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Author Topic: Female monotheistic deities?  (Read 399 times)

EnderDragonFire

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Female monotheistic deities?
« on: September 11, 2018, 07:03:11 pm »
In both popular perception and in academia, particularly feminist academia, Monotheism is often associated with patriarchy. There is an implicit assumption, in the modern western mind, that if God is singular, he is also male.

I am aware that a few Modern Pagan religious systems have a central Goddess figure as the main deity. Some of them even have true, hard monotheism where the Goddess is the *only* deity. However, there remains the perception that this is a novel, modern, feminist response to the traditional monotheistic male God.

That's not, however, necessarily the case. I know for certain of at least on example of a traditional, non-modern, non-pagan, non-feminist monotheistic where the only "true" God is female (there are lesser spirits, of both sexes). That example is the indigenous religion of the island of Nauru, where the Goddess Eijebong is the only actual deity in the religion. She is served my minor spirits, much like the angels of Abrahamic faiths, who are created beings with finite power.

So, I have two points of discussion in mind for this thread:

Firstly, do you know of any other traditional (AKA; not constructed in the 18th, 19th, or 20th century) belief systems with a singular, female, monotheistic Goddess.

Secondly, why do you think popular culture and academia tend to associate monotheism with patriarchy? There are plenty of patriarchal polytheistic systems, and as stated above, there are monotheistic systems where the God(ess) figure is female.

Discuss, debate, tell me what you think.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

arete

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Re: Female monotheistic deities?
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2018, 11:29:50 am »
Firstly, do you know of any other traditional (AKA; not constructed in the 18th, 19th, or 20th century) belief systems with a singular, female, monotheistic Goddess.
The greek religion. in the begining there was only a female goddess beginner of everything. Eurynome.  :)

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Secondly, why do you think popular culture and academia tend to associate monotheism with patriarchy?
because of abrahamics. they are great in number.

Sefiru

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Re: Female monotheistic deities?
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2018, 06:37:51 pm »
Firstly, do you know of any other traditional (AKA; not constructed in the 18th, 19th, or 20th century) belief systems with a singular, female, monotheistic Goddess.

I believe there are some forms of Kabalah (or was it Sufism? One of the esoteric philosophies anyway) which view the JCI God as feminine. I would have to track down references on that, though. Some denominations of Christianity also consider the Holy Spirit to be female, I think.

EnderDragonFire

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Re: Female monotheistic deities?
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2018, 07:13:38 pm »
I believe there are some forms of Kabalah (or was it Sufism? One of the esoteric philosophies anyway) which view the JCI God as feminine. I would have to track down references on that, though. Some denominations of Christianity also consider the Holy Spirit to be female, I think.

Interesting. I'll have to dig into that myself.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

EnderDragonFire

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Re: Female monotheistic deities?
« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2018, 07:15:54 pm »
Firstly, do you know of any other traditional (AKA; not constructed in the 18th, 19th, or 20th century) belief systems with a singular, female, monotheistic Goddess.

I suppose I should respond to my own prompt here by pointing out that some forms of Hinduism are actually monotheistic, and that there are Shaktist schools of thought that propose that Brahman (the universal absolute truth, usually conceived of as male or gender-less) is actually a feminine entity. So, some very small groups within Hinduism do hold the position of a singular female Goddess.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

LadyBug

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Re: Female monotheistic deities?
« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2018, 09:33:31 am »


Secondly, why do you think popular culture and academia tend to associate monotheism with patriarchy?

I don't have much in the way of current knowledge of many religions, so I can't speak to the first discussion topic.

However. Anyone can have an opinion! Especially on topic number two. I spent a lot if my shift at work yesterday rolling this thread around in my head and it occured to me, that I honestly think the relation between monotheism and patriarchy may just be a result of when we the Human Race started recording our history.

