The notes for a talk I recently gave on the Goddess Culture –

When God Was a Woman  June 4, 2023

I first started reading about this, when God was a Woman, in the late 70s. There was a famous archeologist, she died in 1994, Marija Gimbutas, a professor of European Archaeology at the University of California, and Curator of Old-World Archaeology at the UCLA Museum of Cultural History. She was causing a stir.

From an early report of her work: Dr. Gimbutas argues that between 7000 B.C. and 3500 B.C. the people of Europe lived in sedentary agricultural societies that worshiped the Great Goddess, delighted in nature, shunned war, built comfortable settlements rather than forts and crafted superb ceramics rather than weapons. The social system was matrilineal.

Marija was feisty and smart and did not allow the male archeologists to hinder her research although they tried. That story has probably been recorded somewhere.

This information and many artifacts documenting a vast female, goddess religion was and still continues to be buried in archaeological texts, most accessible with only a university affiliation.

The massacres, demolition of states and sanctuaries of the Goddess are recorded in the pages of the Bible, following this command by Yahweh:

You must completely destroy all the places where the nations you dispossess have served their gods, on high mountains, on hills, under any spreading tree: you must tear down their altars, smash their pillars, cut down their sacred poles, set fire to the carved image of their gods and wipe out their name from that place. Deut. 12: 2-3

These were all Goddess temples or as they re-named them, “pagan temples.” Goddess churches and holy places were to be destroyed.

Temples of the Goddess were filled with Goddess/female figurines. Goddess figurines had breasts. There is little mention in the Bible Old Testament or New Testament that it was a female religion, only calling it “pagan.”

Koran of the Mohammedans: “Allah will not tolerate idolatry- the pagans pray to females.”

Most early researchers assigned female figures to the fertility cult or earth cult.

One researcher was torn when he realized that the Egyptian graves, the richest of the royal burials of the dead were for women and not men as had previously assumed.

In the beginning, people prayed to the Creatress of Life, the Mistress of Heaven. At the very dawn of religion, God was a woman. For 10,000 years of recorded archaeological research God was a woman.

Most cultures have credited women with the development of agriculture. Throughout civilization numerous female deities were credited with this gift to civilization.

Nearly all deities of the Near and Middle East were titled Queen of Heaven, and in Egypt not only was the ancient Goddess Nut known as the heavens, but her brother/husband Geb was the symbolized as the earth.

The Goddess Sarasvati (what is now India) was honored as the inventor of the alphabet – the first alphabet. In Ireland the Goddess Brigit was the creator of language. Goddess Nidaba in Sumer was the one who invented clay tablets and the art of writing. The official scribe of Sumeria was a woman.

Why don’t we all know about this? Easy-most all archaeologists, from the very beginning were men and very few women.

And where did the serpent come in? Obviously, Eve was a woman.

During the Halaf period (3000vBC) with the invention of wheeled vehicles female figures have been found with serpents, double axes and doves all symbols of Goddess worship.

Ashtoreth was the despised “pagan” in the Old Testament-she was written about and identified in the Old Testament as male when she was actually a female goddess-Astarte-the Great Goddess. Astarte’s religion flourished in the near and middle east for thousands of years before the arrival of the patriarchal Abraham, the first prophet of the male deity Yahweh. Abraham lived, so researchers believe between 1800 and 1550 BC and he lived in Palestine. Where the religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam originated. The Hebrews had escaped Sumer after many years as slaves and ended up in Palestine.

From Stele in Egypt, Turkey, Babylon, Sumer:

In the beginning there was Isis: Oldest of the Old. She was the Goddess from whom all Becoming Arose. She was the Great Lady, Mistress of the two Lands of Egypt, Mistress of Shelter, Mistress of Heaven, Mistress of the House of Life, Mistress of the word of God. She was the Unique in all Her great and wonderful works. She was a wiser magician and more excellent than any other God.

14th Century BC (Before the Common Era of the Christ) – Thebes, Egypt

Thou Sun Goddess of Arinna art an honored deity; Thy name is held high among names; Thy divinity is high above other deities, Nay among the deities, thou alone O Sun Goddess art honored: Great art Thou alone O Sun Goddess Arinna; Nay compared to Thee no other deity is as honored or great.

15th Century BC Boghazkoy, Turkey

Unto Her who renders decision, Goddess of all things, Unto the Lady of Heaven and Earth who receives supplication; Unto Her who hears petition, who entertains prayer; unto the compassionate Goddess who loves righteousness; Ishtar the Queen, who suppresses all that is confused. To the Queen of Heaven, the Goddess of the Universe, the One who walked in terrible Chaos and brought life by the Law of Love, and out of Chaos brought us harmony, and from Chaos, Thou has led us by the hand.

