Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess: 9780274705986: Meador, Betty De Shong, Grahn,Judy: Books

(27 customer reviews)


SKU: 0292752423 Category:

Additional information

Publisher ‏ : ‎

University of Texas Press (February 1, 2001)

Language ‏ : ‎


Paperback ‏ : ‎

225 pages

ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎


ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎


Item Weight ‏ : ‎

1.5 pounds

Dimensions ‏ : ‎

9.07 x 6.09 x 0.73 inches

Best Sellers Rank:

#96,203 in Religion & Spirituality (Books)

Customer Reviews:

121 ratings


  1. 5.0 out of 5 stars

    A Discovery, a Woman, Some Poems, a Celebration

    Title: Inanna, Lady of the Largest Heart: Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess EnheduannaAuthor: Betty de Shong MeadorPublisher: University of Texas Press, AustinISBN: 978-0-292-75242-9225 pages.Sometime in the third millennium BCE, in Mesopotamia, a woman was appointed high priestess. Her father, Sargon of Agade, was a king focused on enlarging the realm. This occurred when there were many gods worshipped in Sumer. Agade (Akkad) was well to the north of Ur, where the woman, Enheduanna, was appointed. There was the political question of unifying the kingdom. An idea among some scholars is that, by rallying the populace around one god or goddess, a sort of loyalty could be inspired based on that supremacy. Enheduanna’s poems while interesting in other ways, by proclaiming one deity above all others, can be thought to have a unifying role in the kingdom.Enheduanna’s role in the kingdom, combined with her proclamations about Inanna, a goddess, show a cultural element that puts women in general as potentially all-encompassing and as supremely powerful. One of the points of celebration is that expressing a goddess in these dimensions runs counter to the more confining roles we a exposed to via other ancient civilizations. There is therefore, a sort of mother lode of female majesty and ability that is often downplayed in what we read about in other ancient cultures.The discovery of these poems and their meanings, after all these years, is another aspect of celebration. Ms. Meador is careful to point out throughout the book, the other scholars who have uncovered and made sense out of cuneiform and drawings left to us, and discovered only in the last 100 years. Ms. Meador does this, for example, by tracing her own journey as someone well read, but not knowing much about Inanna, to meeting translators who became colleagues in her effort to interpret the poems.This book covers Enheduanna’s works that were known at the time of its writing. These included 42 poems to temples, and three poems that were hymns to Inanna, which are the book’s focus. Ms. Meador provides background on the theology of the Sumerians and how it tied together the provision and storage of food with the powers of the almighty. So Ms. Meador provides us a walk back in time, and finally a note of celebration in the discovery of how a female deity could have been viewed in third millennium Sumer.

    7 people found this helpful

  2. 5.0 out of 5 stars

    Incredibly Powerful Read

    This book really awakens the ancient great mother within us all! I love how there is a mix of beautiful devotional poetry along with historical evidence! What an amazing archeological dig of the ancient divine feminine!

    2 people found this helpful

  3. 5.0 out of 5 stars


    As someone intensely interested in Inanna, as well as the ancient Sumerian gods and religeon, this book was exactly what I needed to better understand some of the most important concepts.Three complete poems of Enheduanna are represented here, and just the first one, “Inanna and Mount Ebih,” is well worth the price of this book alone. There are many other small poems, little titbits of the ancient Sumerian hymns, which are equally enlightening. The translations, as well as the original texts are beautifully done, reading easily as poetry. If you like goddesses and you like poetry, this is a good thing to check out!I already own “Inanna: Queen of Heaven and of Earth,” by Wolkstein, so I am well familiar to Inanna as a goddess of love and warmth. The texts contained in this book are the exact opposite; many show the violent side of Inanna. But this is exactly what is important, because Inanna is a goddess of duality, that symbolizes at many time’s man’s ancient connection with the spirit and his natural instincts. In ancient Mesopotamia, gods were often feared for their great powers, and harshness upon those that wronged them. Its great to have a new point of view, especially one that is as powerful as this. For the serious student, I’d reccomend getting both books, that way you can have a really clear picture of the glory of Inanna.The author spends a lot of time giving information about the ancient Sumerian customs, which I find to be very useful. For example, the Sumerian marriage rite, which I had never known much about.Now, I do have one complaint about this book. The author tends to include WAY too many references to the Bible, as well as a really strong feminist view point. While this is in fact interesting at times, its taken to the extreme in several places, such as at the end of “Inanna and Mount Ebih.” I would say that for those of you that dig gender studies, you’ll find it enlightening, but I would have preferred to see more information on the ancient Sumerian way of life. Oh well.Highly reccommended.

