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Where Does the Goddess Come From?
Have you even wondered where the Goddess comes from and why she has been hidden from us, from the public eye, so to speak?
Some, especially those whom the present set-up serves well or at least does not affect, would like to argue that this is a historical coincidence and that perhaps the Goddess is not that important or even present in our psyche. But I think these times testify to exactly the opposite – there is an absolute need for the resurrection of the Goddess in her full glory.
So where does the Goddess come from? Joseph Campbell, in Goddess: Mysteries of the Feminine Divine, and Elaine Pagels in her many books on early Christianity tell us the external history of the birth and loss of the Goddess.
Goddess: the Mother of Physical Birth
(Painting by Tracy Verdugo- She-Tribe)
Historically, so archaeologists and anthropologists tell us, the Goddess appears in early agricultural societies from about 7000 BCE (and some as early as 10,000 BCE). We can clearly see her through the eyes of people who worshipped her as a full-bodied, voluptuous goddess certain of the power of her body.
Indeed, it is her body that gives her power to give life, to create life. Without her there is no life. She is both sexual and fertile, a life-giver and sustainer.
I like to imagine her as Sophia Loren in her early Italian films: fully feminine and yet fully powerful because of her femininity. Or as in the beautiful painting by my favourite artist, Tracy Verdugo, in the image featured here.
Goddess: The Mother of Spiritual Birth (Second Birth)
The powerful image of this full-bodied goddess often overshadows the fact that she is not only the protector of the harvest (material goods) and the Mother Goddess of us all who gives us our biological existence.
She also carries secret knowledge (magic) for us. She is present in spiritual terms as the mother of our second birth – our birth as Campbell describes ‘as spiritual entities’. And thus she awakens in us the need for spiritual purpose in our lives.
The Expelled Goddess
When the hunter-gatherer tribes arrived in Europe with their masculine gods – tall hunks with bows and arrows – they simply married local goddess, as it seemed a natural thing to do. That is why, Campbell says, Zeus ended up with so many wives. He wasn’t being naughty, there were just too many lovely local goddesses he could marry! (This is his version of the story, anyway, and he sticks to it).
But it was not always a story with a happy ending. Eventually, some hunting tribes came with their ideas of one god who could not accept the presence of a goddess. She was conquered, lost her status and came to be called an Abomination. (Notice the capital ‘A’, as even they must have known of her powers).
In the fourth century CE St Augustine in his City of God describes witnessing goddess celebrations in Carthage where he lived (and yes, he called also it an Abomination). The procession moving through the city in honour of the sensual and voluptuous goddess upset the male ascetic gods of the day (and their saints).
From then on, only male priests were in charge of worship and the obsession with hard masculinity went so far that only animals with perfect male organs could be slaughtered at the altars of that super-masculine god. The life-giving Creatrix was replaced by a judgemental father figure.
Goddess in Hiding
(Feature photo – model: Shelle Belle, photographer: Polo JG)
No wonder some early Christians (later labelled as heretics or Gnostics) in the early CE centuries considered this super-masculine god a rather malevolent usurper and introduced his mother to him; she told him in no uncertain terms what she thought of his usurpation!
When he posed as the only god and creator the Goddess would come out and tell him, ‘Do not lie!’ and remind him that she created him only to administer to creation.
Indeed, some gnostic sources, considered this the First Thought (‘I am the Protennoia, the Thought that dwells in the Light…She who exists before All … I am the invisible One within All’ as she claims in one of the gnostic sources – ’Trimorphic Protennoia’ ).
The Gnostics also referred to Abraxas the gnostic god, who was the first manifestation from the undifferentiated cosmic soup called the Pleroma and was both female and male (all that came out form Pleroma was in pairs of opposites).
In fact, in many sources the God/dess is androgynous, containing both female and male within (‘I am both Mother and Father … I am the Womb of All … I am the Meirothea, the glory of the Mother’).
And my favourite self-declaration of the Goddess in a gnostic poem called ‘Thunder, Perfect Mind’, ’I am the first and the last. I am the honoured and the scorned on. I am the whore and I am the holy one. I am the wife and the virgin. I am knowledge and ignorance…I am strength and I am fear…I am shameless and I am ashamed…’
Similarly, in some native tribes, Campbell tells us, on special occasions women are invited to sacred male rituals as an acknowledgement that they (women) have always known them and in, fact, are the originators of sacred magic.
The creation myths say that in the Age of Ancestors we were all one, there were no divisions between masculine and feminine, animals and trees. Then something happened, some atrocity, some wrong turn was taken, and the world differentiated.
So what is the point of it all?
The point is: let’s not argue over who or what was first, as all we have our stories, sacred and mythological. It is important to remember, however, that all stories have a common thread of underlying unity which was broken. The balance between the feminine and masculine was disturbed, and we have become separate from each other.
It is important to also remember that the stories are never told without intent. There is always an underlying reason and there is always an interpretation which often suits the powers that be which are supported by institutions they create to legitimise themselves. Just as there are institutions that promote one vision of the Universe over another. And thus we have the imbalance.
