Mesopotamians were very religious kind of people. Owing to their multiple civilizations, they had same deities with different identities and names. For example- Ishtar, the Goddess of Procreation was known as Inanna among the Sumerian people. Similar to her were other goddesses as well. Throwing some light upon the Mesopotamian mythology here is a list describing different Goddess that made to the Mesopotamian pantheon.
1. Ereshkigal or Irkalla- The Goddess of the Underworld
In Sumerian mythology, she was considered as the queen of the land of the dead. She is called as Irkalla in the same way Hades is called in Greek Mythology as both the ruler and its territory of the underworld. In the pieces of literature, she is known to be Ninkigal which means “Lady of the Great Earth”. She was the only lady who made laws or passed any judgements in the death kingdom. Nergal was her consort who ruled Irkalla alongside her. Ereshkigal’s main temple was situated in Kutha. In the ancient poem of Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld, she is given the designation of Inanna’s elder sister.
Inanna’s descent to the underworld is one of the two myths that revolve around Irkalla. She moves to the underworld with the motive of extending her powers. When Enki is informed about the same, she orders Neti, the gatekeeper, to close all the gates and open one at a time as she removes a part of her clothes. Following the instructions, Neti opened each gate only when Inanna removed a piece of her clothing. As she reached the throne, she was naked and powerless. Inanna is held guilty by the seven judges and is struck to death. Her corpse is hung with the hook so that everyone could see it. When Ninshubur pleads Ereshkigal, and she agrees to help Inanna. She then sends two sexless creatures to revive her younger sister with water and food. As they try to take her out of the underworld, two demons come and ask for someone else in her replacement. As Inanna gets to know that her husband did not mourn her death, she tells the demons to take him in place of her. Her Erishkigal brings Inanna back to life hence she has a prominent role.
Another myth talks about her marriage with Nergal who was the God of Plague. Once a banquet was held by the gods and Ereshkigal couldn’t go. Being the goddess of the underworld., she sends her messenger Namtar who is treated well by all the gods and goddesses except for Nergal. As a result, Nergal is dismissed from the goddesses. Therefore, the only goddess left to marry him is Erishkigal. He later marries her and rules the underworld with her.
2. Nanshe- The Goddess of Social Justice and Prophecy
Nanshe was the daughter of Ninhursag and Enki who was the goddess of earth and god of magic, water, and freshwater respectively. She had multiple functions such as fertility, fishing, social justice, and prophecy. She had a close association with water just like her father. Moreover, she held a dominant position over the Persian Gulf and its animals. Enki was assigned the task of giving functions to every God. Hence, she was appointed her the Persian Gulf. She was seated at the temple Sirara at Nina city. Nanshe was worshipped as the goddess of social justice. She provided help to widows, acted as a parent to orphans, saved people from worn areas, and provided advice to those in massive debts. Several Gods followed her orders while she maintained a right social balance. As the goddess of prophecy, she determined future by Oneiromancy, the process of interpreting dreams. Even her priests were granted the gift of prophecy after performing certain rituals that involved the end of life and resurrection.
3. Ishtar or Inanna- The Goddess Love and Procreation
The Goddess of beauty, sex, love, and fertility, Ishtar was the East Semitic double of Inanna, the Sumerian Goddess; Astarte, the Northwest Semitic Goddess; and Astghik, the Armenian Goddess. She was a prominent goddess in 3500 BC until the spread of Christianity during 1st to 5th centuries. An eight-pointed star and a lion were her symbols. She was closely related to Venus in the Babylonian pantheon. Her myth is mostly related to that of the Sumerian legend of the descending of Inanna to the underworld. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, she is represented as a spoiled and short-tempered femme fatale. She is seen demanding to Gilgamesh to be her consort. On his refusal, Ishtar unlooses the Bull of Heaven which results in Enkidu’s death.
She is said to be the daughter of the God of the Sky, Anu. She was worshipped by the people belonging to the upper kingdom of Mesopotamia in the Assyrian cities of Ashur, Arbela, and Nineveh. The people of Uruk also were great devotees of Ishtar. Moreover, the fact that her cult involved some sacred kind of prostitution has been disputed for centuries now. The priestess performed sexual acts or not is still a matter of conjuncture though many have argued that they never did. She might be the Goddess of love and sexuality, but she was not considered the mother goddess or the goddess of marriage.
4. Tiamat- The Goddess of Salt Sea and Mother of Several Deities
Tiamat is the primordial Babylonian Goddess of the Salt Sea who mated with the God of fresh water, Abzu, to reproduce younger gods. She personifies the chaos that had occurred in primordial chaos. Scripts deliver that the goddess had two parts; one the Tiamat mythos, and the other Chaoskampf Tiamat. The first part of her represents the image of a sacred goddess and the union of marriage between the fresh and salt water. There are many sources according to which in her second form she has monstrous associations for she is the symbol of chaos. She is often represented by dragons and sea serpents.
