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in clobal keligion 8 Visual cultuie

Lecturer: 0r. Pat ßìshop
Class: Hìstory of Art 8 Archìtecture
8y Nazìreh Reìs [ Student Ì0 # 810001662 ]
0ate: 16/11/10
EmaIl: voryvzakone@ymaìl.com


1 IntroductIon

2. TImeIIne

3. The 0IvIne FemInIne as perceIved
through tIme, by varIous cuItures and

5. ConcIusIon

6. ßIbIIography


%he head of ßottìcellì's Venus ìn
hìs fresco 'ßìrth of Venus'

What Is the 0IvIne emInIne: Ìt Is dIvInIty
perceIved as beIng femInIne or havIng femInIne
qualItIes The 0IvIne emInIne Is usually perceIved
through a goddess fIgure In the dIvIne pantheon The
belIef In the femInIne aspect of dIvInIty has a long
hIstory In relIgIon and vIsual culture; from the goddess
ÌsIs In ncIent Egypt, to 0uanyIn In ChIna, to ShaktI In
ÌndIa, to Yemaja and Dshun In frIca, to sherah and
Ìnanna In the |Iddle East, to the goddesses 0emeter,
Persephone, thena and 7enus In ncIent Creece and

The emInIne 0IvIne has an endurIng place In global
spIrItualIty and a tImeless sIgnIfIcance to the human
psyche The renowned merIcan mythologIst, wrIter
and lecturer Joseph Campbell, known best for hIs work
on comparatIve relIgIon and comparatIve mythology,
often saId that the same essence of the 0IvIne
emInIne could be found In the relIgIous mythology
and folklore of every culture |any of the storIes are
the same, yet the names and specIfIc cIrcumstances
change accordIng to cultural tradItIon
Some modern anthropologIsts, socIologIsts,
hIstorIans, femInIsts, etc support the vIew that before
the rIse of the patrIarchal, brahamIc relIgIons In the
Ial ge the 0IvIne emInIne was more wIdely revered and respected than the |asculIne as
0IvInIty fter the rIse of the brahamIc relIgIons, the respect and Importance of the 0IvIne
emInIne In the pantheon of the gods declIned gradually untIl It almost dIsappeared under the sway
of ChrIstIanIty In the 0ark ges ccordIng to some scholars, wIth thIs declIne In the Importance of
the emInIne In 0IvInIty came also a shrInkage and reductIon In the offIces of women and theIr
Importance and theIr role In socIety However, after the declIne of ChrIstIanIty's Influence In
Europe wIth polItIcal blows leveled agaInst the CatholIc church by monarchIes seekIng
Independence from the Iron grIp of the 7atIcan, more freedom was awarded In relIgIous and
spIrItual thought and art rom the blossomIng of occult socIetIes In Europe durIng the 17
to 19

centurIes to the blatant outcry of goddess spIrItualIty In the 1950's and 1960's US, the 0IvIne
emInIne has gradually resurfaced In Importance In the collectIve conscIousness of the modern
Western world
The perceptIon of the 0IvIne emInIne In global relIgIon varIes from culture to culture Ìn
ChrIstIanIty, 'Cod' Is almost unIversally seen as male; as 'Cod the ather', 'Dur Lord', etc When
Cod Is depIcted In ChrIstIan art, he Is usually seen as an ImposIng, authorItatIve man seated on a
throne wIth all the regalIa of royalty However, CatholIcIsm has preserved one of the most tangIble
maInstream connectIons to the 0IvIne emInIne through the 7IrgIn |ary, along wIth a handful of
popular female saInts, most famous of whIch In recent tImes Is |ary |agdalene They have been
the most hIghly vIsIble aspect of the femInIne In organIzed relIgIon for 2,000 years In the Western
world 8ecause of that, the Image of the 7IrgIn |ary often cuts across relIgIous boundarIes as she Is
seen unIversally as a dIvIne symbol of motherhood and femInInIty
A popular modern Hìndu depìctìon of the
fìerce yoddess, Kalì, who ìs one of the many
0ìvìne manìfestatìons of the dìvìne
femìnìne ìn Hìnduìsm (Shaktì)

However, there are many cultures that are rIch wIth mythology, spIrItual practIces, relIgIous
eperIences and sacred tets that demonstrate the vIvacIty of the 0IvIne emInIne Ìndeed, In
many parts of the world and In many dIverse cultures, the emInIne as 0IvIne has and stIll Is beIng
worshIpped, remembered and evoked or eample In HInduIsm, 8uddhIsm, TaoIsm, ShInto, DrIsha,
7odun, SanterIa and Candomble to name a few, the femInIne as dIvInIty Is very much alIve and an
essentIal and Integral part of the worshIpper's vIew of the 0IvIne |ost recently In the 1950's and
60's,there has been the rIse of goddess spIrItualIty,eopaganIsm, Earth·based relIgIons, ew ge
phIlosophIes, etc Some currents of eopagan spIrItualIty (partIcularly WIcca), have a dItheIstIc
concept of a sIngle goddess and a sIngle god, who together represent a unIted whole, whIle other
tradItIons wIthIn eopganIsm (for eample 0IanIc WIcca) focus eclusIvely on the Coddess/ female
aspect of the 0IvIne to the total eclusIon of the Cod/ male aspect of the 0IvIne
The 0IvIne emInIne Is also one of the least understood and most suppressed symbols In
Western socIety, whIch Is largely a materIalIst·based and patrIarchal one The vIews of women In
Western socIety Is often reflected In the vIews of the
femInIne In dIvInIty, and vIce·versa evertheless,
the 0IvIne emInIne has managed to maIntaIn a
consIstent thread through centurIes of oppressIon
and suppressIon In a world that has been strongly
affected by ChrIstIanIty's and Western Europe's
brutal colonIal and economIc Interests Ìt has
survIved to the present day through many dIfferent
channels; from the FenaIssance to FomantIc perIod
paIntIngs of mythologIcal themes to modern day
goddess spIrItualIty and |arIan devotIon These
Images and movements have at certaIn tImes allowed
socIety to breathe freely from under the Iron grIp of
male·based organIzed state relIgIons
The choIce of topIc for thIs essay came to me
durIng one of my many enjoyable classes wIth my
professor, 0r Pat 8Ishop WhIle dIscussIng
|Ichelangelo's sculpture the Pìeta (1499), she
observed that thIs pIece has more than just a
relIgIous purpose of depIctIng |ary Jesus' mother
holdIng her son's crucIfIed body: It was also a very
powerful and movIng representatIon of the archetype
of 'The |other' - an archetype that Is found across
tIme and throughout all the cultures of the world
She suggested to the class to look up the Creek
goddess 7enus, |arIology and the 0ìvìne Femìnìne
ThIs topIc In partIcular tIckled my Interest because the 0IvIne emInIne Is partIcularly prevalent In
global vIsual culture and as artIsts It Is Important to dIscover and unlock the hIstory, belIefs and
storIes behInd many of the famous and captIvatIng Images created whIch are now part of our vIsual
cultural herItage
PartIcularly In the FenaIssance under the rebIrth of apprecIatIon for ClassIcal studIes, the
Craeco·Foman goddesses were depIcted by many leadIng paInters of the tIme such as TItIan,
Leonardo da 7IncI, Sandro 8ottIcellI, etc Ìn a socIety that was domInated by the Foman CatholIc
church thIs was seen as not only controversIal but sacrIlegIous as well However many beautIful and
symbolIc paIntIngs, frescos, sculptures, etc of the goddesses, nymphs and characters of Craeco·
%he Russìan 0rthodox ìcon of ¨%he
lnexhaustìble Cup¨ of the 0rans type,
consìdered mìracle workìny by the
Russìan 0rthodx Church. %he ìcon
and %heotokos herself ìs reputed to
help alcholìsm and druy addìctìon. ¨¨

Foman mythology have been created that have survIved to thIs day; most famously 8ottIcellI's
ßìrth of Venus and Prìmavera, whIch both depIct the Foman goddess 7enus as the subject of the
Ìn Europe, especIally after the 8ubonIc plague, a great |arIan cult developed, centerIng
around the fIgure of the 7IrgIn |ary as protectoress, Intercessor and redeemer of souls Early In
ChrIstIan hIstory paIntIngs, Icons and statues of |ary and the Infant Jesus became common and
thereafter |ary's lIfe became studIed and revered untIl she became Introduced Into the presence
of Cod and crowned to take her place besIde HIm Ìt was In 1950, as the famed psychologIst Carl
Jung approvIngly noted, that there was an offIcIal recognItIon of the resurfacIng of the long
suppressed archetypal demand for the female In 0eIty that had been buIldIng for many hundreds of
years Jung felt that the CatholIc announcement of the ssumptIon of |ary, In 1950, was ¨the most
Important relIgIous event sInce the FeformatIon¨ ThIs ¨bodIly receptIon of the 7IrgIn Into heaven¨ (
meant that ¨the heavenly brIde was unIted wIth the brIdegroom,¨ whose unIon ¨sIgnIfIes the hìeros
¤cmos¨ [the sacred marrIage]
The fIgure of |ary |agdalene was also of great sIgnIfIcance among artIsts and sculptors of
the FenaIssance and ensuIng perIods; she was also seen as an Intercessor and of specIal Importance
among the apostles of Jesus She was known as 'the woman wIth the alabaster jar' and has been
Interpreted by some scholars and art hIstorIans through the ages as havIng a very specIal and
IntImate relatIonshIp wIth Jesus, and thIs has been made popular recently through the
controversIal book and movIe %he 0a Vìncì Code and also through scholarly works such as Holy
ßlood, Holy Craìl by |Ichael 8aIgent, FIchard LeIgh and Henry LIncoln
Ìn closIng, Ì would thus lIke to make the poInt that thIs essay wIll serve to brIefly eplore the
0IvIne emInIne In global relIgIon and vIsual culture Ìt wIll look at the symbolIsm and sIgnIfIcance
of the varIous Important goddesses and theIr Imagery In the contet of theIr socIo·cultural
envIronments |y hope Is that It wIll uncover not only to me but to the reader of thIs humble
eploratIon, the etent, Importance and channels of the sacred femInIne In human cIvIlIzatIon
8efore contInuIng Into the essay Itself, Ì would lIke to epose to the reader a very relevant
dIscussIon, concernIng the socIologIcal perspectIve of women's posItIon In relIgIon and how thIs
came to be Ì thInk It Is relevant to my essay because as Ì stated above, often throughout hIstory,
the socIety's perspectIve of the 0IvIne emInIne can be coloured by the vIews on women, and vIce·
versa, In that when the 0IvIne emInIne Is respected and honoured In relIgIon the posItIon of
women In the socIety wIll also be treated wIth a sImIlar degree of respect
Cender, emInIsm and FelIgIon
emInIst theorIes of relIgIon follow |arIst theorIes In arguIng that relIgIon can be an
Instrument of domInatIon and oppressIon However, unlIke |arIsm, they tend to see relIgIon as a
product of patrIarchy rather than as a product of capItalIsm They see relIgIon as servIng the
Interests of men rather than those of a capItalIst class
However, such a vIew of relIgIon Isn't confIned to female E femInIst socIologIsts nthony
CIddens argues: %he Chrìstìcn relì¤ìon ìs c resolµtely mcle cffcìr ìn ìts symbolìsm cs well cs ìts
hìercrchy, whìle Mcry, the mother of 1esµs, mcy sometìmes be trected cs ìf she hcd dìvìne qµclìtìes, 6od ìs
the fcther, c mcle f줵re, cnd 1esµs took the hµmcn shcpe of c mcn. Womcn ìs portrcyed cs crected from c
rìb tcken from c mcn."

The secondary and often subordInate role of women In ChrIstIan doctrIne Is also typIcal of
most other relIgIons lthough women may have made sIgnIfIcant advances In many areas of lIfe,
theIr gaIns In most relIgIons have been very lImIted Karen rmstrong (199J) argues: "one of the
mc]or relì¤ìons hcs been pcrtìcµlcrly ¤ood to women. %hey hcve µsµclly become mcle cffcìrs cnd women
hcve been rele¤cted to c mcr¤ìncl posìtìon."
Women contInue to be ecluded from key roles In many relIgIons ThIs Is despIte the fact
that women often partIcIpate more In organIzed relIgIon (when they are allowed to) than men
emInIst wrIters are therefore Interested In how women came to be subservIent wIthIn most
relIgIons and how relIgIon has been used to cement patrIarchal power Fecently, some socIologIsts
have eamIned how women have begun to try to reduce the Imbalance between males and females
wIthIn relIgIon
Cender InequalIty In relIgIon · The orIgIns of gender InequalIty
number of wrIters have noted that, hIstorIcally, women haven't always been subordInate
wIthIn most relIgIons Karen rmstrong (199J) argues for eample that In early hIstory 'women
were consìdered centrcl to the spìrìtµcl qµest.' Ìn the |Iddle East, sIa and Europe, archeologIsts
have uncovered numerous symbols of the Creat |other Coddess She was pIctured as a naked
pregnant woman and seems to represent the mysterIes of fertIlIty and lIfe
%he Ecrth prodµced plcnts cnd noµrìshed them ìn rcther the scme wcy cs c womcn ¤cve bìrth to c
chìld cnd fed ìt from her own body. %he mc¤ìccl power of the ecrth seemed vìtclly ìnterconnected wìth the
mysterìoµs crectìvìty of the femcle sex." ( rmstrong, 199J)
There were very few early effIgIes of gods as men s socIetIes developed relIgIous belIefs In
whIch there were held to be many dIfferent gods and goddesses, the |other Coddess stIll played a
crucIal role rmstrong says the |other Coddess was:
cbsorbed ìnto the pcntheons of deìtìes cnd remcìned c powerfµl f줵re. She wcs cclled
lncnnc ìn Sµmer, ìn cncìent Mesopotcmìc, lshtcr ìn 8cbylon, Anct or Asherch ìn Ccnccn, lsìs ìn E¤ypt cnd
Aphrodìte ìn 6reece. ln cll these cµltµres people told remcrkcbly sìmìlcr storìes cboµt her to express her
role ìn theìr spìrìtµcl lìves. She wcs stìll revered cs the soµrce of fertìlìty." (rmstrong, 199J)
rmstrong argues that an morIte myth datIng from about 1750 C marked the start of the
eventual declIne of the goddess Ìn It, the goddess TIamat, the goddess of the sea, Is replaced by
the male god of 8abylon, |arduk |ale gods such as the Hebrew Yahweh became IncreasIngly
Important and they Introduced a more mcrtìcl cnd c¤¤ressìve spìrìtµclìty."
The fInal death knell of goddesses came wIth the acceptance of monotheIsm - belIef In a
sIngle god rather than many ThIs orIgInated wIth Yahweh, the god of braham urthermore, thIs
"Cod of Ìsrael" would later become the Cod of the ChrIstIans and the |uslIms who all regard
themselves as the spIrItual offsprIng of braham, the father of all belIevers"

Ìmportant dates In the hIstory of the 0IvIne emInIne:
! IcI Paleolitlic peiiod
1 IcI Inteiglacial peiiod Imeigence oí Homo sapiens sapiens
1 ? IcI Venus oí Holle fels
IcI - 1le Venus oí Dolni Vstonice
1 Ic Lppei Paleolitlic: An abundance oí coipulent íemale íiguiines made duiing
tlis peiiod
IcI Woman`s lead íiom Iiassempouy
1 IcI Venus oí Villendoií
! IcI Motlei coddess íiom Iausel Doidogne fiance
!S ! IcI Iast Ice Age
! IcI Human migiation íiom Asia into Ameiicas begins
! IcI Ieginning oí Neolitlic peiiod
- Intioduction oí agiicultuie
S IcI Domestication oí wleat and bailey (Neai Iast )
S IcI Modein climate begins in Iuiope
-foundation oí Ieiiclo
-Human settlement extends to stiaits oí Magellan
S 1 IcI Human population incieases by !
¯ IcI Domestication oí sleep and goats (Neai Iast)
0 IcI 8ettlement oí catal Huyuk
0-1 IcI faiming spieads to Westein Iuiope
0 IcI Motlei coddess íiom catal Huyuk
?-1! IcI - Lbaid peiiod in 8umeiia
1!- IcI - Liuk peiiod in 8umeiia
1S IcI clay goddess íiguie íiom ceinavoda giaveyaid
1 IcI coppei smelting peiíected (Neai Iast)
1 IcI Iionze casting begun (Neai Iast)
-Imeigence oí 8umeiian civilization
1-?0 IcI - Pie-dynastic Nagada/ Nagada I peiiod in Ancient Igypt
? ? Ic Vase íiom Liuk Iiaq
? Ic Iiid Iady` painted teiiacotta íiguie íiom Piedynastic Igypt
?!- Ic 8tatuette oí a leonine goddess
? c cycladic íiguie íiom Amoigos tle Aegean
cuniíoim wiiting begins in 8umei
cities appeai in Mesopotamia
Noitlein and 8outlein kingdoms oí Igypt uniíied undei íiist Igyptian dynasty
Hieioglyplic wiiting appeais in Igypt
-??1 IcI -Iaily Dynastic peiiod in 8umeiia
Ic Domestication oí tle loise ( cential Asia)
1- Ic female íiguie íiom Molenio-Daio
? IcI - 8aigon (I) tle cieat (beloved slepleid oí Isltai`) íounds Akkadian empiie
· Inleduanna tle daugltei oí 8aigon becomes tle ligl piiestess oí Inanna and
composes poetiy to lei tle íiist iecoided case oí known autloislip: '.tle ciown tle
tlione and tle sceptei oí kingslip is youis Inanna"
? Ic Indus Valley civilization
IcI - 8umeiian account oí 'Inmeikai and tle Ioid oí Aiatta" is composed: Inmeikai and a
iival king compete íoi tle aííection oí tle goddess Inanna and (consequently) soveieignty
Ic Invasion oí India by Aiyans íiom tle Noitl
!¯ Ic kise oí tle Iabylonian empiie
!¯ IcI - 8umeiian Descent oí Inanna composed
· Heiglt oí Minoan civilization; supposedly lad goddess-centeied ieligion

!¯ IcI - Putative date íoi tle íoundation oí tle Ileusinian mysteiies
- Iabylonian 1ablets oí cieation wiitten; desciibes low tle young god Maiduk slays tle
piimoidial motlei goddess 1iamat in act oí cieation
!0 Ic Hitties sack Iabylon
Minoan 8nake goddess íiom Lnossos
!1 IcI ciete invaded íiom mainland cieece
!? IcI cieece invaded íiom Noitl
! IcI - Akkadian veision oí tle Ipic oí cilgamesl is composed; includes tle tale oí cilgamesl`s
ieiection oí tle sacied maiiiage witl Isltai and lis seaicl íoi a peisonal íoim oí immoitality
- Igyptian stele depict moon goddess Hatloi/Qadesl/Qudsle standing nude on a lion
between an itlyplallic Igptian íeitility god Min (Osiiis) and a 8yiian/canaanite deseit/stoim god
keslepl (8et) lolding out plants to tle one and seipents to tle otlei
! IcI Ieginning oí tle Iewisl ieligion
!! IcI - Doiian invasions in cieece
· collapse oí Mycenaean civilization
· Ieginning oí cieek 'Daik Ages"
· Ploenician alplabet composed
IcI - 1aanacl cultic stand in ancient Isiael supposedly depicting tle 8emitic goddess Asleial
and otlei pagan symbols
- Iaily books oí Hebiew sciiptuie composed by Yalwist
IcI - cieek alplabet cieated
S S IcI Homei
S IcI Hesiod
- Ind oí cieek Daik Ages
- cieek city states íounded
S ¯ IcI Itiuscan civilization begins
S IcI Lpanislads wiitten
¯ IcI - Luntillet Aiiud insciiptions '1o Yalwel oí 1eiman and to lis Asleial" and 'I blessed you
by Yalwel oí 8amaiia and by lis Asleial" accompanied by goddess symbolism
0 IcI coddess íiom Delos
- Ling Manassel in Iudal ieveises tle ieíoims oí lis íatlei Hezekial ieinstating pagan
woislip in tle Ieiusalem temple including setting up an 'asleial"
-Homeiic Hymns iecoid tle mytl oí Peiseplone tle cential mytl oí tle mysteiies (tle
ieligion oí Ileusis piobably existed at least tlis íai back)
- Pioplet Ieiemial condemns tle making oí cakes íoi tle Queen oí Heaven
0 IcI - 8cioll alleged to lave been íound in temple by Ling Iosial`s piiests initiating tle
Deuteionomistic ieíoims
0! IcI 8applo boin
S0 IcI - Iabylonian captivity oí Iews begins
compilation and iedaction oí Hebiew Iible
IcI - Pioplet Izekiel condemns lament íoi 1ammuz by Iewisl women
10 IcI Peisian conquest oí Asia Minoi
IcI fiist koman kepublic
IcI Ilagavad cita wiitten
1 IcI - Heiotodus identiíies Isis witl Demetei (Osiiis witl Dionysus Hoius witl Apollo etc) an
eaily example oí cieek syncietism
?? IcI Alexandei tle cieat conqueis Igypt
?? IcI - Alexandei tle cieat dies and tle Hellenistic peiiod begins
-Incieased syncietism between cieek and Igyptian deities
? IcI - ciowtl oí tle Ileusinian cult aítei tle Atlenian state takes contiol oí tlem
! IcI Venus de Milo
! IcI Yaksli on cieat 8tupa 8ancli India
SS Ic Woislip oí tle Ancient Igyptian goddess Isis piesent in kome
0 Ic - An altai devoted to Isis in tle capitol in kome was destioyed by oidei oí tle 8enate

S 1 8 1 Ic - 1le 8enate oideied tle destiuction oí temples altais and statues oí tle goddess
Isis in tlese time peiiods
Ic 1le consul Imilius Paolus didn't íind any woikei willing to demolisl tle sanctuaiy oí Isis
1? Ic 1le tiiumviiis (Maik Antony Octavian and Maicus Aemilius Iepidus) piomises to conseciate
a temple to Isis at tle kepublic's expenses but tle piomise was not kept
?! Ic - Aítei tle battle oí Actium and tle deatl oí cleopatia ( 0 Ic ? Ic ) and oí Maik Antony
(S! Ic ? Ic) tle peisecutions oí tle koman 8enate against tle Igyptian cults iesumed
S Ic 1le koman Impeioi Augustus piolibits tle cult oí Isis witlin tle sacied enclosuie oí tle city
! Ic - Agiippa in tle absence oí tle Impeioi Augustus piolibits Igyptian cults witlin a kilometei
and a lalí íiom tle city


S cI - Ovid composes Metamoiploses
! cI - 1ibeiius (1 Ic ?¯ AD) oideied tle temple oí Isis demolisled and lei statue tliown in tle
1ibei kivei
? cI ciuciíixion oí Iesus oí Nazaietl
?S cI 1emple oí Isis built by caligula
-0 cI - Ietteis oí Paul tle eailiest New 1estament wiitings
¯ cI - Paul clallenges tle making oí statues oí Aitemis in Iplesus
¯ cI Andlian íemale íiguie India
! cI Medici Venus
!?1 cI fiist iecoided tauiobolium (a iitual involving tle saciiíice oí a bull and tle diencling oí tle
initiate in tle bull`s blood) took place at Puteoli kome in AD !?1 in lonoui oí Venus caelestia
! cI - kenaissance oí syncietistic and intellectualized pagan tlouglt includes Neoplatonism late
Oiplic and Pytlagoiean liteiatuie cnosticism and tle claldaean Oiacles
- Iucius Apuleius wiites 1le colden Ass oi Metamoiploses desciibing an Isiac initiation and
identiíies Isis syncietisically numeious goddesses
- Iucian oí 8amosata (not to be coníused witl Iucius Apuleius) wiites De Dea 8yiia wlicl
ielates Adonis to Osiiis and desciibes iitual piostitution
!0 cI - An insciiption iecoids tlat a ceitain caipus lad tianspoited a bull's testes íiom kome to
cybele's sliine at Iyon fiance
cI - kome becomes tle centei oí tle ieligion oí Isis: it became tle saciosancta civitas accoiding
to tle denomination oí Apuleius in tle Metamoiploses
cI - Poiplyiy and 8eivius íiist cleaily aiticulate tle concept oí a koman tiiune goddess: Hecate
goddess oí leaven (Moon) Iaitl (Diana) and Lndeiwoild (Peiseplone)
- Pistis 8oplia composed a cnostic text wlicl desciibes 8oplia tle íeminine aspect oí divinity
oí cnosticism iesponsible íoi tle cieation oí mateiiality
¯? cI - Adoption oí Decembei as date oí cliist's nativity pieviously tle koman íestival Dies
Natalis 8olis Invicti (¨biitl oí tle unconqueied 8un¨)
SS cI - Mauietania outside 8etií: 1le ceiemonial ¨tiee-beaieis¨ and tle íaitlíul (ieligiosi) iestoied
tle temple oí cybele and Attis aítei a disastious íiie
? cI 1antiic Iuddlism developed
?! cI - conveision oí constantine to cliistianity
? AD Motlei and clild wall painting in catacomb oí Piiscilla kome
?-?0 cI - Iulian tle Apostate iules as tle last pagan empeioi
?S AD - 1le cult oí Isis in kome suivived until tlis time wlen cliistians destioyed tle 8eiapeum
oí Alexandiia and subsequently tle cult was íoibidden by tle edict oí 1lessalonica issued by 1leodosius
? cI - 1le koman cliistian empeioi 1leodosius deciees an end to tle mysteiies
cliistianity becomes oííicial ieligion oí Iastein koman Impiie
?1 AD - 1le last oííicial iites weie celebiated in lonoi oí Isis in kome
?0 cI - 1le sanctuaiy at Ileusis is sacked by tle cliistian Visigotls
1?! cI - 1le council oí Iplesus is leld at wlicl Maiy is declaied tle Motlei oí cod (1leotokos)
1¯0 cI cotls sack kome: fall oí tle koman Impiie in tle West

- Ieginning oí tle Daik Ages
1¯ cI fianks conveited to cliistianity
?0 AD- 1le empeioi Iustinian (1S? AD -0 AD) oideied tle closing oí tle last temple oí Isis
situated on tle island oí Plilae on tle Nile at tle boideis witl tle Nubia and conveited it to a
cliistian cluicl
0 cI - Pope ciegoiy sends a mission to Ingland and advises Augustine oí canteibuiy to iespect tle
customs oí tle Anglo-8axons but to ieplace pagan íestivals witl íeast days oí saints and also to
conseciate pagan sanctuaiies to cliist
0 cI 1le Viigin and tle clild entlioned between 8t 1leodoie and 8t ceoige Monasteiy oí 8t
catleiine Mount 8inai Igypt
0 - 0? cI 1le Pioplet Molammed conqueis pagan tiibes in tle Aiabian peninsula
S0¯ cI Viigin and clild Hagia 8oplia Istanbul
! cI - founding oí tle Holy koman Impiie
! cI 1le Zolai a mystical commentaiy on tle 1oial tle most impoitant woik on tle
Labbalal is publisled in 8pain; includes tle 8epliiot a map oí tle univeise wlicl slows tle way
back to mystical union witl cod
!?!S - Pope Ioln XXII declaies tlat witclciaít is a ieality and begins tle witcl lunts
!1? - fall oí constantinople and tle Iyzantine Impiie and end oí tle Middle Ages
!1 - cutenbeig Iible piinted and tle piinting ievolution begins
!10 - ficino tianslates tle Oiplic Hymns
!10 - Ieonaido di Pistoia biings tle coipus Heimeticum to cosimo de'Medici Heimeticism
ieintioduced to tle West
!10 - Ioienzo de`Medici comes to powei beginning tle íloweiing oí tle Italian kenaissance; duiing
tle kenaissance magic again becomes associated witl plilosoply and science
!!¯ - Maitin Iutlei posts tle Ninety-five 1leses and tle Piotestant keíoimation begins; Piotestants
came to see tle catlolic cults oí tle saints and tle seculai amusements associated witl tle lituigical
íeasts as tle suivival oí paganism
!0 - Age oí keason begins

¯ |e [...:e [e¬.:.:e ~- ¡e·ce..eJ ¦n ~:c.e:r c...|..~r.c:- ~:J
c··~:..eJ ·e|.·.c:

FelIgIons often provIde lenses through whIch the Ideas that order human socIetIes can be
observed or eample, based on evIdence from relIgIon, hIstorIans have consIdered how vIews of
gender may have Influenced and been Influenced by transformatIons In socIal and polItIcal
organIzatIon Soon after the rIse of sedentary socIetIes, the relIance on agrIculture promoted
gynocentrIc (female·based) socIetIes because of the Importance of women In the reproductIon and
sustenance of socIety through theIr contrIbutIons to agrIcultural labour Ìn gynocentrIc socIetIes,
women played key roles In socIal and polItIcal lIfe TheIr knowledge about the realms of fertIlIty
and chIldbIrth were regarded as vItal to the communIty The posItIon of women was reflected In
belIef systems that focused on a goddess, who often symbolIzed the earth as a mother

The begInnIngs of relIgIon can be recognIzed In some of the earlIest evIdence of compIex
symboIIc systems ìnterpretctìon of the world throµ¤h the µse of symbols ) In EurasIa, whIch
center around worshIp of a goddess In varIous forms 8egInnIng about 25,000 8CE, female Images
representIng procreatIve powers are recorded In cave paIntIngs, rock carvIngs and sculptures
These rounded female fIgures are depIcted wIth eaggerated breasts, vulvae and buttocks 8y
eolIthIc tImes (ca 6500 8CE ) eamples of these Images In relIgIous artIfacts Increase Ìn many
parts of the world, goddess belIefs, whIch both reflected and shaped socIal organIzatIon In early
agrIcultural socIetIes, were eventually, when protectIon of resources became paramount,
supplanted by belIef In male god·kIngs

EvIdence of early goddess belIefs derIves from the ecavatIon and InterpretatIon of
archaeologIcal sItes rtIfacts such as female masks and anthropomorphIc vases from early sIth·
mIllennIum 8CE Sesklo (In Creece) and Starveco (In 8ulgarIa) cultures dIsplay chevrons and
trIangles that are recognIzed as sIgns of the goddess SlIghtly later arts of the 7Inca culture (5J00
8CE ) In the 8alkans commonly have Images of the 8Ird Coddess: a characterIstIc mask wIth a large
nose or beak wIth no mouth, eaggerated buttocks and thIghs, a specIalIzed costume and IncIsed or
paInted symbols

8y contrast, quIte dIfferent themes are assocIated wIth the horse and o cults of InvadIng
pastoralIsts from the South FussIan and eastern UkraIne regIons after the fIfth mIllennIum 8CE
Eamples of powerful female deItIes In the pantheons of early dynastIc states after J500 8CE,
remInIscent of the eolIthIc mother goddesses, suggested the persIstence of elements of earlIer
belIef systems even as relIgIous Ideas were transformed under the Influence of new polItIcal and
socIal orders

The PaleolIthIc perIod etends from 25 mIllIon years ago to the IntroductIon of agrIculture
around 10,000 8CE rchaeologIcal evIdence IndIcates that humans mIgrated to the Western
HemIsphere before the end of the PaleolIthIc Ìt Is the prehIstorIc era dIstInguIshed by the
development of stone tools, and covers the greatest portIon of humanIty's tIme on Earth Several
small, corpulent fIgures have been found durIng archaeologIcal ecavatIons of the Upper
PaleolIthIc, the 7enus of WIllendorf, perhaps, beIng the most famous These female fIgurInes are
estImated to have been carved around 24,000-22,000 8CE Some archaeologIsts belIeve they were
Intended to represent goddesses, whIle others belIeve that they could have served some other

The Venus of WIIIendorf, also known as the Woman of
WIllendorf, Is an 11 cm (4J In) hIgh statuette of a female
fIgure estImated to have been made between 24,000 8CE
and 22,000 8CE Ìt was dIscovered In 1908 by archaeologIst
Josef Szombathy at a paleolIthIc sIte near WIllendorf, a
vIllage In Lower ustrIa near the cIty of Krems Ìt Is carved
from an oolItIc lImestone that Is not local to the area, and
tInted wIth red ochre Fed ochre pIgments had a very
Important sIgnIfIcance In prehIstorIc tImes Ìt has been
argued that eolIthIc burIals used red ochre pIgments
symbolIcally, eIther to represent a return to the earth or
possIbly as a form of rItual rebIrth, In whIch the color
symbolIzes blood and the Creat Coddess7ery lIttle Is known
about Its orIgIn, method of creatIon, or cultural sIgnIfIcance
The 7enus of WIllendorf was recovered In a sIte that
contaIned a few amulets of |oldavIte The apparent large
sIze of the breasts and abdomen, and the detaIl put Into the
vulva, have led scholars to Interpret the fIgure as a fertIlIty
symbol The fIgure has no vIsIble face, her head beIng
covered wIth cIrcular horIzontal bands of what mIght be rows
of plaIted haIr, or a type of headdress SInce thIs fIgure's
dIscovery and namIng, several sImIlar statuettes and other
forms of art have been dIscovered They are collectIvely
referred to as 7enus fIgurInes, although they pre·date the
mythologIcal fIgure of 7enus by mIllennIa

The Venus of HohIe FeIs (6 cm /24 ") Is an
Upper PaleolIthIc 7enus fIgurIne found near
SchelklIngen, Cermany Ìt Is dated to between J5,000
and 40,000 years ago, belongIng to the early
urIgnacIan, at the very begInnIng of the Upper
PaleolIthIc, whIch Is assocIated wIth the assumed
earlIest presence of Homo sapIens In Europe (Cro·
|agnon) Ìt Is the oldest undIsputed eample of
Upper PaleolIthIc art and fIguratIve prehIstorIc art In
generalThe fIgurIne was dIscovered In September
8 In
a cave called Hohle els In southwestern Cermany, by
a team from the UnIversIty of TubIngen led by
archaeology professor Icholas Conard The
dIscovery of the 7enus of Hohle els pushes back the
date of the oldest prehIstorIc sculpture, and
arguably the oldest known fIguratIve art altogether, by several mIllennIa, establIshIng that works of
art were beIng produced throughout the urIgnacIan PerIod The fIgurIne Is a representatIon of a
woman, puttIng emphasIs on the vulva and the breasts Consequently It Is presumed to be an
amulet related to fertIlIty Ìt Is made of a woolly mammoth tusk and had broken Into fragments, of
whIch sI have been recovered, wIth the left arm and shoulder stIll mIssIng Ìn place of the head,
the fIgurIne has a perforatIon so that It could have been worn as a pendant

%he Venus of Hohle Fels (6 cm/ 2.4¨) Upper
Paleolìthìc perìod (35,000 - 40,000)
Venus of Wìllendorf, Lìmestone, H
4.3¨, 24-22,000 ßCE; Wìllendorf,

The Venus of 0oIní VèstonIce Is a 7enus fIgurIne, a ceramIc statuette of a nude female
fIgure dated to 29,000-25,000 8CE, whIch was found at a PaleolIthIc sIte
In the |oravIan basIn south of 8rno ThIs fIgurIne, together wIth a few
others from nearby locatIons, Is the oldest known ceramIc In the world,
predatIng the use of fIred clay to make pottery Ìt has a heIght of 44 In,
and a wIdth of 17 In at Its wIdest poInt and Is made of a clay body fIred
at a relatIvely low temperature The fIgurIne was dIscovered on 1J July
1925 In a layer of ash, broken Into two pIeces Dnce on dIsplay at the
|oravIan |useum In 8rno, It Is now protected and only rarely accessIble
to the publIc The PaleolIthIc settlement of 0olni 7èstonIce In |oravIa, a
part of CzechoslovakIa at the tIme organIzed ecavatIon began, now
located In the Czech FepublIc, has been under systematIc archaeologIcal
research sInce 1924, InItIated by Karel bsolon Ìn addItIon to the 7enus
fIgurIne, fIgures of anImals - bear, lIon, mammoth, horse, fo, rhIno and
owl - and more than 2,000 balls of burnt clay have been found at 0olni

0Iverse Images of what are belIeved to be |other Coddesses also
have been dIscovered that date from the eolIthIc perIod, the ew Stone
ge, whIch ranges from approImately 10,000 8CE when the use of wIld
cereals led to the begInnIng of farmIng, and eventually, to agrIculture
The end of thIs eolIthIc perIod Is characterIzed by the IntroductIon of
metal tools as the skIll appeared to spread from one culture to another,
or arIse Independently as a new phase In an eIstIng tool culture, and
eventually became wIdespread among humans FegIonal dIfferences In
the development of thIs stage of tool development are quIte varIed Ìn
other parts of the world, such as frIca, South sIa, and Southeast sIa,
Independent domestIcatIon events led to theIr own patterns of
development, whIle dIstInctIve eolIthIc cultures arose Independently In
Europe and Southwest sIa 0urIng thIs tIme, natIve cultures appear In
the Western HemIsphere, arIsIng out of older tradItIons that were carrIed durIng mIgratIon Fegular
seasonal occupatIon or permanent settlements begIn to be seen In ecavatIons HerdIng and
keepIng of cattle, goats, sheep, and pIgs Is evIdenced along wIth the presence of dogs lmost
wIthout eceptIon, Images of what are Interpreted as |other Coddesses have been dIscovered In
all of these cultures

%he Venus of 0olní
Véstonìce, Ceramìc, 29-
25,000 ßCE, Moravìa,
Czechoslovakìa, Czech
Fìyures of bone 8 ìvory; Predynastìc, Naqada l; 4000-3600 ßC; Fìyures
of thìs type fìrst appeared ìn Naqada l perìod and contìnued ìnto
Naqada ll. Most of teh eyes of the fìyurìnes are ìnlaìd.

t approImately the same tIme as West sIan dynastIc states were epandIng ( fourth and
thIrd mIllennIum 8CE ) relIgIon and government were becomIng closely tIed In the emergence of
Egypt In orth frIca Terracotta female fIgurInes fashIoned of Ile mud suggest the eIstence of
fertIlIty belIefs and possIbly goddess worshIp In thIs regIon of orth frIca durIng eolIthIc tImes,
but by the thIrd mIllennIum 8CE there was a multItude of EgyptIan gods and goddesses wIth
anthropomorphIc qualItIes The EgyptIan pantheon as It eIsted by thIs tIme suggests a shIft to
stronger forms of male authorIty In tandem wIth a clear preference for male rulers

The 8rooklyn |useum of rt, between 1906 and 1908,
sponsored an epedItIon that ecavated early sItes In
southern Egypt and brought back many objects of hIstorIc
and artIstIc value The terracotta fIgurIne to the left Is one
of the most Important and recognIzed of those Ìt's
nIcknamed the '8Ird Lady' because of the beak·lIke face
Ìt's dated to the PredynastIc perIod, aqada ÌÌ cJ500·J400
8C and was ecavated by HenrI de |organ at the vIllage of
|a'marIya In 1907 The terracotta female fIgurIne Is the
earlIest work of EgyptIan pottery ncIent Egypt Is known for
Its colorful prehIstorIc culture grIcultural trIbes workIng
along the Ile developed a hIghly advanced pottery makIng

The standIng fIgure Is 28 centImeters tall wIth no haIr
or facIal features engraved on the oval·shaped small head
The upper part of the fIgure Is naked and paInted red, wIth
clear curves that represent a woman's body and a paIr of
small breasts She wears only a long whIte skIrt that covers
her legs completely Her bare arms etend upward In a
graceful curvIng motIon The hIghly abstract statue reflects
the dIstInctIve characters of ancIent EgyptIan sculpture,
whIch placed an emphasIs on vIewIng a fIgure as a whole,
wIthout focusIng on partIcular physIcal detaIls The earlIest
EgyptIan art, created durIng the pre·dynastIc perIod (4400·J100 8C), ehIbIts a style that does not
contInue Into hIstorIcal, dynastIc tImes (after J100 8C) ll of thIs art comes from graves that
belonged to non·elIte people The objects created for these tombs mIght be consIdered folk art

People In agada ÌÌ and ÌÌÌ also concerned themselves wIth human fIgures mong the fIrst
human fIgures were the female fIgurInes that the archaeologIst HenrI de |organ dIscovered In the
vIllage of |a'marIya In 1907 Though fIgurInes such as the "8Ird Lady" are among the most famous
pre·hIstorIc sculptures from ancIent Egypt, It Is ImpossIble to determIne wIth certaInty whether the
fIgure represents a prIestess, a mourner, or a dancer, though scholars Interpret these fIgures as
goddesses when they appear on pottery because they are depIcted much larger than the male
'prIest' fIgures shown wIth them

Female Fìyurìne 'ßìrd Lady'. Eyypt, from
Ma'marìya. Predynastìc Perìod, Naqada
ll, cìrca 3650-3300 ß.C. %erracotta.
ßrooklyn Museum.

Aß0VE LEF% 8 RlCH% Pottery datìny from Nayada ll perìod, depìctìny fìyurìnes sìmìlar to the 'ßìrd Lady' ìn
promìnent rìver scenes. ßEL0W Closeup of paìntìny on the pot.

emale fIgures sImIlar In posture to that of
the '8Ird Lady' occur paInted on pottery
contemporary wIth the fIgurInes The female
fIgures paInted on pots are promInent In rIver
scenes that Include a boat wIth two cabIns, two
male fIgures, and palm fronds on the shore Some
eamples depIct mountaIns beyond the rIverbank
abstracted to trIangles The female fIgure Is the
largest element In the composItIon, suggestIng, as
was true In hIstorIc tImes, that she was the most
Important fIgure The fIgures, boat, palms, and
mountaIns are In red paInt on a lIght buff clay,
typIcal of the agada ÌÌ perIod Though the
abstract style Is not typIcal of the later perIod,
subject matter such as rIver scenes were popular
throughout ancIent EgyptIan hIstory Ìf thIs Is
Indeed a relIgIous scene, It would be an early eample of a common EgyptIan subject for art

Aß0VE Clay female fìyurìnes from Nayada l or ll perìod. Compare these wìth the 'ßìrd Lady' fìyurìne.

To the left Is an eample of a female fIgurIne cIrca 16J0·15J9
8CE ThIs type of ¨doll¨ fIgure has been found In ancIent Egypt In graves
datIng from 0ynastIes 12 to 18 (ca 19J8-15J9 8CE) ThIs partIcular
eample most closely resembles eamples that have been dated to the
Second ÌntermedIate PerIod (ca 16J0-15J9/2J 8CE) These fIgurInes,
whIch clearly symbolIzed fertIlIty, were placed In graves to ensure the
rebIrth and fertIlIty of the deceased In the net world The holes In the
ears of thIs fIgure would lIkely have contaIned beaded earrIngs at one
tIme, and the perforatIons on the top of the head were used to attach
strIngs of clay beads In ImItatIon of flowIng haIr The coIls of pIerced
clay around the neck were made to ImItate heavy necklaces

Female fìyurìne ca. 1630 -
1539 ßCE Second
lntermedìate Perìod,
0ynastìes 15 to 18,
%erracotta, Eyypt

h holy cnd blessed Lcdy, the perpetµcl comfort of hµmcnkìnd who by thy boµnty cnd ¤rcce noµrìshes
the whole world cnd becrs c ¤rect compcssìon to the troµbles of the mìsercble cs c lovìn¤ mother woµld."
·· LucIus puleIus

ÌsIs was an ncIent EgyptIan goddess whose domaIn was nature, magIc, motherhood and
fertIlIty She was worshIped as the Ideal mother and wIfe and was the frIend of slaves, sInners,
artIsans, the downtrodden, as well as lIstenIng to the prayers of the wealthy, maIdens, arIstocrats
and rulers Her worshIp was not only popular and sIgnIfIcant In ncIent Egypt, but eventually
spread throughout the Creco·Foman world, contInuIng untIl the suppressIon of paganIsm In the
ChrIstIan eraWorshIp of the ancIent EgyptIan goddess ÌsIs competed In ncIent Fome wIth
ChrIstIanIty agaInst the offIcIal Foman deItIes and |IthraIsm tIll Its suppressIon and destructIon by
adherents of ChrIstIanIty

She was the fIrst daughter of Ceb, god of the Earth, and ut, the goddess of the DverarchIng
Sky Ìn later myths about ÌsIs, she had a brother, DsIrIs, who became her husband, and she then
was saId to have conceIved Horus

ÌsIs was Instrumental In the resurrectIon of DsIrIs when he
was murdered by Set Her magIcal skIlls restored hIs body to lIfe
after she gathered the body parts that had been strewn
throughout Egypt by Set ThIs myth became very Important In
later EgyptIan relIgIous belIefs

ÌsIs Is also known as the goddess of sImplIcIty, protector of
the dead and goddess of chIldren from whom all begInnIngs arose
Ìn later myths, the ncIent EgyptIans belIeved that the Ile FIver
flooded every year because of her tears of sorrow for her dead
husband, DsIrIs ThIs occurrence of hIs death and rebIrth was
relIved each year through rItuals

Her orIgIns are uncertaIn, but are belIeved to have come from the
Ile 0elta Irst mentIons of ÌsIs date back to the Ifth dynasty of
Egypt whIch Is when the fIrst lIterary InscrIptIons are found, but
her cult became promInent late In EgyptIan hIstory, when It began
to absorb the cults of many other goddesses wIth strong cult

0urIng the formatIve centurIes of ChrIstIanIty, the relIgIon of ÌsIs
drew converts from every corner of the Foman EmpIre Ìn Ìtaly
Itself, the EgyptIan faIth was a domInant force t PompeII,
archaeologIcal evIdence reveals that ÌsIs worshIp was very much
alIve and prevalent In many Important temples dedIcated to the
ncIent EgyptIan goddess Ìn Fome, temples were buIlt and
obelIsks erected In her honour Ìn Creece, tradItIonal centres of
worshIp In 0elos, 0elphI, and EleusIs were taken over by followers
of ÌsIs, and thIs occurred In northern Creece and thens as well
Harbours of ÌsIs were to be found on the rabIan Sea and the 8lack

Statuette of lsìs and Horus,
Macedonìan and Ptolemìac perìod,
332-30 ßC, H. 17 cm

Sea ÌnscrIptIons show followers In Caul, SpaIn, PannonIa, Cermany, rabIa, sIa |Inor, Portugal
and many shrInes even In 8rItaIn

|ost EgyptIan deItIes fIrst
appeared as very local cults and
throughout theIr hIstory retaIned
those local centres of worshIp, wIth
most major cItIes and towns wIdely
known as the home of these
deItIes ÌsIs orIgInally was an
Independent and popular deIty
establIshed In predynastIc tImes,
prIor to J100 8C, at Sebennytos In
the northern delta

Eventually temples to ÌsIs
began to spread outsIde of Egypt
Ìn many locatIons, partIcularly
8yblos, her cult took over that of
worshIp to the SemItIc goddess
starte, apparently due to the
sImIlarIty of names and assocIatIons 0urIng the HellenIc era, she became the patron goddess of
saIlors, who spread her worshIp through the tradIng shIps that cIrculated the |edIterranean Sea

Temples to ÌsIs were buIlt In Ìraq, Creece and Fome, wIth a well preserved eample dIscovered In
PompeII, Ìtaly PompeII, whIch was a thrIvIng cultural and commercIal center of the |edIterranean,
ÌsIs was vIewed as the great mother goddess Creek Influence was predomInant In PompeII and ÌsIs
worshIp by the Creeks began after leander the Creat conquered Egypt When the Fomans
conquered both Egypt and Creece Itself, the worshIp of ÌsIs spread throughout the Foman EmpIre
These temples were the sItes of elaborate daIly and annual rItuals and were admInIstered by an
educated prIesthood skIlled In musIc and medIcIne ÌsIs worshIp was especIally popular wIth women
and wIth the new elIte who gaIned wealth and promInence as the Foman EmpIre epanded Dn the
Creek Island of 0elos a 0orIc Temple of ÌsIs was buIlt on a hIgh over·lookIng hIll at the begInnIng of
the Foman perIod to venerate the famIlIar trInIty of ÌsIs, the leandrIan SerapIs and Harpocrates

t PhIlae her worshIp persIsted untIl the sIth century, long after the rIse of ChrIstIanIty and the
subsequent suppressIon of paganIsm The TheodosIan decree (In about J80 0) to destroy all pagan
temples was not enforced there untIl the tIme of JustInIan ThIs toleratIon was due to an old treaty
made between the 8lemyes·obadae and 0IocletIan Every year they vIsIted ElaphantIne and at
certaIn Intervals took the Image of ÌsIs up rIver to the land of the 8lemyes for oracular purposes
before returnIng It JustInIan sent arses to destroy the sanctuarIes, wIth the prIests beIng arrested
and the dIvIne Images taken to ConstantInople PhIlae was the last of the ancIent EgyptIan temples
to be closed

LIttle InformatIon on EgyptIan rItuals for ÌsIs survIves, however, It Is clear there were both
prIests and prIestesses offIcIatIng at her cult rItuals throughout Its entIre hIstory 8y the Creco·
Foman era, many of them were healers, and were saId to have many other specIal powers,
IncludIng dream InterpretatIon and the abIlIty to control the weather, whIch they dId by braIdIng
or not combIng theIr haIr The latter was belIeved because the EgyptIans consIdered knots to have
magIcal powersPrIests of ÌsIs typIcally shaved theIr heads and wore lInen garments rather than
%he Coddess lsìs on a paìntìny ìn the tomb of of Setì l ìn the Valley of
the Kìnys c. 1360 ßC

wool ÌsIs worshIp dId not Include a |essIanIc apocalyptIc worldvIew ; however, ÌsIs worshIp
typIcally ecluded other deItIes and approached a monotheIstIc vIewpoInt ServIces occurred daIly
wIth a solemn mornIng openIng rItual and a nIghtly closIng rItual fIlled wIth sIngIng rItual bucket
for holy Ile water(the sItula) and a rattle (the sIstrum), were both used In worshIp

Stella |arIs, Ccrrµs cvclìs E the ShIp of ÌsIs (lsìdìs cvì¤ìµm)
´When l hcd fìnìshed my prcyer .. l hcd sccrcely closed my eyes before the cppcrìtìon of c womcn be¤cn to
rìse from the mìddle of the sec wìth so lovely c fcce thct the ¤ods themselves woµld hcve fcllen down ìn
cdorctìon of ìt.´
LucIus puleIus, %he 6olden Ass translatIon by Fobert Craves

ÌsIs Is the Dcean Star, or Stellc Mcrìs, as |ary would later be called In LatIn, the guIde and
protector of navIgators IdentIfyIng ÌsIs wIth SIrIus, the brIghtest star and maIn beacon poInt In the
sky for saIlors The helIacal rIsIng, or date when SIrIus can fIrst be seen rIsIng In the east just
before the rIsIng of the Sun · fell each year on July 26, whIch hIstorIcally was assocIated wIth the
annual Ile flood The Dcean Star festIval was celebrated on the 5th of |arch Dn the evenIng of
thIs festIval, there are ceremonIes and songs on boats that blaze wIth lamps and colors ThIs day Is
also an Important tIme marker Ìt Is now 140 days, or 14 decans (10·day ¨weeks¨), untIl a new flow
of red water should begIn the net Ile flood on July 26

When wInter storms lose theIr force, a shIp Is dedIcated to ÌsIs as a new season of saIlIng
begIns ThIs Is the ancIent EgyptIan festIval of lsìdìs cvì¤ìµm (the shIp of ÌsIs), or the Ploìcphesìc,
whIch honored ÌsIs' InventIon of the saIl and her patronage of saIlIng·craft and navIgatIon

s part of the festIvItIes, a parade was performed In honor of ÌsIs Here Is one descrIptIon:
´Followìn¤ ìn c processìon of mµmmers, the prìests ccrry emblems of lsìs. %he Chìef Prìest ccrrìes c lcmp, c
¤olden boct·shcped lì¤ht wìth c tcll ton¤µe of flcme from c hole ìn the center. %he second prìest holds cn
cµxìlìcrìc rìtµcl pot) ìn ecch of hìs hcnds, cnd the thìrd ccrrìes c mìnìctµre pclm·tree. %he foµrth prìest
ccrrìes c model of the left hcnd wìth the fìn¤ers stretched oµt, the emblem of ]µstìce cs well cs c ¤olden
vessel ìn the shcpe of c womcn´s brecst. From the nìpple fclls c thìn strecm of mìlk. %he fìfth clerìc ccrrìes
c wìnnowìn¤·fcn woven wìth ¤olden rods, not osìers. %he fìncl mcn, not c prìest, ccrrìes c wìne·]cr.

ext ìn the processìon comes Anµbìs wìth c fcce blcck on one sìde cnd ¤olden on the other, cnd c mcn
ccrryìn¤ c stctµe of c cow, representìn¤ the 6oddess cs the frµìtfµl Mother of µs cll. After them wclks c
prìest wìth c box contcìnìn¤ the secret ìmplements of lsìs' cµlt, cnd cnother prìest ccrrìes c secret vessel ìn
hìs robes.

lt ìs c smcll contcìner of bµrnìshed ¤old wìth thìckly crowded E¤yptìcn hìero¤lyphìcs cnd c roµnded bottom,
c lon¤ spoµt, cnd c ¤eneroµsly cµrvìn¤ hcndle. Alon¤ the hcndle ìs cn csp rcìsìn¤ ìts hecd cnd dìsplcyìn¤ ìts

Wcìtìn¤ ct the secshore ìs c becµtìfµlly bµìlt shìp covered wìth E¤yptìcn hìero¤lyphìcs. %he scìl ìs fcshìoned
of whìte lìnen ìnscrìbed wìth lcr¤e letters wìth c prcyer for the 6oddess´s protectìon of the shìppìn¤ lcnes
dµrìn¤ the new scìlìn¤ secson, cnd the lon¤ mcst ìs mcde of fìr. %he prow ìs shcped lìke the neck of lsìs´s
holy ¤oose, cnd the lon¤ keel ìs cµt from c solìd trµnk of cìtrµs·wood.

´%he shìp ìs pµrìfìed wìth c lì¤hted torch, cn e¤¤, cnd sµlphµr, cnd then hcllowed cnd dedìccted to the
6oddess. All present plcce wìnnowìn¤·fcns hecped wìth cromctìcs cnd other votìve offerìn¤s on bocrd
whìle poµrìn¤ mìlk ìnto the sec cs c lìbctìon. When the shìp ìs locded wìth ¤ìfts cnd prcyers for ¤ood
fortµne, the cnchor ccbles cre cµt, settìn¤ the shìp free.´

ShIp of ÌsIs ·one of the modern CarnIval's more obvIous predecessors ThIs ÌsIs festIval of the waters
stIll survIves throughout the merIcas and Europe wIth the 7IrgIn |ary replacIng ÌsIs The Fomans
celebrated the goddess ÌsIs as the patroness of saIlors and Inventor of the saIl The festIval of ÌsIs,
where her Image Is carrIed to the sea·shore to bless the start of the saIlIng season, was called the
´Ccrrµs cvclìs´ (¨shIp cart¨) |any belIeve thIs Is the true orIgIn of the word ¨CarnIval,¨ not the
¨arewell to the flesh¨ from the LatIn roots, ccrne [meat] and vcle [farewell], whIch has been

The Cult of ÌsIs In the Craeco·Foman World

Contemporary wIth the DlympIc pantheon, popular
mystery cults centerIng around rebIrth and regeneratIon
flourIshed The worshIp of ÌsIs and other dIvInItIes Imported
from West sIa and Egypt blended austerIty wIth erotIcIsm;
the ÌsIs cult In partIcular attracted women, many of whom
took vows of vIrgInIty In the goddess' servIce Cults, open to
anyone and appealIng to the IndIvIdual, were rooted In the
mysterIous powers of nature and veneratIon of ancestors and
taught rebIrth, regeneratIon and ImmortalIty They contrasted
strongly wIth the DlympIc belIefs and practIces, whIch were
communal and publIc, concerned wIth communIty rItuals
honourIng one or another of the twelve Immortal DlympIans
DlympIc worshIp, based on communIty rather than personal
bonds wIth the gods, was for the benefIt of the socIety ,
whIch It helped to defIne and unIfy

The Temple of ÌsIs In PompeII was small but ornate Ìt
was destroyed In an earthquake In 0 62 but was rebuIlt
shortly after that The renovatIon was fInanced by a freed
slave In the name of hIs young son There may have been
polItIcal motIvatIons for thIs, sInce freed slaves were not
allowed to hold publIc offIce, and the son who was appoInted
as a member of the cIty councIl was only sI years old The
Temple has a mIture of EgyptIan, Creek, and Foman
archItectural features ThIs Is not surprIsIng sInce Foman
archItecture of thIs perIod was very ornate, often used brIght
colors, and borrowed and mIed styles from many eras

There were many statues In the Temple of ÌsIs and the
portIco walls were covered wIth elaborate murals To the left
of the temple was a small roofless structure contaInIng a tank
that may have held the sacred water from the Ile, whIch was
very Important In many ÌsIs ceremonIes Ìn the rear of the
sanctuary was a room contaInIng a marble table where sacred
meals were probably served

fter leander the Creat conquered Egypt In JJ2 8C, he and hIs successors the PtolomIes
contInued to support the cult of ÌsIs, though In tIme, the dIfferent gods In the ÌsIs pantheon were
merged wIth Creek gods, so that DsIrIs became DsIrus·SerapIs·Pluto, and Horus became Horus·
Prìestess of the Eyyptìan yoddess lsìs,
holdìny a sìtula (a bronze juy). Roman
statue of the 2nd century A0, on
dìsplay at the Museo Archaeoloyìco
Reyìonale, Palermo, Sìcìly.

