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goddess is a female deity, in contrast with a male
deity known as a "god". Many cultures have
goddesses, sometimes alone, but more often as part
of a larger pantheon that includes both the conventional
genders and in some cases even hermaphrodite deities.
As the concept of monotheism and polytheism is relativistic,
so the related concepts of god and goddess can be
culturally misunderstood. The concept of gender as
applied to a god and goddess, may connote deeper tendencies
of patriarchy and matriarchy, which may to have equivalence
to the rift between monotheism and polytheism. The
goddess concept is advocated by modern matriarchists
and pantheists as a female version of or analogue
to god (i.e., the Abrahamic god), who in feminist
and other circles is perceived as being rooted in
the patriarchal concept of dominance to the
exclusion of feminine concepts. The feminine-masculine
relationship between deifications is sometimes rooted
in the monism, ("One-ism") rather than through
a definitive and rigid concept of monotheism versus
polytheism, wherein the goddess and god are seen as
the genders of one transcendental monad.
Main article: Hindu Goddess
The Hinduism is a complex of various belief systems
that sees many gods and goddesses as being representative
of and/or emanative from a single source, Brahman,
understood either as a formless, infinite, impersonal
monad in the Advaita tradition or as a dual God in
the form of Lakshmi-Vishnu, Radha-Krishna, Devi-Shiva
in Dvaita traditions. Shaktas, worshippers of the
Goddess, equate this God with Devi, the mother goddess.
Such aspects of One God as male God (Shaktiman) and
female energy (Shakti), working as a pair are often
envisioned as male gods and their wives or consorts
and provide many analogues between passive male ground
and dynamic female energy. For example, Brahma pairs
with Sarasvati. Shiva likewise pairs with Uma who
later is represented through a number of avatars (incarnations):
Parvati and the warrior figures, Durga and Kali. All
goddesses in Hinduism are sometimes grouped together
as the great goddess, Devi. A further step was taken
by the idea of the Shaktis. Their ideology based mainly
on tantras sees Shakti as the principle of energy
through which all divinity functions, thus showing
the masculine to be dependent on the feminine. Indeed,
in the great shakta scripture known as the Devi Mahatmya,
all the goddesses are shown to be aspects of one presiding
female force, one in truth and many in expression,
giving the world and the cosmos the galvanic energy
for motion. It is expressed through both philosophical
tracts and metaphor that the potentiality of masculine
being is given actuation by the feminine divine. Local
deities of different village regions in India were
often identified with "mainstream" Hindu
deities, a process that has been called "Sanskritization".
Others attribute it to the influence of monism or
Advaita which discounts polytheist or monotheist categorization.
the monist forces have led to a fusion between some
of the goddesses (108 names are common for many goddesses),
centrifugal forces have also resulted in new goddesses
and rituals gaining ascendance among the laity in
different parts of Hindu world. Thus, the immensely
popular goddess Durga was a pre-Vedic goddess who
was later fused with Parvati, a process that can be
traced through texts such as Kalika Purana (10th century),
Durgabhaktitarangini (Vidyapati 15th century), Chandimangal
(16th century) etc.
God or Goddess?
fundamental belief of Sikhism is that God or Goddess
exists, not merely as an idea or concept, but as a
Real Entity, indescribable yet knowable and perceivable
to anyone who is prepare to dedicate the time and
energy to become perceptive to His or Her persona.
The Gurus never spoke about proofs of the existence
of God: For them S/he is too real and obvious to need
any logical proof. Whether God is male or female is
a concept that does not pose any problem for a Sikh
as God is accepted as gender-neutral. The Sikh Scriptures
refer to God as Father and Mother thus:
is my Protector, my Mother and Father. Meditating
in remembrance on Him, I do not suffer in sorrow.
SGGS page 1183
the concept of a Goddess, although not normally referred
to by Sikhs, is in keeping with the holy text of the
religion and adheres to the overall concept of God.
However, the other overriding aspect of God that is
very important, is the concept of the God being formless
as described in this line: "When the Immaculate
and Formless Lord God was all alone, He did everything
by Himself. ||3||" (SGGS page 216) So Sikhs do
not imagine a picture of a Goddess in their mind when
visualising the Creator Being.
Main articles: Greek religion and Roman religion
Eleusinian Mysteries: Persephone, Demeter, Baubo
Main article: Celtic paganism
Main article: Norse paganism
Surviving accounts of indigenous Norse paganism contain
numerous female deities, giantesses and goddesses.
Monotheist cultures, which recognise only one central
deity, generally do characterize that deity as male,
implicitly already grammatically by using masculine
gender, but also explicitly by terms such as "Father"
or "Lord". In all monotheist religions,
however, there are mystic undercurrents which emphasize
the feminine aspects of the godhead, e.g. the Collyridians
in the time of early Christianity, who viewed Mary
as a Goddess, the medieval visionary Julian of Norwich,
the Judaic Shekinah and the Gnostic Sophia traditions,
and some Sufi texts in Islam.
Ancient Hebrew, as well as Modern Hebrew, had no neuter
gender, only masculine and feminine. Although Judaism
uses masculine words to describe God more than feminine
words, Judaism maintains that God has no gender. While
God is frequently referred to using masculine formations
(because of the grammatical gender of the words generally
used to describe God), the majority of objects related
to worship in Judaism such as the Torah are grammatically
In Christianity, belief in a feminine deity was deemed
characteristic of heresy, but veneration for Mary,
the mother of Jesus, as an especially privileged human
being, though not as a deity, has continued since
the beginning of the Christian faith.
the 1980s Christian feminists have challenged this
traditional view; some such as Mary Daly no longer
consider themselves Christian, but others continue
to seek room within their traditions for the Divine
Feminine and to press for female spiritual leadership.
while the term "Goddess" was rejected in
what is usually considered orthodox Christianity,
Christians believe that God transcends sex, whether
masculine or feminine.
people believe that the example of Jesus and the tradition
of centuries has Christians refer to and address God
as "Father", not "Mother". However,
this is not the real meaning of the words Jesus used
to describe the deity. The original words have a meaning
of both mother and father. They believe that in Jesus,
who was male, God became incarnate. Pronouns that
grammatically are of feminine gender (not pronouns
that refer to the female sex, such as the English
"she") are used to refer to the Holy Spirit
in languages, such as Hebrew, where the word for "spirit"
is of feminine grammatical gender. In Greek, where
the word for "spirit" is of neuter grammatical
gender, the pronoun that refers to it is of neuter
gender. In Latin, the pronoun is of masculine gender,
referring to the grammatically masculine word "spiritus".
However, while in English, a language without grammatical
gender, the normal pronoun to refer to a spirit would
be "it", the Holy Spirit is customarily
referred to as "he", perhaps partly due
to the influence of Latin and of the other Germanic
languages, in which the word for spirit is of masculine
Christian members of the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints (Mormons) believe in, but do not
worship, a Heavenly Mother, the wife and female counterpart
and equal of the Heavenly Father.
In pre-Islamic Mecca the goddesses Uzza, al-Manat
and al-Lat were known as "the daughters of god".
Uzza was worshipped by the Nabataeans, who equated
her with the Graeco-Roman goddesses Aphrodite, Urania,
Venus and Caelestis. Each of the three goddesses had
a separate shrine near Mecca. Uzza, was called upon
for protection by the pre-Islamic Quraysh. "In
624 at the battle called "Uhud", the war
cry of the Qurayshites was, "O people of Uzza,
people of Hubal!" (Tawil 1993).
to Ibn Ishaq's controversial account of the Satanic
Verses (q.v.), these verses had previously endorsed
them as intercessors for Muslims, but were abrogated.
Muslim scholars have regarded the story has historically
implausible, while opinion is divided among western
scholars such as Leone Caetani, John Burton against
and William Muir, William Montgomery Watt for its
God (Allah) - although referred to as "He"
- is free of gender, neither male nor female.
New religious movements
In Discordianism, Eris or Discordia, is generally
venerated as Goddess, as illustrated in the first
clause of the Pentabarf:
is no Goddess but Goddess and She is Your Goddess.
There is no Erisian Movement but The Erisian Movement
and it is The Erisian Movement. And every Golden Apple
Corps is the beloved home of a Golden Worm."
She is generally described as a quick-tempered woman
who spreads chaos and discord, which are fundamental
to life and creativity. However, due to the nature
of the religion, this is open to individual interpretation.
people liken Eris to a concept or idea, though this
may be considered blasphemy by some.
Main article: Polytheistic reconstructionism
Polytheistic reconstructionists focus on reconstructing
polytheistic religions, including the various goddesses
and figures associated with indigenous cultures.
