World religions / Neopagan religions
Goddess worship: that real “old time religion?“
Goddess worship in ancient times:
Most researchers currently accept the belief that modern humans originated in Africa about 200,000 to 250,000 years ago. Until about 8000 BCE, our ancestors organized themselves into hunter-gatherer societies. Humans alone had developed the realization that their life was finite; that they would all die. This resulted in the development of the primitive religious beliefs. Societies which relied mainly on hunting by men naturally developed hunting gods to worship. Those in which gathering was more reliable generally created vegetative Goddesses. The importance of fertility in crops, in domesticated animals, in wild animals and in the tribe itself were of paramount importance to their survival. The female life-giving principle was considered divine and a great mystery. Some Goddess statues still survive from this era. One web site contains photographs of Goddess statues from circa 30,000 BCE to 1987CE. 1
It is important to realize that many of these findings by archaeologists and historians are speculative in nature. For example, the interpretation that the old European culture stressed the female as divine is largely based on the number of carvings of a female shape found from this era. Some point to the relative lack of equivalent male statues as evidence of a Goddess culture. Others suggest that the female statues might have been the old European culture’s equivalent of modern-day erotic photographs.
This “old European” culture lasted for tens of thousands of years in what is now Europe. They generally lived in peace; there is a notable lack of defensive fortifications around their hamlets. As evidenced by their funeral customs, males and females appear to have had equal status. Many historians and archaeologists believe that:
- Their society was matrilineal; children took their mothers’ names.
- Life was based on lunar (not solar) calendar.
- Time was experienced as a repetitive cycle, not linearly as we think of it.
Many academics believe that the suppression of Goddess worship in Western Europe occurred a few thousand years BCE, when the Indo-Europeans invaded Europe from the East. They brought with them some of the “refinements” of modern civilization: the horse, war, belief in male Gods, exploitation of nature, knowledge of the male role in procreation, etc. Goddess worship was gradually combined with worship of male Gods to produce a variety of Pagan polytheistic religions, among the Greeks, Romans, Celts, etc. Author Leonard Shlain offers a fascinating alternative explanation. He proposed that the invention of writing
“… rewired the human brain, with profound consequences for culture. Making remarkable connections across a wide range of subjects including brain function, anthropology, history, and religion, Shlain argues that literacy reinforced the brain’s linear, abstract, predominantly masculine left hemisphere at the expense of the holistic, iconic feminine right one. This shift upset the balance between men and women initiating the disappearance of goddesses, the abhorrence of images, and, in literacy’s early stages, the decline of women’s political status. Patriarchy and misogyny followed.”
Goddess Worship during Biblical times:
Further south, as Judaism, Christianity & eventually Islam evolved, the Pagan religions were suppressed and the female principle was gradually driven out of religion. Women were considered inferior to men. The God, King, Priest & Father replaced the Goddess, Queen, Priestess & Mother. The role of women became restricted. A woman’s testimony was not considered significant in Jewish courts; women were not allowed to speak in Christian churches; positions of authority in the church were limited to men. Young women are often portrayed in the Bible as possessions of their fathers. After marriage, their ownership was transferred to their husbands. Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ) rejected millennia of religious tradition by treating women as equals. Women played a major role in the early Christian church. Later, epistle (letter) writers who wrote in the name of Paul, started the process of suppressing women once more.
A feminine presence was added to Christianity by the Council of Ephesus in 431 CE when the Virgin Mary was named Theotokos (Mother of God). But her role was heavily restricted and included none of the fertility component present in Pagan religions. A low point in the fortunes of women was reached during the very late Middle Ages, when many tens of thousands of suspected female witches (and a smaller proportion of males) were exterminated by burning and hanging over a three century interval. Today, respect for the Virgin Mary as a sexually “pure,” submissive mother is widespread, particularly in Roman Catholicism.
Modern Goddess Worship:
A renaissance of Paganism, with its worship of Goddesses and Gods occurred in the middle of the 20th century with the re-emergence of Wicca(popularly called White Witchcraft, the benign religion of the ancient Celts) and other Neopagan traditions. Author Leonard Shlain believes that an “Iconic Revolution” has been made possible by the invention of imaged-based technologies, such as photography, movies, television, the Internet and graphic advertising. “Shlain foresees that increasing reliance on right brain pattern recognition instead of left brain linear sequence will move culture toward equilibrium between the two hemispheres, between masculine and feminine, between word and image.” 1
Most Neopagan traditions worship the Goddess and God in balance. However, with the rise of feminism, new Neopagan traditions Wicca have been created in which the Goddess grew in importance, and the role of the God shrank into obscurity. One such tradition is Dianic Wicca.
The Goddess in both Goddess Worship and Neo-Paganism is often visualized in three aspects: Maiden, Mother and Crone. Her aspects are mirrored in the phases of the moon: waxing, full and waning.
The Maiden represents youth, emerging sexuality, the huntress running with her hounds. The Mother symbolizes feminine power, fertility, and nurturing. The Crone is wisdom, the compassion which comes from experience, and the one who guides us through the death experience.
Goddesses have been called by many names by different cultures and ages: Anat, Aphrodite, Aradia, Arianrhod, Artemis, Astarte, Brighid, Ceres, Demeter, Diana, Eostre, Freya, Gaia, Hera, Ishtar, Isis, Juno, Kali, Lilith, Ma’at, Mary, Minerva, Ostare, Persephone, Venus, Vesta, etc.
