Goddesses Of Abstract Qualities

Where abstract qualities are associated with goddesses, the goddess might appear as the embodiment of the quality, or she may be envisioned as bestowing it upon favored humans. 

Beauty, love, wisdom, and justice are commonly associated with goddesses, as is the control of fate or destiny. 

Some of these qualities are associated with an essen tialist ‘‘femininity, while others are more typically associated with ‘‘masculinity. 

In the realm of goddesses, expectations of the social roles typically occupied by women do not always hold true. 

Even within a culture, goddesses defy gender stereotypes, as with war goddesses found in imperial patriarchies like Rome (see Bellona). 

Beauty is the quality most commonly associated with goddesses. 

The beauty of some goddesses reflects their status as divinities of earth and represents the idea of natures loveliness. 

One such is the Tantric Bhuvanesvarı (see India), described as so beautiful that the god Shiva made himself a third eye, the better to enjoy her. 

At other times, beauty is connected with sovereignty. 

Queenly figures are flatteringly described as beautiful. 

Thus the Queen of Sheba, Bilqis (see Eastern Mediterranean) was described as possessing great beauty, although she was also said to have had the legs of a goat. 

Hera, Greek goddess of womens power, was renowned for her beauty, as was the Irish warrior queen Medb (see Celtic), who represented sovereignty over the land as well as womens sexuality. 

The Celtic goddess who appeared variously as Grainne, Iseult, and Gueneviere embodied the lands need for a vigorous king, with the ‘‘love triangle of their stories describing the replacement of an aging ruler with a younger one. 

Not surprisingly, beauty is often (although not invariably) connected with love. 

Such love could be generic, as with Greek Aphrodite or African Oshun, whose power infused the world of animals as well as humans. 

Other goddesses embody divine love, such as Indian Parvatı whose beauty was reserved for her consort Shiva. 

Finally, a goddesss desire could be directed only toward humans, as with Celtic Niamh, who sought lovers among human men, or the group of Indian spirits called Yaks˛ı who have sex with human men before eating them. 

More positively, Lakota Whope (see North America) formed the pattern of beauty after which human women were designed, so that they might attract vigorous mates. 

Love goddesses are not always benevolent. 

Many narratives emphasize betrayal and heartbreak (Celtic Bloduewedd and Deirdre, Hebrew Naamah, Greek Sirens). 

Although a beautiful goddess can be heartless, loyal lovers such as Indian Radha and Hebrew Sarah are found in mythology alongside destructive seducers like the Celtic Leanann Sidhe and Hebrew Lilith. 

Additionally, some myths warn of the difficulties that beauty can bring, as with Hindu Manasa (see India), whose beauty attracted the god Shiva, leading to her mutilation at his wifes hands. 

Unlike beauty, wisdom is not today necessarily connected with the archetypal femi nine. 

But in many cultures, goddesses were associated with this quality, which refers to a right ordering of society that aligns it with natural law. 

Thus Greek Athena and Metis, Roman Egeria and Providentia, and Hebrew Hokmah all connected the human world with nature through wise counsel. 

In some cases, as with Scandinavian Voluspa and Greek Python, wisdom was conveyed through oracular practices inspired by an all-seeing earth goddess. 

Roman Egeria pronounced the first laws of the city-state while in an oracular trance. 

In Ireland (see Celtic), goddesses of wisdom such as Boand gained knowledge through eating nuts that fall from a magical tree that con nects underworld, middle earth, and sky; thus their wisdom encompassed the universe. 

In most of these Irish narratives, the woman was specifically forbidden from seeking wisdom, but her decision to break that prohibition results in world-creating acts. 

Goddesses of justice, often pictured as mature or even elderly women, control the orderly structure of society. 

Thus Greek Themis, on whom oaths were sworn, repre sented the just underpinnings of civilization. 

Similarly, Hebrew Torah represented ‘‘the law that controlled and defined appropriate human behavior. 

The domain of Egyptian Maat (see Africa) extended beyond death, for she judged the souls right eousness. 

The Iroquois heroine Genetaska (see North America) brought justice and peace to her people. 

Some goddesses of justice were also goddesses of vengeance, demanding retribution for wrongdoing, as did Greek Erinyes and Nemesis. 

Goddesses also represent scholarship and learning. 

Because most societies have been oral rather than literate, such goddesses were associated with the transmission of wisdom through speech and stories (Scandinavian Saga and Edda, Indian Vac). 

The connection between memory, including historical memory, and the creation of art was emphasized in the Greek belief that Mnemosyne, goddess of memory, was mother to the Musae, goddesses of art. 

Goddesses like the Eastern Mediterranean Nisaba represented both the act of writing and the priestesses who employed it. 

Finally, one of the most common powers ascribed to goddesses is control over destiny. 

Individual fate goddesses are connected with midwifery. 

Such divinities as Baltic Laime˙, Egyptian Hathor, Slavic Dolya and Orisnitsi, and Finno-Ugric Madder-Akka appeared at a childs birth and predict its future life. 

Fate goddesses could be ancestral spirits (see Scandinavian Dıs) because heredity is one determinant of fate. 

Fate goddesses measured a persons life, like Hittite Wurusemu (see Eastern Mediterranean) or Greek Lachesis (see Moirae). 

Other fate goddesses, like the Roman Camenae and Carmenta who lived in springs, were associated with especially hal lowed places. 

Goddesses Of Fish And Insects

Those who live by fishing often honor a goddess who controls the sea life, such as the important Eskimo goddess Sedna (see Circumpolar), Celtic Nehalennia, or Finno-Ugric Avfruvva. 

In South America, Mama Cocha was the ‘‘mother of whales because she brought the massive mammals close to hunters. 

Polynesian Lorop (see Pacific Islands) lived under the earth, sending up food for her children in the form of fish. 

In other cases, the goddess was seen not as controlling the sea creatures but as one of them, as with Celtic Lı Ban, transformed into a salmon, and Eastern Mediterranean Atargatis, who swam in the pool of her temple as a trout. 

In India, the group of spirits called the D akinıs took on fish shapes to attend upon the goddess of death, Kalı. 

In Africa, the heroine Chichinguane joined the fish people because her human kin were unkind to her. 

Among insects, the industrious bee and the crafty spider are common goddess images. 

Bees, whose hives are centered on a queen and whose female workers produce honey, appear as companions of goddesses associated with social life. 

Lithuanian Aus t ˙eja was celebrated in an annual holiday dedicated to bees. 

Artemis of Ephesus, goddess of the warrior Amazons (see Greece), was depicted surrounded by bees; her priestesses were called Melissae, also a name used of bee Nymphs. 

Irish Gobnait (see Celtic) lived among bees that warned her of approaching danger. 

Spiders, with their ability to weave intricately architectural webs from their own bodies, appear as creatrix figures in several cultures. 

Hopi Kokyangwuti created human beings; Cherokee Kanene Ski Amai Yehi brought the sun to earth. 

Greek Athena was connected to spiders because she made the first one from an insultingly competitive human girl, Arachne. 

