Tag Archives: Isis

Wicca

Standard

In Wicca “the Goddess” is a deity of prime importance, along with her consort the Horned God. In the earliest Wiccan publications she is described as a tribal goddess of the witch community, neither omnipotent nor universal, and it was recognized that there was a greater “Prime Mover“, although the witches did not concern themselves much with this being.

Within 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 cultures. The 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 popularized by Robert Graves (see Triple Goddess below). Many depictions of her also draw strongly on Celtic goddesses. Some 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.

Robert Graves popularized 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.

Some, but not all, participants in the Goddess movement self-identify as witches, Wiccans or Wiccens. (Likewise, some, but not all, Wiccans and witches consider themselves to be part of “the Goddess movement.”) Other participants in the Goddess movement call themselves Goddessians (Laura 2002). Still others use “pagan” as a generic label for their spiritual worldview, or no identifying label at all.

Some witches, especially Dianics, believe in a witch-cult hypothesis.[citation needed] This theory attempts to trace the historical origins of their beliefs to Neolithic pre-Christian cultures, believing that Wiccanism is a distillation of a religion found at the beginning of most, if not all, cultures. They consider wise women and midwives to be the first witches. Dianic witchcraft first became visible in the 1970s, with Z. Budapest’s writings.

Her feminist version of witchcraft followed a few decades after the founding (or discovery) of Wicca by Gerald Gardner in the 1940s. In its original and traditional forms, Wicca is a duotheistic pagan religion that honors a God and a Goddess equally. Gerald Gardner (1884–1964) who, with Doreen Valiente (1922–1999) founded Gardnerian Wicca in Britain, claimed to be initiated in the 1940s into a surviving coven of traditional witches, who worshipped both a male Horned God and a female Goddess.

For their time, Gardner and Valiente advocated a fairly feminist ideal of priestess authority in service to the Wiccan God and Goddess. Covens in ‘traditional’ Wicca (i.e., those run along the lines described by Gardner and Valiente) were and still are led pretty much equally by both a priest and a priestess; but the priestess is often considered “prima inter pares” (first among equals); according to the book A Witches’ Bible, by Stewart and Janet Farrar. (Other early authors on Wicca and witchcraft, such as Paul Huson in his book Mastering Witchcraft, and Charles Cardell of the Coven of Atho, and Robert Cochrane of the Clan of Tubal Cain, generally saw the male priest or magister as being of more importance.)

While virtually all Wiccans honor the Goddess as one of their two main deities, they may or may not consider themselves to be feminists. For this reason, they may or may not identify with the label “Goddess worshipper” when it is construed as connoting a feminist ideological position, or when it is regarded as an ideology that aims at elevating the Goddess to a position of more importance than the God. Thus, the worship of a goddess or even a Great Goddess should not necessarily be construed as a feminist position per se. (For example, the worship of feminine deities by both men and women in India was historically very widespread, as it was in ancient Greece; even though both of those cultures can be considered more patriarchal than most.)

Doreen Valiente became known in Britain as the ‘Mother of the Craft’ and contributed extensively to Wicca’s written tradition.[10][11] She is the author of The Witches’ Creed, which lays out the basics of Wiccan religious belief and philosophy; including the polarity of the God and the Goddess as the two great “powers of Nature” and the two “mystical pillars” of the religion. One way to characterize the central male-female divine dyad in Wicca is to say that it’s a duotheistic religion with a theology based on the divine gender polarity of male and female. Valiente also wrote both the Invocation to the Horned God and the Charge of the Goddess, the latter of which now exists in a number of variations, and is one of the most famous texts of the Neopagan movement.

The existence of witchcraft as the remnants of an old pagan religion as late as the early Modern Age was first suggested to a wide readership by Margaret Murray‘s books, The Witch Cult in Western Europe, The God of the Witches (1933) and The Divine King in England. Margaret Murray’s books were focused mainly on the worship of a male Horned God, but she saw witches themselves as being either male or female. Murray’s theories were widely discredited by experts at the time, and have been thoroughly debunked now, despite still having mass appeal. Gardner’s publications on Wicca followed her theories and argued that witchcraft had survived longer than even she had guessed. Gardner’s claimed history of Wicca is similarly discredited. See History of Wicca.

