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Barbara G. Walker

Diana the huntress

Diana the huntress (Photo credit: katmary)

Barbara G. Walker (1930- ) is an American expert on knitting and a feminist writer on mythology, religion and spirituality.

Her Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, although of questionable accuracy at times, offers a compensatory perspective to not only chauvinist religious teachings but also to thinkers who ignore or gloss over Christianity’s ugly past.

From the standpoint of psycho-history, past atrocities tend to reemerge in novel, equally frightening forms if their underlying psychological dynamics remain unexamined and therefore unconscious.

By way of contrast, some researchers emphasize visible – instead of unconscious – motivational factors in their study of mankind. But to this, Thomas A Kohut says:

Because it is not possible to comprehend people without dealing with the psychological, historians, including those critical of psychohistory, have always written about it, even if they have rarely acknowledged the fact.¹

In the 1970’s Walker worked on a telephone hotline for battered women and pregnant teenagers. This sparked her interest in feminism and possibly contributed to her unique perspective on myth, religion and spirituality.

To this Rose White adds:

[Walker made] enormous contributions to female intellectual empowerment through her many collections of knitted stitch patterns. Of course her work benefited all knitters, not just women, but at the time she was writing, nearly all knitters were women.

The point of view which guided her to collect and produce her anthologies of stitch patterns was this: Crafters should not be beholden to crappy commercial garment designs, but should have the means to create their own original works. She has been an inspiration to multiple generations of knitters, and these books are still in print 40 years later. » See in context

And Mary Treherne comments about sex-role stereotypes and religion in general:

A change in the psycho-sexual paradigm of human nature, and the whole ‘chemistry’ of human relationship is taking place with a wholly new interpretation of the moral teachings of Christ, one that threatens to bring down the whole of ‘christian’ history and tradition and a lot more besides. To be truly free is to be free for an ignorance within human nature itself.

Anyone able to free themselves of their prejudices, who is interested in real progress that history has thus far denied us, should check out: http://www.energon.org.uk » See in context

¹ Thomas A. Kohut, “Psychohistory as History,” The American Historical Review, Vol. 91, No. 2 (Apr., 1986: 336-354), p. 352.

Related Posts » Diana, Goddess vs. goddess, Neo-Paganism, Persephone, Torture, Witch, Witches Hammer, Inquisitions


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Great Mother

English: A silver female statuette, possibly r...

A silver female statuette, possibly representing mother goddess, from tombs in Alacahöyük, an archaeological site in Turkey via Noumenon at Wikipedia

The Great Mother is an umbrella concept referring to the idea of “The Goddess” and different major goddesses around the world, usually but not necessarily related to vegetation, and by implication, fertility.

The celebrated archeologist Marija Gimbutas (1921-1994) argued that behind all representations of prehistoric goddesses lies a single, Great Goddess.

Gimbutas identified diverse Paleolithic and Neolithic female representations that she believed depicted a single universal Great Goddess. She also recognized that these complex representations stood for a range of female deities (e.g. snake goddess, bee goddess, bird goddess, mountain goddess, Mistress of the Animals) that were not necessarily ubiquitous throughout Europe.¹

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

English: A mother goddess statuette from Canha...

A mother goddess statuette from Canhasan, which is an archaeological site in Turkey. This figurine, along with other mother goddess figurines found in Canhasan, is thought to be an evidence of a continual matriarchal society in central Anatolia during the Chalcolithic age - via Noumenon at Wikipedia

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.

Erich Neumann’s The Great Mother adopts Carl Jung‘s view that the Great Mother is an archetype expressing the anima.

The term was also used in the ancient world to refer to nurturing, life-affirming female deities worshipped in public places.

While in prison awaiting his execution, Boethius (circa 480-525) wrote Consolation of Philosophy, in which he’s visited by a female apparition called Philosophy. Boethius’ “eternal feminine” comforter and guide conforms to Jung’s idea of the anima, as does James Lovelock‘s choice of the name Gaia (Greek Mother Goddess) to depict his view that the earth behaves as if it were a self-contained living organism.

La Gran'mère du Chimquière, Statue menhir, St ...

