Mythology, Menstruation and the Land of Milk and Honey

By André Zsigmond

The Promised Land?

A prisoner of conscience at the age of 18 - escaping from communist Hungary in 1981 - searching for the “truth”, I immersed myself in religious studies in England. During communism the study of religion and the Scriptures  was actively discouraged - it seemed ‘obvious’ therefore that they would have all the answers. Needless to say, the Bible only raised even more questions.

I first became aware of the personal, cultural and religious significance of menstruation during my post-graduate research of the origins of male circumcision. Among other theories, the term “menstruation envy” – men’s desire to equal and imitate menstruation, creating parallel menstrual rituals - were suggested in studies of different cultures all over the world. (But this is a theme for another article.)

This revelation was the opening to me to search for, and discover the Goddess.

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Sacred Sites on the Greek Island of Samos

by Melinda Marton

Temple of Hera - the HeraionI love the rich, spiritual feeling of this ancient land and spent my last summer holiday in Pythagoreion on the beautiful island of Samos. There is so much to see here, I didn’t spend much time lying on the beach!

First stop was the local museum, which is a beautiful new building in the middle of the town.  It’s placed next to the ancient city and has current archaeological excavations right next door.

The Samos museum mentions all the following as local to the island:

  • The main sanctuary of the patron goddess of the island (sanctuary of  Hera, at the mouth of the river Ibravos)
  • Patron God of the city, Dionysos
  • Temple of Aphrodite – lies beneath the foundation of an old house
  • On the heights of the city, sanctuaries of the Mother Goddess, Cybele
  • Sanctuary of Demeter at the edge of the city, high on an isolated hill, as appropriate to mystery cults
  • Artemis, Dionysus and Apollo cults
  • A cult of Nymphs
  • Inscriptions of Hygeia
  • Temple of Isis with large, lavishly adorned altar in the south of the small square to the right of Lykourgos Logothetes street which leads to the harbour

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In Praise of Juno

by Rohase Piercy

Silver Statuette of Juno, 1st–2nd century -Dutuit Bequest, 1902Every woman has her ‘juno’.  Guiding spirit, higher self, female genius, call her what you will, according to Roman belief we all have one, just as every man has his ‘genius’.  Whatever the social, political and domestic restrictions imposed by patriarchal Rome upon its women, here was something no husband, father or master could deny: a little piece of the Celestial Goddess, the Saviour, Mother and Queen of Rome, resided in every woman, slave and free, as a guide and companion through life. The concept of female Deity would soon be all but obliterated by the new religion of Christianity with its masculine threefold God, but women of the Classical era still took it for granted that they, like their Bronze Age ancestresses, reflected the Divine image equally with men.  Juno’s Greek counterpart, Hera, offered a role-model to women throughout every stage of life, from Pais (child) to Khera (widow); but Juno goes a step further, and personifies the female principle itself.

The etymology of Juno’s name is thought to be linked to the Latin iuven, ‘youthful’, shortened to iun as a prefix (as in iunior, younger). Emile Benveniste identifies the original meaning of this root as ‘vital force’, connecting it with the Vedic word ayuh, ‘genius of the vital force’.  Contemporary Roman commentators also saw a link to iuvare, ‘to aid’ or ‘to benefit’, re-enforcing Juno’s identification with her Etruscan counterpart Uni, whose name is thought to mean ‘She Who Gives’.  Following the conquest of the Etruscan city of Veii in 396 BCE an evocatio was performed, issuing a solemn invitation to the Etruscan Goddess to transfer her allegiance to Rome.  The invitation appears to have been accepted: Uni was worshipped in Rome as Iuno Regina, and her Temple on the Aventine Hill housed the ancient wooden cult statue transported from Veii. Continue reading "In Praise of Juno"

Excerpts from Goddess in the Grass: Serpentine Mythology and the Great Goddess

by Linda Foubister

"Lilith", John Maler CollierGoddess in the Grass explores the relationship between the Goddess and her sacred symbol, the serpent, by focusing on myths and fairy tales from cultures around the world and from the dawn of humans to the present day.

