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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Canaanite

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
In Which the Goddess Returns to Jerusalem

 Evarékhekha ve-Asherá u-ve-Yahvetá

"I bless you by Ashera and by her Yahweh."


A friend of mine emigrated to Israel. Where better to worship the gods of Canaan than in the Land of Canaan, right?

Israel is a hard place to make a living. Everything costs about what it does here in the States, but salaries are much lower. Just about everyone works three jobs: one to pay the rent, one for expenses, and one for discretionary income.

Among his other jobs, my friend made little ceramic statues of Ashera, Goddess-Mother of the Canaanite pantheon. A few of the tourist stores agreed to take them on consignment. Every now and then one would sell and bring in a few shekels.

Just as things were getting desperate, my friend got a call from a friend at Hebrew University.

“I've got a gig for you,” he said.

It turned out that an Italian film-maker was coming to Israel to make a film about the history of Judaism. The good news: they wanted to buy twelve of his little Asherot. The bad: they planned to film them all being broken, to represent the rise of aniconism in monotheist thinking.

My friend was torn. He desperately needed the money, but he just couldn't bring himself to sell his little goddesses, knowing that they were going to be broken.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Little Gods

Back before Hebrew became the First Language of monotheism, it was a fine old pagan language in its own right, with words (for example) for “standing stone” (matsevá) and “stone circle” (gilgál).

The Hebrew word that usually gets translated “idol” is 'elíl. Scholardom has generally read this word as a cacophemism based on the root √ ' L L (alef-lamed-lamed) meaning “weak.” This even though words similar to 'elil occur in other Semitic languages—for example in Sabaean, the South Semitic language of the Arabian kingdom of “Sheba”—in religious contexts as well.

It occurs to me, however, to wonder if the derivation from “weak” is really the correct one. Hebrew (like its sister Semitic languages) has a pattern of word-creation called “reduplication,” in which the second part of the word is repeated; reduplicated words are usually diminutives. Hence, kélev, “dog” becomes k'lavláv, “puppy”; qatán, “little” becomes q'tantán, “teensy.”

I wonder if 'elil is the same. 'El = god. 'Elil = “little god.”

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Shana tova, ya Ariel.
  • Ariel Aron
    Ariel Aron says #
    Thank you for sharing this lovely hymn.
How You Can Pray Your Way to a Firmer, Shapelier Butt (and a Few Other Things Besides)

You could call it the Threefold Salute.

In my head. On my lips. In my heart. (Touch brow, mouth, chest.) Or the other way: In my heart. On my lips. In my head. Up the tree or down?

It's a formal greeting. It's a ritual salute. In body language, it says: So mote it be.

When you enter a sacred space, pause at the threshold. Bend and touch the ground. (If you can't actually touch the ground from this position, at least reach for it.) As you straighten your spine, standing up, touch heart, lips, head. Then enter.

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