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.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Goddess of the Week

Melaina is a dark, angry aspect of the ancient Greek Earth Mother Demeter, which She took upon Herself in response to a time of great pain. She has come up once before, in November of 2008, the beginning of the dark time of year here in the north.

One of the most well-known myths of Demeter involves Her beloved daughter Kore, Who was abducted and raped by the Underworld God Haides when just a girl, vanishing without a trace into His realm under the Earth.

When Demeter found Her daughter suddenly gone, She dropped all Her duties as Earth Mother and began the long search for Her, wandering the earth in frantic grief. But She received little help; for Kore had been abducted with the tacit approval of Zeus, and few wanted to cross Him.

In the midst of this dark time, the Sea-God Poseidon conceived a lust for Demeter. When, unsurprisingly, She was in no mood, He pursued Her; and though She tried to escape from Him by taking the form of a mare and running with the wild horses of Arkadia, Poseidon soon enough found Her, and in the form of a stallion He raped Her.

This was simply too much for Demeter, on top of everything else She was going through, so She clothed Herself in black and shut Herself up in a cave in Mount Eliaos, near to the town of Philagia. From the rape She bore two children: the immortal horse Areion or Arion, Who could speak like a human, and a daughter, Whose name has not come down to us. Not, for once, because She was unimportant, but because She was considered a most holy maiden, and Her name was secret, given only to initiates into Her mysteries. They have kept that secret, and Her true name is not known. Her title, however, has survived: Despoena, the Mistress.

Demeter was eventually coaxed out of the cave by the Moirai, the Fates; They are said to have persuaded Her with Their words, perhaps reminding Her that while She was in hiding, and while Her powers of fertility were withdrawn, the crops of the world (and so the people of the world) were dying. That is the usual story, anyway; I am more inclined to think the Moirai did not persuade Demeter with talking, but by listening to Her.

This is a very dark and violent tale; and I suspect it has been quite twisted in a particularly patriarchal way. But this time the casualty is not just the Goddess, but the God as well, Poseidon. There is evidence that He and Demeter may have formed a cult pair in early times; Their names are mentioned together in Mycenaean Linear B tablets from Pylos, Their names written in that syllabic script as Da-ma-te and Po-se-da-wo-ne. Poseidon's name means 'Husband of Earth' or 'Consort of Earth', and even in classical times He was remembered for His connection with the Earth, as the 'Earth-shaker', Ennosigaios, the God Who brings earthquakes. I suspect Their relationship was in earlier times rather less antagonistic.

The Phigalians accounted that cave sacred to Her, calling Her Demeter Melaina, 'the Black', supposedly after the black clothes She wore; and they set up a wooden statue, described by Pausanias in the 2nd century CE thus:

The image, they say, was made after this fashion. It was seated on a rock, like to a woman in all respects save the head. She had the head and hair of a horse, and there grew out of her head images of serpents and other beasts. Her tunic reached right to her feet; on one of her hands was a dolphin, on the other a dove.

Melaina is Demeter in Her chthonic aspect, literally meaning of the Earth. She appears dark and monstrous, but it should be remembered that the serpents and horses may simply be symbolic of the earth.

Go into the dark a little this week. It may be that it is time to bring a traumatic or difficult aspect of your past to the light, where it may be healed; conversely, it may instead be a time to shut yourself off from the world. It is hard to tell, and can go either way; be gentle and compassionate with yourself, and do not do anything if you are unwilling, or if you are not truly ready. You will know. If you are unsure, don't.

The dark is, as it ever is, not nearly as frightening as your fears make it out to be; keep that in mind, also. Also keep in mind that acknowledging something is as good as accepting it in a lot of ways. It needn't be that difficult. You might be surprised.

As ever, I ask Her what She would like to say.

Darkness, it is all darkness. But of your own choosing; your anger, your pain, your hiding, your hibernation away from the light, your rest, your time of healing. Sometimes shutting yourself away from the world is necessary. Sometimes, even, stewing in your own anger is necessary. Do not be afraid of the dark, in all its manifestations. It is an aspect of Me, always.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Comment Moderation Enabled

'Cause I'm sick to death of the ?? spammer comments.

To the asshole who keeps spamming my blog comments:

This means that no one but me will ever see your comments. You may as well not waste your time, correct?

Also, may you get what you deserve, thrice over.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Goddess of the Week

Idun, the Norse Goddess of springtime, renewal, and eternal youth, makes Her third appearance here as Goddess of the Week; though She is Goddess of spring, She keeps showing up in summertime, Her first appearance being June 29 of 2009, and Her second on August 24th of the same year. She is said to grow the apples that keep the Deities young, which She keeps safe, giving them out when needed.

