Sunday, February 26, 2006


Ever hear of an English Goddess? Not Irish, not Welsh -- English. Well, if ya have, you’re one up on me! The author of a book I’m beginning says the Goddess of England was named “Sovereignty.” The book? Caitlin Matthews’ King Arthur and the Goddess of the Land. Here’s a snippet from it:

In this volume my intention is to reveal the Goddess Herself in Her specific guise of Sovereignty [Goddess of the Land]. The Goddess of the Land and Her many representatives seem to me to stand at the very center of Arthurian legend. [T]he king ultimately derives his sovereignty from Her.” (p. xv)
In the realm of this Goddess, what was the source of evil? Sometimes it was merely a matter of the king marrying the wrong woman:

Sometimes the forces of the land are out of alignment because the king’s wife is an unworthy representative of Sovereignty [i.e., the Goddess]…. Their marriage is not a true union and the land[/Goddess] reflects this imbalance by ailing in milk and grain.” (p. 17)

From King Arthur and the Goddess of the Land: The Diving Feminine in the Mabinogion, by Caitlin Matthews, 2002.
In other words, brutal, violent Goddesses are unnecessary. Other ways exist to explain evil. Violent Goddesses are inventions of a patriarchy wanting to weaken Goddess religion in general.

What do you think?
Thnx to Susan Seddon Boulet for the painting of the Lady of the Lake (Goddess of the Lake; Celtic)(foto taken from a copy I own of this painting).


lept said...

One is expected to point out the importance of the goddess who creates and destroys: the earth process following thing of the neutrality of those forces around us...the impetus behind Kali (not the patriarchal overlaid versions); the maenads and how they imply the 'cruelty' of the hunt: the lioness in her hunt does not pause for niceties nor does she neccessarily go for the kind 'coup de grace'.
But all of these even when stripped of the various patriarchal layerings refer to interpretations of the world that reflect fear and survival.
Looking at the images from some 'other' cultures' - the Minoan for example, the most violence implied is the dance of/with the bulls: the decorations all tend to describe a curvilinear and inherently nurturing reality...
the stuff about english goddesses must - if there be any validity, refer to those glimmerings of matriarchal imagery that we still retain - but but but there is still a place and an honour tobe given to the other face of the goddess: for us though, she can be freed from the need to half explain accumulated misconceptions.
The reality of our particular freedom means that our goddesses can be that much more free in their nurturing...
but (again thriced)She has to have another face to be effective:
perhaps simply in her relentlessness?

Athana said...

Yes, I agree the Goddess both creates and destroys. It's her sacred cycle: birth requires death, and vice versa. I'm talking here about apparently unnecessary and/or unexpected destruction: a plague; an ice age; sudden desertification. Murder. How do we explain "evil" in Goddess thealogy? How did we do it before patriarchy?

Frankly, most of the time I don't FEEL a need to explain "evil" thealogically. Mundane rational and scientific explanations work just fine for me.

You're right: Minoans did not seem to have any violence in their culture. I strongly suspect that most of the violent Goddesses were invented after 4000 BCE, with the advent of the patriarchy.

I too think that "our goddesses can be that much more free in their nurturing..." The life cycle requires death, and we can honor our Goddess(es) for Her role in that.

lept said...

The second book of Doris Lessing's Shikasa series ('The marriage between zones...' - I forget the full title)- and the whole series, in fact, addresses aspects of imbalance as evil:
WHY are men in particular so easily disbalanced?

Morgaine said...

I take most of Caitlin Matthews stuff with a grain of salt. There really aren't any "English" people. There are Roman blends of Angles and Saxons who were overtaken by the Normans. There hasn't been an English monarch since Mary of Hanover - the Windsors are Germans, like the Norman invaders before them.

