Jesus, religious leader revered in Christianity, one of the world’s major religions. He is regarded by most Christians as the Incarnation of God. The history of Christian reflection on the teachings and nature of Jesus is examined in the article Christology. Ancient Jews usually had only one name,…


Isis, one of the most important goddesses of ancient Egypt. Her name is the Greek form of an ancient Egyptian word for “throne.” Isis was initially an obscure goddess who lacked her own dedicated temples, but she grew in importance as the dynastic age progressed, until she became one of the most…


Buddha, (Sanskrit: “Awakened One”) the founder of Buddhism, one of the major religions and philosophical systems of southern and eastern Asia and of the world. Buddha is one of the many epithets of a teacher who lived in northern India sometime between the 6th and the 4th century before the Common…


Zeus, in ancient Greek religion, chief deity of the pantheon, a sky and weather god who was identical with the Roman god Jupiter. His name clearly comes from that of the sky god Dyaus of the ancient Hindu Rigveda. Zeus was regarded as the sender of thunder and lightning, rain, and winds, and his…


Shiva, (Sanskrit: “Auspicious One”) one of the main deities of Hinduism, whom Shaivites worship as the supreme god. Among his common epithets are Shambhu (“Benign”), Shankara (“Beneficent”), Mahesha (“Great Lord”), and Mahadeva (“Great God”). Shiva is represented in a variety of forms: in a pacific…


Athena, in Greek religion, the city protectress, goddess of war, handicraft, and practical reason, identified by the Romans with Minerva. She was essentially urban and civilized, the antithesis in many respects of Artemis, goddess of the outdoors. Athena was probably a pre-Hellenic goddess and was…


Apollo, in Greco-Roman mythology, a deity of manifold function and meaning, one of the most widely revered and influential of all the ancient Greek and Roman gods. Though his original nature is obscure, from the time of Homer onward he was the god of divine distance, who sent or threatened from…


Horus, in ancient Egyptian religion, a god in the form of a falcon whose right eye was the sun or morning star, representing power and quintessence, and whose left eye was the moon or evening star, representing healing. Falcon cults, which were in evidence from late predynastic times, were…


Krishna, one of the most widely revered and most popular of all Indian divinities, worshipped as the eighth incarnation (avatar, or avatara) of the Hindu god Vishnu and also as a supreme god in his own right. Krishna became the focus of numerous bhakti (devotional) cults, which have over the…


Aphrodite, ancient Greek goddess of sexual love and beauty, identified with Venus by the Romans. The Greek word aphros means “foam,” and Hesiod relates in his Theogony that Aphrodite was born from the white foam produced by the severed genitals of Uranus (Heaven), after his son Cronus threw them…


Prometheus, in Greek religion, one of the Titans, the supreme trickster, and a god of fire. His intellectual side was emphasized by the apparent meaning of his name, Forethinker. In common belief he developed into a master craftsman, and in this connection he was associated with fire and the…


Odin, one of the principal gods in Norse mythology. His exact nature and role, however, are difficult to determine because of the complex picture of him given by the wealth of archaeological and literary sources. The Roman historian Tacitus stated that the Teutons worshiped Mercury; and because…


Re, in ancient Egyptian religion, god of the sun and creator god. He was believed to travel across the sky in his solar bark and, during the night, to make his passage in another bark through the underworld, where, in order to be born again for the new day, he had to vanquish the evil serpent…


Dionysus, in Greco-Roman religion, a nature god of fruitfulness and vegetation, especially known as a god of wine and ecstasy. The occurrence of his name on a Linear B tablet (13th century bce) shows that he was already worshipped in the Mycenaean period, although it is not known where his cult…


Lilith, female demonic figure of Jewish folklore. Her name and personality are thought to be derived from the class of Mesopotamian demons called lilû (feminine: lilītu), and the name is usually translated as “night monster.” A cult associated with Lilith survived among some Jews as late as the 7th…


Satan, in the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), the prince of evil spirits and adversary of God. Satan is traditionally understood as an angel (or sometimes a jinnī in Islam) who rebelled against God and was cast out of heaven with other “fallen” angels before the creation of…


Hades, in Greek mythology, god of the underworld. Hades was a son of the Titans Cronus and Rhea, and brother of the deities Zeus, Poseidon, Demeter, Hera, and Hestia. After Cronus was overthrown by his sons, his kingdom was divided among them, and the underworld fell by lot to Hades. There he ruled…


Cronus, in ancient Greek religion, male deity who was worshipped by the pre-Hellenic population of Greece but probably was not widely worshipped by the Greeks themselves; he was later identified with the Roman god Saturn. Cronus’s functions were connected with agriculture; in Attica his festival,…


Artemis, in Greek religion, the goddess of wild animals, the hunt, and vegetation, and of chastity and childbirth; she was identified by the Romans with Diana. Artemis was the daughter of Zeus and Leto and the twin sister of Apollo. Among the rural populace, Artemis was the favourite goddess. Her…


Muse, in Greco-Roman religion and mythology, any of a group of sister goddesses of obscure but ancient origin, the chief centre of whose cult was Mount Helicon in Boeotia, Greece. They were born in Pieria, at the foot of Mount Olympus. Very little is known of their cult, but they had a festival…


