Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Martyrdom of Saint Afra

In the late 3rd century, Afra's pagan family journeyed from Cyprus to Augsburg. She was dedicated to the service of the goddess Venus, by her mother, Hilaria.

She was originally a prostitute in Augsburg, and is reputed either to have run a brothel in that town or worked as a hierodule in the Temple of Venus

As the persecution of Christians during the reign of Roman Emperor Diocletian began, Bishop Narcissus of Girona (in Spain) sought refuge in Augsburg and lodged with Afra and her mother, Hilaria. Through his teachings, Bishop Narcissus converted Afra and her family to Christianity.

 "The Baptism of Saint Afra" oil on Canvas. (after) Jacopo Bassano (Jacopo Da Ponte)

She continued to hide the bishop from the authorities. When it was learned that Afra was a Christian, she was brought before Diocletian and ordered to give glory to the pagan idols. She refused, and was condemned to death by fire on a small island in the Lech River,

The Martyrdom of Saint Afra,  Paolo Veronese (Caliari)

Saint Afra, by the Master of Messkirch, c. 1535-1540

Her remains were buried at a distance from the place of her martyrdom. Her mother and her maids (viz., Ligna, Eunonia, and Eutropia) later suffered the same fate, for interring her in a burial vault.

Saint Afra

Friedrichshafen, Pfarrkirche St. Petrus Canisius, Altarbild aus Kloster Löwental
Detail: Hl. Afra

The three Augsburg city's patron saint St. Simpert, St. Urlich, St. Afra... 1516, Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum

Tomb of Saint Afra in Augsburg

The abbey of Saint Ulrich and Saint Afra

Goddess Astarte

Astarte is the Greek name of the Assyrian, Akkadian, and Babylonian Semitic goddess Ishtar. Her symbols were the lion, the horse, the sphinx, the dove, and a star within a circle indicating the planet Venus. Pictorial representations often show her naked. She has also been known as the deified evening star.

She worshiped in the Phoenician city states of Sidon, Tyre, and Byblos; as well as Syria and Canaan, beginning in the first millennium BC. She came from the same Semitic origins as the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar. Her worship spread to Cyprus. Greeks in classical, Hellenistic, and Roman times occasionally equated Aphrodite with Astarte, in keeping with their frequent practice of synchronizing other deities with their own. Other faith centers were Cythera, Malta, and Eryx, in Sicily, from which she became known to the Romans as Venus.

Astarte arrived in Ancient Egypt during the 18th dynasty. She appeared as daughter of Ra, and are given in marriage to the god Set.

She was usually depicted full faced and naked, except for some ornamental jewelry. Astarte also appeared holding her breasts in her hands. Her thighs were rounded, which was considered to be extremely feminine in that particular culture, while her legs, from her knees down through her ankles to her feet, were pressed closely together.


Easter, the celebration of Jesus's resurrection, is the most sacred day of the Christian year. In ancient Babylon, around the spring solstice, people celebrated the resurrection of their god Tammuz, who was brought back from the underworld by his mother/wife Ishtar (pronounced “Easter” in most Semitic dialects). Flowers, painted eggs, and rabbits were the symbols of the holiday then, as now.

Edward Henry Corbould (1815-1905), "Astarte"

Inanna, another aspect of Ishtar, was a Goddess of Sensual and Sexual Love, and her followers practiced what has been referred to as “sacred prostitution.” Ishtar was also known as the Lady of Battles, and it was in this particular aspect that she sported a full beard, which fell all the way to her breasts. She rode in a chariot which was similar to Astarte’s and like Astate's, it was drawn by seven lions. Ishtar's symbols were the Moon, Venus, the eight-pointed star, a lion and a scorpion.

Nude With Purple Iris, 1919 by Charles Allen Winter (1869-1942)by Catherine La Rose

Salome: Dance of the 7 Veils is also thought to have originated with the myth of the fertility goddess Ishtar (Astarte) of Assyrian and Babylonian religion.

Astarte Syriaca - Rossetti, 1877

I AM BABYLON. I AM INNIN I AM INANNA I AM NANAEA I AM ISHTAR I AM ASTARTE. I AM the purest heart. The holiest place in existence is my sacred womb. Only love can reside there. Death is left below me; it is not permitted within me. For although I welcome and guide the dead I AM Mother of ALL life. I AM the cleanser. I AM the purifier. No unclean thoughts can pass through the gates to my temple, No loveless lust can enter into my presence

Eástre by Jacques Reich

In the bible, Ishtar is called Ashtoreth, the supreme goddess of Caanan and the female counterpart of the gods called Baal or Bel. "The immoral rites with which the worship of Ishtar in Babylonia was accompanied were transferred to Canaan and formed part of the idolatrous practices which the Israelites were called upon to extirpate," says Among those pagan, idolatrous practices was the burning of incense, thought to be cannabis (caneh bosm,meaning sweet or good cane, mistranslated as "calamus" in the bible).

More at: Wikipedia, Angelfire