Wheels of Becoming

One of my favourite Tarot spreads from a metaphysical meditative point of view is Barbara G. Walker’s Wheels of Becoming. These are basically two loops forming a figure 8 or – on its side – the infinity sign. Using only the 21 cards of the Major Arcana they represent the infinite and cyclical nature of existence.

Barbara G Walker, author of “The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets”, placed the origins of the Tarot in India and more specifically the Tantric Tradition. As I understand it key concepts of Tantra spirituality include:

* cyclical time frame
* infinite life cycles
* rebirth / reincarnation
* half of an individual life cycle is spent in life and half in death before being born again
* balance through complementary female-male union (Shakti – Shiva)
* oneness of natural / physical and spirit world, i.e. the Goddess is immanent in all existence (animate and inanimate) and thus all existence contains a spiritual, divine essence or energy.

These are the underlying principles of the Wheels of Becoming.

Tarot - Wheels of Becoming

The starting point of the journey is of course card #0 – The Fool. It lies just after the crossover point of the two loops on the right-hand or clockwise circle.

The right-hand or clockwise loop follows the path of the sun and represents the outward energy of the manifested cycle. It is the cycle of birth into the natural world where energy is contained within a body. It represents outwardness, outbreath, expansion, birth and life. It is the Yang cycle of action and activity. From the point of view of a path to enlightenment this loop represents the outward focus along the journey, the learning of the tools required to achieve enlightenment.

The clockwise loop is lead by #1 – The Magician who is marked with an infinity sign above her head.

The card at the crossover point from right-hand to left-hand loop, a point of standstill, is card #10 – The Wheel of Fortune.

The left-hand or counter-clockwise loop is lead by #11 – Strength, a card that in modern decks has often been exchanged for #8 – Justice. Like the Magician the Strength card is also marked with an infinity sign.

The counter-clockwise loop follows the path of the moon and represents the release of energy from the manifested back to the unmanifested universal energy source, the Goddess. It is the cycle of death and the spirit world. It represents inwardness, inbreath, contraction, death and regeneration. It is the Yin cycle of rest and healing. From the point of view of a path to enlightenment this loop represents the inward focus of reflection along the journey, the rite of intitiation and the ultimate ego-death required to achieve enlightenment.

The crossover card that is laid over The Wheel of Fortune is #21 – The World, leading on to a new cycle with the innocent Fool.

The most interesting aspect of the Wheel of Becoming is that each card in each loop has a corresponding card in the other. The numbers of the two corresponding cards always add up to 20 with exception of the “last” card, #21 – The World. The additional 1 represents rebirth and the return to the clockwise cycle of life with the Goddess giving birth to Her children in the natural world and unmanifested energy becomes yet again contained within a physical body.

The corresponding cards are as follows:

Tarot - Major Arcana relationships

The two loops of the Wheels of Becoming, the principles behind them and the corresponding relationships between the cards on the two loops underlay my exploration of the Sacred Goddess-Inspired Tarot.

Introduction to Goddess-Inspired Tarot

Like astrology the Tarot cards play an important part in most of today’s Western mystery traditions. Simply looking at the 78 picture cards with their ancient symbolism touches a hidden memory deep inside. Some use the cards for self-development and healing while for others they are powerful tools for divination or fortune-telling.

The true history and origin of the Tarot cards is unknown, although we do know that they are the forerunner of today’s standard playing card decks.

There are two quite divided camps with regard to the Tarot’s origins. On the one hand, and I believe this group to be in the majority, there are those people who believe the cards to be around 500 years old. The earliest deck found was in Italy dating back to the 1500s. This was the time of the Italian Renaissance when astrology was still considered a true science and numerology was an exciting new development. Nonetheless the symbolism on the cards feels much older than 16th century christianised Europe. This is exactly the argument of the second group of people who believe that the origins of the Tarot is thousands of years old dating back far into pre-Christian times. Some have suggested that the origins are ancient Egyptian while others believe the secret of the cards was carried by gypsies in oral form all the way from India.

