Once upon a time, the Great Goddess was the spiritual focal point of ancient culture. Her worship included honoring women, living in harmony with the earth, and cherishing the processes of the cycles of nature. Asherah was one of those Goddesses. When the Patriarchs moved in and worked to suppress the old goddess religions, Asherah and her fellow Goddesses were diminished, and in a propaganda coup we might recognize today, defined Her as evil. I imagine that some brave people fought to hold onto the Goddess in Her glory but when they saw they were losing the battle, they encoded Her and Her Sister Goddesses into their cultural mythology. Hidden in this manner, She found Her way into the bible. If we can uncover those codes, we can reclaim Her, others and their Earth-based spirituality.
Most people know of Asherah in a negative light. Pre-biblically, she had been honored amidst trees and groves called Asherot or Asherim. The biblical references to Her tend to be the actions of kings, prophets and patriarchs angrily and violently destroying Her groves.
But Asherah and other Goddesses have lived on. We need to bring them all back to life. The future of our planet, our children depend on that.
In this blogpost, I reference Raphael Patai’s book The Hebrew Goddess for which I thank Laura who commented on my previous post. [See post], Laura noted how Patai draws the root connection between the word asher and the name of the Goddess Asherah. Wow is that fertile turf!
Discussions of the word (and name) Asher and whether it has a relationship to Asherah is contentious among scholars. Let me lay that to rest. OF COURSE, THEY ARE RELATED. They are the exact same root. Aleph (A), shin (SH), resh (R). Here are the 3 letters in their ancient form. Hey, the final letter is the universal breath syllable which is added to create Asherah’s name from asher.
These images make up a picture puzzle, which can help us understand the word. Aleph is the bull’s head, a combination of the bull god and cow goddess, shin is an image of teeth, in modern Hebrew it is the menorah or holder of fire and resh is the human head. Shin is the mechanism that breaks something down into digestible pieces.
Together, they create the divine opposites which intertwine (through fire or teeth) and are expressed through the human head. The breath syllable, hey, is an expression of joy. What a lovely way to depict the Goddess.
In an interesting turn, the word asher, by itself, is translated in multiple places as “happiness” or “blessing.” This is apparent in Genesis 30:13. Leah’s handmaiden has just given birth to her son, which by ancient law was Leah’s son. I have bolded the words which use the aleph, shin, resh root.
And Leah said, Happy am I,
for the daughters will call me blessed:
and she called his name Asher.
The roots of Asherah date back thousands of years. Patai in The Hebrew Goddess (page 39) references a 7th century BCE invocation that asked the Goddess Asherah for help in labor and delivery. Patai then goes on to make the connection between the practice described in that invocation to the exclamation made by Leah (above). Together these passages point to Asherah as the Goddess of fertility and childbirth.
Let’s look at other uses of the same root which confirm this connection.
On the day you were born your cord was not cut
Ezekiel 16:4 (New International Version)
The word for umbilical cord (usually shortened to cord) is shor or shin, resh (root without aleph). Think of those implications. The word for umbilical cord, the life-giving connection between a baby and its mother is also the same root of Asherah. These are very deep connections. When the bible says we are made in “god’s image” perhaps its real meaning is that we are connected deeply and granularly to divinity. Instead of the angry male god of our culture, we are connected to the Great Mama, creator of all life in the form of a goddess.
This same root forms the name of another woman in the bible – Sarah. She was originally Sara’i which uses the letters shin, resh. The universal breath syllable hey (pronounced ah or ha – identical in their vibrational aspect) is added to her name to make Sarah as it was for Asherah. Sarah is another female goddess/priestess in the bible who was diminished to make room for the patriarchs.
Here is another fascinating passage which uses the asher root traditionally translated as “happy.”
She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her:
and happy is every one that retaineth her.
This has to a be a very old passage that was incorporated into the bible. Below is my first translation of the verse.
She is a tree of life to those who flow in her wake
Those who embrace her are blessed.
This passage is filled with goddess imagery that was translated out of existence. The word “life” is the same root as the name of another Great Goddess – Eve. [See my previous blogpost for explanation: here.] As we’ve been exploring, blessed (or happy) in the passage is the root of Asherah. Putting them back into the passage we could get a translation more like this:
Eve is the living tree to those who flower in her wake
Those who embrace Her know the power of Asherah.
And finally, here is the verse which started this discussion – God’s response when Moses asks god’s name:
And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM
In phonetic Hebrew this passage is: Eh yeh asher eh yeh. My translation:
Beingness, blessed, beingness
To plug in Rabbi Levy’s translation of divinity:
Mystery, blessed, mystery
Janet Maika’i Rudolph. “IT’S ALL ABOUT THE QUEST.” I have walked the spirit path for over 25 years traveling to sacred sites around the world including Israel to do an Ulpan (Hebrew language studies while working on a Kibbutz), Eleusis and Delphi in Greece, Avebury and Glastonbury in England, Brodgar in Scotland, Machu Picchu in Peru, Teotihuacan in Mexico, and Giza in Egypt. Within these travels, I have participated in numerous shamanic rites and rituals, attended a mystery school based on the ancient Greek model, and studied with shamans around the world. I am twice initiated. The first as a shaman practitioner of a pathway known as Divine Humanity. The second ordination in 2016 was as an Alaka’i (a Hawaiian spiritual guide with Aloha International). I have written three books: When Moses Was a Shaman, When Eve Was a Goddess, (now available in Spanish, Cuando Eva era una Diosa), and One Gods.