Ashera: An Introduction


 She has been called Inanna, Ishtar, The Whore of Babylon, Asherah, Astarte,
Isis, Aphrodite, Mary, Mother of God, Gaia, Kali, etc., but she is really Nature herself, the womb and the tomb, the creator and the destroyer.

I chose this particular name of the Goddess for these drawings of pole dancers because in the Bible the word asherah--uncapitalized--is used for the pole or tree which stood in or outside the temples of the Great Goddess of Canaan. She is never called by name in the Bible because the patriarchal Yahwists refused even to acknowledge her existence. This pole--sometimes in the form of a multibranched tree--was the Tree of Life or the Tree of Knowledge, both of which the Yahwists placed in the Garden of Eden as the bearers of forbidden fruit, thus making the point that the root of evil is female.

Today the poles on the stages of our "titty bars," sad remnants of the temples of the goddess, are viewed with much the same fear and hatred by many, and for much the same reason: like the ancient temples these are places of female power. They threaten the fundamental concept of patrilineal descent, which lies silent but awake just under the surface of our political correctness: that women are the divinely ordained property of men.

Our culture, beginning with Plato and continuing with savage zeal in Christianity, sets body and spirit against each other in an eternal struggle which neither can win. But in the time of the Goddess, when she was represented by the ishtaritu, holy women, the temple prostitutes of Sumer, Babylon and Canaan, before she was overthrown by the storm gods of the pastoral invaders, no such antagonism existed between the erotic and the spiritual. On the contrary, sexuality was considered a divine celebration, a communion between the corporeal and the spiritual. This is how I feel about these brown leaves--as if they fell from the limbs of the abused but never dying Goddess of Life and Knowledge.

Warren Criswell
April 1988

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