Mothers and fathers warned their sons of her. She was said to chase boys thru the woods who dared to wander outside the firelight. Especially at night. At first, she was just a thing, just outside their vision range. They would wonder if that bit of white was a skirt or some piece of lichen. Perhaps a flower.
Then they would feel as if they were being watched and start to jump at the smallest noise. Laugh at themselves for it. But gradually their fear built.
Then her skirts were everywhere and even the bravest boys would start to run. And some of them swore they heard footsteps, chasing after them.
Of course they ran faster…
Some remembered the stories of her at this point and slowed down, to laugh at themselves. Some went running into the camp to hide behind their mother’s skirts. Their usually tender hearted mother would laugh and remind them of the tale. But it was cold comfort and rarely soothed their fear.
In their fear, some boys got lost and ran thru the woods. A mad kind of running like demons were after their soul. They ran until their heart exploded and they died. They were found the next day, when the adults came searching for them. The telltale sign was that their hair was pure white. Their eyes were wide open as if they saw a horror. And saddest of all, they were usually within a few feet of one of the outlying shelters. It was only thru the stories of the boys who returned that the adults could piece it together.
Just the boys who were coming of age seemed to interest the lady in white. She seemed to enjoy tormenting them.
And the adults, even the ones who had been chased when they were younger, would ask why these boys didn’t just call out. Why didn’t they remember the story and take the advice of staying near the camp, or traveling in pairs. She preferred boys who were alone.
But no, like all of their age, these boys thought they could cope. Or that they would never be scared by such a lady. Soon people noticed that it was the most vocal brave hearts who were found dead. To be mourned by their families and friends.
On the day of their funeral rites, their mother often swore she heard a woman’s laugh during the eulogy.
Men would often beat down the woods and bushes late at night to see if she was real and if they could chase her out. But she was never seen by them.
Kids were always told to stay near the village, to watch their feet, to stay with the group. But they thought the adults were just telling stories when they said there was a troll out there that preyed on children. That they had lost so many to her mean spirited ways. The kids laughed when they were told the troll had magic skills. She could make the kids disoriented so they got lost, by something called green confusion. She could act like a tree stump and make them fall so they were injured and couldn’t get back home on their own. She could pull them into the water if they got too close to the edge of ponds, streams and rivers. Especially in winter when the ice was fragile and when the waters were high in flood season and storms. And hide them when their parents and other villagers tried to find them. The kids thought their parents were superstitious idiots. It was pretty hard to believe.
Till you met her for yourself…Till she rose up in front of your eyes in all her horrendous glory and grabbed you. Till you felt her evil arms surround you and drag you deep into her lair. Never to be seen by human eye again. You were hers to do with as she would. And you felt helpless. Petrified and a bit angry. You had been duped!!
Perhaps by your own arrogance? Was this a lesson on listening to your elders? Or a lesson in respecting nature? That it can and will trip you up if you trust it a bit too much? In the end, does it matter what the lesson was when you are now her prisoner?
Deep in the maze, the eyes of it’s guardian opened. The beast sniffed and smiled, well grinned really. She did like tender meat so much better than the jaded souls who usually tried the maze as a new thrill in their usually mundane life. This soul must be an adventurer. She waited and watched, till finally the young man came close enough to grab him.
He screamed and she laughed. It was so amusing. They knew of her and her reputation, yet they kept thinking they could outsmart her and sneak by her lair in the heart of the maze. They thought they could get out again. Didn’t they notice no one ever returned? Human delusions never failed to intrigue her.
She dragged the young man to her lair and threw him in the hole she kept all her fresh food in. The smell would make him more pliable to her manipulations. Ready to assent to her prodding. Not that he had a choice.
She dragged a few sticks over to the eternal fire and put them just within the flames to get scorchingly hot.
His skin would become scarred beyond even his mother’s recognition, if she ever laid eyes on him again. One by one, the burns would change him forever. This was one of her favourite tortures and it had been a while since she had had a victim with such tender skin to practice it on. Inch by inch, she would mar his skin.
Days melded into each other. Years ebbed and flowed. Full of his shrieking and begging for her to stop. He didn’t seem to grasp yet, that it never would stop. She would never stop. She did not bond with her meat. Even when they thought she did.
Finally, he started to understand when she was running out of fresh skin to torment. She could see the defeat in his eyes when she came near him again. This was her moment. She reveled in it. Just stood there and enjoyed it. She watched as he acknowledged her power over him and gave up.
She gave him his reprieve. Not to be free but to change the torture.
She dragged him out of the hole and smashed his legs so he couldn’t get away from her. He howled and passed out. He spent days in and out of consciousness. He saw her eyes every time he awoke. She touched his tender legs and he passed out again. When he could handle her fingers, she used a stick, then rolled a small log over them. When she was done, his bones were basically powder. He knew he would never walk again, or be free. He was at her mercy.
That’s when he began looking for ways to die, but she had learned her lesson by wiser than him. He was trapped. And he would be till she let him die. She knew she had no such plans. It wasn’t often she got such tender meat. She planned on enjoying every last morsel of time with him.