BELIEFS OF GODDESS WORSHIP
Christianity teaches that God is transcendent, is separate from nature, and is represented to humankind through masculine imagery. Witchcraft holds a
pantheistic view of God. God is nature, therefore God is in all things and all things are a part of God. However, this God is in actuality a goddess.
A fundamental belief in Goddess Worship is the idea that the goddess predates
the male God. The goddess is the giver of all life and is found in all of
creation. The importance of the Goddess symbol for women cannot be overstressed. The image of the Goddess inspires women to see ourselves as divine, our bodies as sacred, the changing phases of our lives as holy, our aggression as healthy,and our anger as purifying. Through the Goddess, we can discover our strength,enlighten our minds, own our bodies, and celebrate our emotions.
The modern Goddess movement is an attempt to integrate the feminine back into
the world as we know it. This means bringing the Goddess out of the shadows and back into the limelight where she belongs. Part of most modern Goddess
traditions is the idea that Goddess exists within and around everything in
creation. Therefore, if Goddess is sacred, then so is the Earth, so our bodies, etc. Moreover, the relationship between all of these things is equally sacred. Therefore, not only do we need to revere the creations of the Goddess, we must revere the relationship and the systems that Goddess has created, for they each have their purpose. The problem is that we don’t always know what the true system is anymore because our society is so corrupted by the patriarchy. For example, if we only examine the system as it exists today, we might come to the conclusion that women’s place within the system is necessarily subservient to the men in the system. Naturally, eco-feminists would laugh at this idea. First of all, eco-feminism maintains that the natural order of things is not linked by hierarchical value, so the very notion of men governing women is absurd. The nature of things would require reciprocal communication and integral networking.
In light of this, then, Goddess religion asserts that Goddess and God cannot be viewed separately, but rather as a network of energies that work together to better the entire network.
The Maiden is the first aspect of the Goddess, presented to us as a young woman,blossoming into womanhood, exploring her sexuality and learning of her beauty.She is most often depicted as a teenaged girl or a woman in her very early twenties.
Unlike the images of young women in many patrifocal religions, the Maiden is not necessarily depicted as a virgin in most Goddess traditions. In Catholicism,Mary is depicted not only as a virgin maiden, but continues to be a virgin throughout the duration of her lifetime, regardless of the fact that she was married and gave birth to a child. This has more to do with the taint patrifocal religions assign female sexuality than anything else. But because women’s sexuality is not denigrated in Goddess traditions, there is no need to associate virginity with the Maiden Goddess.
In fact, the Maiden Goddess is seen as a particularly sexual being. Because she has just bloomed into her womanly form, she is particularly interested in her body and what it can do. She is interested in her beauty, and she learns to manipulate the affections of other’s based upon her feminine wiles.
Some might take offense at my use of the word manipulate in the preceding
sentence, but in fact, that is what sexuality is about, both on the part of the male and the female. Flirtation, courting and other manners of getting the
attentions of the opposite sex is certainly a form of manipulation. It is not
manipulation with malicious intent, to be sure, but when you attempt to curb the attitudes or thoughts of others through your own appearance or behavior, this is a form of manipulation, and by no means negative.
Because the Maiden is associated with the first blossoming of womanhood,
adulthood and sexuality, she is associated with the Springtime. Just as her body develops breasts and she becomes sexually capable, so too does the Earth mimic her development. Flowers bloom, the Earth awakens from the deep sleep of winter and begins to procreate again. Animals lie with one another, flowers are pollinated. Spring is a time for new beginnings. It is the counterpart to the winter of Death.
Just as Spring is the counter to Winter, so too is the Maiden the counter to the Crone. The Crone is the embodiment of death, and subsequently rebirth, and it is through the aspect of the Maiden that the Crone is able to pass from this world and be reborn. As the young Goddess delves into her sexuality, and eventually becomes pregnant, the Elder Goddess may pass away and give her life that the Maiden may become Mother, and one day, Crone. The cycle is never ending.
The Maiden takes the Green Man (Horned Lord, many other names in many other
cultures) as her consort. In some cultures, the Green Man may be her brother or even her son. At first glance, the courtship between the Maiden and the Sun God seems ripe with incest, because he is always somehow related to her. But if you read the myths associated with the Mother Goddess and how it came to pass that she became pregnant, you will usually find that she became pregnant by her husband, who has to give his life for one reason or another, and she agrees to bring him back into he world as the child in her womb. In essence, she gives birth to her husband, rather than taking her son as her lover. This is even true in the Catholic goddess vision: Jesus was the son of God, but he was also God. Because this idea is confusing and can lead to ideas of incest much like I discussed above, the Christian church left Mary a virgin, thus bypassing the whole sexual encounter, and thus the issue of incest altogether.
Maiden Goddess of Note include:
Diana, Persephone, Kore, Bleudowedd, Artemis, Ariadne, Hestia,
Athena, Aphrodite, Minerva, and Venus.
The aspect of the Mother Goddess is probably the most widely known and most
widely envisioned in most cultures. Because the Earth nourishes and replenishes us, most goddess cultures did pay reverence to the Earth as the Mother, and therefore the Goddesses that are most prominent and about whom stories are most prolific are the goddesses that are the representation of the Mother.
She is, in virtually every aspect, a divine or celestial representation of our earthly mothers. Everyone has an earthly mother, or at least did at one point, so we readily understand the relationship between mother and child. The mother is the protector, the care-giver, the kisser of wounds, and the disciplinarian.
The Divine Mother is no different.
