There once was a God without a name and there once was Inanna, many thousand years ago. In my little story today, I will introduce both of them to you. I hope you are not offended and will enjoy hearing this parable as much as I did enjoy writing it.
The parable of the God without a name and of Inanna, who lived many thousand years ago.
Inanna was born hungry. Hunger, not only for food, but for knowledge. No one could ask as many questions as she could.
She spent her childhood torturing the elders in her village with questions. There was so much she absolutely had to know! Creation was so vast and full of thing no one asked.
Why don’t tadpoles stay tadpoles, but become frogs?
Who tells the clouds where to carry the rain?
Can fish swim backwards?
If we don’t take the honey out of the hives, do the bees eat it themselves?
Why don’t we all keep growing?
These were good questions, and the elders had a hard time giving satisfying answers. Soon, little Inanna was called “Savalla” in the village. That means “question”.
When Inanna was a young woman, her questions became even more difficult.
If the Sumerians have a god of the storm and so do we, who makes the storm in the desert between us?
If the Annunaki are the oldest gods, why do we have new ones?
If humans and animals die and even the gods: does the water, the wind, the starry sky die too?
Is anyone listening to me when I ask secretly?
Is it praying when I don’t think words?
So many questions no one had an answer to.
Her parents married Inanna to the neighbouring village. She gave birth to four children and became a famous sower and therefore wealthy. Farmers came from far away and asked her to sow their seeds. Because when she sowed, the plants grew lush and strong.
One day farmers came to her and there was a blind man in her retinue. A wise man, the farmers said. His skin was burnt by the sun, but he wore nothing on his head.
As a reward for her work in the fields, she asked to be allowed to ask the blind man her questions.
At the end of a long conversation the blind farmer said: “When you build a temple, sometimes a god moves in. Talk to your god, your questions are too big for little people.”
And so Inanna began to pile up large stones on a small hill in the middle of her fields. And when the walls were as tall as a man, she covered the roof with branches and straw. In her temple she built an altar, but left it empty.
Every day, before her work began, she spent half an hour in her temple, praying without words and in silence. Even after her husband died and she had twice the work, she never abandoned her prayer.
She made a small figurine that looked like her husband and placed it on the floor next to the altar.
Many years later she entered the temple in the morning and found a god waiting for her. She bowed, left the temple and returned with two handfuls of rhye and she laid them on the altar.
“Welcome to my temple, unknown god.”
And she waited, but he gave no answer. The temple was unchanged.
“I hope you are a fertility god. Or a harvest god. We could really use that here!”
The god smiled. But he did not speak.
“I know it’s really not a beautiful temple. It’s probably the smallest, most miserable temple in the world. But it is mine. I’m sorry, but I’m really not a builder, I’m a sower. ”
And when she came to pray the next day, she brought two figs. The God did not speak a word to her. The day after next she returned with a jug of beer. Every day she brought a different sacrifice to her mute god. Every day he smiled and kept silent.
Then, one day she came to the temple and the god had come out of the stones and lay in the sun, dozing. He watched the play of the clouds and chewed on a stalk.
And he spoke. His words sounded like the wind caressing the corn and like the feeling when the first drop of rain hits a hot ground.
“You should go into town, Inanna. You should go to a temple. A real temple. And there you should pray to the real gods. and make your sacrifices to them. There’s nothing I can do for you. I can’t make your crops grow and save you from the storms or the war. Don’t waste your time on me, Inanna, because you’re just a speck of dust in the universe and wise enough to know.”
After all these weeks and months Inanna was surprised that her God spoke at all.
“Your temple is just right for me, but of course the temples of the real gods are more beautiful and bigger. I appreciate your silent prayer, that’s just right for me, but of course there are magic prayers and prayers that sound like poems. Don’t waste your time with me. I have nothing to offer.”
And Inanna answered: “This is already much more than I expected. More answers than I was looking for.”
She did not change her prayer. Every day she made a different, small sacrifice and every day she prayed for half an hour in silence. The years passed and brought on golden times and bloody times.
One day Inanna came to the temple without sacrifice, but with a new figurine, which she placed next to that of her husband. And in her half hour of prayer she cried, because her eldest daughter had died in childbirth.
And the God came out of the stones of the temple and said to her, “I am sorry, but I cannot offer you consolation. I could not have saved your daughter. Nor your unborn grandchild. You should find yourself another god.”
Inanna was overwhelmed with anger towards life and anger towards the gods and she hit her god in the face and shouted at him: “You weak little god! What kind of god are you anyway?”
And he answered with his voice like wind and rain, as if she had not struck him:
“I am the least God, the weakest God, the forgotten God.
