The Eight-Pointed Rosette Star of Inanna

Categories: Articles,Goddess Related

In India, it may have been a beautiful eight-petalled flower, the lotus, that was precious to the people of long ago (derived perhaps from the star) that found its way into the imagery associated with Kali, the great nurturer and the great destroyer. How much one culture informed and/or borrowed from the other is not readily known, but in speaking of the Indus Valley civilizations, F.R. Allchin, Indian scholar writes, “the regional divergences [of the area] might in some instances be associated with the meeting of indigenous Indus populations and intrusive Indo-Iranian or Aryan elements, and with some sort of resulting cultural synthesis.” [2]

For a possible example of such cultural synthesis, we might look again back to Sumer, where it is known that the flower most sacred to Lilith, “a handmaiden to the great goddess Inanna,…[was the] lilu, or lily, or ‘lotus’.” [3] So, although there may indeed be a radiant connection between the star and the flower, it could be that Indian culture was affected more by the flower of Lilith than by the star of Inanna. In the Kali yantra, the goddess is, “symbolized by the eight-petalled lotus, since she is the cause of material nature. The eight petals stand for the eight elements of Prakriti—earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intellect and ego-sense—of which this phenomenal world is composed.” [4] The Mother, then, is the very “stuff” of life, a compilation of both the UpperWorld (ether, mind, intellect, ego-sense) and the LowerWorld (earth, water, air, fire); a synthesis worked by Inanna in her Descent long ago.

Much later, we find adaptations of this rosette-star symbol and the sacredness of “eight” in the mystical sciences of the Middle Ages as well as in most, if not all, world religions. For example, in the Major Arcana of the Tarot, the eighth card represents “Strength”, “the fang of the serpent…[which] represents the kundalini, or life force.” [5] Here again, we see the connection from the “eight” to Kali, this time through the serpent Kundalini that is sacred to Her. But lest we forget, Inanna too has a connection to a serpent, for she is the goddess who was called “Great Mother Serpent of Heaven” on Sumerian tablets. [6] Additionally, in her stories we learn of the serpent, “who could not be charmed, made its nest in the roots of the [Huluppu] tree”. [7] I was struck in reading this passage by the parallel that may be drawn between the serpent resting at the base of the tree, the world tree which symbolizes the Divine Mother in the Sumerian as well as other world cultures, and the Kundalini serpent, sacred to the Indian Divine Mother, who resides at the “roots” of the human body, our tail bone.

The number eight has found its way too into positions of prominence in other religions. In Buddhism, for example, we find the Eight-fold Path, “consisting of right conduct, right contemplation, right effort, right faith, right occupation, right resolve, right self-awareness and right speech.” [8] It is said that upon Buddha’s birth, an eight-petalled lotus sprang from the earth and, “he stepped into it to gaze into the 10 directions of space…[gazing] upward and downward, [too] making 10 directions.” [9] A parallel here may be drawn to the Qabalah, or the Hebrew Tree of Life, which contains eight ways to spiritual realization within the 10 Sephira (spheres): Origin, Will, Love, Ritual, Science, Beauty, Devotion and Action. [10]

In Hinduism, where the eight-petalled lotus (as previously mentioned) is significant to the Divine Mother in her role as loving, nurturing Goddess, many images in art, “express a reciprocal overlapping of the four functions of consciousness…thought, feeling, intuition, and sensation… so that four further intermediate functions come about—for instance, thought colored by feeling or intuition, or feeling tending toward sensation.” [11] The number eight therefore plays an important role in enriching human wholeness in relation to the universe within these systems.

In looking further, I noticed that information from still other traditions made connections between the number eight and various essential elements of their cosmology. For example, in the tradition of the Navaho, dwelling places called hogans have always been a symbol of the cosmos. [12] Constructed with eight sides, these homes reflect Native reverence of the four directions and the four alternate points, with smoke from the fire pit allowing communication with heaven and the east-facing doorway allowing the rising sun to enter.

In Christianity, we also find evidence of the significance of the number eight, for on the eighth day (Genesis 17:10) of a man-child’s life “one of the most important covenants between God and humanity” [13] is performed—circumcision (a rite that Judy Grahn [14], Chris Knight, et al. have noted emulates female menstruation). And in Gnosticism, I found that the eight-rayed sun is a popular symbol of the universe, with a curved “S” at the center representing the divine serpent. [15] Reading about this serpent called to mind once again the serpent so associated with the power of Kali, that of the Kundalini, the serpent who lies coiled three and a half times around the base of the spine at the muladhara or “root” chakra, asleep awaiting stimulation towards enlightenment.

Interesting to note is that the root chakra symbol is composed of eight points: a four-petalled lotus and a four-pointed square (symbolizing earth), and I can not help but feel the relatedness of the idea of the four directions and the four alternate points of the Navaho to this Indian integration of four points of the flower and four points of the square in their own symbology around the root chakra, seat of the Goddess. This flower/square representation may be an effort to have practitioners of yoga and other meditation techniques remember at all times their rootedness through the square “earth” symbol in their quest for alignment with the spirit as represented by the lotus. Additionally, it calls to mind the Indian creation story of Brahman, who, standing on a lotus, “turned his eyes to the four points of the compass…[for] a kind of preliminary orientation, an indispensable taking of bearings, before he began his work of creation.” [16]

5 Responses to "The Eight-Pointed Rosette Star of Inanna"

  1. Patrice Posted on 08/15/2018 at 3:04 pm

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  3. Debbie Posted on 05/02/2018 at 6:13 am

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  4. Den Posted on 10/06/2017 at 7:53 pm

    Yes very in-depth and informative. Keep it up. Thank you.

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