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                     ISHTAR: IN HER PRAISE, IN HER IMAGE
                          By Pauline Campanelli
      (Originally published in Circle Network News, under the column PANTHEON; 
            She  was called Ishtar by  the Babylonians, Inanna  by the Sumerians,
      Astarte by the  Greeks, and Ashtoreth by the Hebrews.   She is a Goddess of
      Love and beauty, The Giver  of All Life, The Maiden, The Mother, The Crone.
      As the maiden hymns were sung to her beauty and her love:
         "Praise the Goddess, most awesome
             of the Goddesses,
          Let one revere the mistress of the
             people, the greatest of the Gods.
          Praise Ishtar, the most awesome of
             the Goddesses,
          Let one revere the Queen of Women,
             the greatest of the Gods.
          She is clothed with pleasure and
          She is laden with vitality, charm
             and voluptuousness.
          In lips she is sweet; life is in
             her mouth.
          At her appearance rejoicing
             becomes full.
          She is glorious; veils are thrown
             over her head.
          Her figure is beautiful; her eyes
             are brilliant."
              --from a First Dynasty Babylon text, circa 1600 BCE
            TheGoddess has her darkside too.  In thisportion of a Sumerian prayer
      to Inanna  from Ur, circa 2300  BCE, she is the  bringer of death.   In the
      following lines, "the Powers"  refer to the  powers and duties assigned  to
      the various cosmic entities at the moment of creation:
          "My Queen, You who are guardian
             of all the great Powers,
          You have lifted the Powers, have
             tied them to your hands,
          Have gathered the Powers, pressed
             them to your breasts.
          You have filled the land with
             venom like a serpent.
          Vegetation ceases when you thunder
             like Ishkur.
          You who bring down the flood from
             the mountains,
          Supreme One who are the Inanna of
             Heaven and Earth."
            In the Epic of Gilgamesh,it is the word of Ishtar thatcauses Enlil to
      bring the Deluge upon her Children, and in the same legend she brings death
      not only to her people but her lover too: "When the glorious Ishtar  raised
      an eye  at the beauty of Gilgamesh, she  said, 'Come, Gilgamesh, be thou my
      lover! Do but grant me thy fruit.  Thou shalt be my husband, and I will  be
      thy  wife.'"  But the  hero refuses  her, listing  the  fates of  her other
         "For Tamuz, the lover of thy
         Thou has ordained wailing year
            after year.
         Having loved the dappled
         Thou smotest him, breaking his
         In the grove he sits crying, 'My
         Then thou lovedst a lion, perfect
            in strength.
         Seven pits and seven didst thou
            dig for him.
         Then a stallion didst Thou love,
            famed in battle.
         The whip, the spur, the lash Thou
            ordainedst for him."
            And ratherthan marry Ishtar, Gilgameshwent in searchof immortality on
      his own.
            Images of this Great Goddess from the land of theTigris and Euphrates
      appear in many  shapes and forms.  Some of the  earliest may be the clay or
      limestone figures discovered at the site known as Mureybit in what is today
      Syria.  These  figurines from  hunter-gatherer villages of  8000 BCE  range
      from the crude and stylized to  the highly naturalistic.  Like later images
      of Ishtar, these female  divinities are depicted with their hands  to their
      breasts.   These ancient images  of a goddess are not  joined by a male God
      until a thousand years later and then he remains less important.
            One common characteristicof the early imagesof Ishtar is thebird-like
      facial  features.  These  features are also  seen on images  of the Goddess
      from  the Thracian culture of what is  today Bulgaria, the Vinca culture of
      the Central Balkans, and  the Tisza culture of northeastern  Hungary, circa
      6000-5000  BCE.   This  bird Goddess  of  ancient eastern  Europe,  and the
      closely  related Snake Goddess are frequently associated with the baking of
      sacred bread.   Miniature temples made  in the form of  the Goddess contain
      scenes  of baking  bread  being  presided  over by  a  priestess.    Later,
      miniature  Minoan temples  contain  images  of  a  Goddess  with  the  same
      bird-like features.   The Greek  Aphrodite is often  associated with  doves
      which are  her symbol also.   Like  Aphrodite's consort was  the Grain  God
      Adonis, Ishtar  is the consort of  Tamuz, God of  Grain and of bread.   The
      "wailing year after year," in the above text refers to the annual death and
      subsequent resurrection of Tamuz the Grain God, the Mesopotamian equivalent
      of Adonis and Attis.