I am the god who has no name and no power and no strength.
Not in heaven, not on the waters, not on earth.
I am the god of leaves that tumble from the tree. And of maggots that consume dead flesh. I am the foam when brooks flow into rivers and the silence between great words. I am the boundary between forest and meadow and the god of the second, the pale rainbow.
I am the god of a thousand tiny little sparks of life and a thousand tiny little deaths. The first light on the first day, darkness on the last.”
Inanna heard and understood. She did not change her habits and continued to pray every day and made her sacrifices.
Soon the figurines of her husband and daughter were joined by those of her parents and her husband’s parents. Soon followed two figurines for her sons, who had died in a war in an unknown country.
But every day she returned to her temple and prayed in silence and sometimes talked to the god without name and power and strength.
When a storm devastated the fields and destroyed all the houses in the village and in all the neighbouring villages, the small temple was also blown away and the altar was overturned and the figurines were smashed into shards.
So Inanna rebuilt her house and sowed her seed again and rebuilt the temple, bigger and more beautiful than before. And she put the shards together again and painted each figurine in bright colours.
Every day she returned to her temple and prayed and spoke to the God without name and power and strength. Sometimes he left the stones of the temple, appeared to her in human form and answered.
“I cannot give you shelter from the storm. Nor from the water when the mighty river comes over its banks again. If lightning strikes your houses, I cannot prevent it, nor can I prevent the sun from burning your plants.
Don’t waste your time with me, Inanna, because all you experience is a quick wink in the eye of creation and you are a wise enough to admit it.”
Inanna answered: “I thank you for your wise advice. And, as always, I will not follow it. I like that you are my God. And I will continue to pray.”
When the hunger came and the people in her village died like flies, Inanna did not miss a single day of praying and offered part of her meagre meal as a sacrifice to the God who did not want any sacrifices.
Her last child now fell victim to hunger, as did four of her grandchildren. Soon there was no one she knew left in her village. So skinny was she, you could count her ribs and recognize the skull under her skin. Her fingers were like straws and still: She never forgot one day in her temple.
When spring arrived and sun and rain ended the hunger, her God came again to her and spoke:
“Poor Inanna, now you are alone in the world. And I could not prevent you from starving and I could not quench your thirst. I am the weakest of all gods and I am of no use to you.
Use your time to be with people instead of praying! Because everyone will die and so will you. And you are a wise woman who understands that.
Inanna nodded and agreed with her god. “I see the wisdom in everything you say and thank you for your advice. But, as it is between me and You, it is enough for me. I will not give up praying in silence as long as I live!
After the hunger came the greatest plague to torment mankind. For war spared no one in the village. Not even Inanna. And while her fields burned, she crawled up the hill with her last strength.
An arrow had pierced her, she was leaving a trail of blood. And her god left the stone and he left the temple and he ran to her. And he took her in his arms and he said:
“I could neither save you, Inanna, nor any other person! I am very sorry. I have warned you all these years, but you did not want to hear it! All these years you came to the temple every day and I have done nothing for you. You are the biggest fool who ever built a temple.”
And Inanna whispered: “Tell me what kind of God you are! Just like that day you chose my temple!”
And the voice of Inanna’s God sounded like it did then. Like the wind caressing the corn and like the first drop of rain that hits the hot ground.
“I am the least god, the weakest god, the forgotten god.
I am the god who has no name and no strength and no power.
Not in heaven, not on the waters, not on earth.”
And his voice faltered, for Inanna was flickering away like a candle in a storm. Tears ran down the cheeks of the god without a name, and his arms, which held the little sowing woman, trembled with weakness.
“I am the wisher and the dreamer and the feeling one. The keeper of thoughts that lead to no purpose. I am the tear that is quickly hidden and the last apple that no one will ever harvest. I am the deed that always waits but remains undone and the sound of the very last breath.”
Inanna whispered: “That’s you. You are the most beautiful and wisest of all gods. Before the Ananaki existed, there was you. I did recognize you. You are the guardian, the witness and the seeing eye. You see me. And you have never left me.”
It seemed as if these were Inanna’s last words. After a long pause she found a little strength again. “It was beautiful. Thank you.”
When Inanna left, she went to live with her god. They say you can still feel both of them in the smallest temple ever built. Which, by the way, is still standing right where Inanna built it twice.
It is also said: If you would search for Inanna’s God in a prayer without words, it could happen that you suddenly feel a gentle breeze and the air smells gently of rain and then – thus say the people who live now where Inanna lived five thousand years ago – you hear the voice of the old, wise woman as she whispers into your ear: “I see you. It is beautiful!”