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VIRGIN GODDESS is a nonhomogeneous, highly problematic concept for scholarly use, for it was partly made up by the religious politics of Greek city-states in order to further their patriarchal aims, and for the other part has been popularized by a certain kind of feminist interest promoted by followers of the contemporary goddess religion. Goddess worshipers in Western postmodern societies promote a biologistic understanding of femaleness that is focused on the procreative capacity of the female body, and therefore venerate one or several goddesses as givers and takers of life.
In relating all possible functions of goddesses from all times and religions to sexuality and fertility, the goddess movement s reveal an outlook on the essence of femaleness that resembles that of ancient Greek gender ideology, even though it arrives at a different evaluation of it. The use of the term virgin goddess is grounded in the assumption that prehistoric societies in Europe and elsewhere worshiped a goddess who could appear in three forms: as maiden often used synonymously with virginmother, and aged wise woman.
A dyad of the goddess as mother and maiden had already been introduced Virgin looking for goddess Jane Harrisonand then taken up by the Jungian scholar Mary Esther Hardingbut the idea of a female divine trinity was for the first time formulated by the poet and essayist Robert von Ranke-Graves in his work The Greek Myths The origin of this construction is unclear, but it was very probably influenced by the trinitarian structure of God according to Christian dogma.
Ranke Graves connected the threefold manifestation of the divine matriarch to the phases of the moon waxing moon, full moon, waning moon and to the three cosmic spheres: the "upper air" for the maiden, earth and sea for the mother, and the underworld for the old woman.
Admittedly owing this construction mainly to his intuition, Graves also may have been inspired by the popular ideas of Johann Jakob Bachofen about the religion of a matriarchal age in early human history. Bachofen claimed that the relations of the sexes always found a cosmic expression in the relations between sun and moon, and according to his hypothesis the gynaikokratiathe Greek term for matriarchy, a social order that is dominated by assumignly female values, was characterized by the reign of the moon and the night over the sun and the day. Gimbutas, who used a great deal of nineteenth-century theory Hegel, Bachofen, and James George Frazer in her interpretations of Stone Age artifacts, promoted the idea of a parthenogenetic primal goddess that might have emerged in the Paleolithic era.
According to her hypothesis, the primal goddess, who was avirgin in the sense that she did not have sexual intercourse with a male, was equated with nature as a whole and therefore did not have a particular shape. The earliest goddess images, the so-called Paleolithic Venuses dated before 10, bceare images of the awesome creative power associated with woman and nature.
The goddess could be represented by triangular stones or by stone or bone carvings emphasizing her vulva, buttocks, and breasts. In the Neolithic or early agricultural era which began c. She was often depicted in zoomorphic shape or with animals as her companions these figures are known as Ladies of the Animals. The anthropomorphic goddess images, according to Gimbutas, gradually became differentiated into two functions, one as "the giver and Virgin looking for goddess of all," and the other as rebirth and regeneration. Eventually these two images were characterized as the Mother and the Maiden.
The Mother was the sustaining power, represented especially by the enduring earth, the bedrock that underpins all life. The Maiden, related to the forces of renewal and regeneration, was represented especially by new life, plant and animal, that emerges in spring. The Mother, the eternal, and the Maiden, the ephemeral power of nature, were understood to be two aspects of the same whole. Gimbutas's theories are very popular among people interested in female spirituality, but they have provoked criticism from professional historians and archaeologists, who argue that hardly anything can be said with any certainty about Neolithic female figurines because of the lack of written information about them.
But some adherents of contemporary goddess religions have taken up Gimbutas's conception and believe that farming societies of the Neolithic venerated a threefold goddess as maiden, mother, and old woman. Moreover, they argue that this pattern is Virgin looking for goddess recognizable in religions of the ancient world. Within the context of a constructed female monotheism, all astral, war, and hunting goddesses venerated in ancient cultures are viewed as expressions of the Maiden, and as a particular focus of interest, this maiden goddess is interpreted as an antecedent of the virginal goddesses of Olympic religion in Classical Greece.
Thus, the concept of the Virgin Goddess emerged, although so-called virgin goddesses share no other feature than their youthful virginity, and even this is interpreted in peculiar and inconsistent ways.
In various contexts, virginity can mean maidenhood in the sense of prematurity, it can mean temporary or constant willful abstinence from sexual activity, and it can denote a struggle for independence from male domination. By their divine functions, so-called virgin goddesses do not form a coherent group at all, and they have no automatic connection to the category of mother goddesses. The assumption that mother and daughter maiden are two aspects of the same deity was taken from certain images in Minoan religion, where a woman figure appears with one or two maidens.
The interpretation of these groups is uncertain, and their occurence is by no means universal, but culturally restricted to the Minoan and early Cycladic sphere. Generally, ancient polytheistic religions possessed a great of highly differentiated female and male deities, and the accessible evidence does not allow for interpretations along the lines of monotheism. In sum, ideas about the Virgin Goddess are based on several shortcomings and conflations.