Anubis, ancient Egyptian god of the dead, represented by a jackal or the figure of a man with the head of a jackal. In the Early Dynastic period and the Old Kingdom, he enjoyed a preeminent (though not exclusive) position as lord of the dead, but he was later overshadowed by Osiris. His role is…


Vishnu, (Sanskrit: “The Pervader”) one of the principal Hindu deities. Vishnu combines many lesser divine figures and local heroes, chiefly through his avatars, particularly Rama and Krishna. His appearances are innumerable; he is often said to have 10 avatars—but not always the same 10. Among the…


Osiris, one of the most important gods of ancient Egypt. The origin of Osiris is obscure; he was a local god of Busiris, in Lower Egypt, and may have been a personification of chthonic (underworld) fertility. By about 2400 bce, however, Osiris clearly played a double role: he was both a god of…


Thor, deity common to all the early Germanic peoples, a great warrior represented as a red-bearded, middle-aged man of enormous strength, an implacable foe to the harmful race of giants but benevolent toward mankind. His figure was generally secondary to that of the god Odin, who in some …


Heracles, one of the most famous Greco-Roman legendary heroes. Traditionally, Heracles was the son of Zeus and Alcmene (see Amphitryon), granddaughter of Perseus. Zeus swore that the next son born of the Perseid house should become ruler of Greece, but—by a trick of Zeus’s jealous wife,…


Ares, in Greek religion, god of war or, more properly, the spirit of battle. Unlike his Roman counterpart, Mars, he was never very popular, and his worship was not extensive in Greece. He represented the distasteful aspects of brutal warfare and slaughter. From at least the time of Homer, who…


Kali, (Sanskrit: “She Who Is Black” or “She Who Is Death”) in Hinduism, goddess of time, doomsday, and death, or the black goddess (the feminine form of Sanskrit kala, “time-doomsday-death” or “black”). Kali’s origins can be traced to the deities of the village, tribal, and mountain cultures of…


Trinity, in Christian doctrine, the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons in one Godhead. The doctrine of the Trinity is considered to be one of the central Christian affirmations about God. It is rooted in the fact that God came to meet Christians in a threefold figure: (1) as…


Persephone, in Greek religion, daughter of Zeus, the chief god, and Demeter, the goddess of agriculture; she was the wife of Hades, king of the underworld. In the Homeric “Hymn to Demeter,” the story is told of how Persephone was gathering flowers in the Vale of Nysa when she was seized by Hades…


AmunA creator godPatron of the city of Thebes

AmunetWife of Amun, one of the creation goddesses.[2]Amunet is Mythical goddess of mystery.

AnhurAn Egyptian sky god and God of war.[3] His name meant "sky-bearer".[3]Husband of Mehit

AnputGoddess of the seventeenth Nome of Upper EgyptMother of Kebechet

AnubisGod of dead, embalming, funerals, and mourning ceremonies

Jackal-headed godSon of Set and Nephthys, given to Osiris by Nephthys to protect from his father

AnuketGoddess of the river Nile

ApisA live bull worshipped as a god at Memphis[4]

ApophisGod of snakes and war and ChaosHe lives in the Duat. Also known as Apep. God of chaos sometimes seen as Apophis the chaos snake.

AtenThe disk of the sunOriginally an aspect of Ra

BabiGod of baboons

BastCat goddessKnown to protect pregnant women and children. She is also involved in celebrations. The protector of Ra, his third eye.

BesDwarf god of entertainment

GebGod of the earthHusband to Nut and father of Set, Osiris, Nephthys, Isis and Horus

HapiGod of the Nile

HathorGoddess of love"alter ego" of Sekhmet

HeketGoddess of frogs

HorusGod of war, sky, and falconsHe is brother to Anubis and the son of Osiris and Isis. In another story, he is the sibling of Osiris and Isis and son of Geb and Nut.

IsisGoddess of magic, marriage, healing, and protectionShe is the wife and sister of Osiris and the mother and sister of Horus. When Osiris died, she resurrected him with magic by reattaching his limbs.

KebechetGoddess of purificationAlso known as the wandering goddess, or the lost child

KhepriGod of scarab beetles, sun, rebirth, and creationRa's aspect in the morning

KhnumRam-headed god, and god of the Nile River.Ra's aspect in the evening

KhonsuGod of the moonKnown in legend Nut gambles with him to add 5 days on to the end of the year to give birth to Horus, Osiris, Set, Nephthys, and Isis. Also known as the demon days.

KukPersonification of darkness

MaahesEgyptian lion-headed god of warThe son of the creator god Ptah, as well as the feline goddess Sekhmet

Ma'atGoddess of justice,truth and of orderAlso the daughter of Ra Command for Order

MafdetGod of justiceExecutioner of criminals, protector of the King's chambers

MehitA lioness goddessWife of Anhur

NephthysFunerary goddessConsort of Seth, mother of Anubis

NekhbetVulture goddessSister of Wadjet

NutWife of Geb

OsirisGod of the underworld and the afterlifeHusband and brother of Isis, Brother and mortal enemy to Set, father to Horus and Anubis.

