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:
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:
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: