God’s Wife Ashera/Asherah
Before we begin the the study/research on whether there is any evidence that God even has a wife,
let’s get a description of who the main characters are and what their names mean.
The name probably originated as an epithet of the god El, head of the Bronze Age Canaanite pantheon (“El who is present, who makes himself manifest”),and appears to have been unique to Israel and Judah, although a god Yahweh may have been worshiped south of the Dead Sea at least three centuries before the emergence of Israel (the Kenite hypothesis).
In the Canaanite religion, or Levantine religion as a whole, Ēl or Il was the supreme God, the Father of humankind and all creatures and the husband of the Goddess Asherah as recorded in the clay tablets of Ugarit (modern Ra′s Shamrā—Arabic: رأس شمرا, Syria).
In the oldest biblical literature (12th–11th centuries BCE) Yahweh is a typical ancient Near Eastern “divine warrior” who leads the heavenly army against Israel’s enemies; he and Israel are bound by a covenant (a feature unique in ancient Near Eastern religion) under which Yahweh will protect Israel, and Israel in turn will not worship other gods. At a later period Yahweh functioned as the dynastic cult (the god of the royal house), the royal courts promoting him as the supreme god over all others in the pantheon, notably Baal, El, and Asherah (the last of whom may have been his consort). Over time Yahwism became increasingly intolerant of rivals, and the royal court and temple promoted Yahweh as God of the entire cosmos, possessing all the positive qualities previously attributed to the other gods and goddesses. With the work of Second Isaiah (the theoretical author of the second part of the Book of Isaiah) towards the end of the Babylonian exile (6th century BCE), the very existence of foreign gods was denied, and Yahweh was proclaimed as the creator of the cosmos and true God of all the world.
By early post-biblical times the name of Yahweh had ceased to be pronounced. In modern Judaism it is replaced with the word Adonai, meaning Lord, and is understood to be God’s proper name and to denote his mercy. Many Christian Bibles follow the Jewish custom and replace it with “the LORD”.
- In the Hebrew Bible the name is written as יהוה (YHWH), as biblical Hebrew was written with consonants only.
The original pronunciation of YHWH was lost many centuries ago, but the available evidence indicates that it was in all likelihood Yahweh, meaning approximately “he causes to be” or “he creates”.
- The origins of the god are unclear: an influential suggestion, although not universally accepted, is that the name originally formed part of a title of the Canaanite supreme deity El, el dū yahwī ṣaba’ôt, “El who creates the hosts”, meaning the heavenly army accompanying El as he marched out beside the earthly armies of Israel; the alternative proposal connects it with a place-name south of Canaan mentioned in Egyptian records from the Late Bronze Age.
- By early post-biblical times the name Yahweh had ceased to be pronounced aloud, except once a year by the High Priest in the Holy of Holies; on all other occasions it was replaced by Adonai, meaning “my Lord”. 
- Some of the surviving Septuagint manuscripts from the first century BCE replace the Tetragrammaton with the Greek word Kyrios, meaning “lord”.
- In modern Judaism it is one of the seven names of God which must not be erased, and is the name denoting God’s mercy.
- The Catholic Church never used the name Yahweh in liturgical texts or bibles before Vatican II, after which it began to see limited use in the Jerusalem Bible and certain contemporary hymns.
- In 2001, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments directed that the word “Lord” and its equivalent in other languages be used instead.
- In 2007 Pope Benedict XVI ordered the Pontifical Biblical Commission to investigate whether the use of the name Yahweh was offensive to Jewish groups, and in 2008 the Vatican recommended against the use of the word in new bibles and prohibited its continued use in vernacular worship.
- In the King James Version and many older versions of the Bible, the transliteration JHVH is translated as Jehovah in some places,
- but almost all modern Bibles substitute “the LORD” or “GOD” for the tetragrammaton, although the Sacred Name Movement, active since the 1930s, promotes the use of the name Yahweh in Bible translations and in liturgy.
Origins and adoption as “God of Israel”
Main article: Yahweh (Canaanite deity)
In 1979, Michael Astour suggested that the hieroglyphic rendering of Yhw corresponded very well with what would be expected if the term signified Yahweh.
Donald B. Redford thinks it reasonable to conclude that the demonym ‘Israel’ recorded on the Merneptah Stele refers to a Shasu enclave, and that, since later Biblical tradition portrays Yahweh “coming forth from Se’ir“ the Shasu, originally from Moab and northern Edom, went on to form one major element in the amalgam that was to constitute the “Israel” which later established the Kingdom of Israel.
A large body of scholars, following William Dever, argue that the archaeological evidence suggests that the Israelites arose peacefully and internally in the highlands of Canaan. In Dever’s words, “most of those who came to call themselves Israelites … were or had been indigenous Canaanites.”In this view, what distinguished Israel from other emerging Iron Age Canaanite societies was the belief in Yahweh as the national god, rather than, for example, Chemosh, the god of Moab, or Milcom, the god of the Ammonites. This would require that the Transjordanian Yahweh worshipers not be identified with Israelites, but perhaps with Edomite tribes who introduced Yahweh to Israel.
One longstanding hypothesis is that Yahweh originated as a warrior-god in the region of Edom and Midian, south of Judah, and was introduced into the northern and central highlands by southern tribes such as the Kenites;
Several pieces of evidence have led scholars to the conclusion that El was the original “God of Israel”—for example, the word “Israel” is based on the name of El rather than on that of Yahweh. El was the head of the Canaanite pantheon, with Asherah as his consort and Baal and other deities making up the pantheon. With his rise, Yahweh became identified with El to such an extent that El’s name became a generic word meaning simply “god”; Asherah became Yahweh’s consort, and Yahweh and Baal at first co-existed and later competed within the popular religion.
Yahwism and the monarchy
In the monarchic period the king functioned as head of the national religion. The kings used national religion to exert their authority, but gods other than Yahweh continued to be worshiped. Evidence increasingly suggests that many Israelites worshiped Asherah as Yahweh’s consort.
Archaeologists and historical scholars use a variety of ways to organize and interpret the available iconographic and textual information.
- William G. Dever contrasts “official religion/state religion/book religion” of the elite with “folk religion” of the masses.
- Rainer Albertz contrasts “official religion” with “family religion”, “personal piety”, and “internal religious pluralism”.
- Jacques Berlinerblau analyzes the evidence in terms of “official religion” and “popular religion” in ancient Israel.
Patrick D. Miller has distinguished three broad categories of Yahwism:
- heterodox, and
- Orthodox Yahwism demanded the exclusive worship of Yahweh (although without denying the existence of other gods). The powers of blessing (health, wealth, continuity, fertility) and salvation (forgiveness, victory, deliverance from oppression and threat) resided fully in Yahweh, and his will was communicated via oracle and prophetic vision or audition. Divination, soothsaying, and necromancy were prohibited. The individual or community could cry out to Yahweh and would receive a divine response, mediated by priestly or prophetic figures.
Sanctuaries were erected in various places and were used to express devotion to Yahweh by means of sacrifice, festival meals and celebrations, prayer, and praise. Toward the end of the seventh century (BCE) in Judah, worship of Yahweh was restricted to the temple in Jerusalem, while the major sanctuaries in the northern kingdom were at Bethel (near the southern border) and Dan (in the north). Certain times were set for the gathering of the people to celebrate the gifts of Yahweh and the deity’s acts of deliverance and redemption.
Everything in the moral realm was understood as a part of relation to Yahweh as a manifestation of holiness. Family relationships and the welfare of the weaker members of society were protected by divine law, and purity of conduct, dress, food, etc. were regulated. Religious leadership resided in priests who were associated with sanctuaries, and also in prophets, who were bearers of divine oracles. In the political sphere the king was understood as the appointee and agent of Yahweh.
- Heterodox Yahwism is described by Miller as a mixture of elements of orthodox Yahwism with particular practices that conflicted with orthodox Yahwism or were not customarily a part of it. For example, heterodox Yahwism included the presence of cult objects rejected in by orthodox expressions, such as the Asherah, figurines of various sorts (females, horses and riders, animals and birds, and the calves or bulls of the Northern Kingdom. The “high places” as centers of worship seems to have moved from an acceptable place within Yahwism to an increasingly condemned status in official and orthodox circles. Efforts to know the future or the will of the deity could also be understood as heterodox if they went outside the boundaries of orthodox Yahwism, and even commonly accepted revelatory mechanism such as dreams could be condemned if the resulting message was perceived as false. Consulting mediums, wizards, and diviners was often employed by heterodox Yahwists.
- Syncretism covers the worship of Baal, the heavenly bodies (sun, moon, and stars), the “Queen of Heaven” and other deities as well as practices such as child sacrifice: “Other gods were invoked and serviced in time of need or blessing and provision for life when the worship of Yahweh seemed inadequate for those purposes.” Evidence increasingly suggests that many Israelites worshipped Asherah as the consort of Yahweh, and various biblical passages indicate that statues of the goddess were kept in Yahweh’s temples in Jerusalem, Bethel, and Samaria. Further evidence includes the many female figurines unearthed in ancient Israel, supporting the view that Asherah functioned as a goddess and consort of Yahweh and was worshiped as the Queen of Heaven.
Yahweh after the monarchy
Following the destruction of the monarchy and loss of the land at the beginning of the 6th century (the period of the Babylonian exile), a search for a new identity led to a re-examination of Israel’s traditions. Yahweh now became the only god in the cosmos.
Ancient Israel and Judah
It has traditionally been believed that monotheism was part of Israel’s original covenant with Yahweh on Mount Sinai, and the idolatry criticized by the prophets was due to Israel’s backsliding. With the rise of biblical archaeology and biblical criticism in the 20th century, however, an increasing number of scholars questioned the traditional view of the development of monotheism in Ancient Near Eastern religions. The rise of the Documentary hypothesis lead scholars to question the Mosaic authorship of the Torah, leading many source critics to see the first five books of the bible as having multiple authors, reflecting different theological perspectives of their time. Scholars formulated theories that the Israelites were not always monotheistic, but went though a period of henotheism, the worship of one god while acknowledging the existence of others, which fits with the Ten Commandments ordering the Israelites not to worship any god other than Yahweh. Other clues of a henotheistic phase are found in the book of Exodus, where the Israelites sing that “there is no god like you, O Yahweh” at the crossing of the Red Sea[Ex 15:11]. The Book of Psalms mentions Yahweh judging among other gods (elohim) in a divine council. These observations have led to the majority of modern biblical scholars rejecting the notion that the Israelites were always monotheistic.
Evidence of Israelite worship of Canaanite gods appears both in the Bible and the archaeological record. Respectful references to the goddess Asherah or her symbol, for example, as part of the worship of Yahweh, are found in the eighth century inscriptions from Kuntillet Ajrud and Khirbet el-Qom, and references to the Canaanite gods Resheph and Deber (“pestilence” and “plague”) appear without criticism in Habakkuk 3:5 as part of the military retinue of Yahweh. The “host of heaven” is also mentioned without criticism in 1 Kings 22:19 and Zephaniah 1:5. The god El is also continually identified with Yahweh.
- the chief god and his wife (El and Asherah);
- the seventy divine children or “stars of El” (including Baal, Astarte, Anat, probably Resheph, as well as the sun-goddess Shapshu and the moon-god Yerak);
- the head helper of the divine household, Kothar wa-Hasis;
- and the servants of the divine household, including the messenger-gods who would later appear as the “angels” of the Hebrew Bible.
In the earliest stage Yahweh was one of the seventy children of El, each of whom was the patron deity of one of the seventy nations. This is illustrated by the Dead Sea Scrolls and Septuagint texts of Deuteronomy 32:8–9, in which El, as the head of the divine assembly, gives each member of the divine family a nation of his own, “according to the number of the divine sons”: Israel is the portion of YHWH.
Between the eighth to the sixth centuries El became identified with Yahweh, Yahweh-El became the husband of the goddess Asherah, and the other gods and the divine messengers gradually became mere expressions of Yahweh’s power. Yahweh is cast in the role of the Divine King ruling over all the other deities, as in Psalm 29:2, where the “sons of God” are called upon to worship Yahweh; and as Ezekiel 8–10 suggests, the Temple itself became Yahweh’s palace, populated by those in his retinue.
Many scholars that reject mosaic authorship of the Torah consider the Book of Deutoronomy to have been written by a Deuteronomist source in the 6th century BCE, during the Babylonian exile. It is in this period that the earliest clear monotheistic statements appear in the Bible, for example in the apparently seventh-century Deuteronomy 4:35, 39, 1 Samuel 2:2, 2 Samuel 7:22, 2 Kings 19:15, 19 (= Isaiah 37:16, 20), and Jeremiah 16:19, 20 and the sixth-century portion of Isaiah 43:10–11, 44:6, 8, 45:5–7, 14, 18, 21, and 46:9. Because many of the passages involved appear in works associated with either Deuteronomy, the Deuteronomistic History (Joshua through Kings) or in Jeremiah, most recent scholarly treatments have suggested that a Deuteronomistic movement of this period developed the idea of monotheism as a response to the religious issues of the time.
The first factor behind this development involves changes in Israel’s social structure. At Ugarit, social identity was strongest at the level of the family: legal documents, for example, were often made between the sons of one family and the sons of another. Ugarit’s religion, with its divine family headed by El and Asherah, mirrored this human reality. The same was true in ancient Israel through most of the monarchy—for example, the story of Achan in the Book of Joshua suggests an extended family as the major social unit. However, the family lineages went through traumatic changes beginning in the eighth century due to major social stratification, followed by Assyrian incursions. In the seventh and sixth centuries, we begin to see expressions of individual identity (Deuteronomy 26:16; Jeremiah 31:29–30; Ezekiel 18). A culture with a diminished lineage system, deteriorating over a long period from the ninth or eighth century onward, less embedded in traditional family patrimonies, might be more predisposed both to hold the individual accountable for his behavior, and to see an individual deity accountable for the cosmos. In short, the rise of the individual as the basic social unit led to the rise of a single god replacing a divine family.
The second major factor was the rise of the neo-Assyrian and neo-Babylonian empires. As long as Israel was, from its own perspective, part of a community of similar small nations, it made sense to see the Israelite pantheon on par with the other nations, each one with its own patron god—the picture described with Deuteronomy 32:8–9. The assumption behind this worldview was that each nation was as powerful as its patron god. However, the neo-Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom in ca. 722 challenged this, for if the neo-Assyrian empire were so powerful, so must be its god; and conversely, if Israel could be conquered (and later Judah, c. 586), it implied that Yahweh in turn was a minor divinity. The crisis was met by separating the heavenly power and earthly kingdoms. Even though Assyria and Babylon were so powerful, the new monotheistic thinking in Israel reasoned, this did not mean that the god of Israel and Judah was weak. Assyria had not succeeded because of the power of its god Marduk; it was Yahweh who was using Assyria to punish and purify the one nation which Yahweh had chosen.
By the post–Exilic period, full monotheism had emerged: Yahweh was the sole god, not just of Israel, but of the whole world. If the nations were tools of Yahweh, then the new king who would come to redeem Israel might not be a Judean as taught in older literature (e.g. Psalm 2). Now, even a foreigner such as Cyrus the Persian could serve as the Lord’s anointed (Isaiah 44:28, 45:1). One god stood behind all the world’s history.
The fifth century Elephantine papyri suggest that, “Even in exile and beyond, the veneration of a female deity endured.” The texts were written by a group of Jews living at Elephantine near the Nubian border, whose religion has been described as “nearly identical to Iron Age II Judahite religion”. The papyri describe the Jews as worshiping Anat-Yahu (or AnatYahu). Anat-Yahu is described as either the wife of Yahweh or as a hypostatized aspect of Yahweh.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asherah
Asherah (/ˈæʃərə/; Ugaritic: : ‘ṯrt; Hebrew: אֲשֵׁרָה), in Semitic mythology, is a mother goddess who appears in a number of ancient sources. She appears in Akkadian writings by the name of Ashratum/Ashratu, and in Hittite as Asherdu(s) or Ashertu(s) or Aserdu(s) or Asertu(s). Asherah is generally considered identical with the Ugaritic goddess Athirat (more accurately transcribed as ʼAṯirat).
This role gave her a similarly high rank in the Ugaritic pantheon. The name Dione, which like ‘Elat means “Goddess”, is clearly associated with Asherah in the Phoenician History of Sanchuniathon, because the same common epithet (‘Elat) of “the Goddess par excellence” was used to describe her at Ugarit.
The Book of Jeremiah, written circa 628 BC, possibly refers to Asherah when it uses the title “Queen of Heaven”, stating: “pray thou not for this people…the children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the Queen of Heaven, and to pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke me to anger.”(Hebrew: לִמְלֶכֶת הַשָּׁמַיִם) in Jer 7:18 and Jer 44:17–19, 25. (For a discussion of “Queen of Heaven” in the Hebrew Bible, see Queen of Heaven.)
The sheer number of religions and the diversity of the beliefs they contain would lead one to think, quite sensibly, that all of them could very be incorrect in terms of explaining the existence of humanity, though no one would argue their impact on our species.
Of all those religions one common form has come to forefront, that of a monotheistic God. In antiquity polytheism, many gods, was common but the rise of singular Gods, whether in Abrahamic religions, Buddhism, Sikhism, or Hinduism, has become the standard across the globe. It is those religions that have dominated human culture for the better part of two thousand years and accompanied our rise to the most dominant species the planet Earth has ever seen. The biggest and most influential of those religions has of course been those Abrahamic tradition, the sibling religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam which have together shifted the world dramatically. Now however new evidence indicates that a fundamental tenet of that belief system, that of the single God, may not be accurate and that God in fact had a wife who was left out of early writings for being a bit of a shrew.
“You might know him as Yahweh, Allah or God. But on this fact, Jews, Muslims and Christians, the people of the great Abrahamic religions, are agreed: There is only one of Him. He is a solitary figure, a single, universal creator, not one God among many … or so we like to believe,” writes researcher Francesca Stavrakopoulou.
“After years of research specializing in the history and religion of Israel, however,
I have come to a colorful and what could seem, to some, uncomfortable conclusion that God had a wife.”
Evidence of the Heavenly marriage dates as far back as the 8th century B.C.
- – God, also known as Yahweh, had a wife named Asherah, according to a British theologian.
- – Amulets, figurines, inscriptions and ancient texts, including the Bible, reveal Asherah’s once prominent standing.
- God had a wife, Asherah, whom the Book of Kings suggests was worshiped alongside Yahweh in his temple in Israel, according to an Oxford scholar.
- In 1967, Raphael Patai was the first historian to mention that the ancient Israelites worshiped both Yahweh and Asherah. The theory has gained new prominence due to the research of Francesca Stavrakopoulou, who began her work at Oxford and is now a senior lecturer in the department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter.
Information presented in Stavrakopoulou’s books, lectures and journal papers has become the basis of a three-part documentary series, now airing in Europe, where she discusses the Yahweh-Asherah connection.
“You might know him as Yahweh, Allah or God.
But on this fact, Jews, Muslims and Christians, the people of the great Abrahamic religions, are agreed: There is only one of Him,”
writes Stavrakopoulou in a statement released to the British media.
“He is a solitary figure, a single, universal creator, not one God among many … or so we like to believe.”
Going by what the Bible tells us, there were two major reforms against these apparent pagan practices, one by Elijah and the other by Josiah. And while there was much denouncement of them, the practices persisted, as can be seen in the endless complaints of the Biblical writers and in the archaeological evidence.
The evidence points to the worship of at least two deities.
This is a good point to wonder what these deities’ names were. In fact we know, from several inscriptions.
- The first is an inscription that was found in an 8th century tomb at the site of Khirbet el Qom, in the heart of Judah, in a tomb.
The inscription is a prayer, and contains the names of YHWH and that of Ashera, the latter is invoked three times.
On one side of the inscription a crude tree appears to have been incised as well.
- Another famous inscription was found at the site of Kuntillet Ajrud, on the border of Judah.
It also dates to approximately the same time period as the Khirbet el Qom findings.
The site is scattered with dedicatory inscriptions to “YHWH and his ASHERA”.
One stands out in particular: “To YHWH of SHOMRON and his ASHERA” (Meshel 2012: 86–101).
Yahweh and the Asherah
The Renaissance of the Queen of Heaven
In agricultural Canaan the Queen of Heaven eclipsed the male god.
Adon, the Lord was the son of the Queen of Heaven, and a subordinate deity by her side. … But to the more conservative elements among the Hebrew tribes those agricultural forms of the Semitic cult were an abomination.
“So completely had Yahweh become assimilated to him that not only were the two cults confounded, the Jewish women celebrating the ‘lamentations’ of Tammuz in the national temple, but the very names had become inextricably blended ; Yahweh was as often as not spoken of as ‘The Lord,’ Adon” , or Adonai who is also the Syrian Adonis, born from a tree (Briffault 3 109).
“When the Hebrew tribes under the leadership of the votaries of the god of Sinai came out of the ‘land of drought’ into a land flowing with milk and honey of the Queen of Heaven, they found their own race there and their own religion but modified by the effects of agricultural civilization …
- The Queen of Heaven, under whatever name,. she may have been worshipped – possibly Miriam, … the high-priestess among the Levites, – belonged from time immemorial to Jewish cult …
- The Host of Heaven – the very Elohim of the astral deities was a notable component of this worship. …
- The temple of Jerusalem was simultaneously dedicated to Yahweh and the the Queen of Heaven.
- Before it sttodf the asherah, symbolic trees that are throughout Semitic lands assocaited with the female aspect of the deity” (Briffault 3 110)
he Period of the Kings
During the era of the Kings, a period of syncretic integration with the settled agricultural Canaanites of the cities began.
This was probably a consequence both of the unification of the agrarian and nomadic populations under one rule, and the somewhat more cosmopolitan perspective of the monarch’s.
It is noted below that David danced in front of the Ark in a manner consistent with frank sexual implications. The above idol with bull’s head and phallus is likewise consistent with this interpretation, as are the phallic teraphim from Timna.
Sacred kingship was intrinsically a fertility kingship as is evidenced by the termination of the aged David’s reign when he is unable to consort with Abishag
1 Kings 1:1
“Now king David was old and stricken in years; and they covered him with clothes, but he gat no heat. Wherefore his servants said unto him, Let there be sought for my lord the king a young virgin: and let her stand before the king, and let her cherish him, and let her lie in thy bosom, that my lord the king may get heat. So they sought for a fair damsel throughout all the coasts of Israel, and found Abishag a Shunammite, and brought her to the king. And the damsel was very fair, and cherished the king, and ministered to him: but the king knew her not.” … And Bathsheba went in unto the king into the chamber: and the king was very old; and Abishag the Shunammite ministered unto the king. And Bathsheba bowed, and did obeisance unto the king. And the king said, What wouldest thou? And she said unto him, My lord, thou swarest by the LORD thy God unto thine handmaid, saying, Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne.And now, behold, Adonijah reigneth; and now, my lord the king, thou knowest it not”
thus ensuring that the Queen Bathsheba’s choice became king in his stead.
This was the same Bathsheba whom David had taken for himself after watching her in the bath
2 Sam 11:2
“And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house. And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child.”
Uriah the Hittite, though faithful to David’s military cause was then intentionally exposed in battle and slaughtered at David’s command.
David’s son Absalom had already attempted to usurp the throne by the fertility route
2 Sam 16:22:
“So they spread Absalom a tent upon the top of the house; and Absalom went unto his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel”
at the counsel of Ahitophel which was “as if a man had inquired at the oracle of God”. The principal competitors and their counsel were slain after failing to keep David’s commands, Absalom by hanging in a tree in an aition of ritual sacrifice of the sacred king accursed, as Jesus was, under Deuteronomy 21:22..
Solomon, was also a sacred king who was renowned for building the Temple at Jerusalem, but equally reviled for also following the deities of his many wives and building sanctuaries to them on the high places round Jerusalem. The temple of Jerusalem was simultaneously dedicated to Yahweh and to the Queen of Heaven. The pillars Jachim and Boaz were said to stand for the sun and moon. Before it stood the ‘asherah,’ the symbolic tree [or post] that [was] throughout Semitic lands associated with the female aspect of the deity” (Briffault). The son of Solomon, went further and moved the image of the goddess into the Temple itself.
In Samaria, Jeroboam installed the golden calves at Bethel and Dan
1 Kings 12:28
“Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said
“behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.”
And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi.”
As Gen 28:17 refers to Bethel as “the house of god” and “the Gate of Heaven”, this is consistent with the worship of Yahweh as much as any Ba’al.
Afterwards Asa did have a partial removal of the idols, but they did not extend to the high sanctuaries:
1 Kings 15:11
“And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, as did David his father And he took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made. And also Maachah his mother, even her he removed from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove; and Asa destroyed her idol, and burnt it by the brook Kidron. But the high places were not removed: nevertheless Asa’s heart was perfect with the LORD all his days.”
However Azaz and returned the equilibrium to the syncretic worship of the nations:
2 Kings 16:2
“Ahaz … did not that which was right in the sight of the Lord his God… But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, yea, and made his son to pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out from before the children of Israel. And he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree.”
Bull 12 th – 5 th cent Palestine, Fertility Goddess plaques, one Hathor/Qadesh
Incense holder from Taanach, with symbols of Inanna and Hathor
surmounted by a radiant calf. Terracotta Asherah 11th – 6th cent BC. (Gadon, Pritchard 1954)
- At Gezeh remains of sacrificed cows and bulls are found consistent with worship of Yaho and Hathor (Briffault 3/110).
- At Kuntillet in the eighth century BC Yhwh gives a blessing with his Asherah, identified with Canaanite Athirat (McCarter 143).
- Among the Jews of Elephantine as late as the fifth century B.C., Yahweh was associated with his goddess, and the names of the Elohim were blended, as Anath-Yahu (Kraeling 88).
The Woman at the Window
Several Biblical episodes are aitions for ritual events in the worship of Adonis and the Queen of Heaven as Astarte or Aphrodite.
- One classic ritual image is that of the Lady at the Window ‘prospiciens’ who, according to Ovid is turned to stone while looking out at the funeral procession of her rejected lover.
- More traditionally she is a smiling Goddess Astarte with braided hair and jeweled headdress who may have appeared as a statue in an opened window as part of the ritual of the mourning for Adonis.
- However the same Aphrodite was also described as a shooting star falling into the water and one who leapt from the Leucadian promontory after the death of Adonis (Smith R 373).
- There are also associated with this rite haunting images of the death of the priestess of the Goddess. In the legend of the death of Dido who leaps from the palace heights into a funeral pyre.
- Two episodes in the Old Testament specifically portray women at windows who look out to their doom, Michal on David and Jezebel on Jehu (Robertson).
2 Sam 6:13
“And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. … And as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal Saul’s daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart. …
And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself to day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself!
And David said unto Michal, “It was before the LORD, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel: therefore will I play before the LORD. And I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight: and of the maidservants which thou hast spoken of, of them shall I be had in honour. “
Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.”
2 Kings 9:30
“And when Jehu was come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; and she painted her face, and tired her head, and looked out at a window.
And as Jehu entered in at the gate, she said, “Had Zimri peace, who slew his master?”
And he lifted up his face to the window, and said, “Who is on my side? who?”
And there looked out to him two or three eunuchs. And he said, “Throw her down.”
So they threw her down: and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall, and on the horses: and he trod her under foot. And when he was come in, he did eat and drink, and said, “Go, see now this cursed woman, and bury her: for she is a king’s daughter.”
And they went to bury her: but they found no more of her than the skull, and the feet, and the palms of her hands.”
One should note that, Ahab, Jezebel’s husband, was a strong king while Jehu is depicted fawning in tribute at the feet of the Assyrian king.
Obelisk of Shalmaneser king of Assyria (828-814 BC) showing Jehu kissing his feet.
This man who exterminated the seventy sons of Ahab, the forty-two sons of Ahaziah, a ‘great multitude’ of the followers of Ba’al,
and had Jezebel thrown into the street from an upstairs window, trampled by horses and devoured by dogs did not protect Israel
but bowed to the Assyrian yoke (Contineau).
Josiah raped the sanctuaries and within two decades Israel was taken into exile in Babylon.
Not a good track record for the Yahweh-only movement’s firebrand against the feminine.
Hosea’s Plight and Jeremiah’s Lament
The first clear signs of sexual division of the prophets begin with Hosea in the eighth century BC.
He took it upon himself to purchase an unfaithful wife who thus represented the archetype of Israel, who was thus the unfaithful wife of Yahweh.
“Then said the LORD unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine. So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley:”
He is clearly siding against the whoring of the Goddess which acts to disrupt the male inheritance lines of the patriarchal supporters of Yahweh
“Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband: let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts; Lest I strip her naked, and set her as in the day that she was born, and make her as a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and slay her with thirst. And I will not have mercy upon her children; for they be the children of whoredoms. For their mother hath played the harlot: she that conceived them hath done shamefully: for she said, I will go after my lovers, that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink. Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths.
Hosea 4 9
laments the wine and whoredom of the high places and the good shade of the sacred groves
“and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings. For they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit whoredom and not increase: because they have left of to take heed of the LORD. Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart. My people ask counsel to their stocks … and they have gone a whoring from under their god. They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, under oaks and poplars and elms, because the shaow thereof is good: therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom and your spouses shall commit adultery. “
Yet he has Yahweh yet be tolerant in a way which becomes lost later
“I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom, nor your spouses when they commit adultery: for themselves are separated with whores, and they sacrifice with harlots: therefore the people that doth not understand shall fall.”
Jeremiah likewise laments Israel as the unfaithful wife
“Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown.”
This refrain continues …
“They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man’s, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the Lord”.
Jeremiah at 3:8
makes a more specifically social warning of vengeance:
“And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.
And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks. …
Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord; and I will not keep anger for ever.”
His discourse at Jeremiah 3:2 has a fascinating slant on bedouin life of the times:
“Lift up thine eyes unto the high places, and see where thou hast not been lien with.
In the ways hast thou sat for them, as the Arabian in the wilderness; and thou hast polluted the land with thy whoredoms and with thy wickedness.”
This acknowledges the involvement of Arabian culture in Israel’s cultural life, something that should not be forgotten in the context of Jesus.
- The second Isaiah – echoes this theme again at
“Thus saith the LORD, Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away”.
The Revision of Hezekiah
The worship of the Queen of Heaven continued alongside that of Yahweh through the time of the Kings until the fall of the Kingdom of Israel to the Assyrians.
The colonization of Samaria was perceived by the more conservative Judaeans as a sign that the ways of tolerance of the Northern Kingdom had led to disaster. Thus in about 720 Hezekiah led a fundamentalist revision:
“He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made:
for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan”.
However Jeremiah 44:16 notes the continuing popularity of the Queen:
“As for the word thou hast unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not harken unto thee. But we will certainly do whatever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the Queen of Heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then we had plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil.
But since we left off to burn incense to the Queen of Heaven, and poured out drink offerings to her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword, and by the famine. And when we burned incense to the Queen of Heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, did we alone make her cakes or worship her or pour out drink offerings to her, without our menfolk?”
His next passage in 7:15 is prophetic of what is to come.
“Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger.
Do they provoke me to anger? saith the Lord: do they not provoke themselves to the confusion of their own faces? Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Behold, mine anger and my fury shall be poured out upon this place, upon man, and upon beast, and upon the trees of the field, and upon the fruit of the ground; and it shall burn, and shall not be quenched.”
