Semitic neopaganism is a group of religions based on or attempting to reconstruct the ancient Semitic religions, mostly practiced among Jews in the United States.

Jewish neopaganism edit

The notion of historical Israelite or Jewish polytheism was popularized in the United States during the 1960s by Raphael Patai in The Hebrew Goddess, focusing on the cult of female goddesses such as the cult of Asherah in Solomon's Temple.[citation needed]

During the growth of Neopaganism in the United States throughout the 1970s, a number of minor Canaanite or Israelite oriented groups emerged. Most contained syncretistic elements from Western esotericism.[citation needed]

Forms of Neopagan witchcraft religions inspired by the Semitic milieu, such as Jewitchery, may also be enclosed within the Semitic neopagan movement. These groups are particularly influenced by Jewish feminism, focusing on the goddess cults of the Israelites.[1]

A notable contemporary Levantine Neopagan group is known as "Am Ha Aretz" (עם הארץ, lit. "People of the Land", a rabbinical term for uneducated and religiously unobservant Jews), "AmHA" for short, based in Israel. This group grew out of Ohavei Falcha, "Lovers of the Soil", a movement founded in the late 19th century.[2]

Elie Sheva, according to her own testimony an "elected leader of AmHA" reportedly founded an American branch of the group, known as the Primitive Hebrew Assembly.[3][4]

Beit Asherah ("House of Asherah") was one of the first Jewish neopagan groups, founded in the early 1990s by Stephanie Fox, Steven Posch, and Magenta Griffiths. Magenta Griffiths is High Priestess of the Beit Asherah coven, and a former board member of the Covenant of the Goddess.[5][6]

Semitic neopagan movements have also been reported in Israel[7] and in Lebanon.[8]

Kohenet movement and "Jewitches" edit

In 2006, rabbi Jill Hammer founded the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute, which has a stated mission to "reclaim and innovate embodied, earth-based feminist Judaism", inspired by pre-Israelite Semitic religion priestesses such as Enheduanna, who was a devotee of the goddess Inanna.[9] The word kohenet is the feminine declension of kohen, the priestly lineage in Jewish tradition. The ordination of "Hebrew priestesses" has led to some consternation in the Jewish community, with some feeling that the Kohenet movement is not solely Jewish, due to the presence of aspects of paganism that are incompatible with the Torah.[10][11] The syncretic aspects of this religious movement have been characterized as "goddess worship", though supporters say that the movement expresses a creative approach to problems posed by non-egalitarian streams of Judaism.[12] Similar organizations include the Lilith Institute (also known as Mishkan Shekhinah), an organization and community more overtly aligned with Wicca and other feminist/goddess-centered neo-pagan movements than the Kohenet Institute.[13] A related movement is "Jewitches" (sometimes styled as JeWitches), Jews – often but not exclusively women – who combine Jewish religious tradition and witchcraft, often including elements of Semitic neo-paganism.[14][15]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Jenny Kien, Reinstating the Divine Woman in Judaism (2000), ISBN 978-1-58112-763-8.
  2. ^ Jennifer Hunter, Magickal Judaism: Connecting Pagan and Jewish Practice. Citadel Press Books, Kensington Publishing Corp., New York, New York, 2006, pp. 18–19.
  3. ^ Interview with Elie in Being a Pagan: Druids, Wiccans, and Witches Today, by Ellen Evert Hopman and Lawrence Bond (2001), p. 105.
  4. ^ "Judeo-Paganism or Jewish Paganism". Witchvox. Archived from the original on February 23, 2009. Retrieved June 16, 2021.
  5. ^ Lewis, James R. (January 1, 1999). Witchcraft Today: An Encyclopedia of Wiccan and Neopagan Traditions. ABC-CLIO. p. 163. Retrieved December 8, 2016 – via Internet Archive. beit asherah.
  6. ^ "Covenant of the Goddess - Representing Witches and Wiccans since 1975". Retrieved December 8, 2016.
  7. ^ Ofri Ilani. Paganism returns to the Holy Land. Haaretz, 2009.
  8. ^ Naim, Hani (March 31, 2010). "الباطنيـون والوثنيـون فـي لبنـان: هـذه هـي معتقداتنـا". As-Safir. Retrieved January 9, 2019.
  9. ^ "Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute". Archived from the original on June 16, 2023. Retrieved June 18, 2023.
  10. ^ Silvers, Emma (July 11, 2013). "Kohenet institute says it helps women reclaim their role as priestesses". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  11. ^ Kustanowitz, Esther D/ (January 29, 2021). "'There's no one right way to kohenet': The Hebrew priestess movement aims to center women's voices". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  12. ^ Grenn, Deborah (2008). "Claiming the Title Kohenet: Examining Goddess Judaism and the Role of the Priestess Through Conversations with Contemporary Spiritual Leaders". Women in Judaism. 5 (2).
  13. ^ Grenn, D'vorah. "Welcome..." The Lilith Institute. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  14. ^ Greene, Heather (October 25, 2021). "How some 'Jewitches' are embracing both Judaism and witchcraft". Religion News Service. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  15. ^ Greene, Heather (March 9, 2014). "Paganism in Israel: where the modern meets the ancient". The Wild Hunt. Retrieved August 4, 2022.

Further reading edit

External links edit