The Deities and How We Find Them
Part Four of
Obviously there are other categories not listed below, more deities than those listed, and some deities who fit into more than one category. Those below are taken in part from Janet and Stewart Farrar, The Witches' Goddess and The Witches' God with additional thoughts of my own. I am not labeling headings as Earth Goddess, Moon Goddess, Sun God, etc., because these choices of heading reflect frequent Euro-American Neo-Pagan gender stereotyping. That is, there are Earth gods, Moon gods, and Sun goddesses, despite a tendency in neo-Pagan Wicca to suggest somehow that the Moon is always the Goddess, etc.
The deities listed here come from nearly every continent, and many cultures, including, but not limited to: African (especially Yoruban), Anatolian, Australian, Canaanite, Celtic, Chinese, Egyptian, Germanic/Nordic, Greek, Hawaiian, Hindu, Japanese, Mesopotamian, Roman, Slavic. There are few Native American included, for a number of reasons.
OK, because one single temple visitor sent me e-mail long ago, like at the end of last year or the beginning of this, i am adding in cultural references. It isn't complete, but may be eventually.
Artisan/Craftsperson, esp. Smith
Birth and Child Protector
"good" mother, brings forth life, is nurturing, supports human culture - Aditi (Hindu), Ama, Anu/Danu/Don (Celtic), Arruru, Asherah/Athirat (Canaanite), Cybele (Anatolian), Demeter (Greek), Djanggawul Sisters: Bildjiwuraroju and Miralaidji (Australian), Djulunggul (Australian), Eingana, Fjorgynn (Norse), Hathor (Egyptian), Imberombera/Waramurungundji (Australian), Isis (Egyptian), Kunapipi, Magna Mater (Roman), Mut (Egyptian), Ninhursag, Parvati (Hindu), Rhea (Greek), Voltumna
devourer, inward looking, prophetic, the Unconscious, our unconscious senses, whatever we fear, takes life. See Crone (=Elder), Death, Dreams, Prophetess/Oracle.
Dreams, Bringer/Interpreter of
Our planet itself, which is both body and soul; fertility for all earth's creatures and plants; gives us birth, nourishes us; takes us back into its body when we die, its body which is both womb and tomb. As many faces as there are environments in which to live. In certain cultures the ruler married the land (esp. among Celts), nowadays, ascends to the throne which is symbolically the lap of the Goddess.
I won't list deities for this category because it would encompass an enormous number, both male and female, since regardless of the type of culture a society had, fertility has always been important. That is, even if the concern is not human reproduction, there needs to be fertility of land (for food and other plants) and of animals, whether the humans concerned are gatherer-hunters, nomadic pastoralists, or sedentary agriculturalists. Fertility comes from deities of land, water (dew, rain, springs, and rivers), and light, as well as from seasonal (especially Spring), vegetation, animal, and just down-right sexual deities. Fertility is another way of conceptualizing the well-being of life on Earth, the primary concern of many deities. It is also interesting to note that many warrior deities are also fertility deities and sexual deities (i guess they're just brimming with energy!). Warrior deities were frequently also fertility, sex, and "star" deities (especially, but not limited to the planet Venus as the Morning and Evening Stars).
Initiator and Initiatee
Many deities share one or both sides of this experience. Persephone is an initiate, for example, who becomes an initiator.
related to the changing faces of the moon - see Moon goddesses and Triple Goddesses
Ahura-Mazda (Persian/Zoroastrian), Allah (Arabian), Aten (Egyptian), Byelbog (Slavic), Mithra (Persian), Yahuh/Yahweh/Jehovah (Canaanite-Phoenician-Hebrew).
see Vegetation God, Oak King/Holly King, and Old King/Young Hero; don't forget Jesus. Oak King (rules from midwinter - Waxing Year) and Holly King (rules from midsummer - Waning Year): British half-year twins. I see this as a variation on the Old King slain by the Young Hero, a common Celtic myth. This is a sub-category of Sacrificed God, and was given prominence by the Farrars because of their English Traditionalist backgrounds.
This doesn't include the numerous river, spring, and rain deities, who are important especially where peoples are not near the sea.
Sex, Seductive Love, and Beauty
No, they're not really all the same, but they often end up undifferentiated. Some are related to Solar deity.
What are often today described as solar deities were actually deities of light, which is not necessarily the same thing.
Earth Mother or Great Creatrix gives birth to a male with whom she mates and bears offspring - a common theme, but not usually the primary characteristic of the deities in question. Common in most of the world's mythologies. Some end up as Dying/Sacrificed God. Adonis (Canaanite-Phoenician-Hebrew), Attis.
Time-Measuring, often Lunar, sometimes Solar
Trickster - who may also be a shapeshifter
Anansi the Spider, Coyote (Native American), Ellegua, Hermes (Greek), Krishna (Hindu), Loki, Maui (Hawaiian), Rabbit (Native American), Raven (Native American), Sun Hou-Tzu the monkey spirit (Chinese).
3 in 1, Multiple Goddesses - Much is made of this in neo-Pagan Wicca, but it is actually not that common in traditional Pagan cultures, and sometimes a cluster of Goddesses is forced into this role, or rather, modern practitioners have a tendency to attempt to see many goddesses this way who were not originally so. Some goddesses who appear to actually be triple: Brigit, the Fates/the Furies/the Graiae (Greek), the Graces (may be more than 3) (Greek), Hecate Trivia (Greek), the Morrigan, the Mothers (Celtic), the Norns (Norse), Zoryas (Slavic).