Somehow, our pre-history and pre-civilisation ancestors, fell down the rabbit hole labeled "Men are a superior creature, maybe even a superior species to woman". That rabbit hole led to males being the automatic assumption fir everything. Men were leaders, doctors, travellers providers etcetera. Women were a firm second, in some places and times people literally called every fetus "he/him" in hopes of influencing the baby to be born male. (Yes there were many places where women had more rights than "cook for families and make babies", I'm sure however that very few of them held a majority Female power structure when the males were present. I would look forward to being proven wrong though, constructive criticism and all.)

I don't think it's a huge jump from "Only men can lead" to "Only a man could create/lead/ultimately rule over a universe". Mind you, when we figured out how to write things down there were still a huge amount of religions and most hadn't been consolidated down to One God from Male-Led-Pantheon-Of-Gods yet. Though most Pantheons I personally know of were/are Male led. (Again, happy to be proven wrong)

The big jump I see is going from Male-Led-Pantheon to One Male God. But that's a question that needs it's own thread elsewhere

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Jainarayan

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Re: Female monotheistic deities?
« Reply #6 on: September 13, 2018, 11:09:57 am »
I suppose I should respond to my own prompt here by pointing out that some forms of Hinduism are actually monotheistic, and that there are Shaktist schools of thought that propose that Brahman (the universal absolute truth, usually conceived of as male or gender-less) is actually a feminine entity. So, some very small groups within Hinduism do hold the position of a singular female Goddess.

I think they're more monist than monotheistic, unless they absolutely refute the idea of other deities. Then that would be true monotheism. Even ISKCON is not true monotheism because they accept that there are devas who are subservient to Krishna.
śivāya vishnu rūpaya śivaḥ rūpaya vishnave
śivasya hridayam viṣṇur viṣṇoscha hridayam śivaḥ
Vishnu's appearance is Shiva; Shiva's appearance is Vishnu
Vishnu is the heart of Shiva; Shiva is the heart of Vishnu - Skandopanishad
 

arete

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Re: Female monotheistic deities?
« Reply #7 on: September 13, 2018, 11:38:44 am »
I think they're more monist than monotheistic
what's the difference?

Jainarayan

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Re: Female monotheistic deities?
« Reply #8 on: September 13, 2018, 01:20:49 pm »
what's the difference?

Typically monotheism posits the existence of one and only one God. Monism comes in several flavors, but the one I subscribe to is "stuff monism" or substance monism. Only one kind of thing exists, and everything comes from that, albeit in different quantities and attributes. Monism could give rise to a monotheistic God, but then that means we are no different than God, because we are the same "stuff".  It's kind of pantheistic. But monism doesn't deny the existence of other gods. 
śivāya vishnu rūpaya śivaḥ rūpaya vishnave
śivasya hridayam viṣṇur viṣṇoscha hridayam śivaḥ
Vishnu's appearance is Shiva; Shiva's appearance is Vishnu
Vishnu is the heart of Shiva; Shiva is the heart of Vishnu - Skandopanishad
 

Sefiru

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Re: Female monotheistic deities?
« Reply #9 on: September 13, 2018, 06:14:38 pm »
The big jump I see is going from Male-Led-Pantheon to One Male God. But that's a question that needs it's own thread elsewhere

I was pondering this myself, and came to about the same conclusions you did ... with the following addition: as far as *current* popular cultural perception, I think the "Christian Right" evangelicals (ie. 19 Kids and Counting) as well as Mormon polygamist sects and such, have received a lot of media attention and have become the archetypes of patriarchal relion / religious patriarchy.

EnderDragonFire

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Re: Female monotheistic deities?
« Reply #10 on: September 13, 2018, 06:28:05 pm »
I think they're more monist than monotheistic, unless they absolutely refute the idea of other deities.

That's a rabbit hole though. I mean, if having one God and a bunch of demigods counts as monism, what does that say about Christianity and Islam, with their angels? Vodoun with it's Loa? There are lots of religions that are normally called monotheistic, which have lesser spirits and beings that serve the absolute.

I agree that most Hindu sects are certainly monistic, but the ones that insist on calling the Daevas "demigods" and relegating them to mortal, finite, subservient status go over my personal monotheism threshold. I guess that's just a matter of semantic though, and is subject to personal opinion.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

Castus

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Re: Female monotheistic deities?
« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2018, 07:50:02 pm »
I think they're more monist than monotheistic, unless they absolutely refute the idea of other deities. Then that would be true monotheism. Even ISKCON is not true monotheism because they accept that there are devas who are subservient to Krishna.

ISKCON is definitely monotheistic; the devas may act like gods from a classical polytheist perspective -- and ISKCON may in that regard be functionally polytheistic, for whatever that's worth -- but from a reading of Hare Krishna texts (notably Sri Prabhupada's Nectar of Devotion) I would say that from a theological standpoint ISKCON fully qualifies as monotheist.

LadyBug

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Re: Female monotheistic deities?
« Reply #12 on: September 13, 2018, 08:57:14 pm »
I was pondering this myself, and came to about the same conclusions you did ... with the following addition: as far as *current* popular cultural perception, I think the "Christian Right" evangelicals (ie. 19 Kids and Counting) as well as Mormon polygamist sects and such, have received a lot of media attention and have become the archetypes of patriarchal relgion / religious patriarchy.

That is an incredibly fair addition. Lets see "19 Gods and Counting" where a frazzled couple tries to balance/maintain multiple altars, pay homage to several Gods with wildly differing requests/demands and also try to have a social life and good career. That'll balance the tables a little in terms of what people think automatically when they hear "Religion".

Jainarayan

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Re: Female monotheistic deities?
« Reply #13 on: September 14, 2018, 10:30:24 am »
That's a rabbit hole though. I mean, if having one God and a bunch of demigods counts as monism, what does that say about Christianity and Islam, with their angels? Vodoun with it's Loa? There are lots of religions that are normally called monotheistic, which have lesser spirits and beings that serve the absolute.

It says they are monistic but they don't see it that way. We do.  ;D  Denying something doesn't make it untrue; nor does proposing it make it true. The Abrahamic religions' view is completely dualistic. They (mostly) cringe at pantheism and panentheism.

Quote
I agree that most Hindu sects are certainly monistic, but the ones that insist on calling the Daevas "demigods" and relegating them to mortal, finite, subservient status go over my personal monotheism threshold. I guess that's just a matter of semantic though, and is subject to personal opinion.

I think ISKCON is the only sect that sees it that way. I don't think even Dvaita of Madhvacharya looks at it that way. Those deities some of us would consider devas: Indra, Ganesha, Subramanya (aka Kartikeya aka Murugan), Hanuman are very much Brahman to their devotees. In fact in the Subramanya Ashtakam one of the verses says "sruthyaagama pranava vaachyanija swaroopa", "And whose real form is the pranava (OM) given in Vedas". So that is saying he is Brahman. ISKCON certainly denies that.  :(
śivāya vishnu rūpaya śivaḥ rūpaya vishnave
śivasya hridayam viṣṇur viṣṇoscha hridayam śivaḥ
Vishnu's appearance is Shiva; Shiva's appearance is Vishnu
Vishnu is the heart of Shiva; Shiva is the heart of Vishnu - Skandopanishad
 

EnderDragonFire

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Re: Female monotheistic deities?
« Reply #14 on: September 14, 2018, 04:37:38 pm »
I think ISKCON is the only sect that sees it that way.

It's frustrating for me as a monolingual English speaker, because finding good, reliable translations, or even secondary sources, is very difficult. I more or less have to rely on what other people's translations tell me, and they all seem to have an agenda.

My only first-hand religious tutelage within Hinduism came from an ISKON monk. While I was consciously critical of much what he taught me (because it seemed to contradict the very scripture he was teaching from), I think that still colors the way I view a lot of Hindu movements that I've not personally interacted with.

It's very difficult to get a good idea about a group's beliefs when you only know them based on what an opposing group has told you about them, and from what secular scholars have written about them. There are tons of traditions within Hinduism, and online information about them is unreliable at best.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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