Hurrian religion

The Hurrian religion was the polytheistic religion of the Hurrians, a Bronze Age people of the Near East. These people settled over a wide area, so there were differences between them, especially between the eastern Hurrians around Nuzi and Arrapha and the western Hurrians in Syria and Anatolia. From the 14th century BC, the Hurrian religion had a powerful influence on the Hittite religion and the Hurrian pantheon is depicted in the 13th century rock reliefs at the important Hittite sanctuary at Yazılıkaya.

Hurrian incense container
Hurrian incense container


There is a lot of evidence for Hurrian religion and its regional differences. The oldest evidence comes from Urkesh and dates to the 3rd millennium BC.

Among the richest sources, is the material from the Hittite archives of the Hittite capital of Hattusa, which is partially composed of Hurrian language texts and partially of Hurrian works translated into the Hittite language. Several Hurrian ritual texts survive from Ugarit, written in the Ugaritic alphabet, which are mostly lists of gods. The Amarna letters from King Tushratta of Mitanni and the treaty documents provide evidence about the Hurrian-influenced religion practiced among the Mitanni. The archives of individual Syrian cities, like Emar, Mari and Alalakh, also contain Hurrian texts. The evidence from eastern Hurrians is very different and texts only provide evidence for civic pantheons.


Chamber A, Yazilikaya 06
The west Hurrian divine pantheon, with Tašmiš, Teššub, Ḫebat, Šarruma, Allanzu and Kunzišalli, rock sanctuary of Yazılıkaya.

The Hurrians worshipped a great number of gods derived from various different cultures, especially Mesopotamia and Syria. Many gods were syncretised with Mesopotamian and Syrian deities over time; for example, Šauška was identified with Ishtar of Nineveh, Teššub with the Weather god of Aleppo, Kušuḫ with the moon god Sîn von Ḫarran and the Sun god Šimige with Šamaš of Sippar.[1] This syncretism also embraced the native partners of the gods, like the Syrian Ḫebat as wife of Teššub among the western Hurrians, Nikkal as wife of the moon god, and Aya as wife of the sun god.

The chief god of the Hurrians was the weather god Teššub. All of the Hurrians also worshiped Šauška, god of love and war, the fertility-god Kumarbi, the moon god Kušuḫ and the sun god Šimige.[2] Only the western Hurrians worshipped Ḫebat and her son Šarruma, who were of Syrian origin. Other important deities were the mother goddesses Ḫudena Ḫudellura, the Syrian oath-goddess Išḫara and Kubaba, as well as the Mesopotamian god of wisdom, Ea (Eya-šarri), and the death god Ugur.

At least among the western Hurrians, the gods were divided into male and female groups, as is clear in the kaluti lists from Hattusa. The male gods (enna turroḫena) were led by Teššub in his various manifestations, while the female gods (enna aštoḫena) were led by Ḫebat and her children. The order of the gods and goddesses in these lists is not entirely fixed, but lists of gods from Hattusa and Ugarit show clear similarities. Also, the presence of groups of gods, especially the father gods (enna attenevena) is shared in these lists. No similar lists of gods are known from the eastern Hurrian area.

Dyads or double gods sharing a single cult are also typical of the Hurrians. For example, Ḫebat and her son Šarruma formed the dyad Ḫebat-Šarruma.[3]


The Hurrians produced literary accounts of their myths, in which Mesopotamian and Syrian influences are clear. The most important myths form the Kumarbi Cycle, which parallels the Ugaritic Baal Cycle, which recounts how the Ugaritic weathergod Baal became the ruler of the gods. Similarly, the Kumarbi Cycle recounts how Teššub gained his power and made it firm (thus some scholars refer to it as the Teššub Cycle).[4] The cycle begins with the "kingship of Heaven" myth, in which a succession of kings of the gods (Alalu, Anu and Kumarbi) and their battles are quickly described, before recording the conception and birth of Teššub. The following myths recount how Kumarbi generates ever more powerful opponents to destroy Teššub. These include Ušḫuni ("silver"), the water dragon Ḫedammu, and finally the rock monster Ullikummi. There is also the myth of the guardian god, who is temporarily installed as the king of the gods, but neglects the divine offerings. Unfortunately, most of the myths are only transmitted as fragments.

