"Goddess" Introduction and History
re-emergence of the Goddess seems to coincide with the women's movement.
The characteristics of the Goddess movement seem to be the recognition of the "female" aspect of the Divine as equal to the "male", knowledge that the Divine also resides in each person, respect for the earth as a symbol of the "Mother",
acknowledgement/acceptance of the cycles of life and its seasons, heavy use of ritual and symbolism in worship, and prayer or meditation in daily life.
Authors like Cynthia Eller and Samatha J. River agree that many people are first exposed to Goddess Religion through Women's Studies, Psychology, Art or Feminist fiction. The items in this first section examine the Goddess from one of these perspectives.
In Neo-pagan Witchcraft the Goddess is the very essence or central figure of the Craft and worship. She is the Great Mother, representing the fertility which brings forth all life; as Mother Nature she is the living biosphere of both the planets and the forces of the elements; she has roles of both creator and destroyer; she is the Queen of Heaven; and she is the moon. She possesses magical powers and is emotion, intuition and psychic faculty.
The Divine Force within the Goddess is believed to be genderless, but within the universe it is manifested as male and female principles. Often within the worship of the Divine Force the Goddess, or the female principle, is emphasized to the exclusion of the horned god, or the male principle. But, theoretically both are recognized.
The Goddess has many facets, names and aspects. Although in witchcraft and Neo-paganism she is mainly worshiped in her aspects of the triple Goddess: Maiden, Mother and Crone.
"Goddess" worship dates back to Paleolithic times. Many anthropologists speculate the first "God " or gods of the peoples were feminine. This coincides with ancient creation myths and beliefs that creation was achieved through self-fertilization. Within the concept of creation the participation of the male principle was not known or recognized yet. The Goddess was believed to have created the universe by herself alone.
From this belief came the agricultural religions. It was thought that the gods only prospered by the beneficence and wisdom which the Goddess showered on them. Evidence appears to indicate most ancient tribes and cultures were matriarchal.
Although this maybe true, there seems to be little evidence that the feminine portions of these societies held themselves superior over their male counterparts. Generally Goddess worship had been balanced by the honoring of both the male and female Deities. This is illustrated by the belief in and the observance of the sacred marriage of the Sky God and Earth Mother in many global societies.
Among the first human images discovered are the "Venus figures," nude female figures having exaggerated sexual parts that date back to the Cro-Magnons of the Upper Paleolithic period between 35,000 and 10,000 BC.
In southern France is the Venus of Laussel which is carved in basrelief in a rock shelter. This appears once to have been a hunting shrine which dates to around 19,000 BC. In this carving the woman is painted red, perhaps to suggest blood, and holds a bison horn in one hand.
Also in Cro-Magnon cave paintings women are depicted giving birth. "A naked Goddess appears to have been the patroness of the hunt to mammoth hunters in the Pyrenees and was also protectress of the hearth and lady of the wild things."
Other female figurines were discovered dating back to the proto-Neolithic period of ca, 9000 - 7000 BC, the Middle Neolithic period of ca. 6000 - 5000 BC, and the Higher Neolithic period of ca. 4500 - 3500 BC. Some of these figurines were decorated as if they had been objects of worship. In black Africa were discovered cave images of the Horned Goddess (later Isis, ca. 7000 - 6000 BC). The Black Goddess images appeared to represent a bisexual, self-fertilizing woman.
During the predynastic Egyptian period, prior to 3110 BC, the Goddess was known as Ta-Urt (Great One) and was portrayed as a pregnant hippopotamus stand on her hind legs.
The Halaf culture around the Tigris River, ca. 5000 - 4000 BC, had Goddess figurines associated with the cow, serpent, humped ox, sheep, goat, pig, bull, dove and double ax. These things were known to the people and became symbols representing the Goddess.
In the Sumerian civilization, ca. 4000 BC, the princesses or queens of cities were associated with the Goddess. A king was associated with God.
Throughout the eons of history the Goddess assumed many aspects. She was seen as the creatress, virgin, mother, destroyer, warrior, huntress, homemaker, wife, artist, jurist, healer and sorcerer. Her roles or abilities increased with the advancement of the cultures which worshipped her.
She could represent a queen with a consort, or lover. She might bear a son who died young or was sacrificed only to rise again representing the annual birth-death-rebirth cycle of the seasons.
Throughout the centuries the Goddess has acquired a thousand names and a thousand faces but most always she has represented nature, she is associated with both the sun and moon, the earth and the shy. The Goddess religion, usually in all forms, is a nature religion. Those worshipping the Goddess worship or care for nature too.
