History / Other Gods / Religion

Goddesses of ancient civilizations – Part I

Goddesses (and Gods) have been worshipped throughout history. Already the earliest advanced civilizations  had a rich set religious female spiritual and temporal archetypes which permeated every aspect of society. I want to invite the reader to follow with me the trail of Goddesses from the first advanced cultures until today’s global culture, from Babylon to Berlin, from Sophia to Mozart’s Magic Flute, from Cleopatra to Madame Mao, from Isis to Holy Mary, from Kali  to peacock worshippers. Part I focusses on ancient Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Part II will focus on the more shamanic aspects.
Life and death, recurring events of nature and patterns in the sky  led to the creation of a number of myths, to explain the unexplainable.  This mythology is the most archaic and profound record, we have of mankind’s essential spirit and nature. Discovering patterns of meaning – the archetypes or cultural DNA –  is how the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung approached religion, understanding symbols, myths, and dreams as a fabric of even today’s globalized culture.


Carl Gustav Jung. C.G. Jung defines an archetype as:  “Archetypes appear in conscious as a universal and recurring image, pattern or motif representing a typical human experience. Archetypal images come from the collective unconscious and are the basic concepts of religions, mythologies, legends and Arts…they emerge through dreams and visions…they convey a sense of transpersonal power which transcend the ego.” The female archetype has definite qualities of her own, such as, life giving, wisdom, and nurturing traits. As with all archetypes, not all the traits of female archetypes are good. There is the evil side of the mother archetype as well, such as, devouring sexuality and darkness, sin and death. All these aspects are taken into consideration when it comes to female archetypes.

Although many of the religious aspects were known for centuries, it was not until recently that historians and archaeoastronomers attempted to find out how important Goddesses really were in religion and daily life. Western civilization is most familiar with the gods and goddesses of Egypt, Greece and Rome. Growing up, we all remember hearing stories of these ancient deities and their mythological relationship with human beings. However, sophisticated cultures of the antiquity already had powerful symbols: The Mother, the Lover from loyal spouse to the evil vampire,  Queen of the Heaven (and Hell), often depicted as bird or serpent, sun or moon, are examples of Jung’s Archetype and our Animas.

Mesopotamian mythology




In ancient Mesopotamia, the Great Mother was depicted as Ishtar, with a winged headdress and holding the ring of divine authority.  Inanna, Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, and warfare named Ishtar as  Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility, love, war and sexuality. She was sculpted with owls at her feet representing the secrets of the underworld and death. In pre-dynastic Egypt she was often shown as a bird goddess with her arms uplifted, again like wings. Another frequent association was with the lion: a fire symbol.  This theme was evident in the statues of Sekhmet. It was said that Sekhmet, carrying the paradox of fierce feminine power, would return in times of epochal change. The New York Times reports that 17 statues of Sekhmet have been found at Luxor in March 2006. Ishtar was the Babylon counterpart to the Sumerian Inanna and is the patroness of Nineveh. She is connected with the Lilith from a Jewish folk tale with mysterious origins that appear to reach back to Mesopotamia.

Die Sinnlichkeit Franz von Stuck (1863-1928)  Die Sinnlichkeit (Sensuality)  etching  circa 1891

Die Sinnlichkeit Franz von Stuck (1863-1928) Die Sinnlichkeit (Sensuality) etching circa 1891

“Istahar” was the Queen of Heaven – Lilith the Queen of Hell. Lilith a demon associated with the winds was  the bearer of diseases, illness and death, and to some Lilith is the first wife of Adam before Eve. In Arabia and Jewish myths she is a succunus. She has many names such as Lilitu and Marililth. In Jewish lore she is the enemy of newborn baby’s because she cannot conceive herself.  Lilith, the darker aspect of the legend, uses seduction for the ineffable name, and subsequently falls from grace for her sexual promiscuity and demonic breeding. Istahar/’Asterah, on the other hand, gets elevated for her avoidance of sin and corruption – and is subsequently rewarded by God for remaining sexually pure. Lilith and Istahar resemble the dualism concept of Ishtar and Ereshkigal, a “goddess of heaven” and a “goddess of hell.” Istahar was elevated as a constellation in the heavens for her virtue, while Lilith was granted the power to drink blood, kill infants, and luring souls to Hell through sex. This has been masterly picked up by Franz Von Stuck who was an influential German Symbolist/Art Nouveau painter, sculptor, engraver, and architect at the “Königliche Akademie der bildenden Künste” (Royal Academy for the Fine Arts) in Munich. He was fascinated – remember that was the time of Freud and Jung  with mythical symbols of danger and femme fatal (see Appendix).

See here a video of “The Sin” of Franz von Stuck modeled after Lilith .

Below is a basic comparison of the legend of Lilith and Istahar:


Lilith seduces God, acquires his Divine name, and uses it to escape Adam’s sexual dominance.

Lilith is elevated as the consort of God.


Istahar/’Asterah tricks God into giving her the ineffable Name of God, which she uses to escape his sexual dominance.

Istahar was elevated into the stars.

When it comes to Lilith herself, she undoubtedly resembles Innana/Ishtar in her darker moments (demonic clinging in ascent from Underworld, blood drinking after a rape), reinforcing the theory that Lilith may have been patterned after Innana/Ishtar’s dark side. This also reinforces Lilith’s role as “Queen of Hell.

