooed except at feasts in honour of the dead. (Red was the colour of death in Greece and Britain during the Bronze Age–red ochre has been found in megalithic burials both in the Prescelly Mountains and on Salisbury Plain.)
The quickbeam is the tree of quickening. Its botanical name Fraxinus, or Pyrus, Aucuparia, conveys its divinatory uses. Another of its names is ‘the witch’; and the witch-wand, formerly used for metal divining, was made of rowan. Since it was the tree of quickening it could also be used in a contrary sense. In Danaan Ireland a rowan-stake hammered through a corpse immobilized its ghost; and in the Cuchulain saga three hags spitted a dog, Cuchulain’s sacred animal, on rowan twigs to procure his death.

The oracular use of the rowan explains the unexpected presence of great rowan thickets in Rugen and the other Baltic amber-islands, formerly used as oracular places, and the frequent occurrence of rowan,


noted by John Lightfoot in his Flora Scotica, 1777, in the neighbourhood of ancient stone circles. The second month extends from January 21st to February 17th. The important Celtic feast of Candlemas fell in the middle of it (February 2nd). It was held to mark the quickening of the year, and was the first of the four ‘cross-quarter days’ on which British witches celebrated their Sabbaths, the others being May Eve, Lammas (August 2nd) and All Hallow E’en, when the year died. These days correspond with the four great Irish fire-feasts mentioned by Cormac the tenth- century Archbishop of Cashel. In Ireland and the Highlands February 2nd is, very properly, the day of St. Brigit, formerly the White Goddess, the quickening Triple Muse. The connexion of rowan with the Candlemas fire-feast is shown by Morann Mac Main’s Ogham in the Book of Ballymote: he gives the poetic name for rowan as ‘Delight of the Eye, namely Luisiu, flame.’


The third tree is the ash. In Greece the ash was sacred to Poseidon, the second god of the Achaean trinity, and the Meliai, or ash-spirits, were much cultivated; according to Hesiod, the Meliae sprang from the blood of Uranus when Crones castrated him. In Ireland the Tree of Tortu, The Tree of Dathi, and the Branching Tree of Usnech, three of the Five Magic Trees whose fall in the year A.D. 665 symbolized the triumph of Christianity over paganism, were ash-trees. A descendant of the Sacred Tree of Creevna, also an ash, was still standing at Killura in the nineteenth century; its wood was a charm against drowning, and emigrants to America after the Potato Famine carried it away with them piecemeal.
In British folklore the ash is a tree of re-birth — Gilbert White describes in his History of Selborne how naked children had formerly been passed through cleft pollard ashes before sunrise as a cure for rupture. The custom survived in remoter parts of England until I830· The Druidical wand with a spiral decoration, part of a recent Anglesey find dating from the early first century A.D., was of ash. The great ash Yygdrasill, sacred to Woden, or Wotan or Odin or Gwydion, has already been mentioned in the context of the Battle of the Trees; he used it as his steed. But he had taken the tree over from the Triple Goddess who, as the Three Norns of Scandinavian legend, dispensed justice under it. Poseidon retained his patronage of horses but also became a god of seafarers when the Achaeans took to the sea; as Woden did when his people took to the sea. In ancient Wales and Ireland all oars and coracle-slats were made of ash; and so were the rods used for urging on horses, except where the deadly yew was preferred. The cruelty of the ash mentioned by Gwion lies in the harmfulness of its shade to grass or corn; the alder on the contrary is beneficial to crops grown in its shade. So also in Odin’s own Runic alphabet all the


letters are formed from ash-twigs; as ash-roots strangle those of other forest trees. The ash is the tree of sea-power, or of the power resident in water; and the other name of Woden, ‘Yggr’, from which Ygdrasill is derived, is evidently connected with hygra, the Greek for ‘sea’ (literally, ‘the wet element’). The third month is the month of floods and extends from February 18th to March 17th. In these first three months the nights are longer than the days, and the sun is regarded as still under the tutelage of Night. The Tyrrhenians on this account did not reckon them as part of the sacred year.