When the Fomans conquered Egypt In the fIrst century 8C, they In turn venerated ÌsIs LIke
other agrarIan peoples, the early Foman had reacted to the compleIty of lIfe by seeIng hosts of
gods rulIng dIfferent thIngs There were separate gods for dIfferent places, dIfferent aspects of
nature, dIfferent stages and condItIons of lIfe, and dIfferent tImes of year There were also state
gods that all cItIzens were epected to worshIp as a patrIotIc duty Later, when Fome started to
conquer more and more of her neIghbors, foreIgn gods were also tolerated 8ut as more and more
gods were added, and as Foman socIety got farther and farther away from Its agrarIan roots, there
was a movement towards seeIng the separate gods as dIfferent aspects of the same deIty, and of
seekIng more compassIonate deItIes The worshIp of ÌsIs was part of thIs trend She became
Immensely popular· fIrst wIth women and freed slaves, but later wIth the upper classes of socIety
as well The prIests of ÌsIs became more powerful as well

ollowIng the conquest of Egypt by leander the Creat the worshIp of ÌsIs spread throughout the
Craeco·Foman world TacItus wrItes that after JulIus Caesar's assassInatIon, a temple In honour of
ÌsIs had been decreed; ugustus suspended thIs, and trIed to turn Fomans back to the Foman
deItIes who were closely assocIated wIth the state Eventually the Foman emperor CalIgula
abandoned the ugustan warIness toward what was descrIbed as orIental cults, and It was In hIs
reIgn that the ÌsIac festIval was establIshed In Fome ccordIng to Josephus, CalIgula donned
female garb and took part In the mysterIes he InstItuted, and In the HellenIstIc age ÌsIs acquIred a
¨new rank as a leadIng goddess of the |edIterranean world¨ 7espasIan, along wIth TItus, practIsed
IncubatIon In the Foman Ìseum 0omItIan buIlt another Ìseum along wIth a Serapeum Trajan
appears before ÌsIs and Horus, presentIng them wIth votIve offerIngs of wIne, In a bas·relIef on hIs
trIumphal arch In Fome HadrIan decorated hIs vIlla at TIbur wIth ÌsIac scenes CalerIus regarded
ÌsIs as hIs protectress

Foman perspectIves on cults were syncretIc, seeIng In new deItIes, merely local aspects of a
famIlIar one or many Fomans, EgyptIan ÌsIs was an aspect of PhrygIan Cybele, whose orgIastIc
rItes were long·naturalIzed at Fome

ÌsIs was known In Fome as 'She of %en %hoµscnd cmes' mong these names of the Foman
ÌsIs, 0ueen of Heaven Is outstandIng for Its long and contInuous hIstory Herodotus IdentIfIed ÌsIs
wIth the Creek and Foman goddesses of agrIculture, 0emeter and Ceres

The male fIrst name ´lsìdore´ ( also ´lscdor´ ), means In Creek ´6ìft of lsìs´ (sImIlar to
´%heodore´, ´6od´s 6ìft´ ). The name, whIch became common In Foman tImes, survIved the
suppressIon of the ÌsIs worshIp and remaIns popular up to the present · beIng among others the
name of several ChrIstIan saInts

0urIng the fourth century when ChrIstIanIty was remade as the offIcIal relIgIon of the Foman
EmpIre, her worshIppers founded the fIrst |adonna cults In order to keep her Influence alIve |any
scholars have theorIzed that 8lack |adonnas Images and statues hearken back to the worshIp of
the ancIent Coddesses ÌsIs and 0emeter; Indeed, some of the statues themselves are belIeved to be
pre·ChrIstIan CertaInly, the Image of the dIvIne mother and the chIld·god are older than
ChrIstIanIty, and the tendency of the CatholIc Church to borrow, conscIously or subconscIously, the
Iconography of wIdespread Pagan cults at the tIme of Its foundIng Is well known The growIng
uncontrolled worshIp of ÌsIs by the lower classes was the most compellIng reason the Foman EmpIre
was wIllIng to merge theIr offIcIal relIgIon, |IthraIsm, wIth ChrIstIanIty to become the Foman
CatholIc Church

Some early ChrIstIans even called themselves pcstophorì, meanIng the 'shepherds or
servants of ÌsIs' whIch may be where the word ¨pastors¨ orIgInated

Symbols and assocIatIons wIth foreIgn deItIes

8ecause of the assocIatIon between knots and magIcal power, a
symbol of ÌsIs was the tìet or tyet (meanIng welfare/lIfe), also called
the Knot of ÌsIs, 8uckle of ÌsIs, or the 8lood of ÌsIs Ìn many respects the
tyet resembles an ankh, ecept that Its arms poInt downward, and
when used as such, seems to represent the Idea of eternal lIfe or
resurrectIon The meanIng of 8lood of ÌsIs Is more obscure, but the tyet
often was used as a funerary amulet made of red wood, stone, or glass,
so thIs may sImply have been a descrIptIon of the appearance of the
materIals used

Probably due to assImIlatIon wIth the goddesses phrodIte and 7enus,
durIng the Foman perIod, the rose was used In her worshIp The
demand for roses throughout the empIre turned rose productIon Into an
Important Industry

Ìn art, orIgInally ÌsIs was pIctured as a woman wearIng a long sheath
dress and crowned wIth the hIeroglyphIc sIgn for a throne SometImes
she was depIcted as holdIng a lotus, or, as a Sycamore tree Dne
pharaoh, Thutmose ÌÌÌ, was depIcted In hIs tomb as nursIng from a
sycamore tree that had a breast |ost often ÌsIs Is seen holdIng only the
generIc ankh sIgn and a sImple staff, but In late Images she Is seen sometImes wIth Items usually
assocIated only wIth Hathor, the sacred sIstrum rattle and the fertIlIty·bearIng menat necklace

fter she assImIlated many of the roles of Hathor, ÌsIs's headdress Is replaced wIth that of
Hathor: the horns of a cow on her head, wIth the solar dIsk between them SometImes she also was
represented as a cow, or a cow's head Usually, however, she was depIcted wIth her young chIld,
Horus (the pharaoh), wIth a crown, and a vulture DccasIonally she was represented as a kIte flyIng
above the body of DsIrIs or wIth the dead DsIrIs across her lap as she worked her magIc to brIng hIm
back to lIfe

The star Sept (SIrIus) Is assocIated wIth ÌsIs The appearance of the star sIgnIfIed the advent
of a new year and ÌsIs was lIkewIse consIdered the goddess of rebIrth and reIncarnatIon, and as a
protector of the dead The 8ook of the 0ead outlInes a partIcular rItual that would protect the
dead, enablIng travel anywhere In the underworld, and most of the tItles ÌsIs holds sIgnIfy her as
the goddess who protects the dead

The EpIthets û Names of IsIs In the AncIent WorId:
O "µeen of Hecven
O Mother of the 6ods
O Lcdy of 6reen Crops
O %he 8rìllìcnt ne ìn the Sky
O Stellc Mcrìs Stcr of the Sec)
O 6rect Lcdy of Mc¤ìc
O Mìstress of the Hoµse of Lìfe
O She Who Knows How %o Mcke Rì¤ht 0se of the Hecrt
O Lì¤ht·6ìver of Hecven
Faìence Funerary tyet-
amulet. Found on Saì lsland
(Pharaonìc Cemetery) from
the New Kìnydom. 0ìsplayed
at the ßrìtìsh Museum's
Sudan Exhìbìtìon.

O Lcdy of the Words of Power
O Moon Shìnìn¤ ver the Sec
O Hì¤h Prìestess of µt ´Mìstress of Mc¤ìc´
O Spìrìt of the world order
O 8ecrer of the Fecther of %rµth
O %he 6ìver of Lìfe
O Crone of 0ecth
O ´%he ne Who ls All´ or lsìs Panthea ´lsìs the All 6oddess´)

The term ce¤ìs Is used In Egyptology to descrIbe
a broad collar surmounted by the head of a deIty, In thIs
case a goddess, possIbly ÌsIs FepresentatIons In temples
show that these objects decorated the sacred boats In
whIch deItIes were carrIed In processIon durIng
festIvals n aegIs was mounted at the prow and
another at the stern The head of the deIty IdentIfIed
the occupant of the boat and It Is lIkely that thIs
eample came from a sacred boat of ÌsIs

The eyes and eyebrows of the goddess were
orIgInally InlaId The large eyes, further emphasIzed by
the Inlay, are typIcal of later KushIte art The
rectangular hole In her forehead once held the uraeus,
whIch IdentIfIed her as a goddess The survIvIng part of
her head·dress consIsts of a vulture · the wIng feathers
can be seen below her ears The vulture head·dress was
orIgInally worn by the goddess |ut, consort of mun of
Thebes, but became common for all goddesses The rest
of the head·dress for thIs aegIs was cast separately and
Is now lost, but would have consIsted of a sun dIsc and
cow's horns The pIece bears a cartouche of the KushIte
ruler rnekhamanI (reIgned about 2J5·218 8C), the
buIlder of the LIon Temple at |usawwarat es·Sufra

ThIs statue was dedIcated by Sheshonq, a steward of the god's
wIfe nkhnesneferIbre, whose sarcophagus Is also In The 8rItIsh
|useum ÌsIs holds her wIngs eIther sIde of DsIrIs, her spouse, In a
gesture of protectIon She wears a modìµs, a crown of uraeI, topped
wIth the cows' horns and sun dIsc worn by many goddesses DsIrIs Is,
as usual, mummIform, wearIng the crown wIth the two feathers
known by Its EgyptIan name ctef The statue Is thought to come from
one of two chapels whIch were dedIcated to forms of DsIrIs
worshIpped at Karnak These chapels were buIlt and etended by the
god's wIves of mun and the kIngs wIth whom they were assocIated

Kushìte, late 3rd century ßC, 0rnamental head of
lsìs protectìny 0sìrìs, from Karnak, Eyypt,
26th (Saìte) 0ynasty, around 590 ßC


Hathor Is an ncIent EgyptIan goddess who
personIfIed the prIncIples of love, beauty, musIc,
fertIlIty, foreIgn lands, dance, motherhood and joy
Her name means Hoµse of Horµs" She was one of
the most Important and popular deItIes throughout
the hIstory of ncIent Egypt Hathor was worshIped
by Foyalty and common people She was also a
goddess who was seen as helpIng women In
chIldbIrth The cult of Hathor pre·dates the hIstorIcal
perIod and the roots of devotIon to her may be a
development of predynastIc cults who venerated
fertIlIty and nature represented by cows Hathor Is
commonly depIcted as a cow goddess wIth horns In
whIch Is set a sun dIsk wIth a uraeus The menat
necklace also fIgures among her Iconography The
ncIent Creeks IdentIfIed Hathor wIth the goddess
phrodIte and the Fomans IdentIfIed her wIth theIr
goddess 7enus

The ncIent EgyptIans vIewed realIty as multI·
layered, and deItIes merged together for varIous
reasons, whIlst retaInIng theIr unIque attrIbutes and
mythologIes ThIs wasn't vIewed as contradIctory but
complementary Ìn a complIcated relatIonshIp Hathor
Is at tImes the mother, daughter and wIfe of Fa and,
lIke ÌsIs, Is at tImes descrIbed as the mother of
Horus Hathor Is also assocIated wIth the goddess

Ìn tombs she Is depIcted as Mìstress of the
West" welcomIng the dead Into the net lIfe The
cult of the god DsIrIs promIsed eternal lIfe to those
deemed morally worthy DrIgInally the justIfIed
dead, male or female, became an DsIrIs but by early
Foman tImes females became IdentIfIed wIth Hathor and men wIth DsIrIs

Hathor had a comple relatIonshIp wIth Fa, In one myth she Is hIs eye and consIdered hIs
daughter but later, when Fa assumes the role of Horus wIth respect to KIngshIp, she Is consIdered
Fa's mother She absorbed thIs role from another cow goddess '|ht wrt' (¨Creat flood¨) who was the
mother of Fa In a creatIon myth and carrIed hIm between her horns s a mother she gave bIrth to
Fa each mornIng on the eastern horIzon and as wIfe she conceIves through unIon wIth hIm each
day ThIs 'daughter/mother/wIfe' relatIonshIp that Is dIsplayed between Hathor and the god Fa, Is
also seen In other pantheons, such as that of the ncIent Creeks, SumerIans and ssyrIans ThIs
confusIon usually occurs when the male god(s) takes ascendancy Is the pantheon and the domInant
female goddess Is relegated to a posItIon of wIfe or daughter

ßasalt statue of the Ancìent Eyyptìan yoddess
Hathor. From the New Kìnydom, 18th dynasty
(reìyn of Amenhotep lll 1388-1351ßC).
%he statue was commìssìoned by Amenhotep lll
to celebrate hìs Sed Festìval. Unìquely, ìn thìs
depìctìon she holds a was-sceptre (not shown
here), a symbol of power normally assocìated
only wìth male yods. %he statue was brouyht
to %urìn,ltaly ìn 1753.

Hathor along wIth the goddess ut was assocIated
wIth the |Ilky Way durIng the thIrd mIllennIum 8C when,
durIng the fall and sprIng equInoes, It alIgned over and
appeared to 'touch' the earth where the sun rose and fell
The four legs of the celestIal cow represented ut or Hathor
and was sometImes vIewed as the pIllars on whIch the sky
was supported wIth the stars on theIr bellIes constItutIng
the |Ilky Way, on whIch the solar barque of Fa,
representIng the sun, saIled n alternate name for Hathor,
whIch persIsted for J,000 years, was Mehtµrt (also spelt
Mehµrt, Mehet·Weren´t and Mehet·µret), meanIng 'Creat
lood', a dIrect reference to her beIng the |Ilky Way The
|Ilky Way was seen as a waterway In the heavens, saIled
upon by both the sun and moon deItIes, leadIng the ancIent
EgyptIans to descrIbe It as 'The Ile In the Sky' 0ue to thIs,
and the name |ehturt, Hathor was vIewed as beIng
responsIble for the yearly InundatIon of the Ile nother
consequence of thIs name Is that she was seen as a herald
of ImmInent bIrth; when the amnIotIc sac breaks and floods
Its waters, It Is a medIcal IndIcator that the chIld Is due to
be born etremely soon nother
InterpretatIon of the |Ilky Way
was that It was the prImal snake,
Wadjet, the protector of Egypt
who was closely assocIated wIth
Hathor and other early deItIes among the varIous aspects of the great
mother goddess, IncludIng |ut and aunet Hathor also was favoured as
a protector In desert regIons

Ìt was saId that, wIth her motherly character, Hathor greeted the
souls of the dead In 0uat, and proffered them wIth refreshments of food
and drInk She also was descrIbed sometImes as mIstress of the
necropolIs Hathor was assocIated wIth the sIstrum, a musIcal
Instrument,and thus she was closely connected to musIc Ìn thIs later
form, Hathor's cult became centred In 0endera In Upper Egypt and It was
led by prIestesses and prIests who also were dancers, sIngers, and other

The sIstrum was basIcally a rattle comprIsIng an arch (an Inverted U·
shaped sectIon) wIth a handle attached The arch had a number of cross
pIeces onto whIch were threaded metal dIscs When the sIstrum was
shaken, the dIscs rattled The top of the handle was often decorated
wIth the head of Hathor, patron of musIc The Instrument, carrIed In
tomb and temple scenes, IndIcated devotIon to Hathor, and symbolIzed
adoratIon In general The sImIlarIty between the shape of the sIstrum
and that of the ankh meant that, lIke the ankh, It came to represent lIfe
The sIstrum was used In EgyptIan festIvals and was often played by
temple songstresses ShakIng the sIstrum probably marked the dIvIsIon of
the phrases In adulatory hymns Ìt was belIeved that the sound of rattlIng
also drove off malIgn forces, preventIng them from spoIlIng the festIval The sIstrum contInued to
Head of Hathor, Porphyrìtìc dìorìte,
0ynasty 18, 1417-1379 ß.C.E.,
Commìssìoned by Amenhotep lll,
Metropolìtan Museum of Art, NYC
ßronze arched sìstrum
wìth Hathor's head; Late
Perìod, after 600 ßC,

be used In Egypt well after the rule of the pharaohs 8y the tIme of the Creek author Plutarch,
around the fIrst or second century 0, the arch of the sIstrum had come to symbolIse the lunar
cycle and the sIstrum's bars, the elements The Hathor heads were Interpreted as ÌsIs and
ephthys, who represented lIfe and death respectIvely Ìn ceremonIes of the CoptIc perIod, prIests
etended the sIstrum to the four cardInal poInts to IndIcate the power of god

Hathor also became assocIated wIth the menat, the turquoIse musIcal necklace often worn
by women hymn to Hathor says:
%hoµ crt the Mìstress of 1µbìlctìon, the "µeen of the 0cnce, the Mìstress of Mµsìc, the "µeen of
the Hcrp Plcyìn¤, the Lcdy of the Chorcl 0cnce, the "µeen of Wrecth Wecvìn¤, the Mìstress of lnebrìety
Wìthoµt End."

EssentIally, Hathor had become a goddess of joy, and so she was deeply loved by the general
populatIon, and truly revered by women, who aspIred to embody her multIfaceted role as wIfe,
mother, and lover Ìn thIs capacIty, she gaIned the tItles of 'Lady of the House of JubIlatIon', and
'The Dne Who Ills the Sanctuary wIth Joy' The worshIp of Hathor was so popular that many
festIvals were dedIcated to her honor than any other EgyptIan deIty, and more chIldren were
named after thIs goddess than any other deIty Even Hathor's prIesthood was unusual, In that both
women and men became her prIests

s Hathor's cult developed from prehIstorIc cow cults It Is not possIble to say conclusIvely
where devotIon to her fIrst took place 0endera In Upper Egypt was a sIgnIfIcant early sIte where
she was worshIped as ¨|Istress of 0endera¨ t the start of the fIrst ÌntermedIate perIod 0endera
appears to have become the maIn cult sIte where she was consIdered to be the mother as well as
the consort of ¨Horus of Edfu¨ 0eIr el·8ahrI, on the west bank of Thebes, was also an Important
sIte of Hathor that developed from a pre·eIstIng cow cult

Temples (and chapels) dedIcated to Hathor:
O %he %emple of Hcthor cnd Mcct ct 0eìr el·Medìnc, West 8cnk, Lµxor.
O %he %emple of Hcthor ct Phìlce lslcnd, Aswcn.
O %he Hcthor Chcpel ct the Mortµcry %emple of Hctshepsµt. West 8cnk, Lµxor.

Hathor was worshIpped In Canaan In the eleventh century 8C, whIch at that tIme was ruled by
Egypt, at her holy cIty of Hazor, or Tel Hazor whIch the Dld Testament claIms was destroyed by
Joshua (Joshua 11:1J, 21)


Map of the Fertìle Crescent and Eyypt

rom the early eolIthIc perIod untIl the fall of 8abylon, |esopotamIan relIgIous thought
appears to have been marked by the Image of a goddess who Incarnated the natural forces of
fertIlIty and fecundIty The most developed form of thIs was the Image of Ìshtar, who was the
subject of many myths

The eolIthIc era was characterIzed by profound socIal change: populatIons of hunter·
gatherers from the ear East formed vIllages and began to practIce sedentary farmIng s an
etensIon of the ancIent practIce of gatherIng, the domestIcatIon of edIble plants no doubt acted
as a symbolIc lInk between the fertIlIty of the earth and the fecundIty of the woman Thus, a
mythology of vItalIty Incarnated by the female Image slowly took shape ThIs was probably a
reference to a powerful protectIve deIty conceIved of as a ¨mother goddess¨, or at any rate a
prIncIpal of fecundIty that guaranteed the long·term survIval of the group

WIth the emergence of cIty·states, thIs fertIlIty mythology developed, and accompanIed the
development of socIety t Uruk, for eample, we see thIs mythology In the form of the goddess
Ìnanna, protector of the cIty Dther goddesses appeared In varIous cItIes of the SumerIan world,
lendIng shape to thIs fertIlIty/fecundIty prIncIple, each of them emphasIzIng a partIcular aspect
8ut none achIeved the prestIge and lastIng fame of the SumerIan goddess Ìnanna, who was known
as Ìshtar among the kkadIans |any mythologIcal poems were dedIcated to her, makIng her the
preemInent goddess CombInIng the symbolIsm of fertIlIty and the power of the warrIor·woman,

she was venerated by the kIngs of both ssyrIa and 8abylon, and throughout |esopotamIa's long
hIstory thIs relIgIous fervor never waned

Ìn a 8abylonIan versIon of the SumerIan creatIon myth, the warrIor·kIng |arduk defeated the
goddess TIamat, who at fIrst represented the femInIne power to gIve bIrth to the world, was later
IdentIfIed wIth the forces of chaos, whIch were tamed by the organIzIng powers of male gods
legacy of earlIer vIews of TIamat, and stIll earlIer eolIthIc goddesses, may be seen In the cult of
the goddess Ìshtar, whIch dates to the thIrd mIllennIum 8CE

FepresentatIons of Ìshtar show sImIlarItIes to eolIthIc fertIlIty Images, IncludIng bulbous
hIps and promInent breasts The cult of Ìshtar reveals some of the compleItIes and ambIguItIes In
the transItIon from eolIthIc goddess cults to warrIor cults assocIated wIth early dynastIc states
0ependIng on whether she was consIdered the daughter of the moon god or the sky god, she was a
goddess of eIther love or war, a dIchotomy that suggests the shIft In power and Influence from
mother to warrIor

starte was connected wIth fertIlIty, seualIty, and war Her symbols were the lIon, the
horse, the sphIn, the dove, and a star wIthIn a cIrcle IndIcatIng the planet 7enus PIctorIal
representatIons often show her naked

starte was accepted by the Creeks under the name of phrodIte The Island of Cyprus, one
of starte's greatest faIth centers, supplIed the name CyprIs as phrodIte's most common byname

Dther major centers of starte's worshIp were SIdon, Tyre, and 8yblos CoIns from SIdon
portray a charIot In whIch a globe appears, presumably a stone representIng starte Ìn SIdon, she
shared a temple wIth Eshmun t 8eIrut coIns show PoseIdon, starte, and Eshmun worshIpped
together Dther faIth centers were Cytherea, |alta, and Ery In SIcIly from whIch she became
known to the Fomans as 7enus ErycIna bIlIngual InscrIptIon on the PyrgI Tablets datIng to about
500 8C found near Caere In EtrurIa equates starte wIth Etruscan UnI·stre that Is, Juno t
Carthage starte was worshIpped alongsIde the goddess TanIt

Map of Ancìent lsrael and ìts Envìrons

Ìn 8abylonIan mythology, TIamat
Is the prImordIal goddess of the ocean
Her consort was bzu (the god of fresh
water), wIth whom she bore the
younger gods In the 8abylonIan
pantheon Ìn the Enuma ElIs she objects
to when bzu conspIres to kIll theIr
offsprIng, and she warns the most
powerful of those, Ea, who puts bzu
under a spell and kIlls hIm

Later when Ea's son |arduk
creates problems she conspIres to
retalIate by creatIng eleven frIghtenIng
monsters and erectIng her son KIngu as
theIr general, but thIs plot faIls when
|arduk slays them all IncludIng TIamat
herself rom TIamat's body the world Is
formed, land and sea

TIamat was known as Thalattë (as varIant of thalassa, the Creek word for ¨sea¨) In the
HellenIstIc 8abylonIan 8erossus' fIrst volume of unIversal hIstory Ìt Is thought that the name of
TIamat was dropped In secondary translatIons of the orIgInal relIgIous tets because some kkadIan
copyIsts of Enuma ElIsh substItuted the ordInary word for ¨sea¨ for TIamat, because the two names
essentIally were the same, due to assocIatIon

ThorkIld Jacobsen and Walter 8urkert both argue for a connectIon wIth the kkadIan word
for sea, tâmtu, followIng an early form, tI'amtum

8urkert contInues by makIng a lInguIstIc connectIon to Tethys He fInds the later form,
thclctth, to be related clearly to Creek thclcssc, ¨sea¨ The 8abylonIan epIc Enuma ElIsh Is named
for Its IncIpIt: ¨When above¨ the heavens dId not yet eIst nor the earth below, psu the freshwater
ocean was there, 'the Irst, the 8egetter', and TIamat, the saltwater sea, 'She Who bore Them
ll'; they were 'mIIng theIr waters'" Ìt Is thought that female deItIes are older than male ones In
|esopotamIa and TIamat may have begun as part of the cult of ammu, a female prIncIple of a
watery creatIve force, wIth equally strong connectIons to the underworld, whIch predates the
appearance of Ea·EnkI

HarrIet Crawford fInds thIs ¨mIIng of the waters¨ to be a natural feature of the mIddle
PersIan Culf, where fresh waters from the rabIan aquIfer mI and mIngle wIth the salt waters of
the sea ThIs characterIstIc Is especIally true of the regIon of 8ahraIn, whose name In rabIc
means, ¨two seas¨, and whIch Is thought to be the sIte of 0Ilmun, the orIgInal sIte of the SumerIan
creatIon belIefs The dIfference In densIty of salt and fresh water, drIvIng a perceptIble separatIon

TIamat also has been claImed to be cognate wIth orthwest SemItIc tehom (the deeps,
abyss), In the 8ook of CenesIs 1:2

Though TIamat Is often descrIbed by modern authors as a sea serpent or dragon, no ancIent
tets eIst In whIch there Is a clear assocIatIon wIth those kInds of creatures The Enuma ElIsh
lllustratìon of an orìyìnal Assyrìan relìef depìctìny the yod
Marduk slayìny the prìmeval %ìamat

specIfIcally states that TIamat dId gIve bIrth to dragons and serpents, but they are Included among
a larger and more general lIst of monsters IncludIng scorpIon men and merpeople, none of whIch
Imply that any of the chIldren resemble the mother or are even lImIted to aquatIc creatures

WIthIn the Enuma ElIsh her physIcal descrIptIon Includes a taIl, a thIgh, ¨lower parts¨ (whIch
shake together), a belly, an udder, rIbs, a neck, a head, a skull, eyes, nostrIls, a mouth, and lIps
She has InsIdes (possIbly ¨entraIls¨), a heart, arterIes, and blood

psu (or bzu, from SumerIan ab = water, zu = far) fathered upon TIamat the Elder deItIes
Lahmu and Lahamu (the ¨muddy¨), a tItle gIven to the gatekeepers at the EnkI bzu temple In
ErIdu Lahmu and Lahamu, In turn, were the parents of the aIs or pIvot of the heavens (nshar,
from an = heaven, shar = ale or pIvot) and the earth (KIshar); nshar and KIshar were consIdered
to meet on the horIzon, becomIng thereby, the parents of nu (the Heavens, 8IblIcal ¨ShemayIm¨)
and KI (the Earth, 8IblIcal ¨Eretz¨ created by ElohIm In CenesIs 1:1)

TIamat was the ¨shInIng¨ personIfIcatIon of salt water who roared and smote In the chaos of
orIgInal creatIon She and psu fIlled the cosmIc abyss wIth the prImeval waters She Is ¨Ummu·
Hubur who formed all thIngs¨

Ìn the myth recorded on cuneIform tablets, the deIty EnkI (later Ea) belIeved correctly that
psu, upset wIth the chaos they created, was plannIng to murder the younger deItIes; and so
captured hIm, holdIng hIm prIsoner beneath hIs temple the E·bzu ThIs angered KIngu, theIr son,
who reported the event to TIamat, whereupon she fashIoned monsters to battle the deItIes In order
to avenge psu's death These were her own offsprIng: gIant sea serpents, storm demons, fIsh·men,
scorpIon·men and many others

TIamat possessed the Tablets of 0estIny and In the prImordIal battle she gave them to KIngu,
the god she had chosen as her lover and the leader of her host The deItIes gathered In terror, but
nu, (replaced later, fIrst by EnlIl and, In the late versIon that has survIved after the Irst 0ynasty
of 8abylon, by |arduk, the son of Ea), fIrst etractIng a promIse that he would be revered as ¨kIng
of the gods¨, overcame her, armed wIth the arrows of the wInds, a net, a club, and an InvIncIble

And the lord stood µpon %ìcmct´s hìnder pcrts,
And wìth hìs mercìless clµb he smcshed her skµll.
He cµt throµ¤h the chcnnels of her blood,
And he mcde the orth wìnd becr ìt cwcy ìnto secret plcces.

