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GODDESSES OF THE WORLD
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As religion, magick and art emerged together in our ancestor's lives, one common theme was focused upon – the power and majesty of the Great Goddess. One of her titles is The Goddess of One Thousand Names because people sought to understand and connect with this enormous life-giving power by naming Her in Her aspects, abilities and creative expression. All over the world, people gave Her different names in an attempt to comprehend and connect with specific aspects of the Goddess which had meaning to their lives. We can enrich our lives today by reading her myths and stories as we seek to make our own connection with the Great Mother.
Myths are traditional stories which serve to unfold part of the worldview or experience of a people or explain a practice, belief or natural phenomenon common to that group of people. Myths embody ideals and institutions of a society. They give reason and continuity to the values of a community and explain the rituals and experience of their world. Myths are used to pass down to future generations the values, history, and understanding of the universe. They tend to include a story complete with symbols and a moral. For example creation stories such as that of the Cosmic Egg from which the Universe was born or that of the First Mother who gave birth to the world. Myths can also be used as a Mystery enactment. These are general a religious truth which one can know only thru revelation & cannot be fully understood in simply an intellectual way and are usually presented in ritual form such as the Eleusian Mysteries of Greece.
Myths have also been used to change, influence and reinforce new values of the conquerors of nations or tribes to replace the history of a people with a new paradigm reflecting the values and perspectives of the conquerors. Again these myths Include a story complete with symbols and a moral. Examples of this would be newer creation stories such as Adam & Eve and the new Greek patterns where the Great Father gives birth to the world through His thoughts which come springing from His head.
Myths contain what are known as ARCHETYPES which are defined as an original patterns or models from which all things of the same type are representations or copies. An archetype is an inherited idea that is derived from the experience of the culture and is present in the unconscious of the individual as well as the community or group mind. Archetypes are shared worldwide as a common symbol such as the Sun (source of life and light), the Moon (source of fertility and mystery), the Mother (nurturer and gateway), the Father (protector and source of wisdom), the Tree (knowledge and ladder between worlds). Archetypes often contain several ideas which can sometimes be paradoxical in nature.
There are differences between the myths that have developed during the last 3,000 years and previous myths. It has been in the last 3000 years that the concept and development of duality (opposites) has led to monotheism beginning with Zoroaster around 600 bce followed by Yahwehism around 1500 bce. These duality focused myths tend to be exclusionary (only one God and He better be mine!) and have led to conflict with peoples who did not recognize the supremacy of the new monotheistic model. This has also led to the creation of the intermediary role of priesthood wherein the ‘common' folk require a religious figure to intercede and communicate with God for them.
Prior to this change, people were aware of and interacted with thousands of Goddesses and Gods the world over. Depending on their climate and survival needs, different tribes or peoples gave names to the Divine to enable them as individuals to make their own personal connection and have a direct relationship with the Divine. Certainly in unusual circumstances such as a drought or plague, the community might call upon the priest/ess or shaman of the tribe to help with the emergency but otherwise individuals had a personal and immediate relationship with God or Goddess.
Here is a selection of Goddesses from various cultures around the world:
GAIA (Greek) - in the beginning only formless chaos, light and dark, sea and land, which settle into form through the influence of Gaia; Gaia: the deep breasted one. Existed before time, She created everything here, Earth, Gods, humankind; including Time.
AYIDA WEDO (Voudoun) - with her mate, Damballah, both rainbow serpents created Earth thru making love; Goddess of rain, fertility.
KALI (India) - created universe from her menstrual blood. 3 aspects maiden (Nitya Kali); mother (Maha Kali); crone Kali Uma)
IZANAMI (Japan) - with her mate Azanagi gave birth to all things, first all was sea, then they rise, stand on rainbow, create world, populate it; when she gives birth to fire, she descends to underworld.
SUSSITANAKO (Pueblo) - Spider Woman who spun the world into being.
INANNA (Sumaria), ISHTAR (Babylon) - Mothers of life, grain, fertility. Husband Tammuz, Dumuzi who dies, she must travel to underworld to bring him rebirth by having intercourse. By doing so, brings life back to world.
DIANA (Roman) - granter of conception. Originally Sun and Moon (her name means light), gave Sun to her brother. Rode across the sky in chariot pulled by lions as the sun.
