Friday, February 28, 2014

Brought to you by the letter A,and also the letter A: Astarte-Ashtaroth-Ashrael-Ashera linguistics

In keeping with my G-d Name a week thing, and also as part of my new Work over at Andrieh Vitimus' amazing 30 Day Challenge website, I'm going to talk some today about names related to the root אשׁר (straight/happy), which I'll write as "asher" and עשׁר (shining/steller), which I'll write as "isher". I may also touch on ענ names, but that probably has to wait until I do more research.

In English, it's easy to think these names are all the same, but Hebrew (and other Semitic languages) have two different consonants that start words we think of as starting with the "a" sound, aleph and ayin.  That means that names that all sound related in English --Ashera, Astarte, Ishtar, Ashtaroth, Astarael, etc -- actually break down into two main families; those that derive from  אשׁר, like Asherah and names that derive from עשׁר like Ishtar.  However, recent scholarship, as well as my own "unverified personal gnosis" indicated that there might be a shared root from which both classes of names (and maybe even other further-flung names, like Astraea or Eoster, but that seems less likely) derive.  Certainly, the goddesses Athirat and Astart (and Anat) were being synchronized very early, possibly as early as the second millenium BCE.

A great deal of the information in this post comes from DDD, which I highly recommend.  It's an expensive book, but, if you do this sort of thing, well worth it.  My copy is well-loved.  If you don't have any familiarity with mythology of the ancient Near East, this post might be hard to follow.  I tried to provide some links.

A wide variety of spirit's names descend from asher, perhaps the most prominent being אשׁרה, Asherah.  When used in Torah, it can mean both the goddess Asherah and also her cult-object, a tall pole or tree.  However, the etymology of this word is disputed.  It may descend from the semitic root asr, "to stride".  In Ugaritic texts, Athirat, understood by most scholars to be identical with Ashera, is often called "who strides upon the sea".  While in Deuteronomist sources, Ashera is said to be the consort of Ba'al, she is understood to be the wife of El in other sources.  For this challenge, I'll be working with the angel אשראל, Ashrael or Asurel.  This is a pretty obscure angel.  His (her?) name appears on some amulets, but that's about it.  I really don't know what to expect calling him. I guess we'll find out!  For this reason, I might "back up" the conjuration with some other angels; I'm not sure who.  Maybe Raphael.  Ashtaroth is a very well-known and powerful demon.  I want to try to keep the"two sides" evenly more or less "evenly matched.

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