Venere di Gaia - Inanna ancient world Goddess Gallery

Dragone Cosmico, kundalini, Ianna-Inanna, Dna, sachamama, serpente, bufo, shekinah, shakti

by Michele Falcon






GRANDE MADRE: Prefigurazione della Vergine

Dragone Verde: Triplice natura della Divinità

Miti Trasversali: La Pizia - Gaia, Zoe, Snake, Hypnos - Anubi -Bastet
Enheduanna: Hymns to Inanna
Gallery of Goddesses - by Hrana Janto
The Hebrew Goddess - by Raphael Patai
Shekinah\ Asherah, known as the "Lady of the Sea"
Arachne\ Taranta (The Spider Woman)

Tempio delle Dee dimenticate - Shrine of forgotten Goddess
African Realm of Forgotten Goddesses
North-America Realm of Forgotten Goddesses
Cretian-Minoic Realm of Forgotten Goddesses
The Mistress PO-TI-NI-JA
Women in Minoan Culture
southern-Europe (Spanish, Etruscan, etc.) Realm
Roman Realm of Forgotten Goddesses
Cybele - Abundantia - Adiona - Aestas - Aetna - Anna Furrinna - Acca Larentia -
Aurora - Bellona - Bona Dea - Cardea - Ceres "Lady of Grain" -
Diana - Flora - Fortuna - Furiae - Iuno -Iuventas - Libitina - Minerva - Pomona -
Tellus (Terra Mater) - Venus - Vesta - Victoria
Aborig-Australian Realm of Forgotten Goddesses
Canti d'amore degli Aborigeni Australiani

Arawak Gallery - Indian Belle Meet the Girls - The daughter - Witoto Women - The Golden Dreaming - Interaction Amerindia - Woman of Power Princess Tookoo - Gifts of the Gods - Visions in the Smoke - Sirius - - The Next World Calls Afrowak Madonna - Lakshmi - Face of Kali - Kali Union - Radiant Kali - Kali Cosmos

Aphrodite /Venus
Artemis / Diana
Baba Yaga
Blodeuwedd Brigit/ Brigid
Changing Woman
Corn Maiden
Ix Chel
Kuan Yin
Lady of the Beasts\ Feronia
Laksmi/ Laxmi
Minerva/ Athena
Morgan La Fey
Nu Kua
Pele - Goddess of Kilauea
Sheila Na Gig
The Sphinx
Sybil/ Sibyl

Storia e riflessioni sulla Luna nella mitologia

"Io ne parlo come della Dea Bianca perchè il bianco è il suo colore fondamentale,
il colore della prima persona della sua trinità lunare.
Ma il lessico bizantino di Suida, quando dice che
Io era una vacca che mutava colore dal bianco al rosso e quindi al nero,
intende che la Luna Nuova è la dea bianca della nascita e della crescita,
la Luna Piena la dea rossa dell'amore e della battaglia,
la Luna Vecchia la dea nera della morte e della divinazione."

(Robert Graves, La Dea Bianca, pag. 81)

Tu Sei Quello
A guest am I In this world of transient things,

Unfettered by the entanglements thereof.

I am of no country, No boundaries hold me (J.Krishnamurthi)

"The Essence of the Earth is used in Shamanism ...

without Plants the Shaman would not exist.

for that reason we organize Plants. Plants are our material."

(Francisco Montes SHUÑA) 


Arawak gallery

(Penny Slinger - -1994)

I lived on the small island of Anguilla in the Caribbean for over a decade. Exploration of the archaeology of the island coupled with spending much time alone with nature cultivated a strong connection in spirit to the original inhabitants -- the Arawak Indians. I studied and portrayed their art in much detail, and at the same time completed a series of works on the people and their culture. They seemed to hold forgotten keys on how to harmoniously co-exist with all creation by honoring the spirit in all things. The following artworks represent a selection from the over 100 pieces I created in their honor. This homage to a forgotten culture culminated in the creation of my
Indian Belle
What is the look
that lingers
in the imagination
long after
the glow of the cheeks
has faded into time?
the jut of the lips
the curve of the breasts
still holds
a timeless allure.
Meet the Girls
The daughter
of the Chief
and the daughter
of the Shaman
this is the moment
they offer us.
The Offering
We stand at the portals
with the gift of love
honored guests
you are welcome
what is ours is yours
for the taking
Partake of our fullness
Look, it is good!
drink from our gourds
come take your fill.

Witoto Women
Have we lost the art
of self adornment
that we put on clothes
to hide our nakedness?
uniforms to mask the soul
to hide our sex
Look at these women
we call them "primitive"
but they know how to draw
the lines of spirit
on the canvas of the flesh.
The Golden Dreaming
What is this dream?
Reflections of her life
or a glimpse into
a lost reality
the Golden Age of Arawaks?
we cannot know
for the dream landscape
is a secret
and mysterious realm...

Tribal memories
swirl in golden waves
she sees herself
floating in a timeless sea
making the crossing
joining the dance
playing the song
with the vision of the ancestress
full of ancient wisdom
guiding her
leading her through
the Dreamtime.

Interaction Amerindia
Didn't you know
that everything
is connected?
auras emanate
from us all
interfacing between worlds
the rainbow bridge
linking the elements
the formless and the formed
the first voyagers
experienced the magic
of it all embarking on
the great adventure
Arawak Adam and Eve
they knew the fruits
before they tasted them
braving the seas
discovering lands
tracing their routes
in the mindsky.

The Conversation
are the secret
of glyph
silent messages
in the signs
and through
the eyes.
Princess Tookoo
For energy
and vital
the presence
of the princess-
she'll show you
the way.
Woman of Power
You who have seen
and conquered death
you hold the reigns of power
the time of mourning
is passed the spirit of man
your husband once
now opens the doorto the ancestors guardians
of the spiritual knowledge
of the tribe keepers
of ancient secrets
Oh woman of insight
yours is the power
of black night
blood red white bone
the hidden ways
to open the jaws of death
and fear free hear the name.
Gifts of the Gods
Oh great spirits
of protection and fertility
accept the humble offerings
of the bounty that is yours
we have secluded ourselves
in the darkness eating only
the white and sweet now we
star maidens are prepared
for your propitiation
Oh Jocahu Creator
Giver of Cassava
here is your root
and branch, we come
from the four directions
bearing the fruits
of the earth
an ear of corn
pale and tender avocado
round and ripe
fragrant golden pineapple
Above the stars cluster
Orion's belt and Rigel
Sirius and the Pleiades
below the crops ripen
and maidens come
in reverence bearing gifts.
Visions in the Smoke
In the still blackness
of the night
strands of blue smoke
rise and unfurl
the silent witness watches
in mystic contemplation
her head enhaloed
by a cloud of feathery down
tribute to her totem
When the night ends
she will have traveled
on his wings
beyond the green mist
to the deathless realm
she will have asked
the questions
of the great spirits
her body will be here
in the silence
but her spirit
one with the sacred bird
through veils of darkness
soaring soaring.
Sirius - The Next World Calls
Wise woman
ancient of days
the time of transition
draws nigh
you look for
and take refuge
in cosmic configurations
dog star
guides you
dog-headed guardian
of the interface
he'll take you
to the next world
woman of beauty
you wear
your years
like a noble mantle
and fear not
the night.
Afrowak Madonna
Young mother
bridging the worlds
the blood of
and Amerindia
in your blue
denoting marriage
that bond


Your infant
at your breast
on food
for the soul
while you
present in the moment
gaze beyond
the archaic future
wrapped in your starry eyes
Two Sisters
Two sisters
sharing space
air space
heart space
simple as breath
pass between you
like secrets
on the wind
how sweet it is
to contemplate
such sisterhood
two islands
in the stream...
Hammock Caribe
In far away
she dreams
of far away
where the smell
of the sea
is always
in the air
the fragrance
of flowers
forever pervades
and the rhythms
of life
swing gently
to and fro.

Oh Maha Lakshmi
grace us
with the abundance
of your lotus eyes!
Just one sweet
glance from you
bestows riches
beyond compare
on anyone who has
the eyes to see
how much you have to give,
how much you have to give.
Oh ocean of preservation
supporting the dreamer
of life's dear dream
what joy to know you
in the heart of hearts
what great magnificent
to know your are...
to see what is
oh so delicious
is the love of you
I swoon in bliss
(how then must feel
the lord of preservation
when from
your lips
he drinks
a kiss?
Face of Kali
Three-fold reality
reflected in Her eyes
and future,
in perfect
on the golden
at the center
of the five-fold
of elemental
Placed like a single
on her
moist and red
extended tongue.

Inanna Hymn
Queen of all given powers
unveiled clear light
unfailing woman wearing brilliance
cherished in heaven and earth
chosen, sanctified in heaven
you grand in your adornments
crowned with your beloved goodness
rightfully you are High Priestess
your hands seize the seven fixed powers
my queen of fundamental forces
guardian of essential cosmic sources
you lift up the elements
bind them to your hands
gather in powers
press them to your breast
vicious dragon you spew
venom poisons the land
like the storm god you howl
grain wilts on the ground
swollen flood rushing down the mountain
you are Inanna
supreme in heaven and earth...

Kali Union
Why wouldn't you
why couldn't you
all your fears
to the point
of non-existence?
If you know
the key
to non-duality
she'll come
to you
in the coal black night
the red hot way
revealing the passionate
in the blacksmith's forge
of holy Ma
burn yogi burn
then covered in ashes
of your former self
surrender completely in Kali union.
Radiant Kali
At the dawn of creation
Kali Ma
at the great dissolution
Kali Ma
radiant black light
infinite compassion
dancing in delight
on the great
funeral pyre
of temporal life
brandishing your sword
of ruthless discrimination
you dance
by the One
who lies beneath
your scarlet feet
totally enraptured
cosmic consciousness.
Kali Cosmos
In her tangled hair
cosmic patterns
rise and fall
come and go
yet she
stands eternal
at the entrance
to the red cave
red womb
of life
stunningly aware
of every being's
special place
the stars
in the strands
of her tangled hair.

Coiled Serpent

Kundalini Shakti
The divine power,
Kundalini, shines
like the stem of a young lotus;
like a snake, coiled round upon herself
she holds her tail in her mouth
and lies resting half asleep
as the base of the body.
Yoga Kundalini Upanishad (1.82)
The psychic energy symbolized
by the serpent form retained into a 'closed circuit'.
Devi (Kundalini Sakti) and Siva
coiled and dormant 'feminine' energy
is the vast potential of psychic energy
contained within us all.
There the rishis systematically tested
and perfected the precise movements,
postures, sounds and breathing
that activate different parts of the body
and brain to produce specific results.
When the serpent, Sakti is ready to unfold,
she ascends through the spinal chakras
to unite above the crown of the head with Siva,
the Pure Consciousness pervading the whole universe.
Within the folds of Devi, the Cosmic Energy,
rests Siva, the foundational Consciousness.
Devi (or Kundalini) is the primordial power
active in the great drama of the awakening
of the unmanifested Siva


fonti-autori: Giuseppe Brescia and... sito Donne e Storia

Il bianco disco d'argento della Luna continua da milioni di anni a rischiarare le scure notti terrestri, addolcendone le paurose ombre con la sua morbida luce soffusa. Nulla di strano che con il passare dei secoli la Luna, al pari del Sole, abbia acquisito agli occhi dell’umanità terrorizzata un valore quasi sacrale, diventando una divinità.

Il fatto strano è invece lo scarso rilievo che la Luna riveste nei pantheon delle grandi popolazioni che emergono nell'evo antico alla ribalta della storia: per gli Egizi, i Fenici, e ancor più per Greci, Romani e Germani, la Luna è solo una piccola divinità secondaria. Come mai? Una prima risposta, sia pure parziale, possiamo vederla nello scarso rilievo che in generale hanno tutte le divinità femminili se confrontate con l'enorme importanza che rivestono invece quelle maschili. Basta pensare a Osiride, Melkhart, Zeus, Giove, Wotan, Odino per convincersene.

Eppure... Eppure questa risposta è, lo si diceva, solo parziale. Infatti è vero che anche la Luna come tutte le altre divinità femminili viene relegata ad un ruolo secondario, ma con un tratto del tutto particolare: infatti, mentre la maggior parte delle dee sono destinate a ricoprire il ruolo di compagne degli dei maggiori, la Luna avrà nel suo svilupparsi sacro piuttosto un ruolo di sorella o figlia.


Ma andiamo con ordine. Il primo filo da seguire per dipanare l'intricata rete di rapporti e di influenze culturali che portano alla definitiva stabilizzazione dell'idea di Luna (idea che poi sfocerà nelle caratteristiche che da sempre sono legate nel nostro immaginario collettivo al disco lunare) è quello che parte da Babilonia. Presso i Babilonesi, popolo tra l'altro anche di astronomi-astrologi (basti pensare alla mitica Torre di Babele o alle Ziqqurat piramidali) il padre celeste era Sin, dio del cielo. Egli aveva due figli, Samas, il Sole e Istar, la stella Venere. Come si vede, la Luna non ha un ruolo particolare in questa triade somma. Tuttavia in essa compare appunto Istar, la stella più lucente del cielo al tramonto e al mattino, la stella che accompagna il sorgere della Luna. E poi vi è il fatto indicativo del nome stesso, Istar.

Inanna, Sumerian Goddess


Infatti, se prendiamo il secondo filo della matassa, quello fenicio, vediamo come nel loro pantheon vi fosse (e questa volta in un ruolo di grande rilievo..) la dea lunare Ishtar, o Astarte. A fare da collante fra la tradizione babilonese e quella fenicia troviamo poi la religione egiziana. Qui è il caso di soffermarsi un attimo. Presso gli Egizi vi era un dio lunare: Thouth (dio tra l'altro della saggezza). Tuttavia vi era anche una dea, Iside, destinata a diventare una delle principali divinità dell'area mediterranea. Bene, Iside era la moglie di Osiride, il padre degli dei. Ella era anche però la stella Sirio, la più luminosa del cielo notturno, e veniva anche raffigurata spesso con il disco lunare sul capo o sotto i piedi. Col passare dei secoli, e con l'unificazione del bacino del Mediterraneo da parte dei Romani, questa divinità egizia vide diffondere il proprio culto in maniera incredibile, tanto che nei primi secoli dell'era cristiana il culto di Iside era quello più seguito e certo il più ricco della Roma imperiale.

Ancora una volta dobbiamo chiederci: come mai? Facciamo un primo punto della situazione: da un lato la Istar babilonese e la Isthar fenicia vengono pian piano a coincidere, dall'altro lo stesso fenomeno avviene fra la Ishtar fenicia e la Iside egiziana. Questo perchè sia Ishtar sia Iside hanno tratti lunari espliciti e perché la Istar babilonese e la Iside egiziana sono entrambe accomunate all'idea della stella più lucente del cielo notturno. La diffusione di Ishtar-Iside fu poi il frutto delle attività commerciali egizio-fenicie e della funzione veicolare determinata dalla conquista romana.


Questo però avveniva sul versante meridionale ed orientale del Mediterraneo. Cosa avveniva invece in Europa? Nella Grecia preclassica esisteva una coppia di divinità minori, fratello e sorella, legate rispettivamente al Sole e alla Luna: Helios e Selene. Queste due divinità in epoca classica vengono poi a fondersi con un'altra coppia di divinità non originarie del territorio ellenico, ma destinate ad assumere un ruolo importantissimo nel quadro mitologico greco: Febo (o Apollo) e Artemide. Essi venivano dalla vicina Tracia (l'odierna Bulgaria) ed erano anch'essi caratterizzati dall'essere fratello e sorella. Solo che le due divinità tracie erano molto più caratterizzate nei loro tratti dominanti. Infatti Artemide era contemporaneamente la dea della caccia, delle selve e dei boschi, delle fiere selvatiche e delle nascite, era una dea vergine, ed era una dea che apparteneva ad una terra che per definizione rappresentava agli occhi dei Greci la quintessenza di tutto ciò che era barbaro e selvaggio. Non era forse la Tracia quella stessa terra mitica che una volta era chiamata Colchide e nella quale Giasone andò a prendere con i suoi Argonauti il favoloso vello d'oro? E non era sempre quella la terra di Medea, la maga incantatrice abbandonata da Giasone e crudelissima nel vendicarsi? Facile quindi spiegarsi il perché di questo assorbimento di Apollo e Artemide all'interno del pantheon greco e del loro innalzamento a divinità maggiori, anche se non dominanti: per i Greci del periodo classico, che tendevano a razionalizzare la mitologia per farla quadrare con una visione organica dell'universo, le figure di Apollo e di Artemide erano perfette. Il primo rappresentava a perfezione l'aspetto chiaro della vita: la civiltà, l'ordine, la logica, il raziocinio, il controllo dei sentimenti; Artemide al contrario rappresentava il lato opposto, la parte scura della vita: la nascita, la morte, i boschi e i monti, il disordine, le passioni violente, l'esotico, il selvaggio, l'impulsività, le contraddizioni (una dea vergine che presiede alle nascite...). Cosa ha a che fare tutto ciò con la Luna? Semplicemente questo: con la fusione di Artemide e Selene nasce una grande figura di dea che riassume in sé, oltre ai tratti già citati, anche quelli lunari. E, di converso, anche la Luna, nell'immaginario europeo, viene a colorarsi dei tratti originari della Artemide tracia. D'altra parte, non era forse la Luna, in qualità di signora della Notte, anche la figura visivamente più adatta per legarsi indissolubilmente alla dea selvaggia dei boschi e delle fiere?


Ma facciamo un passo avanti ed approdiamo a Roma. Anche qui troviamo la coppia fratello-sorella, nelle figure di Apollo e Diana. Diana non è altro che la trascrizione fedele della Artemide greca. Essa riunisce in sé cioè tre aspetti: è la dea celeste lunare, è la dea terrestre della caccia, dei boschi e delle fiere, è la dea infernale delle nascite e delle morti. Coll'espandersi di Roma in tutto il Mediterraneo arrivano poi a Roma come si è visto altre divinità lunari femminili, vale a dire Ishtar e Iside. Tutte insieme, queste tre dee contribuiscono in maniera definitiva a sancire i tratti iconografici, mitologici e fantastici che la Luna si porterà dietro nell'immaginario collettivo europeo fino al Medioevo e anche oltre. Non abbiamo tuttavia ancora risposto alla domanda principale: come mai le divinità lunari femminili non hanno mai rivestito una grande importanza nelle mitologie mediterranee in epoca storica. Difatti, anche con l'affermarsi nella Roma tardoimperiale del culto di Iside, va ricordato che tale culto doveva convivere con decine di altri culti provenienti da tutta l'area mediterranea e, soprattutto, che di lì a breve sarebbe stato schiacciato da una nuova religione trionfante: il Cristianesimo.



Quale fu dunque il motivo dell'intrinseca debolezza dei culti lunari? Per spiegarlo dobbiamo fare un passo indietro e ritornare in epoca protostorica. Dobbiamo tornare in pratica ad un periodo in cui in Europa non erano ancora giunti gli Indoeuropei (Latini, Greci, Celti, Germani, ..). Si tratta di un periodo storico assai nebuloso, un periodo che ci ha lasciato come testimonianza perenne della propria enigmaticità solo i giganteschi monumenti megalitici che costellano di pietre ritte contro il cielo tutta la costa occidentale dell'Europa, dalla Scozia e l'Irlanda fino all'isola di Malta. Si tratta di un periodo al quale si possono ascrivere nomi e monumenti quali menhir, dolmen, Carnac, Stonehenge, veri santuari di pietra, dove i megaliti si pongono in file, in cerchi, in altari, a sfidare la nostra intelligenza che cerca di capirne il profondo significato. Fino a non molto tempo fa si pensava che tali resti megalitici fossero dei resti sacrali celtici, e quindi che fossero ascrivibili al periodo della dominazione indoeuropea. Studi più approfonditi hanno invece dimostrato che tali monumenti sono assai più antichi. Non solo. Gli studi dell'archeologa lituana Marja Gimbutas hanno anche mostrato come in Europa vi fosse in epoca protostorica un culto legato ad una grande figura di Dea, matrona delle nascite e delle morti, una Dea legata al grande ciclo del divenire terrestre, un ciclo di morte e rinascita. La Gimbutas ha ricavato queste conclusioni facendo un'analisi comparata su un vastissimo materiale iconografico (dai graffiti alle statuette votive) raccolto nel corso di questo secolo in tutta Europa. Quello che più ci interessa delle conclusioni della Gimbutas sono però le connessioni lunari di questa grande figura di Dea madre, la Dea Bianca, come la chiama Robert Graves. Secondo la Gimbutas infatti la Luna sarebbe stata l'esatto corrispettivo celeste di questa grande madre terrestre. Il motivo è abbastanza semplice e tuttavia molto convincente: come la Dea madre sulla Terra governa il ciclo eterno di morte e rinascita attraverso il quale la vita si perpetua sul pianeta, allo stesso modo la Luna celeste mette in atto un suo proprio ciclo continuo in cui, attraverso le fasi, periodicamente muore e rinasce. Se a questo poi aggiungiamo il legame fisicamente evidente con le possenti maree del nord dell'Europa, con la periodicità del ciclo mestruale femminile e con l'orientamento chiaramente lunare di molte tombe megalitiche preindoeuropee, avremo un quadro abbastanza convincente dell'importanza del ruolo lunare all'interno di questa religione europea, legata a popolazioni agricolo-pastorali probabilmente stanziali e pacifiche.


Il quadro cambia però totalmente con l'arrivo dall'Est degli Indoeuropei: questi ultimi, cacciatori e guerrieri, si portavano dietro una forma di religiosità più aggressiva e legata a culti solari, con un Dio padre celeste, potente e guerriero, padrone del tuono e delle folgori (si pensi a Zeus, a Giove, al celtico Lug, al germanico Wotan o allo scandinavo Odino). Il vento di conquista indoeuropeo spazzò via il precedente culto della grande Dea e lo soppiantò con nuovi culti solari. Tuttavia nelle campagne il culto della Dea rimase, sia pure in una forma ridotta e meno solenne. Il motivo di questa permanenza è abbastanza semplice: nelle campagne i contadini, legati al raccolto e quindi naturalmente portati a cercare rassicurazioni riguardo la fertilità del terreno e alla possibilità della rinascita delle messi, continuavano a mantenere questo rapporto profondo con la terra madre che era stato anche il fondamento del culto della grande Dea bianca. Del resto anche gli stessi riti legati alla pietra e al fuoco che, pare, accompagnassero le cerimonie sacre in onore della grande dea, per il loro stesso essere rituali notturni e agresti si poterono mantenere con una certa integrità nelle campagne anche sotto la dominazione degli Indoeuropei. Il quadro della situazione era ulteriormente destinato a cambiare quando, come si è visto, nella Roma tardoimperiale giunsero a con-fondersi e a con-vivere tre diverse tradizioni lunari: quella autoctona preindoeuropea, quella tracio-greco-romana di Artemide/Diana e quella egizio-fenicia di Iside/Astarte. Per una breve stagione sull'Occidente europeo ebbe seguito e favore una religione che riuniva in sé tratti misterici (legati agli antichi culti preindoeuropei, ma anche ai culti legati ad Artemide da un lato e a Iside dall'altro) e tratti lunari. Breve stagione, però. Difatti, come la Dea Bianca era stata cacciata dall'arrivo degli Indoeuropei, così questa rinascita lunare tardoimperiale era destinata a scomparire in seguito alla rapidissima diffusione del Cristianesimo.