However again Mannaseh brought the pendulum back:
2 Kings 21:1
“Manasseh … did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, after the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out before the children of Israel. For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Ba’al, and made a grove (Asherah), as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them. And he made his son pass through the fire, and observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards: he wrought much wickedness in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger. And he set a graven image of the grove that he had made in the house, of which the Lord said … will I put my name for ever”.
The Destruction of the Sanctuaries
But it was with the destruction of the sanctuaries in 622 when Hilkiah persuaded King Josiah that a “hidden” text in the temple revealed the “true faith” of the “Yahweh only” movement. that the principal devastation came.
This is arguably the point where ‘no other gods before me’ became strict monotheism – no other gods at all!
Much of the Old Testament has been subsequently recomposed to portray the earlier history as monotheistic.
“Then Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asahiah, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college;) and they communed with her.
And she said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Tell the man that sent you to me,
“Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read: Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched.”
2 Chron 34 4-5
“… and in the twelfth year [Josiah] began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images. And they brake down the altars of Baalim in his presence; and the images, that were on high above them, he cut down; and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images, he brake in pieces, and made dust of them, and strowed it upon the graves of them that had sacrificed unto them. And he burnt the bones of the priests upon their altars”
Here is the complete episode from2 Kings 23:3 as an epitaph to religious intolerance and the destruction of an entire cultural ecology on the basis of an apocryphal tract:
“And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the Lord, … to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. … And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, … to bring forth out of the temple all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel.
And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven. And he brought out the grove (asherah) from the house of the Lord, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it and stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people.
And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the Lord, where the women wove hangings for the grove. And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beersheba, and brake down the high places of the gates that were in the entering in of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on a man’s left hand at the gate of the city. Nevertheless the priests of the high places came not up to the altar of the Lord in Jerusalem, but they did eat of the unleavened bread among their brethren.
And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech. And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, … and burned the chariots of the sun with fire. And the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah and Manasseh had made, did the king beat down, and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron.
And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh [Shamash the sun god] the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile. And he brake in pieces the images, and cut down the groves, and filled their places with the bones of men. [Yahveh was in his origins precisely such a local god of a people – not the only God, of reality, but a jealous one].
Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam had made he brake down, and burned the high place, and stamped it small to powder, and burned the grove. And as Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchres that were there in the mount, and sent, and took the bones out of the sepulchres, and burned them upon the altar, and polluted it, according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words.
Then he said, What title is that that I see? And the men of the city told him, It is the sepulchre of the man of God, which came from Judah, and proclaimed these things that thou hast done against the altar of Bethel. And he said, Let him alone; let no man move his bones. So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet that came out of Samaria. And all the houses also of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the Lord to anger, Josiah took away, and did to them according to all the acts that he had done in Bethel. And he slew all the priests of the high places that were there upon the altars, and burned men’s bones upon them, and returned to Jerusalem.”
Not only were the Ba’al destroyed, but so was Yahweh’s own consort.
Instead of the diverse natural forms of Yahweh worship as portrayed in Exodus 20:24:
“In all places where I record my name I will come unto these and bless thee”,
there was only one legitimate form and one place of worship – the Temple at Jerusalem. Just as Marduk slew Tiamat, so the Yahweh movement attempted to destroy the Asherah of fertility.
“These are the statutes and judgements … Ye shall utterly destroy all the places wherein the nations which ye possessed served their gods, upon the mountain and on the high hills and under every green tree. And ye shall overthrow their alters and break their pillars and burn their groves with fire … But unto the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes … thither thou shalt come. …. Take heed of thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest, but in the place the Lord shall choose in any one of thy tribes.”
What is significant here is that
- Deuteronomy 12 confirms its identity as the concealed text in its specific concurrence with these invections against the Asherah.
What is also clear is that
- it is this Yahweh-only tract which has declared Judaism in the ending of the Hebrew practice of small shrines and tabernacles dotted throughout the towns and countryside from time immemorial.
It is thus clear that
- the Ashaerah was a Hebrew goddess of the many shrines and not simply an alien Canaanite entity as some modern Jewish commentators endeavor to make out.
This is echoed again in Exodus with specific undertones of feminine seduction of the sons of Israel indicating Exilic revision 34:13
“But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods.”
Although this would sound like the sad end of the story for the Queen of Heaven, it was only to be some 36 years later that Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians And the entire country was returned to being the vassal of a pagan civilization.
Besides this Edom had continued to worship the Goddess and her consort, particularly in the high places such as Khirbet Tannur. With the emergence of the Nabataeans, a whole stream of worship of the Queen of Heaven and her consort Duchares grew to prominence to the east of the Jordan complementing the Jewish outlook.
Who is God’s wife?
Yaweh’s wife is called Asherah
The Venus of Laussel holds up a moon horn with 13 notches.
Pregnant goddess and horned bulls of Catal Huyuk
The Golden calf on a lyre burial chamber Ur (Campbell 1987, Mellaart, Eban).
The Origin of Sin and the Queen of Heaven
The history of the Moon God and his consort in successive Near Eastern Cultures from Sumeria through Canaan to Sa’aba and Harran.
Dedicated to my namesake and alter-ego Christine
“If it were not for you this work would have been a place of poverty”
The moon is rightly believed to be the star of the spirit
that saturates the earth and fills bodies by its approach
and empties them by its departure
the blood even of humans increases and diminishes with its light
and leaves and herbage are sensitive to it
the same force penetrating into all things.
Pliny. (Allegro 1970 70).
Preface: This is a large chapter in several sections dealing with a very long sweep of cultural change. To avoid your getting lost at the beginning, here are some links to further stages:
- The Origins of Sin 1: The Moon God and the Queen of Heaven
- The Origins of Sin 2: The Sin of the Patriarchs and the Death of Moses
- Redaction in the Decalogue: Circumcision and the Sacrifice
- Yahweh and Asherah: On Every High Hill and Under Every Green Tree
- Origins of Sin 3: The Lunar Passion and the Daughters of Allah
It is difficult for people living in the shadow of the patriarchal monotheistic heritage to understand how the paternal creator god we associate with the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic religions has evolved naturally from more ancient traditions in polytheism. The tendency is to perceive polytheistic deities as debased objects of idol worship, either empty of real content because they are false man-made gods, as mere projections of human personality, or at best representing only one aspect of primitive nature such as fertility, or astral bodies such as the moon or sun. In fact the converse is the case. Yahweh is a tribal patron form of a more ancient cosmic deity, who only regains a semblance of his original cosmic nature in the Christian form many centuries later, although now without his divine consort, and their sacred garden of immortality.
In the Judeo-Christian tradition, there is a particular tendency to see the aniconic aspect of Yahweh as intrinsically superior to the idolised deities of polytheism, and to infer that this “true” God of his people has appeared paradoxically as a revealed “God of History”, first to Abraham in the starlight and later to Moses out of a cloudy pillar. Despite clearly manifesting in Yahweh as a tribal patron god, rather than a cosmic god of all and only later being vested by pre-exilic Jewish culture with strict monotheistic attributes, this deity finally appears as a cosmic deity in the Christian and Islamic form with the full dimensions of an aniconic, monotheistic, cosmic, paternal creator deity – the “one true God of all”, who has revealed his nature in ever deeper stages to his followers.
This description is patently incorrect. It is calculated to reinforce the unquestioned acceptance of the patriarchal creator deity, despite his mottled history, and mask the evolutionary nature of all deities as projections of conscious awareness and human culture. Long before Yahweh made his dubious entry onto the stage of history as a jealous patron deity, ancient astral deities had already encompassed the major advances later seen in the Christian idea of the supreme creator god, who is both the god of reality and the god of the mind.
In rediscovering the underlying nature of this “God behind God” and his complementary relationship with the Goddess, with whom he is inextricably fused in deep union, just as Shiva and Shakti, we will not only discover our true origins of deity in the joyful marriage of complements – male and female mind and body, but also our much more ancient roots in the links between the conscious mind and the immortal unfolding of fertility which were already discovered 20,000 years ago with the first developments of human culture. In a real sense these ancient traditions, far from being more primitive, capture in archetypal form realities towards which our modern scientific society is only now converging after a long period of imbalance and confusion.
In finding our true cultural roots of deity, we can finally come to a position in which we can discover in a vastly older tradition the continuity of vision that will sustain us in a closed but living ecosystem in which we have unparalleled powers of stewardship of nature.
El – the kind old fatherly God of Canaan, archetypal
of the fatherly aspect of the Christian trinity is horned (Willis).
Ancient Roots of the Moon God
Briffault notes that the Moon as a deity is in its ancient form male, the male nature complementing the natural moon-related cycle of female fertility. This can be appreciated when we consider that a common thread runs from the ancient Venus of Laussel dating from around 18,000 – 20,000 BC, with her 13 notched upheld moon horn, representing the lunar months, through Catal Huyuk with the horned Bulls and pregnant fertility goddesses, to the golden calves of Ur and of Israel and the bull-horned El of Canaan, who although no longer specifically a Moon God retains his ancient fertility symbol. the human menstrual cycle.
The association of the Bull’s horns with fertility expresses in one image the virility of the bull and the moon-driven rebirth of human fertility in the blood flow of the menses. This association has also become cyclically steeped in the blood of sacrifice, for it was perceived that out of blood came new life. In this parallel truth of the fertilized soil came endless cycles of animal and human sacrifice to the fertility goddess so that the harvest would spring forth anew and nourish the agricultural peoples. The moon deity, as a waxing and waning god. This causes the moon to be associated both with the dead and the underworld and with immortal life. It also became associated with the agricultural sacrificial cycle and the resurrection on the third day of the new moon.
The period in which the Moon completes an orbit around the Earth and returns to the same position in the sky–the sidereal month – is 27 days, 7 h, 43 min. Because the Earth is moving in its orbit around the Sun in the same direction as the Moon, the time needed to return to the same phase–the synodic month – is longer: 29 days, 12 h, 44 min. This period is the time interval that, for example, elapses between two successive full moons, a period that was known within a second even in ancient times (Grollier). The natural period of the human menstrual cycle is about 28 days, the nominal month we still use of four seven day weeks. 13 such 28 day months constitute just one day short of a year, however they lose synch with the moon, as the number of synodic lunar months is 12.38 per year, enough for 13 notches, but not for 13 revolutions. A transition thus occurred in history from a 13 month year to a 12 month year and 13 became the unlucky number.
Something of the idea of how fundamental the moon deity is to our cultural evolution can be understood from the fact that ‘men’ – the moon is the source of both ‘menses’ – the blood flow of human fertility and ‘mens’ – the mind. The association between moon and mind thus extends from the fringes of lunacy across the entire mental realm. The moon is thus specifically associated with both fertility and the mind itself. You could say the ancient moon god was both the god of the cosmic mind and the cause of menstruation – the source of conception! His widespread name Sin means God of Wisdom. The collection of the major heavenly bodies , the houses of the moon, around the seven names of the week is also a lunar-centred description, emphasizing the central role played by the moon among the astronomical bodies.
“But while the moon, as ‘the real husband of all women’, is thought of as a male, it is at the same time associated with the functions, not of men, but of women. It is the source not only of their reproductive powers but all their other powers, especially their magic powers. Furthermore the moon stands in primitive thought for perpetual renewal, immortality, eternity” (Briffault v2 583). The moon is the real measure of time. It its three days of darkness is the origin of myths of descent and resurrection in the new moon on the third day. “In primitive thought the eternal time-creating nature of the moon imparts to it an inexorable character, setting it above all other powers” (ibid). The resurrecting moon has an inextricable link with the serpent which sheds its skin. So intimate is this association that … wherever we find the serpent, … we may expect to find a lunar cult . This link is accentuated by the idea that menstruation is caused by union between a woman and a serpent. The great leviathan of the deeps is also naturally the moon tide.
“The moon is the regulator and cause of menstruation, which is frequently regarded as being the result of actual intercourse between the moon and women. … The dangerous character ascribed to women is also attributed to that celestial body which is everywhere associated with women, the moon.”Belief that the moon, or moonlight can precipitate conception is culturally widespread.” (Briffault v2 585).
The moon deity thus combines an astral cosmic and mental aspect with the the core principles of female fertility in a way in which the genders form a natural and meaningful complement. It is simplistic to attempt to identify the Moon God as being merely the God of the Moon, because his aspects extend into the core aspects of meaning and being.
In Anatolia and Northern Aegean the son of the Great Mother is Men, common to all Indo European languages. That in fact, and not Selene is the proper Greek term for the moon and as in all other languages it is masculine. … In spite of the general feminizationof the moon in Hellenic mythology, the primitive mystics and Homer alike refer to the moon as masculine Men. He is associated with Anaitis the moon goddess represented by Hekate, Artemis and Diana (Briffault v3 120)
Just as the fertility Goddess is one although she has many names, the Moon God comes in a variety of names which span many cultures, Nanna of the Sumerians patron of Ur, Yerah of Ugarit, Sin patron of Harran, Kusuh of the Hurrians, Ilumquh of the Sabeans of Yemen, Soma of the Indo-Aryans, Yaho and many others. Although he was the patron deity of two specific cities of the Sumerian empire, Ur in the South and Harran in the far North, his worship is astral and cross-cultural.
Soma and the Indo-Aryan Origins
The association between the mind and the moon is very ancient and also lies at the source of Indo-Aryan myth. In the Hymn of Man, the primordial Adam is sacrificed to become the diversity of the world. Although the sun is his eye, it is the moon who is his mind.(O’Flaherty 29)
Both the Persian and Indian sources of the Indo-Aryan tradition speak of an ancient visionary drink of a ruddy complexion, pressed from a plant or fungus. Soma is at once the source of immortal knowledge and the Moon God of the Indo-Aryan mind, as portrayed in the Hymn of Man. The similarity of the eternally reproducing fruit is notable and suggests the two themes could have had a common origin. Although many plants from Cannabis through to a penetrating case for Peganum harmala (Rudgley 43), both of which are psychoactive, have been suggested, two fungi, Amanita muscaria and Psilocybe species have also been considered to be Soma. The presence of mushroom icons in both the Konja plain and Europe lends support for early use in Europe as is the case in America. Psilocybe species in particular have been discovered across the entire spread of temperate lands believed to be the origin of the Indo-Aryans (Stamets 64).
Soma had the first claim to all women. They only came afterwards into the possession of men (Briffault v3 239). Soma, like other Moon Gods is regarded as the sacred bull which is sacrificed. “The killing of Soma … symbolizes the pressing of the sacred plant Soma, which causes rain, and consequently the growth of plants; Soma is the elixir of life, which after dropping to earth as rain, mounts to the moon and is drunk out of the moon by the gods, who use the moon as a cup. The animal representing the moon is the bull.” (Briffault v3 130) Mithra’s murder of the bull is pre-Zarathustrian myth. Ahriman replaced him in Zoroastrian times (Gershevitch 62).
“Much controversy surrounds Zarathustra’s attitude towards the drink haoma. In a somewhat unclear passage, he condemns “the piss of this drunkenness” (Yasna 48:10 ) in connection with the karapans and the misrule. Indra is a deva demonized in the Vendidad. But the central ritual, the yasna, is essentially a haoma sacrifice.” (Malandra 15)
“We have drunk the Soma,
we are become Immortals,
We arrived at the light,
we have found the Gods” (Wasson 1972).
Soma is the ‘body‘ of the sacrament. The soma is the corpus.
Nannar and Ningal: The Moon Deities of Ur
The Moon God has always been complemented by a feminine counterpart. Nanna loved his consort the moon goddess Ningal. “Nanna fell in love with Ningal and she with him. It was from this joyful and impetuous union that Inanna, the morning and evening star and Utu the Sun God were born.” (Wolkenstein and Kramer 141).
Nanna was worshipped in the ziggurat of Ur. There was also a smaller temple for Ningal the moon goddess. Nanna was worshipped both by a High Priestes and priests. Great Kings throughout history from Sargon 2600 BC to Nabonidus 550 BC had their daughters officiate as high-priestess of Nanna at Ur. The tradition begins with the first dynasties of Ur around 3400 BC and continued through to the fall of Ur around the time of Nabonidus, a period of some 3000 years. As we shall see this tradition continued for another 1700 years at Harran and still underlies the Islam of today.
It is clear that Ur-Nammu the founder of the great Third Dynasty of Ur had a female familiar spirit or shekina, which is shown in the stele below in which the King offers libations to the Tree of Life, before both Nanna and Ningal, to preserve the fertility of the garden, and that this was a central ritual in founding the great ziggurat of Ur. Ur-nammu saved the garden of fertility.
For Nannar, his King Ur-Nammu
the mighty man, king of Ur, Sumer and Akkad
who built the temple of Nannar …
he saved the plants of the garden …
once lodged as a king should be
Nannar will guarantee the earth’s increase.
In the fragmentary registers on the reverse of the stone [Stele of Ur-Nammu] we have a scene of sacrifice in which a priest cuts open the prostrate body of a bull so as to read the omens on its liver; and a scene of sacrifice in which it is possible that the king himself is figured as a god. … Ur-Nammu was deified after death if not in his lifetime.” (Woolley 1954 159).
“At no time in its long history was the city of Ur so important as in the days of the third dynasty, about 2300 – 2180 BC, when it was the capital of the Sumerian empire. The founder of the dynasty was Ur-Nammu, and he founded a royal house of which four generations after him were to sit on the throne; he was a great conqueror and a great ruler, famous for his justice and his good works, whose dominions extended from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean.” (Woolley 1938 80.)
Sin or Nannar ” is described as a young bull (the strong bull of heaven) perfect in every part: his beard is said to be of lapis lazuli ( cf Mesopotamian men): his orb is a giant self-propagating fruit. The god’s horns are taken to be a reference to the crescent moon, although they are also sometimes regarded as the boat in which he skims through the midst of the heavens.” An exorcist priest or ashipu joined in prayer and incantation when Sin was attacked and oppressed by demons during an eclipse. (Contenau 248, 292)
Father Nannar, lord, moon-god, prince of the gods,
Father Nannar, lord of Uru, prince of the gods.
Lord, thy deity fills the far-off heavens,
like the vast sea, with reverential fear! …
Father, begetter of gods and men,
who establishest for them dwellings
and institutest for them that which is good. …
Chief, mighty, whose heart is great,
god whom no one can name, …
In heaven, who is supreme ?
As for thee, it is thou alone who art supreme! …
As for thee, thy decree is made known upon earth,
and the spirits of the abyss kiss the dust!
As for thee, thy decree blows above like the wind,
and stall and pasture become fertile!
As for thee, thy decree is accomplished upon earth below,
and the grass and green things grow! …
As for thee, thy decree has called into being equity and justice,
and the peoples have promulgated thy law! …
O Lord, mighty in heaven, sovereign upon earth,
among the gods thy brothers, thou hast no rival!”
(Dawn Civ 654)
Controversy continues over the status of the Royal Tombs of Ur, which are famous for the fact that, like several other ancient cultures, whole courts were buried with great ceremony on the death of the sacred king. Although it is suggested that these Kings and Queens may have been sacrificed priests in fertility rites, the magnificence and extensive nature of the tombs suggest they reflect a royal suttee rite, in which the whole court departed with their deified king to accompany him on his astral journey. This is consistent with the prominence of the Moon God in worship of departed ancestors.
The early archaeological remains at Ur indicate a very prominent early flood. In the King list the kings reigned before the flood for a millennium. Then the flood came [before 3200 BC.] Afterwards kingship was sent down from on high. There was a dynasty at Kish, one at Erech and then the first Dynasty at Ur.
“Nabonidus (555-538 BC), last of the Babylonian kings appointed his daughter high priestess of the moon god at Ur, and the king states that in so-doing, he was following a precedent set by Kudur-Mabug, one of the Larsa kings who had reigned some 1500 years before – about 2000 B.C. Sargon (2630 – 2575 BC ) had done the same, and the limestone slab of the period of Entemena… carries the precedent further back still : all through history such importance was attached to the great temple of Nannar the Moon-god at Ur … that the reigning king, though a foreigner, might hold it worth his while to send his daughter as High Priestess there; in one case at least a king’s son was High Priest of the Moon-goddess.” (Woolley 1954 216)
Nannar “was thought to have arisen from a god of nomads and a protector of cattle, related to the masculine cult of the moon god in early Arabia. His daughter Ishtar in time overshadowed all other female deities, as did her counterpart Isis in Egypt. As father, or source, of the Goddess, it is fitting that Sin wears head gear suggestive of a mushroom. No other deity in the Babylonian pantheon has this headgear … which is an identifier for the god.” (McKenna 114) Contenau suggestively describes Sin’s characteristic orb as an “eternal self-reproducing fruit”, which is also identifiable with the regenerating moon.
Ningal, who in Akkadian texts is referred to as “the Mother of the Great Gods” was also Moon Goddess. Her temple was second in importance only to the of Sin. Her temple was likewise rebuilt many times. Ishme-Dagan’s daughter Enannatum, high priestess of Nannar rebuilte the entire mud brick temple of burned brick (Wolley 1954, 166). Ningal laments the destruction of Ur in her lament:
I mourned the Day of the Storm, fated for me
My burden predestined for me as a goddess
The cause of my tears
I could not flee the cruel violence of that day
Its fury was greater than all the joys of my life
The land of Ur is filled with sorrow
Should I scream for the life of my calf,
Cry out for its release?
When the storm subsided, the city lay in ruins
The Temple of Nannar lay in ruins
Where crowds once celebrated festivals
Bodies lay in every street (Matthews and Benjamin 169).
The Chaldean Astrologers of Babylon
In early Babylonia the moon-cult was the national religion: the name Chaldeans means ‘moon-worshippers’. (Briffault v3 79) In the bible Ur is referred to as Ur of the Chaldees.
In the Babylonian cosmology Sin, Shamash and Ishtar formed the second trinity of deities. The first trinity of gods were also absorbed into the lunar cycle becoming phases of the moon, thus giving the moon a supreme role as the connecting principle between the deities and mankind. “The moon is during the period of his visibility, in the first five days, the god Anu ; from the sixth to the tenth day, the god Ea from the eleventh to the fifteenth day, the god En-Lil” (Briffault v3 85). This trintiy was also adopted by the Assyrians and the Hurrians alongside their patron deities.
Sin (Nannar) as father of both the Sun (Utu or Shamash) and of Inanna (Ishtar) the Queen of Heaven was the central astral deity. The sun was generally a subservient deity, despite being officially recognised during the time of Hammurabi, being identified with, the hot, burning, sterile season (Briffault v3 85). This astral scheme extended to the seven “planets” of the lunar week, and the twelve signs of the zodiac, the ‘girdle of Ishtar’, representing the months. It is from this heritage that astronomy and astrology for which the Chaldeans became renowned developed.
The name Sin is the Semitic form of Sumerian Enzu meaning lord of knowledge. The Mesopotamians ascribed very great importance to him. It was he who governed the passing of the months through his waxing and waning. … The unvarying lunar cycle gave Sin a special connection with order and wisdom and with immortality. The number seven is lunar in origin and is applied to the seven days of creation, the seven levels of hell and the seven great planets, Moon, Sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
The Babylonian lunar calendar was said to be invented by Nabu-Rimmani (Walker 646). Nabu is the god of writing, who bears the tablets of the gods and is identifiable with Mercury. Rimmon the pomegranite is a symbol of the enclosed fruit of the Yoni, thus also representing phallic male fertility (Walker 805). Nabu is also the wise serpent (Graves 470), the soothsayer and prophet, who knew and foresaw everything and was willing to give advice on any subject. The inventor of tablets and writing (Maspero 670). The features of Sin as moon god and Lord of Wisdom naturally complement those of Nabu and they come to have a close relationship, personified in Egypt in one god, Thoth.
Yerah – The Moon God of Canaan
The theme of love between the Moon God and his consort appears in Canaan in the form of Yerah and Nikkal and their marriage ceremony, echoing with fertility. When advised to court Baal’s sister by Nikkal’s father the Summer King, Yerah insists on his love and rejoins “Nay but let Nikkal answer” (Gray).
The Moon, the Luminary of Heaven sends
To Hrhb, the Summer’s King;
Give Nikkal; the Moon will pay the brideprice-,
Let the Fruitful One enter his house,
And I will give her brideprice to her father,
A thousand pieces of silver, yea ten thousand of gold;
I will send gems of lapis lazuli;
I will make her fallow field into a vineyard,
The fallow fields of her love into orchards.
These overtures are met with becoming reluctance:
Then replied Hrhb, the Summer’s King:
Gracious One among the Gods,
Affiance thyself to Baal,
Wed the Plump Maiden, Daughter of Mist
I will introduce thee to her father Baal …
Nay but let Nikkal answer me,
Then afterwards make me thy son,in,law.
The Moon paid the brideprice for Nikkal,
Her father set the beam of the balances,
Her mother set the pan of the balances (Gray 113)
Sin and Ishtar: Rumblings of Descent
The relationship between the Moon God and his daughter Inanna of the Sumerians, Ishtar of Babylon, Athirat of Canaan, al-Uzza of Arabia, Hathor of Egypt and Hekate of Greece is complex and holds the key to the gender difficulties that have accompanied the emergence of the monotheism of Yahweh, the downfall from Eden and ultimately the patriarchal tradition of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Inanna, or Ishtar, although she is Queen of Heaven arose out of the sea as did Aphrodite the Canaanite Athirat and Mari the Goddess of the Sea from Cyprus, Crete and Syria, identifiable with Anath, so Sin is also in this sense God the father of the ‘virgin’ Mary.
Of course father and daughter indicate that an evolution took place in which the daughter underwent a resurgence, just as with El and Ba’al in Canaan. Nannar appears very early in the history of Ur, consistent with an origin as a nomadic God of the Shepherd Kings who formed a cultural complementation to the planter Queens in the emergence of the Sumerian civilization. Although associated with ancestor worship and sacred tombs, the courtship of Nannar and Ningal is not characterised by seasonal male human sacrifice. Subsequently this position shifted back towards sacrifice of the agrarian Fertility Goddess, who was originally a chthonic deity of the earth and underworld. With the rise of Uruk Inanna (Ishtar) wrested the seve me or sacred power objects and began the descent of the seasonal sacrifice and resurrection of Dumuzzi (Tammuz). In this respect, she becomes the goddess making her journey from heaven to earth and finally to the realms of death – the almighty woman of the three spheres.
“[Sin’s] supreme character passed in later times to his female counterpart, who finally replaced him. When the female aspect of the lunar deity came to displace the male, the wife of the moon-god became identified with the moon itself, while the goddess Ishtar maintained her association with the planet Venus. This identification is symbolically represented by the lunar crescent, enclosing the star within its horns, which is still the crest of Islam” (Briffault v3 78).
This identification of Ishtar with the moon and the evening star throws an interesting light on the origin of goddesses. It … derives from the common idea, … that the morning and evening stars are the two wives of the moon . When the morning and evening star came to be identified they became in Ishtar her two complementary aspects: love in the evening and death in the morning (Briffault v3 82).
The relationship between the male and female counterpart of the moon was, however, variable. Ishtar is sometimes the daughter of the moon god. Sometimes he is her son and male avatar. In one liturgy, Tammuz is expressly addressed as the moon-god. Ishtar was horned, and was brought up out of the foam by water-gods, like Aphrodite, thus explaining her close connection with Mari, goddess of the sea. The votaries of Harran, despite worshipping the Queen of Heaven alongside the Moon God had a pertinent saying: ‘if they were to honour the moon as a female they would become subject to their women’ (Briffault v2 596).
This diverging relationship between the Moon God and the Fertility Goddess becomes pivotal in understanding the breakdown in relations between Yahweh and his Asherah later in Old Testament times. The Fall from Eden is specifically associated with the sacrificial cycle of Inanna and Dumuzi. Dumuzi becomes the dying Adam, doomed to mortality by the original sin of Eve, in accepting the advice of the Serpent and eating the Fruit. This re-fomented the link between male death and sex, the original sin of Eve, human sacrifice, which reverberated in the vulnerable line of patriarchal inheritance. In the above cylinder seal we see the four key components of the Eden myth, Dumuzzi and the Horned Inanna, the serpent and the seven-limbed Tree of Life from which the Menorah is derived, both reflected in the seven days of the lunar week and the seven levels of the descent. The three days of the descent also represent the three days between the old and new moon. Sin himself is the chythonic ‘green one’ (Briffault v3 90) and is threatened by the seven devils of the underworld (Green T 196).
The ‘Temptation Seal’ Akkadian circa 2200 BC (Wolkenstein and Kramer 3)
It is difficult to decide whether this is Sin (Naramsin) and Ningal (consort) performing
the rite of the sacred tree as did Ur Nammu or whether it is Inanna and Dumuzzi.
The seven branched tree echoes the menorah, the serpent Nabu.
While the story of Nannar and Ningal is the story of continuing love and marriage unto death, the descent instead elaborates male mortality in the face of the sexual fertility rites and sacrificial cycle of the Goddess. Neither Nannar nor the Egyptian Moon God Thoth approved of the descent. Nannar would not help his daughter. Thoth would not weep for Osiris. A close link is thus made between the sexual rites, male mortality and the reaction of the jealous male Godhead – banishment from the garden of fertility. Having become a root myth in the Old Testament world view, the downfall became portrayed in the apocalyptic vision many centuries later as a theme to be finally undone by the Son of Man in ushering in the Kingdom of Immortality by undoing the mortal sin of Eve. There is thus a close and intimate link between the sacrifice of Dumuzzi by Inanna and the crucifixion of Jesus of Mary.
The God of the Semites
The moon was from earliest times the foundation of all theological development among the whole Semitic race, even after the Semites had become agriculturists. Moses Maimonides expressed this by saying that moon-worship was the religion of Adam; and the crescent is still the badge of Islam, as it was once the emblem of Israel. Arab women even now insist that the moon is the parent of mankind. Herodotus said “Arabs have no other divinities than Dionysius and Urania” (Ishtar or Aphrodite), both lunar deities”. (Briffault v3 78)
The cult of the moon-god Sinn is found in every Semitic land, and he was ‘the father of the great gods, the Lord of Heaven’ – the sun-god being merely an attendant deity. Numerous ancient Arabian inscriptions show the moon-deity as the most prominent object of cult everywhere, whether in the Hadramaut, Kataban or Afinaean kingdoms. (Briffault v3 79)
“In the faith of ancient Arabia,” remarks Prince Teano, ‘in the cult of the, moon, regarded as supreme male deity, conceived as a cause to which all worship refers, there lies manifestly the germ of monotheism, although only the Jews first, in Judaism and in Christianity, and Muhammad afterwards in Islam, attained to a clear enunciation of the monotheistic formula’. There are abundant indications,” observes again Prince Teano, ‘which seem to demonstrate that the Jehovah of the Hebrews and the Allah of Islam are merely transformations of the primitive lunar deity of Arabia’ ” (Briffault v3 106). Genesis 9:26 specifically concedes the god of Noah is the God of Shem – i.e. the universal god of the Semites and therefore Sin.
Harran, City of the Moon God
At the Northernmost end of the Sumerian empire the city of Harran likewise had the Moon Deity as patron God, under the name of Sin. From about 2000 BC to 1200 AD Harran continued an evolving tradition of Moon God worship. Harran is the place of Abraham’s family and ancestors and the centre of many of the early events of genesis, including the naming of Israel. As described by Ezekiel 27:23, Harran along with Sheba and other cities were traders ‘in blue clothes and broidered work, in chests of rich apparel , bound with cords and made of cedar.’