PakhetA goddess of motherhood and of war[5]

PtahGod of creation

QebuiGod of the North wind[6]

QeteshGoddess of nature, beauty, sacred ecstasy , and sexual pleasureAdopted into ancient Egypt from Kadesh in what is now Syria.[7]

RaGod of the Sun and creationRa was king of the gods until Osiris took over his throne. He is also known as Amun-Ra and Akmun-Rah

Raet-TawyFemale sun goddess of Upper and Lower Egypt[8]Female counterpart of Ra[9]

SekhmetGoddess of lions, fire and vengeanceAlter form of Hathor

SekerFalcon godPrimary god of the Memphis necropolis

SerqetGoddess of scorpions, magic, medicine, and healing venomous stings and bites.

SeshatGoddess of writing and measurement

SetGod of chaos/change, deserts, storms, foreignersAlso spelled Sutekh, Setesh, Seteh, Seth). Mortal enemy and brother to Osiris, Husband to Nephthys. He killed his brother Osiris because of jealousy. No one can really describe what he is. He is a human hybrid, half human mixed with an unknown creature. It is sometimes called the set animal

ShuGod of wind, air , and lightConsort of Tefnut, father of Geb and Nut Greatgrandfather to Anubis and Horus

SobekGod of crocodilesRows Ra's Sunboat through the Duat

SopduA god of sky, the lord of the east. and is connected with Sah the goddess of SopdetAssociated with the sun and with the planet Venus

TawaretHippopotamus goddess

Goddess of childbirth and fertility

TefnutLion goddess of water and fertilityConsort of Shu, mother of Geb and Nut

ThothScribe God of Knowledge, the Moon, Measurement, Wisdom, the Alphabet, Djeru, Records, Thought, Intelligence, Meditation, the Mind, Logic, Reason, Reading, Hieroglyphics, Magic, Secrets, Scribes, and WritingAlso known as Djehuti

WadjetGoddess of protectionSister of Nekhbet

Wadj-werPersonifies the Mediterranean Sea and other lakes.


Then gods were born within them." The first "God" (in the mythological term) is Nammu, Goddess of the primeval sea, "the mother who gave birth to heaven and earth": Then Nammu gave birth to An (God of the Heavens) and Ki (Goddess of the Earth).

1) Tiamat –

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Tiamat, depicted as a dragon, being attacked by Marduk, in ‘Enuma Elish’.

Depicted as the primordial goddess of the oceans, Tiamat is possibly one of the earliest known Babylonian entities used for Chaoskampf, a myth that portrays the momentous battle between a hero and a chthonic monster. To that end, the very portrayal of Tiamat as one of the Mesopotamian gods in the ancient motifs takes a paradoxical route, with one ‘side’ showing how she epitomized the beauty of the feminine, while the other showcasing how she represented the chaotic scope of primordial origins. In essence, the first part of her mythos projects the goddess as the creator, who in sacred bond with freshwater sources (represented by god Apsû), gives birth to the cosmos and its successive generations.

However, the second part of the Chaoskampf makes Tiamat the antagonist, with her taking the form of a giant dragon to wreak havoc on the younger generation of gods (as an act of revenge, instigated by the murder of her husband Apsû). She is also said to have created the first batch of monsters and ‘poison-filled’ dragons, and ultimately ends up being slain by god Marduk, who in turn then proceeds to construct both heaven and earth from her remnant body.

As for the historical side of affairs, there are theories that suggest that Tiamat as a Mesopotamian goddess was worshiped as a part of the cult of Nammu (a primeval goddess, being the Sumerian equivalent to Tiamat). Interestingly enough, Dr Harriet Crawford has observed how the middle Persian Gulf region exhibits the ‘mixture’ of waters with the mingling of freshwater from the Arabian aquifers and the saltwater from the seas. Dilmun, the origin place of many Mesopotamian myths, is also thought to have been located in the country of Bahrain (which in Arabic translates to ‘two seas’).

2) Enlil –

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Ur-Nammu standing before the seated Enlil

Enlil was considered as one of the Mesopotamian gods in the supreme triad, along with Anu (god of the heavens, also known as An) and Enki (god of wisdom and earth). This brings us to the question – what natural (or supernatural) element did Enlil himself represent? Interestingly enough, this is where the historians and linguists are baffled alike, with the very Sumerian word “líl” meaning ‘ghost or even haunted’. To that end, Enlil could be interpreted as ‘Lord ghost’, but that wouldn’t make much sense, especially given the importance of Enlil in Sumerian religion. So as a re-interpretation (with practicality taken into consideration), Enlil may have been portrayed as the ‘Lord of Air’ or basically a deity representing the sky and atmosphere.

However, in terms of the history of religion, Enlil, the patron deity of the city of Nippur, was much more than a master of a singular elemental force. In fact, in various Mesopotamian inscriptions and tablets, he had been described with different exalted epithets, including the ‘King of all lands’, the ‘Father of black-headed people’ (referring to Sumerians) and even the ‘Father of Gods’. In that regard, Enlil was often projected as one of the most powerful deities who maintained his rebellious and often whimsically wrathful nature.

