The Queen of the Night
Posted by Fredsvenn on September 14, 2016
The war / transformation goddess
Inanna – Tammuz
Cybele – Attis
Ereshkigal – Nergal
Kali – Shiva
Hel – Tyr
Inanna is the goddess of love. She also is one of the Sumerian war deities: “She stirs confusion and chaos against those who are disobedient to her, speeding carnage and inciting the devastating flood, clothed in terrifying radiance. It is her game to speed conflict and battle, untiring, strapping on her sandals.” Battle itself is sometimes referred to as “the dance of Inanna.”
Inanna (or Ishtar) was freed by gallu demons sent by Enki while she was on a journey to the underworld. The Gallus (also called gallu demons or gallas) were great demons / devils of the underworld. Gallu demons hauled unfortunate victims off to the underworld. They were one of seven devils (or “the offspring of hell”) of Babylonian theology that could be appeased by the sacrifice of a lamb at their altars. The word gallu may also refer to a human adversary, one that is dangerous and implacable.
A Gallus (pl. Galli) was a eunuch priest of the Phrygian goddess Cybele and her consort Attis, whose worship was incorporated into the state religious practices of ancient Rome. Roman citizens were prohibited from becoming Galli, which meant that all the Galli were orientals or slaves. The Galli castrated themselves during an ecstatic celebration called the Dies sanguinis, or “Day of Blood”, which took place on March 24.
At the same time they put on women’s costume, mostly yellow in colour, and a sort of turban, together with pendants and ear-rings. They also wore their hair long, and bleached, and wore heavy make-up. They wandered around with followers, begging for charity, in return for which they were prepared to tell fortunes. On the day of mourning for Attis they ran around wildly and disheveled. They performed dances to the music of pipes and tambourines, and, in an ecstasy, flogged themselves until they bled.
It has been suggested that gallu comes from the Sumerian Gal meaning “great” and Lu meaning “man”, humans or sexually ambivalent demons that freed Inanna from the underworld. They originally seem to have been consecrated to the god Enki.
The term Gallus is also a multiple pun in Latin, meaning a Gaul, or a rooster, as well as a castrated priest. Nergal was a deity worshipped throughout Mesopotamia. Nergal is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as the deity of the city of Cuth (Cuthah). According to the rabbins, his emblem was a cock and Nergal means a “dunghill cock”, although standard iconography pictured Nergal as a lion.
In the late Babylonian astral-theological system Nergal is related to the planet Mars. As a fiery god of destruction and war, Nergal doubtless seemed an appropriate choice for the red planet, and he was equated by the Greeks to the war-god Ares (Latin Mars)—hence the current name of the planet.
Amongst the Hurrians and later Hittites Nergal was known as Aplu, a name derived from the Akkadian Apal Enlil, (Apal being the construct state of Aplu) meaning “the son of Enlil”. Aplu may be related with Apaliunas who is considered to be the Hittite reflex of *Apeljōn, an early form of the name Apollo.
Nergal seems to be in part a solar deity, sometimes identified with Shamash, but only representative of a certain phase of the sun. Portrayed in hymns and myths as a god of war and pestilence, Nergal seems to represent the sun of noontime and of the summer solstice that brings destruction, high summer being the dead season in the Mesopotamian annual cycle. He has also been called “the king of sunset”.
Over time Nergal developed from a war god to a god of the underworld. In the mythology, this occurred when Enlil and Ninlil gave him the underworld. In this capacity he has associated with him a goddess Allatu or Ereshkigal, though at one time Allatu may have functioned as the sole mistress of Aralu, ruling in her own person.
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”. 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.
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 Inanna”), a hymn about Inanna’s trip and return to the underworld.
Ereshkigal is the sister and 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.
There was a category of Mesopotamian priests called kalu; in Sumerian gala. These priests played the tympanum and were involved in bull sacrifice. Another category of Mesopotamian priests called assinnu, galatur, and kurgarru had a sacred function. These transgender or eunuch priests participated in liturgical rites, during which they were costumed and masked. They played music, sang, and danced, most often in ceremonies dedicated to the goddess Inanna.
The Gala (Akkadian: kalû) were priests of the Sumerian goddess Inanna, significant numbers of the personnel of both temples and palaces, the central institutions of Mesopotamian city states, individuals with neither male nor female gender identities.
