Descent of the Gods

They came down from the mountains, wielding bronze spears and bronze swords and carrying images of their war Gods and their sky Gods. They came from the sea, dressed in fearsome armor and wielding weapons unknown. They came from within, sons and husbands who revolted against age-old tradition and placed God over Goddess.

The reasons for the overthrow of the Goddess and Her ways are debated among historians and anthropologists and archaeologists. Some speculate that patriarchal tribes, more advanced in the use of weaponry and chariots, descended upon the ancient Mediterranean and India and Europe from the Steppes of Russia. Others believe the change came from within--as village became town became city, social structure changed and became more complex; hierarchies developed and the balance of power shifted. More likely, the change was a combination of factors: external invasion, introduction of new ideas such as fatherhood and paternal rights, new technology, and internal social revolution.

Some point, too, to barbarous excesses in the faith of the Goddess such as human sacrifice and emasculation. Interpretation of archaeological discoveries and mythology seems to indicate that throughout Africa, the Middle East, India and Europe, annual human sacrifice was the norm rather than the exception. As the beloved consort of the Goddess died and the seasons came and went, so the consort of the Priestess-Queen was sacrificed---the drama of the Divine enacted on the mortal plain to ensure the fertility of fields and wombs and sea. There is great controversy, however, as to exactly when these practices were introduced--before, during or after the rule of the God/s was established. It is important to point out, however, that even if these practices arose when the Goddess was supreme, the followers of the God practiced them to a horrendous degree.

Whatever the reasons, the Gods came. The change in power, from Goddess to God, from women to men, was gradual and relatively peaceful in some areas, violent and abrupt in others, bitter and centuries-long among still other peoples. The changes are related in the myths: Nergal pulled Ereshkigal from Her underworld throne and forced Her into marriage. Zeus transformed into a cuckoo, landed in Hera's lap, then changed back into His manly form and raped Her. The Aesir, a pantheon of vibrant, violent Deities, invaded the ancient lands of Scandinavia and drove the peaceful Vanir into exile. Often times, the change was initiated by a powerful hero, usually the son of a God: Theseus destroyed the Goddess-worshipping civilization of Crete, while Vainamoinen stole the grain-grinding Sampo from Louhi the Witch-Queen. In a few instances, the change took place during recorded history: Akhnaton temporarily replaced the female-honoring faith of ancient Egypt with monotheistic worship of the male Aten; the priests of Yahweh overthrew Jezebel and Athaliah, loyal daughters of Asherah; and the Kaaba was taken from the Trinity of Al-Lat, Manat and Al-Uzzah and given to Their father, Allah.

This change in the Divine Order has had tremendous effect on civilization, particularly in the West. At its most extreme, the new order of father-rule supports slavery, racism, economic oppression, bloody wars of conquest, rape, mistreatment of children, physical and emotional abuse, environmental destruction, suppression of socially-unacceptable intellectual and artistic talents, the sexual and economic enslavement of women, emotional repression in men, and genital mutilation. Even in its more "benevolent" forms, patriarchy treats women like children, intellectual inferiors who needed to be cared for and shielded--often to the women's detriment when the men accorded the role of protector died, abandoned or mistreated them. Women in the East, too, suffered: only after the victory of the Communist revolutionaries were Chinese women spared the agonizing pain of foot-binding. Following the Aryan invasion of ancient India, women became less than secondary citizens and widows were required to die in their husbands' funeral pyres; even today, poor families spend a month's wages to determine a fetus' sex by sonogram and if the child is female, abortion is almost immediate....

Related here are a few stories of the descent of the Gods. The stories are organized by region and culture: Africa (Dogon and Yoruba), Asia (Indonesia and Japan), Central America (Aztec), Eastern Europe (Albania and Siberia), Egypt, Greece, India, the Near East (Palestine and Sumeria), North America (Inuit and Navajo), Scandinavia, and Western Europe (Ireland). As always, any criticism or submission is welcome. Please mail me.

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Back to Creation

To Goddesses

Dogon: Earth Mother and Amma Yoruba: Bayanni the Sacrifice
Indonesia: The Murder of Sago Woman Japan: The Murder of Uke-mochi
Aztec: The Four Hundred Children Albania: Kulshedra the Dragon
Siberia: First Woman and the Devil Egypt: The Black Madonna
Greece: The Conquest of Delphi Greece: The Many Marriages of Zeus
India: Diti and Her Child India: The People of the Indus
Palestine: Loyal Daughters of Asherah Sumeria: Ereshkigal, Queen Deposed
Inuit: The Rape of Akycha Navajo: Christ and the Corn Mothers
Scandinavia: The Aesir, Victorious Ireland: The Flame of Brigid

Dogon: Earth Mother and Amma

This tale from the Dogon people of Mali recounts the beginning of a horrible tradition: female genital mutiliation, or female castration. This practice is sometimes euphemistically referred to as female circumcision. It is a cultural (not religious) practice found throughout Africa and the Near East and India; though praticed by Muslims, it is found nowhere in the Qur'an. This practice is found particularly in societies which place a high stake on female virginity and patrilineality: if a woman cannot feel sexual pleasure, she will remain a virgin until marriage, and not stray after marriage. Sadly, it is usually women who perform this rite on other women.

  In the beginning lived Amma the Sky Father and Earth Mother. Amma desired children. He wished to mate with Earth Mother, that She might bear Him children. Amma the Sky Father descended from high above and attempted to mate with Earth Mother--but He could not. Amma attempted to mate with Earth Mother a second time and then a third. But each time, He failed. Finally, Great Amma realized that something was blocking His entrance into Earth Mother. It was Her clitoris, Her under-developed female penis. It was in the likeness of a termite mound, standing tall and proud upon Her surface. So Amma Sky Father, Who wished to mate with Earth Mother and sire children, took His knife and cut off Her clitoris.

