Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

From the great Mother Goddess to Ereshkigal/Inanna – Maria/Lilith – Venus

Posted by Fredsvenn on August 5, 2015

Hausha (Ka-Usha) – Khaldi – Caelius – Kali – Hel

Ka – Heket/Meskhenet

The Ka was the Egyptian concept of vital essence, that which distinguishes the difference between a living and a dead person, with death occurring when the ka left the body. The Egyptians believed that Khnum created the bodies of children on a potter’s wheel and inserted them into their mothers’ bodies. Heqet was considered the wife of Khnum.

Depending on the region, Egyptians believed that Heket, the frog symbolizing life and fertility, the Egyptian equavalent of the Greek goddess Hekate, the triple goddess variously associated with crossroads, entrance-ways, dogs, light, the moon, magic, witchcraft, knowledge of herbs and poisonous plants, ghosts, necromancy, and sorcery, or Meskhenet, the goddess of childbirth, and the creator of each child’s Ka, a part of their soul, which she breathed into them at the moment of birth, was the creator of each person’s Ka, breathing it into them at the instant of their birth as the part of their soul that made them be alive. This resembles the concept of spirit in other religions.

The Egyptians also believed that the ka was sustained through food and drink. For this reason food and drink offerings were presented to the dead, although it was the kau within the offerings that was consumed, not the physical aspect. The ka was often represented in Egyptian iconography as a second image of the king, leading earlier works to attempt to translate ka as double.

Inanna (Nanna – Frigg/Frøyja) / Ereshkigal (Hel)

– Frigg/Frøyja – Friday/Veneris Venu – Venus

Inanna (Sumerian: Inanna; Akkadian: Ištar; Neo-Assyrian: MUŠ) was the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, and warfare, and goddess of the E-Anna temple at the city of Uruk, her main centre. Inanna was associated with the planet Venus, which at that time was regarded as two stars, the “morning star” and the “evening star.”

Inanna’s symbol is an eight-pointed star or a rosette. She was associated with lions – even then a symbol of power – and was frequently depicted standing on the backs of two lionesses. Her cuneiform ideogram was a hook-shaped twisted knot of reeds, representing the doorpost of the storehouse (and thus fertility and plenty).

The famous Uruk Vase (found in a deposit of cult objects of the Uruk III period) depicts a row of naked men carrying various objects, bowls, vessels, and baskets of farm produce, and bringing sheep and goats, to a female figure facing the ruler. This figure was ornately dressed for a divine marriage, and attended by a servant. The female figure holds the symbol of the two twisted reeds of the doorpost, signifying Inanna behind her, while the male figure holds a box and stack of bowls.

One of the longest lasting Goddesses from the ancient world is Sumer’s Inanna, who was revered for over 4,000 years, and even today in modern Islamic Iraq Inanna’s emblems of the reed knot and the date palm continue to have meaning to the people. Her origins are very very old and date back well into the Neolithic age.

It is believed that the Goddess-revering Al-Ubaid culture brought her imagery with them when they settled in the region south west of the Euphrates river as early as the 6th millennium BC, i.e. 8,000 years ago. Her earliest temple was discovered in Uruk (Erech), Inanna’s main and longest lasting place of worship, and dates back to about 5,000 BC.

Inanna’s name derives from Lady of Heaven (Sumerian: nin-an-ak). The cuneiform sign of Inanna; however, is not a ligature of the signs lady (Sumerian: nin; Cuneiform: SAL.TUG) and sky (Sumerian: an; Cuneiform: AN).

These difficulties have led some early Assyriologists to suggest that originally Inanna may have been a Proto-Euphratean 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.

The view that there was a Proto-Euphratean substrate language in Southern Iraq before Sumerian is not widely accepted by modern Assyriologists.

Hannahannah (from Hittite hanna- “grandmother”) is a Hurrian Mother Goddess related to or influenced by the pre-Sumerian goddess Inanna. Hannahannah was also identified with the Hurrian goddess Hebat. Christopher Siren reports that Hannahannah is associated with the Gulses.

Inara, in Hittite–Hurrian mythology, was the goddess of the wild animals of the steppe and daughter of the Storm-god Teshub/Tarhunt. She corresponds to the “potnia theron” of Greek mythology, better known as Artemis. Inara’s mother is probably Hebat and her brother is Sarruma.

