Patron goddess of Girsu and the city-state of Lagaš. Beginning in the second millennium BCE she became known as a healing goddess.
Baba's functions are unclear. Her most prominent role is that of Ningirsu's wife. She is called the "good" or "beautiful woman" and she is often invoked as a protective or guarding spirit (dlama sa6-ga "beautiful guardian"). After her syncretism (see below), she became a healing goddess and continued to be worshipped as such.
During the late third millennium Baba was considered to be a daughter of the god An, but her divine genealogy before then is unclear. She was married to Ningirsu, the main god of the pantheon of the city-state of Lagaš. At the city of Kiš, Baba was considered to be the wife of the god Zababa.
Baba's and Ningirsu's children were the gods Šulšagana and Igalima (Bauer 1998: 505). According to inscriptions of king Gudea of Lagaš, the "septuplets" of Baba and Ningirsu were also her children, but only three of their names are known thus far (Bauer 1998: 505).
Baba's main cult place was her temple é-sila-sír-sír in the city of Girsu (Selz 1995: 26; the temple is also referred to as é-tar-sír-sír, see George 1993: 148-149). She is also known to have had a shrine in Nanna's temple at Ur, the Ekišnugal.
Baba is first attested in the Early Dynastic period IIIa and IIIb in the city-state of Lagaš, whose capital was Girsu. Her early cult seems to have had some connections to funerary rites (Selz 1995: 32). Some offerings to her were named "bridal gifts," which has led some scholars to infer a connection to a sacred marriage between her and her husband Ningirsu (Sallaberger 1993: 289).
In the Ur III period, Baba's cult is attested primarily in the city of Girsu, but she is also frequently invoked in personal names. In the Old Babylonian period her cult is attested at the cities of Nippur, Isin, Larsa, and Ur (Richter 2004).
Only one fragmentary Sumerian hymn in praise of Baba has survived in the record (ETCSL 4.02.1), but several royal hymns were dedicated to her (ETCSL 2.3.1, an adab-song for Baba with prayers for king Lumma; ETCSL 2.3.2, a tigi-song for Baba with prayers for Gudea; ETCSL 126.96.36.199, a bal-bal-e song for Baba mentioning king Šu-Sin; ETCSL 2.5.4.02, an adab-song for Baba mentioning king Išme-Dagan).
In the first millennium BCE, Baba is mentioned in an Akkadian hymn (Foster 2005: 583-591), in which her aspect as a healing goddess survives. Baba survived into the Neo-Assyrian, Achaemenid, and Seleucid periods, when she is only rarely mentioned in scholarly, religious, and historical texts.
No images of Baba are attested thus far.
The reading of Baba's name has been subject to some controversy (Marchesi 2002). Her name is spelled dba-Ú, which can be read dba-ú or dba-ba6. It has been suggested that the pronunciation behind this writing was something like Bawu, but this argument has recently been refuted on the basis of phonological evidence (Rubio 2010) as well as comparative evidence from other divine names (e.g., dab-ba6, see Richter 2004: 118-9 n.526).
Nicole Brisch, 'Baba (goddess)', Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses, Oracc and the UK Higher Education Academy, 2016 [http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/amgg/listofdeities/baba/]