Search Results for goddess
Goddess vs. goddess
Some popular writers like Barbara G. Walker argue that the ancient view of the Goddess differs from contemporary male interpretations. Not to be confused with goddesses, Walker says the Goddess was seen by the ancients as a Great Creative Source of All Being.
Nicole Loraux in Duby and Perrot’s A History of Women, Vol. I points out that, with the exception of Sappho, there’s a dearth of women writers in the ancient world, making our view of the ancient understanding of The Goddess come from mostly male accounts.
Walker says that contemporary spirituality would more correctly depict the Deity with female instead of male terms and images.
Along these lines, some feminist writers believe that the idea of the Goddess emerged before and is more authentic than male God imagery. Other feminists look back to cultures where the Goddess or women were apparently dominant (e.g. Samos, Amazonia) to promote alternatives to male-influenced God images.
The celebrated archeologist Marija Gimbutas (1921-1994) argued that behind all representations of prehistoric goddesses lies a single, Great Goddess.
Gimbutas did identify the diverse and complex Paleolithic and Neolithic female representations she recognized as depicting a single universal Great Goddess, but also as manifesting a range of female deities: snake goddess, bee goddess, bird goddess, mountain goddess, Mistress of the Animals, etc., which were not necessarily ubiquitous throughout Europe.
In a tape entitled “The Age of the Great Goddess,” Gimbutas discusses the various manifestations of the Goddess which occur, and stresses the ultimate unity behind them all of the Earth as feminine.¹
Gimbutas also believed that excavations from Neolithics sites in Europe and Lithuania suggest a society were women were dominant, in both the worldly and spiritual sense. Her views, although still debated among scholars, gave great impetus to aspects of the feminist movement, mostly among woman scholars, academics and intellectuals who shared her point of view.
Jung and beyond
The Jungian Erich Neumann sees The Goddess as an archetype of the Great Mother.
Meanwhile, Naomi Goldenberg rejects Jung’s entire idea of the archetype, especially archetypes pertaining to an “eternal feminine.” Goldenberg says they constructs are overly generalized, unduly metaphysical and sexist.
In The End of God (1982) Goldenberg suggests the need for depth psychology to develop perspectives about the imaginal (symbolic, inspirational) and literal (physical, social and political) realities of women who find traditional goddess imagery to be an outdated patriarchal legacy.
Apart from the idea of ‘The Goddess’ we also find the minor, small-‘g’ goddess—that is, a female god. Contemporary archaeology points to a tremendous diversity of attributes for a plethora of goddess statues and images discovered around the world. And, to some, attributing all of these different manifestations to a single “Goddess” seems questionable.
Most scholars – male and female – agree that a good number of goddesses are localized, individual deities that emerged from other forms, while other goddesses are, indeed, more universal.
Perhaps most interesting, some goddesses are vindictive, petty, lustful and cruel, just like many of their male counterparts. Meanwhile, others goddesses and gods, alike, are nurturing, loving, chaste and compassionate. So the gender issue arguably could take the form of equality being the right for women to be just as kindly or nasty as men have always been (but this still doesn’t make being nasty right—for women or for men).
The Goddess is also understood as major small-‘g’ goddesses. These major goddesses are often associated with fertility deities in agrarian societies. Some suggest that small-’g’ goddesses are prominent in matriarchal rather than patriarchal cultures.
Graham Harvey conveniently outlines several different attitudes toward the idea of the Goddess. First, it refers to a spiritual unity (Goddess) in plurality (Goddesses), where the plurality is encountered more often than the unity.
Second, Harvey notes that some contemporary women advocate traditional notions of “femininity” in contrast to the idea of “empowerment” as found within much Goddess theology.
Third, Harvey says Cynthia Eller implies that Feminist Goddess discourse dislocates women from ordinary time and traps them in an obsession with a comforting Golden Age.”²
Harvey also refers to Emily Erwin Culpepper, who is critical of glossing over diversity into some kind of mythic unity:
[With] any monotheism of ‘The Goddess’…She tends to become ‘The Great Mother’ and sweep diverse realities into one cosmically large stereotype.”³
The Virgin Mary
Catholic teaching, however, clearly states that Mary is not a goddess, but a “mediatrix” (mediator) between God and mankind. While Catholic rosary devotions are directed to Mary, these emphasize her humility and “fullness of Grace.”
Unlike Isis, Mary is a saint and cannot bestow boons from her own power. Indeed, Catholicism clearly indicates that all honor, power and glory belongs to God.
² Contemporary Paganism: Listening People Speaking Earth. New York: New York University Press, 2000, p. 82.
³ Cited in Contemporary Paganism, p. 83.