The fourth tree is the alder, the tree of Bran. In the Battle of the Trees the alder fought in the front line, which is an allusion to the letter F being one of the first five consonants of the Beth-Luis-Nion and the Boibel- Loth; and in the Irish Ossianic Song of the Forest Trees [3] it is described as ‘the very battle-witch of all woods, tree that is hottest in the fight’. Though a poor fuel-tree, like the willow, poplar and chestnut, it is prized by charcoal-burners as yielding the best charcoal; its connexion with fire is shown in the Romance of Branwen when ‘Gwern’ (alder), Bran’s sister’s son, is burned in a bonfire; and in country districts of Ireland the crime of felling a sacred alder


is held to be visited with the burning down of one’s house. The alder is also proof against the corruptive power of water: its slightly gummy leaves resist the winter rains longer than those of any other deciduous tree and its timber resists decay indefinitely when used for water-conduits or piles. The Rialto at Venice is founded on alder piles, and so are several mediaeval cathedrals. The Roman architect Vitruvius mentions that alders were used as causeway piles in the Ravenna marshes.
The connexion of Bran with the alder in this sense is clearly brought out in the Romance of Branwen where the swineherds (oracular priests) of King Matholwch of Ireland see a forest in the sea and cannot guess what it is. Branwen tells them that it is the fleet of Bran the Blessed come to avenge her. The ships are anchored off-shore and Bran wades through the shallows and brings his goods and people to land; afterwards he bridges the River Linen, though it has been protected with a magic charm, by lying down across the river and having hurdles laid over him. In other words, first a jetty, then a bridge was built on alder piles. It was said of Bran, ‘No house could contain him.’ The riddle ‘What can no house ever contain?’ has a simple answer: ‘The piles upon which it is built.’ For the earliest European houses were built on alder piles at the edge of lakes. In one sense the ‘singing head’ of Bran was the mummied, oracular head of a sacred king; in another it was the ‘head’ of the alder-tree–namely the topmost branch. Green alder-branches make good whistles and, according to my friend Ricardo Sicre y Cerda, the boys of Cerdaña in the Pyrenees have a traditional prayer in Catalan:

Berng, Berng, come out of our skin
And I will make you whistle sweetly.

which is repeated while the bark is tapped with a piece of willow to loosen it from the wood. Berng (or Verng in the allied Majorcan language) is Bran again. The summons to Berng is made on behalf of the Goddess of the Willow. The use of the willow for tapping, instead of another piece of alder, suggests that such whistles were used by witches to conjure up destructive winds–especially from the North. But musical pipes with several stops can be made in the same way as the whistles, and the singing head of Bran in this sense will have been an alder-pipe. At Harlech, where the head sang for seven years, there is a mill-stream running past the Castle rock, a likely place for a sacred alder-grove. It is possible that the legend of Apollo’s flaying of Marsyas the piper is reminiscent of the removal of the alder-bark from the wood in pipe-making.

The alder was also used in ancient Ireland for making milk pails and other dairy vessels: hence its poetical name in the Book of Ballymote, comet lachta–‘guarding of milk’. This connexion of Bran-Crones, the alder, with Rhea-Io, the white moon-cow is of importance.


In Ireland, Io was called Glas Gabhnach, ‘the green stripper’, because though she yielded milk in rivers she never had a calf.