Pertaining to the latter quality, it was Enlil who brought upon the great flood upon humanity (according to the Akkadian epic Atra-Hasis, circa 18th century BC), after being perturbed by their higher rate of fertility and the general ‘noise’ they made (that disturbed his sleep). However, his divine ‘colleague’ Enki, the god of earth, intervenes and warns a human sage named Atrahasis – who in turn proceeds to build an ark, thus mirroring the later Biblical story of Noah, along with numerous other ancient tales of the flood.

3) Enki (Ea) –

Mesopotamian gods_Mesopotamian_gods_3

Image Source: Ancient Encyclopedia

As we fleetingly mentioned before in the earlier entry, Enki (known as Ea in Akkadian and Babylonian mythology), was one of the other important Mesopotamian gods of the supreme triad. Commonly translated as the ‘Lord of the Earth’, Enki had also been depicted as a deity of creation, crafts, intelligence and even magic. Interestingly enough, many of the initial Sumerian texts also refer to Enki’s virile masculinity, sometimes in overtly sexual tones – though the literary scope in itself probably wanted to indicate the ‘creative’ ability of Enki, as opposed to eroticism. For example, one text refers to how the semen of the god endowed the vitalizing nature of fresh water.

Often considered as the patron deity of the city of Eridu (in southern Mesopotamia), Enki was said to have resided in a unique geographical location known as abzu (Akkadian apsû), attended by his seven mythical sages. In accordance with Mesopotamian cosmic geography, the abzu pertained to the ocean underneath the earth; and for that matter, even Babylon was touted to be built atop an abzu.

In many Sumerian sources, he is also mentioned as being the son of primeval goddess Tiamat (mentioned in the first entry). According to those legends, it was Enki who took the fight to his father Apsû after he learned that Apsû was planning to kill all the younger gods. He was also said to have created the first humans (when depicted as Ea) from clay, in a bid to gather ‘free’ laborers for the gods.

4) Marduk –

Mesopotamian gods_Mesopotamian_gods_4

Marduk depicted at Mesopotamia’s heritage in Musée du Louvre. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Probably most famous as the patron deity of Babylon itself, Marduk as one of the major Mesopotamian gods formed an important part of the Babylonian pantheon, which in itself suggests a shift in cultural prominence from the ancient Sumerians to the later Babylonians. To that end, Marduk was portrayed as the very King of Gods (or even Storm God), draped in royal robes, whose fields of ‘expertise’ ranged from justice, healing to agriculture and magic. Historically, the famous ziggurat of Babylon was also dedicated to Marduk, which in itself was probably the (literary) model for the Biblical Tower of Babel.

In terms of mythology, Marduk was the son of Enki (mentioned in the previous entry), and he was responsible for defeating and killing Tiamat, the primeval goddess who took a dragon form to challenge many of the younger gods. Marduk then proceeded on to ‘source’ the rivers Tigris and Euphrates from the slain goddess’ eyes, while her body was carved up to create heaven and earth.

Once again reverting to history, Marduk was by far the most important Babylonian god (among the Mesopotamian gods), with his worship almost bordering on monotheism. And while his origins probably lied in the rustic agricultural god named Asarluhi (who was symbolized by a spade), Marduk, as opposed to many other gods, was said to reign directly from his temple (and stronghold) Esagila in Babylon. This symbolic significance rather fueled the extension of the actual Esagila complex, which was completed in its final form by the famed Nebuchadnezzar II, circa 6th century BC. As a matter of fact, Marduk as a deity was held in such a high regard in the lands of Babylonia that even ‘foreign’ Persian (Achaemenid) emperors like Cyrus and Darius projected themselves as the chosen of the god.

5) Ishtar (Inanna) –

Mesopotamian gods_Mesopotamian_gods_5

Source: Pinterest

A Mesopotamian goddess of contrasting traits, Ishtar (or Inanna in Sumerian) was projected as the female divine entity of beauty, sex, and desire, while at the same time being the symbolic purveyor of war and combat. And is often the case with mythology, her later Babylonian legends diverged from the earlier Sumerian tales, with the (Babylonian) Epic of Gilgamesh representing the goddess as a femme fatale who turns vengeful after being rejected by the hero Gilgamesh.

Suffice it to say, among the Mesopotamian gods and goddesses, as could be comprehended from her representative traits, Ishtar tended to be associated with sexuality, even since the Sumerian times – and such she was the patron goddess of sacred prostitutes. And while her earlier tales present her as being coyly amorous, with uttering like “plough my vulva, man of my heart” (excerpt from a Sumerian poem), the latter Akkadian ‘evolution’ transforms her into a more assertive personality, with one line from the Epic of Gilgamesh saying – ‘let us enjoy your strength, so put your hand and touch our vulva!’.