The status of Sin was so great that from 1900 BC to 900 BC his name is witness to the forging of international treaties as the guarantor of the word of kings. The temple was resotred by Shalmanester of Assyria in the 9th century BC, and again by Asshurbanipal. About550 BC, Nabonidus the last king of Babylon, who originated from Harran, rebuilt the temple of the Moon God, directed by a dream. His mother was high priestess at Harran and his daughter at Ur. Ironically his devotion to the Moon God caused a rfit between him and his people and contributed to his defeat by the Persians. The worship of the Moon God at Harran evolved with the centuries. It included E-hul-hul, the Temple of Rejoicing, and a set of temples of distinctive shape and colour dedicated to each of the seven planets as emissaries of the cosmic deity. Many of the descriptions of Harran through Christian and Moslem eyes include exaggerated tales of sacrifice which are probably not factual. It was said by one writer that they sacrificed a different character or type of human to each planet. A garlanded black bull was however sacrificed in public ceremony, as the bull was at Ur, and Moslem sources refer to seasonal weeping for Ta’uz at Harran, and up to the 10th century among bedouin in the desert.
After the conquests of Alexander, Harran came to be a centre of intellectual and religious activity which continued into the Christian era. The form of the worship evolved into a philosophical tradition centred around Hermes Trismegistus – Hermes thrice-great who knows the past, present and future.
The Hermetic view is one in which god is conceived both as idea and as embodied world: he is the supra-individual source of a particular world-experience and world-configuration. The experience of the world in this manner is open to the possibility of a transcndent guide … who is also able to provide impressions to consciousness that are palpable and manifest and in no way contradict the observations and conclusions of natural science, yet extend beyond the idea that “man stands in the world alone endowed only with conciousness that is exclusively restricted to the ability to receive scientifically-evaluated sense impressions”. The Hermetic aspect is thoroughly empirical, and it remains within the realm of natural experiences of the world, … the accidental falling into your lap – how could these be merely psychic realities? They are the world and they are one world – the one Hermes opens to us (Kerenyi 3, 46).
Orphic traditions were also popular. Harran remained solidly pagan when Edessa and other centres fell to monotheism, largely because of the unified devotion of its people to the astral deity.
Sin’s powers of illumination, are revealed in his title ‘the lamp of heaven and earth’. … Illumination is not only the physical light of the moon, but also revealing the will of the gods, enlightenment, especially through oracles. In a Assyrian prayer … in an eclipse, Sin is beseeched to give the oracle of the gods. As such, Sin becomes the Lord of Knowledge, the tablet on which Nabu, the scribe of the gods, … writes the divine decrees. … Because of this overlap of functions as a giver of oracles, Nabu was closely associated with Sin. His name appears as an clement in the names of many neo-Babylonian kings from Nebuchudnezzar to Nabonidus. … The stele of Nabonidus depicts the royal sceptre topped with a wedge symbol commonly associated with Nabu; He is the inventor of writing, the divine scribe, and the patron of all the rational arts. He is the transmitter of the decrees of the gods to mankind, the possessor of the tablets of destiny which fix the length of human life, and the giver of oracles that reveal the cosmic order of existence, and thus he serves as a link between the divine and human worlds. It was Nabu as scribe who recorded the destiny of the coming year at the aki’tu festival (Green T 33). [Nabu] came to be linked with those deities in other religious systems whose chief function was as bestowers of a revealed wisdom: the Greek Hermes, the Egyptian Thoth and the Persian Hoshang, as well as Apollo and Orpheus in the Hellenistic and early Christian periods, Enoch or Idris later under Islam (Green T 71).
“Constructed from the complex functions and nature of the Egyptian Thoth, and drawing upon the similar roles of Hermes, Nebo, Sin and other deities whose spheres of power encompassed the revelation of hidden wisdom, Hermes Trismegistus [ Hermes, who knows the past, present and future] was the inspiration for, … a vast body of literature. Treatises of philosophical and scientific revelation about the nature of the cosmos, and handbooks of practical magic, with recipes for drawing down the power of the planets and the stars, curing illness, making talismans and amulets. [He] was the source of all knowledge previously known only to the gods: the explicator of the stars, the sacred healer, the master alchemist” (Green T 85).
“Although … Hermeticism does not begin to emerge … until the late Hellenistic period, its origins are to be found in … the ancient magical and religious traditions of Egypt and Mesopotamia; the quest of Greek science for the cosmic glue; the religious philosophy of Pythagoras and his disciples, of Plato and his successors, and of the Stoic doctrines of fate and universal sympatheia; the rites of the mystery cults of Asia Minor and beyond; the astral and planetary worship of the Semites that found a home in both Greek philosophy and the westernized cult of Mithra, as well as the dualism of Persian Zoroastrianism; and finally, the figure of the savior-messiah that emerged within Hellenistic Judaism” (Green T 85).
“The mystical powers of Hermes exerted themselves far beyond the pagan world of late antiquity, transmuting medieval Christian and Islamic understanding of the relationship between rational knowledge and revelation. As the Greek messenger of the gods who became the conductor of the souls of the dead to the underworld, the playful child-like spirit of fertility who became the companion of triple-faced Hecate and a patron of the magical arts, Hermes had been identified by the Greeks from Herodotus on with the Egyptian god Thoth, whom Plato in the Phaedrus had credited with being the inventor of the alphabet and the art of memory. Thoth was the master of wisdom, made manifest in the moon, the divine scribe, “the tongue of ptah,” who recorded the judgments of the dead; and he thus finds his Mesopotamian counterpart in both the moon god Sin, and Nebo” (Green T 85). Hermes shares with Thoth an ancient ithyphallic fertility nature complementary to the Great Goddess.
An epitaph at neighbouring Edessa reads “Pleasant is the resting place of Shalman son of Kawab (star). They have answered thee and called thee, and thou hast answered them whom thou hast touched. Thou hast seen the height and the depth, the distant and the near, the hidden and the evident. And they – they know well the usefullness of thy reckonings.”
In 363 the Emperor Julian stopped at Harran and took the oracle of the Moon God before being defeated in battle against the Persians. This story was expanded later to the effect that he had sacrificed the High Priestess, hung her by her hair and read her liver for an omen (Green T 51). In 545 the Bedouin Mundhir fighting for the Persians sacrificed his enemies son to Uzzai (Venus). Fearful tales also were told that they had sacrificed 400 virgins seized from Emesa and sacrificed them to the Goddess. It is unclear what credence to place in such Christian war stories, as mass female sacrifice is most unusual (Segal 145).
Ahmed ibn al-Tayyib noted “A single power, single and eternal was the primal cause of the universe. He is beyond the worship of men; and he has delegated the administration of the universe to the planets who proclaim his supremacy. He has sent prophets, Arani Agathodaemon (Seth and Orpheus) and Hermes (Idris and Enoch) to guide mankind. Sabian views on the nature of deity, natural phenomena and dreams were similar to Aristotle (Segal 1963 211). They did not accept the idea of a human prophet who could mediate between mankind and the supreme deity.
They celebrated a calendar of fesitvals and mystery cults to which only initiates were allowed access. “According to the Catalog, at the time that they celebrate the birthday of the Moon and the mystery to the North in II Kanun, the Harranians burn rods of pine (al-dadhi’) for the gods and the goddesses. Both the pine tree and cone are, of course, symbols of eternal life, and appear in the cults of Mithra, Attis and Dionysus, among others, as the embodiment of the prize of immortality.” In some of these later cults there was a Mithraic or Zoroastrian influence apparent, in which the worship of the sun in the “Mystery of the North” (Shamal) occurred at the same time as the Birth of the Moon was celebrated elsewhere at Harran (Green T 192).
Shamal may also have been a lord of the djinn. There is a reference in the Mysteries of the North to the Lord of Time. Time as Greek Chronos or Persian Zurvan can be equated with Nergal the Lord of the Underworld. Dionysus has similarly been equated with Hades. There is a compelling logic to worshipping time, for it is in time that all opportunities arise and all disasters befall. It is thus to time that we should turn to deal with the tings that matter and the things which threaten. By contrast the eternal deity of heaven is lost in an unchanging constancy. In this sense, evil is entropy, the Lord of the Second Law.
The Harranians were not circumcised, avoided contaigon, washed with soda, and believed procreation was the purpose of marriage. Close-relative marriges were forbidden, they were not polygamous and divorce was granted only after clear evidence of shameful behaviour. Women enjoyed equality under the law and appear prominently in archaeological records. They had a characteristic costume. The women wore high hats, the men frock coats and long hair. They had similar slaughter rituals to Islam, but were very selective in their foods, rejecting camels, dogs, pigs, chickens, fish, garlic, beans, brassicas and lentils on medical grounds. They liked wine and made wine a part of their religious life, in wine-pressing and lunar offerings.
The awe of Abraham gave Harran a special status among Christians and Moslems alike. When the Islamic conquests flowed north, Harran diplomatically surrendered without hostility and paradoxically became unique as the only pagans who were accepted by the new faith. Muhammad had, in developing Islam, reached back to the religion of Abraham whom he called a hanif – a worshipper of the true god before the time of monotheism. He also reserved a special place for the Sabians as people of the book along with the Christians and the Jews.
Sura 2.62: “Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.”
Sura 2.135: “And they say: Be Jews or Christians, you will be on the right course. Say: Nay! (we follow) the religion of Ibrahim, the Hanif, and he was not one of the polytheists.”
The Moon worshippers of Harran came to inherit both these titles and to retain much of their identity after the Muslim conquest. A Christian story relates they they adopted these titles as a legal defence against being executed as pagans, after the Moslem general came through telling them they could convert to Islam or a path of the book by the time he came back or all be slaughtered. Somne converted and some lamented but a few took a very powerful lawyer and claimed the Qur’anic heritage: “The Harrians possessed a sacred book called the book of of the hanpe or Haniphites. True the book was concerned … with ritual and not with ethics or law, and the prophets were legendary rather than human, but the Harranians satisfied the conditions required by Islam for recognition as a tolerated community”.
The term Sabian, which is believed to be Syriac (rather than referring to the Sabeans or Shebans of Yemen who were also Moon God worshippers) may originate from the Soba, the Syriac-speaking pagan Semites of Northern Mesopotamia, who in Sin trended towards a single supreme godhead (even if not exclusive) and an afterlife and had similar practices to the Moslems. “Hanif is in some measure a synonym of Sabian.; the latter is a member of this religious community, the former the professed beliefs of this community” (Segal 1963 214).
(a) Tell Halaf 5 th to 4 th millennium BC, near Harran, at the source of the Charbur, Euphrates.
2 Kings 17:6 “they carried Israel away into Assyria and placed them in Halah and in Habor”
(Zehren 154) (b) Centre of Topkapi coat of Arms, Turkey
The Harranians were centrally placed to impart the intellectual advances of Egyptian and Greek civilization to the Islamic world and became famous astronomers, alchemists and physicians at the court of the Caliph. Sabian beliefs also found their way into esoteric teachings of Islam. “There is much in the developed Shi’ite position in general, and among the Isma’ilis in particular, that is sympathetic to the Hermetic doctrine…” including the prophesy of the Mahdi (Green T 169). Harran was abruptly erased from history in the 12th century AD by the Mongol conquests.
Another group called the Subbha, (baptisers), Mandaeans (gnostics) or Nazarenes were also identified as the Sabians. They claim to be followers of John the Baptist, who migrated to Harran and adopted some Harranian practices, later moving to the southern marshes of the Tigris and Euphrates. They believe the upper world is ruled by the Great King of Light the great life. Inferior to him are beneficent and demonic spirits. The earth was created out of black waters. The light-giving powers seek to direct humans to good actions, while the spirit of physical life and the planets incite them to error through false religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Their gnostic emphasis would tend to support the idea that Christian gnosticism was also the inner path of Jesus teachings.
The “ram in the thicket” found at Ur (right Woolley 1954). “And Abraham stretched forth his handand took the knife to slay his son … but an angel of the Lord said you have shown your fear
God … and Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw a ram behind him caught in the thicket …
and offered him up in stead of his son.” Gen 22:10 (Empoli- Uffizi).
Alillat Ibrahim: The Elohim of Abraham
A tradition reported by Eutychius runs as follows: ” At the time of Abraham there reigned Shabib (Sheba), the wife of Sinn, priestess of the mountain, who built Nisib and Edessa and surrounded them with walls. She founded also the sanctuary of Harran, and made an idol of gold, called Sinn.” Al-Kindi reports in the tenth century the tradition that Abraham lived with his people four-score years and ten in the land of Harran, worshipping a deity famous in the land and adored by the men of Harran under the name of the moon (Briffault 3:108). Al-Kindy claimed this was al-Uzza, but in Harran, Sin was supreme, athough it has been stated that moon became female in much later times.
Many components of the genesis mythology, including the Garden of Eden, and the flood myth, indicate a significant link with Sumeria. Sumeria has its own flood myth and there are relics of a major flood early in Ur’s history. The “ram in the thicket” is also a motif found at Ur (Woolley 1954 3). Genesis 11:31-12:2 states that Abraham originated from Ur and journeyed with his father Terah to Harran, setting out for Canaan only after Terah died. Ur is near the mouths of the Tigris and Euphrates, Haran is in Southern Turkey, the northern limit of the valley of Mesopotamia, suggesting this journey was a meaningful one related to the common deity of the two centres. Many of his relatives and ancestors lived in the vicinity of Harran. Several key names in Abraham’s family, Terah (compare Yerah of Canaan), Laban, Sarah and Milcah are derived from worship of the Moon Deity (Bright 80, 91).
The deification of Ab-ram, which in the earliest documents is a synonym for Ab-Sin (Briffault 3:108) is consistent with the ancestor worship associated with the Moon God in Aramaic cultures in which rites were regularly held to worship ancestors in cities stretching from Mari to Canaan. The Alillat Ibrahim, or religion of Abraham, was widespread among Semitic peoples. He was worshipped at the Ka’aba (Briffault v3 108).
The pattern of the two venus wives of the moon pervades the patriarchs and continues through Jewish and Canaanite history. Abraham had two wives, Sarah and Hagar who departed. Jacob also had Rachel and Leah. El courted two goddesses of the sea by roasting a bird for them, presumably Athirat and Anat. Similarly, the Hebrew god Yahweh was worshipped at Elephantine with two wives, (Briffault v3 82) apparently the same two goddesses (Kraeling 88). Adam was the husband of both Eve and Lilith, two particularly challenging women. Moses was known both for the Cushite princess Tharbis (Silver 76) and Zipporah the Midianite.
And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman. Numbers 12:1
Much later, Jesus is the Christ-messiah anointed of two Marys, Bethany who anointed his feet to his delight and Magdala who anointed his head to his doom. His crucifixion is celebrated at the full moon.
Triptych Sarah Maitland (A Myth of Hagar, Sarah and Abraham.
Harran continued to play a central role in the lives of the patriarchs. Jacob returned to Haran and spent fourteen years there ( seven for each wife). He gained the name Isra-El (struggles with god) while at Harran. The twelve sons of Jacob who represent the ‘amphictyony’ – the confederation of twelve tribes are lunar and astral in origin, representing the twelve months or zodiacal signs, in a rotating stewardship of the sacred sanctuary.
At Mari, despite having another patron deity, Dagon (the fish), there was a royal ancestor cult devoted to Sin. Ancestor worship was commonly performed through the Moon God in a kispim Â ceremony. “At the new moon and full moon I regularly placed before him his pure bread and precious water. Sin release them [the ghosts of the ancestors] to eat their bread and drink their water.” Responsibility for dead ancestors fell on the guardian of heir, who would receive the father’s deities. Conversely, by stealing her father’s gods, Rachel was stealing Laban’s inheritance.
A kispum-like ceremony is mentioned in 1 Samuel 20:18 “Then Jonathan said to David, To morrow is the new moon: and thou shalt be missed, because thy seat will be empty [at the king’s table]. And when thou hast stayed three days, then thou shalt go down quickly, and come to the place where thou didst hide thyself” which lingers to this day in Israeli folklore. In Isiah 8:19 we also read “should not a people seek unto their God (ancestral spirits)? for the living to the dead?” It was also common practice in Israel and Phoenicia to lament for the dead with cuttings of hair.
Many of the names of the early tribal deities indicate a close link between ancestor worship and the deity, in which the god becomes patron of the clan deified in the person of the ancestor. We thus have the Mighty One of Jacob and in Gen 31 when Laban pursues Jacob, each swear by their gods, Jacob by the God of Abraham by the fear of his father Isaac and Laban by the God of Nahor.
At Mari, in the first quarter of the second millennium BC, a social continuum developed between the city dewellers and the nomads in the outerlying areas. The Benjaminites were a tribe noted at Mari which had specific associations with Harran. The names Abi-ram (Abraham) Yasmah-El (Ishmael) Yaqob-El (Jacob), a name also shared by a Hyksos chief and El-Laban (Laban) all appear at Mari. The root mlk Â denoting melech king or in its sacrifical form Moloch is also found. Another word at Mari in this time which will come to have significance in islam is ummah Â or “mother” unit of the nomadic tribes (Malamat 31, Bright 70). Mari despite its patriarchal culture was noted for the independence of its women, who officiated prominently as priestesses (Dalley 97, Batto). Nuzi texts also indicate special provision for daughters to inherit “as sons”.
Malamat (54) comments further that the unusual genealogy of Nahor in Gen 22:20-24 suggests that Abraham was originally one of the wandering sons traditionally listed as children of concubines (Ishmael etc.) in the Old Testament. It is clear that the children of Israel are the wanderers from Aram-Naharaim on the upper Harbur. This is ironically the same place the ten tribes were later deported to by the Assyrians. Such pastoral migrations were noted at Mari.
Nahor occurs in the Mari texts as Nakhur a town in the vicinity of Harran (Gen 24:10) governed in the eighteenth century BC by an Amorite prince, and later Assyrian texts mention a town after Terah’s name (Bright 70) and names dervied from the same roots as Gad (fortune) and Dan.
Early history suggests that the matriarchs were actually more important than the patriarchs.
Before the time of the Exodus, the deities were worshipped collectively as the Elohim, the many forms of ‘deity’. El meaning simply ‘god’ is also identifiable with the kind old grandfather god of Canaan, who is horned like Sin but expresses more specifically the primal male fertility characteristics of inthyphallic gods Nabu and Hermes. As heavenly scribe, these are both also bearers of the covenant. El’s many forms include El-shaddai – the Lord of the Mountains; Bethel ‘the house of god’ is mentioned in Jeremiah 48:13 as a god. Baityl, like El is one of the four founding Canaanite deities (Kraeling 88); El-Elyon – god the most high; The Elohim even included two forms of the Great Goddess as shown in the blessing of Jacob.
The Blessing of Jacob for the twelve tribes (Genesis 49), probably the oldest passage in the Bible (Freedman 1987 322) , specifically blesses Joseph “Even by the god of thy father who shall help thee, and by the Almighty (El -shaddai_ who shall bless thee with the blessings of heaven above (Sin), blessings of the deep that lies under (the underworld, the primal chaos – Tiamat, Shekina) , blessings of the breast and womb (Asherah – the creatress of living things) prevailing from the everlasting mountains to the eternal hills. This emphasis on the eternal is characteristic of the resurrecting moon deity of immortality.
A particular form of the Elohim worshipped until the destruction of the sanctuaries in 622 BC was the “Host of Heaven” the very astral deities surrounding the Moon God. Abraham left shrines at many high places and in many natural sacred sites, including the oak groves of Shechem and Mamre, which many centuries later was still a noted pagan shrine (Walker 5). A old tradition associates the Oak of Mamre with a vision by Abraham of the Son of Man.: Gen 18:1 And the Lord appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground.”
Gen 21:33 And Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the Lord, the everlasting God.
Abraham’s line were buried before Mamre. “And the field of Ephron in Machpelah, before Mamre, the field, and the cave therein, and all the trees in the field, that were in all the borders round about, were made sure unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city. And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field … And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre; … there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah. … And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people and his sons carried him into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah.”
Jacob leaves the strange gods at the oak of Shechem and becomes Israel at Elbethel. Gen 35:2 “Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean … And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem. … So Jacob came to Luz, that is, Bethel, and he built there an altar, and called the place Elbethel: because there God appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother. … And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel.”
The astral form of the amphyctony of the twelve tribes, which is also paralleled in Greece (Gottwald 376), meeting and probably officiating in rotation at the tabernacle is consistent with the astral worship noted among Semitic nomads starting from the time of Hammurabi around 1750 BC (Briffault 3/85), although this may have postdated the time of Abraham.
Thoth and Hathor: The Balance of Wisdom and Fertility
In the beginning was the word, and the word was with god and the word was god: “Thot the god of [Egypt whose sacred city was Khemenu, also called Hermopolis by the Greeks after Thot’s alter-ego Hermes], represented as ibis or baboon, was essentially a moon god, who measured time, counted the days, numbered the months and recorded the years. Lunar divinities, as we know are everywhere supposed to exercise the most varied powers : they command the mysterious forces of the universe; they know the sounds words and gestures by which these forces are put in motion, and not content with using them for their own benefit they also teach their worshippers the art of employing them. Thot formed no exception to this rule. He was the lord of the voice, master of words and books, possessor and inventor of those magic writings which nothing in heaven, on earth or in hades can withstand. He had discovered the incantations which evoke and control the gods; he had transcribed the texts and noted the melodies of these incantations; he recited them with that true intonation which renders them all powerful, and every one, whether god or man to whom he imparted them, and whose voice he made true became like himself the master of the universe. He had accomplished creation, not by a muscular effort to which the rest of the cosmogonical gods primarily owed their birth but by means of formulas or even of the voice alone, the first time when he awoke in the Nu. The articulate word and the voice were believed to be the most potent of the creative forces, not remaining immaterial on issuing from the lips, but condensing so to speak into tangible substances, into bodies which were themselves animated by creative life and energy” (Maspero143).
Thoth was an ancient deity going back to the earliest dynasties who remained outside the solar Heliopolitan ennead, and instad had his own cult center at Hermopolis. He is renowned for his wisdom, speaking the sacred words of creation, and for healing the moon eye of Horus. He is thus associated with the origin of written and spoken language, science and medicine and the power of magic. As scribe of the gods he is also the legislator of social order and justice, the Lord of Laws. I Thoth am the protector of the weak and of him whose property is violated, just as was Yahweh.
He is the protector of the goddess Ma’at who personified cosmic and earthly order. He is the leader of the sky, the earth and the nether world, Lord of Heaven, the silver sun, the brightly shining, Lord of Time the Reckoner (of time), and very anciently the Chief of Heaven. He that increaseth time and multiplieth the years. He that looketh through bodies and can read the secrets of men’s hearts. He is the means by which all sacred rituals are achieved, without whom nothing can be furthered.
He gives to mankind, not only knowledge, but the very faculties of mind. He is the donor of human far-sightedness and astuteness. His wisdom is of such a nature that it will lead to resolution and satisfaction of all disputing parties. Both Thoth and Sin are described as “he who soothes the heart of the gods”.”He is the Lord of Friendliness”, “God of exceptional goodness among the gods”. The merits of Thoth for the human community can best be characterised by calling him a “culture hero”.
“Thoth thou sweet well for someone
who suffers thirst in the desert.
He is closed for him who speaks
and he is open for him who is silent.”
Thoth has a complex relationship with the Goddess Hathor (the house of Horus). Both are primal deities who have no formal consort. Their relationship extends far beyond the simple roles of Nannar and Ningal to a complementary relationship of independent creative deities. Thoth represents the principles of cosmic order and harmony, while Hathor represents fertility, creativity and inebriety. Both are ancient primal deities, which have neither consort nor parent. Thoth goes back at least as far as the third dynasty and Hathor to the first.
“Praised be thee Thoth, Lord of Hermopolis,
who hath created himself,
he was not born, the sole god.”
They are both deities of the underworld who are favourites in prayers of the deceased. Thoth is the psychopomp who takes the deceased to heaven on his wings and initiates the deceased into his secret wisdom. Hathor will offer the deceased a precious drink from her tree and will let him sit beside her under her tree. “I sit under the branches of the tree in the vicinity of Hathor”. “The wings of the sky-doors will be opened for thy beauty (person). Thou risest up. Thou seest Hathor.” The butchers who have to prepare the sacred offering are told “move your arm for the consecrated gift for the Lord of Eternity (Thoth) and to the Mistress of Inebriety (Hathor), so that they might receive him who brings this (gift) as a blessed one (in the hereafter)”. (Thoth and Hathor). Hathor is also the Asherah, the vegetation Goddess who is present in her sacred sycamore tree, and gives nourishment from the midst of her tree even in the underworld.
Each is involved in different myths in healing the sacred moon eye of Horus which was struck out by Seth. Hathor heals the eye with the milk of a Gazelle. Thoth in resoring the moon eye to fullness is the healing magician who can make whole was has been already destroyed. The eye becomes a symbol of eternal regeneration which resurrects the dead Osiris in the underworld, thus identifying Thoth-Hermes with the cult of eternal life. Hathor makes a journey to Heliopolis “bearing the writings of the words of Thoth” – the so-called Book of Thoth, which is regarded as the secret book of magic power, in modern times to become a title for the Tarot. Both are pivotal in the life of Egyptian kings. It is Thoth who permits Re to fertilize the Queen and Hathor who suckles the young King.
The legends of Thoth and Hathor include a charming and pivotal myth of historic rapproachment between God and Goddess. Hathor as Tefnet, the savage lioness, was in the Nubian desert, in her militant angry form, devastating humanity as the angry searing sun eye. To save humanity, Thoth was sent to Hathor. He spoke his sacred words of wisdom to her calming her and inviting her to come willingly to the land of Egypt to become the joyful Goddess of fertility, dance, song and particularly inebriety – sex, drugs and rock and roll! The Maternal mysterium tremendum is thus accommodated to the human condition, despite retaining the essence of her tumultuous nature. It remains part of Thoth’s duty to calm down Hathor each day. “Hathor is the divine being who daily brings good fortune to man whom Thoth wishes may have a rich and sound life” (Bleeker 48).
Thus shall Thoth again speak these sacred words to bring the Goddess of Fertility back from the brink of ecocrisis to become an eternal principle of unfolding evolutionary splendour!
Hathor leaves the sacrificial cycle to Isis and Osiris and despite being liable to volatile emotions remains the loving creatress. “The gods play the sistrum for Hathor, the goddesses dance for her to dispel her bad temper.” As the joyful Goddess of fertility, dance, song and inebriety Hathor personifies – sex drugs and rock and roll – the very spirit and energy of the modern age. Her festival of inebriety was no mere drunken debauchery, but a state of ecstasy engendered in honour of the goddess – pacifying her and the participants alike .
She is the beloved of her people:
We gladden Thy majesty daily
And Thy heart rejoices when Thou hearest our songs
We rejoice when we behold thee
Every day, every day.
For thou art the mistress of jubilation
the mistress of music, the queen of harp-playing,
whose face shines each day,
who knows no sorrow.
Our hearts are uplifted by the sight of thy majesty.
For thou art the possessor of the garland of flowers,
the leader of the choral dance
The bestower of inebriety that knows no end!
Hathor’s dimension of love extends beyond sexuality to foster the affection of the heart by which two young people come together:
“I send a prayer to my goddess (Hathor)
That she may give me the present of my sister (my love)”.
“O Golden One, let it be in her heart,
Then I shall hasten to the brother (loved one)
and I shall kiss him in the presence of his comrades
Brother, O I am among the women
destined for you by the Goddess”.
The Golden One has destined her for you, O my friend.
I prayed for her and she heard my prayer.
She destined my mistress for me.
And she came of her own will to see me.
How tremendous is that which overcame me.
I rejoice, I exhault, I am very proud,
since the moment when it was said :
“See here she is”.
She is the goddess of the nocturnal sky (netherworld) – “She who loves silence”. “Dedicate all beautiful good things to Hathor, mistress of inebriety, to Hathor ruler of the desert.” The Greeks also called Hathor Aphrodite-Urania so she is al-Uzza, just as she is identifiable with Ishtar. She has stars at the point of her horns, ears, on the forehead and on her body. “May the golden give life to thy nose, may the ruler of the stars be united with thee”. As the “golden one”, Hathor is the sky-cow who bears the sun eye between her horns and nurses the infant Horus-Re.
Hathor maintained a special presence in Sinai on the high places such as Serabit, where the nomadic mining tribes worshipped her. (Maspero 354, Petrie 85). In Egyptian inscriptions, “Qadesh beloved of Ptah” appears as the Syrian and Canaanite fertility goddess known from terra cotta figurines from many sites in Palestine. Hathor is also known as The Lady of Byblos and is thus Ashtarte or Athirat. The twin curled headdress is characteristic of all three goddesses.
Hathor is the sacred cow of heaven. In the excavations at Gezer, in Palestine, a number of figures of bulls have been found, the usual representation of Yahweh, and with them the corresponding figures of cows (Briffault v3 187), consistent with Hathor assuming the role of consort of Yahweh as the Queen of Heaven.
Musa: High Priest of the Moon God?
Musa or Moses is traditionally described as the monotheist who is the bearer of the tablets of Yahweh’s law. Flinders Petrie claimed the name was derived from Thutmose, Ahmoses etc. meaning “unfathered son of a princess”. His origin in the bullrushes has a precursor in Heracles of Canopus and Sargon of Akkad (Walker 676). Miles (97) notes Moses has an Egyptian rather than an Israelite name, and his father is not named in the Tanakh, a highly exceptional omission. Does this omission suggest that Moses was illegitimate? That he had an Egyptian father? … the voice from the burning bush subsumes “the God of your father,” whoever Moses’ father was”. One suggestion is that Moses’ mother was coopted as a surrogate slave wife by the Pharoah’s daughter to sire from her husband because of her own infertility in precisely the manner of Hagar.
The mythology of his origin in the bullrushes and his high rank in Egypt led Sigmund Freud to suggest that Moses was a follower of the monotheistic sun god Aton of the period of Akhenaton around 1350 BC. This pharoah instituted an aberrant culture which had unusual creative arts, but rejected previous cults with the exception of the Pharoah as the son of the Sun God, representing an evolution of the beneficent aspect of Ra. Akhtenaten embarked on a severe repression of all other gods. There is an inscription “O thou only God, there is no other God than thou.” Freud took this to be a fore-echo of “Schema Jisroel Adonai Elohenu Adonai Echod” – “Hear Israel, our Lord God is the only God.” The influence of the monotheistic idea is of significance and Aton clearly does have a place in the cultural origins of monotheism, but the worship of Aton was a cultural aberration which did not survive its founder and messianic embodiment the Pharoah himself. .Aton is also not associated with a moral order in the same way.It is more likely that Moses’ Egyptian influence came form deeper more long-lasting cultural roots. Other historical analyses contradict the timing of this origin and place the Exodus at the time of Rameses II.
There is in fact nothing in the Biblical accounts nor the ten commandments which indicate that Moses was historically an exclusive monotheist. The extensive rewriting of history that occurred after the apocryphal re-discovery of the Deuteronomic texts, some 600 years later and again by the Priestly redactionist make it difficult to get a genuine picture of Moses teachings. The circumstantial evidence is consistent with Moses being a priest of the high Moon God, by the name of Yaho.
