Saturday, March 17, 2007

Goddess Worship or Patriarchy: Which is More Bogus?

A question that chronically provokes my curiosity. Some interesting thoughts on it here.

[Birth of Venus, by Boticelli. According to Greek myth, she did not simply appear in radiant beauty out of the ocean, as depicted here. Rather, an enraged Gaia prevailed upon her son Cronus to castrate her husband Uranus. Cronus cut off Uranus's testicles with a flint sickle and threw them into the ocean. The severed testicles grew into Aphrodite (in Latin, Venus), and the drops of blood that fell on the earth grew into her sisters, the Furies. Authenticity in religion can be such a bummer, in any tradition.]


At March 17, 2007 at 9:21:00 AM EDT, Blogger Bill Baar said...


At March 17, 2007 at 1:41:00 PM EDT, Blogger fausto said...

Yes, ouch, on several levels as is often the case with myths, and perhaps especially for us UUs:

1. Literally, ouch!

2. It may pain some of us to consider it, but figuratively, the ancients did not conceive of the Goddess/Earth Mother/Gaia in the same warm and benign way as many of our contemporary feminist New Agers. In Greek and other early cosmologies, the specific divine personifications of the feminine ideal had some rather, shall we say, sharp and unpleasant traits.

3. It may pain some of us to consider it, but myths, whether ancient (as those of Greece) or living (as those of Christianity, Judaism and Islam), need not be literally true to be truly valid. There may still be true validity for our lives today in the now-widely-disbelieved religious myths of ancient societies, as well as in the Christian religious tradition which most Unitarians and Universalists until very recently shared. Perhaps the Greek apprehension of the feminine ideal offers a more accurate or complete reflection of the nature of human femininity than the postmodern "feminist" apprehension. Perhaps the traditional Judeo-Christian apprehension of God as a personification of the ideals of peace, justice, compassion, and creative force offers us a more reliable spiritual compass, and more meaning and purpose for our personal existence, than a wholly materialistic and non-supernatural view of the universe and our own place in it.

4. It may pain some of us to consider it, but as our own Robert Fulghum probably learned in kindergarten, two wrongs don't make a right. The evident shortcomings of one religious tradition are not self-evidently sufficient proof of the superiority of another, especially if the other has not been confimed by long practice and experience. The patriarchal origins of Western culture (and other cultures) may be morally flawed, and may have been superseded in the practices and values of contemporary Western societies, but that is not a sufficient justification for invalidating the entirety of our cultural and religious heritage. Similarly, the patriarchal divine image may be flawed and limited, but that is not sufficient justification for asserting the superiority of a matriarchal divine image, especially one that is not true to the authentic religious traditions from which it is derived.

5. It may pain some of us to consider it, but whenever we deliberately abandon discipline and authenticity in any religious tradition, and especially whenever we deliberately substitute some other apprehension of our own devising, we must do so with great care. The danger of denying even a literally implausible, but nevertheless time-tested, prior figurative apprehension of a spiritual reality can be far greater than the incremental benefit of contributing (what we in our limited personal perspective take to be) our own novel spiritual discovery to the accumulated wisdom of human experience.

At March 18, 2007 at 8:55:00 PM EDT, Blogger PeaceBang said...

Love it. Except that those of us who really love ancient religion know the authentic myths and treasure them for the archetypal wisdom they reveal: like the fact that women are just as brutal in their own way as men are.

I did my M.Div. thesis on the myth of Persephone and was totally disgusted by the feminist retellings that have Persephone voluntarilty going into the Underworld to minister to the poor Shades down there. Oh fer goddess' sake! She was abducted and raped by her Uncle Hades/Pluto! She became the most dread goddess of the Underworld! Which version is more valuable - something that reveals the violence and aggression in nature and human nature, or some girly pablum that blithely ignores reality?

I'm very tired and just had a glass of wine, so forgive me if this is totally incoherent.

At March 19, 2007 at 6:54:00 AM EDT, Anonymous geode said...

Since Aphrodite, like Hera and Athena, enters the world by means of men instead of through the birth canal of a woman, and was not nurtured during childhood by a mother, I doubt seriously the myth originated with women.

Perhaps the first real goddesses were associated with values of caring, tolerance, respect for the earth--and were later usurped by the dominant patriarchal culture.

It seems likely the goddess worship that was overcome by the early Christians, was associated with corrupt, imperialistic, warmongering governments.

The Greeks did not engage in religious wars (if I recall correctly).

At April 26, 2007 at 1:30:00 PM EDT, Blogger Jaume said...

Someone has to remind that the religions of the gods (no "Pagan" called him/herself "Pagan" in those days, it is a Christian word) is not (Neo)Paganism. Actually, they are 99% different. In the old days people were not pacifists, feminists, environmentalists, or the like. People made their animal sacrifices, prayed to get a good harvest or to be successful in war in exchange of something of value, asked the oracles about the future as much as we ask financial advisors about the stock market, and reproduced forms of domination and abuse just as humankind has always done.

At May 19, 2007 at 10:39:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...


RE: "sharp and unpleasant traits"

Hell yeah! One of the things that makes ME cringe in feminist spirituality is summed up in something that "thealogian" Carol Christ said - she totally rejects all deities, male or female, of war and death and bloodshed.

I'd just like to say to her "Give it a rest, honey." Yeeesh.

One of the things I like about Asatru (more on this later) is the fact that the female deities therein are, quite often, aggressive and strong, complete with live steel that they are not hesitant in using. It seems more "whole" and "complete" to me, to have the nurturing Allmother AND the warrior Goddess together.

Just a passing comment.

At May 19, 2007 at 11:14:00 PM EDT, Blogger fausto said...

Ceud mìle fàilte, Tracie. Dháindéoin có theireadh é.


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