By Gina Lopina
When we first think of this, we think of Mary Magdalene. I'll get to her later. Lots of hype about her!
Most Pagans have heard of Lilith. She was the first wife of Adam and refused to lie beneath him and thus was banished and then Yahweh created Eve from Adam's rib. The Hebrew term Lilith translated means vampire, night creatures, night monster, night hag, and screech owl. Isaiah 34:14 lists these as unclean animals. Isaiah 34:11-17 "The desert owl and screech owl will possess it; the great owl and the raven will nest there. God will stretch out over Edom the measuring line of chaos and the plumb line of desolation. 12 Her nobles will have nothing there to be called a kingdom; all her princes will vanish away. 13 Thorns will overrun her citadels, nettles and brambles her strongholds. She will become a haunt for jackals, a home for owls. 14 Desert creatures will meet with hyenas, and wild goats will bleat to each other; there the night creatures will also repose and find for themselves places of rest. 15 The owl will nest there and lay eggs, she will hatch them, and care for her young under the shadow of her wings; there also the falcons will gather, each with its mate. 16 Look in the scroll of the LORD and read: None of these will be missing, not one will lack her mate. For it is his mouth that has given the order, and his Spirit will gather them together. 17 He allots their portions; his hand distributes them by measure. They will possess it forever and dwell there from generation to generation." Eberhard Schrader (1875) and Moritz Abraham Levy (1885) suggest Lilith was a Goddess of the Night.
The Dead Sea Scrolls refer to Lilith in Songs of the Sage (4Q510-511). "And I, the instructor, proclaim his glorious splendor so as to frighten and to terrify all the spirits of the destroying angels, spirits of the bastards, demons, Lilith howlers, and [desert dwellers... ] and those which fall upon men without warning to lead them astray from a spirit of understanding and to make their heart and their [... ] desolate daring the present dominion of wickedness and predetermined time of humiliations for the sons of light by the guilt of the ages of [those] smitten by iniquity not for eternal destruction [but] for an era of humiliation for transgression.
Lilith does not occur in the Mishnah but in three references in the Babylonian Talmud in Gemaia.
If an abortion had the likeness of Lilith, its mother is unclean by reason of birth, for it is a child but it has wings. She who grows long hair like Lilith, sits when making water, like a beast, serves as a bolster for her husband. Also, one may not sleep in a house alone [in a lonely house], and whoever sleeps in a house alone is seized by Lilith. (1)
Lilith's themes are freedom, courage, playfulness, passion, pleasure and sexuality. Lilith has become the feminist Goddess. "Lilith's demon spawn represent our own personal demons." (2)
In the Old Testament, the Israelites continually abandoned God and worshipped Astarte. Astarte was a Canaanite fertility Goddess. The Israelites continued to tick off their "one true God" by returning to the Pagan worship of the Goddess. Astarte is the Greek name of the Mesopotamian Semitic Goddess Ishtar and is associated with the chief Goddess or Female Divinity of these peoples.
Astarte is connected with fertility, sexuality, and war. Her various symbols are the lion, sphinx, dove, and a star within a circle which denoted Venus. Astarte was known to the Greeks as Aphrodite or sometimes Artemis. The island Cypress was one of Astarte's greatest faith centers. (3)
Ashtoreth is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as a foreign, non-Judahite Goddess. The title "Queen of Heaven" is mentioned in Jeremiah. In later Jewish mythology she became a female demon of lust.
The Hebrew name for Astarte, Ashtoreth occurs only three times in the Hebrew Bible. The original meaning of Astarte was "womb". The Hebrew Bible understood Astarte to be Baal's consort.
Astarte is also a place name known as "of the two horns" in Genesis 14:5. This probably refers to a temple where Astarte was worshipped as a horned Goddess. Two passages in Jeremiah (7:17-18; 44:15-19) refer to Israelite worship of the Queen of Heaven. (4)
The Israelites worshipped Astarte as a mother Goddess. The Bible mentions that the Israelites need to destroy the Asherah poles and destroy her temples. For about 400 years she was worshipped along with Jehovah. Some biblical scholars believed her to be worshipped as the consort of Yahweh.
She was worshipped in ancient Syria, Phoenicia, and Canaan and was represented by a limbless tree trunk in the ground. She was the Moon Goddess consort of Baal (Judges 3:7, 6:28, 10:6; and Isaiah 7:4, 12:10) and was worshipped as the Goddess of love and war. (6)
Amulets, figurines, inscriptions in ancient texts including the Bible reveal Asherah's prominent standing. (7) Yahoo Answers all described Asherah as a Pagan teaching and went on that Yahweh is the only true God.
Mary Magdalene was misaligned by Pope Gregory in the Catholic Church as a repentant prostitute which is mentioned nowhere in the Bible. She gained popularity in Dan Brown's book, The DaVinci Code. What is known is she was wealthy, she held status in the community, Jesus loved her and often kissed her on the lips, Peter was jealous of her, and she was the Apostle of the Apostles. She was the first to see the resurrected Jesus and she remained at the cross during his crucifixion. With the discovery of the Gnostic Gospels, and the Gospel of Mary, we can see that there was a special relationship between Jesus and Mary. Mary taught the Apostles many things that Jesus had spoken only to her. I would highly recommend reading the Gospel of Mary.