Table of Contents

The Voices of the Angels of Darkness (The Messengers of Ereshkigal)
Old Woman Dreams of the Wind I
Inanna Burns Dumuzi through Four Lifetimes: The First Time
The Call of Ereshkigal
Inanna Burns Dumuzi through Four Lifetimes: The Second Time
Inanna’s Farewell
Dumuzi Speaks to the Silence Inanna Leaves Behind
The Old Woman at the Gate
The Descent of Inanna
Woman on the Cross (The Voice of Ereshkigal)
Ereshkigal’s Gift to the Singer
Inanna Burns Dumuzi through Four Lifetimes: The Third Time
Inanna Burns Dumuzi through Four Lifetimes: The Fourth Time (Homecoming)
Old Woman Dreams of the Wind II
Epilogue: Sisters
The Voices of the Angels of Darkness
(The Messengers of Ereshkigal)
Before you were born
Your name was a dream
In the heart of the world,
Saying return.
We remember this for you.
Before you were born
The clay whispered its urge
To make something
And you became skin:
The tongue of the water
Asked for some salt
And you became blood.
The eyes of the sky
Saw a cloud waiting,
And you rained down to life.
We remember this for you.
We are the messengers
Of what you are made of.
We remember the way the soil,
The sea, the sky,
Dreamt you– the way
They are dreaming you
We remember
The way things are.
Why do you fear us?
We keep the memory
You keep in your own skin.
Why do you tremble still?
Are you not yet ready
To become the world?
Old Woman Dreams of the Wind I
All breath begins in red.
The temple veil of a woman’s body
Is red and so it is
The wind’s first hands are red,
Red as the blood of my mother
That ran from her
Into her dreams of me,
Bringing me through
On the lullaby of her body.
Whatever gentleness there is in me
I owe to that first wind
With its red fingers.
It was her breath that taught me
How words and magic
Are the same thing:
How to say, “bird”
Is to inhabit a body of wings,
To be lifted up
On the chair of the sky.
It was the red-handed wind
That first taught me
To rise between worlds,
To drink from
The twin breasts of the Earth
That anchors us all.
Inanna Burns Dumuzi through Four Lifetimes:
The First Time
Ah, the first time!
Do you remember the first time
The daughter of the sun
Every burned for you?
How eagerly you traveled
The sparkling labyrinth of my skin,
Rode my bull of pleasure
To its swinging gate?
You were my shepherd
And I your queen.
You smelled of earth and wine,
And I took off everything
Except my scent for you.
We lapped one another like mead,
Swallowing flame and fermentation.
I made you my king,
Trading you rod for rod,
Your scepter was so sweet to me,
Commanding the whole
Kingdom of my vulva.
I was Queen of the Light,
But it was your torch
That made a city of daylight
Out of my body.
Do you remember
How you softened me
Under the sway of your staff
Until the whole earth exploded,
Rising up green and moist
And frothing with fruit?
Do you remember
How we dove together
Into the hurricane,
How the tornado talked to us
And the lava melted us
To a single mountain of flesh,
Monument to the eternal rock
Of our desire?
De you remember
How you kept me awake
All night, burning,
My beloved Dumuzi,
I have always
Burned for you.
The Call of Ereshkigal
You have stolen
The thunder and the lightning,
The rain
That speaks for itself.
You keep the temple.
I keep the sanctuary
Of the womb.
You keep your lapis:
I keep the blue stone of time.
You keep the crown,
I keep that
Which buries the crown.
You keep your thousand torches,
I keep the mystery of bones.
Only in entering my body
Will you find it.
I am your twin!
What they have stolen
From me they have
Stolen from you.
You keep the height of heaven.
I keep everything
You must step on
To get there.
You keep
The tree of heaven,
I keep the roots
That hold her upright.
You keep your jewels,
I keep the treasure.
You keep the codes;
I keep the law.
Every king you have ascended
To the throne will tumble
In the wind of my voice
If you have not
What I have.
I am your secret
And you are my song!
You are the morning
And the evening star,
But I am the horizon.
You are the rising
And the setting-
But I am forever.
I am the voice of the lion
You keep by your side;
I am what you wear
Under your robes
Even if you clothe yourself
In the entire heaven.
Inanna, I am your twin!
What they have stolen from me,
They have stolen from you.
I am your secret
And you are my song!
Inanna, I am waiting.
And I am forever.

The Hebrew name יוֹחָנָה Yôḥānnāh was borne by men in earlier centuries, but in modern usage it has become feminine, to provide a Hebrew equivalent for the name Joanna and its variants. The Christian Arabic form of John is يوحنّا Yūḥannā, based on the Syriac form of the name. For Joanna, Arabic translations of the Bible use يونّا Yuwannā based on Syriac ܝܘܚܢ Yoanna, which in turn is based on the Greek form Iōanna.
Sometimes in modern English Joanna is reinterpreted as a compound of the two names Jo and Anna, and therefore given a spelling like JoAnna, Jo-Anna, or Jo Anna. However, the original name Joanna is a single unit, not a compound. The names Hannah, Anna, Anne, Ann are etymologically related to Joanna just the same: they are derived from Hebrew חַנָּה Ḥannāh ‘grace’ from the same verbal root meaning ‘to be gracious’.

