Tag Archive: ishtar


Goddess Asherah

“Lioness” by Karl Bang

“Asherah’s themes are kindness, love, divination and foresight.  Her symbols are lions, lilies, a tree or a pole.  Asherah, a Canaanite Goddess of moral strength, offers to lend support and insight when we are faced with inequality or overwhelming odds. In art, She is often depicted simply as an upright post supporting the temple. This is a fitting representation, since Her name means ‘straight’.

Traditionally, Asherah is a mother figure often invoked at planting time, embodying a kind of benevolent, fertile energy that can reinforce just efforts and good intentions. Beyond this She is also an oracular Goddess, specifically for predicting the future.

In Israel, Ta’anit Ester commemorates Esther‘s strength and compassion in pleading with King Ahasuerus to save her people held captive in Persia. It is a time of prayer when one looks to the divine to instill similar positive attributes within us. For help in this quest, we turn to Asherah with this simple prayer:

‘Lady, make me an instrument of kindness and mercy
Let my words be gentle and true
My actions motivated by insight and fairness
Where there is prejudice
Let me share your vision
Where there is uncertainty
Let me share your vision
Where there is disharmony
Let me show love
Amen.’

Plant a tree today to remember Asherah, and tend it often. As you do, you tend attributes in your heart.”
(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)

“Ashera” by Hrana Janto

Asherah was the great Canaanite Mother Goddess since about the 13th century BCE and is arguably the most important Goddess in the Canaanite pantheon.  Like Anat, She is a was well-documented Goddess of the northwest Semitic pantheon.  We have long known Asherah from the immense library of thirteenth-century cuneiform tablets found in Syria at the site of Ugarit.  She is the Shekinah, consort and beloved of Yahweh; God-the-Mother.  Her sacred pillars or poles once stood right beside Yahweh’s altar, embracing it.  Moses and Aaron both carried one of these Asherah “poles” as a sacred staff of power.  The Children of Israel were once dramatically healed simply by gazing at the staff with serpents suspended from it.  This symbol, the snakes* and the staff, has become the modern universal symbol for doctors and healers.

According to the 13th century cuneiform tablets found in Syria at the site of Ugarit, She is the wife of El in Ugaritic mythology, known as Elat (the feminine form of El; compare Allat); a fertility Goddess and the wooden cult symbol that represented Her. As El’s first wife, She was said to have birthed 70 sons. All gods of the myths were born to Asherah and El, with the exception of Baʿal, whose parentage is uncertain. El had 2 wives but it was Asherah alone who nursed the newly born gods. Seeing as She had birthed so many children it is only normal that She was worshipped as the true fertility Goddess, force of life and nature. She manifests in domestic herds and flocks, in groves of trees and in the nurturing waters. Her powers and her presence were invoked not only during planting time but also during childbirth.  She is the Goddess who is also called Athirau-Yammi: “She Who Walks on (or in) the Sea.”  She was the chief Goddess of Tyre in the 15th century BCE, and bore the appellation Qudshu, “holiness.”

“Asherah” by Sandra M. Stanton

“She was often portrayed with a lion or ibex on either side as in the bottom register of the Canaanite ritual stand from Taanach, late 10th century BCE in the tree trunk on the right. A Tree of Life with 3 pairs of branches, an ibex and a lion on either side can be seen two registers above. Later, after patriarchal systems prevailed, Her name came to mean grove or trees. As a Goddess worshipped in Her own right in the ancient Hebrew religion, She was associated with all that was symbolized by the Tree of Life. In making the first Menorah, the ancient Hebrews were instructed to have three branches coming out of either side of a central stand with an almond shaped cup and a flower at the end of each one, resembling an almond tree. Among the trees considered to be the Tree of Life, the almond tree was highly regarded as it was the first to flower in spring, even before leafing out. The progression from Asherah, to the Tree of Life to the Menorah is revealed in the 4th century CE Roman gold glass base in the tree branches depicting a Menorah with a lion on either side. Asherah is wearing a necklace from Deir el-Balah, 14th-13th century BCE with an ibex-headed pendant from Ashod, 4th century BCE.” [1]