Temples of the Goddess existed throughout biblical times. One image of Mary Magdalene holding the alabaster jar and wearing the Isis knot around her waist, which was worn by priestesses of Isis. The Gospel of Phillip speaks of Mary Magdalene "as the most favoured companion of Jesus who loved her more than the other disciples and would kiss her often on the mouth."  (8)
"The Magdalene is not at any point in any of the Gospels said to be a prostitute. When she is first mentioned in the Gospel of Luke, she is described as a woman out of who went seven devils. It is generally assumed that this phrase refers to some sort of conversion and/or ritual initiation. The cult of Ishtar or Astarte-the Mother Goddess and "Queen of Heaven"-involved, for example, a seven stage initiation [the seven veils]. Prior to her affiliation with Jesus, the Magdalene may well have been associated with such a cult. Migdal or Magdala was the 'Village of Doves' and there is some evidence that sacrificial doves were in fact bred there. And the dove was a sacred symbol of Astarte." According to the Holy Blood and Holy Grail by Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln.
At the time of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, the Romans had control of most of the known world including Palestine. Previously, this area had been part of a matriarchal Goddess society. The fertility rituals included the Sacred Marriage which honored the Goddess and gave blessing of the Goddess to the new King. The King is sacrificed, comes back to life after three days, having been found by the High Priestess.
Evidence by the gospels show that Jesus preached a new approach which would integrate the Divine Feminine and provide balance. He preached a message of peace, tolerance and equality of the Divine Within.
Mary Magdalene was from a wealthy family and the sister of Lazarus and Martha of Bethany. She held status within the community and was possibly a High Priestess. She was not a prostitute. (10)
People still believe that: Mary took her and Jesus' children to Southern France where she died and was buried; she visited Glastonbury with Joseph of Aramathia where they founded a church of the true version of Jesus' teachings; she is associated with the Black Madonna's found in Southern Europe.
Links between Mary Magdalene and Astarte include: Mary came from Magdela where doves were bred and are a sacred symbol of Astarte; in her meeting with Tiberius in Rome, Mary is carrying an egg, another sacred symbol of Astarte; and, Mary was identified as a prostitute and there was a practice of Divine and Sacred Sex in the Temples to Astarte. (9)
The Virgin Mary was actually a cult that replaced the Isis cult, which vied for popularity during the spreading of the fledgling Christianity. Many titles of Isis were later attributed to Mary, such as the Queen of Heaven. There are many statues and pictures of Isis with Horus that strongly resemble the Virgin Mary and Jesus. Catholics revere the Virgin Mary all over the world, as if the Goddess never left the Church. Our Lady of Guadalupe and many other grottos were built on Pagan worship sites.
In Catholicism the Virgin Mary is honored as Theotokos, the Mother of God. It has older traditions from ancient Egypt. The cult of Isis was introduced to the Roman Empire by the Emperor Caligula. It spread throughout the empire during the formative years of Christianity. During the persecutions of Christians, it was commonplace for statues of the Madonna and child to be displayed as Isis and Horus. When Christianity became the official religion of the Empire, the cult of Isis was synonymous with the cult of the Virgin Mary. (11)
Supreme Mother of the universe, loving, wise, courageous and sacrifices herself and her family for the betterment of mankind. In Christianity, this is the Virgin Mary, but 3,000 years ago, this description fit Isis. It may be they are the same entity, altered by man to fit cultural needs. Isis was the prominent female Goddess in Egypt. Mary is the most important figure in Christianity. (12)
I wrote a paper in college comparing the Virgin Mary to Isis and included that Isis nearly overcame the Virgin Mary during the early years of Christianity. It was only when Christianity became the official religion of Rome that Isis lost prominence. I compared many paintings and figurines of Isis to Mary and the resemblance is striking. The Virgin Mary only replaced Isis, to placate those who worshipped Isis. This was an Ancient and Medieval Art course and we visited the Oriental Museum in Chicago to start our research. After I received my paper back, which was an A, the professor held me back and said I wrote a compelling paper but he didn't agree with me. At least he still gave me an A.
Our last biblical goddess is Shekinah. In the Kabbalah she was worshipped as the consort of Jehovah. She is honored as the Queen of Heaven and is the Divine Feminine in Kabbalah, along with Sophia who represents wisdom in the Bible.
Shekinah is the English spelling of a feminine Hebrew word meaning dwelling or setting, specifically of God in the Temple of Jerusalem. Shekinah is held by many to represent the feminine attributes of God. The Christian concept of Shekinah is that of the Holy Spirit.
Judaism is a patriarchal monotheistic religion connected to Yahweh. The Goddess was connected with Judaism from its conception, best known as Shekinah. Shekinah is not mentioned in the Bible but is in extremely old traditions. (13)
Significant to Shekinah is the Canaanite Goddess Ashera, who, when the Israelites settled in Canaan was referred to as Yahweh's consort. Shekinah made herself seen in synagogues. As the Jews settled elsewhere, more sightings occurred. She comforted the sick, the poor, the suffering, and especially repentant sinners. She would also punish and her character came closer to that of Asherah, Yahweh's Canaanite consort. She punished Adam and Eve. She confused the builders of the Tower of Babel. She drowned the Egyptians in the Red Sea. Shekinah became interchangeable with the Holy Spirit in both Judaism and Christianity. She is often depicted as a dove. (14)
I think what is important in learning about these biblical Goddesses is how Paganism is so integrated into Judeo-Christian religions. The Israelites were continually turning back to the Goddess throughout the formation of Judaism. The Christians picked up Isis with the Virgin Mary and Astarte/Isis with Mary Magdalene, and Shekinah as the Holy Spirit, which is coincidentally represented by a dove, which is a sacred symbol of Astarte. As most of us know, Christianity converted many Pagans by assimilating their holidays and making them Christian holidays. While worship of the Goddess is thousands of years old, Christianity is a mere 2,000, Islam less than that, and Judaism about 6,000 years. I believe, in progressive Christianity, we are seeing a reemergence of the Goddess and God as a Divine Feminine.
10. The Gnostic Bible
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