            The pierced crown and earsof figures are also reminiscent ofimages in
      bone  and clay from Bulgaria that date to 5000 BCE (Similar piercing can be
      seen on bird-faced figures of the Machalilla culture of ancient Ecuador and
      some of the Chancay "Moon  Goddess" figures of central Peru).   The pierced
      crown is  repeated in the headdress  of figures from Mycenae  Greece.  When
      Dr.  Heinrich Schleimann discovered figures like these, some had their arms
      upraised while others  had their  hands to  their hips  forming a  circular
      outline.   He thought they  might represent two  phases of  the moon.   Dr.
      Schleimann was probably right.  The arms of the figure from a tomb form the
      crescent of  the New Moon rising, an ancient symbol of Ishtar in her aspect
      as the  moon Goddess.   They also  repeat the design  of the  Assyrian Moon
      Tree.  These upraised arms from ancient Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia.
            LikeCybele and Attis, Demeterand Persephone, Aphroditeand Adonis, and
      Isis  and Osiris;  Ishtar  sought to  retrieve  her lover  from  the "house
      wherein the entrants are bereft of light, where dust is their fare and clay
      their food." When she arrived  at the gate She demanded to be let  in.  The
      Gatekeeper at the command of Allatu,  Queen of the Underworld and sister of
      Ishtar, allowed her to enter.  As she  passed thru the first gate, however,
      she was  told she must remove her crown as  "that is the custom of Allatu".
      At the second gate she had  taken the pendants from her ears; at  the third
      the  chains from her neck; at  the fourth the ornament  from her breast; at
      the  fifth  the Girdle  of  birthstones from  her  hips; at  the  sixth her
      bracelets and anklets; and at the  seventh she had the garment removed from
      her body.
            Allatu imprisoned Ishtar in teh Underworld and because of her absence
      from the World of the living,  "the bull springs not upon the cow,  the ass
      impregnates not the jenny,  the man lies in his own  chamber and the maiden
      lies on her side."  Because of this, the God Ea sent a messenger  to Allatu
      and caused Allatu  to sprinkle Ishtar with  the waters of life.   As Ishtar
      passed thru each  of the seven  gates on her ascent,  Her garments and  her
      jewels were returned to her.
            As for Tamuz,  her beloved, his  fate is not  known according to  the
      Summerian myth  because the  last tablet  of the  text  is missing.   In  a
      Babylonian version of the  myth, however, the Gatekeeper is  told "Wash him
      with pure water, anoint him with sweet oil, clothe him with a  red garment,
      and let him  play on a  flute of lapis."  As the  knowledge of her  brought
      death, so death brought resurrection.
         "On the day that Tamuz comes up
             to me
          When with him the lapis flute and
             the carnelian ring come up to me,
          When with him the wailing men and
             the wailing women come up to me,
          May the dead rise and smell the
            She was worshipped as a Goddess of Loveand Beauty, a bringer of death
      and the mother of all life:
         "She is sought after among the
             Gods, extraordinary is her station,
          Respected is her word, it is
             supreme over them.
          Ishtar among the Gods,
             extraordinary is her station.
          Respected is her word, it is
             supreme over them."
                 --from a first Dynasty Babylonian text, circa 1600 BCE
            Thepriestesses of Her temples were "harlots" detested by the Hebrews,
      but, in the words of The Great Goddess, "All acts of love and  pleasure are
      my rituals."   Ishtar is  one of the  earliest manifestations of  The Great
      Goddess  and the  geographic boundaries of  her worship may  be far greater
      than is currently believed.

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