As for the historical side of affairs, the ancient city of Erbil (also known as Arbela or Urbilum in Sumerian) had always been an integral part of even the Old Assyrian state, circa 2050 BC. Occupying a strategic position at the foothills of Zagros mountains, the city was the center for the worship of the Assyro-Babylonian goddess (in her war-like avatar). To that end, several of the Assyrian kings even prayed in her temple before their military campaigns and actions of wars. And beyond just war ceremonies, the temple was viewed as a fortified sanctuary for Assyrian queens during their pregnancy. And as a demonstration of the Assyrian elites’ association to war (as a ritual extension of their power), some of the newborn princes were even breastfed by the priestesses of Ishtar.

6) Sin (Nanna) –

Mesopotamian gods_Mesopotamian_gods_6

Sin (or Nanna in Sumerian, not to be confused with the Norse deity) was the tutelary god of Ur, one of the major ancient Mesopotamian urban centers that originally occupied a coastal position near the mouth of river Euphrates (in what is now southern Iraq). Associated with the moon, Sin was represented as the bull, with the symbol alluding to the resemblance of the waxing moon to the horns of the animal. Interestingly enough, this mythic connection to the moon also associated Sin to fertility, on account of menstrual cycles corresponding to the timings of the moon’s periodic ‘shape-shifting’.

However, most importantly, ancient Mesopotamians ascribed an astronomical angle when it came to studying of Sin. In essence, the religious scope of this deity often translated to (unintentional) scientific analysis, with scribes maintaining records on the radiance along with the paths and cycles of the moon within particular time-frames. These records were compiled to keep an eye on future omens that were thought to have the potential to decide the course of important events.

As for the historical significance of Sin, the moon god was clearly one of the major Mesopotamian gods in the early part of the Sumerian period, partly fueled by his genealogical pedigree – which projected him as the first-born of Enlil (summarized in entry 2). He was also portrayed, during various time-periods, as the father of two major divine entities – Utu (the sun god) and Inanna (the goddess of beauty).

7) Shamash (Utu) –

Mesopotamian gods_Mesopotamian_gods_7

Part of the diorite stele with the Hammurabi Code that depicts the seated Shamash.

The Akkadian god Shamash was probably directly derived from the Sumerian counterpart Utu, with both entities being projected as the god of the sun and divine justice. However, interestingly enough, while Utu had been depicted as the son of Moon god Sin (summarized in the earlier entry), Shamash, as one of the Mesopotamian gods, was represented as the son of Enlil (summarized in entry 2). In any case, Shamash (or Utu) was one of the most important deities in the ancient Mesopotamian culture, attested by the fact that the entity was mentioned as early as circa 3500 BC (5,500-years ago) in the nascent forms of Sumerian writings.

Now when it comes to historical connection, Shamash is most famously known to feature in the renowned law code of Hammurabi (18th century) BC, with the Babylonians attributing the very provision of land laws to the divine entity. His image did match with such characteristics, with Shamash being portrayed as an old wise man with long beard seating on a royal throne, haloed behind his shoulders by the effulgent rays of the sun – and his role ‘modestly’ defined as being the governor of the whole universe.

This representation took a more a symbolic route during the later Neo-Assyrian Empire, with the god depicted as just a solar disc with wings. And even more intriguingly, unlike other capricious Mesopotamian gods, Shamash tended to be portrayed as an undoubtedly righteous divine being, which made his role rather ambiguous and yet crucial in the vibrant mythos of the city-states. His immense popularity among the populace is also suggested by three different ancient cult centers in all of Mesopotamia – Larsa and Eridu in (southern) Sumer, along with Sippar in (northern) Akkad.

8) Nisaba –

Mesopotamian gods_Mesopotamian_gods_8

A depiction of goddess Nisaba, with symbols of nature, dating from 2430 BC. Source; Pergamon Museum, Berlin

The Sumerian civilization can be credited with many of humanity’s cultural inventions and achievements, including the world’s oldest known pieces of literature. To that end, Sumerians even had one of the Mesopotamian gods dedicated to pursuits of writing (much like Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and scribes in Indian mythology), and she was called Nisaba (or Nissaba).

Probably having her origins from a grain goddess, circa 2700 BC, Nisaba later became the primary deity of the Mesopotamian city of Eresh. She was often portrayed as the primary scribe of the gods and keeper of both divine and mortal accounts. Interestingly enough, with varied myths followed in different city-states of ancient Mesopotamia, in some tales, Nisaba was represented as the daughter of Enlil (the entity mentioned in the second entry). However more famous stories establish Enlil as being the son-in-law of Nisaba.

In any case, beyond confusing genealogy, Nisaba had always been represented as an ally of the powerful (albeit capricious) god Enlil. To that end, one of the oldest known literary works in human history, known as the Kesh Temple Hymn (also called the Liturgy to Nintud), inscribed circa 2600 BC, comprises eight set of songs – all of which are attributed to Nisaba, who goes on to praise Enlil. In essence, the Kesh Temple Hymn was presented as the work of gods, possibly to endow it with an air of legitimacy (and sanctity) during the ancient times. The first paragraph of the ancient literature piece roughly reads like this –

The princely one, the princely one came forth from the house. Enlil, the princely one, came forth from the house. The princely one came forth royally from the house. Enlil lifted his glance over all the lands, and the lands raised themselves to Enlil. The four corners of heaven became green for Enlil like a garden. Kesh was positioned there for him with head uplifted, and as Kesh lifted its head among all the lands, Enlil spoke the praises of Kesh.

