• James E Aarons DVM

Who is Ištar?

Updated: Nov 22, 2019

Ištar was the original Queen of Heaven. Intimately connected with fertility, sexuality, and war, Ištar's symbols were the lion, the horse, the sphinx, the dove, and a star within a circle emulating the planet Venus. She has been known as the deified evening star, and the morning star. The worship of this goddess was constant, dictating the lives of people and societies over thousands of years.

In Mesopotamian iconography, the most common symbol of Ištar is an eight-pointed star, originally associated with Inanna but by the Old Babylonian Period it had come to be specifically associated with the planet Venus. Starting during this same time, the star of Ištar was normally enclosed within a circular disc.

Ištar’s influence as the goddess of the Cradle of Civilization permeated all aspects of ancient life, for what else is there besides love and war? Temples to this powerful idea sprang all along all major river courses, the ancient avenues of commerce and migration. Her temples have been found on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, the Orontes and Eleutheros, even the mighty Nile, where Ištar often disagreed with the dictates of Egyptian Pharaohs.

Ištar adorned the temples of Nineveh in Iraq, Ugarit in Syria, and Akhmin in Egypt. She enhanced the temple in Paphos, Cyprus, laying the groundwork for the rise of Aphrodite from the sea foam a few hundreds of years later. Aphrodite became Venus when Romans inherited the world from the Greek pantheon of Mount Olympus.

Phoenician scarab. Ištar offers benediction to a supplicant, under a winged sun and the planet Venus. Many of these Phoenician scarabs show a brazier for offering incense.

The rise of the Abrahamic religions cast aside the venerable goddess, who had been with us from antiquity through the end of Rome. Originally a Paleolithic fertility goddess and a mother earth figure, Ištar was the main deity of many religions. With the rise of more patriarchal society, sky gods became more important. The Great Goddess became divided into her many aspects who were defined according to their relationships with gods. Later when Catholicism became the dominant religion of Europe, goddess-worship disappeared completely. Yet remnants of the feminine divine can be found in the Virgin Mary, Sophia, and the female saints.

As Ba'alat Gebal, Ištar's form came under scrutiny of the Biblical prophets, where she is mentioned 14 times. They called her Ashtaroth, the Queen of Heaven.

Judges 10:6

The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammorites, and the gods of the Philistines. And they forsook the Lord and did not serve him.

1 Samuel 7:4

So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only.

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