Asherah

אשרה


Mother-goddess and sometimes goddess of the sea. El's wife. Like Astarte she is often called Ba'alat = "mistress", but also "wife of Ba'l". She was sometimes represented as a lioness, and worshiped in sacred groves (Judges 3:7, 6:25, 26:30, 1 Kings 16:33 and 18:19), and as an idol (2 Kings 21:7, 2 Chron 17:6 etc). Her name connects her with both Sarah (
שרה), the wife of Av-Raham, and with Asher, the son of Ya'akov (Jacob) .


Much of what follows can also be found under Asher.

It is surely not a coincidence that the land occupied by the Bene Asher (אשר) was precisely the place where Isis went in search of the remains of her brother, who had been killed by his uncle Set and his body, cut in fourteen parts, put out to sea in a boat? Osiris is the Greek form of his name; to the Egyptians he was Osher. Asherah is the Syrian form of Isis, prefixed with an Aleph (א) whose absence is one of the key distinctions between Hebrew and Aramaic; so the loss of the Aleph would yield Sarah. Asherah would also become Asher in the masculine, and the Asherim (or sometimes Asherot and Ashterot) were the sacred trees, effectively totem poles, used in her worship: the Cross, the Obelisk and the Christmas Tree are all variations of it. Is it conceivable that Asher is to Asherah as Dan was to Dinah, the inference of either a sister-tribe, or more likely the tribal name of her worshippers?

Asher is taken to mean "happy" or "fortunate" (which one should be if one worships Asherah properly), and is common in the Psalms especially, many of which begin with, or include, a verbal pun on the goddess’ name, such as the two verses sung under the title "Ashrei" in synagogue every morning: Psalm 84:5 "Ashrey Yoshvey Beytecha - happy are they who dwell in the house of Asherah"; and Psalm 144:15 "Ashrey ha-am she-cacha-lo - happy are they when it is so" (the "so" being the intense fertility of the land brought by Asherah).

To the Romans, Venus was regarded as the bringer of good fortune. The Roman equivalent of Ba'al was Hercules, Venus' lover, but in Kena'an (e.g 2 Kings 23:4) he was Asherah's consort.

On innumerable occasions (Judges 10:6 1 Samuel 7:4; 1 Samuel 12:10, and Judges 3:7 have Ashtoreth instead of Asherah, being the Babylonian Ishtar rather than the Syrian Astarte, but still clearly the same goddess, who in Egypt was Isis and, as noted above, to the Romans Venus. In Eleusis she was worshiped as Diana (later as the Virgin Mary), and by the Greeks at different times as Aphrodite or Demeter. To the Celts she was Guinevere the consort of Beli, which translates into Celtic as Ar-Thor or The King (Arthur). Beli is of course Bel or Ba'al, Astarte’s consort; to the southern Beney Kena'an Ba'al's consort was Anat, which is another variation on the same fertility goddess, as Yah was to the Ionian Phoenicians and the Beney Chet (Hittites).


The Asherim were a Phoenician-Aramaean idol, representing Astarte, or the planet Venus, the companion and consort of Ba'al. Images of Astarte (usually small clay figurines with pregnant bellies and large milking-breasts; icons of fertility) were called Asherot (אשרות) or Ashterot (אשתרות), and are probably included amongst the various household iconoi known as Teraphim. She was worshiped in sacred groves.The larger Asherim were sometimes immense pillars of stone, akin to the menhirs of Carnac, more often the trunks of large trees, pollarded and carved, something in the manner of a totem pole (cf Judges 6:25 and Deuteronomy 16:21). The altar of Ba'al at Samaria in the time of King Ahab was an idol of this type (1 Kings 16:32/33), with the Asherah alongside it. A similar pillar at Ophrah, known as "Adonai Shalom" or "Lord of Peace", was erected by Gidon (Gideon) in Judges 6:24, and from the time of Menasheh until Yoshiahu (Josiah) there was even one erected in Yerushalayim (2 Kings 21:3-7), until Yoshiahu himself tore it down (2 Kings 23).
The Asherim, or sometimes Asherot and sometimes Ashterot or Ashtaroth, appear, among many other examples, in Micah 5:13/14 and Deuteronomy 7:5, and in the plural Asherot in Judges 3:7 and you will see that, in the link I have chosen here to 2 Chronicles 33:3, the Hebrew gives Asherot, some translations give Asherim, but several others "Asherah poles" - an indication of our modern inability to understand the nuances of the esoterics of this ancient "pagan" religion.