DEMETER (Greek) - De= vulva Meter= mater, mother. Rites of Eleusis in Greece dedicated to her mysteries. Mother of Kore (Persephone is another name for Kore which means First Serpent), gave the world its 4 seasons and gave birth to Dionysus (who was laid in a manger of grain complete with halo, his was the first communion of bread and wine).
MARY (Christian) - daughter of Hannah (ana, anat, inanna) who had 3 daughters all named Mary (triad). Stella Mari, star of the sea; Mari; Goddess of sun and earth; Mariamne, spinner of fate; Mother of God; gave birth to sacred child, never died.
ISIS (Egypt) - Isis is actually the Greek version of the Egyptian name Auset (meaning spirit) Often appears in a Triad of Father, Mother and Sacred Child: Osiris, Isis, Horus Goddess of rebirth and magicks.
EZRULI (Voudoun) - Goddess of Love, feasting, play, perfume. Brings lovers thru erotic dancing and is exuberant, generous, beauty.
SHEELA NA GIG (Irish) – Sheela - woman Gig - vulva. Playful eroticm and humor; gateway of birth and death. Image carved on 16th c churches in British Isles.
HUITACA (Columbia) - Goddess of feasting, music, love, perfume, jokes. Brings joy, light heartedness and passion.
PELE (Hawaii) - still actively worshipped in Hawaii today, she taught the hula (fertility dance); formed islands as she mated with the ocean; known for her passion and sexuality, will take many forms to take new lovers. As always missionaries discouraged worship of Pele and many natives converted to Christianity. However, the old songs, chants and offerings were not forgotten. In 1880 when Mauna Loa erupted, the 63 yr old Priestess, Ruth Keelikolani walked up to the edge of the lava flow, reciting the sacred words and offering gifts of cloth and libations of awa. The eruptions stopped. Again in 1955 when the village of Kapoho was threatened, the villagers offered food and tobacco as gifts, again the lava stopped.
ATHENA (Greek) - architecture, weaving, agriculture, strategy. Originally from N Africa or Crete (Neith). Usurped by patriarchal Greece in later myths sprang from the head of Zeus.
BRIGIT (Celtic) - poetry, medicine, metalwork, hearth, fertility. The number 19 is sacred to her as it is number of years that it takes the new moon to coincide with Winter Solstice.
SHEKINAH (Hebrew) - (dwelling place of spirit) source of all soul, enlightenment, thru her reach god, wisdom, creativity, divine Bride welcomed on the eve of the Sabbat. Challah bread is her braids.
SOPHIA (Gnostic) – Sophia means Wisdom - bringer of knowledge of the Divine. She is part of the triad of Father, son and Holy Ghost - dove.
KWAN YIN (China) - (feminine Earth) Buddhist bodhisattva demigod. Originally from Nu Kua the ocean snake dragon woman who gave birth to all life, brings peace, compassion, wisdom.
NEPHTHYS (Greek version of the Egyptian name Nebthet) - twin underworld sister of Isis who helped Isis bring Osiris back to life.
ERISHKIGAL (Sumerian) - (great earth) Queen of the Underworld; twin of Inanna, wife of Tammuz). Story similar to Isis's descent into the underworld for her husband. Her journey through the 7 levels to underworld is re-enacted in the dance of the 7 veils and is seen again in Dante's 7 levels of Hell.
HECATE (Greek) - Hekat, Nubian name; Hekau, Egyptian name which is also Egyptian word for magick; Queen of the Crossroads, night, gateways, birth and death, cauldron, 3 is her sacred number.
THE MORRIGAN (Celtic) - Goddess of war, picked the doomed in battle, ravens are her animal. The Morrigan is a Triad: Macha, beautiful warrior goddess who strengthened soldiers; Babh, who came in form of raven, washed the armor of soldiers picked to die and Nemain, who watched the battle from afar as a serpent and decided the turn of battle.
KALI UMA (India) - bringer of death, gateway of birth and death, both which happen in blood; wears necklace of skulls, she is the hungry Earth who gives birth to and devours her children. We often see her depicted as squatting on her lover, Shiva's corpse in intercourse.
© Copyright 2005 Karen Charboneau-Harrison
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