What is a Goddess?
A Goddess is a Divine female being of supernatural powers or attributes, believed in and worshiped by people and is often believed to be the source of life and being and worshiped as the principal deity in various religions. For thousands of years, around the world our ancestors are believed to have worshipped a Divine and powerful Mother-Goddess, who was honoured as the Mother of all life.
The Goddess Within, the Goddess Outside.
Where is the Goddess? Does the Goddess dwell within us? Is the “still small voice” of conscience, a manifestation of the immanent deity within ourselves? For many, the immanent Goddess provides a immense and satisfying intimacy with the inner Goddess. Finding a connection to the divine within ourselves, seeking the strength of the Goddess within to better our lives, can be a transformative, enlivening and empowering experience.
The immanent Goddess need not be confined to human form, many cultures perceive the immanent Goddess within nature, in plants, trees, mountains and stars, each inhabited by a unique Goddess spirit that is both mortal and immortal. For every star that dies, another is being formed in nebulous gases in the universe. For each plant or tree that dies, another is waiting to be reborn in the seeds of the previous, the spirit of the Goddess becomes immortal in that this energy always exists in uncountable forms.
To others, the Goddess is transcendent, and exists outside ourselves, here the Goddess becomes the Universe, Gaia, Mother Nature, the Great Goddess or the Great Mother. The transcendent Goddess is vast beyond measure, timeless and immortal, a unfathomable spirit that is at once everywhere and in all times.
Many that walk the path of the Goddess see the divine as both immanent and transcendent, believing that the Goddess within can be called upon for strength and vision in facing the challenges of life. Whilst perceiving that the energy of the Goddess exists throughout nature where each fragment is the Goddess, yet no one fragment contains all and she exists as a force beyond individual plants, animals and people.
Where did the idea of a Goddess come from?
Our prehistoric ancestors were hunters and gatherers, who depended on the earth to provide, food, clothing, shelter and life itself. The importance of fertility in crops, in domesticated animals, in wild animals and in the tribe itself were of paramount importance to their survival. Their society was probably matriarchal and that children took their mothers’ names. Their life was based on lunar (not solar) calendar and time was experienced as a repetitive cycle, not linearly as we think of it today. Thus, the Female life-giving principle was considered divine and shrouded in mystery.
Natures Mother who bringest all to life and revives
all from day to day. The food of life Thou grantest in
eternal fidelity. And when the soul hath retired we
take refuge in Thee. All that Thou grantest falls
back somewhere into Thy Womb.
Third Century AD Prayer to Terra Matris.
Cave paintings and rock carvings of Goddesses, some as old as 35,000 years B.C.E. or earlier, depict the Divine life-giving Goddess. The Venus of Willendorf, is perhaps the most well known of these ancient Mother-Goddess deities, most of the early images of the Goddess show an abundant, round, full figured being. An early symbol in human history is the zig-zag, which was used by Neanderthals around 40,000 B.C. and has been interpreted as representing water. The Goddess is closely associated with water and births.
In mediaeval times, it was claimed that Britain was given to their ancestors by the Goddess Diana. In 1136, Geoffrey of Monmouthshire, describes in his “History of The Kings Of Britain” how refugees escaping the siege of Troy, were seeking a new homeland. Their leader called upon Diana to help them:
” O powerful Goddess,
terror of the forest glades,
yet hope of the wild woodlands,
you, who have the power to go into orbit,
though the airy heavens and halls of hell,
pronounce a judgement that concerns the Earth.
Tell me which lands you wish us to inhabit.
Tell me of a safe dwelling-place,
where I am to worship you down the ages,
and where, to the chanting of maidens,
I shall dedicate temples to you. “
In the ancient world, Goddesses were commonly patronesses of cities, justice, was, handicraft and home life, agriculture, love and learning. They were seen as standing for aspects of human nature and civilisation rather than that of nature and the elements.
Apuleius in his work Metamorphoses, declared that Isis was the embodiment of all other Goddesses and identified with the Moon and nature. It would be this concept of the Goddess that would become dominant in modern paganism.
The faces and aspects of the Goddess are not static or frozen in time but are forever changing, evolving and metamorphosing. In each age, like children growing, so the Goddess grows and changes with us.
So it was during the years 1300-1800, in English love poetry, the most popular Goddesses were Venus – Goddess of Love, Diana – Goddess of Chastity and Hunting, Minerva – Goddess of Wisdom, and Juno as a symbol of Queenliness.
After the 1800’s Juno is replaced by Proserpine – Goddess of the Seasons or the Dead, by 1830 Minerva is replaced by Cere or Demeter – Lady of The Harvest. The Goddess Venus also undergoes changes during this time, acquiring dominion over the woodlands or the sea, and Diana becomes associated with the Moon, the greenwood and wild animals.