The monotheistic character of a Neolithic goddess cannot be proven. It remains an hypothesis that may be of some relevance in the interpretation of prehistoric religions, but the evidence from those early civilizations that can inform their modern interpreters through written testimonies reveals a different picture. There is every reason to assume that the idea of the Goddess as one whose mythology focuses on the theme of fertility and procreation is a rather late concept which appeared no earlier than in Hellenistic times from about bce. Divine oneness as the source Virgin looking for goddess the multiplicity of goddesses and gods is an outcome of philosophical speculations undertaken to systematize and rationalize mythological traditions.
Early panthea and also the figurines and statuettes of the Stone Age show a great variety. In Mesopotamia and Egypt there was a vast of female and male deities with most diverse powers and responsibilities. It seems unlikely that the prehistoric figurines and statuettes that may represent female godhe — even that is uncertain — should indicate a uniform concept of the female divine. Nothing suggests that the numerous sky goddesses, patronesses of war, and Ladies of the Animals and Hunting, as well as several female astral deities, were to be subsumed under anything like the concept of the Maiden or Virgin Goddess.
Moreover, chastity and virginity only became a feature of Olympic goddesses in Greek and then particularly in Hellenistic cults; in other ancient religions, particular sexual or antisexual attitudes of goddesses were not addressed. Instead, it seems that sexuality was considered an integral part of godhe as well as of humans.
Thus, linking later virginal goddesses to earlier figures who were supposedly parthenogenetic i. The assumption of a Virgin Goddess with a history beginning earlier than in Classical Greece lumps together phenomenologically and historically different qualities. It must be concluded that a pre-Greek concept of virgin goddesses did not exist, and that even from the Classical Greek period onwards, virgin goddesses were never categorized as a group.
If anything, it could be stated that goddesses of the ancient Mediterranean with virginal features are peculiar developments of archaic mistresses of the animals and the goddesses of the early Virgin looking for goddess in Mesopotamia Inanna-Ishtar and Asia Minor Cybelewhose power over natural forces was also called upon for the protection of the urban sphere, but great caution is required to avoid generalizations inapplicable to highly differentiated divine figures. Nevertheless, it is interesting to see on which types of goddesses the Greeks imposed virginity and in which ways they thereby influenced their appearances and their spheres of action.
But first, the implications of virginity, and specifically of Greek virginity, need to be clarified. Ideas about the interrelatedness of female sexuality and threat become apparent as ancient iconographic motifs, which are known from northern Mesopotamian representations on seals and also in evidence during the orientalizing period in Greece eighth century bcebut in the Classical era they became a generally recognizable cultural feature.
Two issues are important when considering the meanings of Greek virginity. The first regards the status and reputation of women in the urban milieus of Classical Greece, both of which were formed and dominated by patrilineal and patriarchal order. Greek societies were structured by the oikoi householdsand each oikos was ruled by a male head of the family. Girls were born and raised in one household, but later, through marriage, they passed into another domain of living, bringing a dowry as their share of the patrimonial inheritance into another man's household. Thus, a daughter was a threat to men's possessions and to their wishes for a stable existence.
In order to guarantee the procreation of the society of the poleisit was naturally necessary to have women crossing the borders between the oikoi. As a consequence, the female sex was associated with all things hated and abhorred: with changeability, unboundedness, pollutedness, formlessness, uncontrolledness, and natural chaos — all oppositions to cultural order represented by men.
According to patriarchal ideology, femininity stood for the ability or rather the fate to cross boundaries. The means to control this necessary but dangerous inclination of women was first and foremost a control of their sexuality through the institution of legitimate marriage. In this context the polarity between virgin and wife developed. Only by a rigid control control of women's sexuality could a man be certain that his children were his.
Therefore, it was decreed that a woman must be a virgin at marriage and refrain from sexual intercourse with any man but her husband. Since marriage meant subjection of the female and her control by the male-defined cultural order, virginity made her an outsider and a potential threat.
In other words, for the Greeks, virginity became a means to express what was to their standards a paradox — a female who is independent from and even capable of exercising power over men. For those Greek goddesses who were perceived according to the virgin pattern, this meant that they never became fully subordinated. Consequently, virgin goddesses do not always necessarily abstain from sexuality; they may be virgins in the sense of being unmarried, or even in the sense of not being confined through marriage to a male god.
The complex nature of the virgin goddesses is further explicated by the fact that the unmarried girl or woman poses a threat to patriarchal social order because her sexuality is not under the control of man. They carry the connotation of being wild or untamed. This wildness can manifest itself in at least three forms: as a connection to wild places and wild animals not tamed or under control of the city; as passion for the ritual shedding of blood, which draws hunters and warriors away from the city and the family; and as untamed sexuality, by which men are seduced and can be endangered.
A second issue that is important for the rise of Greek virgin goddesses has to do with intellectual currents towards more transcendental conceptualizations of the divine. This move took place in a of ancient civilizations which are known as the cultures of the Axial Age, according to a theory by the German existentialist philosopher Karl Jaspers — The gender-specific implications of this theory have not yet been analyzed, but it can be said that in the majority of the civilizations of Jaspers's Axial Age the transcendental is ascribed to male godhe, whilst female deities were linked to nature and the material world.