  Earth Mother quaked.

  Then Amma attempted to mate with Earth Mother for the fourth time, and this time He succeeded. He sired many children.

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Yoruba: Bayanni the Sacrifice

This Yoruba tale from Nigeria tells us of the sacrifice of a Goddess: She must die that Her brother Shango may be strong. Stories of Divine sacrifice are common throughout world mythology.

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Indonesia: The Murder of Sago Woman

This myth of the Descent of the Gods calls to us from the Celebes Islands of Indonesia. Sago Woman appears to have originally been a creation Goddess, who, even after Her overthrow and murder, still provided for Her children. See also Nungui (South American Goddesses) and Munsumundok (South-East Asian Goddesses) and The Murder of Uke-mochi (this section).

  In ancient days, Sago Woman lived with Her family in a great house. They were happy, for they had all they needed: companionship, love and food. They all praised Sago Woman for Her delicious meals, which She cooked of sago palm. But Sago Woman never left the great house they lived in. Where did Her sago come from? Did it grow in the jungle? Was it of the sea or the mountain? They questioned one another, but no one knew.

  One day, when they heard sounds of Sago Woman preparing their meal, they peered in through the windows and doors. And then they saw a sight which horrified and disgusted them. Sago Woman did not go out into the jungle or sea or plain for sago palm--She made it of Her own body. Forth from Her vagina She pulled the great feathery leaves and pith.

  They screamed in horror, the family of Sago Woman, disgusted. They surrounded Her and prepared to kill Her.

  Fearful, surrounded, with no one to turn to for protection, with no weapon of Her own, Sago Woman was killed. But as She lay dying, She promised Her family one last gift. Bury me in the earth, She said. Go there in one week's time and you will find a gift.

  They buried Her hastily, Her family and murderers. They spoke not of Her death. A week later, the more courageous made their way to Her grave, and there they found a miracle. Out of Her grave had grown the first Sago palm, small in height, with great feathery leaves and a burst of brilliant flowers.

  And so Sago Woman continues to provide for Her family, even in death.

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Japan: The Murder of Uke-mochi

Like Sago Woman, Uke-mochi may originally have been a creation Goddess. As the Shinto faith evolved, She became responsible for foodstuffs alone, particularly rice and fish, the main elements of the Japanese diet. This myth may be as much phenomenological as political; that is, it explains the destruction by storm of fishing boats and rice paddies, as well as the overthrow of matriarchal Japan.

  Susanowo was a God of terrible temper. He ruled the violent storms of the sea which wrecked fishing boats and threw great waves across the land and raised winds which tore trees from the ground. He was a God much feared and loathed.

  Once, Susanowo was wandering the land. He was in a terrible mood. His brow was furrowed, like dark clouds rolling through the sky, and His jaw was tight. As He wandered, the ground shook.

  Then He came upon Uke-mochi-no-kami. Uke-mochi was a Goddess much loved by the other Kami. It was She Who provided Them with food: white and dark rice, many-colored fish, deep green seaweed, and wild game such as deer and bear and hare. But none knew how She created these things. Susanowo, terrible of temper, discovered how.

  As He watched in disgust, Uke-mochi turned to face the land of fields and forests. She coughed and convulsed and from Her mouth erupted a stream of rice, white and dark. Then She turned to the mountains, thickly forested and rocky. She coughed and convulsed and from Her mouth erupted a stream of wild game: deer and bird and bear and hare. Then She turned to the sea, gray and roiling. She coughed and convulsed and from Her mouth erupted a stream of many-colored and many-sized fish and deep-green seaweed.

  Susanowo roared with anger and the sky shook with thunder. He howled and lightning cracked. His breath came hard and deep, and the winds rose, ripping the waves of the sea.

  This is the source of Your rice and Your fish? He screamed, frightening Uke-mochi. This is why the Kami give You praise? This is why They hold You in honor!

  Susanowo's waves roared across the beaches and across the land, drowning fields and forests. His winds tore trees from the earth and the sides of mountains. Then He descended upon Uke-mochi and cut Her head from Her body.

  But the magic which was in Uke-mochi did not die. The magic of life which She contained within Her flourished. As Her body decayed, millet and rice grew from Her corpse. These, the people of Japan eat to this day.

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Aztec: The Four Hundred Children

This story is told by the Aztecs of pre-Columbian Mexico. Metaphorically, the story relates the opposition of day and night. Historically, it likely recounts an invasion of the Mexican heartland or a civil war. This story also provides a different Aztec cosmogony than that related in the Creation chapter (see Citlalicue). The picture is of Huitzilopochtli.

  Coatlicue is a black Goddess, dark of skin. Her hair is disheveled and dirty, Her body rank. Among the Gods and Goddesses of the Aztecs, She is the Mistress of Life and Death. About Her chest is a vest of flayed human skin, and about Her neck hangs a garland of hands and hearts, all human. About Her waist She wears a skirt of serpents. And so She is called "Serpent Skirt."

  She is the Mother of the Goddesses and Gods, four hundred in all. Among Her children is Coyolxauhqui, She of the Golden Bells. She is so called because Her cheeks shine like burnished copper, the color of polished bells.