Finally, both butterflies (see Psyche, see Greece; Ix Chel, see Mesoamerica) and scorpions (South American Ituana, Egyptian Selkhet) appear as goddess images. 

~ Kiran Atma

You can learn more about Goddess Symbolism here.

Goddesses Of Reptiles, Birds, And Amphibians

Like animals, reptiles and birds appear frequently as images of feminine divinity. 

While these creatures might seem opposites, many early statues show them united, as we find in the unnamed bird-headed snake goddesses of central Europe, whose image may represent the cosmic reach of a goddess who ruled both earth and sky. 

The imagery survives into historical times as the Greek Gorgons, winged snake haired sisters of the goddess Medusa. 

Snake goddesses often represent rebirth or renewal, for as the snake sheds its skin, so the soul is reborn into another life. 

Egyptian Mafdet and Mertseger were con nected with both burial and the promise of an afterlife. 

In India, black-faced Kalı, ruler of death and transformation, is bedecked in writhing snakes. 

Other Indian goddesses associated with snakes include Manasa, who guards against snakebite and brings prosperity, and the snake-women called Naginıs, associated with water and the mon soon season. 

This connection of snakes with water is also found in Australia, where the rainbow serpent Julunggul (see also Kunapipi) lived in deep pools, from which she stirred herself at times of creation and of initiation ceremonies. 

Snakes could appear maternal, for snakes protected stored grain from encroaching vermin and thus preserved the familys health. 

Lithuanian Aspelenie was such a protector, as was Greek Athena. 

Even in nonagricultural societies, we find snake pro tectors, such as Siberian Irt (see Circumpolar), who protected the fecundity of rivers. 

Snakes appear as images of reproductive sex in the image of Chinese Nu¨wa, entwined with her serpent mate, while Indian Kadru offers an image of reproductive abundance with her clutch of a thousand eggs. 

Conversely, snakes could be fearsome and threatening. 

Some terrifying snakes were connected with magic and shape-shifting, such as Greek Hecate, Roman Angitia, Celtic Morrıgan, and Aztec Coatlicue. 

Perhaps as an extension of this power, serpent goddesses ruled sexuality, as we find with Celtic Melusine and Ezili-Freda of the African disapora. 

The snake Kundalinı, in Hindu India, symbolizes sexual power that rises through the snakelike spinal column linking the groin and head. 

Finally, reptilian goddesses appear as cosmic creatrixes. 

In Africa, the snake Aido Hwedo was present at creation and provided the pattern for the sinuous shape of mountains and rivers. 

Some serpents provided the material for the world from their own body, as did Aztec Cipactonal and Babylonian Tiaˆmat. 

Polynesian Walu tahanga suffered dismemberment but, once made whole again, provided fresh water and food to humanity. 

The snake goddess can appear as a dragon, especially in Asia where these imagi nary hybrids were a common mythic motif. 

Typically, dragons were associated with the oceans power. 

Japanese Benten either took the form of a dragon or rode one on the ocean waves. 

In Egypt, the goddess Meretseger was a snake with human head, or a snake with three heads, a form that stressed her otherworldly aspects. 

Other rep tiles appear as goddess images in regions where they are common, as with African Nyakae, a crocodile. 

Birds also appear frequently as goddess images. 

Pedamma-Mariamma (see India) was one of several creatrixes who took bird form; she laid an egg that contained the universe and the gods. 

Polynesian Tuli flew across the primal ocean, creating island homes for people as she did. 

Finnish Luonotar was not herself a bird, but provided a place for the cosmic eggs to be laid by a duck in primeval times. 

Sometimes the bird is of a specific species: the owl accompanied and represented Greek Athena, while Irish E tain took the form of a swan (see Celtic). 

In such cases, the birds qualities were associated with the goddess (wisdom and loyalty, respec tively). 

Observation of bird behavior led to the connection of the Greek tragic heroine Aedon with the loud-crying nightingale; the Celtic war goddess Badb with the carrion-eating crow; the Saami spring goddess Barbmo-Akka (see Finno-Ugric) with migrating waterbirds; and the loyal Celtic heroine Fionnuala with the similarly loyal swan. 

Greek Aphrodite was associated with several kinds of birds, including the goose and the sparrow, which were imagined as sexually vigorous. 

Occasionally the bird was not the goddess but her mate. 

The goddess of sexuality in the African diaspora, Oshun, is associated with the peacock, the male of which preens its lavish tail to attract a mate. 

Eskimo Sedna (see Circumpolar) was mated to a sea bird, but grew tired of living on scraps of fish that he provided. 

In Greek mythology, the sky god Zeus turned himself into a bird in order to assault goddesses and Nymphs. 

Thus Hera was associated with the quail, for Zeus disguised himself as one in order to gain access to Heras lap, while Leda was associated with the swan, in which form Zeus raped her, as he did the goddess of vengeance, Nemesis. 

Frigg, the Scandinavian all-mother, lived in a sky palace to which she ascended on hawks wings. 

Birds provided a disguise for shape-shifted goddesses such as Russian Baba Yaga (see Slavic) and Irish Morrıgan (see Celtic). 

Nemain, a Celtic war goddess, flew over the battlefield like a crow to observe the slain, as did the Scandina vian Valkyries. 

Birdsong figures in goddess imagery both as a positive image of beauty (Thai Kinnarı, see Southeast Asia) and as a threatening one of loss of self (Greek Sirens). 

In addition to the earthbound serpent and the airy bird, we find goddesses in the form of amphibians, which live in water as juveniles and, after undergoing metamor phosis, breathe air as adults. 

The most common amphibian image of the goddess is the frog or toad, often used as an image of the birthing creatrix because its bent legged shape looks like a woman squatting in labor. 

This connection of frogs with birth was found in Egypt, where Hekt, a woman with a frogs head, was a midwife. 

Frogs and toads were also widely associated with weather. 

The Australian frog goddess Quork-Quork was the mother of rain, thunder, and lightning. 

Yang Sri, the toad goddess of Vietnam, controlled the weather, as did the Baltic weather witch Ragana. 

Scandinavian Holle hid in a deep well disguised as a frog. 

Finally, in a few instances, we find a connection between frogs and fire, notably in South America, where the frog goddess Nayobo made fire by vomiting, while another frog goddess of the region, Kibero, brought fire to humanity. 

~ Kiran Atma

You can learn more about Goddess Symbolism here.

Goddesses Of Animals


Both wild and domesticated animals appear as goddess images. 

In at least one case, we find a wild and a domesticated version of the same animal representing separate god desses: Egyptian Bast (domesticated cat) and Sekhmet (lioness). 

In all circumstances, however, the goddesss familiar animal was common in the area where she was wor shiped; goddesses are not represented by exotic or alien fauna. 

One of the most important animal images for the goddess is the cow. 

Domesticated in Egypt approximately 5,000 years ago from wild cattle (where cows were honored as images of the goddesses Hathor and Neith), the cows nourishing milk symbolically connects this animal to human mothers. 

