Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts.” ~Salman Rushdie
The Warrior God and the Great Mother
The title suggests that I’m setting God up against the Goddess, man against woman. That’s far from the truth. I talk about God in the Old Testament and the evidence throughout the Scriptures that tell of the pagan religion and the goddesses associated with it and my “meeting” with a goddess, “the great mother” of a similar religion.
There is indeed a great contrast between the Warrior God and the Great Mother and it’s appropriate to compare them to one another.
One exalts himself to have all power over heaven and earth. The second looks more like what I find in the Taoist thinking (YinYang) from about 2500 years ago, where the feminine and the masculine principles were of equal importance and where people saw themselves as part of nature and not as its master.
Marija Gimbutas, archaeologist (1921 – 1994), claimed to have found evidence for the existence of a society that lived in harmony, peace and balance with nature. Her theories met strong resistance, but the evidence – the archaeological findings – were so extensive that the debate declined.
Our culture’s myths and the stories we tell often have a great impact.
Every Christmas we worship a virgin who bore a son and every Easter a bleeding man nailed to a cross. This affects us, whether we like it or not.
God sent his son to earth.
He differed sharply from his community and was sentenced to death and hanged on the cross. He died for our sins – interpreted as him dying to save us from our sins, even those committed after his time if only one has enough faith in him. The whole story is set in motion by a loving father who had all power over heaven and earth, yet did not intervene to use this power to save his son, but let him die.
He was raised from the dead but not everyone saw this. He appeared briefly for just a few people. Not really back to life as we experience it and not something I can consider hailing as resurrection.
Talking to someone who has “gone over to the other side” is ridiculed by many today, perhaps especially by those who believe in Jesus’ resurrection. This I can’t understand. As I see it there is a similarity.
But I understand that when God can sacrifice his Son for our salvation, it is not difficult to send our children to war for the sake of some idea.
Norwegian sons to war for democracy!
Some modern theologians will make God gender-neutral or even call God ‘Her’. By all means! I will not be part of this culture of war and oppression. It’s not just the gender that has to change. The entire structure of a god who has power over you has to change to a god who empowers you – and who is within you and everywhere.
The great mother – the goddess of many names, made love and gave birth.
We with our Christian faith are supposed to believe in a god who used a surrogate mother and then to worship this woman who gave birth even though she was still a virgin. Not in the 21st century! We know a little bit more. We have eaten of the tree of knowledge. God would have the tree of life for himself – and Adam and Eve were thrown out of Eden to prevent them tasting it and living forever. Not because Eve tempted with sexuality or was “weak of the flesh”.
The myth of Adam and Eve, as interpreted by Paul and the Church Fathers after him, is absolutely not innocent.
It contains the core of Christianity’s oppression of women. Since we live in a culture where Christianity has influence far beyond Christian circles, the interpretation of this myth is important.
In Genesis chapter 2 verses 15 to 17 we read that God threatened them with death the day they ate of the tree of knowledge.
Maybe the serpent knew that God was just trying to scare them from eating of the tree of knowledge with a false threat.
In Genesis chapter 3 verses 4 and 5 it says:
4. ‘You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman.
5. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’
If Eve doubted which of God or the serpent spoke the truth, she went to the tree and ate of the fruit, at the risk of her life.
That she spoke to a snake is not surprising – nor that the snake is seen as the devil. In cultures – especially feminist cultures before Christianity and Jehovah God, the serpent was a central symbol that stood for wisdom, eternity and truth.
Since the snake was such a central symbol in pagan, non-Christian religions, it was also natural that it was stepped on. The Gnostics, a Christian mystic group from the early days of Christianity, have several other interpretations. Amongst others that the female spiritual principle came to the Garden of Eden in the form of a snake in order to educate and save people from a tyrannical god.
The Old Testament is full of stories where God’s army burned and destroyed shrines celebrating the Goddess. Much of the evidence for their existence has been lost, but we can understand some of the scope of Goddess worship by reading about the devastation in Deuteronomy chapter 12 verses 2 and 3:
2. Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains, on the hills and under every spreading tree, where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods.
3. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Ashera poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places.
Astarte is a fertility goddess. Her lover is called Baal. Ashera, her mother, is mentioned about 40 times in the Old Testament. Astarte, Ashera and Anath could conceivably represent three aspects of woman. Astarte is the lover, Ashera is the mother and Anath is the virgin. In comparison, Christianity has Mary as both the virgin and the mother, an ideal that even in the wildest fantasies is impossible to identify with.
For centuries after Moses, we read that the Israelites worshipped Astarte and Baal. In about 800 BC, Goddess worship was still strong among common people. In Jeremiah chapter 44 verse 17 we read that women burned incense to the queen of heaven.