Miraculously, the goddess has survived the onslaughts of history and one-sided interpretations
In India, in 800 BCE, Kena Upanishad came to being, and this is where the female Goddess Uma introduces the knowledge of Brahman to the male gods, who had no knowledge of the highest truth until then.
Around 900 CE the Tantra was born and with it the worship of the Goddess in her most intimate way, often through sexual practices that enacted the birth of the Universe and, through them, restored the temporary balance between the masculine and feminine in our Consciousness. What was an Abomination to ascetics became a Way to Higher Consciousness.
Later, the Catholic Church began a slow introduction of Mary, the Mother of God, and in the alternative gnostic traditions the much neglected and misinterpreted Mary Magdalene was often seen as the representation of Sophia (The Divine Wisdom).
And today, faced with environmental and other threats, we turn again to the Goddess Gaia for salvation.
So perhaps the question should not be: Where does the goddess come from? but rather, How can she be integrated back into our lives now?
Practical application or Workbook for the Goddess News Spiritual Blog: Recover the Goddess in your Life
Many years ago I used a fantastic exercise from Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. In it Julia asks us to make a list of our sub-personalities (or the roles, if you prefer, we play in life).
- Make a list: Are you a mother, professional woman, artist, writer, etc?
- Then ask yourself: which part of you (your lost goddess/self) is in shadow and wants to manifest itself in its full glory but is repressed by all the other parts of you that are based on ‘shoulds’ and the societal roles prescribed to us?
- If you want to go even further, ask yourself: which part of you is the eternal you, the One that never changes, that stays within you as an imprinted image of yourself, unchanged by time, and the roles that you play?
As always, I love connecting with you and love your comments :). And if you like what you read, please share it with others xxx
Sending Love, Joanna
Dr Joanna Kujawa
Books to read:
Well, now you’ve put the cat amongst the pigeons! I was heading off with the intention of being a spiritual sloth for the month, as it has been a challenging year of hard work. But, no, now i will spend my time away meditating on your questions! Particularly which goddess aspect is in shadow.
Thank you Joanna, you inspire me.❤
Thank you Linda. It has been quite a year, that is true, especially work-wise. And Yay! I would love to know your goddess in hiding? Do not hesitate to share Her with us :).
Sending lots of love, Joanna xxx
Found this blog via Qld Jung Society (email).
If you haven’t already, may I recommend Starhawk’s writings, especially her first three books, ‘The Spiral Dance: A rebirth of the ancient religion of the Great Goddess’; ‘Dreaming the Dark: Magic, Sex and Politics’; and ‘Truth or Dare: Encounters with Power, Authority and Mystery’.
Starhawk was/is big on doing her own version of things, imho, but in the last book, she does refer to a more complete (she only uses 5 of the 7 stages in the story about Inanna) version in ‘Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer’ by Wolkstein & Kramer.
You may also find GR Levy’s ‘The Gate of Horn: A Study of the Religious Concepts of the Stone Age, and Their Influence upon European Thought’ (Faber, 1948) very interesting. It’s long out of print, but maybe you can find it in uni libraries and or via inter-library loan – and it is worth the trouble. Amazon does have 2nd hand copies, but at utterly scalper’s prices.
Enjoy! Cheers ! 🙂
Peter, Thank you for joining the conversation 🙂
I have read some Starhawk but I am happy to revisit. I am really interested in your second suggestion – The Gate of Horn: A Study of the Religious Concepts of the Stone Age, and Their Influence upon European Thought’ (Faber, 1948) -and will definitely get it. Nothing like a Jungian for giving a great reading suggestion 🙂 Thank you. Much love, Joanna xx
Robert A. Johnson elucidates the goddess and her energy as the Anima, which truly animates a man in his book “Living With the Heavenly Woman” His teacher was Carl Jung himself! He also wrote amount the male animus which the female must allow to grow to become whole.
Agreed. Balance is the key for both women and men. Carl Jung’s concepts of animus and anima are an expression of the need for balancing of energies both within human psyche and the universe. Carl Jung was very much interested in gnostic concept of spiritual androgyny – where both feminine and masculine energies need to be balanced before one can truly explore one’s highest potential.
True. Being a Jungian for eight long years I can assure you my mistakes of making so many wonderful women into goddesses was such a mistake, when they were, and as much respected, after all human! Oh but to find that the goddess was within me, what a joy! Being married to two women is quite an undertaking, yet my inner and outer wife love on another and has made me get out of my way and let them have homoerotic feelings. Life is so precious!
I see what you mean. Yes, we are all human :). I am not trying to turn any woman into a goddess but rather to point out to some imbalances within us and within society. Also, to help ourselves to discover the inner being which is our essence and often gets lost in the externally focused society. And, I am glad that you are in touch with your inner goddess 🙂
Joanna….thanks for your research…ordered your new book! Re dates mentioned in this blog post about “Goddess appearing in agricultural societies 7000 BCE….10,000 BCE.” Barbara Mor (my usual ‘go to’ reference point) says “the Goddess religion…dominated human thought….for at least 300,000 years.” Your thoughts….? Many thanks…love, C.
Thank you Cornelia. I have just returned to this space after being busy with the book. The short answer is: Yes, I believe so but the work is not finished and we need to add to what was done before. x