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Basic Information

Ishtar was the Mesopotamian goddess of love, beauty, sex, desire, fertility, war, combat, and political power. Warfare and Sexuality: She was all about conquest. She was the Queen of Heaven. She's one of the strongest most powerful and ambitious deities in a mythology (and several cultures) that was mostly dominated by men. She's a very unique character, and a great ancient feminist icon. Ishtar was a total badass, not some lovey-dovey mother goddess.

Ishtar is her Akkadian name. The Sumerians called her Inanna. Other titles she was known by were "the Great-Hearted Mistress" and "Goddess of the Fearsome Powers".

Her cult's headquarters was in the city of Uruk. She was later worshipped in the Akkadian Empire, Assyria and Babylonia. It's believed a fair amount of syncretism was involved in the way her cult spread and prospered across these varied empires. It's possible Ishtar and Inanna were originally two different goddesses, who became one about the same time they rose to primacy in the region. She appears in more Mesopotamian Mythology stories than any other god or goddess. Many of these stories were written by the high priestess Enheduanna, who is the oldest named author in history (as well as being the daughter of Sargon of Akkad) and wrote in the 23rd Century BC.

Ishtar descended into Kur (the ancient Mesopotamian Underworld) and returned, leaving her lover (Tammuz the shepherd god) to suffer in her place. She destroyed mountains and caused floods. She made war. She turned men into werewolves. When Gilgamesh spurned her advances she unleashed the Bull of Heaven which slew Enkidu.

Her symbols were the lion and the 8-pointed star.

She was the sister of Ereshkigal (the goddess of the Underworld). By some accounts she was the daughter of Nanna (the god of the moon) and the twin sister of Shamash (the god of the sun). In other versions she was the daughter of Enki (the god of magic, wisdom, and fresh water.

Ishtar's messenger and sidekick was Ninshubur. When Ishtar died in Kur, it was Ninshubur that realized something was wrong and told Enki that he needed to concoct a scheme to rescue her. Trickster that he was, Enki cut a deal where Tammuz and Geshtinanna would each spend part of every year in the underworld so that Ishtar could go free. See Kur for more about this mess.


Game and Story Use

  • Could be the source of lycanthropy in your game. Perhaps werewolves are former lovers of Ishtar, or are those who resisted her advances and were punished. Either would work.
  • She'd make a great antagonist (or mentor) in a Scion RPG or any urban fantasy genre game. One that won't take no for an answer, and is always stirring up trouble for the players. She's not a villain per se, but she is a source of drama and difficulty.
  • A story doing a deep dive into Mesopotamian history, and set before her rise to prominence could feature two separate (and possibly competing) goddesses: Ishtar of Akkad, and Inanna of Sumeria. Even in a game where they are one-and-the-same, you could still have them as different avatars of the same goddess, who manifest as one or the other at different places or times.
    • It's likely that the more martial and war-like version of the goddess was the Akkadian Ishtar.
    • Inanna, by contrast, would have then had more of a sex and fertility focus (and was most likely the one with the journey to the underworld, since that's a metaphor for crop fertility).
    • In such a story, Enheduanna could witness the merging of the two goddesses into one, and be inspired to write great volumes collecting their tales together. Alternately, Enheduanna's writing could be the magic that binds two mythago beings into a single goddess form. It all depends on where you want to put the power: in one of the oldest known goddesses, or in history's first non-anonymous author.
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