Bear Spirit Guide

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I didn’t have much interest in bears until they showed up in a dream that I had several years ago and they don’t show up in my dreams as much anymore so perhaps this guide has left  me or has moved into the background making room for other animals guides that have since appeared.  I had one dream where these animals appeared and think that it has significant meaning.

A description of the dream:

I was walking with my sister and mother through the bush near where I live but the terrain was a bit different than normal. There was a stream and trees all around and four or five brown bears moving around the area. One of the bears stood up on his hind legs and towered over me but didn’t seem hostile. I walked through the trees a short distance and saw an old manor house and went inside. It looked like an old world manor house with lovely wood paneling on the walls and old style furniture. I went upstairs and found a man all dressed in black and his face was in shadow but he seemed friendly enough and he was pointing to the other side of the room. I turned around and saw an enormous bed and realized that this was a safe place I could sleep. I looked out a little window and could see my mother and sister along with one of the bears walking through the forest. The bear seemed to be protecting them or perhaps keeping an eye on them. I realized that the bears where friends of the man in black and they were my protectors or companions. The shadowy man in black has turned out to be my guardian who has appeared in my dreams before.

The bear totem can have different meanings but under the circumstances the bear spirit may have been associated with rest since they were around a home with a bed in it and it would have been around this time when I would have been starting to develop health problems and my spirit guide was telling me that I was in need of more rest as a result. Might have had something to do with sleep since I haven’t always been the best at sleeping and have bouts of insomnia.  Might also have something to do with strength and protection since my guardian was involved and he is a strong individual and the bears probably were trying to communicate about my own strengths and weaknesses. And I’m a solitary and somewhat territorial person who prefers the company of just myself and a few others and I am very protective of my area of space. So I can see why this animal showed up in my dreams when it did.

The Blackbird One of My Spirit Helpers

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Common Blackbird_Turdus merula

Several years ago one of my co-workers mother had mysteriously fallen ill and the medical community couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her and she was sick for a couple months before I decided to try and do something for her. This desire to help was such a strong compulsion so I sat down late one night cross legged on my bed closed my eyes and put myself into the trance. After a few minutes I saw her sitting on the grass at the edge of a forest, waiting for something. I had begun working on her, when suddenly a small black bird flew across my vision and landed on the ground next to me, it sang or said something in it’s beautiful voice then my attention was drawn back to the mother sitting on the ground and saw a pure white deer come from the edge of the trees and sit down next to her. I knew that this was her spirit guide and the blackbird had called the deer to her. The blackbird silently flew away brushing my shoulder as it did so. The touch of the blackbird startled me from the trance and I realized that the mother had been reunited with her spirit guide, the white deer. Three weeks pasted and there was very little improvement, so I re-entered the trance and did more healing work on her. Soon thereafter the doctors figured out what was wrong with her and how to treat it and now she is a strong and healthy woman in her seventies.  I like to think that my efforts might have helped them figure out what the problem was.

This was not the only time I’ve seen the blackbird in trance and dreams since it has spoken to me before and she has also played a role in my other shamanic journey’s although this was one of the first journey’s I had done to help (I believe) resolve a problem in another person.  I don’t normally do work on people, preferring to focus on animals, nature and the environment.  Regretfully I never asked her if she was aware of another spirit guide in the form of a white dear since I have always kept my shamanic nature to myself but I did know that she was open to spirit medicine since she practiced it herself. Perhaps that’s why the white dear was so willing to lend its aid.

I’ve seen it written that all birds are messengers from the spirit world and help spirit workers reach altered levels of awareness. The blackbird in particular is associated with the mystical and has been featured in mythology, including the story of Rhiannon and the three blackbirds. The three sit in the world tree and sing a beautiful melody that can sing the dead back to life, the living into the sleep of death or induce a trance so a person can travel to the spirit world to gain mystical wisdom. Those with blackbird medicine make good shamans and can see and move between worlds easily. The blackbird is said to have a beautiful musical voice and those with Blackbird medicine can use their voice to emotionally heal with as I done with myself a few times.

The blackbird sings at dusk and dawn making it a creature of the gateway between day and night. The blackbird is also found in a story in the Mabinogion about Culhwch and Olwen and Culhwch asks the blackbird about the whereabouts of the Mabon son of Modron who is a Welsh hero who had been imprisoned after being kidnaped soon after his birth.  The blackbird is the oldest animal that Culhwch knows of and must encounter it at the gateway of his quest before asking the other animals about any information that they might have about the missing Mabon.