In a few cases, the goddess is seen associated with a bull. 

Greek Europa was carried across the sky by a bull, Mesopotamian Innana owned the bull of heaven (see Eastern Mediterranean), Irish Medb kidnapped a mag ical bull (see Celtic). 

But most commonly, the milch cow serves as a symbol of the abundant and nurturing goddess. 

In Scandinavia, the cow was a primal being, Audhumbla, who freed the first beings from the primordial ice in which they were frozen. 

Among the Irish Celts, we find Boand, ‘‘she of the white cows, who brought fertility to the land through the waters of the river that bears her name (Boyne). 

Honoring the ‘‘sacred cow, embodiment of the Hindu goddess Prthvı, in India gives religious support for respecting the cows economic and nutritional importance. 

In the same culture, the goddess of wealth, Laks˛mı, appears as a beautiful cow, and cows are called by her name. 

In Egypt, Hathor was depicted with the horned head of a cow, which had huge wings rising from her shoulders; in this shape, she gave birth to the universe. 

Anahita (see Eastern Medi terranean) was embodied in herds of cows on whose brows moons were branded. 

Nearby, Ugaritic Anat took on the form of a cow to mate with her beloved brother, the god Baal. 

The cow was not only an earthly creature but was imagined as heavenly as well. 

When a greedy person milked Irelands Glas Ghaibhleann (see Celtic) into a sieve, the animal was so insulted that she levitated into the heavens where she walks the ‘‘White Cows Path, the Milky Way. 

The Greeks connected this broad band of stars with the cow goddess Hera, who sprayed the heavens with milk while feeding her son Heracles. 

In some Christian narratives, the starry road was formed from the milk of the virgin Mary (see Eastern Mediterranean). 

The Egyptians saw the sky as a great cows belly, with the sun rising between the horns of the solar cow Hathor. 

Another domesticated animal that provided meat and milk, as well as skin for leather, was the goat, whose usefulness became part of her symbolic importance. 

The hollow horn of Greek Amaltea became the cornucopia, symbol of abundance. 

The Scandinavian heavenly goat Hedrun provided endless intoxicating mead that fed heroes in the afterlife. 

Goats were offered as sacrifices to Hittite Wurusemu (see Eastern Mediterranean). 

Other goddesses to whom goats are sacrificed are Tibetan Tara (see India) and Ethiopian Atete (see Africa). 

Used less often for food than for transportation, the horse appears connected with goddesses prominently in the mythologies of most Indo-European cultures as well as that of other lands. 

Goddesses can appear in horse form, accompanied by or riding horses, or drawn by them in a chariot. 

Many are associated with celestial powers, including the sun and moon. 

Celtic Epona and A ine may have represented the sun that speeds across the sky in a chariot drawn by horses; the folkloric English figure Lady Godiva (see Celts) may descend from a horse goddess. 

The feminine solar horse appears in India as well, in the figures of Samjn a and the dawn maiden Usas, who drove a chariot pulled by red horses. 

Two divine horses pulled the chariot of Scandina vian Sol, while Hungarian Xatel-Ekwa rode three horses simultaneously. 

Occasion ally, a lunar goddess was associated with the horses that pull the moons silver chariot; Greek Selene rode in such a chariot. 

Persian Anahita (see Eastern Mediterra nean) rode in a chariot drawn by four white horses signifying her control over the weather. 

Although typically connected with light, horses can also be associated with goddesses of darkness. 

A nightmarish horse, Russian Mora (see Slavic), killed people as they slept. 

In Scandinavia, the goddess Nott drove black horses that pulled the dark ness across the sky at nightfall. 

As horses were often used in battle, it is not surprising to find goddesses of war associated with this animal. 

In Greece, horses were connected with the warrior women called Amazons, who bore horse-names like Hippolyta and Melanippe. 

In Scandina via, a similar group of horsewomen, the Valkyries, brought dead heroes from the battlefield to heaven. 

In Ireland, the war goddess Macha was identified with horses, for she could outrun them even when nine months pregnant. 

Horses can represent transformation, as with Sumerian Ereshkegal (see Eastern Mediterranean), whose horse rode the boundary between death and life, or Greek Medusa who gave birth to the winged horse Pegasus, symbol of transformative poetry. 

Medusa may be connected with an obscure form of the grain goddess Demeter, who was impregnated while wearing a horses head. 

In the Baltic, the death goddess Giltine˙ drove two black horses, while in Wales the goddess Rhiannon rode a white horse from the Otherworld and was later forced to carry people on her own back like a mare. 

In hunting societies, wild herd animals like deer and buffalo appear as divinities, sometimes pictured in whimsical fashion. 

In Scandinavia, the Skogsfruen (see Busch frauen) herded wild animals and, when not otherwise occupied, liked to knit socks. 

But the underlying image of the goddess of wild herds is as a cosmic game warden, controlling access to the beasts and thus to the meat they provide. 

In southeastern Europe, Dali was goddess of mountain sheep who appeared as a nubile woman with whom male hunters had intercourse, which empowered them to become great hunters. 

Yet, like other goddesses of the hunt, she put prohibitions on hunters and killed any who broke her commands. 

The connection of goddesses with hunting is common, despite similarly common prohibitions on human women hunting. 

Greek Artemis wanders through the forests accompanied by her Nymphs, tending to woodland creatures and helping animals safely bear their young. 

Other such goddesses are Celtic Arduinna and Artio, Irish Flidais (see Celtic), Finnish Mielikki, Eskimo Sedna, and Siberian Umaj (see Circumpolar). 

In North America, Wohpe, the white buffalo calf-woman of the North American Sioux, is not only a guide to correct behavior when hunting but a general power of order. 

Such woodland goddesses set the rules and expectations for hunters, who were rewarded with success if they treated the goddess with respect. 

Dogs often appear as goddess images, as do their wild counterparts, wolves. 

Often the dog appears as a companion of the goddess rather than an embodiment of her, as with Celtic Nehalennia, Greek Hecate, and Hawaiian Pele (see Pacific Islands). 

Eskimo Sedna (see Circumpolar) lived with a dog, described sometimes as her hus band. 

Scandinavian Frau Goˆde (see Holle in Scandinavia) always traveled with a dog, which she used to annoy people who did not sufficiently respect her. 

Babylonian Gula was always shown accompanied by dogs, and dogs were buried in her temple, suggesting that they were connected with her healing powers. 

In rare cases, as with Irish Uirne, the divine figures are themselves canine in form, but more typically we find the dog by the goddesss side. 

Wolf goddesses, by contrast, were embodied in wolf form rather than merely traveling in their company. 

The related Roman figures of Rhea Silvia, Lupa, and Acca Larentia show the goddess in both human and lupine form. 

Both as dog and as wolf, the goddess appears more protective than threatening, although as Brimwylf (see Scandinavian) she can appear monstrous to those who would threaten her child. 

Like canines, felines can appear as both wild and tame in goddess iconography. 