    46 people found this helpful

  4. 5.0 out of 5 stars

    A stormy relationship between a poet, a goddess and their translator.

    This is an excellent exploration into the life, career, beliefs and poetry of Enheduanna. I was surprised to learn that she was the first author in history – so far as we know – who included her name in her work. As for the source of her inspiration, the goddess Inanna, I was exposed to a more fearsome aspect of her nature that was hinted at in Diane Wolkstein’s and Samuel Noah Kramer’s book “Inanna – Queen of Heaven and Earth.” Inanna proved to be a literal earth shaker in Enheduanna’s poems who straddled the feminine and masculine gender roles. Enheduanna seeks to soothe Inanna in her wrath, like a spouse comforting her partner. What is particularly poignant is Enheduanna’s appeal to the goddess for succor and deliverance from a torturous period of exile. Meador translates the text with lively and dramatic inspiration. Inanna and Enheduanna’s relationship affected me on a personal level as it has helped me to understand and ameliorate the occasional tumult between myself and my wife. Enheduanna is a magnificent poet with Inanna as one hell of a muse!

    29 people found this helpful

  5. 5.0 out of 5 stars


    Not only am I reading history but get to read poems from what may be one of the first poets out there. This book takes me back in time. Loaded with information into our history. It is a breath of fresh air.

    4 people found this helpful

  6. 4.0 out of 5 stars

    I like Sumerian literature

    I found this interesting and there were glimmers of old Testament language of praise. I copied one if the poems for a friend on Messenger and got my account frozen because of the c word. The author loved her body parts. Haha

  7. 5.0 out of 5 stars

    One of the best books I’ve read

    The author gives emphasis on the cultural and historical significance of the poetry behind the people of Sumer and carefully analyzes the reflection of the poem to High Priestess Enheduanna’s devotion to Goddess Inanna. I’m inlove with the book because the author gave importance to facts. Her opinions on the subject of religion are back by facts.

    4 people found this helpful

  8. 5.0 out of 5 stars

    Simply Beautifal.

    As I am not a professional in the area of Archeology, I will leave that aspect to the other reviewers.However comparing Ms Meador’s translation to some I have found online. Such as Lady of the Largest Heart Vs Lady of the Stoutest Heart. Reminds us all to clearly, it takes a real poet to translate a poet.Lady of the Largest Heart, is a poingant and tortured piece. Vs Lady of the Stoutest Heart which reads like Soviet Era Hero Poetry.Betty is a very talented Poet, and has gifted us with a work of great beauty. As well as a very challenging vision of the divine feminine. If she has not captured exactly what Enheduanna meant to say, I wonder if the High Priestess would not have said, Oh, I wish I had said that. :)As a Pagan myself I find this a very moving work. Yet I must warn my fellow Pagans Enheduanna’s Innana is the Goddess of the New Moon. In her deepest Shadow, and Darkest Fury. Dont look for your fluff and bunnies here.

    27 people found this helpful

  9. 4.0 out of 5 stars


    This book centers on the three poems to and about Inanna which the High Priestess Enheduanna had written around 2300 BC. This doesn’t contain any of her Temple Hymns which are found in another book I believe. You get an interesting story about the author’s attraction to Inanna and then to Enheduanna. The early history she presents is very interesting and gives one ideas to jump off in other areas of research. You also get a nice history of Enheduanna, her father was Sargon, so it isn’t like she was a nobody. She was the High-Priestess of Nanna but her greatest attraction was to Inanna, the Queen of Heaven. Each poem is presented with a great deal of notes, and afterwards it is gone through with a fine toothed comb. Lots of good information presented throughout the book. It will definitely be used many times in my research.

    17 people found this helpful

  10. 5.0 out of 5 stars

    a pleasant surprise

    The poems were written by Enhudenna, he greatest poet who ever lived, whose work survived centuries and was placed alongside the writings of kings. Her influence probably is even felt today, 27 centuries after she lived and died. An amazing woman, a genius, the first person with whom we can identify a work with a name, and a fine poet to boot. Shakespeare is going strong after four centuries; archeologists found Enhudenna’s work to be widely distributed even six centuries after her death and she influenced the form of religious poetry for centuries afterwards. The poems are fascinating; even though stylized, you can appreciate the genius underneath. A fine and unexpected read. Take a chance, you won’t be disappointed.

    8 people found this helpful

  11. Sehr empfehlenswert

    Eigentlich hätte ich auch 5 Sterne gewählt aber zum kleinen Teil hat es mich enttäuscht. Zunächst das Gute; großartig geschrieben von einer illustren Expertin auf diesem Gebiet. Sehr empfehlenswert für alle, die mehr über die Sumerische Vorstellung beim Polytheismus im allgemeinen und über die dichterische Kunst von der Priesterin erfahren will. Da die Autorin eine Psychologin ist, hätte ich mehr fachliche Gedanken zur Psyche der Priestering erwartet, womöglich ein ganzes Kapitel, da soviel über diese historische Person bereits bekannt ist.

  12. Amazing! It has had a profound effect on me

    Amazing! It has had a profound effect on me, just like when I read the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Thank you Betty!

  13. Elegant translations of ancient hymns of Inanna

    Enheduanna was the earliest poet of whom we have recorded works of poetry in civilisation. A woman and high priestess of the important cult, it is surprising that she is not included in people’s education and cultural map of literature and writing in ancient history.This translation is sympathetic and accessible. The commentary and analysis is rather feminist in agenda, although understandably so. Overall, recommended. 4 stars.

    3 people found this helpful

  14. Find a better option.

    The topic is great; the way the book is written is not. At times it’s quite confusing and may put you to sleep. Sad, because people should know about her.

    One person found this helpful


    An interesting look at the works of the High Priestess to the moon god Nana, Enheduanna.Some of the poems/hymns are quite stunning in there imagery, `Lady of the Largest Heart’ itself for example, others not so. The book covers Enheduanna and her times in some depth and relates most strongly to Inanna (later known as Ishtar I believe), as you would expect. What grates is the constant pushing of a feminist agenda. I have no problem with that per se it’s the way it’s done that I find gets in the way of the poems to the extent that one stops looking at them and starts looking for the next `feminist dig’. Pity, because as I say the poems/hymns and the exploration of Enheduanna is very good indeed.

    6 people found this helpful

  16. 4.0 out of 5 stars

    En-hedu-Ana is a title

    I agree with everything people say about this book, additionally that we don’t know the name of the subject. Its a title, not a name.and means “The High Priestess [named] Ornament of the Sky”Very beautiful and name and poetry

    5 people found this helpful

  17. 5.0 out of 5 stars


    Great if you are interested in the history behind the woman and her poetry.

    One person found this helpful

  18. 4.0 out of 5 stars

    Good translating, forget most of the commentary

    This up-to-date rendition of Sumerian religious poetry and hymns can be reviewed in two areas. The first: that of the theories around the poems/hymns; the second: the actual translations. Five stars the latter, two stars the former.The first part is given over to discussion of the Sumerian culture and the mythology of Inanna. The first chapter dupes as an intro and is autobiographical, which is nice, as it’s good to see why an author has chosen to write any book. Chapter Two could be summed up by the statement that Inanna is “all encompassing”, but the author chooses to spend a dozen pages saying it. To be honest you can safely ignore Chapter Two. Chapter Three is far better, giving a succinct history of pre-Sumerian cultures during the Ubaid period. Chapter Four is also very good as Meador gives a history of the archaeology of the Sumerian period. It continues through Chaprter 5 with an interpretation of Enheduanna’s life. Several interpretative anomalies and assumptive theories leap out in chapters 5 to 7. For example, the single disk that was found stating: “Enheduanna…, daughter of Sargon” is interpreted as literal, even though, as the author acknowledges, this presents a dichotomy (as other Sumerian scholars also acknowledge) of incestuous rituals described in Chap6, pg 61. Given all these scholars and the author agree it presents a problem it might be prudent to theorize that the term `daughter’ is ritualistic and not literal. But, by taking the literal interpretation, it has allowed the author to present a full princessly/priestessly life of Eduhanna with no primary source to back it up.Chapter 7 begins to discuss the 42 hymns and 3 poems. Hymn 8 speaks of the `seven seas’ which throws up all kinds of questions, given the relatively modern usage of the term. What seven seas were the Sumerians referring to? The author starts to provide assumptive criticism of the hymns and the statement that: “In these works she created a role for Inanna never before explicitly stated” is not teneble. That’s akin to saying that Homer was solely responsible for creating the roles of Achilles, Hector and Agamemmnon in the Iliad just because his is the earliest record. Something so patently untrue any Hellenistic scholar would deride the statement. It is further erroneously backed up by the statement: “Enheduanna draws a complex picture of Inanna that had probably never been articulated before.” `Probably’? Alarm bells began to go off on reading that, if the author isn’t convinced of her own thesis. Another example is the hymn section on pg77 where the word `captive’ is transliterated to mean she was exiled and there is subsequent psychoanalysis of her state of mind in this `exile’. Perhaps the word `captive’ is symbolic. It is, after all, a liturgical hymn.What is also frustrating, and Meador’s amateur historian status perhaps explains it, is that (in this section) hardly any of it seems to be her own original thought. It’s a constant procession of secondary author quoting, almost as though the author feels she needs professorial agreement for her points to be valid. Which is clearly not true, given the latter sections of the book. The book is good enough without a regurgitatory summation of other secondary sources.The second part is given over the the poems and is so much better. Brief intros, the translation (my only desire would be for a parallel cuneiform alongside the english, as translatory license is obviously given; unless the author knew when and where Enheduanna was using slang which I doubt) then the commentary on the text. Not a sniff of secondary sources just free-flowing precise scholarship. Indeed the differences between what I term part I and part II are vast. The first `poem’, between An, Innana and Ebih, has Meador drawing parallels to Eden.There was a very interesting comment on there being a pre-Edenic myh with Adam having a wife before Eve, named Lillith which was new. The second, lauds Inanna’s powers, the reverence and rituals due her, with commentary on the personas of Innana. The third, exalts Inanna after a claimed actual event.To conclude, a tale of two parts. In the first the author tends to switch between literal and figurative interpretation to fit her theories and you end up asking more questions than receiving answers. In the second , the translations of the poems are extremely well done and the sense of devotion to Inanna shines through. The author leans towards a spiritual translation rather than an factual one, and therefore you need to read it with an awareness of `bias’ to the imparted message, but as a current up-to-date version of religious Sumerian poetry this is excellent.

