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ANAHITA  September 1999

ANAHITA September 1999

Subject:

Re: Mythic Woman in Legend & Religion

From:

Max Dashu <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Women and Gender in the Ancient World <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 7 Sep 1999 16:35:31 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

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>(Sheila wrote:)
>>   There may be some semblance between Anat & Artemis,
>>both Semitic goddesses, but that is chancier. As for Anahita
>>  >& Anat, I doubt you could tie them together through Inanna or Ishtar.

>(Max wrote):
>>  I would nominate Astarte for this correspondence, since she like Inanna and
>>  Ishtar represented the planet Venus. As well as the Arabic al-Uzza.
>
>Any "correspondence" one might come up with -- whatever that may be and
>however defined--would be a far cry from a proven case of cause and effect,
>i.e. "descended from" or "based on."

But that is not what I wrote. How they originated is an extremely murky
question, but why assume that one has to be older than the others? The
Semitic goddesses may well have evolved from a common "ancestor" of such
antiquity as to be unattested in the written record. It's possible, of
course, that they were modelled on Inanna, but we have no proof of this
either. The problem is, south Semitic inscriptions are much later than,
say, Sumerian or Babylonian ones, so our picture is partly determined by
the unevenness of available documentation.

>1. Why do we need to group goddesses of different cultures together, anyway,
>just because they share some resemblances? A better, more scholarly procedure
>would be to consider each individually in the context of its own evolving
>culture.

I see nothing unscholarly about exploring connections and relationships
where they can be documented -- just look at Indo-European studies. In the
case of the Semitic cultures, there is every reason to examine relationship
between deities whose names, attributes and myths are similar: Babylonian
Ishtar, Cypriot Astarte, Levantine Ashtoreth, and Arabic 'Athtar [Samayin]
who was masculinized, but appears in female form as the goddess al-Uzza,
"the Mighty." It's not clear how these correspondences evolved. Please note
I am not claiming "proven cause and effect, " but it's intriguing to
consider that the eight-pointed star (which symbolized Ishtar as the planet
Venus in Babylonia) appears in bronze age Canaanite art, and as early as
the archaic neolithic site of Teleilat el-Ghassul.

>2. One critic has called this practice a version of "all women are basically
>Woman." I'm not saying that you personally are doing this, but both points
>are nevertheless worth considering.

Still, exploring the connections above has nothing to do with some
essentialist "all goddesses in all unrelated cultures must be the same."
Certainly some bad comparisons have been made, such as conflating Asherah
and Ashtoreth without realizing that while these names look similar in
English transcription, they are quite different in Hebrew. I know lot of
bad linguistics and shaky history is going on out there. But I'm also leery
of reacting so defensively that we are afraid to make comparisons, or to
consider historical linkages.

Max Dashu

         Suppressed Histories Archives       <[log in to unmask]>
                >>>International Women's Studies, founded 1970<<<

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