Goddess of oath
|Children||Sebitti (the Seven Stars)|
Ishara (išḫara) is an ancient deity of unknown origin from northern modern Syria. She first appeared in Ebla and was incorporated into the Hurrian pantheon, from which she found her way to the Hittite pantheon.
In Hurrian and Semitic traditions, Išḫara is a love goddess, often identified with Ishtar. Her cult was of considerable importance in Ebla from the mid 3rd millennium, and by the end of the 3rd millennium, she had temples in Nippur, Sippar, Kish, Harbidum, Larsa, and Urum.
The etymology of Ishara is unknown. The goddess appears from as early as the mid 3rd millennium as one of the chief goddesses of Ebla, and her name appears as an element in theophoric names in Mesopotamia in the later 3rd millennium (Akkad period).
Variants of the name appear as Ašḫara (in a treaty of Naram-Sin of Akkad with Hita of Elam) and Ušḫara (in Ugarite texts). In Ebla, there were various logographic spellings involving the sign AMA "mother". In Alalah, her name was written with the Akkadogram IŠTAR plus a phonetic complement -ra, as IŠTAR-ra.
Ishara is a pre-Hurrian and perhaps pre-Semitic deity, later incorporated into the Hurrian pantheon. From the Hurrian pantheon, Ishara entered the Hittite pantheon and had her main shrine in Kizzuwatna.
"Ishara first appears in the pre-Sargonic texts from Ebla and then as a goddess of love in Old Akkadian potency-incantations (Biggs). During the Ur III period she had a temple in Drehem and from the Old Babylonian time onwards, there were sanctuaries in Sippar, Larsa, and Harbidum. In Mari she seems to have been very popular and many women were called after her, but she is well attested in personal names in Babylonia generally up to the late Kassite period. Her main epithet was belet rame, lady of love, which was also applied to Ishtar. In the Epic of Gilgamesh (Tablet II, col. v.28) it says: 'For Ishara the bed is made' and in Atra-hasis (I 301-304) she is called upon to bless the couple on the honeymoon."
Ishara was also worshipped within the Hurrian pantheon. She was associated with the underworld. Her astrological embodiment is the constellation Scorpio and she is called the mother of the Sebitti (the Seven Stars) (Seux, 343). Ishara was well known in Syria from the third millennium B.C. She became a great goddess of the Hurrian population. She was worshipped with Teshub and Simegi at Alakh, and also at Ugarit, Emar and Chagar Bazar. While she was considered to belong to the entourage of Ishtar, she was invoked to heal the sick (Lebrun).
As a goddess, Ishara could inflict severe bodily penalties on oathbreakers, in particular ascites (see Hittite military oath). In this context, she came to be seen as a "goddess of medicine" whose pity was invoked in case of illness. There was even a verb, isharis- "to be afflicted by the illness of Ishara".