The Study of Pagan Gods & Goddesses: Kali

goddess_kali_by_piyal_kundu1

The Study of Pagan Gods & Goddesses: Kali

 

O Goddess Kali, give me of Thy wisdom,
O Goddess Kali, give me of Thy mercy,
O Goddess Kali, give me of Thy fullness,
And of Thy guidance in face of every strait.
O Goddess Kali, give me of Thy holiness,
O Goddess Kali, give me of Thy shielding,
O Goddess Kali, give me of Thy surrounding,
And of Thy peace in the knot of my death.
Oh give me of Thy surrounding,
And of Thy peace at the hour of my death!

 

Kālī, also known as Kālikā, is a Hindu goddess. Kali is one of the ten Mahavidyas, a list which combines Sakta and Buddhist goddesses.
Kali’s earliest appearance is that of a destroyer of evil forces. She is the goddess of one of the four subcategories of the Kulamārga, a category of tantric Saivism. Over time, she has been worshipped by devotional movements and tantric sects variously as the Divine Mother, Mother of the Universe, Adi Shakti, or Adi Parashakti. Shakta Hindu and Tantric sects additionally worship her as the ultimate reality or Brahman. She is also seen as divine protector and the one who bestows moksha, or liberation. Kali is often portrayed standing or dancing on her consort, the Hindu god Shiva, who lies calm and prostrate beneath her. Kali is worshipped by Hindus throughout India.
Kālī is the feminine form of kālam (“black, dark coloured”). Kālī also shares the meaning of “time” or “the fullness of time” with the masculine noun “kāla”—and by extension, time as “changing aspect of nature that bring things to life or death.” Other names include Kālarātri (“the black night”), and Kālikā (“the black one”).

 

The homonymous kāla, “appointed time,” which depending on context can mean “death,” is distinct from kāla “black,” but became associated through popular etymology. The association is seen in a passage from the Mahābhārata, depicting a female figure who carries away the spirits of slain warriors and animals. She is called kālarātri (which Thomas Coburn, a historian of Sanskrit Goddess literature, translates as “night of death”) and also kālī (which, as Coburn notes, can be read here either as a proper name or as a description “the black one”). Kālī is also the feminine form of Kāla, an epithet of Shiva, and thus the consort of Shiva.

 

Origins
Hugh Urban notes that although the word Kālī appears as early as the Atharva Veda, the first use of it as a proper name is in the Kathaka Grhya Sutra (19.7). Kali appears in the Mundaka Upanishad (section 1, chapter 2, verse 4) not explicitly as a goddess, but as the black tongue of the seven flickering tongues of Agni, the Hindu god of fire.

 

According to David Kinsley, Kāli is first mentioned in Hindu tradition as a distinct goddess around 600 CE, and these texts “usually place her on the periphery of Hindu society or on the battlefield.” She is often regarded as the Shakti of Shiva, and is closely associated with him in various Puranas.

 

Her most well known appearance on the battlefield is in the sixth century Devi Mahatmyam. The deity of the first chapter of Devi Mahatmyam is Mahakali, who appears from the body of sleeping Vishnu as goddess Yoga Nidra to wake him up in order to protect Brahma and the World from two demons Madhu and Kaitabha. When Vishnu woke up he started a war against the two demons. After a long battle with lord Vishnu when the two demons were undefeated Mahakali took the form of Mahamaya to enchant the two asuras. When Madhu and Kaitabha were enchanted by Mahakali, Vishnu killed them.

 

In later chapters the story of two demons can be found who were destroyed by Kali. Chanda and Munda attack the goddess Durga. Durga responds with such anger that her face turns dark and Kali appears out of her forehead. Kali’s appearance is black, gaunt with sunken eyes, and wearing a tiger skin and a garland of human heads. She immediately defeats the two demons. Later in the same battle, the demon Raktabija is undefeated because of his ability to reproduce himself from every drop of his blood that reaches the ground. Countless Raktabija clones appear on the battlefield. Kali eventually defeats him by sucking his blood before it can reach the ground, and eating the numerous clones. Kinsley writes that Kali represents “Durga’s personified wrath, her embodied fury.”

 

Other origin stories involve Parvati and Shiva. Parvati is typically portrayed as a benign and friendly goddess. The Linga Purana describes Shiva asking Parvati to defeat the demon Daruka, who received a boon that would only allow a female to kill him. Parvati merges with Shiva’s body, reappearing as Kali to defeat Daruka and his armies. Her bloodlust gets out of control, only calming when Shiva intervenes. The Vamana Purana has a different version of Kali’s relationship with Parvati. When Shiva addresses Parvati as Kali, “the black one,” she is greatly offended. Parvati performs austerities to lose her dark complexion and becomes Gauri, the golden one. Her dark sheath becomes Kausiki, who while enraged, creates Kali. Regarding the relationship between Kali, Parvati, and Shiva, Kinsley writes that:

 

In relation to Siva, she [Kali] appears to play the opposite role from that of Parvati. Parvati calms Siva, counterbalancing his antisocial or destructive tendencies; she brings him within the sphere of domesticity and with her soft glances urges him to moderate the destructive aspects of his tandava dance. Kali is Shiva’s “other wife,” as it were, provoking him and encouraging him in his mad, antisocial, disruptive habits. It is never Kali who tames Siva, but Siva who must calm Kali.

 

Legends
Kāli appears in the Sauptika Parvan of the Mahabharata (10.8.64). She is called Kālarātri (literally, “black night”) and appears to the Pandava soldiers in dreams, until finally she appears amidst the fighting during an attack by Drona’s son Ashwatthama.

 

Another story involving Kali is her escapade with a band of thieves. The thieves wanted to make a human sacrifice to Kali, and unwisely chose a saintly Brahmin monk as their victim. The radiance of the young monk was so much that it burned the image of Kali, who took living form and killed the entire band of thieves, decapitating them and drinking their blood.

 

Slayer of Raktabija

A painting made in Nepal depicting the Goddess Ambika Leading the Eight Matrikas in Battle Against the Demon Raktabija, Folio from a Devi Mahatmya – (top row, from the left) the Matrikas – Narasimhi, Vaishnavi, Kumari, Maheshvari, Brahmi. (bottom row, from left) Varahi, Aindri, Chamunda or Kali (drinking the demon’s blood), Ambika. on the right, demons arising from Raktabiīa’s blood
In Kāli’s most famous legend, Durga and her assistants, the Matrikas, wound the demon Raktabija, in various ways and with a variety of weapons in an attempt to destroy him. They soon find that they have worsened the situation for with every drop of blood that is dripped from Raktabija he reproduces a clone of himself. The battlefield becomes increasingly filled with his duplicates. Durga summons Kāli to combat the demons. The Devi Mahatmyam describes:

 

Out of the surface of her (Durga’s) forehead, fierce with frown, issued suddenly Kali of terrible countenance, armed with a sword and noose. Bearing the strange khatvanga (skull-topped staff ), decorated with a garland of skulls, clad in a tiger’s skin, very appalling owing to her emaciated flesh, with gaping mouth, fearful with her tongue lolling out, having deep reddish eyes, filling the regions of the sky with her roars, falling upon impetuously and slaughtering the great asuras in that army, she devoured those hordes of the foes of the devas.

 

Kali consumes Raktabija and his duplicates, and dances on the corpses of the slain. In the Devi Mahatmya version of this story, Kali is also described as a Matrika and as a Shakti or power of Devi. She is given the epithet Cāṃuṇḍā (Chamunda), i.e. the slayer of the demons Chanda and Munda. Chamunda is very often identified with Kali and is very much like her in appearance and habit.

 

Iconography and forms
Kali is portrayed mostly in two forms: the popular four-armed form and the ten-armed Mahakali form. In both of her forms, she is described as being black in colour but is most often depicted as blue in popular Indian art. Her eyes are described as red with intoxication, and in absolute rage, her hair is shown disheveled, small fangs sometimes protrude out of her mouth, and her tongue is lolling. She is often shown naked or just wearing a skirt made of human arms and a garland of human heads. She is also accompanied by serpents and a jackal while standing on the calm and prostrate Shiva, usually right foot forward to symbolize the more popular Dakshinamarga or right-handed path, as opposed to the more infamous and transgressive Vamamarga or left-handed path.

 

In the ten-armed form of Mahakali she is depicted as shining like a blue stone. She has ten faces, ten feet, and three eyes for each head. She has ornaments decked on all her limbs. There is no association with Shiva.

 

The Kalika Purana describes Kali as possessing a soothing dark complexion, as perfectly beautiful, riding a lion, four-armed, holding a sword and blue lotuses, her hair unrestrained, body firm and youthful.

 

In spite of her seemingly terrible form, Kali Ma is often considered the kindest and most loving of all the Hindu goddesses, as she is regarded by her devotees as the Mother of the whole Universe. And because of her terrible form, she is also often seen as a great protector. When the Bengali saint Ramakrishna once asked a devotee why one would prefer to worship Mother over him, this devotee rhetorically replied, “Maharaj, when they are in trouble your devotees come running to you. But, where do you run when you are in trouble?”

 

Popular form
Classic depictions of Kali share several features, as follows:

 

Kali’s most common four armed iconographic image shows each hand carrying variously a sword, a trishul (trident), a severed head, and a bowl or skull-cup (kapala) catching the blood of the severed head.

 

Two of these hands (usually the left) are holding a sword and a severed head. The sword signifies divine knowledge and the human head signifies human ego which must be slain by divine knowledge in order to attain moksha. The other two hands (usually the right) are in the abhaya (fearlessness) and varada (blessing) mudras, which means her initiated devotees (or anyone worshipping her with a true heart) will be saved as she will guide them here and in the hereafter.

 

She has a garland consisting of human heads, variously enumerated at 108 (an auspicious number in Hinduism and the number of countable beads on a japa mala or rosary for repetition of mantras) or 51, which represents Varnamala or the Garland of letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, Devanagari. Hindus believe Sanskrit is a language of dynamism, and each of these letters represents a form of energy, or a form of Kali. Therefore, she is generally seen as the mother of language, and all mantras.

 

She is often depicted naked which symbolizes her being beyond the covering of Maya since she is pure (nirguna) being-consciousness-bliss and far above prakriti. She is shown as very dark as she is brahman in its supreme unmanifest state. She has no permanent qualities—she will continue to exist even when the universe ends. It is therefore believed that the concepts of color, light, good, bad do not apply to her.

 

Mahakali
Mahakali (Sanskrit: Mahākālī, Devanagari), literally translated as “Great Kali,” is sometimes considered as a greater form of Kali, identified with the Ultimate reality of Brahman. It can also be used as an honorific of the Goddess Kali, signifying her greatness by the prefix “Mahā-“. Mahakali, in Sanskrit, is etymologically the feminized variant of Mahakala or Great Time (which is interpreted also as Death), an epithet of the God Shiva in Hinduism. Mahakali is the presiding Goddess of the first episode of the Devi Mahatmya. Here she is depicted as Devi in her universal form as Shakti. Here Devi serves as the agent who allows the cosmic order to be restored.

 

Kali is depicted in the Mahakali form as having ten heads, ten arms, and ten legs. Each of her ten hands is carrying a various implement which vary in different accounts, but each of these represent the power of one of the Devas or Hindu Gods and are often the identifying weapon or ritual item of a given Deva. The implication is that Mahakali subsumes and is responsible for the powers that these deities possess and this is in line with the interpretation that Mahakali is identical with Brahman. While not displaying ten heads, an “ekamukhi” or one headed image may be displayed with ten arms, signifying the same concept: the powers of the various Gods come only through Her grace.

 

Daksinakali
Daksinakali, also spelled Dakshinakali, is the most popular form of Kali in Bengal. She is the benevolent mother, who protects her devotees and children from mishaps and misfortunes. There are various versions for the origin of the name Dakshinakali. Dakshina refers to the gift given to a priest before performing a ritual or to one’s guru. Such gifts are traditionally given with the right hand. Daksinakali’s two right hands are usually depicted in gestures of blessing and giving of boons. One version of the origin of her name comes from the story of Yama, lord of death, who lives in the south (daksina). When Yama heard Kali’s name, he fled in terror, and so those who worship Kali are said to be able to overcome death itself.

 

Daksinakali is typically shown with her right foot on Shiva’s chest—while depictions showing Kali with her left foot on Shiva’s chest depict the even more fearsome Vamakali (Vamakali is typically shown with her right foot on Shiva’s chest). Vamakali is usually worshipped by non-householders. The pose shows the conclusion of an episode in which Kali was rampaging out of control after destroying many demons. Shiva, fearing that Kali would not stop until she destroyed the world, could only think of one way to pacify her. He lay down on the battlefield so that she would have to step on him. Seeing her consort under her foot, Kali realized that she had gone too far, and calmed down. In some interpretations of the story, Shiva was attempting to receive Kali’s grace by receiving her foot on his chest.

 

There are many different interpretations of the pose held by Dakshinakali, including those of the 18th and 19th century bhakti poet-devotees such as Ramprasad Sen. Most have to do with battle imagery and tantric metaphysics. The most popular however is a devotional view. According to Rachel Fell McDermott, the poets portrayed Siva as “the devotee who falls at [Kali’s] feet in devotion, or in surrender of his ego, or in hopes of gaining moksha by her touch. In fact, Siva is said to have become so enchanted by Kali that he performed austerities to win her, and having received the treasure of her feet, held them against his heart in reverence.

 

The growing popularity of worship of a more benign form of Kali, as Daksinakali, is often attributed to Krishnananda Agamavagisha. He was a noted Bengali leader of the 17th century, author of a Tantra encyclopedia called Tantrasara. According to hearsay – Kali appeared to him in a dream and told him to popularize her in a particular form that would appear to him the following day. The next morning he observed a young woman making cow dung patties. While placing a patty on a wall, she stood in the alidha pose, with her right foot forward. When she saw Krishnananda watching her, she was embarrassed and put her tongue between her teeth. Krishnananada took his previous worship of Kali out of the cremation grounds and into a more domestic setting. Krishnananda Agamavagisha was also the guru of the Kali devotee and poet Ramprasad Sen.

 

Smashana Kali
According to Mahakala Samhita,Smashana Kali is two armed and black in complexion,She stands on a corpse and holds a wine cup and a piece of rotten flesh in Her hands,and this is the terrible form of the Mother. She is worshiped by tantrics, the followers of Tantra, who believe that one’s spiritual discipline practised in a smashan (cremation ground) brings success quickly. A well known Shamshan Kali can be found in Barabelun, located in Bardhaman District of West Bengal. Known as “Boro-Ma” or the Big Mother, this Kali is estimated to be over 550 years old. The 24 foot high idol is worshipped and revered by the masses.

 

Other forms
Other forms of Kali popularly worshipped in Bengal include Raksha Kali (form of Kali worshipped for protection against epidemics and drought), Bhadra Kali, Chamunda Kali and Guhya Kali

 

Symbolism
There are many different interpretations of the symbolic meanings of Kali’s depiction, depending on a Tantric or devotional approach, and on whether one views her image symbolically, allegorically, or mystically.

 

Physical form

In Bengal and Orissa, Kali’s extended tongue is widely seen as expressing embarrassment over the realization that her foot is on her husband’s chest.
There are many varied depictions of the different forms of Kali. The most common shows her with four arms and hands, showing aspects of creation and destruction. The two right hands are often held out in blessing, one in a mudra saying “fear not” (abhayamudra), the other conferring boons. Her left hands hold a severed head and blood-covered sword. The sword severs the bondage of ignorance and ego, represented by the severed head. One interpretation of Kali’s tongue is that the red tongue symbolizes the rajasic nature being conquered by the white (symbolizing sattvic) nature of the teeth. Her blackness represents that she is nirguna, beyond all qualities of nature, and transcendent.

 

The most widespread interpretation of Kali’s extended tongue involve her embarrassment over the sudden realization that she has stepped on her husband’s chest. Kali’s sudden “modesty and shame” over that act is the prevalent interpretation among Oriya Hindus.The biting of the tongue conveys the emotion of lajja or modesty, an expression that is widely accepted as the emotion being expressed by Kali. In Bengal also, Kali’s protruding tongue is “widely accepted… as a sign of speechless embarrassment: a gesture very common among Bengalis.”

 

The twin earrings of Kali is said to be corpse of young dead boys. This is because Kali likes devotees who have child-like qualities in them. The forehead of Kali is as luminous as the full moon and it eternally gives out ambrosia.

 

Kali is often shown standing with her right foot on Shiva’s chest. This represents an episode where Kali was out of control on the battlefield, such that she was about to destroy the entire universe. Shiva pacified her by laying down under her foot, both to receive her blessing, but also to pacify and calm her. Shiva is sometimes shown with a blissful smile on his face. She is typically shown with a garland of severed heads, often numbering fifty. This can symbolize the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet and therefore as the primordial sound of Aum from which all creation proceeds. The severed arms which make up her skirt represent her devotee’s karma that she has taken on.

 

Mother Nature
The name Kali means Kala or force of time. When there were neither the creation, nor the sun, the moon, the planets, and the earth, there was only darkness and everything was created from the darkness. The Dark appearance of Kali represents the darkness from which everything was born. Her complexion is deep blue, like the sky and ocean water as blue. As she is also the goddess of Preservation, Kali is worshiped as the preserver of nature. Kali is standing calm on Shiva, her appearance represents the preservation of mother nature. Her free, long and black hair represents nature’s freedom from civilization. Under the third eye of kali, the signs of both sun, moon and fire are visible which represent the driving forces of nature. Kali is not always thought of as a Dark Goddess. Despite Kali’s origins in battle, She evolved to a full-fledged symbol of Mother Nature in Her creative, nurturing and devouring aspects. She is referred to as a great and loving primordial Mother Goddess in the Hindu tantric tradition. In this aspect, as Mother Goddess, She is referred to as Kali Ma, meaning Kali Mother, and millions of Hindus revere Her as such.

 

Shiva in Kali iconography

A Kangra painting of Kali stands on Shiva, who assumes the position of a corpse atop a blazing funeral pyre. Dogs and scavenger birds surround Kali.
There are several interpretations of the symbolism behind the commonly represented image of Kali standing on Shiva’s supine form. A common one is that Shiva symbolizes purusha, the universal unchanging aspect of reality, or pure consciousness. Kali represents Prakriti, nature or matter, sometimes seen as having a feminine quality. The merging of these two qualities represent ultimate reality.

 

A tantric interpretation sees Shiva as consciousness and Kali as power or energy. Consciousness and energy are dependent upon each other, since Shiva depends on Shakti, or energy, in order to fulfill his role in creation, preservation, and destruction. In this view, without Shakti, Shiva is a corpse — unable to act.