This cycle may have been a source of the myths about the Greek gods recounted in Hesiod's Theogony. The castration of Uranus by Cronus may be derived from the castration of Anu by Kumarbi, while Zeus's overthrow of Cronus and Cronus's regurgitation of the swallowed gods is like the Hurrian myth of Teshub and Kumarbi.[5] It has also been argued that the worship of Attis drew on Hurrian myth.[6]

In addition to the myths, there are also narratives and legends, like the history of Appu and his two sons, "Wrong" and "Right", and the account of the Sun god and the cow. In both legends, the Sun god appears as a young man. There are traces of heroic epics among this category.


The Hurrians treated Earth and Heaven as gods (eše ḫavurne), but they were not depicted as anthropomorphic deities. Since creation, they had rested on the shoulders of the giant Ubelluri who is also meant to have separated Earth and Heaven from one another with a copper sickel. In the reliefs of Yazılıkaya two bull-men are depicted standing on the Earth, holding up the heavens.

The dead went to the Underworld, which was ruled by the goddess Allani. The Underworld also housed the "lower gods" (enna turena). The Hurrian gods made offerings to these chthonic powers, which they placed in offering pits (abi) dug in the Earth. The ancestors were also given offerings in this way.


The Hurrians built sanctuaries and temples where they worshipped their deities. They deified cult implements, like the incense burners and the offering dishes, as well as divine symbols like the weapons of Teššub and the bed of Ḫebat. Images of the gods were cleaned, anointed, and dressed. A well-attested example of western Hurrian ritual (mixed with Luwian religion) is the Hittite Išuwa festival. The Hurrian gods do not appear to have had particular "home temples", like in the Mesopotamian religion or Ancient Egyptian religion. Some important cult centres were Kummanni in Kizzuwatna, and Hittite Yazilikaya. Harran was at least later a religious centre for the moon god, and Shauskha had an important temple in Nineve, when the city was under Hurrian rule. A temple of Nergal was built in Urkesh in the late third millennium BCE. The town of Kahat was a religious centre in the kingdom of Mitanni.

Magical spells were an important part of religious practice. Rain rituals had a particularly important role. Hurrian magical practices are often very similar to Mesopotamian practices, which is also true of Hurrian divination practices, in which hepatoscopy played an important role.

See also


  1. ^ Piotr Taracha: Religions of Second Millennium Anatolia, (2009), p. 127
  2. ^ Piotr Taracha: Religions of Second Millennium Anatolia, (2009), p. 118
  3. ^ Marie-Claude Trémouille, "dḪebat. Une divinité syro-anatolienne." In: Eothen. 7, 1997, pp. 189f.
  4. ^ Piotr Taracha: Religions of Second Millennium Anatolia. (2009), p. 92
  5. ^ Güterbock, Hans Gustav: "Hittite Religion"; in Forgotten Religions: Including Some Living Primitive Religions (ed. Vergilius Ferm) (NY, Philosophical Library, 1950), pp. 88–89, 103–104
  6. ^ Suggested by Jane Lightfoot in the Times Literary Supplement 22 July 2005 p 27, in her account of Philippe Borgeaud, Mother of the Gods: from Cybele to the Virgin Mary, Johns Hopkins 2005 ISBN 0-8018-7985-X.


  • Emmanuel Laroche: "Teššub, Ḫebat et leur cour." Journal of Cuneiform Studies. Vol. 2, No. 2, 1948, pp. 113–136, doi:10.2307/1359380.
  • Piotr Taracha: Religions of Second Millennium Anatolia. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2009, ISBN 978-3-447-05885-8
  • Ilse Wegner: Hurritische Opferlisten aus hethitischen Festbeschreibungen. Teil 2: Texte für Teššub, Ḫebat und weitere Gottheiten (= Corpus der hurritischen Sprachdenkmäler. Abt. 1: Die Texte aus Boğazköy. Bd. 3). Multigrafica Editrice, Rom 2002, ISBN 88-87345-07-4.
Abrahamic religions

The Abrahamic religions, also referred to collectively as Abrahamism, are a group of Semitic-originated religious communities of faith that claim descent from the Judaism of the ancient Israelites and the worship of the God of Abraham. The Abrahamic religions are monotheistic, with the term deriving from the patriarch Abraham (a major biblical figure from the Old Testament, which is recognized by Jews, Christians, Muslims, and others).Abrahamic religion spread globally through Christianity being adopted by the Roman Empire in the 4th century and Islam by the Islamic Empires from the 7th century. Today the Abrahamic religions are one of the major divisions in comparative religion (along with Indian, Iranian, and East Asian religions). The major Abrahamic religions in chronological order of founding are Judaism (the base of the other two religions) in the 7th century BCE, Christianity in the 1st century CE, and Islam in the 7th century CE.

Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are the Abrahamic religions with the greatest numbers of adherents. Abrahamic religions with fewer adherents include the faiths descended from Yazdânism (the Yezidi, Yarsani faiths), Samaritanism, the Druze faith, Bábism, the Bahá'í Faith, and Rastafari.As of 2005, estimates classified 54% (3.6 billion people) of the world's population as adherents of an Abrahamic religion, about 32% as adherents of other religions, and 16% as adherents of no organized religion. Christianity claims 33% of the world's population, Islam has 21%, Judaism has 0.2% and the Bahá'í Faith represents around 0.1%.


Assyria (), also called the Assyrian Empire, was a Mesopotamian kingdom and empire of the ancient Near East and the Levant. It existed as a state from perhaps as early as the 25th century BC (in the form of the Assur city-state) until its collapse between 612 BC and 609 BC - spanning the periods of the Early to Middle Bronze Age through to the late Iron Age. From the end of the seventh century BC (when the Neo-Assyrian state fell) to the mid-seventh century AD, it survived as a geopolitical entity, for the most part ruled by foreign powers such as the Parthian and early Sasanian Empires between the mid-second century BC and late third century AD, the final part of which period saw Mesopotamia become a major centre of Syriac Christianity and the birthplace of the Church of the East.A largely Semitic-speaking realm, Assyria was centred on the Tigris in Upper Mesopotamia (modern northern Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and the northwestern fringes of Iran). The Assyrians came to rule powerful empires in several periods. Making up a substantial part of the greater Mesopotamian "cradle of civilization", which included Sumer, the Akkadian Empire, and Babylonia, Assyria reached the height of technological, scientific and cultural achievements for its time. At its peak, the Neo-Assyrian Empire of 911 to 609 BC stretched from Cyprus and the East Mediterranean to Iran, and from present-day Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus to the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt and eastern Libya.The name "Assyria" originates with the Assyrian state's original capital, the ancient city of Aššur, which dates to c. 2600 BC - originally one of a number of Akkadian-speaking city-states in Mesopotamia. In the 25th and 24th centuries BC, Assyrian kings were pastoral leaders. From the late 24th century BC, the Assyrians became subject to Sargon of Akkad, who united all the Akkadian- and Sumerian-speaking peoples of Mesopotamia under the Akkadian Empire, which lasted from c. 2334 BC to 2154 BC. After the Assyrian Empire fell from power, the greater remaining part of Assyria formed a geopolitical region and province of other empires, although between the mid-2nd century BC and late 3rd century AD a patchwork of small independent Assyrian kingdoms arose in the form of Assur, Adiabene, Osroene, Beth Nuhadra, Beth Garmai and Hatra.

The region of Assyria fell under the successive control of the Median Empire of 678 to 549 BC, the Achaemenid Empire of 550 to 330 BC, the Macedonian Empire (late 4th century BC), the Seleucid Empire of 312 to 63 BC, the Parthian Empire of 247 BC to 224 AD, the Roman Empire (from 116 to 118 AD) and the Sasanian Empire of 224 to 651 AD. The Arab Islamic conquest of the area in the mid-seventh century finally dissolved Assyria (Assuristan) as a single entity, after which the remnants of the Assyrian people (by now Christians) gradually became an ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious minority in the Assyrian homeland, surviving there to this day as an indigenous people of the region.

Hittite mythology and religion

Hittite mythology and Hittite religion were the religious beliefs and practices of the Hittites, who created an empire centered in what is now Turkey from c. 1600 BCE to 1180 BCE.

