Sunday, July 25, 2010

Goddess of the Week

Al-Uzza is the Arabian Goddess of the planet Venus as the morning star from the time before Islam. Her name means 'the Mightiest One' and She was one of the main Goddesses of the Nabateans, an Arab people who lived in the area of Jordan and northern Arabia from about the 4th century BCE to the 3rd century CE. Their capital was the rock-cut city of Petra in Jordan; al-Uzza was likely the patron Goddess of that city.

She has come up twice before here as Goddess of the Week; once in January 2009 and again in December of the same year.

It is a little hard to be definite about al-Uzza; the evidence is distant and confusing, and there is a fair amount of disagreement even among the experts.

In Islamic sources (i.e. late sources), the Goddesses al-Uzza, Allat ('the Goddess' or perhaps 'High One') and Manat (probably 'Fate') are considered separate sister Goddesses, with Manat the eldest, Allat the middle sister, and al-Uzza the youngest (or the one Whose worship was the youngest). They are even called the daughters of Allah, and in fact there was a famously redacted Sura in the Koran speaking of Them, the so-called 'Satanic Verses'. (Even Islam found it difficult to completely eradicate the underlying Pagan beliefs of the earlier culture.)

In early Islamic times al-Uzza was the main Goddess of the Quraysh tribe, from the area north of Mecca, while Allat was worshipped by the Thaqif tribe from Ta'if, about 60 miles southeast of Mecca. All three were said to have 'idols' in the Ka'aba at Mecca, that mysterious cube at the center (literally) of Islamic worship. The Ka'aba was already a major center of pilgrimage before Islam, and was apparently a Pagan temple or shrine, as it was said to house 360 'idols', which Mohammed had cast out and destroyed. The Quraysh, in particular, were said to invoke all three Goddesses as they circumambulated the Ka'aba.

It should be noted that the forms above are the Islamic versions of the names; the Nabatean versions are al-Uzza, Allatu, and Manotu (or Manawatu).

The Greeks of the time identified al-Uzza with their Aphrodite Ourania, Heavenly Aphrodite, presumably because She was a Goddess of the planet Venus, and Allat with Athena (I have no idea why). Al-Uzza, at least in Petra, also seems to have been associated with, or at least shared some iconography with both Isis, the Egyptian Great Goddess, and the Greek Tykhe, Who started out the Goddess of Fortune, but Who later took on a role as the guardian spirit of cities.

Allat and al-Uzza in a lot of ways blur into each other, and it may be that al-Uzza was originally a title of the Goddess Allat, Who splintered off into a distinct Goddess. Some scholars believe that al-Uzza was the main Goddess of the Nabateans, though She was known throughout Arabia, as a Sabaic (southern Arabia, modern Yemen) form of Her name is Uzzayan.

A late fragment of poetry mentions al-Uzza and Her 'two daughters'. There is debate as to Who Her consort was; perhaps it was Dushura, the mountain God, and Her two daughters may be Allat and Manat.

In Petra there are numerous dedications to al-Uzza (and none to Allat); the so-called 'eye idols' are assumed to represent Her.

She is sometimes called a warrior Goddess, though I'm not sure now where that comes from; perhaps it is by comparison with Ishtar, also a Goddess of the planet Venus, as well as the meaning of al-Uzza's name, 'the Mightiest One' which does sound appropriate to a bellatrix, it's true. But I haven't found anything that supports it in the more scholarly sources (as opposed to the more popular sources) and that's one reason I redid the artwork last year.

This week both grounding and growth are needed. Remember that a tree cannot grow tall without the support of its roots, and that the depth and size of the root system of a tree mirrors the height and size of its trunk and branches. There is just as much below the surface as above. As below, so above, in this case. Thinking about things in that order will I think make sense of your current circumstances.

So, keep your feet firmly planted on the earth, but look to that star shining above you. Take your cue and inspiration from its rhythms, as well as the rhythms of the earth. It is a curious sort of balance called for this week, I think.

What does She say?

I am the Stone, the solid, the square, the haunted djinn-block. The sands shift around me but I may not be moved. I am that which is constant and unmoving.

And I am the Star, the bright, the shining, the distant one. I wander through the heavens to either side of the Sun. I am that which is constant and moving.

I support and I shine. Look to Me in both these places, in the Stone beneath your feet and the Star high above. And remember I am the Mighty One. Call on Me!

What do you think?


The Religion of the Nabataeans: a Conspectus by John F. Healey. Accessed through Google Books, alas. Imperfect, I know. But the damned thing is a $200 book!

Also, again, The Book of Idols, by Hisham ibn al-Kalbi. Again, warning on that site; though this part is just a straight-up translation without commentary of the original book, the site itself is some Christian propaganda anti-Islam site. The only other on-line version I could find of The Book of Idols had no paragraph breaks and crashed my browser.

1 comment:

Debra She Who Seeks said...

For some reason, this Arabian Triple Goddess fascinates me. Perhaps it's because She contradicts the patriarchal certitude of Islam. Anyway, I love what you wrote as Her message this week.