Sunday, October 16, 2005


Our Bible study group is on I Kings this week, including the story of Jezebel. The theme of the week's study is "Warning." Jezebel is just one of a whole list of Bible Bad Girls; the two others whose names come immediately to mind are Eve, the Mother of All Bad Girls, and Salomé, of "bring me the head of John the Baptist" fame. [I need to read Oscar Wilde's play about Salomé. It's on my list. As of now.]

Queen Jezebel was put to death and left in the courtyard to be eaten by dogs. Her crime? Allegedly, she encouraged idolatry among the Israelites, and had them making sacrifices to the god Baal. Jehovah really frowned on that sort of activity. However, Tom Robbins, in Skinny Legs and All has this to say:

Except in an entirely secondary manner, Queen Jezebel never worshiped Baal. Baal was the ancient Semite word for "lord" or "husband." The god referred to by the Bible as Baal had divine status primarily because he was husband to Astarte. It was Astarte whom Jezebel worshipped.

Who was Astarte? She was a goddess; rather, she was the Goddess, the Great Mother, the Light of the World, the most ancient and widely revered divinity in human history. Shrines to her date back to the Neolithic Period, and there was not one Indo-European culture that failed to remove with its kiss the mud from her sidereal slippers. In comparison, "God," as we moderns call Yahweh (often misspelled "Jehovah") was a Yahny-come-lately who would never approach her enormous popularity. she was the mother of God, as indeed, she was mother of all. As beloved as she was for her life-giving and nurturing qualities, the only activities of hers acceptable to the patriarchs, she was mistress over destruction as well as creation, representing, according to one scholar, "the abyss that is the source and the end, the ground of all being."

Astarte's other names include Isis, Ishtar, Kali, Demeter, and, in the Saxon language, Ostara. The words estrogen and Easter both come from the same root as Ostara. Get it, "Easter EGGS". I am firmly rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and Jesus (a Jew from the patriarchal tradition) is my personal Lord and Savior, but I am not threatened by the idea of the Goddess, and I find it rather endearing that my religion's most important holiday is named for Her.

So, was Jezebel just a Bad Girl, or a prophetess with a message for us today?

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