On Thursday, August 30,We Celebrate the Goddess Ishtar
The origin of this babylonian-assyrian main goddess was a semitian vegetation- and moon goddess with lower influence, but when these tribes arrived at the land of the sumerian kingdom, her cult reached the sumerian capital Uruk. The sumerian people identified Ishtar easily with their own goddess Inanna. After some time Ishtar became in the second millenium the highest and widest worshipped goddess of the Babylonians. The myths of Inanna became the myths of Ishtar:
Ishtars reign was not depending on a male consort, she reigned absolute on her own and united in her all the aspects of femininity. Her position in the Babylonian pantheon was the highest, but her family relations are a bit confusing: Ishtar was daughter of the moon goddess Ningal and her consort Nanna (akk. Sin), who were the Citygods of Uruk. In other traditions she appears to be the daughter of the sky god Anu, later she also became his wife.
She was also the sister of the sun god Utu/Marduk and the underworld goddess Ereschkigal (“Mistress of the great under”). She appeared in person wearing a zodiac belt together with hunting dogs like Diana or riding on a lion, her holy animal.
She was the Queen of heaven (Scharrat Schame) and the mother, who had born the world and still remained a virgin.
Her consort or husband was Tammuz ( sum.: Dumuzi), river god of Euphrates and Tigris, who was meanwhile also her son and her brother. When the world began, Tammuz (faithful son) came together with Ishtar in the world. She bore him, she made love with him and she remained a virgin. When Tammuz died in the summer and all vegetation died with him, Ishtar was looking for him all over the world. She finally found him in the underworld and brought him back to life (see Celtic believe). Tammuz was reborn and the vegetation could flourish again. Then the ritual-festival of the “Holy Marriage” was celebrated at the time of the autumn equinox, when in the Near-East the first rain fell again.
For the assyrian people she was mainly a war goddess (Lioness of the battle), but also the love and the sexual life belonged to her realm of influence. Moreover she was the Goddess of justice and healing.
This Akkadian/Babylonian Great Goddess represents a later and more complex development of the Sumerian Inanna, and her son/lover Tammuz plays the role of the vegetation-god. She is not only an embodiment of sexuality and fertility, a “Lady of Battle” and a goddess of healing, but it is also she who bestowed the ancient kings with the right to rule over her/their people. Her fame reached into the Hittite and Hurrian lands of Anatolia, to Sumeria, Egypt and to the Assyrians. Here especially – in Assyria and Egypt – she was revered as a goddess of Battle and is depicted with bow, quiver and sword; her prowess is symbolised by her lioness-steed.
In other sacred texts Ishtar is described as having “sweet lips” and a “beautiful figure” and it is clear that she takes much pleasure in love. Significantly, when she descends to the Netherworld all sexual activity ceases everywhere on earth. In this aspect her familiar and symbolic animal is the dove. Ishtar was also thought to rule the menstrual/ovarian cycle.
In the Old Testament her worship is regarded as an abomination, and it is Ishtar’s worshipers and her ishtarishtu (sacred prostitutes) who were to be found even at the doors of the Hebrew god’s great temple, much to the consternation of his priests and prophets.
As well as being renowned for her powers of creation, divine rulership, prophesy and desire, Ishtar was also regarded as a healer and we know that her effigy once was transported all the way to Egypt in order to heal the then sick Amenhotep III.
Shrine for the forgotten Goddesses