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The Bane of Casual Irreverence

By Galina Krasskova

Last night in one of my classes, two students were giving a joint presentation on what they called “the figure known as Asherah, Anat, Ishtar, and Aphrodite.” Obviously right away, a polytheist is going to have trouble with the compression of these Deities into one cross-cultural, trans-national figure. It’s dismissive and disrespectful but that is actually not what bothered me, or at least not what bothered me the most. (Given the class parameters, and the academic articles we’ve been reading in kind, I didn’t expect anything else). What irked me, like a lash across the back, was the casual disrespect with which these women discussed these Goddesses, all powerful, mighty, fierce Beings.

Each time one of the women presenting talked about the anger and fury of Ishtar, for instance, she would describe it (and I mean no disrespect here to Ishtar), as Ishtar ‘being whiny and having a temper tantrum.’ The language was tremendously dismissive and disrespectful (though whether it was because they were female Deities or because they were Pagan Deities, I don’t know). The women presenting didn’t give any thought at all to that disrespect. It was completely unthinking and casual. I cringed every time one of our Goddesses was described as ’emotional’ or “petty’ or ‘whiny’ or ‘vain.’ I felt unclean, as though I had taken in miasma through my ears.

I really couldn’t suss out whether these Goddesses were being dismissed because of Their gender or not. It was disheartening to see Anat, who defeated and slaughtered Death himself to save Her brother Ba’al, being dismissed as having had a temper tantrum. Would a male God have been dismissed so easily? Would Jesus or Yahweh?

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