Si apre così il terzo capitolo di questa nostra storia dell'immagine mitologico- religiosa della Luna. Come si può ben immaginare, la tradizione religiosa giudaico-cristiana è una tradizione religiosa che si inserisce nel quadro delle grandi divinità maschili ed essenzialmente solari: abbiamo un Dio Padre, un Figlio che è vera Luce, e così via. Tuttavia non possiamo dire che nel corpus biblico vetero- e neo-testamentario non vi siano degli accenni alla luna. Dobbiamo infatti ricordare che il calendario ebraico era un calendario lunare, e quindi non foss'altro che per questo motivo va da sè che la Luna deve da qualche parte ricoprire un ruolo quanto meno di regolatrice del flusso temporale. Ma andiamo con ordine. Nella Bibbia la Luna assolve sostanzialmente a tre funzioni principali: 1. ricopre un ruolo apocalittico; 2. riveste un ruolo teologico; 3. rappresenta un elemento fisico-creazionale. Il libro probabilmente più significativo in cui compare la Luna è probabilmente l'Apocalisse di San Giovanni. Qui la Luna (e gli Astri in generale si colorano di inquietudine, di mistero, in piena sintonia con un'età qual è quella apocalittica, in cui si vive in contatto fra il terreno e l'ultraterreno: “la Luna si tinge di rosso..”. (Apocalisse, 6, 12) Diversa è la funzione teologica. Qui la Luna che sorge e che illuminando il mondo compie il suo ciclo è un segno della stabilità che la grazia di Dio ha voluto dare alla storia dell'uomo: “Nel cielo apparve poi un segno grandioso: una donna vestita di sole, con la luna sotto i piedi e sul suo capouna corona di dodici stelle” (Apocalisse, 12, 1) Ancora differente è poi l'aspetto fisico-creazionale, per cui la Luna è un astro importante in quanto sconfigge le tenebre (e si sa il valore simbolico che il Cristianesimo attribuisce alle tenebre) e in quanto illumina la via. Niente quindi che faccia pensare ad una Luna in qualche modo divinità od entità autonoma, anzi: tutte e tre le letture la riconducono strettamente ad un piano divino trascendente, relegandola ad un puro aspetto simbolico. Difatti, spesso nei libri storici del corpus biblico si parla degli altri popoli idolatri che adorano al pari di altri astri anche la Luna, con un chiaro segno dispregiativo: “...perché, alzando gli occhi al cielo e vedendo il sole, la luna, le stelle, tutto l’esercito del cielo, tu non sia trascinato a prostrarti davanti quelle cose e a servirle; cose che il Signore tuo Dio ha abbandonato in sorte a tutti i popoli che sono sotto i cieli” (Deuteronomio, 4, 19) Tuttavia... Tuttavia vi sono almeno due passi che fanno pensare come la Luna nel corpus biblico non sia solo quello che appare, ma che al contrario sembra ricollegarsi ad un'altra tradizione, che è poi quella della grande dea che per un certo periodo ha retto le sorti religiose del bacino del Mediterraneo. Il primo passo è quello dell'Apocalisse più su citato, in cui compare un'immagine iconografica della Vergine Maria che si avvicina moltissimo alle immagini tradizionali delle dee lunari, Artemide (in quanto Selene) in testa: e, del resto, non era Artemide anche la dea vergine per eccellenza...? La somiglianza sarebbe spiegabile naturalmente dalla comune cultura ellenistica dalla quale proveniva anche l'autore materiale dell'apocalisse, San Giovanni. Il secondo passo invece “Benedetta dal signore la sua meglio dei prodotti del sole e il meglio di ciò che germoglia ogni luna...” (Deuteronomio, 33, 13-14) in cui si parla di una Luna che fa germogliare, quasi fosse vicina a tutta una serie di tradizioni del resto vive ancor oggi, legate ad una maggiore o minore fertilità determinata da influssi lunari...evidente pare il collegamento con la Grande Dea, soprattutto se si pensa che il calendario ebraico era lunare e che quindi il giorno dei sacrifici (il primo del mese) era sempre un giorno di luna nuova e che il giorno di giubilo per i raccolti cadeva alla metà del mese in coincidenza con la Luna Vecchia (o piena..)


"Volere la Luna", "la Luna nel pozzo", sono espressioni proverbiali entrate nel patrimonio colloquiale della nostra lingua. Interessante notare come entrambe facciano riferimento alla intangibilità della Luna, vista come il punto di riferimento, sempre irraggiungibile, di una corsa impossibile verso una fortuna sempre sfuggente e inafferrabile. Già abbiamo visto nel capitolo precedente, legato alle fortune in ambito mitologico- religioso del nostro satellite, come le sorti della Luna siano state viste dall'immaginario collettivo come sempre più intrecciate con quelle dell'umanità. Abbiamo visto infatti come la Luna, intesa come divinità, si era via via arricchita di nuovi significati e di nuovi valori, diventando un'entità che inglobava in sé allo stesso tempo il corpo celeste omonimo, il regno infero dei morti e il mondo terrestre dei monti e dei boschi, un mondo quest'ultimo popolato di fiere e cacciatori, un mondo di morte e rinascita, il mondo delle passioni e del caos contrapposto all'ordine apollineo della società civilizzata. Nascita, Passione, Caccia, Morte, Rinascita: ecco in sintesi un ciclo completo che ben si addice a rappresentare in chiave cosmica quella che è la vicenda degli esseri umani terreni e mortali. Un ciclo che si sposava logicamente anche con un altro ciclo, quello astronomico-temporale che accompagnava giorno dopo giorno le vicende dell'umanità: l'alternarsi di giorno e di notte, dei mesi e delle stagioni, e, non ultimo, l'alternarsi delle fasi lunari. A questo punto occorre distinguere, all'interno di questo grande ciclo astronomico- temporale due altri cicli maggiori: quello solare, o annuale, che presiede al continuo rinnovarsi delle stagioni, e quello lunare, o mensile, che presiede al computo dei mesi e dei giorni. Va da sé che fra i due quello più immediatamente controllabile e visibile è quello lunare. L'alternarsi delle fasi lunari è infatti perfettamente prevedibile da chi scruta il cielo in cerca di segni e di stabilità, assai più di quanto non sia un rinnovarsi delle stagioni certo più capriccioso ed in ogni caso più diluito nel tempo. Non deve stupire quindi come i primi calendari siano stati soprattutto lunari. Non si deve però a questo punto trascurare un altro aspetto importante della questione: il calendario assolveva presso i popoli antichi un'altra fondamentale funzione oltre a quella dello scandire in modo regolare e prevedibile il flusso del tempo, quella di indicare in modo chiaro ed inequivocabile i giorni fasti e quelli nefasti. Ed ecco diventare, ad esempio, i giorni della luna nuova giorni di sacrifici (in questo forma di aspettativa quasi magica del ritorno di un disco lunare atteso e sempre rinnovantesi, e quindi forma di buon auspicio per il rinnovarsi dei raccolti). In altre parole il calendario rappresentava contemporaneamente da un lato lo strumento attraverso il quale l'uomo riusciva a controllare l'apparentemente disordinato flusso degli avvenimenti e dall'altro il meccanismo mediante il quale l'uomo riusciva a dialogare con le forze superiori che controllavano l'ordine naturale. Come si vede, con l'affermarsi del calendario entriamo in contatto con un altro modo di porsi nei confronti dell'astro lunare: un modo non più legato al mondo alto e sacro della religione o della mitologia, ma al mondo ben più prosaico della quotidianità, dei rituali, delle tradizioni popolari - un mondo quest'ultimo perfetto per farvi sorgere al suo interno leggende e superstizioni. Non solo. Infatti, mentre la Luna alta, la Dea Bianca della mitologia e della religione, viene definitivamente scacciata dall' Olimpo delle divinità dal Cristianesimo trionfante, la Luna bassa del calendario e delle ritualità agresti sopravvive e si consolida nei proverbi, nelle tradizioni popolari, nelle leggende, nelle fiabe: insomma, nel mondo variegato del folklore. Inoltre, in questo suo sopravvivere all'interno del mondo folklorico essa continua a mantenere molti dei tratti che abbiamo visto essere presenti nelle divinità dell'antichità protostorica e storica: solo che essi dovranno fare i conti con un universo (almeno in Europa) ormai cristianizzato, con il quale dovranno convivere e, a volte, lottare per sopravvivere.

GRANDE MADRE: Prefigurazione della Vergine

Quando i primi missionari cristiani scoprivano in Gallia un gruppo di Celti intenti a venerare una figura femminile nell'atto di dare alla luce un bambino, non tentavano neppure di modificare le loro concezioni religiose. Si limitavano a spiegare agli indigeni che, senza saperlo, erano già cristiani, e stavano adorando un'immagine della Madonna. Se tutto andava bene, sul luogo sacro veniva costruita una chiesa, e l'idolo pagano, trasferito al suo interno, si trasformava automaticamente in una rappresentazione cristiana; per giustificare la presenza di figurazioni mariane che, a volte, precedevano la stessa nascita di Maria, i teologi coniarono addirittura un termine "Prefigurazione della Vergine ". Ma chi era quella figura materna venerata - con aspetti e nomi diversi - fin dai primordi dell'umanità?
La Dea Terra

Se fosse necessario dare un'unica denominazione a Iside, a Ishtar, a Venere, a Athena, a Gea, alla "Signora Seduta di Pazardzik", a Modron, forse Grande Madre sarebbe la scelta più appropriata. Tutte queste divinità, anche se in modo diverso, rappresentano la Dea Terra, la gigantesca Madre di ogni essere vivente; sono il simbolo della natura nei suoi aspetti positivi - la fertilità, l'abbondanza dei raccolti - e negativi - le tempeste, la carestia. Per questo suo dualismo, molte antiche rappresentazioni della Dea Madre hanno il volto metà bianco e metà nero, un particolare su cui ritorneremo.

Vergini nere

Il volume The Goddess Sites: Europe (I luoghi della Dea: Europa ), di Anneli S. Rufus e Kristan Lawson elenca un numero davvero impressionante di luoghi di culto della Grande Madre nel nostro continente; ora le rappresentazioni della Dea si trovano quasi tutti in superficie, ma gran parte di esse erano poste originariamente nel sottosuolo, dove la presenza delle correnti terrestri si fa maggiormente sentire. Proprio dalla Grande Madre derivano probabilmente le celebri "Vergini Nere", le Madonne dal volto scuro venerate in tanti santuari. Con un'operazione nota come "sincretismo", la stessa per cui agli dèi del voodoo di Haiti sono stati associate le immagine dei Santi cattolici importate dai missionari - la Grande Madre pagana avrebbe assunto il volto di Maria, colorato però in nero, come quello delle sue prime raffigurazioni. Le immagini delle Vergini Nere contraddistinguerebbero dunque i luoghi particolarmente legati alla Dea Terra, gli stessi su cui, da sempre, gli uomini costruiscono i loro edifici sacri. Vergini nere sono disseminate nelle chiese di tutta Europa; in Italia se ne trovano dodici (a Cagliari, Crea del Monferrato, Crotone, Loreto, Lucca, Oropa, Pescasseroli, Rivoli, Roma, San Severo, Tindari, Venezia); in Francia addirittura novantasei. Le pi ù famose sono quelle della cattedrale gotica di Chartres, chiamate Notre-Dame-sous-Terre e Notre-Dame-du-Pilier . Si dice che alcuni individui particolarmente sensibili, avvicinandosi alle cappelle in cui sono collocate, provino una sensazione di mancamento: sono le correnti terrestri che, in quei punti, raggiungono il massimo della loro potenza, e che percorrono con un guizzo la colonna vertebrale del visitatore, non di rado provocando in lui un'improvvisa "illuminazione" mistica.

Il tredicesimo segno

Nell'interessantissimo saggio La Dea Bianca (1948), una vera e propria "grammatica del mito ", Robert Graves identifica il culto primitivo per la Grande Madre con un culto ancora più antico dedicato alla Luna (la "Dea Bianca ", appunto), a sua volta simbolo celeste della fertilità (molti popoli dell'Africa, del Sudamerica e gli aborigeni australiani ritengono che il terriccio rosso sia il sangue sparso dalla Luna quando diede vita alla Terra). Dei riti lunari, totalmente dimenticati già in tempi remoti, sarebbero rimaste alcune confuse tracce in tradizioni successive, tra cui il sinistro "Sabba" delle streghe. L'americano James Vogh, autore di Arachne Rising: the Thirteent Sign (Arachne sorgente: il tredicesimo segno, 1977), ipotizza che, a un certo momento della storia, il culto nei confronti di una Dea femminile sia stato violentemente represso a favore di un culto per un Dio maschile. In certe tavolette magiche egizie e in altri reperti archeologici di carattere astronomico ricorre il numero tredici (i mesi lunari nel corso di un anno); Vogh fa rilevare come questo numero sia stato osteggiato dalle religioni successive, al punto che ancor oggi esso è considerato malefico. Secondo Vogh la luna, rappresentata dal simbolo di Arachne, costituiva il tredicesimo segno (poi cancellato) dello zodiaco; questa eliminazione è ricordata in una serie di miti, tradizioni e fiabe ove il tredicesimo personaggio di un gruppo (il più amato) viene tradito e ucciso, quindi risorge segnalando la possibilità di una redenzione. Tra le narrazioni più note, Vogh annovera un antica versione della Bella Addormentata (a farla cadere in catalessi è una di dodici fate), la storia di re Artù e dei suoi dodici cavalieri (il traditore è Mordred), la leggenda del dio scandinavo Baldur (lo uccide Loki, il cattivo dei dodici principali dè i del Walhalla), e, naturalmente, la vicenda di Gesù, circondato da dodici apostoli e tradito da Giuda. Secondo i giornalisti Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh e Henry Lincoln, autori de Il sacro Graal, un volume dedicato al mistero di Rennes-Le-Chateau, il culto della Dea Bianca è ancora praticato segretamente; lo custodiscono (insieme a un infinità di altri segreti) gli adepti di una società esoterica denominata "Il Priorato di Sion ".

Miti Trasversali

La Pizia

La famosa sacerdotessa del dio Apollo che, ispirata da lui, dava io suoi vaticini enigmatici alle migliaia di persone che si recavano a Delfi in pellegrinaggio.

La Pizia o, come successivamente fu chiamata, Pitonessa era una sacerdotessa del Dio greco della musica e della profezia, Apollo. Il nome stesso della sacerdotessa rievoca il mitico scontro tra Apollo ed il mostro Pitone avvenuto a Delfi per il controllo del territorio. E proprio Delfi era la sede della Pizia, divinatrice dell'Oracolo più importante e visitato dell'Antica Grecia. Da ogni parte del mondo ellenico, infatti, nell'unico giorno dell'anno in cui la Sibilla Delfica profetava, giungevano numerosi fedeli, che in una sorta di pellegrinaggio antelitteram si recavano a Delfi per consultare l'Oracolo.

Nella figura mtica della Pizia, così come nelle altre Sibille dell'antichità, non è da vedersi un'unica vecchia sacerdotessa pluricentenaria, quanto invece una serie di fanciulle elevate a tale rango, che si succedevano nel tempo.

E questo è ancora più vero proprio nel caso della Pizia, di cui possediamo, per la sua enorme fama ed importanza, diverse notizie storiche.

Sappiamo, ad esempio, che la Pizia era, in origine, una vergine; in seguito, secondo la tradizione, lo stupro di una di quelle fanciulle, la bella Echecrate, indusse ad affidare la sacra funzione ad una donna sposata di età matura (non inferiore ai 50 anni).

Secondo la tradizione, riportata da Lucano, Origene e Giovanni Crisostomo, la Pizia sedeva nell'adyton del tempio di Delfi su un tripode, al di sopra di una fenditura del terreno dalla quale uscivano numerose volute di fumo.

Dopo aver digiunato per 3 giorni ed essersi purificata alla fonte Cassatis, e dopo aver fatto fumigazioni di lauro e farina d'orzo, la Pizia, avvolta totalmente dai vapori sarebbe entrata in trance; ed in questo stato avveniva la possessione del dio Apollo, che per bocca della Pizia, proferiva i suoi vaticini.

La condizione estatica della sacerdotessa era testimoniata anche dallo sconvolgimento fisico che in quei momenti subiva: le si drizzavano i capelli, la schiuma le saliva alla bocca, e in tale stato pronunciava parole apparentemente senza senso, ma pronunciate in esametri, che venivano poi interpretate da alcuni sacerdoti adibiti a quella funzione.

Gaia, Zoe, Snake, Hypnos

The goddess of the earth, the mother of us all, stands on her planet which is cradled by the three-headed dragon of universal energy. She bestows upon Pan, god of wild nature, the mysterious secret of music which is symbolized in the reeds behind him and from which he fashions the pan flute, its haunting sound echoing throughout the untamed world. Also master of the untamed world and musical messenger for Gaia is Jimi Hendrix, shown here in exaltation. Behind him, standing guard to his queen is the Green Man - ancient European deity of the virgin forest. His menacing eye warns humanity of the terrible consequences which will befall our world if we don't honor him and the vegetation of the planet. Attending Gaia is the Cretan Snake Goddess - goddess of the life force - the Zoe of Ancient Greece, the Tao of the Chinese, the Yoga Kundalini (serpent power of India). She holds and hypnotizes the left and right powers of energy - right brain/left brain, feminine/masculine, night/day - maintaining the equilibrium needed for growth. Staggering onto the scene is the first and last god, Dionysus, god of intoxication, chaos, ecstacy but also of freedom and spontaneity.

Orpheus looks back at Eurydice during her rescue from Hades, losing her forever.

The god Morpheus alights to waken the dreamer as Hypnos orchestrates the dream in the crystal ball he holds. The river Lethe trickles by as the the dream figure wanders into the fog at the right


Dio egizio dei morti, rappresentato come uno sciacallo o un cane, o ancora più spesso con corpo umano e testa di sciacallo.

Dopo i primi periodi dell'Antico Regno venne sbalzato dal suo ruolo da Osiride, relegato a ruolo marginale di dio del funerale. Viene considerato figlio del dio Set (o di Osiride) e di Nefite o Iside. Anubi venne anche venerato con il nome di Upuaut ("colui che apre le strade") e raffigurato con testa di coniglio, ed aveva il compito di condurre le anime dei morti al loro giudizio e di proteggere le stesse anime dalla seconda morte quando attraversavano le Scale della Verità. Più tardi i greci lo associarono al loro Ermes, creando la divinità composita Ermanubis.


Dea della musica e della danza. Rappresentata il più delle volta sottoforma di gatto.

Dea gatto della mitologia egizia. Dea della musica e della danza, protettrice dei gatti. Figlia del dio Ra, anche se in alcune occasioni appare come figlia di Amun. Moglie di Ptah e madre del dio leone Mihos. Il suo culto principale aveva sede nella città di Bubastis, nel Delta del Nilo, dove in una necropoli erano custoditi anche i gatti mummificati. Era dea molto importante per la casa (in quanto i gatti erano molto diffusi come animali domestici) ma anche nell'iconografia e nel mito, spesso infatti si rappresentavano i serpenti che attaccano il dio Ra uccisi dai gatti.

Dragone Verde: Triplice natura della Divinità

Un dragone verde-rosso che riunisce in sè la vita dei cinque elementi (artigli d'acquila, serpente-anfibio, fuoco sputato, agilità marina)

…altrove è conosciuto come la Tigre, verde-giallo-rossastra, (terribile e fascinante cavalcar la tigre)

oppure come Lupa, guardiana dei morti (Anubi, Cerbero Lupa capitolina) e alimentatrice della vita…

del Dragone, i monti son le sue scaglie, la storia le sue spire sinuose, la nebbia il suo alito..

Il vento è il suo respiro

L'ombra è il suo corpo

la polvere ilsuo mantello (ali)

nell'invisibile (oblio x umani) è la sua gloria

egli è:

-                      Androgino

-                      Ambiguo (benefico - terrifico)

-                      Gemellare (Apollo – Dioniso: 1° ratio fondatore mitico della civiltà + 2° perfetto selvaggio istintivo)


Ogni fondazione di civiltà richiede sacrificio di uno dei “Gemelli”(vedi Romolo e Remo), ovvero il sacrificio della parte selvaggia x poi resuscitarla ed evocarla successivamente nella trance Dionisiaca che ora sacrifica il “gemello Apollo”.


Divinità-Dragone-Kundalini: Re della Coscienza unica ed unitaria

ricorda che il Dragone macrcosmico è il mirror olografico del Kundalini microcosmico.

Mali della coscienza-anima

-                      Ignoranza (dimenticanza, oblio che genera incoscienza)

da cui nascono le due opposte forse psico-magnetiche di repulsione (odio) e attrazione (attaccamenti o avidità)

tali mali affliggono la coscienza nucleare minima (individuo)

….possono esse, affliggere anche la coscienza del dragone cosmico?

ovvero, la coscienza divina può divenire dimentica di se stessa?

forse si, ...nella notte di Brahma, prima del risveglio... che succede esattamente in quel momento???

Hrana Janto's Gallery of Goddesses

Exerpt and paint from Goddess & Heroines by Patricia Monaghan
NOTE: All Goddess images are Painted by Hrana Janto

Aphrodite /Venus
Artemis / Diana
Baba Yaga
Brigit/ Brigid
Changing Woman
Corn Maiden
Ix Chel
Kuan Yin
Lady of the Beasts\ Feronia
Laksmi / Laxmi
Minerva/ Athena
Morgan La Fey
Nu Kua
Sheila Na Gig
The Sphinx
Sybil/ Sibyl












from Goddesses and Heroines -  foto

Other names: Amaterasu Omi-Kami
Pronounciation:  ah-ma-teh-rah-su
Origin: Japan
Group: Japanese / Shinto
Of all the religions currently practiced by significant numbers of people, the only one whose chief divinity is female is Japanese Shinto, based on the worship of the sun goddess Amaterasu ("great shining heaven").
In her simple shrines-notable for their architectural purity and unpretentiousness and for the central mirror that represents the goddess-Amaterasu is honored as the ruler of all deities, as the guardian of Japan's people, and as the symbol of Japanese cultural unity. Her emblem, the rising sun, still flies on Japan's flag. Even the inroads of patriarchal Buddhism have not destroyed the worship of the bejeweled ancestor of all humanity.

There is one central myth of Amaterasu. She quarreled with the storm god Susano-o and brought winter to the world. Two reasons are given for her annoyance with him: one, because of his murder of Amaterasu's sister, the food-giving goddess Uke-Mochi; the other, because of his deliberately provocative acts against Amaterasu herself.
The latter version has it that Amaterasu did not trust her brother Susano-o because of his excesses and his constant shouting. One day he came to heaven to see her, claiming that he meant no harm. She was wary, but he promised that he would undergo a ritual test to prove his goodwill. He said he would give birth, and that if his intentions were peaceful, the children would all be boys.

