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.
Rabea took command of the situation. “Moudad, bring her to the front room. Handle her gently! Cedat, fetch Tifani, Lilya, and Sara, now!”
Rabea ran ahead of the men and gathered four rugs to put on the floor for a cushion. “Lay her down here. Put her feet this way and find something for a pillow.” She settled onto her knees and unwrapped the silky blue, blood-soaked tarp. Blood was oozing from somewhere, but she couldn't see where.
“Take this off,” she directed Moudad. He helped her pull the blue coverlet free. “Now, grab this, like a tunic, no, grab it this way. Okay, now we can remove it.” They pulled the plastic UN jacket over Katie's head, and another layer of clothing presented itself. Seeing where the blood came from, Rabea pulled the shirt away and found a hole in the skin, oozing a steady flow of bright red blood. Placing her hand on the wound to stop the bleeding, Rabea felt the bone crackle under the pressure of her fingers. The collarbone was fractured, and the freed ends were moving under Rabea’s touch.
“Place your fingers here, where mine are,” she told Moudad, “and keep pressure on this spot.” Examining the body further, she found another sticky clump of brownish clotted blood oozing from beneath the leggings. Rabea followed the coagulated trail to a large tear in the pants; there was a gaping wound in the side of the leg. The edges of the flesh were darkening from exposure and dryness. Fresh blood oozed from the surface of the mangled muscle, but the injury was not bleeding at a dangerous rate. Rabea struggled to remove the leggings. She pulled on the buttons and tugged at the zipper, but the pants did not move. Rabea had never seen a fastener like this. She would have to cut them off later, with a knife.
Her helpers appeared and Rabea instructed them to bring water bowls, herbs, and poultices into the room. As she gently cleaned the unconscious stranger, the royal blue garments were removed and carefully folded and placed on a low table. Candles and torches were lit to encourage happy spirits to join this healing. And, for further insurance, Moudad placed a necklace of lapis lazuli, a revered artifact, around the woman’s neck. He wasn’t sure she was The Goddess, but he wasn’t sure she wasn’t. It was best to keep the stranger safe and connected to the royal blueness. They must clean the bloody blue garments and he didn’t want to leave his guest vulnerable to malevolent spirits. The necklace of royal blue lapis lazuli gems would protect her and thus the village.
Although unconscious, Katie was not in shock. She was warm and breathing regularly. The women attended to their patient and Moudad left them to their nursing duties. With Sara’s help, Rabea figured out the buttons, the belt buckle, even the zipper. The torn blue Levi’s were folded and placed with the pile of magic fabric. The women were now looking at a body clothed in totally unfamiliar undergarments: a bra and panties. Once the clasps on the back of the bra were pulled hard enough, they opened their grip, allowing the loose bra to be removed. The panties slid off to reveal an all too human, grievously injured body.
The women began carefully washing the wounds. “Bring more coverings before she becomes cold,” Rabea said, picking debris from the lesions. After smearing a poultice onto the exposed tissue, she placed bandage cloths over the wounds.
While Rabea and Tifani took control, Moudad reassessed his situation and gathered the men of importance in Lalish to discuss the problem, to help him better understand this event. This was above and beyond anything he had ever encountered, and he needed all the help he could get.
During the last year, Moudad felt ominous changes in the air; things were happening that could threaten his position. He worried about his relationship with King Tušratta and he was careful not to do anything to focus attention on him or his village. The Yezidi were a light-skinned, blue-eyed people whose descendants came from the north. Earlier in history, they were a people the ancient Sumerians respected. Many of the statues of Sumerian Gods had blue-eyes made from the rare lapis lazuli gem that also came from the north. Now, a thousand years later, when Ištar interrupted Moudad’s sleep, the blonde haired and blue-eyed Yezidi were viewed suspiciously. King Tušratta was of Mitanni descent. His people were dark-skinned and brown-eyed, and this difference became a liability to the Yezidi.
Besides this racial tension, Moudad was aware that a disturbance was growing within Tušratta’s Mitanni kingdom. Merchants and messengers whispered of internal disintegration within the royal family itself.
Moudad was far enough removed from the corruption of the Mitanni palace to remain aloof. However, his Uncle Josef, the high priest of the temple at Nineveh, had embraced the devil by acquiescing to Tušratta’s demands. At the King’s behest, he shipped Ištar’s statue to Akhenaten, the Egyptian pharaoh.
Now, Moudad worried this unprecedented happening in Lalish was a result of the corrupt giveaway his uncle was part of and privy to. Still, he was not certain of this cause and effect. So, overwhelmed by the ramifications if this were really Ištar, he was afraid to utter anything.
After telling the assembled men all he understood of what occurred, he had nothing to add. He knew they were all looking to him for an answer. The impatient and frightened group waited for his sage advice, for a priestly message, but none came. The befuddled priest could only stand with his head down looking at the floor.
Suddenly Tifani burst in, breathing heavily. “Come, quick.”
What can be happening now? Moudad thought. How can this get any worse? He was beside himself with worry.
The men made their way into the guest room, queuing along the wall as they watched the unconscious woman with dark brown skin and long, black hair, breath laboriously in and out, in and out.
No one spoke or moved while Rabea tended to her patient, who began moaning loudly, scaring the daylights out of everyone.
Rabea stood up and held out her hand to show them what she found. She walked towards the priests who couldn't shy away further because they were already backed against the wall. They had no choice but to look. They were the priests. They were the ones who were expected to understand the things happening between heaven and earth. So, they collectively gained their composure and looked.
Rabea's flattened palm revealed a T-shaped device two inches high with two, three-inch strings coming from the end of the tee. It was Katie’s IUD, forced from her when the blast pushed her so far back in time.
“Where did you find this?” Moudad asked. “Where did it come from?”
“From her womb. It came from inside Ištar’s womb!” Rabea knew this was Ištar; the sacred object proved it.
Everyone stood in awed silence. They watched and waited for Moudad's response.
He was not sure what to make of the device, but he knew he must act as though he did. “Well, make sure to keep this close,” he said. “Clean it and place it on a royal pillow.” He looked around the room, perplexed, struggling a little to keep himself together. “And keep it next to Ištar.”
Rabea, seeing Moudad’s hesitation and confusion, was sure she knew what was happening. “King Tušratta sent the statue of Ištar to Egypt, and this is the result, Moudad. Am I not right? His stupid actions have angered the Goddess. She has come to reprimand us for removing her image.”
Moudad stared at Rabea, open-mouthed. His eyes shifted back and forth, and his body swayed when he realized his direst fears were indeed a reality to his wife.
“Is this true?” The others asked. “Ištar’s statue has been sent away?”
Moudad nodded. “As a goodwill measure,” he explained, “Tušratta has given our statue of Ištar to the Egyptian pharaoh, Akhenaten. Maybe, he should not have done that.”
There was a collective gasp from the priests at the enormity of this error. Moudad now knew he would have to move carefully and somehow placate the Goddess for the sin of his uncle and King. The fate of the entire Yezidi nation had been placed in his hands. The time of reckoning had come; the Goddess Ištar had come to earth.
Next Blog: Who is Ishtar?
Ištar Comes to Earth, Chapter 4