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Gods, Goddesses,
Demons and Monsters
The people of Mesopotamia believed that their
world was controlled by gods and goddesses,
demons and monsters.
There were hundreds of gods who were
responsible for everything in the world, from
rivers and trees to making bread and pottery.
Each city was protected by its own special god or
goddess and their family. Large temples were built
in the centre of the city for these gods to live in.
Priests looked after the gods with special rituals.
There were also smaller temples throughout the
city where ordinary people could make offerings.
Demons were created by the gods with human
bodies and animal or bird heads. They could be
either evil or good. Monsters were a mixture of
animals and birds.
The Mesopotamian scribes compiled
long lists of their gods.
There were hundreds of gods who were
responsible for every thing in the world,
from rivers and mountains to making bread
or pottery. The gods were known by
different names depending on whether the
scribes wrote Sumerian or Akkadian.
The following list of the most important
gods, goddesses, demons and monsters
uses their Akkadian names with their
Sumerian names in brackets.
Adad (Ishkur)
Adad is the god of storms. He
is usually shown carrying a
lighting fork, symbolising his
power over the storm forces
of nature.
The Babylonian and Assyrian
god Adad was known to the
Sumerians as Ishkur, and is
often shown with a liondragon or bull. Adad's wife
was the goddess Shala.
Ea (Enki)
Ea is the god of the fresh waters
known as 'apsu' on which the Earth
floats. He is a god of wisdom, farming,
building, magic and arts and crafts. Ea
appears as a bearded man surrounded
by flowing water.
Ea is attended by a god with two faces
called Usmu (Isimud).
Ea's symbols are the goat-fish and a
sceptre with a ram's head.
Many Mesopotamian myths emphasise
the fun-loving and mischievous nature
of Ea.
One Sumerian myth is called 'Inanna and Enki'
(the Sumerian names for Ishtar and Ea). In the
beginning of this story, Enki controls the 'me'
which are the rules of the universe.
One day, Enki and Inanna get drunk and she
tricks him into giving her the 'me'. When Enki
realises that he has given the 'me' away, he tries
to recover then from Inanna. But Inanna takes
the 'me' back to her city. It is too late for Enki to
get them back.
Ishtar (Inanna)
Ishtar is the morning and evening star
(the planet we call Venus), and the
goddess of love and war. She is shown
as a woman standing on a lion,
generally holding several weapons.
Ishtar was sometimes thought to be
the daughter of the moon god Sin.
Since the lunar month usually has 30
days, Sin's sacred number is 30. As
Ishtar was Sin's daughter, her sacred
number is 15.
Sin (Nanna)
Sin is the moon god. His symbols
are the crescent moon, the bull, and
a tripod (which may be a lampstand).
Sin had a beard made of lapis lazuli
and he rides on a winged bull.
The lunar month usually has 30
days, so Sin's sacred number is 30.
Human-Headed Bulls
Human-headed bulls are
protective creatures.
They are found
decorating objects dating
mainly from around
3000-1800 B.C. and later
are replaced by the
lamassu guardian
figures.
Bull of Heaven
The Bull of Heaven is the
constellation we call
Taurus. He is controlled
by the sky god Anu.
The Bull of Heaven appears in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
After Gilgamesh upsets the goddess Ishtar, she
convinces her father Anu to send the Bull of Heaven
to earth to destroy the crops and kill people.
However, Gilgamesh and Enkidu kill the Bull of
Heaven.
The gods are angry that the Bull of Heaven has
been killed. As punishment for killing the bull Enkidu
falls ill and dies.
Queen of the Night
Hundreds of gods, goddesses and demons
are known from ancient Mesopotamia. For
many of them, we can match a name with
a picture. However, there are some where
we either have a picture and no name,
or a name and no picture. This means
that it is sometimes difficult to identify a
god, goddess or demon.
The 'Queen of the Night' wears a
headdress and carries the rod and ring
symbols. She also has drooping wings and
bird-like feet. She is shown standing on top
of two lions, with an owl on either side.
The identity of the 'Queen of the Night' shown on
the object below is a mystery. We know she is a
goddess because of her horned crown and the
symbols she holds in her hands. However,
there are several goddesses that she could be.
Some experts believe that she is Ishtar, the
goddess of love and war. But drooping wings
were associated with the Underworld. She could
be Ereshkigal, the goddess of the Underworld.
However, we do not know exactly what Ereshkigal
looked like.
The 'Queen of the Night' could also
be Lilitu, who is associated with
owls. Lilitu is not a goddess, she is
a demoness who made it difficult
for women to have children. Lilitu
appears in the Bible as Lilith.
Although we do not know exactly
who she is, we have called her the
'Queen of the Night' because of her
drooping wings, the owls on either
side of her and because the
background of the plaque was once
black.