Amaterasu grabbed Susano-o's sword and broke it with her teeth, spitting out three pieces which, striking the ground, became goddesses. Susano-o asked Amaterasu for some of her jewels: she gave him five; he cracked them open and made them into gods. But then Susano-o grew wild with excitement at his creative feat and tore through the world destroying everything in his path: he even piled feces under Amaterasu's throne. As though that were not enough, he stole into her quarters and threw a flayed horse's corpse through the roof of her weaving room, so startling one of Amaterasu's companions that she pricked herself and died.
This was too much for the sun goddess. She left this mad world and shut herself up in a comfortable cave. Without the sun, the entire world was blanketed with unending blackness. The eight million gods and goddesses, desperate for their queen's light, gathered to call out pleas that she return. But in her cave the goddess stayed.
The shaman Uzume, goddess of merriment, finally took matters into her hands. She turned over a washtub, climbed on top, and began dancing and singing and screaming bawdy remarks. Soon the dance became a striptease. When she had shed all her clothes, Uzume began dancing so wildly and obscenely that the eight million gods and goddesses started to shout with delight.
Inside her cave, Amaterasu heard the noise. As it grew to a commotion, she called to ask what was going on. Someone paused to answer that they had found a better goddess than the sun. Provoked-and curious-Amaterasu opened the door of her cave just a crack.
The gods and goddesses had, with great foresight, installed a mirror directly outside of the cave. Amaterasu, who had never seen her own beauty before, was dazzled. While she stood there dazed, the other divinities grabbed the door and pulled it open. Thus the sun returned to warm the winter-weary earth. Mounted again on her heavenly throne, Amaterasu punished Susano-o by having his fingernails and toenails pulled out and by throwing him out of her heaven.

Aphrodite / Venus -  foto

One of the most familiar of Greek goddesses, Aphrodite was not originally Greek at all. She was the ancient mother goddess of the eastern Mediterranean who established herself first on the islands off Greece before entering the country itself. There, her journey with the sea traders who brought her across the waters was expressed in a symbolic tale.
In the ancient days, it was said, the old heaven-god Uranus was castrated by his children, the Titans; his penis fell into the ocean and ejaculated a final divine squirt. The sea reddened where it fell, and then the foam gathered itself into a figure: the long-haired Aphrodite riding on a mussel shell. (Whence the epithet Anadyomene, "she who rises from the waves.") She shook the seawater from her locks and watched drops fall, instantly turning to pearls, at her feet. She floated to the islands off Greece, for which she is sometimes named Cytherea or Cypris. She landed at Cyprus and was greeted by the lovely Horae, who provided attire worthy of her beauty and who became her constant companions.
The story of her birth is an obvious description of the journey of this Near Eastern goddess to her new home in Greece. It is also allegorical: the sky impregnates the great sea womb with dynamic life, a story that the Greeks reiterated in the alternate version of Aphrodite's birth by the sea sprite Dione and the sky god Zeus.
Once she arrived, the Greeks provided Aphrodite with a husband: Hephaestus, the crippled god of smithcraft. Aphrodite could not be contained in a single relationship, though, and spread her favors liberally among divine and mortal males. She bore children by half a dozen mates, none her husband. In many of these unions, the allegory is glaringly obvious, as when Aphrodite (sexuality) mates with Dionysus (wine) to produce Priapus (permanent erection).
The most famous-or notorious-of Aphrodite's affairs were those with Ares and with the beautiful young Adonis. She carried on scandalously and publicly with the god of war; their union was a fascinating symbol of the relationship of female carnality and male competitiveness. All heaven knew of their assignations, the Greeks said, before someone finally tattled to the husband. Furious at Aphrodite's unfaithfulness (although in her homeland such behavior would have been expected), the cuckolded Hephaestus fashioned a mesh of gold in which he caught the lovers. Ares and Aphrodite were the laughingstock of heaven then, naked and damp, their limbs entangled in each other's and in the golden web that held them.

As for Adonis, it was said that Aphrodite fell in love with his youthful beauty and hid him in a chest that she gave to Persephone for safekeeping. The queen of the underworld, however, peeked inside to see what treasure she was guarding and, smitten, refused to give Adonis back to Aphrodite. Zeus was called in to arbitrate, and he ruled that Adonis could live one-third of each year by himself, one-third with Persephone, and the remaining one-third with Aphrodite. Each year thereafter Adonis was killed while hunting a wild boar, and his spilled blood turned the Lebanese river named for him red.
The energy that Aphrodite represented, however humanly true, was almost incompatible with Greek culture. The Great Goddess of impersonal, indiscriminate lust meshed poorly with the emerging Greek intellectualism. Thus the tale of the goddess's love for the everdying god ceased to be central to her legend and became that of just another casual attraction to a pretty face. The rather smutty little tale is a far cry from those masterpieces of theological understanding, the stories of Ishtar, Inanna, and Cybele, with their symbolic description of the hopeless love of the earth herself for the life she continually produces and inevitably consumes.

In their attempt to assimilate the alien goddess, the Greeks converted Aphrodite into a personification of physical beauty. But she remained so problematical that Plato distinguished her by two titles: Urania, who ruled spiritualized (platonic, if you will) love; and Aphrodite Pandemos, the Aphrodite of the commoners, who retained her original character in debased form. In this form she was called Porne, the "titillator." It was this latter Aphrodite who was worshiped at Corinth, where the Near Eastern practice of sacramental promiscuity deteriorated into a costly prostitution about which the Greeks warned travelers, "The voyage to Corinth is not for everyone." However degraded the practice became in a patriarchal context, the "hospitable women" (Pindar) who engaged in it were highly valued, serving as priestesses in public festivals, and of such rank and importance that at state occasions as many hetaerae as possible were required to attend.

Artemis -  foto

As we see her in Western art, Artemis is the virginal moon goddess roaming the forest with her band of nymphs, bearing the bow and quiver, avoiding men and killing any male who looks on her. But this familiar form was only one of the identities assumed by this complex Greek goddess, for she was also the many-breasted Artemis of Ephesus, a semi-human symbol of fecundity, and the warlike Artemis said to have been the special goddess of the Amazons.

It is problematical whether Artemis was originally an all-encompassing goddess later divided into separate identities, or if Artemis became so complex by assuming the attributes of lesser goddesses as her worshipers took control of Greece. But, like Isis or Ishtar, Artemis came to represent the variable energies of the feminine. She was therefore contradictory: she was the virgin who promoted promiscuity; she was the huntress who protected animals; she was a tree, a bear, the moon. Artemis was the image of a woman moving through her life and assuming different roles at different times; she was a veritable encyclopedia of feminine possibility.
In one form she was a nymph and ruler of all nymphs, an elemental force whose domain was the greenwood. There an order exists so unlike human order that it seems to us formless and free, but this freedom is that of complete obedience to instinct, which animals still follow while humans do not. Artemis in this form was the "Lady of the Beasts," the force who assured their individual deaths and the survival of the species. As mistress of the animals, she was the invisible game warden of the Greeks, killing with sharp arrows anyone who hunted pregnant beasts or their young. Again as instinct, she ruled reproduction, both sex and birth. She ruled the childbed; even in late legend, when her dominance was undercut by male gods, Artemis was said to have been the elder twin of the sun (not originally her brother) and midwife at Apollo's birth. It was to Artemis, the force of creation, that Greek mothers called when the pangs of birth began, and they found comfort in their belief that she nursed them through labor just as she did any of her other animals.

As the nymph of the greenwood, then, she is not really different from her other most famous form: Mother Artemis, whose vast rich temple at Amazonian Ephesus was one of the wonders of the ancient world. There her massive statue stood, rising from a legless base into a huge torso ringed with breasts, then up to a head surmounted by the turret crown of her city. This Artemis was merely a different visualization of the same energy represented by the woodland nymph: the instinct to live, to produce and reproduce constantly, to devour, and to die. There is power in the image of Ephesia--as Artemis in this form was sometimes called--a power that could be seen as terrifying, so vast and inhuman is it.

The most beloved goddess of Greece, Artemis was honored in rituals that were wildly popular although as varied as the forms of the goddess herself. At Ephesus, in her well-endowed temple, Artemis was served by chaste priestesses called Mellisai, or "bees," and by eunuch priests. In Sparta she was Korythalia, worshiped in orgiastic dancing. The Amazons honored the war mother Astateia, the mother as protector of her children, in a circle dance amid the clashing of shields and swords and the stomping of battle-clad feet. But apparently the most popular festivals of Artemis were those celebrated on nights of the full moon, when worshipers would gather in the goddess's wood and give themselves over to her power in revels and anonymous matings. The beloved goddess of Greece was the personification of natural law, so different from the laws of society, so much more ancient, so everlasting.

Baba Yaga -  foto

The "old woman" of autumn was called Baba by the Slavic inhabitants of eastern Europe, Boba by the Lithuanians. This seasonal divinity lived in the last sheaf of grain harvested in a year, and the woman who bound it would bear a child that year. Baba passed into Russian folk legend as the awesome Baba Yaga, a witchlike woman who rowed through the air in a mortar, using a pestle for her oar, sweeping the traces of her flight from the air with a broom.

A prototype of the fairytale witch, Baba Yaga lived deep in the forest and scared passersby to death just by appearing to them. She then devoured her victims, which is why her picket fence was topped with skulls. Behind this fierce legend looms the figure of the ancient birth-and-death goddess, one whose autumn death in the cornfield led to a new birth in spring.

Bast -  foto

She originated in the Nile delta, but by 930 B.C., the power of Bast was acknowledged by all Egyptians, even those a thousand miles south of her original home. At first she was a lion-goddess of sunset, symbolizing the fertilizing force of the sun's rays. Later her image grew tamer: she became a cat carrying the sun, or a cat-headed woman who bore on her breast plate the lion of her former self.
Bast ruled pleasure and dancing, music and joy. At the city of Bubastis ("house of Bast"), the center of her worship, great celebrations were held. Boatloads of worshipers--hundreds of thousands of them, Herodotus said--were greeted by pleasant flute melodies as they debarked for a worship service combined with a vast trade fair. Bast's followers believed that in return for this reverent celebration Bast bestowed both mental and physical health. As part of Bast's worship, Egyptians honored live cats. Domesticated (if cats can ever be truly said to be domesticated) during the early period of agriculture, cats were useful to keep down the rodent population and therefore to assure a stable diet for humans. Egyptians cherished their cats, often decking them with golden earrings or other jewelry. When they died, the cats were mummified and buried in the vast cat cemetary at Bubastis.

Blodewedd -  foto

Arianhod, unwilling mother of the Welsh hero Llew Llaw Gyffes, laid a curse on him that he would never have a human wife. So two magicians made Blodewedd from nine kinds of wildflowers, among them meadowsweet, oak, broom, primrose, and cockle. The magicians piled blossom upon blossom to create "Flowerface."
The beautiful Blodewedd was also treacherous. She lived with Llew Llaw for a time. One day, though, she saw a band of hunters pass outside her window and, falling in love with one of them, plotted the death of her husband. Llew Llaw had a magical safeguard. He could be killed only under curious circumstances: in a bath by the side of a river, under a thatched roof over a caldron, while standing with one foot on a deer. Blodewedd set up those circumstances, daring Llew Llaw to stand in his only dangerous position. He took the dare and her hidden lover killed the king.
Blodewedd eventually was found out, captured by the magicians who created her, and turned into an owl. This strange legend, which parallels the Irish story of Blathmat and the Semitic Delilah, seems to record an ancient legend of the goddess, the clues to which are now lost. Some, like Robert Graves, see Blodewedd as a type of the May Queen, wedded ritually to the king who would eventually be sacrificed to her. Others see her as a flowery rebel, an image of women's opposition to patriarchal bondage. But it is also possible that the flower goddess of betrayal was simply the goddess of life and death, a form of the earth goddess who, like Ishtar or Cybele, both loved and devoured the living.

Brigit/ Brigid/ Bridget/ Bride -  foto

Probably the clearest example of the survival of an early goddess into Christian times is Brigid (pronounced "breed"), the great triple goddess of the Celtic Irish who appeared as Brigantia in England, Bride in Scotland, and Brigandu in Celtic France.

So entrenched was the devotion of the Irish to their goddess that the Christians "converted" her along with her people, calling her Bridget, the human daughter of a Druid, and claiming she was baptized by the great patriarch St. Patrick himself. Bridget took religious vows, the story went on, and was canonized after her death by her adoptive church, which then allowed the saint a curious list of attributes, coincidentally identical to those of the earlier goddess.
The Christian Bridget, for instance, was said to have had the power to appoint the bishops of her area, a strange role for an abbess, made stranger by her requirement that her bishops also be practicing goldsmiths. The ancient Brigid, however, was in one of her three forms the goddess of smithcraft. Brigid also ruled poetry and inspiration, carrying for this purpose a famous caldron; her third identity was as a goddess of healing and medicine. Not surprisingly, the Christian Bridget was invoked both as a muse and as a healer, continuing the traditions of the goddess.
There were three Brigids, who were probably never construed as separate goddesses but as aspects of one divinity; unlike other triple goddesses, they were identical, not aging through the typical maiden-mother-crone sequence. The Brigids were unified in the symbol of fire, for her name means "bright arrow," or simply the "bright one." Almost into modern times, the ancient worship of the fire goddess Brigid continued at her sacred shrine in Kildare, where 19 virgins tended the undying fire and where, on the 20th day of each cycle, the fire was miraculously tended by Brigid herself. There, into the 18th century, the ancient song was sung to her: "Brigid, excellent woman, sudden flame, may the bright fiery sun take us to the lasting kingdom." But for more than 10 centuries, the Bridget invoked was a saint rather than a goddess; her attendants, nuns rather than priestesses.
The Irish said that the goddess Brigid brought to humanity a number of useful things, including whistling, which she invented one night when she wanted to call her friends. And when her beloved son was killed, Brigid invented keening, the mournful song of the bereaved Irishwoman; this story draws her close to the great mother goddesses of the eastern Mediterranean, and like them, Brigid was identified with the earth herself and with the soil's fertility.

Ritual, that most conservative of forces, preserved Brigid's name and symbols for more than 1,000 years after she ceased to be acknowledged as a goddess. But little is left of the legends told of one of the greatest of all Celtic goddesses, a deity so high that her brass shoe was the most sacred object that could be imagined, a divinity so intensely related to the feminine force that no man was allowed to pass beyond the hedge surrounding her sanctuary.
Some rituals and legends suggest that Brigid's history may date back even beyond the era of the Celts-that she may have taken on some of the aspects of an even more ancient seasonal goddess of the pre-Celtic inhabitants of Ireland and Scotland. In the latter, a series of stories relate how the Cailleach kept a maiden named Bride imprisoned in the high mountains of Ben Nevis. But her own son fell in love with the girl and, at winter's end, he eloped with her. The hag chased them across the landscape, causing fierce storms as she went, but finally she turned to stone and Bride was freed. In such stories, which may date back as much as 2000-3000 years, Brigid becomes a surrogate for a spring/summer goddess whose rule over the land alternated with that of a fall/winter hag. Similarly, the fact that the massive sandstones called sarsens, used in the building of such ancient pre-Celtic monuments as Stonehenge and Avebury, are called Bridestones, suggests that Brigid's identity as a primary goddess caused her name to be used of Neolithic (late Stone Age) divinities of the area.

Cerridwen/ Cerridwyn -  foto

Cerridwen was worshipped by the people of Wales -- who call themselves the Cymri or friends, for the term "Welsh" means "foreigner" in the language of their British neighbors.
Cerridwen lived on an island in the middle of Lake Tegid with her two children -- the beautiful Creidwy and the ugliest boy in the world, Afagdu. To compensate her son for bestowing such a body on him, the goddess brewed a magical formula that would make her son the most brilliant and inspired of men. For a year and a day, she kept herbs simmering in her caldron, which she left under the care of a little boy named Gwion.
One day, while the goddess was out collecting more herbs for her brew, a few drops of the bubbling liquid splattered onto Gwion's finger. Scowling in pain, he stuck his hand instantly into his mouth. Miraculously, he was able to hear everything in the world and to understand the secrets of both the past and the future.
His enchanted foresight showed him how angry Cerridwen would be when she found a mere mortal had acquired the inspiration intended for her son. So he ran away; the all-knowing Cerridwen realized what had happened and pursued him. Gwion changed himself into a hare; Cerridwen pursued him as a greyhound. So they ran: he as a fish, she as an otter; he as a bird, she as a hawk; he as a grain of wheat, she as a hen.
It was in the final form that she caught and devoured him, bearing him nine months later as a child. She threw the baby into the water where he was caught by a prince and grew into the poet Taliesin, the greatest poet in his language. Thus the Welsh expressed their understanding that death and rebirth were necessary for true inspiration to be brought into this world, showing the Muse, the goddess of inspiration, in a somewhat more terrible form than she appears in other cultures.

Changing Woman/ Estsanatlehi -  foto

The Apache called the earth goddess by this name, for she never grew old. When her age began to show, she simply walked toward the east until she saw her form coming toward herself. She kept walking until her young self merged with her aging self and then, renewed, returned to her home. Among the Chiricahua Apache, the name of this eternal goddess was Painted Woman.
"Turquoise woman" was the Navaho sky-goddess, wife of the sun. She lived in a turquoise palace at the western horizon, where each night she received her luminous husband. Sister (or twin or double) of Yolkai Estsan, the moon's wife, Estsanatlehi was able to make herself young each time she began to age, thus her name, which means the "self-renewing one."
Here is her story: the ancestral goddess Atse Estsan, discovering Estsanatlehi on the ground beneath a mountain, reared her to be the savior of earth's people. When she was grown, Estsanatlehi met a young man; each day they went to the woods to make love. When her parents looked on the ground and saw only one set of footprints, they knew their daughter had taken the sun as a lover.
Delighted at the honor granted their family, they were delighted again when Estsanatlehi gave birth to twins, who grew so miraculously that eight days after birth they were men, ready to seek their father. But when they found his house, the twins found another woman there. Angry at the intrusion, she threatened them with their father's anger as well.
Undeterred, the twins remained and won from their father magic weapons, which they needed to clear the earth of monsters. This they did. After dancing with their mother in celebration, the twins built Estsanatlehi a magnificent home at the sky's end, so that the sun could visit her again.
But the twins' wars with the monsters had depopulated the earth. Estsanatlehi brushed the dust from her breasts. From the white flour that fell from her right breast and the yellow meal from her left, she made paste and molded a man and a woman. Placing them beneath a magical blanket, Estsanatlehi left them. The next morning they were alive and breathing, and Estsanatlehi blessed the creation. For the next four days, the pair reproduced constantly, forming the four great Navaho clans. But the creative urge of Estsanatlehi was not fulfilled. She made four more groups of people, this time from the dust of her nipples-and the women of these clans were thereafter famous for their nipples.
Feeling her creation to be complete, Estsanatlehi retired to her turquoise palace from which she continued to bestow blessings on her people: seasons, plants and food, and the tender sprouts of spring. Only four monsters survived her sons' wars on evil: age, winter, poverty, and famine, which she allowed to live on so that her people would treasure her gifts the more.

Coatlique -  foto

The earth was a fivefold "serpent-skirted goddess" to the ancient Mexicans, who counted four directions and a central point, up and down, on their compasses.
The fivefold earth goddess therefore sometimes appeared to them as a woman with four sisters; they gathered, it was said, on Coatepec ("Snake Hill") to meditate. There Coatlicue gathered white feathers to adorn her breasts; becoming pregnant while remaining a virgin, she gave birth to the savior-god Quetzalcoatl. In other legends, she was impregnated by emeralds or jade stones.
Sometimes the fivefold goddess was called a moon divinity, wife of the sun-god. She was also called the creator: she was preeminent and pre-existent, floating for eons in a misty world. Even the sun and his magicians did not realize her magnificence. Once they did, however, they brought her love charms, and she suddenly flowered forth as the great mother of all living.
But Coatlicue was the death mother as well. Her most famous images show her as the ruler of life and its end, garlanded with hearts and hands, wearing a skirt of swinging serpents, hung with skulls, vested in a flayed human skin. Coatlicue, honored with spring's earliest flowers, was also rightly attired in claws and snakes, for to the ancient Mexicans the goddess was both Tlaltecuhtli, the ugly earth toad, and Tonantzin, the mother redeemer.

Corn Woman / Uti Hiata -  foto

Uti Hiata is the Pawnee name for "Mother Corn," one of the most important divinities of the Plains Indian culture. Their neighbors, the Arikara, told the Corn Mother's story in detail.
From the great blue lake of creation, diving ducks brought up bits of silt to build prairies and foothills. Sky father Nesaru, seeing giants populating the earth, sent a great flood to destroy them; he replanted the earth with maize seeds, which sprouted into human beings. Then he sent Uti Hiata to assist at their birth.
Finding no one on earth, Uti Hiata walked and walked. Suddenly the thunder kidnapped her and hid her beneath the earth. There, she gathered the underworld animals-the mole, the mouse, the badger-and with their help dug through the ground and burst out into the sun. As she emerged, so did the people of the plains, to whom she taught secrets of life and magic and the methods of agriculture and of religious ritual. Satisfied that humanity would live in abundance, she disappeared from the earth, leaving the cedar as an emblem of her existence.

Demeter / Ceres  -  foto

Once the flowerlike Persephone, the lovely daughter of earth, disappeared, her mother, Demeter, could find her nowhere. The weeping Demeter searched and searched through the fields, crying out for the daughter who was so close as to seem her very self, her childhood, her gentle youth. Demeter fretfully clutched her bluegreen cloak, then thoughtlessly shredded it into tiny pieces, scattering them as cornflowers in the grasses.
But flowers and grasses soon faded, for Demeter was the source of all growth; as she mourned, the goddess withdrew her energy from the plants, which began to wilt and shrivel. So, it was said, Chloe ("green one"), the happy earth, changed for the first time into the yellowgold, autumnal Demeter. The goddess wandered through the dying earth until she came to a town near Athens. There she took a job as nursemaid to the queen of Eleusis, Metanira, whose son Triptolemos she wanted to make immortal by smoking him like a log in the fireplace (see Isis). The frantic queen found her, and the disguised goddess was revealed. Demeter stayed on in Eleusis, however, often sitting sadly by a well as she wept for the loss of her beloved daughter.

One day the queen's daughter Baubo (or lambe) saw the sad goddess at the well and tried to comfort her. Demeter refused all her consoling words and so, to make the goddess smile, Baubo exposed her vulva salaciously. Surprised, Demeter chuckled, the first laughter the starving earth had heard from its goddess in many months. Shortly afterward, Persephone was restored to her mother, and spring bloomed again on the earth. In gratitude for the hospitality of the Eleusinians, Demeter taught the arts of agriculture to Prince Triptolemos and thereafter based her mysterious rites at that city.
This Greek story of the Great Goddess is clearly a seasonal metaphor; it contains as well a beautifully tender archetype of the bond between mothers and daughters. A variant of the common Mediterranean myth that explains how the earth loves and consumes its own green growth, this legend is singular in epitomizing this love, not in a sexual relationship between the everdying son and his mother, but in a familial bond between the maternal Demeter and her adored daughter Persephone.
This daughter, the springtime earth, was really only another form of Demeter herself. In Sicily, the identity of Demeter and Persephone was canonical; they were dubbed Damatres ("mothers") and were portrayed as indistinguishable. But the most common form of the Great Goddess was a trinity, rather than a pair of deities, and many scholars have sifted through the famous Demeter myths, hoping to find the third part of the feminine triad, the winter earth, the aged crone, the hibernating seed. Speculation has generally settled on Hecate, who certainly seems to be the most cronelike of the possible divine figures in the story. In addition, she appears at important junctures; she was, for instance, the only one to witness Persephone's disappearance. Because the omniscient earth, Demeter, could hardly have been oblivious to happenings on her surface, Hecate therefore seems to be an aspect of Demeter as "earth mother."
But "earth mother" is only one of the possible meanings of Demeter's name. The second part of the word unarguably means "mother." The first part, however, translates as easily into "cereal" as "earth," making her the goddess not of the earth's surface but only of cultivated, food-providing plants, parallel to the Roman Ceres. If Damater derives from the words for "earth mother," the goddess would be another form of Ge or Gaea. As such, she appears in some legends mated to Poseidon, "the husband of Da."
Whether she symbolized all the earth or just its edible plants, Demeter was worshiped in fireless sacrifices, demanding all offerings in their natural state. Honeycombs, unspun wool, unpressed grapes, and uncooked grain were laid on her altars. Not for her the offerings of wine, mead, cakes, and cloth, for Demeter was the principle of natural, rather than artificial, production.
Her greatest festival, shared with Persephone, was at Eleusis, where the Greeks annually celebrated mysteries that brought the initiate into a gracious and grateful relationship to the Mother. At the three-day festival, the mystai imitated the searching Demeter and rejoiced as, once again, she was reunited with her daughter. In their mimicry, they were at first Demeter Erynes ("angry"), furious and sad at the loss of Persephone; then they acted the happy role of Demeter Louisa ("kindly one"), the mother transformed by reunion. In other places and at other times, Demeter bore other names: Kidaria ("mask"), Chamaine ("soil"), and the powerful Thesmophoros ("lawgiver"), orderer of the seasons of the earth and of human life as well.