The emergence of the idea of transcendence and the transcendental in the intellectual history of humankind thus supported the polarization of the genders, that is, the belief in fundamental differences in female versus male nature. One way of mediating between the two became the construction of virginity as a "male femaleness," and thus with a kind of physical femaleness that was not acted out and lived as such.
Greek goddesses in general, and the Greek virgin goddesses in particular, combine protective and transgressive qualities in their relation to the cultural standards of the poleis. This from the ability to overcome boundaries, which in Classical Greek culture was ascribed to women and goddesses alike. Virginity could Virgin looking for goddess as well as constrain this trait. It allowed for a kind of freedom, independence, and power that was usually refused to females, but it also ensured that married women, who represented by definition the kind of femininity that was demanded by their society, remained securely cut off from these privileges.
Goddesses, however, unlike ordinary women, could make exceptions here. It is helpful to consider in more detail the expression of virginity by, or the impact of the virginity concept on, some mythological figures. Strangely, the Greek goddess Kore, whose very name translates as "maiden," has so far attracted comparatively little attention by propagators of the threefold goddess. Kore was closely related to death, which corresponds with general Greek ideas about human parthenoi.
Their state of being was regarded as very similar to being condemned to death. In rites that should prepare them for marriage, girls from aristocratic families underwent rites connected with Virgin looking for goddess cults of either Artemis or Athena, initiating them to the theme of sexuality by exposing them Virgin looking for goddess a death-like experience. In Kore's myth this is symbolized by her abduction by Hades, the god of the underworld. The sixth century bce saw a very rich production of Kore statues, mainly, apparently, for a grave cult. On the Athenian Parthenon there were six Korai, who probably functioned as grave-servants for Erechteus, the legendary first king of Athens.
Greek goddesses virgin in the sense of sexual abstinence by an adult woman were Hestia, Artemis, and Athena. Hestia, the personification of the hearth and the sacrificial fire, transcends the boundary between humankind and the goddesses and gods. She had a major role in female rites of passage such as marriage and childbirth.
Because the mythology as well as the iconography of the goddess Hestia are poorly developed, further implications of her virginity are not traceable. Artemis was the goddess of wild places, flocks, and the hunt; she was named Potnia Theron "lady of the wild animals" in the Iliadand "slayer of wild beasts" in the Homeric hymns. She had particularly close ties to deer, as indicated by the legend that pregnant does swam to her island in order to give birth, and to bears. Bears play a ificant role in the rites and roles of a cult dedicated to Artemis Brauronia, which were performed by young girls.
The stages of the ritual are not clear, but it included libations and spinning and weaving, and it was finalized with a goat sacrifice. In Artemis's mythology, even human — and particularly maiden — sacrifices are ificant. According to a study by Ken Dowdensuch plots can be interpreted as literary encodings of girls' initiation rites performed in the service of this goddess. Near the temple of Artemis Brauroneia there was a shrine for Iphigeneia, the daughter of Agamemnon and Klytaimnestra, who on her way to her wedding with Achilleus was almost sacrificed to Artemis. A deer was then slaughtered instead of the girl, and Iphigeneia was whisked away by the goddess herself in order to serve her on the Tauris Peninsular.
Artemis was there venerated under the name Parthenosor as Iphigeneia, which confirms the closeness of the two figures. Artemis was a virgin herself and shunned men except for her brother Apollo, and she insisted ruthlessly on the chastity of her mythical attendents, the nymphs. Yet, the goddess as well as the nymphs were Virgin looking for goddess familiar with sexuality, the female cycle, and childbirth. The sexual appeal of nymphs is apparent in, for example, the story of Odysseus and Kalypso, in which Artemis was explicitely invoked as Elei-theia and Locheia, goddess of childbirth.
She was one of the most powerful patronesses of life and death and all passages between them. The Greek Artemis is clearly the heiress of the Mistress of the Animals, but her wildness was acceptable in a patriarchal culture only if it was understood that she was not like other women. Thus she was superficially bereft of her female sexuality, and although she always remained the goddess of women and female affairs, she was often portrayed as a masculinized huntress, clad in a short tunic, slaying wild animals with arrows from her quiver.
However, the image of the Ephesian Artemis, which stressed her nurturing qualities by depicting her as a mature female with many breasts, proves that the Homeric shape of the goddess was not authoritative. Worshiped in her temple, the Parthenon, Athena Parthenos was a very different expression of a virgin goddess than Artemis, for she was very much identified with the city and its distinct, male-defined culture.
Athena was said to have been born from the head of her father Zeus, and in the Eumenides of Aeschylus she was said to have declared that she sided with her father against her mother in all things except marriage, which she shunned. She was born fully armed as a warrior and was usually depicted wearing a helmet and holding a spear and shield.
Her title polias indicated that the city was her home; her titles promachos and nike named her victorious against its enemies. She avoided the company of women but nurtured such heroes as Odysseus, Theseus, Herakles, Perseus, and Erichthonius. Her virginity meant that she could consort with men as an equal and engage in the masculine pursuit of war.Virgin looking for goddess
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