Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" I'm your host, Anne Johnson. That's my real name. And don't forget the "e" on the end. Sign of class.
Today we have a real treat! A visit from a bored goddess!
Now, everybody. Get out your Bibles ...
Uhhhh. Don't have one? Weren't you ever in third grade?
Okay, then. Share with the person next to you.
Actually, we don't need the Bibles, except as evidence for the defense. So you can put that dusty thing back on the shelf, and try not to disturb the spider sleeping on it.
Today's guest is the goddess Asherah, known in some cultures as Astarte, and by dozens of other names too. She's an ancient goddess of the Middle East. Let's get the ball rolling!
Anne: Asherah, are you at all related to Queen Brighid the Bright?
Asherah: No, but I see her sometimes at the hairdresser.
Anne: I'm hardly believing these notes my producer gave me for this interview. It says here you were married to Yahweh? Wow, Asherah, that's a bold assertion!
Asherah: Archaeologists have found documents from extremely ancient Israel that leave no doubt as to our former marital status. One tablet clearly says "Yahweh and His Asherah." We had sons, too!
Anne: I am flabbergasted. No one told me about that in Methodist Sunday School.
Asherah: Well, you know, once a god gets the Immaculate Conception thing ironed out, why keep a spouse around? Especially one who was as popular as I was.
Anne: You were popular in ancient Israel?
Asherah: You think that picture of me you loaded into this entry was done by Picasso? I was huge. Especially among the ordinary folk. But I also had temples and priests and the whole works. It was a rare ancient Israelite woman who didn't have a small altar to me right in her home.
Anne: And this was fine with Yahweh.
Asherah: Yes, at first.
Anne: What happened? I mean, I don't want to pry if it's personal...
Asherah: There was nothing personal about it! Politics, pure and simple, ruined my marriage.
Anne: That's novel. Never heard that one before. (Just kidding.)
Asherah: A king named Amon got snuffed in a coup d'etat. But the folk didn't like it, so the palace insiders put Amon's son on the throne. His name was Josiah. He was only eight when he got the crown. And things went along as usual for awhile. But then Josiah grew up, he got cocky. A gifted writer named Hilkiah caught his ear. Then Hilkiah invited King Josiah to a scruffy little temple for Yahweh. My time was up.
Anne: I don't get it.
Asherah: In that temple, Hilkiah showed Josiah the long-neglected, spiderweb-covered, completely overlooked Ark of the Covenant. It had been sitting ignored for so long that the priests thought it was a box of socket wrenches.
Anne: Wait a minute. The Ark of the Covenant, neglected and overlooked? How could that be? It was the most important item in the Yahweh lexicon! And it was just sitting there like a piece of Mom's ugly furniture?
Asherah: Can I speak frankly?
Anne: We here at "The Gods Are Bored" offer you and yours a forum for just this sort of thing.
Asherah: All right, then. Here's the scoop. Hilkiah wanted the inside track, the position with bennies and a seat at the head table during banquets. He "discovered" the Ark of the Covenant and conveniently found that all the sacred Torahs inside were written in his handwriting.
Anne: Are you suggesting that Hilkiah wrote the entire history of the Hebrew people off the top of his head? All that stuff about Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, and the begats?
Asherah: He was a veritable Leo Tolstoy. Yes.
Anne: And he had a political agenda.
Asherah: Yep. Deep-six the polytheism in favor of his deity, Yahweh. The rest of the story is set down in the Bible. Josiah ordered all the temples to me and Baal, and all the other gods, torn down. He ordered the priests in those temples to be burnt alive on their altars. And of course he forbade all worship of me in private homes (although it continued for awhile). Call it what you want. I got divorced. Tossed out.
Anne: At least there wasn't another woman involved.
Asherah: True. But in those times Yahweh wasn't as popular as he is now. Not by a country mile. So the terms of my settlement weren't very generous. I've had to work my keister off, cleaning Turnpike bathrooms and telemarketing and doing night shift at Wendy's. It's been tough.
Anne: I am so sorry to hear that, Asherah. You know, a great many American women share your burden. They ought to erect shrines to you in their homes.
Asherah: That would help my morale, I must admit! And you know, there's a new book out about me. Maybe it'll get picked up by Lifetime and made into a t.v. movie!
Anne: Don't hold your breath on that one. But I could see Charlize Theron playing you. Can't imagine who'd do Yahweh.
Asherah: Why, Mel Gibson, of course!
Anne: That would work. So, Asherah, as a bored goddess, you're allowed to make a bald pitch for support on this site.
Asherah: I just want to stop being seen as some second-class, harlot, evil wicked witch. It hurts my feelings. I was respectable, and I resent the revisionist history.
Anne: As well you might. I'll ask Queen Brighid the Bright to put you on her "A" list for parties.
Asherah: Oh, would you do that? She does have lively ones!
Anne: Goddess Asherah, thank you for being our guest today on "The Gods Are Bored." I wish you the best of luck regaining a praise and worship team!
Asherah: Thank you. Are you going to finish that Pop Tart?
Anne: Help yourself. There's a whole box downstairs. Take as many as you like!
Sources for Information on Asherah:
God. The Holy Bible, 2 Kings 21-23. Israel, Middle East: 1032 B.C.
Hadley, Judith M. The Cult of Asherah in Ancient Israel and Judah: Evidence for a Hebrew Goddess. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Walker, Barbara C. The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1983.
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS