XII The Hanged One
The Descent of Inanna
Four thousand years ago, scribes of the land of Sumer engraved a sacred story into clay tablets. It was
a tale echoing the theme of the Hanged Man of Tarot, a tale of voluntary sacrifice and involuntary suspension:
the descent of the Queen of Heaven into the land of the dead. To enter the underworld, to understand death,
Inanna passed through seven gates. At each gate she gave up part of her rich and royal
trappings, from her crown to the clothes off her back. Her sister, the jealous Queen of the Dead, hung Inanna
from a meat hook. Queen no more, and cold and naked as a corpse, Inanna remained until rescue
came to release her.
Notes on the card: The position of the hands in prayer, the staring eyes, the shade of blue, the hair
reflecting the Sumerian pictogram for water, the eight-spoke star the pictogram for heaven, and the nested
rectangles used here as the gates of the underworld: all are motifs from the art of ancient Sumer. For the
naked lower half of the body, I borrowed from their contemporary culture, the Early Cycladic, whose “stiff
nudes” bear traces of blue painted staring eyes.