Mars and Venus
Posted by Fredsvenn on September 25, 2016
In ancient Roman religion and myth, Mars was the god of war and also an agricultural guardian, a combination characteristic of early Rome. 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.
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.
Mars is named after the Roman god of war. In different cultures, Mars represents masculinity and youth. Its symbol, a circle with an arrow pointing out to the upper right, is used as a symbol for the male gender.
The astronomical symbol for Venus is the same as that used in biology for the female sex: a circle with a small cross beneath. The Venus symbol also represents femininity, and in Western alchemy stood for the metal copper.
Aries (meaning “ram”) is the first astrological sign in the zodiac, spanning the first 30 degrees of celestial longitude (0°≤ λ <30°). Under the tropical zodiac, the Sun enters the sign of Aries when it reaches the northern vernal equinox, mostly between March 21 and April 19 each year.
The symbol of the ram is based on the Chrysomallus, the flying ram that provided the Golden Fleece of the gold-hair winged ram, which was held in Colchis. The fleece is a symbol of authority and kingship.
In the description of the Babylonian zodiac given in the clay tablets known as the MUL.APIN, a comprehensive table of the risings and settings of stars, which likely served as an agricultural calendar, the constellation now known as Aries was the final station along the ecliptic.
Modern-day Aries was known as MULLÚ.ḪUN.GÁ, “The Agrarian Worker” or “The Hired Man”. Although likely compiled in the 11th century BC, the MUL.APIN reflects a tradition which marks the Pleiades as the vernal equinox, which was the case with some precision at the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age.
The earliest identifiable reference to Aries as a distinct constellation comes from the boundary stones that date from 1350 to 1000 BC. On several boundary stones, a zodiacal ram figure is distinct from the other characters present. The shift in identification from the constellation as the Agrarian Worker to the Ram likely occurred in later Babylonian tradition because of its growing association with Dumuzi the Shepherd.
By the time the MUL.APIN was created—by 1000 BC—modern Aries was identified with both Dumuzi’s ram and a hired laborer. The exact timing of this shift is difficult to determine due to the lack of images of Aries or other ram figures.
In ancient Egyptian astronomy, Aries was associated with the god Amon-Ra, who was depicted as a man with a ram’s head and represented fertility and creativity. Because it was the location of the vernal equinox, it was called the “Indicator of the Reborn Sun”.
During the times of the year when Aries was prominent, priests would process statues of Amon-Ra to temples, a practice that was modified by Persian astronomers centuries later. Aries acquired the title of “Lord of the Head” in Egypt, referring to its symbolic and mythological importance.
Libra is the seventh astrological sign in the Zodiac. It spans the 180–210th degree of the zodiac, between 180 and 207.25 degree of celestial longitude. According to the Tropical system of astrology, the Sun enters the sign of Libra when it reaches the southern vernal equinox, which occurs around September 22.
The symbol of the scales is based on the Scales of Justice held by Themis, the Greek personification of divine law and custom. She became the inspiration for modern depictions of Lady Justice. The ruling planet of Libra is Venus.
Omega is the 24th and last letter of the Greek alphabet. In the Greek numeric system, it has a value of 800. The word literally means “great O” (ō mega, mega meaning ‘great’), as opposed to omicron, which means “little O” (o mikron, micron meaning “little”).
In Sumerian mythology, Ninhursag was a mother goddess of the mountains, and one of the seven great deities of Sumer. She is principally a fertility goddess. Temple hymn sources identify her as the ‘true and great lady of heaven’ (possibly in relation to her standing on the mountain) and kings of Sumer were ‘nourished by Ninhursag’s milk’. She is the tutelary deity to several Sumerian leaders.
Her hair is sometimes depicted in an omega shape, and she at times wears a horned head-dress and tiered skirt, often with bow cases at her shoulders, and not infrequently carries a mace or baton surmounted by an omega motif or a derivation, sometimes accompanied by a lion cub on a leash.
