The ancient Jews were polytheistic Nature worshippers who saw their highest Goddess in the form of a tree, the Flowering Almond. Almond trees give of themselves in many ways, providing nourishment in their fruits and fragile pink blossoms to herald the early spring. In their delicate beauty the ancients saw the qualities of the Goddess, blessing Her people with sustenance and grace.
At that time Yahweh was one of several male deities including Baal, El, and Hadad. The Goddess was known as Ashera, Anash or Qedesh. The Ashera (Goddess, Tree, Pillar) was also known as Elah, the feminine aspect of El. The Elah would be set up on a high place, an artificial platform or altar or on a hill if at all possible. In desert areas where trees would not grow a pillar was erected with a bust or face of the Goddess placed on top. So important was the flowering tree in the minds of the people that when the Yahwist High Temple religion took over, the memory of the Ashera was kept holy. Ancient Biblical scripture specified that the Menorah, the candelabrum of the time of the Winter Solstice and the darkest moon of the year, must look like a Flowering Almond tree with buds on its branches. A chief cult of the Temple of Yahweh lit its Menorah on all-important occasions. As it was forbidden to depict or even to name Yahweh in any physical form, so it was forbidden to depict the Menorah, symbol of the Deity in female aspect. Thus the earliest images come to us from Roman times when the conquering Latins carved a Menorah onto a triumphal arch. In modern times the Menorah is lit during the dark of the moon in the darkest season of winter.
Ellen Evert Hopman is a Druid Priestess, herbalist and author of “Priestess of the Forest: A Druid Journey”, “A Druids Herbal – Of Sacred Tree Medicine”, “Walking the World in Wonder – A Children’s Herbal” and other volumes.