A brief history of the Goddess
Once upon a time there were cultures where humans lived in harmony with each other and nature. In these cultures men and women were equals, there were no wars the way we know them today, and art and culture flourished. The most honoured spiritual force of these communities was the Goddess, the great creative power and the mother of all life. Who was she and what can she give us today in our search for a sustainable world?
Goddess statue from Malta
Archaeologists have found thousands of detailed sculptures, artefacts and wall paintings depicting female bodies and female symbols, dating back to an enormously long time period in southern Europe, about 30,000 years ago to a few thousand years before Christ.
Venus from Lespugue and Venus from Willendorf
Venus of Willendorf and Venus de Lespugue are two of the better-known sculptures, named after the places where they were found. They have exaggerated rounded female bodies with huge breasts, bellies and butts. They have no faces and no feet and their legs taper at the bottom so that they could easily be put into the earth. Lots of these Venus figurines have been found. They are all quite small, about 5 – 10 cm tall and made of various materials such as bone, stone and clay. These sculptures and other objects with female symbols have been found in tombs, in temples, in holy caves, in homes and other special places. In Malta, there are also several large temples which are designed as female bodies. Remains from this period indicate that the highest divine and sacred force was considered to be feminine and that women were highly respected in all parts of society! It was the Great Mother who was worshiped, and this created a social structure where women and the caring and nourishing qualities played an important role!
Ggantija temple on Malta
Almost all religions have or have had a very intricate mythology of many Gods and Goddesses. Behind them, a step further back in history, the vast majority of cultures and religions were once Mother-based. The Great Mother Goddess, the source of the universe and all its life forms, was honoured. The earth was her holy body and it was very important to know her and her wild nature for survival. The Great Mother Goddess has had many names in different places around the globe: Pachamama in South America, Gaia in Greece, Brigid the UK, Hel and Nerthus in the Nordic countries are just a few of them.
Image of Inanna Goddess statue from Malta
She gave birth to all life and every being came back to her after dying to rest and be reborn again in new shape. All phases of life were celebrated as important stages of the whole cycle. The magic of a tiny seed that can become almost anything! -A large oak tree, a human being, or a coltsfoot, which blooms and then dies and returns to the earth as seeds and nutrients for the next cycle of life. The circle and the spiral were symbols of Her powers and rhythms of nature and were often found in old Goddess temples. So were the snake that represented transformation and the moon reflecting the female cycle of menstruation and the flow of water on earth. Apples, eggs and seeds were symbols of eternal life and fertility. As people could see how women wore life in their stomachs, and how their bodies spilled blood in timing with the moon, they were considered to be in constant contact with nature’s creative powers and the Goddess. The female body became a natural symbol of creativity and new life! In these cultures, men were also honoured as important parts of fertility and phallic symbols have also been found, but not nearly in the same quantities as the many female figurines.
When invaders from the east with strong ideas of landownership and a patriarchal religion overtook these peaceful cultures, the Goddess communities could not defend themselves and were ruined. Society was no longer built on peace, the cycles of nature, sustainability and equality, but on power, competition and the idea of ruling over both nature and people. With Christianity, the woman became the sinner in paradise when she was lured by a snake to eat the forbidden apple of knowledge. She was punished to bleed every month and have tremendous pain during childbirth! The old holy symbols turned into sinful and ugly things and the woman’s body the most sinful of them all. The traditional sun and moon holydays were converted into Christian celebrations in order to help win people’s trust in the new religion. Goddess sculptures and temples were smashed to pieces and so-called witches burnt to death.
I wonder why we learn so little about this part of history in school? How would it have affected me as a young woman to know that previous to a male God, his Son and the Holy Spirit, a female Trinity was worshiped? Namely the Virgin, Mother and Crown. Or, alternatively, new life, life in full bloom and the aging and death of life.
What would happen if we all began to worship the Earth and the circle of life again? If we were all equally sacred! How would we treat each other and nature?
I think the old goddess cultures and all nature-based religions existing today have a lot to teach us about, sustainability, simplicity, harmony and nature. I have created a reading list with some books I really recommend on the subject! Enjoy!