I love to explore the Divine Feminine and write about Goddesses. For a list of those, click on the link: Goddesses. In order to become more balanced within ourselves and, through that, to bring greater balance and harmony to the world around us, we must find greater balance between the masculine and feminine energies within ourselves that each one of us possesses, regardless of physical gender or any other ways of self-identification.
Lady of the Steppe
In the late Uruk period of Babylonia, up until 484 BCE, the Mesopotamian pantheon was restructured in a very short period of time. Some lesser known deities were elevated to a more prominent status and others were newly introduced. Some were only local deities of specific cities. Anu, the sky god rose to power in this period, now heading the Pantheon, for example.
In her paper “Prayers from Him Who Is Unable to Make Offerings”: The Cult of Bēlet-ṣēri at Late Babylonian Uruk, Julia Krull singles out one of those deities, Belet-Seri. Her name means Lady of the Steppe and she is a scribe, assigned to serve the Goddess Ereshkigal who ruled over the Underworld. Sometimes, Belet-Seri’s name is also translated as Lady of the Wilderness.
Belet-Seri was associated with both the steppe and the Underworld, different, yet interrelated conceptualisations. The steppe is a very sparse and inhospitable environment and this is also true for how the Ancient Babylonians viewed the Underworld; barren and uncultivated. For city dwellers, this must have been an especially bleak environment. They believed that the steppe was haunted by ghosts and demons, a place they’d rather avoid.
What made it worse were barbaric nomads grazing their livestock there and nature’s forces of chaos reigned. Moreover, there were raiders that threatened travellers on their way through. It is not surprising, therefore, that the word seru, meaning steppe or wilderness, was also used as one of the names for the netherworld and the steppe was thus seen as an entry point to the Underworld, a place where the living could not go.
Specially trained ritualists were able to banish witches, ghost and demons into the steppe, yet to banish them into the Underworld was only possible at certain times of the year when the veil between the worlds lifted and passage through was possible.
Scribe of the Underworld
There aren’t many written documents with religious texts left from that era; however, there are other sources of information, like sales contracts and written instructions and incantations, as well as legal documents that refer to the Goddess. Academics have quite the puzzle pieces to assemble to paint and coherent picture of the time. Not only the religious cults and worship but also the way of living can be reconstructed this way, along with archaeological finds.
The Babylonian Underworld is somewhat of a mirror of the realm of the living, and thus, Belet-Seri mirrors the Royal scribe in the Underworld, in service of her Queen Ereshkigal. She sits at the entrance and all who enter must present themselves to her. The Goddess held a list with names of those who were admitted into the Underworld. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Enkidu, a legendary figure in Babylonian mythology and comrade to King Gilgamesh, has a dream in which he has a vision of the Underworld. In it, in a series of incantations, Belet-Seri is asked to bind witches and demons to prevent them from leaving the Underworld, lest they wreak havoc on earth in the lives of the living.
Belet-Seri is an old Goddess who was already around in earlier Babylonian times. However, her reintroduction and rise to greater fame was in the late Uruk period. She is described as squatting before Ereshkigal, a tablet in her hand and reading aloud. Her real power is described plainly in this quote from the Udug.Ḫul:
“In the absence of Belet-Seri, august scribe of the Netherworld, no foot can enter Arali, nor any path negotiate the Netherworld.”
She was also regularly called upon to assist in binding spells and averting or healing disease that was brought on by malevolent spirits. In the later Uruk period, she was one of the most celebrated deities of the pantheon. She had her own temple, surrounded by an orchard, which was called Palace of the Steppe.
In Her Honour
Most people bearing names in honour of the Goddess were from the lowest demographic of Babylonian society, like slaves, former slaves and free menial workers. Thus, it is safe to assume that she was quite popular with the common people and looked to for just rewards in the afterlife besides being invoked to protect and heal the living. She is, in this respect, not only a powerful deity but also an executer of justice.
Her role as scribe in the Underworld is the same as that of the scribe of the royal court, the king’s personal secretary in Babylonia and Assyria. She is the equivalent of the Assyrian Geshtinanna, sister of Dumuzid, the first and primary consort of Inanna and the god of shephards. Geshtinanna is the Goddess of agriculture, fertility, and dream interpretation. This shows how Belet-Seri is linked to the sale of grain, as well as other trade commodities and why so much wisdom is ascribed to her.
