I looked out the window before dawn. The Morning Star was bright above the black horizon, and it had something to say about light.
It said it was the light-bringer, which is why the Romans called it Lucifer, a name Christians also gave the Virgin Mary, because she bore a Son known as the Light of the World. “Morning Star,” she’s called in her Catholic litany.
The Morning Star, of course, is not a star, it’s the planet Venus, whose astrological symbol is the five-pointed star or pentagram often linked to a fallen angel christened Lucifer. The pagan divinity link has a history: Venus is a later appellation of Ishtar (ish-star), the goddess of love for whom the Babylonians named the planet, and whom the Phoenicians called Astarte (a-star-te). The Hebrews called this goddess Eve, mother of humanity. The Christians called her Mary, mother of God.
Eve was tempted by the Serpent to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. God had forbidden that; knowledge belonged to Him alone. Knowledge was enlightenment; it was light. Eve, in alliance with the Serpent, was the light-bringer. She was the first woman; the Hebrew word for woman derives from the word for fire. She was the same transgressor the Greeks called the Titan Prometheus, who was punished for bringing fire/light to mankind, the race he had created from clay.
December 8 marks the Catholic Feast of the Immaculate Conception, instituted in 1476 by Pope Sixtus IV to commemorate Mary’s special status as the first human being since the Creation to be conceived without the stain of original sin -- the sin, that is, of Eve.
The church of my youth has taken so much trouble to dress Mary up in fresh ways. But if it wants a complete makeover, it should stop designating her post-Ascension home as Ephesus, city of Astarte. And stop posing her with a crescent moon, symbol of fertility. And stop calling her “Morning Star.”
ABOVE: DO YOU PREFER YOUR STARLIGHT GODDESS WITH CRESCENT MOON ON HEAD OR UNDER FEET? NAKED OR CLOTHED? PAGAN OR CHRISTIAN?