Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Goddesses and the Divine Feminine

Cybele and Argus - M. Snyder
Symbolic imagery for the feminine is as ancient as prehistory.  Magdalenian (12,500 BCE) inscriptions show symbols translated by Duncan-Enzmann as shelter, food, and childcare, all feminine concepts.  The triad goddess begins there: grandmothers teaching mothers teaching daughters how to spin, dye, weave, and tailor garments during the bitter cold Ice Age.  The Vanir culture, ca. 5000 BCE, used blonde, life-bringing females to symbolize the life-giving sun.

Throughout the world there is a vast pantheon of goddesses; all cultures and most religions have one or more feminine deities.  Familiar ones include Venus, the goddess of love and beauty; Athena, the goddess of wisdom, philosophy, and war; and Hera, the wife of Zeus and queen of the gods.  Pandora, a creation of all the gods, although not actually a goddess, has taken her place among the feminine immortals of mythology.  Goddesses less known include Hestia, protector of marriage and eldest daughter of Chronos and Rhea.

The relationships between gods and goddesses have been mythologized in every culture.  Kings and queens began as earthly manifestations of deities. Like the pharaohs of Egypt, kings and queens were considered to be gods, symbolizing by their lives the essence of the deities they worshiped.  In Eastern religious iconography, Shiva and his wife Shakti are sculpted, painted, and illustrated in prominent places, depicted in sacred embrace.  Emperor and empress are their earthly counterparts.

The circle and the chalice, grail, or V are among the oldest symbols for the sacred feminine.  Water, the great womb and grave of life, symbolizes the divine feminine, the unconscious, and the emotions.  Earth's biggest nighttime light, the moon, is associated with the natural cycles of the female.  Vessels, vases, cauldrons, boats, and urns---containers---are also feminine symbols, representing the womb.  In antiquity, serpents and snakes were feminine icons representing wisdom, birth, life, and death.  The ankh, a symbol for life and eternity in Egypt, is similar to our contemporary icon for female.  The symbol for the planet and the goddess Venus is the pentagram, the logo used by "America's Team," the Dallas Cowboys, and by the U.S. Army and the U.S. Pentagon.  Fifty pentagrams adorn the flag of the U.S.A.

Perhaps not commonly recognized is that the United States utilizes many feminine symbols, one of which is the eagle-headed goddess Freedom, whose statue adorns our nation's capitol dome.  The statue of the goddess Liberty, our most famous and visible symbol, has the same attributes as the Greek goddess Athena; she offers religious and political liberty, as well as freedom from want and fear.  Thomas Crawford's 1855 statue of the goddess America wears the same cloak of stars and liberty cap as Mithras did.  This nation's capital, the District of Columbia, was named after a goddess.  

Could the founding fathers and their immediate successors have had a deeper vision than is yet commonly realized?  Why did they express their vision with these beautiful, ancient images of the feminine?  The evidence exists in such symbols on our nation's emblems, buildings, and documents.  The passion of these founders of a new kind of governance established our nation.  Perhaps careful study of their chosen symbols could bring us closer to understanding the freedom that was their dream and their amazing achievement.

About Symbologist Michelle Snyder

Michelle earned her post-graduate degree at the University of Wales. She is an author, columnist, publisher, artist, and teacher. Her artwork, inspired by her love of symbolism and folklore, has appeared in galleries from Massachusetts to California. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio with her husband Jay Robert.
Books by Michelle, available at Amazon:


Symbology ReVision: Unlocking Secret Knowledge  
Symbology: Hidden in Plain Sight
Symbology: My Art and Symbols 
Symbology: Fairy Tales Uncovered 
Symbology: Decoding Classic Images 
Symbology: World of Symbols 
Symbology: Secrets of the Mermaids



A Tale of Three Kingdoms: Book One - The Lost Unicorn


A Tale of Three Kingdoms: Book Two - The Lost Mermaid

1 comment:

  1. Interesting that the snake is feminine. I can't imagine a more obviously phallic symbol.


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