Originally a specialist in singing lamentations, gala appear in temple records dating back from the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. According to an old Babylonian text, Enki created the gala specifically to sing “heart-soothing laments” for the goddess Inanna. Cuniform references indicate the gendered character of the role.
Lamentation and wailing originally may have been female professions, so that men who entered the role adopted its forms. Their hymns were sung in a Sumerian dialect known as eme-sal (lit. “women’s tongue”), normally used to render the speech of female gods, and some gala took female names.
Homosexual proclivities are clearly implied by the Sumerian proverb that reads, “When the gala wiped off his anus [he said], ‘I must not arouse that which belongs to my mistress [i.e., Inanna]’”. In fact, the word gala was written using the sign sequence UŠ.KU, the first sign having also the reading giš (“penis”), and the second one dur (“anus”), so perhaps there is some pun involved.
Moreover, gala is homophonous with gal-la “vulva”. However, in spite of all their references of their effeminate character (especially in the Sumerian proverbs), many administrative texts mention gala priests who had children, wives, and large families. On the other hand, some gala priests were actually women.
Kālī, also known as Kālikā, is a Hindu goddess. Kālī is the feminine form of kālam (“black, dark coloured”). Kālī also shares the meaning of “time”, “one who is time” or “the fullness of time” with the masculine noun “kāla”—and by extension, time as “that which brings all things to life or an end.” Other names include Kālarātri (“the night of death” or “the night of destruction”), and Kālikā (“the black one”).
Mahakali, literally translated as Great Kali, is sometimes considered as a greater form of Kali, identified with the Ultimate reality of Brahman. It can also be used as an honorific of the Goddess Kali, signifying her greatness by the prefix “Mahā-“. Mahakali, in Sanskrit, is etymologically the feminized variant of Mahakala or Great Time (which is interpreted also as Death), an epithet of the God Shiva in Hinduism.
Kali is one of the ten Mahavidyas, a list which combines Sakta and Buddhist goddesses. Her earliest appearance is that of a destroyer principally of evil forces. She is the goddess of one of the four subcategories of the Kulamārga, a category of tantric Saivism. Over time, she has been worshipped by devotional movements and tantric sects variously as the Divine Mother, Mother of the Universe, Adi Shakti, or Adi Parashakti. Shakta Hindu and Tantric sects additionally worship her as the ultimate reality or Brahman. She is also seen as divine protector and the one who bestows moksha, or liberation.
Kali is often portrayed standing or dancing on her consort, the Hindu god Shiva, who lies calm and prostrate beneath her. The pose shows the conclusion of an episode in which Kali was rampaging out of control after destroying many demons. Shiva, fearing that Kali would not stop until she destroyed the world, could only think of one way to pacify her. He lay down on the battlefield so that she would have to step on him. Seeing her consort under her foot, Kali realized that she had gone too far, and calmed down.
Kali is worshipped by Hindus throughout India. In relation to Siva, she [Kali] appears to play the opposite role from that of Parvati. Parvati calms Siva, counterbalancing his antisocial or destructive tendencies; she brings him within the sphere of domesticity and with her soft glances urges him to moderate the destructive aspects of his tandavadance. Kali is Shiva’s “other wife,” as it were, provoking him and encouraging him in his mad, antisocial, disruptive habits. It is never Kali who tames Siva, but Siva who must calm Kali.
In Norse mythology, Hel is a being who presides over a realm of the same name, where she receives a portion of the dead. Scholarly theories have been proposed about Hel’s potential connections to figures appearing in the 11th-century Old English Gospel of Nicodemus and Old Norse Bartholomeus saga postola, that she may have been considered a goddess with potential Indo-European parallels in Bhavani, Kali, and Mahakali or that Hel may have become a being only as a late personification of the location of the same name.
In ancient Roman religion and myth, Mars was the god of war and also an agricultural guardian, a combination characteristic of early Rome. He was second in importance only to Jupiter and he was the most prominent of the military gods in the religion of the Roman army. Most of his festivals were held in March, the month named for him (Latin Martius), and in October, which began the season for military campaigning and ended the season for farming.