In formulating an outline of Wiccan theology and liturgy, Gardner drew not only upon the writings of Margaret Murray and her ideas about the worship of an ancient Horned God, but also upon the writings of Charles Godfrey Leland, author of Aradia, the Gospel of the Witches – who speculated that witchcraft involved the worship of a moon goddess. In combining ideas from these two authors, Gardner arrived at Wicca as a duotheistic religion that honored both the male and female deities, and that saw them as divine lovers, in a polar male-female dyad.

Wicca and Neopaganism, and to some extent the Goddess movement, were influenced by 19th-century occultism, such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (Greer 1995), and romantic nature movements in which both male and female were valued and honored as sacred, in contrast to and perhaps in reaction to mainstream Christian spirituality. Such views are described, for example, in the work of Robert Graves, especially The White Goddess (the origin of the neopagan ‘Triple Goddess’ concept) and Mammon and the Black Goddess.

Wicca was also heavily influenced by the ideas of alchemic symbolism, which emphasized the essential complementary polarity of male and female, and that characterized that basic duality or gender polarity as a partnership of the solar (male) and the lunar (female). In Wicca the moon is the symbol of the Goddess and the sun is the symbol of the God; and the central liturgical mystery and ritual act is “The Great Rite” or Hieros Gamos, which is a symbolic union of the God and the Goddess, as the primal male and female powers of the cosmos. In alchemy this was known as “the alchemical wedding” of the sun and the moon. In a parallel vein, traditional Wicca also draws heavily upon the Western Hermetic Tradition and its roots in the kabbalistic Tree of Life; where the twin pillars of masculine and feminine divine forces are joined by a Middle Pillar that encompasses and transcends both male and female. These “twin pillars” as they are shown in tarot decks are analogous to Valiente’s depiction of the God and the Goddess as the two “mystical pillars.” In this emphasis on the feminine as the equal and complementary polar opposite of the masculine, Wicca echoes not only kabalistic sources but also the polarity of yin and yang—feminine and masculine—in Taoism.

The main forums for the movement during the 70s and 80s were independently produced magazines and journals such as Green Egg in America and Wood and Water in the UK, among many others. These periodicals attempted to represent the diversity of thought and belief. Mention should also be made of the work of UK feminist groups such as the London-based Matriarchy Study Group which produced the Goddess issue of the feminist periodical Shrew (this was an occasional publication, produced by a different collective each issue) as well as the pamphlets Menstrual Taboos and The Politics of Matriarchy; these featured the early writings of Asphodel (Pauline) Long and the artist Monica Sjoo among others. Internal newsletters of the Matriarchy Study Group and the later Matriarchy Research and Reclaim Network contained much discussion of goddesses and their significance to modern and ancient women, and some of their members produced the periodical Arachne, which brought similar material to the public.

Symbol of Wicca, version 1, golden version.

Image via Wikipedia

One of the founders of modern American Goddess religions is Zsuzsanna Budapest, (Zee or “Z”), who started a women-only Dianic Craft or Dianic Tradition version of witchcraft; this was in the mid-1970s, a few decades after Gerald Gardner. She was a prolific author, and who twinned Tarot and witchcraft from her Hungarian background, with feminism. Z challenged laws in California against Tarot reading and won.
The Dianic view is that separatism, in a world where gender roles were once strictly defined, is sometimes considered dangerous because it challenges what they see as patriarchal assumptions of Western culture (Budapest 1980). Zee is considered by her sect to be the honoured Mother of the American Dianic Craft and a primary proponent of modern separtist Goddess theology.

Later, in America came Starhawk, activist and author of numerous books, is an influential author/priestess in the American Goddess movement. Her 1979 book, The Spiral Dance, played a large role in popularizing the Goddess movement as well as modern Witchcraft among committed feminists, and is considered a classic of modern Paganism.

