Al-Lāt ​The Earth Mother of Arabic Mythology

Niina Pekantytär

Before the spread of Islam people in the Middle Eastern cultures worshipped multiple gods and goddesses. The neopagan practice of worshipping polytheist Arabic deities and spirits is known as wathanism. Arabic cultures are tribal cultures and each tribe had their own protector deity. People believed in the ancestral spirits and jinnis the spirit of certain places and areas. Arabic deities were personifications of certain social customs and phenomenons in nature.

Element: earth
Symbols: camel, lion, gazelle, white granite, barley and wheat
(Al-Lāt in Arabic اللات)

Al-Lāt was the goddess of plenty, abundance, farming, merchandise, growth and protector of life. She was one of the protector goddesses of the city of Mecca and the main goddess of Banu Thaqif tribe. The central place of her worship was located in the city of Ta´if. The Banu Thaqif owned a white granite cube which was the symbol of the goddess. Other tribes from the nearby areas; Banu Lihyan, Banu Hawazin, Banu Khuzaá and Banu Quraysh made frequent pilgrimages to the city to worship the goddess. People sacrificed porridge (sawiq) for her and small cakes made of wheat which the worshipers had prepared themselves. Animal symbols of the goddess varied depending on the location. Al-Lāt was worshipped nearly in every corner of the Arabian Peninsula all the way to southern Syria.

In the county of Hijaz in the western part of the Arabian Peninsula Al-Lāt was part of a group of three leading female goddesses, who were all daughters of the primal god Allāh. Al-Lāt was the goddess of the earth and she was in charge of the fertility of the land. She had different names such as Umm al-Alihah (mother of all gods) and Umm ash-Shams (mother of the sun goddess). Al-Lāt was also the protector of travellers. She was worshipped in temples called haram. In the city of Ta´if all life was considered sacred. It was forbidden to kill animals or people or pick or harvest plants.

For the members of Babu Thaqif tribe, Al-Lāt was a sacred goddess. Growth and the status of the tribe were completely connected to the crop. They grew barley, figs, dates and roses. The richness of the tribe and fertility of the land were considered to be gifts from the goddess. More food the land provided, higher became Al-Lāt´s status. She became the goddess of ultimate power.

There are several similar goddesses to Al-Lāt in the Arabian Peninsula. Names of these goddesses are based on Semitic languages and dialects. In Ta´if goddess was also known as ar-Rabbat (The Lady). For Himyars she was known as Athiratan or Ilāt, the mother of Athar. For Hadramites she was Ilāhatan and in Syria, the Arameans knew her as Elat. In Syria, she was known as Arsay and in Kanaan as Aretzaya. These names are derived from the Hebrew word ars, Aramean word arets and Arabic word ardh, all meaning “earth”. In Kanan and Syria, the goddess of the earth was the ruler of the spirits of the dead and she lived deep underground with them.

By the river Jordan, there was the tribe of Nabateans who worshipped Al-Lāt as the mother earth and as the mysterious lover of their protector god Dhu’l-Sharah, who was the god of growth and mountain rivers. Archaeologists have found gold and jewels from the temples of Al-Lāt and from the Syrian desert they´ve found pre-Islamic texts from the beguines where they prayed Al-Lāt to bring them good fortune, to protect people and to bring good weather.

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Folklorist and historian. Alcott essayist. A host of the Little Women Podcast.

Finland, MN

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