With An and Enlil stands the third in the triad of most powerful deities, the goddess Ninhursaga, also known as Nintur, Ninmenna, Ninmah, Dingirmah, Aruru, and in Akkadian as Belit-ili, Mama, and numerous other names. How many of these names indicate aspects of the goddess that have taken on an identity of their own and how many represent other deities who have merged with Ninhursaga, it is difficult to say. The texts sometimes treat these names as designations of distinct deities, at other times they identify them as appellations of the same goddess.
Her original aspect is probably as the numinous power in the stony soil that rings the Mesopotamian alluvial ground: in the east, the foothills and near ranges of the Iranian mountains, in the west, the stony Arabian desert.
Ninhursaga means "Lady of the foothills".
Ninmah means "August Lady".
Mother of Wildlife
As goddess of the foothills and the stony desert Ninhursaga is specifically mother of the wild animals native to these regions; she loses them when they are killed by hunters or captured and tamed. To domestic animals, on the other hand, her territory may prove fatal if they stray.
She is the mother of man and the mother of the gods, and as Gudea once called her, "the mother of all children." This aspect is in many respects her central one, and may at one time have constituted a separate and independent deity.
Form Giver and Birth Giver
The name most frequently used for her in her character as mother and birth giver is Nintur, which may be translated "Lady birth hut." The element t u r is written with a sign which seems to have been originally the picture of the birth hut in the cattle pen to which cows were taken when they were ready to calve, and where, presumably, any weak or ill animal might be taken for care.
She is also called "The Lady of the womb" (belit re-e-me) and her emblem, shaped like the Greek letter omega, has been convincingly interpreted from Egyptian parallels as a representation of the uterus of a cow.
The power of the womb was specifically the power to make the embryo grow and give distinctive form to it. As such Nintur is called "Lady of form-giving".
Source of Kingship
The crowning achievement of the birth goddess was the birth of kings and lords. And she not only gives birth to them, she also has the power to confer on them their insignia of office.
Enki and Ninhursaga: A Paradise Myth
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