PBP: G is for Goddesses, Gods, Generation, Goats and Grain

I decided to get a jump start on this early in the week in case I forgot about it Friday, and really also because this is inspired partially by a conversation I had recently. I know the title is a bit of a mouth-full but all of these ideas shall be present in the post.

First off, I love my religion as it is populated with a number of gracious goddesses and kindly gods. There is never a lack for a divine being for whatever the situation may be or for any function within nature. That said, I can appreciate too that there is no literal creator god in the Hellenic religion (as in a divine being who created all the cosmos outside of it). Rather the gods and goddesses are part of the cosmos. This of course resolves any problem of trying to determine if the cosmos were created by some elusive divine mother, or by a divine father. And really I have issues with the very idea of a singular creator outside of the cosmos, because regardless of which way it goes it is going to be misogynistic and utterly related to nature, and as I firmly believe that the gods are part of nature and what we see physically in nature reflects the divine, I have issue with this idea that EITHER a father God or a mother Goddess can be an omnipresent creator. Now conversely within Hinduism you have a unified expression of a kind of Mother-Father divinity by way of creator pairs that are as one (Brahma-Saraswati, Vishnu-Lakshmi, Shiva-Parvati/Sakti). They are one together. Saivism has that Shiva/Siva as predominant and yet Sakti is a part of him, and they are one together. Shaktism is in reverse, in which Shiva is part of Sakti. They are together, both god and goddess and procreative function of the cosmos. Such as the symbolism of the drum of Siva in which the two parts of the drum represent the male and female which together create. This is not unlike the division of the Olympians equally among females and males creating specific pairs of unified function. Most obvious being Zeus-Hera as a marital unity, and Apollon-Artemis expressed as a twinning unity. There are some philosophical traditions that even suggest that Zeus and Hera are the same as Apollon and Artemis on a different level, and that this follows to Persephone and Dionysos at another level again. I am still unsure how I feel about this, but I am just putting it out there.

This is not say that there aren’t different kinds of creation that can be done solo, or even among being of the same sex. I do not want to indicate that all forms of creation are necessary between a goddess and a god. However, procreative creation of life is. There are very few instances where you see a god create by themselves, and usually it is not by themselves in the strictest sense. Athena is born from the head of Zeus and is called motherless, and yet she was conceived in the womb of Metis whom Zeus swallowed, following which the gut of Zeus (rather like the gut of Kronos), fathered Athena and she burst from his skull. But Zeus did not conceive her on his own, he just bore her on his own. In contrast we have Hera who out of anger at Zeus over the birth of Athena concealed herself away to birth Hephaistos alone. Now there is some interpretation that this conception was done solely of herself, but we also have Hephaistos called the son of Zeus in many variations. A clue may be given in which the myth is expanded upon by the Romans that Flora aided Hera in the secret in how to conceive by herself. Now flowers (that which is in the domain of Flora), although they cannot fertilize themselves) procreate asexually. Pollen is transferred, without any sexual contact or form of union by a third party between blossoms (in the form often of bees or butterflies etc). Therefore what we likely see with Hera’s conception of Hephaistos is the goddess conceiving of the god in a manner not unlike artificial insemination. Zeus fathered Hephaistos, but the conception was not born of union between Zeus and Hera in their marital bed, but apart. Hephaistos was so closely identified with Zeus by some regions that we find in Arkadia that Hephaistos is called the Warish Zeus. A somewhat related myth would be the conception of Cecrops who was conceived when the semen of Hephaistos spurted and landed on the thigh of Athena as she was evading him, which she thus wiped to the earth from which Cecrops was born. Here we have a more complicated imagery though because we have the fertilization occuring between the figures of Hephaistos and Athena, but Athena remains without child because the earth itself served as the womb (though she looked after Cecrops with what I would say is nearly maternal attention).

This procreative generation between male and female occurs through the most potent symbolism of fertility, maternity and paternity. Particular if we consider the cultic importance of the he-goat and she-goat (and also the bull and the cow alternatively). The identification of Demeter with Europa who was conceived by the bull Zeus speaks to this. As do many instances in which we find gods inclined towards fertility and nurture associated with these. Demeter, Aphrodite, and Hera are all associated to varying degrees with cows, as Poseidon, Zeus, Apollon and Dionysos for instance are linked in varying degrees with bulls. Likewise we have Artemis (the great nurse), Apollon, and Pan associated with goats, and the nursing of the infant Zeus by the goat Almathea.

