(Goddess of the Tides by Jonathon Earl Bowser)
"Asherah of the Sea,
Asherah Come to Me,
Asherah, Asherah, Asherah."
I originally wanted to do a post about the Wiccan Wheel of the Year and Christian Holidays, however my family and I made our way up to Cincinnati to see the Dead Sea Scrolls for my mother's birthday. It was a magnificent display of old Jewish culture, writing, and faith. However, there were other objects on display which included some old pots, dishes, grinding stones, coins, and certain statues; including this one.
(Note: I did not take a picture of either the scrolls or statues as photography wasn't allowed, I merely got this picture from another website but it was the sculpture on display. Also Asherah is not mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls)
The description next to display said (I don't remember word-for-word) this statue was of the fertility goddess Asherah, who was called Astarte by some. It went on to say that the statue and others like it have been found near Jerusalem and throughout the Israeli-Palestinian areas. There was a picture taken from a broken pithos (see below) with the description that said "Yahweh and his Asherah". Finally, the description went on to say that Asherah was worshiped alongside Yahweh, a.k.a God (Yahweh means "I Am who I Am"), as His wife or consort in the temple.
"Yahweh and his Asherah"
For those of you are just now hearing about this, this finding of the "Bride of God" has caused some discussion, arguing, and revelation between Judea-Christian beliefs and Pagan ones. In Paganism, especially Wicca, many of the Deities have wives and consorts but in the Judaism, Christianity, and Islam God is alone. Asherah is worshiped by Goddess worshipers, some Wiccans, and Semitic Neo-pagans in today's world however these groups either worship her alone or alongside the god Baal who was often seen as her husband or mate. Only in Christian Wicca (yes, it exists), Trinitarian Wicca (which could be another name for Christian Wicca or a certain path of it), and Jewish Wicca (yes, it exists too) is Asherah worshiped alongside God. Blah blah blah blah---- You get the point: The ancient Israelites worshiped the goddess Asherah alongside Yahweh as His wife or consort.
And oh boy, how did the internet explode when this discovery was made. I even came across a discussion forum on PaganSpace.net where many Pagans railed and flamed about "God's wife being edited out of the Bible" and how she was removed because she was a woman, and how Jews and Christians hate women yada yada yada yada. First of, even though Francesca Stavrakopoulou made this discovery in 2011 on the BBC program "The Bible's Buried Secrets" the theory of God, or Yahweh as He will be referred to many times throughout this post, having a wife had been proposed a long time ago. William Dever even wrote a book that was originally published back in 2005 entitled Did God Have a Wife? but even before then a few scholars and philosophers thought of this theory since the ancient Israelites' culture sometimes did blend with the cultures of the people who conquered them or who were around them thus prompting the inclusion of polytheism into the Hebrew religion. So if you think this is a new discovery or theory then you're kind of behind.
And now a bit of information about Yahweh and Asherah. God how has been called Yahweh in Judaism, Allah in Islam, and God in Christianity has been called other names as well, specifically El in the Canaanite religion. Despite their complicated ancestry and history, the Canaanites also worshiped God but used other names for Him along with incorporating other Deities including Asherah who was seen as El's consort or wife. The name "El" does mean "god" or "deity" however this name of God would also influence language. The English word "angel" is derived from a Hebrew word meaning "messenger of God" and specifically the suffix -el in the word means "of God". We see these in names that are both somewhat modern and names for the angels like Michael means "Who is like God" or "Who resembles God", Nahaliel means "Valley of God" or "Torrents of God", Uriel means "God is my light", and Eli means "my God" or "God most high".
As for Asherah (I've heard various pronunciations for her name), was often called Ashratu, Asherdu, Ashratum, or other similar sounding names. She identified, equated, or seen as an epithet of the Babylonian Ishtar, Phoenician Astarte (who was also called Ashtoreth), Ugaritic Athirat, Arabian Allat, and the Sumerian Inanna. Please note that there's a difference in her other names and the goddesses she was equated with, example: Artemida is the Russian pronunciation of Artemis but Artemis was equated with the goddess Diana.
Overall, Asherah has the position of Mother Goddess and a fertility deity of which the former may be the reason why the Israelites saw her at the side of Yahweh. When Yahweh made the covenant with Abraham and when He spoke to Moses as they burning bush, polytheism was still heavily popular in the region so it's not like the Israelites didn't know about the concept of multiple deities, although it is believed that at some point Israelites became monolatrist, followers of monolatrism a.k.a the acknowledgement of multiple deities but the consistent worship of only one. Nevertheless the worship of Yahweh and Asherah together as a Divine Union or Pair predates the belief that the Horned God and Goddess are a masculine and feminine aspect of the Divine and that they, the Horned God and Goddess, together form the the gender-less Divine. Interestingly enough, I wonder what the priests of Baal though about when the consort of their Deity suddenly became the consort of an enemy civilization. Why did the Israelites see Asherah as Yahweh's specific consort and what of Asherah's fate with the Israelites?