SlIcIng TIamat In half, he made from her rIbs the vault of heaven and earth Her weepIng
eyes became the source of the TIgrIs and the Euphrates WIth the approval of the elder deItIes, he
took from KIngu the Tablets of 0estIny, InstallIng hImself as the head of the 8abylonIan pantheon
KIngu was captured and later was slaIn: hIs red blood mIed wIth the red clay of the Earth would
make the body of humankInd, created to act as the servant of the younger deItIes

The TIamat myth Is one of the earlIest recorded versIons of the Chaoskampf, the battle
between a culture hero and a chthonIc or aquatIc monster, serpent or dragon Chaoskampf motIves
In other mythologIes lInked dIrectly or IndIrectly to the TIamat myth Include the HIttIte Ìlluyanka
myth, and In Creek mythology, pollo's kIllIng of the Python as a necessary actIon to take over the
0elphIc Dracle

ccordIng to some analyses there are two parts to the TIamat myth, the fIrst In whIch
TIamat Is creator goddess, through a ¨sacred marrIage¨ between salt and fresh water, peacefully
creatIng the cosmos through successIve generatIons Ìn the second ¨Chaoskampf¨ TIamat Is
consIdered the monstrous embodIment of prImordIal chaos

Fobert Craves (1955) consIdered TIamats death by |arduk an outstandIng eample of how
the shIft In power from matrIarchy to patrIarchy occured |erlIn Stone In When Cod Was a Woman
(1976) follows Craves and also lInks the supposed rIse of PatrIarchal power structures and the
assumptIon of power by the monarchIal ¨lugal¨ (Lu = |an, Cal = 8Ig), durIng the Early 0ynastIc
perIod of SumerIan HIstory, and the InstItutIonalIsatIon of warfare


Ìn SemItIc mythology sherah Is a SemItIc mother
goddess, who appears In a number of ancIent sources
IncludIng kkadIan and HIttIte wrItIngs The 8ook of
JeremIah wrItten cIrca 628 8C possIbly refers to sherah
when It uses the tItle ´qµeen of hecven´ In chapters 7 and
44 mong her epIthets were 'Lcdy Athìrct of the Sec',
'She who trecds on the sec' and 'Crectrìx of the ¤ods
Elohìm)." mong the HIttItes thIs goddess appears as
sherdu(s) or sertu(s), the consort of ElkunIrsa (from the
UgarItIc tItle, El·qan·arsha : ¨El the Creator of Earth¨) and
she Is the mother of eIther 77 or 88 sons

8oth the archaeologIcal evIdence and the 8IblIcal
tets document tensIons between groups comfortable wIth
the worshIp of Yahweh alongsIde local deItIes such as
sherah and 8aal and those InsIstent on worshIp of Yahweh
alone durIng the monarchal perIod The 0euteronomIstIc
source gIves evIdence of a strong monotheIstIc party
durIng the reIgn of kIng JosIah durIng the late 7th century
8CE, but the strength and prevalence of earlIer
monotheIstIc worshIp of Yahweh Is wIdely debated based
on InterpretatIons of how much of the 0euteronomIstIc
hIstory Is accurately based on earlIer sources, and how
much has been re·worked by 0euteronomIstIc redactors to
bolster theIr theologIcal vIews The archaeologIcal
record documents wIdespread polytheIsm In and around
Ìsrael durIng the perIod of the monarchy

or eample, a tenth century (8CE) cult stand from Taanach (a town In orthern Ìsrael, near
|egIddo) has unambIguous polytheIstIc ImplIcatIons The stand has four levels, or regIsters Dn the
bottom regIster, or level four, there Is a female fIgure wIth hands restIng upon the heads of lIons
standIng on eIther sIde The female fIgure can be Interpreted as a goddess, eIther sherah,
starte, or nat The thIrd regIster has two wInged sphIn type fIgures wIth a vacant space
between them The second level contaIns a sacred tree flanked on both sIdes by Ibees standIng on
theIr hInd legs The top regIster shows a quadruped (eIther a bovIne or a horse) wIth a sun dIsk
above It Ìt Is unclear whether Taanach was under ÌsraelIte or CanaanIte control when the stand

ßronze Asherah statue cast from a mold.

was produced, and InterpretatIons vary Ìf the
quadruped on the top level Is taken as a bovIne, It can
be IdentIfIed as eIther Yahweh or 8aal The solar dIsk
above the quadruped Is representatIve of eIther the sun
god or the sky|ost authors agree that the sacred tree
on the second regIster should be IdentIfIed as an
asherah, though the stylIzed tree Is often vIewed as a
cult object rather than an Image of a goddess The
wInged sphIn type fIgures on the second level have
been Interpreted as cherubIm wIth the space In between
them representIng the InvIsIble Yahweh as ¨enthroned
upon the cherubIm¨ although the empty space has also
been Interpreted as allowIng observers to vIew a fIre or
fIgurIne InsIde the square stand

nother eample of polytheIsm In the southern
Levant was the dIscovery of a combInatIon of
Iconography and InscrIptIons at a relIgIous
center/lodgIng place for travelers at KuntIllet jrud, In
the northern SInaI desert that dates to the 8th century
8CE mong varIous other artIfacts was a large storage
jar that has attracted much attentIon The sIde of the
jar contaIns Iconography showIng three anthropomorphIc
fIgures and an InscrIptIon that refers to ¨Yahweh . and
hIs asherah¨ The InscrIptIon lead to some early
IdentIfIcatIons of two standIng fIgures In the foreground
as representIng Yahweh and hIs consort sherah, but
later work IdentIfIed them as 8es fIgures number of
scholars, IncludIng WIllIam C 0ever, and JudIth Hadley
contInue to Interpret the InscrIptIon In a way that It refers to sherah as an ÌsraelIte goddess and
consort of Yahweh

rchaeologIsts and hIstorIcal scholars use a varIety of ways to organIze and Interpret the
avaIlable IconographIc and tetual InformatIon WIllIam C 0ever contrasts ¨offIcIal relIgIon/state
relIgIon/book relIgIon¨ of the elIte wIth "folk relIgIon" of the masses FaIner lbertz contrasts
¨offIcIal relIgIon¨ wIth ¨famIly relIgIon¨, ¨personal pIety¨, and ¨Internal relIgIous pluralIsm¨ Jacques
8erlInerblau analyzes the evIdence In terms of ¨offIcIal relIgIon¨ and ¨popular relIgIon¨ In ancIent
Ìsrael Ìn a book descrIbed by WIllIam C 0ever as a ¨landmark study¨, PatrIck 0 |Iller has broadly
grouped the worshIp of Yahweh In ancIent Ìsrael Into three broad categorIes: orthodo, heterodo,
and syncretIstIc (|Iller acknowledges that one man's orthodoy Is another man's heterodoy and
that orthodoy was not a fIed and unchangIng realIty In the relIgIon of ancIent Ìsrael)

%he ìdolctry of the people of 1µdch wcs not c depcrtµre from theìr ecrlìer monotheìsm. lt wcs, ìnstecd,
the wcy the people of 1µdch hcd worshìpped for hµndreds of yecrs."
-Ìsrael InkelsteIn and eIl sher SIlberman, %he ßìble Unearthed

ccordIng to the documentary hypothesIs, the majorIty of the forty references to sherah In
the Hebrew 8Ible derIve from the 0euteronomIsts and are always In a hostIle framework The
0euteronomIsts evaluate the kIngs of Ìsrael and Judah accordIng to how rIgorously they uphold
YahwIsm and suppress the worshIp of sherah and other deItIes KIng |anasseh, for eample Is saId
Contemporary ìllustratìon of the %aanach cult
stand, 10th century ßCE

to have placed an sherah pole In the Holy Temple, and was therefore one who ¨dId evIl In the
sIght of the LDF0¨ (2 KIngs 21:7); but kIng HezekIah ¨removed the hIgh places, and broke the
pIllars, and cut down the sherah¨, (2 KIngs 184), and was noted as the most rIghteous of Judah's
kIngs before the comIng of the reformer JosIah, In whose reIgn the 0euteronomIstIc hIstory of the
kIngs was composed Ìn addItIon to the authors of Eodus, 0euteronomy, KIngs, and Judges, the
prophets ÌsaIah (ÌsaIah 17:8, 27:9), JeremIah (JereImIah 17:2), and |Icah (|Icah 5:14) also
condemned worshIp of sherah and praIsed turnIng from thIs Idolatry to worshIp Yahweh alone as
the true Cod

The Hebrew 8Ible uses the term csherch In two senses, as a cult object and as a dIvIne
name s a cult object, the asherah can be ¨made¨, ¨cut down¨ and ¨burnt¨, and 0euteronomy 16:21
prohIbIts the plantIng of trees as asherah, ImplyIng that a stylIsed tree or lopped trunk Is Intended
t other verses a goddess Is clearly Intended, as, for eample, 2 KIngs 2J:4·7, where Items are
beIng made ¨for 8aal and sherah¨The references to csherch In ÌsaIah 17:8 and 2:8 suggest that
there was no dIstInctIon In ancIent thought between the object and the goddess

WIllIam C 0ever has suggested that sherah was worshIped as the 0ueen of Heaven and
that the Hebrews baked small cakes for her festIval

IgurInes IdentIfIed wIth sherah are strIkIngly common In the archaeologIcal record,
IndIcatIng the popularIty of her cult from the earlIest tImes to the 8abylonIan eIle rudely
carved wooden statue planted on the ground of the house was sherah's symbol, and sometImes a
clay statue wIthout legs Her cult Images were found also In forests, carved on lIvIng trees, or In
the form of poles besIde altars that were placed at the sIde of some roads sherah poles are
mentIoned In the books of Eodus, 0euteronomy, Judges, the 8ooks of KIngs, the second 8ook of
ChronIcles, and the books of ÌsaIah, JeremIah, and |Icah The term often appears as merely
Asherch; thIs Is translated as ¨groves¨ In the KIng James 7ersIon and ¨poles¨ In the ew FevIsed
Standard 7ersIon, although there Is dIsagreement about the translatIon of the ancIent Hebrew as

sherah poles
n sherah pole Is a sacred tree or pole that stood near CanaanIte relIgIous locatIons to
honor the UgarItIc mother·goddess sherah, consort of El The relatIon of the lIterary references to
an csherch and archaeologIcal fInds of Judaean pIllar·fIgurInes has engendered a lIterature of
debate The csherìm were also cult objects related to the worshIp of the fertIlIty Coddess sherah,
the consort of eIther 8a'al or, as InscrIptIons from KuntIllet'jurd and KhIrbet el·0om attest,
Yahweh, and thus objects of contentIon among competIng cults

The role of the sherah reflected In the tets was lIkely rewrItten and reInterpreted by the
followers of Ezra, upon the return of the Jews from captIvIty and the wrItIng of the PrIestly tet
Though there was certaInly a movement agaInst goddess·worshIp at the Jerusalem Temple In the
tIme of kIng JosIah, It dId not long survIve hIs reIgn, as the followIng four kIngs ´dìd whct wcs evìl
ìn the eyes of Ychweh¨ (2 KIngs 2J:J2, J7; 24:9, 19) urther ehortatIons came from JeremIah
The tradItIonal InterpretatIon of the 8IblIcal tet Is that the ÌsraelItes Imported pagan elements
such as the sherah poles from the surroundIng CanaanItes; the modern scholarly InterpretatIons
suggests Instead that the ÌsraelIte folk relIgIon was always polytheIstIc, and It was the prophets and
prIests who denounced the sherah poles who were the Innovators

The Hebrew 8Ible suggests that the
poles were made of wood Ìn the sIth
chapter of the 8ook of Judges, Cod Is
recorded as InstructIng the ÌsraelIte judge
CIdeon to cut down an sherah pole that was
net to an altar to 8aal The wood was to be
used for a burnt offerIng

0euteronomy 16:21, (Ì7) states that Cod
hated Asherìm whether rendered as poles-
´0o not set µp cny [wooden] Asherch [pole]
besìde the cltcr yoµ bµìld to the Lord yoµr
6od´- or as lIvIng trees- ´Yoµ shcll not plcnt
cny tree cs cn Asherch besìde the cltcr of
the Lord yoµr 6od whìch yoµ shcll mcke´.
That sherahs were not always lIvIng trees Is
shown In JeremIah 7:12: ¨theìr csherìm ,
besìde every lµxµrìcnt tree´. The record
IndIcates, however, that the JewIsh people often departed from thIs Ideal KIng |anasseh for
eample Is saId to have placed an sherah pole In the Holy Temple (2 KIngs 21:7) KIng JosIah's
reforms In the late 7th century 8C Included the destructIon of many sherah poles (2 KIngs 2J)

Some 8IblIcal archaeologIsts have suggested that untIl the 6th century 8C the ÌsraelIte peoples had
household shrInes, or at least fIgurInes, of sherah, whIch have been found In profusIon In
archaeologIcal ecavatIons


Ìshtar Is the ssyrIan and 8abylonIan counterpart to the SumerIan
Ìnanna and to the cognate north·west SemItIc goddess starte Ìshtar Is a
goddess of fertIlIty, love, war, and se Ìn the 8abylonIan pantheon, she
¨was the dIvIne personIfIcatIon of the planet 7enus¨ Ìshtar was above all
assocIated wIth seualIty: her cult Involved sacred prostItutIon; her holy
cIty Uruk was called the ¨town of the sacred courtesans¨; and she herself
was the ¨courtesan of the gods¨ Ìshtar had many lovers; however, as
CuIrand notes,

´Woe to hìm whom lshtcr hcd honoµred! %he fìckle ¤oddess trected her pcssìn¤
lovers crµelly, cnd the µnhcppy wretches µsµclly pcìd decrly for the fcvoµrs
hecped on them. Anìmcls, enslcved by love, lost theìr nctìve vì¤oµr: they fell
ìnto trcps lcìd by men or were domestìccted by them. ´%hoµ hcs loved the lìon,
mì¤hty ìn stren¤th´, scys the hero 6ìl¤cmesh to lshtcr, ´cnd thoµ hcst dµ¤ for
hìm seven cnd seven pìts! %hoµ hcst loved the steed, proµd ìn bcttle, cnd
destìned hìm for the hclter, the ¤ocd cnd the whìp.´"

Exodus 3413 "ßreak down theìr altars, smash theìr
sacred stones and cut down theìr Asherah poles."
Statue of the Coddess
lshtar, Louvre Museum

Even for the gods Ìshtar's love was fatal Ìn her youth the goddess had loved Tammuz, god of the
harvest, and-If one Is to belIeve CIlgamesh-thIs love caused the death of Tammuz

Ìshtar was the daughter of SIn or nu She was partIcularly worshIped at Ineveh and rbela

Dne of the most famous myths about Ìshtar descrIbes her descent to the underworld Ìn thIs myth,
Ìshtar approaches the gates of the underworld and demands that the gatekeeper open them:
lf thoµ openest not the ¤cte to let me enter,
l wìll breck the door, l wìll wrench the lock,
l wìll smcsh the door·posts, l wìll force the doors.
l wìll brìn¤ µp the decd to ect the lìvìn¤.
And the decd wìll oµtnµmber the lìvìn¤."

The gatekeeper hurrIed to tell EreshkIgal, the 0ueen of the Underworld EreshkIgal told the
gatekeeper to let Ìshtar enter, but ¨accordIng to the ancIent decree¨

The gatekeeper lets Ìshtar Into the underworld, openIng one gate at a tIme t each gate,
Ìshtar has to shed one artIcle of clothIng When she fInally passes the seventh gate, she Is naked Ìn
rage, Ìshtar throws herself at EreshkIgal, but EreshkIgal orders her servant amtar to ImprIson
Ìshtar and unleash sIty dIseases agaInst her

fter Ìshtar descends to the underworld, all seual actIvIty ceases on earth The god
Papsukal reports the sItuatIon to Ea, the kIng of the gods Ea creates an Interse creature called
su·shu·namIr and sends hIm·her to EreshkIgal, tellIng hIm·her to Invoke ¨the name of the great
gods¨ agaInst her and to ask for the bag contaInIng the waters of lIfe EreshkIgal Is enraged when
she hears su·shu·namIr's demand, but she has to gIve hIm·her the water of lIfe su·shu·namIr
sprInkles Ìshtar wIth thIs water, revIvIng her Then Ìshtar passes back through the seven gates,
gettIng one artIcle of clothIng back at each gate, and Is fully clothed as she eIts the last gate

Here there Is a break In the tet of the myth The tet resumes wIth the followIng lInes:
lf she lshtcr) wìll not ¤rcnt thee her relecse,
%o %cmmµz, the lover of her yoµth,
Poµr oµt pµre wcters, poµr oµt fìne oìl;
Wìth c festìvcl ¤crment deck hìm thct he mcy plcy on the flµte of lcpìs lczµlì,
%hct the votcrìes mcy cheer hìs lìver. [hìs spìrìt]
8elìlì [sìster of %cmmµz] hcd ¤cthered the trecsµre,
Wìth precìoµs stones fìlled her bosom.
When 8elìlì hecrd the lcment of her brother, she dropped her trecsµre,
She sccttered the precìoµs stones before her,
´h, my only brother, do not let me perìsh!
n the dcy when %cmmµz plcys for me on the flµte of lcpìs lczµlì, plcyìn¤ ìt for me wìth the porphyry
%o¤ether wìth hìm, plcy ye for me, ye weepers cnd lcmentìn¤ women!
%hct the decd mcy rìse µp cnd ìnhcle the ìncense.´

ormerly, scholars belIeved that the myth of Ìshtar's descent took place after the death of
Ìshtar's lover, Tammuz: they thought Ìshtar had gone to the underworld to rescue Tammuz
However, the dIscovery of a correspondIng myth about Ìnanna, the SumerIan counterpart of Ìshtar,
has thrown some lIght on the myth of Ìshtar's descent, IncludIng Its somewhat enIgmatIc endIng
lInes ccordIng to the Ìnanna myth, Ìnanna can only return from the underworld If she sends
someone back In her place 0emons go wIth her to make sure she sends someone back However,

each tIme Ìnanna runs Into someone, she fInds hIm to be a frIend and lets hIm go free When she
fInally reaches her home, she fInds her husband 0umuzI (8abylonIan Tammuz) seated on hIs throne,
not mournIng her at all Ìn anger, Ìnanna has the demons take 0umuzI back to the underworld as
her replacement 0umuzI's sIster CeshtInanna Is grIef·strIcken and volunteers to spend half the
year In the underworld, durIng whIch tIme 0umuzI can go free The Ìshtar myth presumably has a
comparable endIng, 8elIlI beIng the 8abylonIan equIvalent of CeshtInanna

LIke Ìshtar, the Creek phrodIte and orthwestern SemItIc starte were love goddesses who
were ¨as cruel as they were wayward¨ 0onald |ackenzIe, an early popularIzer of mythology,
draws a parallel between the love goddess phrodIte and her ¨dyIng god¨ lover donIs on one hand,
and the love goddess Ìshtar and her ¨dyIng god¨ lover Tammuz on the other Some scholars have
suggested that the myth of donIs was derIved In post·HomerIc tImes by the Creeks IndIrectly from
8abylonIa through the Western SemItes, the SemItIc tItle 'don', meanIng 'lord', havIng been
mIstaken for a proper name Joseph Campbell, a more recent scholar of comparatIve mythology,
equates Ìshtar, Ìnanna, and phrodIte, and he draws a parallel between the EgyptIan goddess ÌsIs
who nurses Horus, and the 8abylonIan goddess Ìshtar who nurses the god Tammuz

The Ìshtar Cate was the eIghth gate
to the Inner cIty of 8abylon Ìt was
constructed In about 575 8C by order of
KIng ebuchadnezzar ÌÌ on the north sIde of
the cIty Ìt was dedIcated to Ìshtar The
gate was constructed of blue glazed tIles
wIth alternatIng rows of bas·relIef sìrrµsh
(dragons) and cµrochs The roof and doors
of the gate were of cedar, accordIng to the
dedIcatIon plaque Through the gate ran the
ProcessIonal Way, whIch was lIned wIth
walls covered In lIons on glazed brIcks
Statues of the deItIes were paraded through
the gate and down the ProcessIonal Way
each year durIng the ew Year's
celebratIon DrIgInally the gate, beIng part
of the Walls of 8abylon, was consIdered one
of the Seven Wonders of the world untIl, In
the 6th century 0, It was replaced by the
LIghthouse of leandrIa reconstructIon
of the Ìshtar Cate and ProcessIonal Way was
buIlt at the Pergamon |useum In 8erlIn out
of materIal ecavated by Fobert Koldewey
and fInIshed In the 19J0s Ìt Includes the
InscrIptIon plaque Ìt stands 47 feet hIgh
and 100 feet wIde The ecavatIon ran from 1902·1914, and, durIng that tIme, 45 feet of the
foundatIon of the gate was uncovered smaller reproductIon of the gate was buIlt In Ìraq under
Saddam HusseIn as the entrance to a museum that has not been completed 0amage to thIs
reproductIon has occurred sInce the Ìraq war

%he lshtar Cate ìn ßabylon, lraq.

Contemporary depìctìon of how the Cate of lshtar ìn ßabylon may have looked ìn ìts tìme.

brIef hIstory of the orIgIns and uses of the tItle '"µeen of
Hecven' In ntIquIty
'"µeen of Hecven' was a tItle gIven to a number of goddesses In the ancIent |edIterranean
and ear East, In partIcular nat, ÌsIs, Ìnnana, starte and possIbly sherah by the prophet
JeremIah Ìn Creco·Foman tImes Hera, and her Foman aspect Juno bore thIs tItle orms and
content of worshIp varIed The tItle '0ueen of Heaven' was later used by some ChrIstIans In
reference to |ary

puleIus wrote about the 0ueen of Heaven referrIng to the ncIent EgyptIan goddess ÌsIs ÌsIs
was venerated fIrst In Egypt s per the Creek hIstorIan Herodotus, wrItIng In the fIfth century
8CE, ÌsIs was the only goddess worshIped by all EgyptIans alIke, and whose Influence was so
wIdespread by that poInt, that she had become completely syncretIc wIth the Creek goddess
0emeter Ìt Is after the conquest of Egypt by leander the Creat, and the HellenIzatIon of the
EgyptIan culture InItIated by Ptolemy Ì Soter, that she eventually became known as '0ueen of
Heaven' LucIus puleIus confIrmed thIs In 8ook 11, Chap 47 of hIs novel known as The Colden ss,
In whIch hIs character prayed to the ¨0ueen of Heaven¨ The passage says that the goddess herself
responded to hIs prayer, In whIch she eplIcItly IdentIfIed herself as both the 0ueen of Heaven and

%hen wìth c weepìn¤ coµntencnce, l mcde thìs orìson to the pµìsscnt 6oddess, scyìn¤: blessed
"µeen of Hecven...

%hµs the dìvìne shcpe brecthìn¤ oµt the plecscnt spìce of fertìle Arcbìc, dìsdcìned not wìth her dìvìne
voìce to µtter these words µnto me: 8ehold Lµcìµs l cm come, thy weepìn¤ cnd prcyers hcs moved me to
sµccor thee. l cm she thct ìs the nctµrcl mother of cll thìn¤s, mìstress cnd ¤overness of cll the elements,
the ìnìtìcl pro¤eny of worlds, chìef of powers dìvìne, "µeen of Hecven... cnd the E¤yptìcns whìch cre
excellent ìn cll kìnd of cncìent doctrìne, cnd by theìr proper ceremonìes cccµstomed to worshìp me, do ccll
me "µeen lsìs."

Ìnanna was the SumerIan Coddess of love and war 0espIte her assocIatIon wIth matIng and
fertIlIty of humans and anImals, Ìnanna was not a mother goddess, and Is rarely assocIated wIth
chIldbIrth Ìnanna was also assocIated wIth raIn and storms and wIth the planet 7enus

0ueen of Heaven Is a tItle used for goddesses central to many relIgIons of antIquIty Ìnanna's
name Is commonly derIved from In·anna ¨0ueen of Heaven¨ (from SumerIan Ì ¨lady¨, ¨sky¨)
Ìn some tradItIons Ìnanna was saId to be a granddaughter of the creator goddess ammu or amma
Ìn Sumer Ìnanna was haIled as ¨0ueen of Heaven¨ In the Jrd mIllennIum 8C Ìn kkad to the north,
she was worshIpped later as Ìshtar Ìn the SumerIan 0escent of lncnnc, when Ìnanna Is challenged
at the outermost gates of the underworld, she replIes

"l cm lncnnc, "µeen of Hecven,
n my wcy to the Ecst."

Her cult was deeply embedded In |esopotamIa and among the CanaanItes to the west

The goddess, the "0ueen of heaven" whose worshIp JeremIah so vehemently opposed, may
have been possIbly starte starte Is the name of a goddess as known from orthwestern SemItIc
regIons, cognate In name, orIgIn and functIons wIth the goddess Ìshtar In |esopotamIan tets
nother translIteratIon Is 'shtart; other names for the goddess Include Hebrew shtoreth,
UgarItIc 'thtart/tIrat, kkadIan startu and Etruscan UnI·stre (PyrgI Tablets) ccordIng to
scholar |ark S SmIth, starte may be the Ìron ge (after 1200 8C) IncarnatIon of the 8ronze ge
(to 1200 8C) sherah

starte was connected wIth fertIlIty, seualIty, and war Her symbols were the lIon, the
horse, the sphIn, the dove and a star wIthIn a cIrcle IndIcatIng the planet 7enus PIctorIal
representatIons often show her naked starte was accepted by the Creeks under the name of
phrodIte The Island of Cyprus, one of starte's greatest faIth centers, supplIed the name CyprIs
as phrodIte's most common byname

sherah was worshIpped In ancIent Ìsrael as the consort of El and In Judah as the consort of
Yahweh and 0ueen of Heaven (the Hebrews baked small cakes for her festIval) WorshIp of a
¨0ueen of Heaven¨ Is recorded In the 8ook of the Prophet JeremIah, cIrca 628 8C, In the contet of
the Prophet condemnIng such relIgIous worshIp as blasphemy and a vIolatIon of the teachIngs of the
Cod of Ìsrael

´Seest thoµ not whct they do ìn the cìtìes of 1µdch cnd ìn the streets of 1erµsclem³ %he
chìldren ¤cther wood, cnd the fcthers kìndle the fìre, cnd the women knecd theìr doµ¤h, to mcke
cckes to the qµeen of hecven, cnd to poµr oµt drìnk offerìn¤s µnto other ¤ods, thct they mcy
provoke me to cn¤er.´

ŴJeremIah 7:18:

Ìn JeremIah 44:15·18: ´%hen cll the men who knew thct theìr wìves were bµrnìn¤ ìncense to
other ¤ods, clon¤ wìth cll the women who were present-c lcr¤e cssembly-cnd cll the people
lìvìn¤ ìn Lower cnd 0pper E¤ypt, scìd to 1eremìch, ´We wìll not lìsten to the messc¤e yoµ hcve
spoken to µs ìn the ncme of the LR0! We wìll certcìnly do everythìn¤ we scìd we woµld: We wìll
bµrn ìncense to the "µeen of Hecven cnd wìll poµr oµt drìnk offerìn¤s to her ]µst cs we cnd oµr
fcthers, oµr kìn¤s cnd oµr offìcìcls dìd ìn the towns of 1µdch cnd ìn the streets of 1erµsclem. At
thct tìme we hcd plenty of food cnd were well off cnd sµffered no hcrm. 8µt ever sìnce we
stopped bµrnìn¤ ìncense to the "µeen of Hecven cnd poµrìn¤ oµt drìnk offerìn¤s to her, we hcve
hcd nothìn¤ cnd hcve been perìshìn¤ by sword cnd fcmìne."

Ìt should be remembered In thIs contet that there was a temple of Yahweh In Egypt at that
tIme that was central to the JewIsh communIty at ElephantIne In whIch Yahweh was worshIpped In
conjunctIon wIth the goddess nath (also named In the temple papyrI as nath·8ethel and nath·

The goddesses sherah, nath and starte fIrst appear as dIstInct and separate deItIes In the
tablets dIscovered In the ruIns of the lIbrary of UgarIt (modern Fas Shamra, SyrIa), although some
8IblIcal scholars who have not eplored the earlIer documented evIdence tend to jumble all these
goddesses together

WhIle speakIng about the 0IvIne emInIne In the ear·East, It would be foolIsh to Ignore the
practIce of hIerodules and sacred prostItutIon WhIle the modern reader may be repulsed at the
thought of the word 'prostItutIon', In the ncIent world, sacred prostItutIon and sacred seualIty In
general was one of the many ways of achIevIng unIon wIth and knowledge of the 0IvIne The 0IvIne
was often perceIved as consIstIng of two parts; the male and female/ masculIne and femInIne Ìt
was through the InteractIon and unIon of these two parts that creatIon became engendered ThIs Is
sImIlar to the ar Eastern concepts of Tantra and YIn and Yang

Sacred prostItutIon, temple prostItutIon, or relIgIous prostItutIon Is a practIce of worshIp
that Includes hìeros ¤cmos or sacred marrIage performed as a fertIlIty rIte and part of sacred
seual rItual

Ìn the ncIent ear East along the TIgrIs and Euphrates rIvers there were many shrInes and temples
or ¨houses of heaven¨ dedIcated to varIous deItIes documented by the ncIent Creek hIstorIan
Herodotus In The HIstorIes where sacred prostItutIon was a common practIce ccordIng to Samuel
oah Kramer In The Sacred |arrIage FIte, In late SumerIan hIstory kIngs establIshed theIr
legItImacy by takIng part In the ceremony In the temple for one nIght, on the tenth day of the ew
Year festIval kItu Ìt came to an end when the emperor ConstantIne In the fourth century 0
destroyed the goddess temples and replaced them wIth ChrIstIanIty The practIce Is sometImes
dIsputed, claImIng that the sources have been mIsunderstood

The ancIent Creek hIstorIan Herodotus was the fIrst to state that the ancIent |esopotamIans
practIced temple prostItutIon:
%he foµlest 8cbylonìcn cµstom ìs thct whìch compels every womcn of the lcnd to sìt ìn the temple
of Aphrodìte cnd hcve ìntercoµrse wìth some strcn¤er once ìn her lìfe. Mcny women who cre rìch cnd proµd
cnd dìsdcìn to mìn¤le wìth the rest, drìve to the temple ìn covered ccrrìc¤es drcwn by tecms, cnd stcnd
there wìth c ¤rect retìnµe of cttendcnts. 8µt most sìt down ìn the sccred plot of Aphrodìte, wìth crowns of
cord on theìr hecds; there ìs c ¤rect mµltìtµde of women comìn¤ cnd ¤oìn¤; pcssc¤es mcrked by lìne rµn
every wcy throµ¤h the crowd, by whìch the men pcss cnd mcke theìr choìce. nce c womcn hcs tcken her

plcce there, she does not ¤o cwcy to her home before some strcn¤er hcs ccst money ìnto her lcp, cnd hcd
ìntercoµrse wìth her oµtsìde the temple; bµt whìle he ccsts the money, he mµst scy, l ìnvìte yoµ ìn the
ncme of Mylìttc" thct ìs the Assyrìcn ncme for Aphrodìte). lt does not mctter whct sµm the money ìs; the
womcn wìll never refµse, for thct woµld be c sìn, the money beìn¤ by thìs cct mcde sccred. So she follows
the fìrst mcn who ccsts ìt cnd re]ects no one. After theìr ìntercoµrse, hcvìn¤ dìschcr¤ed her sccred dµty to
the ¤oddess, she ¤oes cwcy to her home; cnd therecfter there ìs no brìbe however ¤rect thct wìll ¤et her.
So then the women thct cre fcìr cnd tcll cre soon free to depcrt, bµt the µncomely hcve lon¤ to wcìt
beccµse they ccnnot fµlfìll the lcw; for some of them remcìn for three yecrs, or foµr. %here ìs c cµstom
lìke thìs ìn some pcrts of Cyprµs."

