HOME

The Goddess Ishtar
"The Lightbringer".
Babylonian High-Mother-Goddess.
Like Inanna, she is the goddess of fertility, love and war.
Her cult was the most important one in ancient Babylon
and Ishtar became under various
names the most important Goddess
of the Near-East and Western Asia.

You are about to enter the shrine of the ancient babylonian goddess Ishtar.
(Entrance at the bottom of this page)


First you shall have and read some information on this goddess of old,
so that you approach her in the appropriate way.


Selection


Other Names and Titles General Article about Ishtar
Her Signs and Symbols Offerings
Cult Centers And now enter her shrine

 




Other Names and Titles


ishtarboulet.jpg
Picture: Susan Boulet

Inanna (sumerian name), Astarte (kanaanäic name),
Arinna (hethitic sun goddess), Tanit (karthargic name)
Anna = Goddess,
Other spelling: Ishara, Istar, Istaru, Aschtar, Aschtart,
Geschtinanna, Nins-Anna

Babylonian scriptures called her the "Light of the World, Leader of Hosts,
Opener of the Womb, Righteous Judge, Lawgiver,
Goddess of Goddesses, Bestower of Strength,
Framer of All decress, Lady of Victory,
Forgiver of Sins, Torch of Heaven and Earth.

Many are her sacred titles - "Exalted Light of Heaven",
"She Who Begets All", "Guardian of the Law" and "Shepherdess of the Lands" -

Back to TOP


Besides these titles there is a number of titles
of the goddess Ishtar that can easily be realized
as former territorial goddesses -


She assimilated into herself
a number of 'lesser' deities.
In the case of Ishtar this is well documented and traceable,
and the following alphabetical listing will show a goddess
who should perhaps be called 'Ishtar Incorporated'.

 

 







ishtarwithlion.jpg
Ishtar standing
on a lion


Back to TOP



morningstar.jpg
Ishtar as Zib, the eveningstar (Goddess of Love)







eveningstar1.jpg
Ishtar as Dilbah, the morningstar
(Goddess of war). 

ishtargiveskingdom.jpg Ishtar bestows the King Zimrilim.



General Article about 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:

Myths: see Gilgamesh and Inanna's Descent into the Underworld

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.

ps323718_ishtar_britishmuseum.jpg

Bigger than the mountains am I,

The Empress of the gods am I

The Queen of heaven am I

The earth's mistress am I.

(translation of an old Babylonian text) 

prayador.jpg
Babylonians sacrificing
 


ishtarinthemiddle.jpg
Ishtar in the middle of Gods holding the lionsceptre and a scimitar.

Back to TOP


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.

Back to TOP


Her Signs and Symbols


Cult Centers

Many are the places where shrines were erected to her and her names invoked. Most famous of these are Niniveh, Aleppo and Babylon, where a beautiful temple to her was erected in about 550 BCE. But also the old temples of Inanna became a home for Ishtar as well. The main temple of Ishtar in Babylon was called Eturkalamma. She was also worshiped in the cities Uruk, Akkad and Kisch.

ishtargatereconstruction.jpg
See a reconstructions of the Ishtargate in Babylon
.

Back to TOP

 

And now enter her shrine