Is the Goddess only for women?
No, during the Goddess worshipping era of the past, the Goddess was the central figure, and was celebrated by men, women and children. The Goddess embodies all mystery and magic and by giving her this allegiance, man sanctified and purified himself.
She was both nurturing and fierce. She was the one the all things came from and all things returned. A renaissance of Goddess worship has take place during the middle of this century with the re-emergence of Wicca. Here both men and women celebrate the Divine Goddess and God, a spiritual balance is taking place, acknowledging both the female and male aspects of Divinity, the New Age Aquarius, with its feminine energies, hopes to bring balance to the destructive aspects of the Piscean Age.
Does anyone still believe in a Goddess?
Yes, many cultures never lost touch with the Female Divinity, the Hindus of India have many Goddesses amongst their pantheon of deities. In Japanese culture, the great Sun Goddess, Amaterasu is still honoured as the Divine Mother of the Japanese people. In China the Goddess of Mercy, Kwan Yin (Quan Yin) still attracts many devotees. A feminine presence was added to Christianity by the Council of Ephesus in 431 CE when the Virgin Mary was named Theotokos (Mother of God). With the re-emergence of Wicca, Dianic Wicca, Goddess and Neo-paganism, more and more people are incorporating Goddess worship into their beliefs.
What kinds of Goddesses are there?
There are many thousands of Goddesses, throughout the world, each region had its own aspects of the Goddess, the Great Mother Goddess, however appears to have had a universal following. The Goddess has been known by many names and aspects in many different cultures and ages: Anat, Aphrodite, Aradia, Arianrhod, Artemis, Astarte, Brighid, Ceres, Demeter, Diana, Eostre, Freya, Gaia, Hera, Ishtar, Isis, Juno, Kali, Lilith, Ma’at, Mary, Minerva, Ostare, Persephone, Venus, Vesta, etc.
The Goddess is often visualized in her three aspects: Maiden, Mother and Crone, and her corresponding sacred colours white, red, black.
I wove it once with colours white,
With black I wound it through
Then I did dye it with a red
That binds the life to you.
These aspects are mirrored in the phases of the moon: waxing, full and waning. The Maiden represents youth, emerging sexuality, the huntress running with her hounds. The Mother symbolizes feminine power, fertility, and nurturing. The Crone is wisdom, the compassion which comes from experience, and the one who guides us through the death experience. All aspects of the Triple-Goddess represent different types of healing and growth.
Reclaiming The Goddess
The Goddess did not simply die out or go into cold storage, only to be revived in the same forms she manifested then, instead she remained veiled and denigrated and ignored most of the time or else she is exalted, hymned and pedestalled as an allegorical abstraction of female divinity.
In allowing the Goddess to become an abstraction, we have lost touch with the Goddess. We no longer speak the language of the Goddess, we have forgotten how and we have allowed the concept of the Goddess to be almost erased from consciousness.
With the resurgence of modern Paganism, with it views on a balanced human and divine nature, so some have found that the Goddess has always been there, yet somehow humanity forgot and so the idea of a Goddess as a central point of creation is finding a welcome response.
Modern Goddess Worship.
The Neo-pagans, modern witches and even scientists, are starting to view Gaia after the Greek Goddess, or Mother Earth, as a bio system and we are all dependant upon each other for survival. She attributes consciousness to the earth and believes it to be spiritual as well. In other words, Gaia is a living and evolving being that has a spiritual destiny. Goddess worship is an attempt to reintroduce the sacred aspect of the earth and to remind us all that She is our ever- bountiful Mother. The Goddess is the giver of all life and is found in all of creation.
An acceptance of the Goddess is important to both men and women, for men it allows them to acknowledge the feminine energies within and to accept their desire and need of a protective, nurturing feminine presence. “The importance of the Goddess symbol for women cannot be overstressed. The image of the Goddess inspires women to see ourselves as divine, our bodies as sacred, the changing phases of our lives as holy, our aggression as healthy, and our anger as purifying. Through the Goddess, we can discover our strength, enlighten our minds, own our bodies, and celebrate our emotions.”
When an individual seeks the Goddess either through Wicca, the feminist movement, the New Age, or the liberal church, he or she is beginning a journey to bring to balance the female and male energies. We are a blending of both male and female energies, so it it natural to want to balance our spiritual lives, by accepting the Goddess and God, we start our quest to discover our inner ‘higher self’. This higher self, is often referred to as the “god self,” and is the path to pure truth, deep wisdom. The Yin Yang symbol is a perfect reminder of the balance that is achieved when these two energies come together in a positive way.