Ancient Arabian goddess al-Uzza

May 2017
1,201
Syria
From what we know of the pre-Islamic Arabian pantheon, al-Uzza was the youngest among the three chief goddesses of Mecca and later came to be identified with the Roman Venus and the Egyptian Isis. She's briefly mentioned in the Sura 53 of the Quran, and Ibn al-Kalbi who wrote the "Book of Idols" records her as a "she-devil" and mentions that she was identified with three trees.


Her later equation with Aphrodite-Venus may say that she was a love, lust and fertility goddess but her being mentioned as a stellar goddess by some sources as well as her name "Al-Uzza الُعزّى" (Ar: The Mightiness) can lead to some confusion.

So what was the nature of her worship and she was a goddess of what exactly?
 
Nov 2016
1,034
Germany
So what was the nature of her worship and she was a goddess of what exactly?
Al-Uzza is historically traceable back to the much older Mesopotamian goddesses Inanna and Ishtar, whereby the Akkadian-Babylonian Ishtar is herself a variation of Sumerian Inanna. Both of them were associated with sexuality and the vulva, what is also a symbol for goddess Al-Uzza who is associated with the Kaaba stone, an undeniable vulva representation (see below), since she represented fertility and sexuality. All three of them were also associated with Venus, the morning star, which is why Al-Uzza could be confused with Aphrodite who is traceable back to Ishtar and Inanna, too.

All of them were variations of the basic type ´Great Goddess´ which dominated pre-historic religions all around the world. Another examples are goddess Isis and her predecessors Hathor and Nut in Egypt as well as the goddesses Gaia and Hera in Greece.

Al-Uzza was mainly a fertility goddess as was Sumerian Inanna, while Ishtar was additionally venerated as war goddess due to the Akkadian fusion of Inanna with a Semitic war goddess, the result of which was Ishtar. The fertility competence of Inanna and Ishtar implied of course sexual activity, so both of them were closey connected to cultic sex rituals, as was the "Sacred Marriage", a ritual marriage of the king with the goddess with the purpose of legitimating the king by the goddess´s power.

In Arabia, the war aspect of Ishtar was attributed to Al-Uzza´s sister Al-Lat. Interestingly, Al-Lat can be traced back to the Sumerian goddess Ereshkigal, the sister of Inanna. Seen from this angle, Al-Lat is an echo of Ereshkigal and Al-Uzza an echo of Inanna, so both Arabian sisters echoed both Sumerian sisters.

Muhammad made sure that two of the trinity sisters, Al-Uzza and Manat, were eliminated, while Al-Lat, the war goddess, became masculinized and transformed into Allah.

What remains from Al-Uzza is only her vulva symbol, the Kaaba stone:

 
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Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
Ibn Al-Kalbi was wrting about a hundred years after the conversion of the Arabs to Islam, and his work was apparently only rediscovered in the 20th century. It becomes a question of the accuracy of his report on the pre-Islam religion, since by his time there may have been no living Arab pagan around, and I don't see much evidence that the pre-Islamic Arabs left much writing on their religious beliefs. I am curious of what Al-Kalbi's sources were, Did he rely on the memory of somemremaining pagans, or those who had been pagan at one time?

The Koran's references to the goddess are very brief, and wouldn't tell you much unless you already knew about the goddesses in the first place, being not much more than just a few names.
 