Sovereignty is an aspect of Goddess, a ritual assignment of king as the consort of the Great Lady through his divine union with Her as Queen. The romantic overtones are mostly derived from the later Arthurian cycles after the French got hold of them. The origins of sovereignty are older than anything on those isles, except maybe the picts, but there are no records to know exactly how far back they go. There are so many layers of Christianity piled on to Arthur that people actually think his relationship with Guenivere was a romance. She was an interloper. In Pagan tradition, Arthur's proper mate is Morgaine, his half-sister, just as Isis' consort was her brother Osiris. Guenivere not only subverts the natural order, she cuckolds Arthur after. She was poison to him in spite of his divine authority. The Christian bullshit is piled so high that even Marion Zimmer Bradley apologized left and right in the Mists of Avalon for Arthur's king-making taking a perfectly predictable form.

It's so important for Pagans to remember that the perceptions and needs of our ancestors were different from ours. We shouldn't gloss over our myths, nor should we edit them to conform to Christian sensibilities. I get so sick of people pretending to be Pagan when they're really just Christians with some black and red candles. There was nothing gentle in the Bacchanalia when women ran through the hills tearing animals to pieces and fucking each other; There's nothing tame or quaint going on by the light of the Beltane fires. This is a religion red magick as well as white and black, and we need to own that.

I'll step off my soap box now - ha ha!

Morgaine said...

oops - forgot the part about "evil." We don't need one. There are natural cycles of birth, reproduction, and death but none of that is evil. Evil is a patriarchal thing - they created rape, child abuse, slavery, murder, etc and then created a code of behavior they sold to the slaves to make them think they'd be rewarded for their submission in the afterlife. The whole concept of dividing the world into binaries of two extremes is sick and unnatural. We are one and She is Goddess.

Mike said...

The whole concept of dividing the world into binaries of two extremes is sick and unnatural. We are one and She is Goddess.

Of course, you happily accept a male/female binary, and lay evil at the feet of men. There's no better example of an extreme binary. You're really not much for basic logic, are you. Do you intentionally contradict yourself?

So how does the Goddess escape Hume's old problem? Ya'll almost certain are aware of it. Evil - usefully defined as unproductive suffering - exists. The Goddess is either capable of stopping Evil, or she isn't. If she is able but unwilling, she is not good. If she is willing but unable, then she is not all powerful.

I expect you'll say that the Goddess is not all powerful. Well and good, but that brings up a problem: how can anything create something more powerful than itself?

For example: The patriarchy is evil. The Goddess is either able to eliminate patriarchy, or she is not. Which is it?

contratimes said...

Dear Athana,

It seems Mike is far more direct than I, for he has essentially asked you the very same questions that I have raised (and yet he's used far fewer words). He clearly is quicker to the chase. But even for purely intellectual reasons, as mere exercise, his questions are worthy of consideration. I am interested to see how you might answer him.

I have a fairly simple way about understanding things. For instance, if I stand outside, (theoretically) purged of all I've ever known or learned, I see the fecund female of the Earth: I see life teeming abundantly around me. In truth, the whole earth suggests to me that life is all about fecundity, about reproduction. The very fibers of the frozen trees outside right now are preparing for expansion and propagation in the vitality of spring. I get the femininity of earth. And it is easy, observing this world, to think in terms of pantheism: the goddess (in this case) is everywhere, in everything.

That's why I understand that goddess worship may indeed be the oldest forms of religion on the planet: magic happens around us like the way a child emerges from the womb; the earth caring for us like a mother suckling her child. It's easy to see why men and women would have embraced a female god-image.

But I know more than I should. For instance, I know that the very nature I see as so pro-life, so prolific, is also so cruel. Not only is everything around me (and I mean everything) anticipating spring's vitality; everything is anticipating spring's blights: predatory insects, molds, parasites and mosquitoes, heat, drought. Life is clearly a struggle, a struggle for survival; and winter is a rest from constantly guarding the gates (though cold is a nasty friend). Hence, it is not difficult to see that the earth is not entirely at peace with itself; that the goddess does not mind that certain larvae (like wasps) are now wriggling through various hosts, devouring them in order to procreate: that one thing preys on the procreative cycle of another in order to procreate itself. This, to me, is indeed the "theadicy," or problem of evil, for goddess "thealogy."

