The Mythology of the Daffodil

   

AshtorethPart II.
Bazlith the Supernal Bride;
aka, The Isaiah Rose

"Who comes into this country, & has come
Where golden crocus & narcissus bloom,
Where the Great Mother, mourning for her daughter
And beauty-drunken by the water."

-William Butler Yeats
(1865-1939)

Sometimes identified with "Isaiah's Rose," Narcissus tazetta is the flower called ha'bazzeleth, & praised by the prophet Isaiah. Although ha'bazzeleth, is typically translated either "rose" or "crocus," & the extrabiblical expansions often regard actual roses or a hibicus which has irrevocably acquired its own Mythology of the Rose of Sharon, comparative semitic language studies indicate Ha'Bazzelleth was in actuality a bulbous plant & not a rose or a hibiscus.

Isaiah 35 opens in regard to N. tazetta, "The desert shall rejoice, & blossom as the chabhatstseleth. It shall blossom abundantly & rejoice with joy & singing." The Daffodil itself rejoices & sings because it is being personified as a Temple dancer, if not an sacred harlot, thrilled to meet Her king.

Ha'bazzeleth or Tazetta daffodil is again alluded to early in the Song of Songs as an emblem of Solomon's queen, though really as a symbol of the fertility & beauty of the Mother Goddess. In Hebrew this is a distinctively feminine name, Ha'bazlith, meaning "She is Pealing," or she has many layers. She has layers of subtlty, charm, beauty, & intelligence; but like Inanna & Salome, the "pealing" is acted out as a Dance of the Seven Veils, Ha'bazlith or Bazlith dancing erotically & pealing away layer upon layer of garments. The layers are furthermore consecutive layers of Heaven, Earth, & Underworld, besides alluding simply & literally to the layers of an onion-like flower bulb.

When Solomon's bride, the personification of Wisdom, says that she is "the Rose of Sharon" (which is to say, she is a daffodil), she is naming herself Bazlith, the Layered One. The children of Bazlith became Temple slaves [Nehemiah 7:54; Ezra 2:52]. Their ancestress was probably a foreign wife of Solomon whose children entered Temple service; or she was a war captive; or she was one of Hiram-abi's daughters, the Temple architect who gave one of his daughters to Solomon as wife.

Bazlith & her children were originally attached to Solomon's Ashtoreth Temple, not to Yahweh's temple, for during Solomon's reign, no proselytes were permitted [b. Yebamoth 24b], which explains why all of Solomon's wives retained their foreign faiths & possessed their own Temple & hilltop cults. As there were priestesses in the Temple era who were permitted to bare children [b. Temurah 8a], Bazlith may have been a high priestess of the Ashtoreth Temple, & bore children to Solomon. At first they were not slaves; but Bazlith's descendants were transferred to Yahweh's service when the Sidonian temple of Solomon's wives was finally abandoned during the reign of King Josiah [2 Ki 23:13].

Bazlith the Daffodil is sometimes rendered Basaloth or Batsalit or Baaloth, which is the same as Belit aka Astarte, & the same as the Great Lady of Babylon, Belit-ili aka Zarpanitu, who is in turn the same as the Zidonian Astarte or Ashtoreth worshipped by Solomon [1 Ki 11:5], & earlier by the Jews of the Temple in Bethel as Anath the bride of Yahweh. Such Jewish towns as Anathoth & Baaloth were in fact named for Anath/Astarte/Belit.

Many so-called "Astarte plaques" recovered from the lands of the Patriarchs show this Mother Goddess either holding blossoming flowers at her sides, or with longstemmed flowers framing the edges of these images. The unfolding of yellow crocuses, yellow lotus, yellow daffodils seem in general to be emblematic of the dawn, & of spiritual & intellectual awakenings, which is why Wisdom is so often personified as the Supernal Bride, or as a woman who dwells in a temple with seven pillars [Pr 3:19-20; 8:23-31-9:1; Jr 10:12; 51:15; Wisdom of Solomon 1:1-8:4]. Judging from actual temple pillars discovered at Near Eastern archeological sites, with flowers at their tops, such opened flowers seem really to have been intended in invoke feelings of spiritual enlightenment.

There are today two ways of looking at the fact that Jews worshipped a Mother Goddess or Goddesses such as Anath, Asherah, or Ashtoreth. Commonly this is said to have been an afront to God & the reason that Israel fell into captivity. But others suppose that the aspect of God closest to humanity is indeed the motherly component, the Divine Presence called Matrona, Malkhuth, or the Shekhinah; & the reason Solomon's era was a Golden Age was because he was Her beloved.

