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Astarte was concurrently a Sun Goddess and a Moon Goddess. When she was in her aspect as a Sun Goddess, the “Queen of the Morning Star,” she became a Goddess of War, and then, when she took on her role as a Moon Goddess, the “Queen of the Evening Star,” she became a Goddess of Passionate Love, who had an extensive cult following.
Astarte was one of the three Canaanite Goddesses of Fertility. Pregnant women would carry plaques and figurines of her wherever they went, and they would often burn incense in her honor as a way of ensuring that their children would have healthy births.
In her aspect as a Moon Goddess, Astarte became the symbol of the female principle, and the Egyptians, Hittites and Canaanites all worshipped her. It was while she was in that particular aspect, that Astarte became associated with the Greek Goddesses, Selene, Artemis and Aphrodite. Since Astarte was an extremely ancient Goddess in the Near and Middle East, she was closely identified with such other ancient Goddesses, such as Hathor, Isis, Frega, Dande and Irdrani.
Astarte was also known by the title “Our Lady of Byblos.” Byblos is a city, which lies on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, in the country that is now known as Lebanon. During that period, however, it was known as the City of the Great Mother. Egyptian records indicate that in as early as 1500 B.C.E., Byblos was a prosperous trading center, and that Astarte was one of its most important patrons of learning. Her priestesses set aside a large area in her temple, to be used as a great library, and then they filled it with volumes of papyrus scrolls. The Greeks were the first people to call papyrus by the term “byblos,” and that term eventually evolved into meaning any holy book, including the Bible. Legend also tells us that this may be how and where the Bible got its name. As the "Queen of the Stars," or the "Heavenly Virgin,” Astarte was believed to rule the "spirits who lived in heaven as light," which was another way of saying, “all the stars in the sky,” which attested to her worship’s widespread following.
Astarte has often been described as a beautiful woman wearing a crown of myrtle leaves upon her head. She drove a chariot that was drawn by seven lions, and she was accompanied wherever she went by doves. Many other Goddesses were also associated with birds, which were used as a means of traveling to the Underworld, or Otherworld. Not that many, however, used doves.
During one of their digs, archeologists discovered a completely different image of Astarte, inscribed upon some ancient reliefs and seals. This image depicted Astarte holding the sacred Lotus in one hand, while in her other hand she held two entwined serpents.
Many symbols have been associated with Astarte. The planet Venus, which is also known as the Evening Star, was one of her major symbols, and it was for that reason that she became known as the “Goddess of Light.” Another of Astarte’s symbols was the crescent moon, which is representative of the Divine Feminine.
Many people believe that Astarte was a Great Mother Goddess. That is probably due to the fact that she wore a headpiece made from cow horns, with a solar disc placed between them, similar to the headpiece worn by the ancient Egyptian Goddess Hathor.
The Lotus has always been an extremely important symbol, which has been associated with a variety of different Goddesses. The Lotus is a flower which has existed since as far back in time as mankind can remember, and it is considered to be a universal symbol, connected to the Great Mother Goddess. Indeed, the Lotus has played an important role in a variety of different periods and cultures. Known as the "flower of light," lotus petals were been believed to represent the sun’s rays, while its stem was believed to represent an umbilical cord. The belief that the Lotus’ stem might represent an umbilical cord is indicative of the fact that all life stems from, or is born from, the Great Mother. Throughout time, the Lotus has been associated with creative and regenerative powers, and it stands upon its merits as one of the most powerful symbols that the world has ever known.
Another symbol that was unique to Astarte was papyrus, which the merchants of Byblos would sell to the Greeks, as well as to other traders from the entire Mediterranean region. Papyrus was of great importance to the entire world, and to the growth of civilization as we know it today. That is because papyrus was the foundation and basis necessary for the production of paper. Without papyrus and the paper it was used to produce, civilization's growth may have taken a totally different turn.
Astarte was known by a variety of different titles, which included the Great Mother Goddess, but there is a certain phrase, which sums her up quite beautifully: "She was the Mother of the Sun, Daughter of the Moon, Ruler of the Stars and Keeper of the Earth. In the beginning, Astarte was the whole."
Ishtar was the Great Mother Goddess of the Babylonian and Assyrian Empires, and the counterpart of the Phoenecian Goddess Astarte. The Babylonians believed that Ishtar was the personification of the Great Mother, the Goddess of Fertility and the Queen of Heaven. She was usually portrayed naked, with large protruding breasts, or as a mother, holding or feeding a child at her breast.
Ishtar has appeared in many different forms throughout the ancient Semitic world. She was known as Athtar in Arabia, Astar in Abyssinia (which is now known as Ethiopia), and Ashtart or Astarte in Canaan and Phoenicia (which area now encompasses Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Syria.)
