Elamite religion

What little we know about religion elamite transports us to a world of strange shapes and names: Shoumoudou, Lagamar, Partikira, Ammankasibar, Oudourân, Shapak, Aîpaksina, Bilala, Panintimri, Kindakarpou. But the Elamite civilization was closely related to that of the country of Sumer and everything suggests that it identified itself almost entirely with it in religious terms. 

Elamite Religion

In the absence of a community of origin, this close analogy is easily explained by simple neighborhood relations. As with the Sumerians, the early religion of the Elamites was naturalistic in character. People worshiped trees, plants, rocks, animals. The stars also had their place in this adoration. The figured monuments of Susiane have preserved for us multiple representations of stars, plants, birds, animals, particularly caprids, which seem to have played, as divinities of vegetation, a role analogous to that which, in the Mesopotamian plain, was devolved to the bull.

Serpents, especially entwined serpents, eagles with outstretched wings frequently come up as symbols or attributes of divinity. Among these attributes, the mere representation of which suffices in primitive ages to evoke in the faithful the idea of the god, we must mention a triangular spearhead mounted on a stem. We agree to see it as a representation of the distinctive weapon of Marduk, the marrou, or fed up.

The second stage in the representation of the gods is marked, in Elam as in Sumer, by the appearance of zoomorphic lion gods with human heads mainly. This form will remain later, reserved then for the lower geniuses.

With the anthropomorphic conception, which crowns this evolution, the gods finally lose their anonymity, without our being, however, much more informed about their nature, their character and their attributions.

The main deity of the Elamites was In-Shoushinak, "the Susian", who was not only, as his name seems to indicate, the proper god of Susa, but was also considered the "Sovereign of the gods", the " Master of heaven and earth the Builder of the universe”. These are the titles given in Babylonia to the supreme gods. It should be noted that the name that the god bears is simply a qualifier of origin and in no way an individual name.

It is likely that the Elamites did not want to reveal the true name of their god, which remained "the ineffable". This scruple is also found among the Akkadians, who designated their supreme god by the name of Bel, "lord", and among the Syro-Phoenicians, whose Baal also means "master".

It is therefore quite difficult to identify In-Shoushinak exactly. We generally agree to see in him the Elamite equivalent of Nin-Ourta, “the champion of the celestial gods or even of Adad, the god of lightning and storms. Let us not forget that these two divinities, besides their terrible aspect, were also regarded as the gods of the rain which fertilizes and of the beneficial flood, consequently as gods of fertility. In-Shoushinak was no doubt also to unite this dual nature.

elamite religion

Among the other divinities which people the Elamite pantheon and for which we are constrained to a simple enumeration, because we know little but their names, we can cite the goddess Kiririsha, the sovereign goddess; her husband was the god Khumban, who is identified with the Babylonian Marduk.

We also find Lagamal, qualified as the son of Ea; Nah-Hounté (or Nakhounta), the sun, who, like Shamash, was both the god of light and that of justice; Teshoup, god of the storm, who was moreover adored throughout Western Asia; Narouti, whom we only know from an offering presented to him by the ishakkou of Susa; Arkhou, deity of vannic origin.

To these national divinities were added, thereafter, the gods and goddesses of the countries of Sumer and Akkad, who were imposed on Elam, when this country underwent the hegemony of the sovereigns of Agade (Akkad), of Ur and Lagash, or which, on the contrary, were freely introduced, when the Elamites extended their domination over Babylonia. 

These contributions completed the assimilation of the Elamite religion and the Assyro-Babylonian religion, which henceforth comprised the same beliefs and the same practices.