Babylon, Eighteen to Seventh Centuries BC

An interesting aside- in 1992 Carol Bush and I were in Prague and I’d wanted to go to the Museum where famous figurines of the Goddess were on display. We finally got there and it was amazing – I kept thinking how many thousands of years those goddess images had been witnessing to all. Carved stone mostly and just sitting there on a shelf, or in a case – nothing special said at all except they were the earliest known carvings of goddesses.  –Sandra

So how did women lose power and men take it?

Around 2400 BC northern invaders, fierce male warriors- generally Indo-Europeans arrived, from what is now Germany, Russia, and northern areas. Their invasion did little to destroy the Goddess worship. Initially they were not interested in who ruled. The only wanted valuables and would move on.

Books: (These are the ones from my bookshelf – There are many more)

  1. In the Wake of the Goddesses: Women, Culture, and the Biblical Transformation of Pagan Myth by Tikva Frymer-Kensky 1992

Contemporary society is increasingly showing renewed interest in religious matters, with increasingly widespread interest in monotheist (one religion) religions, in Eastern mysticism, in occult beliefs, in mediums and channels, in neopaganism and goddess worship. Goddess worshipers have claimed that the goddess can give women a sense of self-validation and at the same time many of these spiritual quests declare that they can put humanity in better touch with its own nature and its unity with the world. In the face of many alternatives, it is valid and imperative to ask whether there is an advantage in pursuing the almost impossible goal of radical monotheism, whether monotheism offers something to the human spirit that these other religious experiences do not.

  1. The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe, Myths and Cult Images by Marija Gimbutas

Dr. Gimbutas argues that between 7000 B.C. and 3500 B.C. the people of Europe lived in sedentary agricultural societies that worshiped the Great Goddess, delighted in nature, shunned war, built comfortable settlements rather than forts and crafted superb ceramics rather than weapons. The social system was matrilineal.

  1. When God Was a Woman by Merlin Stone

“Yet rather than calling the earliest religions, which embraced such an open acceptance of all human sexuality, ‘fertility cults,’ we might consider the religions of today as strange in that they seem to associate shame and even sin with the very process of conceiving new human life. Perhaps centuries from now scholars and historians will be classifying them as ‘sterility cults.” ~ Merlin Stone

  1. Earliest Civilizations of the Near East by James Mellaart

Mellaart:  For almost 10,000 years the principal deity was a goddess – The Statuettes portray the goddess and the male occurs only as subsidiary role or as a child.

  1. The Golden Ass by the Roman Writer, Apuleius was translated by Robert Graves – 2nd Century AD was when it was written.

Graves/Apuleius/Early writers – quoting the Goddess:
“I am Nature, the universal Mother, mistress of all elements, primordial child of time, sovereign of all things spiritual, queen of the dead, queen also of the immortals, the single manifestation of all gods and goddesses that are, My nod governs the shining heights of Heaven, the wholesome sea breezes the lamentable silences of the world below. Though I am worshipped in many aspects, known by countless names and propitiated with all manner of different rites, yet the whole round earth venerates me.

The primeval Phryians call me Pesinuntica, Mother of the gods, the Athenians sprung from their own soil, call me Cecropian Atemis; for the islanders of Cyprus, I am Paphian Aphrodite, for the archers of Crete I am Dictnyna, for the tri-lingual Sicilians, Stygian Prosperine; and for the Eleusinians, their ancient Mother of Corn. Some know me as Juno, some as Bellona of the Battles, others as Hecate, others again as Rhamnubia, but both races of Ethiopians, whose lands the morning sun first shines upon, and Egyptians who excel in ancient learning and worship me with ceremonies proper to my godhead by my true name, Queen Isis.

Graves: The Great Goddess was regarded as immortal changeless, omnipotent – and the concept of fatherhood had not yet been introduced into religious thought.

  1. Riane Eisler’s The Chalice and the Blade published in 1988

[On the ancient Venus figurines:] If the central religious figure was a woman giving birth and not, as in our time, a man dying on a cross, it would not be unreasonable to infer that life and the love of life – rather than death and the fear of death – were dominant in society as well as art.” ~ Riane Eisler

  1. The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories

Herodotus has been called the “father of history.” An engaging narrator with a deep interest in the customs of the people he described, he remains the leading source of original historical information not only for Greece between 550 and 479 BCE but also for much of western Asia and Egypt at that time.

