TED BOND says:
I have just discovered that throughout the whole range of the
Indo-European language group, the words for star are cognate,
starting (!) with the Sanskrit 'star' (yes!). It is clear that
these words are also cognate with many of the names (Ishtar,
Astarte, Asherah, Ashteroth) of the goddess identified with the
planet Venus. The radiant Venus may have been at one time the
only star-shaped light visible in the sky, and the star-words may
be derived from the proper name rather than vice versa.
A most extraordinary thing however, is that the word 'disaster'
said to derive, via French from the Italian disastro derived in
turn from the Latin 'astrum', a star OR planet. But 'dis-' is a
Latin prefix signifying deviation. Is there no attestation for
a Latin 'disastrum' (deviating star or planet)? (The suggestion
here should be obvious.)
The Shorter Oxford Dictionary (based on the O.E.D.) does not
mention an Italian origin for the French, but goes directly from
the French to Latin 'astrum' and Greek 'astron'. In fact,
according to this dictionary, until 1669, 'disaster' had the
sense 'an obnoxious planet'!
ROGER WESCOTT jumps in:
Ted Bond rightly perceives a connection between Indo-European
nouns cognate with English "star" and Semitic names like Akkadian
Ishtar. Most historical linguists, adhering to conventional
chronology, either descry lexical coincidence here or derive the
I.E. from the Sem. forms. I am inclined, rather, to regard the
Sem. forms as borrowings from I.E., for 4 reasons: (1) these
forms are wide-spread in I.E. but not in Sem.; (2) revised
chronology no longer requires us to regard written Akkadian as
older than Hittite; (3) I.E., unlike Sem., permits an internal
etymology for "star", relating it to English "stare" and other
verbs expressing strength and persistence; and (4) Afrasian
language families related to Sem., such as Cushitic and Ancient
Egyptian, fail to exhibit forms with this shape and meaning (as
they should if the form were primarily Afrasian).
EV COCHRANE adds:
As a matter of fact, I was just researching this particular issue
this past month. According to Wilhelm Eilers' book on planet
names, there is no connection between the IE word "star" and the
Semitic words Ishtar/Astarte/etc. As is well-known, such a
derivation has been proposed on several occasions in this century
but has long since been abandoned. So far as I'm aware, there is
no agreed upon root for Ishtar/Astarte. According to Eilers and
the other authorities I've consulted, the English word "star" is
derived from the same root as "strewn", although I don't have the
root in front of me at the moment. Thus I would be most
interested to learn how Dr. Wescott relates "star" to the word
"stare" (which root?) and which Semitic root he would offer as a
source for Ishtar/Astarte.
All etymologies are probabilistic at best. Besides "strew", the
English forms most likely to be cognate with "star" are "strong"
and "steady", to either or both of which "stare" may be related.
It goes without saying, of course (but I'll go ahead and say it
just the same), that the Saturn theory would expect a relation
between early words for "star" and Venus, since Venus presented
the appearance of a giant star against the backdrop of Saturn.
In this sense, Venus was the original prototype for "star" and
could serve as the "star" par excellence in ancient nomenclature.
As I have documented elsewhere, in various languages—such as
Mayan and Polynesian—the word for "star" also means "Venus."
Thus I would love to see Dr. Wescott (or anyone else) prove that
the IE word "star" is cognate with Ishtar/Astarte.
DAVE TALBOTT adds:
Here is a personal opinion concerning S-T-R roots in the Indo-
European languages. Virtually ALL are related, but in many cases
the relationships will not be evident to the experts because
these experts remain unaware of the archetype around which entire
complexes of meanings arose. The source of the archetype was in
the sky, but it is not there now, and the experts have not even
suspected that a celestial reference might have existed—once—which could unify the picture completely.
So they search about "down here," wrestling with concepts that
cannot (on their own, in the absence of the celestial reference)
be reconciled. They do not believe that "cataSTRophe" has
anything to do with "STaR" because it is known that the former
derives from the Greek "STRrophe", meaning a turning or twisting
motion with specific references to the turning motions of dancers
in Greek choral odes. They cannot imagine any linkage between
this meaning and the root concept "STRength," to which the word
STaR does appear to be clearly related. Nor does the "turning"
motion of dancers suggest any connection to the concept "to
STaRe," with which the word STaR is also connected.