  One day, a ball of many-colored feathers fell from the sky. It landed upon Coatlicue's chest, slipped beneath the vest of flayed skin, and there it rested. Coatlicue felt a quickening in Her womb, and a babe began to grow. .              

  Her other children, four hundred in number, were enraged when They heard of this. They felt shamed at the way Their Mother had conceived, not of a male, but in some mysterious, dark manner. They vowed to kill Their Mother and swore an oath among themselves.

  But Coyolxauhqui, She of the Golden Bells, would be no part of Her Mother's murder. She would not have the blood of matricide stain Her hands. Racing ahead of the army of Her siblings, She ran to warn Her Mother.

  But Coatlicue had no need of warning. She knew the intent of Her four hundred children. Nor had She need of protection, for the child in Her womb had grown quickly and was soon born. He sprang from Her womb, Huitzilopochtli by name, weapons in hand, shield upon His arm. He jumped from Her womb, shouting a cry, even as the four hundred plotted and Coyolxauhqui raced to warn Her Mother.

  Huitzilopochtli, weapons in hand, eyes bright and far-seeing, saw the army of four hundred approaching. He saw His Sister, Coyolxauhqui, at its head. And so, when She stepped before Him, hand raised in warning, cheeks shining like polished copper, He lifted His sword and sliced Her neck. Her head fell away, rolled across the ground, and blood mixed with dirt.

  The four hundred came then upon Huitzilopochtli, sword stained red, and the body and the head of Their Sister, Coyolxauhqui. They screamed with anger and anguish. They rushed upon Huitzilopochtli, swords drawn, daggers drawn, bows and arrows drawn, shields held ready.

  The ground grew dark. Huitzilopochtli's sword became heavy, weighted with the slime and crust of drying blood. Many died. Arms were severed and weapons dropped. Throats were slit and screams stopped. Blood and gore ran deep and thick, ankle-high. The tall feathers upon Huitzilopochtli's head wilted in the sun's heat and His arm grew tired. Noon became afternoon as the sun moved across the sky. Afternoon became twilight, and only then did those of the four hundred Who remained surrender and offer Their weapons.

  And so Mother Coatlicue was saved by Her Son, Huitzilopochtli. And Coyolxauhqui is remembered to this time for Her bravery and loyalty. We can see Her still--for when Huitzilopochtli learned of His Sister's true intentions from those of the four hundred Who yet lived, He felt guilt and anguish. In recompense, He threw His Sister's head high, high into the sky. And as the sun went to sleep beyond the western edge of the world, the golden bells of Coyolxauhqui's cheeks began to glow. And they glow still, the moon brightening the night-dark earth below.

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Albania: Kulshedra the Dragon

The dragon and serpent are ancient symbols of the Goddess faith, found throughout the world, from Ireland to China, from Germany to Africa. The historical overthrow of the Goddess faith is often mythologically recounted in the slaying of the dragon or serpent by the patriarchal hero: in Babylonia, Marduk slays the Dragon-Goddess Tiamat; in the Bible, Yahweh slays the serpent Leviathon; in Greek myth, Heracles kills the serpent Ladon, guardian of the Tree of Life; and Saint Patrick drove all the snakes from Ireland.

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Siberia: First Woman and the Devil

This rather horrid tale comes from the Altai Tartar people of Siberia. It is unclear whether the myth is of native origin or reflects the influence of Christianity and Islam.

  Ulgen created the world and the people and animals who live in it. The first human Ulgen made was First Woman. But though Ulgen could create the forms of plants and animals and people, He could give only animals and plants life. He could not fill the body of First Woman with spirit; He could not animate her mind or voice or body.

  Disappointed, Ulgen went away, leaving the body of First Woman.

  The Devil came along then, playing his seven-tone flute, seven-tone lyre upon his back. He saw the body of First Woman and knew she was the creation of Ulgen. But her body was still. There was no life in her limbs or voice or mind.

  And so the Devil had a wicked idea. He knelt upon First Woman and blew his seven-tone flute into Her nose. First Woman began to breath and speak. He played his seven-tone lyre in her ear and her mind came alive.

  The Devil went away then, happy.

 And so Ulgen's creation came to life, animated by the music of the Devil. And thanks to the Devil, the world has ever after been cursed with the seven bad tempers and seven bad moods of woman. 

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Egypt: The Black Madonna

While not an actual myth, this story recounts an historical incident which took place throughout Egypt and the Roman Empire during the first four centuries CE: the replacement of the worship of Isis and Horus/Osiris with that of the Virgin Mary and Christ.

  Mehen found the statue in the market.

  It was a busy, hot day. The wind was dry and dusty. She clung to her Mother's hand as they wandered among the stalls. One they passed was covered with statues of all types, statues of Gods and Goddesses: Osiris with His arms crossed over His chest; fierce Sekhmet; Hathor as a cow; Ma'at with the feather of truth upon Her head; jackel-headed Anubis and ibis-headed Thoth. When her Mother stopped to buy some fruit and haggle with the merchant over the price, Mehen went back and looked at the statues. There were many of Lady Isis and Her infant Son, Horus. They were of all colors: dark red, sandy, black, and painted with yellows and greens and browns. Mehen lifted her hand and opened her fist; all the money she had spilled onto the table. The vendor arched an eyebrow at the few coins. Mehen pointed to the statue she wanted, solid black and half-again as big as her Father's hand. The vendor pursed his lips, eyed the coins again, then the statue. Then he shrugged and handed it to her with a smile.

  Mehen grew older. She married a boy apprenticed to her Father. When her Father died, Mehen and her husband took over her parents' bakery. They lived in three rooms attached to the bakery. They had nine children together, five girls and four boys. Two of the girls died before their first year. The youngest child, the youngest daughter, was Khera.