For this biological lesson must even inform the humans that perceive it. If the lion can devour the lion cubs (his own offspring); or if the lioness can kill the cheetah's litter, then why are humans not to emulate this rule of nature, the nature the Goddess inhabits from fin to stem? How do we reconcile the call to adore the Goddess of nature and yet embrace a law of love the Goddess appears to have no interest in embracing herself? I have said here that there is no peace on this planet: we cannot find it. Last night I watched a wonderful PBS/Nova piece on the elusive Snow Leopard of the Himalayas. But the very mindful videographers who lived in those mountains for four years mentioned how the mountains were silent to a fault: the silence was filled with tension, the tension of the struggle for survival. What "looks" peaceful is not. Why would the Goddess countenance all of this? Why does she countenance the drowning of babies by the hand of their mother; or the eating of a sac of spider eggs by the mother who just laid them?

Lastly, let me note something about Life as it began on this earth. If I have my science right, life did not just spontaneously emerge in a fit of self-fertilizing femininity. Life was assisted in its generation by extra-terrestrial energy: a cosmic sperm cell as asteroid or comet smashed into this planet, a planet waiting like a giant, expectant egg. It was this combination of outside and inside forces that produced life: it is the play of both male and female, of transcendence and immanence, that comprises the life force.

For me, the question is which religion best describes the relation of these two forces without heaping countless (read Hindu) gods and goddesses on us to make sense of our undeniable perceptions.

Again, I bid you peace and mirth. I know you've got some hard questions here. But they are ones we must consider, together, if we are to make our way toward the truth. For it is equally the case that I, as a Christian, am under the similar challenge of reconciling God's goodness with the fact of sorrow. It is no easy task. Clearly, you and Morgaine have not let me pass by easily. But that's a good thing.

Bill Gnade

lept said...

In the early days of the gay movement (as it was then)- before the lesbians had been driven away by the constructs of the gays; we had some fascinating experiences around what was then the emerging feminist stream - discussions trying to re-discover our history (simplist level: the glorious patriarcal linking of homosexual man with faggot - to light the fires of witches)...
but we discovered an annoying tendency (those of us in 'man hating' collusion) that a significant proportion of the men present, even although at the bootom of the pecking order by virtue of their sexuality, were still enculturated enough to dominate the discussions with their drive to create the perfect argument: so busy constructing these mental phalluses in fact that they were completely unable to take the intuitive leaps needed in the flowing evocations that can best be the only approximations of our collective experiences: no right or wrong but a deepening of perception coming from profound listening.

Mike said...

no right or wrong but a deepening of perception coming from profound listening.

And this statement suffers from the same problem as every other form of hyper relativism. To say there are no correct or incorrect statements is to make a statement. Is that statement itself correct or incorrect?

It is easy to talk as you do, lept, because you already have all the social and technological privledges provided by people "with their drive to create the perfect argument [or formula, or political system, or technology, etc.]"

Athana said...

Mike, I certainly don’t think evil comes from men. Evil comes from evil systems laid into the heads of men -- and women. I’m not sure Morgaine is saying that, either. “Patriarchal” refers to a system, not people. Women can be (and are) just as patriarchal as men. Come meet my sister!

How can anything create something more powerful than itself? Why not? What’s to prevent it?

And Mike, Goddess religion in my opinion is still being reconstructed. For 6000 years it has been systematically stomped on and virtually obliterated. I certainly don’t have all the answers. Probably never will.

Athana said...

Bill, there’s something about our way of life in the West that denies us knowledge of death (until, of course, death pays a visit – which it always does, at least once, to all of us).

And I think that makes us fear death more than we should.

Death is a natural part of life. It’s constant. It’s necessary. That doesn’t necessarily mean life’s a struggle. A creature meant to live two days is meant to live two days and then die. There’s not necessarily struggle in that.

I could die tomorrow [knock on wood!] in a car crash, or a plane crash, or of a stroke, or of any other phenomena, but that wouldn’t necessarily correlate with how much of a struggle my life has been.