Durga -  foto

All goddesses in Hindu belief are ultimately the same goddess, often called simply "the Goddess" or "Devi." But she appears in different forms with different names. One of the fiercest of Devi's forms is Durga. She was also the eldest: during the primordial war between gods and antigods, Durga was the first manifestation of goddess-energy.
The war was a standoff; neither side was winning, and the battles dragged on without victory. Almost hopeless, the gods gathered and concentrated their energies. Flames sprang from their mouths and formed Durga, the first female divinity in the universe. Although produced by the gods, the goddess was stronger than any of them, or all of them together, and she was fiercely eager to fight.
Recognizing her power, the gods handed their weapons to Durga. She mounted a lion to ride toward the antigods' chief, the demon Mahisa. That magical being, terrified of this new apparition, used his powers to assume one fearsome form after another. Still the goddess advanced, until finally, as the demon assumed the form of a buffalo, Durga slaughtered him. The demon nonetheless tried to escape through the dying beast's mouth, but Durga caught him by the hair and butchered him, thereby freeing the earth for the gods to inhabit.
The goddess in this form not only symbolizes the fierce power of the combat against evil but also the rule of the intellectual sphere, for Durga ("unapproachable") represents the end of all things; to seek to understand her is to engage in the most powerful intellectual exploration possible.

Eostre / Ostara -  foto

The Germanic name for spring's goddess means "movement towards the rising sun." Ostara was celebrated in the fourth month of the year, April, according to the British scribe Bede the Venerable, writing in the seventh century CE.
Over a thousand years later, the Grimm brothers found that she was still honored in Germanic lands, where her name was used for the month she ruled. In Anglo-Saxon, her name became Estre or Eastre, which survives today in the festival of rebirth, Easter, and in the mood encouraged by springtime, estrus. She was honored among the Germanic people with painted eggs, a tradition that survives today.

Erinyes  -  foto

Long before the Olympians ruled the territory we now call Greece, the people there recognized three immortal black maidens with serpent hair and poisonous blood that dripped from their eyes. Clad in gray, bearing brass-studded whips, baying and barking like bitches, they roamed the pre-Hellenic world in pursuit of those who dared offend the primordial laws of kinship.
They were the force that held a matriarchal world together, for these half-human women waited as punishment for anyone who dared commit the sacrilege of spilling kindred blood. The dreaded Erinyes hounded to death, like a tortured conscience, anyone who spilled such blood, painfully created by his maternal relatives, for kinship was traced through the mother.
There were three Erinyes, or there was one Erinys with three forms: Alecto ("unresting one"), Megaera ("envious anger"), and Tisiphone ("avenger"). They were born from the blood of the castrated sky god Uranus where it touched the earth mother Gaia. Standing by the throne of the sun or in the dark world of Tartarus, these implacable goddesses could be stayed by neither sacrifice nor tears once their righteous anger was aroused. Nonetheless, those hoping to avert their gaze from minor misdeeds would lay by their sanctuaries black sheep and honeyed water, white doves and narcissus flowers.
The trinity of goddesses bore many names. As the Semnae, they were worshiped as "kindly ones," although they were invariably just rather than gentle; when guilty conspirators sought their forgiveness by attaching themselves by a thread to the goddesses's statue, the Erinyes miraculously broke free, showing the Athenians that criminals deserved punishment. As the Dirae, they were "curses" personified. As Maniae or Furiae, they were the mad ones--the Furies. Most often they were called Erinyes, "the strong ones," a force so instinctive and primeval that the Greeks assured each other, "Even dogs have their Erinyes."
It was the poet Aeschylus who identified them with the helpful Eumenides, a theologically radical position, for the trinities of goddesses were originally distinct. In the famous climax to Aeschylus's Oresteia, the laws of mother right--of which the Erinyes were the fiercest symbol--are shown giving way to the newer form of social organization imported into Greece by the patriarchal Indo-Europeans. Orestes, son of Clytemnestra, killed his mother in a vengeful fury; the Erinyes hounded him until they reached the temple of Apollo, where he took sanctuary. The first trial by jury was then held, with Athena presiding; the vote was tied.
Athene cast the deciding vote, against punishment of the matricide. The Erinyes were convulsed with anger at the decision, at having a morsel stolen from their plates. "Gods of the younger generation," they screamed, "you have ridden down the laws of elder times, torn them out of my hand." They threatened to ravage the land in retaliation, but Athene consoled them with promises of sacrifices and honor. Finally, they grew reconciled to the new order and were renamed Eumenides, taking on the name and identity of a triplet of goddesses who originally had little but number in common with the Erinyes. Allowed to keep their original function, the goddesses were thereafter to exercise their calling only at the behest of the Olympian divinities.

Eurynome -  foto

The most ancient of Greek goddesses, she rose naked from primordial chaos and instantly began to dance: a dance that separated light from darkness and sea from sky.
Whirling in a passion of movement, Eurynome created behind herself a wind that grew lustful toward her. Turning to face it, she grasped the wind in her hands, rolled it like clay into a serpent, and named it Ophion.
Then Eurynome had intercourse with the wind serpent and, transforming herself into a dove, laid the universal egg from which creation hatched. Installing herself high above the new earth on Mt. Olympus, Eurynome looked down on it complacently. But Ophion, her own creation, bragged that he had been responsible for all that was tangible. Forthwith Eurynome kicked out his teeth and threw him into an underworld dungeon.
There was another goddess of this name-or perhaps the later Eurynome was an elaboration of the creator goddess. Said by the Greeks to rule the sea, she may have been the same goddess as-or part of a trinity with-the great sea rulers Tethys and Thetis. The "wide-ruling one," Eurynome had a temple in wild Arcadia, difficult to reach and open only once a year. If pilgrims penetrated the sanctuary, they found the image of the goddess as a woman with a snake's tail, tied with golden chains. In this form, Eurynome of the sea was said to have been the mother of all pleasure, embodied in the beautiful triplets, the Graces.

Freya -  foto

Far from the ancient Near East, home of the lustful warrior Anat, we find a goddess who is virtually her double: a Scandinavian mistress of all the gods who was also the ruler of death. Leader of the Valkyries, war's corpse-maidens, this goddess was also the one to whom love prayers were most effectively addressed.
The goddess who gave her name to the sixth day of our week, Freya was one form of the "large-wombed earth," another version of which her people called Frigg the heavenly matron. Here was how Freya appeared to her worshipers: the most beautiful of all goddesses, she wore a feathered cloak over her magical amber necklace as she rode through the sky in a chariot drawn by cats, or sometimes on a huge golden-bristled boar who may have been her own brother, the fertility god Frey.
When Freya was in Asgard, the home of the deities, she lived on Folkvangr ("people's plain") in a vast palace called Sessrumnir ("rich in seats"). She needed such a huge palace to hold the spirit hordes she claimed on the battlefields, for the first choice of the dead was hers, with leftovers falling to Odin. Like Persephone, the Greek death queen, Freya was also the spirit of the earth's fertility; like Persephone too, Freya was absent from earth during autumn and winter, a departure that caused the leaves to fall and the earth to wear a mourning cloak of snow. And like Hecate, an alternate form of Persephone, Freya was the goddess of magic, the one who first brought the power of sorcery to the people of the north.
Despite her connection with death, Freya was never a terrifying goddess, for the Scandinavians knew she was the essence of sexuality. Utterly promiscuous, she took all the gods as her love-including the wicked Loki, who mated with her in the form of a flea-but her special favorite was her brother Frey, recalling Anat's selection of her brother Baal as playmate. But Freya had a husband, too, an aspect of Odin named Odr; he was the father of her daughter Hnossa ("jewel"). When Odr left home to wander the earth, Freya shed tears of amber. But she soon followed Odr, assuming various names as she sought him: here she was Mardol, the beauty of light on water, there Horn, the linen-woman; sometimes she was Syr, the sow, other times Gefn, the generous one. But always she was "mistress," for that is the meaning of her own name, and a particularly appropriate double entendre it proves in her case.

Gyhldeptis  -  foto

"Lady hanging hair" was a kindly forest spirit of the Tlingit and Haida in southeastern Alaska; they saw her in the long, hanging mossy branches of the great cedars of the rain forest.
A protector of Indians and other humans, Gyhldeptis was disturbed by the activities of Kaegyihl Depgeesk ("upside-down place"), a tremendous whirlpool that devoured entire ships of travelers. To break this power, Gyhldeptis staged a huge feast and invited all the coastal powers: the ice, the forest fire, the wind, and others. Magically feeding them in her underwater Festival House, Gyhldeptis convinced the forces that human beings needed more protection from Kaegyihl Depgeesk. Thereupon, all the well-fed natural powers set to work rearranging the coast so that the whirlpool was smoothed into a gentle river.

Hathor -  foto

One of the world's greatest goddesses, Hathor was worshiped for more than a millennium longer than the life, to date, of Christianity. For more than 3,000 years her joyful religion held sway over Egypt.
Small wonder, then, that a profusion of legends surrounded her, or that she was depicted in so many different guises: at once mother and daughter of the sun, both a lioness and a cow, sometimes a woman, and sometimes a tree.
One of the world's greatest goddesses, Hathor was worshiped for more than a millennium longer than the life, to date, of Christianity. For more than 3,000 years her joyful religion held sway over Egypt. Small wonder, then, that a profusion of legends surrounded her, or that she was depicted in so many different guises: at once mother and daughter of the sun, both a lioness and a cow, sometimes a woman, and sometimes a tree. Goddess of the underworld, she was also ruler of the sky. Patron of foreigners, she was mother of the Egyptians. Like Ishtar to the east, she was a complex embodiment of feminine possibilities.
One of Hathor's most familiar forms was the winged cow of creation who gavebirth to the universe. Because she bore them, she owned the bodies of the dead; thus she was queen of the underworld. Again, she appeared as the seven (or nine) Hathors who materialized at a child's birth and foretold its inescapable destiny. Then too, she was the special guardian spirit of all women and all female animals.

"Habitation of the hawk and birdcage of the soul," Hathor was essentially the body in which the soul resides. As such, she was patron of bodily pleasures: the pleasures of sound, in music and song; the joys of the eye, in art, cosmetics, the weaving of garlands; the delight of motion in dance and in love; and all the pleasures of touch. In her temples, priestesses danced and played their tinkling tambourines, probably enjoying other sensual pleasures with the worshipers as well. (Not without cause did the Greeks compare her to Aphrodite.)
Her festivals were carnivals of intoxication, especially that held at Dendera on New Year's Day, when Hathor's image was brought forth from her temple to catch the rays of the newborn sun, whereupon revels broke out and throbbed through the streets. (In this capacity she was called Tanetu.) She was a most beloved goddess to her people, and they held fast to her pleasureful rites long into historical times.

Hecate -  foto

At night, particularly at the dark of the moon, this goddess walked the roads of ancient Greece, accompanied by sacred dogs and bearing a blazing torch. Occasionally she stopped to gather offerings left by her devotees where three roads crossed, for this threefold goddess was best honored where one could look three ways at once. Sometimes, it was even said that Hecate could look three ways because she had three heads: a serpent, a horse, and a dog.
While Hecate walked outdoors, her worshipers gathered inside to eat Hecate suppers in her honor, gatherings at which magical knowledge was shared and the secrets of sorcery whispered and dogs, honey and black female lambs sacrificed. The bitch-goddess, the snake-goddess, ruled these powers and she bestowed them on those who worshiped her honorably. When supper was over, the leftovers were placed outdoors as offerings to Hecate and her hounds. And if the poor of Greece gathered at the doorsteps of wealthier households to snatch the offerings, what matter?
Some scholars say that Hecate was not originally Greek, her worship having traveled south from her original Thracian homeland. Others contend that she was a form of the earth mother Demeter, yet another of whose forms was the maiden Persephone. Legends, they claim, of Persephone's abduction and later residence in Hades give clear prominence to Hecate, who therefore must represent the old wise woman, the crone, the final stage of woman's growth-the aged Demeter herself, just as Demeter is the mature Persephone.
In either case, the antiquity of Hecate's worship was recognized by the Greeks, who called her a Titan, one of those pre-Olympian divinities whom Zeus and his cohort had ousted. The newcomers also bowed to her antiquity by granting to Hecate alone a power shared with Zeus, that of granting or withholding from humanity anything she wished. Hecate's worship continued into classical times, both in the private form of Hecate suppers and in public sacrifices, celebrated by "great ones" or Caberioi, of honey, black female lambs, and dogs, and sometimes black human slaves.

As queen of the night, Hecate was sometimes said to be the moon-goddess in her dark form, as Artemis was the waxing moon and Selene the full moon. But she may as readily have been the earth goddess, for she ruled the spirits of the dead, humans who had been returned to the earth. As queen of death she ruled the magical powers of regeneration; in addition, she could hold back her spectral hordes from the living if she chose. And so Greek women evoked Hecate for protection from her hosts whenever they left the house, and they erected her threefold images at their doors, as if to tell wandering spirits that therein lived friends of their queen, who must not be bothered with night noises and spooky apparitions.

Hestia/ Vesta  -  foto

There were never statues of this most ancient Greek goddess, for she took no human form. Hestia was seen only in the fire of the hearth, living in the center of every home, an honored guest and helpful to her hosts. As the hearth goddess, Hestia symbolized family unity; by extension, as goddess of the public hearth, she embodied the social contract. At this ever-burning public hearth, the prytaneion, she bore the name of Prytantis; there first fruits, water, oil, wine and year-old cows were sacrified to her.
According to Greek legend, Hestia was the firstborn of the Olympian goddesses. Her antiquity is attested by the Greek proverb "Start with Hestia," meaning "Begin things at the beginning." In the beginning of her worship, matrilineal succession seems to have been the rule, and traces of it survived in the custom of classical Greece whereby a new home was not considered established until a woman brought fire from her mother's hearth to light her own. In the same way, Greek colonists brought fire from the mother city's public hearth to assure the cohesion of their new communities.

Inanna  -  foto

The Sumerians knew how civilization had come to the ancient Near East, and here is how they told the tale.
Across the immeasurable distances of the sweetwater abyss lived Enki, god of wisdom, and with him were the Tablets of Destiny and other magic civilizing implements. These were his treasures, and he kept them from humankind.
But Enki's daughter--Inanna, the crafty queen of heaven--took pity on the miserable primitives of earth and fitted her boat to travel to her father's hall. There she was grandly welcomed with a banquet of food and wine. Wise he may have been, but Enki loved his daughter beyond wisdom, so much that he took cup after cup from her at table and then, drunk, promised her anything she desired. Instantly Inanna asked for the Tablets of Destiny and 100 other objects of culture. What could a fond father do but grant the request?

Inanna immediately loaded the objects onto the boat of heaven and set sail for her city, Erech. Awakening the next day from his stupor, Enki remembered what he had done--and regretted it. But he was incapacitated by a hangover as massive as the previous evening's pleasure, and he could not pursue his daughter until he recovered. By then, of course, Inanna had gained the safety of her kingdom, and even the seven tricks Enki played on her did not regain him his treasures.
And the Sumerians knew how the various seasons came to the desert in which they lived. It started long ago, when the lovely queen of heaven had two suitors, the farmer Enkidu and the shepherd Dumuzi. Both brought her gifts; both wooed her with flattery. Her brother urged the farmer's suit, but the soft woolens that Dumuzi brought tipped the scales of Inanna's heart. And so Dumuzi became the goddess' favorite, in a tale like Cain and Abel's that must have recorded a common dispute in the days when the new agricultural science was gaining ground from the nomadic culture of the cattle and sheep herders.
It was not long before Dumuzi grew arrogant in his favored position. But that leaps ahead in the story, for first Inanna--compelled, some say, by curiosity, while others accuse the goddess of ambition--made plans to descend from her sky throne and visit the underworld. She arranged with her prime minister, Ninshuba, that if she did not return within three days and three nights, he would stage mourning ceremonies and would appeal to the highest deities to rescue her. And then Inanna began her descent.
At the first of the seven gates of the underworld, the goddess was stopped by the gatekeeper, Neti, who demanded part of her attire. So it was at each gate. Piece by piece, Inanna gave up her jewelry and clothing until she stood splendid and naked before Eriskegal, the naked black haired goddess of death, who turned her eyes of stone on the goddess from the upper world.

At that Inanna lost all life and hung for three days and three nights a corpse in the realm of death. When Inanna failed to return to her sky kingdom, Ninshuba did as instructed. Enki, the goddess's father, came to her aid. Fashioning two strange creatures, Kurgurra and Kalaturra, from the dirt beneath his fingernails, he sent them into the wilderness of the afterlife with food and water to revive the lifeless Inanna.
But no one can leave the underworld unless a substitute be found to hang forever naked in the land of doom. And so demons followed the goddess as she ascended to her kingdom. One after another, the demons grabbed the gods they met. Each in turn Inanna freed, remembering good deeds they had performed for her. But when Inanna reached her holy city, Erech, she found that her paramour Dumuzi had set himself up as ruler in her stead. Angered at his presumption, the goddess commanded that he be taken as her substitute to Eriskegal's kingdom. Luckily for Dumuzi, his loving sister Gestinanna followed him to the underworld and won from Eriskegal her brother's life for half each year-the half of the year when the desert plants flower, for Dumuzi was the god of vegetation.
In some versions of the tale it was Inanna herself, not Gestinanna, who freed Dumuzi. But Gestinanna's name incorporates that of the other goddess, and Inanna herself was sometimes said to be Dumuzi's mother, while Ninsun claimed that role in other versions. All these apparent contradictions cease to be problematical, however, if one extends the "three persons in one god" concept to this trinity of Sumerian divinities. Then we see that the mother, the lover, and the sister were all aspects of a single grand figure: the queen of heaven, who may have been the lifegiving sun itself, as able to parch the earth into a desert as to reclaim vegetation seasonally from beneath the earth's surface.

Isis -  foto

Isis of the winged arms, first daughter of Nut, the overarching sky, and the little earth god Geb, was born in the Nile swamps on the first day between the first years of creation.
From the beginning, Isis turned a kind eye on the people of earth, teaching women to grind corn, spin flax, weave cloth, and tame men aufficiently to live with them. The goddess herself lived with her brother, Osiris, god of Nile waters and the vegetation that springs up when the river floods.

Alas for Isis, her beloved Osirus was killed by their evil brother, Set. The mourning goddess cut off her hair and tore her robes to shreds, wailing in grief. Then she set forth to locate her brother's body. Eventually Isis arrived in Phoenicia, where Queen Astarte, pitying but not recognizing the pathetic goddess, hired her as nursemaid to the infant prince. Isis took good care of the child, placing him like a log in the palace fire, where the terrified mother found him smoldering. She grabbed the child from the fire, thus undoing the magic of immortality that Isis had been working on the child. (A similar story was told of the mourning Demeter.)
Isis was called on to explain her action, and thus the goddess's identity was revealed and her search explained. And then Astarte had her own revelation: that the fragrant tamarisk tree in the palace contained the body of the lost Osiris. Isis carried the tree-sheltered corpse back to Egypt for burial. But the evil Set was not to be thwarted; he found the body, stole it, and dismembered it.
Isis's search began anew. And this time her goal was not a single corpse, but a dozen pieces to be found and reassembled. The goddess did find the arms and legs and head and torso of her beloved, but she could not find his penis and substituted a piece of shaped gold. Then Isis invented the rites of embalming, for which the Egyptians are still famous, and she applied them with magical words to the body of Osiris. The god rose, as alive as the corn after spring floods in Egypt. Isis magically conceived a child through the golden phallus of the revived Osiris, and that child was the sun god Horus.
There was another tale told of the magician Isis. Determined to have power over all the gods, she fashioned a snake and sent it to bite Ra, highest of gods. Sick and growing weaker, he called for Isis to apply her renowned curative powers to the wound. But the goddess claimed to be powerless to purge the poison unless she knew the god's secret name, his name of power, his very essence. Ra demurred and hesitated, growing ever weaker. Finally, in desperation, he was forced to whisper the word to her. Isis cured him, but Ra had paid the price of giving her eternal power over him. (A like tale was told of Lilith and Jehovah.)
When she was born in Egypt, the goddess' name was Au Set (Auzit, Eset), which means "exceeding queen" or simply "spirit." But the colonizing Greeks altered the pronunciation to yield the now-familiar Isis, a name used through the generations as the goddess's worship spread from the delta of the Nile to the banks of the Rhine. Like Ishtar (of whom a similar tale of loss and restoration was told), Isis took on the identities of lesser goddesses until she was revered as the universal goddess, the total femininity of whom other goddesses represented only isolated aspects.
She became the Lady of Ten Thousand Names, whose true name was Isis. She grew into Isis Panthea ("Isis the All-Goddess"). She was the moon and the mother of the sun; she was mourning wife and tender sister; she was the culture-bringer and health-giver. She was the "throne" and the "Goddess Fifteen." She was a form of Hathor (or that goddess a form of her). She was also Meri, goddess of the sea, and Sochit, the "cornfield."
But she was everlastingly, to her fervent devotees, the blessed goddess who was herself all things and who promised: "You shall live in blessing, you shall live glorious in my protection; and when you have furfilled your allotted span of life and descend to the underworld, there too you shall see me, as you see me now, shining ... And if you show yourself obedient to my divinity ... you will know that I alone have permitted you to extend your life beyond the time allocated you by your destiny." Isis, who overcame death to bring her lover back to life, could as readily hold off death for her faithful followers, for the all-powerful Isis alone could boast, "I will overcome Fate."

Ix Chel -  foto

Among the Maya of the Yucatan peninsula, this was the name of the snake goddess of water and the moon, of childbirth and weaving. Once, it was said, she took the sun as her lover, but her grandfather hurled lightning jealously at her, killing the girl.
Grieving dragonflies sang over Ix Chel for 13 days, at the end of which time she emerged, whole and alive, and followed her lover to his palace.
But there the sun in turn grew jealous of the goddess, accusing her of taking a new lover: his brother, the morning star. He threw Ix Chel from heaven; she found sanctuary with the vulture divinity; the sun pursued her and lured her home; but immediately, he grew jealous again.
Ix Chel, weary of the sun's behavior, left his home and his bed to wander the night as she wished, making herself invisible whenever he came near. The night-riding goddess spent her energies in nursing the women of earth through pregnancy and labor, taking special care of those who visited her sacred island of Cozumel.