  Khera was always willful and stubborn. She worked alongside her brothers and sisters and parents in the bakery, always questioning and arguing. Mehen turned often to Lady Isis and asked for patience when dealing with Khera. The statue stood in the place of honor, in a niche in the wall directly across from the door. When one entered the room, it was the first thing one saw. At the right time of day, when the door was thrown wide, light slid across the hard floor and up the walls and illuminated the tiny niche. The statue shone and Lady Isis' smile was even warmer then.

  When Khera was sixteen, she married. She chose a Greek man, Cadmus. He was wealthy and educated. He spoke Latin and Greek and Hebrew and had studied at the Platonic Academy in Athens; he had even visited Rome. Mehen's grandchildren, the children of her four sons and two other daughters, clambered around the new family member. They eagerly demanded to hear everything--is Rome really as big as they say? Did you meet the Emporer? Did you see the Imperial Guard? Did you go to the Circus? Cadmus laughed and politely answered all of their questions.

  Khera moved to the far side of the city to live with her husband, who taught at the great University. Mehen missed her daughter terribly. She sat often before the statue of Lady Isis and prayed. Khera visited one day and found her mother praying.

  Who do you think Isis is, Mother? Khera asked abruptly.

  She is a Goddess, the greatest of them all, Mehen answered truthfully. She is the most loving, compassionate, passionate and humane of all the Gods.

  Oh, Khera said.

  You do not believe this is so?

  Khera shrugged. I believe as Cadmus does. There is only One God. All the Gods and Goddesses of Egypt and Rome and Persia and Gaul--they're just different names for the One, different aspects of the One.

  They argued the rest of the afternoon. Khera did not visit her Mother for three months.

  The next Inundation, Mehen was presented with her fourth granddaughter. They named the girl Akusaa. She came often to visit her aging grandmother. Mehen's bones hurt and she could no longer work in the bakery as she used to. After her husband died, she gave the bakery to her elder surviving daughter. As she lay in her bed, or stirred soup, or read papyri, Mehen took comfort in the busy sounds of baking and laughter floating through the walls from the bakery. Her greatest joy was when Akusaa visited, which was almost every day. Mehen took great pains to tell her grandchild the stories of Isis--stories of Her compassion, the death of Her husband and the Goddess' anguish, the joyous birth of Her Son. Akusaa listened attentively to all of her grandmother's stories.

  One day, when she was seven, Akusaa sat with her Grandmother, Mehen, listening to the myth of Isis and Osiris and Horus. She was playing with a little doll with horse hair and a painted smile.

  I heard another version of that story, Grandmother, Akusaa explained, holding her doll idylly. But the names were different. One of the men who often visits Father told it to me. But the names were different. He said the names were Mari and Iesu.

  What is this? Mehen exclaimed. Who are these Mari and Iesu?

  Iesu is the Christos, Akusaa explained. The Anointed One. He died to save the world. That's who they are. Akusaa twisted and pointed to the statue in the niche. That's Mari holding Iesu.

  And so Akusaa believed, and believed more and more as she grew older. She spoke often in the market, telling all who would listen of the Christos. Mehen died when Akusaa was sixteen, lamenting the loss of her favorite granddaughter to the new religion.  

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Greece: The Conquest of Delphi

Delphi is an ancient site located far to the north of Athens. It was the site of a sacred shrine; at the shrine, a priestess delivered prophetic messages to waiting supplicants. After the patriarchal invasions, the prophecies came not from a Goddess, but from a God. In some versions of the conquest of Delphi, Python is a female serpent, not male as told here.

  The God stood triumphant.

  His skin was a golden-brown, His hair brilliant gold. The short white tunic He wore was ripped and His skin was torn in many places. Blood had crusted over some tears. Others bled in rivulets, down his chest and arms and back and legs. His sword was held tight in one hand, so tight it seemed He could not let go. In the other hand He held His bow and it shook with exhaustion and excitement. His quiver of arrows was long gone, lost some time during the battle.

  The God stood triumphant. Beneath Him lay the serpent Python, Son of Gaea. He had been magnificent in life, scales iridescent purple and blue and red, with golden highlights that shone in the Sun and silver highlights that shone beneath the Moon. A great feathered crown had risen from the crest of his head, deep purple and black. Two great fangs, glistening white, had once arched proudly from his jaws.

  The fangs were gone now, ripped from the roof of his mouth by the hand of the God. Python had screamed then, and bled from his mouth.

  The crown of feathers were limp. The scales were now dulled by death. The great heavy coils which had once sheltered pilgrims from rain, which had wrapped about the trunks of mighty oaks, now lay still. They spread across the great courtyard, for hundreds of feet, unmoving.

  The God stood triumphant. He smiled at her across the courtyard, where she stood in the shadows of the columned Temple. He raised His bow high and howled in victory. There were no sounds from the woods beyond. All hooved and pawed and winged life had fled at the first angry hiss of Python.

  You are Mine now, Priestess, the God shouted at her. No longer do you serve Gaea! Now you serve Me!

  He uncurled His fingers from the hilt of His sword then and threw His bow to the ground. He came to her then, limping slightly. She did not flee. He would only have pursued, and despite His wounds, He would have caught her easily. She would not give Him the satisfaction of the chase.

  When He was through with her, He went back out into the courtyard. He stood there for some time looking down on the still coils of Python. A worthy opponent, He finally admitted. That was a fine battle. And there will be many more. He turned to her then, as she gingerly stood. Tell all who come here of My triumph this day. Tell them Python is dead! Tell them that Delphi is Apollo's now!

