The History and Significance of the Goddess Al Lat

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Like many deities from Mesopotamia and the lands of the surrounding areas, Al-Lat, otherwise known as Allat, is a goddess not generally known to the general public. However, the study of her mythology and the history surrounding her, can give us great insight into the cultures that worshipped her.

Al-Lat was a pre-Islamic goddess from central and northern Arabia. One of the three daughters of Allah, she represented the earth and was regarded as a mother goddess. Her following was more prominent at Ta’if, located near Mecca. Here she was worshipped in the form of a block of white granite, where women in particular, would circle the stone in honour of the goddess (Cotterell & Storm, p.262). Along with the role of a mother goddess, Al-Lat was believed to have been associated with the sun, the moon or the planet Venus.

Archaeological evidence has shown that in pre-Islamic times that Al-Lat was highly regarded. Excavations have revealed sacred stones (known as ‘bethels’) belonging to Al-Lat and her sister, Al-Uzza, found within a qubba, the mausoleum of a pious man which was usually covered in a dome (May, p.48). Here, figurines of the goddess were also found in great numbers.

We also have archaeological evidence that she was worshipped at Petra. At the turn of the 20th century, scholars visited a site where they found alters on the high mountain peaks. One scholar writes, “situated on one of the highest peaks in the near vicinity of the capital of Edom, with two “pillars,” a large court, a slab-like platform near its north end, a rock-cut approach from the northwest, two altars-one rectangular with steps, and a trench or passageway about it on three sides, a hollow in its surface, and three of its corners cut down with mathematical exactness; the other altar,round, provided with steps also, having two depressed concen-tric rings on its surface, a blood pool at one side, and a tomb-like cavity on another; both altars facing the east, and without inscription or ornamentation; also a pool for water not far away, and every part standing on the points of the compass” (Robinson, p.13-14). This scholar believed that the goddess Al-lat was worshipped here, as well as her son, Dusares.

The goddess Al-Lat, although not known to many of the general public, is important in understanding the mythology of Mesopotamia and West Asia in pre-Islamic times as well as the history. Further research will allow us to gain more insight into her significance.

Bibliography:

Cotterell, Arthur & Storm, Rachel (1999) The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology, Hermes House, Anness Publishing House.

May, Herbert G. (1939) Ephod and Ariel, The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, The University of Chicago Press.

Robinson, George L. (1901) The Newly Discovered “High Place” at Petra in Edom, The Biblical World, The University of Chicago Press.

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