Kali -  foto

In Hindu India, all goddesses are ultimately one: Devi, whose name simply means "the goddess." But she takes different forms-perhaps a way of allowing limited human minds to fix on first one, then another, of her multiple possibilities.
One of the most powerful, most common, and-to Western eyes-most terrifying of these forms is Kali ("Black Mother Time"), the goddess who perpetually transforms life into a fascinating dance of death.
Her tongue juts out of her black face; her hands hold weapons; her necklace and earrings are strung with dismembered bodies. She seems at best a stern mistress, this Shakti ("animating power") of the creative-destroyer Shiva, the dancing god. As Durga, Devi is personified as a just warrior, purging the world of evil; as Parvati, the same energy exemplifies passionate attachment to sexuality. But as Kali, the goddess is uncompromisingly alone, the mother of death which swims in her womb like a babe; she is the force of time leading ever onward to destruction. And then, when she has destroyed everything, Kali will be the timeless sleep from which new ages will awaken.
Kali first manifested herself when the demon Daruka appropriated divine power and threatened the gods. The powerful goddess Parvati knitted her brows in fury, and from her sprang three-eyed Kali, already armed with her trident. This emanation of Parvati quickly dispatched the demon and made the heavens safe again. Once born, this goddess remained in existence, beyond the control of even Parvati (of whom, it must be remembered, she is an aspect).

Several famous myths tell just how uncontrollable is Kali's energy. Once, it was said, she dared to dance with Shiva, the Lord of the Dance. They grew wilder and wilder, more competitive in their dancing, until it seemed the world would shake itself to pieces--and so it will, for beneath all appearances that dance continues. Another time, it is said, Kali fought and killed two demons and celebrated her victory by draining their bodies of blood. Then, drunk with slaughter, she began to dance. Thrilling to the feel of lifeless flesh beneath her naked feet, Kali danced more and more wildly--until she realized that Shiva himself was underneath her and that she was dancing him to death. The god's tactic slowed Kali's wildness, but only for the moment, and eventually she will resume the dance that ends the world.

Kali is still one of India's most popular goddesses: her picture hangs in many homes, her name is familiar in Calcutta (Anglicized from Kali-Ghatt, or "steps of Kali," her temple city). Served at one time by murderers called thuggee (from which derives the English word thug), the goddess of cemeteries was thought to thrive on blood; most often, however, goat rather than human blood was sacrificed to her, and it is still poured out in some parts of India today.
So terrifying do these bloody rites seem that few understand Kali's spiritual significance. As a symbol of the worst we can imagine, as the most extreme picture of our fears, she offers us a chance to face down our own terror of annihilation. Ramakrishna and other great Indian poets sang rapturously of Kali, for they understood that she is a blissful goddess. Once faced and understood, these mystics say, Kali frees her worshipers of all fear and becomes the greatest of mothers, the most comforting of all goddesses.

Kuan Yin/ Kwan Yin/ Kwannon  -  foto

Just as Catholic Christianity has provided an antidote to pure theological patriarchy by encouraging the reverence of the Virgin Mary, so Chinese Buddhism evolved a feminine bodhisattva, or Buddha-to-be, named Kuan Yin.
And just as Mary captured the hearts of Catholic worshipers, so Kuan Yin far outstripped the male bodhisattvas in popularity. Both in Japan (as Kwannon, who is often pictured as male) and in pre-revolutionary China, this semidivine being was honored in virtually every home; she was the most powerful being in the entire Chinese pantheon.
It was said that Kuan Yin was so concerned for humanity that, upon receiving enlightenment, she chose to retain human form rather than transcend it as pure energy. And so she would stay until every single living creature attained enlightenment. Her name translates "she who hears the weeping world"; Kuan Yin sat on her paradise island P'u T'o Shan answering every prayer addressed to her. The mere utterance of her name in prayer was said to assure salvation from physical and spiritual harm. Even better was the observance of Kuan Yin's own testimony of peace and mercy; her most devout worshipers ate no flesh and lived entirely without doing violence to other beings.
Sometimes it was said that Kuan Yin originally lived on earth as Miao Shan, a young woman of unearthly virtue. Although her father wished her to marry, Miao Shan decided to visit a monastery, which, contrary to her expectations, was a hotbed of vice. Her father, hearing of her presence in the convent and suspecting the worst, burned it to the ground. A rainbow carried her to heaven, where her innocent death earned her transmutation into the divine world.
On the other hand, it was sometimes said that the bodhisattva emerged directly from the light of Amitabha Buddha's eye. As this story is also told of the male Indian bodhisattva Avalokita, some scholars believe that Kuan Yin represents a merger of that compassionate figure with the Tibetan star-goddess Tara.
In either case, the feminine Kuan Yin has for centuries been the chief symbol of human compassion in the Orient. Her statues show her dressed in flowing garments and often hung with golden necklaces, attended by the dragon-girl Lung Nu and the male child Shan Ts'ai. Often she holds willows or jewels; she makes symbolic gestures of generosity and the banishment of fear and hardship. Usually a virgin goddess, she is in China occasionally connected with physical love, which can indeed be an expression of love and compassion such as Kuan-Yin encourages. She also appears as a temple-guardian, with a thousand arms or a thousand eyes, always alert and on guard. Such statues were designed as guides to meditation, but the most effective meditation was the constant repetition of KuanYin's name. That continual inner reminder of Kuan Yin's peace and generosity brought such qualities into every aspect of her worshiper's life.

Lady Of The Beasts\ Feronia -  foto

This phrase is used to describe a number of goddesses of various cultures, all of which share a similar identification with wild places and the animals that live therein. A form of the great mother goddess who births and cares for humanity, this Lady usually is found in cultures where game animals provide a signficant part of the diet. Not surprisingly, she is often a goddess of birth as well, invoked for aid by human mothers, but also invoked to encourage animal reproduction. Where a culture has begun to move into agriculture, the Lady often adds rulership of vegetation to her original identity as mother of animals.

Laksmi -  foto

Ancient India did not erect temples to this goddess, for why try to contain the one who embodies herself in all forms of wealth? Lakshmi is everywhere: in jewels, in coins, in rare shells, in every child born to welcoming parents, and particularly in cows.
The well-known reverence for cows in Hindu India is based on the worship of this goddess, called the Shakti of life-preserving Vishnu. Hindu philosophy defined male godhead as passive and abstract, distant and powerless, unless activated by the goddess. In Vishnu's case, his power to maintain and enrich life only functions when Lakshmi inspires it. Therefore it is thought good policy to bestow reverence on those embodiments of wealth-the cows who in some parts of India are simply called "lakshmi" after their owner.

Some myths say that Lakshmi existed from all time, floating before creation on a lotus; for this she is called Padma ("lotus-goddess"), whose symbol became the sign for spiritual enlightenment throughout Asia. Some stories say that Lakshmi sprang up from the ocean when it was churned by the gods, emerging like a jewel in all her beauty and power, covered with necklaces and pearls, crowned and braceleted, her body fat and golden. Many interpreters see the variant legends as recording Lakshmi's preeminence in pre-Aryan India, where she was goddess of the earth and its fructifying moisture, and her later incorporation into Vedic theology when her worshipers would not abandon their devotion to the lotus goddess. Once established in the religious amalgam called Hinduism, Lakshmi grew to symbolize not only the wealth of the earth but of the soul as well, becoming a magnificent symbol of the delights of spiritual prosperity.

Lilith  -  foto

"Male and female he created them," proclaims Genesis in its first version of humanity's creation. But the Bible later changes its mind, explaining the creation of woman as Jehovah's afterthought.
Jewish tradition outside the Bible understood the disparity: there was a female created simultaneously with Adam, and her name was Lilith. (There were variants: she was created before him; or after him, from the slime of the earth; or much later, as the twin of the evil Samael.)
When the first man suggested intercourse to the primal female, she enthusiastically agreed. Adam then instructed Lilith to lie down beneath him. Insulted, she refused, pointing out that they had been created equally and should mate so.
Lilith then went to Jehovah and tricked him into revealing his secret name, his name of power. (See Isis for a similar tale.) Once she had power over him, Lilith demanded that Jehovah give her wings; she then flew from Eden to the western deserts. There she happily had orgies with elemental spirits and sand demons, producing demon children by the score. (Here, too, there were variants of the story: perhaps Lilith was banished from Paradise; perhaps she was born with wings; maybe she flew off to the Land of Nod. Again, some say that Jehovah cursed her with sterility.)
Adam was provided with a new mate, but he and Eve fell from Jehovah's favor. As penance for his sin, Adam vowed to avoid the pleasures of marriage for a century. Then Lilith had her revenge. Each night she came to Adam and had intercourse with him (in her preferred positions, one assumes), capturing his emissions to form little demon babies. One of these, some say, was Samael the evil prince, whom Lilith then took as her playmate and companion.
You would think her beautiful, Lilith of the luxurious hair and the arching wings-until you saw the talons she had instead of feet. Her unearthly beauty was dangerous to young men, who lusted after her and pined away, never aroused by mortal women. Lilith threatened children as well, for she had power over all infants in their first week, all babies on the first of the month and on Sabbath evenings, and all children born of unmarried people. Mothers could protect their young, however, by hanging an amulet marked "Sen Sam San"-for the protective angels Sensenoi, Samangalaph, and Sanoi-around the child's neck.
When Lilith came to steal a child, it was usually at night, when the babe was tucked in crib or cradle. Because she liked her victims smiling, she tickled the infant's feet. It giggled; thereupon Lilith strangled it. Mothers hearing their children laughing in dreams, or noticing them smiling as they slept, hit the baby's nose three times, crying out, "Away Lilith, you have no place here." Mothers were also wary of kites, pelicans, owls, jackals, wildcats, and wolves, all disguises favored by Lilith, who went as well by 40 other names and represented a terrifying power that the Sumerians called Lamasthu, the Greeks Lamia, and other people Gilou, Kishimogin, or Baba Yaga.

Maat -  foto

The Egyptian goddess of truth, she took the form of an ostrich feather on the underworld balancing scales, opposite a recently dead person's heart. If the dishes balanced-if the heart of the deceased was light with justice-the judge, Osiris, said, "Let the deceased depart victorious. Let him go wherever he wishes to mingle freely with the gods and spirits of the dead." Alas for the soul if the dishes did not balance, for the heart heavy with evil was instantly eaten by the monstrous goddess Ahemait.
Sometimes divided into two identical goddesses, Maat had no temples but was worshiped in the rhythm of truth, wherever it was perceived.

Maeve/ Mebhdh/ Mebdh -  foto

Of the great female figures of Ireland, Maeve was probably the most splendid. Originally a goddess of the land's sovereignty and of its mystic center at Tara, she was demoted in myth, as the centuries went on and Irish culture changed under Christian influence, to a mere mortal queen.
But no mortal queen could have been like this one, this "intoxication" or "drunken woman" (variant meanings of her name), who ran faster than horses, slept with innumerable kings whom she then discarded, and wore live birds and animals across her shoulders and arms. If there ever was a woman named Maeve who reigned as queen of Ireland, it is probable that she was the namesake of the goddess; the goddess's legends may have attached themselves to a mortal bearer of her name.

Maeve is the central figure of the most important old Irish epic, the Tain Bo Cuillaigne, or Cattle Raid of Cooley. The story begins with Maeve, ruler of the Connaught wilderness in the Irish west, Iying abed with her current consort, King Aillil. They compare possessions, Aillil attempting to prove he owns more than she does. Point for point, Maeve matches him. Finally, Aillil mentions a magical bull-and wins the argument, for Maeve has no such animal.
But she knows of one, the magic bull of Cooley in northern Eire. And so Maeve gathers her armies to steal it. She rides into battle in an open car, with four chariots surrounding her, for she is glamorously attired and does not wish to muddy her robes. She is a fierce opponent, laying waste the armies of the land, for no man could look on Maeve without falling down in a paroxysm of desire.
The armies of Ulster, stricken with the curse of the goddess Macha, fall down in labor pains upon the arrival of Queen Maeve's army in their land. Only the hero Cuchulain resists, killing Locha, Maeve's handmaiden, as well as many male heroes of Connaught. Maeve tries to buy victory with her "willing thighs," stops the battle whenever she is menstruating, and otherwise shows herself to be an unusual warrior. After much bloodshed, she does indeed win her bull--but it and Aillil's bull fling themselves upon each other, tear each other to bits, and die in the bloodiest anticlimax in world literature.

Maya -  foto

Like Shakti ("energy") and Prakriti ("nature"), Maya is less a goddess than one of the great philosophic concepts of Indian Hinduism embodied in female form.
In Hindu thought, the male energy is essentially passive, while the female is the force of action. Maya is one of those active powers: the constant movement of the universe, pervasive to the atomic level. There is no life--no existence, even--without Maya, but she is so powerful that we cannot see the essence of things and mistake her movement for reality. For this reason, Maya is often called "the veil of illusion," the dance of multiplicity that distracts us so that we cannot see all matter as essentially identical.

Illusion, however--as the sages have stressed--is not the same as falsehood. Maya is not a negative force, but can be a mesh through which we perceive the ultimate reality of existence--if we are not distracted by her magnificent creativeness and complexity.

Minerva/ Athena  -  foto

Familiar though her name is, the origin and descent of this Roman goddess are vague. Some scholars claim the figure of Minerva fused Etruscan and Italian deities of handicrafts and war, respectively; some claim she was always the artisans' patron and that the imposition of the Greek figure Athena on her meant the addition of war to her domain. (The Latins already had a proper war-goddess, Bellona.)
It is clear that the goddess' name derives from the ancient root for "mind," and her domain was-even more than Athena's-intellectual. She was wisdom incarnate in female form, the goddess therefore of the application of intellect to everyday work, thus of commerce and crafts. She was also said to be the inventor of music, that most mathematical of arts, as well as the instruments on which it is played.
The Romans celebrated her worship from March 19 to 23 during the Quinquatrus, the artisans' holiday which was also a festival of purification. The "goddess of a thousand works," as Ovid called her, was pleased to see scholars and schoolmasters join in spring vacation with those who labored with their hands.
Minerva Medica If her name seems Roman, it is only because of the imperial legions' policy of interpretatio Romano whereby Celtic goddesses were assimilated to those from their homeland. Many local and tribal goddesses lost their identities this way; many became Minervas, perhaps because they were originally connected with household industry, war, or healing-all of which fell under the dominion of the Italian original. At least one "Minerva"-Sul of Bath in England- was strong enough to resist renaming; she became Sulis Minerva.

Morgan le Faye -  foto

Mor meant "sea" in several Celtic languages, and Morgan was a sea goddess whose name still survives in Brittany where sea sprites are called morgans.
The most famous sea goddess was surnamed Le Fay, "the fairy"; in Welsh mythology, she was said to be a queen of Avalon, the underworld fairyland where King Arthur was carried--some said by Morgan herself--when he disappeared from this world. In some legends, Morgan was Arthur's sister, whereas in other tales she was immortal artist and healer who lived with her eight sisters in Avalon.
Some scholars claim she was the same goddess as the one called, in Ireland, Morrigan. That crowheaded goddess was a battle divinity, which suggests that Morgan might also have been a goddess of death. Indeed, there is dispute over whether her surname means "the fairy" or "the fate." If Morgan were not a mere sea sprite but the goddess of death, that would explain her unfriendly character in Malory's Morte d'Arthur, where Morgan appears as the king's dreaded foe, constantly plotting his death, and in Sir Gawain, where she seems similarly bent on the destruction of the king and his Round Table. If Morgan were once the queen of death, ruler of the underworld and of rebirth to the early Britons, a cultural shift could easily have seen her reinterpreted as a powerful demonic force bent on destruction.

Nu Kua\ Nu Kwa -  foto

The creator goddess of ancient China made the first human beings from yellow clay. At first, she carefully molded them. At length, finding this too tedious, Nu Kua just dipped a rope into slip-like clay and shook it so that drops splattered onto the ground. Thus were two types of beings born: from the molded figures, nobles; from the clay drops, peasants.
Later this serpent-bodied goddess quelled a rebellion against the heavenly order and, when the dying rebel chief shook heaven's pillars out of alignment, she restored order by melting multicolored stones to rebuild the blue sky. Finding other problems on earth, Nu Kua set about correcting them: she cut off the toes of a giant tortoise and used them to mark the compass's points; she burned reeds into ashes, using them to dam the flooding rivers. She also concerned herself with the chaos of human relations, and established rites of marriage so that children would be raised well. Order restored, Nu Kua retreated to the distant sky--her domain and her attribute.

Nut -  foto

Once, long before our earth existed, the great sky goddess Nut lay across the body of her small brother the earth, holding him in constant intercourse. But--so said the ancient Egyptians--the high god Ra disapproved of their incessant incest, and he commanded the god Shu to separate the pair.
Shu hoisted Nut into a great arch, but--such was the goddess's desire for her little brother Geb--he was forced to remain forever holding them apart, supporting the star-spangled belly of the sky queen. And that is how we see Nut in Egyptian art: a woman standing on her toes and bending forward in a perfect arch, her fingers touching the earth opposite her feet, her hair falling down like rain. So she stood, on the inside of sarcophagi, where as mother of the dead she stretched her long body protectively over the mummy.

Ra cursed Nut for her love, forbidding her to bear children during any month of the year. But the god Thoth outwitted the curse, playing draughts with the moon and winning from him five intercalary days, days not attached to any month, which float between the years. And in these five days, from her brother's seed already within her, Nut produced five children: the sister goddesses Isis and Nephthys, their mates Osiris and Set, and the sun god Horus.
Sometimes Nut took the form of a huge cow; such was the shape she wore when the god Ra decided to abandon the earth. She kneeled so that he could climb on her. Then up, up she strained, bearing the god upon her back until she became dizzy from the weight. Four gods instantly rushed to hold up Nut's vast body, remaining thereafter as the world's four pillars.

Oshun -  foto

Originally the Yoruba goddess of the river named for her, Oshun's emblem is the brass bracelet worn by her worshipers, and a pottery dish filled with white stones from a river's bed. In her African homeland, Oshun mated with the god Chango, with whom she had human children. Their descendents, who still live along her waters, are forbidden to eat snails or beans, or to drink beer made from sorghum.
Oshun is still honored in Nigeria with an annual ceremony called Ibo-Osun. A feast of yams begins the evening, then women dance for the goddess, hoping to be chosen as one of her favorites. Those who are selected are granted new names which include that of the goddess: Osun Leye, "gift of Oshun," or Osun Tola, "treasure of Oshun." Once selected in this way, the woman serves her community as advisor, particularly assisting with family problems and illnesses. Oshun is especially consulted by those who wish to have children, for she encourages this womanly activity.
Oshun is the primary divinity of Oshogbo, an African orisha religion, where she is honored with brass objects, as well as jewels and yellow copper. Her chief festival there celebrates the arrival of the ancestral family on the banks of Oshun's river. While bathing, one of the princesses apparently drowned, but reappeared soon after attired in gorgeous garments which, she said, Oshun had given her. The alliance with the river goddess has continued to this day.
In the African diaspora, Oshun gained new names and titles: Oxum in Brazil; Ochun in Cuba; Erzulie-Freda-Dahomey in Haiti. When she possesses dancers, their movements are those of a woman who loves to swim, who makes her arm braclets jangle, and who admires herself in a mirror. Her appearance is greeted with welcoming shouts of "Ore Yeye o!" In Brazilian Macumba, Oshun is goddess of waters; she is depicted wearing jewels, holding a mirror, and wafting a fan. Altars to her hold copper braceelts and fans, as well as dishes of Omuluku (onions, beans and salt). She rules love, beauty and flirtation. In Santeria, Oshun is revered as "Our Lady of La Caridad," patron of the island of Cuba.

Oya -  foto

Originally a goddess of the Yoruba in western Africa, she was goddess of storms on the Niger River. Her name means "she tore" in the Yoruba language, for her winds tear up the river's calm surface; she is also called "mother of nine," for the nine estuaries of the Niger. She is a warrior goddess as well as patron of female leadership.
Buffalo horns are placed on her altar, for Oya is a water-buffalo when not in human form. Once, it is said, a hunter saw a buffalo shed its skin; the beautiful woman who emerged hid the skin in a thicket of thorns and went to market. The hunter stole Oya's skin, forcing her to become his mate. But his other wives teased her about being a buffalo, and in anger, she killed them and reclaimed her buffalo hide. She stormed out to the fields to find the man who had betrayed her, but he bought his life for some bean fritters-Oya's favorite food.
In addition to bean fritters, those who honor Oya offer her palm wine, goat meat and yams. Wednesday is her holy day, when her followers wear dark red beads to please her. When she enters a dancer, the dance becomes frenzied as Oya swings a sword (or a flyswatter). Sometimes she dances with arms outstretched to hold off ghosts, for she is the only goddess who can control them.
Oya emigrated with her children to the New World, changing form to suit her new surroundings. In Brazil, she was called Yansa; in Cuba, Olla, in Haiti, Aido-Wedo; in New Orlean, Brigette; she was also assimilated to the Catholic saints Theresa, Barbara and Catherine. A warrior storm goddess who also rules fire, she is one of the great divinities of Brazilian Macumba. In Santeria she is the nine-headed mate of the lightning god Chango. Patron of justice and memory, she is pictured holding a flame.

Pachamama -  foto

Among the Inca of South America, the earth was seen as a dragon goddess who lived beneath the mountains; occasionally she quivered, sending earthquakes through the world. Mamapacha was also the deity of agriculture; rituals in her honor had to be performed daily to assure a aufficient food supply. During planting and harvest, women would travel to the fields to talk softly to Mamapacha, sometimes pouring a thank-offering of cornmeal on her surface.

Pele (Goddess of Kilauea) -  foto

Even today, visitors to Hawaiian volcanoes report seeing a wizened old woman who asks for a cigarette, lights it with a snap of her fingers, then disappears. Others say that a red-robed woman dances on the rims of the fiery mountains, although it is not certain whether this figure is an incarnation of the goddess or only one of her worshipers.
Of all the world's goddesses, Pele is one of the few still living in the belief of her people, not as metaphor but as metaphysical reality, to whom offerings are still made when volcanic eruptions threaten Hawaiian towns.
A bright daughter of the earth goddess Haumea, Pele spent her girlhood watching fires and learning how to make them, thus revealing her temperament early. This did not please the sea goddess Namaka,who prophesied an unpleasant future for the fire-loving girl, but she, who lived in the ocean, may have been biased. But Namaka had a point: Pele did cause a conflagration in her mother's homeland once, toying with underworld fires.
The mother, knowing that Namaka would persecute Pele on her return, suggested that it was time for Pele to find a home of her own. So she set off in a canoe with several siblings including her sister Hiiaka ("cloudy one"). They were malihini, goddesses who migrated to Hawaii after human settlement there began. Hawaii was only an atoll when they arrived, so Pele used a divining rod to locate likely places to build islands, then caused them to be born in tempestuous eruptions from undersea volcanoes.
Namaka trailed her sister, furious at the destruction Pele had wrought in their original homeland. Ocean and fire met in a terrific brawl, and Pele got the worst of it, rising like a steamy spirit from the fray. No longer embodied, she disappeared into the Hawaiian volcanoes, especially in the fiery part of the crater of Kilauea called Halemaumau, said today to be one of her favorite haunts.
There she was honored by the Hawaiian people as the essence of earthly fire. Into her craters, offerings were cast: cut hair, sugar cane and flowers (especialy hibiscus), white birds, money and strawberries. Some say that human beings were also tossed into the lava; others deny this, claiming there is no evidence for such rites.