Sarpanit – Mother Goddess

Sarpanit is a Mother Goddess and wife of Marduk. Their marriage was celebrated annually at New Year in Babylon. She was worshipped via the rising moon, and was often depicted as being pregnant. In Babylon, we have apparently already man in control, but the woman probably already tends to equality.  Marduk’s original character is obscure, but he was later on connected with water, vegetation, judgment, and magic and regarded as the son of Ea (Sumerian Enki) and Damkina and the heir of Anu. Father Ea voluntarily recognized the superiority of the son and hands over to him the control of humanity.

At the time of Hammurabi, female deities were worshipped as goddesses of victory, as seen from letters of Hammurabi. Marduk and Sarpanit were the deities where the male God takes precedence. In Syria and Phoenicia female deities were more established. Especially in  Syria, the home of Astarte,  religion was also strongly mixed with sexuality as seen above.

Peacock Angel Cult—  Yezidis



Considered a mystery by Orientalists, the Cult of the Snake and Peacock in Iraq was founded on the teaching of a Sufi Sheikh, Adi, son of Musafir, in the twelfth century, although they date their origin back 6,000 years or more.The Yezidi faith is syncretic and combines elements of Judaism, Christianity, Sufism, Manichaeism and the Persian Zoroastrianism faith in parallel and selectively.
In Arabic, ‘Peacock’ also stands for ‘adornment’; while ‘Snake’ has the same letter-form as ‘organism’ and ‘life’. Hence the symbolism of the cryptic Peacock Angel Cult—the Yezidis—is a way of indicating ‘The Interior and the External’, traditional Sufi formula. The Cult has adherents in the West, but was largely unknown,  before CNN put the spot light on them, because of their recent persecution (together with the Christians).

In the Gnostic tradition (in which both Yezidi and Sufism have some roots), the Peacock Angel is analogous to the first son of the Goddess Sophia, who in the process of creating and governing the universe divided herself into seven rays or “sons.” Her seven sons were coeval with and governed one of the seven colors, tones, planets, etc. The  peacock was the first form of the Supreme God and one of the Seven Great Angels, named Tawsi Melek or Melek Tawus (the Ildabaoth of the Gnostic’s).

Aroused snake by the entrance to a Yezidee-temple. It is blackened by soot.
However the Angel’ other name — Shaytan — means “devil” not only in Arabic, even in German Scheitan means Satan. Therefore Yezidi, have often seen as Devil worshippers, also through the manifestation the Peacock Angel as as a snake. This is analogous with the gnostic understanding of the Serpent on the Tree in the Garden of Eden –  interpreted in Christianity as Satan. Furthermore, because to the connection to the Sufi Iblis tradition, some equate the Peacock Angel with their own unredeemed evil spirit Satan. Iblis is a supernatural being — either a fallen angel or a diabolical fiery creature known as a jinn. In his disobedience against God and his role as tempter of mankind, again resembling the rebellious Satan in the Christian tradition. In fact, they are more remnant of pre Christian religion: the peacock angel being the mysterious Phoenix.

Shaushka, goddess of fertility, war and healing

Shaushka  (Sauska) was the goddess of fertility, war and healing in during the Hittite empire. She was also the patron goddess of the famous Hittite king Hattusili III. She is depicted in human form with wings, standing with a lion and accompanied by two attendants.

Egyptian mythology




In ancient Egypt, Nut was the night sky arching overhead and Geb her mate the earth below, directly the opposite of the Greek ordering of the universe. Nut was the mother of all the gods and goddesses. Among her children were both gods and goddesses of the sun. Nut’s longest lived daughter, Isis, was a sky goddess associated with tales of death and resurrection, though in her case it was her husband whom she helped bring back from the dead. This tremendously popular Goddess grew in power over time and continued to rule the heavens, even after Alexander conquered the Egyptians for Greece. When Rome did alike, the Romans fell under Isis spell as well.


isis-and-nursing-horus the child (black maddonna)

isis-and-nursing-horus the child (black maddonna)

Isis, goddess of motherhood, magic and fertility, is not he oldest, but certainly the toughest goddess ever was Isis, the center of Egyptian mythology. Isis was able to traverse through cultures and time,  from Iseum to Rome, survive in Gnosticism, hide in Christianity and is very alive today – 10.596 results at Amazon. Obviously greatly admired in her time, from  around 600 AD. Isis had all the qualities and more of a female  archetype. One particular quality she displayed was her mysteriousness. Man admires a woman for give life, nurture life and fears her secrets way to ways control life,  Isis got me interested to rediscover the history of goddesses.

I am Isis, I am she who is called goddess by women
I gave and ordained laws for humans, which no one is able to change
I divided the earth from the heavens
I ordered the course of the sun and the moon
I appointed to women to bring their infants to birth in the tenth month
I made the beautiful and the shameful to be distinguished by nature
I established punishment for those who practice injustice
I am Queen of rivers and winds and sea
I am the rays of the sun
Fate hearkens to me
Hail Egypt that nourishes me.

Isis was one of the oldest gods or goddesses of ancient Egypt first worshipped as a fetish in the Delta area of Lower Egypt and  the first shrine dedicated specifically to her was built by Nectanebo II (360–343 B.C).   Isis was her Greek name, but she was known to the ancient Egyptians as Aset (or Ast, Iset, Uset), which is usually translated as “(female) of throne” or “Queen of the throne”. The Book of the Dead describes her as “She who gives birth to heaven and earth, knows the orphan, knows the widow, seeks justice for the poor, and shelter for the weak” suggesting that she was considered to be more than simply a mere mortal. Isis was known as “Hent” (Queen) in every Nome, but she was also known by a bewildering number of names and titles throughout ancient Egypt and took on the aspects of many other goddesses. This resulted in a fairly complex relationship with the other gods and goddesses.