La Gran'mère du Chimquière, the Grandmother of Chimquiere, the statue menhir at the gate of Saint Martin's church is an important prehistoric site in the parish via Wikipedia

In the contemporary and ancient sense, the Great Mother has a terrible side, wreaking vengeance and punishment on the sinful. In India, the bloodthirsty goddesses Kali and the bellicose Durga are regarded by many as manifestations of the Great Mother.

The Virgin Mary is often wrongly placed in this category, described by non-Catholics as a goddess. But representations of Kali and Mary, for instance, reveal clear differences. Kali, mouth dripping with blood, wears a garland of human heads which she has decapitated, whereas Mary stands serenely on top of creation (and the serpent), disseminating God’s graces from her hands. And there are still regular animal sacrifices at the Kali temple in Kolkata (where the distasteful odor of animal blood certainly did not elevate this author’s mind and soul to high places).

Other differences between Mary and non-Christian goddesses are more subtle. Mary and the goddess Isis, for instance, are both represented suckling their sons, and the Chinese bodhisattva, Kwan-Yin, also holds an infant. But, despite their representational similarities, the religious beliefs and metaphysical implications behind these female deities differ significantly.

In the simplest terms, Mary is a venerated saint who intercedes for God, while The Goddess is the source of all creation—that is, God or a manifestation of God.

Related Posts » Buddhism, Catholicism, Cybele, Demeter, Goddess vs. goddess, Greek Orthodox ChurchMedusa, Yoni

¹ The first citation is a paraphrase of a passage at Wikipedia that could have been written more clearly. The second, a direct quote: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marija_Gimbutas


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Goddess vs. goddess

Goddess

Goddess by junibears via Flickr

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.

Marija Gimbutas

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

English: A mother goddess statuette from Canha...

A mother goddess statuette from Canhasan, which is an archaeological site in Turkey. This figurine, along with other mother goddess figurines found in Canhasan, is thought to be an evidence of a continual matriarchal society in central Anatolia during the Chalcolithic age - via Noumenon at Wikipedia

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.

Goddesses

Goddesses by Leslie "LC" Cowger via Flickr

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

Many writers say the Virgin Mary is a goddess not unlike the Egyptian Isis or the Hindu Kali.

Intercession of Charles Borromeo supported by ...

Intercession of Charles Borromeo supported by the Virgin Mary (1714), Ceiling paintings made by Johann Michael Rottmayr (1654-1730) for the Karlskirche, Vienna via Wikipedia

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.

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marija_Gimbutas

² Contemporary Paganism: Listening People Speaking Earth. New York: New York University Press, 2000, p. 82.

³ Cited in Contemporary Paganism, p. 83.

Related Posts » History, Great Mother


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Gaia

Deutsch: Anselm Feuerbach: Gaea (1875). Decken...

Anselm Feuerbach: Gaea (1875). Ceiling painting, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna via Wikipedia

Gaia (also Ge) is the Greek Goddess of the Earth who arose from Chaos. She was worshipped at Delphi, where her temple was guarded by a Python. The temple was rededicated to Apollo after he destroyed Gaia’s serpent.

Gaia gave birth to the Furies, assisted by heavenly intervention. She was also the mother of Uranus, with whom she gave birth to the Titans and the Cyclopses. She also gave birth to the Giants and other monsters. Her Roman equivalent is Tellus.

Some anthropologists believe that Gaia was worshipped in Neolithic times as a Great Mother, although this academic position has been disputed by most contemporary scholars. Gaia’s Roman counterpart is Tellus.

In the 1970s, the British scientist, author and environmentalist James Lovelock proposed the Gaia hypothesis, where the planet Earth, itself, is seen as a self-regulating entity geared toward sustaining life.

In his own words, Gaia is

a complex entity involving the Earth’s biosphere, atmosphere, oceans, and soil; the totality constituting a feedback or cybernetic system which seeks an optimal physical and chemical environment for life on this planet.¹

Today, Neopagans revere Gaia as The Goddess.

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaia_hypothesis


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Hesiod

Hesiod and the Muse

Hesiod and the Muse by Gustav Moreau via Wikipedia

Hesiod was an 8th-century BCE Greek poet, thought to be active from  750 and 650 BCE. Scholars still debate whether Hesiod lived before or after Homer.

