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 The name Asherah is a Canaanite variant of Ishtar which also survived into the middle ages as that of the so called demon Asteroth. Medieval witches who faithfully preserved the mysteries of Asherah were calumniated by the medieval church as demonic followers of Asteroth. Neverthe less the cult survived and (on the principle of "my enemies enemy is my friend) finaly adopted the title "Priestesses of Ashteroth. The lineage survived in Scotland and Wales in some of the traditional families into the twentieth century of the common era and was a substantial influence on Gardenerian Wicca.

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I am pleased to hear that the cult of Ashteroth survived into modern times as a living religion or practice. You may think it tedious to hear once again some of the basic facts of ancient Canaanite religion as discovered in the excavations at Ugarit, but for the benefit of everyone who is reading this I would say that the "Astarte" who appears to be one goddess in "The Golden Bough" was actually three, Ashtarat, Anat, and Asherah ha Elah. The Semitic name Ashtarat became, in time, the Hellenistic Astarte, and it is this name that is a variant of Ishtar. These three goddesses correspond roughly to Venus, Minerva, and Juno in the Roman pantheon. Ashtarat did in fact "become" Aphrodite or Venus as her cultus spread northward. The intermediate stage was the divine mermaid Atar Ateh or Atargatis of Syria, whose image we see on the Starbucks coffee cup. As for Asherah, the name is supposed to mean "pole" and it refers to a pole that was placed by her altars. This pole immediately reminds me of the May pole of Europe. But to do the goddess justice, I would interpret her name to be not simply "pole" but "Tree of Life". Her complete name Asherah ha Elah means, therefore, "The Tree of Life, the Goddess". She has the exalted title Elah because unlike her sisters (or perhaps daughters) her image was worshiped in the Temple in Jerusalem alongside the Ark of the Covenant, where she was the consort of YHVH. That is why I compared her to Juno. Both Asherah and Juno do not have the "shadow" quality of "illicit" sex that clings to Ashtarat and Venus, even though Venus was highly respected in Rome. Asherah and Juno are goddesses of the sexual norm---sexuality within marriage and family, which are the foundations of society. And this is where we come to an interesting ethical problem. We might expect a Venus to be condemned by the Hebrew prophets and the Christian church, but when they begin to condemn the sexuality of the respected matron, the mother of the family, we can sense that a genuine repression of womanhood has occurred. Asherah's image was removed from the temple in the time of the prophet Nehemiah after the Babylonian captivity, when the Tannach received definite literal form and Judaism was codified. It is the middle of the night so I won't go on, but perhaps you can see that the removal of Asherah's image from the temple of Jerusalem was a catastrophe not just for goddess worship as a religion, but for the human psyche. Consider, for example, what Islam became because Allat could not be become a feminine image of God---for her image was removed from the Kaaba and destroyed. The unfortunate result of the worship of a hyper-masculine God is evident in the morning newspaper. To this day I cannot find a divine feminine of any kind in Islam. But Judaism managed to revive an attenuated form of its goddess in the form of the Shekinah, and Christianity has Sophia. I shall say some very interesting things about Maria the mother of Jesus in a forthcoming blog article.

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