The mother goddess Hannahannah promises Inara land and a man during a consultation by Inara. Inara then disappears. Her father looks for her, joined by Hannahannah with a bee. The story resembles that of Demeter and her daughter Persephone, in Greek myth.

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 deities. Hebat is married to Teshub and is the mother of Sarruma and Alanzu, as well mother-in-law of the daughter of the dragon Illuyanka.

It is thought that Hebat may have had a Southern Mesopotamian origin, being the deification of Kubaba, the founder and first ruler of the Third Dynasty of Kish. The name may be transliterated in different versions – Khebat with the feminine ending -t is primarily the Syrian and Ugaritic version. In the Hurrian language Hepa is the most likely pronunciation of the name of the goddess. In modern literature the sound /h/ in cuneiform sometimes is transliterated as kh.

Hebat was venerated all over the ancient Near East. Her name appears in many theophoric personal names. A king of Jerusalem mentioned in the Amarna letters was named Abdi-Heba, possibly meaning “Servant of Hebat”. During Aramaean times Hebat also appears to have become identified with the goddess Hawwah, or Eve.

The Hittite sun goddess Arinniti was later assimilated with Hebat. A prayer of Queen Puduhepa makes this explicit: “To the Sun-goddess of Arinna, my lady, the mistress of the Hatti lands, the queen of Heaven and Earth. Sun-goddess of Arinna, thou art Queen of all countries! In the Hatti country thou bearest the name of the Sun-goddess of Arinna; but in the land which thou madest the cedar land thou bearest the name Hebat.”

The mother goddess is likely to have had a later counterpart in the Phrygian goddess Cybele, (Phrygian: Matar Kubileya/Kubeleya “Kubeleyan Mother”, perhaps “Mountain Mother”; Lydian Kuvava; Greek: Kybele, Kybebe, Kybelis), an originally Anatolian mother goddess; she has a possible precursor in the earliest neolithic at Çatalhöyük (in the Konya region) where the statue of a pregnant goddess seated on a lion throne was found in a granary dated to the 6th millennium BC.

Cybele is Phrygia’s only known goddess, and was probably its 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 BCE. In Greece, Cybele met with a mixed reception. She was partially assimilated to aspects of the Earth-goddess Gaia, her Minoan equivalent Rhea, and the Harvest-Mother goddess Demeter.

In the early days of her worship Inanna was still seen as the all-encompassing mother goddess. She was still revered as the source of the upper and lower waters, as the Queen of Heaven, Earth and the Underworld. As human consciousness – probably due to external factors – changed over the millennia, Inanna’s powers diminished.

At first she was split into the goddess of life, represented by Inanna, and the goddess of the underworld, represented by her sister Ereshkigal (EREŠ.KI.GAL, lit. “Queen of the Great Earth”) or Ninkigal (lit. “Great Lady of the Earth” or “Lady of the Great Earth”), the goddess of Irkalla, the land of the dead or underworld. Eventually she would be given a father who was said to have given her her powers. Ereshkigal was also a queen that many gods and goddesses looked up to in the underworld.

The family tree of Inana/Ištar differs according to different traditions. She is variously the daughter of Anu or the daughter of Nanna/Sin and his wife Ningal; and sister of Utu/Šamaš; or else the daughter of Enki/Ea. Ereškigal is the sister of Inanna and mother of the goddess Nungal. Namtar, Ereškigal’s minister, is also her son by Enlil; and Ninazu, her son by Gugal-ana. The latter is the first husband of Ereškigal, who in later tradition has Nergal as consort. Bēlet-ṣēri appears as the official scribe for Ereškigal in the Epic of Gilgameš.

Inanna refers to Ereshkigal as her older sister in the Sumerian hymn “The Descent of Inanna” (which was also in later Babylonian myth, also called “The Descent of Ishtar”). Ereshkigal is the counterpart of Inanna/Ishtar, the symbol of nature during the non-productive season of the year. According to the doctrine of two kingdoms, the dominions of the two sisters are sharply differentiated, as one is of this world and one of the world of the dead.

Ereshkigal became the goddess of death and regeneration. During the Neolithic people believed in the cyclical nature of all existence. Every ending was understood to be the beginning of a new chapter. Death, rather than being the final end, was seen as a resting stage prior to new life. Just as seeds rest deep undergound during the cold winter months waiting to sprit up as a seedling in spring, so were the dead seen as having returned to the Goddess’ dark womb to await renewal and rebirth.

