- The Hebrew Goddess
- Heavenly Mother (Mormonism)
- Khirbet el-Qom
- Asherah Pole
- List of fertility deities
- List of Canaanite deities
- Semitic neopaganism
|Goddess of motherhood and fertility
Lady of the Sea
|Major cult center||Middle-East
|Consort||El (Ugaritic religion)
Elkunirsa (Hittite religion)
Yahweh (ancient Israelite religion)
|Offspring||70 sons (Ugaritic religion)
77 or 88 sons (Hittite religion)
|Deities of the ancient Near East|
|Religions of the ancient Near East|
Asherah is identified as the queen consort of the Sumerian god Anu, and Ugaritic El, the oldest deities of their respective pantheons, as well as Yahweh, the god of Israel and Judah. This role gave her a similarly high rank in the Ugaritic pantheon. Despite her association with Yahweh in extra-biblical sources, Yahweh in the Bible commands the destruction of her shrines so as to maintain purity of worship to Yahweh Himself. The name Dione, which like 'Elat means "Goddess", is clearly associated with Asherah in the Phoenician History of Sanchuniathon, because the same common epithet ('Elat) of "the Goddess par excellence" was used to describe her at Ugarit. The Book of Jeremiah, written circa 628 BC, possibly refers to Asherah when it uses the title "Queen of Heaven" (Hebrew: מְלֶכֶת הַשָּׁמַיִם) in Jeremiah 7:16-18 and Jeremiah 44:17-19, 25.
In UgaritIn the Ugaritic texts (before 1200 BC) Athirat is almost always given her full title rabat ʾAṯirat yammi, "Lady Athirat of the Sea" or as more fully translated "she who treads on the sea" (Ugaritic 𐎗𐎁𐎚 𐎀𐎘𐎗𐎚 𐎊𐎎, rbt ʾaṯrt ym). This occurs 12 times in the Baʿal Epic alone. The name is understood by various translators and commentators to be from the Ugaritic root ʾaṯr "stride", cognate with the Hebrew root ʾšr, of the same meaning. There she appears to champion Yam, god of the sea, in his struggle with Ba'al.
Her other main divine epithet was qaniyatu ʾilhm (Ugaritic 𐎖𐎐𐎊𐎚 𐎛𐎍𐎎, qnyt ʾlm) which may be translated as "the creatrix of the Gods (Elohim)". In those texts, Athirat is the consort of the god El; there is one reference to the 70 sons of Athirat, presumably the same as the 70 sons of El. She is clearly distinguished from ʿAshtart in the Ugaritic documents although in non-Ugaritic sources from later periods the distinction between the two goddesses can be blurred; either as a result of scribal error or through possible syncretism. In any case, the two names begin with different consonants in the Semitic languages; Athirat or Asherah (Ugaritic: 𐎀𐎘𐎗𐎚, ʾaṯrt) with an aleph or glottal stop consonant (א) versus ʿAshtart or ʿAshtoreth (Ugaritic 𐎓𐎘𐎚𐎗𐎚, ʿṯtrt) with an ʿayin or voiced pharyngeal consonant (ע), indicating the lack of any plausible etymological connection between the names.
She is also called Elat (Ugaritic 𐎛𐎍𐎚, ilt), "Goddess", the feminine form of El (compare Allat) and Qodesh, "holiness" (Ugaritic 𐎖𐎄𐎌, qdš). Athirat in Akkadian texts appears as Ashratum (or, Antu), the wife of Anu, the God of Heaven. In contrast, ʿAshtart is believed to be linked to the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar who is sometimes portrayed as the daughter of Anu while in Ugaritic myth, ʿAshtart is one of the daughters of El, the West Semitic counterpart of Anu.
Among the Hittites this goddess appears as Asherdu(s) or Asertu(s), the consort of Elkunirsa ("El the Creator of Earth") and mother of either 77 or 88 sons. Among the Amarna letters a King of the Amorites is named Abdi-Ashirta, "Servant of Asherah".
In EgyptIn Egypt, beginning in the Eighteenth Dynasty, a Semitic goddess named Qudshu "Holiness" begins to appear prominently, equated with the native Egyptian goddess Hathor. Some think this is Athirat/Ashratu under her Ugaritic name. This Qudshu seems not to be either ʿAshtart or ʿAnat as both those goddesses appear under their own names and with quite different iconography and appear in at least one pictorial representation along with Qudshu.
But in the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman periods in Egypt there was a strong tendency towards syncretism of goddesses and Athirat/Ashratum then seems to have disappeared, at least as a prominent goddess under a recognizable name.
In Israel and Judah
Further evidence includes, for example, an 8th-century combination of iconography and inscriptions discovered at Kuntillet Ajrud in the northern Sinai desert where a storage jar shows three anthropomorphic figures and several inscriptions. The inscriptions found refer not only to Yahweh but to El and Baal, and two include the phrases "Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah" and "Yahweh of Teman and his Asherah." The references to Samaria (capital of the kingdom of Israel) and Teman (in Edom) suggest that Yahweh had a temple in Samaria, while raising questions about the relationship between Yahweh and Kaus, the national god of Edom. The "Asherah" is most likely a cultic object, although the relationship of this object (a stylised tree perhaps) to Yahweh and to the goddess Asherah, consort of El, is unclear. It has been suggested that the Israelites might have considered Asherah as a consort of Baal due to the anti-Asherah ideology which was influenced by the Deuteronomistic History at the later period of Monarchy. In another inscription called "Yahweh and his Asherah", there appears a cow feeding its calf.:163 If Asherah is to be associated with Hathor/Qudshu, it can then be assumed that the cow is what's being referred to as Asherah.
