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Ishtar Tale

I am the starry Lady of Heaven; my power enlightens dusk and dawn, mountain and sky, furrow and seed, animal and human, woman and man, love and division, and war, always war. But not to the darkness; not to the clay and dust, not to Death; not to the great land below, where my sister reigns. That land I did not know.

So I abandoned the known lands and traveled to the threshold and found that entrance and beat on that cold door, I banged on it until I was let in. Into that Great Place I descended, down through the gates one by one.

Down I went through the seven gates, down to the realm of my sister.

At the first gate my Queenship was stolen.

At the second gate my Knowledge was taken.

At the third gate I lost my Voice.

At the fourth gate I ceded my Beauty.

At the fifth gate I gave my Divinity.

At the sixth gate I offered my Self.

At the last gate I left my Life, and it all falls away and death is come.

The Dark Queen sits upon her throne and sees the corpse of her sister.

Time passes and does not, and two strangers come to the Queen, bearing water. What did they tell the Queen? What did they give the Queen, that she turned her ear to them? Listen close and you might guess, or you might not; but they ask of her one thing, and that one thing is granted. So then the loosed spirit is breathed back and bound into that which remains, and I am borne to Life once more. I am freed from that land, and then back up through all the gates I ascend, one following the other, all my self restored to me, up into the good air; and one more thing comes besides, a little of the dark returns with me.

This darkness knows the Law, the Law which says that for one released there is one ransomed. There was no question, really, who it should be, and down I send my husband in my stead. His sister mourns and would follow him; again the scales of the Law swing and then settle, and the dark and light, sorrow and joy, decay and growth, summer and winter are between them balanced. And this truth is what has come back with me, this shadow to my Star, this equilibrium, this poise; this balance above and below, without which we are not whole.


Ch'ang O