Her symbol, resembling the Greek letter omega Ω, has been depicted in art from around 3000 BC, though more generally from the early second millennium BC. It appears on some boundary stones — on the upper tier, indicating her importance. The omega symbol is associated with the Egyptian cow goddess Hathor, and may represent a stylized womb. Hathor is at times depicted on a mountain, so it may be that the two goddesses are connected.
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.
Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Her Roman equivalent is Diana. In the classical period of Greek mythology, Artemis was often described as the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and the twin sister of Apollo.
Some scholars believe that the name, and indeed the goddess herself, was originally pre-Greek. Homer refers to her as Artemis Agrotera, Potnia Theron: “Artemis of the wildland, Mistress of Animals”. The Arcadians believed she was the daughter of Demeter.
She was the Hellenic goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth, virginity and protector of young girls, bringing and relieving disease in women; she often was depicted as a huntress carrying a bow and arrows. The deer and the cypress were sacred to her. In later Hellenistic times, she even assumed the ancient role of Eileithyia in aiding childbirth.
Dyēus is believed to have been the chief deity in the religious traditions of the prehistoric Proto-Indo-European societies. Part of a larger pantheon, he was the god of the daylight sky, and his position may have mirrored the position of the patriarch or monarch in society. In his aspect as a father god, his consort would have been Pltwih Méhter, “earth mother”.
This deity is not directly attested; rather, scholars have reconstructed this deity from the languages and cultures of later Indo-European peoples such as the Greeks, Latins, and Indo-Aryans. According to this scholarly reconstruction, Dyeus was addressed as Dyeu Phter, literally “sky father” or “shining father”, as reflected in Latin Iūpiter, Diēspiter, possibly Dis Pater and deus pater, Greek Zeu pater, Sanskrit Dyàuṣpítaḥ.
As the pantheons of the individual mythologies related to the Proto-Indo-European religion evolved, attributes of Dyeus seem to have been redistributed to other deities. In Greek and Roman mythology, Dyeus remained the chief god; however, in Vedic mythology, the etymological continuant of Dyeus became a very abstract god, and his original attributes and dominance over other gods appear to have been transferred to gods such as Agni or Indra.
The deity’s original domain was over the daylit sky, and indeed reflexes emphasise this connection to light: Istanu (Tiyaz) is a solar deity. Istanu (Ištanu; from Hattic Estan, “Sun-god”) was the Hittite and Hattic god of the sun. In Luwian he was known as Tiwaz or Tijaz. He was a god of judgement, and was depicted bearing a winged sun on his crown or head-dress, and a crooked staff.
Helios is often referred to as the “eye of Zeus”, in Romanian paganism the Sun is similarly called “God’s eye” and in Indo-Iranian tradition Surya/Hvare-khshaeta is similarly associated with Ahura Mazda. Even in Roman tradition, Jupiter often is only associated with diurnal lightning at most, while Summanus is a deity responsible for nocturnal lightning or storms as a whole.
Although some of the more iconic reflexes of Dyeus are storm deities, such as Zeus and Jupiter, this is thought to be a late development exclusive to mediterranean traditions, probably derived from syncretism with canaanite deities and Perkwunos.
Rooted in the related but distinct Indo-European word *deiwos is the Latin word for deity, deus. The Latin word is also continued in English divine, “deity”, and the original Germanic word remains visible in “Tuesday” (“Day of Tīwaz”) and Old Norse tívar, which may be continued in the toponym Tiveden (“Wood of the Gods”, or of Týr).
Týr is a Germanic god associated with law and heroic glory in Norse mythology, portrayed as one-handed. Corresponding names in other Germanic languages are Gothic Teiws, Old English Tīw and Old High German Ziu and Cyo, all from Proto-Germanic *Tīwaz. The Latinised name is Tius or Tio.
