|Goddess of oath|
|Children||Sebitti (the Seven Stars)|
In Hurrian and Semitic traditions, Išḫara is a love goddess, often identified with Ishtar. She is identified as Ishwara in Sanskrit. 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 word is attested as a loanword in the Assyrian Kültepe texts from the 19th century BC, and is as such the earliest attestation of a word of any Indo-European language. The name is from a PIE root *sh2ei "to bind (also magically)", also in Greek himas "strap" and Old Norse / Old High German seil "rope". Possibly also cognate is soul, and Welsh Gwen-hwyfar (Irish Find-abair, from Proto-Celtic *windo-seibaro- "white ghost", from a meaning "enchanted" of the extended root *sh2ei-bh-). ishar (or eshar), oblique ishan-, the Hittite for "blood" is probably derived from the same root, maybe from a notion of "bond" between blood-relations (c.f. Sanskrit bandhu). The verb ishiya "to bind, fetter", "to oblige" is directly cognate to Sanskrit syati or Russian shyot with similar meanings.
The Indo-European etymology of the theonym has been called into question, since 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), and into the first (Assyria), as in Tukulti-apil-esharra (i.e., Tiglath-Pileser).
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.
As a goddess, Ishara could inflict severe bodily penalties to 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".
Hurrian and Syrian goddess
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).
The Hurrian cult of Ishara as a love goddess also spread to Syria. "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/Eshara". Gwendolyn Leick. A Dictionary of Ancient Eastern Mythology. London. Routledge. 1991, pp. 94-95
- Volkert Haas, Handbuch der Orientalistik (1994), ISBN 978-90-04-09799-5, pp. 393ff.