9) Ashur –

Mesopotamian gods_Mesopotamian_gods_9

Ashur represented by an entity in a winged disc with a ring in one hand (symbol of God-given kingship). Source: The British Museum.

Ashur (or Assur) pertains to the interesting synthesis of an ancient city and its patron deity, with the latter originating as an East Semitic god mainly worshiped in the northern regions of Mesopotamia, along with the north-eastern regions corresponding more-or-less to the realm of Old Assyria. To that end, there is a theory that the god himself was the deified form of the Old Assyrian capital Assur, an urban center that dates back from 3rd millennium BC.

In essence, Ashur, as one of the Mesopotamian gods, rather signified the clash of cultural overtones between the northern and southern parts of Mesopotamia. For example, by Hammurabi’s time, Marduk replaced Enlil as the chief deity of the majority of the southern Mesopotamian lands. Almost as a reactionary process, Ashur took the position of Enlil (and his mythic lineage) in northern Mesopotamia, and this religious shift extended till the period of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. In fact, many of the Assyrian imperial propaganda inscriptions went on to mention how their conquered subjects’ gods have abandoned them, overshadowed by the rising power of Ashur.

The geopolitical scenario of the Assyrian Empire rather favored such contrived outlooks, with their eponymous royal capital of Ashur being transformed into a city of lavish palaces, imposing temples and even cultural centers for learning. This emphasis on the intrinsic ties between Assyrian imperialism and the divine entity even led to the adoption of king names that included the word ‘Ashur’, like Ashurnasirpal, Esarhaddon (Ashur-aha-iddina), and Ashurbanipal.

10) Ninkasi –

Mesopotamian gods_Mesopotamian_gods_10

Source: Pinterest

For our last entry, we decided to take a lighter route by summarizing about Ninkasi, the ancient Sumerian tutelary goddess of beer (and alcohol). Symbolizing the role of women in brewing and preparation of beverages in ancient Mesopotamia, this enigma among the Mesopotamian gods (whose actual depictions have not survived the rigors of time) historically also alluded to how beer consumption in itself was an important marker for societal and civilized virtues. To give an example, in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the wild man En-kidu “did not know how to eat bread, / nor had he ever learned to drink beer!”, with the latter phrase suggesting how drinking beer was seen as a ‘quality’ of a civilized person.

And since we are talking about history, like many of the oldest cultural achievements pertaining to humanity, the oldest recipe for brewing beer comes from the land of Mesopotamia. These earliest beers were possibly concocted with the aid of barley that was extracted from bread. To that end, some of the excerpts from a 3900-year-old Sumerian poem honoring Ninkasi (the Hymn to Ninkasi), translated by Miguel Civil, read like this –



As for the veneration of the gods scholars of Egyptology doesn't know exactly how this was made during the oldest times, or at what point in history the main gods had cult areas replaced by temples of their own.

One clue might be the god Min (see him) who obviously had a very old cult at Koptos in Upper Egypt where two statues of him larger then life size were found in the late 1800s. They had no doubt been situated within a sacred area or by a shrine of some sort, but no remains are left to reconstruct what it may have looked like.

After the formation of two separate countries along the Nile (Upper and Lower Egypt) a typical building came to be in each part, which more or less symbolized the country itself in both a religious and political way and underlined its national identity.

It's most likely that local temples made of clay and reed originally were the cult buildings used by tribes along the Nile, and with time two shrines were specified where people could make offers to the main gods. Through their different designs it's easy locate the origin of old writings found since their depictions were incorporated into the hieroglyphic signs at an early stage (shown to the right of each illustration above).

Per-wer, meaning "the Great House", stood for Upper Egypt, and Per-nu, "the House of Flame" was the cupola shaped roofed national temple of Lower Egypt.

They are both attested for already during the reign of pharaoh Aha at the beginning of the first dynasty where they are present on a famous wooden label.

If at this stage, all mayor gods were worshipped in these buildings is not known.

With time the temples were elaborated to be great stone building just for a few very popular gods and goddesses which had fame over the centuries throughout the long Egyptian history. Minor gods had small shrines or were venerated in the homes.


When the goddesses and gods were depicted with a human body the variety wasn't so big in the way they were dressed. Less then half a dozen types of garments covers almost all of them. From the beginning they all wore white dresses, or at least single colored. This tradition slowly changed over the years and with time the colors and patterns became elaborated. The peak was reached during the Greco-Roman period when they were seen in outfits like actors in a costume spectacle in a theatre.

Excluding the mummy-like creations, here is a type description in brief:

Tunic with suspenders.

Male garment, ending above the waist

and popular in all times. Example: Re.

Dress with suspenders.

Female garment, ended above the waist,

and was usually white. Example: Hathor.

The short loincloth

Short and skirt-like garment and popular from earliest times. Example: Asar-hap.

The short-sleeved overall

From the earliest times very common

tight female garment. Example: Isis.

The full-length dress

Unusual, sleeve-less and for goddesses.

Went up to the neck. Example: Seshat.