The spear is the instrument of Mars in the same way that Jupiter wields the lightning bolt, Neptune the trident, and Saturn the scythe or sickle. A relic or fetish called the spear of Mars was kept in a sacrarium at the Regia, the former residence of the Kings of Rome. The spear was said to move, tremble or vibrate at impending war or other danger to the state, as was reported to occur before the assassination of Julius Caesar. When Mars is pictured as a peace-bringer, his spear is wreathed with laurel or other vegetation, as on the Ara Pacis or a coin of Aemilianus.
Mars was a part of the Archaic Triad along with Jupiter and Quirinus, the latter of whom as a guardian of the Roman people had no Greek equivalent. Under the influence of Greek culture, Mars was identified with the Greek god Ares, whose myths were reinterpreted in Roman literature and art under the name of Mars.
Although Ares was viewed primarily as a destructive and destabilizing force, Mars represented military power as a way to secure peace, and was a father (pater) of the Roman people. In the mythic genealogy and founding myths of Rome, Mars was the father of Romulus and Remus with Rhea Silvia. His love affair with Venus symbolically reconciled the two different traditions of Rome’s founding; Venus was the divine mother of the hero Aeneas, celebrated as the Trojan refugee who “founded” Rome several generations before Romulus laid out the city walls.
Although Ares was the son of Zeus and Hera, Mars was the son of Juno alone. Jupiter had usurped the mother’s function when he gave birth to Minerva directly from his forehead (or mind); to restore the balance, Juno sought the advice of the goddess Flora on how to do the same. Flora obtained a magic flower (Latin flos, plural flores, a masculine word) and tested it on a heifer who became fecund at once. She then plucked a flower ritually using her thumb, touched Juno’s belly, and impregnated her. Juno withdrew to Thrace and the shore of Marmara for the birth.
Ovid tells this story in the Fasti, his long-form poetic work on the Roman calendar. It may explain why the Matronalia, a festival celebrated by married women in honor of Juno as a goddess of childbirth, occurred on the first day of Mars’ month, which is also marked on a calendar from late antiquity as the birthday of Mars. In the earliest Roman calendar, March was the first month, and the god would have been born with the new year.
The consort of Mars was Nerio or Nerine, “Valor.” In ancient Roman religion and myth, Nerio was an ancient war goddess and the personification of valor. She was the partner of Mars in ancient cult practices. Spoils taken from enemies were sometimes dedicated to Nerio by the Romans.
Nerio represents the vital force (vis), power (potentia) and majesty (maiestas) of Mars. Her name was regarded as Sabine in origin and is equivalent to Latin virtus, “manly virtue” (from vir, “man”).
In the early 3rd century BC, the comic playwright Plautus has a reference to Mars greeting Nerio, his wife. A source from late antiquity says that Mars and Nerine were celebrated together at a festival held on March 23.
Nerio probably originates as a divine personification of Mars’ power, as such abstractions in Latin are generally feminine. Her name appears with that of Mars in an archaic prayer invoking a series of abstract qualities, each paired with the name of a deity. The influence of Greek mythology and its anthropomorphic gods may have caused Roman writers to treat these pairs as “marriages.”
Nerio was later supplanted by mythologized deities appropriated and adapted from other religions. She was sometimes identified with the goddess Bellona, and occasionally with the goddess Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and sponsor of arts, trade, and strategy.
Minerva was born with weapons from the head of Jupiter. After impregnating the titaness Metis, Jupiter recalled a prophecy that his own child would overthrow him. Fearing that their child would grow stronger than he and rule the Heavens in his place, Jupiter swallowed Metis whole.
The titaness forged weapons and armor for her child while within the father-god, and the constant pounding and ringing gave him a headache. To relieve the pain, Vulcan used a hammer to split Jupiter’s head and, from the cleft, Minerva emerged, whole, adult, and bearing her mother’s weapons and armor.
Metis was of the Titan generation and, like several primordial figures, an Oceanid, in the sense that Metis was born of Oceanus and his sister Tethys, of an earlier age than Zeus and his siblings. Metis was the first great spouse of Zeus, and also his cousin. Zeus is himself titled Mêtieta, “the wise counsellor,” in the Homeric poems.
While the sea-divinities Tethys and Oceanus were formerly represented in Roman-era mosaics, they were replaced at a later period by the figure of Thalassa, especially in Western Asia. There she was depicted as a woman clothed in bands of seaweed and half submerged in the sea, with the crab-claw horns that were formerly an attribute of Oceanus now transferred to her head. In one hand she holds a ship’s oar, and in the other a dolphin.