Hannah, also spelt Hanna, Hana, or Chana, is a given name. In the Hebrew language Ḥannah (חַנָּה) means “Gods given gift to the world” or “He (God) has favoured me/favours me [with a child]”. This name is transliterated from Arabic as either Hannah or Hana. In Japan, “Hana” is a popular girl’s name that can be written in over 40 ways, each with its own nuance.
The Hannah spelling of the name was taken up as a given name by the Puritans in the 16th and 17th centuries, and has always been a common Jewish name.[1] Ann, Anne, Anna, and variants derive from Hannah. The Punic name Hannibal derives, it is supposed,[by whom?] from the same root.[citation needed] Hannah is a palindrome.
In the Books of Samuel, Hannah is the mother of the prophet Samuel. Hannah was infertile, so at temple she prayed that if God gave her a son, she would give him up to become a priest. When the child, Samuel, was born, she gave him to Eli to be raised as a priest.[2]

Anna is a Latin form of the Greek name Άννα and the Hebrew name Hannah (Hebrew: חַנָּה Ḥannāh‎, meaning “favor” or “grace”). Anna is in wide use in countries across the world as are its variants Anne, originally a French version of the name, though in use in English speaking countries for hundreds of years, and Ann, which was originally the English spelling. Saint Anne was traditionally the name of the mother of the Virgin Mary, which accounts for its wide use and popularity among Christians. The name has also been used for numerous saints and queens.

Eugene lost one of its most creative artists last week. Cancer stole Catherine Vandertuin from us when she was far too young. In her too-short time here, Vandertuin, the founder and artistic director of Eugene Chamber Theatre, applied enormous energy, creativity and collaboration to the innovative theater/music productions of Dust and Dreams, Antigone, and Ice Cure, the last adapted from an original manuscript. She also collaborated in various puppet and mask theater productions. Her vision was to create multi-disciplinary works that explored themes of balance and wholeness. Catherine brought Javanese gamelan music to Eugene in 1992 with the founding of Gamelan Nuju Laras, well known for accompanying labyrinth walks created by her partner, Jeff Burch. Although her theater work and family obligations eventually forced her to give up the gamelan, Catherine’s contribution continues in Nuju Laras’s successor, Gamelan Sari Pandhawa, and the 90-piece Javanese gamelan Gamelan Kyai Tunjung Mulya, whose construction she commissioned and supervised. Gamelan Kyai Tunjung Mulya was ultimately donated to the UO where it is used to teach UO students and other community members. Through her teaching at LCC, collaborations with other community artists, and irrepressibly creative spirit, Catherine made Eugene a much more artistically vital place, and her legacy will live on in the audiences she touched and the artists she taught and inspired.

Click to access the-descent-of-inanna-1-for-wordpress.pdf

For the audience who makes a story. For those who came to the performance of the play made from these poems more than one—who told me they would do so until they had their favorite words memorized. For Catherine who never feared to go anywhere into feeling, who asked for the voice of Ereshkigal. And then had the spirit and force to gather us all into this amazing theater production. For Jeff who introduced me to Catherine “just to see what would happen”. For all the amazing actors and actresses whose gestures became my words.
There is no greater gift for a poet than to see her words embodied by such a brilliant group of men and women as Eugene Chamber Theater.
Our whole community suffered the untimely death of Catherine Vandertuin, its founder and director. Catherine, we miss you. But you are still present to us in the work you elicited from us—you are still present in these words.

Inanna’s name derives from Lady of Heaven (Sumerian: nin-an-ak). The cuneiform sign of Inanna (?); however, is not a ligature of the signs lady (Sumerian: nin; Cuneiform: ?�メフニ SAL.TUG2) and sky (Sumerian: an; Cuneiform: ? AN).[3] These difficulties have led some early Assyriologists to suggest that originally Inanna may have been a Proto-Euphratean goddess, possibly related to the Hurrian mother goddess Hannahannah, accepted only latterly into the Sumerian pantheon, an idea supported by her youthfulness, and that, unlike the other Sumerian divinities, at first she had no sphere of responsibilities[4] The view that there was a Proto-Euphratean substrate language in Southern Iraq before Sumerian is not widely accepted by modern Assyriologists.[5]