And you won’t be dead long before bacteria will begin to eat away at your body – just as they do everything else that swims through the Great Mother’s cycle. It’s a kind of cleaning up the Goddess does -- before the next act!

AS to how life began on earth, I’ve seen theories come and go, and expect to see more come and go before I die.

I like your “peace and mirth” salutation and return it to you threefold.

Athana said...

lept – I think you’re so right – that whole thing about competing to construct the best mental phallus – it’s so powerful for men (and for some women too).

And then you jump the chasm from that, to “profound listening.” Suddenly you’re on an entirely different planet.

And Mike, I sympathize with you re: hyper relativism. Sometimes it drives me nuts. Along with postmodernism, and hypermodernism, and the New Phsyics (matter doesn’t exist, etc.).

“Right and wrong” however feels different to me than “correct and incorrect.” And both sets seem simplistic. They seem to smack of the binary stuff that many of us don’t really think is very helpful anymore.

Athana said...

Morgaine, I’ve barely begun Matthew’s book, but I was so excited to read about an English Goddess. I know the English aren’t “pure,” but then I don’t think any group is. I was just reading yesterday about the genome mapping project showing, above all, that every group on earth is a giant mixture of groups from all over. Of course the English were invaded more recently and more often than the Irish, Welsh and Scots – but if you consider the past 6000 years, who knows who has a more mixed genealogy?!

Could Sovereignty be a goddess in the sense that many goddesses are separate aspects of *the* Goddess? I guess I’m still not ready in my own mind to resolve that issue of “one Goddess or many.”

There are professional archaeologists who think that, when the ancient Minoans were driven from Crete ca 1450 BCE, some of them migrated to the British Isles.

I agree that Christianity is piled higher and deeper on top of Arthur. That’s why I thought Matthew’s book (based on the Celtic Mabinogion) would help to plow underneath those bogus layers. On the other hand, the Celts were patrists, too. I want to get back to the Britain of 1450 BCE! Ha!

Such a good point to remember: “the perceptions and needs of our ancestors were different from ours.” We can’t be them. Not yet, anyway. Even if we’d want to try to drift back to their way of life, it would take much effort, and, above all, time.

Morgaine said...


"Could Sovereignty be a goddess in the sense that many goddesses are separate aspects of *the* Goddess? I guess I’m still not ready in my own mind to resolve that issue of “one Goddess or many.” "

Yes, of course. I'm just saying that Sovereignty is more of a construct than a "flesh and blood" Goddess, though Matthews seems to be birthing one, which is perfectly legitimate practice. I was just pointing out that she's a little taken with the romance of the late Roman Gaulish interpretations of our myths.

Wouldn't you consider Diana a British Goddess?

Boys, Boys, Boys.

I didn't create the male/female binary - men did that and have used it against women for 5,000 + years. I believe there are more than two genders, but that essentially we are all female, so there are many, but there is one. Even males begin as female in the womb. The either/or, wrong/right, correct/incorrect position becomes nonsense when you get past the most shallow issues to reality. The world is much more complex than two positions can possibly express.

Even the value of "logic" is a patriarchal construct. Emotion and intuition are at least as important in being an aware human. Also, it is a logical fallacy that something must be either "this" or "that" - it is perfectly possible for a thing to be both, or many, and the "many" may inherently contradict others within its numbers. Let go of your Newtonian arguments and think in terms of Quantum Mechanics, where a thing may be "on" and "off" at the same time.

Mike: "To say there are no correct or incorrect statements is to make a statement. Is that statement itself correct or incorrect?"

It may be neither. It may be both. It doesn't matter, because it is a statement, not reality. Carving the world up into neat little boxes and setting them in hierarchies is what got us into this mess. It's going to take a wholistic approach to get back where we belong. Semantic games are a complete waste of energy. Men often rely on them to keep women on the defensive and keep us from using our energy for better purposes. Every word we waste responding to your demands for "logic" and "order" is a word not used to create, to teach, to re-member that which has been divided.