The Saturn theory, on the other hand, reconstructs an archetype
which can account for the full range of STR-meanings. The
subject is Venus and Mars in conjunction, together constituting
the Great Star, the prototypical star depicted in the center of
the archaic "sun" god (Saturn). The radiant STReams or STRahlen
[German "rays"] of this StaR are the life and "STRength" of the
sun. This star can be said to "STaRe" only because it is the sun
god's central eye.
When considering the origins of the word "catastrophe" and the
meaning of the Greek "strophe", it is inappropriate for the
experts to ignore the connection of sacred dances to celestial
phenomena, since all such ritual performances repeated critical
junctures in the lives of GODS. The turning, twisting motion
("strophe") of the prototypical star is legendary and is the
basis of the global connection of this star, Venus, to the simple
curl, spiral, and whorl.
And speaking of the turning motion of Venus, if cataSTRophe is in
fact connected to the same root as STaR, then so must the word
apoSTRophe, since it expresses the same Greek root. The expected
connection is definitely there. Aphrodite (Venus) was CALLED
Apostrophia. A loose counterpart would be the Latin Venus as
Verticordia—the turning or whirling heart.
Our apostrophe is a mark or STRoke made with a STRophe or turning
motion. Its form is virtually identical to the more elementary
forms of the ancient Sumerian Venus-sign. And of course it has
the same form as our COMMA which is surely linked to the
"cometary" COMA of the Great Star. The archetypal Great Star is
strictly synonymous with the archetypal Great Comet, But what is
unified at the level of archetypes is too easily fragmented with
the specialization and fragmentation of language in the ABSENCE
of the original celestial references.
To sort through the maze of modern words expressing the S-T-R
root I would STaRt :) with these most fundamental associations of
the Great Star:
1, It is the life, power, glory, strength, and majesty of the
archaic sun god: the god's central, radiant eye, heart, and soul.
In rites and symbols of kingship it will be represented as the
feminine "anima" of kings, the very force which Jung himself identified
with the goddess Venus. The radiant streamers of the central star, the
"Queen of heaven", ANIMATE the sun god. In the waxing and waning of
these streamers in the daily cycle, the ancient symbolists saw the
nuances of "life"-of being and non-being. I
cannot see how the Latin "exsiSTeRe" from which our word
"existence" is derived, could have its root in any concept other
than the "appearance" or "coming out" of the STaR
that was the life of the sun god. It also seems abundantly clear that
our word "is", Latin "est", Greek "esti", Sanskrit "asti" related to the
life-giving "presence" of the central star.
2. The definitive motion of Venus is represented pictographically
by the curl, spiral, and whorl. That is the motion to which to
the Greek STRophe must be referred. Hence, the STRophe cannot be
legitimately separated from the language of the Great Star.
3. The dominant activity of the Great Star includes scattering
and clearing. The explosion of radiating material is a STRewing
of luminous ejecta into surrounding space, but in the subsequent
clearing of the sky, the Great Star is the "broom" (comet)
sweeping away the clouds of chaos. The broom is a clump of STRaw,
German STRoh, an acknowledged hieroglyph for the COMET. (The
hieroglyphic twisted STRoh or STRaw of the "comet" will be the
STRahlen, or STReaming radiance.)
4. The coming into existence (Latin "exsiSTeRe") of the Great
Star is the first "activity" in the history of the gods. The
first form of "divinity" in Mesopotamia is the Sumerian sign of
An. It is the 8-pointed star, signifying the "life" and
"radiance" in the center of An. The "tears" shed by the central,
solitary "Eye" of Atum in the opening event of the Egyptian
creation legend will denote the same celestial form. The event
means (in the words of the Egyptians themselves) "the beginning
of coming into existence".) In calling this central star the
"GREAT star" we refer specifically to its role as the "first",
the primeval model, the prototype. Invariably, cosmic history
will STaRt with this effusion of radiant STReamers or STRahlen.
Most fundamentally, our word "STaRt" means the beginning of
motion or activity, and that is a core concept in the Great Star