However, when the tame cat appears as the wild lion, she changes from an affectionate goddess (Egypts Hathor, with her cat ears; Scandinavias sensual Freya; Chinese Wu Lo, goddess of fertility) to a fierce one (Indias Durga, a warrior goddess; Babylonian Eriskegal, queen of death; Egypts raging Sekhmet). 

At times, a complex but generally kindly goddess such as Cybele (see Southeastern Europe) or Chinas Xiwang Mu appeared accompanied by lions or tigers, which suggest the goddesss fiercer powers. 

Among other wild animals that serve as goddess images or vehicles, the bear appears as both the goddess herself (Greek Callisto and Artemis, Celtic Artio) and as her mate (Tlingit Rhpisunt; see North America). 

The goddess appeared as a fox in Japan (Inari), where she could transform herself into a beautiful woman to seduce and kill men. 

Finally, occasional goddesses take on animal forms appropriate to a spe cific region, such as Egyptian Taweret (hippopotamus). 

~ Kiran Atma

You can learn more about Goddess Symbolism here.

Goddesses Of Vegetation


In some areas, vegetation is connected with a male god. 

In Southeast Europe, for in stance, the mountain goddess Cybele took the tree god Attis for her lover. 

In spring rit uals in the eastern Mediterranean, women planted gardens of Adonis, dedicated to the young lover of Greek Aphrodite who was killed in his prime, as the seedlings of the Adonis gardens were to die after a brief period of growth. 

The connection of male divinity with vegetation has been described as the background for the image of the Christian savior Christ, meeting his death upon a dead tree. 

Most cultures have connected plants with goddesses. 

Such goddesses were typically associated with agriculture and represented the abundant food produced by the fertile fields. 

Such vegetation goddesses can be forms of the earth mother (see above), for goddesses embodied in the fertile soil and those found in plants that spring from that soil can be difficult to distinguish, if indeed such a distinction was made by the god desss followers. 

Goddesses of vegetation can be embodied in plants (African Abuk, who was a bean; Southeast Asian Hainuwele, who turned into a date-palm) or may tend them as gardeners (Hawaiian Hiiaka, African Mbokomu, South American Nugkui). 

A cultures vegetation goddess reveals its mainstay foods, for which reason many goddesses are connected with grains rather than, for instance, leafy greens that do not store well and are available for only part of the year. 

In the eastern Mediterranean, Ninlil and her mother Ninshebargunu ruled barley and other nourishing seeds. 

In Rome, we find Ceres, from whose name we derive a term for grains. 

Similarly, Greek Demeter and Slavic Z˘ emyna are connected with wheat and rye and barley, called ‘‘corn in old texts that use the term ‘‘maize for the yellow grain from the Americas. 

In India and southeast Asia, goddesses were associated with the mainstay of the daily meal, rice, most famously embodied in the Hindu goddess of wealth, Laks˛mı, who appears in Bali and nearby islands as the primary goddess Dewi Shri. 

A similar goddess was Basmoti, whose name we still use for a type of rice; in central India, Astangi Devı brought humans not only rice but bamboo, with its edible shoots. 

In Japan, the rice goddess was the fox-woman Inari, a divinity who is still very popular today. 

In central and north America, the goddess of agricultural plenty was connected with maize or corn; Cherokee Selu and Pawnee Uti Hiata are among the ‘‘corn moth ers of the Americas. 

In South America, where the potato was a mainstay of life, the goddess of abundance was Pachamama. 

In the Pacific, the goddess Pani was associ ated with yams, an important food plant. 

Goddesses of vegetation could be divinities of birth as well, not only because farm ing reproduces plants but because sufficient food is necessary for women to become pregnant. 

In Babylonia, the birth goddess Bau derives her name from a term meaning ‘‘giver of vegetables (see Eastern Mediterranean). 

In Thailand, the primary goddess is Mae Phosop, deity of rice who appears as a pregnant woman when the grains swell to maturity and who gives birth to the new crops (see India). 

In Australia, Imberom bera walked around creating life by giving birth and forming plants (see Mutjingga). 

Not only were vegetation goddesses associated with birth; they were also connected with death. 

In the cycle of the crops, farmers saw their own lives: flourishing in youth, reaching productive adulthood, finally dying. 

This identification was reflected in myth. 

African Asase, who claimed the dead, was primarily a goddess of vegetation. 

Nambi, also from Africa, stole seeds to bring food plants to earth, but unwittingly opened the way for death to descend from the heavens. 

In Egypt, the tree-living death goddess Ament offered food to the newly dead, the tasting of which kept them from returning to life. 

Yet even in death, vegetation goddesses promise new life. 

Egyptian Hekt was embodied in grain, which seems to ‘‘die before it sprouts. 

Eating the fruit of Chinese Xiwang Mus magical peach tree transformed the deceased into an immortal. 

Flowers and fruit both serve as goddess images. 

Often the goddesses are depicted, respectively, as younger and older, with a nubile goddess envisioned as a deity of flow ers while a more mature goddess is the resulting fruit. 

Among important flower god desses we find Romes Flora, divinity of prostitutes and sexuality; Bloduewedd in Wales (see Celtic), a heroine made completely of flowers; Greek Persephone (Roman Proserpina), a maiden goddess raped while picking crocuses; and the Aztec Xochi quetzel, the deity embodied in the marigold. 

In India, the Apsaras were bedecked with flower garlands that, if offered to a human, indicated willingness to engage in intercourse. 

In Russia (see Slavic), a young woman embodying Berehinia wore a crown of red flowers to represent the goddess. 

As flowers are the genitalia of plants, they often symbolize the goddesss female organs. 

The fruit that results from pollination of flowers becomes the symbol of mature god desses. 

The most familiar is the apple associated withEve, ancestral mother of humanity (see Eastern Mediterranean). 

The peach offered by Chinese Xiwang Mu brought immortality to the eater. 

A pomegranate represented Hera, Greek goddess of womans power. 

The apple was connected with Lithuanian Saule˙ (see Baltic). 

Among goddesses of fruit we find several connected to intoxication, for sugary fruit naturally ferments into wine. 

Sumerian Nikasi was embodied in strong grapevines (see Eastern Mediterranean). 

African O ya was connected with palm wine; Greek Oeno, with wine from grapes. 

The tree provided an image of the goddess as provider of food, with fruit trees espe cially regarded as feminine. 

In Scandinavia, where fruit varieties were limited, Idunn was associated only with apples, while in Japan, Kono-Hana-Sakuya-Hime and Yaya-Zakura were goddesses of the cherry tree and Rafu-Sen of the plum. 

Greek Carya ruled the walnut, Irish Buan the hazelnut (see Celtic), Roman Rumina the fig. 

Even trees that do not bear edible fruit or nuts had goddess associations. 

Many trees were described as inhabited by feminine spirits like Greek Dryads, tree-living Nymphs who died when their tree died. 

Similarly, Scandinavians envisioned the for ests of northern Europe as inhabited by Askefruer, ash-tree women. 

