Inanna was the Sumerian goddess of love and fertility. She is also associated with the goddesses Ishtar, Isis, and Aphrodite.
The story goes that Inanna wished to visit her sister, who ruled over the underworld. She put on her beautiful blue gown and took up her lapis lazuli scepter and all the marks of her power and set out for the underworld.
When Inanna got to the first gate, the gatekeeper demanded that she relinquish her scepter or she could not pass. She gave it to him. When she passed the second gate, the gatekeeper demanded her golden necklace. She handed it to him and passed through. At the third gate, the gatekeeper demanded she remove the golden breastplate she wore across her heart. She took this off, too, and passed through. This proceeded until she reached the seventh gate, when all that remained was her beautiful blue gown.
"Only naked can you pass through this gate," said the gatekeeper. She took off her gown and gave it to him, and so she came and stood naked and helpless before her sister Ereshkigal, Queen of the Underworld.
Ereshkigal looked upon her sister with hatred and killed her. She took up Inanna's body and hung it from a hook in the ceiling of her throne room. And Inanna hung there rotting for three days and three nights.
Ninshubur, Inanna's faithful servant, went and begged for help from all the gods. Each refused until she finally came to Enki, god of wisdom. Enki took the dirt from under his fingers, formed it into two strange beings who were neither male nor female, and sent them to the underworld to save Inanna.
The dirt-beings travelled down, slipping through the gates, and they saw that Ereshkigal was writhing on her throne room floor in pain.
"Oh, my inside!" moaned Ereshkigal.
"Oh, your inside," said the dirt-beings.
"Oh, my outside!" moaned Ereshkigal.
"Oh, your outside," replied the dirt-beings.
And Ereshkigal blessed them for feeling her pain. She offered them any favor they asked for. They asked for Inanna's body. So Ereshkigal pulled down her sister's body and gave it to the dirt-beings, who breathed life back into her.
Inanna went back up through the seven gates and at the seventh she took back her beautiful blue robe, and at the sixth she took back her golden crown, and at the fifth she took back her shining beads, and so on until she stepped out into the sunshine of the upper land, fully attired in her glory.
But as she came out from the underworld, demons clung to her, tearing her dress with their talons.
"Inanna, though you have escaped," they said with their hollow bone throats, "one must take your place."
And they looked on her faithful servant Ninshubur and wanted to take her. But Inanna would not let them, for Ninshubur had been so loyal and loved her so well.
The demons followed her until they met Inanna's first-born son. He was dressed in mourning for his mother, and when he saw her he fell at her feet weeping.
"We will take him," hissed the demons.
But Inanna would not let them. So they followed her until they met her second-born. And he, too, was dressed in sackcloth and wept at her feet when he saw her.
"Give us this one," said the demons.
But Inanna would not let them. And they followed her home to her throne room. And there her husband sat, arrayed in golden robes of majesty and sitting on Inanna's own throne. And when he saw her he did not move.
"Take this one," Inanna said.
And they did.