Tiamat was later known as Thalattē (as a variant of thalassa, the Greek word for “sea”) in the Hellenistic Babylonian writer Berossus’ first volume of universal history. It is thought that the name of Tiamat was dropped in secondary translations of the original religious texts (written in the East Semitic Akkadian language) because some Akkadian copyists of Enûma Elish substituted the ordinary word for “sea” for Tiamat, since the two names had become essentially the same due to association.
Thorkild Jacobsen and Walter Burkert both argue for a connection with the Akkadian word for sea, tâmtu, following an early form, ti’amtum. Burkert continues by making a linguistic connection to Tethys. He finds the later form, thalatth, to be related clearly to Greek thalatta or thalassa, “sea”.
By the era of Greek philosophy in the fifth century BC, Metis had become the mother of wisdom and deep thought, but her name originally connoted “magical cunning” and was as easily equated with the trickster powers of Prometheus as with the “royal metis” of Zeus. The Stoic commentators allegorised Metis as the embodiment of “prudence”, “wisdom” or “wise counsel”, in which form she was inherited by the Renaissance.
The Greek word metis meant a quality that combined wisdom and cunning. This quality was considered to be highly admirable in the Mycenean era, with the hero Odysseus being the embodiment of it. In the Classical era, it was regarded by Athenians as one of the notable characteristics of the Athenian character. Metis was the one who gave Zeus a potion to cause Cronus to vomit out Zeus’ siblings.
Metis was both a threat to Zeus and an indispensable aid. Zeus lay with Metis but immediately feared the consequences. It had been prophesied that Metis would bear extremely powerful children: the first, Athena and the second, a son more powerful than Zeus himself, who would eventually overthrow Zeus.
In order to forestall these dire consequences, Zeus tricked her into turning herself into a fly and promptly swallowed her. He was too late: Metis had already conceived a child. In time she began making a helmet and robe for her fetal daughter.
The hammering as she made the helmet caused Zeus great pain, and Hephaestus either clove Zeus’s head with an axe, or hit it with a hammer at the river Triton, giving rise to Athena’s birth. Athena leaped from Zeus’s head, fully grown, armed, and armoured, and Zeus was none the worse for the experience.
The similarities between Zeus swallowing Metis and Cronus swallowing his children have been noted by several scholars. This also caused some controversy in regard to reproduction myths and the lack of a need for women as a means of reproduction.
Hesiod’s account is followed by Acusilaus and the Orphic tradition, which enthroned Metis side by side with Eros as primal cosmogenic forces. Plato makes Poros (“resource” or “plenty”), or “creative ingenuity”, the child of Metis. This figure exists in Roman mythology as well and is known as Pomona, in which Porus is the personification of abundance. He is the brother of Athena.
In Plato’s Symposium, Porus was the personification of resourcefulness or expediency. He was seduced by Penia (poverty) while drunk on more than his fill of nectar at Aphrodite’s birthday. Penia gave birth to Eros (love) from their union. According to the character Diotima, Eros is forever in need because of his mother, but forever pursuing because of his father.
Minerva was the goddess of wisdom, war, art, schools and commerce. She was the Etruscan counterpart to Greek Athena, the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, mathematics, strength, war strategy, the arts, crafts, and skill in ancient Greek religion and mythology. Like Athena, Minerva was born from the head of her father, Jupiter (Greek Zeus).
Stemming from an Italic moon goddess *Meneswā (‘She who measures’), the Etruscans adopted the inherited Old Latin name, *Menerwā, thereby calling her Menrva. It is assumed that her Roman name, Minerva, is based on this Etruscan mythology.
By a process of folk etymology, the Romans could have linked her foreign name to the root men- in Latin words such as mens meaning “mind”, perhaps because one of her aspects as goddess pertained to the intellectual.
Carl Becker noted that her name appears to contain the PIE root *men-, which he notes was linked in Greek primarily to memory words (cf. Greek “mnestis” ‘memory, remembrance, recollection’), but which more generally referred to ‘mind’ in most Indo-European languages.