The t-rune ᛏ is named after Týr, and was identified with this god; the reconstructed Proto-Germanic name is *Tîwaz. The rune is sometimes also referred to as *Teiwaz, or spelling variants.
According to Tacitus’s Germania (98 CE), “In their ancient songs, their only form of recorded history, the Germans celebrate the earth-born god, Tuisto. They assign to him a son, Mannus, the author of their race, and to Mannus three sons…”.
*Mannaz is the conventional name of the m-rune ᛗ of the Elder Futhark. It is derived from the reconstructed Common Germanic word for “man”, *mannaz.
In the late Icelandic Eddas, Týr is portrayed, alternately, as the son of Odin (Prose Edda) or of Hymir (Poetic Edda), while the origins of his name and his possible relationship to Tuisto suggest he was once considered the father of the gods and head of the pantheon since his name is ultimately cognate to that of *Dyeus (cf. Dyaus), the reconstructed chief deity in Indo-European religion.
It is assumed that Tîwaz was overtaken in popularity and in authority by both Odin and Thor at some point during the Migration Age, as Odin shares his role as God of war.
The Germania manuscript corpus by Tacitus contains two primary variant readings of the name. The most frequently occurring, Tuisto, is commonly connected to the Proto-Germanic root tvai (“two”) and its derivative tvis (“twice”; “doubled”).
Allusions to intersex is entirely conjectural, as the tvia/tvis roots are also the roots of any number of other concepts/words in the Germanic languages. Take for instance the Germanic “twist”, which, in all but the English has the primary meaning of “dispute/conflict”.
The second variant of the name, occurring originally in manuscript E, is Tuisco (sometimes rendered Tuiscon). One proposed etymology for this variant reconstructs a Proto-Germanic tiwisko, and connects this with Proto-Germanic Tiwaz, yielded the meaning “son of Tiu”. This interpretation implies that Tuisco is the son of the sky god (Proto-Indo-European Dyeus) and the earth-goddess.
Gemini is one of the constellations of the zodiac. It was one of the 48 constellations described by the 2nd century AD astronomer Ptolemy and it remains one of the 88 modern constellations today. Its name is Latin for “twins,” and it is associated with the twins Castor and Pollux in Greek mythology.
In Babylonian astronomy, the stars Castor and Pollux were known as the Great Twins (MUL.MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL). The Twins were regarded as minor gods and were called Meshlamtaea and Lugalirra, meaning respectively ‘The One who has arisen from the Underworld’ and the ‘Mighty King’. Both names can be understood as titles of Nergal, the major Babylonian god of plague and pestilence, who was king of the Underworld.
Nergal was a deity worshipped throughout Mesopotamia (Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia) with the main seat of his worship at Cuthah represented by the mound of Tell-Ibrahim. He is a son of Enlil and Ninlil, along with Nanna and Ninurta.
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 supposed to be a large subterranean cave known as Aralu or Irkalla). 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”. Ereshkigal 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 Ishtar”). According to the doctrine of two kingdoms[clarification needed], the dominions of the two sisters are sharply differentiated, as one is of this world and one of the world of the dead.
Nergal has epithets such as the “raging king,” the “furious one,” and the like. 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.
Nergal’s chief temple at Cuthah bore the name Meslam, from which the god receives the designation of Meslamtaeda or Meslamtaea, “the one that rises up from Meslam”. The name Meslamtaeda/Meslamtaea indeed is found as early as the list of gods from Fara while the name Nergal only begins to appear in the Akkadian period.
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.
Týr is a god of war and will take mead, meat and blood for sacrifice. If a warrior carved the rune Tîwaz on his weapon he would be dedicating it to Týr and strengthen the outcome of a battle to be in his favor. Tiw was equated with Mars in the interpretatio germanica. Tuesday is in fact “Tīw’s Day” (also in Alemannic Zischtig from zîes tag), translating dies Martis.
