Since ancient times, people have recognized figures with divine aspects, both male and female.
These figures that possess supernatural qualities were often venerated for being responsible for the secret workings of the world. They were worshipped and respected. Crucially, they could be contacted, and their assistance could be requested. These are figures that are very much involved in the world we inhabit.
Both male and female figures appeared over time. Given the importance of childbirth and feminine life-giving, especially in early societies, the role of the female was immortalized in the form of the Goddess. As a natural counterpoint to this, the protective and strong character of the male was cast in the form of the God.
It makes sense when you look at it. The most basic and elemental of units is often the family, and so this is what the god and goddess reflected.
Where did the idea of the God and Goddess first originate? That is quite the question.
Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to find discover exactly when and where, as it seems like a vast amount of tribes and communities in the ancient world had some variation of the God / Goddess idea. This speaks to the long-lasting and powerful appeal that this concept has. It is a naturally occurring concept that makes sense to people.
The ancient Babylonian deities were among the first examples. We know they were ritually worshipped. The Babylonians were amongst the first to master the art of writing, in a very special style called cuneiform. They often wrote on topics involving their religion and the divine beings that looked over them.
Figures such as the King of the Gods, Anu, dispensed justice, while the mighty fertility Goddess, Ninhursag, was widely revered.
The entire region of ancient Babylonia was known as the ‘fertile crescent’ thanks to the great rivers that flowed through it, so the worship of Ninhursag as Goddess of the Harvest was especially importantly. The very existence of the society depended on if Ninhursag looked kindly on the population. Should she be angered, and the harvest failed, people could starve. She demanded respect.
Egypt went on to produce some very famous Goddesses, such as Isis and Anput. As we progress through time to Classical Civilisation, the interplay between the Gods and Goddesses becomes more refined and more identifiable as human. This is especially true in ancient Greece.
We are told of the trials and tribulations of Zeus, King of the Greek Gods, the power and glory of Goddesses like Aphrodite, Athena, Hera and Hecate. Greek mythology involving the Gods and Goddesses often comes across like a great big soap opera, full of love, jealousy, revenge and drama. This reflects the refined Greeks, who revered a group of deities that reflected their own lives.
Nevertheless, there is an awesome power that surrounds these supernatural individuals, and while there is a clear interplay between the mortals and immortals, the powers that Gods and Goddesses wield in the Greek pantheon is truly awesome. The world itself was formed through the actions of these figures.
We see similar parallels in the rich Norse culture of Scandinavia. Gods and Goddesses like Odin and Tyr, as well as powerful female figures like Frigg played incredibly important roles in daily life. Ultimately, their conflicts would eventually bring about the downfall of the world. Norse Gods and Goddesses really tend to mean business.
As religions with a single, unified God, such as Islam and Christianity grew, the idea of worshipping multiple gods and goddesses managed to survive. In the great Hindu tradition, in numerous Animist and Native American traditions and in pockets of pagan tradition around the world, the image of the God and Goddess did not lose power.
Despite the efforts of some to paint the worship of Gods and Goddesses as being linked to archaic practices like human sacrifice, the coupled deities have retained a potent image that help to inspire and empower many people around the world.We can see our own relations, our marriages, our parents, reflected in this divine pairing.
In modern Wicca, we know there is a very close link between the God and Goddess. They are best understood as being a joint unit, together in a kind of cosmic marriage that empowers both of them. It is for this reason that two are often so prominent in the rituals and Magick of Wicca, often in the roles of a divine Mother Goddess and the Horned God.
It is important to note that certain Wiccan traditions, such as Dianic Wicca, focus more closely on the feminine power of the Goddess. However, the prominence of these figures is without compare in Wicca as a whole.
The modern Wiccan movement has chosen these figures for the reason. Through their age and central place in the traditions down through the millennia, they are symbols that are deeply infused with power. An energy resides within them, and Magick users that are properly skilled can tap into this. It is the energy of a time beyond time, and it can be amongst the most primal of forces.
It is clear then, that the figures of Gods and Goddesses are endlessly variable, but they hold a power within them that cannot be underestimated.
What do you think? Do you hold the Mother Goddess in your mind's eye? Have you ever felt the influence of the mystical pairing in your daily life? Or do you find the concept itself inspiring?
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My blessings upon you,
J. Roslyn Antle
The 7witches Coven