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Cybele was a Mother Goddess with local manifestations in Asia Minor, Greece and Rome. Some scholars believe that she originated in Anatolia around 6000 BCE. She appears in literature and sculpture from about the 5th century BCE onward. She presides over the gods, humans and beasts.
The lion was her sacred symbol. In statues, reliefs and coins she’s often depicted seated on a throne with a lion on either side.
Sir William Smith in his Smaller Classical Dictionary says
The Corybantes were her enthusiastic priests, who with drums, cymbals, horns, and in full armour, performed their orgiastic dances. In Rome the Galli were her priests.¹
In Rome she was introduced as an official state religious figure and hence closely regulated and officiated by upper class priests.
Today, some people are drawn to her cult and, perhaps, numinous power – or what they believe is her numinous power. So her worship continues in the 21st century among New Age and neoPagan religious groups.²
¹ Sir William Smith, Smaller Classical Dictionary [revised by E. H. Blakeny and JohnWarrington], New York: Dutton, 1958.
Cults and Religions – What’s the difference?
Many debate the differences between religion and cults. Some say there’s no difference. In other words, religions are cults and cults are religions. But this kind of thinking arguably doesn’t do justice to the complexities of faith and the supernatural.
One difference seems to be that, in a cult, a charismatic leader is undeservedly glorified. Some say that this would make Abraham, Jesus Christ, Mohammad, Buddha and Mahavira cult leaders. But cults also display a relatively short longevity (after the leader dies, the cult dwindles away). This didn’t happen in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism or Jainism. So they can’t be called cults by that standard.
Another difference is that cults typically isolate new members from their families and unbelievers. Religions tend to be less drastic, with most (not all, mind you) accepting interfaith relationships.
Steven Hassan, an expert on cults, says
Since all destructive cults believe that the ends justify the means, they believe themselves to be above the law. As long as they believe that what they are doing is “right” and “just,” many of them think nothing of lying, stealing, cheating, or unethically using mind control to accomplish their ends. They violate, in the most profound and fundamental way, the civil liberties of the people they recruit. They turn unsuspecting people into slaves. ¹
Others say the difference between religions and cults is a matter of degree, especially with those religions and cults that attract, institutionally legitimize and reproduce authoritarian personality types and the legalistic beliefs and structured practices that these individuals participate in.
In these instances, religious or cultic affiliation apparently provides a convenient means for the psychologically immature to overlook unresolved emotional issues. Accordingly, some critics of religion maintain that religious affiliation provides a safe but essentially cowardly means for unleashing centuries of culturally and perhaps genetically inherited anger onto those who don’t wish to sacrifice their free will to the dictates of an institution. These critics say that most religious institutions must incorporate (or reject) new developments within the context of their limiting teachings and traditions.
This too, seems somewhat simplistic. For religious believers will often say they are fully choosing to cooperate with God’s will as progressively revealed to them within their particular religious organization. Apparently there’s a richness in their spiritual life that the secular critics just don’t get. And individuals belonging to orgqanizations seen by outsiders as cults often say the same thing. “You don’t understand…”
This can make it difficult to tell the difference between a religion and a cult. Meanwhile, many new religions are cropping up. And some say they’re nothing more than cheap covers created by creepy masterminds aiming to get tax breaks on donations made by gullible believers.
When in doubt, draw a chart
One of the definitions for “cult” in Merriam-Websters dictionary is: “a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents.”
The following chart compares some of the main beliefs and practices found within religions and cults. This is not the final word. The items in each column don’t universally apply and many of the distinctions made in this chart are debatable. In keeping with the classical sociologist Max Weber, however, this chart offers ideal types.
Ideal types are generalized constructs. They don’t provide precise definitions and they’re not comprehensive. But they are thought-provoking. And that’s their main purpose.
Above chart elaborates on many sources, including Gregg Stebben’s Everything You Need to Know About Religion (The Pocket Professor, Denis Boyles ed., New York: Pocket Books, 1999: 25-26).
¹ Steven Hassan, Combatting Cult Mind Control, Rochester: Park Street Press, 1988, p. 36.
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Several religious traditions regard celibacy as a requirement for advanced spiritual progress and healthy premarital relationships. And married seekers primarily concerned with God realization are often counseled to practice celibacy or, depending on their psychological makeup and related calling, sexual moderation.
In contrast to Sigmund Freud‘s theories about so-called normal psychosexual development¹ and C. G. Jung‘s advocacy of a mind/body holism, some celibates claim that unspent sexual energy is transmuted to higher forms of psycho-spiritual awareness.
