Goddess of Many Names
Several years ago, I began researching the Hittite pantheon for a ritual I wanted to put together. During my reading, I found a brief reference to a goddess known as ‘The Sun Goddess of Arinna’ or Arinnitti. Arinnitti was the Hittite patron of royalty, worshiped by the kings and queens of Arinna. As her name implies, she was also the goddess of the sun. Arinnitti was attributed with righteous judgment and was seen as one of the most important deities in the Hittite pantheon. For some reason, the idea of a sun goddess drew me in and lead me to want to discover more about her. Her name lit a fire inside my heart, so I continued researching. At first, I was disappointed with the lack of information. I searched for information about Arinnitti, but found myself at a bit of a dead end with very little information known about her. I knew that resources on the Hittite culture were sparse, but I was still quite disheartened.
I typically view myself as a hard polytheist, which is someone who views each deity as an individual, and doesn’t group deities with similar attributes into the same being. For example, I view Athena and Minerva as two separate deities, and not the same deity with two different names in different cultures. However, as I was researching the Sun Goddess of Arinna, I came across a passage that lead me down a rabbit hole of information, and made me question my approach to the Gods and Goddesses completely. I found a passage in a text that indicated that the Sun Goddess of Arinna may have been known by other names. This wasn’t a case of a slight name variation, but an entirely different name with brand new attributes tied directly together. I suddenly wondered if I had missed some valuable information in my approach to the deities.
The first indication I had of multiple names being used for the Sun Goddess of Arinna came when reading “Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses” a book by Britannica Educational Publishing. In this book, there is a very short entry for Arinnitti that explains who she was and what her role was in the Hittite pantheon. The article itself didn’t contain much information, however, the title of that entry was labeled “Arinnitti (Hattian: Wurusemu).” While it wasn’t much, it gave me another name to begin to explore, and that’s exactly what I did. Additional research showed me that Wurusemu was the Hattic magna mater, or earth mother, also given the title of Sun Goddess of Arinna, or the Sun Goddess of Earth. She was seen as the source of all warmth, and the mother of all human kind (Ravinell 145). These attributes were vastly different than those of Arinnitti, so I was surprised to see the two linked together. Wurusemu was also known as the goddess of the dark earth which seems to indicate some chthonic ties.
I began trying to explore the chthonic properties of Wurusemu when I found yet another name connected to her, the Sumerian goddess Ereshkigal. Ereshkigal was the queen of the underworld (Penn Museum). However, an ancient prayer tablet which describes a king’s prayer to Arinna shows a connection to Ereshkigal. It begins with him indicating that he is appearing before the Sun-goddess of Arinna and calling to her. However, later in the tablet the king makes an offering to this goddess using the name of Ereshkigal. Another passage includes an invocation of the weather god Nerik, and describes him coming to them from “the dark earth with Ereshkigal” and calls this goddess his mother (Macqueen). However, other myths clearly indicate that Nerik is the son of the Sun Goddess of Arinna. Somehow, Arinnitti had transformed from a goddess of the Sun, to a deity with responsibilities to the sun, the earth, and the underworld all in one.
I continued researching other ancient tablets, and was blown away when I found yet another name tied to the Sun Goddess of Arinna: Hepat, the Hurrian mother goddess and queen of the deities. Hepat was the creator of cedar land and the queen of heaven and earth. The connection to Arinnitti comes from a prayer tablet from Queen Puduhepa. This tablet has been translated to say “To the Sun Goddess of Arinna, my lady, the mistress of the Hatti lands, the queen of earth and heaven. O Sun Goddess of Arinna: but in the land which you made the Cedar land you bear the name Hepat” (Taracha 92). Just a brief search of Hepat gave me an entire list of other names including Kubaba and Kybele (Wasilewska 104).
The deeper I dug into the research, the more references and connections I found between Arinnitti and other deities. She was synchronized with the Anatolian goddess Lelwani (Bachvarova 154), and in later history the Greek goddess Cybele and the Roman Ma-Bellona (Coulter and Turner 69). In turn, each of these deities were also known by other names creating a deeper and deeper hole of connections that I was mystified by. This deity somehow managed to cross cultures, countries, and thousands of years of history to stay relevant and admired. Here I am today, thousands of years and miles away, still talking about the Sun Goddess of Arinna.
While it’s probably not necessary to say, I was completely shocked by the findings of this brief research. I began on a journey to locate a single goddess of the sun, and had somehow found a deity that was all at once connected to the sun, the earth, and the underworld, each with a different name and culture. Each time I began exploring, I discovered a new title tied to the Sun Goddess of Arinna, and with each of these names she gained new attributes.
As someone who has tried to base my personal practices around those of the ancient people, I’ve valued hard polytheism and the ability to recognize many deities as individuals. However, when I began finding ancient tablet references that indicated that Arinnitti truly was known by many names, it definitely changed my approach to her. I haven’t changed my perspective in general, still approaching most deities from a hard-polytheistic perspective, and I am happy in my methodology. However, I think that this research has shown me that there may be instances where my hard-polytheistic thoughts may not be entirely accurate. But, who am I to argue with the ancients, from whom I have built my personal beliefs?
Bachvarova, Mary. From Hittite to Homer: The Anatolian Background of Ancient Greek Epic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016.
Britannica Educational Publishing. Mesopotamian Gods & Goddesses. Ed. Vincent Hale. New York: Britannica Educational Publishing, 2014.
Coulter, Charles and Patricia Turner. Ancient Deities: An Encyclopedia. McFarland & Company, 2000.
Macqueen, J.G. "Hattian Mythology and Hittite Monarchy." Anatolian Studies 9 (1959): 171-188.
Penn Museum. Iraq's Ancient Past: Rediscovering Ur's Royal Cemetary. n.d. University of Pensylvania. March 2019. <https://www.penn.museum/sites/iraq/?page_id=216>.
Ravinell, Alberto. The Storm-god in the Ancient Near East. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2003.
Taracha, Piotr. Religions of Second Millennium Anatolia. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz GmbH & Co, 2009.
Wasilewska, Ewa. Creation Stories of the Middle East. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2000.