The Hurrian religion was the polytheistic religion of the Hurrians, a Bronze Age people of the Near East. These people settled over a wide area, so there were differences between them, especially between the eastern Hurrians around Nuzi and Arrapha and the western Hurrians in Syria and Anatolia. From the 14th century BC, the Hurrian religion had a powerful influence on the Hittite religion and the Hurrian pantheon is depicted in the 13th century rock reliefs at the important Hittite sanctuary at Yazılıkaya.
There is a lot of evidence for Hurrian religion and its regional differences. The oldest evidence comes from Urkesh and dates to the 3rd millennium BC.
Among the richest sources, is the material from the Hittite archives of the Hittite capital of Hattusa, which is partially composed of Hurrian language texts and partially of Hurrian works translated into the Hittite language. Several Hurrian ritual texts survive from Ugarit, written in the Ugaritic alphabet, which are mostly lists of gods. The Amarna letters from King Tushratta of Mitanni and the treaty documents provide evidence about the Hurrian-influenced religion practiced among the Mitanni. The archives of individual Syrian cities, like Emar, Mari and Alalakh, also contain Hurrian texts. The evidence from eastern Hurrians is very different and texts only provide evidence for civic pantheons.
The Hurrians worshipped a great number of gods derived from various different cultures, especially Mesopotamia and Syria. Many gods were syncretised with Mesopotamian and Syrian deities over time; for example, Šauška was identified with Ishtar of Nineveh, Teššub with the Weather god of Aleppo, Kušuḫ with the moon god Sîn von Ḫarran and the Sun god Šimige with Šamaš of Sippar. This syncretism also embraced the native partners of the gods, like the Syrian Ḫebat as wife of Teššub among the western Hurrians, Nikkal as wife of the moon god, and Aya as wife of the sun god.
The chief god of the Hurrians was the weather god Teššub. All of the Hurrians also worshiped Šauška, god of love and war, the fertility-god Kumarbi, the moon god Kušuḫ and the sun god Šimige. Only the western Hurrians worshipped Ḫebat and her son Šarruma, who were of Syrian origin. Other important deities were the mother goddesses Ḫudena Ḫudellura, the Syrian oath-goddess Išḫara and Kubaba, as well as the Mesopotamian god of wisdom, Ea (Eya-šarri), and the death god Ugur.
At least among the western Hurrians, the gods were divided into male and female groups, as is clear in the kaluti lists from Hattusa. The male gods (enna turroḫena) were led by Teššub in his various manifestations, while the female gods (enna aštoḫena) were led by Ḫebat and her children. The order of the gods and goddesses in these lists is not entirely fixed, but lists of gods from Hattusa and Ugarit show clear similarities. Also, the presence of groups of gods, especially the father gods (enna attenevena) is shared in these lists. No similar lists of gods are known from the eastern Hurrian area.
The Hurrians produced literary accounts of their myths, in which Mesopotamian and Syrian influences are clear. The most important myths form the Kumarbi Cycle, which parallels the Ugaritic Baal Cycle, which recounts how the Ugaritic weathergod Baal became the ruler of the gods. Similarly, the Kumarbi Cycle recounts how Teššub gained his power and made it firm (thus some scholars refer to it as the Teššub Cycle). The cycle begins with the "kingship of Heaven" myth, in which a succession of kings of the gods (Alalu, Anu and Kumarbi) and their battles are quickly described, before recording the conception and birth of Teššub. The following myths recount how Kumarbi generates ever more powerful opponents to destroy Teššub. These include Ušḫuni ("silver"), the water dragon Ḫedammu, and finally the rock monster Ullikummi. There is also the myth of the guardian god, who is temporarily installed as the king of the gods, but neglects the divine offerings. Unfortunately, most of the myths are only transmitted as fragments.
This cycle may have been a source of the myths about the Greek gods recounted in Hesiod's Theogony. The castration of Uranus by Cronus may be derived from the castration of Anu by Kumarbi, while Zeus's overthrow of Cronus and Cronus's regurgitation of the swallowed gods is like the Hurrian myth of Teshub and Kumarbi. It has also been argued that the worship of Attis drew on Hurrian myth.
In addition to the myths, there are also narratives and legends, like the history of Appu and his two sons, "Wrong" and "Right", and the account of the Sun god and the cow. In both legends, the Sun god appears as a young man. There are traces of heroic epics among this category.
The Hurrians treated Earth and Heaven as gods (eše ḫavurne), but they were not depicted as anthropomorphic deities. Since creation, they had rested on the shoulders of the giant Ubelluri who is also meant to have separated Earth and Heaven from one another with a copper sickel. In the reliefs of Yazılıkaya two bull-men are depicted standing on the Earth, holding up the heavens.
The dead went to the Underworld, which was ruled by the goddess Allani. The Underworld also housed the "lower gods" (enna turena). The Hurrian gods made offerings to these chthonic powers, which they placed in offering pits (abi) dug in the Earth. The ancestors were also given offerings in this way.
The Hurrians built sanctuaries and temples where they worshipped their deities. They deified cult implements, like the incense burners and the offering dishes, as well as divine symbols like the weapons of Teššub and the bed of Ḫebat. Images of the gods were cleaned, anointed, and dressed. A well-attested example of western Hurrian ritual (mixed with Luwian religion) is the Hittite Išuwa festival. The Hurrian gods do not appear to have had particular "home temples", like in the Mesopotamian religion or Ancient Egyptian religion. Some important cult centres were Kummanni in Kizzuwatna, and Hittite Yazilikaya. Harran was at least later a religious centre for the moon god, and Shauskha had an important temple in Nineve, when the city was under Hurrian rule. A temple of Nergal was built in Urkesh in the late third millennium BCE. The town of Kahat was a religious centre in the kingdom of Mitanni.
Magical spells were an important part of religious practice. Rain rituals had a particularly important role. Hurrian magical practices are often very similar to Mesopotamian practices, which is also true of Hurrian divination practices, in which hepatoscopy played an important role.
- Piotr Taracha: Religions of Second Millennium Anatolia, (2009), p. 127
- Piotr Taracha: Religions of Second Millennium Anatolia, (2009), p. 118
- Marie-Claude Trémouille, "dḪebat. Une divinité syro-anatolienne." In: Eothen. 7, 1997, pp. 189f.
- Piotr Taracha: Religions of Second Millennium Anatolia. (2009), p. 92
- Güterbock, Hans Gustav: "Hittite Religion"; in Forgotten Religions: Including Some Living Primitive Religions (ed. Vergilius Ferm) (NY, Philosophical Library, 1950), pp. 88–89, 103–104
- Suggested by Jane Lightfoot in the Times Literary Supplement 22 July 2005 p 27, in her account of Philippe Borgeaud, Mother of the Gods: from Cybele to the Virgin Mary, Johns Hopkins 2005 ISBN 0-8018-7985-X.
- Emmanuel Laroche: "Teššub, Ḫebat et leur cour." Journal of Cuneiform Studies. Vol. 2, No. 2, 1948, pp. 113–136, doi:10.2307/1359380.
- Piotr Taracha: Religions of Second Millennium Anatolia. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2009, ISBN 978-3-447-05885-8
- Ilse Wegner: Hurritische Opferlisten aus hethitischen Festbeschreibungen. Teil 2: Texte für Teššub, Ḫebat und weitere Gottheiten (= Corpus der hurritischen Sprachdenkmäler. Abt. 1: Die Texte aus Boğazköy. Bd. 3). Multigrafica Editrice, Rom 2002, ISBN 88-87345-07-4.