It says in Deuteronomy, ‘”You shall not plant for yourselves an asherah or any kind of tree beside the altar of the Lord thy God which (asher) you shall make for yourselves.” Are we to suppose that anywhere else it is permitted [to plant an Asherah]? [Of course not!] The truth is that the "hei" [the letter of God’s name that represents the feminine Divine] is called Asherah, after the name of its spouse, Asher, and the meaning of the verse is therefore: “You shall not plant another Asherah by the side of the altar which is established upon this[Asherah].” Observe that throughout the Scriptures the worshippers of the sun are called servants of Baal and the worshippers of the moon servants of Asherah; hence the combination “to Baal and Asherah.” If this is so (that Asherah is the name of the feminine aspect of God), why is it not used as a sacred name? The reason is that this name brings to mind the words of Leah, “happy am I, for the daughters will call me happy (ishruni),” but this one is not “called happy” by other nations, and another nation is set up in its place. It is written, “all that honored her despise her” (Lam. 1:8). But the real altar is one that is made of earth, as it is written, “An altar of earth you shall make for me.” That is why it says in Genesis, “dust from the earth.”
כְּתִיב, (דברים טז) לֹא תִטַּע לְךָ אֲשֵׁרָה כָּל עֵץ אֵצֶל מִזְבַּח יְיָ אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשֶׂה לָּךְ. אֵצֶל מִזְבַּח, וְכִי לְעֵילָא מִנֵּיהּ אוֹ בְּאֲתַר אָחֳרָא מָאן שַׁרְיָיה. אֶלָּא הָא אוֹקִימְנָא (קפ''ב ע''ב) אֲשֶׁר דָּא בַּעֲלָהּ דְּאִתְּתָא (ד''א ה''א) אִתְקְרִיאַת עַל שׁוּם בַּעֲלָהּ אֲשֵׁרָה. (נ''א הה הם אשר ה''א) וְעַל דָּא כְּתִיב, (מלכים ב כג) לַבַּעַל וְלָאֲשֵׁרָה. בְּגִין כָּךְ כְּתִיב לא תִטַּע לְךָ אֲשֵׁרָה כָּל עֵץ אֵצֶל מִזְבַּח יְיָ אֱלקֶיךָ. לָקֳבֵל (נ''א אשרה) אֲתַר דְּהַהוּא מִזְבַּח יְיָ, דְּהָא מִזְבַּח יְיָ אִיהוּ קָיְימָא עַל דָּא, וְעַל דָּא לָקֳבְלָה לֹא תִטַּע לְךָ אֲשֵׁרָה אָחֳרָא.
Rabbi Jill Hammer, "An Altar of Earth: Reflections on Jews, Goddesses and the Zohar"
The Zohar does not choose to say that the goddess Asherah is evil or false and that worshipping her is a theological mistake. Rather, it says that the theological mistake would be to assume that Asherah (the tree) is separate from Shekhinah (the altar), when in fact they are one. The Zohar seems to be saying that the object used to worship God (i.e. the altar) must be single rather than multiple, just as all the faces of the feminine and masculine Divine are ultimately unified....
The Zohar concludes with a brief moment of panentheism. The altar must be made of earth, the Torah says. The Zohar comments: the real altar (that is, the real Shekhinah) is made of earth. Therefore Genesis says: dust from the earth. Humans are made of the dust of the earth that is Shekhinah. Their physical substance as well as their spirit is made of Shekhinah-stuff. That’s a mother-earth image if there ever was one.
The Zohar does often get accused of near-paganism. In this passage, more than any other I have seen, I feel the Zohar tips its hand. The Zohar knows that paganism is forbidden. The Zohar also knows, as it reveals in this passage, that its mystical impulse to explore multiple simultaneous God-images, gendered deity, panentheism, and embodied divinity is a pagan impulse-perhaps a holy, ultimately God-centered pagan impulse, but a pagan impulse nevertheless. Yet instead of running away from the mythologized, pagan-like aspects of its vision, the Zohar betrays a discomfort with the complete condemnation of goddess worship. It’s the condemnation, not the paganism, that is rejected.
The Zohar believes that oneness underlies all things, even pagan goddesses. Yet the mystic of the time knows the Jews cannot recognize this. So, the Zohar says, in the world to come, we will be allowed to call the Shekhinah by Her name -Asherah. Then, She will be one and Her name will be one.