We know that thousands of years before the bible was written, creation stories centered on the Goddess, which celebrated vitally important aspects of life. Societies were led by the matriarch, who earned her status of authority through practical knowledge in childcare, agriculture, farming and all other communal tasks of living. It was for the most part, a peaceful celebration of living based on equality for all within their society.
However, overtime, patriarchal religions began to take hold and the idea of superiority and aggression were at the forefront. Goddess worshipping was no longer accepted or encouraged. Over time, the Romans fought hard to suppress or root out all Goddess worship. Which is ironic that a religion like Wicca, whose forerunner was destroyed by the Romans, has claimed the conquerors’ Goddesses for itself. A great many of the Pagan Goddesses come from the Roman/Greek pantheon. Before Romans became Christian, they were pagan and borrowed many deities from other cultures and religions. Many Pagan Goddess names come from the Celtic and the Egyptian religions.
Known as the Great Mother, the Goddess is the creator whose limitless fertility brings new life. She is also known as Mother Nature; she creates but she can also destroy. Oftentimes, Goddesses are given titles that can be used for multiple Goddesses. In fact, somewhere in the world there is a Deity for every occasion that could arise. For example, Mother Goddess is the title used for the bountiful embodiment of the earth such as for Greek Goddesses Gaia, Demeter and Cybele. Whereas the title used for the Goddesses Luna, Selene and Artemis (Diana) is the Queen of Heaven. These Goddesses represent the moon as the source of feminine attributes connected to intuition, emotion and psychic ability.
Like many Pagan and Neopagan religions, there are no rules, no bible, no major doctrine; what has survived of ancient Goddess religions has been pieced together in fragments. Most Goddess worshippers do share the goal of living in harmony with nature. Goddess worship has had a revival since the mid to late 1970s as a growing form of spirituality. The popularity has stemmed from the diminished influences of Christianity in many societies. The interest in Paganism and Neopaganism, has made a noticeable impact with the resurgence in popularity in the religious history of the Vikings and all that it entails. These forms of religion use female imagery in celebrating the divine and see the Goddess as primary, all encompassing and essential in their spiritual development. In celebrating the Goddess, they are celebrating a wholeness of self, and the power to define the self is implicit within many of the rituals (Greenwood, 2011). In Goddess spirituality, we centre ourselves within all of our complete self, physically, ethereally, emotionally, mentally and deep in our soul, within time and space, becoming conscious, and present in this moment. The Goddess is seen as a symbol of strength and wholeness of women. The cycles of nature are worshipped and celebrated based on the Wheel of the Year while winter, spring, summer and autumn are viewed as metaphors for birth, growth, fading and death. Attributes traditionally viewed as feminine (i.e., intuition and nurturing) are revered.
The Goddess movement has been very active and significant in Britain. Britain’s ancient pagan traditions contain many hundreds of Goddesses. Archaeologists suggests that the indigenous peoples of Britain, and the Celts who arrived later, both considered Glastonbury a sacred place, as did the early Christians who built their first religious settlements in Britain on the site. Glastonbury Tor, located in Glastonbury is a prominent hill overlooking the Isle of Avalon, Glastonbury and Somerset. It is an ancient sacred location dedicated to the power of the Goddess. At the foot of the hill, there are two different healing springs. One touched red with iron, the other white with calcite, rise within a few feet of each other from the caverns beneath Glastonbury Tor. It is believed that both wells have healing properties in their flow. In addition to the legends associated with Glastonbury, the well is often portrayed as a symbol of the female aspect of deity, with the male symbolized by Glastonbury Tor. As such, it is a popular destination for pilgrims in search of the divine feminine, including modern Pagans (Glastonbury Tor).
Elsewhere in Europe, archaeologists have discovered, that prior to the tenth century, Scandinavia was predominantly Pagan. Paganism was mostly based on local traditions, with a common set of beliefs in their myths. Furthermore, it was a polytheistic religion with its dedication to the many gods and goddesses. As with other societies, the role of the goddesses in Nordic mythology reflected the matriarchal society from which they came. The women were considered to have natural psychic abilities, and performed the roles of seers and shamans for their tribes (Valkyrie Tower).
In Druidry, the Goddess Brigid (also known as Brigit, Bride, Brighid, Brìd, Brígh), is celebrated during the festival of Imbolc, which traditionally takes place during the month of February. She is known as the Goddess of Fire. According to Winter Cymres, Brigid can be seen as the most complex and powerful religious figure in all of Irish history. Folklore tell us that in Ireland, nineteen priestesses kept the perpetual flame of the Goddess Brigid lit at the Shrine of Cill Dara, a tradition that endured into Christian times in honour of St. Brigid, herself said to have been a Druidess before her conversion to Christianity (Druidry.org).
In Wicca, the Goddess is the very essence or central figure of the Craft and worship. It is a religion that honours and celebrates women, the earth, darkness and nature. Most Wiccans are witches that practice white magic and worship Gods and Goddesses. As mentioned in my previous blog on Wicca, Gerald Gardner, the modern-day founder of Wicca, stated that Wiccans worshipped two principal deities, the god of forests and what lies beyond, and the great Triple Goddess of virgin, mother and crone. However, many other goddesses are used as part of an initial ritual into witchcraft, prayer, and worship.
Celebrating the re-emergence of the Goddess does not mean a return to the old ways. What it can do however is to provide a profound healing of the dissatisfaction that infiltrates our society and environment. “In reclaiming the Goddess, in recovering our full human history as men and women, we can learn other patterns of behavior. We can redress the imbalance between the human species and our natural environment, between men and women, exploring the possibility of living in harmony and justice with all things” (Gadon, 1989).
The goal of the Goddess Movement isn’t about removing power from others or changing long held beliefs from any one individual. It is about the opportunity for women to gain their own sense of self and provide them with the strength to walk into their own through the assimilation of all her feminine divinity.
Gadon, Elinor. 1989. The Once and Future Goddess: A Sweeping Visual Chronicle of the Sacred Female and Her Reemergence in the Cult. HarperCollins, New York, NY, 10022
Glastonbury Tor at www.Glastonburytor.org.uk
Greenwood, Susan. 2011. The illustrated history of magic and witchcraft: A study of pagan belief and practice around the world, from the first shamans to modern witches and wizards, in 530 images. Leicestershire: Lorenzo Books
Pagan Library at www.paganlibrary.com
Valkyrie Tower at www.valkyrietower.com/freyja.html
The White Goddess at www.thewhitegoddess.co.uk/the_goddess/index.asp
Wicca Spirituality at www.wicca-spirituality.com/brigid.html