Saturday, January 3, 2015
Sacred Tree by John Lamb Lash
“The altars, pillars, and idols condemned by Yahweh were placed in groves of trees. The name of the Canaanite goddess Asteroth means “sacred tree,” although this translation is redundant because all trees were sacred to the ancient people of the Near East and Europa. Trees were revered as divine before carved images of trees were set up to be worshiped. This shift was perhaps not due to psychic distancing, as we might suppose, but to environmental sensitivity in the region of Saharasia where verdant forests and rich grasslands were lost in a catastrophic climate change after 4000 B.C.E. Was Yahweh’s condemnation symptomatic of reverse psychology? Did seeing fertile fields and sumptuous forest disappear in a few generations produce a sense of powerlessness that inverted itself into a vengeful lust for power over nature? “I will not stand by and watch nature destroy the woods and fields, so I will assert my own power to destroy, acting in nature’s stead.” This may be a plausible explanation of the “prior wounding” that led to the violent antinature fixation of patriarchal religion.
The Hebrew word asherah occurs over forty times in the first five books of the Bible, sometimes to indicate “the potent cultic presence of the female deity named Asherah,” sometimes to indicate the carved wooden idols used to represent her. Asteroth-Asherah-Astarte was native to the Near East and Palestine, but she belonged to a vast pantheon of tree goddess found worldwide: the lovely hamadryads of Greek myth, such as Daphne the laurel; the Egyptian Isis who is often represented as a tree trunk sprouting bountiful leafy limbs; and the sensuous, sloe-eyed apsaras of Hindu mythology, including Queen Maya, the mother of the Buddha. Yahweh’s curse on the asherah was not his personal peeve, but a pathological hatred that stuck to the deepest sources of human imagination where the psyche is rooted in nature. When the cults of the Goddess were suppressed, her idols thrown down, her leafy groves laid bare, the Jews invented the menorah to replace what they had destroyed. The seven-branched candlestick is a schematic abstraction from nature, the spectral imitation of an asherah, a sacred tree.” -John Lamb Lash, Not in His Image