First, of course, we must refer to the obvious patriarchalization of religious imagery which led to the aphanisis, or disappearing, of the goddess from Christian thinking. Although the feminine element slips back in with the later ascension of Mary, the goddess remains present only in such traces as the giving of the holiest day in the Christian calendar the name Ishtar.
In one of the basic mythical narratives, Ishtar, the Queen of Heaven, travels to the underworld. At each of the Seven Gates, she has to remove one part of her attire, starting with her crown. As she does this, she loses her power. She is captured by the Evil Goddess of the Underworld, Erish-Kegal. She ends up naked and bleeding, draped over a tree. The Father God, Anu, works to rescue Ishtar by fashioning two Elementals, the Water of Life and the Clay of Life. The two Elementals cleverly work their way down through the Seven Gates, and sprinkle the Water and Clay of Life upon Ishtar. This enables her to climb back up the Seven Rungs of the Ladder of Light, retrieving her attire and her power, to become Queen of Heaven once again.
One can easily perceive in this narrative the structure of the chakras and their attendant assemblage points. In other words, our infinite consciousness has descended from its fullness of light and wisdom down to the lowest, most neurotic and psychotic, levels of ego. The image of being naked and bleeding, draped over a tree, is of course the image of Christ on the cross. The water of life is also familiar to Christian mythology, that of the baptism. The combination of water and clay refers to a principle of the ancient Shiite science of al-kimia, known in the West as alchemy. The principle is known famously in Latin as “Solve et Coagula.” This refers to the capacity to dissolve, or de-crystallize, the ego structure and coagulate, or re-crystallize it, at a higher assemblage point, a higher frequency and level of coherence.
Ishtar’s losing of her clothing and her crown on the downward path into ego-consciousness, and her regaining of that attire on the upward journey is still memorialized in the old Christian superstition of wearing something new on Easter. A new garment worn on this day would bring good luck through the coming year. The birds would punish those who wore old attire by dropping decorations on them from the air. In fact, the Easter Parade grew out of the old beliefs about dressing up in new clothing. This grand event provided a chance to be seen wearing the latest fashions and fads. The elegant ritual reinforced social hierarchies through conspicuous displays of wealth and taste.
Of course, all this is simply an egoic distortion of the real meaning of the clothes. They represent the virtues and capacities of consciousness (siddhis) that are gained as the lower drives and emotions are sublimated on the inner journey of Self realization.
In a second, dualist version of the myth, Ishtar went to the underworld to rescue her son-lover Tammuz. The Descent into Hell took three days. During this time there was sterility and a suspension of sexual activities over the whole earth. It culminated in the Day of Joy, when Tammuz was returned to life, which began the new year.
The Christ myth can be seen clearly here, even Christ’s three-day journey into Hell was taken from this mytheme. Of course, we would understand it to refer to the Hell of the unconscious mind of the ego. By descending into our own inner Hell and rescuing the lost sparks of consciousness trapped down there, we may accomplish the great task of redeeming ourselves from unconsciousness, and attaining re-divinization. The Day of Joy refers to the moment when this re-divinization has occurred planet-wide, ushering in an era we call Sat Yuga, a new Golden Age. We can also see in this structure the paradigm of spiritual renunciation, in which penitents take vows of chastity, until they no longer identify with body or name and their energy of desire has been raised from an obsession with sex to a one-pointed desire for union with the Supreme Being.
Ishtar is the goddess of many names. She is also known as Astarte. The word “star” derives from her name, and she is said to be a star, sometimes Sirius and other times that of Venus. In her form of morning star, she is the goddess of war and carnage, and as the evening star, the goddess of love and bliss. In other words, her coming represents the moment of transition between Kali Yuga and Sat Yuga. As such, she is also the goddess who brings peace, and in that capacity has been called Semiramis (the one who holds the olive branch, in other words, the dove) and later the Roman goddess Columba (whom we have already talked about in other teachings). In early Semitic myths, she is referred to as Adon, the Lord, which evolved into Athon, and in Greek became both Adonis and Athena. In Christianity, of course, she was transfigured from Adon to Madonna.
In Hebrew mythology, she is the Shekhinah, the Holy Spirit. She is also the "beloved" of the Song of Songs, is on the one hand the harlot of the gods (the "hierodule of heaven," Belit, the Black One, known as Kali in India), but on the other hand she is the mother and virgin. She is spoken of as the "virgin womb of Chaos." In pre-Hebrew Canaanite mythology, her icon is the Tree, and her name is Asherah. In Assyria, she becomes Inanna, and later Estera, and is re-introduced into Jewish mythology as Queen Esther. In Norse mythology, she is called Freya, and is the goddess celebrated on Good Friday.