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Greece: The Many Marriages of Zeus

Zeus acquired the role and powers of King of the Gods via means more often foul than fair. He slew opponents and contenders for the throne, tortured His enemies, and married and divorced the native Goddesses of Greece at an alarming rate. Even after settling on Hera as His sister/bride, He continued to sire children with various Goddesses, nymphs and princesses who caught His roving eye.

The blind bard sits in the agora and tells tales to those who will listen. I stand at the edge of the crowd, veil drawn across my face, and listen. He tells tales of great and mighty Zeus, King of the Gods. He tells tales of Zeus' conquests, on the battlefield and in the bed. The blind bard says that in long ago days, Zeus was not King, but that His father, Kronus, ruled. Zeus led His siblings, His two brothers and three sisters, in revolt against Their father. Their mother, Rhea, Who had grown to despise Her husband, aided Her children in Their revolt. And the children, led by Zeus, were victorious: They drove Kronus to lands far from Greece. Kronus' allies were thrown into the underworld, and there chained for eternity.

And so, the blind bard says, Zeus became King of the Gods.

Flush with victory, triumphant, Zeus attacked and raped His own mother, Rhea. She turned Herself into a serpent and hissed at Him, angrily, warning. He took Her nonetheless.

Then He bedded Themis, ancient Goddess of Justice and Time. She may have gone to him willingly, as the bard says, recognizing Him as Chief God and Rightful King. Perhaps She was forced. In the end, the bard does not care, for She bore Him six daughters: the Three Seasons and the Three Fates, Who ordered the universe as Zeus commanded.

Next, Zeus took Eurynome, Wide Wandering Goddess, and by Her sired the Charites, Who oversee the social graces. And so Zeus became Lord of Social Laws, the ordering of human society, ordered by His new vision.

Next, Zeus took to His bed Mnemosyne, She Who Is the Memory of the People. By Her, great Zeus became the father of the Muses, those glorious Goddesses Who inspire bards and playwrights and dancers. And so Zeus became Lord of Memory and Lord of All Arts, of the beauties of civilization.

Next, Zeus took His sister, Demeter, Lady of the Wheat Fields. By Her, He fathered Kore, Maiden of Spring, Whom He gave to His brother Hades as virginal bride. And so did Zeus bring into His service the Goddess of Agriculture, Who feeds the people and can withhold harvests at His command. And so did Zeus bring into His debt the God of the Dead, Who had long loved Kore.

In further proof of His conquest, Zeus upset the natural laws and rewrote them to His own wishes--and gave birth to a full-grown daughter from His head. It is claimed by the bard that this skull-born Goddess has no mother, but I and others know full well She is the daughter of Metis, Mistress of Wisdom. Zeus feared the prophecy which foretold that Metis would bear a son who would overthrow Him, as Zeus overthrew His Own father And so Zeus swallowed Metis, consumed Her, ate Her, and the daughter She had been nurturing in Her womb was born from His head. And so Lady Athena favors the male in all things, believing even Herself that She has no mother.

Lastly, or so it seemed, Zeus took to His bed His heavenly wife, Hera, Mistress of Argos. It was quite a cunning marriage, the blind bard explains, and all the men marvel at the God's cleverness. For Zeus took the form of a cuckoo, Hera's favored bird, and flew into a storm. Wet and pitiful, He landed in the Goddess' lap. She took pity on the poor bird, and began to stroke his feathers, warming him. And then the God took His true form, and raped His sister, and so She was compelled to become His wife, by the new laws Zeus had decreed. But Hera, that sly, vindictive shrew, was unhappy as wife of the great Lord Zeus , and so plotted against Him. Zeus discovered Her plotting, and wrapped chains about her wrists and ankles and throat, and dangled great weights from the chains, and hung Her from the sky--fitting punishment for a wife Who dared plot against Her Lord! And there She hung until She begged Zeus' forgiveness, and He relented, and She has not plotted against Him since.

But the appetites of the great Lord Zeus could not be confined to the marriage bed. By the beautiful nymph Maia He became father of clever Hermes, whom Zeus made Messenger of the Gods. By the immortal Leto, Zeus sired youthful Apollo and wild Artemis, Lord of Cities and Lady of Greenwood. And by mortal Semele, princess of Thebes, Zeus sired Vine-Loving Dionysus.

And so by the power of His phallus, great Zeus became Lord of All Creation: Lord of Order and Law, Civilization and City, Justice and Time and Memory and Art.

The men applaud, throw coins, and begin to drift away. I stay for a few moments, considering. Shall I argue with the bard? Tell him that his tales are all lies?....But there are still men about....And I remember Hera hanging from the sky.

I lift the pitcher of water to my shoulder and return home.

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India: Diti and Her Child

This horrible story comes to us from the Hindu tradition of India. It relates, in the language of myth, the historical battle between the native inhabitants (perhaps Dravidians) and Aryan invaders. Diti, whose name means literally "Limited," may originally have been a material, earthly Goddess Whose spiritual, ethereal Twin-Self was Aditi (see the Creation chapter).

  In ancient days lived Diti and Kashyapa, Goddess and God. They ruled a land of lush jungles and plains. From the north came terrible invaders, waving swords and riding in chariots. The invaders brought a new God with them. His name was Indra, and He was a terrible and powerful God. More and more of the land His armies conquered, driving Diti and Kashyapa and Their people farther and farther south.