My personal guess is that both groups are partially correct. Having studied ancient Goddess symbolism I recognise these in modern Tarot cards. The wisdom contained in the cards is no doubt much older than 500 years and likely reaches back tens of thousands of years into humanity’s earliest days. It is interesting that the earliest deck found dates back to the witch-burning times. It’s quite possible – as has been suggested by others – that some Pagan and / or other Mystery groups (such as the Knights Templars, Gnostic sects, kabbalistic Jews etc) decided to hide their wisdom within the images that on first glance might even appear Christian in spirit.

Since these early decks, however, the cards and the arrangement of the so-called Major Arcana has changed. The most famous modern deck is the Rider / Waite deck which was commissioned by A.E. Waite in the early 20th century and drawn by Pamela Coleman Smith. Mr. Waite was a member of the London-based secret mystic group “The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn”. Now, the Order of the Golden Dawn is clearly linked to the Freemasons who have always and still do use ancient Goddess symbolism within their secret society. Incidentally, the same is true for Gardnerian Wicca, which due to Gerald Gardner having been a Mason also includes many of the aspects found within Freemasonry. Why Freemasons use Goddess symbolism within their all-male club is anyone’s guess (and much speculation has been made about that!), but that’s another story altogether.

The other major Tarot deck of the early 20th century is Aleister Crowley’s Thoth set, which due to his belief that the Tarot cards originated in ancient Egypt has an Egyptian theme. Like Gardner he also had connections to the Freemasons, which explains his fascination with ancient Egyptian rites. Also, it is interesting to note that the Egyptian god Thoth was the equivalent to the Greek Hermes.

With the Golden Dawn-Freemasonry-Goddess symbolism connection it is difficult to say how exactly the ancient symbols found their way into the cards. Were they placed there recently by those privy to ancient mysteries preserved within secret societies? Or did someone during the times of the witch trials attempt to preserve the ancient wisdom of the Goddess by hiding Her symbols and secrets within a deck of cards? Either way, there they are: after all those many years of being forbidden and even persecuted, the Goddess and Her sacred mysteries continue to exist even today hidden in plain sight in the images of the 78 cards of the Tarot.

Alongside and with assistance of the many amazing Goddess-inspired women-oriented Tarot decks already in existence, this blog will aim to add to the all-important un-covery of the sacred mysteries and womanlore of the Tarot. Over the course of the next few months we will look at each of the 21 cards of the Major Arcana and reveal their inherent Goddess symbolism and origins. Together we will join the innocent Fool on her journey of discovery and her ultimate return to the Goddess, the immanent Mother of all Existence.

wpid-Tarot-1.jpg

On Motherhood and its Ritual Power

Before starting on the Tarot section of this blog, I would like to share a small passage I came across while reading about tribal consciousness in the Americas.

Some of the last remaining matrifocal groups in the world include a number of the Native American tribes. In her book “The Sacred Hoop – Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions” the late Paula Gunn Allen, a Laguna Keres Indian on her mother’s side, beautifully describes many of the differences between the Western or Anglo way of thinking and that of the American Indians. Even after 500 years of contact with patriarchal European culture, the Native Americans have retained their cyclical and ritualistic tribal view of the world.

The following quote from Paula Gunn Allen’s book is so very relevant to the re-discovery of the Goddess and the sacred power of womanhood for it is written from within a matristic mindset. It is so enlightening!

Corn Dawn Mother by Marti Fenton

“The water of life, menstrual or postpartum blood, was held sacred [by pre-contact American Indians]. Sacred often means taboo; that is, what is empowered in a ritual sense is not to be touched or approached by any who are weaker than the power itself, lest they suffer negative consequences from contact. The blood of woman was in and of itself infused with the power of Supreme Mind, and so women were held in awe and respect. The term “sacred”, which is connected with power, is similar in meaning to the term “sacrifice”, which means “to make sacred”. What is made sacred is empowered. Thus, in the old way, sacrificing meant empowering, which is exactly what it still means to American Indians who adhere to traditional practice. Blood was and is used in sacrifice because it possesses the power to make something else powerful or, conversely, to weaken or kill it.