The uniting of paradoxes is evident in Isis: the great Goddess of the two lands of light and dark of Egypt. She is the agent for the resurrection of Osiris; by conceiving Horus, she brings forth the basic symbol of transformation in the uniting of the paradoxes.

Osiris, god of the afterlife, the dead, and the underworld agency that granted all life, including sprouting vegetation and the fertile flooding of the Nile River. Obviously greatly admired in her time, which lasted until around 600 AD. Isis had all the qualities and more of the mother archetype. One particular quality she displayed was her mysteriousness. She was everything, so it seemed, but no one really knew why she was all of this. This question allows one to ask, why have all of these traits as listed above, to one woman. The answer is the one and the same with the story of Demeter. Man admires woman for what she can do and for what he will never be able to do. Give life, nurture life and in many ways control life. Isis is the apex of all the goddesses and the mother archetype. The Egyptian culture must have had great respect for their women at the time the story of Isis was developed. This is evident in all the complexion they gave to Isis. She was nature, and everything that attributed to it.

Qetesh, Astarte goddesses of sacred ecstasy and sexual pleasure

Qetesh is originally a Semitic goddess of Syrian or Sumerian origin who has been assimilated into the Egyptian pantheon during the 18th dynasty of the New Kingdom, in which two significant women ruled, Hasheput and Echnatons wife Nofretete. Qetesh is the goddess of nature, beauty, sacred ecstasy and sexual pleasure.  She is known by the following epithets: “Mistress of All Gods” and “Lady of the Stars and Heaven”.

Two Respresentations of Quetesh and Astarte

Two representations of Quetesh and Astarte

Qetesh was originally depicted as a nude woman standing on the back of a lion (a horse outside of Egypt) with a moon crescent in her head. She may also be depicted as a naked woman in full frontal stance carrying lotus blossoms (a symbol of the female genitalia and in homage to Min) on her left hand and snakes (a symbol of the male genitalia) or papyrus stems (in homage to Reshep) on her right hand thereby solidifying her stature as a goddess of fertility and eroticism. She is often associated with Hathor thus she may also take the form of a woman in a tight-fitting sheath dress with a headdress made of a pair of cow’s horns and a sun disk. This connection made her one of the goddess whose face is facing forward rather than in profile in conventional art forms like that of Bes (god of music and dance) and Hathor(goddess of love and fertility). In some occasions, she may be naked woman flanked by Min on her right and Reshep on her left – both of whom seem to stand on a plinth or shrine because their heights are almost equal that of the elevated goddess.

She was also associated with other Northwest Semitic Aramean sensuality goddesses like Anat and Astarte who were familiar deities in ancient Egypt as well.

Her name is from the Hebrew word “qedesh” is subject for debate. Her name is often linked with prostitution referring to a class of sacred prostitutes of the cult of Asherah mostly known as Quedeshot. Many votive and funerary stelae were found about her dating as far as 19th dynasty and was worshipped predominantly in Memphis.

Asian mythology

Chinese mythology

Sexuality greensnake

Sexuality greensnake

When spirituality and sexuality fall into polarity, the sexual instinct, split off from spirituality and a concrete image of what was simultaneously feared and longed for: the swallowing genital of the female. As C. G. Jung put it: “What is  projected is unconscious; that’s the rule”.  Some things to keep in minds: The Snake is an important symbol,  cold blooded and dependent on their environment to keep them warm. Snakes lay eggs, and abandon them as soon as they have made their nest.  Snakes may not be a particularly cuddly, but they are certainly one of the most powerful and transformative. The snake has acted as a diverse symbol throughout history, representing immortality, evil, femininity, and sexuality. The Legend of the White Snake is one of the most famous folk tales in Chinese culture.  This my favorite Chinese myth, a love story about a man and a white snake. The first short tale was found during the Tang Dynasty (618 AD).and completed during the Ming Dynasty (1368 AD) and rewritten during Ching Dynasty (1644 AD).

Once upon a time, a white snake and a green snake with magical power in the Mountain Er-Mei and had transformed into two beautiful young ladies, on white, one green. The white snake fell in love with a man named Hsu Sheng at first sight and got married soon after. One day a monk called Fa Hai saw the couples and warned Hsu Sheng that his wife was a white snake. During the Dragon Boat Festival,  Lady White was pregnant at that time and tried to drink wine to please her husband. Unfortunately, she couldn’t control herself and turned into her snake body in her bedroom. Hsu Sheng saw the white snake and was literally scared to death.In order to save her husband’s life, Lady White went to steal the resurrection plant on the Kunlun Mountain. She failed. But her true love won the resurrection plant and the life of Hsu Sheng was resurrected. The monk Fa Hai suggested Hsu Sheng become a monk to forget his wife. Fa Hai could take care the spirits. Lady White asked a great army of underwater creatures for help but Fa Hai had the magical power too, and asked the heavenly soldiers to save his temple. Since the Lady White was pregnant, she was too weak to fight harder, She gave up the battle and waited for the time after giving birth and Fa Hai imprisoned the White Snake inside the Thunder Pagoda. The Green Snake took revenge by destroying the Thunder Pagoda and rescued White Snake. White Snake reunited with her husband and her son. The story ended here – see a trailer of a real good visualization of this fight.

Since the story  of love and commitment is so popular, It was moved to Chinese opera, movies, novels, comics, cartoons and PC games. The beginning and the ending portions have been rewritten a lot. It  has many layers,  rebellion of Animism with its belief in spirits and a multitude against rigid, priest cast dominated anti-sexuality.

