Part Two in the Biblical Goddesses series
But we will do everything that we have vowed, make offerings to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we did, both we and our fathers, our kings and our officials, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no disaster – Jeremiah 44:17
Do you remember the furor over Dan Brown’s depiction of Jesus in his book “The Da Vinci Code?” Fundamentalists were up in arms over the idea that perhaps God had a wife…but in ancient times, the Judeo-Christian god Yahweh did indeed have a female counterpart — and among some circles she was worshipped exclusively! Her name is Asherah, Lady of the Sea.
Asherah is a Semitic “mother goddess” who appears in several ancient sources. She was loved by the Jews, Akkadians, Hittites, Canaanites, Sumerians, and possibly the Ancient Egyptians. Due to syncretism, she absorbed the traits of the Goddess Athirat. Her titles are similarly many and include Queen of Heaven, Creator of the Gods, Lady of the Sea, and Holiness.
Contrary to what you may believe, Jews were not always monotheistic: the worship of many deities was at one time a common and acceptable practice. Monotheism came late to Israel’s history. During this early time period, some scholars believe, the Goddess Asherah was worshipped alongside Yahweh, the god of the Bible. We can find evidence of this in the “Good Book” itself: in 2 Kings 21:7, Manasseh builds a statue of Asherah, and Solomon builds temples to many deities. Goddess figurines, along with numerous references to “Yahweh and his Asherah,” have also been unearthed in Israel. Furthermore, biblical verses that describes God as mother [Deut 32:18; Num 11:12-13; Isa 45:9-10, 49:15; 66:13] were probably absorbed from Asherah.
We also see Asherah linked to knowledge, serpents, and sacred trees. We see these symbols in the Genesis creation myth. It makes me wonder about Asherah’s connection to it. Could the serpent in the Garden of Eden be one of her sacred symbols? And what about the trees themselves – is this Asherah imagery?
So-called “asherah poles” are mentioned many times in the Bible. Described as a pole or stylized tree, they are usually written off as phallic symbols and evidence of the pagans’ barbaric attitudes toward spirituality [as though sexuality is barbaric]. To further erase their connection to the goddess, the word asherah is sometimes translated as “grove” or “wood.” Asherah is connected to sacred groves and trees, and by extension fertility; therefore, the “asherah poles” are symbols of how the goddess brings fertility, prosperity, and abundance to the land and the people who dwell there.
Creating poles for the Goddess Asherah was common among the Jews particularly during the tribal period and beyond, even though Deuteronomy 16:21 forbids the practice. The ancient people of Israel seemed to think that honoring Asherah was appropriate within the religion of Yahweh. They built her poles beside his altars and within his temples. In 1 Kings 16:33 and 2 Kings 13:6 we see King Jehu leave one of Asherah’s poles standing, even though he tried hard to destroy the worship of other deities.
Archaeological findings also point to the idea that some ancient Israelites thought of Yahweh and Asherah as a pair, and worshipped as such. The goddess was obviously important to ancient people, and her worship was difficult to stamp out. As Raphael Patai, author of “The Hebrew Goddess,” says: “… it would be strange if the Hebrew-Jewish religion, which flourished for centuries in a region of intensive goddess cults, had remained immune to them.”
But her cult was never eliminated. To this day, people still honor the goddess. Whether you identify as a Goddess Christian, a practioner of Jewitchery, Natib Qadish, or something else, tell us your experiences with the Goddess Asherah.
- Wife of Yahweh (wifeofyahweh.com)
- Eve, Forgotten Goddess part one in the Biblical Goddesses series (fractalfortress.wordpress.com)
- “Ancient Goddesses: The Myths and the Evidence,” Lucy Goodison & Christine Morris (lindibrenndu.wordpress.com)
- The Hebrew Goddess (northernway.org)