On September 25, 1991, between 6:15 and 6:45am local time in Padua, while traveling to the airport at Venice, Italy, I observed Venus as I have never before seen the planet. In a clear reddish sky, well above the brightening horizon, it appeared as a brilliant, slender thread of light with pronounced radiance’s at its two extreme points. Squinting reduced the glare somewhat, and enabled me to see that the planet was something like a crescent, and quite unlike the bright dot of nearby Jupiter. The only other astronomical body visible at the time was the just-past-full Moon near the opposite horizon.
The only special circumstance that surrounded this particular sighting was the large amount of upper atmospheric aerosols (hence the strikingly red skies at sunrise and sunset) from the June 12, 1991 volcanic explosion of Mount Pinatubo.
A light mist, autumnal haze, volcanic aerosols, smoke from large fires (On October 20, 1991 I had an opportunity to observe the Sun through just such a pall as three thousand Berkeley and Oakland homes went up in flames-it made quite an effective neutral-density filter) or even filters made from amber, crystal, or other transparent stones would also produce a reduction in glare.
The important goddesses of the ancients, all of whom were in varying degrees associated with the planet Venus bear as part of their adornment, or have associated with them in some significant way, a crescent of the very planet which they represent.
The Babylonian Ishtar (Istar, Nana, Innanna, Nina, Anuit, Easter) is the counterpart of the Phoenician Astarte. The Great Mother goddess is portrayed as both life-giving and as life-taking. She passes through seven gates to the underworld, and
“. . . at each gate some of her clothing and adornments are removed until at the last gate she is entirely naked. While she remains in the nether world- whether voluntarily or involuntarily is hard to say-all fertility ceases on earth, but the time comes when she again returns to earth, and as she passes each gate the watchman again restores to her what she had left there until she is again clad in her full splendor, the joy of mankind and of all nature.” (Encyclopedia Britannica, eleventh edition, entry “Ishtar,” page 871)
Annually, the planet Venus disappears from one horizon and, after an interval reappears on the opposite. The connection with “Horned Ishtar” is inescapable.
“In the astral-theological system, Ishtar becomes the planet Venus, and the double aspect of the goddess is made to correspond to the strikingly different phases of Venus in the summer and winter seasons. On monuments and seal-cylinders she appears frequently with bow and arrow [compare Athena and Diana], though simply clad in long robes with a crown on her head and an eight-rayed star as her symbol.” (ibid)
Birth of Venus
The votaries of Ishtar were in all cases virgins who, so long as they remained in her service, were not permitted to marry. This tradition is found also among the Roman Vestal Virgins and is recapitulated in the celibacy of Catholic priests and nuns instituted in 305 ad by the Spanish synod of Elvira.
Astarte is the female counterpart of the Sun-god Baal worshiped by the Canaanites and Phoenicians, and to the Dagon of the Philistines. She was a patroness of the hunt, and as such was inevitably later identified with Artemis. Her worship fused with that of Aphrodite, Artemis, Diana, Juno and Venus. Her star was the planet Venus, and classical writers gave her the epithet Caelestis and Urania. Lucian and Herodian testify that she was represented with horns, and the place-name Ashteroth-Karnaim in Gilead (Ashtoreth of the horns) is considered ample corroboration. The Minoan Great Mother of ancient Crete has as attributes the double axe and the bull. The shape of the double axe and the horns of the bull recall the crescent Venus. Her religious being survived in the worship of Aphrodite and Rhea.
Demeter is the mother of Persephone, who is carried off by Hades to the underworld. Demeter is enraged at Zeus for permitting the abduction.
“In her wrath, she makes the earth barren, so that mankind are threatened with destruction by famine, as she does not allow the fruit of the earth to spring up again until her daughter is allowed to spend two-thirds of the year with her.” (Dictionary of Classical Antiquities p. 177)
Like Aphrodite, she is associated with the water-god Poseidon. The cow is sacred to her, and among her attributes is the torch-a common attribute of other deities associated with Venus. The Romans identified her with Ceres, who was commonly portrayed with a ram’s horn in her left arm, filled with fruits and flowers.
Aphrodite is the counterpart of the Roman goddess Venus. Aphrodite asteria (starlike), was identified with Phosphor (Lucifer) the morning star as well as Hesper the evening star. As Aphro-geneia (African born) or Anadyomene (she who rises from the
sea [Moon]) she is much associated with the sea-she even had a son named Ichthys (fish), perhaps because celestial objects were thought to rise from the sea. In art she is often represented as rising naked (like Ishtar) from the sea, or from a bath. Part of the worship of the Minoan Great Mother survives in her epithet Ariadne, “the exceeding holy.”
Aphrodite is connected with the lower world, and was looked on as one of its divinities. Just as Ishtar descends to the kingdom of Ilat the queen of the dead, to find the means of restoring her favorite Tammuz (Adon, Adonis) to life, so does Aphrodite. During her stay all animal and vegetable productivity ceases, to begin again with her return to earth-a clear indication of the conception of her as a goddess of fertility. This legend strikingly resembles that of Persephone. There is no logical reason to associate this legend with the Moon, and as far as I can determine, no such association was ever made; however, it fits Venus beautifully. Her most distinctive title, Urania, the Semitic “Queen of the Heavens,” corroborates her association with the planet Venus.