Xi Wangmu

Xi Wangmu (“Queen Mother of the West”) is a Goddess of prosperity, longevity, and eternal bliss. She is depicted holding court in her palace on the mythological Mount Kunlun. She also wears a headdress with the Peaches of Immortality suspended from it.

Xihe – Goddess of the sun

Xihe is a sun goddess and one of the wives of Emperor Jun, the most mighty God of them all. She was the mother of Ten Suns, in the form of Three-legged crows, who lived in a Mubbbllberry Tree. Each day Xihe bathed one of her children in the river and the child-Sun would fly up into the sky and be the Sun for each day. One day all ten sun birds came out on the same day, causing the world to burn. Houyi the archer shoot down all but one of the sun birds which has to be the Sun every day, so that the world has light. She is said to have created the calendar.

Chang’e – Goddess of the Moon

Chang’e (Chang-O) is the goddess of the Moon. She is the wife of Houyi, the god of archery. On Mid-Autumn Day, the full Moon night of the eighth lunar month, an open-air altar is set up facing the Moon for the worship of Chang’e.

Chang’e and Houyi were originally immortals living in heaven, until one day the sons of the Jade Emperor transformed into ten suns, causing the earth to scorch. After killing nine of the sons they were sent as punishment to live as mere mortals on earth.

To restore their immortality, they need to take half of the pill of immortality, which was in the possession of the Queen Mother of the West. However, Chang’e accidently swallowed the whole pill and floated into the air until she landed on the Moon.

East Asian  mythology

This is the Buddhist Earth Mother. Images of Phra Mae Thorani are common in shrines and Buddhist temples of Burma, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos. According to Buddhist myths Phra Mae Thorani is personified as a young woman wringing the cool waters of detachment out of her hair, to drown Mara, the demon sent to tempt the Buddha as he meditated under the bodhi tree.

Indian  mythology


The great and cruel mother

The great and cruel mother Kali

With increasing awareness of mankind  the opposites of the Great Mother fell apart. This would create a good fairy and evil Witch, a benevolent and dangerous goddess. In Eastern cultures have been the opposites often combined in the same shape without the Awareness of this paradox (opposition). In Western antiquity moral ambiguity of the Goddess hat to be solved either wit a devaluation of the Olympic Gods and in Christianity, Job, the Jewish concept of God, the ambiguous Yahweh  became an exclusive good God, against the devil. In the East, however, the intuitiveintellectual attitude of having no right to decide, Kali was quite a different Madonna. The Blessed Mother kept her shadows completely, and was vulgar hell in the clear Deity Darkness
Immeasurably increased. Christianity with all his power of monotheism had to preserve (single deity) and project the sin and evil to man (actually women).
The Hindu religion had a myriad of Gods and Goddesses  and the most revered Goddess is Kali. She is usually pictured wearing a necklace of skulls and girdle of human hands, dancing on the body of her consort, Shiva. In many attributes the Mother clearly complements the Warrior. Wagner’s Valkyries, those tough maidens who took worthy fallen warriors to Valhalla also served as sources of inspiration for heroic action. Just as the Warrior appears most fully when he gives himself over to death in an act of self-denial, the Mother appears most fully when she gives birth. Warriors take life, Mothers give life. This is the source of her power. Both places them outside any human power evenly; thus, she has the power to inspire, to create. Kali, in this aspect is said to be “The hungry earth, which devours its own children and fattens on their corpses. Like all archetypes, they have a shadow. So Hindu goddess Kali embodies a cruel goddess, whose destruction is in the service of creation.

Japanese mythology

Amaterasu – Goddess of the sun

Amaterasu (“shining in heaven”) is the Goddess of the sun and the universe. The Emperor of Japan is said to be a direct descendant of Amaterasu. Amaterasu is the sister of Susanoo, the god of storms and the sea, and of Tsukuyomi, the god of the moon.

Izanami – Goddess of creation and death.

Izanami (“she who invites”) (Izanami-no-Mikoto) is a Goddess of creation and death. With Izanagi, she is charged with creating the first land.  Izanami died giving birth to Kagu-Tsuchi (incarnation of fire) and was buried on Mount Hiba.

Konohanasakuya-hime – Goddess of Mount Fuji

Konohanasakuya-hime is the Goddess of Mount Fuji and all volcanoes. She is the blossom-princess and symbol of delicate earthly life. She is the wife of the god Ninigi.