Idun is the daughter of Ivald, one of the Dökkálfar ('dark elves') or Svartálfar ('black elves'); they were generally considered to be the same as, or generally confused with, the dwarves, though if you're a Tolkien fan that may seem incomprehensible; in Norse myth the Dökkálfar/Svartálfar/dwarves were said to have been born from the maggots that fed on the corpse of the primeval giant Ymir, out of Whom the world was created. They are called 'black' or 'dark' both because they did not like the light, and because they were thought spiritually unenlightened; in myth, daylight turned them to stone, so during the day they dwelled underground.

Idun is mentioned in stanzas six and seven of the Hrafnagaldr Óðins, or The Incantation of Odin's Ravens, a late Icelandic poem:

In the dales dwells
the prescient Dís,
from Yggdrasil’s
ash sunk down,
of alfen race,
Idun by name,
the youngest of Ivaldi’s
elder children.

She ill brooked
her descent,
under the hoar tree’s
trunk confined.
She wuld not happy be
with Nörvi’s daughter,
accustomed to a pleasanter
abode at home.

I could find no mention of Idun's mother, but She must not have shared Her father's (and brothers') intolerance of the sunlight, for not only is she said to have lived in the dales or valleys, but 'Nörvi's daughter' refers to Nott, the Goddess of Night.

She is called above a Dís, usually translated as 'lady' or 'Goddess'; the Dísir as a class are a bit difficult to pin down, but are female Deities or spirits Who may have roots in the dead, or in Goddesses of the earth; Freyja was called Vanadís, or 'Dís of the Vanir' in Her role as fertility Goddess.

The Hrafnagaldr Óðins tends to baffle scholars, who can't even agree on an approximate date; it may describe Ragnarok and the ending of the world. The stanzas about Idun above seem to refer to an unwilling descent into the earth at that time, one She had foreseen; as She is the Goddess of springtime and youth, this may refer both to the ending of the Deities' lives, and the coming of the Fimbulvetr, the three-year-long winter that will usher in Ragnarok.

Despite Her family's unenlightened origins, Idun was considered a major Goddess; She married the God Bragi, son of Odin and the giantess Gunnlod, and had a place at the feast table in Ásgarðr. She was well-loved by most of the other Gods (though Loki lit into Her once without cause), though one wonders how much that had to do with the fact that She held the apples that guaranteed Their eternal youth.

I wonder. Her name means 'the Ever-Young' or 'She Who Rejuvenates'; how much of Her is based in an Earth-Goddess (for want of a more precise term)? She is a daughter of the earth-dwelling Dökkálfar, She tends to and harvests the apples of youth Herself, and there is a story of Her descent into the earth at the root of Yggdrasil. The Earth of springtime might certainly be called She Who Rejuvenates; and spring itself, though young each year, is ever-ancient in its cycle.

So what does that mean for this week? Though it is summer (or winter in the south), look to a current cycle; something is in a springtime phase, now, one of renewal and rebirth. But a gentle kind, less a painful sloughing of skin like a snake, and more the refreshment of a good night's sleep. Look also to the echoes of past cycles in this one. For example, I was quite surprised to find, in comparing journal entries over a year or two, that the same very specific mood (down to a liking of moody black and white photos!) would come up at the same week from one year to another. Now is a good time to see the similarities across the years; see what you can find. It will help make sense of what is happening now.

What does She say?

Be renewed. I am the Goddess of stem cells, that heal, renew, repair. I am rejuvenation; I am hoarded health. You may call on it now, that which you have kept saved. You are stronger than you think. Tap into it now, if you need it.

All is well. The new grows from the old; the new destroys the old as it grows. Health destroys disease as it grows. All is well.

There is always the new. Never fear.

What do you think?


An Introduction to Viking Mythology, by John Grant;

bit of Wikipedia, again, though it was significantly less helpful this time;

and the Benjamin Thorpe translation of the Hrafnagaldr Óðins accessed at Northvegr

Monday, July 5, 2010

Goddess of the Week

This is the first time the Germanic Sun Goddess Sunna has come up; appropriately enough up here in the north the summer is just getting started. The sun is high and what is usually the hottest month of the year has begun.

Sunna is the personified sun in Germanic myth, and Her name, as you may have guessed, means 'Sun'; She is said to be the sister of the Goddess Sinthgunt, about Whom not a whole lot is known, though She may be either a Moon or Star Goddess (the former being problematic as the Moon was generally thought to be male in the Germanic/Norse system). Both of them are mentioned in the Merseburg Incantations, medieval German magic spells from the ninth or tenth centuries; in them the sisters, with Frija, Volla, and Wodan (Freja, probably Fulla, and Odin) cure the horse of Phol (possibly Baldr), which had sprained its foot. So Sunna, then, was at least thought to be skilled in magic, and to have healing powers.