Sacred prostItutIon was common In certaIn ncIent ear Eastern cultures as a form of ¨Sacred
|arrIage¨ or HIeros gamos between the kIng of a SumerIan cIty·state and the HIgh PrIestess of
Ìnanna, the SumerIan goddess of seual love, fertIlIty, and warfare long the TIgrIs and Euphrates
rIvers there were many shrInes and temples dedIcated to Ìnanna The temple of Eanna, meanIng
¨house of heaven¨ In Uruk was the greatest of these The temple housed prIestesses of the goddess
The hIgh prIestess would choose for her bed a young man who represented the shepherd 0umuzId,
consort of Ìnanna, In a hìeros ¤cmos or sacred marrIage, celebrated durIng the annual kItu (ew
Year) ceremony, at the sprIng EquIno

LEF% A woodcut from an alchemìcal treatìse depìctìny the hìeros yamos or alchemìcal weddìny between the
male and female elements ìn Nature.
RlCH% %he Major Arcana card '%he Lovers' ìn the %arot, depìctìny the heìros yamos or unìon between the
masculìne and femìnìne elements ìn the Unìverse. Varìous symbols connected wìth the Masculìne and Femìnìne
surround them, such as the Sun and the Moon, the elements of water and fìre, the Lìon and the Unìcorn.

HIeros gamos or HIerogamy (Creek for ¨holy marrIage¨) refers to a seual rItual that plays out
a marrIage between a god and a goddess Usually It's enacted In a symbolIc rItual where human
partIcIpants represent the deItIes Ìt Is the harmonIzatIon of opposItesThe notIon of hIeros gamos
does not presuppose actual performance In rItual, but Is also used In a purely symbolIc or
mythologIcal contet, notably In alchemy and hence In JungIan psychology

The ancIent tets celebrate the sacred
nature of human seualIty The Song of
Songs Is a book of the Hebrew 8Ible that
eplores an Important relIgIous dImensIon
to seualIty, the love between a man and
woman who are not marrIed Ìn the
Hebrew Zohar there were four fallen
angels of prostItutIon, the wIves of
archangel Samael They were LIlIth,
EIsheth ZenunIm, grat 8at |ahlat and
aamah Ìn the EpIc of CIlgamesh,
prIestess Shamhat tames wIld EnkIdu after
¨sI days and seven nIghts¨

* SumerIan and kkadIan Entu or E
were top·rankIng prIestesses who were
dIstInguIshed wIth specIal ceremonIal
attIre and held equal status to HIgh
PrIests They owned property, transacted
busIness, and InItIated the hIeros gamos
ceremony wIth prIests and kIngs
* adItu served as prIestesses In the temples of Ìnanna In the ancIent cIty of Erech They were
recruIted from the hIghest famIlIes In the land and were supposed to remaIn chIldless, owned
property and transacted busIness
* Ìn the Hebrew 8Ible, 0edesha or Kedeshah, were temple prostItutes usually assocIated wIth the
goddess sherah
* The male equIvalent of a qedesha Is a qadesh
* 0uadIshtu served In the temples of the
SumerIan goddess 0etesh
* HIerodules served as assIstants to the
* ÌshtarItu specIalIzed In the arts of
dancIng, musIc and sIngIng and served In the
temples of Ìshtar

Ìn |esopotamIan mythology, LIlItu Is called
the handmaIden of the goddess Ìnanna or
¨hand of Ìnanna¨ The SumerIan tets state
that ¨Ìnanna has sent the beautIful,
unmarrIed, and seductIve prostItute LIlItu out
Into the fIelds and streets In order to lead
men astray¨ That Is why LIlItu Is called the
¨hand of Ìnanna¨ 8abylonIan tets depIct
LIlIth as the sacred prostItute of the goddess
Ìshtar, the ssyrIan and 8abylonIan
counterpart to the SumerIan Ìnanna

The Hebrew 8Ible uses two dIfferent words
for prostItute, zonch and kedeshch The
%he orìyìns of bellydance ìs shrouded ìn the mìsts of
mystery and hìstorìcal confusìon; however, many popular
theorìes assert that the dance form descended from
dances done by prìestesses ìn Near-Eastern temples as
part of fertìlìty rìtes.
llustratìon of the 'Sony of Solomon' depìctìny the Kìny
Solomon and hìs ßeloved

word zonch sImply meant an ordInary prostItute or loose woman, 'kedeshch' lIterally means
¨consecrated (femInIne form)¨, from SemItIc meanIng ¨holy¨ or ¨set apart¨ "edeshc also became
the CanaanIte name for theIr goddess of se (or perhaps a tItle for eIther the goddess starte or
the goddess sherah In thIs role), adapted Into EgyptIan as "etesh or "µdshµ

Whatever the cultIc sIgnIfIcance of a kedeshah to a follower of the CanaanIte relIgIon, the Hebrew
8Ible Is quIck to connect the term wIth a common prostItute Thus 0euteronomy 2J:17·18 warns
one of the dcµ¤hters of lsrcel shcll be c kedeshch, nor shcll cny of the sons of lsrcel be c
Yoµ shcll not brìn¤ the hìre of c prostìtµte zonch) or the wc¤es of c do¤ keleb) ìnto the hoµse
of the Lord yoµr 6od to pcy c vow, for both of these cre cn cbomìnctìon to the Lord yoµr 6od."

Even closer Is the assocIatIon In the one other usage, the story of Tamar at CenesIs J8, where the
two words seem to be beIng used effectIvely Interchangeably

The CanaanIte equIvalent of Ìshtar was starte, and accordIng to the contemporary ChrIstIan wrIter
EusebIus temple prostItutIon was stIll beIng carrIed on In the PhoenIcIan cItIes of phaca and
HelIopolIs (8aalbek) untIl closed down by the emperor ConstantIne In the fourth century 0

Ìn ncIent Creece, known cases of ¨Sacred prostItutIon¨ were In SIcIly, In the KIngdom of Pontus
Cyprus, In CappadocIa, and the cIty of CorInth where the temple of phrodIte housed a sIgnIfIcant
number of servants at least sInce the classIcal antIquIty Ìn 464 8C a man named Xenophon, a
cItIzen of CorInth who was an acclaImed runner and wInner of pentathlon at the DlympIc Cames,
dedIcated one hundred young gIrls to the temple of the goddess as a sIgn of thanksgIvIng We know
thIs because of a hymn whIch PIndar
was commIssIoned to wrIte (fragment
122 Snell), celebratIng ¨the very
welcomIng gIrls, servants of Peïtho
and luurIous CorInth¨ 0urIng the
Foman perIod, Strabo states that the
temple had more than a thousand
sacred slave·prostItutes (7ÌÌÌ, 6, 20)

There are many Instances of
survIvIng vIsual representatIons In
ChrIstIan churches and cathedrals
that are dIffIcult to eplaIn usIng
ChrIstIan theology Dne such
eample Is the Sheela na CIg, a stone
carvIng found In Fomanesque
ChrIstIan churches scattered
throughout Europe The fIgures are
found In Ìreland, Creat 8rItaIn,
rance, SpaIn, SwItzerland, orway,
8elgIum and In the Czech FepublIc
They are fIguratIve carvIngs of naked
women dIsplayIng an eaggerated vulva Ìt Is saId that they are there to keep evIl spIrIts away
They are often posItIoned over doors or wIndows, presumably to protect these openIngs TheIr
meanIng Is not clearly IdentIfIable as ChrIstIan, and may be a concept that survIved from ancIent
A contemporary %antrìc paìntìny depìctìny Kalì ìn unìon wìth her
sonsort, Shìva. %hìs ìs of paramount sìynìfìcance of %antrìsts as ìt
symbolìzes the male-female unìon ìn the Unìverse.

forms of yonI worshIp and sacred prostItutIon practIced In the goddess temples that the churches

Ìn TantrIc 8uddhIsm, ycb·yµm Is the male deIty In seual unIon wIth hIs female consort The
symbolIsm Is assocIated wIth Anµttcrcyo¤c tcntrc where the male fIgure Is usually lInked to
compassIon and skIllful means, and the female partner to InsIght

The symbolIsm of unIon and seual polarIty Is a central teachIng In TantrIc 8uddhIsm, especIally In
TIbet The unIon Is realIzed by the practItIoner as a mystIcal eperIence wIthIn one's own body
Yab·yum Is generally understood to represent the prImordIal (or mystIcal) unIon of wIsdom and

|aIthuna Is a SanskrIt term used In Tantra most often translated as seual unIon In a rItual contet
Ìt constItutes the maIn part of the Crand FItual of Tantra known as Panchamakara, Panchatattva,
and Tattva Chakra

|aIthuna refers to male·female couples and theIr unIon In the physIcal, seual sense Just as
neIther spIrIt nor matter by Itself Is effectIve, but both workIng together brIng harmony, so Is
maIthuna effectIve only when the unIon Is consecrated The couple becomes dIvIne for the tIme
beIng: she Is ShaktI and he Is a Shakta, or worshIpper of ShaktI The scrIptures warn that unless thIs
spIrItual transformatIon occurs, the unIon Is carnal and sInful

0IvIne courtesans or psaras who adorned the court of
Ìndra, lord of the fIrmament, entertaIned the gods by
dancIng merrIly to the accompanIment of musIc by
Candharvas UrvashI, peer among
the psaras Is saId to have been born on earth as a
devadasI and Imparted the dIvIne knowledge of dance
and musIc to human beIngs The devadasI InstItutIon
was establIshed all over ÌndIa The ChInese pIlgrIm
HIeun Tsang who vIsIted ÌndIa In the 7th century,
testIfIed to the eIstence of a well establIshed
InstItutIon of temple dancers fter the advent of
|uslIm rule, devadasIs dIsappeared from the scene In
orth ÌndIa but the practIce contInued In the South untIl
the begInnIng of the 20th century

Ìn theIr heyday, under the generous patronage of
the Pallava, Chola, Pandya and ayaka KIngs, devadasIs
were honoured wIth tItles and gIfts and theIr names are
even mentIoned In temple chronIcles and InscrIptIons
They were traIned from chIldhood In the arts of dance
and musIc and were also taught classIcal lIterature In
SanskrIt, TamIl and Telugu 0evadasIs commanded
respect In socIety and were treated as symbols of good
luck The echange of devadasIs between the temple
and the court was an accepted practIce Though marrIed to the temple deItIes, some of them
gIfted wIth rare beauty and accomplIshments became royal courtesans and consorts of kIngs

0evadasì and musìcìans by a %anjore artìst,

0evadasIs from ndhra domInated the cultural scene In South ÌndIa The classIc eample was
the celebrated devadasI |uddupalanI who adorned the royal court of the ayaka KIng of Tanjore,
PartapsImha (17J9·176J), a great patron and lover of musIc, lIterature and the arts He honoured
and rewarded |uddupalanI not only for her accomplIshments In performIng arts but also for her
scholarly achIevements as a learned poet beIng well·versed In Telugu and SanskrIt t that tIme,
Tanjore court was one of the few survIvIng HIndu patrons of the arts In ÌndIa and therefore
attracted the best talents from other parts of the country

Ìn ShaktIsIm, 0evì Is the supreme beIng and Is synonymous wIth ShaktI, the female aspect of
the dIvIne She Is the female counterpart wIthout whom the male aspect, whIch represents
conscIousness or dIscrImInatIon, remaIns Impotent and voId s the female manIfestatIon of the
supreme lord, she Is also called Prckrìtì, as she balances out the male aspect of the dIvIne Pµrµshc
Ìn HIndu phIlosophy, accordIng to Tantra, the yonì Is the orIgIn of lIfe and an abstract
representatIon of ShaktI and 0evI, the creatIve force that moves
through the entIre unIverse The lìn¤cm Is the creatIve power of
nature and represents the god ShIva The lIngam stone Is placed
In the yonI and represents the abstract form of creatIonYonì Is
the SanskrIt word for female genItalIa, the source of all lIfe Ìt Is
also the dIvIne passage, womb or sacred tempIe The word
covers a range of meanIngs, IncludIng: pIace of bIrth, source,
orIgIn, sprIng, fountaIn, pIace of rest, reposItory, receptacIe,
seat, abode, home, IaIr, nest, stabIe. (Monìer·Wìllìcms) Ìn
ShaktIsm the yonI Is celebrated and worshIped durIng the
Ambµbcchì Melc, an annual fertIlIty festIval held In June, In
ssam, ÌndIa The SanskrIt term 'Ambµbcchì' lIterally means the
ìssµìn¤ forth of wcter", referrIng to the swellIng of the Earth's
waters from the onset of monsoon DutsIders often mIstakenly
thInk that thIs festIval Is a celebratIon of Kamakhya's
menstruatIon, but In fact It Is the menstruatIon of the entIre
|other Earth, and as Kamakhya Is the seat of Her yonI, It
becomes the focal poInt for related festIvItIes 8eIng the yonI of
0evI, and the Coddess here beIng IntImately connected to the
matrIarchal trIbes of these hIlls for thousands of years, It's no
wonder that thIs powerful and unIquely female cycle would be
celebrated and venerated here or devotees, especIally amongst TantrIcs at the temple,
mbubachI Is a tIme of tremendous power and celebratIon 0urIng the festIval, for three days
|other Earth Herself menstruates, and all the temples In the regIon are closed to devotees ÌnsIde
the temple, the Image of the goddess Kamakhya Is bathed and dressed daIly, and gIven a red sIlk
cloth In consIderatIon of Her menstrual flow, and also gIven fruIt and lIght worshIp amIlIes who
lIve near the temple cover theIr own shrInes and offer fruIt and sImple worshIp to 0evI, preferrIng
to let Her rest

Menstruatìny Coddess at the Srì
Kamakhya %emple, lndìa


Early Creece was a composIte of both
Ìndo·European and |edIterranean Influences
8etween 1200 E 900 8CE, contemporary wIth
InvasIons of the Ìndus 7alley cIvIlIzatIon In South
sIa, varIous Ìndo·European peoples Invaded the
egean basIn, where they conquered and co·
opted centers of earlIer |edIterranean culture
such as Knossos on the Island of Crete and
|ycenae on the Creek maInland The |Inoan
(Cretan) and |ycenaean cultures had much In
common wIth those of early West sIa and orth
frIca, such as the belIef In the great goddess of
unIversal mother LIke the eolIthIc female
Images, thIs anthropomorphIc conceptIon of
dIvInIty symbolIzed fertIlIty, controlled the
heavens and also ruled the underworld and

|Inoan Coddess 8elIef - IgurInes from the
palace at Knossos earIng dresses that epose and
emphasIze the breasts represent prIestesses of
the great earth mother and fertIlIty goddess of
the eastern |edIterranean The |Inoan goddess
was paIred wIth a male god, usually thought to
be subordInate to her, and she was belIeved to
be the mother of Zeus, the most powerful of the
subsequent DlympIans, the twelve gods and
goddesses dwellIng on |ount Dlympus and
presIded over by Zeus

Marble statue of 0emeter 350-330 ßC, found ìn the
sanctuary of 0emeter at Knìdos
0emeter ìs shown seated on a throne. %he lower arms
are lost, toyether wìth the hands, at least one of
whìch probably held a lìbatìon bowl or torch. %he
head was carved separately from the body. %he
yoddess ìs portrayed as a paradìym of Creek
womanhood, serene, mature, motherly and modestly
veìled. A statue of her dauyhter Persephone (now lost)
was perhaps shown standìny besìde her.


1st century ßC marble statue of Cybele from Formìa, Campanìa

´%o¤ether come cnd follow to the Phry¤ìcn home of Cybele,
to the Phry¤ìcn forests of the ¤oddess,
where the clcsh of cymbcls rìn¤,
where tcmboµrìnes resoµnd,
where the Phry¤ìcn flµte·plcyer blows deeply on hìs cµrved reed,
where ìvy·crowned mcencds toss theìr hecds wìldly.´
· Catullus, poem number 6J

Aß0VE Map showìny the Ancìent Medìterranean world, wìth Phryyìa located. Phryyìa was famous ìn antìquìty
-%he cìty of %roy (llìum) where the %rojan horse story takes place
-the cìty of Cordìum, where the leyendary Cordìan knot was tìed
-the home of Kìny Mìdas, who turned everythìny he touched to yold

Cybele was the PhrygIan deIfIcatIon of the Earth |other She was sImIlar to the Creek
goddess CaIa (the ¨Earth¨) and the |Inoan goddess Fhea In that he embodIed the fertIle Earth She
was the goddess of caverns and mountaIns, walls and fortresses, nature and wIld anImals
(especIally lIons and bees)

The goddess was known among the Creeks as:
O ´Mother´
O ´Moµntcìn·Mother´
O ldcec, as she was supposed to have been born on |ount Ìda In natolIa, whIch was vIewed as sacred
by the Creeks
O 0Indymene or SIpylene, a name assocIated wIth her sacred mountaIns |ount 0Indymon (In |ysIa) or
|ount SIpylus
O Ìn ncIent Fome, she was called Mc¤nc Mcter or ´6rect Mother´ or Mc¤nc Mcter deorµm ldcec
(¨great Ìdaean mother of the gods¨), In recognItIon of her PhrygIan orIgIns
O Her ncIent Creek tItle, Potnìc %heron, also assocIated wIth the |Inoan Creat |other, alludes to her
eolIthIc roots as the ¨|Istress of the nImals¨ She Is assocIated wIth her lIon throne and her charIot
drawn by lIons

Later, Cybele's most ecstatIc followers were males who rItually castrated themselves, after
whIch they were gIven women's clothIng and assumed female IdentItIes, who were referred to by
one thIrd·century commentator, CallImachus, In the femInIne as CallaI, but to whom other
contemporary commentators In ancIent Creece and Fome referred to as Callos or CallI There Is no
mentIon of these followers In ClassIcal references although they related that her prIestesses led
the people In orgIastIc ceremonIes wIth wIld musIc, drummIng, dancIng, and drInkIng She was

assocIated wIth the mystery relIgIon concernIng her son, ttIs, who was castrated, dIed of hIs
wounds, and resurrected by hIs mother The dactyls were part of her retInue Dther followers of
Cybele, the PhrygIan kurbantes or Corybantes, epressed her ecstatIc and orgIastIc cult In musIc,
especIally drummIng, clashIng of shIelds and spears, dancIng, sIngIng, and shoutIng-all at nIght

Her cult moved from PhrygIa to Creece from the 6th to the 4th century 8CE Ìn 20J 8CE,
Fome adopted her cult as well Cybele's cult In Creece was closely assocIated wIth, and apparently
resembled, the later cult of 0Ionysus, whom Cybele Is saId to have InItIated and cured of Hera's
madness They also IdentIfIed Cybele wIth the |other of the Cods Fhea

Creek mythographers recalled that 8roteas, the son of Tantalus, was the fIrst to carve the
Creat |other's Image Into a rock·face t the tIme of PausanIas (2nd century CE), a sculpture
carved Into the rock·face of a spur of |ount SIpylus was stIll held sacred by the |agnesIans t
PessInos In PhrygIa, an archaIc Image of Cybele had been venerated as well as the cult of gdIstIs,
In 20J 8CE Its anIconIc cult object was removed to Fome

7arIous aspects of Cybele's natolIan attrIbutes probably predate the 8ronze ge In orIgIn

The Seated Woman of Catalhoyuk (rchaeologIcal |useum,
nkara) found at the natolIan settlement of Catalhoyuk,
datIng about 6000 8CE, Is generally conceded to depIct a
corpulent and fertIle |other Coddess In the process of gIvIng
bIrth whIle seated on her throne, whIch has two hand rests In
the form of felIne (leopard or panther) heads The sImIlarIty to
later Iconography of the natolIan |other Coddess Is strIkIng

Ìn rchaIc PhrygIan Images of Cybele of the sIth
century, already betrayIng the Influence of Creek style, her
typIcal representatIon Is In the fIguratIon of a buIldIng's
façade, standIng In the doorway The façade Itself can be
related to the rock·cut monuments of the hIghlands of PhrygIa
She Is wearIng a belted long dress, a polos (hIgh cylIndrIcal
hat), and a veIl that falls over her shoulders and down her
back Ìn PhrygIa, her usual attrIbutes are the bIrd of prey and a
small vase, and she Is seen wIth attendant lIons In early
PhrygIan art Later, the lIons are shown drawIng her charIot,
whIch may be related as the sun traversIng the sky daIly

The goddess appears alone durIng the 8th-6th centurIes 8CE
but Is later joIned by ttIs, a vegetatIon spIrIt who was born and dIed each year and was the son of
ana and the consort of CybeleCybele In jealousy drove hIm mad after he marrIed SangarIus, and
he In an ecstasy, castrated hImself and subsequently dIed CrIevIng, Cybele brought hIm back to
lIfe as a fIr tree The evergreen tree and vIolets were sacred In the cult of Cybele and ttIs ttIs
later became a solar deIty

Some ecstatIc followers of Cybele, known In Fome as the gallI, wIllIngly castrated
themselves In ImItatIon of ttIs or Foman devotees of Cybele who were not prepared to go so far,
the testIcles of a bull, one of Cybele's sacred anImals, were an acceptable substItute, as many
InscrIptIons show

%he Seated Woman of Catalhoyük,
Archaeoloyìcal Museum, Ankara, found
at Catalhoyük, 6000 ßCE

The worshIp of Cybele spread from the Inland areas of natolIa and SyrIa to the egean
coast, thence to Crete and other egean Islands and from there to maInland Creece Her cult was
partIcularly popular In thens

LEF% %he two most common features ìn ìmayes of Cybele are the
turret-lìke crown that she wears (ìn one versìon of the myth, whìle
chasìny Attìs ìn a jealous raye, she lìfts up the walls of Pessìnus
and puts them on her head), and her two lìons (sometìmes she's
pulled ìn a charìot by two lìons). Under Hellenìc ìnfluence alony the
coastal lands of Asìa Mìnor, the sculptor Ayoracrìtos, a pupìl of
Pheìdìas, produced a versìon of Cybele that became the standard
one. lt showed her seated on a throne but now more decorous and
matronly, her hand restìny on the neck of a perfectly stìll lìon and
the other hand holdìny the cìrcular frame drum, sìmìlar to a
tambourìne, (tymbalon or tympanon), whìch evokes the full moon ìn
ìts shape and ìs covered wìth the hìde of the sacred lunar bull.

Ìn ncIent Egypt at leandrIa, Cybele was
worshIped by the Creek populatIon as ¨The |other of the
Cods, the SavIor who Hears our Prayers¨ and as ¨The |other
of the Cods, the ccessIble Dne¨ Ephesus, one of the
major tradIng centers of the area, was devoted to Cybele
as early the 10th century 8CE, and the cIty's ecstatIc
celebratIon, the EphesIa, honored her

The goddess was not welcome among the ScythIans
north of Thrace rom Herodotus we learn that the
ScythIan nacharsIs (6th century 8CE), after travelIng
among the Creeks and acquIrIng vast knowledge, was put
to death by hIs fellow ScythIans for attemptIng to Introduce the foreIgn cult of Cybele

ccordIng to LIvy In 210 8CE, an archaIc versIon of Cybele, from PessInos In PhrygIa, that
embodIed the Creat |other was ceremonIously and reverently moved to Fome, markIng the offIcIal
begInnIng of her cult there Fome was embroIled In the Second PunIc War at the tIme (218 to 201
8CE) n InspectIon had been made of the SIbyllIne 8ooks and some oracular verses had been
dIscovered that announced that If a foreIgn foe should carry war Into Ìtaly, that foe could be drIven
out and conquered If the |ater |agna were brought from PessInos to Fome The Fomans also
consulted the Creek oracle at 0elphI, whIch also recommended brIngIng the |agna |ater ¨from her
sanctuary In sIa |Inor to Fome¨ PublIus CornelIus ScIpIo asIca was ordered to go to the port of
DstIa, accompanIed by all the matrons, to meet the goddess He was to receIve her Image as she
left the vessel, and when brought to land he was to place her In the hands of the matrons who
were to bear her to her destInatIon, the Temple of 7Ictory on the PalatIne HIll The day on whIch
thIs event took place, 12 prIl, was observed afterwards as a festIval, the |egalesIan

Under the emperor ugustus, Cybele enjoyed great promInence thanks to her InclusIon In
ugustan Ideology ugustus restored Cybele's temple, whIch was located net to hIs own palace on
the PalatIne HIll Dn the cuIrass of the PrIma Porta of ugustus, the tympanon of Cybele lIes at the
feet of the goddess Tellus LIvIa, the wIfe of ugustus, ordered cameo·cutters to portray Cybele
wIth her lIkeness The cult seems to have been fully accepted under ClaudIus as the festIval of
|agna |ater and ttIs are Included wIthIn the state's relIgIous calendar t the same tIme the
chIef prIest of the cult (the archIgallus) was permItted to be a Foman cItIzen, so long as he was not
a eunuch

Under the Foman EmpIre the most Important festIval of Cybele was the HIlarIa, takIng place
between |arch 15 and |arch 28 Ìt symbolIcally commemorated the death of ttIs and hIs
resurrectIon by Cybele, InvolvIng days of mournIng followed by rejoIcIng CelebratIons also took
place on 4 prIl wIth the |egalensIa festIval, the annIversary of the arrIval of the goddess (Ie the
8lack Stone) In Fome Dn the 10th prIl, the annIversary of the consecratIon of her temple on the
PalatIne, a processIon of her Image was carrIed to the CIrcus |aImus where races were held
These two dates seem to be Incorporated wIthIn the same festIval, though the evIdence for what
took place In between Is lackIng

The most famous rIte of |agna |ater Introduced by the Fomans was the taurobolIum, the InItIatIon
ceremony In whIch a candIdate took theIr place In a pIt beneath a wooden floor bull was
sacrIfIced on the wooden floor so that the blood would run through gaps In the slats and drench the
InItIate In a symbolIc shower of blood ThIs act was thought to cleanse an InItIate of sIn as well as
sIgnIfy a 'rebIrth' and re·energIsatIon cheaper versIon, known as a crIobolIum, Involved the
sacrIfIce of a ram The fIrst recorded taurobolIum took place at PuteolI In 0 1J4 In honour of
7enus CaelestIa

Foman devotIon to Cybele ran deep ot coIncIdentally, when a ChrIstIan basIlIca was buIlt over
the sIte of a temple to Cybele to occupy the sIte, the sanctuary was rededIcated to the |other of
Cod, as the 8asIlIca dI Santa |arIa |aggIore However, later, Foman cItIzens were forbIdden to
become prIests of Cybele, who were eunuchs lIke those of theIr sIatIc Coddess

The worshIp of Cybele was eported to the empIre, even as far away as |auretanIa The popularIty
of the Cybele cult In the cIty of Fome and throughout the empIre Is thought to have InspIred the
author of 8ook of FevelatIon to allude to her In hIs portrayal of the mother of harlots who rIdes the
8east Cybele drew Ire from ChrIstIans throughout the EmpIre; famously, St Theodore of masea Is
saId to have spent the tIme granted to hIm to recant hIs belIefs, burnIng a temple of Cybele

Ìn Foman lIterature
Ìn Fome, her PhrygIan orIgIns were recalled by Catullus, whose famous poem (number 6J) on the
theme of ttIs Includes a vIvId descrIptIon of Cybele's worshIp: ¨Together come and follow to the
PhrygIan home of Cybele, to the PhrygIan forests of the goddess, where the clash of cymbals rIng,
where tambourInes resound, where the PhrygIan flute·player blows deeply on hIs curved reed,
where Ivy·crowned maenads toss theIr heads wIldly¨

Ìn the second book of hIs 0e rerum natura, LucretIus approprIately uses the Image of Cybele, the
Creat |other, as a metaphor for the Earth HIs descrIptIon of the followers of the goddess Is
thought to be based on autopsy of the celebratIon of her cult In Fome

Ìn hIs eneId, whIch was wrItten In the fIrst century 8CE (between 29 and 19 8CE), 7IrgIl descrIbed
Cybele as the mother of the gods Ìn hIs late versIon of the legendary story, the Trojans are In Ìtaly
and have kept themselves safe In a walled cIty, followIng eneas's orders The leader of the FutulI,
Turnus, then ordered hIs men to burn the shIps of the Trojans t thIs poInt In the new legend,
there Is a flashback to |ount Dlympus years before the Trojan War: fter Cybele had gIven her
sacred trees to the Trojans so that they could buIld theIr shIps, she went to Zeus and begged hIm
to make the shIps IndestructIble Zeus granted her request by sayIng that when the shIps had
fInally fulfIlled theIr purpose (brIngIng eneas and hIs army to Ìtaly) they would be turned Into sea

nymphs rather than be destroyed; so, as Turnus approached wIth fIre, the shIps came to lIfe, dove
beneath the sea, and emerged as nymphs

Df course, Cybele was a powerful goddess who had eIsted long before the ¨bIrth¨ of Zeus, and she
would have been worshIpped In that area from antIquIty, so thIs new legend may contaIn elements
of much older myths that have been lost - such as the trees that turned Into sea nymphs

|Inoan Snake Coddess
|Inoan Snake Coddess descrIbes a number of fIgurInes of a woman holdIng a snake In each hand
found durIng ecavatIon of |Inoan archaeologIcal sItes In Crete datIng from approImately 1600
8CE 8y ImplIcatIon, the term 'snake goddess' also descrIbes the chthonIan deIty depIcted,although
lIttle more Is known about her IdentIty apart from that gaIned from the fIgurInes The fIrst 'Snake
Coddess' fIgurInes to be dIscovered were found by the 8rItIsh archaeologIst rthur Evans In 190J
The fIgurInes found by rthur Evans used the faIence technIque, for glazIng earthenware and other
ceramIc vessels by usIng a quartz pasteThIs materIal symbolIzed In old Egypt the renewal of
lIfe,therefore It was used In the funeral cult and In the sanctuarIes fter fIrIng thIs produces
brIght colors and a lustrous sheen