Inanna as the star, Venus[edit]
Inanna was associated with the celestial planet Venus. There are hymns to Inanna as her astral manifestation. It also is believed that in many myths about Inanna, including Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld and Inanna and Shukaletuda, her movements correspond with the movements of Venus in the sky. Also, because of its positioning so close to Earth, Venus moves rather irregularly across the sky, and never travels all the way across the dome of the sky as most celestial bodies do, instead, Venus rises in the East and the West in both the morning and evening.[12] Because of Venus’ discontinuous movements (it disappears behind the sun from 90–3 days at a time and then reappears on the other horizon), some cultures did not recognize Venus as single entity, but rather two separate stars on each horizon as the morning and evening star. The Mesopotamians, however, most likely understood that the planet was one entity. A cylinder seal from the Jemdet Nasr period expresses the knowledge that both morning and evening stars were the same celestial entity.[13] The discontinuous movements of Venus relate to both mythology as well as Inanna’s dual nature.[13] Inanna is related like Venus to the principle of connectedness, but this has a dual nature and could seem unpredictable. Yet as both the goddess of love and war, with both masculine and feminine qualities, Inanna is poised to respond, and occasionally to respond with outbursts of temper. Mesopotamian literature takes this one step further, explaining Inanna’s physical movements in mythology as corresponding to the astronomical movements of Venus in the sky.
Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld explains how Inanna is able to, unlike any other deity, descend into the netherworld and return to the heavens. The planet Venus appears to make a similar descent, setting in the West and then rising again in the East.
In Inanna and Shukaletuda, in search of her attacker, Inanna makes several movements throughout the myth that correspond with the movements of Venus in the sky. An introductory hymn explains Inanna leaving the heavens and heading for Kur, what could be presumed to be, the mountains, replicating the rising and setting of Inanna to the West. Shukaletuda also is described as scanning the heavens in search of Inanna, possibly to the eastern and western horizons.[13]
Inanna was associated with the eastern fish of the last of the zodiacal constellations, Pisces. Her consort Dumuzi was associated with the contiguous first constellation, Aries.[14]
Inanna is the goddess of love – but not marriage. She is connected with extramarital sex and sensual affairs, prowling streets and taverns for sexual adventure.[15] In the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh points out Inanna’s infamous ill-treatment of her lovers. Inanna also has a very complicated relationship with her lover, Dumuzi, in “Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld”.[16]
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.”[17] 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.”[citation needed] Despite her association with mating and fertility of humans and animals, Inanna was not a mother goddess, although she is associated with childbirth in certain myths.[18] Inanna also was associated with rain and storms and with the planet Venus, the morning and evening star.[19] as was the Greco-Roman goddess Aphrodite or Venus.

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.”[citation needed] Despite her association with mating and fertility of humans and animals, Inanna was not a mother goddess, although she is associated with childbirth in certain myths.[18] Inanna also was associated with rain and storms and with the planet Venus, the morning and evening star.[19] as was the Greco-Roman goddess Aphrodite or Venus.

