"The Ishtar Gate is named so, because it was dedicated to the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, although Nebuchadnezzar pays homage to other Babylonian deities through various animal representations. The animals represented on the gate are young bulls (aurochs), lions, and dragons (sirrush). These animals are symbolic representations of certain deities: lions are often associated with Ishtar, bulls with Adad, and dragons with Marduk. Respectively, Ishtar was a goddess of fertility, love, war, and sex, Adad was a weather god, and Marduk was the chief or national god of Babylon.”[x]

Oh, yeeeeah.


Last night - just prior to my brief ‘The Persians Arrived’ post - I was reading Kingsley’s In the Dark Places of Wisdom and caught something I hadn’t before regarding the Samians (well, besides his point that Pythagoras was from the island of Samos):

"The greatest temple on Samos was dedicated to Hera, mother of the gods. It was famous throughout the Greek world. During the sixth century BC it was vastly enlarged and rebuilt; the new design was based on Egyptian models.

And inside the sacred precincts of the temple strange bronze objects have been found. The objects had been left there even earlier, in the seventh century, as dedications. They’re strange from the point of view of the Greeks - but they’re well known from the East.

They’re images that belonged to the cult of Gula, the Babylonian goddess of healing. And they didn’t arrive in Samos simply because of trade. They arived there because religion adnd worship crossed the boundaries of countries, ignored the limits of language. It was just the same with art. […]”
(P. 16.)

The Oldest Love Poem.

The world’s oldest known love poem. According to the Sumerian belief, it was a sacred duty for the king to marry every year a priestess instead of Inanna, the goddess of fertility and sexual love, in order to make the soil and women fertile. This poem was most probably written by a bride chosen for Shu-Sin in order to be sung at the New Year festival and it was sung at banquets and festivals accompanied by music and dance.

Its translation:

Bridegroom, dear to my heart,

Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet,

Lion, dear to my heart,

Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet.


Bridegroom, let me caress you,

My precious caress is more savory than honey,

In the bedchamber, honey-filled, In the bedchamber, honey-filled,

Let me enjoy your goodly beauty,

Lion, let me caress you,

My precious caress is more savory than honey.

Bridegroom, you have taken your pleasure of me,

Tell my mother, she will give you delicacies,

My father, he will give you gifts.


You, because you love me,

Give me pray of your caresses,

My lord god, my lord protector,

My SHU-SIN, who gladdens ENLIL’s heart,

Give my pray of your caresses. (x)

Courtesy & currently located at the Museum Of The Ancient Orient, Istanbul Archaeology Museums. Photo taken by Yuxuan Wang.

Picture: Hematite cylinder seal depicting Inanna’s descent into the underworld. Human worshipers are above her, while underworld demons are below her. - Xoc

In Sumerian lore, there were three distinct types of demons:

  1. disembodied human spirits who couldn’t rest
  2. half human/half demon entities
  3. demons that were of the same nature as the gods

Here are a few of the subclasses of demons.

  • Utukku – Utukku was a spirit of a dead human (a ghost). Initially, Utukku was the term used to refer to the spirit of Eabani in the Epic of Gilgamesh who was raised up by the god Nergal at Gilgamesh’s request. Eventually, the term came to mean a class of demons who haunted deserted places and could cause injury to man.
  • Alu – Alu is a translation of the Sumerian ‘Gallu’ which means ‘tempest.’ Alu were half humans and half animals that roamed the streets hiding in dark corners or deserted places. Alu was also the name of the celestial bull that Anu created to avenge his daughter Ishtar which Gilgamesh and Eabani eventually killed.
  • Ekimmu – Ekimmu were departed spirits who wandered aimlessly over the earth, unable to find rest. They are able to leave the underworld to torment the living if a body has not been properly buried or relatives have not made the proper offerings.
  • The Gallu – The Gallu was said to take the form of a bull and roamed the streets at night.
  • Rabisu – The Rabisu is said to be so frighteningly hideous and hairy that it was associated with nightmares.
  • Ilu Limnu (‘Evil God’) – Few details about this demon are known. He may have been related to Taiwaith (the primordial sea who gave birth to everything).
  • Labartu – Labatu is the daughter of Anu. She has the head of a lion, the teeth of an ass, and is said to drink the blood and devour the flesh and bones of her victims.
  • Lilu – There are three figures closely related in Babylonian mythology. Lilu is a male demon while Lilitu and Ardat Lili are females. Lilitu eventually became known as Lilith in Isaiah 34:14.
  • Shedim – See my article on Shedim
  • -Link to site

