Inanna is the Sumerian mother Goddess, queen of heaven and ruler of the cycles of the seasons and fertility. She was also called Nina; the name Inanna may be a derivative of Nina. She was the most widely known goddess in the later periods of Sumer. The most important legend involving her is that of the sacrifice of the divine king for the fertility of the land, and his descent to the underworld. The myth is similar to that of Ishtar, the Babylonian and Assyrian mother goddess with whom Inanna became identified.
Inanna’s son-lover-consort was Damuzi (also spelled Dumuzi and Daimuz), who, after proving himself upon her bed in a rite of hieros gamos, or sacred marriage, was made shepherd of the land by her. Once, Inanna walked down the steps of death to the underworld, the Land of No return, or Irkalla. She was taken captive by the Gallas, a host of Demons, and was freed only by promising that she would substitute another life for her own. She returned to heaven to search for the sacrificial victim. She considered, but rejected, a loyal servant and two minor gods, Shara and Latarrek.
When she entered her own temple at Erech, Inanna was shocked to find Damuzi dressed in royal robes and sitting on her throne, instead of out tending his flocks. He seemed to be celebrating her absence rather than mourning it. Enraged, she looked at him with the Eye of Death, and the Gallas dragged Damuzi off to the underworld. Each year, Inanna mourned his death, which brought winter to the land.
From about 2600 b.C.e., to post-Sumerian times, the kings of Sumer mystically identified themselves with Damuzi and were known as the “beloved husbands” of Inanna. At the New Year, an important rite of hieros gamos was performed between the king and the high priestess of Inanna, who represented the goddess.