Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

Nane – the Armenian pagan mother goddess

Posted by Fredsvenn on August 15, 2013


Painting of Goddess Nane by Rubik Kocharian

Nane (Armenian: Nanė; Georgian: Nana; Bulgarian: Nanė; Russian: Nanė) was an Armenian pagan mother goddess. She was the goddess of war, wisdom, and motherhood, and the daughter of the supreme god Aramazd.

Aramazd displaced Vanatur at the top of the pantheon after interaction with the Persians led to the Armenians’ identifying the Zoroastrians’ Ahura Mazda as their prime deity.

Aramazd was considered the father of all gods and goddesses, the creator of heaven and earth. The first two letters in his name – AR – are the Indo-European root for sun, light, and life. He was the source of earth’s fertility, making it fruitful and bountiful. The celebration in his honor was called Amanor, or New Year, which was celebrated on March 21 in the old Armenian calendar (also the Spring equinox).

Aramazd was a syncretic deity, a combination of the autochthonous Armenian legendary figure Ara and the Iranian Ahura Mazda. In the Hellinistic period Aramazd in Armenia was compared with Greek Zeus. The principal temple of Aramazd was in Ani (Kamakh in modern Turkey), a cultural and administrative center of ancient Armenia.

Nane looked like a young beautiful woman in the clothing of a warrior, with spear and shield in hand, like the Greek Athena, with whom she identified in the Hellenic period. Her cult was closely associated with the cult of the goddess Anahit. The temple of the goddess Nane was in the town of Thil. Her temple was destroyed during the Christianization of Armenia:

“Then they crossed the Lycus River and demolished the temple of Nane, Aramazd’s daughter, in the town of Thil.” “Gregory then asked the king for permission to overthrow and destroy the pagan shrines and temples. Drtad readily issued an edict entrusting Gregory with this task, and himself set out from the city to destroy shrines along the highways.”

In Armenia and other countries, the name Nane and its variations continue to be used as a personal name. Now Armenians usually call their grandmother “Nane” (Nan) which means that Nane was an influential goddess in Ancient Armenians spiritual life.

In Armenia the King would take a decision regarding war only after meeting with the eldest woman of the royal dynasty. In the Armenian family the eldest woman was considered the epitome of Nane, and therefore enjoyed great influence.

It is interesting to note similarities in other languages: the Greek “nanna” (aunt), “nonna” in medieval Latin, “nyanya” in Russian. In many parts of Pakistan and India maternal grandparents are called Nana and Nani. In English Nan, Nana, Nanan, Nannan, Nanna are used for grandmother.

Nanaya (Sumerian, NA.NA.A; also transcibed as Nanâ, Nanãy or Nanãya; in Greek: Nαναια or Νανα; Aramaic: ננױננאױ) is the canonical name for a goddess worshipped by the Sumerians and Akkadians, a deity who personified “voluptuousness and sensuality”. Her cult was large and was spread as far as Syria and Iran. She later became syncretised with the Babylonian Tashmetum, the consort of the god Nabu.

Nabu (in Biblical Hebrew Nebo) is the Assyrian and Babylonian god of wisdom and writing, worshipped by Babylonians as the son of Marduk and his consort, Sarpanitum, and as the grandson of Ea. Nabu’s consort was Tashmetum.

Inanna (Sumerian, INANNA; Akkadian: Ištar) is the Sumerian goddess of sexual love, fertility, and warfare.

Inanna’s name derives from Queen of Heaven (Sumerian: nin-anna). The Cuneiform sign of Inanna; however, is not a ligature of the signs lady (Sumerian: nin) and sky (Sumerian: an). These difficulties have led some early Assyriologists to suggest that originally Inanna may have been a goddess possibly related to the Hurrian mother goddess Hannahannah, accepted only latterly into the Sumerian pantheon, an idea supported by her youthfulness, and that, unlike the other Sumerian divinities, at first she had no sphere of responsibilities.

Hannahannah (from Hurrian hannah “mother”) is a Hurrian Mother Goddess related to the pre-Sumerian goddess Inanna. Hannahannah was also identified with the Hurrian goddess Hebat, one title of Hannahannah. Hebat, also transcribed Kheba or Khepat, was the mother goddess of the Hurrians, known as “the mother of all living”. She is also a Queen of the gods.

In the Hurrian area Hebat may be identified with Kubaba. Shrines in honour of Kubaba spread throughout Mesopotamia. Kubaba became the tutelary goddess who protected the ancient city of Carchemish on the upper Euphrates, in the late Hurrian – Early Hittite period. Abdi-Heba was the palace mayor, ruling Jerusalem at the time of the Amarna letters (1350 BC).

According to Mark Munn (Munn 2004), her cult later spread and her name was adapted for the main goddess of the Hittite successor-kingdoms in Anatolia, which later developed into the Phrygian matar (mother) or matar kubileya whose image with inscriptions appear in rock-cut sculptures.

Cybele (Phrygian: Matar Kubileya/Kubeleya “Kubeleyan Mother”, perhaps “Mountain Mother”; Lydian Kuvava; Greek: Kybele, Kybebe, Kybelis) was an originally Anatolian mother goddess. Little is known of her oldest Anatolian cults, other than her association with mountains, hawks and lions. She may have been Phrygia’s state deity; her Phrygian cult was adopted and adapted by Greek colonists of Asia Minor and spread from there to mainland Greece and its more distant western colonies from around the 6th century BC.

Cybele may have evolved from an Anatolian Mother Goddess of a type found at Çatalhöyük, dated to the 6th millennium BCE. This corpulent, fertile Mother Goddess appears to be giving birth on her throne, which has two feline-headed hand rests. In Phrygian art of the 8th century BCE, the cult attributes of the Phrygian mother-goddess include attendant lions, a bird of prey, and a small vase for her libations or other offerings.

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