Food for Thought – “The Hebrew name used for God in Genesis is Elohim, a derivative of El. Many people find the passage in Genesis that says, “Let us make humankind in our own image” a little confusing. If there is only one true God, then who was he talking to? Some have said he was talking to the Holy Spirit, another aspect of Elohim, which is also seen as a male type or at least, as a non-gender. Others have asserted that he was talking to Eloah, the female aspect of Elohim. The world Elohim is actually plural, so that implies there is more than one “Being” involved in Elohim. Since there were only two kinds of people created, male and female, one could probably assume that man was made in the El’s image while woman was made in Eloah’s image. Thus, we were all, male and female, made in Elohim’s image, encompassing both the male and female aspect of God.” [2]

“Asherah” by Sami Edelstein

“There are more than 40 references to Asherah in the Old Testament.  Asherah appears as a Goddess by the side of Baʿal, whose consort She evidently became, at least among the Canaanites of the south.  We remember that, according to the Bible itself, in the ninth century BCE Asherah was officially worshipped in Israel; Her cult was matronized by Jezebel who, supposedly, imported it from her native Phoenician homeland. However, most biblical references to the name point obviously to some cult object of wood, which might be cut down and burned, possibly the Goddesses’ image (1 Kings 15:13, 2 King 21:7). Her prophets are mentioned (1 Kings 18:19), and the vessels used in Her service referred to (2 Kings 23:4). The existence of numerous symbols, in each of which the Goddess was believed to be immanent, led to the creation of numerous forms of Her person, which were described as Asherim.  In reference to the Tree of Life of which She is associated with, an object called an Asherah was a sacred pole carved out of the terebinth tree and placed next to the altars of Yahweh, thus worshipping both the mother and the father at once. Her own specific places of worship were on hilltops, (called  “High Places” in the Bible), and in forests and groves. Through Her association with trees, She was seen as the part of Elohim who brought fertility, new growth, successful crops and watched over nature. Along with life in nature, She was also seen as the Bread of Life for the Hebrew people. Hebrew women would make special loaves of Asherah bread, which would be blessed, then ritually eaten. Some scholars say this is the precursor of the communion wafer.  These practices and the cult objects themselves were utterly detestible to faithful worshippers of Yahweh (1 Kings 15:13).” [3]

“After Abraham was called by Yahweh and recruited some followers, he had a difficult time cutting out Asherah and the other regional gods. However, as time progressed in the Old Testament, the temptation to worship other gods lessened, while the blatant worship of Asherah along side of Yahweh continued.  It was difficult for the religious leaders in early Judaism to suppress Asherah because of a universally desire to recognize a nurturing, compassionate, Mother Goddess.

“Come with Me” by HandmaidenPhi

Hebrew women had a closer attachment to Her, seeing as how they did not play much of a role in their religion. Of course, there were some great women such as Esther, Deborah, and Rebecca, but women playing a part in early Judaism was definitely the exception instead of the rule. In archaeological sites that date back to Biblical times, small statues of Asherah are found in what would likely be bedrooms and kitchen areas. It is widely accepted that although the religious leaders frowned on the worship of Asherah, the common people, mainly women, would still have small figures of Asherah in their households.  This should not come as a surprise, since women of that time had a considerably lower status than they do today, and since there were no priestesses for them to go to for support, they had to find their own faith. What could Yahweh know about childbirth without epidurals? How could they pray to him for relief of menstrual pain in a time before Ibuprofen? What did Yahweh know about being beaten by a husband or raped by a neighbor?

There were no Battered Women’s Shelters then, or anti depressants for post-partum depression. It would not make sense for them to pray to a male god for female issues. I’m sure that if there was ever a society that had only one Deity and it was a Goddess, the men might feel strange praying to a Goddess to cure him of impotence or premature ejaculation.