In the Babylonian epic on creation, she has given birth to the very first generation of Gods. Her husband Apsu is killed by them so that the murderers could overtake the throne. Completely enraged she raises a war against killers in the form of a sea dragon. To the rescue of other deities comes Enki’s son, Marduk, the storm god and slays her. Before her death, she brings into the Mesopotamian pantheon the monsters, the first dragons whose bodies were filled with venom.
5. Ninkasi- The Goddess of Beer
Daughter of Uruk and Goddess of Procreation, Inanna, Ninkasi was born as a healer of Enki’s one out of eight wounds. Being the Alcohol goddess, she took birth out of the fresh sparkling water. The Goddess made to satisfy the heart and its desires. She was a daily preparator of beverage. She was the goddess of the Sumerian pantheon. Following this, the brewer’s craft in Sumer was protected and sanctioned by Ninkasi and other two goddesses.
Some translations of Sumerian texts resulted in a poem ‘A Hymn to Ninkasi’ which tells about the brewing beer. The art of brewing is broken down and hence is given words in the verse. This art of making has been passed down for several generations as well. Her gender as a female and at the same time, her relation with brewing makes this process the responsibility of a woman.
6. Shala- The Goddess of grain and Compassion
Shala is the Sumerian Goddess after whom the mountain of Venus, The Shala Monds has been named. Agriculture and compassion are co-related when it comes to Sumerian mythology. More harvest for them is a compassionate act of gods towards them. Shala is told to be the wife of Dagon, the God of Fertility and also Hadad, the Storm God. The depictions from centuries back show her carrying a mace with double heads and sometimes lion-headed scimitar. Her associations with Virgo have been talked in many scribes. Both their associations have resulted in the constellation of Virgo of present times.
7. Geshtinanna- The Goddess of Dream Interpretation, Fertility, and Agriculture
The wife of Ningisida and sister of Dumuzid, Geshtinanna is a Sumerian Goddess. She is parented by Ninhursag and Enki. She tries to save her brother from Galla demons, and when they take him to Kur, she could do nothing but mourn his death. She, in order to bring him back, takes his place in Kur for half a year so that he could return to the heaven alongside Inanna. Sumerians say that while she was in Kur, the earth became barren giving birth to Summers. Though she was continuously worshipped throughout the Akkadian reign, her cult disappeared in the Old Babylonian period. She has her imprints in several antiquitarian works of Seleucid Era. She was also related to dreams and was considered as the mother goddess. Similar to Dumuzid she was majorly a rural deity.
8. Ninhursag- The Mother Goddess of Mountains
She is the oldest of all the goddesses in the Mesopotamian pantheon. Ninhursag is also named as the mother of men and gods. She is known for the creation of both mortal and divine entities. She is called from different names in different myths. Earlier among Sumers, she was known as Damgalnuna and Damkina who was a nurturing mother and had associations with fertility. Sul-pa-e, who had a role in the underworld was a minor god and her husband. With him, she had three children namely Lisin, Lil, and Asgi. In later stages, she was depicted as the consort of God of Wisdom, Enki.
As her name suggests the Lady of the Mountains comes from Lugale, a poem in which the god of War, Ninurta victors over Asag and builds a mountain from the corpses of his stone army. He dedicated this mountain to Ninmah, his mother who later came to be known as Ninhursag. Called by various names, her other names were Ninmakh, Mama, Makh, Aruru, and Mamma. Moreover, her representation is similar to that of Omega, a greek symbol with a knife. It is taken as the uterus, and the umbilical cord is separated by the use of a blade which symbolises her role as a mother.
9. Kishar- The Earth Goddess
Kishar is the daughter of the first children of Abzu and Tiamat. in other words she was the child of Lahamu and Lahmu. She is the wife, sister and principle of Anshar who is the male principle. Furthermore, she is Anu’s mother too. Represented as the counterpart of the sky, Anshar, she is the goddess of mother earth. Her name also states the meaning; ‘Whole Earth’. She appears in the opening lines of Enuma Elish and suddenly disappears later. She is often seen in texts of first millennium BC where she is equated to Goddess Antu.
10. Ninlil- The Goddess of Wind
Called as Mulliltu in Assyria, Ninlil is the wife of Enlil. Some evidence tells that she is the daughter of Nunbarsegunu and Haia and another calls her as the child of Nammu and Anu. Other source says that she is the daughter of Antu and Anu. She used to live in Dilmun where she was impregnated by Enlil as he lied beside her by the water. She gave birth to the moon god, nanna or Suen. For making her conceive Enlil was taken to the underworld along with Ninlil. Enlil later impregnated her while she was a disguised gatekeeper which leads to the birth of God of Death, Nergal. She became the goddess of wind as Enlil was the storm god only after her death.
Final Conclusion: The Mesopotamian goddess has many stories listed in their names. They have associations with almost everything that is found on earth. Their power and dedication cannot be described in words.