Notice that long sleeves were not in fashion in any era of Egyptian history, at least for the gods and goddesses. Their dresses were to a great extent similar to those worn by the upper classes in society during daytime and evenings, and mostly indoors.

Pharaoh's crown

The gods had a lot of different things to put on their heads, and they surely did. In bright contrast to the stereotyped positions of their bodies the painters and sculptors were keen on giving the heads as much attention as possible. This was obviously initiated by pharaoh himself or the priesthood in order to give their favorite gods as much promotion as possible. The different crowns could give a hint where the god originally came from, and by wearing the combined crown for the whole country, the message was given that this god or goddess was important to all Egyptians. To make them conspicuous all crowns, hats etc. were adorned with plumes, horns, snakes, flowers, sun discs, leaves etc painted in bright colors. Especially during the Greco-Roman era the fantasy and elaboration was significant.

Deshret Hedjet Peshent Peshent Atef Atef with horns Khepresh

EGYPTIAN CROWNS: The red one was from Lower and the white from Upper Egypt.

The double crown represented the whole country. The Atef-crown was worn by Osiris and the type with horns and the sun disc by Re-Horakhte and other gods. The blue helmet-like came during dynasty 18 and was worn by kings and the god Amon.

Headgears of the gods

Besides royal crowns the gods had a lot of other symbols and things to wear upon their heads. In some cases the headgear was necessary to identify the deities in ques-tion, when they were dressed the same, as they often were. Here is a selection of per-sonal things helping to identify which goddess is depicted in case the written hiero-glyphs don't give a clue. The following objects below are shown as they looked when the bearer in question was facing right.

Neit had the a stylised form of her shield and crossed arrows on her head. Isis wore a throne on top, a rather uncomfortable one it seems, and Maát had her standing ostrich feather she was named after. Nephtys had a building topped with a bowl-like object (for collecting rain water?) and Nut had a pot (or a broad vase) upon her head.

Selkhet wore the dangerous scorpion (without its deadly sting), and Seshat had the holy Persea-tree with two horns over it as her personal sign. Anat had a stylized cow's uterus as her token. Hathor had several objects in her hat box like cow's horns with the sun disc and her favorite musical instrument - the sistrum, which was a rattle.

Most of these 18 objects worn upon their heads were unique for just one female deity, but Hathor's solar disc in variations and Anit's object could be worn by others.

Especially the sun (symbolizing the god Re) was seen above the heads of many gods.


All paintings, drawings, sculptures and reliefs in Egypt followed a traditional scheme, and changes came slowly with time. Some artistic features did not alter anything at all, and remained unchanged for over 3.000 years. The way of depicting people are among these unaltered expressions of art. The body was normally in profile except for the torso which was shown from the front like the eye, to make the face more expressive. The gods (and kings) depicted were seldom empty handed - they usually carried various objects, and the symbolic meaning of some are still obscure to Egypto-logists. The gods usually had the well known ankh-sign in one of their hands, with the general meaning "life", and also to be interpreted as joy of living. Since the Egyptian religion offered eternal life for those who had behaved well on earth, we don't know if this sign of life meant the next or the present one - or possibly both.

The other hand was holding a staff or scepter of some kind, and here we have half a dozen types. Goddesses usually had a scepter topped with a flower in different colors (like a white lily from the Nile) but this was seldom seen among the gods, possibly because it gave a more soft impression to the observer.

Very common through all times was the Was-scepter for "command" (see pictures below) and some gods, like Ptah and Osiris, had their own type of this staff.

1) Sceptre with flower often carried by goddesses.

2) The herdsman's crook of god Anedjti, patron of shepherds and protector of domesticated animals. 3) Was-sceptre, stood for domination and power.

It was very common among gods/kings in all times.

4) Staff of creator Ptah formed of four "djed-pillars" of order and stability (possibly a human spine).

5) Outfit of Osiris: crook and flail (cattle breeding and farming) plus the Was-sceptre and ankh-sign.


The world creators in breef:

ATUM from Heliopolis made everything (even himself) of his own sperm through masturbating or spitting. He then created woman from a bit of flesh from his hand.

PTAH from Heliopolis in Lower Egypt made the world by simply saying words and made earth raise from the water, very similar the story in the Bible.

RE (also from Heliopolis) is told in a rather late poetic legend to be the creator by using a tear from his eye to build all the world.

KHNUM from the island Elephantine at Aswan in the south, was the creator who made the world and all its people on his potter's wheel. The stuff was mud from the Nile.

KHEPER (representing Re) made all other gods from matter taken from his own body. He also created life (symbolically) every morning by commanding the sun to rise.

AMON from Thebes was during the New Kingdom vaguely connected to the creation of the World, saying that he once (like Atum) had created himself at the dawn of time.

THOTH was in Khemenu (Hermopolis) in Upper Egypt, the maker of the world and the first ones he helped to life were four frogs and four snakes, the so called Ogdoad.

The first family

The family from which all people in the world came was Shu, the god of cool air and his wife and sister Tefnut, goddess of rain, warm dew and moisture. They had the twins Geb who was god of the earth and Nut the goddess of the sky.