17. We will certainly do everything we said we would:We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our ancestors, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm.
It is difficult to say anything with certainty about cultures that existed before written language, the time we find most goddess and feminine sculptures.
«The Little Snake Goddess» from the Minoan culture of Crete.
In the Minoan culture of Crete that flourished from about 2000 to 1400 BC, several sculptures of women and snakes have been found. Their palaces have extensive storage capacity for ceramics and
other commodities such as olive oil, but no defenses and no traces of weapons or a warrior profession.
The Sleeping Goddess, Hypogenum, Malta
In Malta, deep in a cave, we find a reclining female figure that is dated about 4,000 years ago. The figure is often called the sleeping goddess.
Jonette Crowley, is a spiritual teacher from the United States, who only a few years ago (2007) channelled a message from Ashtatara, the world’s mother, the Sleeping Goddess of Malta:
“I speak with great difficulty
For the distances are too large and the forgetting too deep ….. The earth is precious beyond measure ……
.. the gates to my world are open.
Stand with all your power and receive …… “
We do not know for sure, but the matri-focal religions have perhaps been been a celebration of life – to life here and now – life on earth. A tribute that was both to the body and to the spirit – the masculine and the feminine – thought and feelings. Not to an autocratic male ruler.
It was an invitation to enjoyment and approval of all aspects of human nature. Absolutely not to asceticism. It was not meant to fit people into a form of piety and thereby suppress their feelings – good feelings that can change into aggression and anger if they’re locked up.
The great mother, the queen of heaven, says:
“Dance, sing, love, party in front of my face
for spiritual ecstasy is mine, and likewise the earth’s delight.”
I can show all of myself. I don’t have to hide anything. Nothing is sinful. I can dance in front of her face. Dance for joy and love. Show myself the way I am, without pretence, or dance something special required or desired of me. No – I can show who I am.
It is important to be aware of this when we live in a culture where much of oneself should be hidden away and where the spirit is seen as pure and worthy and “the flesh”, dirty and not to be trusted. The man is spiritual and dignified while woman and nature are at the bottom of a hierarchy.
In our religion we worship a virgin and a mother. A woman who conceived even though she was a virgin. A woman who gave birth without having made love. An ideal that it is impossible to identify with: Our state religion.
For many years the poem / prayer to “The Great Mother” hung over my desk. I read it every day. Paused at every word and thought, dreamed, reflected and meditated.
“Listen to the words of the Great Mother,
she who of old also was called Artemis, Astarte, Athene, Dione, Melusine, Cerridwen, and many other names.
She says: Whenever you have need of anything, once in the month, and better be when the moon is full, ye shall assemble in some secret place…and to these I will teach things that are yet unknown.. and ye shall be free from all slavery….. Keep pure your highest ideals;
Strive ever towards it.
Let naught stop you nor turn you aside.
Mine is the wine of life and the cauldron of Cerridwen…
I am the mother of all living, and my love is poured out upon the Earth.
Before my face, let thine innermost self be unfolded in the raptures of the infinite. Know the mystery, that if that thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou will never find it without thee..
I have been with the from the beginning and I await thee now.”
From the Elftradition.
The prayer to the Great Mother is written by followers of so-called pagan religions in the 20th century, but many stories indicate that it is the same goddess we hear about in the Old Testament. Despite active attempts at eradication, traces can be found in our times and many traces can be found dating back 3000-25000 years.
We can only guess at the accuracy of the goddess’ religion from many years ago but this is of no great importance to me. Personally, the Great mother ́s love is beautiful and the god I’ve read about in the Old Testament is violent and tyrannical, and it is my dream that we will return to a society of harmony and peace between people and nature.
In the preface to Marija Gimbutas’ book “The language of the goddess”, mythology researcher, lecturer and author Joseph Campbell says that through the publication of this volume, the time has become right for a clear transformation of consciousness. This change of consciousness that he talks about may be the one that started in earnest around 21.12.12.
The female principle begins to strengthen in both women and men.
The goddess has always been there. It’s time for her to come forth. She has been imprisoned and suppressed long enough. Now is the time for a more balanced reality. A reality in which both the male and the female principles are of equal importance. Everywhere on earth! A few men have ruled this world on their own long enough with their pure masculine values and I rejoice in those men and women who, with both femininity and masculinity, try to bring the world into balance.
Author: Grete Belinda Solberg Barton
Translator: Alan Rossi
Biblical references are to the New International Version: www.biblica.com/niv/
Copyright: Greta Belinda Solberg Barton