Two famous fIgurInes are today ehIbIted at the HerakleIon
rcheologIcal |useum In Crete and possIbly they represent the
mother goddess and her daughter8oth Illustrate the fashIon of
dress of |Inoan womenThe larger of these fIgures has snakes
crawlIng over her arms up to her tIara The smaller fIgure holds two
snakes In her hands and a small anImal Is perched on her head[1]
Evans and | Ilsson belIeved that her chthonIc form Is one of the
aspects of the |other Coddess

WhIle the Idol's true functIon Is somewhat unclear, her eposed and
amplIfIed breasts suggest that she Is some sort of fertIlIty fIgure
The serpent Is often symbolIcally assocIated wIth the renewal of
lIfe because It sheds Its skIn perIodIcally Ìn the PelasgIan myth of
creatIon the dead return to earth as snakes 8arry Powell suggested
that the snake goddess reduced In legend Into a folklore heroIne
was rIadne (utterly pure or the very holy one) who In classIcal
Creece was often depIcted surrounded by Satyrs and |aenads
Some scholars connect the snake goddess wIth the PhoenIcIan
starte (vIrgIn daughter) She was the goddess of fertIlIty and
seualIty and her worshIp was connected wIth orgIastIc cult He
became the goddess phrodIte and her cult from Crete was
transmItted to Cythera and then to Creece ThIs theory Is
supported by the myth of Europa ( meanIng ¨wIde·eyes or face¨ In Creek ),the PhoenIcIan prIncess
who Zeus abducted and carrIed to Crete starte Is sometImes IdentIfIed as Europa In ancIent

Evans tentatIvely lInked the snake goddess wIth the EgyptIan snake goddess Wadjet or Wadjut ('Eye
of the moon' and later 'Eye of Fa') but dId not pursue thIs connectIon Statuettes sImIlar to the
¨snake goddess¨ IdentIfIed as prIest of Wadjud and magIcIan were found In Egypt Wadjut was
assocIated wIth the cIty known to the Creeks as phrodItopolIs (the cIty of phrodIte) and she was
also the goddess of fertIlIty
Mìnoan Snake Coddess from
Knossos, Crete, c. 1600 ßC,
faìence, h. 13 1/2 ¨

8oth goddesses have a knot wIth a projectIng looped cord between theIr breasts Evans notIced
that these are analogous to the sacral knot umerous such symbols sometImes combIned wIth the
symbol of the double·edged ae or labrys (symbol of matrIarchy) were found In |Inoan and
|ycenaean sItes Ìt Is belIeved that the sacral knot was the symbol of holIness and It was probably
connected wIth ecstatIc dances and rItes[6] ThIs can be compared wIth the EgyptIan ankh (eternal
lIfe) whIch Is used to represent the planet 7enus, or better wIth the tyet (welfare/lIfe) a symbol of
ÌsIs (the knot of ÌsIs) whIch Is thought to represent the Idea of eternal lIfe and resurrectIon

The Image has been adopted by some contemporary femInIsts and Coddess worshIpers as
representIng the psychIc and spIrItual power of women


Ìn frIcan and frIcan dIasporIc relIgIons,
goddesses are often syncretIzed wIth |arIan
devotIon EzIlI 0antor Is often IdentIfIed wIth
the 8lack |adonna of Czestochowa and ErzulIe
reda wIth the |ater 0olorosa

n DrIsha Is a spIrIt/deIty that reflects
one of the manIfestatIons of Dlodumare (Cod)
In the Yoruba spIrItual or relIgIous system
Through the enslavement of frIcans by the
Europeans to work In ew World estates, thIs
relIgIon has found Its way throughout the world
and Is now epressed through Its varIous forms
as: Candomblé, Lucumi/Santeria, Shango In
TrInIdad, Dbeah, 7odun and a host of others
These varIetIes or spIrItual lIneages as they are
called are practIced throughout areas of
IgerIa, 8razIl, Cuba, 0omInIcan FepublIc,
Cuyana, HaItI, JamaIca, Puerto FIco, SurIname,
TrInIdad and Tobago, the UnIted States,
7enezuela, etc

SanterIa (or Lucumi) Is a set of related relIgIous systems whIch use CatholIc saInts as a mask to hIde
tradItIonal Yoruba belIefs SaInts and other CatholIc relIgIous fIgures are used as dIsguIses for
DrIshas However, thIs process should not be confused wIth syncretIsm, as the CatholIc saInts were
never worshIped

The Loa are the spIrIts of the voodoo relIgIon practIced In LouIsIana, HaItI, 8enIn, etc They
are also referred to as |ysteres and are seen as IntermedIarIes between 8ondye (or '8on 0Ieu';
meanIng Cood Cod)-the Creator, who Is dIstant from the world-and humanIty UnlIke saInts or
angels however, they are not sImply prayed to, they are served They are each dIstInct beIngs wIth
theIr own personal lIkes and dIslIkes, dIstInct sacred rhythms, songs, dances, rItual symbols and
specIal modes of servIce s a way to keep theIr European masters from InterferIng, and to
appease the authorItIes who prevented them from practIsIng theIr own relIgIons, the frIcan slaves
In HaItI syncretIsed the Loa wIth the Foman CatholIc saInts · so 7odoun altars wIll frequently have
Images of CatholIc fIgures dIsplayed Ìn a rItual the Loa are summoned by the Houngan (PrIest),
|ambo (PrIestess) or 8okor (Sorcerers) to take part In the servIce, receIve offerIngs and grant
requests The Loa arrIve In the perIstyle (rItual space) by mountIng (possessIng) a 'horse' (rItualIst)
· who Is saId to be ¨rIdden¨ ThIs can be quIte a vIolent occurrence as the partIcIpant can flaIl
about or convulse before fallIng to the ground, but some Loa, such as yIzan, wIll mount theIr
horses very quIetly CertaIn Loa dIsplay very dIstInctIve behavIour by whIch they can be recognIsed,
%he dark yreen parts hìyhlìyhted ìn the above map
ìllustrate the locatìon of West Afrìca

specIfIc phrases, and specIfIc actIons s soon as a Loa Is recognIsed, the symbols approprIate to
them wIll be gIven to them or eample ErzulIe reda wIll be gIven a mIrror and a comb, fIne
cloth or jewelry; Legba wIll be gIven hIs cane, straw hat and pIpe; 8aron SamedI wIll be gIven hIs
top hat, sunglasses and a cIgar Dnce the Loa have arrIved, been fed, served and possIbly gIve help
or advIce to rItualIsts, they leave the perIstyle Contrary to the Western perceptIon of possessIon, a
Loa has no need to remaIn In the horse (possessed rItualIst) CertaIn Loa can become obstInate, for
eample the Chede are notorIous for wantIng just one more smoke, or one more drInk, but It Is the
job of the Houngan or |ambo to keep the spIrIts In lIne whIle ensurIng they are adequately
provIded for

Aß0VE A contemporary paìntìny depìctìny ßoìs Caìman, whìch was the sìte of a voodoo rìtual that occurred on
Auyust 14
1791. lt was presìded over by 0utty ßoukman. %he rìtual's ìntent was to overthrow French rule.

A Voodoo altar on dìsplay at the %ropenmuseum. Catholìc ìcons, the rìtual paraphernalìa, Florìda water, coca
cola, rum (offerìnys to the spìrìts), candles are all elements on thìs altar.


Dshun In the Yoruba relIgIon, Is the goddess of love, IntImacy, beauty, wealth and
dIplomacy hun Is benefIcent, generous and very kInd However, she Is known to have a horrIfIc
temper, one whIch she seldom ever loses but whIch causes untold destructIon whenever she does
Ìn Cuban Santeria, Dshun Is an DrIsha of love, maternIty and marrIage She has been syncretIzed
wIth Dur Lady of CharIty (Lc \ìr¤en de lc Ccrìdcd del Cobre), Cuba's patroness She Is assocIated
wIth the color yellow, the metal brass, peacock feathers, mIrrors, honey and anythIng of beauty

Dshun has had many husbands 0Ifferent tales attrIbute husbands to her, IncludIng the spIrIts
ErInle, DshosI, DrIsha Dko and je'·Shaluga She Is also the seual partner of Shango and Dgun at
dIfferent poInts

ccordIng to the Yoruba elders, Dshun Is the ¨unseen mother present at every gatherIng¨,
because she Is the Yoruba understandIng of the cosmologIcal forces of water, moIsture and
attractIon Therefore, she Is belIeved to be omnIpresent and omnIpotent Her power Is represented
In another Yoruba proverb whIch remInds us that ¨no one Is an enemy to water¨ and therefore
everyone has need of and should respect and revere Dshun, as well as her followers

Dshun Is the force of harmony Harmony
whIch we see as beauty, feel as love, and
eperIence as ecstasy She, accordIng to the
ancIents, was the only female Ìrunmole amongst the
orIgInal 16 sent from the spIrIt realm to create the
world s such, she Is revered as ´Yeye´ · the great
mother of us all When the male Ìrunmole
attempted to subjugate Dshun due to her
femInInIty, she removed her dIvIne energy from the
process of the creatIon of the world and all
subsequent efforts at creatIon were In vaIn Ìt was
not untIl vIsItIng wIth the Supreme 8eIng
Dlodumare, and beggIng for Dshun's pardon (as
advIsed by Dlodumare) that the world could
contInue to be created

Dshun Is known as lyclode, the ¨chIeftess of
the realm¨ She Is also known as Lcketì, she who has
ears, because of how quIckly and effectIvely she
answers prayers When she possesses her followers,
she dances, flIrts and then weeps· because no one
can love her enough and the world Is not as
beautIful as she knows It could be

Yemanja Is an orIsha, orIgInally of the Yoruba relIgIon, who has become promInent In many
fro·merIcan relIgIons frIcans from what Is now called Yorubaland brought Yemaya and a host of
other deItIes wIth them when they were brought to the shores of the merIcas as captIves She Is
the ocean, the essence of motherhood and a protector of chIldren Her name Is a contractIon of
Yoruba words: ´Yeye emo e]c´ whIch means ´Mother whose chìldren cre lìke fìsh.´ ThIs represents
the vastness of her motherhood, her fecundIty and her reIgn over all lIvIng thIngs 8ecause the
fro·merIcan relIgIons were transmItted as part of a long oral tradItIon, there are many regIonal
varIatIons on the goddess's name She Is represented wIth ur Iady of PegIa and SteIIa harIs
0shun, Francìsco Santos (Salvador, ßahìa, ßrazìl)

Ìn Yorubá mythology, Yemanja Is a mother goddess; patron
deIty of women, especIally pregnant women Dther storIes would
say that Yemaya was always there In the begInnIng and all lIfe
came from her, IncludIng all of the orIshas The Umbanda relIgIon
worshIps Yemanja as one of the seven orIás of the frIcan
Pantheon She Is the 0ueen of the Dcean, the patron deIty of the
fIshermen and the survIvors of shIpwrecks, the femInIne prIncIple
of creatIon and the spIrIt of moonlIght

Yemanja Is vIewed as an aspect of the catholIc 7IrgIn |ary
'ossc Senhorc dos cve¤cntes' (Dur Lady of SeafarIng)
SometImes, a feast or celebratIon can honor both Ìn Salvador,
8ahIa, Ìemanjá Is celebrated by Candomblé adherants on the very
day consecrated by the CatholIc Church to Dur Lady of SeafarIng
Every ebruary 2
thousands of people lIne up at dawn to leave
theIr offerIngs at her shrIne In FIo 7ermelho CIfts for Ìemanjá
usually Include flowers and objects of female vanIty perfµme,
]ewelry, combs, lìpstìcks, mìrrors) These are gathered In large
baskets and taken out to the sea by local fIshermen fterwards a
massIve street party ensues

Ìemanjá Is also
celebrated every
0ecember 8
In Salvador,
8ahIa The Festc dc
Conceìcõo dc Prcìc (east
to Dur Lady of
ConceptIon) Is a cIty holIday dedIcated to the catholIc
saInt and also to Ìemanjá nother feast occurs thIs day In
the Pedra urada, |onte Serrat In Salvador, 8ahIa, called
the CIft to Ìemanjá, when fIshermen celebrate theIr
devotIon to the 0ueen of the Dcean

Dn ew Year's Eve In FIo de JaneIro, large masses of
people of all relIgIons, dressed In whIte gather on
Copacabana beach to greet the ew Year, watch fIreworks
and throw flowers and other offerIngs Into the sea for the
goddess Yemanja In the hopes that she wIll grant them
theIr requests for the comIng year Some send theIr gIfts to
Yemanja In wooden toy boats PaIntIngs of her are sold In
FIo shops, net to paIntIngs of Jesus and other catholIc
saInts They portray her as a woman rIsIng out of the sea
Small offerIngs of flowers and floatIng candles are left In
the sea on many nIghts at Copacabana

Ìn São Paulo State, Ìemanjá Is celebrated on the two
fIrst weekends of 0ecember on the shores of PraIa Crande
cIty 0urIng these days many vehIcles garnIshed wIth
A contemporary paìntìny of Yemanja,
the type that ìs popularly sold ìn
Statue of Yemanja at ßahìa, ßrazìl

Ìemanjá Icons and colors roam from the São Paulo mountaIns to the sea lIttoral, some of them
travelIng hundreds of mIles Thousands of people rally near Ìemanjá's statue In PraIa Crande beach

Ìt Is very InterestIng to compare Yemanja and her modern day seasIde festIvals and
celebratIons In 8razIl and elsewhere wIth the ncIent EgyptIan goddess ÌsIs under her tItle as
'Stellc Mcrìs' ('Star of the Dcean') and her Ccrrµs cvclìs festIval where her Image Is carrIed to
the sea·shore to bless the start of the saIlIng season as well as the lsìs cvì¤ìµm In whIch a shIp was
dedIcated to ÌsIs ThIs could hInt at common orIgIns for the Western frIcan Yoruba goddess
Yemanja and the orth frIcan, ncIent EgyptIan ÌsIs Ìt Is also an eample of the prevalence of the
archetype of the mother, across cultures, and the lInkIng of the ocean and water wIth femInInIty
and maternIty

Aß0VE 0fferìnys to Yemanja are put ìnto a styrofoam boatìn ßahìa, ßazìl.

Above A statue of Yemanja surrounded by flowers ìn ßahìa, ßrazìl.


Aß0VE LEF% Erzulìe Freda depìcted as the Vìryìn Mary. Note the numerous rìnys on her fìnyers, and the
opulence and abundance of jewelry surroundìny her.
Aß0VE RlCH% %he verve (symbol) representìny Erzulìe

Ìn 7odou relIgIous belIefs, ErzulIe Is a famIly of loa, or spIrIts ErzulIe réda 0ahomey, the
Fada aspect of ErzulIe, Is the spIrIt of love, beauty, jewelry, dancIng, luury and flowers Cay men
are consIdered to be under her partIcular patronage She wears three weddIng rIngs, one for each
husband · 0amballa, gwe and Dgoun Her symbol Is a heart, her colours are pInk, blue, whIte and
gold, and her favourIte sacrIfIces Include jewelry,
perfume, sweet cakes and lIqueurs CoquettIsh and
very fond of beauty and fInery, ErzulIe reda Is
femInInIty and compassIon embodIed, yet she also has
a darker sIde; she Is seen as jealous and spoIled and
wIthIn some vodoun cIrcles Is consIdered to be lazy
When she mounts a servIteur she flIrts wIth all the
men, and treats all the women as rIvals Ìn ChrIstIan
Iconography she Is often IdentIfIed wIth the |ater
0olorosa She Is conceIved of as never able to attaIn
her heart's most fervent desIre or thIs reason she
always leaves a servIce In tears

Ìn her Petro natIon aspect as ErzuIIe 0antor,
she Is often depIcted as a scarred and buom black
woman, holdIng a chIld protectIvely In one hand and a
A contemporary depìctìon of Erzulìe 0antor usìny

knIfe In the other She Is a warrIor and a partIcularly fIerce protector of women and chIldren Her
colours are red, gold and navy blue, her symbols are a pIerced heart, knIves and her favourIte
sacrIfIces Include black pIgs, frIed pork and rum She Is often IdentIfIed wIth lesbIan women Ìt Is
belIeved that a common depIctIon of ErzulIe 0antor has Its roots In copIes of the Icon of the 8lack
|adonna of Czestochowa, brought to HaItI by PolIsh soldIers fIghtIng on both sIdes of the HaItIan
FevolutIon from 1802 onwards

A contemporary mural paìnted on a wall on Haìtì depìctìny Erzulìe 0antor. Such ìmayes are quìte popular ìn

Aß0VE %he ßlack Madonna of Czestochowa Dueen of Poland - ln the basìlìca of the Jasna Cora monastery ìn
Czestochowa, 6th - 14th century (î) 122.2x82.2x3.5 cm.


HInduIsm Is a comple of varIous belIef
systems that sees many gods and goddesses as
beIng representatIve of and/or emanatIve from a
sIngle source, 8rahman, understood eIther as a
formless, InfInIte, Impersonal monad In the
dvaIta tradItIon or as a dual god In the form of
LakshmI·7Ishnu, Fadha·KrIshna, ShIva·ShaktI In
0vaIta tradItIons Shaktas, worshIppers of the
Coddess, equate thIs god wIth 0evI, the mother
goddess Such aspects of one god as male god
(ShaktIman) and female energy (ShaktI), workIng
as a paIr are often envIsIoned as male gods and
theIr wIves or consorts and provIde many
analogues between passIve male ground and
dynamIc female energy

or eample, 8rahma paIrs wIth SarasvatI
ShIva lIkewIse paIrs wIth ParvatI who later Is
represented through a number of avatars
(IncarnatIons): SatI and the warrIor fIgures,
0urga and KalI ll goddesses In HInduIsm are
sometImes grouped together as the great
goddess, 0evI

further step was taken by the Idea of the
ShaktIs TheIr Ideology based maInly on tantras sees
ShaktI as the prIncIple of energy through whIch all
dIvInIty functIons, thus showIng the masculIne to be
dependent on the femInIne Ìndeed, In the great
shakta scrIpture known as the 0evI |ahatmya, all
the goddesses are shown to be aspects of one presIdIng female force, one In truth and many In
epressIon, gIvIng the world and the cosmos the galvanIc energy for motIon Ìt Is epressed through
both phIlosophIcal tracts and metaphor that the potentIalIty of masculIne beIng Is gIven actuatIon
by the femInIne dIvIne Local deItIes of dIfferent vIllage regIons In ÌndIa were often IdentIfIed wIth
¨maInstream¨ HIndu deItIes, a process that has been called ¨SanskrItIzatIon¨ Dthers attrIbute It to
the Influence of monIsm or dvaIta whIch dIscounts polytheIst or monotheIst categorIzatIon

WhIle the monIst forces have led to a fusIon between some of the goddesses (108 names are
common for many goddesses), centrIfugal forces have also resulted In new goddesses and rItuals
gaInIng ascendance among the laIty In dIfferent parts of HIndu world Thus, the Immensely popular
goddess 0urga was a pre·7edIc goddess who was later fused wIth ParvatI, a process that can be
traced through tets such as KalIka Purana (10th century), 0urgabhaktItarangInI (7IdyapatI 15th
century), ChandImangal (16th century) etc

ShaktI from SanskrIt shak · ¨to be able,¨ meanIng sacred force or empowerment, Is the
prImordIal cosmIc energy and represents the dynamIc forces that are thought to move through the
entIre unIverse In HInduIsm[1] ShaktI Is the concept, or personIfIcatIon, of dIvIne femInIne
creatIve power, sometImes referred to as 'The Creat 0IvIne |other' In HInduIsm Dn the earthly
Popular Hìndu art depìctìny the conjoìned ìmaye of
three manìfestatìons of the Hìndu 0ìvìne Mother
Lakshmì (wealth/materìal fulfìllment), Parvatì
(Power/love/spìrìtual fulfìllment), and Saraswatì
(learnìny and arts/cultural fulfìllment), left to

plane, ShaktI most actIvely manIfests through female embodIment and fertIlIty, though It Is also
present In males In Its potentIal, unmanIfest form

ot only Is the ShaktI responsIble for creatIon, It Is also the agent of all change ShaktI Is
cosmIc eIstence as well as lIberatIon, Its most sIgnIfIcant form beIng the KundalInI ShaktI, a
mysterIous psychospIrItual force ShaktI eIsts In a state of svãtantrya, dependence on no·one,
beIng Interdependent wIth the entIre unIverse

Ìn ShaktIsm, ShaktI Is worshIped as the Supreme 8eIng However, In other HIndu tradItIons of
ShaIvIsm and 7aIshnavIsm, ShaktI embodIes the actIve femInIne energy PrakrItI of Purusha, who Is
7Ishnu In 7aIshnavIsm or ShIva In ShaIvIsm 7Ishnu's female counterpart Is called LakshmI, wIth
ParvatI beIng the female half of ShIva

Yakshì under a flowerìny asoka tree. Sunya, 2nd-1st century
ßC, lndìa

YKSHÌS - belonged to the comple relIgIous belIefs that
preceded, coeIsted wIth and were destIned to outlast
8uddhIsm In ÌndIa yakshI Is a female earth spIrIt, accepted as
a symbol of fertIlIty, beauty, love and the earth by the HIndu,
8uddhIst and JaIn faIths She Is usually portrayed as a wIde·
hIpped, voluptuous woman, who can cause a tree to bear fruIt
sImply by touchIng It wIth her foot The fIgure portrayed here Is
cleverly Incorporated Into the form of a column, the capItal of
whIch takes the form of a leafy tree Her upper hand grasps a
branch of the tree, a tradItIonal gesture In sculptures of yakshI
ThIs posture Is one of gIvIng bIrth, allowIng the pull of gravIty
(the earth receIvIng) to assIst In the delIvery of lIfe The yakshI's
three·bend pose (trIbanga), bendIng at her neck, waIst, and
hIps, Is a stance that suggests a sensuous lIvelIness and maternal
energy ThIs representatIon also shows the fIgure adorned wIth
jewelry and the suggestIon of a transparent skIrt, revealIng an
abundantly endowed female body that symbolIzes the fertIlIty
of the earth

yakshInI Is the female counterpart of the male yaksha, and they both attend on Kubera
(also called Kuber), the HIndu god of wealth who rules In the mythIcal HImalayan kIngdom of laka
They both look after treasure hIdden In the earth and resemble that of faIrIes YakshInIs are often
depIcted as beautIful and voluptuous, wIth wIde hIps, narrow waIsts, broad shoulders, and
eaggerated, spherIcal breasts Ìn the Uddamareshvara Tantra, thIrty·sI yakshInIs are descrIbed,
IncludIng theIr mantras and rItual prescrIptIons sImIlar lIst of yakshas and yakshInIs Is gIven In
the Tantraraja Tantra, where It says that these beIngs are gIvers of whatever Is desIred lthough
YakshInIs are usually benevolent, there are also yakshInIs wIth malevolent characterIstIcs In ÌndIan

The lIst of thIrty·sI yakshInIs gIven In the Uddamareshvara Tantra Is as follows:
.\ìchìtrc %he Lovely ne)
2.\ìbhrcmc Amoroµs ne)
J.Hcmsì Swcn)
4.8hìshcnì %errìfyìn¤),

.1cncrcn]ìkc 0elì¤htìn¤ Men)
ó.\ìshclc Lcr¤e Eyed)
Z.Mcdcnc Lµstfµl)
8.6hcntc 8ell)
º.Kclckcrnì Ecrs Adorned wìth Kclcs)
.Mchcbhcyc 6rectly Fecrfµl)
.Mchendrì 6rectly Powerfµl)
2.Shcnkhìnì Conch 6ìrl)
J.Chcndrì Moon 6ìrl)
4.Shmcshcnc Cremctìon 6roµnd 6ìrl)
.\ctcyckshìnì, Mekhclc Love 6ìrdle)
ó.\ìkclc, Lckshmì Weclth)
Z.Mclìnì Flower 6ìrl)
8.Shctcpctrìkc Flowers)
º.Sµlochcnc Lovely Eyed)
2.Kcpclìnì Skµll 6ìrl)
2J.ctì Actress)
2Z.Mcnohcrc Fcscìnctìn¤)
28.Prcmodc Frc¤rcnt)
2º.Anµrc¤ìnì \ery Pcssìoncte)
J4.Rctìprìyc Fond of Love)

The three sItes of 8harhut, SanchI, and |athura, have yIelded huge numbers of YakshI
fIgures, most commonly on the raIlIng pIllars of stupas These show a clear development and
progressIon that establIshes certaIn characterIstIcs of the YakshI fIgure such as her nudIty, smIlIng
face and evIdent (often eaggerated) femInIne charms that lead to theIr assocIatIon wIth fertIlIty
The yakshI Is usually shown wIth her hand touchIng a tree branch, and a sInuous pose, SanskrIt

The ashoka tree Is closely assocIated wIth the yakshInI mythologIcal beIngs Dne of the
recurrIng elements In ÌndIan art, often found at gates of 8uddhIst and HIndu temples, Is a YakshI
wIth her foot on the trunk and her hands holdIng the branch
of a stylIzed flowerIng ashoka or, less frequently, other tree
wIth flowers or fruIts s an artIstIc element, often the tree
and the YakshI are subject to heavy stylIzatIon

Some authors hold that the young gIrl at the foot of the
tree Is based on an ancIent fertIlIty symbol of the ÌndIan
SubcontInent YakshIs were Important In early 8uddhIst
monuments as a decoratIve element and are found In many
ancIent 8uddhIst archaeologIcal sItes They became
SalabhanjIkas (sal tree maIdens) wIth the passIng of the
centurIes, a standard decoratIve element of both ÌndIan
sculpture and ÌndIan temple archItecture
Yakshì bracket fìyure from E. Cateway,
Creat Stupa, 1st C. ßCE
Second century A0
(Kushan dynasty),
Red sandstone, h.
88 cm, Kate S.

The sal tree (Shorec robµstc) Is often confused wIth the ashoka tree (Scrccc ìndìcc) In the
ancIent lIterature of the ÌndIan SubcontInent The posItIon of the SalabhanjIka Is also related to the
posItIon of 0ueen |ãyã of Sakya when she gave bIrth to Cautama 8uddha under an asoka tree In a
garden In LumbInI, whIle graspIng Its branch

Sculptures of yakshI are often seen In elaborate archItectural motIfs on the façades of
temples and stupas These fIgures, often seen as ¨mother·goddesses,¨ date back to the Ìndus 7alley
cIvIlIzatIon (2500 1750 8C), the earlIest known urban culture of ÌndIa s spIrIts of the trees and
streams they were worshIpped by the 0ravIdIans, who had peopled ÌndIa before ryan Invaders
arrIved from the orth In the second mIllennIum 8C ryans brought wIth them a pantheon of
'hIgher' deItIes not unlIke those of the Creeks personIfyIng the great elemental forces worshIpped
wIthout Images or temples, notably Ìndra, god of the atmosphere and thunder , and Surya, the sun
god - cousIns as It were, of Zeus and pollo These gods were celebrated In the famous 7edIc
hymns, composed between about 1500 and 800 8C In SanskrIt, a language akIn to the dIalects of
the Creek, CeltIc and Cerman peoples who moved Into Europe also In the second mIllennIum 8C

ThIs elegant terra·cotta Image of a goddess or semIdIvIne yakshI,
created to be a free·standIng Image on Its own plInth, Is an engagIng fIgure
wIth naturally shaped breasts, a pInched waIst, and broad hIps whose gIrth Is
emphasIzed by a wIde hIp belt made of three strands of beads Her elaborate
jewelry Includes rows of heavy bracelets, anklets, body chaIns, and earrIngs
wIth huge curved pendants Her dIaphanous lower garment swIngs out at her
ankles and an outer cloth that reaches to her knees Is decorated wIth rows of
ornamented tassels fan·shaped headdress and the fabrIc band that
decorates her haIr complete her accessorIes ThIs terra·cotta sculpture was
probably created from a mold but the detaIled carvIng of drapery folds and
tassels clearly show that they were added after fIrIng Clay Images such as
thIs, whIle less epensIve to produce than those carved from stone,
nevertheless reflect a prosperous urban socIety
The worshIp of a mother goddess as the source of lIfe and fertIlIty has
prehIstorIc roots, but the transformatIon of that deIty Into a Creat goddess of
cosmIc powers was achIeved wIth the composItIon of the 0evì Mchctmyc (Clory
of the goddess), a tet of the fIfth to sIth century, when worshIp of the
female prIncIple took on dramatIc new dImensIons The goddess Is not only the
mysterIous source of lIfe, she Is the very soIl, all·creatIng and all consumIng
The goddess KalI makes her 'offIcIal' debut In the 0evì·Mchctmyc, where she Is
saId to have emanated from the brow of Coddess 0urga (slayer of demons)
durIng one of the battles between the dIvIne and antI·dIvIne forces
EtymologIcally 0urga's name means ¨8eyond Feach¨ She Is thus an echo of the
woman warrIor's fIerce vIrgInal autonomy Ìn thIs contet KalI Is consIdered the 'forceful' form of
the great goddess 0urga
KalI Is represented as a 8lack woman wIth four arms; In one hand she has a sword, In another the
head of the demon she has slaIn, wIth the other two she Is encouragIng her worshIppers or
earrIngs she has two dead bodIes and wears a necklace of skulls ; her only clothIng Is a gIrdle made
lndìa, state of West
ca. 100. Cray terra-
cotta. Lent by a
prìvate collectìon

of dead men's hands, and her tongue protrudes from her mouth Her eyes are red, and her face and
breasts are besmeared wIth blood She stands wIth one foot on the thIgh, and another on the
breast of her husband
KalI's fIerce appearances have been the subject of
etensIve descrIptIons In several earlIer and modern
works Though her fIerce form Is fIlled wIth awe·
InspIrIng symbols, theIr real meanIng Is not what It fIrst
appears· they have equIvocal sIgnIfIcance:

KalI's blackness symbolIzes her all·embracIng,
comprehensIve nature, because black Is the color In
whIch all other colors merge; black absorbs and
dIssolves them 'Just as all colors dIsappear In black, so
all names and forms dIsappear In her' (|ahanIrvana
Tantra) Dr black Is saId to represent the total absence
of color, agaIn sIgnIfyIng the nature of KalI as ultImate
realIty ThIs In SanskrIt Is named as nIrguna (beyond all
qualIty and form) EIther way, KalI's black color
symbolIzes her transcendence of all form
devotee poet says:
´ls Kclì, my 0ìvìne Mother, of c blcck complexìon³
She cppecrs blcck beccµse She ìs vìewed from c dìstcnce;
bµt when ìntìmctely known She ìs no lon¤er so.
%he sky cppecrs blµe ct c dìstcnce, bµt look ct ìt close by
cnd yoµ wìll fìnd thct ìt hcs no coloµr.
%he wcter of the ocecn looks blµe ct c dìstcnce,
bµt when yoµ ¤o necr cnd tcke ìt ìn yoµr hcnd,
yoµ fìnd thct ìt ìs coloµrless.´
FamakrIshna Paramhansa (18J6·86)
KalI's nudIty has a sImIlar meanIng Ìn many Instances
she Is descrIbed as garbed In space or sky clad Ìn her
absolute, prImordIal nakedness she Is free from all coverIng
of IllusIon She Is ature (PrakrItI In SanskrIt), strIpped of
'clothes' Ìt symbolIzes that she Is completely beyond name
and form, completely beyond the Illusory effects of maya
(false conscIousness) Her nudIty Is saId to represent totally
IllumIned conscIousness, unaffected by maya KalI Is the
brIght fIre of truth, whIch cannot be hIdden by the clothes of
Ignorance Such truth sImply burns them away
4 contemporory botik depictino the fierce
ooddess uuroo in bott/e
A replìca of the 0akshìneswar ßhavatarìnì Kalì
ìna temple ìn Calìfornìa, U.S.A.