The serpent is associated with renewal, fertility and prosperity but like many images of the Goddess, it has come to symbolize evil. Goddess in the Grass examines the symbolic meanings of the Serpent Goddess, revealing her origins as the life-giving, death-dealing Great Goddess. This excerpt looks at the renewal aspects of the Serpent Goddess.

The Renewing Serpent Goddess

In prehistoric times, images of the serpent indicated seasonal renewal, the coming of spring and summer. In Europe, the emergence of the snake in spring from its winter hibernation took on a prophetic quality, with certain signs predicting either a prosperous or a difficult new year. The ability of the snake to shed its skin led to the old belief that snakes were immortal. The Serpent Goddess was worshipped for her ability to renew life, healing illness in the process. Continue reading "Excerpts from Goddess in the Grass: Serpentine Mythology and the Great Goddess"

In Praise of Hera

by Rohase Piercy

“I sing of golden-throned Hera, whom Rhea bore.
Queen of the Immortals is she, surpassing all in beauty”

hera_bustThus begins the Homeric Hymn to Hera, Queen of the Olympian Gods and protectress of women throughout every stage of life;1and yet not only do we know relatively little about her cult in Ancient Greece, but she is often overlooked by modern Pagans, being far surpassed in popularity amongst reconstructuralists by Aphrodite, Artemis and Athena. The reason for this is neatly encapsulated in the second stanza of the hymn: “She is sister and wife of loud-thundering Zeus”.

Feminist scholars have pointed out that Hera’s alliance to the patriarchal Thunder-God – a husband who by most accounts forced himself upon her, taking refuge in her bosom in the shape of a frightened cuckoo before revealing his true form2  has done her no favours, subjugating her to the male deity and distancing her from her origins as an aspect of the all-powerful Mother Goddess. Whilst acknowledging the truth of this, I do not think it is the whole story, nor do I think it necessary to take Hera out of the Olympian context in order to connect with her as a modern Pagan woman.  This is the Goddess who describes herself as ‘The Eldest Daughter of Time’ (Chronos), and whose mother’s name, Rhea, means ‘flow’, or ‘course’.   Of all deities, she should be able to adapt and thrive in any age and context, patriarchal or otherwise. Continue reading "In Praise of Hera"

The Goddesses of Time

by Sue Oxley

sweet peaThe beauty of nature is in the circles She creates, the spinning of the galaxies and the twining of the sweet pea, the turning of the seasons and the circle of our lives.  'Nature hates a straight line' my grandmother used to say, 'probably even more than a full-stop'.

Let's dance and move through the Circle of the Goddesses of Time, thinking about the shining reality of each while leaving behind Her clothes, sorting out what is real and valid and what is shimmering mist, as the circle twirls around us.

Persephone, the Child that sings in the meadow, that rolls down the hills through the flowers, that leaves behind the Mother and yet comes back at night when the dark is frightening.  Remember the wonder of moving so easily that it is like jumping on the moon, think of the loveliness of no worry, no knowledge of evil and hate, with just the dark to fear.

We pick up the Joy and leave behind the carelessness as we move to Artemis, while shouldering our fear of being alone, of having no apron to hide behind.

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The Goddess and the Rude Man: Hera – Great Goddess and Protector

by Geraldine Charles

Cerne Abbas GiantThis chap might seem an unlikely introduction to an article about Hera. He strides across the landscape of Dorset, in South West England, and is known colloquially as “the Rude Man of Cerne Abbas”, although the tourist guides call him “the Cerne Abbas Giant”.

What is his relationship to Goddess? Come to that, why is he there – in that particular place? There’s no agreement as to when he first appeared – although many argue for an Iron Age dating (and there is an Iron Age earthworks just above his head, where maypole dances take place, still led by the local Morris Men). So far, however, no written record can trace him to any earlier than the 17th century and it has been theorized that he was created as an insult to Oliver Cromwell, who ruled England during the brief period of the English Revolution - but what Western man was ever insulted by being caricatured with “wedding tackle” which I’m assured would measure almost eleven inches if the 180 foot figure were downsized to around six feet? Interestingly, given that Hera's main attribute was that of protector, Cromwell's title was ""Lord Protector".

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