  Diti and Kashyapa conspired to stop Indra and His terrible army. Alone, He was too powerful. Perhaps together They could stop Him. And so Diti and Kashyapa mated and produced a child. For one hundred years the child slept in Diti's womb. Each year the child became more powerful, the embodiment of its Parents' powers. Each year the child, who was both male and female, grew in Diti's womb, becoming more powerful. Fifty years passed, then seventy, then ninety, then ninety-nine.

  Indra learned of the child. He knew that this child of Diti and Kashyapa was powerful. This child alone could defeat Him and send His armies fleeing back to the north. And so Indra conspired to murder the child.

  One night, while Diti slept, Indra crept into Her bedchamber. He willed Himself to grow smaller and smaller. Tiny God, He slipped beneath Her gown and between Her legs. Sword drawn, Indra crept up Diti's slick vagina and into Her womb. There He found the child, about to be born. It glowed with power.

  Indra took His sword and cut the child into pieces. Again and again His sword slashed and cut, and Diti turned in Her sleep. Into seven pieces Indra cut the child, but the child began to cry. Again, Indra raised His sword and cut the child into seven more pieces.

  Diti felt the pain in Her womb and awoke, but Indra slipped away.

  Birth pain tightened Diti's belly and legs. It was a bloody labor. But the child Indra had conspired to kill had not died. Instead, it had become fourteen children. Diti looked in awe upon Her fourteen children, the seven Daityas and the seven Maruts. The Daityas were daughters, beautiful and dark- skinned and taller than the trees. They wore large jewels upon Their heads and hands. The Maruts were sons, strong of breath and arm. When They exhaled, great storms tore through the sky.

  But separate, these fourteen children Who had once been one child, were not strong enough to defeat Indra and His army. The Maruts blew great storms and poured rain and hurricanes upon the army, to no avail. The Daityas stomped through the encampment of Indra's army, scattering horses and crushing chariots, but to no avail. Indra seized the Daityas and threw Them down into Patala, the nether region. Indra seized the Maruts and threw Them high up into the sky, where They still blow Their fierce breath and conjure storms.

  And so Indra was victorious. His army came to conquer the whole of India, and He rules there still.

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India: The People of the Indus

This story recounts the rise and fall of the civilization of the Indus Valley. Unlike the other stories in this chapter, this is a cautionary tale on overuse of the environment--one grim aspect of the mentality of the religion of the God. The Indus civilization reached its height about 2500 BCE, then abruptly disappeared about 1800 BCE. Their pictographic script has yet to be deciphered, and so all knowledge of the Indus civilization is based on archaeological evidence and supposition.

  They descended from the mountains every season. Harsh winters drove the herders and their animals south, down into the lush Indus Valley. They stayed there for a time, fattening their herds, then returned once again to the mountains in the spring.

  Then they discovered the magic of seeds. They planted small plots of wheat and barley, which they ate of themselves and fed to their herds. Then, some planted larger plots, and stayed through the summer, rather than just the winter season. Then, about four thousand years before the common era, they began to stay all year round.

  The Indus Valley was a lush paradise in comparision to the rugged, harsh highlands. Rolling grasslands supported vast herds of elephants, rhinoceroses, antelopes and wild hogs. Deer abounded. Tigers and leopards, bears and wolves roamed vast woodlands of teak, cedar, rosewood, acacia and tamarisk; there, the carnivores fed on monkeys, parrots, squirrels, tortoises and mongooses, while eagles soared overhead. In the Indus River itself, water buffalo and crocodiles made their home in shore-side marshes, while a plentitude of fish swam in the river's currents.

  The Indus was a benevolent, yet capricious river. Every spring, it flooded the plains, depositing a layer of rich, alluvial soil. And so the harvest was abundant. But now and again, its flood waters would spread far and wide, driving the people from their villages, or it would suddenly change its course, leaving once-green regions dry and desolate.

  The people adapted to the whimsical nature of their river, and they prospered. Sheep, goats, and cattle provided meat, milk and wool. Chicken, ducks and pigeons were also raised, while water buffaloes and elephants were yoked to plows, and wild hogs domesticated. Levees and irrigation canals were constructed, and the people learned to cultivate a variety of crops all year round: wheat and barley, millet and sorghum, peas and pomegranates, dates, and a variety of melons and other fruits and vegetables; sesame was early imported from Africa. But most importantly, the people of the Indus were the first in the world to cultivate cotton and weave its fibers into cloth.

  Great cities, such as Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, arose, built atop high artificial plateaus faced with brick. Above the floodplain, the cities flourished. Only a civilization advanced in agriculture, sizable in populace and united in purpose could have built these great mounds and the cities which sat atop them. At its height, Harappa alone was home to some 35,000 people.

  These great cities were well-planned and constructed. Main thoroughfares were wide and straight. Private residences were composed of a central courtyard, off of which opened store rooms and bedrooms. Exteriors were plain and sombre, while the furniture within was spartan. Yet even the smallest home was equipped with a luxury few in the ancient world knew: in-door plumbing. Weaving and dyeing cloth, throwing pottery and hammering copper were the cities' major home industries, while agriculture was the main source of prosperity. In the markets, artisans crafted tools of bone, wood, stone, copper and occasionally bronze; potters mass-produced cups and plates and bowls and jars, back scrubbers and writing sticks, all artfully illustrated with black-on-red designs. Jewellers produced gold plaques and armbands and headbands, necklaces and bracelets, beaded girdles, combs and pins; most striking of all were the cone-shaped ornaments like golden ear muffs. Standards of weight and length were precise. Merchants settled as far away as Mesopotamia, and traded in turn with the peoples of Africa, China, South-East Asia and Europe. A sophisticated bureaucracy of engineers and accountants oversaw the thousands of agricultural workers, the sanitation workers, and the artisans and merchants who crowded the city's markets.

