ʿAṯtar is an ancient Semitic deity whose role, name, and even gender varied by culture.
The name appears as Attar (Aramaic), Athtar (South Arabia), Astar (Abyssinia), Ashtar (Moab), Aṯtar (Ugarit) and Ištar in Mesopotamia. In both genders, Aṯtar is identified with the planet Venus, the morning and evening star, in some manifestations of Semitic mythology. In Ugaritic mythology Aṯtar succeeds to the throne of the dead god Baal Hadad but proves inadequate. In semi-arid regions of western Asia he was sometimes worshipped as a rain god. In more southerly regions he is probably known as Dhu-Samani.
Attar was worshipped in Southern Arabia in pre-Islamic times. A god of war, he was often referred to as "He who is Bold in Battle". One of his symbols was the spear-point and the antelope was his sacred animal. He had power over Venus, the morning star, and was believed to provide humankind with water.
In ancient times, Arabia shared the gods of Mesopotamia, being so close to Babylon, except the genders and symbols of these deities were later swapped around. For instance, the sun god Shamash became the sun goddess Shams, and in southern Arabia Ishtar became the male storm god Athtar. Athtar was a god of the thunderstorm, dispensing natural irrigation in the form of rain. Athtar also represented fertility and water as essential to fertility. When representing water he stood not just for the act of raining itself, but rather for the useful flow of the water after the rain, in the wadi, the Arabian watercourse which is dry except in the rainy season.
In popular culture
Attar appears as the demon Ashtar in Shin Megami Tensei II.
- Jordan, Michael (2002). Encyclopedia of Gods. Kyle Cathie Limited.
- Encyclopædia Britannica Online: Athtar (Arabian deity)
- Jewish Encyclopedia: Ashtoreth in Arabia
- A Who's Who of World Mythology: Athtar