Asherah, Lady of the Sea

Asherah, Lady of the Sea

Lady Asherah, Treader on the Sea; Lady of the Pomegranate; Lion Lady; Lady Asherah, Walker on the Water; Lady of the Sinai; Lady of the Pillar

Also known as: Athirat; Asertu (Hittite); Atharath (Arabic); and Elath (the goddess)

Asherah is a spirit of love, reproduction, trees, and all kinds of water: the sea, springs, and wells. Most renowned as the supreme femaledeity of Canaan, veneration of Lady Asherah is ancient and widespread.

References to “the Hebrew goddess” usually mean Lady Asherah. Controversial even in biblical days, her image was repeatedly placed into and removed from Solomon’s Jewish Temple. Lady Asherah was introduced into the Jerusalem Temple by Solomon’s son, King Rehoboam, circa 928 BCE. Solomon’s Temple stood for 370 years; Asherah was within it for no less than 236 years or almost two-thirds of its existence.

Whether the Hebrews learned her worship from the Canaanites or whether Lady Asherah is an indigenous Hebrew spirit remains an unresolved issue and the focus of much scholarly and theological debate. She was also venerated by the Hittites and in Southern Arabia. She may or may not be the same spirit as Hathor. Her most famous priestess was Jezebel. The tribe of Asher is believed to be named in her honor; some consider the biblical matriarch Leah an avatar of Asherah. (See the Glossary entry for Avatar.)

In Canaanite cosmology, Asherah is the wife of El, the chief deity. In ancient popular Jewish religion, Asherah may be the wife of YHWH: inscriptions on storage jars found in Northern Sinai read, “ … may you be blessed by YHWH and by his Asherah.”

Asherah is the mother of the entire Canaanite pantheon, some seventy spirits. Christian references to Jesus walking on water or choosing fishermen as disciples may indicate veneration of Asherah, Judaism’s suppressed, forbidden goddess. Asherah may survive as the Kabbalah’s Tree of Life. Asherah is a kind spirit who promotes fertility and facilitates childbirth.

Image: Asherah names both a spirit and a specific type of graven image. The asherah has a very simple form: a pillar featuring a woman’s head, breasts, and arms. In the simplest asherahs, only breasts and arms are distinct; the statue is faceless. Others possess a smiling visage and a curly hairdo. Below the waist, the bottom of the image is a cylindrical pillar with a flared base. Literally representing the Tree of Life, the image was intended to be implanted into Earth. Life-sized asherahs made of wood and planted in groves were once found all over Judea. (Technically, the correct Hebrew plural is asherot.)

Wood rots; none of these ancient asherahs have survived. Surviving information derives from the Jewish Bible. The word Asherah occurs over forty times in the Jewish Bible. Much of the information recounts the removal and destruction of these images. Numerous small clay images have been found throughout Israel. They were commercially manufactured from molds by Hebrew and Canaanite artisans, intended for household use.

Spirit allies: Anat; Astarte

Creatures: Dove, dog, lion

Element: Water

Places: Lady Asherah frequents the seashore and is easily petitioned there. She also favors high places full of leafy groves, fresh water, and fruit trees. Asherah offers protection to various city-states, particularly Tyre and Sidon (Jezebel’s hometown), now modern Lebanon. The Israeli city Eilat may be named in her honor.

Tree: Fruit trees, especially pomegranate

Petition: Planting an asherah summons Lady Asherah. They are commercially available but have such a simple shape, even someone with no artistic ability whatsoever could easily craft one. Place it anywhere for purposes of contemplation.

To activate the image for spiritual communication, it must be implanted into Earth. If you lack access to land, Lady Asherah will preside over a flowerpot or container of sand from the sea.

Altar: Create a personal altar with shells and stones from the sea. Perform rituals outside if possible.

Offerings: Lady Asherah accepts offerings of sweet baked goods, such as cookies or small cakes. She likes fragrant incense, perfume, and liqueurs. Phoenicians and Jews once offered her luxurious feasts to mark the new moon.

See also: Anat; Aphrodite; Artemis of Ephesus; Astarte; Ba’al; Hathor; Hokhma; Jezebel; Mari (2); Shekhina; Sophia; Stella Maris

From the Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by :Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.