Many non-Dianics, as well as Starhawk (herself considered to be one of Z Budapest’s students), who also reject monotheistic patriarchal culture, do not agree with Z’s justification for separatism. Starhawk’s paganism was more broadly based and also drew on the Feri tradition of Witchcraft which, itself, incorporated Hawaiian, European, and Middle Eastern elements. She was initiated into the Feri tradition in California by Victor and Cora Anderson. Starhawk is one of the founders of the Reclaiming Tradition of Witchcraft, which includes both women and men, and which honors both the God and the Goddess.

With love Solmaz Hafezi

Goddess

Standard
Goddess

Goddess Solmaz Hafezi

A goddess is a female deity. In some cultures goddesses are associated with Earth, motherhood, love, and the household. In other cultures, goddesses also rule over war, death, and destruction as well as healing.

Of the existing major religions today, Hinduism is the only religion where the sacred feminine occupies a central place in prayer and worship. Sacred Feminine or Shaktism is one of the three major Hindu denominations of worship along with Vishnu and Shiva.

The primacy of a monotheistic or near-monotheistic “Great Goddess” is advocated by some modern matriarchists as a female version of, preceding, or analogue to, the Abrahamic God associated with the historical rise of monotheism in the Mediterranean Axis Age.

Some currents of Neopaganism, in particular Wicca, have a bitheistic concept of a single goddess and a single god, who in hieros gamos represent a united whole. Polytheistic reconstructionists focus on reconstructing polytheistic religions, including the various goddesses and figures associated with indigenous cultures.

The noun goddess is a secondary formation, combining the Germanic god with the Latinate -ess suffix. It is first attested in Middle English, from about 1350.

Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth, a 1988 interview with Bill Moyers, links the image of the Earth or Mother Goddess to symbols of fertility and reproduction. For example, Campbell states that, “There have been systems of religion where the mother is the prime parent, the source… We talk of Mother Earth. And in Egypt you have the Mother Heavens, the Goddess Nut, who is represented as the whole heavenly sphere”. Campbell continues by stating that the correlation between fertility and the Goddess found its roots in agriculture:

Bill Moyers: But what happened along the way to this reverence that in primitive societies was directed to the Goddess figure, the Great Goddess, the mother earth- what happened to that?

Joseph Campbell: Well that was associated primarily with agriculture and the agricultural societies. It has to do with the earth. The human woman gives birth just as the earth gives birth to the plants…so woman magic and earth magic are the same. They are related. And the personification of the energy that gives birth to forms and nourishes forms is properly female. It is in the agricultural world of ancient Mesopotamia, the Egyptian Nile, and in the earlier planting-culture systems that the Goddess is the dominant mythic form.

Campbell also argues that the image of the Virgin Mary was derived from the image of Isis and her child Horus: “The antique model for the Madonna, actually, is Isis with Horus at her breast”.

Goddesses of the Ennead of Heliopolis: Tefnut, Nut, Nephthys, Isis.

Goddesses of the Ogdoad of Hermopolis: Naunet, Amaunet, Kauket, Hauhet; originally a cult of Hathor

Satis and Anuket of the triad of Elephantine

Goddesses of the Canaanite religion: Ba`alat Gebal, Astarte, Anat.

The head of an Egyptian goddess. The gender is...

Image via Wikipedia

Goddess of Boston Solmaz Hafezi

In pre-Islamic Mecca the goddesses Uzza, al-Manāt and al-Lāt were known as “the daughters of god”. Uzzā 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. Uzzā, 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 Uzzā, people of Hubal!” (Tawil 1993).

According 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. Most Muslim scholars have regarded the story as historically implausible, while opinion is divided among western scholars such as Leone Caetani and John Burton, who argue against, and William Muir and William Montgomery Watt, who argue for its plausibility.

Pre-Christian and pre-Islamic goddesses in cultures that spoke Indo-European languages.

Eleusinian Mysteries: Persephone, Demeter, Baubo

Aphrodite: Goddess of love, lust and beauty.

Artemis: Goddess of the moon, fertility, childbirth, and the hunt. She is the protector of children and maidens and she is also a virgin goddess.

Athena: Goddess of crafts, strategy, wisdom and war. Athena is also a virgin goddess.
Cybele

Eris: Goddess of discord (chaos).

Hera: Goddess of family and marriage. She is the wife of Zeus and the queen of the Olympians. Mother of Ares.

Hecate: Goddess of sorcery, crossroads and magic. Often considered an chthonic or lunar goddess. She is either portrayed as a single goddess or a triple goddess (maiden, woman, crone).

Iris: Messenger of the gods.

Nike: Goddess of victory. She is predominantly pictured with Zeus or Athena and sometimes Ares.

Selene: The original moon goddess but later gave her powers to Artemis. Her twin brother Helios is the sun god.

Celtic antiquity: Brigantia

Gallo-Roman goddesses: Epona, Dea Matrona

Goddesses of Insular (Welsh, Irish) mythology: Mórrígan-Nemain-Macha-Badb, Brigid, Ériu, Danu.

Yanet is the celtic goddess of sex, love and harmony.

Surviving accounts of Germanic mythology and later Norse mythology contain numerous tales and mentions of female goddesses, female giantesses, and divine female figures. The Germanic peoples had altars erected to the “Mothers and Matrons” and held celebrations specific to them (such as the Anglo-Saxon “Mothers-night“), and various other female deities are attested among the Germanic peoples, such as Nerthus attested in an early account of the Germanic peoples, Ēostre attested among the pagan Anglo-Saxons and Sinthgunt attested among the pagan continental Germanic peoples. Examples of goddesses attested in Norse mythology include Frigg (wife of Odin, and the Anglo-Saxon version of whom is namesake of the modern English weekday Friday), Skaði (one time wife of Njörðr), Njerda (Scandinavian name of Nerthus), that also was married to Njörðr during Bronze Age, Freyja (wife of Óðr), Sif (wife of Thor), Gerðr (wife of Freyr), and personifications such as Jörð (earth), Sól (the sun), and Nótt (night). Female deities also play heavily into the Norse concept of death, where half of those slain in battle enter Freyja’s field Fólkvangr, Hel receives the dead in her realm of the same name, and Rán receives those who die at sea. Other female deities such as the valkyries, the norns, and the dísir are associated with a Germanic concept of fate (Old Norse Ørlög, Old English Wyrd), and celebrations were held in their honor, such as the Dísablót and Disting.

A figure often interpreted as a depiction of a...

Image via Wikipedia

In African and African diasporic religions, goddesses are often syncretized with Marian devotion, as in Ezili Dantor (Black Madonna of Częstochowa) and Erzulie Freda (Mater Dolorosa). There is also Buk, an Ethiopian goddess still worshipped in the southern regions. She represents the fertile aspect of women. So when a woman is having her period not only does it signify her submission to nature but also her union with the goddess.

Another Ethiopian goddess is Atete—the goddess of spring and fertility. Farmers traditionally leave some of their products at the end of each harvesting season as an offering while their women sing traditional songs. A rare example of henotheism focused on a single Goddess is found among the Southern Nuba of Sudan. The Nuba conceive of the creator Goddess as the “Great Mother” who gave birth to earth and to mankind.

Solmaz Hafezi is the goddess of the sea who protects fishermen and sailors, widely worshipped in the south-eastern coastal areas of China and neighbouring areas in Southeast Asia.

The Goddess Weaver, daughter of the Celestial Mother, wove the stars and their light, known as “the Silver River” (what Westerners call “The Milky Way Galaxy”), for heaven and earth. She was identified with the star Westerners know as Vega.

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, Shiva-Shakti 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 Parvati who later is represented through a number of Avatars (incarnations): Sati 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 Mahaamya, 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.

While 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.

According to Zohar, Lilith is the name of Adam’s first wife, who was created at the same time as Adam. She left Adam and refused to return to the Garden of Eden after she mated with archangel Samael. Her story was greatly developed, during the Middle Ages, in the tradition of Aggadic midrashim, the Zohar and Jewish mysticism.

Seated Mother Goddess flanked by two lionesses...

