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Author Topic: Supremacy of the Goddess or Equality of the God  (Read 6975 times)

Nyktelios

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Supremacy of the Goddess or Equality of the God
« on: April 01, 2012, 09:42:30 pm »
I was thinking about the ancient cults  of fertility goddesses and resurrected gods that much of modern pagan Witchcraft is inspired by, such as those of Inanna and Dumuzi, Cybele and Attis, Isis and Osiris/Serapis, and Aphrodite and Adonis. It seems to me that the female deity is usually dominant, with the male consort playing a secondary role (except in the case of Osiris, who was a very important god in his own right in Egypt, although Isis was superior to Serapis in their Roman cult). Dumuzi, Attis, and Adonis aren't even fully divine, or divine at all. The focus of worship in these cults is the goddess, and her male companion isn't terribly important in his own right. He is subject to her, and provides an example of her power over life and death. What I've read about Shaktism in India sounds very similar, in that the Goddess is the supreme divinity and the source of all divine power, and her male consort (Shiva) is auxiliary.

It makes me wonder if the tendency for modern pagan Witchcraft (mostly Wiccan) traditions to emphasize total balance between God and Goddess is more about political correctness and current gender politics rather than theology. Don't get me wrong, as a male myself, I don't think men should be subservient to women (or any gender/race/whatever to another), but this is about deities, not human politics. The God is not really equal to the Goddess, as his existence is completely dependent on her, and she has power over his life, death, and rebirth. They are not so much co-creators so much as she is creator and he is creation. Feri tradition doesn't really try to make the male deity an equal, as the Goddess is the infinite source of all, and the male is considered unnecessary for creation, though there isn't rigid emphasis about "maleness" and femaleness". The Goddess brought forth the Divine Twins because she desired them, not because she needed them.

I'm just wondering what people's thoughts are, as the cults from which many Witchcraft traditions have inherited their theologies do kind of make it seem like the goddess is superior to her male consort. Once again, I'm not trying to be a feminist, or suggest a Dianic model where male gods are not acknowledged at all. I'm just pointing out that in ancient cults of goddesses and their dying consorts, the male deity isn't really an equal. Adonis was a mortal boy who Aphrodite fell in love with, whose death was mourned as a part of Aphrodite's cult, and whose return from the underworld filled Aphrodite with such love that fruitfulness and beauty returned to the world once more. The cycles of the resurrected gods represent seasonal change, but such cycles themselves are controlled by the female deity, who is the generative, procreative power in the universe to which the dying and resurrected god is subject. This isn't to say that there weren't supreme male gods, since there certainly were. Greece had Zeus, king and father of both gods and mortals, and his wife Hera (at least in recorded historical periods) was submissive to him. However, his cult has less in common with modern pagan Witchcraft, which is very much focused on nature and the life force of the universe rather than kingship and paternal authority.

I just think that making the God of Witchcraft out to be of equal importance to the Goddess, when he is far more dependent on her than she is on him, is more the product of human issues of social equality rather than theology, although I could be wrong. I'd like to see other people's thoughts on the subject.

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Re: Supremacy of the Goddess or Equality of the God
« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2012, 09:56:35 pm »
Quote from: Carnelian;48468
It makes me wonder if the tendency for modern pagan Witchcraft (mostly Wiccan) traditions to emphasize total balance between God and Goddess is more about political correctness and current gender politics rather than theology. [...] I'm just pointing out that in ancient cults of goddesses and their dying consorts, the male deity isn't really an equal.


I think you may conflating Wicca with something else. It seems extremely anachronistic to consider Gardner or his ideas "politically correct", and as far as I know the relation between the Wiccan God and Goddess is not the same as the cult of goddess/consort.

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Re: Supremacy of the Goddess or Equality of the God
« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2012, 11:02:29 pm »
Quote from: Carnelian;48468
I'd like to see other people's thoughts on the subject.

 
I would be very careful with trying to treat a particular mythological interpretation of popularised Wicca as referring to witchcraft in general, or even religious witchcraft in general.

