Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

An/Ar/As, Inanna/Jñāna, and Ishara/Ishvara

Posted by Fredsvenn on October 3, 2015

Dingir is a cuneiform sign, most commonly the determinative for “deity” although it has related meanings as well. As a determinative, it is not pronounced, and is conventionally transliterated as a superscript “D” as in e.g. DInanna. Generically, dingir can be translated as “god” or “goddess”.

The sign in Sumerian cuneiform (DIĜIR, ) by itself represents the Sumerian word an (“sky” or “heaven”), the ideogram for An or the word diĝir (“god”), the supreme deity of the Sumerian pantheon. In Assyrian cuneiform, it (AN, DIĜIR, ) could be either an ideogram for “deity” (ilum) or a syllabogram for an, or ìl-. In Hittite orthography, the syllabic value of the sign was again an.

In Sumerian mythology, Anu (also An; from Sumerian An, “sky, heaven”) was a sky-god, the god of heaven, lord of constellations, king of gods, spirits and demons, and dwelt in the highest heavenly regions. It was believed that he had the power to judge those who had committed crimes, and that he had created the stars as soldiers to destroy the wicked. His attribute was the royal tiara (Sumerian Ti means rib and to live/life).

The earliest texts make no reference to An’s origins. Later he is regarded as the son of Anšar and Kišar, as in the first millennium creation epic Enūma elish. Anu existed in Sumerian cosmogony as a dome that covered the flat earth; Outside of this dome was the primordial body of water known as Nammu (not to be confused with the subterranean Abzu).

In Sumerian, the designation “An” was used interchangeably with “the heavens” so that in some cases it is doubtful whether, under the term, the god An or the heavens is being denoted.

In Sumerian texts of the third millennium the goddess Uraš is his consort; later this position was taken by Ki, the personification of earth, and in Akkadian texts by Antu, whose name is probably derived from his own.

The Sumerian word NIN (from the Akkadian pronunciation of the sign EREŠ) was used to denote a queen or a priestess, and is often translated as “lady”. Other translations include “queen”, “mistress”, “proprietress”, and “lord”.

Many goddesses are called NIN, such as NIN.GAL (“great lady”), É.NIN.GAL (“lady of the great temple”), EREŠ.KI.GAL, and NIN.TI. The compound form NIN.DINGIR (“divine lady” or “lady of [a] god”), from the Akkadian entu, denotes a priestess.

Ensí (spelled PA.TE.SI,, in Sumerian cuneiform, hence occasionally transliterated as patesi; possibly derived from <en si-k>, “lord of the plowland”; borrowed into Akkadian as iššakkum) is a Sumerian title designating the ruler or prince of a city state. Originally it may have designated an independent ruler, but in later periods the title presupposed subordinance to a lugal (King/Emperor).

In Old Norse, ǫ́ss (or áss, ás, plural æsir; feminine ásynja, plural ásynjur) is the term denoting a member of the principal pantheon in the indigenous Germanic religion known as Norse religion. This pantheon includes Odin, Frigg, Thor, Baldr and Týr. The second pantheon comprises the Vanir. In Norse mythology, the two pantheons wage the Æsir-Vanir War, which results in a unified pantheon.

The cognate term in Old English is ōs (plural ēse) denoting a deity in Anglo-Saxon paganism. The Old High German is ans, plural ensî. The Gothic language had ans- (based only on Jordanes who glossed anses with uncertain meaning, possibly ‘demi-god’ and presumably a Latinized form of actual plural *anseis). The reconstructed Proto-Germanic form is *ansuz (plural *ansiwiz). The a-rune ᚫ was named after the æsir.

Unlike the Old English word god (and Old Norse goð), the term ōs (áss) was never adopted into Christian use and survived only in a secularized meaning of “pole, beam, stave, hill” or “yoke”.