Many of the most ancient goddess figures that archeology has uncovered are
goddesses depicted as round, pregnant women. They feature large breasts and
full, meaty hips. Some archeologists (patriarchal, close minded fellows, to be sure) have written these goddess figures off as nothing more than prehistoric “porn” figures. However, the generally accepted opinion is that these figures, found in such places as France, modern day Turkey, and Egypt, are actually representations of a mother goddess. There is some speculation that perhaps these figures are not goddesses at all, but rather figures used in fertility rites to enable women to conceive children. This too is a possibility, but when combined with other information that we have (such as other evidence of prehistoric goddess worship, and the fact that the connection between sex and pregnancy was not made until much later than the dates associated with these figures) leads most scholars to believe that these statues are indeed goddess representations.
Although the depiction of the Mother Goddess as a pregnant woman is prominent, she is certainly not always seen that way. The Mother aspect may be seen with small child in tow (most often a boy, who later becomes her consort, as is discussed in the section on the Maiden). This aspect of the Mother Goddess plays on the care-giving, sweet, loving aspect of the Goddess. However, do not be fooled into thinking that the Goddess as Mother is a pussy cat. She can also be a warrior.
Like earthly mothers, the Goddess is fiercely protective of her children, and in order to provide that protection she will often don the face of the warrior. The Warrior Goddess most probably gained popularity among people who had begun to adopt a more patriarchal (or at least patrifocal) structure. It might be presumptuous to say that matrifocal cultures were not particularly warlike, but it is safe to say that patriarchal cultures were more so. In either case, the warrior Goddess did become popular. In this aspect she is Amazon, fierce and strong, and able to take on any man to protect what needs protection.
Just as the maiden is represented by the season of Spring, the Mother aspect is present in Summer. By summer, berries and fruits are ripe, ready for the
plucking. Vegetable gardens are mature and harvest is close at hand. The sun is high in the sky, and even though the sun is typically seen as a Male Deity, some cultures did associate the sun with the Goddess, (most notably the early Egyptian culture) and thus the high sun of summer was associated with the Mother, who was also seen as the pinnacle of the cycle of life.
In western traditions, the Goddess remains pregnant until the Winter Solstice, at which time she gives birth to a sun god of some kind. (Note the adaptation of the Christian church …Christmas, anyone?) The Catholic Goddess Mary also falls into the category of the Mother Goddess, because she does give birth to King at Solstice. (At least this is how the Christians celebrate the holiday, even though biblical scholars suggest Jesus was very likely born during a warm month)
Mary is a curiosity though, because she is a Dual Goddess, and not a Triple
Goddess as most multifaceted Goddesses are. She is a maiden because she remains a virgin (and though not all maidens are virgins, all virgin goddesses are maidens), and yet because she gives birth, she is also a Mother. However, there is no reference in the Catholic tradition of Mary as an older woman. Therefore, Mary’s development ended with her at the Mother phase.
Mother Goddesses of Note include:
Demeter, Isis, Cerridwyn, Kali, Gaia, Oceana, Brigit, Nuit, Hera,
Selene, Anu, Dana, Arianrhod, and Epona
The Crone is the final aspect of the Goddess. The Crone is most often depicted as a Grandmother, a SageWoman, or a Midwife. She is the keeper of Occult Knowledge, the Mysteries and the Queen of the Underworld. It is through the Crone that knowledge of magick, the Dark, and other secrets of the ages are passed down.
The Crone is, in some ways, a Triple Goddess herself. She has lived through the tender, sensual age of Maidenhood, suffered the birth pains of Motherhood, and now carries with her the memories of these passages into her old age. But though she has experienced these events, these are not the things she represents, and therefore she is not revered for these traits. Nevertheless, having endured these experiences makes her the wise woman that she is, and enables her to guide us through the dark.
Her role as Midwife is both symbolic as well as actual. Traditionally, it is
always the older women of the tribe who facilitate the birth of children, most likely because they themselves had gone through, but also because the role of midwife was a sacred position, and thus suitable for an older tribeswoman. Certainly the Crone fulfills this aspect in that she is the midwife to the Queen of Heaven when she gives birth to the Oak King at Yule.
But symbolically she is the midwife in our lives as well, guiding us from one
phase of life to the next. If you see progression from one phase of life to the next and can see it as a rebirth process, then envision the Crone as the aspect of the goddess that guides you through that time. Transition is very difficult, and for most people it is a time of darkness. It is a time where we have to rely on our intuition, because we are unfamiliar with the territory. But according to the myths and ancient lore, we receive our intuition from the Crone. It is she who guides us, and it is she who facilitates our birth.
The Crone Goddess is often times the least seen, because she does represent
death, and with death comes fear: fear of the unknown, fear of losing our loved ones, and fear of being alone. But we must remember that with death always comes rebirth. The Crone always brings with her promises of the Maiden, and the cycle never ends.
The Mother aspect of the Goddess is discussed as being a Warrior Goddess, but
the Crone can be a Warrior Goddess as well. Where the Mother Goddess is the
blood of battle, the War Cry incarnate, the fighting Amazon, the Crone is the
Strategy, the ability to see what cannot be seen. She is the seer, the General. The Crone Goddess does not don the face of the warrior to shed blood, but she will provide the courage to walk through the dark, the ability to seek and destroy the enemy, whether the enemy is actual, or internal.
In many respects, the Crone Goddess is the aspect of the Goddess that is most
called upon to conquer inner demons. This is due to the fact that as the keeper of mysteries, the Crone is also the Keeper of the Underworld. With her help, we are able to travel into the Underworld and fight whatever demons haunt us. Likewise, once we are ready to be reborn, she again acts as the midwife and guides us once again into the light.
Crone Goddesses of Note include:
Hecate, Kali, Cerridwyn, Badb, Cailleach, Macha, and the Morrigan
written by susan lucas