The Greeks con nected goddesses with specific tree species, as with the multiple Heliaces (poplar) and Meliae (ash), as well as the singular Daphne (laurel) and Carya (walnut). 

Tree cults are attested in Greek religion, including one centered on Helen, who was ritually hung from a tree in ancient times. 

Such goddesses could appear as ancestral figures; among the Scandinavians, Embla was said to have been the primordial woman, born of an ash tree. 

Trees were the preeminent image of the Hebrew goddess Asherah, whose image was carved from a wooden plank. 

The Arabic goddess Uzza was also honored in groves of trees (see Eastern Mediterranean for both). 

~ Kiran Atma

You can learn more about Goddess Symbolism here.

Goddesses Of Fire

The mobile element of fire is more typically depicted as feminine than masculine, although a few fire gods appear in world mythology. 

These are often blacksmiths, such as the Celtic Goibniu, Greek Hephaestus, or Roman Vulcan. 

Such gods do not so much embody fire as use it in transformation of one material to another. 

But the role of smith is not always a male one in mythology. 

Smith goddesses also appear, most notably Celtic Brigit, connected to smithcraft, poetry, and healing, all of which show her trans formational power. 

In Japan, too, we find the smith goddess Ishikore-Dome, who crafted the first mirror and saved the world from darkness. 

In China, the smith Moye worked with her husband to craft an impossibly strong sword, in the process of which she sacrificed herself to the fire. 

Fire itself appears as a goddess in one of two forms: as the wild, tempestuous fire of volcanoes, and as the tamed and useful fire of the hearth. 

The former figures are typi cally depicted as voluptuous and demanding of lovers, who often perish at their em brace. 

The unpredictability of volcanic eruption and the potential destructiveness to human settlement, coupled with the astonishing fertility of volcanic soil after it has cooled and settled, led to depiction of volcano goddesses as both threatening and fecund. 

Around the ‘‘ring of fire in the Pacific, such volcano women can be found, from the Aleutian Chuginadak and Multnomah Loo-Wit (see North America) to Micronesian Latmikaik and Hawaiian Pele (see Pacific Islands). 

In Europe, a similar figure is Roman Aetna, whose mountain bears her name. 

The earths inner fires, which pour out from the surface as lava, gave rise to images of women with flames hidden in their genitals, as in Goga (see Pacific Islands). 

The connection of such natural fires with the domestic flame upon the hearth was articulated in some cases, as in Japanese Fuji, who was both the volcanic mountain and the familys cook fire. 

More commonly, the fire goddess of the household is seen as a distinct domestic presence, to whom simple rituals are offered daily while cooking and eating. 

The hearth, which is either the home of the goddess or her very body, was often hedged about with taboos. 

Spitting in the fire, dumping urine or other waste upon it, or otherwise showing disrespect was typically forbidden, with penalties enacted for transgressions. 

Across Indo-European territory, the hearth goddess was typically vir ginal (Greek Hestia, Roman Vesta, Celtic Brigit) and served by a college of similarly chaste priestesses. 

At other times, she was a nurturing maternal force (such as the Bal tic Gabija). 

Finally, in a few cases fire goddesses were connected with water, espe cially hot springs, as was Celtic Sul (see Sun, above). 

~ Kiran Atma

You can learn more about Goddess Symbolism here.

Goddesses Of Water


After earth, the symbol most commonly associated with goddesses is water, both as the fresh water of rivers and streams, and as the oceans salty waves. 

The gendering of water as feminine is not invariable, however. 

Some mythologies describe the oceans as masculine. 

The Greeks had a sea god, Poseidon, while a similar figure among the Irish was Manannan mac Lir. 

In both cases, the ocean was defined as masculine, as dis tinguished from fresh water, which was feminine. 

Among the Greeks, who despite see ing the ocean as masculine pictured its waves as the innumerable feminine Oceanids, we find the freshwater Nymphs called the Nereids. 

The Irish knew many river god desses such as Sınann, Berba, and Boand, while outside Ireland we find dozens of Celtic water goddesses including Abnoba, Aveta, Coventina, Natosuelta, and Sabrina. 

This salt and fresh water distinction, however, is not universal. 

Some goddesses were described as ruling the oceans, including the Scandinavian Ran who ruled the northern sea, and Chermiss Bu¨t aba and Finnic Mere-Ama (see Finno-Ugric), whose domains were similarly in the arctic waters. 

Hebrew Miriam (see Eastern Mediterra nean) was connected with the ‘‘bitter waters or the salty seas, although a freshwater stream created by her brother Moses also bore her name. 

The connection between the oceans salt water and female fertility is emphasized in the Hindu myth of Prakrti (see India), whose amniotic fluid became the oceans after she gave birth to the gods. 

In many cultures, an ocean goddess controls the fish and mammals that live in her waters and on which humans depend for food. 

An important example of such a figure is Inuit Sedna (see Circumpolar) who, thrown into the water as a sacrifice, thereafter receives sacrifices herself as the ‘‘great food-dish. 

Finnish Vellamo (see Finno Ugric), too, is an ocean goddess who determines how many fish humans can take from her waters, taking advice from her many daughters, the waves of the sea. 

Similarly, the South American sea-mother Mama Cocha brings fish and sea-mammals close to peo ple so that they can be harvested for food. 

Fishermen often fall under the rulership of ocean goddesses, who like Ma-tsu (see China) protects them when they are faring on the waves. 

In some cases, the oceanic goddess is depicted as a primordial mother or creatrix, one from whose depths life was born, as with Babylonian Tiaˆmat (see Eastern Mediterranean). 

Finno-Ugric Luonotar, while not the ocean itself, is intimately con nected with it, having spent much of eternity floating on cosmic waters. 

The sky woman of the American Iroquois, Ataensic, floated on the oceans waters until earth was created (see North America). 

Wherever the waters of the Wintu goddess Mem Loimis fell, the earth grew fertile, while areas not endowed with her watery gift were left as desert (see North America). 

Ocean goddesses could be charming and delightful. 

Lithuanian Amberella tossed pieces of amber to the shore, to reward those who honored her, and Greek Aphrodite was ravishingly beautiful even when fickle. 

But they could also be dangerous. 

Mer maids and sirens, which appear in many mythologies as ocean-dwelling women of great beauty, are threatening water divinities who lure sailors to their death. 

Such fig ures guarded the boundaries between water and land, like Siberian Sug Eezi (see Circumpolar) who like other mermaids had long hair that mimicked the rippling streams that she inhabited. 

Celtic Korrigans danced each night, drawing victims to themselves and drowning them. 

Greek Aphrodite was born of the oceans waves and, although beautiful, could also be pitiless, for love is never without possible threat of loss. 

In China, the primary goddess Xiwang Mu controlled the worlds waters and was invoked when floods threatened, showing that the activities of such cosmic god desses could be damaging to humanity were she not ritually appeased. 

Thus ocean goddesses represent both creative possibility and danger. 

Goddesses associated with fresh water are powers of fertility. 

Such watershed god desses can be seen as divinities of the land as well as the rivers that drain it. 