Greek mythology


SymbIDemeter is from Greek mythology, and is known as the goddess of agriculture, grain crops, fertility and motherly relationships and most known for the story of her daughter, Persephone, being taken away by Hades. Hades was the God of the underworld. The story is to explain why there are seasons and why these seasons are repeated each year. The myth is fairly simple, Hades takes Persephone away from Demeter. Demeter was so sad by this, that she neglected her duties as goddess of the harvest and all the vegetation died. Zeus, who was the God of all gods, demanded that Hades return Persephone to Demeter. Hades did do so, but not without first giving a pomegranate seed to her for her to eat. This seed would make Persephone return to Hades in the underworld for four months each year. Thus giving the world its four months of winter, when no harvest shall grow. Demeter goes through the same cycle of turmoil every time her daughter leaves.
Although Demeter, as a woman, appears to have the ability to give life with the harvests and child, she also has the ability to take that life away. This is one of the greatest distinctions of the mother archetype. To associate Demeter with life giving qualities, one can only expect the opposite in return. Her depiction of the power of growth and harvests is simply man’s representation of his own views on woman and their ability to give life and the awareness of taking that life away. The comparison of the seasons, with Demeter, is also man’s view on life. What man destroys, nature will help refurbish. Just as women can continue to bring in new life to the world. Demeter (Ceres to the Romans) also belongs to the first generation of Olympians and thus being the daughter of Rhea and Cronus and is therefore, sister of Hestia, Hera and Zeus. And equally as Hera, joined Zeus (before her sister) and had a daughter, Persephone. Shet was a beautiful woman whose golden hair probably alluded to wheat, her symbol. She wore a blue robe and was often represented as a matron. To understand Demeter we have to go straight to the most dramatic event of her life: the abduction of her daughter. Persephone was picking flowers when he came across a beautiful Narcissus. To get her, he opened up a crack in the earth through which emerged in Hades (or Pluto) in his golden chariot pulled by black horses, the dreaded God of Hell. Persephone had no chance to escape, despite having called her his father. From there began the passion (in the biblical sense) of Demeter: in desperation, she searched for her daughter tirelessly for 9 days and 9 nights without sleeping, eating. During all this time of suffering, other events occurred, but for simplicity, at the height of his sorrow, Demeter left Olympus and refused to function, which meant that nothing could flourish anymore. The human race was threatened and the other gods who would be deprived of their offerings and sacrifices. At this time, Zeus, aware of impending disaster, decided to take action by sending a messenger to beg Demeter back in vain. While Zeus did not return his daughter, nothing done. Then, because of the determination of Demeter, Zeus capitulated. He sent Hermes to Hades with the request to give back Persephone back to her mother, to the general happiness of mankind.  Hades let her go. Persephone leapt with joy and followed Hermes to Demeter, who ran to embrace her beloved daughter.

Hera – Goddess of Marriage and Birth

susanseddonbouletheraqueenofthegods - Coutesy of SymbolReader Zurich

susanseddonbouletheraqueenofthegods – Courtesy of SymbolReader Zurich

Hera is the Great Queen of Mount Olympus and the Goddess of Marriage and Birth and women. Her Roman equivalent was Juno. Married to Zeus, theoretically ruler of the world, she had a jealous and vengeful nature, particularly against Zeus’s lovers and offspring, but also against mortals who crossed her. Hera was also worshipped as a virgin, and sometimes in triple form as Hera the Girl, the Adult Woman, and the Separated. She had a chariot pulled by peacocks. Hera presides over the right arrangements of marriage, women in general, women’s fertility, childbirth, heirs, kings and empires Hera, Demeter and Persephone represent, respectively, the traditional female roles of wife, mother and daughter.

Vulnerable goddesses in myths were dominated, abducted, raped and humiliated by the gods. But each reacted in their own way: Hera, angry, Demeter and Persephone, sadly. Hera (Junoto the Romans) was the daughter of Rhea and Cronus, created by two deities of nature. A sister of Zeus, Hera became also his wife.  Zeus soon wanted to have her and then had the idea of metamorphosis (metamorphoses of Zeus are a constant in mythology) in fragile bird. Seeing him, Hera took pity on him and cradled him in her lap. At this point, Zeus took his true form and tried to take her by force in vain. And so it was, Hera resists all attacks by Zeus, and imposes the condition only give if he would marry her. And so it was done. After honeymoon she became a difficult, but enduring wife famous for jealousy and angerThere is also another dimension of Hera archetype: the capacity for commitment and unconditional loyalty, so necessary in a relationship.


Etruscan mythology

Thesan, goddess of the dawn, is associated with the generation of life, equivalent to the Roman Goddess Aurora and Greek Eos. Turan, the goddess of love, fertility and vitality, is equivalent to the Roman Goddess Venus and Greek Aphrodite. Of these Turan is the most frequently found.

Persian mythology

Anahita, goddess of fertility, healing and wisdom

In Persia, Ardvigura is the well of the water of life. Ardvigura-Anahita is a goddess of water and love (just as Aphrodite is born from foam). The neo-Persians designate the Planet Venus and a nubile girl by the name ” Nahid.” In the temples of Anaitis there existed prostitute Hierodules (harlots). In the Sakaeen (in honor of Anaitis) there occurred ritual combats as in the festival of the Egyptian Ares and his mother. In the Vedas the waters are called Matritamah — the most maternal. All that is living rises as does the sun, from the water, and at evening plunges into the water. Born from the springs, the rivers, the seas, at death men arrive at the waters of the Styx in order to enter upon the ” night journey on the sea.” The wish is that the black water of death might be the water of life; that death, with its cold embrace, might be the mother’s womb, just as the sea devours the sun, but brings it forth again out of the maternal womb (Jonah motive 21 ). Life believes not in death.

Roman mythology

Cybele the Great Mother



For a period of time Sophia was evident in the city states of Greece and Rome. Her qualities were expressed through the ancient goddess Cybele. Here, also, she was often shown with lions, thought to represent the fiery and ecstatic state associated with her worship. However, Cybele began to fade in Rome about 200 BC as did the goddesses worshipped elsewhere: Isis in Egypt, Artemis in Ephesus, and Demeter in Greece. Similarly, Athene (Minerva) goddess of wisdom; became redefined as the daughter of Zeus, now the goddess of civilization. She was occasionally portrayed with only a small reminder of her heritage: an owl in her hand. To add insult to injury, she was considered to be the inventor of the bridle to tame the horse. The Phrygian Earth Mother goddess who embodies the fertile earth  was credited with the Romans’ victory in the Second Punic War and the goddess Cybele is the protectress of the besieged.One of Cybele’s major attributes was that she protected people at war and, as such, was often shown wearing a crown of city walls symbolizing the defense she offered adherents. Also, as an earth-mother deity in origin, she bestowed fertility and governed creatures of the wild—ancient portraits show her riding in a chariot pulled by lions—and in both aspects she appealed to the Roman public whose lifestyle was still, for the most part, agrarian. Besides that, her powers included the ability to cure disease and predict the future, making Cybele an all-purpose deity if ever there was.