To put a gloss on the discussion, I will describe the story of the cultural hieros gamos of Moses as a transforming ‘priestly messiah’ who transforms the religious paradigm in a similar shocking manner to Jesus by reinterpreting the most abstract of Egyptian religious and Hapiru desert experience into a new articulate social force of historical redemption through ‘literacy’ – the logos. In this Moses figures similarly to Jesus in his complex relationship with women.
The Pharoah’s daughter Meroe, the wife of Chenephres, ruler of the delta lands, is barren. She adopts Moses. It is possible that, in the manner also traditional to Abraham, she offers her handmaiden to her husband to secure an heir, which would ironically make Moses a Jew by maternal descent only. The episode of the bullrushes may have been a ritual aspect of Moses’ adoption by the Princess, gaining his name ‘drawn from water’ as a spiritual title. Infanticide of male Hapiru children may well have also occurred. It was commonplace in ancient cultures. It is also a myth already told about Sargon of Akkad a millennium before “My priestly mother conceived me, in secret she bore me. She set me in the basker of rushes. With bitumen she sealed my lid” (Time 14 Dec 98). Horus is similarly decribed.
Exodus of course claims Moses as a semi-incestuous, full-blooded Levite: 6:20 “And Amram took him Jochebed his father’s sister to wife; and she bare him Aaron and Moses: and the years of the life of Amram were an hundred and thirty and seven years.”
Moses thus grows up as the son of an Egyptian princess, as the Bible recounts, and learns from the inside the intellectual dimensions of current Egyptian thinking. He is brought up as the interpreter of sacred wisdom. He becomes a priest of Thoth who is an Egyptian manifestation of the God of Abraham. He discovers how the intellectual tradition of Thoth makes it possible to use sacred language as a vehicle for religious and ethical understanding.
Black and white ibises were illustrated by Jules-Cesar Lelorgne de Savigny, a founder of morphology. His book on the natural history of the ibis notes that the white ibis, venerated for protecting their land from serpents never eats snakes. Ancient embalmers respected and conserved the myth however, by placing snakes in the stomach cavities of the birds they mummified (Sci. Am. Sept 94).
As a young prince, he is commissioned to lead a military expedition to pacify Nubia, in which the ibis is used to secure a safe passage through snake-filled desert and founds a camp called ‘Hermopolis’ and marries the Nubian princess as a ritual consecration of the treaty he secured in fulfillment of the legend of Thoth and Nubian Hathor.
Moses subsequently becomes the victim of a court intrigue, and flees for his life to the Eastern desert. There he discovers the complementary aspect of his cultural identity, the fellow kinsman of his Hapriu side. He meets Zipporah drawing water, marries her and becomes a shepherd for her father Ruel or Jethro, a Midianite priest. While leading the flocks he has the visionary shamanic experience of the burning bush and the snake.This episode could have been a lone vigil at a mountain tent shrine similar to those found at Serabit and Timna. Moses takes of his shoes. The God is abstract, nameless – almost Vedantic.
Moses resolves to lead his Hapiru clansmen out of their predicament into a new life of wisdom and unity, imparting to them the full dimensions of the ethics and good judgement that are the hall-mark of both Thoth and Moses teachings. He returns to Egypt, later sending back Zipporah to her Midianite father. He becomes a key figure in the period of social turbulence which follows, culminating in the Exodus.
As a priest of Thoth, Moses in one person fulfils the roles of both Sin the God of Wisdom and Nabo the Heavenly Scribe. His journey in Sinai is a symbolic journey between the mountains of these two gods. Moses received the covenant on Mt. Sinai, the Mountain of Sin, (also called Horeb and Har Elohim) after passing through the wilderness of Zin. Sinim is the mythical place of spiritual belonging. Isiah 49:11 “And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted. Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim.” He died on Mount Nabo.
Lydus expressly asserts that “the Chaldeans called their god Yaho”. A Babylonian text reads “The god Ib is my god Yau” (Briffault 3:108). The real names of gods were often kept secret. Yahweh told Moses he was the God of Abraham but under another name, and said instead “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh – I am that I am” (Exod 3:14) – he was “god whom no one can name” just as Nannar was (above), as was the tabu in Old Testament times (Lev 25:16). This statement is traced to the Elohistic author writing after the separation of Solomon’s kingdom (Flanders et. al. 76). Yaho is also referred to by Diodorus Siculus, the Valentinian gnostics, the Kaballa and Yahuq among pre-Islamic Arabs. A stele from Byblos, specifically cites Yaveh-Melek, ‘Yahweh the King’, [who] worships the Queen of Heaven. “It may well be that, … the name of the god of the Levites as it appeared in their cult cry Hallelu Yah was the true name of the semitic god in all his local forms…. The first part of this cry is still used as a salutation to the new moon among the Bedawi and in Abyssinia” (Briffault v3 110).
A list of Amenhotep III (1402-1364 BC) also mentions the land of the nomad tribes of Yhw and the names Seir, Laban and Samati the Qenites of the House of Rechab who were affiliated with the Midianites (1 Chr 2:55). One from Rameses III specifically links Yahu with the name Reuel, the same as that of the priest of Midian, Jethro, Moses’ father in law”, whose flocks he was tending when he saw the burning bush (Num 10:29, Exod 2:18). During the Exodus Jethro visits Moses, pays his respects to Yahweh, offers advice on judgement and goes his way, just as Hobab his son does later. Exodus18:1: “When Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father in law, heard of all that God had done for Moses, … then Jethro, Moses’ father in law, took Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after he had sent her back.” And with her two sons Gershom ‘an alien in a strange land’ and Eliezer ‘god is my help’ went to visit Moses. … “And Moses let his Father-in law depart and he went his own way.” Ruel’s sons are also called Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah – rising, descending, here and there suggestive of astral worship (Bartlett 89).
Thus, although there is a close link with the Midianites, the Bible also emphasises their separateness. There are also further complexities in the violent episode of Baalpeor (Num 25:3 ) attributed to the wiles of the Midianites. In this episode a plague is stayed by violently attacking the whoredom of the men of Israel with the women of Moab. Phinehas runs a copulating couple through with a javelin. This is regarded as a turning point of the whole exodus for Moses. Ba’al peor means “Lord of the Cleft” (Walker 86). It represents the fertility rite between the phallic god of the Phoenicians and the cleft of the Asherah.
Moses was a renowned magician and prophet. He carried the staff of the serpent (Num 21:8), a characteristic of both god and Mercury, and standard as the uraeus crowning the heads of Egyptian deities and pharoahs. The serpent staff of magic he received in the epiphany of the burning bush (Exod 4:4) strengthens this association. The term law’iu or Levite means serpent. The leviathan only later, like Tiamat, became the dark forces of the underworld, like the dark moon. The brazen serpent he bore before him, crafted by the Midianite miners, called Nehustan was only destroyed many centuries later in the reign of Hezekiah. The costume of Levite priests included a crescent moon on the head dress. The concept of the sabbath day is implicitly lunar. Briffault notes that the association between the serpent and the moon God is common to Ur, Babylonian pictography and South Arabia (3/108).
Syrian Rue is widespread and specifically found on Jebel Musa, one candidate for the Mt. Sinai of Moses. The ‘burning bush’ and the mana from heaven was derived from an acacia. The combination may have given Moses access to a potent visionary preparation know later to the Bedouins of al-Lat.
A copper serpent was the only votive object at a Midianite tent shrine at the copper mines of Timnah, atop an older temple to Hathor, which had suffered an earthquake and been deserted by the Egyptians towards the end of the 12 th century BC. (Weinfield 1987, Rothenberg 1972). The temple was cleared of its votive objects to Hathor and refashioned as a ‘tabernacle’ defacing stones used in their standing pillars. Two phallic idols were also found with a pile of offerings outside. The association between the serpent and male fertility and inheritance is characteristic of ithyphallic gods Hermes and Nabu. Hermes carries the caduceus and Nabu is the serpent. Like Thoth they are the scribes of the covenant with god and of the logos.
At Serabit, particularly before the sacred cave, the Egyptian worship of Hathor is overlayed on even more ancient Semitic worship of the Goddess “in the high places” of a type which would form a source for later Israelite ritual (Petrie 186-192). Shelters on the hillside are also consistent with night vigils reminiscent of Jacob’s (Gen 28:10) before anointing the stone at Bethel (Petrie 68). Later desecration has also occurred here.
Just as Naram-sin and Ishtar were horned, so it appears that Moses became horned when he ascended Mt. Sinai, met god face to face and returned with the tablets. Exod 34:29: “And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.”
St. Jerome’s commentary states : ‘Moses also went up into a cloud and a fog in order that he might contemplate the mystery of God, which the people left behind could not see. Finally after forty days the common people with their clouded eyes could not look at Moses’ face because it had been “‘glorified,”‘ or as it says in the Hebrew, “horned”.’ Jerome had two different translations for the Hebrew qeren Â available to him: “‘glorified” (shining) in the Septuagint, and “horned” in the Aquila version.’ Familiar with both (he drew material from many different sources’), perhaps in his scholarly search for what he believed to be the original word, he chose “horned.” Jerome’s own comments make it eminently clear that he made a conscious choice, not a simple translation error; and furthermore, that he thought of “horned”‘ metaphorically (Mellinkoff 77). The alternative definition of querenÂ is rays of light. These are also portrayed emanating from Moses.
shining + horned = moon
A variety of archaeological, historical and mythological evidence from Egypt suggests Moses was a priest of the moon god Thoth associated with the ibis the snake-killing sacred bird (SilverÂ 74-81). Modern scientific investigation however questions this role of the sacred ibis in nature. Artpanus notes that Moses was adopted by the princess Meroe, who was barren, and that he was called hermes Â interpreter [of the sacred texts]. This would precisely explain the birth of the teachings of Moses in the form of the word of god – the logos. Josephus states that Moses, as the Prince of Egypt he is described to be, leads a force into Nubia. He chooses a circuitous and dangerous inland route, infested with snakes and releases flocks of tame ibises to secure a safe passage (just as his brazen serpent did in Sinai). He then makes a treaty with the defending capital and marries the princess Tharbis – the Cushite wife despised by Aaron and Miriam: Numbers 12:1: “And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman (Cushite) whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman.” The journey of Moses to Nubia, which is also confirmed in Artpanus’s account, can thus also be seen as the journey of the priest of Thoth fulfilling in real life the myth of the homecoming of Hathor.
Documents from a temple precinct of a temple to Yahweh at Leontopolis in Egypt destroyed after the Jewish revolt, referred to the fact that it was consecrated on a previous site which had many animal mummies, consistent with having been the old site of a previous temple which claimed the privilege of Isiah 19 “In that day there shall be an altar to the Lord inside the land of Egypt – and it shall serve as a symbol and reminder”. This suggests that it was built on a more ancient temple of Moses’ followers who worshipped and mummified the sacred ibis, as is common in temples of Thoth (Silver 85).
Miriam, whose name is the title of the sea goddess Mari-anna (Graves 397, Walker 584) appears to have originally been a female priestess on a par with Moses. It is Miriam who celebrates when the Egyptians are swallowed in the Reed Sea: Exodus 15:20 “And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.” “Moses sister, later thought to be Miriam in Num 26:59 witnesses the discovery of the baby by Pharoah’s daughter (Exod 2:4) and thus becomes the mother of his second birth” thus resembling Isis (Haskins 47). From the hostility expressed by Aaron and Miriam to Zipporah, it might appear that Zipporah and Miriam were competing high priestesses.
This is however seen in a different light by taking into account Jewish midrash. Here a picture emerges of Miriam as founding prophetess of Moses life, who prophesied his coming and left him incomplete on her death leading to his striking the waters at her well of Meribah. Micah reveals a deep secret of the origin of Zion when he says “And I sent before you Moses, Aaron and Miriam.” confirming Miriam as the founding prophetess of Zion.
- Miriam the Prophetess Dies – Francine Klagsbrun
One also has to bear in mind that Tacitus says that the Hapiru were exiled from Egypt because of a disfiguring skin disease (Walker 677), rather than escaping over the Reed Sea through divine intervention. The episodes of the Exodus are plainly wracked with such skin disease. Miriam caught this disease for a week immediately after uttering against Zipporah: Num 12:10 “And behold Miriam became leprous white as snow.” Thaumaturgic revenge on the prophetess.
Moses was declared tabu after smiting the rock at Merbah freeing the waters of Kadesh (Qadesh) Num 20:11, after dissention among the people of the Exodus who had to depend on mana from heaven for food and scarce and bitter waters. Very significantly this is where Miriam died linking her again to the sacred waters and their dearth. He was committed to death on the sacred mountain while still in full possession of his faculties, because he had not sanctified the spring of the Goddess in the name of Yahweh : Deut 32:48 “And the LORD spake unto Moses that selfsame day, saying, get thee up unto mount Nebo in the land of Moab, over against Jericho; and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession and die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered unto thy people; as Aaron thy brother died in mount Hor, because ye trespassed against me among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because ye sanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel.”
Horned Moses and the sacred water (Old Test).
This is not without irony because Wellhausen (Smith WR 181) has shown that the oldest Hebrew tradition refers the origin of the Torah to the divine sentences taught by Moses at Kadesh. The term En-Mispat ‘waters of controversy’ refers to the drinking of ‘holy water’ to test a person, instead of casting lots (Smith WR 181). Hagar in Gen 16:7 herself flew from Sarah to the ‘fountain of judgement’ between Kadesh and Bered where she knew from the deity ‘thou seest me’ of the birth of Ishmael.
One cannot but lament at Yahweh’s fit of jealousy by the springs of the goddess Qadesh, but likewise one cannot but marvel at this journey of Moses from the Mountain of Sin to the Mountain of Nabo as being as graphic as Abraham’s journey from Ur to Harran, regardless of occasional conjecture that these place names could have derived from later Assyrian conquests.
The tradition teaches that for the sake of their refusal to give their jewelery to the making of the Golden Bull-calf at Sinai, the women of Israel were given by God an exemption from work on Rosh Hodesh – the renewing of the moon at the beginning of the Jewish lunar month. … The first four chapters of Exodus lay out a female-male rhythm of the first stage of the liberation of the Mitzrayim in which women are crucial. It is they who take the initiative and teach men the process of freedom, because they know the mysteries of birth. Thus the midwives save the baby boys; Miriam and Pharoah’s daughter Moses; Moses must flee to seven women and a well, marry Zipporah, and have a child before he can experience the Burning Bush; and Zipporah must complete the birth by teaching him to circumcise his son before he can reenter Egypt to become the liberator. Zipporah was not Jewish. Was she a celebrator of the moon? (Note her association, like that of Rivkah and Rahel, with a well.) (Waskow 265).
As Freud has pointed out, this disconnection indicates a fracture of the tradition, corresponding to an overthrow of the religion of Moses by a nascent tribal cult, probably worshipping a form of Baal or Hadad, a more Zeus-like Ba’al-shamin (Lord of Heaven), thunder god of the skies and mountains, an event which continues to contribute a strange angst to the Hebrew psyche.
It is signal that the actual site of Mt. Sinai is debated and there was no tradition of pilgrimage to the founding spot of the covenanting prophet. In this overthrow, the cosmic Moon deity of the logos, Yaho, devolved into the patron deity of the Hapiru, retaining his aniconic astral aspect, while moving closer to features both of El, the gentle Canaanite father deity and Ba’al the impetuous storm god of Canaan, who thunders on the mountains and vanquishes the turbulent waters of the abyss.
Sing aloud unto God our strength: shout for joy unto the God of Jacob.
Raise a psalm, and sound the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the lyre.
Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, at the full moon, on our solemn feast day.
For it is a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob. …
Thou calledst in trouble, and I delivered thee;
I answered thee in the secret place of thunder:
I proved thee at the waters of Meribah. Selah.
In a Talmudic tradition, the moon complains to Yahweh that he has lost his pristine importance. “O Lord of the world, Is it not possible for two kings to wear the same crown?” But Yahweh says “Begone and become thou smaller” (Briffault v3 77). Jewish tradition still celebrates the new moon by commemorating dead ancestors as in the tradition of the Moon God with the saying “David, King of Israel is alive and flourishes” (Malamat 106). Jewish women are not forgetful of the immemorial object of Semitic cult, and when the new moon appears they recite reverently a prayer, saying: “May God cause thee to increase and mayest thou be enabled to bestow upon us a blessed month” (Briffault v3 117).
[When God created the sun and moon, the two great lights], the moon said to the Holy One, “Sovereign of the Universe! Can two rulers wear one crown?” He answered, “Go then and make yourself smaller!” … R. Simeon ben Lakish declared, “Why is it that the he-goat offered on the New Moon [for a sin-offering] is distinctive in that there is written concerning it, ‘unto the Lord’?” Because the Holy One said, “Let this he-goat be an atonement for Me [for My sin] in making the moon smaller.”(Hullin 60a)
R. Akha said to R. Ashi: In the West, they pronounce the following blessing: “Blessed be the One Who renews the moons.” Whereupon he retorted: “Such a blessing even our women folk pronounce.” [Let there be added] . . . “The moon He ordered that she should renew herself as a crown of beauty for those whom He sustains from the womb, and who will someday, like her, be renewed and magnify their Maker in the same glory of His kingdom” (Sanhedrin 42a).
“The light of the moon shall become like the light of the sun.” Isaiah 30:26
Yahweh: God incorporating all deities
The nature of Yahweh underwent one of the most advanced literary inflations to occur in human history. This happened early as a core part of the religious tradition and lent Yahweh multidimensionality lacking in pre-literate deities.
Many verses in the Psalms describe God in ways which clearly identify him as a God of thunder and of weather and the oceans. A stormy god which strides forth in thunder and bathes the land in spring showers. Vengeful and verdant as Ba’al was.
The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee;
the depths also were troubled.
The clouds poured out water: the skies sent out a sound:
thine arrows also went abroad.
The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven:
the lightnings lightened the world:
the earth trembled and shook.
Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters,
and thy footsteps are not known.
These characteristics broadened to that of a creator deity of the Earth and heavens, still significantly imbued with the storm god character with clouds as chariot, chambers in the waters and a voice of thunder.
Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great;
thou art clothed with honour and majesty.
Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment:
who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain:
Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters:
who maketh the clouds his chariot:
who walketh upon the wings of the wind:
Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire:
Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.
Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a garment: the waters stood above the mountains.
At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away.
In earlier verses Yahweh is clearly identified as merely the Lord of Hosts of the community of deities, not as the sole God not without which there is no other.
God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.
How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah.
Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.
Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.
They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness:
all the foundations of the earth are out of course.
I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.
But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.
Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.
Yahweh was also identified strongly with Canaanite El in later apoalypses from Daniel to Enoch in which God becomes the Ancient of Days with white hair like wool.
Daniel 7:9 “I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.”
This passage indicates old man El clothed in the fiery chariot of the Sun god. By later centuries, particularly after the Persian era, Yahweh was to adopt all the characteristics of the Sun God drawn across the skies in his chariot, as in Isaiah.
Isa 66:15 “For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.”
The patriarchal ascendancy thus accomplishes by syncretic assimilation into one deity all the manifestations of Sin, Nabu, the ancient Canaanite gods El the grand old man and Ba’al the god of the mountains and weather, who rides in a storm cloud and a verdant shower of rain and the Persian sun-god of light of which Ahura Mazda forms the archetype. However this deity is not god manifest on earth in history, but rather a series of unashamed cultural assimilations accruing to one male godhead all the diverse powers traditionaly ascribed to the many ecosystemic parts of the polytheistic assembly.
2 Kings 2:8 And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground. And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so. And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.
This identification with the sun God continues from the Persian to the Essene and finally Johanine dichotomies of light versus dark principles. The Essene calendar is also predominantly solar as opposed to the lunar calendar, although despite it’s pretentions to the founding tradition, dates to no earlier than 600 BC. As the sun of righteousness, Jesus is the son of the sun. As the light of the world, he is likewise.
The cost has been specific – the loss of virtually all the feminine attributes, particularly in regard to fertility sustainability and the physical responsibility for the continued nutruring and welfare of existence. Despite the fact that Yahweh variously portrays himself as a wifely, or even a fatherly-motherly god, these attributes are generally by analogy only and definitely not a presentation of the female as a manifestation of divinity.
The Nemesis of the White Goddess
The title White Goddess is identified with the ancient European Moon Goddess, who comes in a diversity of identities. Just as the Great Goddess frequently comes in a trinity of phases, the virgin of sexual love, the mother of nurturing and the crone of death, so the Moon Goddess is identified with a variety of trinitarian aspects which sometimes identify the aspects of the mother and her divine child with the waxing and waning moon.
Among her names are Hecate as the triple moon goddess Selene (Heaven), Artemis (Earth) and Persephone (Underworld), and the Queen of Heaven identified as Hebe (virgin) Rhea (mother) and Hecate (crone). In many places the Moon Goddess has inherited the more general title of Queen of Heaven encompassing the night sky along with its stars and planets, particularly Venus, stemming from Sumerian Inanna and continuing with Ishtar of Babylon, Hathor of Egypt. In Britain she gave her name to Albion.
Porphyry noted : “The moon is Hecate, the symbol of her varying phases … her power appears in three forms, having as symbol of the new moon, the figure in the white robe and the golden sandals, and torches lighted; the basket which she wears when she is mounted high is the symbol of the cultivation of the crops which she made to grow up according to the increase of her light”.
The name Hekate came originally from Heqit, the Goddess of Parturition amalgamating the seven Hathors of the birth-chamber – heq being tribal matriarch in command of the hekau or mothers words of wisdom (Walker 378).
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Diana’s Nemesis – The Golden Bough
Diana is both Moon Goddess – Queen of Heaven and Goddess of the Wilderness and Wildlife. James Frazer’s study of the glade Nemi of Diana and its forlorn sacred king was the motivating principle for his renowned 12 volume work on religion and magic “The Golden Bough”. It is the centrepiece of the introduction and the last paragraph in its completion.
In his preface, he notes: “When I originally conceived the idea of the work, of which the first part is now laid before the public in a third and enlarged edition, my intention merely was to explain the strange rule of the priesthood or sacred kingship of Nemi and with it the legend of the Golden Bough, immortalised by Virgil, which the voice of antiquity associated with the priesthood. The explanation was suggested to me by some similar rules formerly imposed on kings in Southern India, and at first I thought that it might be adequately set forth within the compass of a small volume. But I soon found that in attempting to settle one question I had raised many more: wider and wider prospects opened out before me; and thus step by step I was lured on into far-spreading fields of primitive thought which had been but little explored by my predecessors”.
The King of the Wood
The still glassy lake that sleeps
Beneath Arica’s trees –
Those trees in whose dim shadow
The ghastly priest doth reign
The priest who slew the slayer
And shall himself be slain
“Who does not know Turner’s picture of the Golden Bough? The lake of Nemi. The scene, suffused with the golden glow of imagination … is a dream-like vision of the little woodland Lake of Nemi – “Diana’s Mirror,” as it was called by the ancients. No one who has seen that calm water, lapped in a green hollow of the Alban hills, can ever forget it. … In antiquity this sylvan landscape was the scene of a strange and recurring tragedy. In order to understand it aright we must try to form in our minds an accurate picture the place where it happened ; for, as we shall see later on, subtle link subsisted between the natural beauty of the spot and the dark crimes which under the mask of religion were often perpetrated there, crimes which after the lapse of many ages still lend a touch of melancholy to these quiet woods and waters, like a chill breath of autumn on one of those bright September days while not a leaf seems faded.”
“The Alban hills are group of volcanoes extending from the Apennines in view of Rome Two of the extinct craters are now filled by two beautiful waters, the Alban lake and its lesser sister the lake of Nemi. … On all sides but one the banks, thickly mantled with luxuriant vegetation, descend steeply to the water’s edge. Only on the north a stretch of flat ground intervenes between the lake and the foot of the hills. This was the scene of the tragedy. Here, in the very heart of the wooded hills, under the abrupt declivity now crested by the village of Nemi, the sylvan goddess Diana had an old and famous sanctuary, the resort of pilgrims from all parts of Latium. It was known as the sacred grove of Diana Nemorensis, … Diana of the Woodland Glade” (Frazer 1890 v1a 1).
The great wealth and popularity of the sanctuary in antiquity are attested by ancient writers as well as by the remains which have come to light in modern times. Despite its treasures being drained to pay for the civil war, two hundred years later it was reputed to be one of the richest sanctuaries in Italy. Within the precinct also stood shrines of the Egyptian goddesses Isis and Bubastis.
“Such, then, was the sanctuary of Diana at Nemi, a fitting home for the ‘mistress of mountains, and forests, green, and lonely glades, and sounding rivers,’ … Multitudes of her statuettes, appropriately clad in the short tunic and high buskins of a huntress, with the quiver slung over her shoulder, have been found on the spot” (Frazer 1890 v1a 1). The buskin is a symbol of both Mari and Isis, and was worn by Dionysius. Graves has suggested that sacred kings, including Jesus, were lamed and wore high-heeled buskins so their heel would not touch the ground (Graves 1948 324-333).
“Down to the decline of Rome a custom was observed there which seems to transport us at once from civilisation to savagery. In the sacred grove there grew a certain tree round which at any time of the day, and probably far into the night, a grim figure might be seen to prowl. In his hand he carried a drawn sword, and he kept peering warily about him as if at every instant he expected to be set upon by an enemy., He was a priest and a murderer; and the man for whom he looked was sooner or later to murder him and hold the priesthood in his stead. Such was the rule of the sanctuary.
A candidate for the priesthood could only succeed to office by slaying the priest, and having slain him, he retained office till he was himself slain by a stronger or a craftier. The post which he held by this precarious tenure carried with it the title of king ; but surely no crowned head ever lay uneasier, or was visited by more evil dreams, than his. For year in year out, in summer and winter, ill fair weather and in foul, he had to keep his lonely watch, and whenever he snatched a troubled slumber it was at the peril of his life. The least relaxation of his vigilance, the smallest abatement of his strength of limb or skill of fence, put him in jeopardy grey hairs might seal his death-warrant.
It is a sombre picture, set to melancholy music – the background of forest showing black and jagged against a lowering and stormy sky, the sighing of the wind in the branches, the rustle of the withered leaves under foot, the lapping of the cold water on the shore, and in the foreground, pacing to and fro, now in twilight and now in gloom, a dark figure with a glitter of steel at the shoulder whenever the pale moon, riding clear of the cloud-rack, peers down at him through the matted boughs” (Frazer 1890 v1a 1).
It is said that Orestes came here with his sister bearing the hidden statue of Diana after killing King Thoas of Taurus. Herodotus noted that the Tauric Diana (Artemis) was said to sacrifice every man who landed on the shore to her altar, nailing the head of each victim to a cross (Walker 58). In Hierapolis the victims were hung on artificial trees in her temple.
Within the sanctuary grew a certain tree of which no branch might be broken, except by a runaway slave, who if he succeeded could challenge the priest to single combat and if he slew him to gain his kingly title. According to myth this branch was the Golden Bough which Aeneas plucked at the Sibyl’s bidding before he descended to the underworld. The flight of the slave was said to represent the flight of Orestes. Until the end of the first century AD, it was said that the priesthood was still the prize of victory in single combat.
Diana was conceived as a huntress, blessing men and women with with offspring and granting expectant mothers an easy delivery. On the 13th of August she was worshipped with fire and lamps which lit up the lake and in hearths throughout the country. At Nemi she also bore the title Vesta indicating the role of her sacred fire. Her statues show her holding a burning torch. Women came to make offerings crowned with wreaths and with torches. The Vestal Virgins in Rome were renowned for their vows of chastity.
“Ah! How one avoids love’s languors,
When one disdains his ardours.”
Diana’s chaste attitude towards sex is illustrated in two myths. Achteon spied on her in her bath with her nymphs. Drawn to their beauty, he is changed into a stag and devoured by his own hunting dogs.
Ah if the severe immortal one
Had been all alone in the bath
She would not have treated him
in such a cruel way.
When Jupiter seduced Callisto by appearing as the amourous double of Diana herself, Diana when she discovers she is pregnant turns her into a bear and banishes her to the constellations. One can sense a similarity to Christian reinforcement of conservative morals in these myths of punishment for sexual misadventure. The same considerations apply to Artemis who had her paramour Orion stung to death by scorpions for touching her fortuitously. De Bernieres notes laconically (6) “she was such a fastidious stickler for etiquite and summary chastisement that entire dynasties could be disposed of for one word out of placeor an oblation five minutes late”.
The pre-Christian feast of the Mother Goddess Diana, or Vesta, was once celebrated with cyder, a roasted kid spitted on hazel- twigs and apples hanging in clusters from a bough. Another name of this Goddess was Nemesis (from the Greek nemos, ‘grove’) which in Classical Greek connotes divine vengeance for breaches of taboo. In her statues she carries an apple-bough in one hand, and the fifth-century Christian poet Commodianus identifies her with Diana Nemorensis (‘of the grove’) whose followers ‘worship a cut branch and call a log Diana’. Nemesis and Diana Nemorensis are associated with the deer … Nemesis carries a wheel in her other hand to show that she is the goddess of the turning year, like Egyptian Isis and Latin Fortune, but this has been generally understood as meaning that the wheel will one day come full circle and vengeance be exacted on the sinner. In Gaul she was Diana Nemetona, nemeton being a sacred grove” (Graves 1948 255).
“Diana ruled the wild forests of Europe through the medieval period. As patron of the forest of Ardennes she was Dea Arduenna; as patron of the Black Forest she was Dea Abnoba. Serbians, Czechs, and Poles knew her as the woodland Moon – goddess Diiwica, Devana, or Dziewona. She remained the Goddess of wild woodlands and hunting, all the way up to the 18th century in England, celebrated in the procession into the church of the head of a deer” (Walker 234).
She dwelt with two lesser deities, Egeria a water nymph and Virbius who was also Hippolytus, the young chaste hero who hunted with the virgin Artemis. Aphrodite in revenge for his chastity causes his step mother to become infatuated with him and to jealously betray him to his father Theseus. Poseidon causes his chariot horses to bolt and he is dragged to his death.
But Diana, for the love she bore Hippolytus persuaded the leech Aesculapius to make him whole, just as Egyptian Thoth made the Horus moon eye whole. She bore him away to the dells at Nemi to be looked after by Egeria unknown and solitary in the depth of the Italian forest.
These tables are turned in the case of Adonis who is consigned to a third part of the year with each of Aphrodite and Persephone and keep a third to himself (which he gladly gave to Aphrodite) just as Tammuz had to spend part of the season in the underworld, but having offended Artemis, he was torn by a wild boar and died (Henderson 118).
Diana later became associated with Artemis the Greek woodland goddess of Ephesus, whose name means “Cutter” or “Butcher” (Walker 58). “Now we hear of vineyards and plantations dedicated to Artemis, fruits offered to her, and her temple standing in an orchard. Hence we may conjecture that her Italian sister Diana was also revered as a patroness of vines and fruit-trees” (Frazer 1890 a).