In India, many rivers are imagined as goddesses of earthly abundance, none more so than the Ganges, whose powerful river drains much of the subcontinent and is seen as the actual body of the goddess Gan ga. 

In Egypt, where the annual inundation of the land by the river Nile was typically associated with the god Osiris, we find the water goddess Anu ket representing the connection between water and the lands increased fertility. 

In Africa, major rivers were goddesses (Yemaja, Oshun, O ya) who were sometimes in conflict with each other over their shared consort. 

Such river goddesses were typically maternal forces, providing their human children with sustenance. 

A similar goddess in Russia, Mokosh (see Slavic), was a motherly figure whose presence was most actively felt in budding springtime. 

Smaller water sources such as springs and creeks could be seen as threatening rather than helpful. 

In Slavic lands, supernatural women, once human, haunted quick-flowing streams. 

Deprived by early death of a chance to have children, the Rusalki drowned sweet babies or fertile young people. 

The Scandinavian Nixies were similarly danger ous. 

In tribal India, the Nippong especially targeted young pregnant women, whom they caused to miscarry. 

Such spirits were often most active in spring and may re present the possibility of flash floods. 

Tribal Indian Bai Tanki, another destructive river goddess, spreads disease through her water—a mythic narrative with a firm basis in science, for polluted water can indeed spread disease. 

Fountains and bedrock springs were often seen as locations of inspiration because of the goddesses who inhabited them. 

The Greek Musae are still known as an image of the force that causes artists to create. 

In India, the river goddess Sarasvatı was the source of inspiration as well as a cosmic creatrix. 

Such inspiration could be legal and organizational as well as artistic. 

Among the Roman water nymphs called the Camenae was Egeria, who oracularly dictated the first laws of Rome and whose name is still used to describe a wise woman advisor. 

Freshwater goddesses, endowed with the gift of seeing the future, could help those who wished to practice the oracular arts. 

Babylonian Nanshe (see Eastern Mediterra nean) was a fortune-tellers goddess celebrated at waterborne festivals. 

Prophecy was not always seen as a gift; the Greek water Nymph Telphusa killed anyone who drank her prophetic waters. 

Yet most often, prophecy was a positive act, connected with heal ing because the ill and infirm turn to oracles in hopes of receiving predictions of pos itive change. 

So common was the connection between springs and healing among the Celts that the names of many of their goddesses have been lost, for they were renamed ‘‘Minerva Medici after the Roman goddess of healing, during Imperial occupation. 

Healing was a common part of the domain of the freshwater goddess, a tradition that continues today with the prayerful use of water from the well at Lourdes, France, dedicated to the virgin Mary (see Eastern Mediterranean). 

In Africa, we find the lake goddess Idemili and the water spirit Mammywata, both of whom offered healing to their worshipers. 

The Hindu goddess Narmada (see India) was especially powerful against snakebite, while the healing offered by Gan ga extended beyond this life, for those who died in her waters were freed from the cycle of rebirth. 

Some important goddesses controlled all water, whether found in rivers or in oceans. 

Anahita, one of the most important Persian divinities (see Eastern Mediterra nean), ruled everything fluid in the universe, even those of the human body. 

Similarly, among the Lithuanians (see Baltic), the water mother Jurat˙e controlled all the earths waters. 

Aztec Chalchihuitlicue (see Mesoamerican) could be found in lakes, rivers, and the ocean. 

Finally, some goddesses could be described as divinities of what science calls the water cycle, for they ruled the rain that falls on the land, the bodies of water (above ground and underground) that gather the rain and return it to the ocean, and the ocean where clouds are born to return water to the land. 

Such goddesses connect air and water like the African sky woman Andriana who descended to earth to become a water goddess. 

Rainbows, those bridges between sky and earth formed by water vapor, often symbolize such goddesses. 

In Australia, the primal serpent Julunggul ruled ocean, rivers (especially waterfalls), and rain; she was embodied in the rainbow. 

A similar rainbow-water-snake spirit found in Haiti was Aida Wedo (see African Diaspora). 

~ Kiran Atma

You can learn more about Goddess Symbolism here.

Goddesses Of Air

Goddesses of air are uncommon, perhaps because air is not visible, audible, or tangible until it forms itself into wind and thus is difficult to imagine as having personality, much less gender. 

Only one goddess represents the invisible atmosphere that envelops and sustains us. 

The name of Inuit Sila (see Circumpolar) has been translated as ‘‘air, and this goddess embodies the entire cosmos that sustains life. 

She is also associated with the visions of shamans, who traveled through the air without touching ground. 

More commonly, a goddess might be associated with the air that she breathes into inert matter, thus vivifying it. 

Examples of such breath-creatrixes are Egyptian Hekt, Sibe rian Ajysyt (see Circumpolar), Greek Aphrodite, Lakota Whope (see North America), and South American Amaru. 

Flying goddesses, whose domain can be interpreted as including air, are quite common. 

Most, like Scandinavian Frigg and Russian Baba Yaga (see Slavic), rode in some kind of vehicle: a chariot drawn by cats in the first case, a mortar rowed with a pestle in the second. 

Persian Anahitas vehicle was drawn by four majestic white horses, Babylonian Ishtars by lions (see Eastern Mediterranean for both). 

Wild boars pulled Indian Marıcı. 

In some cases, such high-flying goddesses were connected with dawn or with the sun, as with Indian Usas and Scandinavia Sol. 

Celestial goddesses are often difficult to distinguish from air goddesses, as both travel through the atmosphere. 

Goddesses connected to birds can arguably be called air divinities. 

In some cases, as with Southeast Asian Kinnarı or Hindu Yoginı (see India for both), the goddess can be embodied as a bird, rather than as a human female. 

The same was true of Samoan Tuli (see Pacific Islands), who created the world in the form of a bird flying across the pri meval sea. 

Sometimes the bird becomes the goddesss vehicle, as in Russia, where the air goddess Berehinia rode the magnificent Firebird (see Slavic). 

More obvious air goddesses are connected to wind. 

Such goddesses are not always violent or stormy. 

The Greek breeze goddesses, the Litae, carried prayers to the gods. 

In Finland, the helpful goddess Ismo blew out fires that threatened to burn down houses; her sisters were healing divinities who healed by blowing on wounds. 

But some air goddesses are clearly dangerous, as with the Caribbean Guabancex, who caused hurricanes. 

It can be difficult to distinguish storm goddesses from goddesses of weather (see above), who like African Mujaji and O ya control both stormy winds and the accompanying thunder, lightning, and rain. 

~ Kiran Atma

You can learn more about Goddess Symbolism here.

Goddesses Of The Earth


The most common symbol for goddesses is the earth, although it can be argued that the symbolism goes the other way around: that goddesses symbolize earth, both as soil and as planet. 

Whichever came first, the connection of goddess and earth is found through out the world. 

It is not, however, invariable. The binary opposition of male/sky and female/earth is sometimes reversed. 

Earth gods are found in some cultures, often asso ciated with sky goddesses, a subject that has not been sufficiently studied to determine its frequency. 

