Ishtar has become a powerful representation of all the aspects of a woman/goddess, as she emerged from a combination of other divinities. Maid, mother, crone, and wanton, she is a symbol of all possibilities of woman.
She is in the Bible as Ashtoreth, Anath, Asherah, or Esther, the Queen of Heaven. Ishtar is the virgin warrior, withholding her essence, never submitting. She is the benevolent mother, and the wise old woman. She was also called the Great Whore and the Mother of Harlots, and the Goddess Har, the compassionate prostitute. Men communed with her through sexual rites with her priestesses.
Babylonian scriptures called her the Light of the World, Leader of Hosts, Opener of the Womb, Righteous Judge, Lawgiver, Goddess of Goddesses, Bestower of Strength, Framer of All Decrees, Lady of Victory, and Forgiver of Sins. Much of the liturgical flattery addressed to God in the Old Testament was taken from Babylonian prayers to Ishtar:
Who dost make the green herb to spring up, mistress of mankind! Who hast created everything, who dost guide aright all creatures! Mother Ishtar, whose power no god can approach! A prayer will I utter; may she do unto me what seems good unto her...O my mistress, make me to know my deed, establish for me a place of rest! Absolve my sins, lift up my face!
Ishtar went to the underworld to rescue her son-lover Tammuz. As she went to the hell queen/death goddess, Eresh-kigal (Eriskegal), she came to seven gatekeepers. They did not want to allow Ishtar entry, so she said to them, "If thou openest not the gate so that I cannot enter, I will smash the door, I will shatter the bolt, I will smash the doorpost, I will move the doors, I will raise up the dead, eating the living, so that the dead will outnumber the living." As she passed through the seven gates, she had to give up her jewels and clothing as she descended, so that she stood naked before Eresh-kigal. The Descent into Hell took three days. During this time there was sterility and a suspension of sexual activities over the whole earth. It culminated in the Day of Joy, when Tammuz was returned to life, which began the new year.
Ishtar ruled the moon, and the morning and evening stars. The stars were a symbol to the people of the Tigris and Euphrates of the alternately warlike and lustful energies of the feminine. As the morning star, Dilbah, she was armored and hitched her chariot to seven lions before setting off in the dawn to hunt animals or humans. As the evening star, Zib, she was served by promiscuous temple women who adored the "glad-eyed Ishtar of desire, the goddess of sighing," the one "who turns the male to the female, and the female to the male," the goddess "whose song is sweeter than honey and wine, sweeter than sprouts and herbs, superior even to pure cream."
Like the Old Testament God, Ishtar was the Mighty One, winner of battles and over-thrower of mountains. She said:
In the brilliant heavens, to give omens in abundance, I appear, I appear in perfection. With exultation in my supremacy, with exultation do I, a Goddess, walk supreme; Ishtar, the Goddess of evening, am I; Ishtar, the Goddess of morning, am I; Ishtar, who opens the portals of heaven, in my supremacy. The mountain I sweep away altogether, in my supremacy. The great wall of the mountain am I, their great foundation am I, their great foundation am I, in my supremacy.