Who is your Ninshubur?
Ninshubur. She who fights beside me. Queen of the East. Messenger for Inanna and other Gods, perhaps the cousin and forerunner of my beloved Hermes.
Today, think about who, or what, is your ally on this journey.
In the Sumerian myths, Ninshubur was at the goddess Innana’s side for her two most important adventures. She helped Inanna escape with the gifts that would bring humanity civilization. She stayed at the entrance to the underworld as asked, for three days.
And when Inanna did not reappear, it was Ninshubur who went from God to Goddess, asking for help. And it was Ninshubur who was there at the mouth of the underworld to welcome Inanna back.
I know a lot of people who worship Inanna in the modern world. I am one of them. I have yet to meet anyone who has built an altar or pledged devotion to Ninshubur.
Many times, I think we treat our own strengths and allies the same way. We count on their support to help us achieve great things, but we don’t throw a victory parade for them. We may not even buy them flowers or take them to dinner.
Today, let’s change that.
Look at the altar or the art work that you put together on Day 1 or Day 2. Who’s featured? Why? How do you count on their strength and support? And what can you do to thank them?Mine, for example, has my Grandpa Wright. He was a farmer in Central Illinois who wanted to be first a minister, then a traveling gospel musician with my Grandma Wright. Instead, he dropped out of Bible college and came back to help on the family farm. He married Grandma shortly after her father died young of diabetes complications. They took in her youngest brother, born when Grandma was 12, because his grieving and overworked mother had begun abusing him.
Grandpa could have been bitter about all this. He could have said “not my problem” and gotten his degree, or let my Great Uncle Roland stay in hell on earth. He could have saddled his big, black horse and ridden away from it all.
Instead, he took care of business and built a good life. He looked for opportunities closer to home. In the depths of the Great Depression, he went to his own father to get a loan to buy his own piece of land. Grandpa recalled years later that his father told him a personal loan was out of the question. Times were hard, and his father might need that money himself.
But Great-Grandpa Wright would co-sign a loan for the land. He would put up the collateral and risk losing some of his own wealth so his son could start building his own. Because he had faith in two things: that times wouldn’t always be this hard, and his son was a hard worker who would do whatever was necessary to pay back the loan.
I wish I had heard that story earlier. I wish it had been told to me, instead of my overhearing it while Grandpa told it to my soon-to-be (and now ex-) brother in law. But I heard it when I needed to hear it. And it’s given me strength when I faced hard times of my own.
When I sat in my grandparents’ small country church at his funeral, it was late May. The building wasn’t air conditioned and the windows were open. It was hot. I looked out the window into the woods, just as I’d looked out so many times as a child, wondering why we had to stay in a hot building that people built instead of worshipping outdoors in the cool woods that God built.
I heard my Grandfather’s voice, clear and distinct. He said, “I’ll always be with ye.” And he is.
For tomorrow’s ritual, Grandpa will be my Ninshubur. He will walk beside me as I face what must be buried in the past, and run to a new future.
Because if there’s one thing my family has as a strength, it’s the knowledge that things get better if we harness vision to energy to action. It’s our own kind of magic, rooted in the deep, dark soil of the American Midwest. It’s the power we carry in our bones and cells, the power that is always with us.