In Northern Greece, he has a similar ancient history beside a lake, taking as consort Hermes the messenger, who is also the sperminal essence of male fertility and the mind as male principal. Properz unites the two “by the holy waters of lake Boibeis has Brimo lain her maidenly body at Hermes side” (Kerenyi 63). Brimo the great goddess of Northern Greece named Phersia at Thesalonian Phera can be equated either with Demeter/Persephone or Artemis-Hekate. The lake’s name in local dialect means “owned by Phoebe” and it is therefore the possession of just this “first” Artemis.
“Hippolytus had a temple at Troezen on a beautiful bay before the Island of Poseidon, and was worshipped by weeping unwedded maids who dedicated locks of their hair to him. Young men dedicated their first beard. Hippolytus had mounds dedicated to him by beside temples of both Artemis and Aphrodite, so both goddesses appear to have been his two lovers, as the tragic tale actually indicates. Orestes is supposed to have washed away his guilt at his mother’s murder at Troezen, providing him another link with the goddess (Frazer 1890 v1a 24).
The giving of hair appears to be giving forth of first fertility and is parallelled by the practice in the cult of Astarte at Byblos of shaving of a young woman’s hair, or losing her virginity by prostituting herself to a stranger. But how, it may be asked, does all this apply to Hippolytus who appeared so chaste? (Frazer 1890 v1a 28)
“To the ancients, on the contrary, Artemis was the ideal embodiment of the wild life of nature – the life of plants, of animals, and of men – in all its exuberant fertility and profusion. … The truth is, that the word parthenos applied to Artemis, which we commonly translate virgin, means no more than an unmarried woman, and in early days the two things were by no means the same. … In regard to Artemis, even the ambiguous parthenos seems to have been merely a popular epithet, not an official title. She was, like Diana in Italy, specially concerned with the loss of virginity and with child-bearing, and that she not only assisted but encouraged women to be fruitful and multiply ; indeed, if we may take Euripides’s word for it, in her capacity of midwife she would not even speak to childless women” (Bailey 73).
Further, it is highly significant that while her titles and the allusions to her functions mark her out clearly as the patroness of childbirth, we find none that recognise her distinctly as a deity of marriage.’ Nothing, however, sets the true character of Artemis as a goddess of fecundity, though not of wedlock, in a clearer light than her constant identification with the unmarried, but not chaste, Asiatic goddesses of love and fertility, who were worshipped with rites of notorious profligacy at their popular sanctuaries.’
“From of old a great goddess of nature was everywhere worshipped in Greece. She was revered on the mountain heights as in the swampy lowlands, in the rustling woods and by the murmuring spring. To the Greek her hand was everywhere apparent. They saw her gracious blessing in the sprouting meadow, in the ripening corn, in the healthful vigour of all living things on earth, whether the wild creatures of the wood and the fell, or the cattle which man has tamed to his service, or man’s own offspring from the cradle upward. Her destroying anger he perceived in the blight of vegetation, in the inroads of wild beasts on his fields and orchards, as well as in the last mysterious end of life, in death. … She was an all-embracing power of nature, everywhere the object of a similar faith, however her names differed with the place in which she was believed to abide, with the emphasis laid on her gloomy or kindly aspect, or with the particular side of her energy which was specially revered. And as the Greek divided everything in animated nature into male and female, he could not imagine this female power of nature without her male counterpart” (Bailey 73).
“At Ephesus, the most celebrated of all the seats of her worship, her universal motherhood was set forth unmistakably in her sacred image. Copies of it have come down to us which agree in their main features, though they differ from each other in some details. They represent the goddess with a multitude of protruding breasts [sometimes also referred to as ‘eggs’]; the heads of animals of many kinds, both wild and tame, spring from the front of her body in a series of bands that extend from the breasts to the feet ; bees, roses, and sometimes butterflies, decorate her sides from the hips downward. The animals that thus appear to issue from her person include lions, bulls, stags, horses, goats, and rams. Moreover, lions rest on her upper arms; in at least one copy, serpents twine round her lower arms ; her bosom is festooned with a wreath of blossoms, and she wears a necklace of acorns. In one of the statues the breast of her robe is decorated with two winged male figures, who hold sheaves in both hands.’ It would be hard to devise a more expressive symbol of exuberant fertility, of prolific maternity, than these remarkable images” (Bailey 73).
No doubt the Ephesian Artemis, with her eunuch priests and virgin priestess was an Oriental, whose worship the Greek colonists took over. Her title as “Lady of the Clamours” is also reminiscent of Dionysius – the Lord of Pandemonium and Silence.
Another sinister sacrificial legend at Ephesus was the legend quoted by Petronius of the Widow of Ephesus who was supposed to have hung her husband on one of the three crosses outside the Temple of Diana, replacing the body of a crucified thief, and then lain with her lover at the foot of the cross.
“We can now perhaps understand why the ancients identified Hippolytus, the consort of Artemis, with Virbius, who, according to Servius, stood to Diana as Adonis to Venus, or Attis to the Mother of the Gods. For Diana, like Artemis, was a goddess of fertility in general, and of childbirth in particular. As such she, like her Greek counterpart, needed a male partner. That partner, if Servius is right, was Virbius. In his character of the founder of the sacred grove and first king of Nemi, Virbius is clearly the mythical predecessor or archetype of the line of priests who served Diana under the title of Kings of the Wood, and who came, like him, one after the other, to a violent end.’ It is natural, therefore, to conjecture that they stood to the goddess of the grove in the same relation in which Virbius stood to her; in short, that the mortal King of the Wood had for his queen the wood land Diana herself.’ If the sacred tree which he guarded with his life was supposed, as seems probable, to be her special embodiment, her priest may not only have worshipped it as his goddess but embraced it as his wife” (Frazer 1890 v1a 20).
The Golden Bough is mistletoe as it appears after hanging dried. “Virgil tells how two doves, guiding Aeneas to the gloomy vale in whose depth grew the Golden Bough, alighted upon a tree, “whence shone a flickering gleam of gold. As in the woods in winter cold the mistletoe – a plant not native to its tree – is green with fresh leaves and twines its yellow berries about the boles ; such seemed upon the shady holm-oak the leafy gold, so rustled in the gentle breeze the golden leaf.” Here Virgil definitely describes the Golden Bough as growing on a holm-oak, and compares it with the mistletoe. Now grounds have been shewn for believing that the if the priest of the Arician grove – the King of the Wood personified the tree on which grew the Golden Bough.’ Hence if that tree was the oak, the King of the Wood must have been a personification of the oak-spirit. It is, therefore easy to understand why, before he could be slain, it was m necessary to break the Golden Bough. As an oak-spirit, his life or death was in the mistletoe on the oak, and so long as the mistletoe remained intact, he, like Balder, could not die. To slay him, therefore, it was necessary to break the mistletoe, and probably, as in the case of Balder, to throw it at him. And to complete the parallel, it is only necessary to suppose that the King of the Wood was formerly burned, dead or alive, at the midsummer fire festival which, as we have seen, was annually celebrated in the Arician grove. The priest of Diana may have personated in flesh and blood the great Italian god of the sky, Jupiter,’ who had kindly come down from heaven in the lightning flash to dwell among men in the mistletoe-the thunder-besom – the Golden Bough – growing on the sacred oak beside the still waters of the lake of Nemi” (Frazer 1890 v7 303).
Frazer completes his last paragraph finally evoking the identity between Diana and the Moon Goddess. “If that was so, we need not wonder that the priest guarded with drawn sword the mystic bough which contained the god’s life and his own. The goddess whom he served and married was herself, if I am right, no other than the Queen of Heaven, the true wife of the sky-god. For she, too, loved the solitude of the woods and the lonely hills, and sailing overhead on clear nights in the likeness of the silver moon she looked down with pleasure on her own fair image reflected on the calm, the burnished surface of the lake, Diana’s Mirror” (Frazer 1890 v7 303).
The Renewal celebrates the return of the Sacred Marriage fulfilling the restoration of the Feminine to her natural divinity. If you wish to restore the hieros gamos to its original fertility and empower the Goddess, join in the Renewal. You will thereby join in saving biodiversity for all time. It is her natural empowerment in her apocalyptic ‘unveiling’.
Roberts Graves’ Muse – The White Moon Goddess
“The theme, briefly, is the antique story … of the birth, life, death and resurrection of the God of the Waxing Year; the central chapters concern the God’s losing battle with the God of the Waning Year for love of the capricious and all – powerful Threefold Goddess, their mother, bride and layer-out. The poet identifies himself with the God of the Waxing Year and his Muse with the Goddess; the rival is his blood-brother, his other self, his weird. All true poetry – true by Housman’s practical test celebrates some incident or scene in this very ancient story, and the three main characters are so much a part of our racial inheritance that they not only assert themselves in poetry but recur on occasions of emotional stress in the form of dreams, paranoiac visions and delusions. The weird, or rival, often appears in night as the lean, dark-faced bed-side spectre, or Prince of the Air, who tries to drag the dreamer out through the window, so that he looks back and sees his body still lying rigid in bed; but he takes countless other malevolent or diabolic or serpent-like forms” (Graves 1948 24)
“The Goddess is a lovely, slender woman with a hooked nose, deathly pale face, lips red as rowan-berries, startlingly blue eyes and long fair hair; she will suddenly transform herself into sow, mare, bitch, she-ass, weasel, serpent, owl, she-wolf, tigress, mermaid or loathsome hag. Her names and tides are innumerable. In ghost stories she often figures as ‘The White Lady’, and in ancient religions, from the British Isles to the Caucasus, as the ‘White Goddess’. I cannot think of any true poet from Homer onwards who has not independently recorded his experience of her. The test of a poet’s vision, one might say, is the accuracy of his portrayal of the White Goddess and of the island over which she rules. The reason why the hairs stand on end, the eyes water, the throat is constricted, the skin crawls and a shiver runs down the spine when one writes or reads a true poem is that a true poem is necessarily an invocation of the White Goddess, or Muse, the Mother of All Living, the ancient power of fright and lust – the female spider or the queen-bee whose embrace is death. Housman offered a secondary test of true poetry: whether it matches a phrase of Keats’s, ‘everything that reminds me of her goes through me like a spear’.” (Gaves 1948 24)
“The Night Mare is one of the cruellest aspects of the White Goddess. Her nests, when one comes across them in dreams, lodged in rock-clefts or the branches of enormous hollow yews, are built of carefully chosen twigs, lined with white horse-hair and the plumage of prophetic birds and littered with the jaw-bones and entrails of poets. The prophet Job said of her.- ‘She dwelleth and abideth upon the rock. Her young ones also suck up blood” (Graves 1948 26)
All saints revile her, and all sober men
Ruled by the God Apollo’s golden mean-
In scom of which I sailed to find her
In distant regions likeliest to hold her
Whom I desired above all things to know,
Sister of the mirage and echo.
It was a virtue not to stay,
To go my headstrong and heroic way
Seeking her out at the volcano’s head,
Among pack ice, or where the track had faded
Beyond the cavern of the seven sleepers:
Whose broad high brow was white as any leper’s,
Whose eyes were blue, with rowan-berry lips,
With hair curled honey-coloured to white hips.
Green sap of Spring in the young wood a-stir
Will celebrate the Mountain Mother,
And every song-bird shout awhile for her;
But I am gifted, even in November
Rawest of seasons, with so huge a sense
Of her nakedly worn magnificence
I forget cruelty and past betrayal,
Careless of where. the next bright bolt may fall.
Robert Graves (1948)
Diana and Mary : The Assumption of the Moon Goddess
The people of Ephesus did not convert easily to the Christian message. Acts notes “… throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth. … But when they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.” (Acts 19:26 )
To the Christians Diana became the “Queen of Witches” (Walker 233). However the legend that Mary had gone to Ephesus and died there in her old age resulted in Ephesus and the festival of Diana becoming the Assumption of Mary. This is an ironic twist of fate because the Christians are here using the moral prudishness of Artemis to purvey a very pure virginal image of the feminine even to the extent of Mary have been circumcised. Thus the forefathers repressed the more promiscuous aspect of the Goddess manifested in Magdalen.
In Roman Catholic doctrine, the Assumption means that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was taken (assumed) bodily into heavenly glory when she died. In the Orthodox church, the koimesis, or dormition (“falling asleep”), of the Virgin began to be commemorated on August 15 in the 6th century. The observance gradually spread to the West, where it became known as the feast of the Assumption (Grollier 1993).
The Virgin is believed to have died on August 13th, to have risen again and ascended to Heaven on the third day. Since the Virgin was closely associated by the early Church with Wisdom – with the Saint ‘Sophia’, or Holy Wisdom, of the Cathedral Church at Constantinople- the choice of this feast for the passing of Wisdom into Immortality was a happy one (Graves 1948 255). When Diana’s temple was finally pulled down, as the Gospels ordered, its magnificent porphyry pillars were carried to Constantinople and built into the church of Holy Sophia (Walker 234).
The Litany of the Blessed Virgin contains the prayer Sedes sapientae ora pro nobis, ‘Seat of Wisdom, pray for us!’ For St. Peter Chrysologos in his Sermon on the Annunciation had represented the Virgin as the seven – pillared temple which Wisdom (according to Proverbs 9) had built for herself. So the meaning of the mediaeval allegory about the milk-white unicorn which could be captured only with the assistance of a pure virgin is now easily read. The Unicorn is the Roe in the Thicket. It lodges under an apple-tree, the tree of immortality-through-wisdom. It can be captured only by a pure virgin – Wisdom herself. The purity of the virgin stands for spiritual integrity. (Graves 1948 255)
“The Christian Church appears to have sanctified this great festival of the virgin goddess by adroitly converting it into the festival of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin on the fifteenth of August. … a passage in the Syriac text of The Departure of My Lady Mary from this World, … runs thus: “And the apostles also ordered that there should be a commemoration of the blessed one on the 13 th (also 15 th) of Ab (August), on account of the vines bearing bunches (of grapes), and on account of the trees bearing fruit, that clouds of hail, bearing stones of, wrath, might not come, and the trees be broken, and their fruits, and the vines with their clusters” (Frazer 1890 a).
“Similarly in the Arabic text of the apocryphal work ‘On the Passing of the Blessed Virgin Mary’, which is attributed to the an Apostle John, there occurs the following passage
‘Also a festival in her honour was instituted on the fifteenth day of the month Ab [that is, August], which is the day of her passing from this world, the day on which the miracles were performed, and the time when the fruits of trees are ripening’ ” (Frazer 1890 v1a).
The Holy Spirit is God’s Wife!
The holy spirit is described by John as the helper:
26 But the helper, the holy spirit, which the Father will send in my name, that one will teach you all things and bring back to your minds all the things I told you (John 14).
But Adam’s wife was described in the same way:
18 And Jehovah God went on to say: It is not good for the man to continue by himself. I am going to make a helper for him, as a complement of him (Genesis 2).
This is not a coincidence. Just as Eve was a complement and helper to Adam so the holy spirit is God’s helper, and a complement to him. It is his wife. It is Jesus’ mum. The 3, God, The Holy Spirit and Jesus, are a family. They are Father Mother and Son, for Jesus did not come from a single parent family as all churches would have you believe. For God is not a hypocrite.
Another way to see that God has a wife is to consider Jesus’ words when he said…
19 Therefore, in answer, Jesus went on to say to them: Most truly I say to you, The Son cannot do a single thing of his own initiative, but only what he beholds the Father doing. For whatever things that One does, these things the Son also does in like manner (John 5).
So Jesus only does what he has seen his father do first. But the whole of Jesus’ ministry can be regarded as a journey to a distant land to get himself a large composite wife, which wife he paid for with his blood. And certainly Jesus succeeded and got a wife, his church – see U65. So John 5:19 is basically saying that God is married, which is hardly surprising.
It is telling us that God must also have got himself a wife in a similar manner to Jesus. Jesus proposed to the 1NC saints at the last supper and ended up marrying 144,000 of them who now make up his composite wife, his heavenly home.
1 And I saw, and, look! the Lamb standing upon the Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 having his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads.
2 And I heard a sound out of heaven as the sound of many waters and as the sound of loud thunder; and the sound that I heard was as of singers who accompany themselves on the harp playing on their harps.
3 And they are singing as if a new song before the throne and before the 4 living creatures and the elders; and no one was able to master that song but the 144,000, who have been bought from the earth.
4 These are the ones that did not defile themselves with women; in fact, they are virgins. These are the ones that keep following the Lamb no matter where he goes. These were bought from among mankind as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb,
5 and no falsehood was found in their mouths; they are without blemish (Revelation 14).
8 Yes, it has been granted to her to be arrayed in bright, clean, fine linen, for the fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the holy ones.
9 And he tells me: Write: Happy are those invited to the evening meal of the Lamb’s marriage. Also, he tells me: These are the true sayings of God (Revelation 19).
In fact God’s wife is likewise 144,000 holy angels who as a group make up the holy spirit, the house of God, his church.
The holy spirit is not mentioned much in the old testament. In fact here are all the explicit references to it as ‘the holy spirit’…
11 Do not throw me away from before your face; And your holy spirit O do not take away from me (Psalm 51).
10 But they themselves rebelled and made his holy spirit feel hurt. He now was changed into an enemy of theirs; he himself warred against them (Isaiah 63).
11 And one began to remember the days of long ago, Moses his servant: Where is the One that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is the One that put within him His own holy spirit? (Isaiah 63).
But it is referred to more in other ways…
9 And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hand upon him; and the sons of Israel began to listen to him and they went doing just as Jehovah had commanded Moses (Deuteronomy 34).
17 the spirit of the truth, which the world cannot receive, because it neither beholds it nor knows it. You know it, because it remains with you and is in you (John 14) [this is a new testament reference, both wisdom and truth are fruitages of the holy spirit].
31 And he proceeded to fill him with the spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding and in knowledge and in every sort of craftsmanship (Exodus 35).
Since the holy spirit imparts wisdom it must be an intelligent being or beings. Likewise we can deduce that the holy spirit is a living intelligent thing because it can plead for us:
26 In like manner the spirit also joins in with help for our weakness; for the [problem of] what we should pray for as we need to we do not know, but the spirit itself pleads/intercedes for us with groanings unuttered (Romans 8).
Furthermore it gets hurt and grieves…
30 Also, do not be grieving God’s holy spirit, with which you have been sealed for a day of releasing by ransom (Ephesians 4).
And it has a will of its own…
11 But all these operations the one and the same spirit performs, making a distribution to each one respectively just as it wills (1 Corinthians 12).
So since it is a living spirit, so it must consist either of an angel or of a group of them. We know that there is more than one holy angel for the Psalm says…
4 Making his angels [his messengers] spirits, his ministers a devouring fire (Psalm 104).
13 But with reference to which one of the angels has he ever said: Sit at my right hand, until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet?
14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth on behalf of those who are going to inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1).
The holy spirit does God’s ministering and contains ministers, who are holy spirits plural. So the holy spirit is a group of angels. But why would any holy angel be excluded? So it must be the group of all the angels who are holy, all the angels who are married to God, all the angels who are in a covenant with God. Hence Paul said:
26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother (Galatians 4).
The Jerusalem above is God’s heavenly administration which is all of the chosen angels, which is a select group of the spirits. Paul explicitly states that these angels are our Mother, for they give birth to all the new angels. Now mother’s plead with father’s not to be too hard on errant sons. And that is precisely the meaning of Romans 8:26 above. The holy spirit interceding with God for the sanctified ones, is the mother interceding with the father for her sons.
God does refer to a whole nation of people as one person…
22 And you must say to Pharaoh: This is what Jehovah has said: Israel is my son, my firstborn (Exodus 4).
He also refers to the entire church as Jesus’ wife, one person in the singular…
22 Let wives be in subjection to their husbands as to the Lord,
23 because a husband is head of his wife as the Christ also is head of the congregation, he being a saviour of [that] body.
24 In fact, as the congregation is in subjection to the Christ, so let wives also be to their husbands in everything (Ephesians 5).
So the whole congregation is regarded as being one body, one wife.
The old testament often refers to God as Jehovah of armies or Jehovah of hosts. Well he had an army on earth in the form of the men of Israel. And he had an army in heaven in the form of his holy spirit. For an army is a large collective that acts as an individual.
15 However, Elijah said: As Jehovah of armies before whom I do stand is living, today I shall show myself to him (1 Kings 18)
The account of Philip baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch gives the secret away entirely when read with the eyes open.
26 However, Jehovah’s angel spoke to Philip, saying: Rise and go to the south to the road that runs down from Jerusalem to Gaza. This is a desert road.
27 With that he rose and went, and, look! an Ethiopian eunuch, a man in power under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, and who was over all her treasure. He had gone to Jerusalem to worship,
28 but he was returning and was sitting in his chariot and reading aloud the prophet Isaiah.
29 So the spirit said to Philip: Approach and join yourself to this chariot.
30 Philip ran alongside and heard him reading aloud Isaiah the prophet, and he said: Do you actually know what you are reading?
31 He said: Really, how could I ever do so, unless someone guided me? And he entreated Philip to get on and sit down with him.
32 Now the passage of Scripture that he was reading aloud was this: As a sheep he was brought to the slaughter, and as a lamb that is voiceless before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth.
33 During his humiliation the judgment was taken away from him. Who will tell the details of his generation? Because his life is taken away from the earth.
34 In answer the eunuch said to Philip: I beg you, About whom does the prophet say this? About himself or about some other man?
35 Philip opened his mouth and, starting with this Scripture, he declared to him the good news about Jesus.
36 Now as they were going over the road, they came to a certain body of water, and the eunuch said: Look! A body of water; what prevents me from getting baptized?
38 With that he commanded the chariot to halt, and they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
39 When they had come up out of the water, Jehovah’s spirit quickly led Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him anymore, for he kept going on his way rejoicing (Acts 8).
So Jehovah’s angel was the speaking as ‘the spirit’ which was ‘Jehovah’s spirit’. This shows that God’s spirit consists of angels. In fact the angel who spoke to Philip would have probably been his opposite number in the holy spirit. For there is a one to one correspondence between the 144,000 angels of the holy spirit, God’s wife, and the 144,000 angels of Jesus’ wife, the 1NC saints.
So now we can understand the sentiments of Paul when he said…
19 Do not admit an accusation against an older man, except only on the evidence of 2 or 3 witnesses.
20 Reprove before all onlookers persons who practice sin, that the rest also may have fear.
21 I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus and the chosen angels [the 144,000 angels chosen by God to be actually his second wife, the holy spirit, the 3rd witness] to keep these things without prejudgment, doing nothing according to a biased leaning (1 Timothy 5).
God must have married his second wife and celebrated with the week long feast after Jesus died on 33Nisan14 and before the holy spirit was poured out and the 12 apostles of that spirit sat upon the heads of the 12 apostles of the 1NC at Pentecost 33. So there are in fact 3 divine witness bearers in heaven, the father, the son (who became a God at his resurrection) and the holy spirit, the step mother of Jesus and the mother of the 1NC saints, the second wife of God. So this puts the canonicity of the extra phrase in 1John5:7-8 (and these 3 are one) in a new context! We believe, that Jesus gave his firstborn angelic rights, which he had purchased from Satan, to Gabriel who then became the head of the second holy spirit just as Satan was the head of the first holy spirit. For we know that Jesus then became the first created God, the firstborn God, the only begotten God who is in the bosom with the father (John 1:18). Jesus cannot both be a God to be worshipped with his own wife, the 1NC saints, the holy spirit of the kingdom, and the head of the holy spirit of God.
26 In her 6th month the angel Gabriel was sent forth from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
27 to a virgin promised in marriage to a man named Joseph of David’s house; and the name of the virgin was Mary.
28 And when he went in before her he said: Good day, highly favored one, Jehovah is with you.
29 But she was deeply disturbed at the saying and began to reason out what sort of greeting this might be.
30 So the angel said to her: Have no fear, Mary, for you have found favor with God;
31 and, look! you will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you are to call his name Jesus.
32 This one will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; and Jehovah God will give him the throne of David his father,
33 and he will rule as king over the house of Jacob forever, and there will be no end of his kingdom (Luke 1)
God sent his heavenly wife, the true mother of Jesus, the second holy spirit, to tell Mary, the surrogate mother of Jesus, about her giving birth to his son, by his heavenly wife. Gabriel made the announcement, so he was the head of God’s wife, the mediator of the second holy spirit at that time. He was promised in marriage to God but not actually married, just as Mary was promised in marriage to Joseph but not actually married! Gabriel conceived through the conception of Mary.
So we think that God married the second holy spirit on 33Nisan17, the day the heavens were fixed.
20 and through him to reconcile again to himself all [other] things by making peace through the blood [he shed] on the torture stake, no matter whether they are the things upon the earth or the things in the heavens (Colossians 1)
God is not a hypocrite
The concept that God commanded his sons to get married and to be punished with the death penalty if they had children out of wedlock but himself created the entire human race and all the angels as a single parent is absurd and insulting to the one whose activities are perfect, as it makes him into a hypocrite of species wide proportion.
Jesus told us that the angels in heaven do not get married as we do (person to person) for male female marriage is an institution for the dead. It only works if you are going to die at some point otherwise the commitment is too monstrous. So God cannot marry an individual angel. So he marries a group of them. Angels then join and leave the group. This group is the holy spirit, his administration, his church wife, heavenly Jerusalem. A composite wife can be divine in character even though all the individuals within it are not, so long as they co-operate in love. For the love between the individuals will filter out the roughness in each individual’s character.
This may be why Jesus said to Peter…
52 Then Jesus said to him: Return your sword to its place, for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword.
53 Or do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father to supply me at this moment more than 12 legions of angels? [72,000 angels]
54 In that case, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that it must take place this way? (Matthew 26).
These angels of the holy spirit being in one to one correspondence with the 72,000/80,000 1NC saints of the first presence.
Husbands and Wives
Here is a table of greater or lesser husbands and wives…
Board of directors
President of corporation
All the vice presidents as a group
Manager of sports team
Holy Spirit, all the holy angels
The very word ‘corporation’, or ‘incorporated’ means a lot of people regarded as one body.
Now the Holy Spirit is the Mother of everyone living spiritually whereas Adam called his wife Eve because:
20 After this Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she had to become the mother of everyone living (Genesis 3).
So God does have a family, and in this family he is the father, the holy spirit is the mother, God’s wife, and Jesus is now the firstborn son. So there it is. There is nothing mystical or indecipherable about it, we are just talking about your regular family (well OK they are a rather powerful example!). This is why you cannot blaspheme against God or against his wife, who wears his name but you could blaspheme against Jesus, before he was resurrected…
31 On this account I say to you: Every sort of sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the spirit will not be forgiven.
32 For example, whoever speaks a word [in blasphemy] against the Son of man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks [in blasphemy] against the holy spirit, it will not be forgiven him, no, not in this system of things nor in that to come (Matthew 12).
So the holy spirit has the same status as God, being his wife, so it cannot just be one angel, for if it was, then that angel would also be a God to be worshipped with the same status as Jehovah.
Incidentally the holy spirit, or helper or comforter, the spirit of the truth, the spirit of wisdom, sent by God, is always referred to in the neuter in scripture. However, the spirit of truth, sent by Jesus, which is also called a helper is referred to in the masculine…
26 When the helper arrives that I will send you from the Father, the spirit of the truth, which proceeds from the Father, that one will bear witness about me (John 15).
7 Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit I am going away. For if I do not go away, the helper will by no means come to you, but if I do go my way, I will send him to you (John 16).
13 However, when that one arrives, the spirit of the truth, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own impulse, but what things he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things coming (John 16).
This ‘spirit of the truth’, the one sent by Jesus, as opposed to the one sent by Jehovah, is the angel of Revelation that presented Revelation in signs to John…
1 A revelation by Jesus Christ, which God gave him, to show his slaves the things that must shortly take place. And he sent forth his angel and presented [it] in signs through him to his slave John (Revelation 1).
So all of the holy angels together, as the holy spirit, are feminine. But each individual angel is masculine.
13 But with reference to which one of the angels has he ever said: Sit at my right hand, until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet?
14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth [as the holy spirit] on behalf of those who are going to inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1).
The holy spirit itself is the helper, the ministering spirit for all of us, and so are these angels. So the one is the sum of the others.
For those churches which believe incorrectly that the holy spirit is the force by means of which God gets things done we would say the force by which IBM gets things done is its workforce, which is a collective of people.
First Century Christian Writings
The Saviour himself said:
“Just now my mother, the Holy Spirit, took me by one of my hairs
[an angel loyal to Jesus’ promised headship of the holy spirit that came after his sacrifice]
and carried me up to the great mountain, Tabor”
(Gospel of the Hebrews).
So the Holy Spirit is Jesus’ mum.
The Lords’ Witnesses, 42 Princes Square, Bayswater, London, W2 4AD | lordswitnesses.com
Scientific, Skeptical and Secular (and even anti-theistic)! These are the adventures of an ex-scientist, working as an engineer in energy research, and living in a world that is not secular enough.
Asherah – the wife of Yahweh
In the 1975 excavation of Kuntillet Ajrud, a site dated to the 8th century BCE, pottery was found covered with amazing and revealing scripts. Asherah’s name was associated with Yahweh as if as his wife. “I have blessed you by Yahweh … and his Asherah”.
Yahweh (normally portrayed either as a storm god or desert god) is often mentioned in other archeaological finds in association with Asherah. Her name even appears 40 times in the Hebrew bible. Perhaps you remember passages from the bible that appeared not to make perfect sense [ironic smile] but some of them might be clearer if you know that Asherah is generally translated into English (King James Bible) as the ‘grove’ or ‘pole’ – both of which probably represented her ritually. In fact Asherah was usually represented in a distinctive way using a tree or branch motif. She was thought of as the ‘tree of life’ and in Ugarit she acted as an intermediary between mortal men and her husband the Most High god El.
Deuteronomy 16:21 “Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees near unto the altar of the LORD thy God” is one example where she seems to be described as a cult object. The meaning seems clear (even if slightly strange) until you find that the ‘grove of trees’ might represent a goddess if translated differently.
2 Kings 23:4 it is clear that the King is attempting to purge all the trappings of polytheism,”. .. to bring forth out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Ba’al, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven . . .“
Deuteronomy 33:3 says in some translations “At his right, his own Asherah“
A similar figure to Asherah appears in other cultures under different names, including Athirat, Ashertu and Astarte and but with a similar tree of life theme. The Wikipedia article about Asherah says that in the Ugaritic texts Athirat is distinct from Asherah but then goes on to say “although in non-Ugaritic sources from later periods the distinction between the two goddesses can be blurred; either as a result of scribal error or through possible syncretism“.
This all points towards the Old Testament being a huge mixed bag of myth and legend and some biblical scholars, including Francesca Stravrakopoulou would go so far as to claim that God’s wife might have been edited out of the bible.
I suspect that speculation like this is not what one might term ‘strong evidence’, and certainly the ‘lovely Francesca’ has her critics. Somehow though I find her arguments more compelling. At the very least she is not afraid of point out inconsistencies in the Jewish and Christian interpretations of the Old Testament stories.
The next post is the final one in this mini series. It aims to summarise the mixed bag of anecdotes presented over this weekend.
- A family of Old Testament gods
- Yahweh and El
- Yahweh and Baal
- The Ugaritic Texts
- Asherah – the wife of Yahweh – this post
- Enough about Yahweh – mysterious indeed!