It would appear that Hebrew men slightly understood this dilemma that their wives and sisters faced and they were more lenient on Asherah worship than they were of Ba’al worship or other gods. An interesting, but little known fact about the Temple of Jerusalem is that an Asherah statue was housed there for two-thirds of the time that the Temple stood during Biblical times. Apparently, one of the wives of Solomon brought it with her when she married him, and he allowed it to remain in the Temple for quite some time; and he was viewed as the wisest man who ever lived! Also, when Elijah wanted to prove the power of God or Yahweh, he called out the 450 priests of Ba’al and the 400 priestesses of Asherah. Although he was there to disprove both Ba’al and Asherah, he focused on the priests of Ba’al and derided them during their prayers, eventually killing them all, but he does nothing to the priestesses of Asherah.” [4]

“Other traces in the Bible either angrily acknowledge Her worship as Goddess (II Kings 14.13, for instance, where another royal lady is involved), or else demote Her from Goddess to a sacred tree or pole set up near an altar (II Kings 13.6, 17.16; Deuteronomy 16.21 and more). The authors of the biblical text attack Asherah relentlessly. They praise Asa, king of Judah (911-870 BCE), for removing his mother Ma’acah from official duties after “she had an abominable image made for Asherah” (I Kings 15.13, II Chronicles 15.6). They condemn the long-reigning Manas’seh of Judah (698-642) for doing “what was evil in the sight of the Lord” in “making an Asherah” (II Kings 21.7).

And they trumpet the achievements of Josiah (639-609), including the destruction of offerings made to Asherah at the temple in Jerusalem, the abolition of “the Asherah from the house of the Lord,” and demolition of a shrine there in which women “did weaving for Asherah” (II Kings 23).  These passages reflect both the popularity of Asherah’s worship and efforts to stamp out Her cult during in the Iron Age. But it was only in the succeeding Persian period, after the fall of Judah in 586 BCE and the exile in Babylon, that Asherah virtually disappeared.

“Tree of Life” by Willow Arlenea

Ultimately, the campaign to eliminate the Goddess has failed. “Asherah was buried long ago by the Establishment,” declares respected biblical scholar William H. Dever. “Now, archaeology has excavated her.” Dever is quite certain that he knows who the Asherah of ancient Israel and of the biblical texts is–She is the wife or consort of Yahweh, the one god of Israel. Many of his colleagues would agree.” [5]

ASSOCIATIONS:

Pantheon: Canaanite

Element: Fire

Sphere of Influence: Sex and love

Preferred Colors: Green, red

Animals Associated With: Lions, serpents

Best Day to Work With: Friday

Strongest Around: Ostara

Associated Planet: Venus   [6]

*A word about snakes:  The Serpent, though a frightening symbol because of its ability to bring death, stood also for ancient wisdom and immortality.  (Note that it hung out in the Tree of Knowledge and preached a doctrine of immortality, “ye shall NOT surely die.”) Many early societies revered the snake and used it to symbolize different ideas.  In much the same way, today we revere the Lion or other ferocious big-cats even though they’re dangerous.  An early American symbol used the snake as a statement of power, a warning, saying, “Don’t tread on me!”

Sources:

Amenahem, Bathia.The Mother Goddess: As She Appears in Cultures Around the World, Judaism“.

Archeology, The Lost Goddess of Israel.

A-Muse-ing Grace Gallery, “Athirat“.

The Esoteric Seminary, “The Hebrew Goddess“.

The Goddess in World Mythology, “Asherah“.

Order of the White Moon, “Asherah by Medussa“.

PaganNews.com, Asherah“.

Suggested Links:

Monaghan, Patricia. Goddesses in World Culture, “Asherah: Hidden Goddess of the Bible“. (p. 39 – 54).

Goddess Venus

“Aphrodite” by ischarm

“Venus’s themes are love, passion, romance and sexuality.  Her symbols are doves, flowers, berries, trees and pine cones.  Venus was originally an Italic Goddess of blossoms; heart and flowers have slowly become attributed to Her loving, passionate energies. In fact, Her name became the root for the word venerate – to lift up, worship or esteem. So it is that Venus greets pre-spring efforts for uplifting our hearts with positive relationships.

