Ninhursaga

Ninhursaga, Mesopotamian (Sumerian and Babylonian-Akkadian) [Iraq], was a Mother Goddess and one of seven great deities of Sumer. She was worshipped from about 3500 BC to 1750 BC. Her supposed symbol was omega, which was display from around 3500 BC but more prominently from the early second millennium.

It appeared on some kudurru boundary stones–on the upper tier denoting her importance. She was principally a fertility goddess. Temple hymn sources identify her as the «true and great lady of heaven,» and the kings of Sumer were «nourished by Ninhursaga’s milk.» Distinct from the goddess Inanna, she enjoys closer links with fecundity and birth, and is occasionally portrayed as a midwife, or with bosom bare and carry a baby in her left arm.

She is typically depicted wearing horned headdress and tiered skirt, often with bow cases at her shoulders; not infrequently carrying a mace or baton surmounted by the omega motif or a derivation; sometimes accompanied by a lion cub on a lease. The tutelary deity to several Sumerian rulers, in Creation of the Hoe, she completed the birth of mankind after the heads had been uncovered by Enki’s hoe.

Most Mesopotamian gods lived in the mountains and the name Ninhursaga bears significance because, according to legend, it was changed from Ninmah by her son Ninurta to commemorate his creation of the mountains.

Her name «lady of silence» is derived from the concept that the child in the womb is susceptible to both good and bad influences. Thus the wrong incarnation might jeopardize the child’s well-being. As «lady of the diadem,» according to the Babylonian investiture ritual, she placed the golden crown on the king in the Eanna temple. Ninhursaga possessed many more synonyms or titles. A.G.H.

 

Ninhursaga Mesopotamian deity

Ninhursaga, the revered Mesopotamian deity, holds a place of great significance in the annals of Sumerian and Babylonian-Akkadian mythology. Residing in the heart of Iraq, she emerged as a formidable Mother Goddess, celebrated as one of the seven great deities of Sumer.

This divine figure’s worship spanned a considerable period, commencing around 3500 BC and enduring until 1750 BC. At the core of her mystique was the enigmatic symbol, the omega, which gradually evolved into a prominent emblem over the centuries, making its debut around 3500 BC and gaining prominence in the early second millennium.

 

The Omega Symbol

The omega symbol, associated with Ninhursaga, found its place of honor on kudurru boundary stones. These stones, carved with intricate inscriptions and depictions, served as important markers, and the presence of the omega on their upper tiers underscored Ninhursaga’s paramount importance in the divine hierarchy.

 

The Fertility Goddess

Ninhursaga’s divine essence was deeply intertwined with fertility. She stood as the principal fertility goddess, a beacon of life and creation in the Mesopotamian pantheon. Temple hymns paid tribute to her as the «true and great lady of heaven,» and ancient belief held that the very kings of Sumer were «nourished by Ninhursaga’s milk.» This maternal connection emphasized her role as a nurturing force in the cosmos.

 

The Unique Attributes of Ninhursaga

Distinguishing herself from the goddess Inanna, Ninhursaga’s domain was closely linked with fecundity and birth. She bore a distinct persona as an occasional midwife, depicted with her bosom bare and tenderly cradling a newborn in her left arm. This imagery symbolized her role as the guardian of new life, safeguarding the delicate transition from womb to world.

 

Iconography and Depictions

Ninhursaga’s iconic representation often featured her adorned with a horned headdress and a tiered skirt. Bow cases frequently hung at her shoulders, and in her hand, she sometimes carried a mace or baton adorned with the omega motif or its variations. Another intriguing aspect of her depictions was her occasional companion—a lion cub on a leash—a symbol of her power and dominion.

 

Ninhursaga’s Role as a Tutelary Deity

In the epic tale known as the «Creation of the Hoe,» Ninhursaga played a pivotal role. She completed the birth of mankind after the heads of the first humans were uncovered by Enki’s hoe. This narrative underscored her significance as a tutelary deity to several Sumerian rulers and her role in the very origin of humanity.

 

The Name Transformation

Ninhursaga’s name bears historical weight. Legend has it that her son Ninurta changed it from Ninmah to commemorate his creation of the mountains, signifying her enduring influence on the natural world.

 

«Lady of Silence» and «Lady of the Diadem»

Ninhursaga carried intriguing titles that shed light on her multifaceted nature. «Lady of Silence» alluded to the belief that unborn children were susceptible to both good and bad influences in the womb. As the guardian of this delicate period, she ensured the well-being of the child, emphasizing the importance of a harmonious incarnation. Additionally, in the Babylonian investiture ritual, she assumed the role of the «Lady of the Diadem,» placing the golden crown upon the king’s head in the Eanna temple.

 

A Multitude of Synonyms and Titles

Beyond these prominent titles and roles, Ninhursaga possessed a plethora of other synonyms and epithets that further emphasized her multifaceted significance in the ancient Mesopotamian pantheon. The legacy of Ninhursaga, the Mother Goddess, continues to captivate the imagination and remains a vital piece of Mesopotamian cultural heritage.

 


Source:

Jordan, Michael, Encyclopedia of Gods, New York, Facts On File, Inc. 1993, pp. 184-185