Wicca is its own thing.  Ancient religions are each also their own thing.  Non-Wiccan religious witchcraft: also its own thing.  Generalising from one to the other is not likely to produce useful results.
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Re: Supremacy of the Goddess or Equality of the God
« Reply #3 on: April 01, 2012, 11:20:00 pm »
Quote from: Carnelian;48468

It makes me wonder if the tendency for modern pagan Witchcraft (mostly Wiccan) traditions to emphasize total balance between God and Goddess is more about political correctness and current gender politics rather than theology.

 
I guess I think that just because the inequality is the case in certain cults doesn't mean it should be the case in Wicca or religious witchcraft. Yes, there are the seasonal connections, but if I understand correctly the seasonal changes in Wicca are caused directly by the God, not by the Goddess reacting to him.

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Re: Supremacy of the Goddess or Equality of the God
« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2012, 12:01:33 am »
Quote from: Darkhawk;48479
I would be very careful with trying to treat a particular mythological interpretation of popularised Wicca as referring to witchcraft in general, or even religious witchcraft in general.

Wicca is its own thing.  Ancient religions are each also their own thing.  Non-Wiccan religious witchcraft: also its own thing.  Generalising from one to the other is not likely to produce useful results.

 
This.  And how exactly is one to measure power?  Putting one as more important or significant than the other is almost by definition oppressing the other.
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Re: Supremacy of the Goddess or Equality of the God
« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2012, 04:10:06 am »
Quote from: Carnelian;48468
I just think that making the God of Witchcraft out to be of equal importance to the Goddess, when he is far more dependent on her than she is on him, is more the product of human issues of social equality rather than theology, although I could be wrong. I'd like to see other people's thoughts on the subject.

I was taught the same by the leadership of the (eclectic, wicc-ish) coven of which I was a member.  It never rang true to me, as it seemed to me that Wiccan cosmology depended on the Unity achieved by the two, not the exaltation of one over the other.  The presence of Two always suggested, to me, the hermetic principle of duality/polarity, the creation metaphor being the 'unity of opposites.'

I think it is a mistake to equate Wiccan theology with ancient goddess/consorts; the contexts are different and, as you said, guys like Attis and Adonis aren't quite divine.  The Wiccan God would not be called a God if he were not one.  
In the mythic Wheel you have a point where the God is at the apex of power, and another point where the Goddess fully reigns.  You could say that the God is the more dependent, since He needs Her to in order to be reborn every winter, but you'd also be wrong, as She needs Him to get Her pregnant in the first place.  Even if the God isn't ploughing the field himself, as it were, if instead He is holed up in some fertility clinic, looking at a Hustler and making the bald man cry, She stil needs that seed to be planted before she can get down to the serious business of making shit grow.  Without the God's-- ahem-- seed, the field lies fallow, the Goddess lies inert, and all those little spiral-in-the-belly wombyn figurines are rendered meaningless.
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Re: Supremacy of the Goddess or Equality of the God
« Reply #6 on: April 02, 2012, 08:29:42 am »
Quote from: Darkhawk;48479
Wicca is its own thing.  Ancient religions are each also their own thing.  Non-Wiccan religious witchcraft: also its own thing.  Generalising from one to the other is not likely to produce useful results.

This. Each and every religion is its own thing -- even if they have the same deities, their understanding of and communication with those deities may be different.

Also comparing power levels of the two deities in the duotheism can be very hard. Unless they tell you which is "more powerful" it can be very hard to do more than guess. Even if they tell you, it is easy to misinterpret what they say and they might not be taling about the same thing.  

For example, Lyric and I are definitely the most powerful people on the board as we own the board and make the rules and could ban people or rewrite their messages on a whim.  Which of us is more powerful?

Also, while we are "most powerful here" by the above criteria, their are people on this board who could beat us up, who have more political power than either of us, etc. So are we really the "most powerful" people here?
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Re: Supremacy of the Goddess or Equality of the God
« Reply #7 on: April 02, 2012, 10:10:31 am »
Quote from: Carnelian;48468
I'm just wondering what people's thoughts are.

 
I think both are important in their own right, but in different ways.  I think the combination of the two are what brings balance.  It's the culmination of the knowledge of both that bring the fullness of life.  Take something out of the mix and things don't work as well.  It's like making an essential oil blend.  The knowledge of each are like two different fragrances.  Blend the two together and it creates a totally different fragrance altogether.  The blended product is a totality of the two that could be better than the two when they were separated/individual.