The rites of Cybele revolved around not only the goddess herself, but also a young male consort of hers named Attis, who was said to die and be reborn annually. That is, myth held he perished each fall and returned each spring, an obvious reflection of plants and vegetation. Isis is related to the Cybele with her chubby lover Attis, who emasculated himself. Many terracotta figures witnesses that both were widespread in popular piety. These characters do show how deep the roots of Christian iconography are based in the religious imagery of the pagan “Oriental” cults of the Roman antiquity.

The way Cybele’s adherents celebrated his renewal and restoration involved much lamentation and also wild behavior, ecstasy to put it technically—ecstasis in Greek means literally “standing outside (oneself),” in other words, the transportation of a person out of his or her body which allows spirits to possess it, much the same way mediums at séances act today—and worse yet, during her rites, worshipers produced this feeling of ecstasy by dancing and carousing, whipping themselves into a frenzy where they felt elated, in Latin “carried away.” At times this involved scanty clothing and mixed company.


Ceres was the goddess of agriculture, grain crops, fertility and motherly relationships; equated with the Greek goddess Demeter.


Diana was the goddess of the hunt, wilderness, the moon and childbirth; equivalent to the Greek Artemis.

 Isis Cult – Holy Mary’s great predecessor



The cult of Isis – practiced as a mystery or mystery cult – appealing to those who longed for a club with secret is mysterious to us today involving chorus singing and in general pageantry.  As private worship, the cult of Isis, probably came to Rome itself in the 30s or 40s BCE. About 50 years later, large temples, still private, were built for Isis. The maternal archetype of Isis is often shown, as a seated female figure, breast-feeding her son.
The symbol of Isis in the heavens was the star Sept (Sirius), which was greatly beloved because its appearance marked not only the beginning of a new year, but also announced the advance of the Inundation of the Nile, which betokened renewed wealth and prosperity of the country. As such Isis was regarded as the companion of Osiris, whose soul dwelt in the star Sah, i.e., Orion. From what has been said above it is manifestly impossible to limit the attributes of Isis, for we have seen that she possesses the powers of a water goddess, an earth goddess, a corn goddess, a star goddess, a queen of the Underworld, and a woman, and that she united in herself one or more of the attributes of all the goddesses known to us.

Scholars think that the Roman branch of Isis worship may have come to Rome as Delian and Capitoline cults, from slave trader cities set up  to a free port for commercial purposes by the romans.  Interestingly, temples Isis later became associated with freedom for slaves.  Apparently, the worship of Isis was spreading wildly throughout the Roman world and it made the rulers nervous. Rome and the follower of the Egyptian gods were long hostile to one another. On several occasions, Isis altars on the Capitol were destroyed at the initiative of the Senate. Many of their contemporaries thought it as an affront that Caesar erected  in the temple of Venus a golden sculpture of his beloved Cleopatra 44 BC. As Cleopatra as the incarnation of the Isis mind, which in turn was also the Roman Venus, came to the Egyptian goddess sacred honor.

Somewhere between Tiberius’ reign and 65 CE, the worship of Isis received imperial sanction. Under Caligula and Vespasian, it apparently flourished.  By the second century CE, the worship of Isis had spread throughout the Roman Empire and Isis was being worshipped by people in every level of society, from emperors to slaves. Isis became the Universal Goddess; She was The One.

Jesus Cult – Holy Mary and Mary Magdalene

While Demeter and Isis both have noteworthy mother archetypal qualities, they lack in some of the most virtuous aspects. Within the areas they lack in virtue and morality, the Virgin Mary, who is from Christian religions, make up for them. However, there is another Marry.

mary magdalen st-maxim-cross - petit provence

mary magdalen st-maxim-cross – petit provence

Something of a conspiracy theory: It has it that knowledge of Christ’s alleged relationship with Mary Magdalene. Although the theory probably has a particular appeal to those with a latent penchant for goddess worship in both cases, many esoterics have additionally speculated that Mary Magdalene was herself of royal blood, or a priestess of some Isis/Ishtar cult, and that the Cathars and Templars regarded her almost as the embodiment of the feminine aspect of the divine and the personification of holy wisdom (Sophia to the Gnostics). Another theory has Mary and Jesus founded a dynasty, which fused with the Merovingian line.

I saw Mary Magdalene statues or paintings in almost every church and extensively in Rennes-le-Chateau. It must be remembered that she was a legitimate Catholic Saint. Her supposed relics had been claimed by the Benedictine Monks of Vezelay in Burgundy, Central France. The cult was in evidence there from the mid eleventh century. The abbey claimed that the relics had been brought there centuries before by a monk who had retrieved them from their original shrine near Aix in Provence, where Mary had supposedly been laid to rest after spending 30 years living as a hermit in a remote cave called la Sainte Baume.Mary Magdalene is usually thought of as the second-most important woman in the New Testament after Mary. Mary Magdalene traveled with Jesus as one of his followers. She was present at Jesus’ two most important moments: the crucifixion and the resurrection. Within the four Gospels, the oldest historical record mentioning her name, she is named at least 12 times more than most of the apostles.  In the New Testament, Jesus cleansed her of “seven demons”,[Lk. 8:2] [Mk. 16:9].