There is sketchy evidence of a consort, in German named Zisa: Tacitus mentions one Germanic tribe who worshipped “Isis”, and Jacob Grimm pointed to Cisa/Zisa, the patroness of Augsburg, in this connection. The name Zisa could be derived from Ziu etymologically. This Zisa would be the female consort of Ziu, as Dione was of Zeus.
In Norse mythology, Hel is a being who presides over a realm of the same name, where she receives a portion of the dead. In the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning, Hel is described as having been appointed by the god Odin as ruler of a realm of the same name, located in Niflheim.
In the same source, her appearance is described as half blue and half flesh-coloured and further as having a gloomy, downcast appearance. The Prose Edda details that Hel rules over vast mansions with many servants in her underworld realm and plays a key role in the attempted resurrection of the god Baldr.
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.
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”).
Kali 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. Kali is worshipped by Hindus throughout India.
Mangala is the name for Mars, the red planet, in Hindu texts. He is the god of war, celibate and sometimes linked to god Karttikeya (Skanda). His origins vary with different mythological texts; in some, he is the son of Bhumi, the Earth Goddess and Vishnu, born when he raised her from the depths of water in Varaha avatar. In other myths, he is born from Shiva’s sweat or blood drop.
Rudra is a Rigvedic deity, associated with wind or storm, and the hunt. The name has been translated as “the roarer”. In the Rigveda, Rudra has been praised as the “mightiest of the mighty”. Shiva shares several features with the Rudra. The name Rudra has been taken as a synonym for the god Shiva and the two names are used interchangeably.
Some authors associate the name with the Tamil word śivappu meaning “red”, noting that Shiva is linked to the Sun (śivan, “the Red one”, in Tamil) and that Rudra is also called Babhru (brown, or red) in the Rigveda.
Haldi, also known as Khaldi or Hayk, was one of the three chief deities of Urartu (Ararat). The other two chief deities were the weather-god, notably the god of storms and thunder, Theispas of Kumenu, and the solar god Shivini of Tushpa.
Of all the gods of the Urartian pantheon, the most inscriptions are dedicated to Khaldi. His wife was the goddess Arubani. He was portrayed as a man with or without wings, standing on a lion. He was a warrior god whom the kings of Urartu would pray to for victories in battle. The temples dedicated to Khaldi were adorned with weapons, such as swords, spears, bows and arrows, and shields hung off the walls and were sometimes known as ‘the house of weapons’.
The Lingam (meaning sign, symbol or phallus) is an abstract or aniconic representation of the Hindu deity, Shiva, used for worship in temples, smaller shrines, or as self-manifested natural objects. In traditional Indian society, the lingam is seen as a symbol of the energy and potential of Shiva himself.
The lingam is often represented alongside the yoni (Sanskrit word, literally “origin” or “source” or “womb”), a symbol of the goddess or of Shakti, female creative energy. The union of lingam and yoni represents the “indivisible two-in-oneness of male and female, the passive space and active time from which all life originates”.
To the Egyptians, the frog was a symbol of life and fertility, since millions of them were born after the annual inundation of the Nile, which brought fertility to the otherwise barren lands. Consequently, in Egyptian mythology, there began to be a frog-goddess, who represented fertility, referred to by Egyptologists as Heqet (also Heqat, Hekit, Heket etc., more rarely Hegit, Heget etc.), written with the determinative frog.
Heqet was usually depicted as a frog, or a woman with a frog’s head, or more rarely as a frog on the end of a phallus to explicitly indicate her association with fertility. She was often referred to as the wife of Khnum, one of the earliest Egyptian deities, originally the god of the source of the Nile River, and the third aspect of Ra, who was identified primarily with the noon sun.
Ra was believed to rule in all parts of the created world: the sky, the earth, and the underworld. He was associated with the falcon or hawk. The cult of the Mnevis bull, an embodiment of Ra, had its center in Heliopolis and there was a formal burial ground for the sacrificed bulls north of the city. All forms of life were believed to have been created by Ra, who called each of them into existence by speaking their secret names. Alternatively man was created from Ra’s tears and sweat, hence the Egyptians call themselves the “Cattle of Ra.”