Aspects of popular culture and many ordinary people tend to characterize celibacy as something odd or deviant but the devout monastic, saint or guru and many non-denominational spiritual persons say it’s essential not only for personal development but also for the universal work of spiritual ‘liberation’ or, depending one one’s path, ‘salvation.’
This spiritual work is said to be just that—work. But it’s not the kind of immediately visible work that everyone can easily understand. Rather, it’s arguably more subtle and inwardly demanding. The work of salvation is said to involve meditation, contemplation and intercession. These practices apparently facilitate others’ ability to recognize and respond to God as an active force of love in their lives.
In Catholic and Hindu mysticism, the transpersonal connecting principles are, respectively, the ‘taking of sin’ and ‘karma transfer.’
Celibacy combined with higher forms of contemplation is said to elevate all concerned individuals, but this is probably a best-case scenario. In actual practice it seems that some individuals react in a hostile manner toward deeply spiritual persons, this being a possible explanation for the well-known phenomena of religious persecution, scapegoating and martyrdom.
And while some contemplative celibates may seem like socially inept or repressed “losers” to those predominantly concerned with worldly rewards, the celibates themselves often say they are regularly in touch with helpful spiritual powers (e.g. The Holy Spirit, The Goddess), intermediaries (e.g. angels, deceased relatives and saints) and other saintly living people—i.e. those whose inner relationship with God invisibly reaches out to others.
For a discussion on the notion of healthy vs. unhealthy types of celibacy, see ”Celibacy, Sex and Spirituality.”
¹ From the entry “Cathexis” at earthpages.ca:
Freud never considers the possibility that pent up libidinal energy could be redirected to the spiritual life. On this score, many saints and mystics attest to the importance of celibacy. Without it, they say, their spiritual work (e.g. intercession) just can’t get done. Many go even further, describing chastity not as a kind of unavoidable necessity but as a great gift and virtue. This positive attitude lead St. Frances de Sales to say
Chastity is the lily among virtues and makes men almost equal to angels.
Sadly, many people still on a materialistic level of consciousness find this difficult to understand. As a result, some predominantly spiritual people may suffer ridicule and persecution, even by their apparently religious peers. Even more sad, it seems that some potential spiritual sensitives are, themselves, duped by the status quo viewpoint. So instead of flowering into sainthood, they may end up in psychiatric wards.
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Among believers, Cancer personalities are said to be materialistic and spiritual, gentle yet moody. Like the crab, these folks apparently can have a tough exterior but are inwardly sensitive.
From the moon, Cancer obtains all the traditional values associated with Luna-changeability, dependence on natural forces, openness, and a certain luminosity of mind and spirit.
Astrologers often link cancer with the Egyptian scarab beetle, which in antiquity symbolized immortality because it survived the flooding of the Nile river. The scarab also protects its eggs by rolling them on the ground in a ball of dung until they hatch, symbolizing the fresh start that inevitably emerges from decay and corruption.
Wikipedia lists other mythological associations:
In mythology Cancer is often associated with the Greek myth of the Lernaean Hydra, one of The Twelve Labours of Herakles and the mythical figure of Perseus, from the Greek myth of Medusa. Cancer is also associated with the Greco-Roman goddess Selene/Luna and sometimes the goddesses Artemis/Diana and Hecate/Trivia.¹
Prominent Cancers are the late Lady Diana, Harrison Ford, and Linda Ronstadt.
In astronomy the Crab is a dim constellation located between Gemini and Leo. At its center the cluster, Praesepe, is visible to the naked eye.
The image (at right) is the Crab Nebula. It is not the constellation called Cancer or The Crab (Courtesy NASA).
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Durga is a Hindu goddess with both maternal and terrible aspects. Often depicted with eight or ten arms, Durga has been worshipped throughout India since at least 400 CE. As the consort of Shiva, some sacred scriptures called the Veda depict her as riding the back of a lion, symbolizing her immense power to confer grace on sincere seekers of God, and conversely, punishment on the ignorant and demon-deluded.
Prior to the annual fall celebration of Durga puja, a Hindu priest may conscript local youngsters to canvass for donations in order to construct an effigy of the goddess. For several days the life-size doll is promulgated throughout cites and towns on a cart, often accompanied with Hindi pop music blaring from a portable sound system. This event epitomizes India’s unique synthesis of the ancient, the sacred and the contemporary.
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Diana (Greek equivalent = Artemis) was a Roman goddess worshipped by the plebeians, the so-called lower classes of ancient Rome. G. Parrinder says Diana’s name may have meant “bright one” like the Indic Dyaus and Greek Zeus. Diana may have been revered as a moon goddess but was primarily a goddess of women, the wood, wilderness and the hunt.