Most of the narratives embodying Hittite mythology are lost, and the elements that would give a balanced view of Hittite religion are lacking among the tablets recovered at the Hittite capital Hattusa and other Hittite sites. Thus, "there are no canonical scriptures, no theological disquisitions or discourses, no aids to private devotion". Some religious documents formed part of the corpus with which young scribes were trained, and have survived, most of them dating from the last several decades before the final burning of the sites. The scribes in the royal administration, some of whose archives survive, were a bureaucracy, organizing and maintaining royal responsibilities in areas that would be considered part of religion today: temple organization, cultic administration, reports of diviners, make up the main body of surviving texts.The understanding of Hittite mythology depends on readings of surviving stone carvings, deciphering of the iconology represented in seal stones, interpreting ground plans of temples: additionally, there are a few images of deities, for the Hittites often worshipped their gods through Huwasi stones, which represented deities and were treated as sacred objects. Gods were often depicted standing on the backs of their respective beasts, or may have been identifiable in their animal form.


The Hurrians (; cuneiform: 𒄷𒌨𒊑; transliteration: Ḫu-ur-ri; also called Hari, Khurrites, Hourri, Churri, Hurri or Hurriter) were a people of the Bronze Age Near East. They spoke a Hurro-Urartian language called Hurrian and lived in Anatolia and Northern Mesopotamia. The largest and most influential Hurrian nation was the kingdom of Mitanni, the Mitanni perhaps being Indo-Iranian speakers who formed a ruling class over the Hurrians. The population of the Indo-European-speaking Hittite Empire in Anatolia included a large population of Hurrians, and there is significant Hurrian influence in Hittite mythology. By the Early Iron Age, the Hurrians had been assimilated with other peoples. Their remnants were subdued by a related people that formed the state of Urartu. According to a hypothesis by I.M. Diakonoff and S. Starostin, the Hurrian and Urartian languages shared a common ancestor and were related to the Northeast Caucasian languages, however, this theory is controversial and not universally accepted. The present-day Armenians are an amalgam of the Indo-European groups with the Hurrians and Urartians.

List of religions and spiritual traditions

While religion is hard to define, one standard model of religion, used in religious studies courses, was proposed by Clifford Geertz, who defined it as a

[…] system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic."

A critique of Geertz's model by Talal Asad categorized religion as "an anthropological category." Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws, or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world.The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with "faith" or "belief system", but religion differs from private belief in that it has a public aspect. Most religions have organized behaviours, including clerical hierarchies, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, congregations of laity, regular meetings or services for the purposes of veneration of a deity or for prayer, holy places (either natural or architectural) or religious texts. Certain religions also have a sacred language often used in liturgical services. The practice of a religion may also include sermons, commemoration of the activities of a god or gods, sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trance, rituals, rites, ceremonies, worship, initiations, funerals, marriages, meditation, invocation, mediumship, music, art, dance, public service or other aspects of human culture. Religious beliefs have also been used to explain parapsychological phenomena such as out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences and reincarnation, along with many other paranormal and supernatural experiences.Some academics studying the subject have divided religions into three broad categories: world religions, a term which refers to transcultural, international faiths; indigenous religions, which refers to smaller, culture-specific or nation-specific religious groups; and new religious movements, which refers to recently developed faiths. One modern academic theory of religion, social constructionism, says that religion is a modern concept that suggests all spiritual practice and worship follows a model similar to the Abrahamic religions as an orientation system that helps to interpret reality and define human beings, and thus religion, as a concept, has been applied inappropriately to non-Western cultures that are not based upon such systems, or in which these systems are a substantially simpler construct.

Luwian religion

Luwian religion refers to the religious and mythological practices of the Luwians, an Indo-European people of Asia Minor which is detectable from the Bronze Age until the early Roman empire. It was strongly affected by foreign influence in all periods and it is not possible to clearly separate it from neighbouring cultures, particularly Syrian and Hurrian religion. The Indo-European element in the Luwian religion was stronger than in the neighbouring Hittite religion.

Religions of the ancient Near East

The religions of the ancient Near East were mostly polytheistic, with some examples of monolatry (for example, Yahwism and Atenism). Some scholars believe that the similarities between these religions indicate that the religions are related, a belief known as patternism.Many religions of the ancient near East and their offshoots can be traced to Proto-Semitic religion. Other religions in the ancient Near East include Ancient Egyptian religion, the Luwian and Hittite religions of Asia Minor and the Sumerian religion of ancient Mesopotamia. Offshoots of Proto-Semitic religion include Assyro-Babylonian religion, Canaanite religion, and Arabian religion. Judaism is a development of Canaanite religion, both Indo-European and Semitic religions influenced the ancient Greek religion, and Zoroastrianism was a product of ancient Indo-Iranian religion primarily the Ancient Iranian religion. In turn these religious traditions strongly influenced the later monotheistic religions of Christianity, Mandeanism, Sabianism, Gnosticism, Islam, and Manicheanism, which inherited their monotheism from Judaism and Zoroastrianism.