 

Worship
Tantra

Kali Yantra
Goddesses play an important role in the study and practice of Tantra Yoga, and are affirmed to be as central to discerning the nature of reality as are the male deities. Although Parvati is often said to be the recipient and student of Shiva’s wisdom in the form of Tantras, it is Kali who seems to dominate much of the Tantric iconography, texts, and rituals. In many sources Kāli is praised as the highest reality or greatest of all deities. The Nirvana-tantra says the gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva all arise from her like bubbles in the sea, ceaselessly arising and passing away, leaving their original source unchanged. The Niruttara-tantra and the Picchila-tantra declare all of Kāli’s mantras to be the greatest and the Yogini-tantra, Kamakhya-tantra and the Niruttara-tantra all proclaim Kāli vidyas (manifestations of Mahadevi, or “divinity itself”). They declare her to be an essence of her own form (svarupa) of the Mahadevi.

 

In the Mahanirvana-tantra, Kāli is one of the epithets for the primordial sakti, and in one passage Shiva praises her:

 

At the dissolution of things, it is Kāla [Time] Who will devour all, and by reason of this He is called Mahākāla [an epithet of Lord Shiva], and since Thou devourest Mahākāla Himself, it is Thou who art the Supreme Primordial Kālika. Because Thou devourest Kāla, Thou art Kāli, the original form of all things, and because Thou art the Origin of and devourest all things Thou art called the Adya [the Primordial One]. Re-assuming after Dissolution Thine own form, dark and formless, Thou alone remainest as One ineffable and inconceivable. Though having a form, yet art Thou formless; though Thyself without beginning, multiform by the power of Maya, Thou art the Beginning of all, Creatrix, Protectress, and Destructress that Thou art.

 

The figure of Kāli conveys death, destruction, and the consuming aspects of reality. As such, she is also a “forbidden thing”, or even death itself. In the Pancatattva ritual, the sadhaka boldly seeks to confront Kali, and thereby assimilates and transforms her into a vehicle of salvation. This is clear in the work of the Karpuradi-stotra,[48] a short praise of Kāli describing the Pancatattva ritual unto her, performed on cremation grounds. (Samahana-sadhana)

 

He, O Mahākāli who in the cremation-ground, naked, and with dishevelled hair, intently meditates upon Thee and recites Thy mantra, and with each recitation makes offering to Thee of a thousand Akanda flowers with seed, becomes without any effort a Lord of the earth. Oh Kāli, whoever on Tuesday at midnight, having uttered Thy mantra, makes offering even but once with devotion to Thee of a hair of his Shakti [his energy/female companion] in the cremation-ground, becomes a great poet, a Lord of the earth, and ever goes mounted upon an elephant.

 

The Karpuradi-stotra, dated to approximately 10th century ACE, clearly indicates that Kāli is more than a terrible, vicious, slayer of demons who serves Durga or Shiva. Here, she is identified as the supreme mother of the universe, associated with the five elements. In union with Lord Shiva, she creates and destroys worlds. Her appearance also takes a different turn, befitting her role as ruler of the world and object of meditation. In contrast to her terrible aspects, she takes on hints of a more benign dimension. She is described as young and beautiful, has a gentle smile, and makes gestures with her two right hands to dispel any fear and offer boons. The more positive features exposed offer the distillation of divine wrath into a goddess of salvation, who rids the sadhaka of fear. Here, Kali appears as a symbol of triumph over death.

 

Bengali tradition

Kali Puja festival in Kolkata.
Kali is also a central figure in late medieval Bengali devotional literature, with such devotees as Ramprasad Sen (1718–75). With the exception of being associated with Parvati as Shiva’s consort, Kāli is rarely pictured in Hindu legends and iconography as a motherly figure until Bengali devotions beginning in the early eighteenth century. Even in Bengāli tradition her appearance and habits change little, if at all.

 

The Tantric approach to Kāli is to display courage by confronting her on cremation grounds in the dead of night, despite her terrible appearance. In contrast, the Bengali devotee appropriates Kāli’s teachings adopting the attitude of a child, coming to love her unreservedly. In both cases, the goal of the devotee is to become reconciled with death and to learn acceptance of the way that things are. These themes are well addressed in Rāmprasād’s work. Rāmprasād comments in many of his other songs that Kāli is indifferent to his wellbeing, causes him to suffer, brings his worldly desires to nothing and his worldly goods to ruin. He also states that she does not behave like a mother should and that she ignores his pleas:

 

Can mercy be found in the heart of her who was born of the stone? [a reference to Kali as the daughter of Himalaya]
Were she not merciless, would she kick the breast of her lord?
Men call you merciful, but there is no trace of mercy in you, Mother.
You have cut off the heads of the children of others, and these you wear as a garland around your neck.
It matters not how much I call you “Mother, Mother.” You hear me, but you will not listen.

 

To be a child of Kāli, Rāmprasād asserts, is to be denied of earthly delights and pleasures. Kāli is said to refrain from giving that which is expected. To the devotee, it is perhaps her very refusal to do so that enables her devotees to reflect on dimensions of themselves and of reality that go beyond the material world.

 

A significant portion of Bengali devotional music features Kāli as its central theme and is known as Shyama Sangeet (“Music of the Night”). Mostly sung by male vocalists, today even women have taken to this form of music. One of the finest singers of Shyāma Sāngeet is Pannalal Bhattacharya.

 

Kāli is especially venerated in the festival of Kali Puja in eastern India—celebrated when the new moon day of Ashwin month coincides with the festival of Diwali. The practice of animal sacrifice is common during Kali Puja in Bengal, Orissa, and Assam, though it is rare outside of those areas. The Hindu temples where this takes place involves the ritual slaying of goats, chickens and sometimes male Water buffalos. Throughout India, the practice is becoming less common.The rituals in eastern India temples where animals are killed are generally led by Brahmin priests. A number of Tantric Puranas specify the ritual for how the animal should be killed. A Brahmin priest will recite a mantra in the ear of animal to be sacrificed, in order to free the animal from the cycle of life and death. Groups such as People for Animals continue to protest animal sacrifice based on court rulings forbidding the practice in some locations.

 

Tantric Buddhism
Tantric Kali cults such as the Kaula and Krama had a strong influence on Tantric Buddhism, as can be seen in fierce looking yoginis and dakinis such as Vajrayogini and “Krodikali”.

 

In Tibet, Krodikali (alt. Krodhakali, Kālikā, Krodheśvarī, Krishna Krodhini) is known as Tröma Nagmo (Tib. ཁྲོ་མ་ནག་མོ་, Wyl. khro ma nag mo, Eng. ‘The Black Wrathful Lady’). She features as a key deity in the practice tradition of Chöd founded by Machig Labdron and is seen as a fierce form of Vajrayogini. Other similar fierce deities include the dark blue Ugra Tara and the lion-faced Simhamukha.

 

Worship in the Western world
An academic study of western Kali enthusiasts noted that, “as shown in the histories of all cross-cultural religious transplants, Kali devotionalism in the West must take on its own indigenous forms if it is to adapt to its new environment.” Rachel Fell McDermott, Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures at Columbia University and author of several books on Kali, has noted the evolving views in the West regarding Kali and her worship. In 1998 she pointed out that:

 

A variety of writers and thinkers have found Kali an exciting figure for reflection and exploration, notably feminists and participants in New Age spirituality who are attracted to goddess worship. [For them], Kali is a symbol of wholeness and healing, associated especially with repressed female power and sexuality. [However, such interpretations often exhibit] confusion and misrepresentation, stemming from a lack of knowledge of Hindu history among these authors, [who only rarely] draw upon materials written by scholars of the Hindu religious tradition… It is hard to import the worship of a goddess from another culture: religious associations and connotations have to be learned, imagined or intuited when the deep symbolic meanings embedded in the native culture are not available.

 

By 2003 McDermott amended her previous view by writing that:

…cross-cultural borrowing is appropriate and a natural by-product of religious globalization—although such borrowing ought to be done responsibly and self-consciously. If some Kali enthusiasts, therefore, careen ahead, reveling in a goddess of power and sex, many others, particularly since the early 1990s, have decided to reconsider their theological trajectories. These, whether of South Asian descent or not, are endeavoring to rein in what they perceive as excesses of feminist and New Age interpretations of the Goddess by choosing to be informed by, moved by, an Indian view of her character.

 

A form of Kali worship might have been transmitted to the west already in Medieval times by the wandering Romani people. Some authors have drawn parallels between Kali worship and the ceremonies of the annual pilgrimage in honor of Saint Sarah, also known as Sara-la-Kali (“Sara the Black”, Romani: Sara e Kali), held at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, a place of pilgrimage for Roma in the Camargue, in southern France. Ronald Lee (2001) states:

 

If we compare the ceremonies with those performed in France at the shrine of Sainte Sara (called Sara e Kali in Romani), we become aware that the worship of Kali/Durga/Sara has been transferred to a Christian figure… in France, to a non-existent “sainte” called Sara, who is actually part of the Kali/Durga/Sara worship among certain groups in India.

 

Give us, O Kali, the needs of the body,
Give us, O Kali, the needs of the soul;
Give us, O Kali, the healing balsam of the body,
Give us, O Kali, the healing balsam of the soul.
Give us, O Kali, the joy of forgiveness,
Wash Thou from us the pain of jealousy,
Cleanse Thou from us the stain of karma.
That reincarnation may cease
And we may live forever in your summerland.
O great Goddess, Who art on the throne,
Weigh mine heart on your scales,
Give to us, O Kali, strong love,
And that beautiful crown of the Queen;
Give us, O Kali, the home of salvation
Within the beauteous gates of Thy kingdom.
Give us hospitality in the brightness of peace.

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Reference
Wikipedia

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The Study of Pagan Gods & Goddesses: Nephthys, Egyptian Goddess

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Nephthys

Nephthys was one of the original five gods of ancient Egypt born of the union of Geb (earth) and Nut (sky) after the creation of the world. She was the fourth born after Osiris, Isis, and Set and was the older sister of Horus (usually referred to as Horus the Elder). As one of the earliest goddesses of Egypt, she was a member of the Ennead of Heliopolis, a tribunal of nine deities of immense power. Her cult centers were Heliopolis, Senu, Hebet, Per-met, Re-nefert, and Het-sekem. Contrary to some scholars’ assertions that she was never widely worshipped in Egypt, temples to Nephthys were quite common and she was considered an extremely important goddess from the Predynastic Period (c.6000-c. 3150 BCE) through the Ptolemaic Dynasty (323-30 BCE), the last dynasty to rule Egypt before it became a province of Rome.

 

NAME & SYMBOLS
‘Nephthys’ is the Latin version of her Egyptian name `Nebthwt’ (also given as Nebet-het and Nebt-het) which translates as “Lady of the Temple Enclosure” or “Mistress of the House” and she is routinely pictured with the heiroglyph for ‘house’ on her crown. The ‘house’ is neither an earthly home nor temple but linked to the heavens as she was related to air and ether. The ‘enclosure’ may refer to the courtyard outside a temple as she was represented by the pylons outside of temples in her role as a protective goddess; just as the pylons and wall protected the inner temple, Nephthys protected the souls of the people. She was associated with death and decay from an early period and was regularly invoked during funeral services. Professional mourners at Egyptian funerals were known as “Hawks of Nephthys” and she is one of the four goddesses (along with Isis, Selket, and Neith) whose images were found in the tomb of Tutankhamun as guardians of his canopic vessels. Historian Margaret Bunson notes:

 

Nephthys was associated with the mortuary cult in every era and was part of the ancient worship of Min [a god of fertility and reproduction]. The desert regions were dedicated to her and she was thought to be skilled in magic (188).

 

Her magical skills were similar to those of Isis and some scholars see her as Isis’ mirror image, Nephthys’ darkness balancing Isis’ light, and they are frequently pictured together as twin sisters. In the city of Heliopolis Nephthys and Isis were represented by two virgin priestesses at festivals who would recite the famous Lamentations of Isis and Nepthys at the Osiris’ festival. The Lamentations is a long narrative poem recreating the moment Isis and Nephthys worked together to revive the god Osiris and bring him back to life. Although originally spoken only at religious services, the Lamentations came to be included in the Egyptian Book of the Dead and was recited at funeral services.

 

Nephthys became the wife of Set and is best known for the part she played in the Osiris myth where, disguised as Isis, she seduced Osiris and provided Set with justification for the murder of his brother. She is later depicted in the myth as both betraying and then helping Isis in her efforts to restore her husband to life. She is a goddess of the dead who, like her granddaughter Qebhet, provides assistance to the souls of the deceased. She was so helpful to those in the afterlife that one of her titles was “Friend of the Dead” and she was also thought to bring news of the deceased back to their relatives on earth and comfort them in their time of mourning.

 

Her symbols are the hawk and the temple and the sycamore tree, one of the more popular trees depicted in inscriptions from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. She is the mother of the death god Anubis and was associated with the setting sun, twilight, and darkness. Prayers were offered to Nephthys at twilight for protection and also to aid her as she struggled with her husband Set to defend the Boat of Ra (the sun god) from the serprent Apophis as it made its journey through the realms of night.

 

MYTHOLOGICAL ORIGINS
According to the most popular version of the Egyptian creation myth, there was once only swirling chaotic waters and darkness in the universe until, one day, a mound (known as the ben-ben) rose from the seas with the god Atum (also known as Ra) standing upon it. Atum gazed out on the eternal nothingness and recognized he was lonely, and so mated with his own shadow to give birth to Shu (god of the air) and Tefnut (goddess of moisture). These two deities then left their father alone on the primordial mound and went off to create the world.

 

Atum, alone on the hill in the midst of chaos, longed for his children and worried over their safety, and so he removed his eye and sent it out in search of them. Shu and Tefnut returned with the eye, having failed to create the world, and Atum was so happy to see them, he began to cry. As his tears fell on the fertile earth of the ben-ben, men and women sprang up.

 

These new fragile beings had nowhere to live, however, and so Shu and Tefnut mated and gave birth to Geb (the earth) and Nut (the sky). These two quickly fell in love and became inseparable; a situation Atum found intolerable as they were brother and sister. He pushed Nut high above Geb and fastened her there so the two lovers would be able to see each other but never touch again. Nut, however, was already pregnant by Geb and soon gave birth to five children: Osiris, Isis, Set, Nephthys, and Horus. Atum gave to these five gods the task of maintaining the world and set his first born, Osiris, to rule over all the living things of the earth.

 

THE OSIRIS MYTH
At this point in the story the famous Osiris Myth begins when Set becomes jealous of Osiris’ power and success. Osiris married his beautiful sister Isis and the royal couple taught the humans of the world culture and art, instructed them in religion, and gave them the gifts of agriculture. To the Egyptians, their country was essentially the world and this world, under the reign of Osiris and Isis, was a paradise. Men and women were equal in all things and there was an abundance of food.

 

Osiris

Horus the Elder, in this story, is never mentioned but the roles of Set and Nephthys, who are, seem fairly insignificant at first until Nephthys emerges to play a pivotal role. She changed her form to take on the shape and scent of Isis and seduced Osiris, who thought he was sleeping with his wife. In some versions of the story she drugs his wine or gives him too much while, in others, he simply comes to her bed thinking she is Isis. Osiris leaves afterwards but drops a flower he wore in his hair on the floor and this is later found by Set who recognizes it as his brother’s.

 

Set was already resentful of his older brother but now, believing Osiris had seduced his wife, he planned to murder him. He created an ornate chest to Osiris’ exact measurements and then threw a party where he offered the box as a gift to whichever of his guests could best fit in it. Osiris, of course, fit perfectly and, when he lay down in the casket, Set slammed the cover on, fastened it, and threw it into the Nile. He then assumed the throne with Nephthys as his consort. She gave birth a short time later to a son, the god Anubis, whom she abandoned and who was raised by Isis.

 

Isis, meanwhile, went in search of her husband and found the casket with his body inside lodged in a tree in Byblos. The king and queen of the city had seen the tree down by the shore and were attracted by its beauty (which was the essence of Osiris permeating the tree) and its sweet scent (the aroma of Osiris) and had it cut down and brought to their court to serve as a central pillar. Isis, disguised as an older woman, was invited to the court after she befriended the queen’s handmaidens down by the shore and soon became nursemaid to the young princes. In an effort to make the youngest son immortal, she held him in a mystical fire each night to burn away his mortal part and, one night, the queen caught her and was horrified. Isis threw off her disguise, revealing herself, and the king and queen begged her for mercy, offering her anything to spare them. She asked for the pillar in the court; and they gave it to her.

 

All this time, the world was suffering under the rule of Set. The land was barren and the desert winds blew. Equality in the land was forgotten as people fought for each other for survival. Isis returned to the wasteland with Osiris and hid his body in the marshes of the Nile Delta and then asked Nephthys to stand guard to protect him from Set. While Isis went off to find herbs to revive her husband, Set was out searching for the body and found Nephthys. He managed to get from her where Isis had hidden Osiris and hacked the body to pieces, throwing them across the land and into the river. When Isis returned, Nephthys tearfully told her the story and offered to help in any way she could.

 

Isis and Nephthys found all the parts of Osiris and put him back together except for his penis, which had been eaten by a fish. Osiris revived but, because he was not whole, could not return to the land as king; he would instead descend to the underworld where he would rule over the dead as their just and merciful judge. Before he left, however, Isis transformed herself into a kite (a falcon) and flew around his body, drawing his seed into her own and becoming pregnant with a son, Horus. When Horus was born, she hid him in the marshes of the Delta as she had his father’s body and Nephthys, this time, kept her secret.

 

THE CONTENDINGS OF HORUS & SET
When Horus grew to manhood he challenged Set for the kingdom. The best known version of this contest is known as The Contendings of Horus and Set from a manuscript of the Twentieth Dynasty (1190-1077 BCE). The story tells of the legal battle before the Ennead of Heliopolis, a tribunal of nine gods, to decide who was the rightful king of Egypt. These gods were Atum, Shu and Tefnut, Geb and Nut, Isis and Nephthys, Set, and Osiris. Horus and Set both present their cases and then must prove themselves in a series of contests and battles which are all won by Horus.

 

Horus

The majority of the nine gods ruled that Horus was the rightful king but Atum, the sun god, was not convinced and the decision had to be unanimous, barring Set’s opinion. Atum believed that Horus was too young and had led too sheltered a life to effectively rule while Set had the necessary experience if not the most gentle manner. Even though Horus won every contest against his uncle, Atum would not be moved. This trial went on for over 80 years while the people of Egypt suffered under Set’s chaotic reign until Isis intervened, showed the other gods – and Set – how wickedly he had behaved, and won the ruling in favor of her son. In another, perhaps older, version of the story it is the goddess Neith who settles the dispute in favor of Horus and grants the desert lands to Set along with two foreign goddesses (Anat and Astarte) as consolation. Horus assumed the throne of his father and ruled with Isis and Nephthys as his counselors. Set was driven from the land to the arid frontier deserts and Nephthys remained as a protector of the female head of the household, Isis in this case, but later any mature married woman.

 

THE LAMENTATIONS OF ISIS & NEPHTHYS
This myth was important to the ancient Egyptians on many levels. It illustrated core values of harmony, order, divine intervention in human affairs, the importance of gratitude, trust, and how, in the character of Set, even the gods could succumb to temptation but, no matter what, harmony and order would be restored. The death and ressurection of Osiris provided a divine template for the passage of all human beings who were thought to be travelers on an eternal journey through life and on into the afterlife. The Cult of Osiris became extremely popular and part of his religious service included the recitation of the liturgy known as The Lamentations of Isis and Nephthys.