These two "takes" on Solomon's (& all Israel's) worship of the Mother are not as contradictory as they at first appear. By the fact of Her dwelling near ourselves in the material realm, the Shekhinah is easily polluted by our sinfulness born of free will, & then the Shekhinah becomes the menstruant woman, Lilith. When Lilith or Dame Folly is the Bride, things bode ill for humanity; when the Divine Shekhinah is the Bride, all things are in balance & we live in accord with all things. So this motherly aspect of God that is nearest to us, who is most accessible to us, most loving & forgiving & tender toward us, has in fact two aspects. She is our Wise Mother, or she is the Harlot. She can either doom us, or bring us salvation, depending on our own merits & perceptions. This is ultimately not so different from the most ancient notions of the Goddess as ruler of Life & of Death, of Health & of Illness.

Solomon's harem as shiddah weshiddoth is normally translated "women very many" [Eccl 2:8; 1 Ki 11:1]. However, in midrash they are not ordinary women, but are demonesses. Hence shiddah weshiddoth indicates the archdemoness Shida (feminine of shad, demon) together with the shiddoth, "daughters of Shida" [b. Yoma 75a; b. Gittin 68b; Midrash Tehillim 78:12]. Solomon's foreign wives are therefore understood to have been "demonesses very many," such as tended the fire of Solomon's bath [Numbers Rabbah 11:3], & whom Solomon initially ensnared to help him build the Temple, which is the primary subject of the Testament of Solomon. But being demonic, these skillful demonesses turned Solomon's heart away from Yahweh [1 Ki 11:3-4; compare Dt 2:4; 17:17].

The Hebrew word for "daughters," banoth, can be read bonoth, "builders." By this pun, we find that "Solomon's daughters & Hiram's daughters" were the builders of the Temple [1 Kings 5:18]. There are many midrashim (or elaborating myths) founded upon this pun, such as the tales of Solomon capturing demonesses to help him build the Temple, which could not be built by any mortal means.

Over time Solomon became fearful of his "demonesses very many" who became his wives. He was eventually so fearful he could not get out of his bed [Song 3:7-8; Song Rabbah 1.l.10]. Having given his body over to these demonesses, he become their slave [Sirach 47:19; Pesikta Rabbati 25:3; Zohar 1:53b; Exodus Rabbah 30:16]. At first, he ruled over them with the aid of angels [b. Megillah 11b; Josephus Antiquities VIII.2:5], but by his own transgressions the angels no longer helped him.

According to the Apostolic father Tatian, citing a Phoenician history of the Jews, Chiramus (Hiram) of Phoenicia gave one of these daughters to Solomon as wife, at the time when Hiram-abi came to Jerusalem for the building of the Temple. Clement of Alexandra [Stromata 1:21] & Theophilus as quoted by Eusebius in his Evangelical History, were also aware that Hiram, the Temple architect, gave a daughter to Solomon as bride. This was the Bride that called herself a "Daffodil of Sharon." She was exceedingly beautiful, but also like a raging Anath, this daffodil-maiden was a warlike goddess who dances between two armies [Song 6:13].

If Queen Daffodil the bride of Solomon was indeed Sidonian, she was very likely of the same royal house that later produced King Ethbaal of Sidon & his famous daughter Jezebel [Dt 16:31], so that Jezebel had older claims upon Israel than simply through her marriage to King Ahab! And the demonic propensity of Solomon's foreign wives became famously Jezebel's propensity as well. From their own points of view, of course, these women were never demonic; they were merely faithful to the Mother Goddess, or Bazlith was herself a reflex of Anath or Asherah or Belit-ili. These figures were demonized in yahwist mythology even though ultimately, like Yahweh himself, these women were simultaneously warlike & peaceful. If they were sometimes demonesses, then elsetimes they were divine. The parallel mythology of the "Rose of Sharon" identifies it with the Divine Shekhinah, which is outlined in the separate article about the Goddess of the Rose of Sharon & the Lily of the Valley, she that had rule of Life (Rose) & of Death (Lily).

The demonic & deathly associations of the daffodil was by no means unique to Semitic myth, for Solomon's Daffodil bride was very much like Persephone, black as the tents of Kedar, but beautiful. When Socrates declared narcissi to be "chaplets of the infernal gods," it was because of its narcotic properties, & because of its association in particular with Persephone.

Persephone's garden in the land of the dead consisted of a meadow full of asphodelus, or in Latin texts, Prosperine's meadow was aglow with affodilus. When Persephone still dwelt upon the earth, Hades caused one of these underworld daffodils to poke up into the living world, where it functioned as a snare for Persephone. Daffodils long after symbolized imminent death, since it was the last thing Persephone saw before taken into the underworld. To this day daffodils bow their heads in shame of their role in Hades' plan, & in a sympathetic grief with Demeter.

See also:
The Mythology of the Daffodil Part I:
Narcissus the Demi-god, with Echo, His Soul


& see related myths attached to a hibiscus:
A Meditation upon the Mythology of the Rose of Sharon

   



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