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Most Popular Hittite Gods: Top Deities to Discover Today

Most Popular Hittite Gods: Top Deities to Discover Today

The Hittite civilization, which flourished between 1600 and 1180 BC, had a rich and diverse pantheon of gods and goddesses. These deities played significant roles in the religious beliefs and practices of the Hittites, whose empire was centered in what is now modern-day Turkey. Among the many gods in Hittite mythology, a few stand out as particularly popular and powerful.

Tarhun, king of the gods, was a prominent figure in Hittite mythology. Known as the storm god, Tarhun was often depicted wielding a triple thunderbolt and held significant influence over the forces of nature. The sun goddess Arinna was another important deity, associated with fertility, warmth, and light; she was considered the primary female divine power for the Hittites.

In addition to these two central figures, the goddess Inara, protector of wild animals and patroness of the hunt, held considerable sway in Hittite religion. Understanding the most popular deities in Hittite mythology offers insight into the values and cultural practices of this ancient civilization, revealing a world where nature, fertility, and power played essential roles in the lives of the people.

Main Hittite Deities

Weather God Tarhunt

Tarhunt was the Hittite weather god and king of the gods. He was associated with storms, thunder, and lightning, and played a significant role in Hittite mythology. As a central figure, Tarhunt was highly revered and invoked for various rituals and ceremonies.

Sun Goddess of Arinna

The Sun Goddess of Arinna, also known as Wurusemu, was a prominent Hittite deity. She was the patron goddess of the Hittite Empire and was believed to be the chief consort of the weather god Tarhunt. The Sun Goddess of Arinna was symbolically represented as a solar disc and her cult was mostly centered in the city of Arinna.

Storm God Teshub

Teshub or Tesup was a Hittite storm god, similar to Tarhunt but with a more specific association with storms and winds. He played a key role in the Illuyanka myth, a story that reflects the ongoing struggle between chaos and order. Teshub was often depicted standing on a bull, symbolizing his strength and connection to fertility.

Supreme Goddess Hepat

Hepat was the Hittite supreme goddess and the wife of Teshub. She was associated with fertility and motherhood, embodying the nurturing aspects of the environment. Hepat was often represented as a powerful and protective mother-goddess figure, with features reminiscent of earlier matrilineal societies.

Secondary Hittite Gods

God of Wisdom Elkunirsa

Elkunirsa, known for his wisdom, was a significant god in Hittite mythology. He was often seen as the deity responsible for imparting knowledge and guiding humanity. Elkunirsa shared a close relationship with his wife, the goddess Asherah.

Moon God Kaskuh

The Moon God Kaskuh was widely worshipped among the Hittites. As a celestial deity, Kaskuh played a crucial role in influencing the cycles of nature and the passage of time. Emphasizing his importance, the Hittites revered Kaskuh for his ability to control the phases of the moon.

Goddess of Fertility Shaushka

Shaushka, the resplendent goddess of fertility, was associated with the essential aspects of life, including love, beauty, and war. This multifaceted deity held a special place in the hearts of worshippers, bestowing blessings upon those seeking prosperity and happiness. To honor Shaushka, Hittite people would conduct ceremonies and bring offerings, hoping to gain her favor.

Symbols and Iconography

The Hittite pantheon featured a rich assortment of gods and goddesses, each with their own distinct symbols and iconography. One of the most popular deities was the Weather God Teshub, borrowed from the Hurrian pantheon. Teshub was known for carrying a triple thunderbolt as a symbol of his power, and he was often depicted riding a bull.

Kubaba (Cybele), originally a local Anatolian goddess, also held an important position in Hittite mythology. As her influence grew, she became a vital component of the Hittite pantheon. Kubaba was often represented with a turreted crown, symbolizing her role as a protector and mother goddess.

To represent their deities, the Hittites used various mediums such as stone carvings, seal stones, and ground plans for temples. A unique practice in Hittite worship involved the use of Huwasi stones, which represented the different gods and goddesses. This cultural practice showcased the Hittites’ respect and reverence for their divine beings, while also reflecting their strong connection to the natural environment.

Worship and Religious Practices

Temple Rituals

Temples were central to Hittite religious life, serving as the focal point for worship, offerings, and divine communication. Priests and priestesses maintained the temples and performed the necessary rituals to honor the gods. The Hittites consulted oracles to seek guidance and wisdom from the gods.

Festivals and Celebrations

The religion of the Hittite people was primarily concerned with ensuring the favor of the local deity, often a fertility god controlling the weather. Festivals and celebrations played an important role in honoring these gods and their families, including the mother-goddess. This aspect of Hittite religious practices suggests the influence of an early matrilineal society.

Mythology and Legends

The Hittite civilization, centered in what is now Turkey (1600-1180 BC), had a rich and complex mythology. They absorbed elements from surrounding cultures in the region of Anatolia, resulting in a diverse tapestry of beliefs. Tarhun, the king of the gods, held a significant place in their pantheon.

The weather and fertility god, Tarhun, was often accompanied by his wife, a mother-goddess. The mother-goddess figure suggests an early matrilineal society in the Hittite culture. The duo formed the backbone of Hittite religion and were crucial for their societal balance and harmony.

In addition to Tarhun and his consort, two other important deities were Arinna and Inara. Arinna, the sun goddess, held immense power in Hittite culture. Inara, the goddess of wild animals and the hunt, was also an influential figure. These gods and goddesses were central to Hittite rituals and daily life.

Aside from these major gods, the Hittite pantheon had numerous other deities who played essential roles in various aspects of their society. Some of them include:

  • Telipinu: god of agriculture
  • Teshub: storm god
  • Ugur: god of fields
  • Wurunkatte: god of war

The Hittite mythology and legends continue to captivate researchers and enthusiasts alike, offering a window into the fascinating world of their ancient civilization.

Cultural Influence

The Hittite civilization, active between the 17th and 12th centuries BCE, had a significant cultural impact in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey). As an Indo-European people, the Hittites absorbed elements from surrounding cultures, creating a diverse and rich tapestry of beliefs and practices. This cultural amalgamation is evident in their pantheon, which featured gods from various origins.

In their mythology, Hittite gods had counterparts or shared attributes with Mesopotamian, Hurrian, and Luwian deities. The Hittites worshipped storm gods, reflecting their significance and influence in the region. The incorporation of neighboring beliefs allowed the Hittites to seamlessly integrate and interact with the cultures they encountered.

Some notable Hittite gods include:

  • Tarhunt – The chief storm god of the Hittite pantheon, who shares similarities with the Hurrian god Teshub and Mesopotamian god Hadad.
  • Arinna – The sun goddess, wife of Tarhunt, and patroness of the Hittite realm. She is associated with the Hurrian goddess Hebat and the Luwian sun goddess Tiwananna.
  • Kumarbi – The father of the gods, with parallels to the Sumerian god Enlil and the Mesopotamian god Anu.

These deities and their stories strongly affected the cultural identity of the Hittite civilization. Their adoption and adaptation of various religious practices helped shape their mythology, which in turn influenced their art, architecture, and daily life.