Then there's the fake offense taken that we aren't being fair to men. There's no offense we can offer here or anywhere else that can even begin to approach the offense suffered by our Sisters and their children every minute of every day almost everywhere on this planet. Are we forcing you into burkas? Taking away your vote? Subjecting you to horrible genital mutilations? Keeping you terrorized and in poverty? Passing laws to regulate your sexuality?

It's not our job to make you happy or comfortable- you'll be damned lucky if we continue to coexist with you. (For my part, separatism is looking better every minute.) Our job is to keep this Earth, our Goddess and our Sisters alive and healthy.

Contra mentions life is "cruel" - that's a value judgement. Life is not cruel, it simply is. The systems and the cycles work as they do to achieve a harmony among elements. Tampering with that harmony always comes back to haunt us. Overuse of our rainforests may leave us with no atmosphere. Overuse of fossil fuels may leave us no ice in the arctic, taking many forms of life into the ocean with it, never to return.

Our economy is the ultimate expression of patriarchal extremism. Demanding continual growth, when we know that nothing grows continually except cancer or a virus, is bringing us to the point of extinction. Every form of energy must ebb and flow in its own patterns, and even money would do that if we'd let it. There's enough for everyone, but a sick obsession with everything bigger and better is destroying our planet, our cultures, our people, so that a very few can amass great wealth at the expense of everyone else. A society that gives tax cuts to wealthy white men while its children are homeless, sick and starving is too sick to continue. We're working to put something better in its place.

Offer a solution for that, if you will, but stop playing games. Women's issues are life and death - only the most entitled men have the luxury of semantic sparring.

Athana said...

"A society that gives tax cuts to wealthy white men while its children are homeless, sick and starving is too sick to continue."

So well put, Morgaine.

Talk about evil....

Athana said...

Well, Morgaine, I guess I've always considered Diana a Greek and Roman Goddess brought to England by the Romans in the first century AD. Certainly she was important in England, though. She seems to have been the last surviving goddess in Britain -- all the way up to the 18th century in some parts, according to written sources (and you and I both know She just went underground between then and now).

Matthews seems to be saying that Sovereignty was a proto-Celtic goddess, which would take Her back to -- when? ca 600 BCE? Again, the Celts were patriarchals, so I always like to go back beyond them. On the other hand, I don't think we know much about goddess worship in Britain before the Iron Age.

I'd like to read more about the possible ancient Minoan emigration to Britain ca 1450 BCE. If they came, they certainly brought their Goddess(es).

contratimes said...


Notice that I've not once slipped into the sort of lowliness to which you slip so effortlessly. Imagine if I began my replies with the diminutive "Girls, girls, girls."

I am quite sure I have seen both you and Athana mention that your religious positions are "rational" compared to those "irrationalists" who embrace religious i.e. Christian faith. Now you are suggesting that logic (or the value of it) is a patriarchal construct. In fact, you've used logic to denigrate it, which is quite interesting, as it protects you from having, not to defend yourself, but explain yourself. You have created an out, an escape.

As for intuition, I can assure you that I am employing intuition in every word I write. I am radically intuitive, as are most of the men in my life. Intuition is, after all, reading between the lines, and I am really good at that. And what do you think all those men are doing NOT asking for directions? They are trying to intuit their way to place X from place Y. It seems that it's the women who hate intuiting their way to an unknown place. Who is it that asks for directions?

Or so go the stereotypes. Sad that I should come here and find myself dismissed, not by argument, but by prejudice. I am a boy; a patriarchally-blinded XY-chromosome.

Morgaine, you are comfortable in your contradictions. I am not comfortable in my own. That is why you can dismiss the law of non-contradiction (being on and off simultaneously, by the way, does not contradict that law; there are switches that behave that way); I believe that a thing can't be itself and NOT be itself, in TOTO, simultaneously. But that is neither here nor there. What is important is that you think I've made a "value" judgment when I say the world is cruel. And then, in your kind way of showing me my error, you tell me that "the systems and the cycles work as they do to achieve a harmony...", which is, I hope you see, a value judgement as well. But you can be illogical, because you are intuitive, right; I can't make a value judgment, but you can? But the reality is this: If I announced suddenly that I too believe that logic is not really binding; that the law of non-contradiction is so much blahoohey; and if I embrace the goddess-theology already posited here that EVERY thing one touches, sees, hears, etc. is of the Goddess; then you and I are BOTH right: God is male! Goddess is female! Nay, Goddess is male! Patriarchy is WONDERFUL!! Hopefully, you get the picture. There can be countless, wonderful contradictions in this new world you are positing for me to consider.