The blackbird is also associated with Archangel Uriel who just happens to be one of the spirit guides that I work with and perhaps the blackbird was one of the ways he manifested or kept on eye on me before I was aware of whom he was or that he was even there.

The Goddess Asherah

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Perhaps Asherah was near one night since I awoke to hear the name Elat (another name for Asherah), I thought that I must have been dreaming, but then again maybe not. Sometimes I’ll sense presences of spirits nearby although they are not usually in the habit of talking to me and that night I felt as if I wasn’t alone and that a feminine presence was with me. There was a poignant image of an eternally young and beautiful woman with long straight and shiny black hair, laughing happily about something motioning expressively with her hands. With this image in my mind I fell back to sleep with no more dreams of goddesses, the presence was gone in the morning although I felt the same familiar presence with me a few times afterword. I wondered as to why she would be interested in me. Decided I better do a little research and I was a little surprised when I Iearned that she was Yahweh’s wife.

Yes, apparently the great Abrahamic god had a wife at one time before she was excluded from the Bible although she has been mentioned in the Old Testament at least 40 times however many of these texts make her appear villainous  or they make her appear masculine and refer to her in the plural as “the asherahs.” However she isn’t mentioned in the King James Bible since she had been written out by the fundamentalist monotheists. Scholars seem to think that asherahs might be wooden poles or groves or trees. Cuneiform tablets dating from the 13th century B.C.E where found in Ugarit (Syria) telling us that she was the wife of El, known as Elat whose name translates as goddess and it can also mean large shade tree. So Elat was a fertility goddess and these wooden symbols represented her and it also says that El and Elat had 70 sons who were all gods. Since she gave birth to so many gods she is called the main fertility goddess and a true force of nature. Due to her identification with the wooden poles and trees she is also associated with the Tree of Life. These sacred wooden poles were placed in Yahweh’s temples for worship thereby worshiping both the mother and the father at once. However her own places of worship were on hilltops, forests and groves and she brought successful crops and was associated with fertility and new growth; she is also called the mistress of the sea, so it seems that she had many connections to nature and can be considered a Great Mother.

This is a picture of one of the many small figurines of Asherah that could be found inside individual homes, probably used as an object or worship, perhaps by women seeking comfort regarding conception and childbirth judging by the way that she is cupping her breasts. There were many more of these figurines found than her male counterpart leading a person to think that Asherah was very popular among the common people:

asherah

I seems that like Astarte/Inanna, Elat also was honored with cakes and breads made by women in her honor and these cakes were blessed than ritually eaten.

There seems to be some confusion between Astarte and Asherah and the latter is also said to be the wife of Ba’al among the Canaanites but this might have been a tactic used to discredit her by associating her with Ba’al and Astarte whose cult had been rejected by the religious or spiritual authorities at the time. There also seems to be some disagreement among scholars about whether Asherah and Astarte are two individual goddesses or if they are the same being. However, Ba’al can also mean husband so the term Ba’al used in conjunction with Asherah could still be Yahweh. The confusion originates from the similarity of her name, Atharath, in Southern Arabia which is similar to Astarte. Also their names were interchanged in the Amarna tablets which might mean that they weren’t so sure about the differences between these two goddesses.

Despite all evidence of Asherahs presence being wiped out, she is being unearthed by archeology and her worship is being brought back into the light. She is also known as the Shekinah which is a term found in the Talmud and describing God’s presence on Earth and represents the feminine aspect of God, in other words the goddess of monotheistic faiths.

So why would she come to me? Perhaps to remind me that she is there and not to forget her presence even though I left Christianity long ago and that the goddess is still present in my Christian family traditions.

Resources:

http://www.matrifocus.com/LAM04/spotlight.htm

http://books.google.ca/books?id=VfAX_wkMM4IC&printsec=frontcover&dq=the+hebrew+goddess&hl=en&sa=X&ei=V3_sULuGJ6Pi2gXLw4CADg&sqi=2&ved=0CDkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=the%20hebrew%20goddess&f=false

http://journeyingtothegoddess.wordpress.com/2012/02/25/goddess-asherah/

http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art48784.asp

The Goddess Astarte

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I decided to join the Pagan Blog Project and this is my first post for the letter A. I choose to focus on Astarte since I enjoy researching ancient deities and was already concentrating on her and thought that she would make an interesting topic for this project.

