Gala (priests)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Gala (Akkadian: kalû) were priests of the Sumerian goddess Inanna, significant numbers of the personnel of both temples and palaces, the central institutions of Mesopotamian city states, individuals with neither male nor female gender identities.

Originally a specialist in singing lamentations, gala appear in temple records dating back from the middle of the 3rd millennium BC.[1] According to an old Babylonian text, Enki created the gala specifically to sing "heart-soothing laments" for the goddess Inanna.[2] Cuniform references indicate the gendered character of the role.[3] Lamentation and wailing originally may have been female professions, so that men who entered the role adopted its forms. Their hymns were sung in a Sumerian dialect known as eme-sal, normally used to render the speech of female gods,[4] and some gala took female names.[5] Homosexual proclivities are clearly implied by the Sumerian proverb that reads, "When the gala wiped off his anus [he said], ‘I must not arouse that which belongs to my mistress [i.e., Inanna]’ ".[6] In fact, the word gala was written using the sign sequence UŠ.KU, the first sign having also the reading giš3 ("penis"), and the second one dur2 ("anus"), so perhaps there is some pun involved.[7] Moreover, gala is homophonous with gal4-la "vulva". However, in spite of all their references of their effeminate character (especially in the Sumerian proverbs), many administrative texts mention gala priests who had children, wives, and large families.[8] On the other hand, some gala priests were actually women.[9]


  1. ^ Hartmann 1960:129–46; Gelb 1975; Renger 1969:187–95; Krecher 1966:27–42; Henshaw 1994:84–96
  2. ^ Kramer 1982a:2
  3. ^ Gelb 1975:73; Lambert 1992:150–51
  4. ^ Hartmann 1960:138; Krecher 1966; Cohen 1974:11, 32
  5. ^ Bottéro and Petschow 1975:465
  6. ^ Gordon 1959, no. 2.100
  7. ^ Steinkeller 1992:37
  8. ^ Rubio 2001:270; Michalowski 2006
  9. ^ al-Rawi 1992


  • Ann Suter (2008). Lament: Studies in the Ancient Mediterranean and Beyond. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199714274. 
  • Stephen O. Murray, Will Roscoe, eds. (1997). Islamic Homosexualities: Culture, History, and Literature. NYU Press. ISBN 0814774687. 
  • Carl S. Ehrlich (2009). From an Antique Land: An Introduction to Ancient Near Eastern Literature. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 0742563472.