Queen of heaven (antiquity)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Queen of Heaven (Antiquity))
Queen of Heaven was a title given to a number of ancient sky goddesses in the ancient Mediterranean and Near East, in particular Anat, Isis, Innana, Astarte, Hera and possibly Asherah (by the prophet Jeremiah). Elsewhere, Nordic Frigg also bore this title. In Greco-Roman times Hera, and her Roman aspect Juno bore this title. Forms and content of worship varied. The title Queen of Heaven is used by Catholics and Orthodox Christians for Mary.
Main article: Isis
Isis was venerated first in Egypt. As per the Greek historian Herodotus, writing in the fifth century BCE, Isis was the only goddess worshiped by all Egyptians alike, and whose influence was so widespread by that point, that she had become completely syncretic with the Greek goddess Demeter. It is after the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great, and the Hellenization of the Egyptian culture initiated by Ptolemy I Soter, that she eventually became known as ‘Queen of Heaven’. Lucius Apuleius confirmed this in Book 11, Chap 47 of his novel known as The Golden Ass, in which his character prayed to the “Queen of Heaven”. The passage says that the goddess herself responded to his prayer, in which she explicitly identified herself as both the Queen of Heaven and Isis.
Then with a weeping countenance, I made this orison to the puissant Goddess, saying: O blessed Queen of Heaven…
Thus the divine shape breathing out the pleasant spice of fertile Arabia, disdained not with her divine voice to utter these words unto me: Behold Lucius I am come, thy weeping and prayers has moved me to succor thee. I am she that is the natural mother of all things, mistress and governess of all the elements, the initial progeny of worlds, chief of powers divine, Queen of Heaven… and the Egyptians which are excellent in all kind of ancient doctrine, and by their proper ceremonies accustomed to worship me, do call me Queen Isis.
Main article: Inanna
Inanna was the Sumerian Goddess of love and war. Despite her association with mating and fertility of humans and animals, Inanna was not a mother goddess, and is rarely associated with childbirth. Inanna was also associated with rain and storms and with the planet Venus.
Queen of Heaven is a title used for goddesses central to many religions of antiquity. Inanna’s name is commonly derived from Nin-anna “Queen of Heaven” (from Sumerian NIN “lady”, AN “sky”), although the cuneiform sign for her name (Borger 2003 nr. 153, U+12239 ) is not historically a ligature of the two. In some traditions Inanna was said to be a granddaughter of the creator goddess Nammu or Namma.. These difficulties have led some early Assyriologists to suggest that Inanna may have been originally a Proto-Euphratean goddess, possibly related to the Hurrian mother goddess Hannahannah, accepted only latterly into the Sumerian pantheon, an idea supported by her youthfulness, and that, unlike the other Sumerian divinities, she at first had no sphere of responsibilities. The view that there was a Proto-Euphratean substrate language in Southern Iraq before Sumerian is not widely accepted by modern Assyriologists. In Sumer Inanna was hailed as “Queen of Heaven” in the 3rd millennium BC. In Akkad to the north, she was worshipped later as Ishtar. In the Sumerian Descent of Inanna, when Inanna is challenged at the outermost gates of the underworld, she replies
I am Inanna, Queen of Heaven,
On my way to the East.
Her cult was deeply embedded in Mesopotamia and among the Canaanites to the west.
The goddess, the Queen of Heaven, whose worship Jeremiah so vehemently opposed, may have been possibly Astarte. Astarte is the name of a goddess as known from Northwestern Semitic regions, cognate in name, origin and functions with the goddess Ishtar in Mesopotamian texts. Another transliteration is ‘Ashtart; other names for the goddess include Hebrew עשתרת (transliterated Ashtoreth), Ugaritic ‘ṯtrt (also ‘Aṯtart or ‘Athtart, transliterated Atirat), Akkadian DAs-tar-tú (also Astartu) and Etruscan Uni-Astre (Pyrgi Tablets).
Astarte was connected with fertility, sexuality, and war. Her symbols were the lion, the horse, the sphinx, the dove, and a star within a circle indicating the planet Venus. Pictorial representations often show her naked. Astarte was accepted by the Greeks under the name of Aphrodite. The island of Cyprus, one of Astarte’s greatest faith centers, supplied the name Cypris as Aphrodite’s most common byname. Asherah was worshipped in ancient Israel as the consort of El and in Judah as the consort of Yahweh and Queen of Heaven (the Hebrews baked small cakes for her festival):
“Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger.” 
“… to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem …”
Hebrew Bible references
Worship of a “Queen of Heaven”, in Hebrew Malkath haShamayim (מלכת השמים) is recorded in the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, circa 628 BC, in the context of the Prophet condemning such religious worship as blasphemy and a violation of the teachings of the God of Israel. In Jeremiah 7:18:
“The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes of bread for the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to provoke me to anger.”
In Jeremiah 44:15-18:
“Then all the men who knew that their wives were burning incense to other gods, along with all the women who were present—a large assembly—and all the people living in Lower and Upper Egypt, said to Jeremiah, “We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD! We will certainly do everything we said we would: We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our fathers, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm. But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine.” “
It should be remembered in this context that there was a temple of Yahweh in Egypt at that time that was central to the Jewish community at Elephantine in which Yahweh was worshipped in conjunction with the goddess Anath (also named in the temple papyri as Anath-Bethel and Anath-Iahu).
The goddesses Asherah, Anath and Astarte first appear as distinct and separate deities in the tablets discovered in the ruins of the library of Ugarit (modern Ras Shamra, Syria). Some biblical scholars tend to regard these goddesses as one, especially under the title “Queen of heaven”.
- Guan Yin, commonly known in the West as the Goddess of Mercy
- Heavenly Mother
- Mother Nature
- Nuit (Thelema), Nut (Egyptian sky goddess)
- Sacred prostitution
God’s Wife of Amun
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
God’s Wife of Amun (Egyptian: ḥm.t nṯr n ỉmn) was the highest-ranking priestess of the Amun cult, an important Ancient Egyptian religious institution centered in Thebes during the Egyptian 25th and 26th dynasties (circa 740-525 BC). The office had political importance as well as religious, since the two were closely related in Ancient Egypt.
Although the title is first attested in the Middle Kingdom, its full political potential was not realized until the advent of Egypt’s 18th dynasty.
The title of God’s Wife of Amun first appears during the Tenth and Twelfth dynasties, when the title and position was held by non-royal women among those serving Min, Amun, and Ptah as priestesses. As the cult rose in importance among the other cults, stronger ties to the rulers became more necessary.
Rise and fall in the eighteenth dynasty
At the beginning of the New Kingdom the title started to be held by royal women (usually the wife of the king, but sometimes by the mother of the king), when its extreme power and prestige was first evident. The New Kingdom began in 1550 BC with the eighteenth dynasty. These were the rulers who drove the Hyksos out of Egypt and their native city was Thebes, which then became the leading city in Egypt. They believed that their local deity, Amun, had guided them in their victory and the cult rose to national importance. Adjustments to the rituals and myths followed.
The title, God’s Wife of Amun, “referred to the myth of the divine birth of the king, according to which his mother was impregnated by the god Amun.” While the office theoretically, was sacred, it was essentially wielded as a political tool by the serving Egyptian pharaoh to ensure “royal authority over the Theban region and the powerful priesthood of Amun” there. The royal lineage was traced through its women and, the rulers and the religious institutions were inexorably woven together in traditions that remained quite stable over a period of three thousand years. This title was used in preference to the title, Great Royal Wife, which was the title of the queen who was the consort to the pharaoh and who officiated at the temple. The new title conveyed that the pharaoh would be a demigod upon birth. Previously the pharaoh was considered to become divine only at death.
The first royal wife to hold this new title (not to be mistaken with the title of God’s Wife) was Queen Ahmose-Nefertari, the wife of Ahmose I, and this event is recorded in a stela in the temple of Amun at Karnak, and the role was a priestly post of importance in the temple of Amun in Thebes. She then passed it on to her daughter Meritamen, who in turn handed it to Hatshepsut, who used it before she ascended the throne as pharaoh.
Both Ahmose-Nefertari and Hatshepsut sometimes used the title as an alternative to that of “King’s Principal Wife”, which shows how important they felt the role was. Hatshepsut passed the title on to her daughter Neferure.
A series of scenes in Hatshepsut’s Chapelle Rouge show the God’s Wife of Amun (her daughter) and a male priest undergoing a ritual or ceremony that seems to be aimed at destroying the names of enemies. Other scenes elsewhere show the God’s Wife of Amun worshiping the deities, being purified in the sacred lake, and following the king into the sanctuary. These again show the importance of the role, but give very little indication of the tasks and responsibilities involved.
Hatshepsut was the daughter of Thutmose I and, upon his death, she became the wife of the youthful Thutmose II who was her young half-brother, born to a lesser wife than her mother. She seems to have been a de facto co-regent with him, having a great deal of influence upon the affairs of state. They had only one child who survived childhood, a daughter, Neferure, to whom the title of God’s Wife of Amun was passed.
Upon the death of her husband Thutmose II, Hatshepsut was appointed regent for the very youthful Thutmose III, who was not born to her—the royal wife and queen of his father—rather, he was born of a lesser wife. He was her stepson and cousin. Shortly thereafter, Hatshepsut was named pharaoh.
Her daughter, Neferure, took her place in many functions that required a royal queen serving as the Great Royal Wife and, as God’s Wife of Amun in the temple, while Thutmose III remained as co-regent to Hatshepsut. He became the head of the armies.
Hatshepsut died after a 22-year reign and, Thutmose III became pharaoh. At the end of a thirty year reign of his own, he entered into a co-regency with a son by a lesser wife who would become, Amenhotep II. Neferure had died without leaving another heir, but there were others in line to become pharaoh,[who?] so the co-regency assured that these royal offspring with closer ties to Hatshepsut would be removed from the line of descent, and Thutmose III’s chosen heir would rule.
The records of holders of the title, God’s Wife of Amun, after Thutmose III became pharaoh deviate from the established pattern, perhaps because of the line of royalty issue. After Neferure the list notes, Iset, the mother of Tuthmosis III, but it is quite certain that she never officiated, and was awarded the title after her death. Next is, Satiah, a lesser wife of Tuthmosis III in the early part of his reign. She is followed by, Merytre-Hatshepsut, another lesser wife of Tuthmosis III, who became the mother of his ultimate heir. She was the daughter of the Divine Adoratrice of Amun, Huy. Next on the list is, Meritamen, a daughter of Tuthmosis III and Merytre-Hatshepsut, thereby the sister of his ultimate heir. After all of those changes during his long reign, the office holder was the daughter of Thutmose III, returning to the traditional association.
Amenhotep II seems to be the one who initiated the attempts to remove records of Hatshepsut’s reign while his father was an old man and continued these efforts after he became pharaoh in his own right, claiming many of her achievements as his own, but failing to be thorough.
Amenhotep II also tried to break traditions by preventing the names of his wives from being recorded and introducing women who were not from the royal lineage into the line of descent—without success—as his designated heir was overlooked. After his death, which is estimated as 1400 BC, Tuthmosis IV was selected from the royal lineage as the next pharaoh.
The power and prestige of the role of the God’s Wife of Amun was greatly diminished by Amenhotep II. He may have declined to have one, unless it remained as his sister, Meritamen. The woman listed as holding the office next is, Tiaa. That is the name of a wife of his who was the mother of Tuthmosis IV and it is possible that she was named to this title by her son since he gave her other titles, however, the daughter of Tuthmosis IV also was named, Tiaa.
Later in that dynasty, with religious changes affecting the status of the cult, the title then fell out of favour. The pharaoh Amenhotep IV ruling from 1353 or 1351 initially followed the religious traditions. Soon he instituted a new religion that elevated Aten, not only to become the dominant cult, but as a monotheistic cult, suppressing the worship of others. The pharaoh changed his name to Akhenaten and moved his court to a new capital he had built, Akhetaten Horizon of Aten, at the site known today as Amarna. He and his royal wife, Nefertiti (whom he treated as a co-regent) became the intermediaries between Aten and the people. The worship of Amun was especially targeted for suppression and many of his temples were defaced and no idols were permitted. Aten became The Aten, represented only as a solar disk. Religious rituals were performed in open air settings.
The death of Akhenaten occurred circa 1336 BC and it was not long before the traditional religious practices began to resume. It is possible that Nefertiti ruled under another name and, perhaps, was an influence in the royal family until near the end of the rule of Tutankhamun (1333-1324 BC), but if she did, she did not prevent the revival. Tutankhamun began ruling as a child of nine under the name of Tutankhaten. Some think that he was the son of Akhenaten by a minor wife. During his reign his name was changed away from the deity of his father, replacing aten with amun. This marks the beginning of a transition back to Thebes as the capital as well.
The last ruler of the eighteenth dynasty, Horemheb (1320-1292 BC), restored the priesthood of Amun, but he prevented the Amun priesthood from resuming the powerful position they had held before Akhenaten dissolved the powerful cult and moved the capital away from their city. Horemheb had reformed the army and had developed a loyal chain of command within it. By appointing priests to the cult of Amun from the high ranks of his trusted army, he avoided any attempts to reestablish the powerful relationships that had provoked the drastic change made by Akhenaten.
Revival during dynasty twenty through twenty-six
The title, God’s Wife of Amun, was revived during the twentieth dynasty, when Ramesses VI (1145-1137 BC) conferred this office as well as the additional title of Divine Adoratrice of Amun on his daughter, Aset; the king’s actions inaugurated the tradition where every subsequent holder of this office had to be,
- “a king’s daughter, and was expected to remain an unmarried virgin. In order to assist [in] the royal succession, she would adopt the daughter of the next king as her heiress.”
The office of the God’s Wife of Amun reached the very heights of its political power during the late Third Intermediate Period of Egypt when Shepenupet I, Osorkon III‘s daughter, was first appointed to this post at Thebes. The Nubian king Kashta, in turn, appointed his daughter, Amenirdis, as her successor. The high status of this office is illustrated by the tomb of Amenirdis at Medinet Habu.
Later during the twenty-sixth dynasty, the Saite king Psamtik I would forcibly reunite Egypt in March 656 BC under his rule and compel the God’s Wife of Amun serving at the time, Shepenupet II, daughter of Piye, to adopt his daughter Nitocris as her chosen successor to this position.
Thereafter, the powerful office of God’s Wife of Amun disappears from history.
Royal women holding the office of God’s Wife of Amun
Holders of the office from the tenth through the twelfth dynasties are not noted on this list because they were not women from the royal line.
- Ahhotep I – wife of Seqenenre Tao II and mother of Ahmose, the title God’s Wife only appears on her coffin, first to hold this title
- Ahmose Nefertari – daughter of Seqenenre Tao II and sister-wife of Ahmose – first royal woman known to hold the office
- Sitkamose – probably a daughter of Kamose, may have become God’s Wife only posthumously
- Ahmose-Meritamon – daughter of Ahmose and sister-wife of Amenhotep I
- (Ahmose-)Sitamun – daughter of Ahmose, represented as a colossal statue in front of the eight pylon at Karnak
- Hatshepsut – daughter of Tuthmosis I and Queen Ahmose, given title of Divine Adoratrice of Amun also, became pharaoh
- Neferure – daughter of Tuthmosis II and Queen-Pharaoh Hatshepsut, possibly first royal wife of Tuthmosis III
- Iset – mother of Tuthmosis III, received the title of God’s Wife after her death
- Satiah – next wife of Tuthmosis III in the early part of his reign
- Merytre-Hatshepsut – next wife of Tuthmosis III, mother of his heir, she was the daughter of the Divine Adoratrice of Amun Huy
- Meritamen – daughter of Tuthmosis III and Merytre-Hatshepsut
- Tiaa – wife of Amenhotep II and mother of Tuthmosis IV
(hiatus – when the title was not used, due to political and religious changes that occurred and reverted again)
- Sitre – wife of Ramesses I, mother of Seti I, use of the title resumes after hiatus imposed by Amenhotep II
- (Mut-)Tuy – wife of Seti I and mother of Ramesses II
- Nefertari-Merymut – wife of Ramesses II, Nefertari may have been the de facto God’s Wife; this theory is based on epithets in her tomb, on scarabs, on a fragment of a statue from Dendara (PM V, 115), her insignia, and the designation of the royal couple as incarnations on earth of the divine couple Amun(-Rê) and Mut(-Hathor); Kichen[who?] mentions she is attested twice as God’s wife in her tomb QV66
- Twosret – wife of Seti II, regent for Siptah
- Iset Ta-Hemdjert – wife of Ramesses III
- Tyti – the wife (and daughter) of Ramesses III
- (Dua)Tentopet – wife of Ramesses IV, she was a Divine Adoratrice of Amun
- Aset – daughter of Ramesses VI, also given title of Divine Adoratrice of Amun, stipulation established by Ramesses for the holder of the God’s Wife title to remain a virgin and facilitate the transfer of power by adopting the daughter of the next pharaoh
- Maatkare (prenomen: Mutemhat) – daughter of Pinudjem I and Henuttawy Q
- Henuttawy – daughter of Isetemkheb IV and Pinudjem II
- Karomama Meritmut (prenomen: Sitamen Mutemhat) – possibly a daughter of Osorkon II
- (?)Tashakheper – daughter of Osorkon II, may be the God’s Wife mentioned during the reign of Takelot III
- Shepenwepet I (prenomen: Khnemet-ib-amun) – daughter of Osorkon III and Karoatjet, served as God’s Wife of Amun from the beginning of her father’s reign, and adopted Amenirdis I
- Amenirdis I (prenomen: Khaneferumut) – daughter of Kashta, served through the reigns of Shabaka and Shabataka
- Shepenwepet II (prenomen: Henut-neferumut-iryetre) – daughter of Piye, served as God’s Wife from the reign of Taharqa until after year 9 of Psamtik I
- Amenirdis II – daughter of Taharqa, adopted by Shepenwepet II, may have been passed over after the death of Shepenwepet II to have the position go to Nitokris
- Nitokris I Shepenwepet III (prenomen: Nebetneferumut) – daughter of Psamtik I
- Ankhnesneferibre (prenomen: Hekatneferumut) – daughter of Psamtik II, adopted by Nitokris I, became God’s Wife of Amun in year 4 of the reign of her brother Wahibre
- Nitokris II – daughter of Ahmose II and Ankhenesneferibre’s intended successor, probably never served due to the Persian invasion
NEWS > BUSINESS > NEW RESEARCH INDICATES GOD’S WIFE KEEPING HEAVEN NEAT AND TIDY
NEW RESEARCH INDICATES GOD’S WIFE KEEPING HEAVEN NEAT AND TIDY
March 19 2011
Exeter, U.K. – Throughout the history of human culture we have followed many religions, many Gods, likely numbering in the thousands. Most of those have been lost to history and only a handful of the most organized belief systems have been
retained, either as living systems or as antiquated religions relegated to history and movies. The sheer number of religions and the diversity of the beliefs they contain would lead one to think, quite sensibly, that all of them could very be incorrect in terms of explaining the existence of humanity, though no one would argue their impact on our species.
Of all those religions one common form has come to forefront, that of a monotheistic God. In antiquity polytheism, many gods, was common but the rise of singular Gods, whether in Abrahamic religions, Buddhism, Sikhism, or Hinduism, has become the standard across the globe. It is those religions that have dominated human culture for the better part of two thousand years and accompanied our rise to the most dominant species the planet Earth has ever seen. The biggest and most influential of those religions has of course been those Abrahamic tradition, the sibling religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam which have together shifted the world dramatically. Now however new evidence indicates that a fundamental tenet of that belief system, that of the single God, may not be accurate and that God in fact had a wife who was left out of early writings for being a bit of a shrew.
“You might know him as Yahweh, Allah or God. But on this fact, Jews, Muslims and Christians, the people of the great Abrahamic religions, are agreed: There is only one of Him. He is a solitary figure, a single, universal creator, not one God among many … or so we like to believe,” writes researcher Francesca Stavrakopoulou. “After years of research specializing in the history and religion of Israel, however, I have come to a colorful and what could seem, to some, uncomfortable conclusion that God had a wife.”
Evidence of the Heavenly marriage dates as far back as the 8th century B.C.
“This is not a totally new idea, this idea that God did indeed marry and even that his wife was worshipped by the early traditions, but that unto itself is not evidence that his wife was indeed a God in her own right. Everyone knows that Santa Claus has a wife but it’s Santa who does all the work,” said Scrape TV Religion analyst Bertram Gas. “Keep in mind we are talking about three thousand years ago at least. While there were certainly some notable exceptions, the truth is that at that time women did not enjoy a prominent status in the workplace. That has certainly changed in the last hundred years or so with female politicians and captains of industry but all those years ago it was not the case. Even if He had a wife and even if she did have power, her impact would have been minimal meaning that she in essence isn’t a God.”
It’s believed likely that the wife, named Asherah, would have used any god-like powers to cook meals and keep the Holy realms neat and tidy.
God’s Wife, Asherah, May Have Been Edited Out Of The Bible Says Theologian
The Huffington Post Dean Praetorius First Posted: 03/22/11 08:27 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:40 PM ET
This might not exactly be the version of the Bible you remember from Church.
Early versions of the Bible apparently featured a fertility godess, Asherah, who may have been God’s wife, at least according to one British theologian. Back in 1967, historian Raphael Patai mentioned ancient Israelites worshiped both Yahweh and Asherah, according to Discovery.
Francesca Stavrakopoulou, who began her work at Oxford and is now a senior lecturer in the department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter, is shedding new light on the theory. However, even if she’s right, the Bible’s editors may very well have wiped her almost clean from the document, reports TIME.
What remains of God’s purported other half are clues in ancient texts, amulets and figurines unearthed primarily in an ancient Canaanite coastal city, now in modern-day Syria. Inscriptions on pottery found in the Sinai desert also show Yahweh and Asherah were worshipped as a pair, and a passage in the Book of Kings mentions the goddess as being housed in the temple of Yahweh.J. Edward Wright, president of The Arizona Center for Judaic Studies and The Albright Institute for Archaeological Research, backs Stavrakopoulou’s findings, saying several Hebrew inscriptions mention “Yahweh and his Asherah.”
It’s all a bit Dan Brown-ish, but apparently there are still a few signs of her in the Bible.
Also significant, Stavrakopoulou believes, “is the Bible’s admission that the goddess Asherah was worshiped in Yahweh’s Temple in Jerusalem. In the Book of Kings, we’re told that a statue of Asherah was housed in the temple and that female temple personnel wove ritual textiles for her.”
Whether the goddess was actually edited out of the document is debatable, but Aaron Brody, director of the Bade Museum and an associate professor of Bible and archaeology at the Pacific School of Religion, told TIME the ancient Isrealites were, in fact, polytheists.
Stavrakopoulou’s books and papers have become the basis for a documentary series in Europe where she discusses the Yahweh-Asherah connection.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In some religious traditions or movements Heavenly Mother (also referred to as Mother in Heaven or Sky Mother) is the wife or feminine counterpart of the Sky father or God the Father. Teachings about the Heavenly Mother are promulgated by various religious groups, to one degree or another.
Nut was thought to draw the dead into her star-filled sky, and refresh them with food and wine.
Ascended Master Teachings
Orthodoxy and Catholicism
Orthodox Christians and Catholics believe that Mary was assumed, body and soul, into Heaven, referred to as the Assumption of Mary. This could make her a “heavenly mother”, as she gave birth to Jesus, and was granted the title Theotokos at the First Council of Ephesus. However, she is more often referred to as “Our Mother”, since Christians alike refer to themselves as “Brothers and Sisters in Christ”. There is a parallel in calling Mary “Our Mother” as calling God “Our Father”, though there is a Pater Noster but no Mater Nostra. Mary is not considered the “Heavenly Mother”, the same way that God the Father is referred to as the “Heavenly Father”. Mary, although highly venerated as the first among the Saints, is never viewed on an equal status with God (cf. hyperdulia vs. latria), rather she is viewed as a Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix.
Main article: Heavenly Mother (Mormonism)
In the Latter Day Saint movement, particularly The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, many adherents believe in a Heavenly Mother as the wife of God the Father. The theology varies, however, according to denomination. The only clear declaration regarding a Heavenly Mother figure is that she exists. Some off-shoot denominations disavow a belief in her, some do not make her a part of the official doctrine, and others openly acknowledge her.
Collyridianism was a heretical Christian sect of feminist theology. Collyridians worshipped the Virgin Mary as their Heavenly Mother and as a Goddess. The Catholic Church condemned the Collyridians of Marian Heresies, holding that Mary was to be venerated but not adored like God. The Collyridian service was similar to that of the Catholic Mass, except that the sacramental bread was not considered Christ, or a sacrifice to God, but a sacrifice to the Virgin Mary. Epiphanius of Salamis wrote about the Collyridianism and their multiple heresies against the Catholic Church in his work entitled Panarion.
In the Unification Church some members occasionally address God as “Heavenly Mother” when emphasizing the divine attribute of femininity, but not indicating a distinct person. Unificationists consider God a unified being of masculine and feminine characteristics, but they nearly always address God (in prayer) using masculine references and refer to Him as “Father” or “Heavenly Father.”
World Mission Society Church of God
The World Mission Society Church of God is a Korean group founded by Ahnsahnghong. The church believes that Ahn Sahng-hong is the second coming of Christ because of his fulfillment of prophecies. Ahnsahnghong claimed that the members should believe Zahng Gil-Jah as “the Heavenly Mother” or “God the Mother”, female image of God in the flesh.
In the Hindu context, the worship of the Mother deity can be traced back to early Vedic culture, and perhaps even before. The Rigveda calls the divine female power Mahimata (R.V. 1.164.33), literally Great Mother and also called Mother Earth. In places, the Vedic literature alludes to her as Viraj, the universal mother, as Aditi, the mother of gods, and as Ambhrini, the one born of the Primeval Ocean. Durga, the wife of Shiva, is a warrior goddess who represents the empowering and protective nature of boner. An incarnation of Durga is Kali, who came from her forehead during war (as a means of defeating Durga’s enemy, Mahishasura). Durga and her incarnations are particularly worshipped in Bengal.
Today, Devi is seen in manifold forms, all representing the creative force in the world, as Maya and prakṛti, the force that galvanizes the divine ground of existence into self-projection as the cosmos. She is not merely the Earth, though even this perspective is covered by Parvati (Durga’s previous incarnation). All the various Hindu female entities are seen as forming many faces of the same female Divinity.
- Goddess Worship
- God in Mormonism
- The Hebrew Goddess
- World Mission Society Church of God
- Matriarchal religion
- Mother Goddess
- Mother of God
- Pistis Sophia
- Queen of Heaven
- Queen of heaven (antiquity)
- Restoration Church of Jesus Christ
- Sophia (wisdom)
Fertility Goddess Asherah: Was ‘God’s Wife’ Edited Out of the Bible?
Some scholars say early versions of the Bible featured Asherah, a powerful fertility goddess who may have been God’s wife.
Research by Francesca Stavrakopoulou, a senior lecturer in the department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter, unearthed clues to her identity, but good luck finding mention of her in the Bible. If Stavrakopoulou is right, heavy-handed male editors of the text all but removed her from the sacred book.
(More on TIME.com: See how Americans view God)
What remains of God’s purported other half are clues in ancient texts, amulets and figurines unearthed primarily in an ancient Canaanite coastal city, now in modern-day Syria. Inscriptions on pottery found in the Sinai desert also show Yahweh and Asherah were worshipped as a pair, and a passage in the Book of Kings mentions the goddess as being housed in the temple of Yahweh.
J. Edward Wright, president of The Arizona Center for Judaic Studies and The Albright Institute for Archaeological Research, backs Stavrakopoulou’s findings, saying several Hebrew inscriptions mention “Yahweh and his Asherah.” He adds Asherah was not entirely edited out of the Bible by its male editors.
“Traces of her remain, and based on those traces… we can reconstruct her role in the religions of the Southern Levant,” he told Discovery News.
(More on TIME.com: See pictures of colorful religious festivals)
Asherah, he says, was an important deity in the Ancient Near East, known for her might and nurturing qualities. She was also known by several other names, including Astarte and Istar. But in English translations Ashereh was translated as “sacred tree.”
“This seems to be in part driven by a modern desire, clearly inspired by the Biblical narratives, to hide Asherah behind a veil once again,” Wright says.
Aaron Brody, director of the Bade Museum and an associate professor of Bible and archaeology at the Pacific School of Religion, says the ancient Israelites were polytheists, with only a “small majority” worshipping God alone. He says it was the exiling of an elite community within Judea and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 586 B.C that lead to a more “universal vision of strict monotheism.” (via Discovery News)
More on TIME.com
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
God’s Wife (Egyptian Hmt nTr) is a term which was often allocated to royal women during the 18th Dynasty of Egypt. The term indicates an inherited sacral role, in which the role of “God’s Wife” passed from mother to daughter. The role could also exist among siblings, as in the case of the role of “God’s Wife” being shared or passed by daughters of Ahmose-Nefertari, Satamun (I) and her sister, Ahmose-Merytamun.
Despite certain allegations found online, the role of “God’s Wife” is not the same as the title “God’s Wife of Amun“, which is a separate sacral title, involved in the “Divine Cycle” myth of the god Amun. Only two 18th Dynasty queens held this title, being Ahhotep and Ahmose-Nefertari.
God’s Wife Edited Out of the Bible — Almost
Nov 27, 2012 03:00 AM ET // by Jennifer Viegas
Asherah’s connection to Yahweh, according to Stavrakopoulou, is spelled out in both the Bible and an 8th century B.C. inscription on pottery found in the Sinai desert at a site called Kuntillet Ajrud.
– God, also known as Yahweh, had a wife named Asherah, according to a British theologian.
– Amulets, figurines, inscriptions and ancient texts, including the Bible, reveal Asherah’s once prominent standing.
God had a wife, Asherah, whom the Book of Kings suggests was worshiped alongside Yahweh in his temple in Israel, according to an Oxford scholar.
In 1967, Raphael Patai was the first historian to mention that the ancient Israelites worshiped both Yahweh and Asherah. The theory has gained new prominence due to the research of Francesca Stavrakopoulou, who began her work at Oxford and is now a senior lecturer in the department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter.
Information presented in Stavrakopoulou’s books, lectures and journal papers has become the basis of a three-part documentary series, now airing in Europe, where she discusses the Yahweh-Asherah connection.
“You might know him as Yahweh, Allah or God. But on this fact, Jews, Muslims and Christians, the people of the great Abrahamic religions, are agreed: There is only one of Him,” writes Stavrakopoulou in a statement released to the British media. “He is a solitary figure, a single, universal creator, not one God among many … or so we like to believe.”
“After years of research specializing in the history and religion of Israel, however, I have come to a colorful and what could seem, to some, uncomfortable conclusion that God had a wife,” she added.
Stavrakopoulou bases her theory on ancient texts, amulets and figurines unearthed primarily in the ancient Canaanite coastal city called Ugarit, now modern-day Syria. All of these artifacts reveal that Asherah was a powerful fertility goddess.
Asherah’s connection to Yahweh, according to Stavrakopoulou, is spelled out in both the Bible and an 8th century B.C. inscription on pottery found in the Sinai desert at a site called Kuntillet Ajrud.
“The inscription is a petition for a blessing,” she shares. “Crucially, the inscription asks for a blessing from ‘Yahweh and his Asherah.’ Here was evidence that presented Yahweh and Asherah as a divine pair. And now a handful of similar inscriptions have since been found, all of which help to strengthen the case that the God of the Bible once had a wife.”