Pallas (perhaps from pallaks “virgin”) Athena (athela “not giving milk; unsuckled-this seemingly refers both to her virgin state as well as her extraordinary birth from the brow of Zeus) is associated with the storm cloud, the pure ether, the dawn and twilight. With Zeus and Apollo, she forms a triad which represents the embodiment of all divine power. Though usually represented in her manifestation as protector of cities, goddess of war, she is also portrayed as the pure virgin (Athena Lemnia). In Roman mythology she is Minerva, goddess of wisdom.
Artemis, the virgin huntress, is the counterpart of the Roman Diana. She is often portrayed as girt for the chase, and on her head she wears a crescent Venus, transference of the crescent from deities such as Aphrodite and the Cappadocian goddess Ma, another manifestation of Cybele associated with the planet Venus. Like the goddess Demeter one of her important attributes is the flaming torch.
“Another view of the original character of Artemis, which has found much support in modern times, is that she was a moon goddess. But there is no trace of Artemis as such in the epic period, and the Homeric hymn knows nothing of her identification with Selene.” (Encyclopedia Britannica, eleventh edition, entry “Artemis” page 665)
Though etymologically suspect, it is interesting that St Jerome suggests that the origin of the Hebrew name “Mary” was stella maris, “star of the sea.” This early association of the Virgin not only with the morning star but with “African born” deities, such as the Greek Aphrodite and Roman Venus, tends to confirm the carry-over of surviving Pagan religious practices and their grafting onto early Christianity.
Through the first three centuries of Christianity, Mary’s perpetual virginity is nowhere mentioned. In 387 Jerome argued the case with much vehemence in his tract Against Helvidius, and by 451 the concept of parthenogenesis was adopted by the Council of Chalcedon.
The appellation “Mother of God,” an epithet formerly connected with the great nature-goddesses, was not applied to Mary before the close of the third century, though by the 4th century, it had become commonplace. From the time of the Council of Ephesus in 431, the cult of Mary had become an established aspect of orthodox Christianity. In adopting indiscriminately the panoply of Pagan nature-goddess, Mary Queen of Heaven (this epithet is identical to that of Aphrodite Urania) is also given the attribute of the crescent associated with her predecessors.
This metamorphosis of Ishtar, Isis, Artemis etc. into the character of Mary coincides neatly with the idiological vacuum created by the triumph of the “pale Galilean.” Indeed, I would argue that at this juncture the Church Fathers, and in particular St Jerome, were incorporating the Pagan female deities into the person of Mary the better to accommodate many of those who became professing Christians at the political eclipse of Paganism and who entered the Church with the instincts derived from the nature-religions in which they had been brought up fully developed. Saving the change in position of the crescent, modern artistic representations of Mary Queen of Heaven are indistinguishable from ancient representations of Ishtar.
Egg of Isis
“An egg of wondrous size is said to have fallen from heaven into the river Euphrates. The fishes rolled it to the bank, where the doves having settled upon it, and hatched it, out came Venus, who afterwards was called the Syrian Goddess-that is, Astarte. Hence, the egg became one of the symbols of Astarte or Easter.” (The Two Babylons, Alexander Hislop, page 109, quoting Hyginus’ Fabulae pp. 148, 149)
The Sacred Egg of Heliopolis looks like nothing so much as a minaret, and the crescent at its peak like nothing so much as a representation of the crescent Venus.
The most important gods and goddesses of all Western polytheistic religions merge upon examination into only two, one male and one female. The male god represents the sun, and the female the planet Venus. She takes many forms: the Assyrian Ishtar, the Phoenician Astarte, the Syrian Atargatis (Dereto), the Egyptian Isis, the Babylonian Belit (Mylitta), the Arabian Ilat (Al-ilat), the Greek Aphrodite, the Roman Diana and the Roman Catholic Mary. It becomes plain that all the female manifestations of the deity-the horns of bulls and cows as attributes of Isis and Ishtar; the bull-dancing of Minoa; Diana and Artemis wearing a crescent on their brows; Mary Queen of Heaven standing on what appears to be the crescent Venus.
The crescent and star of Islamic nations may also be based on the planet Venus rather than the Moon.
It is remembered that before the Prophet Mohammed (570ad) the Islamic peoples were polytheistic. Just as one goddess absorbs, is absorbed by or changes into another, taking over her epithets and attributes whole-hog as cultures collide-cow’s horns and crescent planets become one; rising stars turn into Ocean goddesses washed up by the sea in enormous eggs, tended by midwife doves to burst upon a wondering world as a paradigm of love-so do basic symbols change mistresses while retaining their basic natures. The ancient ankh-symbol of life, womankind and the planet Venus-becomes the Christian cross; the headdress of the Great Mother hides in plain sight on the flags of Islam.