During Lupercalia, an ancient predecessor of Valentine’s Day, single girls put their names in a box and unmarried men drew lots to see with whom they would be paired off for the coming year. To be more modern-minded, try pinning five bay leaves to your pillow instead to dream of future loves. If you’re married or otherwise involved, steep the bay leaves in water and drink the resulting tea to strengthen the love in your relationship.

To encourage balance in a relationship, bind together Venus’s symbols, a pine cone and a flower, and put them somewhere in your home. Or, to spice up a passionate moment, feed fresh berries to each other and drink a berry beverage from one cup (symbolizing united goals and destinies).

In Roman tradition, anywhere there’s a large stone adjacent to a tall tree, Venus is also there. Should you know of such a place, go there today and commune with Her warm, lusty energy.”

(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)

“Venus is the Roman Goddess of love and beauty, but originally a vegetation Goddess and patroness of gardens and vineyards who had no original myths of Her own. Later, under Greek influence, She was equated with Aphrodite and assumed many of Her aspects. Her cult originated from Ardea and Lavinium in Latium. The oldest temple known of Venus dates back to 293 BCE, and was inaugurated on August 18. Later, on this date the Vinalia Rustica was observed. A second festival, that of the Veneralia, was celebrated on April 1 in honor of Venus Verticordia, who later became the protector against vice. Her temple was built in 114 BCE. After the Roman defeat near Lake Trasum in 215 BCE, a temple was built on the Capitol for Venus Erycina. This temple was officially opened on April 23, and a festival, the Vinalia Priora, was instituted to celebrate the occasion.

Venus is the daughter of Jupiter, and some of Her lovers include Mars and Vulcan, modeled on the affairs of Aphrodite. Venus’ importance rose, and that of Her cult, through the influence of several Roman political leaders. The dictator Sulla made Her his patroness, and both Julius Caesar and the emperor Augustus named Her the ancestor of their (Julian) family: the ‘gens Julia’ was Aeneas, son of Venus and the mortal Anchises. Ceasar introduced the cult of Venus Genetrix, the Goddess of motherhood and marriage, and built a temple for her in 46 BCE. She was also honored in the temple of Mars Ultor. The last great temple of Venus was built by the emperor Hadrianus near the Colusseum in 135 CE.  Roman statues and portraits of Venus are usually identical to the Greek representations of Aphrodite.” [1]

“Venus meant ‘charm’ and this Roman Goddess certainly knew how to do that!  Although She was a latecomer to Roman mythology, She rose quickly among the ranks.  Like the Goddess Aphrodite whose mythology She inherited, the Roman Goddess Venus assumed the divine responsibility for love, beauty, sexuality, military victory, not to mention marriage, procreation and domestic bliss.  Venus was the ultimate multi-tasker!  She was also known as Venus Verticordia, Goddess of chastity in women (despite Her numerous randy affairs with gods and mortals), as Venus Victrix, the Goddess of victory in war and also a nature Goddess, associated with gardens and the arrival of spring. When Her son Aeneas fled Troy and founded the Roman race, Venus became known as the divine ancestor of the Roman people (the Venus Genetrix) and was treated with special honor.

Venus had many identities before She came to Rome – Inanna, Ishtar/Astarte, and the Greek Goddess Aphrodite. She had been recognized since the beginning of time as the brightest “star” in the heavens, except, of course, for the Sun.

Because of Her association with love and with feminine beauty, the Roman Goddess Venus has been a favorite subject in art and poetry.  To this day, She is a cultural icon of love and beauty, a reminder of the awesome power of female radiance and beauty.  The primordial Venus (Inanna, Ishtar and Astarte) was a triple Goddess – the morning (and evening) star represented Her as maiden who rose every morning, renewed in Her youthful beauty, then waxing into Her fullness of motherhood and next becoming the crone, gradually waning in Her power and strength but planting the seed of wisdom for the next cycle as She faded into the darkness of eternal night.” [2]





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