Before they had any children they were separated by command of the solar god Re and Geb wept over his loss and his tears made all the seas and oceans of the world.

One legend tells that Re for some reason (possibly jealousy) had become angry with Nut and laid a curse on her telling that none of her coming children could be born on any one day of the year. This was a big setback for Nut and Geb who were just planning to raise a family. In their agony they turned to the god of wisdom - Thoth, for advice. He went to his superior, the shadowy and not often depicted moon-god Aah who was in charge of the Egyptian moon-calendar. This old table of time consisted of 12 months of 30 days together making the moon-year of 360 days.

Thoth made Re a proposition to gamble about the matter and they started to play a game of dice resulting in victory for Thoth. He thereby won the moonlight of the five additional days of the true year (in this case July 14 to 18) and gave it to Geb and Nut who used them for the births of their children. Thus the curse of Re had no effect upon them because their children could all be born outside Aah's moon calendar. In the years to come Nut gave birth to five of the most prominent deities of Egypt: Year 1 - Osiris. Year 2 - Horus (the Elder). Year 3 - Set. Year 4 - Isis. Year 5 - Nephtys.

The origin of Universe.

One of the oldest and best known legends comes from Heliopolis and goes like this:

From the beginning there was nothing but a water chaos called Nun, and from that came the god Atum, who had created himself. From matter taken from his own body, he made Shu, the god of the air and Tefnut, goddess of moisture and rain. They in turn had the twins Geb, the earth-god, and Nut, the goddess of the sky.

From these two (Geb and Nut) then came all other Egyptian gods and goddessses.

Shu was often seen holding up the sky (his daugter Nut) with his son Geb lying under- neath (picture below). This family of four was the very foundation upon which the world existed as they represented the basic elements: earth, water, air and sky.

Air-god Shu holding up the sky-goddess Nut supported by two versions of Khnum. Lying down: earth-god Geb.

The first gods.

1) The old tradition from Heliopolis (Iunu) just north of Memphis in Lower Egypt said the creation of all the gods was made by Kheper, who was another form of their local sun god Re.

He was self-produced and made the other gods out of the matter of his own body. He was the father of many gods like Osiris, Nephtys, Isis, Set, Horus and others.

2) The priests from Hermo- polis in Upper Egypt declared for their part that Thoth was the primeval god and created the first four couples that built up everything. The first pair was Nun and Nuntet (snakes), who represented and dwelled in the mass of water from which everything emerged. The second was Heh and Hauhet (frogs), who stood for indefinite time and long life. The third was Kek and Keket (snakes), who embodied darkness, and the fourth pair was Niau and Niaut (frogs) representing the void. During the New Kingdom the two latter were replaced by Amon and Amonet.

3) In Sais (in the delta in Lower Egypt) the priests taught the people that their own mighty godd- ess Neit was behind the origin of the other gods. She was self-begotten and self-produced and mother of the mighty solar god Re.

4) Another story tells that the creation of The World was wet and dark and Atum-Re arose from the Nun and appointed the eight reptile gods above (the so called Ogdoad) to their proper places and brought order from chaos. Here the frogs Niau and Niaut have been changed for Amon and Amonet which tells that this version is of later date (New Kingdom) when Amon had reached a lofty position among the gods.

Creation of man.

A very old legend in Egypt told that mankind was divided into four types when they were made on the potter's wheel by the great creator Khnum. He made them all out of mud of various colors from the Nile.

The order in which they were made was as follows: First was - Romut, meaning "men", and these were the Egyptians them- selves. The second to come from the potter's wheel was - Áamu, the people from the desert mountains east of the Nile. This name was later also used for Asians in general.

Number three, called - Temehu, was the fair skinned people from the Mediterranean coast west of the Nile Delta and the oases west of the Nile Valley.

The last to be made was - Nehesy, the black people to the south of Egypt, below the province of Nubia.

Notable is that the names of these people seem to be very old and originating from the early times when the Egyptians didn't have a name for Asians, which they surely encountered well before the first dynasty as shown in archaeology remains.

According to another (much younger) legend mankind was created from a tear that fell from the eye of the god Re, and turned into men and women. The fair-skinned Libyans, considered as "cousins" by the people in the Nile valley, were formed in the same way. The two other people have a tear from Re as their origin too, but in a more irregular way.

The Court in the Underworld

When a person had died he was taken to Underworld where his deeds in life were taken to the Court of Osiris for the final judgement. Since this place also was called "The Island of Fire" it's quite obvious that the Egyptians had knowledge about the burning interior of the Earth though they had no volcanoes in their own country. Before coming there the dead person had to pass a labyrinth of gates and doors and answer questions correctly to pass through. The lion-god Aker let him through the last gate and he was facing the fourteen members of the jury in the Tribunal Hall. There he was allowed to speak about his behavior on Earth. (Shown in the upper left in the picture below).

Then god Anubis took him into the courtroom presenting him the scale where his heart would be put in balance with the feather of the goddess Máat, patroness of truth and harmony. The procedure was recorded by Thoth - the god of writing and wisdom. Sometimes Thot's animal (a baboon) was sitting on top of the scale ready to adjust the result using a sliding weight.