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Go Back   Spiritual Forums > Religions & Faiths > Paganism

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Old 06-05-2021, 02:22 PM
NoOne NoOne is offline
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A bit of Syncretism

Like most polytheists, I get excited by the possibilities inherent in Syncretism. This obviously isn’t an exact science, but it is always fun to try and figure out, how the cult of a particular deity may have spread in the ancient world and even in modern times. Inana has been my personal deity for almost a decade, so for this reason, I am particularly interested in how the 4000 BC cult of Inana may have spread and morphed over the millennia. Her transformation / syncretisation into Aphrodite as her cult spread West, by way of Phoenicia and Cyprus is well documented and not very controversial at all. Less is known however about her journey to the East, even though there are several clues in the archeological record. Right now, it would appear, that the Bactrian goddess Nana was a direct descendant and from her cult, we get Bibi Nani, also known as Nana Devi, who is still worshipped today, both by Hindus and Muslims, in the borderlands of Pakistan and Afghanistan. From here, her cult appears to have spread into the Indus Valley, eventually morphing into Durga Devi, one of the great goddesses of Hinduism and Shiva’s female counterpart.

D.T. Potts has this to say on the matter, in the 2001 paper, Silk Road Art & Archaeology - Nana in Bactria:

“Nana also figures in the Hindu cult of Siva, especially as Siva’s spouse, Durga, ‘in her role of Mahisasuramardini, slayer of the Buffalo Demon’ who is often represented “riding on her lion while stabbing or decapitating a buffalo’. The possibilities for conflation with Durga are particularly tempting, given the fact, that on Kushan coinage, Nana sometimes ‘appears with Oesho (Siva) as her consort’ and the lion-riding goddesses of some 7th century A.D. silver bowls from Choresmia ‘may be related to Nana or Durga’. “

Available at:
https://www.academia.edu/1902098/Potts_2001_Silk_Road_Art_and_Archaeology_Nana_in_B actria

The other side of the equation is Nana’s descent from Inanna.
This is what Jan N. Bremmer has to say in the matter in his book, the Strange world of Human Sacrifice:

“ A lion-escorted martial goddess imported from the Near East is depicted … she apparently kept her Sumerian name Nana(ya) for two Millennia as her counterpart worshipped in Kushana times was so called and is still worshipped in Afghanistan even nowadays as ‘Bibi Nanni”. This BMAC culture interacted with the Indus civilization … Vedic texts know Vac as a goddess of War identified with the lioness… “

Available at:

https://books.google.hu/books?id=0tPjVJF8roYC&pg=PA176&redir_esc=y#v=onepa ge&q&f=false

The matter of whether Nana is descended from Inana is not that clear-cut and there is some scholarly debate that is still ongoing, with some suggesting she was an entirely separate Sumerian goddess from Uruk under that name and not the same goddess. Nevertheless, this isn’t a settled matter and we should probably treat it as an important clue in how the cult of the great Warrior Goddess may have influenced current expressions of polytheism. It must be noted, that some of the sexual rites originally associated with the cult of Inana are still practiced today in India, under the guise of Shaktism and Tantra, with a particular emphasis on temple prostitution.

The trail doesn’t stop there either, as the cult of Durga has also spread further east and it is believed that some Buddhist and Tantric goddesses were descended from Durga, with various forms of Tara in particular, singled out as likely influences.


Update:
I found the following articles from Salman Rashid, a travel writer and a fellow of the Royal Society:

http://odysseuslahori.blogspot.com/2...a-to-nani.html

http://odysseuslahori.blogspot.com/2...bibi-nani.html

They provide more detail on the Background of the current cult of (I)Nana as it exists in remote Balochistan. It would seem that Nana Devi has been officially incorporated into both Islam and Shaktism, in the latter case, she is considered to be one of the 51 official forms of the (Great) Goddess, that is worshipped by hundreds of millions all over the region.

Last edited by NoOne : 07-05-2021 at 09:28 AM.
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Old 07-05-2021, 07:24 AM
Altair Altair is offline
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I've always found it an interesting similarity.. the goddess riding a big cat (either a lion or tiger). Love the imagery..

It doesn't appear too (geographically) controversial to suggest there was some contact between Sumer and Indus Valley civilizations..

What I like to ponder about is whether the beliefs spread from one place to another, or whether they develop naturally in different places, with people having belief in fertility goddess, love goddess, knowledge god, etc.

Does it have to ''travel around'' or does it occur in different places because they're all humans, in the same world with similar associations?
The latter would tie in with what Jung said about archetypes. (Of course, both could be true as well, in practice).
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Old 07-05-2021, 08:45 AM
Altair Altair is offline
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'' A lion-escorted martial goddess imported from the Near East is depicted … she apparently kept her Sumerian name Nana(ya) for two Millennia as her counterpart worshipped in Kushana times was so called and is still worshipped in Afghanistan even nowadays as ‘Bibi Nanni”. This BMAC culture interacted with the Indus civilization … Vedic texts know Vac as a goddess of War identified with the lioness…''

I read over this. There is also Narasimha (a male lion), an incarnation of Vishnu..
Interesting similarity in language, the ''Na..'' Did India borrow it from Sumer?

Edit: ''Nara'' means man, so maybe forget it then. Similarity could be accidental.
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Old 07-05-2021, 09:39 AM
NoOne NoOne is offline
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Hi Altair,

It's an interesting phenomenon, the way cults and deities travel from one part of the world to another. I've updated the OP with some further supporting articles. It would seem that Bactrian Kings sacked a Sumerian city, most likely Ur or Uruk and stole the idol of (I)Nana from the Sumerians, which was considered to be a living statue of the Goddess and was venerated accordingly. Sumerians considered it a priority to get it back from the Bactrians for centuries, until they launched a successful war and returned it to Mesopotamia under much pomp and circumstance. However, the cult of (I)Nana continued in the region and is still alive in this remote valley in Balochistan, which lies at the crossroads of the trade routes between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley.

As the articles state, Nana Devi or Bibi Nani, is officially part of both Hinduism and Islam. In the former case, she is considered one of the official 51 forms of the Goddess, as worshipped in Shaktism. It also seems very likely, that she was the oldest and original form of Durga, going back to the Harappan civilisation, that had close trade links with Sumer and Bactria.

To me, all forms of the Goddess are sacred, but Inanna seems to be one of the oldest and most influential.
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