Ishtar is a Mesopotamian goddess of fertility, ‘sacred’ prostitution¹ and war, later associated with the planet Venus as a goddess of love.
If thou openest not the gate to let me enter,
I will break the door, I will wrench the lock,
I will smash the door-posts, I will force the doors.
I will bring up the dead to eat the living.
And the dead will outnumber the living.²
As she enters each successive door in her descent, she is commanded to take off a specific piece of jewelry or clothing item. By the time she reaches the abyss she stands entirely naked.
Joseph Campbell points out how this story has obvious Jungian implications. To attain knowledge of the inner self, one must dispense with (or, at least, gain a new perspective on) all the trappings of worldly life. Unfortunately, Ishtar does not succeed. The evil underworld queen Ereshkigal imprisons Ishtar and she becomes ‘one of the dead.’
¹ Rightly seen as abhorrent today, the idea and practice of ‘sacred’ or temple prostitution was widespread in the ancient world: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacred_prostitution
² Parallel myths and different scholarly interpretations of Ishtar’s descent to the underworld shed more light (or perhaps create more ambiguity) on this ancient mythic theme: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishtar.
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