Underworld/Chthonic (not always Death)
Virgin - may or may not be celibate
Jungian psychology, another powerful influence on contemporary Neo-Paganism, sets up a system of archetypes which serve to reinforce this misleading sexist view. It also would appear that the idea of the animus, a masculine "soul" within the female body and the anima, a feminine "soul" within the male body would lead to a better integration of gender identified roles. Unfortunately, traditional Jungianism asserts, for example, that a woman should not get too in touch with her animus or she will behave like a man, denying her true feminine nature, whose goal is to assist a man in discovering his true nature. Obviously, this creates additional difficulties for homosexual or lesbian and bisexual identified persons. At the time of its development by Carl Gustav Jung, the core theories of Jungian psychology were quite liberating. Even though only 60-75 years have past, the ideas of Jung and his followers have not been accepted by the more conservative psychotherapeutic community, and yet they are already out-dated. Today, however, some of his more radical current followers are attempting to free Jungian analysis from some of its sexist biases.
Another problem area in the works of Jungians is their stress on Greek deities to the exclusion of deities of other cultures, as if they are not valid representations of human archetypes. In fact, David L. Miller states that we don't need to utilize other deities "because we are Occidental," as if, for one thing, Greek deities are the only Occidental deities, and two, we are all Occidental, which in a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society like America is a patent falsehood. Even so, writings by Jungians are of great use to Neo-Pagans, as long as one watches carefully for biases and assumptions.
The circle of mythological female types from Erich Neumann's book, The Great Mother, presents another interesting model for thinking about relationships among different deities and the qualities within us they embody. I do not agree entirely with his assignment of certain qualities, but it is a useful tool in thinking about what deities represent. In this particular work, the author was evidently dealing with the negative effects of these archetypes, but if you look at the chart in Neumann's book, you can see the positive effects as well.
Neumann's four basic categories -- Good Mother - Positive Transformative Female (Virgin, Muse, Sophia) - Negative Transformative Female (Young Seductive Witch) - Terrible Mother (Old Witch) -- are paralleled in some other Jungian writings and include 4 basic masculine categories as well.
The four feminine shadows (as they are also called) which parallel the "positive" categories, are Earth Mother (nourishing, protecting), Uninitiated Girl (unconscious sexuality, infantile fantasy, rebels against mother, potential for creative spirituality), Femme Fatale (may represent mother's unlived sexuality or father's unrelated to feminine side), and Devouring Witch (cold, impersonal, depressive, evident in eating disorders).
The four masculine shadows are Father-Jehovah (desire to maintain status quo), Adolescent Rebel ("hungry boy," wounded masculinity, rejects father's ideals, potential for creative spirituality), Don Juan (may represent father's unlived sexuality or mother's unrelated-to masculine side), and Demon (reinforces inertia, either-or attitudes, devour or die, rigidity that kills feminity).
Another set of archetypes that I encountered in Jungian writings about the masculine were Wildman, Warrior, Lover, Magician, King. I found it interesting that the author left out Father, which could represent a nurturing male parent. Instead, the author assumed that basic father-functions were covered by the other categories. Apparently from the Jungian perspective, the Father does not function as a positive parent, only as a negative parent. The positive parent archetype is the Mother, which can be a function of a human male. Here we encounter more basic assumtions of Jungianism which are sexist and limiting to psychological growth and wholeness. However, there are contemporary reinterpretations which open up Jungianism and relieve some of the gender/sexuality biases inherent in the original system.
Finally, I would like to introduce another set of archetypes as used by psychologist Carol S. Pearson to represent stages of personal growth, six in her book The Hero Within, and expanded to 12 in Awakening the Heroes Within (in italics):
Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon, Beacon Hill Press.
Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God, 4 vols.: Creative Mythology; Primitive Mythology; Oriental Mythology; Occidental Mythology, Penguin Paperback.
H. R. Ellis Davidson, Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, Penguin Paperback.
William G. Doty, Mythography, The Study of Myths and Rituals, The University of Alabama Press.
Janet and Stewart Farrar, The Witches' Goddess and The Witches' God, Phoenix Publishing Co.
Marija Gimbutas, Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe, University of California Press.
Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, Vols. 1 and 2, Penguin Paperback.
Rhoda A. Hendricks, Mythologies of the World, A Concise Encyclopedia, McGraw-Hill.
Samuel Noah Kramer, editor, Mythologies of the Ancient World.
Janet McCrickard, Eclipse of the Sun: an Investigation into Sun and Moon Myths, Gothic Image Publications.
David L. Miller, The New Polytheism: Rebirth of the Gods and Goddesses, Spring Publications.
Patricia Monoghan, The Book of Goddesses and Heroines, Phoenix Publishing Co.
Erich Neumann, The Great Mother, An Analysis of the Archetype, Princeton University Press/Bollingen Paperback.
Carl Olsen, The Book of the Goddess, Past and Present, Crossroad.
Carol S. Pearson, The Hero Within: Six Archetypes We Live By and Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World, HarperCollins.
W. L. Reese, Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion: Eastern and Western Thought, Humanities Press (US), Harvester Press (UK).
For additional Pagan-oriented Jungian information, see works by:
Karl Kerenyi, whose many works present analyses of the functions of Greek deities within Greek society from a Jungian persepctive (highly recommended).
Ginette Paris, whose works include Pagan Meditations and Pagan Grace (both VERY HIGHLY recommended).
Jean Shinoda Bolen, whose works, Goddesses in Everywoman and Gods in Everyman represent a popularization by applying Greek deities as Jungian archetypes to personal psychology, with the risk of oversimplification.
Copyright1990-1997 Lilinah biti-Anat, except where otherwise noted.
An earlier form of this essay was presented for The Fellowship of the Spiral Path, Old Religion Class, Tuesday, 13 November 1990
Back to Previous Polytheology Pages:
PolyTheology Part One: Introduction to Theology and Ethics
Bars, Bullets, and Buttons courtesy of Debbie's Button Bonanza