Astarte, the Assyrian goddess, is one of the oldest goddesses known to – – and worshipped by – – humankind. As was the case with most deities, she had reign over many different things. Some referred to her as the queen of heaven and it was believed that she ruled over both the moon and the stars.
Others called her the queen of the stars, believing that she ruled over all of the souls in heaven, which shone as stars brightly in the night sky. Others worshipped her as the goddess of fertility and motherhood. Still others, the Semites in particular, believed that she was the goddess of war.
Astarte was worshipped by many different cultures including the Syrians, Canaanites (today’s Palestinians), Phoenicians, Egyptians, and several other Semitic Tribes. King Solomon built a temple to her near Jerusalem.
Dating back as far as the Bronze Age, Astarte had many counterparts. In Babylon she was often intermixed with the goddess called Ishtar. For example, Astarte’s son Tammuz was also identified as the son and consort of Ishtar.
She was also often paired like a twin with the goddess Anat, the consort and sister of Baal, whom she supposedly killed. In some Egyptian texts, Astarte and Anat are listed as the daughters of the god Re.
Astarte was supposedly given in marriage to the god Set for whom she bore many children. Somewhere along the line, however, she was merged with Isis and became nothing more than one of her many images. In particular, she represented the mother image.
In Phoenicia, Astarte history is very confusing. Some considered her the daughter of the sky and earth and the sister of El. However, others linked her with El as his virgin consort; offered to him by the sky god after El banished him from the heavens. He supposedly also sent along her sisters Asherah and another one who would eventually be referred to as the lady of Byblos. But it was Astarte who bore El’s children; seven daughters and two sons.
Astarte was also linked with the Indian goddess Kali as well as with the Greek’s beloved Demeter. She even has links with Jewish mythology. There, she was known as Ashtoreth. However, in that culture she was thought of as a demon rather than a goddess and her name became synonymous with the sin of lust. In the Bible, she is referred to as “the abomination.”
Some even claim that Astarte was simply a predecessor of the goddess Aphrodite. This association is probably made since some believe that Aphrodite’s roots began in Phoenicia. The Norse equated her with the goddess Freya; the Celts with Danu; and the Hindus with Indrani. Astarate was also worshipped by the Philistines, the Sicilians, and in many other parts of Africa and Europe including Carthage, Sardinia and Cyprus.
Along with her many different incarnations and titles came a variety of images. The Phoenicians portrayed her with cow horns, which represented fertility. The Assyrians pictured her as a mother figure, often with a child in her arms.
Still others pictured her in full armor, a befitting picture for the goddess of war. A few preferred to picture the goddess completely naked, as reference to her less seemly attributes.
Her symbols included the bull, dove, horse, and lion. She was also often pictured with a representation of the moon and stars. But her most sacred symbol was that of the egg because it represented life; a proper image for the goddess of fertility.
Her people often paid homage to her with gifts of beer, honey, incense, and wine, although I could find no explanation as to why those particular items were chosen.
Today, some wiccans continue to worship Astarte. In fact her name is second in an energy chant commonly used: “Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, and Inanna. . .”