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Nov 2016
1,034
Germany
As to the source issue:

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Arabian-religion

Knowledge of pre-Islāmic Arabia rests mainly on original archaeological and epigraphic data from the region itself. Countless pre-Islāmic sites are scattered over the whole Arabian Peninsula: ancient lines of circles of raised stones, cairns, graveyards, and so on. In addition there are more recent constructions such as fortified towns and ruins of temples and irrigation systems. Many rock faces are covered with incised drawings. The oldest drawings, barely visible under a dark patina, date back to several millennia bc and provide evidence, for instance, of an ancient cult for the bull and the ostrich. These ancient drawings also depict queer ritual scenes that refer to a still obscure mythology. More explicit and much later (at least no earlier than the end of the 2nd millennium bc) are tens of thousands of alphabetic rock graffiti in ancient Arabian dialects, written in related local alphabets. These graffiti were clustered predominantly along the natural routes followed by nomads and caravaneers, as well as less numerous monumental inscriptions from the sites formerly occupied by a sedentary population.
The written graffiti are short inscriptions scratched on the rock. The author gives his name and his patronymic and/or his tribal affiliation and genealogy. Short messages, such as a description of an incident, a sad evocation of a dead relative, or an invocation to a god, may follow. Thanks to their considerable number, such texts, which may be rather insignificant in themselves, provide valuable information on the gods and their attributes and on their worshipers.
The monumental inscriptions are much more elaborate and meaningful, both because they belong to the complex institutions of a sedentary culture and because they appear in an archaeological context. They are carefully engraved, so that the state of evolution of the script allows them to be dated approximately, even when no explicit date is given. They are utilitarian in character and are usually concerned with the construction of buildings, the dedication of objects to a god, or arrangements relating to irrigation. They may also describe military campaigns. So far only traces of a true religious literature have been recovered. But several specimens of a hitherto unknown type of document, excavated since 1970 in Yemen, contradict the unilateral character of the inscriptions. These are records from private archives (personal letters, contracts, and so on), finely engraved in a cursive writing on small wooden sticks. Iconographic documents such as statues and reliefs, seals, and coins also reveal aspects of the religion.
Yet another source is the Muslim tradition. Next to the pre-Islāmic poetry, belatedly put into writing, it comprises the Qurʾān, the sacred book of the Muslims transmitted by its Prophet Muḥammad, which takes a stand against idolatry. Historical traditions have been transmitted by early Muslim annalists and geographers; more specific data on the ancient folklore and religion appear, for instance, in “The Book of the Idols” (Kitāb al-Aṣnām), by the Iraqi genealogist Ibn al-Kalbī (8th–9th century ad), and in “The Crown” (Al-Iklīl), by the Yemeni encyclopaedist and geographer al-Hamdānī (9th–10th century ad), which describes the pre-Islāmic antiquities of Yemen.
External sources are scanty: Arabia has remained little known to its neighbours. From the 9th to the 7th century bc Assyrian kings report their campaigns against North Arabian kings (or queens) and tribes and occasionally name their gods. The annals of Sargon for the year 718 bc and those of his son Sennacherib name two successive sovereigns of Sabaʾ who sent them a “tribute” of aromatics. The Book of Kings of the Bible describes the legendary visit in Jerusalem of a queen of Sheba, bringing presents of gold and frankincense, during the reign of Solomon (10th century bc). In the middle of the 6th century bc the Neo-Babylonian king Nabu-naʾid (Nabonidus) conquered the oasis of Taymāʾ in the Hejaz (Al-Ḥijāz). He boasts of having settled populations from Babylonia there and in neighbouring oases such as Dedān, Khaybar, and Yathrib (Medina), which are known to have been inhabited since ancient times by Jewish populations. It is quite probable that Jews of the Babylonian Exile were among those forced settlers and initiated at that time the Jewish presence in Arabia.
Some classical authors, from Herodotus (5th century bc) to Claudius Ptolemy (2nd century ad), provide information on the religion of the Arabs and on the geography of the Arabian Peninsula. Several Byzantine authors report conflicts between Jews and Christians in Yemen in the 6th century ad.
 
Jul 2017
842
Crete
I suspect her name is related too ἄλσις/Ἄλτις "growth, sacred trees"

In Phoenician, ἄλσ , through metathesis becomes ἄσλ/אשל
and אשר as in the name Ashereh [אשרה ], not to be confused
with Astoreth.

