Thursday, March 24, 2011

Guest Post: BBC TV Programme About Asherah

by Daniel Cohen

Francesca Stavrokopoulou's BBC TV programme on Asherah was the second in a series of three. The first, shown last week, discussed whether David and Solomon's kingdom really existed, and next week's is about the origins of the Garden of Eden story.

This week's programme was an excellent presentation of the current state of scholarship about Asherah (with much mention of Baal and El, as well). It is, of course, new to the general public, but not to those interested in the subject, and she did not have any new insights. I felt it was a mistake for her to say quite often "I believe", "In my opinion" and the like, as this could lead people to think it was an isolated view. She did interview Judith Hadley and Ze'ev Meshel, but I would have liked her to have spoken with more scholars.

She spent some time discussing Deuteronomy 33:2, which is not one of the forty mentions of Asherah/asherah in the Bible. This verse is obscure in the original Hebrew, and has differing translations into English, none of which make much sense. She follows the view of M. Dijkstra and others that there was an error in transcription at one stage, and that the text originally referred to Asherah. The textual emendation is simple, and certainly makes for a more natural reading.

For me the most exciting moment came when she showed the Taanach cult stand. This shows a female figure standing between two lions, and also a tree between two ibexes, both most likely images of Asherah. I had seen pictures of it, but to have a view of the original, with the camera showing it different from different angles, brought it to life. She also showed a replica of the pottery fragment from Kuntillet Ajrud, with its inscription referring to Asherah - the original is currently missing, but it is probably among the items belonging to the Egypt Museum that recently resurfaced.

Daniel Cohen wrote the chapter on Asherah in the recently published 3-volume book set, Goddesses in World Cultures, edited by Patricia Monaghan. He
is author of the e-book, The Labyrinth of the Heart: Changed Myths for Changing Lives, available through
His website is

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Judith Laura

More blogs about /goddess/feminist theology/spiritual feminism/pagan/feminist spirituality/.