One of the major mythic themes and archetypes is the idea of a great goddess. Different manifestations of this goddess are among the most ancient and widespread belief systems on the planet. Christian tradition, especially Catholicism, has fused the great goddess into reverence for the Madonna. The goddess is older and was more widely worshipped than any recorded male deity. This goddess is often identified as the earth itself, and is almost always revered as the mother of all life.
Although she had many names to many people, the Greeks called her Gaia, or Ge. The literal translation of gaia into English is ‘the earth”. The exact time and nature of her worship in Greece are indiscernible. In his Theogony, Hessiod identified Gaia as one of the first beings, along with Chaus, Tartarus, and Eros. She gave birth to a fatherless child: Ouranos (the sky). This immaculate conception symbolizes her creative powers. Eventually, Ouranos and Gaia had children together: the twelve titans, Kyklopes, and the giants.
The worship of Gaia was subverted into the more standardized religion of the Olympic gods. A vital Greek spiritual site, the oracle at Delphi, originally belonged to Gaia. The site was believed to be the center of the earth, or Gaia’s navel. This possession combined her physical and mental traits. She became known not only as the source and sustainer of all life, but also as the source of wisdom and truth.
In India, the great goddess is Devi, or Mahadevi. She is beautiful, beneficent, terrifying, all-powerful, and glorious. Hindu tradition divides Devi into her seven personalities. As Bhu Devi, she is the earth and comprises the five elements: earth, water, fire, wind, and sky. As Durga, she kills the Buffalo Demon while staying serene. Anapurna represents her bounty, fertility, and food. Kali, literally translated ‘the (black) female one,” embodies Kali’s most terrifying aspectsdeath and blood.
Prominent in the Vedas, Sarasvati is the goddess of speech and music. Agricultural abundance, financial success, and royal authority come from Shri Lakshimi. Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists worship Manasa, the controller of snakes and the healer. The feminine force is seen as the driving force of the universe, and the goddess is both the beginning and end of life cycles. Images of Devi, in all of her various manifestations, have been found in the western borderlands of India from the sixth millennia BC.
One of the earliest known pieces of artwork in the world is the Willendorf Venus. This folk artefact is a small icon of a woman with exaggerated features. Throughout the early world, the goddess was revered as the source of life and spiritual knowledge.
Although time has diminished her role and sought to smear her image, the goddess is making resurgence in the public consciousness. Books such as The Da Vinci Code are read by millions, and popular bands such as the Indigo Girls write songs mourning her absence. There are, of course, a few groups who have always worshipped her, including many Wiccans, but the reverence for her was widely lost through the centuries. Perhaps the mother goddess is now calling to her children again as scholarship and popular entertainment again considers her.