Initially we all had the same names for Mother – Ma or Na. Till today in many Armenian families Mama, Ma comes for youngsters, real Momes, while Grandmothers is called Nan, Nani, Nane, and for Gran-Grandmother – Meth (big as Elder) Nan. French Nana, English Nanny and Russia Nyanya have the same root, meaning governess/governor. Hannahannah (from Hittite hanna- “grandmother”) is a Hurrian Mother Goddess related to the pre-Sumerian goddess Inanna.

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.

Nane, the same as Inanna/Nanaya (Sumerian), Nana (Phrygian), Nana (Kushan/Bactrian) Nanna (Nordic) and Anahit (Iranian) etc, is an Armenian Mother Goddess. She is the Goddess of War, Wisdom, and Motherhood, and the daughter of the supreme God Aramazd. Nane is is traditionally portrayed as a young beautiful woman in the clothing of a warrior, with spear and shield in hand. Nane is still a fairly common Armenian girl`s name.

Uraš or Urash, in Sumerian mythology is a goddess of earth, and one of the consorts of the sky god An/Anu. She is the mother of the goddess Ninsun and a grandmother of the hero Gilgamesh. However, Uras may only have been another name for Antum, Anu’s wife. The name Uras even became applied to Anu himself, and acquired the meaning “heaven”. Ninurta also was apparently called Uras in later times.

In Mesopotamian mythology, Ereshkigal (EREŠ.KI.GAL, lit. “Queen of the Great Earth”) was the goddess of Irkalla, the land of the dead or underworld. Sometimes her name is given as Irkalla, similar to the way the name Hades was used in Greek mythology for both the underworld and its ruler, and sometimes it is given as Ninkigal (lit. “Great Lady of the Earth” or “Lady of the Great Earth”). Ereshkigal was the only one who could pass judgment and give laws in her kingdom.

The goddess Ishtar 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”). Inanna/Ishtar’s trip and return to the underworld is the most familiar of the myths concerning Ereshkigal.

Ereshkigal is the sister and counterpart of Inanna/Ishtar, the symbol of nature during the non-productive season of the year. She is known chiefly through two myths, believed to symbolize the changing of the seasons. 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.

In Akkadian mythology, Antu or Antum was the first consort of An/Anu, and the pair were the parents of the Anunnaki and the Utukki. Antu was a dominant feature of the Babylonian akit festival until as recently as 200 BC, her later pre-eminence possibly attributable to identification with the Greek goddess Hera. Antu was replaced as consort by Ishtar or Inanna, who may also be a daughter of Anu and Antu. She is similar to Anat.

Anat or Anath (Hebrew and Phoenician Anōt; Ugaritic ‘nt; Greek Anath; Egyptian Antit, Anit, Anti, or Anant) is a major northwest Semitic goddess. ‘Anat’s titles used again and again are “virgin ‘Anat” and “sister-in-law of the peoples” (or “progenitress of the peoples” or “sister-in-law, widow of the Li’mites”).

Jñāna (Sanskrit; Pali: ñāṇa) a term for “knowledge” in Indian philosophy and religion. The idea of jnana centers on a cognitive event which is recognized when experienced. It is knowledge inseparable from the total experience of reality, especially a total or divine reality (Brahman). The root jñā- is cognate to English know, as well as to the Greek word used in gnosis. Its antonym is ajñāna “ignorance”.

Dhyāna (Sanskrit) or Jhāna (Pali) means meditation in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. In Buddhism, it is a series of cultivated states of mind, which lead to “state of perfect equanimity and awareness (upekkhii-sati-piirisuddhl).” Dhyana may have been the core practice of pre-sectarian Buddhism, but became appended with other forms of meditation throughout its development.


One of the most important goddesses of reconstructed Proto-Indo-European religion is the personification of dawn as a beautiful young woman. Her name is reconstructed as Hausōs (PIE *hewsṓs- or *hausōs-, an s-stem), besides numerous epithets.