William Dever's book Did God Have a Wife? adduces further archaeological evidence—for instance, the many female figurines unearthed in ancient Israel, (known as Pillar-Base Figurines)—as supporting the view that in Israelite folk religion of the monarchal period, Asherah functioned as a goddess and consort of Yahweh and was worshiped as the Queen of Heaven, for whose festival the Hebrews baked small cakes.
The word Asherah is translated in Greek as alsos, grove, or alse, groves, or occasionally by dendra, trees; Vulgate in Latin provided lucus or nemus, a grove or a wood (thus KJV Bible uses grove or groves with the consequent loss of Asherah's name and knowledge of her existence to English language readers of the Bible over some 400 years). The association of Asherah with trees in the Hebrew Bible is very strong. For example, she is found under trees (1K 14:23; 2K 17:10) and is made of wood by human beings (1K 14:15, 2K 16:3-4). Trees described as being an asherah or part of an asherah include grapevines, pomegranates, walnuts, myrtles, and willows (Danby:1933:90,176).
Some scholars have found an early link between Asherah and Eve, based upon the coincidence of their common title as "the mother of all living" in Genesis 3:20 through the identification with the Hurrian mother goddess Hebat. Asherah was also given the title Chawat from which the name Hawwah in Aramaic and the biblical name Eve are derived.
Asherah poles, which were sacred trees or poles, are mentioned many times in the Hebrew Bible.
Ashira in ArabiaA stele, now at the Louvre, discovered by Charles Huber in 1883 in the ancient oasis of Tema (modern Tayma – Arabic: تيماء), northwestern Arabia, and believed to date to the time of Nabonidus's retirement there in 549 BC, bears an inscription in Aramaic which mentions Ṣalm of Maḥram, Shingala, and Ashira as the gods of Tema.
This Ashira might be Athirat/Asherah. Since Aramaic has no way to indicate Arabic th,[vague] corresponding to the Ugaritic th (transliterated as ṯ), if this is the same deity, it is not clear whether the name would be an Arabian reflex of the Ugaritic Athirat or a later borrowing of the Hebrew/Canaanite Asherah.
The Arabic root ʼṯr is similar in meaning to the Hebrew indicating "to tread" used as a basis to explain the name of Ashira as "lady of the sea", specially that the Arabic root ymm also means "sea". It has also been recently suggested that the goddess name Athirat might be derived from the passive participle form, referring to "one followed by (the gods)", that is, "pro-genitress or originatress", corresponding with Asherah's image as 'the mother of the gods' in Ugaritic literature.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Asherah.|
- Sung Jin Park, "Short Notes on the Etymology of Asherah", Ugarit Forschungen 42 (2010): 527–534.
- Barker, Margaret (2012), The Mother of the Lord Volume 1: The Lady in the Temple, T & T Clark, ISBN 9780567528155
- Binger, Tilde (1997), Asherah: Goddesses in Ugarit, Israel and the Old Testament, Continuum International Publishing Group, ISBN 9781850756378
- Dever, William G. (2005), Did God Have A Wife?: Archaeology And Folk Religion In Ancient Israel, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, ISBN 9780802828521
- Hadley, Judith M (2000), The cult of Asherah in ancient Israel and Judah : the evidence for a Hebrew goddess, University of Cambridge Oriental publications, 57, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 9780521662352
- Kien, Jenny (2000), Reinstating the divine woman in Judaism, Universal Publishers, ISBN 9781581127638
- Long, Asphodel P. (1993), In a chariot drawn by lions: the search for the female in deity, Crossing Press, ISBN 9780895945754
- Myer, Allen C. (2000), "Asherah", Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, Amsterdam University Press
- Park, Sung Jin (2010). "Short Notes on the Etymology of Asherah". Ugarit Forschungen. 42: 527–534.
- Park, Sung Jin (2011). "The Cultic Identity of Asherah in Deuteronomistic Ideology of Israel". Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft. 123 (4): 553–564. doi:10.1515/zaw.2011.036.
- Patai, Raphael (1990), The Hebrew goddess, Jewish folklore and anthropology., Wayne State University Press, ISBN 9780814322710
- Reed, William Laforest (1949), The Asherah in the Old testament, Texas christian university press, OCLC 491761457
- Taylor, Joan E (1995), The Asherah, the Menorah and the Sacred Tree, Journal for the study of the Old Testament. no. 66: University of Sheffield, Dept. of Biblical Studies, pp. 29–54, ISSN 0309-0892, OCLC 88542166
- Wiggins, Steve A (1993), A reassessment of 'Asherah' : a study according to the textual sources of the first two millennia B.C.E, Alter Orient und Altes Testament, Bd. 235., Verlag Butzon & Bercker, ISBN 9783788714796
- Asphodel P. Long, The Goddess in Judaism – An Historical Perspective
- Asherah, the Tree of Life and the Menorah
- Jewish Encyclopedia: Asherah
- Rabbi Jill Hammer, An Altar of Earth: Reflections on Jews, Goddesses and the Zohar
- University of Birmingham: Deryn Guest: Asherah[dead link] at Archive.org
- Lilinah biti-Anat, Qadash Kinahnu Deity Temple "Room One, Major Canaanite Deities"
- Jacques Berlinerblau, "Official religion and popular religion in pre-Exilic ancient Israel" (Commentary on Yahweh's Asherah.)
- ANE: Kuntillet bibliography
- Jeffrey H. Tigay, "A Second Temple Parallel to the Blessings from Kuntillet Ajrud" (University of Pennsylvania) (This equates Asherah with an asherah.)