 

The most complete version of this verse comes from the Berlin Papyrus 3008 dating to the Ptolemaic Dynasty. This papyrus was part of a copy of The Book of the Dead owned by a woman named Tentruty (also given as Teret) and is written in hieratic script (the cursive, everyday, script of the Egyptians) in five columns. The poem is written as an exchange between Isis and Nephthys as they call Osiris’ soul back to his body. The two goddesses entreat the soul to return, to live again among them, and invoke Horus, Osiris’ son, as his protector in life who will provide him with “bread, beer, oxen, and fowl” and whose sons will guard his body and protect his soul. In the end, Osiris returns to life as the poem ends with the line, “Lo! He Comes!”

 

Following the verse, the scribe has left very careful instructions on how the Lamentations is to be presented at the festivals:

 

Now, when this is recited the place is to be completely secluded, not seen and not heard by anyone except the chief lector-priest and the setem-priest. One shall bring two women with beautiful bodies. They shall be made to sit on the ground at the main portal of the Hall of Appearings. On their arms shall be written the names of Isis and Nephthys. Jars of faience filled with water shall be placed in their right hands, offering loaves made in Memphis in their left hands, and their faces shall be bowed. To be done in the third hour of the day, also in the eighth hour of the day. You shall not be slack in reciting this book in the hour of the festival. It is finished.

 

The two virgins would recite the Lamentations to invite Osiris to participate in the festival and, once he arrived, the celebration could begin. Osiris was considered the first king of Egypt who had given the people their culture and who, through his death and resurrection, showed them the way to eternal life. In death, everyone was linked to Osiris who was the first to have died and been reborn. His festivals, therefore, were of great importance and Nephthys regularly featured as one of the most important elements of the celebration: one of the two who called the god to join the living.

 

She describes herself as the “beloved sister” of Osiris in the Lamentations and says, “I am with you, your bodyguard, for all eternity.” When the Lamentations became included in The Book of the Dead (c. 1550-1070 BCE), the poem was recited at funerals and Nephthys would then have been speaking to the soul of the deceased. It was in this capacity that she came to be regarded as the “Friend of the Dead” who walked with the soul and helped them in the afterlife as their “bodyguard for all eternity” and made her such an important deity to the people.

 

NEPHTHYS & THE BARGE OF RA
Long before the Osiris myth became popular, Nepthys was already a very significant goddess, however. In texts of the period of the Old Kingdom (c. 2613 – c. 2181 BCE) she is referenced with Set as the two gods who protect the barge of the sun god Ra (Atum) as it passes through the night sky. The evil serpent Apophis tried every night to murder the sun god but Nephthys and Set fought the creature off so the sun could rise the next morning. Set was later transformed from a protector god to the villain of the Osiris myth but Nephthys’ role remained the same: a protector and sustainer of life. Even though the focus on who was protected changed, the basic elements of her character remained the same. The scholar Geraldine Pinch has observed that, “Nephthys never enjoyed the high status of her sister, Isis” (171) and, while it may be true that worship of Nephthys never was on par with that of Isis, her status was consistently quite impressive throughout Egypt’s history.

 

In the Predynastic Period of Egypt, Nephthys was one of the most important deities owing to her part in this myth. If Apophis succeeded in murdering Ra, the sun would not rise and so it was vital that the barge be protected. In the Coffin Texts Set and the snake-god Mehen protect the barge; Mehen by coiling himself around Ra and Set by fending off Apophis. Mehen was later replaced by Nephthys but Apophis was considered so powerful, and the threat to Ra so dire, that other deities often appear on the barge to drive the enemy of the sun away such as Isis, Bastet, Selket, Neith, and Sekhmet who were collectively known, with Nephthys, as the Eyes of Ra in this capacity.

 

The myth of the nightly threat to Ra is most clearly told in a manuscript dating from the Ramessid Period (1292-1069 BCE) but archaeological evidence suggests the story is much older. By the time of the Ramessid Period the myth had evolved into a ritual known as Overthrowing Apophis in which a priest would recite a list of Apophis’ secret names (thereby gaining power over him) and the people would sing hymns celebrating his destruction. Even though the gods destroyed the great serpent every night, he returned to try to murder Ra again the next. The hymns were sung to encourage the gods in their eternal struggle. Participants in the ritual would then make serpents out of wax, spit on them, and destroy them in fire. The ritual was performed regularly after a number of cloudy days when it seemed as though Apophis was succeeding in preventing the dawn and especially during a solar eclipse.

 

POPULARITY & WORSHIP OF NEPHTHYS
Prior to the addition of the other goddesses, however, it was Nephthys and Set who kept the sun on course and she was duly honored for this. Temples to Nephthys were located in every region of Egypt long before she became associated with the dead and only grew more numerous afterwards. As with any Egyptian deity, her temple was attended by priests and priestesses who cared for her statue and observed her holy days and festivals. The public was barred from entering the inner sanctuary of the temple where her statue resided but were welcomed in the outer courtyards where the clergy tended to their needs and collected their donations and sacrifices.

 

By the time of Ramesses II (1279 – 1213 BCE) Nephthys was so popular she was given her own temple at the popular religious center of Sepermeru in the holy precinct where Set’s temple was located. Nephthys was so popular at this time that she is mentioned in texts without allusion to Isis or Set. Her temple in the town of Punodjem was apparently so popular that the head priest and vizier Pra’emhab complained of his workload and her temple at Herakleopolis, near Sepermeru, became the site of the Heb-Sed festival celebrating the rejuvenation of the king. The basalt statue of Nephthys currently housed at the Louvre in Paris comes from this temple.

 

Although Nephthys is frequently depicted as a mirror to her twin sister Isis, she had a life and status all her own which was just as worthy of veneration. Once she became associated with the afterlife and the care of the dead the linen which was used to mummify the deceased was known as “tresses of Nephthys” and it was thought that she, along with Selket, helped to breathe life back into the soul and help them on their eternal journey. Nephthys came to represent the promise of a helper at one’s side in the afterlife who would look after and protect the soul and who assured the living that death was nothing to be feared. The realm of the afterlife was only a new land one traveled to and old friends, like Nephthys, would be waiting to offer their protection and guidance in death as they had throughout life.

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Nephthys

Nephthys was an ancient goddess, who was referenced in texts dating back to the Old Kingdom. She was a member of the Ennead of Heliopolis as the daughter of Geb and Nut and the sister of Osiris, Isis and Horus and the sister and wife of Set. When the Ennead and Ogdoad merged, Nephthys was given a place on Ra’s boat so that she could accompany him on his journey through the underworld.

 

Nephthys is the Greek pronunciation of her name. To the Ancient Egyptians she was Nebthwt (Nebhhwt or Nebthet) meaning “the Mistress of the House”. The word “hwt” (“house”) may refer to the sky (as in Hwt-hor, the “House of Horus” – the name of Hathor), but it also refers to either the royal family or Egypt as a whole. The latter makes a great deal of sense as she was described as the head of the household of the gods and was thought to extend her protection to the head female of every household. She was sometimes associated with Ptah-Tanen in representing Lower Egypt, while Khnum and Isis represented Upper Egypt.

 

It seems that she was originally conceived of as the female counterpart of Set. He represented the desert, while she represented the air. Set was infertile (like the desert that he represented) and was frequently described as either bisexual or gay and so Nephthys was often considered to be barren. As a goddess of the air, she could take the form of a bird, and because she was barren she was associated with the vulture – a bird which the Egyptians believed did not bear children. The Egyptians thought that all vultures were female (because there is very little difference in the appearance of a male vulture), and that they were spontaneously created from the air. While the care shown by a mother vulture for her child was highly respected, the Egyptians also recognised that vultures fed on carrion and associated them with death and decay. As a result, Nephthys became a goddess of death and mourning.

 

Nephthys
Professional mourners were known as the “Hawks of Nephthys”, in recognition of her role as a goddess of mourning. It was also believed that she protected Hapi in his role as of the Four sons of Horus (who guarded the organs stored in the four canopic jars). Hapi protected the lungs, and as a goddes of the air Nephthys was his guardian. She was also one of the four goddesses who guarded the shrine buried with the Pharaoh. She appears with Isis, Selkit (Serqet) and Neith on the gilded shrine of Tutankhamun, but was often depicted with Isis, Bast and Hathor in this role. Yet, she was also said to be the source of both rain and the Nile river (associating her with Anuket) and was thought to protect women in childbirth (with the assistance of her sister, Isis). Thus she was closely associated with both death and life.

 

Although she was technically infertile, later myths claimed that she was the mother of Anubis by either Osiris or Set (depending on the myth). This came about because Anubis’ position as the god of the dead was usurped by Osiris when the theologies of the Ennead and the Ogdoad merged. According to one myth Nephthys disguised herself as Isis to get the attention of her neglectful husband Set, but instead seduced Osiris (who apparently did not realise that it was Nephthys). An alternative myth made it clear that Nephthys intended to seduce Osiris from the beginning and drugged his wine to make her task easier, while a less common myth held that she did trick her husband into a brief daliance in order to concieve Anubis. It is suggested that this tale also explained the flowering of a plant in a normally barren area because Set apparently discovered the adultery when he found a flower left by his brother Osiris.

 

Isis and Nephthys were very close despite Nephthys’ alleged infidelity with Osiris (the husband of Isis) and her marriage to Set (the murderer of Osiris). Nephthys protected the body of Osiris and supported Isis as she tried to resurrect him. The goddesses are so similar in appearance that only their headdresses can distinguish them and they always appear together in funerary scenes. Together Isis and Nephthys could be said to represent day and night, life and death, growth and decay. In Heliopolis, Isis and Nephthys were represented by two virginal priestesses who shaved off all of their body hair and were ritually pure.

 

Nephthys was usually depicted as a woman with the hieroglyphs of her name (a basket on top of the glyph representing the plan of an estate) on her head. She could also be depicted as a mourning woman, and her hair was compared to the strips of cloth used in mummification. She also occasionally appears as a hawk, a kite or a winged goddess in her role as a protector of the dead. Her major centers of worships were Heliopolis (Iunu, in the 13th Nome of Lower Egypt), Senu, Hebet, (Behbit), Per-mert, Re-nefert, Het-sekhem, Het-Khas, Ta-kehset, and Diospolites.

 

Reference
Joshua J. Mark, Ancient History 

J Hill, Ancient Egypt Online 

THe Studay of Pagan Gods & Goddesses: Rhiannon

Rhiannon

Horse Goddess of Wales

In Welsh mythology, Rhiannon is a horse goddess depicted in the Mabinogion. She is similar in many aspects to the Gaulish Epona, and later evolved into a goddess of sovereignty who protected the king from treachery.

Rhiannon in the Mabinogion
Rhiannon was married to Pwyll, the Lord of Dyfed. When Pwyll first saw her, she appeared as a golden goddess upon a magnificent white horse. Rhiannon managed to outrun Pwyll for three days, and then allowed him to catch up, at which point she told him she’d be happy to marry him, because it would keep her from marrying Gwawl, who had tricked her into an engagement.

Rhiannon and Pwyll conspired together to fool Gwawl in return, and thus Pwyll won her as his bride. Most of the conspiring was likely Rhiannon’s, as Pwyll didn’t appear to be the cleverest of men. In the Mabinogion, Rhiannon says of her husband, “Never was there a man who made feebler use of his wits.”

A few years after marrying Pwyll, Rhiannon gave birth to their son, but the infant disappeared one night while under the care of his nursemaids. Frightened that they would be charged for a crime, the nursemaids killed a puppy and smeared its blood on the face of their sleeping queen. When she awoke, Rhiannon was accused of killing and eating her son. As penance, Rhiannon was made to sit outside the castle walls, and tell passersby what she had done. Pwyll, however, stood by her, and many years later the infant was returned to his parents by a lord who had rescued him from a monster and raised him as his own son.

Author Miranda Jane Green draws comparisons to this story and that of the archetypical “wronged wife,” accused of a horrible crime.

Rhiannon and the Horse
The goddess’ name, Rhiannon, derives from a Proto-Celtic root which means “great queen,” and by taking a man as her spouse, she grants him sovereignty as king of the land.

In addition, Rhiannon possesses a set of magical birds, who can soothe the living into a deep slumber, or wake the dead from their eternal sleep.

Her story features prominently in the Fleetwood Mac hit song, although songwriter Stevie Nicks says she didn’t know it at the time. Later, Nicks said she “was struck by the story’s emotional resonance with that of her song: the goddess, or possibly witch, given her ability with spells, was impossible to catch by horse and was also closely identified with birds — especially significant since the song claims she “takes to the sky like a bird in flight,” “rules her life like a fine skylark,” and is ultimately “taken by the wind.”

Primarily, though, Rhiannon is associated with the horse, which appears prominently in much of Welsh and Irish mythology. Many parts of the Celtic world — Gaul in particular — used horses in warfare, and so it is no surprise that these animals turn up in the myths and legends or Ireland and Wales. Scholars have learned that horse racing was a popular sport, especially at fairs and gatherings, and for centuries Ireland has been known as the center of horse breeding and training.

Judith Shaw, at Feminism and Religion, says, “Rhiannon, reminding us of our own divinity, helps us to identify with our sovereign wholeness.

She enables us to cast out the role of victim from our lives forever. Her presence calls us to practice patience and forgiveness. She lights our way to the ability to transcend injustice and maintain compassion for our accusers.”

Symbols and items that are sacred to Rhiannon in modern Pagan practice include horses and horseshoes, the moon, birds, and the wind itself.

An Iowa Pagan named Callista says, “I raise horses, and have worked with them since I was a child. I first encountered Rhiannon when I was a teenager, and I keep an altar to her near my stables. It’s got horsey things on it, like a horseshoe, a horse figurine, and even braids from the manes of horses I’ve lost over the years. I make an offering to her before horse shows, and I invoke her when one of my mares is about to give birth.

She seems to like offerings of sweetgrass and hay, milk, and even music – I sometimes sit by my altar and play my guitar, just singing a prayer to her, and the results are always good. I know she’s watching over me and my horses.”

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Rhiannon

Rhiannon is a major figure in the Mabinogi, the medieval Welsh story collection. She appears mainly in the First Branch of the Mabinogi, and again in the Third Branch. She is a strong minded Otherworld woman, who chooses Pwyll, prince of Dyfed (west Wales), as her consort, in preference to another man to whom she has already been betrothed. She is intelligent, politically strategic, and famed for her wealth and generosity. With Pwyll she has a son, the hero Pryderi, who later inherits the lordship of Dyfed. She endures tragedy when her newborn child is abducted, and she is accused of infanticide. As a widow she marries Manawydan of the British royal family, and has further adventures involving enchantments.

Like some other figures of British/Welsh literary tradition, Rhiannon may be a reflex of an earlier Celtic deity. Her name appears to derive from the reconstructed Brittonic form *Rīgantonā, a derivative of *rīgan- “queen”. In the First Branch of the Mabinogi, Rhiannon is strongly associated with horses, and so is her son Pryderi. She is often considered to be related to the Gaulish horse goddess Epona. She and her son are often depicted as mare and foal. Like Epona, she sometimes sits on her horse in a calm, static way. While this connection with Epona is generally accepted among scholars of the Mabinogi and Celtic studies, Ronald Hutton, a general historian, is skeptical.

Rhiannon’s story
Y Mabinogi: First Branch
Rhiannon first appears at Gorsedd Arberth an ancestral mound near one of the chief courts of Dyfed. Pwyll, the prince of Dyfed, has accepted the challenge of the mound’s magical tradition to show a marvel or deal out blows. Rhiannon appears to him and his court as the promised marvel. She is a beautiful woman arrayed in gold silk brocade, riding a shining white horse. Pwyll sends his best horsemen after her two days running, but she always remains ahead of them, though her horse never does more than amble. On the third day he finally follows her himself and does no better, until he finally appeals to her to stop for him.

Rhiannon characteristically rebukes him for not considering this course before, then explains she has sought him out to marry him, in preference to her current betrothed, Gwawl ap Clud. Pwyll gladly agrees, but at their wedding feast at her father’s court, an unknown man requests Pwyll grant a request; which he does without asking what it is. The man is Gwawl, and he requests Rhiannon.

Rhiannon rebukes Pwyll a second time for his stupid words, but provides the means and the plan to salvage the situation. She holds a second wedding feast for Gwawl, where she deploys Pwyll’s men outside in the orchard. She instructs Pwyll to enter the hall dressed as a beggar and humbly request Gwawl fill a certain ‘small bag’ with food. But she has enchanted the ‘small bag’ so it cannot ever be filled by normal means. Gwawl is persuaded to step in it to control its magic, which means Pwyll can trap him in it. Pwyll’s men rush in and surround the hall, then beat and kick Gwawl as the Badger-in-the-Bag game. To save his life Gwawl is forced to relinquish Rhiannon completely, and also his revenge. Rhiannon marries Pwyll, then journeys to Dyfed as its queen.

After a happy two years Pwyll comes under pressure from his nobles, to provide an heir. He refuses to set Rhiannon aside as barren, and in the third year their son is born. However, on the night of his birth, the newborn disappears while in the care of Rhiannon’s six sleepy maids. Terrified of being put to death, the women kill a puppy and smear its blood on Rhiannon’s sleeping face. In the morning they accuse her of infanticide and cannibalism. Rhiannon takes counsel with her own advisers, and offers to undergo a penance. Pwyll is again urged to set her aside, but refuses, and sets her penance instead. She must sit every day by the gate of the castle at the horse block, to tell her story to travelers. She must also offer to carry them on her back as a beast of burden, though few accept this. However, as the end of the story shows, Pwyll maintains her state as his queen, as she still sits at his side in the hall at feasting time.

The newborn child is discovered by Teyrnon, the lord of Gwent-Is-Coed (South-Eastern Wales). He is a horse lord whose fine mare foals every May Eve, but the foals go missing each year. He takes the mare into his house and sits vigil with her. After her foal is born he sees a monstrous claw trying to take the newborn foal through the window, so he slashes at the monster with his sword. Rushing outside he finds the monster gone, and a human baby left by the door. He and his wife claim the boy as their own naming him Gwri Wallt Euryn (Gwri of the Golden Hair), for “all the hair on his head was as yellow as gold”. The child grows at a superhuman pace with a great affinity for horses. Teyrnon who once served Pwyll as a courtier, recognises the boy’s resemblance to his father. As an honourable man he returns the boy to the Dyfed royal house.

Reunited with Rhiannon the child is formally named in the traditional way via his mother’s first direct words to him Pryderi a wordplay on “delivered” and “worry”, “care”, or “loss”. In due course Pwyll dies, and Pryderi rules Dyfed, marrying Cigfa of Gloucester, and amalgamating the seven cantrefs of Morgannwg to his kingdom.

Y Mabinogi: Third Branch
Pryderi returns from the disastrous Irish wars as one of the only Seven Survivors. Manawydan is another Survivor, and his good comrade and friend. They perform their duty of burying the dead king of Britain’s head in London (Bran the Blessed) to protect Britain from invasion. But in their long time away, the kingship of Britain has been usurped by Manawydan’s nephew Caswallon.