شجر/אשר
 
Nov 2016
1,034
Germany
I suspect her name is related too ἄλσις/Ἄλτις "growth, sacred trees"
There is surely no connection between Al-Uzza and the name ´Altis´ of the Sacred Grove in Olympia. It is true that the goddess was connected with a sacred grove south of Mecca which had been destroyed by Muhammad, but this is a pure coincidence. It´s further true that there was a Hera temple in the Greek grove named Altis, but there is no relevant connection between Hera and Al-Uzza which could indicate a relation of the name Al-Uzza with a grove where the Greek goddess was venerated. ´Uzza´ means definitely ´power, strength´, while ´altis´ comes from ´alsos´ (grove).
 
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Jul 2017
842
Crete
עצ - Tree
עג - She-Goat (fig. strength)
עזא - Uzza

This word appears in 2 Kings 21:26 " garden of Uzza"
read as κήπῳ Οζα in the Septuagint, obvious word play with Αἴγυπτος.

In Greek, αἴγ̀ is feminine, so happen to be the suffix of Αἰγύπτιος
as if the word is really αἴγ̀ ὕπτιος.

ὕπτιος "laid on one's back"
IV - of land, flat, horizontal,

Herodotus 2:7
Egypt is a wide land, all flat , watery and marshy.
Αἴγυπτος, ἐοῦσα πᾶσα ὑπτίη

Herodotus, The Histories, Book 2, chapter 7
Greek Word Study Tool
 
May 2017
1,201
Syria
There is surely no connection between Al-Uzza and the name ´Altis´ of the Sacred Grove in Olympia. It is true that the goddess was connected with a sacred grove south of Mecca which had been destroyed by Muhammad, but this is a pure coincidence. It´s further true that there was a Hera temple in the Greek grove named Altis, but there is no relevant connection between Hera and Al-Uzza which could indicate a relation of the name Al-Uzza with a grove where the Greek goddess was venerated. ´Uzza´ means definitely ´power, strength´, while ´altis´ comes from ´alsos´ (grove).
Yes, it's a linguistic coincidence more or less.´Uzza's عُزّى name is derived from the Arabic noun ´Izza عِزّة which as you said means power, strength, pride, dignity, the verb of which is عَزًّ and is seen in the words "´Azza wa Jalla عَزَّ وجل" which can be added after the name of "Allah الله" as praise to god literally meaning "Mighty and Supreme".

With that there it's undeniable there are similarities between Greek and Arabic but this simply is not one of them.
 
May 2017
1,201
Syria
Muhammad made sure that two of the trinity sisters, Al-Uzza and Manat, were eliminated, while Al-Lat, the war goddess, became masculinized and transformed into Allah.
I'm not so sure about that. In the context of etymology Allah is the masculine form of Allat (and vice versa), but Allah as a god literally being the masculine form of Allat is pretty doubtful. Allah is just the Arabic name for god, a contraction of al-Ilah الإله (Ar: The God) also used by Arabic speaking Christians, for example. Any influence of pagan deities over Allah is quite debatable; some claim he was a lunar deity (a fringe theory used by Evangelicals..) for that matter.
 
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Jul 2017
842
Crete
Yes, it's a linguistic coincidence more or less.´Uzza's عُزّى name is derived from the Arabic noun ´Izza عِزّة which as you said means power, strength, pride, dignity, the verb of which is عَزًّ and is seen in the words "´Azza wa Jalla عَزَّ وجل" which can be added after the name of "Allah الله" as praise to god literally meaning "Mighty and Supreme".

With that there it's undeniable there are similarities between Greek and Arabic but this simply is not one of them.
The word 'strength' describes something strong, such as bones and trees.

عظم (Eazam ) "Bone"

The Phoenician word is עצמ (Etsem), figuratively "strength/Mighty" and in Greek, ὀστέον (Osteon).

צ/ظ/στ - Strong
עצמ "Strong/Bone"
עצ "Tree"
עצ/σις/τις