What is the Astarte phenomenon? Lover and destroyer, bestower of both life and death.A femme fatale? This contradictory Near Eastern deity gave herself freely to all men but was “owned” by none. Was she the patron goddess of feminism?
“The queens and goddesses of myth and legend show us an image of both strength and sensuousness. While today we often equate women’s sexuality with weakness and passivity, our forebears saw such goddesses as Ishtar as especially passionate and sexual because of their power. Ishtar and her sister goddesses are potent images of feminine possibility – a possibility that remains despite the 2,500 years that have passed since she was last worshipped.” (“The Goddess Companion”, Patricia Monaghan) Read More:http://goddessschool.com/
Unto the queen of the gods, into whose hands are committed the behest of the great gods, unto the lady of Nineveh,the queen of the gods, the exhalted one,unto the daughter of the moon-god,the twin sister of the sun god, unto her who ruleth all kingdoms,unto the goddess of the world who deetermineth decrees, unto the Lady of heaven and earth who recieveth supplication, unto the merciful goddess who hearkeneth unto entreaty, who recieveth prayer, who loveth righteousness, I make my prayer unto Ishtar to whom all confusion is a cause of grief. The sorrows which I see I lament before thee. Incline thine ear unto my words of lamentation and let thine heart be opened unto my sorrowful speech. Turn thy face unto me, O Lady, so that by reason therEof the heart of thy servant may be made strong! I, Ashur-nasir-pal, the sorrowful one, am thy humble servant; I, who am beloved of thee, make offerings unto thee and adore thy divinity ….Read More:http://history-world.org/praise_to_ishtar.htm
A priest-poet of ancient Assyria wrote these lines in honor of Ishtar, the great goddess of the people. The deity he addressed as Ishtar was the same one fifth century B.C. historian Herodotus called Aphrodite. The author of the Biblical Book of Kings fulminates against her as “the abomination Ashtoreth.” Her name changed with every change of frontier and tongue, but her nature, seductive and violent, stayed the same. Let us call her by the name the Phoenicians gave her and carried across the Mediterranean as far west as Carthage: Astarte.
According to Gilgamesh, the hero of the Sumerian epic, we are reminded that the goddess had many catastrophic love affairs. Tammuz was a beautiful youth- some say her own son. She fel in love with him, but he died or was killed and the goddess went down in the underworld in search of him. When she reaches the gates of hell, the Queen of Heaven demands to be let in. She is let in, but Astarte-Ishtar has to give up her crown. By the time she has negotiated the last of the seven gates that separate her from her goal, she is naked.
Naked she confronts the Queen of the Dead, who refuses to let Tammuz go and strikes her rival with a disfiguring disease. But the other gods send a rescuer to command the Queen of the Dead to sprinkle Astarte with the waters of life; the Mother Goddess returns safely, recovering her jewels, her garments and her looks. It is not clear whether she recovers Tammuz as well, but probably a bargain has been struck whereby he stays half the year in the underworld and the other half in the world of light.
With slight variations in detail, the same story appears in myths from Tunis to Babylon, from Norway to the Nile; it is the story of Isis and Osiris, Cybele and Attis, Venus and Adonis, and in its outline it is as simple as the coming and going of the seasons. But in the dream worlds of the gods, nothing is simple. All features melt and bleed into opposites. Astarte is woman of Women, strength, life and health; and in the same person, death, destruction and carnage. There is a strain of passionate violewoven into the myths about this strange deity; a contradictory deity who wields a sword.
With the conversion of Rome to Christianity, the entire bizarre cult might have remained a skeleton in the closet had not scholars such as James Frazer, along with psychologists and occultists started to dig into these ancient popular cults and come up with some ingenious, though not necessarily plausible explanations for them. They were all based on pragmatic and rational reasoning. Frazer, at the end of one steamy passage commented somewhat wearily, ” it is thus that the folly of mankind finds vent in extremes both harmful and deplorable.”
Among the psychologists who have dealt with this myth the most distinguished was Erich Neumann, a follower of Jung. Neumann, with Jung, saw in the mythological figures of the Astarte-Aphrodite myth personifications of aspects of the human personality. They are divided by sex- the ego taking the male roles, the unconscious the female. Usually male and female are in conflict, but not always. Sometimes the unconscious helps the ego, even when it ( she) appears to be most hostile. Just as a lioness that drives her cubs away from the lair may seem to be cruel but is, in fact, helping her young to survive, so the unconscious that threatens the ego with annihilations may be helping to ensure that ego’s survival against the oceanlike flood of the instincts.
She is clothed with pleasure and love.
She is laden with vitality, charm,
Ishtar is clothed with pleasure and love.
She is laden with vitality, charm,
In lips she is sweet; life is in her mouth.
At her appearance rejoicing becomes full.
She is glorious; veils are thrown over her head.
Her figure is beautiful; her eyes are brilliant.
The goddess – with her there is counsel.
The fate of everything she holds in her hand.
At her glance there is created joy,
power, magnificence, the protecting deity and guardian spirit.
She dwells in, she pays heed to compassion and
friendliness. (from an Akkadian hymn to Ishtar, translated by Ferris J. Stephens)