The word mens is built from the Proto-Indo-European root *men- ‘mind’ (linked with memory as in Greek Mnemosyne and mnestis: memory, remembrance, recollection, manush in Sanskrit meaning mind).
Men (Latin: Mensis, also known at Antioch in Pisidia as Men Ascaënus) was a god worshipped in the western interior parts of Anatolia. The roots of the Men cult may go back to Mesopotamia in the fourth millennium BC. Ancient writers describe Men as a local god of the Phrygians.
Lunar symbolism dominates his iconography. The god is usually shown with a crescent like open horns on his shoulders, and he is described as the god presiding over the months. He is depicted with a Phrygian cap and a belted tunic. He may be accompanied by bulls and lions in religious artwork. The iconography of Men partly recalls that of Mithras, who also wears a Phrygian cap and is commonly depicted with a bull and symbols of the sun and moon.
Comana was a city of Cappadocia and later Cataonia. The Hittite toponym Kummanni, the name of the main center the Anatolian kingdom of Kizzuwatna, is considered likely to refer to Comana, but the identification is not considered proven. Its ruins are at the modern Turkish village of Şar, Tufanbeyli district, Adana Province.
Another epithet for the city, found in inscriptions, is Hieropolis ‘sacred city’, owing to a famous temple of the Syrian Moon goddess Enyo or, in the local language: Ma (cf. Men, the moon goddess of Caria). Enyo was a goddess of war in Greek mythology, the companion of the war god Ares. She is also called the “sister of War”, in a role closely resembling that of Eris; with Homer in particular representing the two as the same goddess.
The temple and its fame in ancient times as the place where the rites of Ma-Enyo, a variety of the great west Asian nature-goddess, were celebrated with much solemnity. Under the Romans the temple was reassigned to Bellona and Lycomedes established as high priest.
The Romans identified Enyo with Bellona, an Ancient Roman goddess of war originally named Duellona in the Italic languages, and she also has similarities with the Anatolian goddess Ma, a local goddess at Ma and a Phrygian alternative name for Cybele. In the military cult of Bellona, she was associated with Virtus, the deity of bravery and military strength, the personification of valour, and the personification of the Roman virtue of virtus.
Virtus was identified with the Roman god Honos (personification of honour) and was often honoured together with him. Within the realm of funerary reliefs Virtus is never shown without a male companion. Often her presence within this realm of art is to compliment and provide assistance to the protagonist of the relief during a scene of intense masculinity or bravery.
Bellona was an ancient Sabine goddess of war, identified with Nerio, the consort of the war god Mars, and later with her Greek equivalent Enyo. Her first temple in Rome was dedicated in 296 BCE, where her festival was celebrated on June 3. Her priests were known as Bellonarii and used to wound their own arms or legs as a blood sacrifice to her.
These rites took place on the 24 March, called the day of blood (dies sanguinis) after the ceremony. In consequence of this practice, which approximated to the rites dedicated to Cybele in Asia Minor, both Enyo and Bellona became identified with her Cappadocian aspect, Ma.
Cybele (perhaps “Mountain Mother”) is an Anatolian mother goddess; she has a possible precursor in the earliest Neolithic at Çatalhöyük, where the statue of a pregnant, seated goddess was found in a granary 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.
She is ancient Phrygia’s only known goddess, and was probably the highest deity of the Phrygian State. ] In Greece, as in Phrygia, she was a “Mistress of animals” (Potnia Therōn), with her mastery of the natural world expressed by the lions that flank her, sit in her lap or draw her chariot.
She was readily assimilated to the Minoan-Greek earth-mother Rhea, “Mother of the gods”, whose raucous, ecstatic rites she may have acquired. As an exemplar of devoted motherhood, she was partly assimilated to the grain-goddess Demeter, whose torchlight procession recalled her search for her lost daughter, Persephone.
In Hesiod’s Theogony (270–273), Enyo was also the name of one of the Graeae, three sisters who shared one eye and one tooth among them, along with Deino (“Dread”) and Pemphredo (“Alarm”).
From the 2nd century BC onwards, the Romans equated her with the Greek goddess Athena. She was the virgin goddess of music, poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, weaving, crafts, and magic.
Athena is known for her calm temperament, as she moves slowly to anger. She is noted to have only fought for just reasons, and would not fight without a purpose.