Manawydan declines to make more war to reclaim his rights. Pryderi recompenses him generously by giving him the use of the land of Dyfed, though he retains the sovereignty. Pryderi also arranges a marriage between the widowed Rhiannon and Manawydan, who take to each other with affection and respect. Pryderi is careful to pay homage for Dyfed to the usurper Caswallon to avert his hostility.

Manawydan now becomes the lead character in the Third Branch, and it is commonly named after him. With Rhiannon, Pryderi and Cigfa, he sits on the Gorsedd Arberth as Pwyll had once done. But this time disaster ensues. Thunder and magical mist descend on the land leaving it empty of all domesticated animals and all humans apart from the four protagonists.

After a period of living by hunting the four travel to borderland regions (now in England) and make a living at skilled crafts. In three different cities they build successful businesses making saddles, shields, then shoes. But vicious competition puts their lives at risk. Rather than fight as Pryderi wishes, Manawydan opts to quietly move on. Returning to Dyfed, Manawydan and Pryderi go hunting and follow a magical white boar, to a newly built tower. Against Manawydan’s advice, Pryderi enters it to fetch his hounds. He is trapped by a beautiful golden bowl. Manawydan returns to Rhiannon who rebukes him sharply for failing to even try to rescue his good friend. But her attempt to rescue her son suffers the same fate as he did. In a “blanket of mist”, Rhiannon, Pryderi and the tower vanish.

Manawydan eventually redeems himself by achieving restitution for Rhiannon, Pryderi, and the land of Dyfed. This involves a quasi-comical set of magical negotiations about a pregnant mouse. The magician Llwyd ap Cilcoed is forced to release both land and family from his enchantments, and never attack Dyfed again. His motive is revealed as vengeance for his friend Gwawl, Rhiannon’s rejected suitor. All ends happily with the family reunited, and Dyfed restored.

Interpretation as a goddess

Rhiannon is often associated with Epona
When Rhiannon first appears she is a mysterious figure arriving as part of the Otherworld tradition of Gorsedd Arberth. Her paradoxical style of riding slowly, yet unreachably, is strange and magical, though the paradox also occurs in mediaeval love poetry as an erotic metaphor. Rhiannon produces her “small bag” which is also a magical paradox for it cannot be filled by any ordinary means. When undergoing her penance, Rhiannon demonstrates the powers of a giantess, or the strength of a horse, by carrying travellers on her back.

Rhiannon is connected to three mystical birds. The Birds of Rhiannon (Adar Rhiannon) appear in the Second Branch, in the Triads of Britain, and in Culhwch ac Olwen. In the latter, the giant Ysbaddaden demands them as part of the bride price of his daughter. They are described as “they that wake the dead and lull the living to sleep.” This possibly suggests Rhiannon is based on an earlier goddess of Celtic polytheism.

W.J. Gruffydd’s book Rhiannon (1953) was an attempt to reconstruct the original story. It is mainly focused on the relationship between the males in the story, and rearranges the story elements too liberally for other scholars’ preference, though his research is otherwise detailed and helpful. Patrick Ford suggests that the Third Branch “preserves the detritus of a myth wherein the Sea God mated with the Horse Goddess.” He suggests “the mythic significance may well have been understood in a general way by an eleventh century audience.” Similar euhemerisms of pre-Christian deities can be found in other medieval Celtic literature, when Christian scribes and redactors reworked older deities as more acceptable giants, heroes or saints. In the Táin Bó Cúailnge, Macha and The Morrígan similarly appear as larger-than-life figures, yet never described as goddesses.

Proinsias Mac Cana’s position is that “[Rhiannon] reincarnates the goddess of sovereignty who, in taking to her a spouse, thereby ordained him legitimate king of the territory which she personified.” Miranda Jane Green draws in the international folklore motif of the calumniated wife, saying “Rhiannon conforms to two archetypes of myth … a gracious, bountiful queen-goddess; and … the ‘wronged wife’, falsely accused of killing her son.”

Modern interpretations
Rhiannon appears in many retellings and performances of the Mabinogi (Mabinogion) today. There is also a vigorous culture of modern fantasy novels.

An example of a modern Rhiannon inspiration is the Fleetwood Mac song “Rhiannon”. Stevie Nicks was inspired to create the song after reading Triad: A Novel of the Supernatural, a novel by Mary Bartlet Leader. There is mention of the Welsh legend in the novel, but the Rhiannon in the novel bears little resemblance to her original Welsh namesake. Nevertheless, despite having little accurate knowledge of the original Rhiannon, Nicks’ song does not conflict with the canon, and quickly became a musical legend.

In artworks, Rhiannon has inspired some entrancing images. A notable example is Alan Lee 1987, and 2001, who illustrated two major translations of the Mabinogi, and his pictures have attracted their own following.

Rhiannon is included in various Celtic neopaganism traditions since the 1970s, with varying degrees of accuracy in respect to the original literary sources.

In the fantasy world of Poul Anderson’s Three Hearts and Three Lions, there is a “University of Rhiannon”, where Magic is taught.

 

 

Reference

Patti Wigington, Published on ThoughtCo
Wikipedia 

The Study of Pagan Gods & Goddesses: Isis, Mother Goddess

Isis, Mother Goddess

 

Isis (called “Aset” by the Egyptians), a daughter of Nut and Geb, is known in Ancient Egyptian mythology as a goddess of magic. Wife and sister of Osiris, Isis was originally considered a funerary goddess. After her resurrection via magic of Osiris, who had been killed by his brother Set, Isis was considered “more powerful than a thousand soldiers” and “the clever-tongued one whose speech never fails.” She is sometimes invoked as an assistant in magical rituals in some traditions of contemporary Paganism.

Her worship is also a focus of some Kemetic reconstructionist groups.

The Love of Isis and Osiris
Isis and her brother, Osiris, were recognized as husband and wife. Isis loved Osiris, but their brother Set (or Seth) was jealous of Osiris, and planned to kill him. Set tricked Osiris and murdered him, and Isis was highly distraught. She found Osiris’ body within a great tree, which was used by the Pharaoh in his palace. She brought Osiris back to life, and the two of them concieved Horus.

Depiction of Isis in Art and Literature
Because Isis’ name means, literally, “throne” in the Ancient Egyptian language, she is usually represented with a throne as a depiction of her power. She is often shown holding a lotus as well. After Isis was assimilated with Hathor, she was sometimes depicted with the twin horns of a cow on her head, with a solar disc between them.

Beyond Egypt’s Borders
Isis was at the center of a cult that spread far beyond Egypt’s boundaries.

The Romans were aware of the cult’s existence, but it was frowned upon by many of the ruling class. The emporer Augustus (Octavian) decreed that worship of Isis was forbidden as part of his attempt to return Rome to Roman gods. For some Roman worshipers, Isis was absorbed into the cult of Cybele, which held bloody rites in honor of their mother goddess.

The cult of Isis moved as far afield as ancient Greece, and was known as a mystery tradition among the Hellenes until it was banned by Christianity around the sixth century c.e.

Goddess of Fertility, Rebirth, and Magic
In addition to being the fertile wife of Osiris, Isis is honored for her role as the mother of Horus, one of Egypt’s most powerful gods. She was also the divine mother of every pharaoh of Egypt, and ultimately of Egypt itself. She assimilated with Hathor, another goddess of fertility, and is often depicted nursing her son Horus. There is a wide belief that this image served as inspiration for the classic Christian portrait of the Madonna and Child.

After Ra created all things, Isis tricked him by creating a serpent which ambushed Ra on his daily journey across the heavens. The serpent bit Ra, who was powerless to undo the poison. Isis announced that she could heal Ra from the poison and destroy the serpent, but would only do so if Ra revealed his True Name as payment. By learning his True Name, Isis was able to gain power over Ra.

After Set murdered and dismembered Osiris, Isis used her magic and power to bring her husband back to life. The realms of life and death are often associated with both Isis and her faithful sister Nephthys, who are depicted together on coffins and funerary texts.

They are usually shown in their human form, with the addition of the wings that they used to shelter and protect Osiris.

Isis for a Modern Age
A number of contemporary Pagan traditions have adopted Isis as their patron Goddess and she is often found at the heart of Dianic Wiccan groups and other female-centered covens. Although modern Wiccan worship does not follow the same structure as the ancient Egyptian ceremonies that were once used to honor Isis, today’s Isiac covens incorporate Egyptian lore and mythology into a Wiccan framework, bringing the knowledge and worship of Isis into a contemporary setting.

The Order of the Golden Dawn, founded by William Robert Woodman, William Wynn Westcott, and Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, recognized Isis as a powerful triple goddess. Later, she was passed down to modern Wicca when it was founded by Gerald Gardner.

Kemetic Wicca is a variation of Gardnerian Wicca that follows an Egyptian pantheon. Some Kemetic groups focus on the trinity of Isis, Orsiris and Horus and utilize prayers and spells found the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead.

In addition to these widely recognized traditions, there are countless eclectic Wiccan groups throughout the world that have selected Isis as their deity. Because of the strength and power displayed by Isis, spiritual paths that honor her are popular among many Pagans who are seeking alternatives to traditional patriarchal religious structures. Worship of Isis has seen a resurgence as part of the “Goddess-oriented” spirituality that has become a notable part of the New Age movement.

 

A Prayer to Isis

Mighty mother, daughter of the Nile,
we rejoice as you join us with the rays of the sun.
Sacred sister, mother of magic,
we honor you, Lover of Osiris,
she who is mother of the universe itself.

 

Isis, who was and is and shall ever be
daughter of the earth and sky,
I honor you and sing your praises.
Glorious goddess of magic and light,
I open my heart to your mysteries.

___________________________

Isis

The Goddess of Fertility

 

Isis was the ancient Egyptian goddess of marriage, fertility, motherhood, magic and medicine. Many myths and legends exist about Isis in Egypt and Egyptian literature uses several names and titles for this goddess. Worship of Isis, her temples and her cult spread through Egypt and parts of Europe.

Names, Titles & Roles
Isis is the “Goddess with Ten Thousand Names”
Although this statement is an exaggeration, she does have many names Some of these are Aset, Aust, Eenohebis, Eset, Esu, Hesat, Iahu, Unt, Urethekau, and Werethekau. Isis was also associated with the other Egyptian goddesses, Sekhmet and Hathor. The Greeks worshiped Isis and they associated her with their goddesses; Persephone, Tethys and Athena.

Isis is also known under many different titles, such as:

The Divine One
The Queen of all Gods
Queen of Heaven
The Maker of Sunrise
Mother of God
Isis’ most important roles were:

Her positions as the wife of Osiris and the mother of Horus.
Isis’ role as a fertility goddess was also important and caused many women to worship her.
Her position as a goddess of magic: people would look to her and her cult for spells to solve problems. It is told that she managed to trick Ra into revealing his secret name to her and in doing so, Isis obtained many magical powers.

In some of her other roles, Isis had names associated with each role:

Khut: giver of light at the beginning of a new year
Usert: goddess of the earth
Thenenet: goddess of the Tuat (the underworld)
Satis: the Nile flood’s power
Ankhet: providing fertility from the waters and embracer of the land
Kekhet: goddess of the fields and the cultivated areas
Renenet: goddess of the harvest
Tcheft: goddess of the food offered to the gods by humans
Ament: lady of the underworld who restored the bodies of the dead so they could live with Osiris in his kingdom.

How Was Isis Honored?
Isis had a cult that spread throughout Egypt and parts of Europe. People worshiped Isis as the ideal, fertile mother. Women worshiped in her cult and, at times, were her primary worshipers. Another way Egyptians honored Isis was through the images and statues placed in her temples. She was part of a triad of deities along with Osiris and Horus.

Isis is often shown nursing Horus or the pharaoh. Some aspects of her as a mother might have influenced early Christian ideas about the Virgin Mary. People believed her priests could cure illness and they celebrated festivals for her and her four siblings. These took place on five successive days at the end of the year.

Temples
Two of the primary temples dedicated to Isis (in Egypt), were at Behbeit el-Hagar and Philae. Behbeit el Hagar’s construction began during the Late Period and it was in use through the Ptolemaic Period. The builders of this temple were the kings of the Thirtieth Dynasty, who worshiped Isis with devotion. Behbeit el Hagar served as a match to Isis’ temple at Philae, in Upper Egypt.

Construction of the temple on the island of Philae began during the Twenty-fifth Dynasty. But it was not a prominent temple until the Greco-Roman period. Scholars moved Isis’ temple at Philae during the 1960s to save it from flooding after the building of the Aswan Dam. This temple is intact because people did not remove its stones to construct other buildings.

Family Tree
Father: Geb, god of the earth
Mother: Nut, god of the sky
Brother/Husband: Osiris, god of the dead and resurrection
Brother: Set, god of evil and darkness
Sister: Nepthys, goddess of darkness, decay and death
Brother/Son: Horus, sky god, god of kingship
Nephew/Son: Anubis, god of embalming. Anubis was the son of Nepthys by either Osiris or Set. His mother abandoned him as a baby but Isis found him and raised him as her son.
Nephew/Son: Mesthi, guarded the liver of the dead in a Canopic jar, guardian of the South
Nephew/Son: Hapi, guarded the lungs of the dead in a Canopic jar, guardian of the North
Nephew/Son: Qeph-Sennuf, guarded the intestines of the dead in a Canopic jar, guardian of the West
Nephew/Son: Tuamutef, guarded the stomach of the dead in a Canopic jar, guardian of the East

Symbols
Several symbols are associated with Isis:

Sept: a star that marked the beginning of a new year and the start of the Niles’s flooding.
Thet: the buckle or knot of Isis. The thet might represent a stylized uterus with its ligatures and a vagina. It was usually made of a red substance and represents blood and life.
Sacred Animals: cow, scorpion and snake.
Sacred Birds: dove, hawk, swallow and vulture.

Depictions
Depictions of Isis show her as a goddess and a human woman. As a goddess, she wears the vulture headdress. This resembled a bird laying on its stomach on top of Isis’ head, with its head over her forehead and wings hanging down on each side of her head. Isis wears a jeweled collar and a floor-length gown. She holds a papyrus scepter and an ankh in her hands and is often portrayed with long wings.

Sometimes Isis wears a crown instead of the headdress. One crown has horns surrounding a sun disc. Another crown has the horns of a ram, under the double crown, to associate Isis with Osiris. The depictions showing Isis as a human woman show her wearing plainer clothes but her headdress has an uraeus symbol.

Birth of Horus and Scorpion Myth
One of the most important legends told about Isis concerns the birth of Horus and the scorpion myth. This story begins with Set sealing Osiris in a coffin and throwing it into the Nile. This devastated Isis, so she searched for him and found the coffin inside a cedar column in another land. She brought Osiris back to Egypt and mourned him. Set found the coffin, removed Osiris’ body and tore it into fourteen pieces.

Isis wept as she searched for the pieces and Nepthys heard her. Nepthys helped Isis find thirteen of the pieces but a Nile creature ate the final piece. Thoth taught Isis a spell that allowed her to reassemble Osiris and she used wax to replace the missing piece. The spell also restored Osiris to life for one night, he and Isis had intercourse and she conceived Horus.

The next morning, Osiris went to the Tuat. Set imprisoned Isis but Thoth helped her escape. Isis traveled surrounded by her seven scorpion goddesses; Tefen, Befen, Mestet, Mestetef, Petet, Thetet and Maatet. They traveled until they came to a village near a papyrus swamp. Isis knocked on the door of a rich woman, seeking aid, but the woman sent her away. Then she came to the home of a peasant woman who took Isis into her home.

The seven scorpion goddesses were angry so Tefen returned to the rich woman’s house, stung her son and set the house on fire. Isis heard the woman’s grief and restored her son’s life. She gave birth to Horus in a papyrus bed and hid him from Set. One day, Set sent a scorpion to sting Horus but Isis was able to save him.

Taking Ra’s Power
Another legend tells how Isis took Ra’s power for Horus. Ra was an old man and spittle trailed from his mouth. Isis took some spittle and mixed it with earth to create a serpent which bit Ra. She promised to heal Ra in exchange for his secret name, which she could use to control him. Ra told her his name then Isis healed him, forced him to abdicated and made Horus king of the gods.

Important Facts
Isis was the wife of Osiris and the mother of Horus.
In her role as an excellent mother, ancient women revered her.
Isis tricked Ra and took his position for Horus.
Her cult spread throughout the Roman and Greek Empires.
Isis tried hard to find Osiris and restore him to life regardless of obstacles.

———————–

Reference

Patti Wigington
Ancient Egypt Online 

 

 

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Study of Pagan Gods & Goddesses – Bast

Bast

(Bastet Bast)

Bast (known as “Bastet” in later times to emphasise that the “t” was to be pronounced) was one of the most popular goddesses of ancient Egypt. She is generally thought of as a cat goddess. However, she originally had the head of a lion or a desert sand-cat and it was not until the New Kingdom that she became exclusively associated with the domesticated cat. However, even then she remained true to her origins and retained her war-like aspect. She personified the playfulness, grace, affection, and cunning of a cat as well as the fierce power of a lioness. She was also worshiped all over Lower Egypt, but her cult was centred on her temple at Bubastis in the eighteenth nome of Lower Egypt (which is now in ruins). Bubastis was the capital of ancient Egypt for a time during the Late Period, and a number of pharaohs included the goddess in their throne names.

Her name could be translated as “Devouring Lady”. However, the phonetic elements “bas” are written with an oil jar (the “t” is the feminine ending) which is not used when writing the word “devour”. The oil jar gives an association with perfume which is strengthened by the fact that she was thought to be the mother of Nefertum (who was a god of perfume). Thus her name implies that she is sweet and precious, but that under the surface lay the heart of a predator. Bast was depicted as a cat, or as a woman with the head of a cat, a sand cat or a lion. She is often shown holding the ankh (representing the breath of life) or the papyrus wand (representing Lower Egypt). She occasionally bears a was-scepter (signifying strength) and is often accompanied by a litter of kittens.

Cats were sacred to Bast, and to harm one was considered to be a crime against her and so very unlucky. Her priests kept sacred cats in her temple, which were considered to be incarnations of the goddess. When they died they were mummified and could be presented to the goddess as an offering. The ancient Egyptians placed great value on cats because they protected the crops and slowed the spread of disease by killing vermin. As a result, Bast was seen as a protective goddess. Evidence from tomb paintings suggests that the Egyptians hunted with their cats (who were apparently trained to retrieve prey) and also kept them as loved pets. Thus it is perhaps unsurprising that Bast was so popular. During the Old Kingdom she was considered to be the daughter of Atum in Heliopolis (because of her association with Tefnut), however, she was generally thought to be the daughter of Ra (or later Amun). She (like Sekhmet) was also the wife of Ptah and mother of Nefertum and the lion-god Maahes (Mihos) (who may have been an aspect of Nefertum).