There is one famous legend, however, that suggests that some were, if not sacrificed literally, at least consecrated to the goddess. This is the tale of the young Hawaiian man named Lohiau. Pele, it was said, sometimes dozed in her crater, sending her spirit wandering through the islands. One night, hearing the sweet melodies of flutes, she followed the sound until she came upon a group of sacred hula dancers.
Among them was Lohiau. Instantly attracted to him, Pele embodied herself in beautiful human flesh and seduced him. They spent three days making love before she decided that it was time to return to her mountain. Promising to send for him, Pele disappeared, awakening far away on Kilauea.
Not one to break a promise--and immediately desiring the young man again--Pele endowed her sister Hiiaka with magic and sent her off to fetch Lohiau. Hiiaka was a kindly goddess, given to singing with the poet goddess Hopoe and to picking blossoms from the tropical trees. But out of dedication to her sister, Hiiaka set off, first making Pele promise to tend her gardens.
Passing through many trials, often relying on her magic to defeat threatening monsters, Hiiaka reached Lohiau's home just as he died, pining away for his lover Pele. But Hiiaka caught his soul and pushed it back into his body, reviving him. Then they set off for Kilauea.
Although touched by the man's beauty, Hiiaka fully intended to furfill her task and bring Lohiau untouched to her sister. But Pele was a jealous spirit, and she soon began to burn, imagining Hiiaka in Lohiau's arms. The crater began to spit out lava fretfully. Pele was growing angry.
Hiiaka understood the messages from the distant crater and hastened along. Even though challenged for possession of the man by a sorceress (probably Pele in disguise) and even though Lohinu told Hiiaka he loved her more than Pele, the goddess would not betray her sister's trust. All the way to the crater she conveyed the prize, only to find that Pele had not kept her part of the promise, that the volcano goddess had in jealous fury killed the poet Hopoe and scorched Hiiaka's lovely gardens.
Right then and there, on the rim of the crater, Hiiaka made love to Lohiau. Pele, erupting in fury, burned the man to death but could not destroy her immortal sister. Hiiaka, not about to lose to her angry sister, descended to the underworld to free Lohiou's soul. When she arrived at the deepest circle of the underworld, the point at which the rivers of chaos were held back by a gate, it occurred to her that flooding the entire world would thoroughly extinguish Pele and her wrath.
Her conscience kept her from such folly, however. Hiiaka, after freeing Lohiau's soul, determined to return to the surface and demand her lover from Pele. The lustful, angry goddess would not have been willing, except that Lohiau's comrade Paoa arrived in timely fashion to satisfy the goddess's heat. Hiiaka was reunited with Lohiau, and they retired to his country. Pele, meanwhile, found herself a lover of sturdier stuff in the combative hog god Kamapua'a, inventor of agriculture, whose idea of courting a goddess included all but dousing her flames with heavy rain and stampeding pigs across her craters. To this day, their turbulent affair continues on the islands called Hawaii.

Rhiannon -  foto

The beautiful Welsh underworld goddess traveled through earth on an impossibly speedy horse, accompanied always by magical birds that made the dead waken and the living fall into a blissful seven-year sleep.
Originally named Rigatona ("Great Queen"), she shrank in later legend into Rhiannon, a fairylike figure who appeared to Prince Pwyll of Dyfed near the gate of the underworld. He pursued her on his fastest horses, but hers--cantering steadily and without tiring--exhausted any mount of Pwyll's. Finally, the queen decided to stay with Pwyll; she bore him a son soon afterward.
What can one expect of a goddess of death? Her son disappeared, and the queen was found with blood on her mouth and cheeks. Accused of murder, she was sentenced to serve as Pwyll's gatekeeper, bearing visitors to the door on her back; thus she was symbolically transformed into a horse. All ended happily when her son was found; Rhiannon had been falsely accused by maids who, terrified at finding the babe absent, had smeared puppy blood on the queen's face.
Behind this legend is doubtless another, more primitive one in which the death queen actually was guilty of infanticide. This beautiful queen of the night would then, it seems, be identical to the Germanic Mora, the nightmare, the horse-shaped goddess of terror. But night brings good dreams as well as bad, so Rhiannon was said to be the beautiful goddess of joy and oblivion, a goddess of Elysium as well as the queen of hell.

Sedna -  foto

Beside the arctic ocean, there once lived an old widower and his daughter, Sedna, a woman so beautiful that all the Eskimo men sought to live with her. But she found none to her liking and refused all offers. One day, a seabird came to her and promised her a soft life in a warm hut full of bearskins and fish. Sedna flew away with him.
The bird had lied. Sedna found her home a stinking nest. She sat, sadly regretting her rejection of the handsome human men. And that was what she told her father, when she listed her complaints when he visited her a year later. Anguta ("man with something to cut") put his daughter in his kayak to bring her back to the human world. Perhaps he killed the bird husband first, perhaps he just stole the bird's wife, but in either case the vengeance of the bird people followed him. The rising sea threatened the escaping humans with death. On they struggled, until Anguta realized that flight was hopeless.
He shoved Sedna overboard to drown. Desperate for life, she grabbed the kayak with a fierce grip. Her father cut off her fingers. She flung her mutilated arms over the skin boat's sides. Anguta cut them off, shoving his oar into Sedna's eye before she sank into the icy water.

At the bottom of the sea, she lived thereafter as queen of the deep, mistress of death and life, "old food dish," who provided for the people. Her amputated fingers and arms became the fish and marine mammals, and she alone decided how many could be slaughtered for food. She was willing to provide for the people if they accepted her rules: for three days after their death, the souls of her animals would remain with their bodies, watching for violation of Sedna's demands. Then they returned to the goddess, bearing information about the conduct of her people. Should her laws be broken, Sedna's hand would begin to ache, and she would punish humans with sickness, starvation, and storms. Only if a shaman traveled to her country, Adlivun, and assuaged her pains would the sea mammals return to the hunters, which, if the people acted righteously, they did willingly.
In Adlivun in a huge house of stone and whale ribs, Sedna dragged along the ground with one leg bent beneath her. A horrible dog guarded her, said by some to be her husband. Anguta himself lived there too; some versions of the myth say that, hoping the seabirds would think Sedna dead, he allowed her back into the kayak and returned home. But she hated him thereafter and cursed her dogs to eat his hands and feet; the earth opened and swallowed them. In any case, Anguta served Sedna by grabbing dead human souls with his maimed hand and bringing them home. These dead lived in a region near Sedna's home through which shamans had to pass to reach the goddess. There was also an abyss, in which an ice wheel turned slowly and perpetually; then a caldron full of boiling seals blocked the way; finally, the horrible dog stood before Sedna's door, guarding the knife-thin passageway to her home. Should the shaman pass all these dangers and ease Sedna's aching hands, the goddess permitted him to return, bearing the news that Old Woman had forgiven her people, that the seals would again seek the hunter, that the people would no longer starve.

Sekhmet  -  foto

Once, long ago, the lion-headed sun goddess of Egypt became so disgusted with humanity that she commenced a wholesale slaughter of the race. Her fury terrified even the gods, who deputized Ra to calm down the goddess. She refused to be restrained. "When I slay men," she snarled, "my heart rejoices."
Ra, attempting to save the remnant of humanity from the blood-thirsty goddess, mixed 7,000 vats of beer with pomegranate juice. He set the jugs in the path of the murdering lioness, hoping she would mistake them for the human blood she craved. Indeed she did, and she soon drank herself into a stupor. When she awoke, she had no rage left.
The intoxicating red drink was henceforth prepared and consumed on feast days of Hathor, so some say that Sekhmet was the negative side of that pleasure-ruling goddess. Others say that she was the opposite of the catgoddess Bast, the cat embodying the sun's nurturing rays; the lion, her destructive drought-bringing potential.

Shakti/ Sakti -  foto

Just as divinity is symbolized in Hindu India as a phallus (lingam) surrounded by a vulva (yoni), so goddess energy is thought to surround and animate the energy of a god. Maleness, in divine terms, is thought of as inert, a kind of passive being, while female divinity provides the activating energy that invigorates and empowers the god. Thus, in religious iconography, Hindu artists show the goddess having intercourse on top of the god, activating his previously languid body.

Worship of Devi ("The Goddess") appears to have been the rule in pre-Indo-European India. Generations of invasions by Indo-Europeans with their patriarchal mythology, led to the apparent religious conquest of the area. But the goddess' worshipers did not give up her image; as the Indo-Europeans mingled with the indigenous races, the goddess began to reappear in Indian religious texts. Eventually, in the complexity of Hinduism that exists today, the goddess as the Shakti or energy of divinity was inseparable from the male god.
Each member of the Hindu trinity was provided with his Shakti: Maya enlivening creative Brahma; Lakshmi empowering nurturing Vishnu; and Parvati or Kali as the consort of destructive Shiva. But Shakti is sometimes used as a name for Shiva's energy alone, consistent with the philosophic understanding that all life, all energy, ultimately leads to destruction.

Sheila na Gig -  foto

Smiling lewdly out from rock carvings, this goddess of ancient Ireland can still be seen in surviving petroglyphs: a grinning, often skeletal face, huge buttocks, full breasts, and bent knees. What most observers remember best, however, is the self-exposure of the goddess, for she holds her vagina open with both hands.
She is the greatest symbol of the life-and-death goddess left in Ireland, where her stones have in some cases been incorporated as "gargoyles" in Christian churches. Her name means "hag"; her grinning face and genital display are complicated by the apparent ancientness of her flesh. Laughter and passion, birth and death, sex and age do not seem to have been so incompatible to the ancient Irish as they are to the modern world.

Sophia/ Hokmah/ Hokkma\ Chokma  -  foto

The Hebrew god Jehovah had Hokkma ("wisdom") from the first, and almost from the first this quality isolated itself in female form and became a demigoddess.
Some contend that Hokkma was merely allegorical, but she speaks from the Bible in terms that make such a reading difficult to support. In two books--Proverbs and Ecclesiasticus--she makes particularly strong claims to a separate identity.
The earliest creation of Jehovah, Hokkma was also his favorite. "At the first, before the beginning of earth," she brags in Proverbs, "when he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew out a circle on the face of the deep" (8:23, 28). Having established her temporal seniority, she further claims, "I was daily his delight" (8:30).
It was Hokkma who cast her shadow on the primeval waters, stilling them so that creation could continue. It was Hokkma who gave consciousness to humankind, for humans crawled like worms until she endowed them with spirit. Hokkma goes so far as to call herself the playmate, even the wife, of Jehovah.
Allegorical or not, this figure and others (Shekinah, Sabbath) undercut and softened the patriarchal religion of the Jews with their semidivine femininity.

Sphinx\ Sfinge -  foto

Sphinx, the "strangler" started her life in Egypt, where the lion-bodied monster had a bearded male head and represented royalty. But in Greece--in a city with the Egyptian name Thebes--the Sphinx became female. She was said to have been a Maenad who grew so wild in her intoxicated worship that she became monstrous: snake, lion, and woman combined.
The guardian of Thebes, she prevented travelers from passing by strangling them if they could not answer a mysterious riddle. (Possibly she descended from the underworld guardian-goddess who, in many cultures, prevented the passage of the living into death's territory.)

"What," the Sphinx would ask, "walked on four legs in the morning, two at noon, and three in the evening?" Finally one traveler, who would become King Oedipus of Thebes, answered her: Human beings, who crawl as children, walk upright as adults, and rely upon canes in age. Her reason for existence having been destroyed, the Sphinx destroyed herself.

Sulis/ Sul  -  foto

The ancient British goddess of healing waters had her special shrine at the spa we call Bath, where her power was strongest. Some scholars say that she was a solar divinity, deriving her name from the word that means "sun" and "eye." This interpretation may account for the perpetual fires at her shrines; the fact that her springs were hot, rather than cold, is additional evidence in favor of considering her a sun goddess.
She was honored into historic times; the Roman occupiers called her Minerva Medica ("healing Minerva"); occasionally she is called Sulivia. In statuary and bas-reliefs, she was shown as a matronly woman in heavy garments with a hat made of a bear's head and her foot resting on a fat little owl. In Bath and on the continent, she also appears in multiple form, as the tripartate Suliviae. The latter name is also used of the pan-Celtic divinity Brigid, suggesting a connection between these figures

Sybil/ Sibyl -  foto

There were 10 famous female prophets of the ancient world, one each in Persia, Libya, Delphi, Samos, Cimmeria, Erythraea, Tibur, Marpessus, and Phrygia, and one-most renowned of all-in Cumae near Naples, where Sibyl's cave was discovered in 1932 to have a 60-foot-high ceiling and a 375-foot-long passageway entrance.

The Cumaean Sibyl wrote her prophecies on leaves, which she then placed at the mouth of her cave. If no one came to collect them, they were scattered by winds and never read. Written in complex, often enigmatic verses, these "Sibylline Leaves" were sometimes bound into books. It was said that the Sibyl herself brought nine volumes of these prophecies to Tarquin II of Rome, offering them to him at an outrageous price. He scoffed, and she immediately burned three volumes, offering the remaining six at the same high price. Again-rather less casually--he refused. Again she burned three volumes, again asking the original price. This time the king's curiosity was high, his resistance low, and he purchased the Sibylline prophecies.
The volumes were carefully kept in the Capitol and consulted only on momentous occasions by the Senate. Some were destroyed by fire in 83 B.C. while the rest survived until A.D. 405, when they perished in another fire. The people of Rome searched the world looking for prophecies to replace the Sibylline Leaves but were unable to find any. The Sibyl herself, it was discovered, had vanished. So the way was left clear for the production of pseudo-Sibylline prophecies, a profitable business until the end of the Roman Empire.
The Sibyl of Cumae gained her powers by attracting the attention of the sun god, Apollo, who offered her anything if she would spend a single night with him. She asked for as many years of life as grains of sand she could squeeze into her hand. Granted, the sun god said; and Sibyl, glad to win her boon, refused his advances. Thereafter she was cursed with the furfillment of her wish--eternal life without eternal youth. She slowly shriveled into a frail undying body, so tiny that she fit into a jar. Her container was hung from a tree; Sibyl needed, of course, no food or drink, for she could neither starve nor die of thirst. And there she hung, croaking occasional oracles, while children would stand beneath her urn and tease, "Sibyl, Sibyl, what do you wish?" To which she would faintly reply, "I wish to die."

Tara -  foto

In Indian Hinduism, the star goddess Tara is a manifestation of the queen of time, Kali. Her symbol, the star, is seen as a beautiful but perpetually self-combusting thing; so Tara is the absolute, unquenchable hunger that propels all life. As a Bodhisattava, a Buddha-to-be, she is considered second only to the great Avalokitesvara, of whom she is sometimes said to be a female aspect.
Among Buddhists and Jains, and particularly in Tibetan Lamaism, Tara became a symbol of other hungers as well, in particular the spiritual hunger for release from the purely physical world. As such, Tara is the goddess of self-mastery and mysticism, invoked under her 108 names on a rosary of 108 beads. The compassionate goddess, she appears as a playful adolescent, for Tara sees life for the game it is; she also appears as a celestial boat woman, ferrying her people across from the world of delusion to that of knowledge. As the Green Tara she is terrifying, but the White Tara of meditation stares at us from her three eyes to remind us that if we look through the terror of death she waits to enlighten us.

Uzume -  foto

Ancient Japan's shaman goddess was the one who lured the sun-goddess Amaterasu from the cave where she'd hidden. She did so by a merry mockery of shamanic ritual. Tying her sleeves above her elbows with moss cords and fastening bells around her wrists, she danced on an overturned tub before the heavenly Sky-Rock-Cave.
Tapping out a rhythm with her feet, she exposed her breasts and then her genitals in the direction of the sun. So comic did she make this striptease that the myriad gods and goddesses began to clap and laugh -- an uproar that finally brought the curious sun back to warm the earth.
Shaman women who followed Uzume were called miko in ancient Japan. First queens like Himiko, later they were princesses and even later, commonborn women. Some Japanese women today, especially those called nuru and yata in Okinawa and the surrounding islands, still practice shamanic divination.

Vila -  foto

One of the most powerful eastern European goddesses was called Samovila, Vila, or Judy according to the language of the people, who pictured this woodland force as a fairskinned winged woman with glistening garments and golden hair falling to her feet. She lived deep in the woods, where she guarded animals and plants as well as cleaned streams of rubble and assured sufficient rainfall.
Hunters were wary of beautiful, welldressed women speaking the languages of animals, for the Vila was fiercely possessive of her wild herds. Should one be injured or-worse yet-killed, the Vila mutilated the offender or lured him into a magic circle and danced him to death. Alternatively, the Vila might bury him in rocks by starting an avalanche, or simply cause him to keel over with a heart attack.
The Vila was able to masquerade as a snake, swan, falcon, horse, or whirlwind. Cloud Vilas could transform themselvs into clouds or fog. Born on a day of soft misty rain, when the sun formed miniature rainbows on the trees, she knew all the secrets of healing and herb craft. Should a human wish to learn her skills, blood-sisterhood was forged with the Vila. The applicant appeared in the woods before sunrise on a Sunday of the full moon. Drawing a circle with a birch twig or a broom, she placed several horsehairs, a hoof, and some manure inside the circle, then stood with her right foot on the hoof calling to the Vila. Should the spirit appear and be greeted as a sister, the Vila would grant any wish.

Yemanjà (Yemaya/ Ymoja/ Iamanja/ Imanja) -  foto

She is one of the great goddesses of Africa and of the African diaspora. In her original homeland, she was the Yoruba goddess of the Ogun river, where she was said to the be daughter of the sea into whose waters she empties. Her breasts are very large, because she was mother of so many of the Yoruba gods.
She is also the mother of waters--Mama Watta--who gave birth to all the world's waters. Even as she slept, she would create new springs, which gushed forth each time she turned over. At her main temple, at Abeokuta in the Ibara district, she is offered rams, yams and corn.

In the African diaspora, Ymoja has remained a popular divinity. She is Imanje or Yemanja in Brazilian Macumba, where she is ocean-goddess of the crescent moon. In Cuba she is Yemaya, appearing in many variants: Yemaya Ataramagwa, the wealthy queen of the sea; stern Yemaya Achabba; violent Yemaya Oqqutte; and the overpowering Yemaya Olokun, who can be seen only in dreams. She is Agwe in Haiti, La Balianne in New Orleans. She is syncretized with Our Lady of Regla and Mary, Star of the Sea; in Brazil, she is Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, whose followers wear crystal beads and greet her appearance with shouts of "Odoya." On her feastday on February 2, crowds gather on the ocean beaches of Bahia to offer her soap, perfume, jewelry and fabric which, together with letters bearing requests to the goddess, are thrown out to sea.

Aida Wedo -  foto

Pronounciation: aye-da we-do
Origin: Haiti
Group: Haitian Voudoun

The snake loa (spirit) in Benin and Haiti, she is the companion of the most popular god, Damballah-Wedo, also a serpent. She rules fire, water, wind and the rainbow. When she appears in a voudoun ritual, she slithers across the ground wearing a jeweled headdress that - like the treasure at the end of the rainbow - is elusive but enriches anyone who can grasp it. She is a New-World form of of the African goddess Oya.

Arianrhod -  foto

Other names: Arianhod
Origin: Wales

The goddess of the "silver wheel" was a Welsh sorceress who, surrounded by women attendants, lived on the isolated coastal island of Caer Arianrhod. Beautiful and pale of complexion, Arianrhod was the most powerful of the mythic children of the mother goddess Don.
It was said that she lived a wanton life, mating with mermen on the beach near her castle and casting her magic inside its walls. She tried to pretend virginity, but a trial by the magician Math revealed that she had conceived two children whom she had not carried to term: in leaping over a wizard's staff, Arianrhod magically gave birth to the twins Dylan-son-of-Wave and the fetus of Llew Llaw Gyffes. Dylan slithered away and disappeared, but Arianrhod's brother, the poet Gwydion, recognized the fetus as his own child, born of his unexpressed love for his sister.
Gwydion took the fetus and hid it in a magical chest until it was ready to breathe. Arianrhod, furious at this invasion of her privacy, denied the child a name or the right to bear arms - two prerogatives of a Welsh mother-but Gwydion tricked Arianrhod into granting them. Eventually the goddess overreached herself, creating more magic than she could contain; her island split apart, and she and her maidservants drowned.
Some scholars read the legend as the record of a change from mother right to father rule, claiming that the heavenly Arianrhod was a matriarchal moon goddess whose particular place in heaven was in the constellation called Corona Borealis. The argument has much in its favor, particularly the archetypal relation of Arianrhod to her sister moon goddesses on the Continent, who like Artemis lived in orgiastic maidenhood surrounded entirely by women. Other scholars, unconvinced that the Celts were matriarchal at any time, see Arianrhod simply as an epic heroine.

Atabey/ Atabei -  foto

Other names: Atabei, Atabex, Attabeira, Momona, Guacarapita, Guimazoa, Iella, Liella, Siella, Suimado Origin: Taino
Hrana's Notes: I painted this for the cover of Sembrando y Sonando, a book about herbal healing and visioning in Puerto Rico.

The Primary Being of the pre-Hispanic people of the Antilles bore five names other than Atabei: Attabeira, Momona, Guacarapita, Iella, and Guimazoa. She was served by a messenger, Guatauva, and by the hurricane goddess Coatrischie. Little is known of her rites, although she was recognized as a form of the earth goddess by the Antillean people, whose culture was such that invading Spaniards called the women "amazons" and said that they lived alone and engaged in war. In some areas, the women even spoke a different language from the men of the same group.

Athena -  foto

Other names: Minerva, Athene, Pallas
Origin: Greece
(...) see Menerva.

Danu -  foto

Other names: Ana, Anu, Annis, Dana, Danaan, Danann, Danube, Don, Donann, Donau, Dunav
Origin: Irish, Celtic
The greatest of the goddesses of ancient Ireland, Danu was the ruler of a tribe of divinities called Tuatha de Danaan, the people of Danu, who where demoted to fairies called Daoine Sidhe in later times. Her name derives from the Old Celtic dan, meaning "knowledge," and she was probably the same goddess and the Welsh Don. Some scholars see her as the same goddess as Anu, while others contend that she is an aspect of Brigid. There are no legends of her left to elucidate the search for her meaning, but her preeminence among ancient Irish deities remains clear.

Hel -  foto

Origin: Northern Europe - Scandinavian
The goddess who gave her name to the Christian place of eternal punishment was the Scandinavian ruler of the misty world under the earth. Her name means the "one who covers up" or the "one who hides," and the ones Hel hid in her nine-circled realm were those who died of disease or old age. Those who died heroically, in battle or by other violence, were carried off by the Valkyries to the heavenly halls of Freya or Odin.
Hel was the daughter of the giant woman Angerboda and was thought to be an ugly pinto woman, half black and half white, who rode up to earth to enfold the dying in her horrible arms and to rest her drooping head against theirs. Down in her nine-ringed realm, where the inhabitants kept up a constant wail, Hel lived in a miserable palace called Sleet-Cold, where the walls were built of worms and human bones. She ate with a knife and fork called Famine from a plate named Hunger. Her slave, Senility, served her, as did her maidservant, Dotage. When she slept, it was on her cot, Bedridden, covered by curtains named Woefully Pale.
The entry to her queendom was guarded by the hell-hound, Garm; before you reached the threshold you had to travel to Helvig ("Troublesome Road") to Hel, past the strange guardian maiden, Modgud. Some scholars say the conception of Hel is more ancient than the heroic myth of Valhalla, the hall of dead heroes.

