Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Goddess Astarte

From Barbara G. Walker's "A Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets." Astarte Lady of Byblos, one of the oldest forms of the Great Goddess in the Middle East, identified with Egypt's Hathor, Mycenae's Demeter, Cyprus's Aphrodite. Her shrine at Byblos dated back to the Neolithic and flourished throughout the Bronze Age.(1) She was the same creating-preserving-and-destroying Goddess worshipped by all Indo-European cultures, and still typified by Kali as the symbol of Nature. Astarte was the "true sovereign of the world," tirelessly creating and destroying, eliminating the old and generating the new.(2) Sidonian kings could not rule without her permission. Each king styled himself first and foremost "Priest of Astarte." Sumerian cylinder seals from Lagash, ca. 2300 B.C., showed the Goddess in a pose identical with Kali's love-and-death sacremental posture, squatting on top of her consort's body.(3) To the Arabs the Goddess was Athar, "Venus in the Morning." In Aramaic she was Attar-Samayin, "Morning Star of Heaven," uniting two sexes in herself, like Lucifer the Morning Star and Diana Lucifera. Her Hurrian name ws Attart, or sometimes Ishara, another form of Ishtar, "the Star."(4) To Canaanite, she was Celestial Ruler, Mistress of Kingship, mother of all baalim (gods.)(5). Astarte ruled all the spirits of the dead who lived in heaven wearing bodies of light, visible from earth as stars. Hence, she was known as Astroarche, "Queen of the Stars."(6) She was the mother of all souls in heaven, the Moon surrounded by her star-children, to whom she gave their "astral" (starry) bodies. Occultists still speak of the astral body as an invisible double, having forgotten the word's original connotation of starlight.(7) Astarte-Ashtoreth was transformed into a devil by Christian writers, who automatically assumed that any deity mentioned in the Bible other than Yahweh was one of the denizens of hell. She was also masculinized. One finds in books of the 15th and 16th centuries a demon Ashtoreth or Astaroth, a "duke" or "prince" of hell.(8) Milton knew better; he spoke of "Astarte, queen of heaven, with crescent horns."(9) Scholars who really understood the mystery of Astarte recognized in her one of the ancient protypes of the virgin Mary. In Syria and Egypt her sacred dramas celebrated the rebirth of the solar god from the celestial Virgin each 25th of December. A newborn child was exhibited, while the cry went up that the Virgin had brought forth. Frazer says, "No doubt the Virgin who thus conceived and bore a son on the twenty-fifth of December was the great Oriental goddess whom the Semites called the Hezvely Virgin or simply the Heavely Goddess; in Semitic lands she was a form of Astarte."(10) Notes: (1) Encyc. Brit., "Byblos." (2) Massa, 101. (3) Campbell, Or. M., 42. (4) Albright, 196, 228. (5) Stone, 164. (6) Lindsay, O.A., 327. (7) Cavendish, P.E., 44. (8) de Givry, 132. (9) Cavendish, P.E., 237. (10) Frazer, G.B., 416.

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