As the daughter of Ra she was one of the goddesses known as the “Eye of Ra”, a fierce protector who almost destroyed mankind but was tricked with blood-coloured beer which put her to sleep and gave her a hangover, stopping the carnage. As a result, she is linked to the other goddesses who were known as the “eye of Ra”, most notably Sekhmet, Hathor, Tefnut, Nut, Wadjet and Mut. Her link with Sekhmet was the closest. Not only did both goddesses take the form of a lioness, they were both considered to be the spouse of Ptah and the mother of Nefertum and during the feast of Hathor (celebrating man’s deliverance from the wrathful “Eye of Ra”) an image of Sekhmet represented Upper Egypt while an image of Bast represented Lower Egypt.

She was very closely linked to Hathor. She was often depicted holding a sistrum (the sacred rattle of Hathor) and Denderah (the home of the cult centre of Hathor in the sixth nome of Upper Egypt) was sometimes known as the “Southern Bubastis”. This association was clearly ancient as the two appear together in the valley temple of Khafre at Giza. Hathor represents Upper Egypt and Bast represents Lower Egypt. One of her epithets was “lady of Asheru”. Asheru was the name of the sacred lake in the temple of Mut at Karnak, and Bast was given the epithet because of her connection with Mut, who occasionally took the form of a cat or a lion. Within Mut’s temple there are a number of depictions of the pharaoh celebrating a ritual race in the company of Bast. In this temple Bast is given the epithet “Sekhet-neter” – the “Divine Field” (Egypt).

She was also associated with the lion-headed goddess Pakhet of Speos Artemidos (cave of Artemis) near Beni Hassan. The cave was given the name because Bast (and her aspect Pakhet) was identified by the Greeks with Artemis, the hunter. However, the two goddesses were not that similar as Artemis was celibate while Bast was associated with fun and sexuality. However, the connection with Tefnut and Bast’s potentially warlike aspect probably contributed to this apparently strange connection. After all, even the smallest house cat is a skilled hunter. The Greeks thought that Bast should have a twin brother, as Artemis had her brother Apollo. They linked Apollo with Heru-sa-Aset (Horus son of Isis), so Bast’s name was tinkered with to mean “soul of Isis” (ba-Aset) changing her into a form of this popular goddess. They also decided that Bast was a moon goddess, although she was originally considered to be the daughter of Ra and the “Eye of Ra”.

______________________________

Bast

(Bastet Bast)

 

Bastet is the Egyptian goddess of the home, domesticity, women’s secrets, cats, fertility, and childbirth. She protected the home from evil spirits and disease, especially diseases associated with women and children. As with many Egyptian deities, she also played a role in the afterlife as a guide and helper to the dead although this was not one of her primary duties. She was the daughter of the sun god Ra and is associated with the concept of the Eye of Ra (the all-seeing eye) and the Distant Goddess (a female deity who leaves Ra and returns to bring transfromation).

MEANING OF BASTET’S NAME

Her name was originally B’sst which became Ubaste, then Bast, then Bastet; the meaning of this name is not known or, at least, not universally agreed upon. Geraldine Pinch claims that “her name probably means She of the Ointment Jar” as she was associated with protection and protective ointments. The Greeks associated her closely with their goddess Artemis and believed that, as Artemis had a twin brother (Apollo) so should Bast. They associated Apollo with Horus, the son of Isis (Heru-sa-Aset) and so called the goddess known as Bast ba’Aset (Soul of Isis) which would be the literal translation of her name with the addition of the second ‘T’ to denote the feminine (Aset being among the Egyptian names for Isis).

Bastet, however, was also sometimes linked with the god of perfume and sweet smells, Nefertum, who was thought to be her son and this further links the meaning of her name to the ointment jar. The most obvious understanding would be that, originally, the name meant something like She of the Ointment Jar (Ubaste) and the Greeks changed the meaning to Soul of Isis as they associated her with the most popular goddess in Egypt. Even so, scholars have come to no agreement on the meaning of her name.

Associations

Bastet was extremely popular throughout Egypt with both men and women from the 2nd Dynasty (c. 2890 – c. 2670 BCE) onward with her cult centered at the city of Bubastis from at least the 5th century BCE. She was first represented as a woman with the head of a lioness and closely associated with the goddess Sekhmet but, as that deity’s iconography depicted her as increasingly aggressive, Bastet’s images softened over time to present more of a daily companion and helper than her earlier forms as savage avenger. Scholar Geraldine Pinch writes:

From the Pyramid Texts onward, Bastet has a double aspect of nurturing mother and terrifying avenger. It is the demonic aspect that mainly features in the Coffin Texts and the Book of the Dead and in medical spells. The “slaughterers of Bastet” were said to inflict plague and other disasters on humanity. One spell advises pretending to be the ‘son of Bastet’ in order to avoid catching the plague .

Although she was greatly venerated, she was equally feared as two of her titles demonstrate: The Lady of Dread and The Lady of Slaughter. She is associated with both Mau, the divine cat who is an aspect of Ra, and with Mafdet, goddess of justice and the first feline deity in Egyptian history. Both Bastet and Sekhment took their early forms as feline defenders of the innocent, avengers of the wronged, from Mafdet. This association was carried on in depictions of Bastet’s son Maahes, protector of the innocent, who is shown as a lion-headed man carrying a long knife or as a lion.

In Bastet’s association with Mau, she is sometimes seen destroying the enemy of Ra, Apophis, by slicing off his head with a knife in her paw; an image Mau is best known by. In time, as Bastet became more of a familial companion, she lost all trace of her lionine form, and was regularly depicted as a house cat or a woman with the head of a cat often holding a sistrum. She is sometimes rendered in art with a litter of kittens at her feet but her most popular depiction is of a sitting cat gazing ahead.

 

Role in Religion & Iconography

Bastet appears early in the 3rd millenium BCE in her form as an avenging lioness in Lower Egypt. By the time of the Pyramid Texts (c. 2400-2300 BCE) she was associated with the king of Egypt as his nursemaid in youth and protector as he grew. In the later Coffin Texts (c. 2134-2040 BCE) she retains this role but is also seen as a protector of the dead. The scholar Richard H. Wilkinson comments on this:

In her earliest known form, as depicted on stone vessels of the 2nd dynasty, Bastet was represented as a woman with the maneless head of a lioness. The iconography of the goddess changed, however, perhaps as her nature began to be viewed as milder than that of other lioness deities .

Her cult center at Bubastis in Lower Egypt became one of the richest and most luxuriant cities in Egypt as people from all over the country traveled there to pay their respects to the goddess and have the bodies of their dead cats interred in the city. Her iconography borrowed from the earlier goddess Mafdet and also from Hathor, a goddess associated with Sekhmet who was also closely linked to Bastet. The appearance of the sistrum in Bastet’s hand in some statues is a clear link to Hathor who is traditionally seen carrying the instrument. Hathor is another goddess who underwent a dramatic change from bloodthirsty destroyer to gentle friend of humanity as she was originally the lioness deity Sekhmet whom Ra sent to earth to destroy humans for their sins. In Bastet’s case, although she became more mild, she was no less dangerous to those who broke the law or abused others.

The Tale of Setna & Taboubu

The Tale of Setna and Taboubu (part of the work known as First Setna or Setna I) is the middle section of a work of Egyptian literature composed in the Roman Period of Egypt’s history and currently held by the Cairo Museum in Egypt. The main character of the Setna tales is Prince Setna Khaemwas who is based on the actual prince and High Priest of Ptah Khaemweset (c. 1281 – c.1225 BCE) the son of Ramesses II. Khaemweset, known as the “First Egyptologist”, was famous for his restoration and preservation efforts of ancient Egyptian monuments and, by the time of the Ptolemaic Period, was greatly revered as a sage and magician. Although the story may be interpreted in many different ways, Geraldine Pinch argues that this section of the tale can most clearly be understood as an illustration of how Bastet punishes transgressors.

In this story young Prince Setna steals a book from a tomb, even after the inhabitants of the tomb beg him not to. Shortly afterwards he is in Memphis, near the Temple of Ptah, when he sees a beautiful woman accompanied by her servants and lusts after her. He asks about her and learns her name is Taboubu, daughter of a priest of Bastet. He has never seen any woman more beautiful in his life and sends her a note asking her to come to his bed for ten gold pieces but she returns a counter-offer telling him to meet her at the Temple of Bastet in Saqqara where she lives and he will then have all he desires.

Setna travels to her villa where he is eager to get to the business at hand but Taboubu has some stipulations. First, she tells him, he must sign over all his property and possessions to her. He is so consumed with lust that he agrees to this and moves to embrace her. She holds him off, however, and tells him that his children must be sent for and must also sign the documents agreeing to this so that there will be no problems with the legal transference. Setna agrees to this also and sends for his children. While they are signing the papers Taboubu disappears into another room and returns wearing a linen dress so sheer that he can see “every part of her body through it” and his desire for her grows almost uncontrollable. With the documents signed he again moves toward her but, no, she has a third demand: his children must be killed so that they will not try to renege on the agreement and embroil her in a long, drawn-out court battle. Setna instantly agrees to this; his children are murdered and their bodies thrown into the street. Setna then pulls off his clothes, takes Taboubu, and leads her quickly to the bedroom. As he is embracing her she suddenly screams and vanishes – as does the room and villa around them – and Setna is standing naked in the street with his penis thrust into a clay pot.

The pharaoh comes by at this time and Prince Setna is completely humiliated. Pharaoh informs him that his children still live and that everything he has experienced has been an illusion. Setna then understands he has been punished for his transgression in the tomb and quickly returns the book. He further makes restitution to the inhabitants of the tomb by traveling to another city and retrieving mummies buried there who were part of the tomb inhabitant’s family so they can all be reunited in one place.

Although scholars disagree on who Taboubu represents, her close association with Bastet as the daughter of one of the goddesses’ priests makes this deity a very likely candidate. The predatory nature of Taboubu, once she has Setna where she wants him, is reminiscent of the cat toying with the mouse. Geraldine Pinch concludes that Taboubu is a “manifestation of Bastet herself, playing her traditional role of punisher of humans who have offended the gods”. In this story Bastet takes on the form of a beautiful woman to punish a wrong-doer who had violated a tomb but the story would also have been cautionary to men who viewed women only as sexual objects in that they could never know whether they were actually in the presence of a goddess and what might happen should they offend her.

 

Worship of Bastet

The goddess was worshipped primarily at Bubastis but held a tutelary position at Saqqara and elsewhere. Wilkinson writes:

The goddess’s popularity grew over time and in the Late Period and Graeco-Roman times she enjoyed great status. The main cult centre of this deity was the city of Bubastis – Tell Basta – in the eastern Delta, and although only the outlines of the temple of Bastet now remain, Herodotus visited the site in the 5th century BC and praised it for its magnificence. The festival of Bastet was also described by Herodotus who claimed it was the most elaborate of all the religious festivals of Egypt with large crowds participating in unrrestrained dancing, drinking, and revelry.

Herodotus is the primary source for information on the cult of Bastet and, unfortunately, does not go into great detail on the particulars of her worship. It seems both men and women served as her clergy and, as with the other Egyptian deities, her temple at Bubastis was the focal point of the city providing services ranging from medical attention to counseling to food distribution. Herodotus describes this temple:

Save for the entrance, it stands on an island; two separate channels approach it from the Nile, and after coming up to the entry of the temple, they run round it on opposite sides; each of them a hundred feet wide, and overshadowed by trees. The temple is in the midst of the city, the whole circuit of which commands a view down into it; for the city’s level has been raised, but that of the temple has been left as it was from the first, so that it can be seen into from without. A stone wall, carven with figures, runs round it; within is a grove of very tall trees growing round a great shrine, wherein is the image of the goddess; the temple is a square, each side measuring a furlong. A road, paved with stone, of about three furlongs’ length leads to the entrance, running eastward through the market place, towards the temple of Hermes; this road is about 400 feet wide, and bordered by trees reaching to heaven. (Histories, II.138).

The people of Egypt came annually to the great festival of Bastet at Bubastis which was one of the most lavish and popular events of the year. Geraldine Pinch, citing Herodotus, claims, “women were freed from all constraints during the annual festival at Bubastis. They celebrated the festival of the goddess by drinking, dancing, making music, and displaying their genitals”. This “raising of the skirts” by the women, described by Herodotus, had as much to do with freedom from social constraints as it did with the fertility associated with the goddess. As with many of the other festivals throughout Egypt, Bastet’s celebration was a time to cast aside inhibitions much in the way modern revelers do in Europe during Carnivale or in the United States at Mardi Gras. Herodotus presents a vivid picture of the people traveling to Bubastis for the festival:

When the people are on their way to Bubastis, they go by river, a great number in every boat, men and women together. Some of the women make a noise with rattles, others play flutes all the way, while the rest of the women, and the men, sing and clap their hands. As they travel by river to Bubastis, whenever they come near any other town they bring their boat near the bank; then some of the women do as I have said, while some shout mockery of the women of the town; others dance, and others stand up and lift their skirts. They do this whenever they come alongside any riverside town. But when they have reached Bubastis, they make a festival with great sacrifices, and more wine is drunk at this feast than in the whole year besides. It is customary for men and women (but not children) to assemble there to the number of seven hundred thousand, as the people of the place say (Histories, Book II.60).

Although Herodotus claims that this festival outstripped all others in magnificence and excess, in reality there were many festivals celebrating many gods which could claim the same. The popularity of this goddess, however, made her celebration of particular significance. In the passage above, Herodotus makes note of how the women in the boats mocked those on shore and this would have been done to encourage them to leave off their daily tasks and join the celebration of the great goddess. Bastet, in fact, was second only to Isis in popularity and, once she traveled through Greece to Rome, was equally popular among the Romans and the subjects of their later empire.
Bastet’s Enduring Popularity

The popularity of Bastet grew from her role as protector of women and the household. As noted, she was as popular among men as women in that every man had a mother, sister, girlfriend, wife, or daughter who benefited from the care Bastet provided. Further, women in Egypt were held in high regard and had almost equal rights which almost guaranteed a goddess who protected women and presided over women’s secrets an especially high standing. Cats were also greatly prized in Egypt as they kept homes free of vermin (and so controlled diseases), protected the crops from unwanted animals, and provided their owners with fairly maintenance-free company. One of the most important aspects of Bastet’s festival was the delivery of mummified cats to her temple. When the temple was excavated in 1887 and 1889 CE over 300,000 mummified cats were found. Wilkinson, commenting on her universal popularity, writes:

Amulets of cats and litters of kittens were popular New Year gifts, and the name of Bastet was often inscribed on small ceremonial `New Year flasks’, probably to evoke the goddess as a bestower of fertility and because Bastet, like other lioness goddesses, was viewed as a protective deity able to counter the darker forces associated with the `Demon Days’ at the end of the Egyptian year.

Bastet was so popular that, in 525 BCE, when Cambyses II of Persia invaded Egypt, he made use of the goddess to force the Egyptian’s surrender. Knowing of their great love for animals, and cats especially, he had his soldiers paint the image of Bastet on their shields and then arranged all the animals that could be found and drove them before the army toward the pivotal city of Pelusium. The Egyptians refused to fight for fear of harming the animals and offending Bastet and so surrendered. The historian Polyaenus (2nd century CE) writes how, after his victory, Cambyses II hurled cats from a bag into the Egyptian’s faces in scorn that they would surrender their city for animals. The Egyptians were undeterred in their veneration of the cat and their worship of Bastet, however. Her status as one of the most popular and potent deities continued throughout the remainder of Egypt’s history and on into the era of the Roman Empire until, like the other gods, she was eclipsed by the rise of Christianity.

 

Reference:

Ancient Egypt Online 
Joshua J. Mark, Ancient History Encyclopedia

Goddesses Dictionary

Goddesses Dictionary

 

A
Abeona (Italian)
Abeona was the pre-Roman goddess of departures and was often petitioned to provide for the safety of children as they embarked upon journies. Her sister was Adeona, goddess of safe and speedy returns, and they were often petitioned in tandem.
Abundantia (Roman)
A minor Goddess who personified abundance. She did not—apparently–have as large a following as Ops or Copia. Aside from being a minor Goddess, Abundantia, was also one of the Roman Public Virtues representing “Abundance, Plenty.” Roman culture also strove to uphold virtues which were shared by all of society for the common welfare of the Roman people. Abundantia represented the ideal of there being enough food and prosperity for all segments of society in Rome.
In later folklore, Abundantia seems to have entered homes during the night to bring prosperity. This versions  of  this Goddess or spirit of abundance may have traveled with Romans through different regions of the Empire and thus walked into local folklore.
See Abundia/Abonde, Habondia, Habonde, Herodiana, Herodiade, Erodiade, and Herodias in   The ABC of Aradia and Other Subjects .
Aetna (Sicilian)
Aetna was the presiding goddess of Sicily’s Mount Etna. Mount Etna is an active volcano. Many deities and spirits have been associated with Mount Etna in Sicily.
Adeona (Italian)
Adeona was the pre-Roman goddess of safe and speedy returns. Her sister was Abeona, spirit of departures. In particular, she was petitioned for safe and speedy return of children to the family.
Amalthea (Greek)
The she-goat that suckled the God, Zeus, as an infant. Her horns flowed with nectar and ambrosia.
Angitia, Angita (Italian)
An early Goddess of witchcraft and healing of the Oscan tribe. Angitia was associated with verbal and herbal charms, especially against snakebite. Her name referred to killing snakes through enchantment. The Romans sometimes associated her with Bona Dea, the “Good Goddess.” Angitia was honored in Italy’s Marsian district, which is still famous today for its witches. She was also identified with the sorceress, Marica.
Anna Perenna (Roman)
Goddess of the new year. Her feast was celebrated on March 15. Anciently, March 15 or March 25, according to some scholars, marked the beginning of the celebration of the Roman New Year.
Aphrodite (Greek)
The Goddess of beauty, desire, and love was not originally Greek. She was one of the ancient Goddesses of the East Mediterrian. Greek mythographers said she arose from the sea and travelled to the island of Cyprus, off the coast of Greece, and was sometimes called Cytheria. Aphrodite’s most famous center of worship was at Paphos, where the original white image of the Goddess was kept. Hence she was also called Paphian Aphrodite.
Aphru (Etruscan)
An Etruscan counterpart of the Greek Aphrodite and the Roman Venus. The month of Aprilis (April) was devoted to Venus. Aprilis may have derived from Aphru.
Aricia (Roman)
A minor Goddess, who ruled prophetic visions, which were received in wild places, far from human habitation. She may have been an aspect of Diana, as Aricia was the name of one of Diana’s shrines.
Artemis (Greek)
Goddess of the hunt and queen of the wild beasts. In Classical imagery, she is the maiden of the new crescent moon, appearing nude or in a short tunic, armed with a bow and quiver of arrows. Accompanied by a band of nymphs, she roamed the mountains and forests of Greece.
Artemis was the elder twin of the sun. Her mother, Leto, bore her without labor pains, and then Artemis assisted as midwife when Apollo was born. She was invoked by women while giving birth as Artemis Eileithyia. As one of her aspects was a bringer of fertility, offerings included fruit, animals, and clay phalli. Spindle-whorls loom weights, and shuttles have been found in shrines dedicated to Artemis. From inscriptions, it is known that woolen and linen threads wound on spools were offered as gifts, as well as clothes. In Athens, Artemis was honored with selenai, round honey cakes representing the moon.
Artemis was likewise the protector of human children and young animals. She is assumed to be a chaste, perpetual virgin, or perhaps a lesbian Goddess who avoids the society of males.
Her title, Apollousa, “the destructress”, referred to her arrows with which she could inflict sudden death and plagues.
Artio (Gaulish-Celtic)
A Goddess of wildlife who often took the form of a bear.
Artini (Etruscan)
A maiden Goddess in northern Italy; the Etruscan form of Artemis.
Aventina (Roman)
Many-breasted Diana, whose image was in a temple on Aventine Hill, in Rome.