Widely worshipped in the ancient world, her primary centers of worship were as follows:
King Servius Tullius (578-535 BCE) dedicated a temple to her on the Aventine Hill at Rome. She was also worshipped at Aricia (in the crater of a dead volcano about 10 miles from Rome), and at the mountainous Tifata. And the Romans converted a Greek temple at the Asian port of Ephesus, formerly dedicated to Artemis, for Diana’s worship.
That she was favored by women is evidenced by the fact that religious processions of women bore torches in her honour at Aricia¹ and votive offerings were made for successful childbirth. She was also favored by slaves, making her a patroness of many marginalized peoples.
The Roman Emperor Augustus decided that he’d make Diana the patroness of his wife Livia and his daughter Julia to counterbalance his own egotistical identification with the god Apollo.²
Associated with the woodlands as well as the moon, the celebrated mythographer, Sir J. G. Frazer, writes in The Golden Bough that Diana had a sacred grove of oak trees at Lake Nemi, just outside of Rome at Aricia. The resident priest of the grove usually was an escaped slave who served as Diana’s consort. Priestly succession was determined by the outcome of a deadly challenge made by another escaped slave, these new rivals generally coming from the city.
In order to obtain the right of combat the challenger first had to break off a bough of mistletoe from within the grove. If the challenger obtained the mistletoe without being killed by the residing priest, ritual combat would ensue. If the challenger won this “religious” fight to the death, he replaced the slain priest and found himself in the same uneasy spot as his predecessor.
Diana’s renown is recorded in Acts 19: 23-41, in which the King James version of the Bible calls the Greek goddess Artemis “Diana.” In this story St. Paul turns many away from Artemis through his preaching about Jesus at Ephesus. As a result, the converts stop buying small terra cotta and silver images of Artemis. In turn, some of the townsfolk become angry and denounce Paul.
A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25 He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.”³
The writer on women’s myth, Barbara Walker, says that Diana was declared evil and denounced by 14th century Christian Inquisitors.
¹ The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 1999, p. 463.
² (a) C. M. C. Green “Diana” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome. Ed. Michael Gagarin. © Oxford University Press 2010. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome: (e-reference edition). Oxford University Press. Toronto Public Library. 3 August 2012 http://www.oxford-greecerome.com/entry?entry=t294.e369
(b) C. G. Jung and Joseph Campbell talk about this dynamic, generally regarded in depth psychology as “inflation.” Campbell, however, adds a few interesting nuances to the idea or, at least, puts some of the complexities of Jung’s depth psychology into easily understandable terms.
³ http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+19%3A23-41&version=NIV See also, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, 1996, p. 88.
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Demeter was an influential mother and corn goddess with temples in virtually every ancient Greek city. She had a major temple at the town of Eleusis (about 10 miles from Athens). Her daughter by Zeus is Persephone or Kore (“the Girl”), who also personifies corn. Together, Demeter and Persephone are deities of agriculture and growth.
Demeter is usually depicted holding sheaves of corn. The oldest myth about Demeter is found in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, which links her to the Eleusinian Mysteries. In this hymn Persephone/Kore is abducted by Hades to the underworld.
As the corn crop suffers in her daughter’s absence, Demeter searches for Persephone/Kore until Zeus decrees that she must spend one part of the year with Demeter and another part with Hades.
Hades…gave Persephone a pomegranate seed to eat, and because she had tasted food in the Underworld she was compelled to spend a third part of every year there, returning to earth in spring.¹
This is often cited as an example of how storytellers mythologize the natural cycles of seed-time, vegetation, harvest and the subsequent storage in underground containers. Demeter is also portrayed as sorrowful because of Persephone/Kore’s sad fate.
In Italy Demeter is often identified with Ceres.
¹ Nicholas J. Richardson, Demeter in The Oxford Classical Dictionary © Oxford University Press 1996, 2000.
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Ereshkigal is a Sumerian goddess and ruler of the underworld. Her sister is the heavenly Inanna/Ishtar. Her husband Nergal, an earth god scorched by the summer sun, forced her to share her power with him.
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Fortuna is a Roman deity, equivalent to the Greek Tyche. The most notable difference between the Roman and Greek forms is that the Roman Fortuna is, at times, less universal than Tyche.
Like Tyche, Fortuna represents a general concept of chance and luck. Her temples were in specific cities like Rome, with an unrivaled site at Palestrina. But unlike Tyche (who had altars at Thebes and Athens), the Romans observed a “Fortune of the Day.”
The Romans also invoked Fortuna for victory in battle. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance Fortuna was very popular, often depicted with a wheel turning through cycles of good and bad luck, joy and sadness. She’s also depicted with a rudder, a globe or with wheels or wings.
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