Idunn\ Iduna -  foto

Pronounciation: ee-dune
Origin: Northern Europe - Scandinavians
In the scandinavian eddas, this goddess performed the same function as Hebe did for the Greeks: she fed the gods magical food that kept them young and hale. The Norse gods and goddesses were not immortal; they relied on Idunn's magical apples to survive. But once the evil Loki let Idunn and her apples fall into the hands of the enemies of the gods, the giants who lived in the fortress of Jotunheim. The divinities immediately began to age and weaken. Charged with reclaiming the goddess of youth and strength, Loki flew to Jotenheim in the form of a falcon, turned Idunn into a walnet, and carried her safely home.

Mary\ Maria, Virgin Mary -  foto

Pronounciation: mare-eeh
Origin: Middle East
Group: Christian, Roman Empire
There is a time-honored tradition among goddesses: people never truly give up the ones they love and worship. So, when the early Europeans were slowly Christianized as Roman imperial power grew, they faced conversion—often forcible—to a faith that denied a major portion of their traditional beliefs.
What Christianity denied was the posibility of divine femininity, that force worshiped in ancient Europe as Epona, Freya, Hertha, Mokosh, and under countless other names. More than just a nominal change was entailed when the utterly non-feminine Christian theology was introduced to these goddess' devotees. Christianity provided no image to substitute for the ones they revered so highly.
It was not long, however, before the people located within Christian mythology a female figure that could serve quite adequately. The Virgin Mary, daughter of the grandmotherly Anna, lost and regained her divine son. Once elevated to queen of heaven, she had all the necessary qualifications. Try as the church might, it could not stop the spread of Mariolatry, an extreme reverence toward the power of the Mother of God.
Many scholars have traced the spread of the Marian devotions; some contend that from the first, Christianity contained female-oriented rituals which, like the all-woman feasts of the Roman Bona Dea, honored the mother above the son. Whether or not that was so, the excesses of Mary's devoted followers brought warning after warning from church officials that she was not a goddess—despite bearing all the titles and attributes of one. Even today, long after other goddesses have been forgotten, Mary remains a threat to patriarchal Christianity; the greater proportion of churches are dedicated to her, not her son, and she is the one to whom many Catholics prefer to address their prayers.

Nephthys \ Nebthet -  foto

Pronounciation: nef-this
Origin: Ancient Egypt The Greek version of name is more common than her original Egyptian name, Nebthet. She was Isis' sister, and opposite: Isis was the force of life and rebirth; Nephthys, the tomb-dwelling goddess of death and sunset. They had similarly opposite mates. Isis' consort wasthe fertility god Osiris, while her sister's mate ws the evil god Set.
Set was not only wicked but sterile. So Nephthys, who wanted children, plied Osiris with liquor until, forgetting his loyalty to Isis, the god tumbled into bed with Nephthys. That night she conceived the god Anubis. Set, possibly out of jealousy, then killed and dismembered Osiris. This proved too much for Nephthys, who left Set to join in her sister's lamentations and helped to restore Osiris to life.

Psyche -  foto

Pronounciation: Sigh-key
Origin: Greece
The Heroine of a Greek allegory, Psyche represented the human soul, married to the loving heart personified as the god Eros. Psyche, the story goes, spent her days alone, making love each night in darkness with a husband she never saw; only under these conditions would he remain faithful to her. For a while she lived happily enough. But finally a fearful curiousity about his identity and a deep spiritual loneliness drove Psyche to bring a lamp into the bedroom. Hardly had the woman seen the beautiful winged body of her lover than a bit of oil from her lamp, awakening him. Instantly Eros flew away. Thus the soul, the Greeks knew, could remain happy in romantic union, until unmet needs demanded conscious knowledge of the lover's real identity.
Next, the tale goes, Psyche was charged with many near-impossible tasks to gain back her beloved: sorting overnight a roomful of seeds; catching the fleece of the sun's sheep; travelling to the underworld to ask for magical beauty ointment. Intent on regaining Eros, she overcame these obstacles one by one.
But as Psyche returned from Hades with Persephone's ointment box, vanity overcame her. She opened the jar to rub beauty cream on her weary face. Psyche fell into a swoon and might have died, but Eros persuaded the Olympian divinities that she had struggled enough. She acended to heaven and was reunited with her lover, bearing two children, named Love and Delight. In this allegory, the Greeks produced a magnificent tale of the relations of heart and mind, the journey through romance to real marriage, and the human joy born of the victorious struggle.

Skadi -  foto

The goddess for whom Scandinavia was named dwelled high in the snow-covered mountains; her favorite occupations were skiing and snowshoeing through her domain.
But when the gods caused the death of her father Thjassi, Skadi armed herself and traveled to their home at Asgard, intent on vengeance. Even alone, she was more than a match for the gods, and they were forced to make peace with her.
Skadi demanded two things: that they make her laugh and that she be allowed to choose a mate from among them. The first condition was accomplished by the trickster Loki, who tied his testicles to the beard of a billy goat. It was a contest of screeching, until the rope snapped and Loki landed, screaming with pain, on Skadi's knee. She laughed.
Next, all the gods lined up, and Skadi's eyes were masked. She intended to select her mate simply by examining his legs from the knees down. When she'd found the strongest-thinking them the beautiful Balder's legs-she flung off her mask and found she'd picked the sea god Njord. So she went off to live in the god's ocean home.
She was miserable there. "I couldn't sleep a wink," Skadi said in a famous eddic poem, "on the bed of the sea, for the calling of gulls and mews." The couple moved to Thrymheim, Skadi's mountain palace, but the water god was as unhappy there as Skadi had been in the water. Thereupon they agreed on an equitable dissolution, and Skadi took a new mate, more suitable to her lifestyle: Ullr, the god of skis.

The Hebrew Goddess
 - by Raphael Patai -
Goddess and the Mysteries of Nature
Painting forreverential meditation by Jonathon Earl Bowser

If you are researching Her, searching for Her in the Bible, in the Torah, in Kabbala, there is one book you gotta read: The Hebrew Goddess - by Raphael Patai

Was the Hebrew God also a Woman?

The Bible gives the impression that all ancient Jews shared a common belief system ... with only an occasional group straying from the fold. But the evidence paints a different picture. As Dr. Patai states, "... it would be strange if the Hebrew-Jewish religion, which flourished for centuries in a region of intensive goddess cults, had remained immune to them." Archaeologists have uncovered Hebrew settlements where the goddesses Asherah and Astarte-Anath were routinely worshipped. And in fact, we find that for about 3,000 years, the Hebrews worshipped female deities which were later eradicated only by extreme pressure of the male-dominated priesthood.
And then there's the matter of the Cherubim that sat atop the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. Fashioned by Phoenician craftsmen for Solomon and Ahab, an ivory tablet shows two winged females facing each other. And one tablet shows male and female members of the Cherubim embracing in an explicitly sexual position that embarrassed later Jewish historians ... and even the pagans were shocked when they saw it for the first time.  [The Star of David, two triangles "embracing" became the coded symbol for God & Goddess locked in a "creating" posture....!]
This cult of the feminine goddess, though often repressed, remained a part of the faith of the Jewish people. Goddesses answered the need for mother, lover, queen, intercessor ... and even today, lingers cryptically in the traditional Hebrew Sabbath invocation. [Written for by "Utnapishtim": May 18, 1998, St. Mary's County, Maryland]

Shekinah\ Asherah (known as the "Lady of the Sea")


Asherah, Lady of the Sea, Goddess of the Tides

Asherah, the Shekinah, consort and beloved of Yahweh. God-the-Mother.  Her sacred pillars or poles once stood right beside Yahweh's altar, embracing it.  Moses and Aaron both carried one of these Asherah "poles" as a sacred staff of power.  The Children of Israel were once dramatically healed simply by gazing at the staff with serpents suspended from it.    This symbol, the snakes and the staff, has become the modern universal symbol for doctors and healers.*  Asherah was also widely known in the Middle Eastern ancient world as a Goddess of Healing.  Then She was removed forcibly from the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures around 400 or 500 B.C.  Her priestesses & priests, known by the headbands they wore,  worshiped on hill-tops, such as Zion, Mount of Olives, Har Megiddo and countless others. Daughter of Zion, a term found numerous times in the Old Testament, was perhaps a term for a priestess of Asherah.  As the "official" state worship became increasingly male oriented, and the establishment became hostile toward all forms of Asherah worship, a time of conflict and bloodshed lasting over a hundred years began.  Those that still clung to Her worship paid the price with their lives at the hands of King Josiah and other rabid Yahwists. (Story in the Old Testament).  But She could not be torn from the hearts and souls of Her people.
*A word about snakes:  The Serpent, though a frightening symbol because of its ability to bring death, stood also for ancient wisdom and immortality.  (Note that it hung out in the Tree of Knowledge and preached a doctrine of immortality, "ye shall NOT surely die.") Many early societies revered the snake and used it to symbolize different ideas.  In much the same way, today we revere the Lion or other ferocious big-cats even though they're dangerous.  An early American symbol used the snake as a statement of power, a warning, saying, "Don't tread on me!"

Arachne\ Taranta (The Spider Woman)

source.. Aracne, Taranta, Scurzune, Argia

She Weaves the Web of Life. It's origin from Greece, according to Barbara Walker, "classical writers misinterpreted old images of Athene with her spider-totem and web, and constructed the legend of Arachne, a mortal maid whose skill in weaving outshone even that of the Goddess. Therefore Athene turned her into a spider" (1. Barbara Walker, The Women's Encyclopaedia of Myths and Secrets, Pandora, UK, 1995, p.54).
As another version of the story goes, Arachne, the daughter of a dyer, was an exquisite weaver who challenged the Goddess Athene to a contest, "a presumptuous act, as Athene was the very spirit of the craft itself"(2. Patricia Monaghan, The Book of Goddesses & Heroines, Llewellyn, USA, 1993, p.30). In her weaving Arachne depicted the entire Greek pantheon in sexual poses and embarrassed the Goddess who, in her fury, ripped up Arachne's clothes in anger. Arachne was so shamed, she hung herself and her spirit scurried away from her body in the form of the first spider.
Spiders engender some strange reactions amongst humans, despite the fact that they are almost always harmless (and probably more worried about us plopping them on the head with a rolled newspaper than entertaining thoughts of biting us or crawling on our bare flesh!). In fact Freud went so far as to say that "the capacity of the sight of a spider to precipitate a crisis of neurotic anxiety - whether in the nursery rhyme of Miss Muffet or in the labyrinths of modern life - derives from an unconscious association of the spider with the image of the phallic mother; to which perhaps, should be added the observation that the web, the spiral web, may also contribute to the arachnid's force as a fear-releasing sign" (3. Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology, Penguin Arkana, 1991, pp.73-4).
Arachne the Spider was a totemic form of the Fate-spinner, otherwise known as Clotho or Athene or the Virgin Moera. In Hindu myth, the spider represented Maya, the virgin aspect of the Triple Goddess. The spider's web was likened to the Wheel of Fate and the spider to the Goddess as spinner, sitting at the centre of her wheel. The female spiders habit of devouring her mate led to her being identified with Kali, the Death Mother.

In Aztec myth spiders represented the souls of warrior women from the matriarchal, pre-Aztec societies. At the end of the world, these women will descend from the sky, hanging by silken threads, and devour all the men on Earth. There are other associations too. Odin's horse Sleipnir (Slippery) had eight legs and was grey.
The folk tale of the Spider and the Fly suggested the once widespread belief that flies are souls in search of a female entity to eat them and give them rebirth.

Tempio delle Dee dimenticate - Shrine of forgotten Goddess

African Realm of Forgotten Goddesses -  top


Mothergoddess of the tribe Ibo in Nigeria.

This much-loved Earth Mother is the highest Goddess of the Ibo pantheon of Nigeria. She is responsible for many aspects of civilization, as well as guardianship of women and children in general.

Aha Njoku "Lady of Yams": This popular Goddess is worshipped by the Ibo people of Nigeria. She is responsible for yams, a central ingredient in the Ibo diet, and the women who care for them.
Aja "Lady of Forest Herbs": This forest Goddess is honored by the Yoruba people of Nigeria. She teaches Her faithful the use of medicinal herbs found in the African forests.
Dziva "Lady Creatrix": Dziva is the generally benevolent Creatrix Goddess of the Shona people of Zimbabwe--but there is also an awful aspect to Her nature....
Gbadu "Holy Daughter": Gbadu is the daughter of Mawu (profiled below). She is the Goddess of Fate of the Fon (or Dahomey) people of modern Benin, Who is saddened by the fighting among Her Mother's mortal children.
Inkosazana "Lady Heaven": She is a popular and much-loved Goddess of the well-known Zulu people of Southern Africa. She is responsible primarily for corn, an important element of the Zulu diet.
Mawu Mawu is the Supreme Deity of the Fon (or Dahomey) people of modern Benin. With Her husband, Lisa, She created the universe. One of Her daughters is Gbadu (profiled above).
Mbaba Mwana Waresa "Lady Rainbow": Mbaba Mwana Waresa is a beloved Goddess of the Zulu people of Southern Africa, primarily because She gave them the gift of beer. The story of Her search for a husband is well-known, and recently appeared in a beautifully illustrated children's book.
Mella "Courageous Daughter": Mella's story is as much folklore as it is myth. She is a deified Queen honored by the Buhera Ba Rowzi people of Zimbabwe.
Minona This Protectress of Women is honored by the Fon (or Dahomey) people of Benin. In some tales, She is the Mother of Mawu and the Grandmother of Gbadu (both profiled above).


African shaman goddess of the tribe Mende and in Liberia and Sierra Leone


Rivergoddess of fertility and healing in Nigeria (Oshun-tribe). Her husband is Shango.
During the slavery times her cult moved also to Middle and South-America. The goddess of love, sexuality, beauty and diplomacy. She is the owner of the sweet waters. With her sweetness, she overcomes the most difficult tasks. She is the protector of the abdominal area and the teacher of pleasure and happiness. She is a great giver, but when she is angry, it is very difficult to calm her down. She is often invoked in matters of love and money. Oshun is one of the few native African Goddesses whose name is recognized in the West. She is honored by the Yoruba people of Nigeria primarily as a Goddess of fresh water, an element important to any people. She is also responsible for fertility, love and divination.


A major goddess worshipped among the North-West African tribes of the Benin, Dahomey and Yoruba.
Her name translates as "The Black One" and her image is that of a serpent. In the city of Ado, were "Mother Earth" is thought to menstruate (according to the African tradition), Oduda is responsible for the practice of sacred prostitution. The cult of which she is the chief deity is known as Obeah and is practiced in the Caribbean islands.


The goddess of the wind, fire and the thunderbolt.
As the female warrior of the Yoruba pantheon, she represents female power. She is strong, assertive, courageous and independent and is always willing to take risks. When she is enraged, she can create tornadoes and hurricanes, but these also happened when she is ready to make changes. Oya is a great witch and the guardian of the gates of death. She is invoked when there are serious illness or when transformation is necessary.

Oya, also, is one of the few African Goddess names recognized in the West. She is a fierce, protective Goddess worshipped by the Yoruba of Nigeria. Her husband is Shango, the God of Storms.  

Yemalla The goddess of the sea and the moon.
She is the mother archetype and the provider of wealth. As the one who gives life and sustains the Earth, she is extremely generous and giving. She is the nurturing energy that sooth anyone. But like the ocean, when she is angry, she can be implacable. Therefore, she represents the mother who gives love, but does not give her power away. Yemaya is also the owner of the collective subconscious and ancient wisdom, since she holds the secrets that are hidden in the sea. She is often invoked in fertility rituals for women and in any ritual concerning women's issues.

North-America Realm of Forgotten Goddesses -  top

Spider Woman Spider Woman is an important goddess among many southwestern Native American tribes. Though occasionally destructive, she is nearly alwys portrayed as beneficent. The Keresan Spider Woman created everything there is by thinking, dreaming, or naming; she thaugt the people how to plant seeds.
Cherokee Grandmother spider brought people the sun and fire. She taught them pottery, weaving, and how to make ceremonial blessings. Spider Woman is responsible for bringing fire amoung the Pueblo, Tewa and Kiwa tribes. A spider woman called Biliku, found in the Indian subcontinent, also brought fire and light.

For the Hopi, Spider Woman is a creator who helped the people during their emergence, created the moon, has the power to give and take life, and is connected to hunting and agriculture.

White Shell Woman White Shell(or White Bead) Woman, also called Turquoise Woman and Abalone Woman, is sometimes said to be a younger version of Changing Woman.
White is the color of dawn and of the east. White Shell Woman, the creator and sustainer of life, created the Navajo peple and sent them their hme. As gifts, she gave them shells, which became corn and other food-bearing plants; she gave them the animals; she gave them the gifts of rain and beautiful flowers.
With the sun, she is the mother of Killer-Of-Enemies and Child-of-the-Water, the dual protector of the people from their enemies.
A Navajo chant says "All things around me are restored in beauty".
Changing Woman Changing Woman is perhaps the most revered of deities among the native Americans of the southwestern United States. She is wholly benevolent figure, for it is Changing Woman who gives the people their abundance and who provides the teachings that allow them to live in harmony with all things.
In the intiation ceremony of Navajo women, the initiate takes in the power of Changing Woman so taht she might learn the values of love, hospitality, and generosity and know that she herself is a source of food and harmony.
Changing Woman received her name beacause she can change at will from a baby to a girl to a young woman to an old woman and then back again.

Cretian-Minoic Realm of Forgotten Goddesses -  top


( "Sweet Virgin"): Minoan Moongoddess, who represents the female spirit of nature. May also be the name of the Great Goddess of Life, Death and Reincarnation of the Minoan Crete. Her Symbol was the snake and the doubleaxe.


Minoan Goddess: Daughter of the sun and the moon. In her human form she was represented by the Priestess-Queen of Crete. She married as the cow-goddess the bull-god in a symbolic shamanic marriage, in pray for fertility.


Minoan Moongoddess, which Zeus in the incarnation of a bull moved with violence to Europe. Somewhat a myth telling the story where the greek culture actually came from.

The Snake Goddess

Represented by the statues of the Temple Repositories at Knossos as well as by some of the later bell-shaped terracotta figurines of the Late Minoan period, this particular goddess is usually considered to be a household divinity and interestingly does not appear on seals.

Goddess of Vegetation

Dominating female figures on a number of seals are often identified as deities.

Mistress of Animals (or of the Mountain)

A famous seal impression from Knossos shows a female figure holding a staff and standing on top of a cairn or rocky hill. She is flanked by antithetic lions, beyond which are a shrine on one side and a saluting male on the other. A second seal from Knossos shows a capped female with a staff walking next to a lion, another pose of the same Mistress of Animals figure.

"The Mistress" PO-TI-NI-JA.
The most apparent characteristic of Minoan religion was that it was polytheistic and matriarchal, that is, a goddess religion; the gods were all female, not a single male god has been identified until later periods.
It is not easy to describe the nature of the mother-goddess of Crete. There are numerous representations of goddesses, which leads to the conclusion that the Cretans were polytheistic, while others argue that these represent manifestations of the one goddess.

Mycenaean Names:
Atana Potiniya: the Idaean Mother of Crete
PO-TI-NI-JA Potnia (= "mistress")
A-TA-NA PO-TI-NI-JA Potnia Atana
DA-PU-RI-TO-JO PO-TI-NI-JA Potnia of the Labyrinth
E-RE-U-TI-JA Eleuthia (= Eileithyia, Classical goddess of childbirth)
MA-TE-RE TE-I-JA Mater theia ("Mother Goddess")

There are several goddesses which can be distinguish, though. The first one we call "The Lady of the Beasts," or the "Huntress"; this goddess is represented as mastering or overcoming animals.
In a later incarnation, she becomes "The Mountain Mother," who is standing on a mountain and apparently protects the animals and the natural world.
The most popular goddess seems to be the "Snake Goddess," who has snakes entwined on her body or in her hands. Since the figurine is only found in houses and in small shrines in the palaces, we believe that she is some sort of domestic goddess or goddess of the house (a kind of guardian angel–in many regions of the world, including Greece, the household snake is worshipped and fed as a domestic guardian angel).
But the household goddess also seems to have taken the form of a small bird, for numerous shrines are oriented around a dove-like figure. Most scholars believe that the principle female goddesses of Greek religions, such as Hera, Artemis, and so on, ultimately derive from the Minoan goddesses.

Women in Minoan Culture
In Crete women played an important if not dominant role: They served as priestesses, as functionaries and administrators.
They also participated in all the sports that Cretan males participated in. The most popular sports in Crete were incredibly violent and dangerous: boxing and bull-jumping. In bull-jumping, as near as we can tell from the representations of it, a bull would charge headlong into a line of jumpers. Each jumper, when the bull was right on top of them, would grab the horns of the bull and vault over the bull in a somersault to land feet first behind the bull. All the representations of this sport show young women participating as well as men.
Women also seem tohave participated in every occupation and trade available to men. The rapid growth of industry on Crete included skilled craftswomen and entrepreneurs, and the large, top-heavy bureaucracy and priesthood seems to have been equally staffed with women. In fact, the priesthood was dominated by women. Although the palace kings were male, the society itself does not seem to have been patriarchal.
Evidence from Cretan-derived settlements on Asia Minor suggest that Cretan society was matrilineal, that is, kinship descent was reckoned through the mother.
Her Signs and Symbols
Double Axe:
Some large bronze examples of this, the most common of all Minoan religious symbols, were clearly used as tools, but miniature specimens in unsuitable and sometimes precious materials (e.g. gold, silver, lead, steatite, terracotta), as well as very fragile bronze examples (e.g. the gigantic specimens from Nirou Khani), must have had a purely symbolic function. Beeing a symbol of the moonphases.
"Horns of Consecration":
These occur both as three-dimensional objects of stone or terracotta, often stuccoed, and as painted or sculpted representations on murals, altars, vases, seals, and larnakes. Typically they serve either as stands for a narrow range of other cult implements or as architectural crowning members on both altars and roofs. The original significance of the "horns" is uncertain. It has been suggested that they are stylized bulls' horns, a symbol of the moon's crescent.
Birds, Bulls, Agrimia, and Snakes:
Birds appear frequently in religious scenes and are usually identified as "divine epiphanies", that is, as manifestations of divine beings , although in some cases they appear to be an identifying attribute of a divinity rather than an alternative form of one. Other frequently occurring animals are bulls, agrimia (Cretan ibexes), and snakes. The first two often occur in the form of votive figurines and probably figured importantly as sacrificial animals. The Snake may have been a prominent symbol in earth (or chthonic) cults, just as birds may have been in sky (or atmospheric) cults.

southern-Europe (Spanish, Etruscan, etc.) Realm of Forgotten Goddesses -  top

Acca Larentia/ Lara/

(Etruscan, Lady Mother")

Earth Goddess. She was as a she-wolf the fostermother of Remus and Romulus, the mythical founders of Rome. She is identified with Lupa and may be identified with Tacita. She was honored on the last day of April and on December 23rd. The december fesival was called Larentalia.

Goddess of earth and nature, hunting and wild animals.


Etruscan Goddess of fate. One of the Lasas (goddesses of fate: Acaviser, Alpan, Evan, Lasa and Mean).

She was also associated with Turan.


Unknown Etruscan Goddess, maybe an alternative form of Acaviser.


"White Goddess", etruscan light abd dawn goddess. Protectress of the the ill-fated lovers.


Unknown Etruscan goddess.

