Nikkal (Ningal)

Category: Frameworks > Mesopotamian Polytheism > Mesopotamian Gods

1 Introduction

The wife of the god Moon (sum. Nanna, akk. Sîn) was called Ningal in Sumerian. Like many Sumerian theonyms, the meaning is straightforward: ‘Great (gal) Lady (nin)’. The Sumerographic spelling is equally transparent: 𒀭𒎏𒃲 (ᵈNIN.GAL).

In Akkadian, the consonant cluster –ng– was simplified to –kk-, leading to the pronunciation Nikkal (still spelled ᵈNIN.GAL), a form that was also adopted by other ancient languages, including Hurrian and Hittite. In Ugaritic, it was spelled as 𐎐𐎋𐎍 (nkl), and she was also given a double name, Nikkal-wa-Ib (𐎐𐎋𐎍 𐎘𐎛𐎁 nkl wˀib), ‘Nikkal-and-Ib’. The meaning of the second element is debated.

The alphabetic, or rather consonantal spelling nkl was also used in Old Aramaic, as in Nerab Stele 1, šhr wšmš wnkl wnšk, “Šehr (Moon), Šamaš (Sun), Nikkal and Nuška”. In all these language spheres, Nikkal was also seen as married to the god Moon (whatever names were used for him locally).

The last known (indirect) mention of the goddess seems to be in the Doctrina Addai, a Christian text of the 4th or 5th century CE. Here, a goddess whose name is spelled brt nykl, i.e., Bath Nikkal (or Nīkal?), ‘daughter of Nikkal’, is mentioned as being worshipped at Ḥarrān.

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