Attar is an ancient astral deity whose role, name, and even gender varied constantly by the multiple Semitic cultures.
Attar is a god of the morning star that is depicted as either male or female and was identified with the planet Venus. In pre-Islamic Southern Arabia, he was worshipped as a god of war. As a god of war, he was often referred to as "He who is Bold in Battle". The deity is also connected to the Hellenistic goddess Astarte and Babylonian goddess Ishtar. 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.
Powers and Abilities
In the Baal cycle, he plays a minor, though significant, role as one of Baal Hadad's rivals. Initially, he dreams of kingship, but is rebuked by the sun goddess Shapash, who informs him that he's unfit to rule (possibly in part because he doesn't have a consort) and El plans to make Yam the king. However, later Asherah makes him the king in place of the temporarily deceased Baal nonetheless. Shapash's comments from the earlier part of the myth turn out to be true, which is illustrated as Attar being too short to sit on Baal's throne. When Baal returns from the netherworld with Anat's help, Attar accepts defeat and leaves Mount Saphon to rule elsewhere.
He at one point attempted to usurp the throne of the god Hadad again for unknown reasons.
Myths and Legends
In Ugaritic mythology, he seems to be a male counterpart of Astarte (the western Semitic equivalent of Ishtar) and shares her character as a warrior deity. His title is "the strong one." While some translators suggest Attar then descends underground, this interpretation is not certain, and none of the other Ugaritic texts support it. In god lists he was equated with Aštabi, a war god from Hurrian and Eblaite texts.
In Arabia, Attar was regarded as a god of natural irrigation, in addition to his roles as an astral god and a divine warrior and protector. It's possible that in Yemen he had separate aspects representing the evening and morning star. His cultic role there was considerably greater than in bronze age Ugarit, as evidenced both by local inscriptions and a few references in Assyrian texts.
Like a number of other southern Arabian deities, he is mentioned in inscriptions from the Ethiopian Axum Empire, dating to around 200-400 AD. The Axumites worshiped him as a god of heaven and considered him a part of a trinity which also included the native gods Beher (Earth) and Mahrem (war). Earlier he was likely worshiped in Ethiopia alongside Arabian solar and lunar gods like Almaqah.
- In the text from the Mesha Stele, the national god of the Moabites, Chemosh, seems to be equated with Attar. Like him, Chemosh had a warlike character.
- In both genders, Attar is identified with the planet Venus, the morning and evening star, in some manifestations of Semitic mythology.
- Attar was worshipped in Southern Arabia in pre-Islamic times.