In closely related Norse mythology, the Sun Goddess is called Sól, which also means 'Sun'. Here is Her tale:

At the very beginning of things was Ginnungagap, the Abyss; it held at once everything and nothing. Out of the void came Yggdrasil, the World Tree; self-created, it would run through the center of all the nine worlds.

At Yggdrasil's southernmost root was Múspellheimr, a land of heat and fire, from which embers constantly drifted; these embers in turn melted the ice of Ginnungagap, and the quickened steam and water became the first of the frost giants, Ymir. At the same time a cow, Audhumla, was created; She fed Ymir with Her milk, and licked at the salty blocks of ice, within which was another creature, Buri, the ancestor of the Gods. After three days licking Buri was wholly freed of ice; but in this time the sleeping Ymir had created both the first humans (in this version, anyway) and a six-headed son named Þrúðgelmir, Who then 'gave birth' to Bergelmir, the ancestor of the frost giants.

Buri also had been busy, and had had a son, Börr; the two lines, then, frost giants and proto-Gods set themselves at war, as is perhaps inevitable in Norse mythology. The war lasted for the usual mythical aeons, but then a giantess named Bestla married Börr and by Him had three sons: Odin, Vili, and Ve. With Their help Ymir was killed; and from Ymir's body Odin, Vili, and Ve created our world, Midgard, the world of mortals. And, and this is where this all becomes relevant, from the brightest of the embers of Múspellheimr, They created Máni, the Moon, and Sól, the Sun.

Máni and Sól were then charged with driving the Moon and Sun across the heavens in chariots. Sól's chariot is drawn by two horses called Árvakr ('Early Awake') and Alsviðr ('Very Quick'), but like Her brother She is pursued by a wolf; at times he nearly catches up with Her, which is said to cause eclipses. It is foretold (or has already come to pass) that at Ragnarok the wolves will catch up with Them and destroy the Moon and the Sun.

I will note that as is annoyingly usual in some patriarchal creation myths, the female element has in large part been disappeared. Þrúðgelmir, after all, cannot 'give birth' alone, can He? And if 'He' did then by definition He's a She, isn't S/He? I know, pesky logic. The Norse myths were written down for the most part fairly late, at least a couple centuries after the lands had already been Christianized; like Welsh myth, it can be hard to discern the underlying layers (and I am no expert in Norse myth, trust me). So I don't know if there is something more under there. It is, certainly, a heavily Indo-European tradition, which makes it especially remarkable that the Sun is coded as female and the Moon male. At any rate.

I very much want to interpret this card as a positive sign, of rising fortunes and brighter times this week; but I keep coming back to the fact that this is Norse myth, where the warmth never lasts and all the world begins and ends in ice. However, I suppose, though the summer in the high north is not as warm as it is further south, the Sun is out for far longer in the summer days; this year on the solstice in Stockholm, Sweden, the sun rose at 3:31am and set at 10:09pm, making the day more than eighteen and a half hours long. Perhaps then, this is more about light than heat. What is being illuminated now? What can you get a good, long, look at now?

What does She say?

I draw the darkness after me. This is not frightening, or terrible; it is just night, and night is normal and natural. You need not fear if the light does not last. For though it may not seem it I always come again. Sure as sunrise, don't they say?

Enjoy me while you can. This also, is not terrible, nor a threat; simply a reminder to appreciate what you have while you have it. Your day in the sun is now. Live it, enjoy it, bask in it. Let yourself be warmed.

What do you think?


An Introduction to Viking Mythology, by John Grant;

and surprisingly enough, Wikipedia is pretty thorough on Norse myth.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Goddess Stuff

Yeah yeah, Goddess blah blah Serious Scholarship blah blah Deep Thinky Mystery Religion Stuff blah blah blah and et cetera.

So (ha!) this isn't Pagan (probably. Maybe it is; I don't know). But I am speechless and simply must share. I absolutely cannot keep this in.

See, I know the band below (well not personally), and have been listening to the pre-1976 stuff for years; yet somehow I never actually thought to look up a live performance on YouTube. And so I'm just stunned, though really I shouldn't be.

I went to high school in the 1980s. So (ha again!) I first knew this singer from that time period, and that is the image of him I'll probably always hold in my head. I mean, sure, I had heard the guy used to have a predilection for red cocktail dresses and fox masks, but still. Damn.

Because the mad March merry hare scrawny adorable long-haired pixie in the glam makeup is fucking Peter Gabriel. With that angel's voice of his mature and unmistakable though he is only twenty-three years old. Unbelievable.

P.S. I don't want to hear anyone say, Peter Who??? and then whine about being born in the 1990s or something. Oh, and get off my lawn!! Damned kids.