  Animals were revered. Their likenesses were painted on pottery or carved into statuettes or bas-reliefs. Parrots and monkeys were kept as pets. Children played with whistles shaped like hens, or ceramic monkeys that danced on strings, or ceramic bulls with wiggling heads who could be attached to tiny toy carts.

  A Mother Goddess, whose name has been lost, was worshipped in household shrines. Reliefs and seals depicted sacred animals--such the zebu, the bull and the elephant--and sacred trees, such as the pipal. Other reliefs show a great hero wrestling with tigers; a horned God in a tree, surrounded by female worshippers; and a four-faced God looking simultaneously in all directions--an antecedent of the great Hindu God, Shiva.

  The decline began slowly. The Indus flooded, destroying the great cities. Determined and conservative, the people rebuilt, varying the old city plan by not so much as a cubit. Devastating earthquakes struck the south of the valley.The climate slowly changed, as monsoon rains began to shift to the east and the valley grew arid. Intensive cultivation depleted the soil. Ambitious irrigation allowed salt to leech up from the water table, poisoning the crops. Herds of sheep and goats and cows grew in number to feed the ever-growing population--and in so doing, denuded hillsides. Too many forests were felled to fuel fires for baking bricks. Top soil blew away. All-important trade withered and tribes from Central Asia entered the valley.

  By the end of the eighteenth century BCE, the cities had been largely abandoned. Squatters moved in, taking over the ruins. Archaeologists have found the remains of their primitive brick partitions-- which turned the once-great cities in slums--and their primitive pottery and metalwork.

  And so we see the Indus Valley today, denuded of forests, edging into desert.

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Palestine: Loyal Daughters of Asherah

The stories of Jezebel and Athaliah are related in the Bible, though with definite negative bias. The Yawhist priests who composed those passages had little good to say about Jezebel. Feminist historians/herstorians are now looking beyond the Biblical account: Jezebel has been reinterpreted, rehabilitated; no longer is she a painted whore, but a passionate evangelist of Asherah. Athaliah, likewise, is having her story retold by less damning voices.

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Sumeria: Ereshkigal, Queen Deposed

In ancient Sumeria, Ereshkigal was the Dark Twin of Inanna, much as Nephthys was the Twin of Isis (Egypt) and Diti the Twin of Aditi (India). Ereshkigal suffered far more, and more quickly, at the hand of patriarchal priests than did Her Sister Inanna (see Goddess chapter).

  In the heavens ruled Inanna, Bright Queen of the Stars and Moon. Beneath ruled Ereshkigal, Dark Mistress of Irkalla. Bright Inanna ruled love and the seasons, storms and the flood of rivers. Dark Ereshkigal ruled death and disease and the wealth of the earth, gold and silver and oil, which She sent to the surface for the use of Her people. Bright Queen and Dark Queen, Sister Queens of Heaven and Irkalla.

  The peoples of the Twin Rivers honored Them both, Bright and Dark. From Them the people received gifts of love and fruit and gold and coal. From Them the people received gifts of storms and droughts and old age and disease. It was a good life centered around fields of grain and herds of sheep and market cities and stepped ziggurats.

  Then the Gods came.

  There was a great clanging, a horrible banging in Irkalla. Nergal threw wide the Seven locked Doors of Irkalla. He threw them wide, scattering the Seven Guardians. The shades of the dead shuddered in fear at the noise, the clanging and banging which grew louder. Louder and louder, echoing through the abyssal silence of Irkalla.

  Ereshkigal sat upon Her throne. She sat silent on Her throne of bone and obsidian, listening. Nergal's steps were loud. He threw open the last of the Seven Doors and stood before Her. He bellowed Her name, the name echoing through Irkalla.

  She ordered Him to leave. This was Her realm. She was Queen of Irkalla. He laughed and grabbed Her hair and pulled Her from Her throne. She fell, stumbled, was dragged through the dust of Irkalla. Her hair tore and She fell forward. He hit Her face and punched Her in the belly and pulled Her hair. And when She cried for Him to stop, He pulled Her head back and asked, did She relinquish Her throne?


  And so He continued to hit Her until Her body ached and She could not think. She cried again for Him to stop and He pulled Her head back and asked again, did She relinquish Her throne? Was He now Ruler of Irkalla?

  Yes, She said.

  And He pulled Her close then, wrapped His arms around Her and hugged Her. He said He was very sorry. She had no reason to cry, He said. He was Her husband now. She would rule by His side as Mistress of Irkalla.

  But Ereshkigal continued to weep. 

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Inuit: The Rape of Akycha

As related in the stories of Zeus and Apollo, rape is a common motif in the overthrow of matriarchal societies. What better way to demoralize a people than by raping their priestesses, and by claiming that your God raped their Goddess? The story of Akycha, however, indicates that in some areas of the world the overthrow was not entirely successful. Variations of this story are told by Inuit living in Siberia, Alaska, Canada and Greenland.

  In the lodge, the singing was loud and joyous. Hands clapped and drums thumped. Bodies twisted fluidly in dance. No one heard the sound of pain in a dark corner of the lodge. In that dark corner, unlit by fire, something terrible happened.

  A man raped Akycha.

  There was no word for it, for such a thing had never been done before. Akycha only knew that she felt pain and terror and anger. She could not see him in the dark corner, this man who had violated her. As he moved away, she slid her hand across the floor. Soot from the fire and torches smeared her palm. She raised her hand and slapped him, hard. Her palm stung.

