This won't be like my Hebrew Goddess topic, I already wrote a second part to this one! It's just in queue on Tumblr atm. I'm running a Mesopotamian blog with another PS member and we write a bunch of cool posts. The original post is here, if you want to reblog it on Tumblr. I tried to post a lot of pictures too, because it helps break the paragraphs.
Inanna (Ishtar) Part 1 (Warning: Long post!)
You’ve probably heard about the goddess Ishtar. Her Sumerian name is Inanna. She even goes by the Syrian-Canaanite name of Astarte. (Biblical Astoreth and Esther.) Later on, her worship and cult moved to Greece where she became Aphrodite. (Roman Venus.) Further in history Venus was fused with the Roman-Egyptian Isis, and given the title of “she of 10,000 names”, which is probably appropriate because of her cult status. However, even within the sphere of Mesopotamia, from which she originated, she remains one of the most popular and complex goddesses.
She is considered the most important goddess out of all of Mesopotamia. She was important throughout every single time period in the Ancient Near East in that region. Her relevance, unlike with other gods, never waned. (This may be because she has so many aspects.)
Ishtar is the goddess of love, sex, fertility, storms, and war. Lions, who she usually stood atop of, and owls are sacred to her. She also has many underworldly associations.
Queen of Heaven and Earth
”Lady of Heaven" is what the name Inanna means. It is also written Innin. The ring post is her sign and is found in the earliest written texts. Ishtar (Earlier Eshtar) is her Akkadian and Babylonian name, and is related to the male god in South Arabia called Athtar. (?) In every incarnation she is associated with the morning star, the planet Venus which is aptly named after her from Rome.
The main traditions say her father is the god of heaven called An. (Babylonian Anu.) She was heavily connected to the Sumerian city, Uruk. But according to another tradition she was the daughter of the moon god Nanna. (Babylonian Sin.) This would make her the sister of the solar god, Utu. (Shamash in Babylonia.) She makes a Babylonian triad with Shamash and Sin, making it earth (Ishtar), sun (Shamash), and moon (Sin) respectively.
In various other traditions she was the daughter of Enlil or Enki. No matter the tradition, Inanna’s sister was always the underworld goddess Ereshkigal. Inanna’s handmaiden is named Ninshubur.
Goddess of sex (sexual love), romantic love, and fertility
Inanna was always considered a maiden with no children ascribed to her despite being a goddess of fertility, sex, and love in one aspect. (With one exception, Shara.) Similarly, she had no permanent lover and even her husband/lover Dumuzi, the demi-god, had an ambiguous relationship with her. (Above: Inanna and Dumuzi.) In myths, she’s ultimately responsible for his death. But mourns him, profusely. Many poems highlight her love for Dumuzi. However, sometimes she is also considered the consort of An, which is never very detailed.
Since she is associated with sex, especially extra-marital sex, (A subject that has not been well researched about her….) she was conversely associated with prostitution. Her cult had "sacred prostitutes", who also filled in the roles as her priestesses. A cult of prostitution that spread as far away as Greece and Rome. However, she is not a goddess of marriage nor a mother goddess. (A common mistake.) She’s associated with the so-called “sacred marriage” though, but it has no implication with human marriages.
In the Epic of Gilgamesh, she attempts to woo Gilgamesh to have sex with her. Gilgamesh rejects her while detailing all the horrible things (Albeit hilarious things.) she has done to her ex-lovers. (Such as turning a shepherd into a wolf so his own kin will chase after him.) Angered by this rejection, she sends the Bull of Heaven after Gilgamesh and his partner Enkidu. When she dies in the corresponding myth men stop copulating with the wives, animals refuse to mate, and crops die, tying her directly with all the fertility aspects of earth.
Delirum’s Realm: Ishtar.
Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia: An Illustrated Dictionary, 1992 - by Black & Green
Greek Religion: Archaic & Classical
Figure of Isis-Aphrodite
Encyclopaedia of religion and ethics
Chaos, Gaia, Eros
The Babylonian legends of creation..