Where do my thoughts come if not from the goddess herself, if I am something I can touch and taste: if I am made of the very fibers of the goddess's essence? And if the goddess is indeed everywhere, in every thing, is it not the goddess who has tortured, raped and oppressed women? And by the way, the things you list, they do not apply to the men here. I am not performing a clitorectomy on anyone, though I do know quite a few women who prefer circumcised men. Hmmm.

Of course, too, it must be agreed that Morgaine's love of contradictions explains why we all should be comfortable with tax cuts for the rich, since Morgaine has told us that life is not cruel, "it just is." I am glad to be freed from logic's necessity, freed from logic's pleas for justice. For now I am able to accept that there is no strife, no struggle, no disharmony: Life is what it is. Why bother working out a "better place", Morgaine, when life is not cruel after all? Or are value judgments good?

Yes, Mike and I are the ones playing semantic games, because we have phalluses; in other words, we are pricks, pricks of the mind, thrusting our turgid logic-logs into the softness of non-sequential, contra-linear and superior female sensibilities. We are not interested in building relationships; only gaining dominance (you can tell that by how mean and rude I've been, always hurling invective and ad hominems against the wall). Alas, we apologize for being thinking, believing, and kind men. Well, let me speak for myself. Mike may be a belligerent, misogynistic dirtbag. I, on the other hand, am whatever you want me to be. What does any of it matter? I am both a man and not a man; I am thoroughly good (a value judgment) and not good. We are all priestesses...

(Am I wrong, but have I been the only one here doing any "profound listening?" Of course, this is all "statement," and not "reality.")

Peace and mirth,

Bill Gnade

Morgaine said...

Bill, you are nothing but a man disrupting women's space. You're like the guys who take women's studies courses and waste class time defending men. You're not original, you're not morally superior, you're the same old ultra-rational, high and mighty voice of reason attempting to soothe the uppity, angry women.

I've wasted all the time I intend to on you. I'll ignore your posts here, and I'll thank you to stay away from my blog.

Now you're free to whine about how unfair and unreasonable I am.

contratimes said...


I shall disappoint you: there will be no whining on my part, nor has there been thus far. What makes you think I would whine, anyway?

Moreover, this is cyberspace, the land of anonymity. What makes you so sure I am not actually a woman? I could be. Yes, I'd be a deceptive woman, but I could be one nonetheless.

I'll concede that I have offered some serious questions here; I've entertained some serious doubts. The vast majority of my questions posed here (and at your site) have been ignored; or just simply dismissed. I've paid both you and Athana profound compliments: I've taken your opinions and your beliefs seriously. I don't care that you cannot say that about yourself, that you have not shown me the same sort of courtesy. But it is an obvious difference between us.

Peace and mirth!!

Anne Johnson said...

Um, wow. This adds nothing to the above lively debate, but Diana probably appealed to the Celts because they worshipped Danu (i.e. The Danube River). She is a bored goddess who now makes a living selling bootleg purses at a kiosk on 16th near Madison in New York.

If you happen to be in the city, please buy a purse from her. It's a hard way to earn a living.

Anonymous said...

Well, I am a woman and a pagan, and while the men were sort of disruptive and confrontational about it, they both had a point that's worth answering- what does thealogy have to say about theadicy? This does need answered at some point. Pat answers about natural suffering being part of the cycle and unnatural suffering being caused by things outside of the Goddess such as patriarchy do not offer any concrete support to the suffering or those who are worried about those who suffer. No one else has a decent answer to this because their religions are mired in patriarchy. Shouldn't we be able to offer an answer to this?