Ishtar was usually depicted full faced and naked, except for some ornamental jewelry which she wore, and she also appeared holding her breasts in her hands. Her thighs were rounded, which was considered to be extremely feminine in that particular culture, while her legs, from her knees down through her ankles to her feet, were pressed closely together.
Inanna, another aspect of Ishtar, was a Goddess of Sensual and Sexual Love, and her followers practiced what has been referred to as “sacred prostitution.” Ishtar was also known as the Lady of Battles, and it was in this particular aspect that she sported a full beard, which fell all the way to her breasts. She also rode in a chariot which was similar to Astarte’s and like Astate's, it was also drawn by seven lions. Ishtar's symbols were the Moon, Venus, the eight-pointed star, a lion and a scorpion.
In her aspect as the Goddess of Love, Ishtar was similar to the Greek Goddess Aphrodite because she frequently caused her lovers, but especially her beloved consort, Tammuz, great harm. Since Ishtar was believed to be the Babylonian version of Venus, then her lover, Tammuz, took on the role of the Babylonian version of Adonis.
Ishtar’s temples existed throughout Babylonia, and her cult following was, indeed, strong. Every woman in Babylon believed that it was her sacred duty to honor Ishtar by sitting in one of her temples, at least one time during her lifetime, and making love with the first man who cast some coins in her lap.
Ishtar had a destructive side to her as well, and the Assyrians looked upon her as their Goddess of Hunting and War. It was in this aspect that she carried a bow, a quiver of arrows and a sword. Ishtar also had two masculine aspects, Athtar and Astar. Since they were masculine, these aspects of the Goddess were actually considered to be Gods.
In Babylonia, Ishtar had another aspect, Ishtar of Erech, who was a Goddess of Venus, the Evening Star. Although historians are not completely certain, they believe that Ishtar may actually have also had two addtional aspects, one male and one female, that were identified with the Morning Star. The male was known as Ishtar of Akkad, while the female was known as Annunit of Akkad.
Ishtar was also considered to be a Fertility and Harvest Goddess, and it was for that reason that she was honored in both the Spring and the Fall. She was also associated with water: providing it in adequate amounts, as well as in excessive ones. Likenesses of Ishtar, as a Fertility and Harvest Goddess, frequently show her sitting, surrounded by flowers and grain, while she appears to be pouring a never-empty jug of water. It was also in this aspect that people prayed to Ishtar for fertility, so that she might grant them a bountiful harvest and assure their ability to conceive children.
Although temples were erected in which people could worship Ishtar, it would have been just as appropriate, if not more so, for them to worship her outside, beneath the evening sky, bathed in moonlight. That may have been due to the fact that Ishtar, in her aspect as a Goddess of Love, was believed to be the daughter of the Sky God, Anu, and a Fertility Goddess, Anat. It is interesting to note as well, that when Ishtar appeared in her aspect as the Goddess of Battles, she was believed to be the daughter of a Moon God named Sin.
Ishtar was never lacking in romantic interests, and her consorts included Assur, the God of War, Marduk, the Sun God, Nebo the God of Writing, and the most important one of all: Tammuz, the dying and resurrecting God of Vegetation. One of Ishtar's holy days was associated with Yule, and it is believed that she created the Evergreen Tree out of her sorrow and love for Tammuz.
A story exists which is often associated with Ishtar in her aspect as the Goddess of Fertility. Every Fall, Ishtar descended into the Underworld to search for her beloved Tammuz. When she left to go down into the Underworld, the Earth displayed the cold, stark barreness of Winter, and it remaining that way until she returned, three months later, bringing with her the rebirth and growth that is associated with the season of Spring.
This tale clearly touches on the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, in which Demeter’s daughter, Persephone, was required to spend three months of the year in the Underworld with her husband Hades, bringing forth the barrenness of winter with her descent, and the beauty and growth of Springtime with her return to the world above. Tablets were discovered, in various excavation sites, which tell of Ishtar's great love for Tammuz, his assassination by Izdubar, the Goddess of Despair, and Ishtar's search for her beloved, which took her through the Seven Gates of Hades. In the end, Ishtar finally did free Tammuz from the Underworld, creating a beautiful tale of enduring passion and everlasting love.
Astarte and Ishtar were Mother Goddesses who ruled the Waters, the Stars and the Fates. They were primary Goddesses of Creation, as well, and while they may have ruled over their own, separate and distinct cultures, each one of them was actually a manifestation of the other; and both of them will always be remembered, because they were such powerful feminine forces and truly amazing Goddesses of Love.