It might be acknowledged that author Barbara G. Walker made two comments concerning the thousand names of the Goddess. The first is that "Every female divinity in the present Encyclopedia may be correctly regarded as only another aspect of the core concept of a female Supreme Being." The author's other comment is, "If such a system had been applied to the usual concept of God, (giving him the different names and titles which people throughout the centuries have attributed to him), there would now be a multitude of separate 'gods' with names like Almighty, Yahweh, Lord, Holy Ghost, Sun of Righteousness, Christ, Creator, Lawgiver, Jehovah, Providence, Allah, Savior, Redeemer, Paraclete, Heavenly Father, and so on, ad infinitum, each one assigned to a particular function in the world pantheon."
Both comments may be considered correct when it is recognized that humankind is only able to speak of God, the Supreme Being and the gods in anthropomorphic terms. As it has been noted elsewhere, the human mind is unable to comprehend any godhead without the aid of anthropomorphism. But, many people such as Simon Mangus have gotten themselves in serious trouble when calling God by another name. The early Church Father Hippolytus condemned Simon for referring to God as the Infinite Force.
The beginning of the Hebrew religion with its God Yahweh is said to have marked the end of the Goddess' Golden Age. Approximately this was between 1800 - 1500 BC when the prophet Abraham lived in Canaan.
The Christian Church, and especially the Roman Catholic Church, has fought hard to suppress or root out all Goddess worship. The Goddess along with all pagan deities were labeled as evil. But, little proof has been offered for this. One notable example is the Canon Episcopi.
Even though the Church attempted to completely abolish Goddess worship it never successfully did so. Remanents of it remained within the hearts of the people. An example of such devotion is seen within the actions of the people during the Church Council of Ephesus (432 AD). Until Christianized Ephesus had been a sacred city where the Divine Mother was worshiped by "all Asia and the world" (Acts 19:27). Also in this city of Ephesus, as elsewhere, she was called Mother of Animals. "Her most famous Ephesus image had a torso covered with breasts, showing her ability to nurture the whole world." During this council of bishops people rioted in the streets demanding the worshipping of the Goddess be restored. The prime candidate was Mary, the Virgin and Mother of Christ. The bishops conceded so far in allowing Mary to be called the Mother of God, but the forbade her to be called Mother Goddess or Goddess.
To the very present many, both Catholics and especially Protestants, wonder why Catholics have a great devotion toward the Virgin Mary. Few know the occurrences at Ephesus, and that this devotion is probably the long surviving remnant of their early ancestors' devotion to the Goddess.
"Whenever you have need of anything, once in the month, and better it be when the moon is full, you shall assemble in some secret space and adore the spirit of Me who is Queen of All the Witches. There shall you assemble, you who are fain to learn all sorcery, yet have not won its deepest secrets. To you will I teach things that are yet unknown. You shall be free from slavery, and as a sign that you are truly free you may be naked in your rites. You shall dance, sing, feast, make music and love, all in My praise. For Mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and Mine also is joy on earth. My law is love unto all beings. Keep pure your highest ideal, strive ever towards it; let nothing stop you or turn you aside. I am the gracious Goddess, who gives the gift of joy unto the heart of man. Mine is the secret door that opens upon the land of youth, and Mine is the cup of the wine of life, and the Cauldron of Cerridwen, which is the holy grail of immortality. Upon earth I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal; and beyond death I give peace and freedom and reunion with those that have gone before, until once again the wheel of birth, death and rebirth spins. Nor do I demand aught of sacrifice, for behold, I am the Mother of All Things and My love is poured out upon the earth."
Hear the words of the Star Goddess, the dust of Whose feet are the hosts of heaven, Whose body encircles the universe:
"I, Who is the beauty of the green earth and the white moon among the stars and the mysteries of the waters, I call upon your soul to arise and come unto Me. For I am the soul of nature that gives life to the universe. From Me all things proceed and unto Me all things must return. Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold - all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals. Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honour and humility, mirth and reverence within you. And you who seek to know Me, know that your seeking and yearning shall avail you not unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without. For behold, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.
Once and Future Goddess: A Symbol for Our Time: By Elinor W. Gadon
Elinor Gadon reaffirms the notion that the Goddess religion was and still is an earth-centered, body-affirming, holistic religion in this study of ancient Goddess cultures. Gadon believes these ancient goddess-centered cultures to have been peaceful, woman-centered and egalitarian. As a result of a paradigm shift, Goddess worship was devalued and its dark side demonized. She traces Goddess worship through art forms, from pre-historic times through Christian incarnations and finally, re-emerging in the twentieth century. Much more readable than some other texts, this is a beautiful volume that includes many black and white and color photographs.
The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth: By Monica Sjoo
This often quoted source traces "women's" religion from pre-historic times to present day. Historical events are interpreted from a feminist point of view, Sjoo's style is very readable, compared to other similar texts. What distinguishes this book is that the modern symbols in Goddess worship are traced back to their ancient origins, linking that past to the vestiges used in modern worship. Sjoo, like many, see the re-emergence of the Goddess as a sign of hope for the future of mankind.