As stated there's a lot of ruckus being stirred up about Asherah being edited or nearly edited out of the Bible. Well, there are some places that clearly refer to her or her epithets (i.e. Ishtar, Astarte, etc.) that weren't left out. Specifically, both Jeremiah 7:18 and 44:17-19, 25 refer to her as the "Queen of Heaven". I don't know about you but that's a very lofty title if I've ever seen one, it carries a lot of meaning. There is also frequent mention of the asherim, or Asherah poles, that were sacred to her being put up and taken down in the temple; it is often said that these poles were reminiscent of a tree associated with Asherah (there will be more on that later). 2nd Kings 21:7 more explicitly deals with Asherah when King Manasseh (a descendant of David and Solomon) when he had an image of Asherah carved into a wall of the temple and he also restored all the altars to Baal and Asherah poles which in some Bibles may be written as "Baals and Asherahs" because in the ancient world whenever there was an object that was symbolic or sacred to a certain Deity that object would be named after the Deity.
During these times, which were near to or before the Babylonian Exile, was when Asherah was within the temple. However after the temple's destruction the statues and markings of Asherah, along with everything else (some objects survived) was lost. In the Second Temple no images of Asherah were re-established as the Israelites had become monotheistic at this point. This is a few centuries before the New Testament time and in the New Testament there is no mention of the Queen of Heaven or Asherah. There is only one goddess mentioned in the New Testament and that is Artemis at Ephesus who we can certainly agree is not Yahweh's wife.
So, what happened to Asherah? Did the Jews and Israelites remove her from their worship for monotheism? Maybe. Is she now one of Yahweh's most important angels at His side? Maybe. Did she and Yahweh unite into one gender-less being? Maybe.
At this time Judaism had become monotheistic and unlike before with the other Semitic civilizations, the Jews did not syncretized God nor incorporated nor equated Him with any other Deities. So Asherah, where'd ya go? One thing that most people point out is difference between God in the Old Testament and the New Testament. In the Old Testament, God is very wrathful to the point of punishing His people for their acts while in the New Testament God is more merciful and kind to the point of Him incarnating Himself as His Son to die for His people. Could Asherah have involved in this? Could she and Yahweh have united into a kinder yet gender-less God?
In Readings in Christian Thought, Elizabeth Cady Stanton said something that was similar to Julian of Norwich's views that we have a "Heavenly Mother" as well as a "Heavenly Father"; the book also includes an excerpt from Stanton's book The Woman's Bible. She goes on to say that the in Genesis there is plain declaration of the feminine element in God that's equal in all ways with masculine. "God created man in His own image, male and female." While it is certain that Stanton didn't know about Asherah here we have a declaration of the Divine Masculine and Divine Feminine which rarely seen in Christianity and Judaism. When God came to the ancient Israelites He identified Himself as Yahweh, perhaps Asherah was the name of the feminine aspect.
One thing that the Bible is known for is its heavy usage of parables or symbolic stories. One of these supposedly parabolic stories is the story of Adam and Eve. I've often heard that Adam and Eve was just a representation of how mankind original fell into sin, although a small handful (like this person) believe that this parable represents the relationship between Yahweh/God and Asherah. The Tree of Life, a name given to Asherah and one of the few trees that God told Adam and Eve to partake of, is said by such people to have been represented by the aforementioned asherim poles.
So, wow this has been a long one, there is proof that the ancient Israelites worshiped Asherah at some point. The conclusion? So what?
I mean no disrespect, but the Christians, Jews, and Muslims aren't the ancient Israelites. They're monotheist through and through, the term Bride of God or Bride of Christ in Christianity only refers to the people of the world, that God loves all of us. We don't follow, worship, or believe in a Semitic goddess in fact in truth God has no gender. We only call him He because all the writers were male, but as you can see no one's going to die because they say God the Mother or the Heavenly Mother.
Also, unless you're omniscient, I don't think every Israelite in the area worshiped Asherah. Not every Jew followed Christ, not every Greek followed Socrates' teachings, and I don't think that every Pagan followers all the Deities of the world. So, some of the Israelites did worship Asherah but not every single one.
At most the Christians and Jews (you probably won't get the Muslims doing it) can at most acknowledge that Asherah was worshiped alongside Yahweh/God at one point but they're not going to start worshiping her again. You aren't going to wake up one day and see in the news "The Pope re-establishes the Worship of Asherah!" No. But the worship of Asherah is not dead, as stated Neo-pagans, Goddess worshipers, Christian-Pagans, and Jewish-Wiccans worship Asherah. If you feel that Asherah should be appreciated than give her an offering or prayer (I don't know how all the stuff in Paganism works).
And that's it. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns post away!
God Bless, N. Perez