In Wicca "the Goddess" or "the Lady"
is a deity of prime importance, along with her consort
the Horned God. She is described as a kind of tribal
Goddess of the witch-cult, who seems largely to be
modelled on Aradia, the messianic daughter of Diana
described in Charles Leland's Aradia. She was held
to be neither omnipotent nor universal, and it was
recognised that there was a greater "Prime Mover",
although the witches did not concern themselves much
with this being.
many forms of Wicca the Goddess has come to be considered
as a universal deity, more in line with her description
in the Charge of the Goddess, a key Wiccan text. In
this guise she is the "Queen of Heaven",
similar to Isis; she also encompasses and conceives
all life, much like Gaia. Much like Isis and certain
late Classical conceptions of Selene, she is held
to be the summation of all other goddesses, who represent
her different names and aspects across the different
Goddess is often portrayed with strong lunar symbolism,
drawing on various cultures and deities such as Diana,
Hecate and Isis, and is often depicted as the Maiden,
Mother and Crone triad popularised by Robert Graves
(see Triple Goddess below). Many depictions of her
also draw strongly on Celtic goddesses.
Wiccans believe there are many goddesses, and in some
forms of Wicca, notably Dianic Wicca, the Goddess
alone is worshipped, and the God plays very little
part in their worship and ritual.
The lunar Triple Goddess symbol.Main article: Triple
Goddesses or demi-goddesses appear in sets of three
in a number of ancient European pagan mythologies;
these include the Greek Erinyes (Furies) and Moirae
(Fates); the Norse Norns; Brighid and her two sisters,
also called Brighid, from Irish or Keltoi mythology.
Graves popularised the triad of "Maiden"
(or "Virgin"), "Mother" and "Crone",
and while this idea did not rest on sound scholarship,
his poetic inspiration has gained a tenacious hold.
Considerable variation in the precise conceptions
of these figures exists, as typically occurs in Neopaganism
and indeed in pagan religions in general. Some choose
to interpret them as three stages in a woman's life,
separated by menarche and menopause. Others find this
too biologically based and rigid, and prefer a freer
interpretation, with the Maiden as birth (independent,
self-centred, seeking), the Mother as giving birth
(interrelated, compassionate nurturing, creating),
and the Crone as death and renewal (holistic, remote,
unknowable) and all three erotic and wise.
dominantly Hellenic derived religions and in subsequent
New Age and Wiccan religions, often three of the four
phases of the moon (waxing, full, waning) symbolise
the three aspects of the Triple Goddess: put together
they appear in a single symbol comprising a circle
flanked by two mirrored crescents. Some, however,
find the triple incomplete, and prefer to add a fourth
aspect. This might be a "Dark Goddess" or
"Wisewoman", perhaps as suggested by the
missing dark of the moon in the symbolism above, or
it might be a specifically erotic goddess standing
for a phase of life between Maiden (Virgin) and Mother,
or a Warrior between Mother and Crone. There is a
male counterpart of this in the English poem "The
Parliament of the Thre Ages".
Triple Goddess as Maiden, Mother and Crone has also
reached modern popular culture, such as Neil Gaiman's
own conception of the Furies in The Sandman, and elsewhere.
At least since first-wave feminism in the United States,
there has been interest in analyzing religion to see
if and how doctrines and practices treat women unfairly,
as in Elizabeth Cady Stanton's The Woman's Bible.
Again in second wave feminism in the U.S., as well
as in many European and other countries, religion
became the focus of some feminist analysis in Judaism,
Christianity, and other religions, and some women
turned to ancient Goddess religions as an alternative
to Abrahamic religions (Womanspirit Rising 1979; Weaving
the Visions 1989). Today both women and men continue
to be involved in the Goddess movement (Christ 1997).
much of the attempt at gender equity in mainstream
Judaism and Christianity is aimed at reinterpreting
scripture and degenderizing language used to name
and describe the divine (Ruether, 1984; Plaskow, 1991),
there are a growing number of people who identify
as Christians or Jews who are trying to integrate
Goddess imagery into their religions (Kien, 2000;
Kidd 1996, "Goddess Christians Yahoogroup").
The term "goddess" has also been adapted
to poetic and secular use as a complimentary description
of a non-mythological woman. For example, Shakespeare
had several of his male characters address female
characters as goddesses, including Demetrius to Helena
(to tease her) in A Midsummer Night's Dream ("O
Helen, goddess, nymph, perfect, divine!"), Berowne
to Rosaline in Love's Labour's Lost ("A woman
I forswore; but I will prove, Thou being a goddess,
I forswore not thee"), and Bertram to Diana in
All's Well That Ends Well. Pisanio also compares Imogen
to a goddess to describe her composure under duress
in Cymbeline. More recently, CBS News correspondent
Bob Simon described Aishwarya Rai as "a Greek
goddess with an Indian spirit" while interviewing
her on 60 Minutes. (Credit:
Hunting - Goddess Of Moon and Hunting
Divine Energy Exhibition (Art Gallery Of New South
Body and Spirit