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ASHTORETH IN ISRAEL:   The Israelites referred to Astarte o Ashtoreth.  In the Bible, the prophets of God denounced the worship of Ashtoreth, but many of the people worshiped her and her consort, Baal, the sun god.  This worship was done amid groves of trees, on the summits of mountains.  Here they worshiped sacred stones, practiced divination, and engaged in orgies as part of their worship of Ashtoreth and Baal.  Because the myth of Astarte included the idea of a resurrected sun god, the sacred grove worship was carried on at daybreak as the sun was coming up.

The northern kingdom of Israel (Samaria) was destroyed because of such idolatry.  Later, King Josiah of Judah marched through it and tore down the altars to Baal, “and them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets. He defiled Topheth…that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech; and he smashes the altars that Solomon had built for Chemosh, Milcom, and Astarte.” (See 2Kings 23:2, 4, 10, 13)

ISHTAR IN SUMERIA AND BABYLONIA:  Ishtar was the love goddess of Babylonians.  Her worship came down from earliest times in Sumeria, where her lover was Tammuz. She was the goddess of mothers and prostitutes, and of love and war.

“Though her worshipers repeatedly addressed her as ‘The Virgin’, ‘The Holy Virgin’, and ‘The Virgin Mother’, this merely meant that her amours were free from all taint of wedlock.” –Will Durant, History of Civilization, Vol. 1, 235.

Ishtar was said to be the daughter of Sin, the moon god.  Her lover was Tammuz, the sun god.  She was called the “Queen of Heaven” by her worshipers and their priests.  According to the ancient myth, when Tammuz was slain by a wild animal, Ishtar raises him to life.  Because of this, a yearly spring festival was held in honor of Ishtar, the mother goddess.

“This is the myth of Ishtar and Tammuz. In the Sumerian form of the tale, Tammuz is Ishtar’s younger brother, in the Babylonian form, he is sometimes her lover, sometimes her son; both forms seem to have entered into the myths of Venus and Adonis, Demeter and Persephone, and a hundred scattered legends of death and resurrection…To the Babylonians it was sacred history, faithfully believed and annually commemorated by mourning and wailing for the dead Tammuz, followed by riotous rejoicing over his resurrection” –Ibid. 238-239.

ISHTAR IN SUMERIA: Even earlier in history, the Sumerians worshiped Innini, or Ishtar.  Here is Durant’s description of this mother goddess, who interceded for men with the gods.

The city Uruk worshiped especially the virgin earth goddess Innini, known to the Semites of Akkad as Ishtar-the loose and versatile Aphrodite-Demeter of the Near East.  Kish and Lagash worshiped a Mater Dolorsa, the sorrowful mother-goddess, Ninkarsag, who, grieved with the unhappiness of men, interceded for them with the sterner deities”  -Ibid. 127.


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