Girra (god)

God of fire and light, Girra accompanied Mesopotamians in their daily lives. He originated as a Sumerian god but his cult transcended time. He was worshipped throughout Mesopotamian history until the Seleucid period.

Functions

Girra is the god of fire and light (see e.g., Foster 2005: 660-663). As refiner of metals he is also the patron of metallurgists (Frankena 1957-71: 384).

As god of fire, Girra was involved in many activities of daily life. He played an important role in purification rituals, where he was commonly invoked together with gods such as Ea, Marduk, and Šamaš (see e.g., Abusch 2002: 149-150). He was also praised in the context of construction due to his significance in the process of brick making (see for example Sargon's cylinder, line 61 in Fuchs 1994: 41, 294).

Girra was equally feared for his potential as destructive fire. He was responsible for the burning of fields (see Dossin 1983).

Divine Genealogy and Syncretisms

An Old Babylonian god list (TCL 15, 10, also known as the de Genouillac list, see Richter 2004:13-16) indicates that there were originally two gods of fire and light, Girra and Gibil. There is only very little evidence from the Old Babylonian period for Gibil's cult (Richter 2004: 157). It is clear from an Assyrian copy of the Old Babylonian version of the Weidner god list, which interprets dBIL.GI as dgi-ir-[ra/ru] (see Weidner 1924-25: 10), that Girra and Gibil were merged to form just one god either during the Old Babylonian period (should this interpretating be originally Babylonian), or shortly after. The latter possibility seems more likely since the general character of the text suggests it was copied and enhanced during a period of political and religious change (see Weidner 1924-25: 3), which could be identified with the rise of Assyria. From around this time onwards, the names Girra and Gibil are used interchangeably to refer to the same god. In this article, the name Girra alone is employed for convenience.

Girra is the son of Anu and Šala(š), according to the first-millennium incantation series Maqlû, tablet II, lines 136-7 (see Meier 1937: 17-18; Abusch and Schwemer 2008: 144). He is connected to Ea in ritual contexts (see text K.1279 in Conti 2000: 129).

Girra was syncretised with the younger god Nuska, another deity of fire and light. Girra and Nuska represented together the two aspects of the planet Mercury as morning and evening star, before Mercury was identified with Nabu alone (Lewy and Lewy 1948: 49). Unsurprisingly, Girra was also closely associated with Šamaš (see for example Abusch 2002: 140).

In the literary composition Enūma eliš TT , Girra (in the form Gibil) is listed as one of the fifty aspects of Marduk (see Tablet VII, line 115 in Foster 2005: 482).

Cult Place(s)

Girra shared a temple with Nuska in Nippur [~/images/Nippur.jpg], the é-me-lám-huš ("House of Awesome Radiance"). No other specific cult places are attested for Girra.

Time Periods Attested

The earliest attestations for Girra are found in Early Dynastic III administrative texts from Fara and Telloh (Frankena 1957-71: 384). Girra is encountered in different types of texts throughout the following centuries, most notably incantations (see for example Conti 2000) but also literary compositions such as Erra and Išum (see Foster 2005: 888-911). The cult of Girra developed well into Late Babylonian times, see for example the Seleucid ritual SpTU 2, 20: o 9'.

Iconography

Textual evidence indicates that the symbol of Girra is the torch (see for example Šurpû, Tablet IX lines 107-118 in Conti 2000: 128-30). Virtually no iconographic depictions of Girra as personified deity have been identified up to date.

Name and Spellings

Written forms:
dGIŠ.BAR, dBIL.GI dgi-bil,  dgi-ri/dgír-ri, dGIBIL6;
Emesal TT : dmu-bar-ra
Normalised forms:
Girra, Gira, Giru; Gibil

The name Girra as derived from dGÌR.RA could be a Sumerian rendering of dErx-ra (Roberts 1972: 29, 82). This would suppose a syncretic TT  derivation of the former deity from the latter.

Girra in Online Corpora

Gibil in Online Corpora

References and Further Reading

Johanna Tudeau

Johanna Tudeau, 'Girra (god)', Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses, Oracc and the UK Higher Education Academy, 2013 [http://oracc.iaas.upenn.edu/amgg/listofdeities/girra/]

 
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