Petit Provence is the region in southern France adjacent to Aude and Herault where Mary Magdalene and the others came ashore at St. Maries de la Mer. A painting of Mary Magdalene is at the Church in Les Saintes Maries de la Mer, which is west of Marseille showing the boat carrying Lazarus, Martha, Mary Magdalene and a young girl named Sarah. Also the sister of the Virgin Mary and several others are shown on the boat.  Often the jar in Mary Magdalene’s hand signifies the blood of Jesus. Left is the painting of the Crucifixion from the Basilica Sainte-Marie-Madeleine et le Couvent Royal, in St. Maximin. This is where Mary Magdalene was buried. She is shown at the foot of the cross in a very beautiful almost intimate pose.



The Virgin Mary is the mother of Jesus, the Son of God. Mary is not the wife of God though. She was chosen by God to give birth to Jesus. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus” (Luke 1:31). Mary represents everything good in the world. She has never been touched and is clean and pure. The Virgin Mary represents the woman that man wants. “She will conceive…a Son”. Mary is the subservient to man. She is not represented with any symbols, except for her pureness. She does not have any mystical powers, except for her conception of child without sex. The Virgin Mary is represented as a woman that has been graciously touched by God himself, and gives birth to the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Yet she is still a “handmaid of the lord”(Luke 1:38). The church, the creator of this story, was apparently concerned with the idolization of the Virgin Mary and wrote:
God came down from heaven, the Word clothed Himself with flesh from a holy Virgin, not, assuredly, that the Virgin should be adored, nor to make her God, nor that we should offer sacrifice to her name, nor that, now after so many generations, women should once again be appointed priests…Let no one adore Mary. (Epiphanius 49).

Venus, Roman goddess of love, beauty and fertility

Aphrodite/Venus was generally worshipped in the Greco-Roman period as just one of many divine powers; yet she was sometimes accorded the special honor of a Great Goddess, the single most important ‘principle of life.’ Venus can represent love, beauty, sexuality and the feminine. Other images have her taking on responsibility for life in cultivated fields and among domesticated animals. Despite the apparent disappearance of this goddess in European Christianity during the past two thousand years, she could still be revered in the ‘human’ person of Mary, who gave miraculous birth to the saviour Jesus and was given the extraordinary title theotokos (‘bearer of God’). These archetypal images show us, at the least, that within the psyche-from the time of its emergence in a human being with a brain as large as our own-there has endured a reverence for some life-giving reality that is felt to be divine and experienced as female.


As far back as we are able to trace the origins of our species, we find myth and myth-making as the fundamental language through which man relates to life’s secrets and experiences. The world of female centered myth had its own laws and its own reality. The mythic image is not to be taken literally and concretely as it would be in the belief-system of a particular religion, nor is it to be dismissed as ‘mere illusion,’ as often happens in scientific circles. Instead, we must approach Goddesses symbolically as revealed eternal ‘truths’ about mankind’s psychic existence — about the reality of the psyche and  events that occur in eternal time, always and everywhere. Any myth is very much alive today. Every night in sleep, we sink back into that source of all mythological imagery, the unconscious psyche — the origin of dreams. All of our religions have their roots in mythology and much of contemporary art, literature, and politics is full of mythological themes.The comparative method is the basic key to a symbolic understanding of Goddesses . Through mythology we discover certain patterns which recur in widely varying cultures separated by an immensity of both distance and time. Jung called these underlying patterns ‘archetypes’ from ‘arche’ meaning primordial, and ‘typos’ meaning typical. Archetypal images embody the most essential elements of the human experience and drama. They manifest both as powerful images, and as dynamic behavioral patterns. They are a repertoire of instinctive human functioning, analogous in our species to the instinctive impulse that impels, say, Isis to build a beautiful teardrop nest, or Maria to return to heaven. The generality of these images results from recurrent reactions of human beings to situations and stimuli of the same general order, repeated over thousands of years

Mary becomes Mother of God

Sandro_Botticelli_-_The_Virgin_and_Child_(The_Madonna_of_the_Book)_-_Google_Art_ProjectThe year 431 A.D. was a momentous one in the history of female archetypes.  That’s the year the church fathers, meeting in Ephesus in modern day Turkey,  officially declared that Mary is Theotokos, literally, in Greek, the one who gave birth to God. More commonly her title is paraphrased as Mother of God.  This was an important political step, as it clarified for the theologians that Jesus was both God and man.  Perhaps just as importantly, however, it pacified the people, who were demanding that Mary be acknowledged as a divinity.

Technically, the church denied Mary as divine, as a Goddess, but in practical terms, it conveyed a sense of holiness which made her a viable rival to that other popular Roman/Greek/Egyptian hybrid Goddess of the time, represented variously as Diana, Cybele, and Isis.  As a result of their decision, Mary’s divinity has been able to shine through in art and writing and devotion of those who love her.

Beautiful artwork throughout the world depicts Mary holding her infant son exactly as Isis had done for thousands of years before her.  Many a home today displays a Christmas creche with Mary tenderly watching over the babe who is God incarnate.  Mary is referred to as Mother of God in both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, which together represent the majority of the Christian faithful.

