Ancient Mysticism: When the Gods were Goddesses

“The Goddess does not rule the world; She is the world. Manifested in each of us, She can be known internally by every individual, in all her magnificent diversity.” ~ Starhawk

She is the Source of Life, the principle of all that exists is known by many names – Goddess Sophia as called by the Gnostics, Astarte by the Canaanites, Queen of Heaven or Isis by the Egyptians and Ishtar by the Babylonians. She is Mother Gaia or Pachamama called by the shamanic tribes. 

The female principle is present all around us. She is in the water of the oceans where organic lifeforms evolved from; she is in the water of the womb that nurtures the unborn child until it is ready to face the external world.

The female principle is seen everywhere in nature, where mothers take care of their babies and teach them how to survive the external conditions. They would risk their lives under any circumstances to protect their children, as their love is deeper than life itself. To deny this truth would be to deny our own origin as human beings. 

mothers love in nature

There is proof shown by historians and archaeologists, such as G Rachel Levy, J. J. Bachofen or Robert Briffault to name a few, that the ancient civilisations (old Egyptians, Phoenicians and Sumerians among others) and later pagan cultures, worshiped the Goddess in the earliest form of religion, as the first God of the Universe who brought life on this Earth. 

The Earth itself is Gaia: a living organism that breathes and evolves. This is not just mysticism, it is a theory proposed by chemist James Lovelock and co-developed by the microbiologist Lynn Margulis in the 1970s, that includes how the biosphere and the evolution of organisms affect the stability and habitability of the Earth. 

During the last 2500 years, humans have gradually lost this very first connection to Mother Gaia, as the matrifocal communities were gradually replaced by a patriarchal system based on imperialism, colonialism and male-God monotheistic religions that justified wars in his name.

This society is so well spread, normalised and accepted today, that even when those religions can be completely separated from politics, the basic principles of our origins – sexuality and spirituality – are seen as primitive or less evolved. What else could humans be more curious about if not about their own body and where this all came from? 

Nowadays, it feels as if we need to choose between matter or spirit, science or spirituality, mind or soul, logic or intuition, as those could not come together from the same source. For example, we could take a look at the biology of humans to understand how things merge if we go back to the origins. 

During the first weeks in the life of a mammal embryo, it is an indifferent creature with bisexual potential. The chemistry in the embryo will determine whether this will develop in a male or remain female. Why ‘remain’? 

If there is no modification in this chemistry – absence of androgen – the embryo will develop into a female. Only by modification of this female chemistry, i.e. appearance of androgen, the embryo will develop into a male. 

This fact was discovered by Dr Sherfey in 1961, and accepted within the scientific community as the inductor theory: that all mammalian embryos are anatomically female during the early stages of fetal life. 

Now that we understand how we all arose from the same conditions and evolved in different ways, we can see how the ancient people conceived the principle of Nature. In those so-called ‘primitive’ societies, and in some of them surviving up to this date, the role of women was seen as fundamental to the development of the community. 

Women were called life-givers in some native languages: they were the portals that brought souls from the Universe into this world as physical bodies. They were seen as the doorway between the spirit world and the world of matter. For this reason, women were venerated and considered sacred and a representation of the Earth itself through their bodies – with their seasons, changes and carriers of life. 

During this time, women ‘owned’ the land and resources and took care of maintaining harmony and survival. The word ‘own’ is not really accurate, as land or resources were not considered property to exploit but rather a gift from Mother Gaia to respect and transform for the highest good of the community. 

Women were leaders and rulers as their advice and knowledge, especially during menstruation time, was highly respected. In those days, they had the highest intuition and they would talk to the spirits and make decisions that were fundamental for the tribe. They were visionaries and doctors as well, as they gathered and studied all the necessary plants and seeds to cure diseases and to nurture the community. 

People in these societies, both men and women, did not consider themselves as something separated from Nature but instead as part of Nature, like children of Mother Earth. They did not see any alienation and therefore there was no exploitation, because this would have meant an exploitation of themselves and their own children. 

They were part of the Universe and respectively the Universe was part of them, communicating to them, evolving and breathing through them. In the same way Mother Gaia brings life into this world with the help of the rain from the sky, which is actually her own water, women bring life into this world with the help of men that plant the seed in them, but it was believed that the souls were placed in the womb by spirits, by the same force that created the Universe. 

Therefore, sexuality was seen as a sacred act and the origin of all things created in the world. It was celebrated and honoured, enjoyed and respected. Sexuality and spirituality could not be separated from each other as they were intrinsically linked. It was a natural connection for humans to celebrate the miracle of life, the pleasures of the body as a gift from the Goddess to enjoy and embrace. 

They understood the love emanating from Her and they appreciated and worshiped this love by sharing it with others. There was not any fear, shame or guilt in those times, neither oppression towards women and their sexuality. Those consequences came indeed later with the beginning of the big monotheistic male-God religions. 

We tend to see time in our western society as a lineal and logical condition and therefore, everything that occurs or is developed later in time means that it is also more evolved or advanced.

Looking at how humans are polluting the air, exploiting the land and cutting down the rainforest, and how millions of people still today live without having any food to eat, it would be fair to start asking ourselves whether our concept of ‘advanced’ society is really accurate to define the world we live in, while those other cultures are considered ‘primitive’. 

“The Goddess has never been lost. It is just that some of us have forgotten how to find Her.” ~ Patricia Monaghan 

Those ancient societies were anything but primitive. They understood the mysteries of life and how Mother Gaia and her seasons are connected to our very core as humans – as souls on Earth wandering with our physical body, having a spiritual experience that is to be enjoyed and celebrated. 

Image Sources:

Goddess Sohia by Emily Balivet
Jonna Lamminaho Mothers love

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