When God was a Woman: By Merlin Stone
This is quoted in many other sources on Goddess worship, and it has become recognized as a landmark work in the field. Stone, a sculptor and art historian, pieces together a portrait of matriarchal society based on archaeological evidence in texts that have been recovered. Stone states in this book that history was rewritten to favor the emerging patriarchal cultures. Her most startling argument is that the story of Adam and Eve was a Levite attack on the Summarian and Assyrian Goddess worship. A fascinating argument. The book contains maps, a timetable, and black and white photographs. Stone also authored Ancient Mirrors of Womanhood: A Treasury of Goddess & Heroine Lore From Around the World.
Eisler, Riane. The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future: By Riane Eisler
In this work, Eisler attempts to show how civilization changed from one that worshipped creative life forces to one that worships those that destroy. Using the symbols of the "chalice" for the life sustaining paradigm and the "blade" for the emerging paradigm of domination, Eisler traces the development of civilization from the Neolithic period to today. Like Whitmont, she senses a change in modern civilization toward a more life-affirming society. Unlike Whitmont, she does not see the social pendulum swinging back towards matriarchy. Eisler predicts a synthesis of the "chalice" values with the advances humankind has made. She calls this the "gylanic" world, in which civilization moves from a dominator hierarchy to and actualization hierarchy.
Goddess Names and Meanings
(Greek)Her name means "Laughter loving", Goddess of passionate,
sexual love. Goddess of beauty. She was the daughter of Zeus and Dione.
Aradia: (Italian) Queen of witches Daughter of Diana.
A protectress of witches in general, a very powerful entity.
Artemis: (Greek) Daughter of Zeus and Leto. Goddess of the Moon.
The huntress. The deity of wild places, groves and ponds.
Athena: (Greek) Daughter of Zeus and Metis. Goddess of War,
wisdom and art. Warrior Goddess and protectress.
Bast: (Egyptian) Goddess of protection and cats.
Symbolizes the Moon as a swelling womb.
Goddess of pleasure, music, dancing and joy.
Brigid: (Celtic) Triple Goddess.Warrior Goddess and protectress.
She is strong and wise. Daughter of Dagda. Goddess of
Seasons, doctors, poets, smiths and women in childbirth.
Brigit: Pronounced Breet, means "High One".
There are three sisters Goddesses named Brigit in Ireland.
As a Goddess of Fire, Brigit is associated with Imbolc.
Cerridwen: (Welsh) Moon and harvest Goddess.
Associated with the Dark Mother Aspect of the Crone.
Moon, grain and Nature Goddess. Cerridwen's symbol is a white sow.
Diana: (Roman) Moon Goddess.
Goddess of the Hunt. Mother figure for witches.
Epona: (Celtic) Goddess of horses.
Flora: (Roman) Goddess of Spring and Birth.
Fortuna: (Roman) Goddess of Fate.
Hecate: (Greek) Crone aspect of the Moon. Moon Goddess.
Hel: Goddess of the dead and ruler of the underworld.
Daughter of the Fire God Loki after he ate the heart of a giant named Angerbotha.
Hera: (Greek) Sister and wife to Zeus. Goddess of marriage.
Hestia: (Greek) Her name means "Hearth". Goddess of home and hearth.
Goddess of household harmony.
Isis: (Egyptian) Triple Goddess. Protectress of the home.
Goddess of magick, Earth, the Moon, love, wisdom, fertility and mothers.
Juno: (Roman) Married to Jupiter.
Goddess of women and motherhood.
Kali: (Hindu) Protectress of abused women.
Goddess of creation and destruction.
Kore: (Greek) Queen of the underworld. Parents are Zeus and Demeter.
Lilith: (Hebrew) Adam's first wife.
Said to have been turned into a demoness.
Maat: (Egyptian) Goddess of divine order and justice.
Her symbol is a feather.
Maeve: (Celtic) Her lover is Fergus.
War Goddess. Goddess of Earth Fertility.
Meshkent: (Egyptian) Goddess of birth.
Minerva: (Roman) Goddess of crafts and wisdom.
Morgan: (Celtic) Said to have been married to Merlin.
Doubled with the lady of the lake. Goddess of water and magick.
Nephtys: (Egyptian) Goddess of sisters, midwifes and surprises.
Goddess of the dead. Sister and wife of Set.
Persephone: (Greek) Daughter of Demeter.
Goddess of the underworld and harvest.
Rhiannon: (Welsh) Goddess of horses, fertility, birds, and the
underworld. Great mother Goddess.
Selene: (Greek) Moon Goddess.
Goddess of magick and solutions.
Sequana: (Celtic) River Goddess.
Venus: (Roman) Goddess of love, beauty and romance.
Vesta: (Roman) Goddess of Fire.
More Goddess Names...
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Gods: Names and Meanings
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