Ištar Comes to Earth

Nabil recalled the unusual event. Moudad was satisfied the Jema’iyye, the fall pilgrimage festival had been a good one. The Sacrifice of the Bull and the final community meal went off without a hitch yesterday. Now all of the thankful, uplifted people were gone, back to their everyday lives. Yes, the events of the last week went well.

But things ended differently this time.

“Father, you must come! Something has happened in Ištar’s temple chamber.” A young man with pale skin and blonde hair shook his aging father from sleep.

“What is it Cedat?” Moudad asked as he sat up slowly.

“Ištar has come to Lalish, father!”

“What do you mean? What is this nonsense?”

“I can’t explain it, Father. You have to see it. A divine package has been delivered.”

“Alright, alright. If it is so important, wake Nabil! I will meet you outside.”

“Do you need any help, Moudad, my husband?” asked the woman lying beside him.

“Yes please, Rabea. I don’t know what to make of this,” Moudad said. The elder Yezidi priest slowly dressed as his wife rose from bed and wrapped a robe around her. “Cedat says Ištar has come to earth. Is this a dream, do you suppose?”

“Well, Cedat is not prone to flights of fancy, Moudad,” his mother replied. “But I cannot see how it could be real.”

“If it is really Ištar,” Moudad said, “is this a divine blessing, or a warning? Is this the beginning of the end? I just don’t know.” He babbled nervously while adjusting the sash to tighten his tunic. Moudad was the head priest of the village of Lalish and of their temple to Ištar. He encountered Nabil, his subordinate as he and his wife hurried outside.

“Follow me, Nabil,” Moudad said.

The wind whipped through the stone walkways and chilled Moudad as he pulled his linen tunic tightly around him. He peered into the heavens expecting the way to be illuminated by the light of the full moon. But the clouded sky masked the silvery disk. And, as he looked up he noticed the leaves still clung to the mulberry trees. It was late autumn; they should have fallen long ago. It was just another indication, things weren’t right.

Cedat followed close behind and chattered nervously. “This is divine intervention."

Moudad was justifiably nervous. Since anyone could remember, his family owned the Isqu, the religious license to run the Lalish Temple. It was passed to Moudad because his father was a faithful priest and his mother a certified virgin when they married. Moudad learned from his father how to perform his duties efficiently and garner respect and favors from the king.

Since the day he assumed office as a young priest, Moudad dutifully arranged a morning meal and an evening dinner for Ištar, filling the table with delicious treats. Anything left after she finished was distributed to the temple staff. However, he had never seen a day when Ištar came to eat her food; neither had his father. Occasionally, Moudad allowed himself to wonder if there was an Ištar. Perhaps my doubt brought this on. He worried a moment before dismissing the disturbing thought.

Moudad was the high priest, the mouthpiece of the Yezidi clan. King Tušratta supported Moudad because he had religious control over the Yezidi. But Moudad held this position only as long as his people and the King believed he spoke for Ištar their Goddess of love and war. By making Ištar happy, they believed the village experienced continued harmony and good fortune.

“There!” Cedat stopped suddenly at the cella threshold and pointed to the blue draped figure, laying in a pool of blood, right in front of the altar. Nabil stopped as well. Moudad was the high priest; he should be the one to investigate this.

The last thing René did, before the grenade blast went off, was pull the altar cloth over himself and Katie. The material was a deep, deep blue, shiny and slippery. Now, cautiously approaching the royal colored bundle, Moudad was prepared to retreat any moment.

As he carefully pulled at a corner of the material it began to fall open. Gingerly lifting the blue cloth higher, there was even more blood, some of it the bright red of fresh blood. He saw strands of long, black hair, matted together with clots of dark blood. This was a person, he realized, maybe a woman, lying on her right side. He stepped closer and leaned in. Now he could see her face. Her eyes were closed, and her mouth hung open. Blood dripped steadily from her nose. “Go for help, now! Bring your mother,” he instructed Cedat. “Help me move her, Nabil.”

“What do you want me to do? Where shall we take her? What shall we do?” Nabil was in full on panic.

“Grab the outside of the cloth, Nabil!” He tried to calm the distraught fellow and spoke with more command. “You must focus! Help me pull her from the cella.”

Cedat returned with Rabea as the two men pulled the parcel over the threshold. Rabea looked at her husband for guidance, but Moudad looked as confused as Nabil. Realizing it was a human, a woman, wrapped inside this package, Rabea rushed to the bundle to see if the woman was alive. Yes, she was breathing and warm! Rabea uncovered the face and cupped Katie’s head in her hands, pulling the figure to her. She was warm and soft, and her mouth was moving. The woman was breathing, but her eyes were closed. She was unconscious.