Derivatives of *hewsṓs in the historical mythologies of Indo-European peoples include Indian Uṣas, Greek Ἠώς (Ēōs), Latin Aurōra, and Baltic Aušra (“dawn”, c.f. Lithuanian Aušrinė). Germanic *Austrōn- is from an extended stem *hews-tro-.

The name *hewsṓs is derived from a root *hwes / *au̯es “to shine”, thus translating to “the shining one”. Both the English word east and the Latin auster “south” are from a root cognate adjective *aws-t(e)ro-. Also cognate is aurum “gold”, from *awso-. The name for “spring season”, *wes-r- is also from the same root.

Besides the name most amenable to reconstruction, *h₂ewsṓs, a number of epithets of the dawn goddess may be reconstructed with some certainty. Among these is *wenos- (also an s-stem), whence Sanskrit vanas “loveliness; desire”, used of Uṣas in the Rigveda, and the Latin name Venus and the Norse Vanir. The name indicates that the goddess was imagined as a beautiful nubile woman, who also had aspects of a love goddess.

As a consequence, the love goddess aspect was separated from the personification of dawn in a number of traditions, including Roman Venus vs. Aurora, and Greek Aphrodite vs. Eos. The name of Aphrodite Άφροδίτη may still preserve her role as a dawn goddess, etymologized as “she who shines from the foam [ocean]” (from aphros “foam” and deato “to shine”).

J.P. Mallory and Douglas Q. Adams (1997) have also proposed an etymology based on the connection with the Indo-European dawn goddess, from*dhei “to shine”. Other epithets include Ἠριγόνη Erigone “early-born” in Greek. The Italic goddess Mater Matuta “Mother Morning” has been connected to Aurora by Roman authors (Lucretius, Priscianus). Her festival, the Matralia, fell on 11 June, beginning at dawn.

The dawn goddess was also the goddess of spring, involved in the mythology of the Indo-European new year, where the dawn goddess is liberated from imprisonment by a god (reflected in the Rigveda as Indra, in Greek mythology as Dionysus and Cronus).

The abduction and imprisonment of the dawn goddess, and her liberation by a heroic god slaying the dragon who imprisons her, is a central myth of Indo-European religion, reflected in numerous traditions. Most notably, it is the central myth of the Rigveda, a collection of hymns surrounding the Soma rituals dedicated to Indra in the new year celebrations of the early Indo-Aryans.

Ēostre or Ostara (Old English: Ēastre, Old High German: *Ôstara) is a Germanic divinity who, by way of the Germanic month bearing her name (Northumbrian: Ēosturmōnaþ; West Saxon: Ēastermōnaþ; Old High German: Ôstarmânoth), is the namesake of the festival of Easter.

Ēostre is attested solely by Bede in his 8th-century work The Reckoning of Time, where Bede states that during Ēosturmōnaþ (the equivalent of April), pagan Anglo-Saxons had held feasts in Eostre’s honor, but that this tradition had died out by his time, replaced by the Christian Paschal month, a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.

By way of linguistic reconstruction, the matter of a goddess called *Austrō in the Proto-Germanic language has been examined in detail since the foundation of Germanic philology in the 19th century by scholar Jacob Grimm and others.

As the Germanic languages descend from Proto-Indo-European (PIE), historical linguists have traced the name to a Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn *Hewsṓs (→ *Ausṓs), from which descends the Common Germanic divinity from whom Ēostre and Ostara are held to descend.

Additionally, scholars have linked the goddess’s name to a variety of Germanic personal names, a series of location names (toponyms) in England, and, discovered in 1958, over 150 2nd century BCE inscriptions referring to the matronae Austriahenae.

Theories connecting Ēostre with records of Germanic Easter customs, including hares and eggs, have been proposed. Particularly prior to the discovery of the matronae Austriahenea and further developments in Indo-European studies, debate has occurred among some scholars about whether or not the goddess was an invention of Bede. Ēostre and Ostara are sometimes referenced in modern popular culture and are venerated in some forms of Germanic neopaganism.