Uranus (mythology)

Uranus (; Ancient Greek Οὐρανός, Ouranos [oːranós] meaning "sky" or "heaven") was the primal Greek god personifying the sky and one of the Greek primordial deities. Uranus is associated with the Roman god Caelus. In Ancient Greek literature, Uranus or Father Sky was the son and husband of Gaia, Mother Earth. According to Hesiod's Theogony, Uranus was conceived by Gaia alone, but other sources cite Aether as his father. Uranus and Gaia were the parents of the first generation of Titans, and the ancestors of most of the Greek gods, but no cult addressed directly to Uranus survived into Classical times, and Uranus does not appear among the usual themes of Greek painted pottery. Elemental Earth, Sky, and Styx might be joined, however, in a solemn invocation in Homeric epic.


Yazdânism, or the Cult of Angels, is a proposed pre-Islamic, native religion of the Kurds. The term was introduced by Kurdish scholar Mehrdad Izady to represent what he considers the "original" religion of the Kurds.According to Izady, Yazdânism is now continued in the denominations of Yazidism, Yarsanism, and Ishik Alevism. The three traditions subsumed under the term Yazdânism are primarily practiced in relatively isolated communities; from Khurasan to Anatolia, and parts of western Iran.

The concept of Yazdânism has found a wide perception both within and beyond Kurdish nationalist discourses, but has been disputed by other recognized scholars of Iranian religions. Well established, however, are the "striking" and "unmistakable" similarities between the Yazidis and the Yaresan or Ahl-e Haqq, some of which can be traced back to elements of an ancient faith that was probably dominant among Western Iranians and likened to practices of pre-Zoroastrian Mithraic religion. Mehrdad Izady defines the Yazdanism as an ancient Hurrian religion and states that Mitanni could have introduced some of the Vedic tradition that appears to be manifest in Yazdanism.


Yazidis (also written as Yezidis) ( (listen) are a mostly Kurmanji–speaking ethnoreligious group, or an ethnic Kurdish minority indigenous to Iraq, Syria and Turkey who are strictly endogamous. A sizeable part of the autochthonous Yazidi population of Turkey fled the country for present-day Armenia and Georgia starting from the late 19th century. There are additional communities in Russia and Germany due to recent migration.Yazidis usually identify themselves as an ethnic group rather than Kurds. In Iraq, Armenia and Georgia, the Yazidis are recognized as an ethnic group. In Iraqi Kurdistan the Yazidis are considered ethnic Kurds and the autonomous region is highly critical of any move to recognize Yazidis as an ethnic group. The sole Yazidi parliamentarian in the Iraqi Parliament Vian Dakhil also stated her opposition to any move separating Yazidis from Kurds. Yazidis are also regarded as ethnic Kurds in Georgia.Historically, there have been Kurdish persecutions against Yazidis with the goal of converting Yazidis to Islam. The Yazidis were nearly wiped out by these massacres. Some Yazidi tribes converted to Islam and embraced the Kurdish identity.Some Yazidis use the glossonym Ezdiki for Kurmanji. According to these Yazidis, they are not the ones who speak the language of the Kurds but vice-versa. In Armenia, the language of the Yazidis (Ezdiki or Yazidi) is recognized as a national minority language. However, the attempts to separate from Ezdiki from Kurmanji are not based on scientific evidence.Their religion, Yazidism, is also called Sharfadin by Yazidis. It is a monotheistic religion and has elements of Ancient Mesopotamian religions and some similarities with Abrahamic religions such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Yazidism is not linked to Zoroastrianism. Yazidis who marry non-Yazidis are automatically considered to be converted to the religion of their spouse and therefore are not permitted to call themselves Yazidis. The Yazidis in Iraq live primarily in the Nineveh Province, part of the disputed territories of northern Iraq.Since 3 August 2014, the Yazidis became victims of an ongoing genocide by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in its campaign to rid Iraq and its neighbouring countries of non-Islamic influences.

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