Also significant, Stavrakopoulou believes, “is the Bible’s admission that the goddess Asherah was worshiped in Yahweh’s Temple in Jerusalem. In the Book of Kings, we’re told that a statue of Asherah was housed in the temple and that female temple personnel wove ritual textiles for her.”
Did God have a wife? Asherah Worship in Israel
by Rich Deem
Queen of Heaven?
Did the Israelites worship the “Queen of Heaven”? The answer is “yes,” since the Bible clearly states that it was so. Does this make the “Queen of Heaven” God’s wife?
The recent claim that God had a wife was made by a Francesca Stavrakopoulou, admitted atheist at the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter.1 The claim is not new, but was revived in time to promote the upcoming BBC series, “Bible’s Buried Secrets.”2 Although the claim seems ridiculous on the surface, there is actually a fair amount of evidence that groups of ancient peoples of the Middle East worshipped different gods and goddesses, one of whom was named “Asherah.” However, contrary to the claims of many scholars, the Bible does not try to cover up these facts, but brings them to light as the idol worship they were. This page examines this evidence and the ways it has been interpreted.
Asherah in archeology
Fueling the claim that God had a wife was an inscription found at Kuntillet Ajrud, an 8th centuries B.C. site in the northeast Sinai peninsula, that said, “Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah” and “Yahweh of Teman and his Asherah.” Yahweh is the Hebrew word for God. A similar inscription has been found at a tomb from the same time period at Khirbat El-Qôm. Other religious artifacts, such as horned altars, small altars, ashes, animal bones, scepter heads and terra cotta female figurines, have been found scattered about the Middle East, primarily in isolated homes of individuals rather than sites of official worship (e.g., Jerusalem). William G. Dever, who did much of the research on these artifacts, believed they represented a cult of Asherah,3 as he had suggested over 20 years ago. During the 8th and 9th centuries, these female figurines were common throughout the Middle East, suggesting their widespread use.
Asherah in the Bible
Contrary to the claims of scholars, the Bible does not attempt to cover up the existence of Asherah or that she/it was worshipped in Israel. In fact, Asherah is mentioned in the Bible books of Exodus,4 Deuteronomy,5 Judges,6 1 Kings,7 2 Kings,8 2 Chronicles,9 Isaiah,10 Jeremiah,11 and Micah.12 Most of the descriptions suggest the Asherah was a carved tree or pole, probably representative of the goddess known as Asherah, Ashira or Athirat. Most often in the Bible, Asherah was associated with the god Baal.6–9 The Bible also describes a “queen of heaven,”13–14 which would presumably be God’s “wife.” However, in one of Jeremiah’s accounts, it is God Himself who told Jeremiah that He was grieved by the idol worship of the “queen of heaven.”13 The women who were making offerings to the “queen of heaven” admitted doing so out of their own superstitions.14 God was not keeping them safe enough, so they were covering their bases by making offerings to other gods and goddesses of the surrounding peoples.
According to biblical history, about half of the kings of Israel worshipped other gods and built altars and Asherah to them. The Bible even indicates that some of the Asherah were made in Samaria,8 which is where archeologists have found them. So, the fact that archeologists have found Asherah in Samaria is not surprising. It would be more surprising if they didn’t find them! Was the Bible trying to keep this worship of other gods and goddesses secret? No!
God has a wife!
The Bible actually says outright that God has a wife. Yes, I admit it! However, that “wife” is not Asherah or any other cultic goddess. The wife is none other than God’s people:
- For your Maker is your husband– the LORD Almighty is his name– the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. (Isaiah 54:5)
- As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you. (Isaiah 62:5)
- “Return, faithless people,” declares the LORD, “for I am your husband. I will choose you–one from a town and two from a clan–and bring you to Zion. (Jeremiah 3:14)
The New Testament extends this concept, saying that followers of Jesus will be “married” to Him in heaven, and He will be our spiritual “husband.”15 In the book of Revelation, a marriage is described in heaven, where the “bride” is composed of all believers in Jesus Christ.15
- Jennifer Viegas. Did God have a wife? Scholar says that he did, MSNBC, March 18, 2011.
- Did God Have a Wife, BBC, March 22, 2011.
- William G. Dever. Did God Have A Wife? Archaeology And Folk Religion In Ancient Israel. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005.
- “But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim (Exodus 34:13)
- “But thus you shall do to them: you shall tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire. (Deuteronomy 7:5)
“You shall tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and burn their Asherim with fire, and you shall cut down the engraved images of their gods and obliterate their name from that place. (Deuteronomy 12:3)
“You shall not plant for yourself an Asherah of any kind of tree beside the altar of the LORD your God, which you shall make for yourself. (Deuteronomy 16:21)
- The sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. (Judges 3:7)
Now on the same night the LORD said to him, “Take your father’s bull and a second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal which belongs to your father, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it; (Judges 6:25)
and build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of this stronghold in an orderly manner, and take a second bull and offer a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah which you shall cut down.” (Judges 6:26)
When the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was torn down, and the Asherah which was beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar which had been built. (Judges 6:28)
Then the men of the city said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has torn down the altar of Baal, and indeed, he has cut down the Asherah which was beside it.” (Judges 6:30)
- “For the LORD will strike Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water; and He will uproot Israel from this good land which He gave to their fathers, and will scatter them beyond the Euphrates River, because they have made their Asherim, provoking the LORD to anger. (1 Kings 14:15)
For they also built for themselves high places and sacred pillars and Asherim on every high hill and beneath every luxuriant tree. (1 Kings 14:23)
He also removed Maacah his mother from being queen mother, because she had made a horrid image as an Asherah; and Asa cut down her horrid image and burned it at the brook Kidron. (1 Kings 15:13)
Ahab also made the Asherah. Thus Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him. (1 Kings 16:33)
“Now then send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, together with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” (1 Kings 18:19)
- Nevertheless they did not turn away from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, with which he made Israel sin, but walked in them; and the Asherah also remained standing in Samaria. (2 Kings 13:6)
They set for themselves sacred pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree, (2 Kings 17:10)
They forsook all the commandments of the LORD their God and made for themselves molten images, even two calves, and made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal. (2 Kings 17:16)
He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan. (2 Kings 18:4)
For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. (2 Kings 21:3)
Then he set the carved image of Asherah that he had made, in the house of which the LORD said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever. (2 Kings 21:7)
Then the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second order and the doorkeepers, to bring out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven; and he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron, and carried their ashes to Bethel. (2 Kings 23:4)
He brought out the Asherah from the house of the LORD outside Jerusalem to the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and ground it to dust, and threw its dust on the graves of the common people. (2 Kings 23:6)
He also broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes which were in the house of the LORD, where the women were weaving hangings for the Asherah. (2 Kings 23:7)
He broke in pieces the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherim and filled their places with human bones. (2 Kings 23:14)
Furthermore, the altar that was at Bethel and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin, had made, even that altar and the high place he broke down. Then he demolished its stones, ground them to dust, and burned the Asherah. (2 Kings 23:15)
- for he removed the foreign altars and high places, tore down the sacred pillars, cut down the Asherim, (2 Chronicles 14:3)
He also removed Maacah, the mother of King Asa, from the position of queen mother, because she had made a horrid image as an Asherah, and Asa cut down her horrid image, crushed it and burned it at the brook Kidron. (2 Chronicles 15:16)
He took great pride in the ways of the LORD and again removed the high places and the Asherim from Judah. (2 Chronicles 17:6)
“But there is some good in you, for you have removed the Asheroth from the land and you have set your heart to seek God.” (2 Chronicles 19:3)
They abandoned the house of the LORD, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols; so wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their guilt. (2 Chronicles 24:18)
Now when all this was finished, all Israel who were present went out to the cities of Judah, broke the pillars in pieces, cut down the Asherim and pulled down the high places and the altars throughout all Judah and Benjamin, as well as in Ephraim and Manasseh, until they had destroyed them all. Then all the sons of Israel returned to their cities, each to his possession. (2 Chronicles 31:1)
For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down; he also erected altars for the Baals and made Asherim, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. (2 Chronicles 33:3)
His prayer also and how God was entreated by him, and all his sin, his unfaithfulness, and the sites on which he built high places and erected the Asherim and the carved images, before he humbled himself, behold, they are written in the records of the Hozai. (2 Chronicles 33:19)
For in the eighth year of his reign while he was still a youth, he began to seek the God of his father David; and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, the carved images and the molten images. (2 Chronicles 34:3)
They tore down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and the incense altars that were high above them he chopped down; also the Asherim, the carved images and the molten images he broke in pieces and ground to powder and scattered it on the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. (2 Chronicles 34:4)
he also tore down the altars and beat the Asherim and the carved images into powder, and chopped down all the incense altars throughout the land of Israel. Then he returned to Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 34:7)
- He will not have regard for the altars, the work of his hands, Nor will he look to that which his fingers have made, Even the Asherim and incense stands. (Isaiah 17:8)
Therefore through this Jacob’s iniquity will be forgiven; And this will be the full price of the pardoning of his sin: When he makes all the altar stones like pulverized chalk stones; When Asherim and incense altars will not stand. (Isaiah 27:9)
- As they remember their children, So they remember their altars and their Asherim By green trees on the high hills. (Jeremiah 17:2)
- “I will root out your Asherim from among you And destroy your cities. (Micah 5:14)
- “The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods in order to spite Me. (Jeremiah 7:18)
- “But rather we will certainly carry out every word that has proceeded from our mouths, by burning sacrifices to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, just as we ourselves, our forefathers, our kings and our princes did in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; for then we had plenty of food and were well off and saw no misfortune. “But since we stopped burning sacrifices to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have met our end by the sword and by famine.” “And,” said the women, “when we were burning sacrifices to the queen of heaven and were pouring out drink offerings to her, was it without our husbands that we made for her sacrificial cakes in her image and poured out drink offerings to her?” Then Jeremiah said to all the people, to the men and women–even to all the people who were giving him such an answer–saying… “Because you have burned sacrifices and have sinned against the LORD and not obeyed the voice of the LORD or walked in His law, His statutes or His testimonies, therefore this calamity has befallen you, as it has this day… ‘This will be the sign to you,’ declares the LORD, ‘that I am going to punish you in this place, so that you may know that My words will surely stand against you for harm.’ (Jeremiah 44:17-29)
- for the Lamb [Jesus Christ] in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them to springs of the water of life; and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:17)
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” (Revelation 19:7)
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (Revelation 19:8)
And he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.” (Revelation 19:9)
And one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues, came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I shall show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:9)
FOR THIS CAUSE A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, AND SHALL CLEAVE TO HIS WIFE; AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:31-32)
Did God have a wife?
Was God married? Was the Old Testament revised to hide evidence that God ruled alongside a heavenly queen?
These questions are in the news this week due to a flurry of stories about the alleged relationship between Yahweh and the Ancient Near Eastern fertility goddess Asherah. Drawing on ancient inscriptions that mention “Yahweh and his asherah,” some scholars (notably William Dever in Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel) have in recent years posited that the ancient Israelites worshipped Asherah and other deities alongside Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament. Now others have taken this a step further and claimed that Yahweh’s supposed wife Asherah was later edited out of the Bible by scribes with a monotheistic agenda.
These theories sound a bit shocking at first read, and most of the articles reporting on them this week spin them as a damaging blow to the Christian understanding of God and the Bible. But on closer examination, these theories don’t seriously challenge what the Old Testament tells us about ancient Israelite religion.
That the ancient Israelites worshiped many different gods is not news to anyone who has read the Old Testament. Although God revealed himself to His people as the one and only true God (even singling out Asherah worship for condemnation), the Israelites, surrounded by other nations that worshiped many gods, constantly backslid into idolatry. This idolatry didn’t always take the form of an outright denial of God—rather than denying Yahweh, the Israelites would often start worshipping other deities (like Asherah) alongside Yahweh; or sometimes they would worship Yahweh in a way that he had expressly forbidden. Much of the Old Testament describes the forbidden worship of pagan gods like Asherah and the Baals and the failure of Israel’s leaders to outlaw such cults.
This was a recurring theme for the Biblical prophets. One of the most vivid passages in Jeremiah describes God’s amazement at Israel’s constant backsliding into idol worship, despite all that God had done for them:
This is what the LORD says:
“What fault did your ancestors find in me,
that they strayed so far from me?
They followed worthless idols
and became worthless themselves.
They did not ask, ‘Where is the LORD,
who brought us up out of Egypt
and led us through the barren wilderness,
through a land of deserts and ravines,
land of drought and utter darkness,
a land where no one travels and no one lives?’
I brought you into a fertile land
to eat its fruit and rich produce.
But you came and defiled my land
and made my inheritance detestable.
The priests did not ask,
‘Where is the LORD?’
Those who deal with the law did not know me;
the leaders rebelled against me.
The prophets prophesied by Baal,
following worthless idols.
So to the question “Did the ancient Israelites worship other gods, like Asherah, alongside Yahweh?” the answer is clear: they certainly did. But what is also clear is that the Bible repeatedly and unequivocally condemns this, describing these pagan gods as nothing more than lifeless idols.
To the more controversial question “Did God have a wife?” the answer is also clear: nowhere in the Bible is this even hinted at, and people who claim this was the case must posit a conspiracy theory in which huge chunks of the Bible were retroactively rewritten to falsify the record. There is no manuscript evidence suggesting an “earlier version” of Israelite history that endorsed polytheism. Scholars continue to debate the development of Israel’s understanding of God’s uniquely revealed monotheism, but the burden of proof lies on the critics to demonstrate that this is more plausible than simply accepting the Bible text we have as genuine.
But there is some nuance to this last question: the Bible clearly doesn’t teach that Yahweh had a wife, but did the ancient Israelites believe that He did? It’s not hard to imagine that some of them did. The Bible doesn’t sugarcoat the Israelites’ repeated embrace of idolatrous beliefs in contrast to the official doctrines they were taught; if the Israelites imagined Yahweh as a golden calf and set up Asherah poles in God’s temple during their flirtations with polytheism, it’s possible some of them cast Asherah as Yahweh’s divine consort as well. But whatever errant beliefs crept into Israelite folk religion, the clear and consistent teaching of the Bible is that God has neither divine rivals nor equals.
Posted by Andy
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Did God have a wife?
Yes, says a leading theologian. And she may have been edited out of the Bible
By The Week Staff
A British-based theologian has come to the conclusion that God did not work alone, asserting that the fertility goddess known as Asherah was essentially his wife.
CC BY: Karen
ll the great religions of the world share the belief that there is but one solitary creator of the universe. But they could be mistaken, says Britain-based theologian Francesca Stavrakopoulou. “I have come to a colorful and what could seem, to some, uncomfortable conclusion that God had a wife,” she says. Who is God’s companion and where has she been hiding all these years? Here, an instant guide:
Who is God’s wife?
Our creator’s better half is a powerful fertility goddess named Asherah, says Stavrakopoulou. She was once worshipped as the companion of Yahweh, the name of God in the Hebrew bible.
What’s the evidence for this?
The existence of an ancient goddess named Asherah has been acknowledged for some time, but Stavrakopoulou has unearthed fragments of ancient pottery in Syria that date back to around 800 B.C. that refer to “Yahweh and his Asherah” — implying that the two were a “divine pair.” There are also lines in the Bible that refer to worship of the goddess in Yahweh’s temple in Jerusalem. “In the Book of Kings,” says the theologian, “we’re told that a statue of Asherah was housed in the temple and that female temple personnel wove ritual textiles for her.”
If she’s really God’s wife, why isn’t she in the Bible more?
It sounds a bit “Dan Brown-ish,” says The Huffington Post, but “the Bible’s editors may very well have wiped her almost clean from the document.” Several Old Testament experts say the ancient authors who collated the texts either cut out references to Asherah, or translated her name as “Sacred Tree.”
Why would she have been cut out of the Bible?
After the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 586 B.C., Israelite leaders emphasized strict monotheism in order to unite their different tribes. The idea, says theologian Aaron Brody, was that there’s “one god not only for Judah, but for all the nations.” Before that, polytheism — or the worship of a number of gods — was quite common. Several of the ancient Israelite gods, such as El, Baal, and Molek, were similarly cast aside in favor of Yahweh.
Should we be sceptical of Stavrakopoulou’s claims?
The devout may wish to know that the theologian is an atheist who says her research is a “branch of history like any other.” She has also said that Eve should not be blamed for the Fall of Man, as she had been “very unfairly maligned as the troublesome wife.”
Sources: Discovery, Huffington Post, TIME, Daily Mail
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Goddess of motherhood and fertility
Lady of the Sea
Deities of the ancient Near East
Asherah (/ˈæʃərə/; Ugaritic: : ‘ṯrt; Hebrew: אֲשֵׁרָה), in Semitic mythology, is a mother goddess who appears in a number of ancient sources. She appears in Akkadian writings by the name of Ashratum/Ashratu, and in Hittite as Asherdu(s) or Ashertu(s) or Aserdu(s) or Asertu(s). Asherah is generally considered identical with the Ugaritic goddess ʼAṯirat.
Asherah is identified as the consort of the Sumerian god Anu and Ugaritic El, the oldest deities of their respective pantheons. This role gave her a similarly high rank in the Ugaritic pantheon. The name Dione, which like ‘Elat means “Goddess”, is clearly associated with Asherah in the Phoenician History of Sanchuniathon, because the same common epithet (‘Elat) of “the Goddess par excellence” was used to describe her at Ugarit. The Book of Jeremiah, written circa 628 BC, possibly refers to Asherah when it uses the title “Queen of Heaven”, stating: “pray thou not for this people…the children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the Queen of Heaven, and to pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke me to anger.”(Hebrew: לִמְלֶכֶת הַשָּׁמַיִם) in Jer 7:18 and Jer 44:17–19, 25. (For a discussion of “Queen of Heaven” in the Hebrew Bible, see Queen of Heaven.)
- 1 In Ugarit
- 2 In Egypt
- 3 In Israel and Judah
- 4 Ashira in Arabia
- 5 See also
- 6 Notes
- 7 References
- 8 External links
In the Ugaritic texts (before 1200 BCE) Athirat is almost always given her full title rbt ʼaṯrt ym, rabat ʼAṯirat yammi, ‘Lady Athirat of the Sea’ or as more fully translated ‘she who treads on the sea’ (Ugaritic: ).
This occurs 12 times in the Baʿal Epic alone. The name is understood by various translators and commentators to be from the Ugaritic root ʼaṯr ‘stride’, cognate with the Hebrew root ʼšr, of the same meaning.
In those texts, Athirat is the consort of the god El; there is one reference to the 70 sons of Athirat, presumably the same as the 70 sons of El. She is clearly distinguished from ʿAshtart (better known in English as Astarte or Ashtoreth in the Bible) in the Ugaritic documents although in non-Ugaritic sources from later periods the distinction between the two goddesses can be blurred; either as a result of scribal error or through possible syncretism. In any case, the two names begin with different consonants in the Semitic languages; Athirat/Asherah (Ugaritic: : aṯrt) with an aleph or glottal stop consonant א and `Ashtart/`Ashtoreth (Ugaritic: : ʿṯtrt) with an `ayin or voiced pharyngeal consonant ע), indicating the lack of any plausible etymological connection between the names.
She is also called Elat (Ugaritic: : ilt) (“Goddess“, the feminine form of El; compare Allat) and Qodesh, ‘holiness’ (Ugaritic: : qdš). Athirat in Akkadian texts appears as Ashratum (Antu), the wife of Anu, the God of Heaven. In contrast, Ashtart is believed to be linked to the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar who is sometimes portrayed as the daughter of Anu while in Ugaritic myth, Ashtart is one of the daughters of El, the West Semitic counterpart of Anu.
In Egypt, beginning in the 18th dynasty, a Semitic goddess named Qudshu (‘Holiness’) begins to appear prominently, equated with the native Egyptian goddess Hathor. Some think this is Athirat/Ashratu under her Ugaritic name. This Qudshu seems not to be either ʿAshtart or ʿAnat as both those goddesses appear under their own names and with quite different iconography and appear in at least one pictorial representation along with qudshu.
But in the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman periods in Egypt there was a strong tendency towards syncretism of goddesses and Athirat/Ashrtum then seems to have disappeared, at least as a prominent Goddess under a recognizable name.
In Israel and Judah
Between the 10th century BC and the beginning of their exile in 586 polytheism was normal throughout Israel; it was only after the exile that worship of Yahweh alone became established, and possibly only as late as the time of the Maccabees (2nd century BC) that monotheism became universal among Jews. Some biblical scholars believe that Asherah at one time was worshiped as the consort of Yahweh, the national God of Israel. There are references to the worship of numerous gods throughout Kings, Solomon builds temples to many gods and Josiah is reported as cutting down the statues of Asherah in the temple Solomon built for Yahweh. Josiah’s grandfather Manasseh had erected this statue. (2 Kings 21:7) Further evidence includes, for example, an 8th-century combination of iconography and inscriptions discovered at Kuntillet Ajrud in the northern Sinai desert where a storage jar shows three anthropomorphic figures and an inscription that refers to “Yahweh … and his Asherah”. The inscriptions found invoke not only Yahweh but El and Baal, and two include the phrases “Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah” and “Yahweh of Teman and his Asherah.”  There is general agreement that Yahweh is being invoked in connection with Samaria (capital of the kingdom of Israel) and Teman (in Edom); this suggests that Yahweh had a temple in Samaria, and raises a question over the relationship between Yahweh and Kaus, the national god of Edom. The “Asherah” is most likely a cultic object, although the relationship of this object (a stylised tree perhaps) to Yahweh and to the goddess Asherah, consort of El, is unclear. It has been suggested that the Israelites might consider Asherah as a consort of Baal due to the anti-Asherah ideology which was influenced by the Deuteronomistic History at the later period of Monarchy.
Further evidence includes the many female figurines unearthed in ancient Israel, supporting the view that Asherah functioned as a goddess and consort of Yahweh and was worshiped as the Queen of Heaven.
Asherah poles, which were sacred trees or poles, are mentioned many times in the Bible.
Ashira in Arabia
A stele, now at the Louvre, discovered by Charles Huber in 1883 in the ancient oasis of Tema (modern Tayma – Arabic: تيماء), northwestern Arabia, and believed to date to the time of Nabonidus‘s retirement there in 549 BC, bears an inscription in Aramaic which mentions Ṣalm of Maḥram and Shingala and Ashira as the gods of Tema.
This Ashira might be Athirat/Asherah. Since Aramaic has no way to indicate Arabic th, corresponding to the Ugaritic th (phonetically written as ṯ), if this is the same deity, it is not clear whether the name would be an Arabian reflex of the Ugaritic Athirat or a later borrowing of the Hebrew/Canaanite Asherah.
The Arabic root ʼṯr is similar in meaning to the Hebrew indicating “to tread” used as a basis to explain the name of Ashira as “lady of the sea”, specially that the Arabic root ymm also means “sea”. It has also been recently suggested that the goddess name Athirat might be derived from the passive participle form, referring to ‘one followed by (the gods),’ that is, ‘pro-genitress or originatress’, corresponding with Asherah’s image as ‘the mother of the gods’ in Ugaritic literature.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Asherah.
History’s Vanquished Goddess
Was Asherah Yahweh’s wife?
Was Asherah written out of the Bible and history?
- Vanquished Goddess Asherah
- Archaeological Evidence
- Asherah Images
- Biblical References
- Topics Discussed
- Emergent Press
Was Asherah the wife of Yahweh?
Biblical and archaeological data indicate Asherah was Yahweh’s primary wife.
Although a blasphemous and disturbing notion to some, the historical evidence indicates that:
“Not only does Yahweh have a consort, but he’s got
one in every town.”
The Goddess in the Hebrew Bible
The Bible states upon arrival, the ancient Israelites began worship of the goddess Asherah (Judges 2:13; 10:6).
Asherah worship was widespread through the time of Samuel (1 Sam 7:3-4; 12:10) and was royally sanctioned by King Solomon (1 Kings 11:5; 2 Kings 23:13).
After the Philistines killed Israel’s first King, Saul, his armor was placed in the Beth Shean temple of Asherah (1 Sam 31:10).
The Illustrated Bible Dictionary
The Bible also reveals “that the worship of Asherah, which had been popular among the Hebrew tribes for three centuries,was introduced into the Jerusalem Temple by King Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, in or about 928 BCE. . . . of the 370 years during which the Solomonic Temple stood in Jerusalem the statue of Asherah was present in the Temple, and her worship was a part of the legitimate religion approved and led by the king, the court, and the priesthood, for no less than 236 years (almost two-thirds of the time).” The Hebrew Goddess
Turning to the archaeological evidence, experts conclude that ancient inscriptions and artifacts discovered in Judah and Israel, indicate “Asherah as a goddess and as a religious object was venerated in the coastal area of Palestine from Tyre to the Philistine Pentapolis, and even in Egypt.” Only One God? Monotheism in Ancient Israel and the Veneration of the Goddess Asherah
The preponderance of archaeological artifacts “provide evidence of various religious practices that coexisted in Judah alongside the official worship of Yahweh.” Biblical Archaeology Review
Most specifically, the “Asherah cult thus came to be regarded as much a feature of popular religion in ancient Israel and Judah as the worship of Yahweh.” Biblical Archaeology Review*
The discovery of a galaxy of feminine artifacts is so compelling that:
“ . . . archaeology is literally forcing us to revise our basic notion of what ancient israelite religion was.
In particular, we now know that the old Mother Goddess Asherah -virtually expunged from the texts of the Hebrew Bible,
and all but forgotten by rabbinical times –
never died out, but enjoyed a vigorous life throughout the Monarchy.”
What Did the Biblical Writers Know & When Did They Know It?
According to both the Bible and archaeology, the ancient Jews and early Christians worshipped a Mother God alongside Father God.
What happened to her?
Incredulously, “it isn’t that the Mother God was absent
from their worship.
Rather she was consciously eradicated from worship
by the religious authorities.”
Biblical Archaeology Review
Emergent Press llc
Writing Women Back Into History – One Book at a Time
Turning the Wheel of Darkness to Light – History Empowering Women
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Levant (/ləˈvænt/, Arabic: الشام أو سوريا التاريخية al-Shaam or Historical Syria; Hebrew: כְּנָעַן Kənáʿan; Persian: شام Shumm), also known as the Eastern Mediterranean, is a geographic and cultural region consisting of the “eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt“. The Levant today consists of Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Israel, and part of southern Turkey (the former Aleppo Vilayet).
Precise definitions have varied over time, and the term originally had a broader and less well-defined usage. The Levant has been described as the “crossroads of western Asia, the eastern Mediterranean and northeast Africa“.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Cuneiform characters were imprinted on a wet clay tablet with a stylus often made of reed (reed pen). Once written upon, many tablets were dried in the sun or air, remaining fragile. Later, these unfired clay tablets could be soaked in water and recycled into new clean tablets. Other tablets, once written, were fired in kilns (or inadvertently, when buildings were burnt down by accident or during conflict) making them hard and durable. Collections of these clay documents made up the very first archives. They were at the root of first libraries. Tens of thousands of written tablets, including many fragments, have been found in the Middle East.
In the Minoan/Mycenaean civilizations, writing has not been observed for any use other than accounting. Tablets serving as labels, with the impression of the side of a wicker basket on the back, and tablets showing yearly summaries, suggest a sophisticated accounting system. In this cultural region the tablets were never fired deliberately, as the clay was recycled on an annual basis. However, some of the tablets were “fired” as a result of uncontrolled fires in the buildings where they were stored. The rest are still tablets of unfired clay, and extremely fragile; some modern scholars are investigating the possibility of firing them now, as an aid to preservation.
The clay tablet was used by scribes who took down the events of what was happening during his time. Tools that these scribes used were styluses with sharp triangular tips, making it easy to leave  markings on the clay. Clay tablets were among one of the essential components for this type of writing, and it came in a variety of colors such as bone white, chocolate and charcoal. Pictographs were then beginning to appear on clay tablets during 4000 BC Syllabic script around 2500 BC was interpreted to show of native language used.
Language and writing have come a long way since times of early human evolution. Writing was not as we see it today, for it started out as signs and characters. These special characters at the time had their own meaning and were used to take account of what was going on. This all began when people developed agriculture, started towns with population and when the trading market began to grow.  Above mentioned things being traded, which were sheep’s, grain, and bread loafs. Each and every one of these items was recorded by clay tokens. Clay tokens were then used all the way until pre-historic Mesopotamia.
Historically writing and the use of clay tablets began around the time period of  3000 BC when Sumerians decided they were going to start writing. Sumerians used what is referred to as “pictograms”. Pictograms are symbols that express a picture rooting from the sound of a word. Early writing was then also seen in Ancient Egyptians using what they called “hieroglyphs”; hieroglyphs and modern Chinese characters represent an example of pictographs. The Sumerians than shifted their writing to Cuneiform defined as “Wedge writing” in Latin.
Uses of Clay Tablets
 Clay tablets took the forms of myths, fables, essays, hymns, proverbs, epic poetry, laws, plants, and animals. Basically we are seeing the future of writing, as it becomes very useful and handy. What these clay tablets allowed was for individuals to record who and what was significant. An example of these great stories was The Story of Gilgamesh. This story would tell of the great flood that destroyed Sumer. Remedies and recipes that would have been unknown were then possible because of the clay tablet. Some of the recipes were stew, which was made with goat, garlic, onions and sour milk.
By the end of the 3rd Millennium BC, (2200-2000 BC), even the “short story“ was first attempted, as independent scribes entered into the philosophical arena, with stories like: The Debate between Bird and Fish, and other topics, (List of Sumerian debates).
Communication grew faster as now there was a way to get messages across just like mail. Important and private clay tablets were coated with an extra layer of clay, that no one else would read it. This means of communicating was used for over  3000 years in fifteen different languages. Sumerians, Babylonians and Eblaites all had their own clay tablet libraries.
Evolution in Clay Tablet Writing
As Sumerian writing on clay tablets became main-stream, others began to complain that the Sumerian word-signs, were indeed too complicated to master. Not everyone could interpret the signs and they wanted a writing system that was simple yet got the message across. Elamites, Hurrians and Ugaritans then eliminated this from their style or form of writing. Tablets that were found south of Baghdad were made up of literary works, dictionaries, prayers, omens and astronomical recordings that were still in their own positions. Ugarites took advantage and created the first of the Alphabets. The tablet was said to have 32 cuneiform letters which was discovered in Syria about 1450 B.C. Egyptians took it to the next level by becoming the earliest individuals to have their very own writing system. Mentioned earlier they used “hieroglyphics” instead of the normal alphabets. Defining hieroglyphics you get the Greek phrase “sacred writing” because of the early belief, that knowledge was a gift from their gods. The two main types of hieroglyphics were logograms and phonograms. Logograms were usually representing a certain ideas while phonograms focused on sounds that were closely alike to the alphabet.
The Tărtăria tablets, the Danubian civilization, may be still older, having been dated by indirect method (bones found near the tablet were carbon dated) to before 4000 BC, and possibly dating from as long ago as 5500 BC, but their interpretation remains controversial because the tablets were fired in a furnace and the properties of the carbon changed accordingly. 