The figure could be an aspect of the goddess Ishtar, Mesopotamian goddess of sexual love and war, or Ishtar’s sister and rival, the goddess Ereshkigal who ruled over the Underworld, or the demoness Lilitu, known in the Bible as Lilith. The plaque probably stood in a shrine. 

Old Babylonian era, 1800-1750 BCE, from southern Iraq (place of excavation is unknown), Mesopotamia, Iraq. (The British Museum, London).


[Mythological Female Figures 1/?]

Mesopotamian Dragon Goddess of Primordial Chaos and the Sea

In the Enûma Elish, the Babylonian epic of creation, she gives birth to the first generation of deities; she later makes war upon them and is killed by the storm-god Marduk. The heavens and the earth are formed from her divided body.

Ummu-Hubur [Tiamat], who formed all things,
Hath made in addition weapons invincible;
she hath spawned monster-serpents,
Sharp of tooth, and merciless of fang.
With poison, instead of blood, she hath filled their bodies.
Fierce monster-vipers she hath clothed with terror,
With splendor she hath decked them; she hath made them of lofty stature.
Whoever beholdeth them is overcome by terror,
Their bodies rear up and none can withstand their attack.
She hath set up vipers, and dragons, and the monster Lahamu,
And hurricanes and raging hounds, and scorpion-men,
And mighty tempests, and fish-men and rams;
They bear cruel weapons, without fear of the fight.

Neo-Assyrian Head of Pazuzu, Circa 8th-7th Century BC

Pazuzu was an Assyrian and Babylonian demonic god of the 1st millennium BC. He normally has a dog-like face like here, and where his body is depicted he has a scaly torso, a snake-headed penis, the talons of a bird and usually wings.

Although Pazuzu was a malevolent force, his image was used on amulets to ward off his enemy Lamashtu, a female demon that preyed on newborn babies and their mothers. The amulet was either worn by the mother or child and larger ones were placed above their bed on a wall.

His legend was adapted and used in The Exorcist films.

Cuneiform tablet with the Atrahasis Epic. Babylonian, about 17th century BC, from Sippar, southern Iraq.

A version of the Flood story

The story outlines the structure of the universe according to Babylonian beliefs. Heaven is ruled by the god Anu, the earth by Enlil and the subterranean sweet water by Enki. The text then explains how the minor gods work in the fields but then rebel. As a result, humans are made from clay, saliva and divine blood to act as servants of the gods.

This does not prove a perfect solution, as the humans reproduce and their noise disturbs Enlil’s sleep. He decides to destroy them with plague, famine, drought and finally a flood. However, each time Enki instructs one of the humans, Atrahasis, to survive the disasters. The god gives Atrahasis seven days warning of the flood, and he builds a boat, loads it with his possessions, animals and birds. He is subsequently saved while the rest of humankind is destroyed. However, the gods are unhappy as they no longer receive the offerings they used to. There is a gap in the text at this point but it does end with Atrahasis making an offering and Enlil accepting the existence and usefulness of humans.

Copies of this story have survived from the seventeenth to the seventh century BC showing that it was copied and re-copied over the centuries. This is the most complete version. There are clear similarities between this Flood story and others known in Mesopotamian literature, for example, the Epic of Gilgamesh. (BM)

Courtesy of & currently located at the British Museum, London, ME 78941. Photo taken by Popolon.