While during the Neolithic and the early Bronze Age life was seen as cyclical with death not being the final end but rather a resting stage before rebirth, in later years as humanity distanced itself more and more from the natural world, the understanding of the Underworld changed from it being the womb of the Goddess to a place of no return. However, some of the old cyclical beliefs remained even during the later Bronze Age, as late Sumerian mythology tells of how Ereshkigal gives birth to new life.

Ereshkigal was sometimes given the name Irkalla, similar to the way the name Hades was used in Greek mythology for both the underworld and its ruler, Hades, later Pluto. She was the only one who could pass judgment and give laws in her kingdom. The main temple dedicated to her was located in Kutha.

Ereshkigal is known chiefly through two myths, believed to symbolize the changing of the seasons, but perhaps also intended to illustrate certain doctrines which date back to the Mesopotamia period. One of these myths is Inanna’s descent to the netherworld and her reception by her sister who presides over it; Ereshkigal traps her sister in her kingdom and Inanna is only able to leave it by sacrificing her husband Dumuzi in exchange for herself. Inanna/Ishtar’s trip and return to the underworld is the most familiar of the myths concerning Ereshkigal.

Her history is to be found in the goddess Urash, who might be the same as Ninhursag. However, Uras may only have been another name for Antu, the first consort of An. The pair was the parents of the Anunnaki and the Utukki. The name Urash even became applied to Anu himself, and acquired the meaning “heaven”. Ninurta also was apparently called Uras in later times. Antu was replaced as consort by Ishtar or Inanna, who may also be a daughter of Anu and Antu.

Nidaba, also Nanibgal or Nisaba, was the Sumerian goddess of writing, learning, and the harvest. Her sanctuaries were E-zagin at Eresh and at Umma. As with many Sumerian deities, Nisaba’s exact place in the pantheon and her heritage appears somewhat ambiguous, but it seems that she is the daughter of An and Urash, a goddess of earth, and one of the consorts of the sky god An. Nisaba is the sister of Ninsun, the mother of Gilgamesh. If Urash and Ninhursag are the same goddess, then Nisaba is also the half sister of Nanshe and (in some versions) Ninurta.

Nidaba’s spouse is Haya, known both as a “door-keeper” and associated with the scribal arts, and together they have a daughter, Sud/Ninlil. Haya is also characterised, beyond being the spouse of Nidaba/Nissaba, as an “agrig”-official of the god Enlil. He is designated as “the Nissaba of wealth”, as opposed to his wife, who is the “Nissaba of Wisdom”.

Nidaba reflects fundamental developments in the creation of Mesopotamian culture, those which take us from agriculture to accounting, to a very fine literary tradition. Nidaba was originally an agricultural deity, more specifically a goddess of grain.

The intricate connection between agriculture and accounting/writing implied that it was not long before Nidaba became the goddess of writing. From then on her main role was to be the patron of scribes. She was eventually replaced in that function by the god Nabu.

Two myths describe the marriage of Sud/Ninlil with Enlil. This implies that Nidaba could be at once the daughter and the mother-in-law of Enlil. Nidaba is also the sister of Ninsumun, the mother of Gilgameš. In some other tales, she is considered the mother of Ninlil, and by extension, the mother-in-law of Enlil.

In a debate between Nidaba and Grain, Nidaba is syncretised with Ereškigal as “Mistress of the Underworld”. Nidaba is also identified with the goddess of grain Ašnan, and with Nanibgal/Nidaba-ursag/Geme-Dukuga, the throne bearer of Ninlil and wife of Ennugi, throne bearer of Enlil.

In Sumerian religion, Ninlil (NIN.LÍL”lady of the open field” or “Lady of the Wind”), also called Sud, in Assyrian called Mulliltu, is the consort goddess of Enlil, the head of the early Mesopotamian pantheon, and later of Aššur, the head of the Assyrian pantheon. When Enlil was syncretised with Aššur, the highest god of the Assyrian pantheon, Ninlil consequently became Aššur’s wife and was identified with Šeru’a.

Her parentage is variously described. Most commonly she is called the daughter of Haia (god of stores) and Nunbarsegunu or Ninshebargunnu (a goddess of barley) or Nisaba. Another Akkadian source says she is the daughter of Anu (aka An) and Antu (Sumerian Ki). Other sources call her a daughter of Anu and Nammu. Astronomically she is identified with the constellations Ursa Maior (mar-gíd-da ereqqu “wagon”) and Lyra (UZ enzu “goat”).