In the myth of the Celestial Cow it is recounted how mankind plotted against Ra and how he sent his eye as the goddess Sekhmet to punish them. When she became bloodthirsty she was pacified by drinking beer mixed with red dye.
Since the annual flooding of the Nile brought with it silt and clay, and its water brought life to its surroundings, Khnum was thought to be the creator of the bodies of human children, which he made at a potter’s wheel, from clay, and placed in their mothers’ wombs. He later was described as having moulded the other deities, and he had the titles Divine Potter and Lord of created things from himself.
Khnum is the god of rebirth, creation and the evening sun, although this is usually the function of Atum. Khnum has also been related to the deity Min, who was represented in many different forms, but was often represented in male human form, shown with an erect penis which he holds in his left hand and an upheld right arm holding a flail. As Khem or Min, he was the god of reproduction; as Khnum, he was the creator of all things, “the maker of gods and men”.
Hecate is a goddess in Ancient Greek religion and mythology, most often shown holding two torches or a key and in later periods depicted in triple form. She was variously associated with crossroads, entrance-ways, light, magic, witchcraft, knowledge of herbs and poisonous plants, ghosts, necromancy, and sorcery.
She appears in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter and in Hesiod’s Theogony, where she is promoted strongly as a great goddess. She was one of the main deities worshiped in Athenian households as a protective goddess and one who bestowed prosperity and daily blessings on the family.
In the post-Christian writings of the Chaldean Oracles (2nd–3rd century CE) she was regarded with (some) rulership over earth, sea and sky, as well as a more universal role as Saviour (Soteira), Mother of Angels and the Cosmic World Soul.
A mother goddess is a goddess who represents, or is a personification of nature, motherhood, fertility, creation, destruction or who embodies the bounty of the Earth. When equated with the Earth or the natural world, such goddesses are sometimes referred to as Mother Earth or as the Earth Mother.
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 *h₂ewsṓs in the historical mythologies of Indo-European peoples include Indian Uṣas, Greek Ēōs, Latin Aurōra, and Baltic Aušra (“dawn”, c.f. Lithuanian Aušrinė). Germanic *Austrōn- is from an extended stem *h₂ews-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. 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”). It has also proposed an etymology based on the connection with the Indo-European dawn goddess, from *abhor- “very” and *dhei “to shine”. Other epithets include 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.
Ishara (išḫara) is an ancient deity of unknown origin from northern modern Syria. 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.
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. Ishara is the Hittite word for “treaty, binding promise”, also personified as a goddess of the oath.
Her main epithet was belet rame, lady of love, which was also applied to Ishtar. In the Epic of Gilgamesh it says: ‘For Ishara the bed is made’ and in Atra-hasis (I 301-304) she is called upon to bless the couple on the honeymoon.”
Inanna was the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, and warfare, and goddess of the E-Anna temple at the city of Uruk, her main centre. The deity of this fourth-millennium city was probably originally An. After its dedication to Inanna the temple seems to have housed priestesses of the goddess.
When Enlil rose to equal or surpass An in authority, the functions of the two deities came to some extent to overlap. An was also sometimes equated with Amurru, and, in Seleucid Uruk, with Enmešara and Dumuzi. Enmesarra, or Enmešarra, in Sumerian and Akkadian mythology is an underworld god of the law. Described as a Sun god, protector of flocks and vegetation, and therefore he has been equated with Nergal. On the other hand, he has been described as an ancestor of Enlil, and it has been claimed that Enlil slew him.
Along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers were many shrines and temples dedicated to Inanna. The House of Heaven (Sumerian: E.AN) temple in Uruk.
According to Leick 1994 persons of asexual or hermaphroditic bodies and feminine men were particularly involved in the worship and ritual practices of Inanna’s temples.
