Monday, April 17, 2006

Sorry, NO gods Allowed

I challenge you: name one Western or Middle Eastern Goddess not splattered in some way under the thumb of violent male gods. Hera, Ishtar, Hecate, Minerva, Diana, Demeter, Freya, Brighid, Cerridwen, the Morrigan, Kali, Aphrodite -- all of them existed in pantheons with brutal male gods hanging over their heads, raping them, tearing them to shreds, killing their beloveds, or otherwise beating them up in some way, shape or form.

To find Goddesses free of this tripe, how far back do we need to go? The answer: To 1450 BCE and the ancient Minoans:

"… The most apparent characteristic of Minoan religion was that it was polytheistic and matriarchal, that is, a goddess religion; the gods were all female, not a single male god has been identified until later periods.

"Many religious and cultural scholars now believe that almost all religions began as matriarchal religions, even the Hebrew religion (where Yahweh is frequently referred to as physically female), but adopted patriarchal models in later incarnations.

"… The Cretans … do not seem to have evolved either gender inequality nor adapted their religion to a male-centered universe. The legacy of the goddess religion seems to still be alive today. Both Greece and Crete are Greek Orthodox Christian. In Greece, however, only women regularly swear by the name of the Virgin Mary, while in Crete both men and women swear by her name, particularly the epithet, "Panagia," or "All-Holy."

"The head of the Minoan pantheon seems to have been an all-powerful goddess which ruled everything in the universe. This deity was a mother deity, that is, her relationship to the world was as mother to offspring, which is a fundamentally different relation than the relationship of the father to his offspring.

"This is an impossibly difficult difference to really understand, but Sigmund Freud in Moses and Monotheism hints at its fundamental aspect. The relationship between a mother and offspring is a real, biological relationship that can be concretely demonstrated (the child comes from the mother).

"The relationship to the father is also a biological relationship, but it can only be inferred (because the child doesn't come directly from the father's body). It is inferred symbolically, that is, the child looks like the father. One aspect of goddess religion, then, is a fundamentally closer relationship, kinship and otherwise, to the deity, whereas god religions tend to stress distance. These, however, are only guesses because so little comes down to us about goddess religions of antiquity.

"… There are numerous representations of goddesses, which leads to the conclusion that the Cretans were polytheistic, while others argue that these represent manifestations of the one goddess. There are several goddesses we can distinguish, though. The first one we call "The Lady of the Beasts," or the "Huntress"; this goddess is represented as mastering or overcoming animals.

"In a later incarnation, she becomes "The Mountain Mother," who is standing on a mountain and apparently protects the animals and the natural world. … Most scholars believe that the principle female goddesses of Greek religions, such as Hera, Artemis, and so on, ultimately derive from the Minoan goddesses. …"

From a learning module at Washington State University

The above is one of the best images we have of the/an ancient Minoan Goddess. This is a 15th-century BC wall painting from the island of Santorini. Interestingly, even books on the Minoan culture on Santorini often do not show this fabulous piece of art. Why do you think that might be the case, hmmmmm?


Anne Johnson said...

Hey Goddess Friend: the God Hates Fags morons are going to demonstrate at the National Naval Hospital near D.C. on 4/29. Don't know about you, but this pushes me over the righteous edge.

rhondda said...

Are you really putting down all the Goddesses except the Minoan? Do you not think the others may have been subplanted and used to promote patriarchy?
Good Grief! Having a bad day are we?

Athana said...

The saddest thing, Anne, is not Phelps, but all the other Christians who thinks Phelps is just misuing a "good tool" i.e., Christianity. The Old Testament gives Phelps every right to do what he's doing, and with a pat on the back. I blame anyone who carries that book (the OT) around as much as I blame Phelps and his crew.

Athana said...

rhonnda, rhonnda, rhonnda, read again! I'm not putting anyone down. Unless you think the fact that I'm labeling these Goddesses "victims" is a put down, which is getting into a "blaming the victim" thing, which I certainly don't countenance.

Morgaine said...

Interesting painting - it shows a much more sensitive style than the later Egyptian ones. There's nothing stiff in those figures - you can feel the love.

Athana said...

That's absolutely right, Morgaine. Minoan art in general is fluid, flowing, lighthearted and fun compared to the art of the Patriarchals in Egypt and Mesopotamia of the same time period. It lives and breathes; their art is impossibly stiff and formal.

Anne Johnson said...

Hey, girls, my daughter is studying the Minoans in Social Studies, and the textbook says they worshipped a goddess! So there you have it. Long live Prentice-Hall!

Athana said...

Anne, thanks for sharing that! Prentice-Hall gets the Good Publisher of the Year award, in my book, at least!

Anonymous said...

Oh dear! So much resistance from women. Where there is resistance, denial is never far away. Athana, I applaud what you are doing. I am a medicine woman, (Shaman), living in the UK. I have just written a book, (will published any week now), about all this, (out of respect, am not giving any info of my details), as it has almost reached critical mass. Quite a few of us now are acting as portals to bring back the Goddess. The way you respond to some of your bloggers is spot on. One of my journeys is that I have discovered that the 'God' abuse of the divine feminine has even contaminated the medicine wheel. My next book will be all about how it is all backwards: Great Spirit is always placed on the East of the medicine wheel. Great Spirit is considered the masculine principle and is presented as the 'Prime Creator' of all things and is also represented as the number 1. Hmmm. My next major project is to teach the world that the medicine wheel, like so much of our spiritual traditions has been fed to people backwards. There is only one 'Prime Creator' - Goddess, (only she can give birth - big clue to 'mankiind'). Athana, your blog is a gift. Charly Flower

Anonymous said...

Hi Athana, just found your blog & applaud your work. I'm writing a book on the Celtic Goddess Epona. She was a sovereignty goddess & certainly "radical" in that she sometimes carried a scourge (whip). I believe this was a key to a kind of Goddess & Woman-centered 'alchemy' that raised men (& gods) from their crude animal state to higher expressions of reverence, deference, devotion & service to the Goddess. I am tracing her roots to the 'Mistress of Animals' lineage going back to Crete & Sumer (Inanna), & want very much to use the image of the Minoan Goddess/Queen receiving deferential tribute from the ~ ape-like creature (probably male). But I can't find the source of the image in order to get permission to use it. Can you ~ would you ~ help me please? My book is intended as a contribution to the restoration of a goddess centred culture, & have spent the last ten years researching it (not just academically). I appreciate your time very much, & thank you in advance for helping if you can. I can be reached at or you can PM me on facebook (Peter Douglas).