Nanny Ashtoreth is Crowley’s agent sent to influence the upbringing of Warlock Dowling, whom Crowley and Aziraphale believe is the Antichrist. “She wore a knit tweed suit and discreet pearl earrings. Something about her might have said nanny, but it said it in an undertone of the sort employed by British butlers in a certain type of American film. It also coughed discreetly and muttered that she could well be the sort of nanny who advertises unspecified but strangely explicit services in certain magazines” (52). Nanny Ashtoreth is accompanied by a gray dog with scarlet eyes, named Rover. She introduces herself simply as “Nanny Ashtoreth,” so that she is missing either a given name or a surname.
In a reference to the 1976 movie The Omen, Nanny Ashtoreth comments that Warlock will “be wanting a little tricycle soon” (53). In The Omen, the young Antichrist, Damien, murders his own mother by pushing her over a second-floor railing while riding his tricycle.
Nanny Ashtoreth’s rival in influencing Warlock is Brother Francis, the gentle and kind gardener hired by the Dowlings on the same day that they hire Ashtoreth.
Nanny Ashtoreth sings Warlock twisted nursery rhymes, buys him a tricycle, and tells him that living things are only fit to be ground beneath his heels. But ultimately, she and Brother Francis reach a stalemate in their attempts to influence Warlock. Nanny Ashtoreth is unable to persuade Warlock to ride his tricycle inside the house, and Warlock is afraid of Rover.
When Warlock is six years old, both Nanny Ashtoreth and Brother Francis leave the Dowlings. They are replaced by Mr. Harrison and Mr. Cortese, a demonic and an angelic tutor, respectively.
“Ashtoreth” is the Hebrewized name given in the Old Testament to the supreme female Phoenician diety, Astarte. She was symbolic of the female principle (and her counterpart Baal represented the male principle). She was associated with fertility, the moon, and war. Babylonians and Assyrians knew her as Ishtar, and there is good evidence that she was absorbed into the Greek pantheon as Aphrodite. In Jewish mythology, however, Ashtoreth is often depicted as a demon of lust.
“Astarte.” Wikipedia. Accessed 12 Apr 2006. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashtoreth>.
“Ashtoreth.” Encyclodpedia Mythica. Accessed 12 Apr 2006. <http://www.pantheon.org/articles/a/ashtoreth.html>.
For further reading about Astarte/Ashtoreth:
“Ashtoreth, Queen of Heaven.” http://www.topical-bible-studies.org/37-0012.htm. A complete list of Biblical and other ancient and modern mentions of Ashtoreth/Astarte.
“Ashtoreth” at JewishEncyclopedia.com. [This article changes addresses quite frequently, so in order to find it, just visit www.jewishencyclopedia.com and search for “Ashtoreth”]. A very complete study tracing the ancient history of Ashtoreth.