In The Desert Of Seth

By G. B. Marian

Ishtar and the “Whore of Babylon”

Illustration of “the Whore of Babylon” from Bible Readings For The Home

1999 might have been the year that Ishtar and I first met on a personal basis, but the truth is that I had actually heard of Her before. Not by name, of course, but by Her bastardized form in the Christian Bible: the infamous “Whore of Babylon” who appears in the book of Revelation:

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits by many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.”

Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. The name written on her forehead was a mystery:

Babylon the great

The mother of prostitutes

And of the abominations of the earth.

I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.

– Revelation 17:1-6

Many Christians interpret the Whore of Babylon as a symbol for either (1) corruption within Christianity itself or (2) a global “one world religion” that will emerge in the future and that will somehow combine every religion into itself (except for biblical Christianity). There are also preterist Christians who interpret the Whore as a dysphemism for the Roman Empire, which was the “Babylon” of its time. (This, in turn, refers to early Christian identification with the oppression of Jews during the Babylonian Captivity.) According to the preterists, Rome was a “whore” because it tolerated pretty much any kind of spirituality except for that of Christianity when the book of Revelation was written. (This isn’t exactly true; Rome also persecuted several mystery cults of foreign import for a while, including the Hellenized mysteries of Isis.) I guess the short version is that the Whore is basically a symbol for when Christians feel oppressed by secular society. Even the United States (or even the Statue of Liberty in some cases) have been identified with the Whore, since many fundamentalist Christians feel that American society is becoming increasingly secular and hostile toward any faith that claims to be “the one true way.”

Of course, none of this really has anything to do with Ishtar Herself – except for the fact that the image of the Whore of Babylon is very clearly based on Her. What other image of a Babylonian “prostitute” riding a feline beast and getting drunk on people’s blood can you think of?

There is one thing about the Whore of Babylon that I find consistent with the real Lady Ishtar, and that’s the idea that She supports secularism and religious tolerance. I would think that all polytheist Deities probably do, and in today’s world especially. Polytheism lends itself very well to secular democracy, in which government must simultaneously protect all religions and prevent any of them from writing themselves into civil law. Those that do wish to write themselves into law – and let’s be frank; it’s usually Abrahamic monotheists of some kind – find secular democracy terrifying (precisely because it allows polytheism and other -theisms they don’t like to thrive!). But for some reason, early Christians latched on to Ishtar’s symbols in particular while creating the Whore. This is most likely due to the Old Testament’s intense hatred for Ishtar and Her priestesses, whose rite of “sacred marriage” became identified with “spiritual adultery” (i.e., polytheism) in general. So while all polytheist Deities may be supportive of secular democracy, I feel that Ishtar has taken a special interest in the subject due to being made into a “mascot” for secularism.

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3 responses to “Ishtar and the “Whore of Babylon”

  1. Leeby Geeby July 27, 2015 at 1:49 am

    It’s always really interesting and refreshing to hear of a very personal take on people’s experiences with deity. Many thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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