“What really lasts in this world? What dies, what can be revived? Are humans basically the same now as in ancient times? I was left pondering these questions after listening to singer and composer Stef Conner’s album The Flood. It’s probably the first ever to be sung in ancient Sumerian and Babylonian, and it’s hauntingly beautiful’
A direct link to these haunting ancient babylonian songs/soundcloud (I have had them on repeat for over an hour; and am contemplating remixes and personal renditions)
and my personal favourite.
Ishtar was the babylonian goddess of love, war, fertility, and sexuality.
A complex deity, Ishtar combined the characteristics—both good and evil —of many different goddesses. As a benevolent mother figure, she was considered the mother of gods and humans, as well as the creator of all earthly blessings. In this role, she grieved over human sorrows and served as a protector of marriage and motherhood. People also worshiped Ishtar as the goddess of sexual love and fertility. The evil side of Ishtar’s nature emerged primarily in connection with war and storms. As a warrior goddess, she could make even the gods tremble in fear. As a storm goddess, she could bring rain and thunder.’
Ishtar is said to have had many lovers; however, as Guirand notes with somewhat disdain,
“Woe to him whom Ishtar had honoured! The fickle goddess treated her passing lovers cruelly, and the unhappy wretches usually paid dearly for the favours heaped on them. Animals, enslaved by love, lost their native vigour: they fell into traps laid by men or were domesticated by them. ‘Thou has loved the lion, mighty in strength’, says the hero Gilgamesh to Ishtar, ‘and thou hast dug for him seven and seven pits! Thou hast loved the steed, proud in battle, and destined him for the halter, the goad and the whip.’
Even for the gods Ishtar’s love was fatal. In her youth the goddess had loved Tammuz, god of the harvest, and—if one is to believe Gilgamesh —this love caused the death of Tammuz.
Her religion may have involved sacred prostitution, though this is debatable. Guirand referred to her holy city Uruk as the “town of the sacred courtesans” and to her as the “courtesan of the gods”.’
Joseph Campbell, a more recent scholar of comparative mythology, equates Ishtar, Inanna, and Aphrodite, and he draws a parallel between the Egyptian goddess Isis who nurses Horus, and the Assyrian-Babylonian goddess Ishtar who nurses the god Tammuz.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of similar feminine deities/stories and another example of reoccurring tales over the ages; I in my homelessness have always found comfort in this; in knowing our connected stories over thousands of years unite our humanity. It in times of strife has made it almost impossible to feel completely lonely.
Humans apprehend their own being by making it visible in the appearances of their goddesses and gods. In our stories we represent to our future a vision of ourselves; the teachings we wish to leave behind and the world we hope thrives long after we have traveled from the skins that bind us.
We connect even with those of different tongue and colour; through a kinship of myth, it as we are aware subconsciously it is the adhesive that keeps our humanity en masse. That whether we are forgotten by history and long passed away, not born yet and fearful of uncertain future or existing in the now desperately trying to remember how to devote ourselves as we desire; whether we are here or there, these reoccurring sagas remind us that we are not alone in a sometimes wretchedly alone existence.
Although options differ (Gilgamesh in particular was not a fan of Ishtar and depicted her as a spoiled childwoman); she in my studies and ever ongoing interest in myth and religion has always been a favourite of mine.