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Ancient Mesopotamia
Assyria Nineveh
Arslan Tash Til Barsip
Iran Palace of Darius
Phoenicia Arabia Palmyra
Syrian coast
Ougarit Byblos

Vase of the Goddess Ishtar

AO 17000
Richelieu room 3 showcase 5 b (4)
Ishtar and
the Worship of Mother-Goddesses
This large ritual vase is decorated
with the image of Ishtar.
She is depicted surrounded by birds,
fish, a bull and a tortoise, all related to
the symbolism of fertility.
Wearing a horned tiara, an emblem of divinity,
she has a set of wings, a sign of her astral dimension, identifying her with the planet Venus. Arms open wide,
she displays her nudity.

 Ishtar and worship of mother goddesses

Ishtar, or Inanna for the Sumerians, is both a goddess of war and the divine incarnation of love, mistress of sexuality and fertility. ‘She was revered as such in Mesopotamia at least since the emergence of the first cities in the fourth millennium, and she no doubt must be seen as the forerunner of mother-goddesses’. She would be Isis A167 in Egypt, Aphrodite in Greece, Venus in Rome, Astarte in Phoenicia and Ashtoreth in the Bible (1 Kings 11:5, 33). Represented in the shape of a star, she forms part of a triad with Sin, the moon-god and Shamash, the sun-god.
Isis   E 3637 Vénus de Milo  Ma 399 Astarté   BR 4425
Virgin to the child ML 25

Differents names, a same symbolism : mother goddesses

“From Babylon, the cult of the Mother and Child spread to the ends of the earth. In Egypt, the Mother and Child were worshiped under the names of Isis and Osiris. In India, under the names of Isi and Iswara. In Asia, it is Cybele and Deoius. In Greece, Ceres the Great Mother with a babe at her breast or Irene the goddess of peace, with the boy Plutus in her arms. In Tibet, Japan and China, Jesuit missionaries were astonished to find the counterpart of the Madonna, Shing-Moo, represented with a child in her arms.” A. Hislop A169
Worshippers of Ishtar
called her the Blessed Virgin,
and prayed to her to intercede
with the angry gods.
E.O. James, former Professor of the History of Religion at the University of London studied the development of this concept of divinity from its origins until its transformation among the Christians of the Mother Church, principally living off the Church, that were later associated with images of the Madonna. A168

Cult of the Mother and Child, soon in Egypt

This Babylonian prototype
is the source of later
mother-goddess worship.
From Babylon, the cult of the Mother and Child spread to the ends of the earth.
The symbolism of the Virgin and Child, very present in Egypt and in religions as opposed as Catholicism and Buddhism, could be explained
by this common origin.
This Babylonian prototype is the source of later mother-goddess worship. Fundamental and omnipresent throughout the history of man, it is one of the major themes central to the origin of religions and civilisations. For an objective examination of the facts, see the very comprehensive study by E.O. James, The cult of Mother-Godness (Le culte de la déesse-mère dans l’histoire des religions, Editions Le Mail, 1989)


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