is a general description for the veneration of female Deity or female deities. It is also referred to as "Goddess Worship", however, to its devotees this implies too much humility for a faith that does not distance the Divine into a remote, hierarchical separation, but locates Deity as within all life, indeed all reality. The term "veneration" is preferred, implying respect and intimacy without undue deference. "Spirituality" is often preferred to "religion" because organised religion has not typically nurtured Goddess veneration, with the major exception of Hinduism
Goddess Spirituality can be conservative, and support male dominance, State control and empire building, or it can be radical and challenge those traditions. It can support women's authority or act as a warning against uncontrolled female power (some theories hold that the Kali/ Durga tradition in Hinduism does this). In Western society Goddess Spirituality has developed into a distinct culture since the mid 19th Century.
Pagan sometimes called Neopagan religions/denominations is a Western new religious movement (NRM) that generally recognises Goddess Spirituality as one of its few areas of consensus. However not all Goddess Spirituality is Pagan, nor is Goddess Spirituality necessarily feminist, though in Western societies the feminist version is probably the most articulate.
Sometimes called the Great Goddess, she can be referred to in all inclusive terms, 'The Great Goddess' or 'Queen of Heaven', and/or She may be referred to in more specific terms, 'Kali' or 'Isis' or 'Kwan Yin'.
Goddess veneration appears to go back to prehistoric times, cf Marija Gimbutas. Some of the oldest artifacts known to exist may well be representations of fertility goddesses. However this is a difficult area to prove conclusively as evidence is scanty either way. The figurines in question are also claimed as territorial markers, toys, sex aids, sex education models, and images of priestesses rather than goddesses. (Oeter Ucko et al.) Such controversy tends though, to assume that these artifacts were put to specific, single usage. It is quite possible, particularly before mass industrial production made artifacts commonplace, that the same object served many functions, whether at different times, or even simultaneously.
Examples of Goddess Veneration
See also: Goddess
- Ishtar in Sumerian mythology is one of the oldest known goddesses.
- Isis in Egyptian mythology was a goddess of fertility.
- Freya in Norse mythology was worshipped as a fertility goddess.
- Morrigan in Celtic mythology was a goddess of war.
- Hinduism is the most prolific and oldest surviving religion incorporating formal Goddess Spirituality, where Mahadevi is one of the three major traditions of Hinduism.
- Native religion frequently venerate goddesses: this is probably the most numerous goddess culture type worldwide.
- Some early Christian sects such as the Collyridians venerated The Virgin Mary as a Goddess. Later mystics such as the medieval Julian of Norwich, and Joanna Southcott, referred to the divine Mother. Contemporary pressure groups in the Catholic Church are petitioning the Pope to recognise Mary as part of the Christian Godhead.
- Some feminists within the Latter Day Saint movement have advocated the worship of a Heavenly Mother, whom they view as the wife of God the Father.
- Living Goddess cults view a human girl or woman as a Goddess. In ancient times stateswomen such as Hatshepsut of Egypt and Cleopatra VII of Egypt wielded total power as living deities. The imperial families of China, Rome and Japan have used similar strategies. It was an Empress of newly Christianised Constantinople, Pulcheria, who insisted on elevating Mary to virtual deity status as Mary Theotokos. Monarchs such as Elizabeth I of England consciously drew on the iconic powers of a living goddess. Young girls are still selected as living icons in ?Nepal? (not sure of location). In Germany today a living Goddess called Mother Meera has inspired a pan-faith movement.
- The Craft (popularly, witchcraft) founded 1951, Britain, is a major tradition within Western Paganism which venerates both Goddess and God in a dynamic polarity reminiscent of Tantra. Its best known type is Wicca, though there are others.
- Dianic Craft is a Craft variant that exclusively worships the Goddess, founded 1971 by Zsuzsanna Budapest, drawing on her native Hungarian folk magic and USA feminism.
- The Fellowship of Isis, based in Eire, is an international network founded in the '70s that spans all continents, but especially Europe and Africa. Members are both conservative and radical, Pagan and non-Pagan. There is a well developed liturgy, and well established support for home based temples or teaching centres.