The high priestess would choose for her bed a young man who represented the shepherd Dumuzid, consort of Inanna, in a hieros gamos or sacred marriage, celebrated during the annual Akitu (New Year) ceremony, at the spring Equinox.
According to Samuel Noah Kramer in The Sacred Marriage Rite, in late Sumerian history (end of the third millennium) kings established their legitimacy by taking the place of Dumuzi in the temple for one night on the tenth day of the New Year festival.
A Sacred Marriage to Inanna may have conferred legitimacy on a number of rulers of Uruk. Gilgamesh is reputed to have refused marriage to Inanna, on the grounds of her misalliance with such kings as Lugalbanda and Damuzi.
Inanna was associated with the eastern fish of the last of the zodiacal constellations, Pisces. Her consort Dumuzi was associated with the contiguous first constellation, Aries.
Tammuz (Sumerian: Dumuzid (DUMU.ZI(D), “faithful or true son”) was the name of a Sumerian god of food and vegetation, also worshiped in the later Mesopotamian states. In Babylonia, the month Tammuz was established in honor of the eponymous god Tammuz, who originated as a Sumerian shepherd-god, Dumuzid or Dumuzi, the consort of Inanna and, in his Akkadian form, the parallel consort of Ishtar.
The Levantine (“lord”) Adonis, who was drawn into the Greek pantheon, was considered by Joseph Campbell among others to be another counterpart of Tammuz, son and consort.
Beginning with the summer solstice came a time of mourning in the Ancient Near East, as in the Aegean: the Babylonians marked the decline in daylight hours and the onset of killing summer heat and drought with a six-day “funeral” for the god.
Recent discoveries reconfirm him as an annual life-death-rebirth deity: tablets discovered in 1963 show that Dumuzi was in fact consigned to the Underworld himself, in order to secure Inanna’s release, though the recovered final line reveals that he is to revive for six months of each year.
Ekur is a Sumerian term meaning “mountain house”. It is the assembly of the gods in the Garden of the gods, parallel in Greek mythology to Mount Olympus and was the most revered and sacred building of ancient Sumer.
In the Hymn to Enlil, the Ekur is closely linked to Enlil whilst in Enlil and Ninlil it is the abode of the Annanuki, from where Enlil is banished. The fall of Ekur is described in the Lament for Ur. In mythology, the Ekur was the centre of the earth and location where heaven and earth were united.
It is also known as Duranki and one of its structures is known as the Kiur (“great place”). Enamtila, a Sumerian term meaning “house of life” or possibly “house of creation”, has also been suggested by Piotr Michalowski to be a part of the Ekur.
A hymn to Nanna illustrates the close relationship between temples, houses and mountains. “In your house on high, in your beloved house, I will come to live, O Nanna, up above in your cedar perfumed mountain”. This was carried-on into later tradition in the Bible by the prophet Micah who envisions “the mountain of the temple of Yahweh”.
The Ekur was seen as a place of judgement and the place from which Enlil’s divine laws are issued. The ethics and moral values of the site are extolled in myths, which Samuel Noah Kramer suggested would have made it the most ethically-oriented in the entire ancient Near East. Its rituals are also described as: “banquets and feasts are celebrated from sunrise to sunset” with “festivals, overflowing with milk and cream, are alluring of plan and full of rejoicing”.
The priests of the Ekur festivities are described with en being the high priest, lagar as his associate, mues the leader of incantations and prayers, and guda the priest responsible for decoration. Sacrifices and food offerings were brought by the king, described as “faithful shepherd” or “noble farmer”.
An omphalos is a religious stone artifact, or baetylus. In Greek, the word omphalos means “navel”. In Greek lore, Zeus sent two eagles across the world to meet at its center, the “navel” of the world.
Omphalos stones marking the centre were erected in several places about the Mediterranean Sea. The omphalos was considered an object of power. Its symbolic references included the uterus, the phallus, and a cup of red wine representing royal blood lines.