In other texts, she is described as literate divine administrator who also deals with land registry and surveying. In another Old Babylonian prayer, Geshtinanna is invoked along other deites. While Nisaba is the scribe who records the case, Geshtinanna is the one whom is expected to find the truth and mete out justice. In a later text, Belet-Seri is called the Beloved of Anu. The Goddess Gubara/Asratu was given the title belet seri in the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian period. And in the Neo-Assyrian Götteradreßbuch (directory of deities) Belet-Seri was mentioned as an individual Goddess.
Due to her association with Gula, the Goddess of Medicine, and her relation to Amurru, she was also ascribed healing and purifying properties. She was mentioned in a few more text and in one legal document that deals with punishment of those who break a contract, it is said that a child must be donated to the Goddess and her consort.
Thorough & Conscientious
To conclude, Belet-Seri has scribal authority over the fates of witches, demons and ghosts. She is Goddess of Divination, usually through extispicy, involving the entrails of animals after sacrifice and later also takes on the role of purifier and is responsible for women’s healthcare.
Belet-Seri isn’t a Goddess of whom much written material has survived the passage of time to the present day. However, she is a formidable and benevolent Goddess in the eyes of the people and when I worked with her during my research, she struck me as an earnest, yet loving Goddess who takes her “job” seriously. Maybe her vibe reminded a bit of a modern-day librarian. She is certainly someone prone to studying facts, weighing off options and looking deep into matters. She likes to be exact and places emphasis on her role of a sort of guardian of the worlds, keeping evil spirits trapped in the Underworld, while rewarding and assisting those she deems worthy. And again, worthiness is determined by actions and thoughts, rather than a personal preference for someone’s personality. She is very thorough in this respect.
I have sat at her feet in the vision Belet-Seri met me. It was a sort of anteroom with a bare stone floor and walls. She allowed me to watch her work for a while, tending to her administrative tasks. When she felt that I had a good grasp not only on what she does but how she does it, she directed her full attention on me. Then she taught me about her mysteries.
Empathy is a good thing but when you allow your emotions move you to become less than wholly objective, you are trapped in the cycle of karma and emotions. In the human world, emotions are vital. To cut yourself off from them is detrimental to your health on a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level. Remember that the universal energy, the essence of all creation and what you call God, the universe, Life Force or such other terms, is love.
True love, which is unconditional, has a certain frequency like everything and everyone else has their own frequencies. The closer those frequencies are to the life force that animates all, the healthier that living being or thing is. It does not matter whether it is a biological life form, a rock, a thought or emotion. Imagine it as electricity that runs at a certain current. When all is aligned, you can switch on your lamp and shed light to the darkness. If anything is constructed out of alignment, you will blow a fuse, a fire might break out, nothing works at best, and at worst, it can cause irreparable damage, even threaten lives.
As much as humans like to think of the Justice of the Afterlife as a system of reward and punishment, justice served by the Divine agents, this is not so. Justice in human understanding is such, yet Divine Justice is impartial and governed by universal laws of what you would call physics. There are no emotions attached to it. This may seem cold and uncaring, you may feel cheated and left alone, hurt and betrayed. But it is not so.
These laws work in your favour at all times. They honour your free will, even as you are bound in chains and kept in slavery, whether those chains are physical or in your head. In fact, the ones in the deepest core of your mind, your subconscious, are the ones that will determine your frequency output, the vibration at which you swing, for everything is frequency and vibration.
When you see slaves enter these gates, you take pity for their lives of suffering. You wish to alleviate this and reward them with kindness and gifts. However, this leads to them staying in their state of slavery. You cannot change it with soft cushions. You support them in their victimhood.
On Being Human
In the human world, it is good to help others in a way that supports them in finding a better life and changing their consciousness. You can feed the hungry, heal the wounded and care for the sick. That is a noble thing to do. And you are all interdependent. There is no one who does not depend on another for something. The richest, most powerful man in the world depends on someone producing his toilet paper. Thus, remember to be humble when you are faced with those who seem weaker to you in some way. Remind yourself that your very life depends on others. You do not live in a space closed off from the rest of the world around you.
