Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

Elamite religion

Posted by Fredsvenn on July 29, 2014

The Elamites practised polytheism. Khumban was the name of the most important male god in the Elamite pantheon. His name apparently means “commander” in Elamite, as it is derived from the Elamite verb huba “to command”. Most sources state that Humban was the god of the sky, though there are also a few sources who claim that he was the god of the earth.

The Elamites also referred to Humban by his epithet Napirisha, which in later times became the name he was almost exclusively known by. Several Elamite kings, mostly from the Neo-Elamite period, were named in honour of Khumban. Over 20 Elamite kings were named in honour of Humban (which is consistent with the fact that nearly all rulers of Elam bore theophoric names).

In Ancient Mesopotamian religion, Humbaba (Assyrian spelling) or Huwawa (Sumerian spelling), also Humbaba the Terrible, was a monstrous giant of immemorial age raised by Utu, the Sun. Humbaba was the guardian of the Cedar Forest, where the gods lived, by the will of the god Enlil, who “assigned [Humbaba] as a terror to human beings.” He is the brother of Pazuzu and Enki and son of Hanbi.

His sumerian equivalent is Anu. Several Elamite kings, mostly from the Neo-Elamite period, were named in honour of Khumban. Kumarbi is the chief god of the Hurrians. He is the son of Anu (the sky), and father of the storm-god Teshub. He was identified by the Hurrians with Sumerian Enlil, and by the Ugaritians with El.

Alalu was a primeval deity of the Hurrian mythology. After nine years of reign, Alalu was defeated by his son Anu. Anuʻs son Kumarbi also defeated his father, and his son Teshub defeated him, too. Scholars have pointed out the similarities between the Hurrian creation myth and the story from Greek mythology of Uranus, Cronus, and Zeus. Alalu fled to the underworld.

Alalu is borrowed from Semitic mythology and is a compound word made up of the Semitic definite article “Al” and the Semitic supreme deity “Alu.” The “u” at the end of the word is a termination to denote a grammatical inflection. Thus, “Alalu” may also occur as “Alali” or “Alala” depending on the position of the word in the sentence.

Alalu was identified by the Greeks as Hypsistos. He was also called Alalus. He is considered to have housed “the Hosts of Sky”, the divine family, because he was a progenitor of the gods, and possibly the father of Earth.

Khumban along with his wife Kiririsha (or Kirisha), who at one stage became the most important goddess of Elam, ranked second only to her husband Khumban, and another god, Inshushinak, one of the major gods of the Elamites and the protector deity of Susa, formed part of the supreme triad of the Elamite pantheon.

Kiririsha, which in Elamite means “the Great Goddess”, was first known as the ‘Lady of Liyan’ – an Elamite port on Persian Gulf (near modern-day Bushire, Iran), where she and Humban had a temple that was erected by Humban-Numena. There was later (ca. 1250 BC) a temple built to her at Chogha Zanbil.

She was often called ‘the Great’, or ‘the divine mother’. She seems to have been primarily worshipped in the south of Elam, as another goddess, Pinikir, held her position in the north. Eventually, by about 1800 BC, the two had merged and the cult of Kiririsha also came to be practised in Susiana.

Humban was married to the mother goddess Pinikir, but he later divorced her and remarried with the goddess Kiririsha. However, it should be noted that some sources state that Kiririsha may have been an epithet of Pinikir (thus making Pinikir and Kiririsha one and the same person), while other sources view them as separate goddesses whose cults eventually merged (by about 1800 BC).

This Pinikir vs. Kiririsha matter is a bit of a murky area, in part caused by the fact that little is known about the Elamite religion as well as the fact that the Elamite language is not yet fully understood by modern linguists.

This was the name of an obscure but very old god in Elamite religion. It is uncertain what the meaning of his name was in the Elamite language. Most sources equate him with the Babylonian god Anu, so he must have been a god of the heavens.

There are also sources (virtually all of them questionable) that claim that he was the god of the underworld, but obviously this should be taken with a grain of salt.

Jabru was possibly the father of the god Humban and later replaced by him – this is much like his Babylonian counterpart Anu, who was eventually replaced by his son Enlil. Nothing else is known about Jabru, unfortunately.

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