    44 people found this helpful

  19. 5.0 out of 5 stars

    The definitive book about Enheduanna and Inanna

    This is the book I have been waiting for since I first learned about Enheduanna, the first known writer of the ancient world and high priestess of the Sumerian moon god and was transfixed by her words: “But I am Enheduanna, pure and shining high priestess of the moon God!” I couldn’t believe that a real priestess, wrote about herself in the first person, 4,000 years ago, as if she was talking directly to me. Ever since, I have had to trudge through dense, scholarly books and articles to learn any details I could about Enheduanna and now after 5 years this book comes along putting all the pieces, and I mean ALL the pieces together- and it far exceeds what I was hoping for. Meador has culled all the best information about Enheduanna and Inanna–from the overwhelming and hard-to-sift-through scholarly resources on Mesopotamia. She has hand-picked important quotes from women’s studies, Jungian psychology, the ancient near east, and comparative anthropology and synthesized it all here, accessibly and VERY thought- provokingly! Meador has translated from the original Sumerian cuneiform three of Enheduanna’s poems and presented them in a modern, delicious, poetic style for maximum accessiblity to today’s audience. Through Meador’s painstaking efforts and through her insightful and outstanding analysis Enheduanna emerges as a literary genius and surprisingly, as a theological radical! The latter was completely unexpected so I won’t give away the details. This book is an incredible journey into a numinous, symbolic, mystical language, uncovering a new layer of the evolution of human consciousness, particularly from a female perspective. There is so much in this book which is so beautifully written- the poems alone are worth it. I predict it will become a best selling classic as were Enheduanna’s poems centuries after her death. Enjoy and revel in this very real, powerful priestess’ writings dating back 4,000 years! Praise be to Enheduanna and Betty de Shong Meador!

    68 people found this helpful

  20. 5.0 out of 5 stars

    even large enough for highbrough

    Not often does one have the profound experience of being drawn through the pages of a contemporary writer, but I must say that the realization of oneself is expressed masterfully through the phrases of this wonderfully made book.

    6 people found this helpful

  21. The first known poet in human history!

    This is a very interesting book. It’s interesting to see theological poetry written by Enheduanna, the high priestess of the moo goddess in Ur, who lived around 2300 BC. This is about 700 years before Abraham, and 1300 years before King David.

    One person found this helpful

  22. One of the best books humanity has produced.

    An exceptionally well written book.There is absolutely no feminist agenda and Betty’s Jungian perspective is the perfect view to look upon Enheduanna and her profound poetry.Enheduanna is truely remarkable and all her poetry reflects this, I can really see no better book being written on Enheduanna and is a must read for all humanity.Having finished this book, I’ll find myself referring to Enheduanna and Inanna till the day I die.

    2 people found this helpful

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