Despite exceptions, however, earth and goddess are connected in many cultures, so much so that goddesses whose symbolism was originally other evolve into earth goddesses over time. 

In some cases, however, writers unthinkingly and inap propriately use the term ‘‘earth goddess or ‘‘earth mother where the divinity in question is a celestial or cosmic figure. 

Earth goddesses are often described as creating the earth (see also Creatrix, below); such goddesses can be described as self-creating. 

In Korea, MaGo created the world by singing, while in Greece, the earth goddess Eurynome created the universe through dance. 

Some earth goddesses do not create the land but populate it by creating humans and animals. 

African Butan was the first creation of the double-sexed primary god. 

She then populated the world without need of mate. 

Earth goddesses often create vegetation from their bodies, the rich soil. 

Because humans and animals require vegetation to survive, earth goddesses are envisioned as benevolent and generous. 

In some cases, the connection between earth and nourish ment is made clear, as with Indian Basmoti who created rice by vomiting it forth. 

This generosity can be seen in the name of the early Greek earth goddess Pandora, ‘‘all giver, or Danish Gefjion, ‘‘gift (see Scandinavia). 

Such images tend to come from cultures that practice agriculture. 

Where people live from fishing and hunting, the goddess of abundance is more typically connected with wildlife (see Animals, below). 

Many earth goddesses are described as maternal forces, providing for the creatures of earth as a good mother provides for her children. 

Some myths put special emphasis on the maternal feelings of the goddess, as in the Greek story of Demeter and her lost daughter Persephone. 

Baltic Zˇ emyna appeared at the birth of every child, and Sibe rian Umay (see Circumpolar, Umaj) was the placenta that feeds the fetus as the earth feeds its creatures. 

Other myths connect goddesses of earth with human fecundity. 

Estonian Ma-Emma (see Finno-Ugric) was the fertile, endlessly pregnant earth, and as such controlled the wombs of young women, permitting them to bear children suc cessfully. 

The Roman earth goddess Anna Perenna responded to the sexual activities of humans by growing more fertile. 

Goddesses like Scandinavian Fulla and Roman Ops, from whose names the En glish words ‘‘full and ‘‘opulent derive, represent both bountiful vegetation and the abundant life expressed in human procreation. 

African goddess Aje was similarly con nected with abundance of all sorts, including food, money, and beloved children. 

She created the soil that bears crops by scratching at it in primordial times, when it was hard as rock and she wore the body of a chicken. 

Hindu Laks˛mı, often represented by coins and bills, began as an earth goddess whose abundance created monetary wealth. 

As an esoteric symbol, she represents spiritual wealth as well. 

The earth has rarely been seen as a solitary divinity. 

Rather, she is envisioned as part of a divine family that includes gods as well as other goddesses. 

At times, the earth was part of a family headed by the maternal sun, as with Finno-Ugric earth goddess Mu kilˇsin-Mumi, whose sister was the sun, or Baltic Z˘ emyna, who was the suns daugh ter. 

In other cases, we find the earth as mother of a clan that includes goddesses of cul ture and of food; the Pawnee earth divinity was Atira (see Native American), whose daughter was the corn goddess. 

Often, the earth mother was the mate of a sky god. 

In Polynesia, the earth goddess Papa lay in perpetual intercourse with her sky husband and had to be forcibly sepa rated from him in order for other life to emerge. 

In Greek myth, earth mother Gaia birthed many children after mating with the sky god but finally grew weary of his end less sexual demands. 

She convinced one of her sons to castrate him, thus ending their endless embrace, after which she gave birth parthenogenetically. 

The Zun˜i goddess Awitelin Tsita lay in continual intercourse with the sky until she conceived the human race. 

Her husband, the sky, solicitously attended upon Maka of the Lakota as she cre ated humanity (see Native American for both). 

Although typically the earth goddess hungered for intercourse, a few earth god desses were unwilling sexual partners. 

Hindu Tarı (see India) refused the solicitations of the sun god, whereupon he created human women to serve his sexual needs. 

Even when the goddess is energetically sexual, many myths describe tensions among the divine family, with the earth mother siding with her children against her spouse. 

The earth goddess is never described in fearsome or negative terms, although she can be seen as a strict keeper of order, as was the case with Greek Themis, who represented the force of law. 

Judgmental goddesses sustain the natural laws and punish those who break them. 

Such goddesses could be punitive, as when the Mongol earth goddess Etugen brought about earthquakes to purify the land of peoples wrongdoing. 

Hindu P rthivi (see India) also showed her displeasure at human failing by shaking fiercely, as did South American Pachamama. 

Because earth goddesses serve as all-seeing witnesses to what transpires on their surface, people turned to them when oaths were required. 

Slavic people held a handful of soil while swearing by Zˇ emyna (see Slavic), and Romans pointed downward toward the earth goddess Tellus when they made a pledge. 

African Ala was a force of social order, for she witnessed all promises and knew instantly when one was bro ken because there was nowhere on earth where one could hide from her. 

Also in Africa, followers of Oddudua devote themselves to maintenance of social order. 

Greek Demeter was known as the lawgiver (‘‘Thesmophoros), for she created the order of the ideal human society as she did for the rest of nature. 

The connection between earth and human society can be detected in the name of the Scandinavian earth goddess Fjo¨rgynn, from which we derive both the words ‘‘earth and ‘‘hearth. 

Just as she could see anything that happened on her surface, the earth goddess could see into the future. 

Thus she represented the force of destiny. 

Iranian A rmaiti (see Eastern Mediterranean) ruled both reproduction and fate, which in many cultures were seen as inextricably linked. 

As the overseer of birth, the goddess was in the position to know the fate of each newborn. 

Just as often, earth goddesses are connected to death, especially in cultures where the dead were entombed within the earth; the dark skin of Russian Mokosh (see Slavic) was not only the color of fertility but of the endless night of death. 

The earth goddess was literally the earth beneath our feet. 

Siberian Mou-Njami had soil for skin and green grass for hair. 

In that culture, digging into the earth was forbid den, because to do so would be to injure the goddess. 

Southeast Asian Ponniyamman is depicted as a rock head, sitting on the earth, which forms her body. 

Some goddesses occupy specific and delimited areas of land—for example, mountains. 

One of the worlds most famous peaks is named for the Hindu goddess Annapur˛na (see India). 

Sometimes a single peak is designated as the embodiment or residence of the goddess, as in the Irish triad Bandba, Fodla, and E riu, or the Native American goddess Tacoma of the mountain that bears her name. 

In other cases, goddesses occupied entire mountain ranges, such as Celtic Echtghe, after whom low hills in County Clare are named. 

Occasionally the goddesss mountain is an imaginary one; Xiwang Mu of China was envisioned as occupying the supernatural Jade Mountain. 

Volcanoes were commonly imagined as goddesses, but connected with fire rather than earth (see Fire, below). 

Goddesses inhabited and embodied forests. 