We could go on a long time naming all her avatars in every culture, from the German goddess Hertha to the Chinese Heavenly Queen Shing Mu. You can find her everywhere. Moreover, this most shape-shifting goddess is present in a different form at every level of consciousness. In fact, she is the earliest representation of the Supreme Being in all the modifications, crystallizations, and contractions of Being from the Absolute to matter to the finite persona.
Babylonian scriptures called her the Light of the World, Lord and Leader of Hosts, Opener of the Womb, Righteous Judge, Lawgiver, Goddess of Goddesses, Bestower of Strength, Framer of All Decrees, Lady of Victory, and Forgiver of Sins. Much of the liturgical flattery addressed to God in the Old Testament was taken directly from Babylonian prayers to Ishtar.
At the highest level, Chakra Seven, Ishtar is the Great Nothingness, the Void, the womb of the All, and is referred to as Ashura. In India, this state of transfinite potency is referred to as Brahman. She is also known as the Goddess of the Gaze, and is pictured as the All-Seeing Eye at the top of the pyramid that represents in freemasonry the descent of Spirit.
At Chakra Six, she is the lover of God. In India, at this level she is known as Isi and her divine lover is Ishwara. In another tradition, the same couple is referred to as Shakti and Shiva. She is now the radiant light of the Star of luminous awareness. In Egypt, of course, she is famous as Isis, and she descends to recover the scattered pieces of the body of her divine lover Osiris. In Tibet, Ishtar changed her name to Tara, and she took on further names in China and Japan, always as the Queen of Heaven, and the Lady (Madonna) of the Great Lord. She is also, among other things, the goddess of the Sun.
As she descends to Chakra Five, she enters the Cosmic Egg, the archetypal origin of all form, from which she will be reborn into the Earthly plane. Here she takes the name Sophia, and is renowned as the goddess of wisdom. And of course the egg symbolism has remained with us in the form of the Easter egg. Her name Estera later took on the meaning of estrus (ovulation) and is present in the hormone Estrogen. In Latin countries, she has evolved into the piñata, which is often made in the form of a star, that is whacked open (an allusion to the higher purpose of karma and suffering, not to mention such processes of dharma combat as psychoanalysis) to reveal its treasures.
At Chakra Four, she incarnates as both Athena and Aphrodite. She is the union of divine love and law. In Egypt, she also gives birth to Time (her son/lover is named Horus, from whom we have the hours). In Greece, she can also be recognized in the myth of Persephone, the beautiful virgin goddess who is ravished by Hades, the lord of Hell, yet who remains a virgin (“thou still unravished bride of Time”), and thereafter spends half her life in the underworld and half in the upper regions with her mother, Demeter. This myth, of course refers to the soul’s wandering between truth and illusion, the journey through Time from Sat Yuga to Kali Yuga and back again. She can be seen in yet another form in the Indian epic Ramayana as Sita, the pure wife of god Rama. She is abducted by the great demon Ravana and rescued with the help of the divine monkey Hanuman. In other words, human nature oscillates between sublime and bestial, the soul belongs to God part of the time and to the Devil the other part.
When she enters the lower levels of the labyrinth, her star changes. She is no longer Venus, the goddess of divine love, but Sirius, the Dog Star. She becomes the estrus, and, as with a bitch in heat, she drives the male dogs into a frenzy. This frenzy, the quest to be top dog, is the energy of Chakra Three. In Chakra Two, she becomes the sexual drive itself, the Whore of Babylon, and in Chakra One she enters the frozen form of total inertia and unconsciousness, the womb of death.
The entire play of consciousness is revealed in the archetypal imagery of Ishtar. She has completed her descent. The Cosmic Dream has reached its final stop, the lowest depths of Hell. Now is the moment of Ishtar’s rise. At Chakra One, she incarnates as the Kundalini serpent, the energy of self-awareness that rises through all the chakras, breaking through the seven Veils of Maya to regain the majesty of pure Spirit.
Ishtar is not just a myth, nor is she someone else. Ishtar is your Self. The myth is your story, an awesome and miraculous story that is about to unfold in ways you never imagined.
Here at the Sat Yoga Institute, we wish you a truly Happy Ishtar Sun Day.