Ishara (išḫara) is an ancient deity of unknown origin from northern modern Syria. She first appeared in Ebla and was incorporated to the Hurrian pantheon from which she found her way to the Hittite pantheon. In Hurrian and Semitic traditions, Išḫara is a love goddess, often identified with Ishtar. Her cult was of considerable importance in Ebla from the mid 3rd millennium, and by the end of the 3rd millennium, she had temples in Nippur, Sippar, Kish, Harbidum, Larsa, and Urum.

Variants of the name appear as Ašḫara (in a treaty of Naram-Sin of Akkad with Hita of Elam) and Ušḫara (in Ugarite texts). In Ebla, there were various logographic spellings involving the sign AMA “mother”. In Alalah, her name was written with the Akkadogram IŠTAR plus a phonetic complement -ra, as IŠTAR-ra.

Ishtar is the East Semitic Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility, love, war, and sex. She is the counterpart to the Sumerian Inanna, and is the cognate for the Northwest Semitic Aramean goddess Astarte. Like Ishtar, the Greek Aphrodite and the Aramean Northwestern Semitic Astarte were love goddesses.

Astarte is the Hellenized form of the Middle Eastern goddess Ishtar, worshipped from the Bronze Age through classical antiquity. The name is particularly associated with her worship in the ancient Levant among the Canaanites and Phoenicians. She was also celebrated in Egypt following the importation of Levantine cults there. The name Astarte is sometimes also applied to her cults in Mesopotamian cultures like Assyria and Babylonia.

Astarte is one of a number of names associated with the chief goddess or female divinity of those peoples. She is recorded in Akkadian as As-dar-tu, the masculine form of Ishtar. The name appears in Ugaritic as ʻAthtart or ʻAṭtart, in Phoenician as Ashtart or Aštart, in Hebrew as Ashtoret. The Hebrews also referred to the Ashtarot or “Astartes” in the plural. The Etruscan Pyrgi Tablets record the name Uni-Astre.

Asherah (Ugaritic: ṯrt) in Semitic mythology, is a mother goddess who appears in a number of ancient sources. She is identified as the consort of the Sumerian god Anu and Ugaritic El, the oldest deities of their respective pantheons. She appears in Akkadian writings by the name of Ashratum/Ashratu, and in Hittite as Asherdu(s) or Ashertu(s) or Aserdu(s) or Asertu(s). Asherah is generally considered identical with the Ugaritic goddess ʼAṯirat. She is also mentioned in the Hebrew Bible by names such as Ashtaroth and Ashtoreth.

Ishara is the Hittite word for “treaty, binding promise”, also personified as a goddess of the oath. As a goddess, Ishara could inflict severe bodily penalties to oathbreakers, in particular ascites (see Hittite military oath). In this context, she came to be seen as a “goddess of medicine” whose pity was invoked in case of illness. There was even a verb, isharis- “to be afflicted by the illness of Ishara”.

Ishvara (Sanskrit: ईश्वर, Īśvara) is a concept in Hinduism, with a wide range of meanings that depend on the era and the school of Hinduism. In ancient texts of Indian philosophy, Ishvara means supreme soul, Brahman (Highest Reality), ruler, king or husband depending on the context. In medieval era texts, Ishvara means God, Supreme Being, personal god, or special Self depending on the school of Hinduism.

In Shaivism, Ishvara is synonymous with “Shiva”, as the “Supreme lord over other Gods” in the pluralistic sense, or as an Ishta-deva in pluralistic thought. In Vaishnavism, it is synonymous with Vishnu. In traditional Bhakti movements, Ishvara is one or more deities of an individual’s preference from Hinduism’s polytheistic canon of deities.

In modern sectarian movements such as Arya Samaj and Brahmoism, Ishvara takes the form of a monotheistic God. In Yoga school of Hinduism, it is any “personal deity” or “spiritual inspiration”. In Advaita Vedanta school, Ishvara is a monistic Universal Absolute that connects and is the Oneness in everyone and everything.

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