Ishtar in Sumeria and Babylonia


Ishtar was the love goddess of the Babylonians. Her worship came down from earliest times in Sumeria, where her lover was Tammuz. She was the goddess of mothers and prostitutes, and of love and war.


“Though her worshipers repeatedly addressed her as ‘The Virgin,’ ‘The Holy Virgin,’ and The Virgin Mother,’ this merely meant that her amours were free from all taint of wedlock.”— Will Durant, History of Civilization, Vol. 1, 235.


Ishtar was said to be the daughter of Sin, the moon god. Her lover was Tammuz, the sun god. She was called the “Queen of Heaven” by her worshipers and their priests. According to the ancient myth, when Tammuz was slain by a wild animal, Ishtar raises him to life. Because of this, a yearly spring festival was held in honor of Ishtar, the mother goddess.


“[This is the] myth of Ishtar and Tammuz. In the Sumerian form of the tale, Tammuz is Ishtar’s younger brother; in the Babylonian form, he is sometimes her lover, sometimes her son; both forms seem to have entered into the myths of Venus and Adonis, Demeter and Persephone, and a hundred scattered legends of death and resurrection . . To the Babylonians it was sacred history, faithfully believed and annually com- memorated by mourning and wailing for the dead Tammuz, followed by riotous rejoicing over his resurrection.”— Ibid., 238-239.

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