Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart

Title: Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart: Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess Enheduanna
Publisher: University of Texas Press
Commentary: Betty De Shong Meador, with Forward by Judy Grahn
Pages: 225 pp

Inanna: Lady of the Largest Heart opens with Meador recalling a dream she once had — a dream in which Inanna, who she had never heard of at the time, appeared to her. In the wake of this dream, which came to her at a time of great personal change, Meador began searching for Inanna, though she didn’t yet know it. It was through this search that she came to discover the surviving poems of Enheduanna, high priestess of the Sumerian moon god Nanna.

Given that context, this book — which aims to be a scholarly analysis of Endehuann’s writings and her life and times — is clearly a passion project, and deeply personal in nature. This is reaffirmed when Meador ends the book with an exaltation:

O maiden Inanna
Sweet is your praise.

Because of this deeply personal connection Meador has to the book, her scholarship shouldn’t be taken at face-value. Wisely, she relies on more established scholars, but often projects modern values onto the ancient texts and archaeological evidence. Nonetheless, she does utilize existing scholarship, and though her interpretations are certainly narrativized and not strictly historically accurate, there is value in these interpretations — especially for modern pagan practitioners.

Meador writes an accessible and engaging account of Enheduanna’s life and her relationship and devotion to her goddess. This may be at the cost of reliable scholarship, but the particular lens through which Meador explores Inanna’s ancient worship, and Enheduanna who revered her, may serve as a useful tool or example to modern practitioners. Meador’s projection of modern values onto the ancient texts may just as easily serve as an updated template for Inanna’s mythos and worship as it does of a sign of unreliable scholarship.

Though this book is framed as and likely intended to be a scholarly work, it ends up being much more of a guide for modern people interested in developing their own personal relationship with Inanna. For this kind of reader is provides a plethora of information, even if it may be a disappointment for a reader more interested in rigorous and accurate scholarship.

[Tahni J. Nikitins studied Comparative Literature and Creative Writing and spent a year exploring spiritual and cultural pursuits in Sweden. Her published works include “Only a Dream” in the anthology Terror Politico, “Is It Any Wonder” published in the 2017 edition of A Beautiful Renaissance, and “A Letter to Njörðr, signed Sigyn” in the devotional Between Wind and Water. She is currently working on revisions for her first novel.]