Many people pray to this Queen of Heaven to intercede for them and miraculous cures and protections of entire countries in war are attributed to her and to her icons.  The Vladimir Madonna, pictured above, is, for example, said to have saved Russia from Tamerlane in 1395, the Tatars in the 15th century, and even from Germany in World War II.  A similar icon in Cosenza, Italy, has a spot which was said to represent the icon’s having absorbed the plague in the 16th Century and protected the city’s residents from that dread disease.  And that’s just what her icons can do.

Here is a copy of what is claimed to be a very ancient prayer to Mary, dating to perhaps the 2nd or 3rd century:

We turn to you for protection,
Holy Mother of God
Listen to our prayers
and help us in our needs.
Save us from every danger,
glorious and blessed Virgin

Historical context of the year Mary was named Mother of God

The Roman Empire was ailing in 431 A.D.  In just over 40 years, according to many historians, the Western Roman Empire, based in Rome, would fall.  The West and East had split into separate empires by this time and the Eastern Empire would be ruled for another thousand years from Constantinople (now called Istanbul) in Turkey.  We don’t hear as much about the Eastern half in school these days, but when we do, it’s usually referred to as the Byzantine Empire.  The people who lived there, however, didn’t call themselves Byzantines.  They called themselves Romans.  Culture and learning continued there as the West sank into the Dark Ages and then developed the Medieval culture celebrated so often in legend and fairy tales.  As the West declined, though, Christianity was on the rise.

How did Christianity take over the West? It started about 100 years before the church fathers met in Ephesus, when the emperor of a then united Rome, Emperor Constantine, converted after a successful battle which he attributed to intervention by the Christians’ God.  The whole of Rome was converted officially under the later Emperor Theodosius in 391 AD. Then the empire split into eastern and western halves in 395 AD.  The eastern empire was ruled from Constantinople, a city which had earlier been founded by Constantine (hence the name) as a Christian city. Much later, in the 11th century, the religion of the east, including Greece, Turkey, and southeastern Europe, was to split from Roman Catholicism, becoming the Eastern Orthodox Church.  Orthodox worshippers, like Catholics, venerate Mary.

In the year 431,  though, the church was still more or less united and the church fathers met for the Third Ecumenical Council in Ephesus.  Every time they met like this, theological ideas would be made into official dogma, churches with different theological ideas would be declared heretics and some churches would peel off from “mainstream” Christianity and generally fade into obscurity.  This time, 250 bishops showed up to vote on whether Jesus was God and man both at the same time and, hence, whether Mary was literally the Mother of God.  The pro-Theotokos (Mother of God) faction was backed, not surprisingly, by the Egyptians, who venerated images of Mary reminiscent of those of Isis. Bribes were given and fighting ensued in the streets in the lead-up to the bishops’ vote on this question.  They voted yes, a group called the Nestorians went home really mad (also, heretics), and the crowds went wild, cheering in the streets when the vote was announced.

To understand why church decisions are made and how they are received, it’s often very important to step outside the official documents and take a look at what else was going on at the time.  It’s no coincidence, surely, that Ephesus was home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis.  Artemis (Roman Diana) was a powerful Greek Goddess, one of the 12 Olympians, a Virgin who protected mothers and children, a huntress often associated with the Moon. Her beautiful temple at Ephesus was reputedly torn down stone for stone by a Christian mob about 30 years before the Third Ecumenical Council  met.

Artemis was, in Ephesus, merged, rather strangely, with the Earth Mother Goddess Cybele, who is the source of both the many breasted image of the Goddess (shown, left) and her association with animals. Perhaps most significantly, Cybele was the mother of a god-hero son Attis, who died and was resurrected by her.  Cybele’s worship in Turkey may have been very ancient indeed.  The Greeks considered her the Mother of the Gods, Magna Mater, and her symbolic images are consistent with those of a prehistoric Goddess worshipped in Turkey as early as 6,000 B.C. (That’s 2,000 years before some Biblical literalists believe the world began, and 4,000 years before Abraham became father of the Jewish people.  Also, obviously, 6,000 years  before the beginnings of Christianity.)

The simple fact of the matter, I believe, is that the people needed a divine mother.  They had worshipped one for thousands of years here and with the church becoming increasingly male, patriarchal, monotheistic and intolerant of other religions, the people needed an outlet for their deeply felt desire to venerate the feminine divine.  So it is perhaps no surprise that the people demanded that Mary be called Mother of God. And so she was.  From 431 on, devotion to Mother Mary would grow in art and architecture, song and hymn.  Prayers would go up to the Queen of Heaven, as they had for millennia, but increasingly it was by her new name, Mary, that the Great Mother would be called upon by the faithful.

Here we can see man coming into the monotheism, where Christian belief is today. The Virgin Mary does represent a mother archetype, although it is not as prevalent as Demeter and Isis. Mary’s character is more housed, in a way that can be controlled and can be put into guidelines. Just as times before, man wants what he cannot have. In Mary’s case, the forever virgin.
Man needs to realize that men and women are different, and each has wonderful traits. Though many of these archetypes are brought on by the unconscious mind, which is the portion of one’s psyche which is outside of awareness, those thoughts should be left at the realization that they are thoughts. These goddess or mother archetypes are brought into our societies to teach man and woman the values in each other. To restore balance in one’s life. Demeter, she helped to explain strange occurrences in Greece as well as reveal the importance of woman’s traits to give life. Isis, she kept the Egyptian nation strong and united during her reign by being everything at once. Mary, she had mercy brought into the Christian beliefs against the sometimes stern male God. All three characters are important throughout history, and have managed to keep their legends alive.