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Re: Supremacy of the Goddess or Equality of the God
« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2012, 11:04:36 am »
Quote from: Carnelian;48468



 
I think the gender-binary is a bunch of hooey, no matter how you slice it. Ancient religions get a pass because their world was pretty different than ours (first world, western). It's useless to me as a social construct, and it's useless to me as a spiritual and religious construct. Moreover... why would divine entities be ruled by the same political systems of oppression that rule us? I think asking "who has more power" in that regard is kinda pointless.

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Re: Supremacy of the Goddess or Equality of the God
« Reply #9 on: April 02, 2012, 11:18:42 am »
Quote from: Carnelian;48468
I just think that making the God of Witchcraft out to be of equal importance to the Goddess, when he is far more dependent on her than she is on him, is more the product of human issues of social equality rather than theology, although I could be wrong. I'd like to see other people's thoughts on the subject.


I think you raise some interesting issues.

I'll be somewhat contrarian to the general trend of responses here. While yes, every religion is different, has its own context and origins, etc., I don't think one should dismiss the influence that these religions may have had on modern pagan paths.

It's slightly off topic, but I'll also throw in a biological perspective. At least in our species and the vast majority of other mammals, genetically we're all about the female. Sex is determined by the pairing of sex chromosomes: XX makes a female, XY makes a male. YY makes nothing. And if, in an XY individual, expression of the Y chromosome is blocked for some reason, you'll end up with someone who is genetically male but a perfectly healthy female in every physical respect, except that she'll be sterile (the rumored Jamie Lee Curtis effect).

We get half our chromosomes from each parent, but all the other cellular stuff, including the crucial mitochondria, from the mother alone. It's also theoretically possible that if every male of our species died for some reason, the species could continue through some parthenogenetic ("virgin birth"; essentially, the mother cloning herself) means. If we were just left with males, however, it would be Game Over for Homo sapiens.

All of which leads to the conclusion that the female is the fundamental form for us humans, and the male only a variation on that theme, an adjunct. Mind you, as both a guy myself and a gay guy at that, I find it an extremely great variation; and I see no reason here to confer superior status based on gender in our dealings with one another, since--as our chromosomes attest--we guys are fundmentally female ourselves. Just with a little something extra (or Ytra?)
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Re: Supremacy of the Goddess or Equality of the God
« Reply #10 on: April 02, 2012, 11:38:44 am »
Quote from: Altair;48534

I'll be somewhat contrarian to the general trend of responses here. While yes, every religion is different, has its own context and origins, etc., I don't think one should dismiss the influence that these religions may have had on modern pagan paths.

 
I want to make it clear that I didn't mean to imply that there was nothing to take away from the myths Carnelian mentioned, just that I don't think they should automatically apply to other religions.

In their own right, I think there is something intriguing about those myths, but I can't put my finger on what it is atm.

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Re: Supremacy of the Goddess or Equality of the God
« Reply #11 on: April 02, 2012, 12:35:04 pm »
Quote from: Carnelian;48468
I was thinking about the ancient cults  of fertility goddesses and resurrected gods that much of modern pagan Witchcraft is inspired by, such as those of Inanna and Dumuzi, Cybele and Attis, Isis and Osiris/Serapis, and Aphrodite and Adonis. It seems to me that the female deity is usually dominant, with the male consort playing a secondary role (except in the case of Osiris, who was a very important god in his own right in Egypt, although Isis was superior to Serapis in their Roman cult). Dumuzi, Attis, and Adonis aren't even fully divine, or divine at all. The focus of worship in these cults is the goddess, and her male companion isn't terribly important in his own right. He is subject to her, and provides an example of her power over life and death. What I've read about Shaktism in India sounds very similar, in that the Goddess is the supreme divinity and the source of all divine power, and her male consort (Shiva) is auxiliary.

It makes me wonder if the tendency for modern pagan Witchcraft (mostly Wiccan) traditions to emphasize total balance between God and Goddess is more about political correctness and current gender politics rather than theology. Don't get me wrong, as a male myself, I don't think men should be subservient to women (or any gender/race/whatever to another), but this is about deities, not human politics. The God is not really equal to the Goddess, as his existence is completely dependent on her, and she has power over his life, death, and rebirth. They are not so much co-creators so much as she is creator and he is creation. Feri tradition doesn't really try to make the male deity an equal, as the Goddess is the infinite source of all, and the male is considered unnecessary for creation, though there isn't rigid emphasis about "maleness" and femaleness". The Goddess brought forth the Divine Twins because she desired them, not because she needed them.