Because these forests were important sources of wild food, Celtic Ardwinna and Greek Artemis were connected with hunt ing, while Finno-Ugric Vir-Azer-Ava was associated with foraging for berries and mushrooms. 

But dense forests could also be dangerous. 

Thus threatening figures were described as ready to kidnap people who lost their way in the woods, like the Scandi navian Skogsnufvar (see Buschfrauen) who froze people to death for wandering in her domain. 

Mountain and forest goddesses can be seen as specialized forms of the earth goddess. 

Another category was the territorial goddess who represents not the entire planet but the region occupied by a single group. 

The alternative name of the Roman Tellus was Italia, a name also given to the long mountainous peninsula she ruled. 

In India, multiple goddesses called by the generic Gramadevata represent the land on which a villages people depended. 

In Ireland, land goddesses often appear as god desses of the watershed, showing the necessary connection of earth and water for fer tility (see Celtic Aveta, Sequana, Berba, Boand, Sınann). 

Given the frequency of association of goddess and earth, it is not uncommon to find earth goddesses also iden tified as goddesses of water, abundance, and creation. 

~ Kiran Atma

You can learn more about Goddess Symbolism here.

Goddesses Of Time And Seasons

The concept of time appears as a goddess in several cultures. 

In Hindu India, Nidra is the sleep of time, whose passage is beyond human control, while Kalı represents the many eras of the worlds life, with the final era named after her. 

In North America, the Cherokee saw time as ruled by the sun goddess Unelanuhi, who divided night from day and thus invented all measurement. 

Among the pre-Roman Etruscans, time was the goddess Nortia, in whose honor nails were pounded each year into her temple. 

The later Roman Juno represented time as embodied in womens passage through lifes stages, with multiple Junos representing each woman as she aged. 

Some time goddesses are also foretellers of fate, as was Arabic Manat (see Eastern Mediterra nean), Finally, many goddesses are associated with the period before day was divided from night. 

These divinities appear in a primordial, often chaotic ‘‘time before time, and are often creatrixes who form the universe. 

Many goddesses, especially earth goddesses, are associated with specific seasons that paralleled the seasons of a womans life. 

Spring goddesses (Roman Flora, Greek Hebe, Slavic Kostrubonko, Scandinavian Rana Neida) are typically young and sex ually active or even promiscuous, unburdened by children. 

They are kind and gener ous, beautiful and tender. 

Often spring goddesses are associated with dawn, both representing the promise of new beginnings. 

Just as dawn goddesses (see Light/Day, above) could be dangerous as well as desirable, so figures connected with spring, like Slavic Rusalki, could present themselves as threatening. 

Spring was a time of hunger to subsistence farmers, who had devoured their stored crops and were awaiting new growth. 

Even for gathering-hunting cultures, spring could be difficult, so in the Arctic we find Asiaq (see Circumpolar), to whom shamans made sacrifices if ice did not break up in the rivers, allowing fishing. 

Thus maiden spring goddesses such as Greek Persephone were connected to death, an ever-present danger in hungry springtime. 

Summer goddesses, by contrast, are typically maternal, indicative of the earth in its agricultural abundance. 

Like Roman Ceres (from whom we derive the word ‘‘cereal), these goddesses are often associated with food plants, which flourish in summer weather (see also Vegetation, below). 

In North America, such goddesses could be embodied in the important food-crop, maize or corn; see Selu and Oniata. 

Such goddesses are typically depicted as mature and fertile, women in the prime of their reproductive years. 

But in desert lands, summer goddesses could appear as threat ening, as with Egyptian Sekhmet who represents the scorching sun, or Sri Lankan Pattinı (see India) who began as a gentle woman but became rage-filled and destruc tive later. 

It might be assumed that autumn goddesses would represent decline and death, but fall is a season for both harvest and the hunt. 

Thus goddesses connected with autumn could be paradoxically both fertile and deadly. 

Some, such as Irish Tailtu, were sacrificed in order to provide fertility to the land, while in other cases such as Slavic Baba Yaga, they threatened others with death by devouring. 

In Mesoamerican ritual, a mature woman assumed the identity of Toci and was sacrificed and flayed at her har vest festival. 

Other autumn goddesses (South American Pachamama, Greek Demeter, Roman Pomona) were goddesses of abundance, appropriate to harvest sea son. 

These goddesses are typically shown as a woman past the prime of life but still vigorous. 

With the Irish Cailleach, this vigor included sexual appetite; this divine female could exhaust and even kill young men with her demands. 

Winter goddesses, typically envisioned as old women, are often threatening. 

This is hardly surprising, as winter in earlier times was a time of hardship and want. 

Winter goddesses are shown with the power to control the weather (see Weather, above). 

Thus they were to be propitiated, lest they grow angry and bring on dangerous storms. 

The Scandinavian winter goddess appeared as a pair, with friendly Holle shaking her feather beds to make snow and rewarding those pleasant to her with gold, while her twin Perchta roamed through the world looking for people to punish for minor infrac tions, bringing bitter cold with her. 

Some winter goddesses are paired with a spring deity. 

In Scotland, the Cailleach appeared with the girl Bride, who spent winter trying to escape the hags grasp. 

Finally, some winter divinities are witches (Roman Befana, Finno-Ugric Louhi) who kidnap good weather and growth, holding it hostage until spring. 

~ Kiran Atma

You can learn more about Goddess Symbolism here.

Goddesses Of Darkness And Night

Light has a physical source in the sun, which can readily be envisioned as a divinity. 

But darkness, the absence of light, has no similarly specific source. 

Darkness as a qual ity, then, is less often imagined embodied as a goddess, although India provides one in the form of kindly Ratri, sister to the dawn goddess Usas, representing restful night. 

The Greeks, too, had a goddess of night, Nyx, a primordial figure who gave birth to the early gods and represented a time before the creation of light. 

A similar figure, No¨tt, appears in Scandinavian myth. 

Many goddesses are described as having dark skin, usually to emphasize their con nection to the dark fertile soil rather than to indicate their connection to nighttime. 

This appears to be the case with the so-called Black Madonnas (see Mary, Eastern Mediterranean), found in an area predominantly occupied by light-skinned people. 

Some goddesses of death, such as Sumerian Erishkegal (see Eastern Mediterranean) are described as powers of darkness, apparently because they are associated with the physical inability to see light after death. 

Goddesses associated with darkness could be associated with magic, as with Greek Hecate who appeared at the dark of the moon accompanied by black dogs. 

Finally, darkness sometimes indicates a peoples natural complexion and has no special symbolic meaning. 

Racism is occasionally found in mythology, reflecting soci etal divisions and injustices. 

For example, the Indian goddess Parvati, originally dark skinned like many of her worshipers, underwent an initiatory experience in order to attain a presumably more beautiful light skin. 

The presumption that ‘‘dark indicates negative forces or even evil is unfounded in most mythologies. 

Even when a goddess is connected with death, that does not necessarily indicate that her powers are negative, as death is a natural part of life. 

~ Kiran Atma

You can learn more about Goddess Symbolism here.