Because Ninlil primarily appears as Enlil’s consort, she shares some of his characteristics (e.g., his characteristics as creator, father of the gods, head of the pantheon, giver of life). Through her syncretisms she also took on aspects of healing and mother goddesses, but these seem to be secondary rather than original functions. Her epithets include “Queen of the heavens and the earth, queen of the lands” or “Lady of the gods” and “foremost lady of the Anunna gods”.

Ninlil was syncretised with several goddesses. The foremost among these is Sud. The Sumerian myth of Enlil and Sud is a literary rendering of this syncretism and relates how Sud married Enlil and thus became Ninlil. In addition, Ninlil was also syncretised with several minor healing and mother goddesses.

The Sumerian myth Enlil and Ninlil describes how Enlil pursues Ninlil amorously, resulting in Ninlil giving birth to the moon-god Su’en, the underworld deity Nergal, and the gods Ninazu and Enbilulu.

She first appears in the late fourth millennium BCE and survived into the first centuries CE. She was at times syncretised with various healing and mother goddesses as well as with the goddess Ištar. Ishara, a love goddess often identified with Ishtar, was also worshipped within the Hurrian pantheon. She was associated with the underworld. Her astrological embodiment is the constellation Scorpio and she is called the mother of the Sebitti (the Seven Stars).

In Herodotus’ Histories, Ninlil under the name Mylitta was identified as the Assyrian version of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. It is possible that this identification was due to Ninlil’s syncretism with Ištar as the goddess of love and war.

Ninlil lived in Dilmun with her family. Raped and ravaged by her husband Enlil, who impregnated her with water, she conceived a boy, Nanna/Suen, the future moon god. As punishment Enlil was dispatched to the underworld kingdom of Ereshkigal, where Ninlil joined him.

After her death, she became the goddess of the wind, like Enlil. She may be the Goddess of the South Wind referred to in the story of Adapa, as her husband Enlil was associated with northerly winter storms. As “Lady Wind” she may be associated with the figure of the Akkadian demon “Lil-itu”, thought to have been the origin of the Hebrew Lilith legend.

Venus

Inanna was associated with the planet Venus, which at that time was regarded as two stars, the “morning star” and the “evening star.” Because of its positioning so close to Earth, Venus is not visible across the dome of the sky as most celestial bodies are; because its proximity to the sun renders it invisible during the day. Instead, Venus is visible only when it rises in the East before sunrise, or when it sets in the West after sunset.

Because the movements of Venus appear to be discontinuous (it disappears due to its proximity to the sun, for many days at a time, and then reappears on the other horizon), some cultures did not recognize Venus as single entity, but rather regarded the planet as two separate stars on each horizon as the morning and evening star.

The Mesopotamians, however, most likely understood that the planet was one entity. A cylinder seal from the Jemdet Nasr period expresses the knowledge that both morning and evening stars were the same celestial entity.

The discontinuous movements of Venus relate to both mythology as well as Inanna’s dual nature. Inanna is related like Venus to the principle of connectedness, but this has a dual nature and could seem unpredictable. Yet as both the goddess of love and war, with both masculine and feminine qualities, Inanna is poised to respond, and occasionally to respond with outbursts of temper.

Mesopotamian literature takes this one step further, explaining Inanna’s physical movements in mythology as corresponding to the astronomical movements of Venus in the sky. There are hymns to Inanna as her astral manifestation. It also is believed that in many myths about Inanna, including Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld and Inanna and Shukaletuda, her movements correspond with the movements of Venus in the sky.

Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld explains how Inanna is able to, unlike any other deity, descend into the netherworld and return to the heavens. The planet Venus appears to make a similar descent, setting in the West and then rising again in the East.

In Inanna and Shukaletuda, in search of her attacker, Inanna makes several movements throughout the myth that correspond with the movements of Venus in the sky. An introductory hymn explains Inanna leaving the heavens and heading for Kur, what could be presumed to be, the mountains, replicating the rising and setting of Inanna to the West. Shukaletuda also is described as scanning the heavens in search of Inanna, possibly to the eastern and western horizons.

One Response to “From the great Mother Goddess to Ereshkigal/Inanna – Maria/Lilith – Venus”

  1. […] From the great Mother Goddess to Ereshkigal/Inanna – Maria/Lilith – Venus […]

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