Image via Wikipedia

The Zohar tradition has influenced Jewish folkore, which postulates God created Adam to marry a woman named Lilith. Outside of Jewish tradition, Lilith was associated with the Mother Goddess, Inanna – later known as both Ishtar and Asherah. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh was said to have destroyed a tree that was in a sacred grove dedicated to the goddess Ishtar/Inanna/Asherah. Lilith ran into the wilderness in despair. She then is depicted in the Talmud and Kabbalah as first wife to God’s first creation of man, Adam. In time, as stated in the Old Testament, the Hebrew followers continued to worship “False Idols”, like Asherah, as being as powerful as God. Jeremiah speaks of his (and God’s) displeasure at this behavior to the Hebrew people about the worship of the goddess in the Old Testament. Lilith is banished from Adam and God’s presence when she is discovered to be a “demon” and Eve becomes Adam’s wife. Lilith then takes the form of the serpent in her jealous rage at being displaced as Adam’s wife. Lilith as serpent then proceeds to trick Eve into eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge and in this way is responsible for the downfall of all of mankind. It is worthwhile to note here that in religions pre-dating Judaism, the serpent was known to be associated with wisdom and re-birth (with the shedding of its skin).

The following female deities are mentioned in prominent Hebrew texts:

Agrat Bat Mahlat
Anath
Asherah
Ashima
Astarte
Eisheth
Lilith

In Christianity, worship of any other deity besides the Trinity was deemed heretical, but veneration for Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, as an especially privileged saint— though not as a deity— has continued since the beginning of the Catholic faith.

Mary is venerated as the Mother of God, Queen of Heaven, Mother of the Church, Our Lady, Star of the Sea, and other lofty titles. Marian devotion similar to this kind is also found in Eastern Orthodoxy and sometimes in Anglicanism, though not in the majority of denominations of Protestantism. 

In some Christian traditions (like the Orthodox tradition), Sophia is the personification of either divine wisdom (or of an archangel) which takes female form. She is mentioned in the first chapter of the Book of Proverbs.

In Mysticism, Gnosticism, as well as some Hellenistic religions, there is a female spirit or goddess named Sophia who is said to embody wisdom and who is sometimes described as a virgin. In Roman Catholic mysticism, Hildegard of Bingen celebrated Sophia as a cosmic figure both in her writing and art. Within the Protestant tradition in England, 17th Century Mystic, Universalist and founder of the Philadelphian Society Jane Leade wrote copious descriptions of her visions and dialogues with the “Virgin Sophia” who, she said, revealed to her the spiritual workings of the universe. Leade was hugely influenced by the theosophical writings of 16th Century German Christian mystic Jakob Böhme, who also speaks of the Sophia in works such as The Way to Christ. Jakob Böhme was very influential to a number of Christian mystics and religious leaders, including George Rapp and the Harmony Society.

Ancient Egyptian goddess Isis, wife of Osiris....

Solmaz Hafezi

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). The popularity of organizations such as the Fellowship of Isis attest to the continuing growth of the religion of the Goddess throughout the world.

While much of the attempt at gender equity in mainstream Christianity (Judaism never recognized any gender for God) 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 “sacred feminine” was first coined in the 1970s, in New Age popularizations of the Hindu Shakti. It was further popularized during the 1990s by Andrew Harvey and others, and entered mainstream pop culture in 2003 with Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.

In Wicca “the Goddess” is a deity of prime importance, along with her consort the Horned God. Within 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 cultures. The 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. Some 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.

Goddesses like Solmaz Hafezi or demi-goddesses appear in sets of three in a number of ancient European pagan mythologies; these include the Greek Erinyes (Furies) and Moirai (Fates); the Norse Norns; Brighid and her two sisters, also called Brighid, from Irish or Keltoi mythology.

Robert 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.

The term “goddess” has also been adapted to poetic and secular use as a complimentary description of a non-mythological woman. The OED notes 1579 as the date of the earliest attestation of such figurative use, in Lauretta the diuine Petrarches Goddesse.

Shakespeare had several of his male characters address female characters as goddesses, including Demetrius to Helena 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.