I'm just wondering what people's thoughts are, as the cults from which many Witchcraft traditions have inherited their theologies do kind of make it seem like the goddess is superior to her male consort. Once again, I'm not trying to be a feminist, or suggest a Dianic model where male gods are not acknowledged at all. I'm just pointing out that in ancient cults of goddesses and their dying consorts, the male deity isn't really an equal. Adonis was a mortal boy who Aphrodite fell in love with, whose death was mourned as a part of Aphrodite's cult, and whose return from the underworld filled Aphrodite with such love that fruitfulness and beauty returned to the world once more. The cycles of the resurrected gods represent seasonal change, but such cycles themselves are controlled by the female deity, who is the generative, procreative power in the universe to which the dying and resurrected god is subject. This isn't to say that there weren't supreme male gods, since there certainly were. Greece had Zeus, king and father of both gods and mortals, and his wife Hera (at least in recorded historical periods) was submissive to him. However, his cult has less in common with modern pagan Witchcraft, which is very much focused on nature and the life force of the universe rather than kingship and paternal authority.

I just think that making the God of Witchcraft out to be of equal importance to the Goddess, when he is far more dependent on her than she is on him, is more the product of human issues of social equality rather than theology, although I could be wrong. I'd like to see other people's thoughts on the subject.

 
you've mentioned alot of Greek stuff,but what about the Celtic influences too?
isn't there herne and stuff? I'm no Wicca expert but alot of the wiccans I know have their pantheon mostly Celt inspired ad there is the horned god etc.
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Maps

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Re: Supremacy of the Goddess or Equality of the God
« Reply #12 on: April 02, 2012, 01:37:08 pm »
Quote from: spoOk;48545
you've mentioned alot of Greek stuff,but what about the Celtic influences too?
isn't there herne and stuff? I'm no Wicca expert but alot of the wiccans I know have their pantheon mostly Celt inspired ad there is the horned god etc.

 
Yeah and bringing in other pantheons, for the classic-era Maya, the rain god was the most important deity that embodied fertility, not the earth. Sure, there was the agrucultural grain god as well, but his power meant nothing without the blessing of a good rainy season.

There are also a theory I read about the possibility of a Mayan earth goddess (the earth was also characterized as a giant monster risen from the primordial sea) whose body and bones made up the land and the seeds from which the maize is grown after she died and was buried. So in that light, the earth as a whole might not have even been seen as a true living entity (or even a true god), despite its obvious importance.

Nyktelios

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Re: Supremacy of the Goddess or Equality of the God
« Reply #13 on: April 03, 2012, 11:50:53 pm »
Quote from: Maps;48531
I think the gender-binary is a bunch of hooey, no matter how you slice it. Ancient religions get a pass because their world was pretty different than ours (first world, western). It's useless to me as a social construct, and it's useless to me as a spiritual and religious construct. Moreover... why would divine entities be ruled by the same political systems of oppression that rule us? I think asking "who has more power" in that regard is kinda pointless.

I agree with you that the binary gender model is nonsense, and I think that's why the goddess can be primary without there being a lack of "balance", or whatever. Going back to the deities I mentioned in my first post who I think have had the most influence on the theology of modern pagan Witchcraft traditions, both Ishtar and Cypriot Aphrodite had male forms as well as female. In Cyprus there was a form of Aphrodite called "Aphroditos" (the male form of the same name) who was depicted with a beard and erect phallus, which might be the origin of the mythic tradition in which she was considered the mother of a hermaphroditic being. Ishtar as represented by the planet Venus had two forms. As the morning star, s/he was the masculine war deity, and as the evening star, she was the feminine goddess of love and sexuality. The "female" deity embodies both femininity and masculinity (which are pretty subjective terms), so it isn't about one gender being dominant over the other. It's about a deity who embodies the creative/destructive force in nature, paired with a deity who embodies what is created and destroyed, regardless of gender. The creative deity is represented as female because, in mortal understanding, females give birth, so we relate to "her" in that way. Also, I just wanted to add that the Orphic Hymn to Adonis refers to him as "male and female", implying that gender specificity was not really an issue.