Anna Furrinna| Feronia

An Etruscan and subsequently Roman (river-)goddess whose fertility festivals were aimed at stimulating the fertility of both plants and humans. Her worship also involved sacred prostitution.

Roman Realm of Forgotten Goddesses -  top

Here the old pagan roman goddesses shall dwell again.
So far I plan a shrine for Bona Dea (Fauna or Damia),
 Juno, Cybele, Terra mater (Tellus), Vesta/Hestia

Cybele (Kubile, Kubala, Kubaba, Kubabat)
A Near Eastern goddess whose worship spread from Phrygia into Greece, Rome and other neighboring cultures. Even in Athens' Agora there is a temple dedicated to her which is known as the Metroön or "Temple of the Mother". Cybele was involved with sacred prostitution, sacrifice in the form of castration and fertility rituals focusing on Attis, one of the many vegetation-gods. The cult of this Phrygian goddess has resulted in archeological monuments ranging in time from 6.000 BCE to the end of the Roman Empire, and recent finds have established that she was also worshipped among the Thracian peoples. She was identified with the Greek goddess Rhea.
Other names and titles:
Agdos name for Cybele, when she takes the form of a rock.

In his work on the Christian Black Virgins and their origins, Ean Begg relates Cybele to the Ka'bah.
"Her name is etymologically linked with the words for crypt, cave, head and dome and is distantly related to the Ka'aba, the cube-shaped Holy of Holies in Mecca that contains the feminine black stone venerated by Islam" Begg, p.57
Cybele, like the Ephesian Artemis and many other goddesses, was also venerated in the form of a black stone. Once this stone had been brought to Rome, both stone and goddess were worshipped in the Roman Empire until the 4th century CE.
A Roman name for this goddess was Mater Kubile, and sometimes also simply Magna Mater, meaning "Great Mother".
Article from
Ancient Oriental and Greco-Roman deity, known by a variety of local names; the name Cybele or Cybebe predominates in Greek and Roman literature from about the 5th century BC onward. Her full official Roman name was Mater Deum Magna Idaea (Great Idaean Mother of the Gods).
Legends agree in locating the rise of the worship of the Great Mother in the general area of Phrygia in Asia Minor (now in west-central Turkey), and during classical times her cult centre was at Pessinus, located on the slopes of Mount Dindymus, or Agdistis (hence her names Dindymene and Agdistis). The existence, however, of many similar non-Phrygian deities indicates that she was merely the Phrygian form of the nature deity of all Asia Minor. From Asia Minor her cult spread first to Greek territory. The Greeks always saw in the Great Mother a resemblance to their own goddess Rhea and finally identified the two completely.
During Hannibal's invasion of Italy in 204 BC, the Romans followed a Sibylline prophecy that the enemy could be expelled and conquered if the "Idaean Mother" were brought to Rome, together with her sacred symbol, a small stone reputed to have fallen from the heavens. Her identification by the Romans with the goddesses Maia, Ops, Rhea, Tellus, and Ceres contributed to the establishment of her worship on a firm footing. By the end of the Roman Republic it had attained prominence, and under the empire it became one of the most important cults in the Roman world.

In all of her aspects, Roman, Greek, and Oriental, the Great Mother was characterized by essentially the same qualities. Most prominent among them was her universal motherhood. She was the great parent not only of gods but also of human beings and beasts. She was called the Mountain Mother, and special emphasis was placed on her maternity over wild nature; this was manifested by the orgiastic character of her worship. Her mythical attendants, the Corybantes, were wild, half-demonic beings. Her priests, the galli, castrated themselves on entering her service. The self-mutilation was justified by the myth that her lover, the fertility god Attis, had emasculated himself under a pine tree, where he bled to death. At Cybele's annual festival (March 15-27), a pine tree was cut and brought to her shrine, where it was honoured as a god and adorned with violets considered to have sprung from the blood of Attis. On March 24, the "Day of Blood," her chief priest, the archigallus, drew blood from his arms and offered it to her to the music of cymbals, drums, and flutes, while the lower clergy whirled madly and slashed themselves to bespatter the altar and the sacred pine with their blood. On March 27 the silver statue of the goddess, with the sacred stone set in its head, was borne in procession and bathed in the Almo, a tributary of the Tiber River.
Cybele's ecstatic rites were at home and fully comprehensible in Asia, but they were too frenzied for Europeans farther west. Roman citizens were at first forbidden to take part in the ceremonies--a ban that was not removed until the time of the empire. Though her cult sometimes existed by itself, in its fully developed state the worship of the Great Mother was accompanied by that of Attis.
The Great Mother was especially prominent in the art of the empire. She usually appears with mural crown and veil, seated on a throne or in a chariot, and accompanied by two lions.
She  was regarded as the giver of life to gods, human beings, and beasts alike.

Roman Goddess of abundance. She is the potectress of wealth.

The Goddess of departing.
She is the guardian of children as they begin to explore the world as well as the guardian of travellers in general. 

Roman Goddess of Summer. She is portrayed as naked and adorned with garlands made from ears of corn. Festival: 27 June

Goddess of the vulcan mountain Etna.

Anna Furrinna
An Etruscan and subsequently Roman (river-)goddess whose fertility festivals were aimed at stimulating the fertility of both plants and humans. Her worship also involved sacred prostitution. Her ritual festival was celebrated on March, 15 in the Via Flamina in a grove.

Acca Larentia
(Etruscan, "Lady Mother") Also known simply as Lara, she is a goddess of sexuality in whose worship sacred prostitution played an important role. A semi-divine prostitute, she passed into Roman mythology as a benefactress of the lower classes and as the she-wolf foster-mother of Remus and Romulus, the mythical founders of Rome. Her festival, the Larentalia, took place annually on December 23rd.

Goddess of the dawn. (greek: Eos)
 According to the Greek poet Hesiod, she was the daughter of the Titan Hyperion and the Titaness Theia and sister of Helios, the sun god, and Selene, the moon goddess. She bears in Homer's works the epithet Rosy-Fingered.

Eos was also represented as the lover of the hunter Orion and of the youthful hunter Cephalus, by whom she was the mother of Phaethon. In art she is represented as a young woman, either walking fast with a youth in her arms or rising from the sea in a chariot drawn by winged horses; sometimes, as the goddess who dispenses the dews of the morning, she has a pitcher in each hand.

" Lady of War": Bellona is an ancient, native Roman Goddess. In later years, She was assimilated to Mah of Asia Minor. Her faith was described as bloody and orgiastic.
She is often identified with the Greek war goddess Enyo. Although she was an ancient goddess, Bellona had no flamen, or dedicated priest, and no festival in her honor. Her temple, which was dedicated in Rome in 296BC, stood in the Campus Martius near the altar of Mars outside the gates of the city. Here the Senate met to receive foreign ambassadors. In front of Bellona's temple stood the columna bellica, or column of war. Here the fetial priests, who supervised the religious aspect of Rome's international affairs, performed ceremonies for the declaration of war.

Bona Dea
"The Good Goddess". She was a primary Women-Goddess. At the Aventin she had a temple. The name "Bona Dea" is also interpreted as a title of the old Roman goddess Fauna. The festival of the Bona Dea was a moveable festival, but it fell in early December (round the 3rd).
Her temple in Rome was situated a little north of the present church of S. Cecila in Trastevere. There are no remains left.

In the italian city Volterra you can find the remains of a little temple built in the III. century A.D. and devoted to the Bona Dea. Behind the roman theatre there are also the remains of the Baths of Bona Dea.

Plutarch, Life of Caesar 9-10: 
The Romans have a goddess whom they call Good, whom the Greeks call the Women's Goddess. The Phrygians say that this goddess originated with them, and that she was the mother of their king Midas. The Romans say that she was a Dryad nymph who married Faunus, and the Greeks say that she was the Unnameable One among the mothers of Dionysus. For this reason the women who celebrate her rites cover their tents with vine-branches, and a sacred serpent sits beside the goddess on her throne, as in the myth. It is unlawful for a man to approach or to be in the house when the rites are celebrated. The women, alone by themselves, are said to perform rites that conform to Orphic ritual during the sacred ceremony.

"Lady Protectress": Though ridiculed as the Goddess of Door Hinges, Cardea was in fact an important Deity of the Roman family. She is often in company with Janus, the two-faced God of Thresholds and Beginnings and Endings.

Ceres "Lady of Grain"
The native Roman Goddess Ceres was assimilated with the Greek Goddess Demeter. The story of Demeter and Persephone is well-known. In Rome, Persephone was known as Proserpina.

(greek: Artemis) Roman Goddess of the moon, free nature, wild beasts and hunting. Her cult centers were manly holy groves all over Italy (f.e. Capua/Aricia). Her festival was on August 13. She also had a main temple in Rome on the Aventin. See in due time more information under Artemis (Greek Realm)
Diana, a native Roman Goddess worshipped especially at Lake Nemi, was easy assimilated with the Graeco-Asian Goddess, Artemis. In psychotherapy and Jungian psychology, Artemis/Diana has come to represent the multifaceted, contradictory, beautiful, violent aspects of the feminine psyche. Her temple at Ephesus was one of the Wonders of the Ancient World and the site of one of Saint Paul's least-successful missions.
In the sixth century the Romans erected a temple for Diana outside the citygates on the Avent-hills. The statue which was kept in this temple was a copy of the Artemis of Massalia (Marseilles), which was itself a copy of the Artemis of Ephesus.

Italian Springgoddess. Goddess of flowers and blooming plants. Her cult festival "Floralia" was between 28th April and 3rd May. In the year 238 b.c. the Romans build a temple for her in the west of the Circus Maximus.
Flora, Lady of Flowers
Though not counted among the Olympian Twelve, Flora was a Goddess much loved by the Roman people. Her festivals were popular occasions. The reason for Her popularity and importance eluded historians who failed to recognize the connection between flowers, sex and reproduction.

Goddess of luck (greek: Tyche). She was a very popular and common Goddess. To her woman prayed for childbirth and her cult included fortunetelling with an oracle picking lots (this was located in Praeneste).

Furiae (The Angry)
(greek: Erinyes. Chtonian three-shaped Goddess of anger and revenge. "Vengeful Ones": Also known as Eumenides, "Kind Ones," these Greek Goddesses were adopted by the Romans, who called them Furiae. More ancient then the Olympian pantheon, the triune Erinyes once served the Great Goddess, punishing those who broke Her laws.
They were probably personified curses but possibly were originally conceived of as ghosts of the murdered. According to the Greek poet Hesiod they were the daughters of Gaea (Earth) and sprang from the blood of her mutilated spouse Uranus; in the plays of Aeschylus they were the daughters of Nyx; in those of Sophocles, they were the daughters of Darkness and of Gaea. Euripides was the first to speak of them as three in number. Later writers named them Alecto ("Unceasing in Anger"), Tisiphone ("Avenger of Murder"), and Megaera ("Jealous"). They lived in the underworld and ascended to earth to pursue the wicked. Being deities of the underworld, they were often identified with spirits of the fertility of the earth. Because the Greeks feared to utter the dreaded name Erinyes, the goddesses were often addressed by the euphemistic names Eumenides ("Kind Ones"), or Semnai Theai ("Venerable Goddesses").

(greek: Hera): Roman Mothergoddess protecting childbirth, marriage and women in general. Wife of Jovis (Jupiter).
Juno, Queen of Heaven Though generally equated with the Greek Goddess Hera, Juno was in fact a native Latin Goddess with a mythology of Her own; some has survived. Her disposition was also much different than Hera's, and She was accounted the wisest counselor and beloved wife of Jupiter, which she was not from the beginning of her worship.
She actually started as a Goddess of her own right and was responsible for youth
There was a famous statue of Juno from the Etruscian city Veii, which the Romans transferered in 296 before our time to Rome after defeating the city.
The Church Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome was erected near the site of an old temple dedicated to Juno Lucin
Even in the late Empire a temple to the Roman mother goddess Juno Lucina was still flourishing on the Esquiline Hill and was frequented by many Roman matrons approaching childbirth. It is highly likely that a church to the Virgin Mother of God was erected to supplant the enduring pagan cult of Juno Lucina. In fact, some of Santa Maria Maggiore's marble columns came from the Juno Lucina temple, which was located, according to archeological findings, about 300 meters from the basilica's present site. (cited from: THE BASILICA OF SUMMER SNOWS by June Hager)

Goddess of youth.

Roman Goddess of funerals. Her temple was in a grove were the grave-digger lived and prepared everything for the funeral rituals.
At her sanctuary in a sacred grove (perhaps on the Esquiline Hill), a piece of money was deposited whenever a death occurred. There the undertakers (libitinarii) had their offices, and there all deaths were registered for statistical purposes. The word Libitina thus came to be used for the business of an undertaker, funeral requisites, and, by poets, for death itself.
Libitina was often mistakenly identified with Venus Lubentia (Lubentina), an Italian goddess of gardens. Libitina may have been originally an earth goddess connected with luxuriant nature and the enjoyments of life; because all such deities were connected with the underworld, she also became the goddess of death, that side of her character predominating in later conceptions.
Alternative Names: Achaea/Achaia at Luceria in Apulia.
Italian Goddess Her origins are not sure; she might have been the etruscan goddess Falerii or a sabinian citygoddess. In Rome she was worshipped as a Goddess of wisdom, war and protection of the city. She also protected the arts and handicrafts. On June 13 and on March 19 there were festivals in her name.
She was commonly identified with the Greek Athena. She was one of the Capitoline triad, in association with Jupiter and Juno. Her shrine on the Aventine in Rome was a meeting place for guilds of craftsmen, including at one time dramatic poets and actors.
Her worship as a goddess of war encroached upon that of Mars. The erection of a temple to her by Pompey out of the spoils of his Eastern conquests shows that by then she had been identified with the Greek Athena Nike, bestower of victory. Under the emperor Domitian, who claimed her special protection, the worship of Minerva attained its greatest vogue in Rome. 

Roman Goddess of herdsmen. Her festival "Parilia" was on 21st April. She protected the herds and the herdsmen from illness and beasts.

Italian Goddess of fruits that grow on trees.
Lady Orchard Though a Goddess important to the Romans, little of Her mythology survived, even into the time of the Empire (first century CE). The one well-known myth is believed by modern historians to have been invented at a late date. Goddesses of fruit trees were common throughout the ancient world, as They still are today.

Tellus (Terra Mater)
Italian Goddess of the earth She gave fertility. (greek: Gaia. In the cult Ceres (greek: Demeter) and Tellus were worshipped together.

Also called TERRA MATER, ancient Roman earth goddess. Probably of great antiquity, she was concerned with the productivity of the earth and was later identified with the mother-goddess Cybele. Her temple on the Esquiline Hill dated from about 268 BC. Though she had no special priest, she was honoured in the Fordicidia and Sementivae festivals, both of which centred on fertility and good crops.

Italian Goddess that later was identified with the greek Aphrodite. At first she was the Goddess of gardens, but turned into the Goddess of love. Her temple was build on the Capitol around 300 b.c..
Precious stone of Venus: Chrysopras and Dioptas.
Mistress of Pleasure. Many modern people consider Venus to be nothing more than a Goddess of Sex; in fact, sex was only one of Her many responsibilities. Venus (Greek name, Aphrodite), was concerned with all aspects of Love, Pleasure, Beauty and Procreation.

Italian Goddess of the hearth (identified with  the greek Hestia). Her festival was on 9th June. The priestesses of Vesta had to protect a state-fire and had to remain virgins. Her cult was one of the oldest in Rome and more important than the Hestia-cult to the Greeks.
In republican times of Rome every invocation had to begin with the God Janus and had to end with calling Vesta.
From the earliest times Vesta had a prominent place in both family and state worship. Her worship was observed in every house and her image was sometimes included in the housealtar.
The state worship of Vesta was much more elaborate. Her sanctuary was traditionally a circular building, in imitation of the early Italian round hut and symbolic of the public hearth. The Temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum was of great antiquity and underwent many restorations and rebuildings in both republican and imperial times. There burned the perpetual fire of the public hearth attended by the Vestal Virgins. This fire was officially extinguished and renewed annually on March 1 (originally the Roman new year), and its extinction at any other time, either accidentally or not, was regarded as a portent of disaster to Rome. The temple's innermost sanctuary was not open to the public; once a year, however, on the Vestalia (June 7-15), it was opened to matrons who visited it barefoot.
The days of the festival were unlucky. On the final day occurred the ceremonial sweeping out of the building, and the period of ill omen did not end until the sweepings were officially disposed of by placing them in a particular spot along the Clivus Capitolinus or by throwing them into the Tiber. 
In addition to the shrine itself and between it and the Velia stood the magnificent Atrium Vestae. This name originally was given to the whole sacred area comprising the Temple of Vesta, a sacred grove, the Regia (headquarters of the pontifex maximus, or chief priest), and the House of the Vestals, but ordinarily it designated the home or palace of the Vestals.
Vesta is represented as a fully draped woman, sometimes accompanied by her favourite animal, an ass. As goddess of the hearth fire, Vesta was the patron deity of bakers, hence her connection with the ass, usually used for turning the millstone, and her association with Fornax, the spirit of the baker's oven. She is also found allied with the primitive fire deities Cacus and Caca. (source:

Roman Goddess of victory Around 294 b.c. the Romans build a temple for her on the Palatin. Her cult was spread over the whole Roman empire.

Aborig-Australian Realm of Forgotten Goddesses -  top

Brogla "Spirit of Dance": Her name means "Native Companion." She is honored by the Aborigines of Australia. A dancer of great fluidity and beauty, She was taken away by the dancers of nature, the Whirlwinds.
The Mar'rallang "Twin Wives": This Aboriginal story may upset some feminists: it recounts the marriage of two sisters, so alike they bore the same name, to one man. The sameness of the sisters may allude actually to a two-season year, a two-sun cosmology, a dual-ruler system, the dichotomy/unity of life and death, and so on. In Greek mythology, the opposite is common: twin brothers (or a father and son, or uncle and nephew) marrying the same woman.
Julunggul "Rainbow Serpent": Rainbow serpents are a common motif throughout world mythology, but most particularly in Oceania, Africa and South America; universally, they are associated with immortality/rebirth, rain and water. This rainbow serpent, Julunggul, is a great Goddess of the Aborigines of Australia. She oversees the initiation of adolescent boys into manhood.
Marama Maori moon-goddess. (New Zealand)

Maori goddess of underworld.


Maori vegetation goddess.


Canti aborigeni australiani

Canto 7 dei Canti D'Amore Djarada
Lui le invia un mazzo di penne di emu,
scosse dal vento...
Invitandola a uscire nel bush...
Ecco il pube ricoperto di peli sotto la gonna...!
L'ho messa io incinta, e lo spirito del bambino
è entrato dentro di lei
L'Uccello Rosso, il Messaggero,
svegliò una donna colpita da magia.
Le altre proseguirono nel loro cammino,
mentre la donna si destò.
Alla donna l'uomo apparve diverso,
con costole ben visibili,
aveva una camminata particolare.
Canto 30
Cugino amato,
amore proibito.
Canto 34
Indicando con chiarezza il bersaglio,
l'Uccello Rosso, Il Messaggero lo tenne puntato,
mentre danzava.
La donna lasciò il suo paese,
a malincuore.
Le bellissime decorazioni sul mio corpo
la condurranno verso di me.
L'uomo iniziato,
danzando, visitò lo spirito di lei.
Si abbracciarono con tenerezza,
i suoi pensieri colmi di lui.
Pensieri colmi di lui, incantati,
intrappolati, estasiati.

The Goddess Inanna

"The Queen of Heaven".
the most important goddess of the
Sumerian pantheon in ancient Mesopotamia.
She is the goddess of love, fertility, and war.
The Akkadians called her

Inanna is portrayed as a fickle person who first attracts men and then rejects them. She is depicted as richly dressed goddess or as a naked woman.

Other Names and Titles

Like many goddesses she who's name means "Queen of Heaven"
had many names which represented aspects of her power and glory.

Other spelling of Inanna: Innin, Innini,
Nin-me-sar-ra, the Lady of Myriad Offices / or Queen of all the Me
as the personification of the planet Venus
, which means 'queen of the sky'.
, the Hierodule of Heaven
, Exalted Cow of Heaven

Her symbol is the eight-pointed star. 
Inanna was a goddess associated - in terms of symbology - with the moon, the planet Venus and the serpent. Being explicitly a goddess of sexuality and fertility, her worship included sacred prostitution.With wings and serpents adorning her shoulders we can see a trace of the ancient Neolithic Bird and Snake Goddess. The symbols of caduceus and the double-headed axe both represented her power to bestow and withdraw life.


Enheduanna: Hymns to Inanna - (source site)
According to a letter from Dr. Kilmer, "Enheduanna's religious poetry was certainly sung, and probably accompanied by a stringed instrument. Enheduanna seems to have composed the music and written the words."

from Sjoberg, Ake W. In-nin--sa-gur-ra: A hymn to the goddess Inanna by the en-priestess Enheduanna.

The songs of Enheduanna (later 2300s or early 2200s BCE) comprise the oldest literature by an identified author written in cuneiform. She was first appointed high-priestess during the reign of her father the Sumerian king, Sargon, who united Sumer and Akkad (southern and northern Mesopotamia) located in what is now Iraq. Her portrait on a limestone disc was discovered during an excavation of Ur. Among her 45 extant songs she wrote three long hymns to the Goddess Inanna. Although Akkadian born Enheduanna wrote in Sumerian as she was placed in the Sumerian city of Ur by Sargon. Inanna, known as the Venus star, was the Sumerian goddess of love and war and is identified with the Akkadian goddess Ishtar. As En-priestess, Enhdeduanna served the moon god Nanna, father of Inanna.
March 8, 2001 — Scholars of Sumerian language and history have translated three poems composed by the world's first known author, a woman named Enheduanna, who wrote of her admiration — and irritation — toward Inanna, goddess of Venus.
The 4,000-year-old poems, scripted on clay tablets, had been translated in academic journals, but the new translation, included in the book Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart.
Enheduanna held the most important religious office in Sumer — high priestess at Ur.
The beginning of the third poem exemplifies her conflicted feelings about Inanna.

child of the Moon God
a soft bud swelling
her queen's robe cloaks the slender stem
* * *
steps, yes she steps her narrow foot
on the furred back
of a wild lapis lazuli bull
and she goes out
white-sparked, radiant
in the dark vault of evening's sky
star-steps in the street
through the Gate of Wonder

The Mistress, the stout-hearted, impetuous Lady,
proudest among the Anunna-gods,
Surpassing in all lands, the great daughter of Su'en,
exalted among the "Great Princes,"
The queen (performing) great deeds,
who gathers the me's [laws] of heaven and earth,
she rivals the great An,
She is the august leader among the great gods,
she makes their verdict final....
* * *
Without you no destiny at all is determined,
no clever counsel is granted favor.
To run, to escape, to quiet and to pacify are yours, Inanna.
* * *

To destroy, to build up, to tear out and to settle are yours, Inanna,
To turn a man into a woman and a woman into a man are yours, Inanna,
Desirability, libido, to have goods and property are yours, Inanna,...
Business, great winning, financial loss, deficit are yours, Inanna,
Information, instruction, inspection, to look closely, to approve are yours, Inanna,...
To build a house, to build a woman's chamber, to have implements,
to kiss the lips of a small child are yours, Inanna,
Swiftness, foot race, to attain desire are yours, Inanna,
To interchange the brute and strong
and the weak and powerless is yours, Inanna,...
To give the crown, the chair and the scepter of kingship is yours, Inanna.

Storia e riflessioni sulla Luna nella mitologia