Tanit, terracotta 3/4 sculpture.
The Punic goddess of the moon, patron of Carthage, wears a crown, a necklace of glass paste beads graduated in size, and earrings of gold; her arms are articulated; she is dressed in the Greek style. 5th-4th century BCE.
Tanit was a Punic and Phoenician goddess, the chief deity of Carthage alongside her consort Ba`al Hammon.
Tanit is also called Tinnit, Tannou or Tangou. The name appears to have originated in Carthage (modern day Tunisia), though it does not appear in local theophorous names. She was equivalent to the moon-goddess Astarte, and later worshipped in Roman Carthage in her Romanized form as Dea Caelestis, Juno Caelestis or simply Caelestis.
In modern-day Tunisian Arabic, it is customary to invoke “Omek Tannou” or “Oumouk Tangou” (Mother Tannou or Tangou depending on the region), in years of drought to bring rain. Similarly, Tunisian and many other spoken forms of Arabic refer to Baali farming to refer to non-irrigated agriculture.
-From necropolis Puig des Molins (Ibiza, Spain, settled by the Phoenecians in 650 BCE). Barcelona, Archaeological Museum. Credits: Ann Raia, 2006.
Long after the fall of Carthage, Tanit was still venerated in North Africa under the Latin name of Juno Caelestis, for her identification with the Roman goddess Juno. The ancient Berber people of North Africa also adopted the Punic cult of Tanit. In Egyptian, her name means Land of Neith, Neith being a war goddess. Her symbol, found on many ancient stone carvings, appears as a trapezium (trapezoid) closed by a horizontal line at the top and surmounted in the middle by a circle: the horizontal arm is often terminated either by two short upright lines at right angles to it or by hooks. Later, the trapezium is frequently replaced by an isosceles triangle. The symbol is interpreted by Hvidberg-Hansen as a woman raising her hands. Hvidberg-Hansen (Danish professor of Semitic philology), notes that Tanit is sometimes depicted with a lion’s head, showing her warrior quality.
In modern times the name, with the spelling “Tanith”, has been used as a female given name, both for real people such as the writer Tanith Lee, model Tanit Phoenix and, more frequently, in occult fiction.