Athena is associated with Athens, a plural name, because it was the place where she presided over her sisterhood, the Athenai, in earliest times. Mycenae was the city where the Goddess was called Mykene, and Mycenae is named in the plural for the sisterhood of females who tended her there. At Thebes she was called Thebe, and the city again a plural, Thebae (or Thebes, where the ‘s’ is the plural formation). Similarly, at Athens she was called Athena, and the city Athenae (or Athens, again a plural).
Günther Neumann has suggested that Athena’s name is possibly of Lydian origin; it may be a compound word derived in part from Tyrrhenian ati, meaning mother and the name of the Hurrian goddess Hannahannah shortened in various places to Ana.
Plato also noted that the citizens of Sais in Egypt worshipped a goddess whose Egyptian name was Neith, and which was identified with Athena. Neith was the war goddess and huntress deity of the Egyptians since the ancient Pre-Dynastic period, who was also identified with weaving. The connection with Neith was later rejected by other scholars in view of formal difficulties.
Miriam Robbins Dexter has suggested that, at least at some point in her history, Athena has been a solar deity. Athena bears traits common with Indo-European solar goddesses, such as the possession of a mirror and the invention of weaving (for instance, the Baltic Saule possesses both these characteristics), and her association with Medusa (herself also suspected of being the remnants of a solar goddess) adds solar iconography to her cultus.
Additionally, she is also equated with the Celtic Sulis, a deity whose name is derived from the common proto-Indo-European root for many solar deities. Though the sun in Greek myth is personified as the male Helios, several relictual solar goddesses are known, such as Alectrona.
Minerva is often depicted with her sacred creature, an owl usually named as the “owl of Minerva”, which symbolised her association with wisdom and knowledge.
The word “cailleach” in the Scottish-Gaelic means old woman!, “coileach-oidhche” is the word for owl, believe it or not it means “night-cockerel”! These birds were most often associated with the Crone aspect of the Goddess. The owl is often a guide to and through the Underworld, a creature of keen sight in darkness, and a silent and swift hunter. It can help unmask those who would deceive you or take advantage of you.
Owls are believed to have played a more prominent role in early Celtic cults, and could perhaps have derived from a more broadly based deity of a common European descent. Predating the Greek cult of Athene, for whom the owl was an animal attribute, were images of these mysterious birds in Celtic lands.
T. F. Thiselton-Dyer in his Folk-lore of Shakespeare says that “from the earliest period it has been considered a bird of ill-omen,” and Pliny tells us how, on one occasion, even Rome itself underwent a lustration, because one of them strayed into the Capitol. He represents it also as a funereal bird, a monster of the night, the very abomination of human kind. The modern West generally associates owls with wisdom.
In the Near East, China, and Japan, the Owl is considered as both a bad omen and an evil spirit. For Christians the Owl traditionally signifies the Devil, powers of evil, bad news, and destruction. Similarly, in the Old Testament the Owl is an unclean creature that stands alone as a figure of desolation. In an Australian Aboriginal myth the Owl is the messenger of bad news. Yama, the Verdic God of death, sometimes sent out the Owl as his emissary.
Lilith is given her name as “screech owl” and “night monster”. The screech owl is Lilith’s totem bird and the form in which she often prowls the night. Some ancient statues show her as a voluptuous young woman with owl’s wings and feet, but she can adopt any guise to human eyes.
The Queen of the Night (also known as the `Burney Relief’) is a high relief terracotta plaque of baked clay depicting a naked winged woman flanked by owls and standing on the backs of two lions. It originated in southern Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) most probably in Babylonia, during the reign of Hammurabi (1792-1750 BCE) as it shares qualities in craftsmanship and technique with the famous diorite stele of Hammurabi’s laws and also with the piece known as `The god of Ur’ from that same period.
The woman depicted in the relief is acknowledged to be a goddess as she wears the horned headdress of a deity and holds the sacred rod-and-ring symbol in her raised hands. Not only is the woman winged but her legs taper to bird talons (which seem to grip the lion’s backs) and she is shown with a dew claw on her calves. Along the base of the plaque runs a motif which represents mountains, indicating high ground.
Who the winged woman is, however, has not been agreed upon though scholars generally believe her to be either Inanna (Ishtar), Lilith, Ereshkigal, or Ninhursag.