 

B
Bona Dea (Roman)
An ancient Goddess, she was worshipped only by women in secret rites during December. Men were not permitted at these rites. The name literally means, “the Good Goddess” and may have been a title of the Goddess, Fauna or Fatua. In any case, the rites were always at some home of a distinguished Roman matron. During these rites, Bona Dea was revered as Goddess of fertility and abundance, and wine flowed freely in her honor.

 

C
Camenae, Camena, Carmenai (Roman)
Like the Fons, who were nymphs of fountains, the Camenae were demi-Goddesses of fresh water. They inhabited lakes, springs, and rivers. Uniquely, these nymphs were also Goddesses of prophecy and instruction. Their name means “foretellers.” Egeria at Nemi was the most famous of the Camenae.
On October 13, the Fontinalia, both the Camenae and the Fons were worshiped by throwing wreaths upon their waters.
The Romans indentified the airy Greek Muses of inspiration with the Camenae.
Carna (Roman)
Goddess of protection, and of health and well-being of humans, especially small children. She presided over the intestines, heart, and other human organs. Some scholars have described Carna as being a Goddess of good digestion. .When parents appealed to Carna, this Goddess would enter the home and perform certain rites to bar a strix from entering the house. The strix was sort of a supernatual screech owl. If this evil creature could, it would fly in at night and eat a sleeping child’s intestines so the child would not get good nourishment and waste away. Her festival took place on June 1. Carna was tradtionally offered bacon and beans.
Ceres, Kerres (Roman)
Goddess of the grain who presided over harvests. In August, women enacted secret rituals in her honor. The Cerealia on April 19 was celebrated to protect the crops and ensure a bountiful harvest. From her name, we have the word for a common breakfast item, “cereal.”
Cloacina (Roman)
Goddess in charge of the sewers. She is, therefore, a Goddess of sanitation in the modern sense of the word.
Copia (Roman)
A Goddess of plenty, her name survives in the word, cornucopia, “the horn of plenty,” which she, and other fertility or harvest Goddesses, were depicted as holding.
Cupra (Etruscan)
A Goddess of lightning, often depicted with a spear. An ancient Goddess of fertility, she formed a triad with the God, Tinia and the Goddess of Wisdom, Menvra. Her weapon, when depicted with Tinia and Menvra, was the thunderbolt.
Cybele (Phrygian)
A powerful divine image, the Mountain Mother, as Cybele was known in Phrygia, Anatolia, Cybele was described as a full-breasted, mature woman, crowned, bearing her symbols of grain and keys, arrayed in a robe of all colors of blossoms. Though she was a mother of all of nature, Cybele was not a gentle Goddess. She traveled in a lion-drawn chariot. Her consort was the dying and reborn God, Attis, who castrated himself after he betrayed Cybele with another female. Cybele had struck him with madness as punishment for not being loyal to her.
Romans were true polytheists and welcomed many foreign divinities into Rome. The cult of Cybele entered Rome in 204 bce. Hanibal of Carthage threatened Rome. Consultation of the Sibyline books revealed that the Carthaginian would only be defeated if the black stone of Cybele was brought with ceremony and honor to the Capitol. So the ancient image of Cybele was brought to Rome with her priesthood. Sure enough, the Romans defeated the Carthaginian in due time.
Unfortunately, Cybele’s priests were eunuchs, who had castrated themselves in a state of divine madness during initiation, something the Romans were never comfortable with. Nevertheless, in Rome, the Cybele ceremonies focused on springtime, March 15-27. They began with the triumphal entry of the young Attis, symbolized by a pine tree, into Rome. The evergeen was adorned with violets, which were considered to have sprung from the blood of Attis. The following day was one of fasting and mourning, with litanies of sorrow over the death of young Attis. On March 24, the “Day of Blood,” her chief priest, the archigallus, drew blood from his arms and offered it to her, to the music of symbols, drums, and flutes while the galli, her priests, whirled madly and slashed themselves to splatter the altar and the sacred pine with their blood. Finally, at Attis’ resurection, there followed jubilations and hymns glorifying his rebirth at the arrival of the new growing season. On March 27, the silver statue of the Goddess with the sacred stone set in its head was borne in procession and bathed in Almo, a tributary of the Tiber River.
The powerful image of death and rebirth in the cycle of seasons may have reinforced this attribute in other divinities in Roman thought. Or perhaps all the similarities were already there. The Romans identified her with the Goddesses, Ceres, Ops, Rhea, and Tellus.
Cybele was assigned several Roman titles, including Magna Mater and Mater Turrita

 

D
Damatres (Sicilian)
A title of Ceres and Proserpine, meaning “The Mothers.”
Dea (Roman)
Simply the Latin word for Goddess.
Dea Mors(Roman)
The name literally means “the Goddess Death,” possibly this is a title of another Goddess, or simply a feminine personification of death. Dea Mors is sometimes said to the the eldest of the Fatae. Dea Mors may also have been linked to Libitina, the goddess who presided over funeral services. It is possible that she was somehow linked to Proserpine, Queen of the Dead.
Devera (Roman)
This Goddess presided over brooms used to purify ritual sites.
Dia, Dea Dia (Roman)
Known as “the Goddess Dia,” her name indicates that Dia was one of Italy’s original Goddesses, but little information survived about her. dd>Her three day festival, Ambarvalia, was celebrated in May by her priesthood, the Fratres Arvales. They also tended her sacred grove, the Lucus Deae Diae, located along the River Tiber. If a tree in the grove or rotten limb was downed in a storm, the priests had to make offerings of sows or lambs. Iron was taboo in her grove. If an irongraving tool was brought into this sacred grove for purposes of cutting stone, the priests would offer a sow and a lamb as an expiatory sacrifice.
In ancient Roman religion, a “lucus” was a sacred grove. Lucus was one of four Latin words generally meaning “grove, forest, woodland, grove” (along with nemus, silva, and saltus). Lucus was primarily used as a religious designation.
Dea Dia was a very ancient Roman Goddess, associated the plowed field. She was apparently a Goddess of growth, who was concerned with the fertility of the field/earth and with the growth of the planted crops, especially grain. She was sometimes identified with the Roman Goddess of grain, Ceres, and sometimes with Ceres’ Greek counterpart, Demeter—as well as being identified with other Goddesses.
Diana (Roman)
The Classical western image of the Roman Diana is a maiden bearing a quiver and bow, who runs nude or in a hunting tunic through the moonlit forest with her pack of hounds. However, the Roman Diana was only depicted in this fashion after the Romans conquered Greece and assimilated their original Italian Diana into the powerful figure of Artemis, the Greek maiden Goddess of the hunt and moon.
Diana was first worshipped outdoors under the open sky. Diana’s name seems to have been derived from the Indo-European word for “light”. Possibly she was the Roman Goddess of both the moon and sun. For although the Etruscans of northern Italy had the sun God, Usil, and another young sun God, Apulu, the Romans apparently did not. The sun God, Apollo, was imported to the Roman pantheon from Greece during the Classical era–along with the maiden huntress image for Diana.
Yet in Rome, on Aventine Hill, Diana’s temple still had an ancient image that depicted her as a many-breasted mother of nature–similar to Diana of Ephesus. Women flocked to her temple at Aventine Hill to request aid in child bearing.
The whole figure of Diana is complex and rich indeed. She was known as Diana Trivia: Diana on the earth, Luna in the sky, and Proserpine in the underworld. At her shrine at Nemi, near Aricia, she formed another trinity with her servant and assistant midwife, Egeria the water nymph, and Virbius, a woodland God. One of her epithets was Diana Nemorisis or Diana of the Grove.
Diana’s feast day, the Nemoralia, was August 15, some sources say August 13. It was deemed to be the birthday of the Goddess. Reportedly women would each bake a cake for the household in Diana’s honor, around which white candles were set. A procession of women, with hounds on leashes, would journey to Aricia to offer thanks in Diana’s sacred grove and request the Goddess’s continued aid and a harvest free of storms. Diana’s festival in mid August was a holiday for Roman slaves.
In modern Italy, August 15 is a feast day of the Virgin Mary. The feast is known as the Ferragosto. It celebrates the Virgin Mary’s assumption into heaven and her coronation as Queen of Heaven. Whole villages participate or watch the procession in which the image of the Virgin is carried through the streets.
Dictynna (Cretan)
A Goddess of the island of Crete, apparently related to fishing. Her name means the “netted one” or “of the nets” and may refer to a fish Goddess providing an abundance of food

 

E
Edulica (Roman)
Protectess of children.
Egeria (Roman)
A female divinity at the Grove of Nemi. Egeria served as the Goddess Diana’s servant and assistant midwife. In Roman myth, Egeria was the most famous of the Camenae or nymphs inhabiting springs, fountains, or lakes. She had some connection to Vesta as well as Diana, for the Vestals ritually drew water from Egeria’s spring at Nemi for sacred purposes. Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, supposedly received instructions concerning the establishment of public worship in Rome from her. Egeria became the wife of Numa and served as his prophetic counselor.
Eileithyia (Greek)
Originally a Goddess in her own right, Eileithyia was a pre-Helenic divinity of birth, who spun the thread of life. She was later assimilated into the figure of the Greek Artemis. Artemis was invoked as Artemis Eileithyia by women giving birth. Later, the Romans applied the name of this ancient Goddess to the Ilithyiae, Goddesses associated with midwifery, including Juno Lucina and even Hecate.

 

F
Fata, Parca (Roman)
In Roman religion, sometimes there were references to only one Goddess of destiny instead of the three Fates. She was known as Fata or Parca.
Fata Diana (Italian)
Diana, as she survived in folklore as the faery Diana. She was invoked in spells for good fortune as well as love magic.
Fates, Fatum, Parace, Dii Involuti (Roman)
In Classical myth, three old women spun the fate of mortal human lives: Decima, Parca, and Nona. One carded the wool, then spinning the thread of life, another measured out the proper length after removing it from the spindle, and the third cut the strand with a pair of sheers. They were also known as the Fatas, and after the invention of the spinning wheel, they were described in folklore as using that rather than their original drop spindle.
As time progressed, the term fata began to be applied to supernatural beings or spirits inhabiting trees, springs, or other natural sites. The word eventually envolved into our English word, “faery” or “fairy.”
Fauna (Roman)
A nature Goddess, the companion or counterpart of Faunus. She was also identified with Feronia and Bona Dea. In modern times, she lends her name to all of the animal kingdom.
Febris (Roman)
Goddess of malaria and fever. Remedies or amulets that had eased the sufferings of someone when sick were given as offerings to this Goddess. She may have had some connection to Juno Februata, a Goddess of purification. Later, the Catholic church honored “Madonna della Febbre.”
Feronia (Roman)
A Goddess of the woods who was possibly of Etruscan origin. She had care of trees. Her temple stood in a grove, and slaves were set free at her shrine.
Flora, Fluusa (Roman)
A very ancient Goddess who was the embodiment of all flowering nature. She was originally worshipped from April 28 to May 3 with orgies. Flowers are the sex organs of plants, and the orgiastic rites were sympathetic magic to cause the plants to bloom well and bear fruit well. According to Robert Turcan, The Gods of Ancient Rome (1998), “There was joyful feasting beneath the flowers, everyone trying to outdo the rest in drinking, and dancing by the light of nocturnal torches. People also wore many-coloured clothing; but for the actresses in mime shows, striptease on the festival boards was obligatory.” (p. 69) In modern times, she lends her name to all of the plant kingdom.
Fornax (Roman)
The Goddess who presides over ovens and baking.
Fortuna (Roman)
The Goddess of destiny and luck. Her name means “she who brings,” impling she brings good fortune. She was sometimes depicted blindfolded, holding a cornucopia, meaning she would sometimes blindly dispurse her gifts of abundance and wealth. She was also known as Fortuna Virilis, a Goddess who made women irrisistable to men.
Fulgora (Roman)
Goddess of lightning.
Furies, Furiae, Dirae (Roman)
Chthonic spirits and Goddesses of vengence. They were invoked by pounding on the ground.

 

G
Graces, Graciae, Hora (Roman)
Three Goddesses said to frequently dance gracefully in the moonlight. They were charming, beautiful and gracious.

 

H
Hecate (Greek and Roman)
A pre-Helenic deity, the Goddess of magic and the underworld,. She had many similarities to Diana. She traveled at night with a pack of hounds. She was described as a triune deity, Hecate Trivia: Artemis on earth, Selene in the sky, and Hecate in the underworld. Modern Wiccans identify this triad as the Maiden (Artemis), Mother (Selene), and Crone (Hecate)–the threefold Goddess of the moon. Supposedly, this Maiden, Mother, and Crone triad was also illustrated by the Greek Goddess triad of Persephone, Demeter, and Hecate.
As Hecate Phosperous, meaning “Hecate the light-bearer,” she carried a lit torch.
After Hecate was adopted into the Roman pantheon, the Romans sacrificed black dogs and other black animals to her. Hecate was also the queen of the spirits of the dead, she was said to wander around tombs. At night she would appear at crossroads, accompanied by her train of spirits flying through the air with howling black hounds.
In Italy, the luci averni, woods surrounding Lake Avernus, were sacred to Hecate. The Cave of the Cumaean Sibyl was located near Avernus.
Horta (Etruscan)
A Goddess of agriculture and gardens. She gave her name to the practice of “horticulture.”

 

I
Intercidona (Roman)
A Goddess who first taught the art of cutting wood to make a fire.
Isis (Egyptian)
The supreme, most widely worshipped Goddess. The cult of Isis spread through Rome to the entire Mediterranian and up into the British Isles as well as into Asia Minor. Although her Egyptian name was Auset, she was most widely known as Isis, her Greek name. She had numerous aspects, attributes, and functions. She was often identified with the moon and presided over magic and healing. She was a protectress of sailors. Apuleius, 2nd century c.e., Roman philosopher and novelist, described the mystery cult of Isis in his The Golden Ass.

 

J
Jana (Italian)
A very ancient Goddess, whose symbol was a key, and she was known as the queen of secrets. The symbol of her consort, Janus, was a door or gate. She is sometimes associated with the moon.
Juno (Roman)
Goddess of women and wife of Jove Pater. The Matronalia was a festival held in her honor. Juno had a number of functions, aspects, epithets, and titles. For example, she was known as Juno Lucina, meaning Juno the light-bearer. In this aspect, she was a lunar Goddess, often paired with Diana, and depicted as holding a torch. Juno Lavinium was adorned with a garment and headgear made of goatskin, known as the februum, linking her to her aspect as Juno Februata, Goddess of purification.

 

K

 

L
Latona (Roman)
The “Titanis Latona” was a daughter of Phoibe and Koios. Her name, “Latona,” was a Latinization her Greek name, “Leto,” influenced by Etruscan “Letun.” In Roman mythology, Latona was best known as the mother of Diana and Apollo, and the story from Ovid of Latona and the Lycians.
When Latona was wandering the earth, after giving birth to Diana (Artemis) and Apollo (Apollon), she attempted to drink water from a pond in Lycia. However the Lycian peasants, possibly afraid of the wrath of Juno (Hera), refused to allow her to drink. They stepped in the pond waters and stirring the mud at the bottom in the waters. Latona transformed them into frogs for their inhospitality, “May you live forever in the mud of your pond!”—if they wished to keep strangers from their waters, then they could forever remain in its mud.
In Greek mythology, Leto gave birth to Artemis and Apollon at the island on the island of Delos, which—according the this tale–had been broken off from Sicily. In ancient Crete, this island was known as Letoai,  or Lato.
Silius Italicus Punica wrote in an invocation of Diana: “Come favorably, Diana, daughter of Latona, onto our undertaking.”
Laverna (Roman)
A Goddess of thieves, who were thus known as Laverniones. According to legend, thieves under her protection could safely hide their booty in a grove consecrated to her. She was represented as headless.
Leukothea, Leucothea (Etruscan)
Althogh her name is Greek and meant “White Goddess,” Leukothea may have been another title or name of the Etruscan moon Goddess. However, she was also associated with the sea and its tides–which are ruled by the moon. She was invoked by sailors to save them from shipwreck.
Libertas (Roman)
Goddess of liberty. Freed slaves often donned her liberty cap to indicate their new social status. Libertas was also depicted holding a liberty pole or with a cat at her feet. Sometimes, instead of a pole, she held a torch, like Diana Lucina and the modern American Lady Liberty.
Libitina (Italian)
Libitina was the goddess of funerals. Roman undertakers were known as libitnarii and maintained offices in her sanctuaries. Offerings were made to Libitina when a family reported a death.
Supposedly Libitina’s name became synonymous with death itself. She may be related to Dea Mors.
Losna, Lucna (Etruscan)
Goddess of the moon.
Lucina (Roman)
As a Goddess in her own right, Lucina was said to be a daughter of Juno and Jove Pater. She was associated with childbirth. Her emblem was the lady bug. The name, Lucina, meaning “light-bearer”, was also a surname of Juno and Diana. Lucina was honored in both September and December. Another festival was celebrated on March 1 and allowed matrons to assemble and implore for a happy posterity. Lucina was later canonized as Santa Lucia, or Saint Lucy.
Luna (Roman)
A minor Goddess of the moon, identified with Diana. Luna is sometimes depicted wearing a crescent. Luna’s name derives from the Etruscan moon Goddess, Losna or Lucna.
Lupa (Roman)
The name given to the she-wolf who nursed the children, Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome.