Linked to these statues and poles and stones and idols to the goddess were others to her spouse Ba'al, called Asherim (Exodus 34:13; Deuteronomy 7:5 and 12:3; 1 Kings 14:23, 2 Kings 17:10, 23:14; 2 Chronicles 14:2, Micah 5:12; etc). Judges 6:25 ff describes an Asher as a pillar of wood of great size, either fixed or planted in the ground. As such it resembles a totem-pole, or the May or caduceus pole, as well as the Edenic Tree of Life, the World Tree (see illustration below). Such statues stood alongside the Asherot at Beth-El and even in the Temple in Yerushalayim , plus elsewhere. They were often paired as an Astarte and a Ba'al pillar (were the Bo'az and Yachin pillars in the Temple then such?). Yesha-Yahu (Isaiah) 27:9 laments them, saying that in the time of the Messiah "they will rise no more"; he also couples them with Chamanin (חמנים) or sun-images, which is what Haman was, rather than the Persian prime minister whose attempted genocide of the Jews was thwarted by Queen Esther (אסתר) - a name which itself is not unconnected to Ishtar and Astarte. The fact that Yesha-Yahu laments them, but cannot predict their overthrow until the coming of the Messiah, may well indicate how prevalent goddess-worship remained in Yisra-El until very late on. Ezekiel 8:14 likewise complains about the women worshiping Tammuz (Ishtar's son and the model for Jesus) at the north gate of the Temple in Yerushalayim.

The key difference between Asherim and Ashterot appears to have been that the Ashterot were natural stone, where the Asherim were carved in wood, something in the manner of the totem-pole. Whenever they were destroyed - usually on the instructions of fundamentalist prophets of YHVH seeking to replace the ancient "pagan" cults with their new monotheistic religion - the Asherim are described as "cut down and burned", where the Ashterot are always "overthrown".

Interestingly the Vulgate (Latin) edition of the Bible translates Asherot as Luci, from Lucus which means "a sacred grove". The Mishnah calls them Eylom ne-aved (אילן ניבד), or "trees to be worshipped", which amounts to an overt admission. The original root - Ashar - means "to be upright" or "straight".

References to Asherah worship among the Hebrews are too many to list in full; but see: 1 Kings 15:13 and 18:19; 2 Kings 14:15, 17:16, 21:3 ff, 23:6; Judges 2:13, 3:7, 6:25 ff and 10:6; 2 Chronicles 15:16, 33:3; 1 Samuel 7:4, 12:10; etc.

Given that tribes were known as "sons of" – i.e. the Asherites would have been called the Beney Asher - we should note that the term for the worshipers of Asherah would also have been Beney Asherah; and given that the tribe of Dan was a masculinisation of the original Beney Dinah, his sister who was ravished by the Shechemites...it is logical to suggest that the tribe of Asher was defined precisely by its inclination to worship the goddess as Asherah, rather than under any of her other names; and that they were tribally connected to those other, more famous worshipers of Asherah - the Ashurim or Assyrians. In all probability these people, at an early stage of occupation, held sway over an area considerably larger than that defined by Yehoshu'a. Their geographical location, however, on the north-west coast of Yisra-El, between today's Haifa and Lebanese Tsur (Tyre), is, as noted above, precisely the place where Isis came from Mitsrayim (Egypt) to find the body of her brother-spouse Osher (Osiris), after he had been gored to death by his wicked uncle Set (Shet, Seth), and then dispatched into the Mediterranean sea in a sealed casket. The Egyptian name for Osiris was Osher.


See also ASHER, ASHTEROT KARNAYIM and ASTARTE



Copyright © 2016 David Prashker
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