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from Goddesses and Heroines
|Exerpt from Goddess & Heroines by Patricia
[Used by permission. This text is NOT included in the Goddess Oracle]
From the root meaning "straight", this Caananite goddess derived a name that implied not only the moral rectitude she demanded of her followers but also the upright posts or living trees in which they perceived her essence. In her temple, Asherah's image was non-human, merely an unshaped piece of wood called by her name. But in private devotions she was represented by simple woman-shaped clay figures with, instead of legs, a base for insertion into the soft earthen floor of the home.She also appeared as a naked, curly-haired goddess riding a sacred lion and holding lilies and serpents in upraised hands.
"Wet nurse of the gods" and "she who gives birth" to seventy of them, Asherah was one of the Ugaritic mother goddesses. Not only did she physically nurture the gods--and human rulers too--she offered spiritual sustenance through her oracular wizards. She was the force of life, experienced as benevolent and enduring, found in flocks of cattle and groves of trees, evoked in childbirth and at planting time.
The character of "The Lady Asherah of the Sea" (her full name) is vague and unclear, coming down as it does to us predominantly through the writings of her sworn enemies, the patriarchal Hebrews who often, perhaps deliberately, confused her with Astarte (which they spelled Ashtoreth). But this official view often did not coincide with popular opinion. In the Old Testament we can read the catalog of a centuries-long campaign against the joyfully orgiastic rites of this benevolent goddess. Asherah would apparently be rooted out of people's hearts, only to reemerge, giving rise to another wave of reforms. Queen Maacah, mother of Asa and Jezebel, publicly worshipped her; Hebrew zealots, however, took the life of Jezebel on the charge of "harlotry" during festivals of the goddess. But so popular did the worship of Asherah remain that there is substantial evidence she was worshipped, with all attendant public pleasures, within the Jerusalem temple itself.
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Published by Llewellyn, copyright 1997. Used by permission of the author.