 

M
Magna Dea (Roman)
A title often assigned to the Goddess Ceres, meaning the “Great Goddess.”
Magna Mater (Phrygian-Roman)
A Latin title meaning the “Great Mother”, which is the Roman name assigned to the Phrygian Cybele. Also Magna Mater Deorum, meaning “Great Mother of the Gods.”
Mater Larum, Lara (Roman)
An underworld Goddess, the “Mother of the Dead”, who are the lares or larvae.
Mater Turrita (Phrygian-Roman)
A Roman name for Cybele, mean “Mother Turrita”.
Meditrina (Roman)
Goddess of medicine, to which she gives her name.
Mellona (Roman)
A rustic Goddess of honey.
Mena, Mens, Menes, Meni (Roman)
She is the Goddess of menstruation. Mena’s name is related to the Latin word for “month,” mensis. Not much is known about the Roman Mena. Her name was preserved in a 5th century Latin document by St. Augustine of Hippo, City of God “…dea Mena, quam praefecerunt menstruis feminarum.” It seems the practical Romans had deities for everything. She may be related to the Greek “Mene,” which was another name of the moon Goddess, Selena.
Mene (Greek)
Another name of the moon-Goddess, Selena. She bore a daughter by Zeus, known as Herse, the personified dew, which formed mysteriously under the clear, night sky, bringing moisture to the plants after a day’s drying of the soil.
Menvra, Menrfa (Etruscan)
An important Goddess, she associated with two other major deities in the Etruscan pantheon, the God, Tinia, and the Goddess, Uni. Three temples were dedicated to this Etruscan triad, but as with most Etruscan deities, little information about their mythologies is available. However, she may have been a Goddess of the thunderbolt like Cupra. Menvra and Cupra formed also formed a triad with Tinia. The Goddesses were shown with Tinia, each holding a thunderbolt while Tinia himself held three.
Minerva (Italian)
An ancient Goddess, probably of Etruscan origin, as her name is apparently derived from the Etruscan Goddess Menvra. Minerva was a Goddess of handicrafts and her chief temple on Aventine was the center of worship for the Roman guilds. She was also a Goddess of intelligence or wisdom and a patroness of schools. The sacred animal of Minerva was the antelope, a prophetic animal. The eyes of the antelope were associated with sharpness of vision.
Muse, the Muses (Greek)
In Classical Greco-Roman religion and myth, a Muse was one of a group of Goddesses who inspired the creation and understanding of literature, knowledge, and the arts. The number and names of the Muses varied. The most standard list is Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (history), Urania (astronomy), Polyhymnia (hymns, religious music), Euterpe (song and elegiac poetry), Terpsichore (dance and choral song), Melpomene (drama: tragedy), Thalia (drama: comedy), and Erato (erotic and/or love poetry). The orginal Greek name for one of the Muses was mousa. The modern English words “museum,” “music,” “bemuse,” “amuse,” and “amusing” all derive from the ancient Greek mousa.

 

N
Nox (Greco-Roman)
Supposedly an ancient deity, she was the Goddess of night. Her union with her brother, Erebus (Darkness), produced Dies (Day) and Aether (Air).

 

O
Orbona (Roman)
The Goddess who protects orphans.
Ops (Etruscan Roman)
An agricultural Goddess of abundance, personifying the earth’s riches. Her name was invoked by farmers to bless seeds before planting. She was associated with Saturn. Her festivals were the Opalia on December 19 and Opeconsia on August 25. In August, Ops was worshipped while touching the ground. From her name, we derive the word “opulence.”

 

P
Pessinuntica (Phrygian)
A title of Cybele meaning, “Mother of the Gods.”
Phersipnei (Etruscan)
Apparently the Etruscan counterpart to the Roman Proserpine and the Greek Persephone.
Pomona (Italian)
A Goddess of apples, orchards, fruit, and gardens. Her sacred grove was known as the Pomponal, near Ostia. Her priest at Rome was known as the Flamen Pomponalis.
Primigenia (Roman)
A title meaning “first-born” or “first-created”. Fortuna was sometimes called Fortuna Primigenia.
Proserpine, Prosperine, Prosperina (Italian)
Originally Proserpine was an agricultural Goddess who nursed the growth of the tender shoots in spring–possibly from the underworld.
In Sicily, Proserpine was called “the savior”, where images of the maiden and her mother, Ceres, were used for many centuries in place of the Virgin Mary and child. Proserpine was honored with bouquets of wild flowers or sheaves of grain. Later she absorbed the mythology and attributes of the Greek Persephone and was viewed as Queen of the Underworld. Hence, she was known as Stygian Proserpine.

 

Q
Querquenulanae Virae (Roman)
Green oak nymphs with prophetic powers.

 

R

 

S
Salcia, Salichia (Roman)
Goddess of saltwater and springs.
Salus (Roman)
Goddess of health, prosperity, and public welfare.
Selene, Selena (Greek)
A divinity of the moon, described as a Titaness who drove the moon chariot across the night sky. She fell in love with a youth, Endymion, who she cast into deep sleep. Interestingly, the cakes dedicated to the Greek moon Goddess, Artemis, were called selenai.
semnai, semnai theai
In Greco-Roman mythology, the semnai were Goddesses of vengeance. This name, like the name Eumenides (“Kindly Ones”), was a euphemism for the Erinyes (“Furies”). The name semnai literally meant “Venerable Ones” and semnai theai meant Venerable Goddesses.
Sharrat Shame (Babylonian)
A title of Ishtar meaning, “Queen of Heaven.”
Sophia, Pistis Sophia (Gnostic)
The name, Sophia, is Greek for “wisdom.” In Gnostic theology, she was the Holy Spirit of divine Wisdom; she came into existence before creation. The Gnostics were an amalgamation of Jewish and Greek philosophical pagan theology, which later formed into Christian Gnostic sects. The Catholic Church sought to stamp out the heresy of Gnosticism around the Mediteranean, but never quite eradicated the ideas behind it, which remanifested themselves from time to time in other religious movements.
Strenia (Italian)
A Goddess who was worshipped in Rome at the beginning of the new year in the springtime.
Susuri (Roman)
The personification of rumor, who kept company with Fama (fame), Credulitas (error), and Laetitia (unfounded joy)

 

T
Tellus, Tellus Mater, Terra (Roman)
The personified earth. See Madre Terra and Gaia hypothesis on The ABC of Aradia.
Tempestates (Roman)
Goddesses of storm and wind.
Thana, Thalnr (Etruscan)
Goddess of the dawn.
Titania (Roman)
A minor Goddess of the moon, later named Queen of the Faeries.
Tiu, Tiuv (Etruscan)
The deified moon.
Turan (Etruscan)
Turan was a love Goddess and is assumed to be a queen of life, probably influenced by the Greek Aphrodite and sometimes referred to by that name. Her name seems to derive from the same word as the Greek tyrannos, meaning “ruler.” She was mistress of life and sex and was associated with Zirna. Turan survived in folklore as Turanna, the good faery of peace and love in modern Italy.
Turanna (Italian)
A survival of the Etruscan Goddess, Turan, in folklore as a faery

 

U
Uni (Etruscan)
A Goddess in the divine triad which included the God Tinia and the Goddess Menvra. They clearly correspond to the Roman deities Juno, Jove Pater, and Minerva. The Etruscans apparently believed in a celestial council of 12, composed of Uni, Tinia, and Menvra, with 9 other deities.

 

V
Vegoia, Begoe (Estruscan)
When the Etruscans first settled in Tuscany, the Goddess Vegoia appeared to instruct them how to best form a civilization which would please the Gods. She taught them how to worship properly in rituals, how to divine through augury, and how to measure out land and set boundaries in human teritory. Boundaries between fields marked with stones acquired a numenous, or divine, force among many cultures in antiquity, as these were part of the marks that provided order.
Venus (Roman)
Originally a Goddess of beauty and protectress of gardens. Her symbols included wild strawberries, herbs, pinecones, and cyprus trees. Venus was a spirit of beauty and charm. Originally only bloodless sacrifices, such as garlands of vervain, were offered at her shrines, which were situated at large stones positioned next to tall trees. During the Classical era, this winsome Goddess of youthful love was assimilated into the complex figure of the Greek Aphrodite. The young and mischievious winged Cupid became her son as the Roman God of love. During the rule of the emperors of the Julii family, Venus acquired a matronly aspect, as Julius Caesar was supposedly descended from her. Julius Caesar specifically invoked her as his ancestress under the name, Venus Genitrix, and consecrated a temple to her in 46 bce.
Her festival, the Veneralia, was celebrated on April 1.
She is still invoked in love spells and love poetry.
Vesta (Roman)
Goddess of the hearth and the central divinity of Roman family life. Every hearth was her altar and every hearth fire her image. Daily offerings were made to Vesta by families at their hearths. The sacred fire which the city of Rome burned in Vesta’s round temple was tended by her priestesses, the Vestal Virgins.
It would have been a terrible omen if the sacred fire of Rome ever accidentally went out. The Vestals only doused the fire once a year on March 1 and then relit the fire. The eight days long Vestalia was celebrated starting on June 9 when barefoot Roman matrons offered food baked on their household hearths and the Vestal Virgins offered special salt cakes.
Vibilla (Roman)
A Goddess who directs travelers on their ways.
Vitula (Roman)
Goddess of mirth.

 

W

 

X

 

Y

 

Z
Zirna (Etruscan)
Either another name or another aspect of the moon Goddess. She is depicted with a half moon around her neck.

 

Notes by Myth Woodling

The above is hardly a complete list of Etruscan and Roman Goddesses, and it includes some foreign Goddesses as well. The Romans had a huge pantheon of deities that covered every major and minor aspect of Roman life. It would be near impossible to list them all here.

Etruscan literature and mythology has largely been lost. Hence, while they too had a large pantheon, sometimes all we have are names from inscriptions.

Readers may wonder why I included some minor deities and excluded well-known deities, particularly from the Roman group. For example, the Roman Goddess Bellona, the consort of the Roman God Mars. The Latin word for war, bellum derives from her name. It is clear that she was an important element of the militaristic Roman culture, however, my list originally began as a simple glossary of names used in my “Dianic Mythology”–in particular, names used in “Diana Nemorensis, or Diana of the Grove.”

I bandied about a variety of mythological names in the “Dianic Mythology”–far too many for footnotes. Yet, it occured to me that someone might not want go to the bookshelf and drag out a mythological dictionary simply to look up Pessinuntica, which is actually a title of Cybele. Of course, then I had to put in an entry for Cybele, and while I was at it, I decided to include Vegoia, an Etruscan Goddess who seemed to bear a distinct similarity to the Roman nymph Egeria.

Most all of these Goddesses could be linked to the personae of Diana, particularly as she survived during the Christian era.

Sources

Aaron J. Atsma, Mousai, Theoi Project, 2000-2011, accessed 9/26/11.

Raymond Buckland, The Witch Book, The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wiccan and Neo-paganism, 2002.

Sir James George Frazer, The Golden Bough, 1935.

Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, Vols. 1 & 2, 1948.

Judika Illes, The Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods and Goddesses, 2009.

Patricia Monaghan, The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines, 2002.

New Larouss Encyclopedia of Mythology, 1959, 1968.

Carole Potter, Knock On Wood and Other Superstitions, 1983.

Thalia Took, Dea Dia, 2004, accessed 7/1/2016.

Robert Turcan, The Cults of the Roman Empire, 1992, 1996.

Robert Turcan, The Gods of Ancient Rome, 1998.

Patricia Turner and Charles Russell Courter, Dictionary of Ancient Deities, 2002.

Harry E. Wedeck and Wade Baskin, Dictionary of Pagan Religions, 1971.

Marta Weigle, Spiders and Spinsters, 1985.

The White Goddess Dea Dia – Goddess of growth, 2012, 2016, accessed 7/1/2016.

The Aradia Charge

The Aradia Charge

I am Aradia
Daughter of the sea
And daughter of the wind
Daughter of the Sun
And daughter of the Moon
Daughter of dawn
And daughter of sunset
Daughter of night
And daughter of mountainsAnd I have sung the song of the sea
And I have listened to the sighing of the wind
I have heard the hidden secrets of the Sun
And I have drunk the tears of the Moon
And the sorrow of the sunset
I have lain ‘neath the darkest dark of night
And I have beheld the might of mountains

For I am stronger than the sea
And freer than the wind
I am brighter than Sun
And more changing than the Moon
I am the hope of the dawn
And the peace of the sunset
I am more mysterious than night
And older than the mountains
Older than time itself
For I am she who was
Who is
And who will be
For I am Aradia.

–written by Vivianne Crowley, 1968,
used with permission of author,
author retains copyright.

This marvelous piece of ritual poetry can be found in Vivianne Crowley’s wonderful book, Wicca, The Old Religion in the New Age, 1989, p. 174. The above brief passage is quoted as a sample of Dr. Crowley’s writing as a Wiccan high priestess. Anyone studying the Old Religion is encouraged to purchase her book.

According to private correspondence with Dr. Crowley on January 15, 2015, the Charge of Aradia was not created for use in a specific rite. “It’s something that just came to me when I was meditating as a visitation from the Goddess…. Since then I have used it as a charge, but I haven’t used it as an invocation.”

As this Charge was written in 1968, I believe it represents a significant and early example of Wiccan literature surrounding the figure of Aradia.

The Goddess Speaks: Aradia

The Goddess Speaks: Aradia

You are seeking me because you are in trouble. You know that you need to know more about yourself and the world, and you are running around seeking knowledge, going to gurus, taking thousands of seminars, looking for holy men or holy women. Stop. There is no need for this yearning and seeking and unending insecurity. If you do not find the answers within you, you will never find them outside.

I am Aradia, the avatar of the moon. I incarnated as a woman and walked among you. I have seen your poverty, your desparate lives, your need for love and food. I shared your misery for a long lifetime, and when I departed from your world, I left my instructions about what you should do when you need more advice and more power.

Once a month, when the Moon is full, come into my presence again. Gather in in some secret place–in the desert, a forest, the mountains or in state parks and national forests, in backyards and empty lots, or even on rooftops of your houses–whenever you can be alone with me.

Here we shall gather and adore the potent spirit of my Mother the Moon, Diana. She is the true teacher of all magic, from her comes the inspiration that will lead you on your path, hers is the magic that will awaken yours and empower those who are now weak and oppressed.

It was the Queen of the Moon who sent me, because there was so much pain and slavery among you. Diana despises slavery as the death of the soul. Freedom is the teaching she imparted to me, and by me to you, the freedom to live our lives according to her golden rule, “Do as thou wilt and harm none.” This is the only rule you need. If you can live like that, you need no more commands.

When you call me into the circle, wear only your skin. come skyclad, with no clothing to identify you with any time or century. This is the sign that you are really free. You are open to me. You shall be called witches, because you arre the Moon creatures who have returned to me. You are the magical folks, those who break the patriarchal rules, those who sow the seeds of the better future. Whatever your trouble is, tell me about it, and it shall be remedied.

then prepare a feast of cakes and wine, bless every morsel, bless every cup, and make a circle dance that wheels wild and free. Afterward feast in my honor. This will waken your own natural selves, will unbind your chains, will open the cages. Let the Full Moon inspire you while I walk among you, healing you or giving you balm for your ills.

I am still your teacher, the only female avatar, ignored for centuries, but now in free women multiplied. The great teacher lives in you now, in every breath and movement. I am waiting to reveal myself through your actions. “Trust yourself,” is my message, trust that your body will know when to say yes and when to say no. The burning times are over, but before the priests lose all their power, they will try their hardest to destroy you once more. You must be steady then, steady within your new-won self. Do not delegate power over your life or your sacred spirit to others.

Heaven’s gates open to those who know the way. Death you should not fear, my holy Mother will wait for you there. She takes good care of the dead and living, she guides reincarnation, she will inspire the unborn to seek willing and loving mothers. Go to her in all matters, and pray to the Full Moon. The ears of the Goddess are open, and her heart listens to yours. Make music and dance, for that is your life. Let the sorrows melt away, let miracles unfold that will answer all your questioning.

I am Aradia, the first teacher and avatar. Welcome to magic, my children, my witches, welcome to the Full Moon’s light.
–Zsuzsanna E. Budapest, Grandmother Moon 1991 (pp 86-87). Used here with permission.


Myth’s Notes

The above is one of several Goddess monologues in Z. Budapest’s books, Grandmother Time and Grandmother Moon. This particular Goddess monologue is placed under one of the Spring moons. If compared with the Vangtelo Charge and the Charge of the Goddess, it is obvious Z. Budapest has purposely incorporated elements from these invocations. Of course, she has updated and altered the message to explore Aradia from a slightly different angle. Both Grandmother Moon and its companion, Grandmother Time are excellent books and are presently being used as source material by the Dianic University On-Line.

Those who wish to contact Z Budapest or learn more about the feminist Dianic tradition, should contact:

Dianic University On-Line, Zsuzsanna Budapest, Founder
www.zbudapest.com/du
The Dianic University On-Line is open for registration, bringing together the diverse souls of women from all over the world, to learn and exchange ideas, and to enhance each other. We can widen the collective female imagination through Goddess and magical studies, connecting peace, ecology, freedom, and personal empowerment with happiness. We begin our journey around the sun and learn Dianic Witchcraft. We will study spells, rituals, and philosophy, traveling together, in destiny groups, learning about the Circle of Rebirth.

Z. Budapest is the author of several excellent books for Wimmin’s religion or Feminist Dianic Witchcraft. She founded the Susan B. Anthony Coven No. 1 on the winter solstice of 1971 and has been an important force in Wicca/Wicce since then. The above quotes not only are examples of spells invoking the Goddess Aradia, but likewise illustrate Z’s down-to-earth writing style about spellcasting and the modern Craft. Students of the Old Religion and women’s spitituality are encouraged to read her work.

Pagan Study of Gods & Goddesses for March 21 – The Goddess Ostara

ostarawitch

Ostara The Goddess of Spring

Areas of Influence: Ostara the Germanic Goddess heralds the beginning of spring. She is the Maiden Goddess, full of potential, representing the opportunity of growth and rebirth after the stagnation of winter.

There are several different translations of the meaning of her name:- East, dawn and morning light indicating the returning warmth of the sun’s rays and the lengthening days.

In Germany her warm nature is still marked by bonfires lit at dawn on the Spring Equinox.

The Goddess was also known as Eostre and although much of her story has been lost, her name lives on as it is the root of the English words for both Easter and oestrogen.

Origins and Genealogy: Very little is known about the origins of this Germanic Goddess. She has many similarities to the Nordic fertility Goddesses Frigg and Freya.

Strengths: A warm, dynamic and compassionate Goddess.

Weaknesses: Her lateness nearly caused the death of a small bird.

Symbolism: The Rabbits and painted eggs are both potent symbols of fertility, reflecting the nature of this spring Goddess.

When the Goddess came across a young bird that was dying of cold due to her late arrival, she warmed him up and turned him into a rabbit.

These ancient symbols are still found in our Easter celebrations today when the Easter bunny hides chocolate eggs for the children to find.

Festivals: Dates of festivals to mark this Goddess range from the Spring Equinox to the first full moon after the Equinox.

Traditionally people would dress up in new cloths, light bonfires at dawn and decorate eggs as offerings to the spring Goddess.

 

Ostara’s Archetype

The Maiden

The Maiden Archetype represents purity and the innocence of childhood, where the soul’s dreams, magic and make believe still prevail.

It is also an aspect of the Triple Goddess, together with the Mother and the Crone they represents the cycles of the moon and the different stages of a woman’s life.

Shadow Maiden is very self centered all, her dreams and energy is expended on achieving her own personal needs and goals.

These qualities reflect the nature of this Spring Goddess who stands on the cusp of womanhood. Her self-absorbtion meant she was late and nearly caused the death of a young bird but undeterred the resourceful Goddess transforms the bird into a rabbit.

 

How To Work With This Archetype

The Maiden

The Maiden is one of your Archetypes if you are life still in touch with your childhood intuition and fantasies and have used these to fulfill your dreams. Hence you can still have the Maiden Archetype at any time of life.