Herodotus of Greece wrote after his travels that in Egypt, “women go in the marketplace, transact affairs and occupy themselves with business, while the husbands stay home and weave and take care of the children, while the women work abroad (?) for their daily bread.”

.  In prehistoric Egypt the Goddess held supreme. In Lower Egypt Nut, later called Hathor was worshiped as a cobra. There many goddesses who honored the snake-a visitor to the underworld, as well as the outer world.

Sandra: For my series on Dreams for the Discovery Channel we filmed in Greece. A temple for healing, healing through dreams: temple site for interpreting dreams that had, in ancient days, small green and yellow snakes that roamed around the temple floor as a “dreamer’ dreamed with a dream interpreter by their side. This was practiced from 3,500 to 1,100 BC.

One of the most iconic images from Greek and Minoan culture is the “Snake Goddess,” a bare-chested woman holding two snakes over her head.

The staff with the snake has long been a symbol of medicine and the medical profession. It originates from the story of Asclepius, who was revered by the ancient Greeks as a god of healing and whose cult involved the use of snakes.

In Egypt the first Goddess were Snake Goddess.

Wadjet was one of the first Egyptian deities. She began to be worshipped in the Predynastic as the custodian immortal of Lower Egypt, the northern part of the country. She eventually became, Hathor, the official immortal of the autarchy (a person with absolute power), once Lower Egypt was united with Upper Egypt.

Many variations of the first goddess names

It is believed that the snake was the symbol of downfall of humankind because it was the symbol of the Goddess. Consequently, the Goddess had to be dispensed with using her symbol – a snake. Hence Sumer’s story of Adam and Eve. Later taken by almost all modern religions as the reason to suppress women.

Bible symbol: The serpent was a symbol of evil power and chaos from the underworld as well as a symbol of fertility, life, healing, and rebirth. Nāḥāš (נחש‎), Hebrew for “snake”, is also associated with divination, including the verb form meaning “to practice divination or fortune-telling”. All Goddess attributes.

Nut/Hathor created all that came into being. Later named Isis.

From around 2300 BC northern invaders infiltrated Babylon and Assyria. As these hostile warriors gained ascendancy and eventually stayed in these areas, male deities such as Marduk, who mythically murdered the Creator Goddess Tiamat to gain and secure her position, slowly built their male god dominated religion.

Still for another few thousand years women had all the power for banking and working. But slowly men took over the female out-in-the-world tasks and women were taking the men’s tasks inside the home-making tasks.

In the ancient laws of later Babylonia, near the end of the second millennium, a married woman might no longer engage in business, unless it was directed by her husband, son or brother-in-law.

After the year 2000 BC and the start of our common era and the development of new religions: Judaism, Christianity, Mohammedism, it was all out war on the Goddess religion.

St. Paul destroyed the city of Ephesus and continued destroying every “Pagan” temple he could find. Later Romans and the Christian priests continued until there were none left-

Laws changed like this: During the 10,000 years reign of Goddess worship, if a man raped a woman he was killed. As the men came into power (in Assyria it was 1450/1250 BC) if a man rapes a woman the husband or father of that woman should then rape the rapist’s wife and/or daughter and/or marry his own daughter to the rapists – this was also a law of Assyria and as well as the Hebrews who added that a raped woman must be put to death if she was already married or betrothed.

Assyrian law appears to be the first to mention abortion assigning the penalty of death to the abortionist and the woman who had the abortion. There were many herbs for abortion for millennia before that.

Here we are today:

In 1973 writing in the London Times, a journalist for Religious Affairs:

“A warning that the admission of women to the priesthood in the Church of England would be a subtle shift towards the old pagan religions was given by the Bishop of Exeter, Dr. Mortimer and others to the convocation of Canterbury yesterday. In the old nature religions, he declared, priestesses were common – and we all know the kinds of religions they were and are.

The church has often adapted to a changing condition, in the past and has to be doubly careful “in a sex obsessed culture.”

I bought this 3- or 4-inch stone Goddess Statue in Prague

I bought this 3- or 4-inch stone Goddess Statue in Prague

Venus of Willendorf

‘Venus Figurines’ are archeological artifacts from the Upper Paleolithic era (50,000-10,000 years ago). Specifically, these artifacts are figurines, or statuettes, of female humans with some exaggerated features, especially sex organs (such as enormous breasts, bellies and buttocks).Followed by two hours of discussion.

Sandra Martin, June 4 2023