PaganSquare is a community blog space where Pagans can discuss topics relevant to the life and spiritual practice of all Pagans.
As winter has firmly wrapped around us here (at least as much as it ever does in the South), I’d been planning to write about the beautiful Mexican Riviera, a crystal coastline dotted with ancient temples and pulsing with power and healing. However, when I sat down to my trusty computer this morning, it wouldn’t turn on…and all the pictures from all my trips are safely locked in the hard drive. I’ve got my fingers crossed that it will be an easy fix, once my hubby or I venture out to a computer store, but right now, with another round of snow covering the roads, technology repair has suddenly fallen to the bottom of my priorities list.
Winter tends to rearrange things for me, and whenever I don’t take the necessary time for rest and healing that the season affords, I’ve discovered that the Goddess has a way of enforcing quiet down time for me, forcing me to slow down and just breathe.
A recurrent iconographic motif of Phoenician art during the early 1st millenium BCE is the “Woman at the Window.” Sometimes called by researchers “Astarte at the Window,” the motif occurs with such frequency—known examples number in the thousands—and in so many different mediums (ivory, stone, wood, bone), that it is well worth asking what it may have meant to the ancestors.
Although minor variations occur, the type is surprisingly consistent. A woman's face peers out from a window. The window itself is generally back-set in a triple recess; she looks out over a balustrade supported by four (occasionally three) elaborately-carved columns. The woman is characterized by an elaborate ringlet coiffure—perhaps a wig—bekohled eyes, and prominent ears.
Early researchers associated the motif with a cult of sacred prostitution, but contemporary scholars have laid this sacred cow of Biblical research to rest. No evidence exists for such an institution in any ancient Semitic culture; such claims in antiquity have proved to be at second- and third- hand, and are invariably attributed to other people. Whoever the Woman at the Window may be, she is no “hierodule.”
The monumental architecture of the window clearly indicates that this is a very special woman indeed; the window is an elaborate frame for what seems most likely to be a divine epiphany. Although no known examples are inscribed, it is not unreasonable to think that we may here be gazing upon the face of a goddess, and although the cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean coast knew numerous goddesses, we may well suspect that this may be the goddess known variously as Astarte, Ashtárt, Ashtéret, and Ashtarót.
I don't know if it is the insistent trudging of February, my time of life or the world of the world but I am weary of words. Your words. My words. All the words. The Pagan community is arguably one of the most educated in the country and we have so much to discuss as the religious movement changes and grows. We parse language, we foment revolution, we whine, we rejoice.
But we do rather a lot of arguing. About all sorts of things large and small....
Rituals for Spiritual Revitalization
It starts for me just after Imbolc, I get that itch. That twinge of restlessness and that eager feeling every time the sun peeks through the clouds. Spring is near! Mentally I exclaim, “There’s only about 6 more weeks of frigid temps, coupled with mountains of ice and snow! Hooray!”
When the feeling begins to take hold of me, I need to make myself busy. I need to begin planning my spring activities right away. There is so much to do, I often find myself feeling overwhelmed and perplexed. However, it isn’t a bad kind of overwhelm, instead it is fun and exhilarating to consider the possibilities.
In the days of Queen Salome Alexandra, the city of Ashkelon was plagued by a coven of 80 witches who lived in a cave outside the city. Rabbi Shimon ben Shetah decided to rid the city of these wicked women and their sorceries. He summoned 80 strong men and instructed each of them to acquire a jar and to place within it a change of clothing; he himself did the same.
On a night of pouring rain, he went with his men and stood outside the cave. “Sisters,” he called out to the witches, “I am a sorcerer, like yourselves; let me come in out of this rain.” Quickly he removed his wet clothing and donned the dry set from his jar.
“Enter and be welcome, fellow sorcerer,” cried the eighty.
R. Shimon entered the cave, and the witches marveled at his dry clothing. “How did you accomplish such a feat?” they asked.
“My power is so great that I can walk through rain and yet remain dry,” said he. “By the power of my magic, I can work another wonder for you: I can summon 80 men, each in clothing as dry as my own, to come and dance with you.”