Inanna’s descent to the underworld[edit]
The story of Inanna’s descent to the underworld is a relatively well-attested and reconstructed composition.
In Sumerian religion, the Underworld was conceived of as a dreary, dark place; a home to deceased heroes and ordinary people alike. While everyone suffered an eternity of poor conditions, certain behavior while alive, notably creating a family to provide offerings to the deceased, could alleviate conditions somewhat.
Inanna’s reason for visiting the underworld is unclear. The reason she gives to the gatekeeper of the underworld is that she wants to attend the funeral rites of Ereshkigal’s husband, here said to be Gud-gal-ana. Gugalana was the Bull of Heaven in The Epic of Gilgamesh, which was killed by Gilgamesh and Enkidu. To further add to the confusion, Ereshkigal’s husband typically is the plague god, Nergal.
In this story, before leaving Inanna instructed her minister and servant, Ninshubur, to plead with the deities Enlil, Sin, and Enki to save her if anything went amiss. The attested laws of the underworld dictate that, with the exception of appointed messengers, those who enter it could never leave.
Inanna dresses elaborately for the visit, with a turban, a wig, a lapis lazuli necklace, beads upon her breast, the ‘pala dress’ (the ladyship garment), mascara, pectoral, a golden ring on her hand, and she held a lapis lazuli measuring rod. These garments are each representations of powerful mes she possesses. Perhaps Inanna’s garments, unsuitable for a funeral, along with Inanna’s haughty behavior, make Ereshkigal suspicious.[34]
Following Ereshkigal’s instructions, the gatekeeper tells Inanna she may enter the first gate of the underworld, but she must hand over her lapis lazuli measuring rod. She asks why, and is told ‘It is just the ways of the Underworld’. She obliges and passes through. Inanna passes through a total of seven gates, at each one removing a piece of clothing or jewelry she had been wearing at the start of her journey, thus stripping her of her power.
When she arrives in front of her sister, she is naked. “After she had crouched down and had her clothes removed, they were carried away. Then she made her sister Erec-ki-gala rise from her throne, and instead she sat on her throne. The Anna, the seven judges, rendered their decision against her. They looked at her – it was the look of death. They spoke to her – it was the speech of anger. They shouted at her – it was the shout of heavy guilt. The afflicted woman was turned into a corpse. And the corpse was hung on a hook.”
Ereshkigal’s hate for Inanna could be referenced in a few other myths. Ereshkigal, too, is bound by the laws of the underworld; she can not leave her kingdom of the underworld to join the other ‘living’ deities, and they can not visit her in the underworld, or else they can never return. Inanna symbolized erotic love and fertility, and contrasts with Ereshkigal.
Three days and three nights passed, and Ninshubur, following instructions, went to Enlil, Nanna, and Enki’s temples, and demanded they save Inanna. The first two deities refused, saying it was her own doing, but Enki was deeply troubled and agreed to help. He created two asexual figures named gala-tura and the kur-jara from the dirt under the fingernails of the deities. He instructed them to appease Ereshkigal; and when asked what they wanted, they were to ask for Inanna’s corpse and sprinkle it with the food and water of life. However, when they come before Ereshkigal, she is in agony like a woman giving birth, and she offers them what they want, including life-giving rivers of water and fields of grain, if they can relieve her; nonetheless they take only the corpse.
Things went as Enki said, and the gala-tura and the kur-jara were able to revive Inanna. Demons of Ereshkigal’s followed (or accompanied) Inanna out of the underworld, and insisted that she wasn’t free to go until someone took her place. They first came upon Ninshubur and attempted to take her. Inanna refused, as Ninshubur was her loyal servant, who had rightly mourned her while she was in the underworld. They next came upon Cara, Inanna’s beautician, still in mourning. The demons said they would take him, but Inanna refused, as he too had mourned her. They next came upon Lulal, also in mourning. The demons offered to take him, but Inanna refused.
They next came upon Dumuzi, Inanna’s husband. Despite Inanna’s fate, and in contrast to the other individuals who were properly mourning Inanna, Dumuzi was lavishly clothed and resting beneath a tree. Inanna, displeased, decrees that the demons shall take him, using language which echoes the speech Ereshkigal gave while condemning her. Dumuzi is then taken to the underworld.
In other recensions of the story, Dumuzi tries to escape his fate, and is capable of fleeing the demons for a time, as the deities intervene and disguise him in a variety of forms. He is eventually found. However, Dumuzi’s sister, out of love for him, begged to be allowed to take his place. It was then decreed that Dumuzi spent half the year in the underworld, and his sister take the other half. Inanna, displaying her typically capricious behavior, mourns his time in the underworld. This she reveals in a haunting lament of his deathlike absence from her, for “[he] cannot answer . . . [he] cannot come/ to her calling . . . the young man has gone.”[35] Her own powers, notably those connected with fertility, subsequently wane, to return in full when he returns from the netherworld each six months. This cycle then approximates the shift of seasons.

Anna Perenna was an old Roman deity of the circle or “ring” of the year, as the name (per annum) clearly indicates. Her festival fell on the Ides of March (March 15), which would have marked the first full moon in the year in the old lunar Roman calendar when March was reckoned as the first month of the year, and was held at the grove of the goddess at the first milestone on the Via Flaminia. It was much frequented by the city plebs.

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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2 Responses to The Beautiful Birch Tree

  1. Reblogged this on rosamondpress and commented:

    Herr Glukenberger a.k.a. ‘Spooky Noodles’ began to download Robert Grave’s the White Goddess two days after I met him at the Café Roma on 13th. We met in 1997. On many occasions I tried to shake him, to no avail. When I met with Belle Burch (Beautiful Burch) I showed her ‘The White Goddess’. I told her I would make her my disciple in the greatest poetic drams and mystery – off all time! That she tried to steal my knowledge and give it to her young lover, is the stuff the very best fairytales are made of. There are doors that once entered, there is no escape until one finds – the Grail! I found – a Grail. The Crone. The Child. The Fair Maiden, will meet under the birch tree. “The first tree of the series is the self-propagating birch. Birch twigs are used throughout Europe in the beating of hounds and the flogging of delinquents–and formerly lunatics–with the object of expelling evil spirits. When Gwion writes in the Cad Goddeu that the birch ‘armed himself but late’ he means that birch twigs do not toughen until late in the year. (He makes the same remark about the willow and the rowan whose twigs were similarly put to ceremonial use.) Birch rods are also used in rustic ritual for driving out the spirit of the old year.”

  2. Pingback: The Maps of Pure Evil | Rosamond Press

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