Updated date:

Kubaba: Mother Goddess Endures Through the Ages

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects including education and creative writing.

from the Museum of Anatolian Civilization, Turkey

from the Museum of Anatolian Civilization, Turkey

Kubaba is a survivor among ancient deities. Once a part of the earliest known civilization in the world, the goddess dubbed “mother goddess” had been worshiped by several cultures for more than millennia. And, after all those years, her image managed to survive the test of time.

The British Museum has a freestanding basalt monument of the goddess that dates back to the Neo-Hittite era of 9th century BC. It survives fairly intact and shows the goddess holding a mirror and a pomegranate (symbols of magic and fertility, according the British Museum’s website).

However, while the image survived, the story behind her has been sketchy and fragmented. Speculations persist among scholars about the true role of the mother goddess. Even more revealing is the belief that Kubaba was more than just a mythological being; she may have been an actual queen.

And, if that wasn't surprising enough, she may have been the inspiration for goddesses throughout the ancient world. Mother goddess, it appears, is a mother to mythology as we've come to know them.

Later, after the fall of the Hurrians, the Hittites Empire (in present-day Turkey and Syria) adopted the goddess and gave her the name Kubaba. This happened around 1200 BC.

When She Went by the Name of Hepat

Kubaba’s history can be traced back to the days of the Hurrian culture of Northeast section of the Mesopotamian region (now present-day Northern Iraq and Southeast Turkey). Back then she was a goddess from the ancient city of Carchemish and was represented in the same fashion as the basalt monument. However, she went by the name of Hepat.

Later, after the fall of the Hurrians, the Hittites Empire (in present-day Turkey and Syria) adopted the goddess and gave her the name Kubaba. This happened around 1200 BC.

From history-world. Com ...expanse of the Hittite Empire

From history-world. Com ...expanse of the Hittite Empire

Not Your Average Queen

The source of the name has been contested by scholars over the years. Some believe the name and legend of Kubaba is directly related to Queen Kubaba of the city-state kingdom of Ur (Some sources claimed that it was the city-state of Kish in the Sumer Kingdom of Mesopotamian region). Historically, this queen – who was not a queen by birth or marriage – ruled as an absolute ruler.

Queen Kubaba’s ascension to power was unconventional. She didn’t come from a royal or aristocratic family. Instead, she was a tavern owner before taking power. While much of her past has been obscured, many sources claimed she was known as a "warrior queen," which meant she may have led armies into battle.

On top of all the scant information known about her, it is believed her reign of power became the stuff of legends.One unverified source claimed she ruled her kingdom for 100 years.

Queen Kubaba

Queen Kubaba

Inscriptions found on the basalt statue in the British Museum adds tantalizing evidence that Kubaba was a queen. Britishmuseum.org gave a translation from hieroglyphics written on the statue. In addition, it reveals that Kubaba had her own temple. Again it begs the question; was a goddess or a highly revered queen that took on a goddess status after her death?

The translation of the inscription says:

"Kubaba's temple [...] I built, I myself set up my statue in front. I subjected the Pinatean fortresses to Karkamiš and the devastated precincts I [(re)settl]ed.
[...] for Kubaba, Queen of Karkamiš, I Kamanis the ruler made an honoured precinct.
Kings and ... lords will come in to pray to her, for [her/me] they will proclaim [me/her] the [...]ed.
(He) who shall come against this divinity with malice, or if she shall pass down to (one) who shall...,
and shall not do [good to the] house of Kamanis, or who shall not listen to these words, against him may Kubaba of 100 KISTARA's litigate, and for him [may she] ... [."

The Various Aliases

Still, the connection between the historical Kubaba and the goddess is inconclusive. What is known is that the Mother Goddess was found in later cultures under different names. Eventually, the kingdom of Phrygia in central Anatolia (modern Turkey) adopted her as their mother goddess. She was known as Cybebe (more on that later).

The Greco-Roman civilization also adopted Kubaba as a mother goddess. Here, she received several names including Artemis Perasia and eventually Cybele (as the Romans knew her. Her image was moved to the Palatium in Rome in 204 BC).

Cybele in Ancient Feminine Wisdom by Kay Stevenson&Brian Clark

Cybele in Ancient Feminine Wisdom by Kay Stevenson&Brian Clark

Kubaba as Cybele

Although the myth surrounding Kubaba is sketchy, incomplete or often confused with the historical Kubaba, her other incarnation, Cybele (sometimes referred to as Kybele), ended up become a blueprint for -- as well as a part of -- Greek and Roman mythology’s pantheon of goddess.

She too had origins from a place outside of Greek mythology. Later, as the Greek influence expanded, Cybele was conflated with another Greek goddess known as Rhea.

If goddess Kubaba has a direct link to Cybele (and Rhea), then the following information can shed some light on her place among the gods.Cybele was:

• the daughter of Sky-God and Goddess (similar or possibly Zeus and Gaia).

• Mother of the gods and mountains

• Resides in Mount Cybele (similar to Mount Olympus)

Is this a true representation of Kubaba the goddess? At this time, the ancient goddess is so ancient that it appears she may have been the model or a "relic" passed down from one society to the next.

The Greco-Roman civilization also adopted Kubaba as a mother goddess. Here, she received several names including Artemis Perasia and eventually Cybele -- as the Romans knew her...

The Legacy of a Goddess and Possible Queen

Today, statues, busts and relics that bear her image or name are being unearthed. Most are either dedicated to the real Kubaba, while others are representations of the goddess.

Still, Kubaba represents something unique in ancient history and mythology. She is a goddess that managed to survive the test of time as a viable deity for several cultures, despite all the name changes. A good mother will always be a mother to her child. This mother goddess was a mother to a lot of children of ancient history.

kubaba-mother-goddess-endures-through-the-ages

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Dean Traylor

Comments

Dean Traylor (author) from Southern California/Spokane, Washington (long story) on September 03, 2019:

major update to this story of a very complex deity of ancient mythologies.