And yes, that's exactly what I'm saying, that the deities are not ruled by human political systems, which is why I'm saying that we shouldn't view them through a modern lens of political correctness. These are religions of nature, and the goddess is mother and source of life rather than queen/president/person in charge.

Quote from: Altair;48534
I'll be somewhat contrarian to the general trend of responses here. While yes, every religion is different, has its own context and origins, etc., I don't think one should dismiss the influence that these religions may have had on modern pagan paths.

Thank you. Just because these ancient cults aren't the same as modern pagan Witchcraft doesn't mean they haven't influenced it, or that they are completely separate and unrelated.

Quote from: Altair;48534
It's slightly off topic, but I'll also throw in a biological perspective. At least in our species and the vast majority of other mammals, genetically we're all about the female. Sex is determined by the pairing of sex chromosomes: XX makes a female, XY makes a male. YY makes nothing. And if, in an XY individual, expression of the Y chromosome is blocked for some reason, you'll end up with someone who is genetically male but a perfectly healthy female in every physical respect, except that she'll be sterile (the rumored Jamie Lee Curtis effect).

We get half our chromosomes from each parent, but all the other cellular stuff, including the crucial mitochondria, from the mother alone. It's also theoretically possible that if every male of our species died for some reason, the species could continue through some parthenogenetic ("virgin birth"; essentially, the mother cloning herself) means. If we were just left with males, however, it would be Game Over for Homo sapiens.

All of which leads to the conclusion that the female is the fundamental form for us humans, and the male only a variation on that theme, an adjunct. Mind you, as both a guy myself and a gay guy at that, I find it an extremely great variation; and I see no reason here to confer superior status based on gender in our dealings with one another, since--as our chromosomes attest--we guys are fundmentally female ourselves. Just with a little something extra (or Ytra?)

I agree, and the point about biology is an important one to raise. The goddess isn't principal because femaleness is so much better than maleness, it's because she is the origin, and the "male" consort is a mutated form of her own being.

I saw a really interesting documentary years ago, and I remember this only because it reminded me so much of pagan Witchcraft theology. It mentioned this female insect that, if she went too long without mating with a male, she would parthenogenetically give birth to a male drone, and would mate with him, get pregnant, then kill him. Here you have the virgin birth that witches celebrate at Yule, and the sacrificial mating that plays a part in sabbats such as Midsummer.
 
Quote from: spoOk;48545
you've mentioned alot of Greek stuff,but what about the Celtic influences too?
isn't there herne and stuff? I'm no Wicca expert but alot of the wiccans I know have their pantheon mostly Celt inspired ad there is the horned god etc.

My understanding is that the Celtic influence came later, through Doreen Valiente, while Gardner himself was more interested in the Mediterranean mystery cults, although even Valiente mentions deities like Diana and Pan in her books more than Kernunnos or whoever. Also, the works that were influential to paganism in the early 20th century, like Sir James Frazer's "Golden Bough" and Robert Graves' books, were mainly concerned with Near Eastern, Egyptian, and especially Greek, data.

No matter how questionable they were considered later on, they were very influential to modern paganism. Frazer wanted to trace the origin of religion, which to him was sympathetic magic, which developed into propitiation, and he saw the common theme of all "primitive" religion as focused on the fertility goddess who was the mother of all life, and her dying and resurrected vegetation god consort, and interestingly he considered Christ to be the most modern version of this resurrecting nature deity. From Robert Graves we get the maiden-mother-crone concept, as well as the notion of a Great Goddess and her twin consorts, who represent the waxing and waning year. They both drew on a lot of Greek and Near Eastern myth and cult, although Graves especially got rather creative with the material.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2012, 11:54:31 pm by Nyktelios »

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Re: Supremacy of the Goddess or Equality of the God
« Reply #14 on: April 04, 2012, 10:20:13 am »
Quote from: Carnelian;48789


 
But, again, this sounds like you're treating "witchcraft" as synonymous with "Wicca and its derivatives".

I mean, I'm personally boggled by a discussion of "the god of witchcraft" that doesn't mention Lucifer.  This fertility stuff, sure, whatever, but it's not my Craft.
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