She Is full·breasted; her motherhood Is a ceaseless creatIon Her dIsheveled haIr forms a
curtaIn of IllusIon, the fabrIc of space · tIme whIch organIzes matter out of the chaotIc sea of
quantum·foam Her garland of fIfty human heads, each representIng one of the fIfty letters of the
SanskrIt alphabet, symbolIzes the reposItory of knowledge and wIsdom She wears a gIrdle of
severed human hands· hands that are the prIncIpal Instruments of work and so sIgnIfy the actIon of
karma Thus the bIndIng effects of thIs karma have been overcome, severed, as It were, by
devotIon to KalI She has blessed the devotee by cuttIng hIm free from the cycle of karma Her
whIte teeth are symbolIc of purIty (Sans Sattva), and her lollIng tongue whIch Is red dramatIcally
depIcts the fact that she consumes all thIngs and denotes the act of tastIng or enjoyIng what
socIety regards as forbIdden, Ie her IndIscrImInate enjoyment of all the world's ¨flavors¨
KalI's four arms represent the
complete cIrcle of creatIon and
destructIon, whIch Is contaIned wIthIn
her She represents the Inherent
creatIve and destructIve rhythms of the
cosmos Her rIght hands, makIng the
mudras of ¨fear not¨ and conferrIng
boons, represent the creatIve aspect of
KalI, whIle the left hands, holdIng a
bloodIed sword and a severed head
represent her destructIve aspect The
bloodIed sword and severed head
symbolIze the destructIon of Ignorance
and the dawnIng of knowledge The
sword Is the sword of knowledge, that
cuts the knots of Ignorance and
destroys false conscIousness (the
severed head) KalI opens the gates of
freedom wIth thIs sword, havIng cut the
eIght bonds that bInd human beIngs
Inally her three eyes represent the
sun, moon, and fIre, wIth whIch she Is
able to observe the three modes of
tIme: past, present and future ThIs
attrIbute Is also the orIgIn of the name
KalI, whIch Is the femInIne form of
'Kala', the SanskrIt term for TIme
nother symbolIc but
controversIal aspect of KalI Is her
proImIty to the crematIon ground:
Kclì, %hoµ crt fond of cremctìon ¤roµnds;
so l hcve tµrned my hecrt ìnto one
%hct thoµ, c resìdent of cremctìon ¤roµnds,
mcy dcnce there µncecsìn¤ly.
Mother! l hcve no other fond desìre ìn my hecrt;
Mìnìature paìntìny on paper; Kanyra School; artìst Kaìlash Raj

fìre of c fµnercl pyre ìs bµrnìn¤ there;
Mother! l hcve preserved the cshes of decd bodìes cll croµnd
thct %hoµ mcy come.
Mother! Keepìn¤ Shìvc, conqµeror of 0ecth, µnder %hy feet,
Come, dcncìn¤ to the tµne of mµsìc;
Prcscdc wcìts Wìth hìs eyes closed."
Famprasad (1718·75)
KalI's dwellIng place, the crematIon ground denotes a place where the fIve elements
(SanskrIt: pancha mahabhuta) are dIssolved KalI dwells where dIssolutIon takes place Ìn terms of
devotIon and worshIp, thIs denotes the dIssolvIng of attachments, anger, lust, and other bIndIng
emotIons, feelIngs, and Ideas The heart of the devotee Is where thIs burnIng takes place, and It Is
In the heart that KalI dwells The devotee makes her Image In hIs heart and under her Influence
burns away all lImItatIons and Ignorance In the crematIon fIres ThIs Inner crematIon fIre In the
heart Is the fIre of knowledge, (SanskrIt: gyanagnI), whIch KalI bestows
The Image of a recumbent ShIva lyIng under the feet of KalI represents ShIva as the passIve
potentIal of creatIon and KalI as hIs ShaktI The generIc term ShaktI denotes the UnIversal femInIne
creatIve prIncIple and the energIzIng force behInd all male dIvInIty IncludIng ShIva ShaktI Is known
by the general name 0evI, from the root 'dIv', meanIng to shIne She Is the ShInIng Dne, who Is
gIven dIfferent names In dIfferent places and In dIfferent appearances, as the symbol of the lIfe·
gIvIng powers of the UnIverse Ìt Is she that powers hIm ThIs ShaktI Is epressed as the I In ShIva's
name WIthout thIs I, ShIva becomes Shva, whIch In SanskrIt means a corpse Thus suggestIng that
wIthout hIs ShaktI, ShIva Is powerless or Inert
KalI Is a partIcularly approprIate Image for conveyIng the Idea of the world as the play of the
gods The spontaneous, effortless, dIzzyIng creatIvIty of the dIvIne refle Is conveyed In her wIld
appearance Ìnsofar as kalI Is IdentIfIed wIth the phenomenal world, she presents a pIcture of that
world that underlIes Its ephemeral and unpredIctable nature Ìn her mad dancIng, dIsheveled haIr,
and eerIe howl there Is made present the hInt of a world reelIng, careenIng out of control The
world Is created and destroyed In KalI's wIld dancIng, and the truth of redemptIon lIes In man's
awareness that he Is InvIted to take part In that dance, to yIeld to the frenzIed beat of the |other's
dance of lIfe and death
Kclì, my Mother fµll of 8lìss! Enchcntress of the clmì¤hty Shìvc!
ln %hy delìrìoµs ]oy %hoµ dcncest, clcppìn¤ %hy hcnds to¤ether!
%hoµ crt the Mover of cll thct move, cnd we cre bµt %hy helpless toys
FamakrIshna Paramhans

KalI and her attendants
dance to rhythms pounded out by
ShIva (Lord of destructIon) and hIs
anImal·headed attendants who
dwell In the HImalayas ssocIated
wIth chaos and uncontrollable
destructIon, KalI's own retInue
brandIshes swords and holds aloft
skull cups from whIch they drInk
the blood that IntoIcates them
KalI, lIke ShIva, has a thIrd eye,
but In all other respects the two
are dIstInguIshed from one
another Ìn contrast to ShIva's
sweet epressIon, plump body, and
ash whIte compleIon, dark kalI's
emacIated lImbs, angular gestures,
and fIerce grImace convey a wIld
IntensIty Her loose haIr, skull
garland, and tIger wrap whIp
around her body as she stomps and
claps to the rhythm of the dance
|any storIes descrIbe KalI's
dance wIth ShIva as one that
¨threatens to destroy the world¨ by
Its savage power rt hIstorIan
Stella KramrIsch has noted that the
Image of kalI dancIng wIth ShIva
follows closely the myth of the
demon 0aruka When ShIva asks hIs
wIfe ParvatI to destroy thIs demon,
she enters ShIva's body and
transforms herself from the poIson
that Is stored In hIs throat She
emerges from ShIva as KalI,
ferocIous In appearance, and wIth
the help of her flesh eatIng retInue
attacks and defeats the demon
KalI however became so
IntoIcated by the blood lust of
battle that her aroused fury and
wIld hunger threatened to destroy
the whole world She contInued her
ferocIous rampage untIl ShIva
manIfested hImself as an Infant
and lay cryIng In the mIdst of the corpse·strewn fIeld KalI, deceIved by ShIva's power of IllusIon,
became calm as she suckled the baby When evenIng approached, ShIva performed the dance of
creatIon (tandava) to please the goddess 0elIghted wIth the dance, KalI and her attendants joIned
%he statue of Kalì at 0akshìneswar, lndìa. lf one looks carefully, one can
see at Kalì's feet the form of her prostrate husband, Shìva, beìny
trampld under the feet of thìs fearsome yoddess.

ThIs terrIfIc and poIgnant Imagery starkly reveals the nature of KalI as the 0IvIne |other
Famaprasad epresses hIs feelIngs thus:
8ehold my Mother plcyìn¤ wìth Shìvc,
lost ìn cn ecstcsy of ]oy!
0rµnk wìth c drcµ¤ht of celestìcl wìne,
She reels, cnd yet does not fcll.
Erect She stcnds on Shìvc´s bosom,
cnd the ecrth %rembles µnder Her trecd;
She cnd Her Lord cre mcd wìth frenzy,
ccstìn¤ Asìde cll fecr cnd shcme."
Famprasad (1718·75)
KalI's human and maternal qualItIes contInue to defIne the goddess for most of her devotees
to thIs day Ìn human relatIonshIps, the love between mother and chIld Is usually consIdered the
purest and strongest Ìn the same way, the love between the |other Coddess and her human
chIldren Is consIdered the closest and tenderest relatIonshIp wIth dIvInIty ccordIngly, KalI's
devotees form a partIcularly IntImate and lovIng bond wIth her 8ut the devotee never forgets
KalI's demonIc, frIghtenIng aspects He does not dIstort KalI's nature and the truths she reveals; he
does not refuse to medItate on her terrIfyIng features He mentIons these repeatedly In hIs songs
but Is never put off or repelled by them KalI may be frIghtenIng, the mad, forgetful mIstress of a
world spInnIng out of control, but she Is, after all, the |other of all s such, she must be accepted
by her chIldren· accepted In wonder and awe, perhaps, but accepted nevertheless The poet In an
IntImate and lIghter tone addresses the |other thus:
Kclì! Why dost %hoµ rocm cboµt nµde³
Art %hoµ not cshcmed, Mother!
6crb cnd orncments %hoµ hcst none;
yet %hoµ Prìdest ìn beìn¤ Kìn¤´s dcµ¤hter.
Mother! ls ìt c vìrtµe of %hy fcmìly thct %hoµ
Plccest thy feet on %hy hµsbcnd³
%hoµ crt nµde; %hy hµsbcnd ìs nµde; yoµ both rocm cremctìon ¤roµnds.
Mother! We cre cll cshcmed of yoµ; do pµt on thy ¤crb.
%hoµ hcst ccst cwcy %hy necklcce of ]ewels, Mother,
And worn c ¤crlcnd of hµmcn hecds.
Prcscdc scys, 'Mother! %hy fìerce becµty hcs frì¤htened
%hy nµde consort.' "

The soul that worshIps becomes always a lIttle chIld: the soul that becomes a chIld fInds Cod
oftenest as mother Ìn a medItatIon before the 8lessed Sacrament, some pen has wrItten the
equIsIte assurance: ¨|y chIld, you need not know much In order to please |e Dnly Love |e
dearly Speak to me, as you would talk to your mother, If she had taken you In her arms¨
KalI's boon Is won when man confronts or accepts her and the realItIes she dramatIcally
conveys to hIm The Image of KalI, In a varIety of ways, teaches man that paIn, sorrow, decay,
death, and destructIon are not to be overcome or conquered by denyIng them or eplaInIng them
away PaIn and sorrow are woven Into the teture of man's lIfe so thoroughly that to deny them Is
ultImately futIle or man to realIze the fullness of hIs beIng, for man to eploIt hIs potentIal as a
human beIng, he must fInally accept thIs dImensIon of eIstence KalI's boon Is freedom, the
freedom of the chIld to revel In the moment, and It Is won only after confrontatIon or acceptance
of death To Ignore death, to pretend that one Is physIcally Immortal, to pretend that one's ego Is
the center of thIngs, Is to provoke KalI's mockIng laughter To confront or accept death, on the
contrary, Is to realIze a mode of beIng that can delIght and revel In the play of the gods To accept
one's mortalIty Is to be able to let go, to be able to sIng, dance, and shout KalI Is |other to her
devotees not because she protects them from the way thIngs really are but because she reveals to
them theIr mortalIty and thus releases them to act fully and freely, releases them from the
IncredIble, bIndIng web of ¨adult¨ pretense, practIcalIty, and ratIonalIty

|onotheIst cultures, whIch recognIse only one central deIty, generally characterIze that deIty as
male, ImplIcItly by grammatIcally usIng masculIne gender, but also eplIcItly through terms such as
¨ather¨ or ¨Lord¨ Ìn all monotheIstIc relIgIons, however, there are mystIc undercurrents whIch
emphasIze the femInIne aspects of the godhead, eg the CollyrIdIans In the tIme of early
ChrIstIanIty, who vIewed |ary as a goddess, the medIeval vIsIonary JulIan of orwIch, the JudaIc
ShekInah and the CnostIc SophIa tradItIons

ccordIng to Zohar, LIlIth Is the name of dam's fIrst wIfe, who was created at the same
tIme as dam She left dam and refused to return to the Carden of Eden after she mated wIth the
demon Samael Her story was greatly developed, durIng the |Iddle ges, In the tradItIon of
ggadIc mIdrashIm, the Zohar and JewIsh mystIcIsm

The Zohar tradItIon has Influenced JewIsh folkore, whIch postulates Cod created dam to
marry a woman named LIlIth DutsIde of JewIsh tradItIon, LIlIth was assocIated wIth the |other
Coddess, Ìnanna - later known as both Ìshtar and sherah Ìn The EpIc of CIlgamesh, CIlgamesh was
saId to have destroyed a tree that was In a sacred grove dedIcated to the goddess
Ìshtar/Ìnanna/sherah LIlIth ran Into the wIlderness In despaIr She then Is depIcted In the Talmud
and Kabbalah as fIrst wIfe to Cod's fIrst creatIon of man, dam Ìn tIme, as stated In the Dld
Testament, the Hebrew followers contInued to worshIp ¨alse Ìdols¨, lIke sherah, as beIng as
powerful as Cod JeremIah speaks of hIs (and Cod's) dIspleasure at thIs behavIor to the Hebrew
people about the worshIp of the goddess In the Dld Testament LIlIth Is banIshed from dam and
Cod's presence when she Is dIscovered to be a ¨demon¨ and Eve becomes dam's wIfe LIlIth then
takes the form of the serpent In her jealous rage at beIng dIsplaced as dam's wIfe LIlIth as
serpent then proceeds to trIck Eve Into eatIng the fruIt from the tree of knowledge and In thIs way
Is responsIble for the downfall of all of mankInd Ìt Is worthwhIle to note here that In relIgIons pre·
datIng JudaIsm, the serpent was known to be assocIated wIth wIsdom and re·bIrth (wIth the
sheddIng of Its skIn)

JudaIsm Is a PatrIarchal relIgIon, wIth emphasIs beIng placed on Cod as havIng creatIng
dam In hIs own Image Eve Is a secondary addItIon to creatIon, havIng been created from dam's
rIb Cod Is referred to as ¨He¨ and famIly lInes through braham are followed In a PatrIlInear
fashIon The concept of a Coddess seems to be absent from all but the orIgInal CreatIon myth
whIch some scholars say appears have roots In the nearby 8abylonIan creatIon myth, Enuma ElIs

The followIng female deItIes are mentIoned In promInent Hebrew tets:
W A¤rct 8ct Mchlct
W Ancth
W Asherch
W Ashìmc
W Astcrte
W Eìsheth
W Lìlìth

Ìn Kabbalah, the mystIcal aspect of JudaIsm, the IndwellIng aspect of Cod, also known as ShekInah,
Is consIdered to be the femInIne aspect of Cod KabbalIsts also know the soul as ¨She¨ ConsIder
thIs petItIon to the dIvIne from the tradItIon of mystIcal JudaIsm: ´My soµl cches to receìve yoµr

love. nly by the tenderness of yoµr lì¤ht ccn she be hecled. En¤c¤e my soµl thct she mcy tcste
yoµr ecstcsy.´

|ary, the |other of Jesus E |arIan devotIon
Mcry the 0cwn, Chrìst the perfect 0cy;
Mcry the 6cte; Chrìst the hecvenly wcy.

Mcry the Root, Chrìst the mystìc vìne;
Mcry the 6rcpe; Chrìst the sccred wìne.

Mcry the Whect·shecf, Chrìst the lìvìn¤ 8recd;
Mcry the Rose tree; Chrìst the Rose blood·red.

Mcry the Font; Chrìst the clecnsìn¤ Flood;
Mcry the Chclìce; Chrìst the scvìn¤ 8lood.

Mcry the %emple, Chrìst the temple's Lord.
Mcry the Shrìne, Chrìst 6od cdored.

Mcry the 8eccon, Chrìst the Hcven's Rest;
Mcry the Mìrror, Chrìst the \ìsìon blest.
|edIeval Hymn

Ìn ChrIstIanIty, worshIp of any other deIty besIdes the
TrInIty was deemed heretIcal, but veneratIon for |ary, the
mother of Jesus ChrIst, as an especIally prIvIleged saInt-
though not as a deIty- has contInued sInce the begInnIng of
the CatholIc faIth |arIan devotIon sImIlar to thIs kInd Is also
found In Eastern Drthodoy and sometImes In nglIcanIsm, though not In the majorIty of
denomInatIons of ProtestantIsm

The 7IrgIn |ary fIrst appears In Western art In a grave sIte, a Foman catacomb of the second
century of the common era (CE) She Is nursIng the Infant Jesus whIle a male fIgure net to her
poInts to a star The paIntIng tells the story of Jesus' bIrth as told In the Cospel accordIng to
|atthew (1:9·12) Ìt suggests that the dead shall eventually be reborn, because Jesus was the
|essIah who has come to save people from theIr sIns (|att 1:20 ·21)

To ordInary Fomans, who belIeved In the old gods and hadn't read the Cospels or other
ChrIstIan lIterature, an Image of a mother nursIng her baby wouldn't have suggested rebIrth or
resurrectIon They would have seen It as a representatIon of a woman who had dIed In chIldbIrth
along wIth her chIld Ìt's wouldn't have remInded them of goddesses lIke 0emeter/ Ceres or Hera/
Juno because In Creek and Foman art mother goddesses aren't shown wIth Infant chIldren nd In
Creek myth, the most powerful goddesses, thena and rtemIs, have no chIldren at all

%he statue of the Vìryìn Mary from the
Stella Marìs Lìyhthouse, Church and
Carmelìte Monastery buìlt ìn 1836 ìn
Haìfa, ìn modern day lsrael. %he
statue ìs carved from Lebanese cedar.

The closest analogy In ancIent relIgIon to the Image of |ary as mother comes from the
EgyptIan goddess ÌsIs, whose cult was popular In Fome In the early centurIes of the common era Ìn
EgyptIan art, ÌsIs Is shown holdIng or sucklIng her Infant son Horus HIs father DsIrIs, had been
murdered by hIs enemy Set, but ÌsIs found DsIrIs, breathed lIfe Into hIm, and In the process
conceIved Horus So the Image of ÌsIs wIth Horus Is meant to remInd the onlooker of the eIstence
of lIfe after death

The 7IrgIn had gaIned IncreasIng Importance In ChrIstIan thought sInce 4J1 0, when the
CouncIl of Ephesus declared her to be the |other of Cod She came to be regarded as the great
Intercessor for mankInd and from the sIth century, was sometImes gIven the promInence hItherto
reserved for ChrIst alone by beIng represented wIth the ChIld In the conch above the hIgh altar
The earlIest survIvIng eample Is of c 550 0 at Porec, CroatIa fter the ÌconoclastIc perIod thIs
became normal In 8yzantIne churches

Ìt's hIghly probable that women outnumbered men In the early ChrIstIan churches Some of
them came from hIgh·rankIng famIlIes, unlIke the men, and chastIty was valued by them as a
supremely ChrIstIan Ideal wIth set them apart from the pagan world There may even have been
nuns before there were monks, as early as the thIrd century Ìt's agaInst thIs background and that
of the councIls of Icaea (0 J15) and Ephesus (0 4J1), whIch defIned the 7IrgIn |ary's dIvIne
maternIty and declared her to be the |other of Cod, that early Images of the 7IrgIn should be

Even In pagan Fome, chastIty had been acknowledged as a vIrtue: the 7estal 7IrgIns, for
eample, enjoyed legal and other prIvIleges 8ut when ancIent phIlosophers wrote about It, they
dId so s part of a wIder dIscussIon concernIng self·control and the passIons, the mystery of the soul
over the body Early ChrIstIan teacher conceIved the matter dIfferently They saw It In the contet
of the all and orIgInal sIn, of the guIlt of Eve Ìt was through the 7IrgIn |ary, theologIans
declared, that the fall of Eve mIght be reversed ormerly, women had been the 'gateway to the
0evIl', now, by maIntaInIng theIr vIrgInIty, they could be redeemed

|ary's vIrgInIty was central to ChrIstIan doctrIne from the fourth century onwards for
wIthout It there could be no 'son of Cod' and Jesus would have been a man lIke other men The
CouncIls that defIned the specIal nature of the 7IrgIn |ary were held at Icaea and Ephesus where
she was declared to have been not just 'ChrIst bearer' but 'Cod bearer' or %heotokos, the |other
of Cod Ephesus was the supposed burIal place of |ary and also, equally If not more sIgnIfIcantly,
the place where the great temple of rtemIs or 0Iana, as she was known In Fome, had stood for
many centurIes The cult of rtemIs had only recently been offIcIally suppressed but stIll survIved
In practIce whIch prompts the questIon as to whether the IncIpIent cult of the 7IrgIn |ary was an
Instance of the recurrence of an ancIent archetype to whIch rtemIs·0Iana, Cybele and other
manIfestatIons of the ImmemorIal mother·goddess all belong Early ChrIstIanIty wIth Its 'femInIne'
Ideals of compassIon and non·vIolence would have made such a recurrence all the more readIly
acceptable amId the turmoIl and bloodshed of fIfth century Fome, whIch was more than one sacked
durIng these years by the 7andals

The emphasIs on |ary's humanIty In early representatIons suggests that her cult dIdn't
orIgInate In ear·Eastern or Creco·Foman relIgIon Father, the notIon that she was superIor to
other women developed gradually wIthIn the ChrIstIan communIty ChrIstIans needed to show that
she was dIfferent from other women, free from the bodIly pollutIon that was theIr legacy from
theIr ancestor Eve s the antIthesIs of Eve, |ary was portrayed In the early lIterature of the
church as obedIent to Cod's wIll, especIally at the moment of the nnuncIatIon, when the angel
CabrIel announced to her that she was o bear Cod's son (Luke 1:J8)

Later ChrIstIans put even greater emphasIs on the notIon of |ary's purIty WrIters In the East
told how |ary remaIned a vIrgIn after Jesus was born (ProevangelIum of James 19:J) and that she
herself was conceIved wIthout sIn (Prot 4:1·5) She acquIred some of the femInIne aspects that had
been attrIbuted to Cod In HellenIstIc
JudaIsm: Cod as |IdwIfe (Psalm 22:9·10),
as a comfortIng mother (ÌsaIah 49:15) as a
mother In labour (ÌsaIah 42:146) These
were descrIptIons that orIgInally referred
to SophIa, the spIrIt of 0IvIne WIsdom,
and they soon became Incorporated Into
|ary's lIturgy (EcclesIastIcus 24:19·22)
fter the fourth century, ChrIstIans began
to belIeve that |ary dIdn't dIe UnlIke
Eve, who was deprIved of ImmortalIty by
Cod because of her dIsobedIence, |ary
was taken from her deathbed and brought
to heaven by her son

|eanwhIle as ChrIstIanIty spread
out Into the pagan world, |ary also began
to bear a closer resemblance to ÌsIs and
the Eastern mother goddess known to the
Creeks as rtemIs of Ephesus She became
the central fIgure In paIntIngs of her and
her Infant son Ìn the fIfth century,
prayers were addressed to her, and
pIctures of her were carrIed Into battle by
the soldIers on theIr charIots Ìn a Creek
hymn of thanksgIvIng, It's |ary rather
than 0emeter who's praIsed for brIngIng
the harvest (8arIng and Cashford, pp 550·
51) The Partheon, the temple of thena
the war goddess In thens, as consecrated
to |ary's name (8arIng and Cashford, pp 550·51) Ìn a Foman paIntIng of the sIth century, |ary Is
shown seated on a throne wearIng a crown and dressed In a gown covered wIth jewels, lIke the
eastern goddess Cybele

The followIng are some of the many tItles of the 7IrgIn |ary:

Adcm´s 0elìvercnce

Advoccte of Eve

Advoccte of

All Chcste

All Fcìr cnd
Mary, Dueen of Heaven by Master of St. Lucy Leyend,c. 1485-
1500, 0ìl on panel, 199 x 162 cm, Natìonal Callery of Art,