Astarte (Ashtart) is the Semitic goddess of fertility, love, beauty and war, hunting and vitality. Her worship was very wide spread covering much of the Middle East, including the Phoenicians/Canaanites, Hebrews, known as Inanna to the Sumerians, and Ishtar to the Babylonians. The symbol of a star within a circle indicates the planet Venus and she is known as the evening star. She is also associated with several animals such as lions and doves. Birds are important symbols since they are used as a means of reaching the underworld and/or heaven. She is also associated with the horse and the sphinx. She is depicted riding horse and banishing weapons in several pieces of art. She is considered the Lady of the Beasts and one of the chief Elohim of the early Phoenician people. She was the Great Goddess in a creating-preserving-destroying aspect, and she is also embodiment of Mother Nature as well as being a virgin very much like an early virgin Mary.

Here she is depicted with two foals in ecstatic dance, her upraised arms grasping serpents, dancing on skulls very similar to Hindu goddess Kali:

AstarteSnakes

Astarte can also be found in other pantheons including the Greeks who identified her with Aphrodite who may have originated with Astarte. She has connections to the Egyptian pantheon and is considered to be the daughter of Ra. In the 18th dynasty Asarte became known as a goddess of healing and historical documentation showing that both Anath or Anat (another Semitic goddess) and Astarte were accepted as two separate goddesses of war.

Due to the lack of knowledge about Canaanite history, we can’t know of certain if Anath and Astarte where the same deity or if they were two separate goddesses. There is a good deal of information about Anath since the discovery of the cuneiform tablets of Ugarit dating from the 14th century B.C.E. Like Astarte, she is the goddess of love and war capable of great acts of violence. She is the daughter of El, the god of heaven and his wife the goddess Asherah. In Ugarit, she is partnered with the main Canaanite god Hadad or Ba’al as his consort. Among the Hebrews Astarte was also known as Ashtoreth and they worshipped her alongside Ba’al. During the raise of monotheism, it was believed that Yahweh didn’t like the worship or Ba’al and Ashtoreth and people began to reject them.

The prophet Jeremiah called her the Queen of Heaven during the 7th and early 6th centuries B.C.E and the people of Judah feared that abandoning the worship of the goddess would lead to problems:

Ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine. (Jeremiah 44:18)

Ashtoreth is also seen with two horns and probably means that she was worshiped as a two horned deity with the horns symbolizing mountain peaks.  The horns could also be a crescent moon symbol which is a common goddess symbol:

AstarteHorns

She is described as the Queen of Heaven in ancient Israel and they made cakes in her honor. There is some scholarly debate over who this deity actually was, there is evidence that Inanna/Ishtar was also labeled as the Queen of Heaven and worshipers made cakes in her honor and this indicates that this deity may also be Astarte.

Astarte also appears to have been worshiped in Syria as Atargatis and this worship covered a large area from Syria across the Mediterranean. She was mainly a fertility goddess; however, she was also responsible for their protection and well-being of her people since she is also called a baalet or “mistress”.

She is also featured in neo-pagan practices and is included in the goddess chant in Wiccan traditions: “Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, Inanna.”

You might be asking why I choose to research her and I think one of the reasons is her vibrancy and energy, something that I’ve been lacking these past couple years due to health problems and other general problems that life has thrown my way. I have felt that a spark had been dimmed somewhat and have slowly been turning back to spirituality and to the sacred feminine as a way to reconnect and re-establish that spark and my sense of self.

A list of my resources for anyone interested in further reading:

http://www.matrifocus.com/IMB04/spotlight.htm

http://www.thaliatook.com/OGOD/ashtart.html

http://www.angelfire.com/journal/ofapoet/astarte.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astarte

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Astarte

http://books.google.ca/books?id=VfAX_wkMM4IC&printsec=frontcover&dq=the+hebrew+goddess&hl=en&sa=X&ei=sJ_pUJ_qEoWY2gXEpoCoCA&ved=0CDwQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=the%20hebrew%20goddess&f=false