But while you help others when you can, you must never forget to help yourself first to be healthy and strive for greater self-knowledge, work on your own mindset and improve your skills. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Look at this place. Do you know why it is as barren as the steppe? Because most who enter have a dry mind. It is devoid of life and creative thought or force. As within, so without.
In truth, Divine Justice helps you to empower yourself. It drives you forward. You merely perceive it as punishment or rewards from your very limited human perspective. But look at it from the All-Knowing Eye who has been there since before time and can see beyond the end of all time. There is a much greater picture. There are decisions based on the will on a soul level that spans over many lifetimes, eons and ages. What the soul wishes to experience can feel like a punishment from the microcosm of a single human lifetime. The Universal Law and Justice keeps pushing you in the right direction, no matter how long it takes for you literally have all the time in the world. In truth, there is no time at all.
So how can you act in unity with Divine Law without disassociating yourself from others and the world, from love and empathy? There are a few things you must bear in mind. First, act out of love, not fear or self-interest. Love is not a business deal. Let support come from a pure heart and make sure that includes yourself first and foremost. Self-sacrifice and denial of your own dreams and needs, your own happiness will sap the life out of you, quite literally. Your vibrations will reflect that and your frequency affects those around you, everything in your life in a negative way. It is a downwards spiral that leads into endless suffering.
Help in a manner that alleviates acute need, yet ensure to show others a way out of their despair. A doctor might show a patient how to dress his wound daily anew after a surgery. Someone who cannot feed themselves is better off in the long-term by being taught new skills to utilise to ensure his or her own survival, and so forth. And yet, there are still those who cannot help themselves. And for them, you must provide from the plenty you create, so they my strive or peacefully and comfortably walk towards the time their spirit departs and their flesh is no longer animated by it. This is what you call death.
The justice I mete out is based on what you have or have not done during your lifetime. But it is not based on the acts themselves but the underlying core beliefs that prompted you to such action or inactions. Seek the truth in your heart. Do you like to keep others dependent on you to feel needed because you fear no one will love you otherwise? Or did you feel strong within yourself and shared from your heart without expecting anything in return?
When entered some sort of contractual work, did you honour your responsibilities or did you try to dominate others? Did you try to get away with doing less and not putting any pride in your work? That means you did not value yourself. You may have got fired from your job then. In human terms, this is a punishment. In divine terms, it is a push in the right direction to find your path, to find yourself.
Do you understand now, my daughter, that love always leads in the right way? You might not perceive it as such but divine love ultimately always leads you home. Your path may meander and throw you in a loop but you will ultimately make your way there. So you see, there is no reward or punishment needed. There is only one outcome. Yours is merely the journey. Now ask yourself, how do you judge yourself? For this is how you judge others also. What is justice to you, has to be equally fair to others. Come from a place of understanding, not fear, hatred or condescension, then you will come closer to Divine Truth - and Justice.
In my book HER BADASS BIKERS, a contemporary biker reverse harem novel, Ava holds space for the men she loves. She encourages Snubbs to open up to a possible relationship that is far greater than what his trauma-induced limited view and experience encompasses. She also sets healthy boundaries, knowing when to give, receive and when to set a strong boundary. That is self-love and self-respect. By honouring her own boundaries, wishes and needs, she teaches others how to treat her.
When Mace wants to gift her something, it is not for lack of ability to receive that Ava turns his gift down. She looks deeper, into his heart and sees the underlying motivations for this gift that are not in alignment with unconditional love. By rejecting his gift, she teaches him that he is valuable in his own right and that he must trust in the strength and fortitude of his heart.
A Gift of Value
With this, Belet-Seri squats down once more with her tablet and resumes her work of greeting the petitioners, asking for entry into the Underworld. I watch as the vision dissolves before my eyes and I feel strangely calm and comforted, knowing now, beyond a doubt, that even though the universe doesn’t care in the sense we believe caring should look like, the way we are all loved is infinitely greater than this narrow human, intellectual concept. At the gates of the Underworld, Belet-Seri gave me a sense of empowerment and strength as a gift to take home with me.