The Maiden reminds you to look after the magical child that lies within us all.

Shadow Maiden asks you to look at whether your dreams and aspirations are selfish and take no account of the needs of others.

____________________________________________________

 

Ostara/Eostre

Ēostre or Ostara (Old English: Ēastre [æːɑstre], Northumbrian dialect Ēostre [eːostre]; Old High German: *Ôstara ) is a Germanic goddess who, by way of the Germanic month bearing her name (Northumbrian: Ēosturmōnaþ; West Saxon: Ēastermōnaþ; Old High German: Ôstarmânoth), is the namesake of the festival of Easter in some languages. Ēostre is attested solely by Bede in his 8th-century work The Reckoning of Time, where Bede states that during Ēosturmōnaþ (the equivalent of April), pagan Anglo-Saxons had held feasts in Ēostre’s honor, but that this tradition had died out by his time, replaced by the Christian Paschal month, a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.

By way of linguistic reconstruction, the matter of a goddess called *Austrō in the Proto-Germanic language has been examined in detail since the foundation of Germanic philology in the 19th century by scholar Jacob Grimm and others. As the Germanic languages descend from Proto-Indo-European (PIE), historical linguists have traced the name to a Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn *H₂ewsṓs (→ *Ausṓs), from which descends the Common Germanic divinity from whom Ēostre and Ostara are held to descend. Additionally, scholars have linked the goddess’s name to a variety of Germanic personal names, a series of location names (toponyms) in England, and, discovered in 1958, over 150 inscriptions from the 2nd century CE referring to the matronae Austriahenae.

Theories connecting Ēostre with records of Germanic Easter customs, including hares and eggs, have been proposed. Particularly prior to the discovery of the matronae Austriahenae and further developments in Indo-European studies, debate has occurred among some scholars about whether or not the goddess was an invention of Bede. Ēostre and Ostara are sometimes referenced in modern popular culture and are venerated in some forms of Germanic neopaganism.

Etymology
Old English Ēostre continues into modern English as Easter and derives from Proto-Germanic *Austrǭ, itself a descendant of the Proto-Indo-European root *h₂ews-, meaning ‘to shine’ (modern English east also derives from this root).

The goddess name Ēostre is therefore linguistically cognate with numerous other dawn goddesses attested among Indo-European language-speaking peoples. These cognates lead to the reconstruction of a Proto-Indo-European dawn goddess; the Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture details that “a Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn is supported both by the evidence of cognate names and the similarity of mythic representation of the dawn goddess among various Indo-European groups” and that “all of this evidence permits us to posit a Proto-Indo-European *haéusōs ‘goddess of dawn’ who was characterized as a “reluctant” bringer of light for which she is punished. In three of the Indo-European stocks, Baltic, Greek and Indo-Iranian, the existence of a Proto-Indo-European ‘goddess of the dawn’ is given additional linguistic support in that she is designated the ‘daughter of heaven’.”

De temporum ratione
In chapter 15 (De mensibus Anglorum, “The English months”) of his 8th-century work De temporum ratione (“The Reckoning of Time”), Bede describes the indigenous month names of the English people. After describing the worship of the goddess Rheda during the Anglo-Saxon month of Hrēþ-mōnaþ, Bede writes about Ēosturmōnaþ, the month of the goddess Ēostre:

Eostur-monath, qui nunc Paschalis mensis interpretatur, quondam a Dea illorum quæ Eostre vocabatur, et cui in illo festa celebrabant nomen habuit: a cujus nomine nunc Paschale tempus cognominant, consueto antiquæ observationis vocabulo gaudia novæ solemnitatis vocantes.

Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated “Paschal month”, and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance.

Jacob Grimm, *Ostara, and Easter customs
In his 1835 Deutsche Mythologie, Jacob Grimm cites comparative evidence to reconstruct a potential continental Germanic goddess whose name would have been preserved in the Old High German name of Easter, *Ostara. Addressing skepticism towards goddesses mentioned by Bede, Grimm comments that “there is nothing improbable in them, nay the first of them is justified by clear traces in the vocabularies of Germanic tribes.” Specifically regarding Ēostre, Grimm continues that:

We Germans to this day call April ostermonat, and ôstarmânoth is found as early as Eginhart (temp. Car. Mag.). The great Christian festival, which usually falls in April or the end of March, bears in the oldest of OHG remains the name ôstarâ … it is mostly found in the plural, because two days … were kept at Easter. This Ostarâ, like the [Anglo-Saxon] Eástre, must in heathen religion have denoted a higher being, whose worship was so firmly rooted, that the Christian teachers tolerated the name, and applied it to one of their own grandest anniversaries.

Grimm notes that “all of the nations bordering on us have retained the Biblical pascha; even Ulphilas writes paska, not áustrô, though he must have known the word”. Grimm details that the Old High German adverb ôstar “expresses movement towards the rising sun”, as did the Old Norse term austr, and potentially also Anglo-Saxon ēastor and Gothic áustr. Grimm compares these terms to the identical Latin term auster. Grimm says that the cult of the goddess may have worshiped an Old Norse form, Austra, or that her cult may have already been extinct by the time of Christianization.

Grimm notes that the Old Norse Prose Edda book Gylfaginning attests to a male being called Austri, who Grimm describes as a “spirit of light.” Grimm comments that a female version would have been *Austra, yet that the High German and Saxon peoples seem to have only formed Ostarâ and Eástre, feminine, and not Ostaro and Eástra, masculine. Grimm additionally speculates on the nature of the goddess and surviving folk customs that may have been associated with her in Germany:

Ostara, Eástre seems therefore to have been the divinity of the radiant dawn, of upspringing light, a spectacle that brings joy and blessing, whose meaning could be easily adapted by the resurrection-day of the Christian’s God. Bonfires were lighted at Easter and according to popular belief of long standing, the moment the sun rises on Easter Sunday morning, he gives three joyful leaps, he dances for joy … Water drawn on the Easter morning is, like that at Christmas, holy and healing … here also heathen notions seems to have grafted themselves on great Christian festivals. Maidens clothed in white, who at Easter, at the season of returning spring, show themselves in clefts of the rock and on mountains, are suggestive of the ancient goddess.

In the second volume of Deutsche Mythologie, Grimm picks up the subject of Ostara again, connecting the goddess to various German Easter festivities, including Easter eggs:

But if we admit, goddesses, then, in addition to Nerthus, Ostara has the strongest claim to consideration. To what we said on p. 290 I can add some significant facts. The heathen Easter had much in common with May-feast and the reception of spring, particularly in matter of bonfires. Then, through long ages there seem to have lingered among the people Easter-games so-called, which the church itself had to tolerate : I allude especially to the custom of Easter eggs, and to the Easter tale which preachers told from the pulpit for the people’s amusement, connecting it with Christian reminiscences.

Grimm comments on further Easter time customs, including unique sword dances and particular baked goods (“pastry of heathenish form”). In addition, Grimm weights a potential connection to the Slavic spring goddess Vesna and the Lithuanian Vasara.

Locations, personal names, and the matronae Austriahenae
A cluster of place names in England contain and a variety of English and continental Germanic names include the element *ēoster, an early Old English word reconstructed by linguists and potentially an earlier form of the goddess name Ēostre. The Council of Austerfield called by King Aldfrith of Northumbria shortly before 704 convened at a place described in contemporary records both as in campo qui Eostrefeld dicitur and in campo qui dicitur Oustraefelda, which have led to the site being identified with Austerfield near Bawtry in the West Riding of Yorkshire.[10] Such locations also include Eastry (Eastrgena, 788 CE) in Kent, Eastrea (Estrey, 966 CE) in Cambridgeshire, and Eastrington (Eastringatun, 959 CE) in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

The element *ēoster also appears in the Old English name Easterwine, a name borne by Bede’s monastery abbot in Wearmouth-Jarrow and which appears an additional three times in the Durham Liber Vitae. The name Aestorhild also appears in the Liber Vitae, and is likely the ancestor of the Middle English name Estrild. Various continental Germanic names include the element, including Austrechild, Austrighysel, Austrovald, and Ostrulf.

In 1958, over 150 Romano-Germanic votive inscriptions to the matronae Austriahenae were discovered near Morken-Harff, Germany. Most of these inscriptions are in an incomplete state, yet many are at least reasonably legible. Some of these inscriptions refer to the Austriates, evidently the name of a social group.

Theories and interpretations
Some debate has occurred over whether or not the goddess was an invention of Bede’s, particularly in the 19th century before more widespread reconstructions of the Proto-Indo-European dawn goddess. Writing in the late 19th century, Charles J. Billson notes that scholars before his writing were divided about the existence of Bede’s account of Ēostre, stating that “among authorities who have no doubt as to her existence are W. Grimm, Wackernagel, Sinrock [sic], and Wolf. On the other hand, Weinhold rejects the idea on philological grounds, and so do Heinrich Leo and Hermann Oesre. Kuhn says, ‘The Anglo-Saxon Eostre looks like an invention of Bede;’ and Mannhardt also dismisses her as an etymological dea ex machina.” Billson says that “the whole question turns […], upon Bede’s credibility”, and that “one is inclined to agree with Grimm, that it would be uncritical to saddle this eminent Father of the Church, who keeps Heathendom at arms’ length and tells us less of than he knows, with the invention of this goddess.” Billson points out that the Christianization of England started at the end of the 6th century, and, by the 7th, was completed. Billson argues that, as Bede was born in 672, Bede must have had opportunities to learn the names of the native goddesses of the Anglo-Saxons, “who were hardly extinct in his lifetime.”

Writing in the late 20th century, Rudolf Simek says that, despite expressions of doubts, Bede’s account of Eostre should not be disregarded. Simek opines that a “Spring-like fertility goddess” must be assumed rather than a “goddess of sunrise” regardless of the name, reasoning that “otherwise the Germanic goddesses (and matrons) are mostly connected with prosperity and growth”. Simek points to a comparison with the goddess Rheda, also attested by Bede.

Scholar Philip A. Shaw (2011) writes that the subject has seen “a lengthy history of arguments for and against Bede’s goddess Eostre, with some scholars taking fairly extreme positions on either side” and that some theories against the goddess have gained popular cultural prominence. Shaw, however, notes that “much of this debate, however, was conducted in ignorance of a key piece of evidence, as it was not discovered until 1958. This evidence is furnished by over 150 Romano-Germanic votive inscriptions to deities named the matronae Austriahenae, found near Morken-Harff and datable to around 150–250 AD”. Most of these inscriptions are in an incomplete state, yet most are in a complete enough for reasonable clarity of the inscriptions. As early as 1966 scholars have linked these names etymologically with Eostre and an element found in Germanic personal names. Shaw argues against a functional interpretation of the available evidence and concludes that “the etymological connections of her name suggests that her worshippers saw her geographical and social relationship with them as more central than any functions she may have had”.

Hares and Freyja
In Northern Europe, Easter imagery often involves hares and rabbits. Citing folk Easter customs in Leicestershire, England where “the profits of the land called Harecrop Leys were applied to providing a meal which was thrown on the ground at the ‘Hare-pie Bank'”, late 19th-century scholar Charles Isaac Elton theorizes a connection between these customs and the worship of Ēostre. In his late 19th-century study of the hare in folk custom and mythology, Charles J. Billson cites numerous incidents of folk custom involving the hare around the period of Easter in Northern Europe. Billson says that “whether there was a goddess named Eostre, or not, and whatever connection the hare may have had with the ritual of Saxon or British worship, there are good grounds for believing that the sacredness of this animal reaches back into an age still more remote, where it is probably a very important part of the great Spring Festival of the prehistoric inhabitants of this island.”

Some scholars have linked customs and imagery involving hares to Ēostre and the Norse goddess Freyja. Writing in 1972, John Andrew Boyle cites commentary contained within an etymology dictionary by A. Ernout and A. Meillet, where the authors write that “Little else […] is known about [Ēostre], but it has been suggested that her lights, as goddess of the dawn, were carried by hares. And she certainly represented spring fecundity, and love and carnal pleasure that leads to fecundity.” Boyle responds that nothing is known about Ēostre outside of Bede’s single passage, that the authors had seemingly accepted the identification of Ēostre with the Norse goddess Freyja, yet that the hare is not associated with Freyja either. Boyle writes that “her carriage, we are told by Snorri, was drawn by a pair of cats — animals, it is true, which like hares were the familiars of witches, with whom Freyja seems to have much in common.” However, Boyle adds that “on the other hand, when the authors speak of the hare as the ‘companion of Aphrodite and of satyrs and cupids’ and point out that ‘in the Middle Ages it appears beside the figure of Luxuria’, they are on much surer ground and can adduce the evidence of their illustrations.”

In popular culture and modern veneration
Jacob Grimm’s reconstructed *Ostara has had some influence in popular culture since. The name has been adapted as an asteroid (343 Ostara, 1892 by Max Wolf), and a date on the Wiccan Wheel of the Year (Ostara, 21 March). In music, the name Ostara has been adopted as a name by the musical group Ostara, and as the names of albums by :zoviet*france: (Eostre, 1984) and The Wishing Tree (Ostara, 2009).

In some forms of Germanic neopaganism, Ēostre (or Ostara) is venerated. Regarding this veneration, Carole M. Cusack comments that, among adherents, Ēostre is “associated with the coming of spring and the dawn, and her festival is celebrated at the spring equinox. Because she brings renewal, rebirth from the death of winter, some Heathens associate Eostre with Idunn, keeper of the apples of youth in Scandinavian mythology”.

Politically, the name of Ostara was in the early 20th century invoked as the name of a German nationalist magazine, book series and publishing house established in 1905 at Mödling, Austria.

Ostara is portrayed by Kristin Chenoweth in the TV series American Gods based on the novel of the same name. In the series, Ostara has survived into the modern age by forming an alliance with the Goddess of Media (Gillian Anderson) and capitalising on the Christian holiday. Odin (Ian McShane) forces her to accept that those who celebrate Easter are worshipping Jesus and not her, causing her to join his rebellion against the New Gods.

 

Reference
The Goddess-Guide.com

Wikipedia

Deities of the Spring Equinox

OSTARA

Deities of the Spring Equinox

Spring is a time of great celebration in many cultures. It’s the time of year when the planting begins, people begin to once more enjoy the fresh air, and we can reconnect with the earth again after the long, cold winter. A number of different gods and goddesses from different pantheons are connected with the themes of Spring and Ostara. Here’s a look at some of the many deities associated with spring, rebirth, and new life each year.

Asase Yaa (Ashanti)
This earth goddess prepares to bring forth new life in the spring, and the Ashanti people of Ghana honor her at the festival of Durbar, alongside her husband Nyame, the sky god who brings rain to the fields. As a fertility goddess, she is often associated with the planting of early crops during the rainy season. In some parts of Africa, she is honored during an annual (or often bi-annual) festival called the Awuru Odo. This is a large gathering of extended family and kinship groups, and a great deal of food and feasting seems to be involved.

In some Ghanaian folktales, Asase Yaa appears as the mother of Anansi, the trickster god, whose legends followed many West Africans to the New World during the centuries of the slave trade.

Interestingly, there do not appear to be any formalized temples to Asase Yaa – instead, she is honored in the fields where the crops grown, and in the homes where she is celebrated as a goddess of fertility and the womb. Farmers may opt to ask her permission before they begin working the soil. Even though she is associated with the hard labor of tilling the fields and planting seeds, her followers take a day off on Thursday, which is her sacred day.

Cybele (Roman)
This mother goddess of Rome was at the center of a rather bloody Phrygian cult, in which eunuch priests performed mysterious rites in her honor. Her lover was Attis (he was also her grandson, but that’s another story), and her jealousy caused him to castrate and kill himself. His blood was the source of the first violets, and divine intervention allowed Attis to be resurrected by Cybele, with some help from Zeus. In some areas, there is still an annual three-day celebration of Attis’ rebirth and Cybele’s power.

Like Attis, it is said that Cybele’s followers would work themselves into orgiastic frenzies and then ritually castrate themselves. After this, these priests donned women’s clothing, and assumed female identities. They became known as the Gallai. In some regions, female priestesses led Cybele’s dedicants in rituals involving ecstatic music, drumming and dancing. Under the leadership of Augustus Caesar, Cybele became extremely popular. Augustus erected a giant temple in her honor on the Palatine Hill, and the statue of Cybele that is in the temple bears the face of Augustus’ wife, Livia.

Today, many people still honor Cybele, although not in quite the same context as she once was. Groups like the Maetreum of Cybele honor her as a mother goddess and protector of women.

Eostre (Western Germanic)
Little is known about the worship of this Teutonic spring goddess, but she is mentioned by the Venerable Bede, who said that Eostre’s following had died out by the time he compiled his writings in the eighth century. Jacob Grimm referred to her by the High German equivalent, Ostara, in his 1835 manuscript, Deutsche Mythologie.

According to the stories, she is a goddess associated with flowers and springtime, and her name gives us the word “Easter,” as well as the name of Ostara itself. However, if you start to dig around for information on Eostre, you’ll find that much of it is the same. In fact, nearly all of it is Wiccan and Pagan authors who describe Eostre in a similar fashion. Very little is available on an academic level.

Interestingly, Eostre doesn’t appear anywhere in Germanic mythology, and despite assertions that she might be a Norse deity, she doesn’t show up in the poetic or prose Eddas either. However, she could certainly have belonged to some tribal group in the Germanic areas, and her stories may have just been passed along through oral tradition.

So, did Eostre exist or not? No one knows. Some scholars dispute it, others point to etymological evidence to say that she did in fact have a festival honoring her. Read more here: Eostre – Spring Goddess or NeoPagan Fancy?

Freya (Norse)
This fertility goddess abandons the earth during the cold months, but returns in the spring to restore nature’s beauty. She wears a magnificent necklace called Brisingamen, which represents the fire of the sun. Freyja was similar to Frigg, the chief goddess of the Aesir, which was the Norse race of sky deities. Both were connected with childrearing, and could take on the aspect of a bird. Freyja owned a magical cloak of hawk’s feathers, which allowed her to transform at will. This cloak is given to Frigg in some of the Eddas.

As the wife of Odin, the All Father, Freyja was often called upon for assistance in marriage or childbirth, as well as to aid women struggling with infertility.

Osiris (Egyptian)
Osiris is known as the king of Egyptian gods. This lover of Isis dies and is reborn in a resurrection story. The resurrection theme is popular among spring deities, and is also found in the stories of Adonis, Mithras and Attis as well.

Born the son of Geb (the earth) and Nut (the sky), Osiris was the twin brother of Isis and became the first pharoah. He taught mankind the secrets of farming and agriculture, and according to Egyptian myth and legend, brought civilization itself to the world. Ultimately, the reign of Osiris was brought about by his death at the hands of his brother Set (or Seth).

The death of Osiris is a major event in Egyptian legend.

Saraswati (Hindu)
This Hindu goddess of the arts, wisdom and learning has her own festival each spring in India, called Saraswati Puja. She is honored with prayers and music, and is usually depicted holding lotus blossoms and the sacred Vedas.

 

Author

Patti Wigington
Published on ThoughtCo.com