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.