  He growled, low, too low to be heard over the singing and clapping and dancing and drumming.

  Akycha saw the knife then. It glinted dully, gathering the light of the distant fire and the torches on the walls. She threw up her arm and felt it cut through cloth and flesh. She screamed then as her arm began to bleed, and the singers and drummers were silenced. All looked over at the dark corner in concern and fear.

  The man fled then. He leapt away from Akycha and through the crowd of revelers. And Akycha knew him, recognized on his face the streak of soot.

  He was her brother.

  He grabbed a torch from the wall and opened the door. Cold wind and snow blew in and the people cried out. He ran out into the snow and night, and Akycha followed him. She followed him out into the blizzard, angry and ashamed. Her brother had dared to hurt her so. There was still pain between her legs. She shouted after him, into the blizzard, that she would hurt him so as he had hurt her.

  She ran faster and faster, torch held high. Her torch burned hot and bright, golden with anger. Faster and faster she ran, following the light of his torch, pale and white. His torch began to rise, rose higher and higher into the air. And Akycha rose too. Higher she rose into the sky, still pursuing her brother. She rose so high that the light from her torch brightened the whole world. The sky became light where she strode, turning a pale blue.

  And so Akycha became the sun, bright torch of day. Her brother became the moon, pale light of night. Her light is bright with anger and hot revenge. His torch is pale with fear and shame. And she pursues him still.

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Navajo: Christ and the Corn Mothers

The Navajo arrived relatively recently on the North American continent, after it had already been settled by other tribes. They are related to the Aztecs of Mexico. The Navajo make their home in the south-western United States. Now predominantly Catholic, the Navajo were converted by Jesuit priests during the Spanish conquest of the New World in the 16th and 17th centuries CE. Native Navajo religion still centers around corn, the staple of their diet.

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Scandinavia: The Aesir, Victorious

There is some evidence that the Aesir, the well-known pantheon of Viking Deities, may actually be of Asian origin. The native Deities, the Vanir, a peaceful pantheon concerned with fertility, were driven into exile by the Aesir, indicating that the same probably happened to Their followers.

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Ireland: The Flame of Brigid

There is no doubt that the Goddess Brigid was widely worshipped by Celtic tribes. There is, however, a great deal of controversy in historical and theological circles as to whether or not the Saint Brigid of the Catholic Church was a real person, considering the similarity in their tales and their joint sacred site. After Saint Patrick, Brigid is the most popular Irish saint.

Throughout the lands of the Brigantes She was worshipped. Brigantia, Briginda, Brigidu, Bridget, Bride, Brigid: these were Her names, Divine Ancestress of the Brigante.

She was triple in nature, threefold in aspect: Lady of Midwives and Healers, Lady of Bards and Poets, Lady of Smiths and Smithcraft. And so She was often depicted: a woman with three faces, or three women side by side.

Throughout the lands of the Brigante they worshipped Her, Lady of Midwives and Healers. Her sacred wells were numerous. It was to these places that women who wished children traveled, seeking a fruitful womb. It was to these places that husbands journeyed, for She returned virility to impotent members. It was to these places that lepers journeyed in search of a cure. A tale is told of two such lepers, who journeyed to a sacred well of Brigid. There they were instructed to wash one another's bodies in the holy water. The younger washed the elder first, and watched in astonishment as the sickness fell away. The elder was to then wash the younger, but the disease of which he had only just been cured now repulsed him, and he refused to touch his companion. The elder cried out in agony then, watching in horror as his disease returned and his faithful companion was cured before his eyes.

Throughout the lands of the Brigante they worshipped Her, Lady of Bards and Poets. It was She Who revealed to Her people that sounds might become written words. And so the prophesies and laws of the Goddess were recorded, and Her ways were carried throughout the lands. Bards and poets called upon Her for inspiration, and She spoke in their minds in words bitter and sweet, of great heroes and tragic lovers. And so the storytellers were able to create images with words, and ancient heroes lived once again.

Throughout the lands of the Brigante they worshipped Her, Lady of Smiths and Smithcraft. Fire is one of Her great joys, for its warmth and beauty and usefulness. It was She Who taught the ancient Brigantes how to stoke fires and beat metal into form. It is She Who taught the people the art of forming gold and silver and copper and iron into things beautiful and useful. It is She Who taught them the secret of bronze.

It is said that She was born into the world on Imbolc, a day which has been sacred to Her since. It is said that Brigid came into the world shining bright. A great tongue of flame rose from Her forehead high into the heavens, marking Her as a child Divine. That fire burned long in the world. At Kildare it burned, holy sanctuary open to no man. There the flame was tended by the nine Ingheau Anndagha, Priestesses of the Goddess. Through these women Her ways were spread throughout the lands. Women journeyed to the santuary as pilgrims, and learned there the secrets of herbs and the laws of the Goddess, and carried them back to their villages and towns.

For many centuries, the flame of Brigid burned at Kildare. Then the Christ and His Bishops came. Brigid was no Goddess, they declared, but a midwife. It was she who was miraculously transported to the Holy Land and tended the Virgin Mary at the birth of Christ. And so Her sanctuary at Kildare became a convent, and Her Priestesses became nuns.

The flame, though muted, burned bright still. For one thousand two hundred and twenty years after the birth of the Christ, it burned. Until a Bishop, who knew its pagan origins, who feared its pagan power, ordered the flame extinguished.

The world has been dark ever since.

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