Beginning with the summer solstice came a time of mourning in the Ancient Near East, as in the Aegean: the Babylonians marked the decline in daylight hours and the onset of killing summer heat and drought with a six-day “funeral” for the god. Recent discoveries reconfirm him as an annual life-death-rebirth deity.
According to the myth of Inanna's descent to the underworld, Inanna (Ishtar in the Akkadian texts) set off for the netherworld, or Kur, which was ruled by her sister Ereshkigal, perhaps to take it as her own. Ereshkigal is in mourning at the death of her consort, Gugalanna (The Wild Bull of Heaven). Inanna passed through seven gates and at each one was required to leave a garment or an ornament so that when she had passed through the seventh gate she was a simple woman, entirely naked. Despite warnings about her presumption, she did not turn back but dared to sit herself down on Ereshkigal’s throne. Immediately the Anunnaki of the underworld judged her, gazed at her with the eyes of death, and she became a corpse, hung up on a meathook.
Inanna’s faithful servant attempted to get help from the other gods but only wise Enki/Ea responded. The details of Enki/Ea’s plan differ slightly in the two surviving accounts, but in the end, Inanna was resurrected. However, a “conservation of souls” law required her to find a replacement for herself in Kur. She went from one god to another, but each one pleaded with her and she had not the heart to go through with it until she found Tammuz richly dressed and on her throne. Inanna immediately set her accompanying demons on Tammuz. In any case, the Sumerian texts relate how Tammuz fled to his sister Geshtinana who attempted to hide him but who could not in the end stand up to the demons. Finally, Inanna relents and changes her decree thereby restoring her husband Tammuz to life; an arrangement is made by which Geshtinana will take Tammuz’s place in Kur for six months of the year.