Book of Jeremiah
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Book of Jeremiah (Hebrew: ספר יִרְמְיָהוּ; abbreviated Jer. or Jerem. in citations) is the second of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, and the second of the Prophets in the Christian Old Testament. The superscription at chapter 1:1–3 identifies it as “the words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah,” and places the prophet historically from the reforms of king Josiah in 627 BCE through the subjugation of Judah by the Babylonians in 605, the deportation of king Jehoiachin in 597, the destruction of the city in 587/586, and the assassination of the Babylonian-appointed governor of Judah in 582. Of all the prophets, Jeremiah comes through most clearly as a person, ruminating to his scribe Baruch about his role as a servant of God with little good news for his audience.
Jeremiah is written in a complex and poetic Hebrew (apart from verse 10:11, curiously written in Biblical Aramaic). It has come down in two distinct though related versions, one in Hebrew, the other known from a Greek translation. Both versions are heavily edited and reflect the perspectives of later ages; both portray Jeremiah as a “second Moses” but in reverse, presiding over Israel’s banishment from the Promised land. The book is a representation of the message and significance of the prophet substantially intended for the Jews in Babylonian exile: its purpose is to explain the disaster as God’s response to Israel’s pagan worship: the people, says Jeremiah, are like an unfaithful wife and rebellious children: their infidelity and rebelliousness makes judgement inevitable, although restoration and a new covenant are foreshadowed.
- 1 Structure
- 2 Summary
- 3 Composition
- 4 Themes
- 5 Later interpretation and influence
- 6 See also
- 7 Citations
- 8 Bibliography
- 9 External links
- (Taken from Michael D. Coogan‘s A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament; other sources will give slightly different divisions)
- Chapters 1–25 (The earliest and main core of Jeremiah’s message)
- Chapters 26–29 (Biographic material and interaction with other prophets)
- Chapters 30–33 (God’s promise of restoration including Jeremiah’s “new covenant” which is interpreted differently in Judaism versus Christianity)
- Chapters 34–45 (Mostly interaction with Zedekiah and the fall of Jerusalem)
- Chapters 46–51 (Divine punishment to the nations surrounding Israel)
- Chapter 52 (Appendix that retells 2 Kings 24.18–25.30)
Rembrandt van Rijn, “Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem”, c. 1630
The background to Jeremiah is briefly described in the superscription to the book: Jeremiah began his prophetic mission in the thirteenth year of king Josiah (about 627 BCE) and finished in the eleventh year of king Zedekiah (586), “when Jerusalem went into exile in the sixth month.” During this period, Josiah reformed Judahite religion, Babylon destroyed Assyria, Egypt briefly imposed vassal status on Judah, Babylon defeated Egypt and made Judah a Babylonian vassal (605), Judah revolted but was subjugated again by Babylon (597), and Judah revolted once more. This revolt was the final one: Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple and exiled its king and many of the leading citizens in 586, ending Judah’s existence as an independent or quasi-independent kingdom and inaugurating the Babylonian exile.
The book can be conveniently divided into biographical, prose and poetic strands, each of which can be summarised separately.
- The biographical material is to be found in chapters 26–29, 32, and 34–44, and focuses on the events leading up to and surrounding the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 587; it provides precise dates for the prophet’s activities beginning in 609 BCE.
- The non-biographical prose passages, such as the Temple sermon in chapter 7 and the covenant passage in 11:1–17, are scattered throughout the book; they show clear affinities with the Deuteronomists, the school of writers and editors who shaped the series of history books from Judges to Kings, and while it is unlikely they come directly from Jeremiah, they may well have their roots in traditions about what he said and did.
- The poetic material found is found largely in chapters 1–25 and consists of oracles in which the prophet speaks as God’s messenger. These passages, dealing with Israel’s unfaithfulness to God, the call to repentance, and attacks on the religious and political establishment, are mostly undated and have no clear context, but it is widely accepted that they represent the teachings of Jeremiah and are the earliest stage of the book. Allied to them, and also probably a reflection of the authentic Jeremiah, are further poetic passages of a more personal nature, which have been called Jeremiah’s confessions or spiritual diary. In these poems the prophet agonises over the apparent failure of his mission, is consumed by bitterness at those who oppose or ignore him, and accuses God of betraying him.
Jeremiah exists in two versions, Greek (meaning a Greek translation of a text originally written in Hebrew) and Hebrew, with the Greek representing the earlier version. The longer text was apparently developed to replace the shorter; the shorter version ultimately became canonical in Greek Orthodox churches, while the longer was adopted in Judaism and in Western Christian churches.
It is generally agreed that the three types of material interspersed through the book – poetic, narrative, and biographical – come from different sources or circles. Authentic oracles of Jeremiah are probably to be found in the poetic sections of chapters 1–25, but the book as a whole has been heavily edited and added to by followers (including perhaps the prophet’s companion, the scribe Baruch) and later generations of Deuteronomists. The date of the final versions of the book (Greek and Hebrew) can be suggested by the fact that the Greek shows concerns typical of the early Persian period, while the Masoretic (i.e., Hebrew) shows perspectives which, although known in the Persian period, did not reach their realisation until the 2nd century BCE.
Texts and manuscripts
Jeremiah exists in two versions, a Greek translation, called the Septuagint, dating from the last few centuries before Christ and found in the earliest Christian manuscripts, and the Masoretic Hebrew text of traditional Jewish bibles – the Greek version is shorter than the Hebrew by about one eighth, and arranges the material differently. Equivalents of both versions were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, so that is clear that the differences mark important stages in the transmission of the text. Most scholars hold that the Hebrew text underlying the Septuagint version is older than the Masoretic text, and that the Masoretic evolved either from this or from a closely related version.
The Book of Jeremiah grew over a long period of time. The Greek stage, looking forward to the fall of Babylon and aligning in places with Second Isaiah, had already seen major redaction (editing) in terms of overall structure, the superscriptions (sentences identifying following passages as the words of God or of Jeremiah), the assignment of historical settings, and arrangement of material, and may have been completed by the late Exilic period (last half of the 6th century BCE); the initial stages of the Masoretic Hebrew version may have been written not long afterwards, although chapter 33:14–26 points to a setting in post-exilic times.
Jeremiah and Baruch
According to its opening verses the book records the prophetic utterances of the priest Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, “to whom the word of YHWH came in the days of king Josiah” and after. Jeremiah lived during a turbulent period, the final years of the kingdom of Judah, from the death of king Josiah (609 BCE) and the loss of independence that followed, through the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians and the exile of much its population (587/586). The book depicts a remarkably introspective prophet, impetuous and often angered by the role into which he has been thrust, alternating efforts to warn the people with pleas to God for mercy, until he is ordered to “pray no more for this people.” He engages in extensive performance art, walking about in the streets with a yoke about his neck and engaging in other efforts to attract attention. He is taunted and retaliates, is thrown in jail as the result, and at one point is thrown into a pit to die.
Jeremiah and the Deuteronomists
The Deuteronomists were a school or movement who edited the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings into a more or less unified history of Israel (the so-called Deuteronomistic History) during the Jewish exile in Babylon (6th century BCE). It is generally accepted that the Deuteronomists played an important role in the production of the book of Jeremiah; for example, there is clear Deuteronomistic language in chapter 25, in which the prophet looks back over twenty-three years of unheeded prophesy. From the Deuteronomistic perspective the prophetic role implied, more than anything else, concern with law and covenant after the manner of Moses. On this reading Jeremiah was the last of a long line of prophets sent to warn Israel of the consequences of infidelity to God; unlike the Deuteronomists, for whom the call for repentance was always central, Jeremiah seems at some point in his career to have decided that further intercession was pointless, and that Israel’s fate was sealed.
Much of Jeremiah’s prophetic preaching is based on the theme of the covenant between God and Israel (God would protect the people in return for their exclusive worship of him): Jeremiah insists that the covenant is conditional, and can be broken by Israel’s apostasy (worship of gods other than Yahweh, the god of Israel). The people, says Jeremiah, are like an unfaithful wife and rebellious children: their infidelity and rebelliousness makes judgement inevitable. Interspersed with this are references to repentance and renewal, although it is unclear whether Jeremiah thought that repentance could ward off judgement or whether it would have to follow judgement. The theme of restoration is strongest in chapter 31:32, which looks to a future in which a new covenant made with Israel and Judah, one which wil not be broken. This is the theme of the “new covenant” passage at chapter 31:31–34, drawing on Israel’s past relationship with God through the covenant at Sinai to foresee a new future in which Israel will be obedient to God.
The “Confessions” of Jeremiah
Scholars have identified several passages in Jeremiah that can be understood as “confessions;” they occur in the first section of the book (chapters 1–25) and are 11.18–12.6, 15.10–21, 17.14–18, 18.18–23, and 20.7–18. In these passages, Jeremiah expresses his discontent with the message he is to deliver, but also his steadfast commitment to the divine call despite the fact that he had not sought it out. Additionally, in several of these “confessions,” Jeremiah prays that the Lord will take revenge on his persecutors (for example, Jeremiah 12.3).
Jeremiah’s “confessions” are a type of individual lament. Such laments are found elsewhere in the psalms and the book of Job. Like Job, Jeremiah curses the day of his birth (Jer. 20.14–18 and Job 3.3–10). Likewise, Jeremiah’s exclamation “For I hear the whispering of many: Terror is all around!” (Jer. 20.10) matches Psalm 31.13 exactly. However, Jeremiah’s laments are made unique by his insistence that he has been called by Yahweh to deliver his messages. These laments “provide a unique look at the prophet’s inner struggle with faith, persecution, and human suffering”.
Prophetic gestures, also known as sign-acts or symbolic actions, was a form of communication in which a message was delivered by performing symbolic actions. Not unique to the book of Jeremiah, these were often bizarre and violated the cultural norms of the time (e.g. Ezekiel 4:4–8). They served the purposes of both drawing audience and causing that audience to ask questions, giving a prophet the opportunity to explain the meaning of the behavior. The recorder of the events in the written text (i.e. the author of the text) had neither the same audience nor, potentially, the same intent that Jeremiah had in performing these prophetic gestures.
The following is a list – not exhaustive – of noteworthy sign-acts found in Jeremiah:
- Jeremiah 13:1–11 The wearing, burial, and retrieval of a linen waistband.
- Jeremiah 16:1–9 The shunning of the expected customs of marriage, mourning, and general celebration.
- Jeremiah 19:1–13 the acquisition of a clay jug and the breaking of said jug in front of the religious leaders of Jerusalem .
- Jeremiah 27–28 The wearing of an oxen yoke and its subsequent breaking by a fellow prophet, Hananiah.
- Jeremiah 35:1–19 The offering of wine to the Rechabites, a tribe known for living in tents and refusing to drink wine. This was done in the Temple, which is an important part of the breaking of societal norms.
Jeremiah as a new Moses
The book’s superscription claims that Jeremiah was active for forty years, from the thirteenth year of Josiah (627 BCE) to the fall of Jerusalem in 587. It is clear from the last chapters of the book, however, that he continued to speak in Egypt after the assassination of Gedaliah, the Babylonian-appointed governor of Judah, in 582. This suggests that the superscription is trying to make a theological point about Jeremiah by comparing him to Moses – where Moses spent forty years leading Israel from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land, Jeremiah’s forty years saw Israel exiled from the land and Jeremiah himself ultimately in exile in Egypt.
Later interpretation and influence
The influence of Jeremiah during and after the Exile was considerable in some circles, and three additional books, Book of Baruch, Lamentations, and the Letter of Jeremiah, were attributed to him in Second Temple Judaism (Judaism in the period between the building of the Second Temple in about 515 BCE and the time of Christ); in the Greek Septuagint they stand between Jeremiah and the Book of Ezekiel, but only Lamentations is included in modern Jewish or Protestant bibles (the Letter of Jeremiah appears in Catholic bibles as the sixth chapter of Baruch). Jeremiah is mentioned by name in Chronicles and Book of Ezra, both dating from the later Persian period, and his prophesy that the Babylonian exile would last 70 years was taken up and reapplied by the author of the Book of Daniel in the 2nd century BCE.
The understanding of the early Christians that Jesus represented a “new covenant” (see 1 Corinthians 11:25 and Hebrews 8:6–13) is based on Jeremiah 31:31–34, in which a future Israel will repent and give God the obedience he demands. The Gospel’s portrayal of Jesus as a persecuted prophet owes a great deal to the account of Jeremiah’s sufferings in chapters 37–44, as well as to the “Songs of the Suffering Servant” in Isaiah.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The land of Canaan, which comprises the modern regions of Israel, the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Lebanon and Syria. At the time when Canaanite religion was practiced, it was divided into various city-states.
Canaanite religion is the name for the group of Ancient Semitic religions practiced by the Canaanites living in the ancient Levant from at least the early Bronze Age through the first centuries of the Common Era.
- 1 Beliefs
- 2 History
- 3 Contact with other areas
- 4 Hebrew Bible
- 5 Sources
- 6 See also
- 7 References
A great number of deities were worshiped by the followers of the Canaanite religion; this is a partial listing:
- Anat, virgin goddess of war and strife, sister and putative mate of Ba’al Hadad
- Athirat, “walker of the sea”, Mother Goddess, wife of El (also known as Elat and after the Bronze Age as Asherah)
- Athtart, better known by her Greek name Astarte, assists Anat in The Myth of Ba’al
- Attar, god of the morning star (“son of the morning”) who tried to take the place of the dead Baal and failed. Male counterpart of Athtart.
- Baalat or Baalit, the wife or female counterpart of Baal (also Belili)
- Ba’al Hadad (lit. master of thunder), storm god.
- Baal Hammon, god of fertility and renewer of all energies in the Phoenician colonies of the Western Mediterranean
- Dagon, god of crop fertility and grain, father of Ba’al Hadad
- El Elyon (lit. God Most High) and El; also transliterated as Ilu
- Eshmun, god, or as Baalat Asclepius, goddess, of healing
- Ishat, goddess of fire. She was slain by Anat.
- Kotharat, goddesses of marriage and pregnancy
- Kothar-wa-Khasis, the skilled, god of craftsmanship
- Lotan, the twisting, seven-headed serpent ally of Yam
- Marqod, God of Dance
- Melqart, king of the city, the underworld and cycle of vegetation in Tyre
- Molech or Moloch, putative god of fire
- Mot or Mawat, god of death (not worshiped or given offerings)
- Nikkal-wa-Ib, goddess of orchards and fruit
- Qadeshtu, lit. “Holy One”, putative goddess of love.
- Resheph, god of plague and of healing
- Shachar and Shalim, twin gods of dawn and dusk, respectively. Shalim was linked to the netherworld via the evening star and associated with peace
- Shamayim, (lit. skies) the god of the heavens
- Shapash, also transliterated Shapshu, goddess of the sun; sometimes equated with the Mesopotamian sun god Shemesh whose gender is disputed
- Yaw (lit. sea-river) the god of the sea and the river, also called Judge Nahar (judge of the river).
- Sydyk, the god of righteousness or justice, sometimes twinned with Misor, and linked to the planet Jupiter
- Yahweh may exist as an ending of some Amorite male names, though the only Canaanite mention of Yahweh, found on the Mesha Stele, refers to the god of Israel contrasted with Chemosh.
- Yarikh, god of the moon and husband of Nikkal
Afterlife; Cult of the Dead
According to Canaanite beliefs, when the physical body dies, the npš (usually translated as “soul”) departs from the body to the land of Mot. Bodies were buried with grave goods, and offerings of food and drink were made to the dead to ensure that they would not bother the living. Dead relatives were venerated and sometimes asked for help.
So far, none of the inscribed tablets found in 1929 in the Canaanite city of Ugarit (destroyed ca. 1200 BC) has revealed a cosmology. Any idea of one is often reconstructed from the much later Phoenician text by Philo of Byblos (c. 64–141 AD), after much Greek and Roman influence in the region.
According to the pantheon, known in Ugarit as ‘ilhm (=Elohim) or the children of El, supposedly obtained by Philo of Byblos from Sanchuniathon of Berythus (Beirut) the creator was known as Elion, who was the father of the divinities, and in the Greek sources he was married to Beruth (Beirut = the city). This marriage of the divinity with the city would seem to have Biblical parallels too with the stories of the link between Melkart and Tyre; Chemosh and Moab; Tanit and Baal Hammon in Carthage.
From the union of El Elyon and his consort were born Uranus (Pronounced Oo(as in room)-ran-aws) and Ge (Pronounced Yee), Greek names for the “Heaven” and the “Earth”.
In Canaanite mythology there were twin mountains Targhizizi and Tharumagi which hold the firmament up above the earth-circling ocean, thereby bounding the earth. W. F. Albright, for example, says that El Shaddai is a derivation of a Semitic stem that appears in the Akkadian shadû (“mountain”) and shaddā`û or shaddû`a (“mountain-dweller”), one of the names of Amurru. Philo of Byblos states that Atlas was one of the Elohim, which would clearly fit into the story of El Shaddai as “God of the Mountain(s).” Harriet Lutzky has presented evidence that Shaddai was an attribute of a Semitic goddess, linking the epithet with Hebrew šad “breast” as “the one of the Breast”. The idea of two mountains being associated here as the breasts of the Earth, fits into the Canaanite mythology quite well. The ideas of pairs of mountains seem to be quite common in Canaanite mythology (similar to Horeb and Sinai in the Bible). The late period of this cosmology makes it difficult to tell what influences (Roman, Greek, or Hebrew) may have informed Philo’s writings.
In the Baal cycle, Ba’al Hadad is challenged by and defeats Yam, using two magical weapons (called “Driver” and “Chaser”) made for Him by Kothar-wa-Khasis. Afterward, with the help of Athirat and Anat, Ba’al persuades El to allow him a palace. El approves, and the palace is built by Kothar-wa-Khasis. After the palace is constructed, Ba’al gives forth a thunderous roar out of the palace window and challenges Mot. Mot enters through the window and swallows Ba’al, sending him to the Underworld. With no one to give rain, there is a terrible drought in Ba’al’s absence. The other deities, especially El and Anat, are distraught that Ba’al has been taken to the Underworld. Anat goes to the Underworld, attacks Mot with a knife, grinds him up into pieces, and scatters him far and wide. With Mot defeated, Ba’al is able to return and refresh the Earth with rain.
Main article: Canaanites
The Akkadian word “kinahhu“, however, referred to the purple-colored wool, dyed from the Murex molluscs of the coast, which was throughout history a key export of the region. When the Greeks later traded with the Canaanites, this meaning of the word seems to have predominated as they called the Canaanites the Phoenikes or “Phoenicians”, which may derive from the Greek word “Phoenix” meaning crimson or purple, and again described the cloth for which the Greeks also traded. The Romans transcribed “phoenix” to “poenus“, thus calling the descendants of the Canaanite settlers in Carthage “Punic“.
Thus while “Phoenician” and “Canaanite” refer to the same culture, archaeologists and historians commonly refer to the Bronze Age, pre-1200 BC Levantines as Canaanites and their Iron Age descendants, particularly those living on the coast, as Phoenicians. More recently, the term Canaanite has been used for the secondary Iron Age states of the interior, that were not ruled by Aramaean peoples, a separate and closely related ethnic group which included the Philistines and the states of Israel and Judah.
Canaanite religion was strongly influenced by their more powerful and populous neighbors, and shows clear influence of Mesopotamian and Egyptian religious practices. Like other people of the Ancient Near East Canaanite religious beliefs were polytheistic, with families typically focusing worship on ancestral household gods and goddesses, the Elohim, while acknowledging the existence of other deities such as Baal and El. Kings also played an important religious role and in certain ceremonies, such as the sacred marriage of the New Year Festival may have been revered as gods. “At the center of Canaanite religion was royal concern for religious and political legitimacy and the imposition of a divinely ordained legal structure, as well as peasant emphasis on fertility of the crops, flocks, and humans.”
Contact with other areas
Canaanite religion was influenced by its peripheral position, intermediary between Egypt and Mesopotamia, whose religions had a growing impact upon Canaanite religion. For example during the Hyksos period, when horse-using maryannu Asiatics ruled in Egypt, at their capital city of Avaris, Baal became associated with the Egyptian god Set, and was considered identical – particularly with Set in his form as Sutekh. Iconographically henceforth Baal was shown wearing the crown of Lower Egypt and shown in the Egyptian-like stance, one foot set before the other. Similarly Athirat (known by her later Hebrew name Asherah), Athtart (known by her later Greek name Astarte), and Anath henceforth were portrayed wearing Hathor-like Egyptian wigs.
From the other direction, Jean Bottero has suggested that Yah of Ebla (a possible precursor of Yam) was equated with the Mesopotamian god Ea during the Akkadian period. In the Middle and Late Bronze Age, there are also strong Hurrian and Mitannite influences upon the Canaanite religion. The Hurrian goddess Hebat was worshiped in Jerusalem, and Baal was closely considered equivalent to the Hurrian storm god Teshub and the Hittite storm god Tarhunt. Canaanite divinities seem to have been almost identical in form and function to the neighboring Aramaeans to the east, and Baal Hadad and El can be distinguished amongst earlier Amorites, who at the end of the Early Bronze Age invaded Mesopotamia.
Carried west by Phoenician sailors, Canaanite religious influences can be seen in Greek mythology, particularly in the tripartite division between the Olympians Zeus, Poseidon and Hades, mirroring the division between Baal, Yam and Mot, and in the story of the Labours of Hercules, mirroring the stories of the Tyrian Melkart, who was often equated with Heracles.
See also: Category:Deities in the Hebrew Bible
- When the Most High (`Elyōn) divided to the nations their inheritance, he separated the sons of man (Ādām); he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the sons of Israel”
Until the excavation of Ras Shamra in Northern Syria (the site historically known as Ugarit), and the discovery of its Bronze Age archive of clay tablet alphabetic cuneiform texts, little was known of Canaanite religion, as papyrus seems to have been the preferred writing medium. Unlike in Egypt, where papyrus may survive centuries in the extremely dry climate, these have simply decayed in the humid Mediterranean climate. As a result, the accounts contained within the Bible were almost the only sources of information on ancient Canaanite religion. This was supplemented by a few secondary and tertiary Greek sources (Lucian of Samosata‘s De Dea Syria (The Syrian Goddess), fragments of the Phoenician History of Philo of Byblos, and the writings of Damascius). More recently detailed study of the Ugaritic material, other inscriptions from the Levant and also of the Ebla archive from Tel Mardikh, excavated in 1960 by a joint Italo-Syrian team, have cast more light on the early Canaanite religion.
The ruins of the excavated city of Ras Shamra, or Ugarit.
According to The Encyclopedia of Religion, the Ugarit texts were one part of a larger religion, that was based on the religious teachings of Babylon. The Canaanite scribes that produced the Baal texts were also trained to write in Babylonian cuniform, including Sumerian and Akkadian texts of every genre.
Archaeological excavations in the last few decades have unearthed more about the religion of the ancient Canaanites. The excavation of the city of Ras Shamra and the discovery of its Bronze Age archive of clay tablet alphabetic cuneiform texts, helped provide a wealth of new information. More recently, detailed study of the Ugaritic material, other inscriptions from the Levant and also of the Ebla archive from Tel Mardikh, excavated in 1960 by a joint Italo-Syrian team, have cast more light on the early Canaanite religion.
Archaeologists discover: God’s wife?
Israel is touted as the birthplace of monotheism, but mounting evidence suggests that the Israelites, and later the Judahites – like their neighbors – worshiped a pantheon.
By Julia Fridman | 19:25 15.09.13 | 7
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“You shall not plant any tree as an Asherah beside the altar of the Lord your God that you shall make.” Deuteronomy 16:21.
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Archaeological Discoveries Reveal an Israelite Belief in God’s Wife and a Pantheon? (Haaretz)
By David Larsen | Published: September 18, 2013
A recent article in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz (online), presents some recent (and not so recent) findings by archaeologists and other scholars regarding the worship of the divine feminine in ancient Israel. Although interpreting the real-life use and theology behind ancient artifacts is always an imprecise science, the amount of material that has been collected and analyzed does favor a certain range of conclusions. I wanted to post this article on Heavenly Ascents in light of the upcoming conference at USU on the Divine Feminine (Oct. 23, 2013). William Dever, the famous biblical archaeologist who literally wrote the book on God’s Wife, will be speaking at this conference.
The following is from Julia Fridman’s article on haaretz.com:
Archaeologists discover: God’s wife?
Israel is touted as the birthplace of monotheism, but mounting evidence suggests that the Israelites, and later the Judahites – like their neighbors – worshiped a pantheon.
By Julia Fridman | Sep. 15, 2013 | 7:25 PM | (see original article for images)
“You shall not plant any tree as an Asherah beside the altar of the Lord your God that you shall make.” Deuteronomy 16:21.
The Old Testament is rife with the admonishment of errant kings and queens worshiping ‘false gods’, with the much of the blame falling on the Kingdom of Israel and that of Ahab and his infamous queen Jezebel. In recent years there have been a significant number of discoveries of cult stands and shrine caches throughout Israel. They were found either buried in favissae (underground cellars) or buried in caches, such as at Hazevah and Yavneh, or found in various other settings, like at Tel Rehov’s honey production site and at Tel Halif’s industrial textile area. The most recent findings were at Motza, just north of Jerusalem, where a cache of apparently cultic items were found in an ancient temple.
Israel is often touted as the birthplace of monotheism. But the Motza artifacts, so similar to those of distant Hazeva and Qitmit, taken in conjunction with the previously discovered stands, shrines and altars from Megiddo, Taanach and Beit Sh’ean, paint a significantly richer picture of the religious life of this ancient land. Add the various figurines found strewn about the land of Israel of females in various poses and states of dress and undress as well as dogs, horses, and bulls: The iconography points to a pantheon of deities, as some scholars believe, or to two main deities, something of a duality.
These practices of worshipping a pantheon or diumvirate godhead appears to have lasted throughout the Late Iron Age of the Land of Israel (10th–6th centuries BCE), and ended only with the Babylonian conquest of Judah and apparent expulsion of its residents. The ancient practices were gone for good, not returning with the exiles from Persia and Babylon, several generations after the exile, who upon their return derided the Samaritans for pagan beliefs. Items that speak of gods other than YHWH or “the One” span from standing pillars (“masseboth”), decorated shrine boxes, horned altars, cult stands, miniature icons, Judiahite Pillar Figurines – known in archaeological speak as JPFs – in varying poses: holding a drum or a disk in one hand, cupping their breasts, nude, pregnant, dressed, and so on. Added to this are ceramic and metal animal figurines, as well as male figurines, some with horns. Interestingly, there are vastly more female figurines and representations found on shrines than there are male ones. And now add to this the ground-breaking finds at Khirbet el Qom and Kuntillet Ajrud.
Who’s that girl?
Going by what the Bible tells us, there were two major reforms against these apparent pagan practices, one by Elijah and the other by Josiah. And while there was much denouncement of them, the practices persisted, as can be seen in the endless complaints of the Biblical writers and in the archaeological evidence.
The evidence points to the worship of at least two deities.
This is a good point to wonder what these deities’ names were. In fact we know, from several inscriptions.
The first is an inscription that was found in an 8th century tomb at the site of Khirbet el Qom, in the heart of Judah, in a tomb. The inscription is a prayer, and contains the names of YHWH and that of Ashera, the latter is invoked three times. On one side of the inscription a crude tree appears to have been incised as well. Another famous inscription was found at the site of Kuntillet Ajrud, on the border of Judah. It also dates to approximately the same time period as the Khirbet el Qom findings.
The site is scattered with dedicatory inscriptions to “YHWH and his ASHERA”. One stands out in particular: “To YHWH of SHOMRON and his ASHERA” (Meshel 2012: 86–101).
Shomron or Samaria was the capitol of Israel, very far from this peripheral border of Judah. Along with the inscription, the drawings found with the inscriptions match the iconography found on the shrines, for instance the Tree of Life, with volutes and lotus blossoms for branches, feeding caprids, and a lion standing underneath this tree of life.
So, Iron Age Israelites were not monotheists after all? Or, what do these cultic finds around Israel and Judah mean?
It is a common joke in archaeological circles that if you don’t know what something is, then it must be ‘cultic.’
“Many classes of objects such as figurines are – contrary to what many of us think – not inherently ‘cultic’ at all,” says Michael Press, an expert in Philistine culture and religion. “They could have been used in a variety of contexts and have a variety of functions. Some of these might be only religious in a broad sense, for instance, providing protection from evil.” They might not have been religious at all, he adds – for instance, some might have been teaching tools.
How then can one tell the difference? “We have to carefully look at the types of buildings we find these items in, what other objects are associated with them,” Press explains.
But was polytheistic worship of female figurines an “official state religion”? That is hard to prove, says Erin Darby, professor of religious studies at University of Tennessee-Knoxville and an expert on Judahite pillar figurines. She adds that it depends on what one means by “state religion.” In her view, “state religion” refers to a religious activity performed by many of the people who lived within a national boundary. It is something sponsored or encouraged by the upper echelon, she elaborates.
“The Judahite pillar figurines certainly tell us that many of the people who lived in Judah – Israel is a slightly different story – used small terracotta females in rituals that I strongly believe relate to protection and healing, most frequently taking place in homes and neighborhoods. This is especially true in Jerusalem, which is the corpus I know the best,” Darby says. She does not believe however that there is the textual or archaeological evidence that connects these particular terracottas to Asherah, the female deity.
The fact is that Judahite pillar figurines were found in two Jerusalem areas – Shiloh’s Area G and Ramat Rahel. That, says Darby, “indicates that people who were probably affiliated with either palace or temple used figurines.”
Use of figurines continued in Jerusalem throughout the Late Iron Age. “At the same time, in our petrographic study, David ben Shlomo and I found no evidence to support centralized manufacture by the state,” Darby says. “The data seem to suggest the possibility of multiple local manufacturers in Jerusalem. Figurines were probably produced by the same folks who made pottery vessels.”
In other words, daily practices in ancient Israel were more complex than the term “monotheism” suggests, Darby sums up. “I think you have tons of evidence to back this up, especially in Jerusalem and outlying areas like Motza. Not even the Bible claims that most ancient Judeans were strict monotheists,” she says, though it is always disputable whether shrine boxes or figurines attest to Asherah specifically.
At a minimum, these objects suggest ancient religious life was just as complex as anything in the modern world, Darby says.
Ancient pantheons, not only the famous Greek or Roman ones, had multiple members including semi-divine lower level deities. “The typical version of monotheism associated with ancient Judah is the result of modern people choosing a few texts in the Bible to then reconstruct their ideal picture of what ancient Judeans did,” she sums up. But it clearly wasn’t how people lived their lives.
As the author notes, it is difficult to interpret exactly what function these figurines and other artifacts served. What is clear is that a lot of people in ancient Judah, especially Jerusalem, possessed these “cultic” objects (if they were cultic) and used them for some purpose. When compared with inscriptions that have been found in the area, biblical references to the worship of female deities, and evidence from the surrounding cultures, it is not hard to conclude that these ancient Israelites/Judahites had a keen interest in the Divine Feminine in some form. How that interest played into their religious beliefs and how those beliefs may have aligned or clashed with the “official” or state religion is more difficult to decipher.
Links and other resources for further information:
archaeology discoveries in israel
Archaeology in Jerusalem
God’s Wife Asherah
Wife of Yahweh
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