The fact of the matter one would be very hard pressed to find any historical reference to an ancient religion in which you have a lone deity which procreates solely of him or herself. At least not until the Abrahamic religions. As such goddess spirituality typically just reverses the mode of the Ambrahamic religions, to make them goddess-centric instead. Therein you have a goddess who bears the cosmos of and by herself, and then conceives herself (and in some slightly more polytheistic trends..an actual separate daughter). Sometimes you will also find her conceiving a son as well, though this seems to be an optional variation. I have nothing against people who want to have this world view, it just feels strange to me when it is approached using the Hellenic gods. Demeter (who is often used as a model in this spirituality) did not conceive of Persephone of herself alone, she was conceived by Zeus (who incidentally I hate being referred to by goddess spiritualists as a PIE sky god, he is not the sky, his domain is aether, the fluid energy which surrounds every living thing, the falls in rain to fertilize the ground and collides and snaps in lightning in a storm). Nor did she rear Persephone, who is symbolized by the wheat ear, without the participation of any gods for Apollon’s domain of light nurturers the wheat to maturity and for this purpose he is called the god who brings the golden harvest from Hyperborea. The gods and goddesses are working together in a unified whole, not apart from each other. Sometimes goddesses with other goddesses for certain things, and gods with other gods, but always they are in tandem together, and especially among the goddesses and gods together to bring about the creation of life. I can’t even agree with statements that say that god is both female and male because god has no biological gender, but is called mother because she bears forth new life. This seems to be a conflict in ideas in which on one hand gods and goddesses are genderless, but yet it concepts of a creator deity is a mother goddess because she bears forth new life. This concept argues against itself in my opinion because you can’t be without gender and have an identity based off a biological sex activity. Well you can, but not without conflict of reason. I can accept that gods and goddess create by their unification with each other, because I do ascribe to divine gender and therefore I recognize that both are important for creation that is reflective in nature, including Mother Goddesses (such as Leto, Rhea, Demeter etc), as these are balanced out with Father Gods. Whereas they don’t have biological bodies and such urges, they do have functions of their domains which correspond on a symbolic level of female and male functions, goddess and god. Just a bit more expansive.

And then you have Selene, but I believe that she is called male and female in her orphic hymn is attributed more to the fact that she takes on the light of her brother Helios in order to shine (something that was recognized by the ancient Hellenes). Therefore she is filled with male essence which she radiates even as she is female. Rather being both male and female in the literal sense and still being functionally a goddess in every sense.


3 thoughts on “PBP: G is for Goddesses, Gods, Generation, Goats and Grain

  1. Concerning the Mother Goddess giving birth to the kosmos, and whence being called mother despite of being genderless; I also feel this is a flawed reasoning. Various ancient Near Eastern peoples had/have a male creator God because they believe creational power lies with the male, as he brings the seed into the women who bares it to fruition. They did not know that there was such a thing as egg cells in women, and thus considered the male semen to be the whole child (which incidentally also explains opposition to homosexuality/masturbation in the Bible, as these acts did not serve the attempt at procreation and thus constituted infanticide in this worldview). Thus the believed generational power lies with the male, and considered the creator deities of their respective religions (including the polytheistic ones) to be male. In fact, some Egyptian creation myths say that the creator made the universe by masturbating it into being.

    What I want to show here is that a similar reasoning can be applied to any creator deity being called a “sole conceiving” Father, as there can be for calling such a deity “sole birthgiving” Mother.

  2. Hi Lykeia, I agree with your notion. What I would like to add is that what is called Star Goddess (in my spiritual tradition and understanding), or Shakti / Lalitha Tripura Sundari / ‘Divine Mother of the Universe’, is an image or label we give to that form of the Ultimate Reality which is the highest level accessible to our limited human minds; [Star] Goddess is the ‘Nous’ of NeoPlatonism, the Kether of Kabbalah; it is not -at least in my understanding- an actual deity, a God or Goddess who is an actual Cosmic Power.
    Also, The Mother Goddess -again in my personal understanding- is Durga / Rhea / Kybele; I understand her as the Neoplatonic World Soul, as described in Plato’s words: quote “Therefore, we may consequently state that: this world is indeed a living being endowed with a soul and intelligence … a single visible living entity containing all other living entities, which by their nature are all related.” quote end.
    But the Mother Goddess [Durga-Rhea] is not what monotheists call ‘The Creator’, nor is the Nours / Star Goddess respectively The Divine / Brahman / The All.
    I also don’t believe in a [sole] Creator, in the way monotheistic faiths do – I see no evidence, logic or even need for that (quite the contrary actually!).
    With best wishes — Athena

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