Hesiod’s Works and Days is the tale of a simple but wise rural man who blends ancient myth with practical advice, such as who and when to marry. He also says that women should plow with oxen, and that men should never urinate while standing and facing the sun.

In addition, Hesiod says Gossip is a goddess, and warns against the ills of greedy profit. And he outlines a prophetic vision about passing out of the Iron Age, not unlike the New Testament Book of Revelation.

Yet here also there shall be some good things mixed with the evils. But Zeus will destroy this generation of mortals also/in the time when children, as they are born, grow grey on the temples, When the father no longer agrees with the children, nor children with their father.¹

Not unlike the Egyptian Book of the Dead, Bhagavad Gita, Old Testament or Koran, Hesiod writes:

The eye of Zeus sees everything. His mind understands all. He is watching us right now, if he wishes to, nor does he fail to see what kind of justice this community keeps inside it.²

The close of Works and Days provides an account of Goddesses joining sexually with mortal men, a theme which Mircea Eliade points out is present in some forms of shamanism.³

Hesiod’s Theogany and Shield of Heracles are closer to the Homeric style and less sociological but nonetheless full of vivid mythological tales, many of which could be adapted for contemporary film and TV fantasy.

¹ Cited in Lattimore, Richmond (trans.). Hesiod. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1959, line 179-182.

² Ibid., line 267-272.

³ Mircea Eliade, Shamanism, trans. Willard R. Trask, Princeton, N.J.: 1964.

Related Posts » Aesculapius, Blessed Isles, Eros, Hercules, Orpheus, Uranus


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Isis

Isis giving milk E11878 mp3h8710

Isis giving milk, Musée du Louvre, photo by Rama via Wikipedia

Isis was the central goddess of ancient Egypt, wife of Osiris and mother of Horus.

Her cult spread throughout the ancient Greek and Roman world, where she was linked with many mystery cults that were popular at the time.

In sculpture she’s often seen suckling the infant Horus. From this, Isis is regularly (and arguably wrongly) equated with the Virgin Mary and Kwan Yin by writers like Joseph Campbell and others who believe it’s valid to lump together different mythic beings on the basis of a few similarities in artistic representation. (In this case what’s similar is a woman suckling an infant, which is hardly unique considering many women have done this through the ages after having a baby).

Some feminist and New Age writers also subsume the different figures of Isis, Mary and Kwan Yin into a general idea of The Goddess.

In the Star Trek mythos, Isis is the name of a telepathic black cat and female partner of a time traveler, Gary Seven, who travels to 20th century Earth to prevent nuclear war.¹

¹ For more on this, see http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Isis

Related Posts » Death and Resurrection, Dismemberment, Goddess vs. goddess, Great Mother, Juvenal, Osiris, Theosophy


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Kali

Picture of Hindu Goddess Kali. This photograph...

Hindu Goddess Kali. This photograph was taken during Kali Puja at Naihati, a town in West Bengal, India, byPiyal Kundu via Wikipedia

In Hinduism it’s believed that the goddess Kali is a manifestation of God‘s destructive side. She is also regarded as the Great Mother, the giver of life.

The Hindu god Siva, known as the cosmic dancer, also has a destructive side. In fact, Siva’s dance is known as a dance of destruction. But Kali’s power is believed to be so great that she is often depicted in popular art as standing on top of a subdued Siva.

Kali’s name has been associated with the Vedic god of fire, Agni. Devotion to Kali, a goddess of violence and grace, is most prominent in W. Bengal. New Age and feminist thinkers around the world have become interested in her potential as an icon for apparent spiritual ‘realism’ and sociopolitical liberation.

However, it’s doubtful that animal rights activists would use Kali as an icon. Her temple in Kolkata still practices regular animal sacrifice by cutting the animal with a knife.

Some Jungians, scholars and writers try to equate Kali with other female deities like the Chinese Kwan Yin and the Egyptian Isis, and also with The Blessed Virgin Mary (who is not a deity but a saint).

Related Posts » Anima, Death and Resurrection, Goddess vs. goddess, Great Mother, Ramakrishna (Sri), Yuga

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