Monday, June 27, 2011

Goddesses in the Dirt: Astarte

Unearthing the Divine Feminine, one archetype at a time...
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Astarte Syriaca, 1877

Goddesses in the Dirt - Issue #13: Astarte

Before the Yahweh cult emerged, the goddess Astarte was worshipped among the Hebrews of the ancient Middle East. As the Phoenician goddess of fertility and reproduction, she is associated with the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess Ishtar, the Sumerian goddess Inanna, and Demeter, the goddess of agriculture of ancient Greece. She was the sister and co-consort of Baal, a Canaanite fertility deity whose death and resurrection was celebrated annually. 

King Solomon built a temple to her in Jerusalem, worshipping her under the name of Astoreth. Originally deified as the evening star, her oldest temple was erected at the city of Byblos (in modern Lebanon) and she was known throughout the eastern Mediterranean from the Neolithic to Classical periods.

When the Second Temple was destroyed in Jerusalem, Astarte disappeared as Judaism took a monotheistic turn, but she survived through the mystery religions which celebrated the death and rebirth of the goddess figure in annual agricultural based rituals. Many other gods and goddesses are celebrated in similar annual rituals, such as the Persephone-Demeter myth cycle at Eleusis, the dying god Tammuz, and the Egyptian god Osiris. Some scholars believe that the death and resurrection of the Christ figure has a great deal of precedent in ritualistic culture throughout the ancient Middle East. 

The bull and dove are sacred to Astarte. She is often portrayed with a bull's head or wearing horns, which is also associated with the crescent moon and her aspect as Moon goddess (in Egypt she was worshipped as Hathor, the goddess wearing the bull's horns). Offerings of honey, incense, beer and wine were made in her honor, as well as egg and the pomegranate, also known to be sacred to the goddess Persephone.

Photo courtesy of Google images

14 comments:

  1. Dear Amanda, you carry so much knowledge in the area of mythology and so enjoy these small lessons about the ancient deities.;)
    Love the Rossetti painting as I am fascinated by the Pre-Raphaelites.;)
    The symbol of bull and dove has also serendipitously a greater meaning for me right now.;))
    Have a lovely summer dear friend, I am off on an extended blog break but will be back once again a in couple of months.
    xoxo

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  2. fascinating....I look forward to these tales....hope your holiday is going well.....The pomegranate is becoming more interesting to me as well....

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  3. Some of Tom Robbins' novels contain what I suspect are well researched references to certain important aspects of "modern" Christian religious practices which were "borrowed" (hi-jacked, usurped ?) from earlier religions... Christmas, for example, was a far more ancient festival, occurring just after the winter solstice to celebrate the start of days getting longer and a new cycle beginning... I think we should bring back the notion of the divine female... these monotheistic, misogynistic, male dominated religions have shown us their shortcomings over and over. Time for a change...

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  4. Yay..wonderful tribute to her, I love your Goddessy spotlights...glad we are kindreds!
    Beautiful!
    Victoria

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  5. I imagine this post in particular is dear to your own heart.

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  6. A true star she is indeed. Thanks for sharing all the details.

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  7. Dearest Sister ~ Loving your goddess stories and have been reading Descent to the Goddess by Sylvia Brinton Perea - rather big wordy and repetitive, but a short book that explains why so many of the goddesses overlap..Inanna, Astarte, Ishtar...but always the story of the bipolar nature.

    The author says to honor your bipolar nature - PMS and all! I like that idea. Kalinikta delphia mou ~ D

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  8. I love learning on this blog. Nice to be reminded of the importance of the female influence on culture/religon.

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  9. now i will think of a bull and a dove at the same time. :^)

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  10. I really love how you educate us and at the same time we feel we are on vacation with you. Gotta love the unearthing of the Devine Feminine.

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  11. Sigh....a lovely, all encompassing post... you know how the Greeks resonate wit me.....but do so the Rossettis....Dante and Christina.

    I think of you daily - wonder where you are, what wonders you are seeing (what wines you are sampling)....

    Blow kisses to every magical site you visit.....

    I am still *Ringing* for six more days....

    Love,

    ♥ Robin ♥

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  12. There are the remains of a temple to Astarte on the hills overlooking the small fishing village of Marsaxlokk. The Neolithic cult of the mother goddess was very strong on this island (as I suppose it was throughout the Mediterranean).

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  13. Interesting...
    Enjoy your day Amanda !
    Greetings from France,

    Pierre

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  14. I firsted learned about Baal and Astarte in grade school by reading Michners "The Source". Been fascinated ever since and often think about monotheism and how it spread (what a geek I am!)

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