Coµrt of the
Eterncl Kìn¤

Crected %emple
of the Crector

Crown of


0wellìn¤ Plcce
of the Spìrìt

Ecrth 0nsown

0ntoµched cnd

Ecstern 6cte

Ever 6reen cnd

Ever \ìr¤ìn

Exclted Above
the An¤els

Flower of

Flower of
1esse´s Root

Formed Wìthoµt

0elìverer From
All Wrcth

0elìverer of

0estroyer of

0ìspenser of

0wellìn¤ Plcce
for 6od

8rìde of Chrìst

8rìde of Hecven

8rìde of the

8rìde of the

Comforter of
the Afflìcted

Aqµedµct of

Ark 6ìlded by
the Holy Spìrìt

Ark of the

8lessed Amon¤

8rìdcl Chcmber
of the Lord

Forthbrìn¤er of

Forthbrìn¤er of
the %ree of Lìfe

Foµntcìn of
Lìvìn¤ Wcter

Foµntcìn Secled

Free From Every

Fµll of 6rcce


6cte of Hecven

6od´s Eden

6od´s lìve %ree

6od´s \essel

Hcndmcìd of
the Lord

Heclìn¤ 8clm of

Heclth of the





Wood of the Ark

lnventrìx of

Kìn¤´s Mother

Lcdy Most

Lcdy of Chcrìty

Lcdy of Coµnsel

Lcdy of the
6olden Hecrt

Lcdy of 6ood

Lcdy of the
Holy Soµls

Lcdy of Mercy

Lcdy of Pecce

Lcdy of
Perpetµcl Help

Lcdy of

Lcdy of Rcnsom

Lcdy of the

Lcdy of Sorrows

Lcdy of %ecrs

Lcdy of \ìctory


Lìfe·6ìver to

Lìly Amon¤

Lìvìn¤ %emple
of the 0eìty

Loom of the


Medìctrìx cnd

Medìctrìx of All

Medìctrìx of

More 8ecµtìfµl More 6lorìoµs More 6rccìoµs More Holy %hcn Mornìn¤ Stcr

%hcn 8ecµty

%hcn Pcrcdìse

%hcn 6rcce

the Cherµbìm,
the Sercphìm,
cnd the Entìre
An¤elìc Hosts

Most \enercble

Mother Most
Mother Most

Mother Most

Mother of

Mother of
0ìvìne 6rcce

Mother of 6od

Mother of 1esµs

Mother of µr

Mother of µr

Mother of the

Mother of the
Mystìccl 8ody

Mother of


Mystìccl Rose

ever Fcdìn¤

Pcrcdìse Fenced
A¤cìnst the

Perfµme of

"µeen of An¤els

"µeen of

ew Eve

Pcrcdìse of
lnnocence cnd

Preserved From
All Sìn

"µeen of the

"µeen of Pecce

oµrìsher of
6od cnd Mcn

Pcrcdìse of the
Second Adcm

From All Hµrt

"µeen of


lìve %ree of
the Fcther´s

Plcnted by 6od

Stcr of the Sec

"µeen of

Refµ¤e ìn %ìme
of 0cn¤er

nly 8rìd¤e of
6od to Men

Pctroness cnd

"µeen of All

"µeen of
Hecven cnd

Refµ¤e of

Rìch ìn Mercy

Rose Ever

Scnctµcry of
the Holy Spìrìt

Scepter of

Sect of Wìsdom

Second Eve

Spotless 0ove of

Stcr of the Sec

Sµpplìcnt for
Eden´s 6crdens

Sµrpcssìn¤ the

Sµrpcssìn¤ the

Sweet Flowerìn¤
cnd 6rccìoµs Mercy


%emple of the
Lord´s 8ody

%cbernccle of

%emple 0ìvìne


%hrone of the

%ower of 0cvìd

%cbernccle of
the Word

%ower of lvory


%recsµre Hoµse
of Lìfe

%recsµre of

%recsµre of the

%recsµre of

0ndµ¤ Well of

0nlecrned ìn
the Wcys of Eve

0nplowed Fìeld
of Hecven´s

\ìneycrd of

\ìctor ver the

\ìr¤ìn Most

\ìr¤ìn Most


\essel of Honor




\ìr¤ìn Most

\ìr¤ìn Most

\ìr¤ìn Most

\ìr¤ìn Mother

\ìr¤ìn of \ìr¤ìns

Workshop of
the lnccrnctìon

Wedded to 6od

Womcn Clothed
Wìth the Sµn


8y those who love her she ìs recdìly seen,
And foµnd by those who look for her...
ìn every thoµ¤ht of theìrs, she comes to meet them."
·WIsdom of Solomon 6:12 and 16
SophIa (fem Ck for ¨wIsdom¨) Is a comple
bIblIcal fIgure descrIbed varIously as a dIvIne
attrIbute, a dIstInct hypostasIs of Cod, a goddess·
lIke co·partner wIth Cod, and sometImes even as
synonymous wIth Cod She arIses In the later tets
of the JewIsh tradItIon, fIrst sImply as wIsdom wIth
a capItal ¨W,¨ and then, In the 8ook of Proverbs,
personIfIed In a female form The wrItIngs of early
ChrIstIanIty frequently draw on SophIa as a
metaphor for ChrIst The tets that Include
references to SophIa have only been canonIzed In
Foman CatholIcIsm and Eastern Drthodoy, but
many contemporary femInIsts have turned to her
as a general model for femInIst spIrItualIty Ìn
some ChrIstIan tradItIons (lIke the Drthodo
tradItIon), SophIa Is the personIfIcatIon of eIther
dIvIne wIsdom (or of an archangel) whIch takes
female form She Is mentIoned In the fIrst chapter
of the 8ook of Proverbs Ìn |ystIcIsm, CnostIcIsm,
as well as some HellenIstIc relIgIons, there Is a
female spIrIt or goddess named SophIa who Is saId
to embody wIsdom and who Is sometImes
descrIbed as a vIrgIn Ìn Foman CatholIc mystIcIsm, HIldegard of 8Ingen celebrated SophIa as a
cosmIc fIgure both In her wrItIng and art 16th Century Cerman ChrIstIan mystIc Jakob 8ohme, also
speaks of SophIa In works such as %he Wcy to Chrìst.
ccordIng to one CnostIc myth the shapIng of the materIal world was the result of SophIa, who was
often descrIbed as an emanatIon of eternal lIght, an ¨Immaculate mIrror of Cod's actIvIty,¨ and as
¨the spouse of the Lord¨ Through her desIre to ¨know the ather¨, she was cast out of the Pleroma
(the gnostIc heaven) and her desIre gave bIrth to the Cod who created the materIal world
A contemporary ìcon depìctìny Sophìa

lthough she was eventually restored to the Pleroma, bIts of her dIvInIty remaIn In the materIal
Her personalIty Is rIddled wIth contradIctIons She Is at once creator and created; teacher and that
whIch Is to be taught; dIvIne presence and elusIve knowledge; temptIng harlot and faIthful wIfe;
sIster, lover and mother; both human and dIvIne Her very eIstence thus deconstructs all
tradItIonal bInary relatIonshIps, as If she were the creatIon of Hélene CIous or another postmodern
femInIst theorIst requently SophIa defIes the femInIne norm establIshed by socIety s 7IrgInIa
|ollenkott wrItes In %he 0ìvìne Femìnìne, SophIa ¨Is a woman but no lady¨ We see her cryIng aloud
at street corners, raIsIng her voIce In the publIc squares, offerIng her savIng counsel to anybody
who wIll lIsten to her WIsdom's behavIor runs dIrectly counter to the socIalIzatIon of a proper lady,
who Is taught to be rarely seen and even more rarely heard In the sphere of publIc actIvIty
The followIng Is an ecerpt from the ag HammadI lIbrary, It descrIbes the 0IvIne emInIne and
SophIa as perceIved by the CnostIcs
%he %hµnder, Perfect Mìnd
Translated by Ceorge W |acFae
The ag HammadI LIbrary, revIsed edItIon HarperCollIns, San rancIsco, 1990;edIted by James |
l wcs sent forth from the power,
cnd l hcve come to those who reflect µpon me,
cnd l hcve been foµnd cmon¤ those who seek cfter me.
Look µpon me, yoµ who reflect µpon me,
cnd yoµ hecrers, hecr me.
Yoµ who cre wcìtìn¤ for me, tcke me to yoµrselves.
And do not bcnìsh me from yoµr sì¤ht.
And do not mcke yoµr voìce hcte me, nor yoµr hecrìn¤.
0o not be ì¤norcnt of me cnywhere or cny tìme. 8e on yoµr ¤µcrd!
0o not be ì¤norcnt of me.
For l cm the fìrst cnd the lcst.
l cm the honored one cnd the scorned one.
l cm the whore cnd the holy one.
l cm the wìfe cnd the vìr¤ìn.
l cm ·the mother> cnd the dcµ¤hter.
l cm the members of my mother.
l cm the bcrren one
cnd mcny cre her sons.
l cm she whose weddìn¤ ìs ¤rect,
cnd l hcve not tcken c hµsbcnd.
l cm the mìdwìfe cnd she who does not becr.
l cm the solcce of my lcbor pcìns.
l cm the brìde cnd the brìde¤room,
cnd ìt ìs my hµsbcnd who be¤ot me.
l cm the mother of my fcther
cnd the sìster of my hµsbcnd
cnd he ìs my offsprìn¤.
l cm the slcve of hìm who prepcred me.
l cm the rµler of my offsprìn¤.
8µt he ìs the one who be¤ot me before the tìme on c bìrthdcy.
And he ìs my offsprìn¤ ìn dµe) tìme,
cnd my power ìs from hìm.
l cm the stcff of hìs power ìn hìs yoµth,

cnd he ìs the rod of my old c¤e.
And whctever he wìlls hcppens to me.
l cm the sìlence thct ìs ìncomprehensìble
cnd the ìdec whose remembrcnce ìs freqµent.
l cm the voìce whose soµnd ìs mcnìfold
cnd the word whose cppecrcnce ìs mµltìple.
l cm the µttercnce of my ncme.
Why, yoµ who hcte me, do yoµ love me,
cnd hcte those who love me³
Yoµ who deny me, confess me,
cnd yoµ who confess me, deny me.
Yoµ who tell the trµth cboµt me, lìe cboµt me,
cnd yoµ who hcve lìed cboµt me, tell the trµth cboµt me.
Yoµ who know me, be ì¤norcnt of me,
cnd those who hcve not known me, let them know me.
For l cm knowled¤e cnd ì¤norcnce.
l cm shcme cnd boldness.
l cm shcmeless; l cm cshcmed.
l cm stren¤th cnd l cm fecr.
l cm wcr cnd pecce.
6ìve heed to me.
l cm the one who ìs dìs¤rcced cnd the ¤rect one.
6ìve heed to my poverty cnd my weclth.
0o not be crro¤cnt to me when l cm ccst oµt µpon the ecrth,
cnd yoµ wìll fìnd me ìn those thct cre to come.
And do not look µpon me on the dµn¤·hecp
nor ¤o cnd lecve me ccst oµt,
cnd yoµ wìll fìnd me ìn the kìn¤doms.
And do not look µpon me when l cm ccst oµt cmon¤ those who
cre dìs¤rcced cnd ìn the lecst plcces,
nor lcµ¤h ct me.
And do not ccst me oµt cmon¤ those who cre slcìn ìn vìolence.
8µt l, l cm compcssìoncte cnd l cm crµel.
8e on yoµr ¤µcrd!
0o not hcte my obedìence
cnd do not love my self·control.
ln my weckness, do not forscke me,
cnd do not be cfrcìd of my power.
For why do yoµ despìse my fecr
cnd cµrse my prìde³
8µt l cm she who exìsts ìn cll fecrs
cnd stren¤th ìn tremblìn¤.
l cm she who ìs weck,
cnd l cm well ìn c plecscnt plcce.
l cm senseless cnd l cm wìse.
Why hcve yoµ hcted me ìn yoµr coµnsels³
For l shcll be sìlent cmon¤ those who cre sìlent,
cnd l shcll cppecr cnd speck,
Why then hcve yoµ hcted me, yoµ 6reeks³
8eccµse l cm c bcrbcrìcn cmon¤ the bcrbcrìcns³
For l cm the wìsdom of the 6reeks
cnd the knowled¤e of the bcrbcrìcns.
l cm the ]µd¤ement of the 6reeks cnd of the bcrbcrìcns.
l cm the one whose ìmc¤e ìs ¤rect ìn E¤ypt
cnd the one who hcs no ìmc¤e cmon¤ the bcrbcrìcns.

l cm the one who hcs been hcted everywhere
cnd who hcs been loved everywhere.
l cm the one whom they ccll Lìfe,
cnd yoµ hcve cclled 0ecth.
l cm the one whom they ccll Lcw,
cnd yoµ hcve cclled Lcwlessness.
l cm the one whom yoµ hcve pµrsµed,
cnd l cm the one whom yoµ hcve seìzed.
l cm the one whom yoµ hcve sccttered,
cnd yoµ hcve ¤cthered me to¤ether.
l cm the one before whom yoµ hcve been cshcmed,
cnd yoµ hcve been shcmeless to me.
l cm she who does not keep festìvcl,
cnd l cm she whose festìvcls cre mcny.
l, l cm ¤odless,
cnd l cm the one whose 6od ìs ¤rect.
l cm the one whom yoµ hcve reflected µpon,
cnd yoµ hcve scorned me.
l cm µnlecrned,
cnd they lecrn from me.
l cm the one thct yoµ hcve despìsed,
cnd yoµ reflect µpon me.
l cm the one whom yoµ hcve hìdden from,
cnd yoµ cppecr to me.
8µt whenever yoµ hìde yoµrselves,
l myself wìll cppecr.
For whenever yoµ cppecr,
l myself wìll hìde from yoµ.
cnd tcke me to yoµrselves from µnderstcndìn¤ cnd ¤rìef.
And tcke me to yoµrselves from plcces thct cre µ¤ly cnd ìn rµìn,
cnd rob from those whìch cre ¤ood even thoµ¤h ìn µ¤lìness.
µt of shcme, tcke me to yoµrselves shcmelessly;
cnd oµt of shcmelessness cnd shcme,
µpbrcìd my members ìn yoµrselves.
And come forwcrd to me, yoµ who know me
cnd yoµ who know my members,
cnd estcblìsh the ¤rect ones cmon¤ the smcll fìrst crectµres.
Come forwcrd to chìldhood,
cnd do not despìse ìt beccµse ìt ìs smcll cnd ìt ìs lìttle.
And do not tµrn cwcy ¤rectnesses ìn some pcrts from the smcllnesses,
for the smcllnesses cre known from the ¤rectnesses.
Why do yoµ cµrse me cnd honor me³
Yoµ hcve woµnded cnd yoµ hcve hcd mercy.
0o not sepcrcte me from the fìrst ones whom yoµ hcve known.
And do not ccst cnyone oµt nor tµrn cnyone cwcy
l cm the knowled¤e of my ìnqµìry,
cnd the fìndìn¤ of those who seek cfter me,
cnd the commcnd of those who csk of me,
cnd the power of the powers ìn my knowled¤e
of the cn¤els, who hcve been sent ct my word,
cnd of ¤ods ìn theìr secsons by my coµnsel,
cnd of spìrìts of every mcn who exìsts wìth me,
cnd of women who dwell wìthìn me.
l cm the one who ìs honored, cnd who ìs prcìsed,

cnd who ìs despìsed scornfµlly.
l cm pecce,
cnd wcr hcs come beccµse of me.
And l cm cn clìen cnd c cìtìzen.
l cm the sµbstcnce cnd the one who hcs no sµbstcnce.
%hose who cre wìthoµt cssocìctìon wìth me cre ì¤norcnt of me,
cnd those who cre ìn my sµbstcnce cre the ones who know me.
%hose who cre close to me hcve been ì¤norcnt of me,
cnd those who cre fcr cwcy from me cre the ones who hcve known me.
n the dcy when l cm close to yoµ, yoµ cre fcr cwcy from me,
cnd on the dcy when l cm fcr cwcy from yoµ, l cm close to yoµ.
l cm control cnd the µncontrollcble.
l cm the µnìon cnd the dìssolµtìon.
l cm the cbìdìn¤ cnd l cm the dìssolµtìon.
l cm the one below,
cnd they come µp to me.
l cm the ]µd¤ment cnd the ccqµìttcl.
l, l cm sìnless,
cnd the root of sìn derìves from me.
l cm lµst ìn oµtwcrd) cppecrcnce,
cnd ìnterìor self·control exìsts wìthìn me.
l cm the hecrìn¤ whìch ìs cttcìncble to everyone
cnd the speech whìch ccnnot be ¤rcsped.
l cm c mµte who does not speck,
cnd ¤rect ìs my mµltìtµde of words.
Hecr me ìn ¤entleness, cnd lecrn of me ìn roµ¤hness.
l cm she who crìes oµt,
cnd l cm ccst forth µpon the fcce of the ecrth.
l prepcre the brecd cnd my mìnd wìthìn.
l cm the knowled¤e of my ncme.
l cm the one who crìes oµt,
cnd l lìsten.
Yoµ who cre vcnqµìshed, ]µd¤e them who vcnqµìsh yoµ)
before they ¤ìve ]µd¤ment c¤cìnst yoµ,
beccµse the ]µd¤e cnd pcrtìclìty exìst ìn yoµ.
lf yoµ cre condemned by thìs one, who wìll ccqµìt yoµ³
r, ìf yoµ cre ccqµìtted by hìm, who wìll be cble to detcìn yoµ³
For whct ìs ìnsìde of yoµ ìs whct ìs oµtsìde of yoµ,
cnd the one who fcshìons yoµ on the oµtsìde
ìs the one who shcped the ìnsìde of yoµ.
And whct yoµ see oµtsìde of yoµ, yoµ see ìnsìde of yoµ;
ìt ìs vìsìble cnd ìt ìs yoµr ¤crment.
Hecr me, yoµ hecrers
cnd lecrn of my words, yoµ who know me.
l cm the hecrìn¤ thct ìs cttcìncble to everythìn¤;
l cm the speech thct ccnnot be ¤rcsped.
l cm the ncme of the soµnd
cnd the soµnd of the ncme.
l cm the sì¤n of the letter
cnd the desì¤nctìon of the dìvìsìon.
And l wìll speck hìs ncme.
Look then ct hìs words

cnd cll the wrìtìn¤s whìch hcve been completed.
6ìve heed then, yoµ hecrers
cnd yoµ clso, the cn¤els cnd those who hcve been sent,
cnd yoµ spìrìts who hcve crìsen from the decd.
For l cm the one who clone exìsts,
cnd l hcve no one who wìll ]µd¤e me.
For mcny cre the plecscnt forms whìch exìst ìn nµmeroµs sìns,
cnd ìncontìnencìes,
cnd dìs¤rccefµl pcssìons,
cnd fleetìn¤ plecsµres,
whìch men) embrcce µntìl they become sober
cnd ¤o µp to theìr restìn¤ plcce.
And they wìll fìnd me there,
cnd they wìll lìve,
cnd they wìll not dìe c¤cìn."
|ary |agdalene

Alexander lvanov. %he Appearance of Chrìst to Mary Maydalene. 1834-1836. 0ìl on canvas. %he Russìan Museum,
St. Petersbury, Russìa.
Dften referred to as a prostItute, though never eplIcItly called one In the ew Testament, |ary
|agdalene Is honored as one of the fIrst wItnesses of the FesurrectIon of Jesus, and receIved a
specIal commIssIon from hIm to tell the postles of hIs resurrectIon (1ohn 2:8) |ary's role as
a wItness Is InterestIng due to the fact women at that tIme could not be wItnesses In legal
proceedIngs 8ecause of thIs, and because of her subsequent mIssIonary actIvIty In spreadIng the
Cospel, she Is known by the tItle, ´Eqµcl of the Apostles´. The Church's presentatIon of |ary
|agdalene as a whore was a convenIent counter·type to |ary the vIrgIn LIke Eve, |ary |agdalene
was assocIated wIth the dangers of the flesh Ìn thIs form, she typIfIed the prevaIlIng attItudes
towards women and se

|ary |agdalene may be recognIzed as a fIgure of very ancIent, pre·ChrIstIan orIgIn Her most
conspIcuous symbol, the oIntment jar or pot, Is an especIally potent symbol, and one whIch we
recognIze as belongIng also to Psyche and to Pandora Ìts assocIatIon wIth the ancIent mythIc
female prIncIple Is perhaps one of the clues to the endurIng appeal of |ary |agdalen; and It Is also
the unacknowledged motIf around whIch have been shaped the varIous myths and legends that
have been attached to thIs woman over the centurIes
ChrIstIan |ystIcIsm and many ew ge faIths, venerate |ary |agdalene as the 8rIde of ChrIst, an
avatar of SophIa, and even the Co·|essIah wIth Jesus ChrIst, or sImply combIne all three Some
modern wrIters have come forward wIth claIms that |ary |agdalene was the wIfe of Jesus These
wrIters cIte CnostIc wrItIngs to support theIr argument Sources lIke the Cospel of PhIlIp depIct
|ary |agdalene as beIng closer to Jesus than any other dIscIple, Jesus' consort, whom he loved and
loved to kIss The Cospels of Thomas and of |ary also show the conflIct between some of the
apostles and |ary |agdalene, wIth Jesus defendIng her In Thomas Ìn the Cospel of |ary she Is
teachIng the apostles after hIs death, at the request of some and over the protest of others, of
what she had learned from hIm In her prIvate moments wIth hIm

Aß0VE Jan van Scorel. Mary Maydalene. 1529. 0ìl on wood. Rìjksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
%0P LEF% - Pandora by John Wìllìam Waterhouse, 1896; 0ìl of Canvas; Prìvate collectìon
%0P RlCH% - Psyche openìny the yolden box by John Wìllìam Waterhouse; 1903; 0ìl on Canvas; 74 cm x 117cm;
Prìvate Collectìon
7arIous authors and scholars (for eample |argaret StarbIrd and Kathleen |cCowan) have related
the legacy of |ary |agdalene to relIgIous, artIstIc and polItIcal movements In Southern rance from
the |edIeval perIod, for eample the Cathars StarbIrd wrItes of the troubadours praIsIng the
vIrtues of theIr "0ompma"(or Lady, InspIred by |ary |agdalene accordIng to her) ThIs Is a sImIlar
claIm to that made by |cCowan who claIms that the Cathars of Southern rance were "ancIent
followers of |ary |agdalene" Ìn addItIon, John Lamb Lash, ¨an Independent, eclectIc scholar"

who has wrItten several books and maIntaIns a websIte sImIlarly says on page 1JJ that Southern

LEF% Mary Maydalene has been seen especìally recently as havìny a specìal relatìonshìp wìth Jesus of Nazareth.
ln thìs contemporary artìstìc depìctìon, she ìs seen conversìny wìth Jesus, possìbly after hìs resurrectìon after
the crucìfìxtìon. Mary Maydalene has been honoured wìth beìny the frst to wìtness hìs resurrectìon.
RlCH% ln a supreme act of devotìon and humìlìty, Mary Maydalene washes and anoìnts the feet of Jesus wìth her
rance's "cult of romantIc love," Its "Cult of mor," was celebrated through troubadour poetry
dedIcated to "a mysterIous pIous woman, the Lady addressed as 0omna, a shortenIng of the LatIn
domIna, femInIne form of 'lord, master'" He also claIms that the romances of thIs tradItIon,
especIally "TrIstan" - allegorIcally celebrated the love between Jesus and |ary |agdalene CoIng
beyond Southern rance, StarbIrd also lInks the |agdalene tradItIon to the 8rItIsh Ìsles, the Pre·
FaphaelItes and theIr "glorIous Images" of, and poems honorIng, |ary |agdalene StarbIrd also
relates the Jesus·|ary |agdalene relatIonshIp to the "hIeros gamos" or "sacred marrIage"
symbolIsm that can be traced from the very ancIent ertIle Crescent to the tImes of the prophets
of the Dld Testament
8ut even If there Is no hIstorIcal connectIon, there Is defInItely a connectIon to be made Ìt Is an
a·hIstorIcal connectIon The |ary |agdalene·Jesus mythmakIng has common themes wIth the
sacred marrIage rItes of the ancIent world In that an IntImate relatIonshIp Is suggested between a
god and hIs consort The new materIals on |ary now avaIlable stem from the same CnostIc
tradItIon that InspIred the Cathars Those devoted to courtly love, the troubadours, were devoted
to an unreachable femInIne Ideal personIfIed by a lIvIng lady, but some feel these lIvIng women
were symbols that stood for the real object of theIr adoratIon, the Lady |ary |agdalene

The rench tradItIon of SaInt Lazare of 8ethany Is that |ary, her brother Lazarus and |aImInus,
one of the Seventy 0IscIples and some companIons, epelled by persecutIons from the Holy Land,
traversed the |edIterranean In a fraIl boat wIth neIther rudder nor mast and landed at the place
called SaIntes·|arIes·de·la·|er near rles |ary |agdalene came to |arseIlle and converted the
whole of Provence |agdalene Is saId to have retIred to a cave on a hIll by |arseIlle, La SaInte·
8aume (¨holy cave¨, baumo In Provencal), where she gave herself up to a lIfe of penance for thIrty
years When the tIme of her death arrIved she was carrIed by angels to I and Into the oratory of
SaInt |aImInus, where she receIved the vIatIcum; her body was then laId In an oratory
constructed by St |aImInus at 7Illa Lata, afterwards called St |aImIn
Ìn 1279, when Charles ÌÌ, KIng of aples, erected a 0omInIcan convent at La SaInte·8aume, the
shrIne was found Intact, wIth an eplanatory InscrIptIon statIng why the relIcs had been hIdden
Ìn 1600, the relIcs were placed In a sarcophagus commIssIoned by Pope Clement 7ÌÌÌ, the head
beIng placed In a separate relIquary The relIcs and free·standIng Images were scattered and
destroyed at the FevolutIon Ìn 1814, the church of La SaInte·8aume, also wrecked durIng the
FevolutIon, was restored, and In 1822, the grotto was consecrated afresh The head of the saInt
now lIes there and has been the centre of many pIlgrImages


Ì must fIrstly say that for me, thIs essay has opened new doors and avenues of further
personal research |any of the topIcs raIsed In thIs essay have more than pIqued my Interest In
varIous subject matters, for eample, what was the hIstory, causes and effects of Ìndo·European
InvasIons In Europe and sIa: How much was the worshIp of ÌsIs and the 7IrgIn |ary syncretIzed:
What Is the hIstory of the 8lack |adonnas In Europe and what do they represent: What was the
early hIstory of ChrIstIanIty after the death of Jesus of azareth: How many changes were
InstItuted before and durIng the Icaean councIl: Ì can go on and on, but for the sake of brevIty Ì
shall stop droppIng the tantalIzIng morsels of InquIry rIght there The world hIstory Is one gIgantIc
CordIan knot, and It Is up to the hIstorIans, artIsts, wrIters, scIentIsts, anthropologIsts,
psychologIsts, etc to assIst In unravelIng It, strand by strand lso, many of the topIcs raIsed In thIs
essay deserve even further eplanatIon and eploratIon and the brIef mentIon they were gIven In
thIs essay don't do them justIce The Hìeros ¤cmos or sacred marrIage; the symbolIsm of the yonI
and the chalIce or 'Holy CraIl'; sacred seualIty, etc are all topIcs that any books can be wrItten
lso, Ì must apologIze sIncerely and humbly to the reader for omIttIng (not wIllIngly) other
Important cultures such as that of the Pre·ColumbIan merIcas, ChIna and East sIa; and also the
role and Importance of women In ÌslamIc spIrItualIty and relIgIon or the sake of brevIty and the
tIme lImIt on the essay, Ì decIded Ì would deal wIth those topIcs In another essay, hopefully very
soon In the future, as Ì see that In semester two, our rt hIstory class wIll be dealIng wIth, among
others, the vIsual arts of the ÌslamIc, PacIfIc and East sIan cultures 8ut Ì wIll mentIon brIefly that
In Ìslam, the 0IvIne emInIne Is very much prevalent; partIcularly In ShIa Ìslam, much emphasIs Is
placed on the Prophet |uhammad's (Peace be Upon hIm) daughter, atIma l·Zahra ZaInab l·
Kubra, hIs grand·daughter Is also a very Important and revered woman; It was she who started the
fIrst majalIs ( meetIngs In whIch elegIes of the martyrdom of Husayn Ibn lI are recIted) These
majalIses are now a central and Integral feature of ShIa Ìslam lso, In SufIsm, Cod Is often
referred to as 'She' and 'The 8eloved' In many of the rubaIyat of the most celebrated SufI poets
and mystIcs such as Hafez ShIrazI, Shams l TabrIz and FumI, to name a few Cod Is seen In Ìslam
as beIng comprIsed of male and female elements and beIng neIther male nor female Ìn the rabIc
statement of ßìsmìllahìr Ramhanìr Raheem, 'Al-Rahman' and 'Al-Raheem' are both femInIne
names and attrIbutes of Cod and share In rabIc, the root word for 'womb'
0urIng my research for thIs essay, my eyes have been opened concernIng many facts and
dIstortIons surroundIng the 0IvIne emInIne In the hIstory of vIsual culture and relIgIon Ì belIeve Ì
could have wrItten much more, but as the page count of thIs essay Is pushIng one hundred pages, Ì
shall stop here for now 8ut Ì must reIterate that the materIal presented In thIs essay Is just the tIp
of the proverbIal Iceberg - Indeed, vast lIbrarIes can be wrItten on the subject of the 0IvIne
emInIne In vIsual culture and relIgIon, and that has precIsely been done
Through almost one hundred pages of tantalIzIng InformatIon, Ì saw very dIstInct contInuous
threads connectIng related and unrelated InformatIon They seemed to summarIze very basIc and
Important InformatIon central to the hIstory of the 0IvIne emInIne:
1 t some poInt In human hIstory and eIstence, the prIncIple of the 0IvIne emInIne was of
more ImmedIate sIgnIfIcance and even superIor to, that of the male prIncIple
2 0ue to changes In the socIety's mode of productIon (to use |ar's term), or from
devastatIng wars and foreIgn InvasIons, these socIetIes gradually became more patrIarchal
and thIs eventually lead to a declIne In the Importance of the 0IvIne emInIne
J WIth the comIng of the brahamIc relIgIons (JudaIsm, ChrIstIanIty, Ìslam) the 0IvIne
emInIne was almost completely eclIpsed, ecept for a few pIeces here and there

Ìndeed, the above poInts are not unIque to me, but have been conclusIons for thousands of
scholars, psychologIsts, anthropologIsts, hIstorIans, etc In theIr process of research on sImIlar
subject matter Ì belIeve that further research and attentIon should be gIven to topIcs such as thIs,
because ultImately, the socIetal benefIts of such research can be a 'healIng' In the socIety of the
negatIve effects of male domInatIon and patrIarchal structures of relIgIon, famIly, relatIonshIps Ì
belIeve that such research can empower women and others to have more confIdence In themselves
and see theIr value and place In the larger scheme of thIngs
The 0IvIne emInIne plays a very Important part In the mythologIes and spIrItualtIes of many
relIgIons and It has resurfaced In the Western world after nearly two thousand years of the
7atIcan's domInatIon Ìt can only grow In IncreasIng Importance now, wIth the rIse of the femInIst
movement, ew ge relIgIons and spIrItual movements such as eopaganIsm and WIcca
Ìn closIng, Ì would lIke to emphasIze the poInt that the 0IvIne emInIne Is a truly global force to be
reckoned wIth In vIsual culture and global relIgIon She eIsts everywhere, under many guIses and
wIth many names, but the essence behInd the mask Is stIll the same


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O |argaret StarbIrd %he Womcn wìth the Alcbcster 1cr: Mcry Mc¤dclen cnd the Holy 6rcìl,199J
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O |argaret StarbIrd %he Femìnìne Fcce of Chrìstìcnìty, 200J

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