Pre-contact American Indian women valued their role as vitalizers because they understood that bearing, like bleeding, was a transformative ritual act. Through their own bodies they could bring vital beings into the world – a miraculous power unrivaled by mere shamanic displays. They were mothers, and that word implied the highest degree of status in ritual cultures. The status of mothers was so high, in fact, that in some cultures Mother or its analogue Matron, was the highest office to which a man or woman could aspire.

The old ones were empowered by their certain knowledge that the power to make life is the source and model for all ritual magic and that no other power can gainsay it. Nor is that power really biological at base; it is the power of ritual magic, the power of Thought, of Mind, that gives rise to biological organisms as it gives rise to social organizations, material culture, and transformations of all kinds – including hunting, war, healing, spirit communication, rain-making, and all the rest.

At Laguna, all entities, human and supernatural, who are functioning in a ritual manner at a high level are called Mother.

[…]

But its value [that of being a mother] signifies something other than the kind of sentimental respect for motherhood that is reflected in Americans’ Mother’s Day observances. It is ritually powerful, a condition of being that confers the highest adeptship on whoever bears the title. So central to ritual activities is it in Indian cultures that men are honored by the name mother, recognizing and paying respect to their spiritual and occult competence. That competence derives entirely from Mother Iyatiku, and, through her, from Thought Woman [Spider Grandmother] herself.

A strong attitude integrally connects the power of Original Thinking or Creation Thinking to the power of mothering. That power is not so much the power to give birth, as we have noted, but the power to make, to create, to transform. Ritual, as noted elsewhere, means transforming something from one state or condition to another, and that ability is inherent in the action of mothering. It is the ability that is sought and treasured by adepts, and it is the ability that male seekers devote years of study and discipline to acquire. Without it, no practice of the sacred is possible, at least not within the Great Mother societies.” [pg 28 / 29]

NOTE

[1] Anyone who wants to submerge themselves into a tribal often matristic mindset that is ritual-based and has a cyclical rather than linear understanding of time should definitely read fiction and poetry by American Indian writers especially women writers. Two of my personal favourite novels of all times are Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony and Linda Hogan’s Solar Storms. They are both just beautiful and simply make sense.

A New Dawn

Prayer of 7 directions

Look at us, Hear us!

Heart of Heaven, Heart of Earth!

Give us our descendants, our succession,
As long as the Sun shall move!

May the people have peace,
May they be happy!

Give us good life,
Grandmother of the Sun, Grandmother of the Light,
Let there be dawn, let the light come!

– Mayan dawn prayer

From “Grandmothers of the Light – A Medicine Woman’s Sourcebook” by Paula Gunn Allen

A Winter Solstice Story

wintersolstice11

Today is the day of the solstice, the day when the sun appears to be standing still. Here in the northern hemisphere, where I live, it is winter. Today is the longest night of the year, it is a time of darkness, of cold and of rest. However, that is not all that the winter solstice signifies. Just as the dark season has come to its peak, the light is about to return. From now on, although night will continue to rule for a while longer, the hours of darkness will be getting shorter every day to give way to more and more light.

The ancients used to say that on this day of the winter solstice when the sun appears at its lowest point in the sky, the Goddess in Her manifestation as the Moon gave birth to the Sun. It was celebrated as the day of rebirth of the light, the day when the young Sun was born again from the darkness.

This story is so very old and yet continues to stay with us to this day. Most cultures have a story that tells of how at this time of the year during the hours of darkness a mother gives birth to a son. It is no coincidence that in English the words for sun and son sound identical. In German also the word for sun “Sonne” (although female) is clearly related to the word for son “Sohn”. This is the case in most, if not all, Germanic languages.

Today on this beautiful solstice I’d like to talk about one of those stories, the one those of us in the Western world are most familiar with: the Christian nativity myth. Although familiar with the story of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, what most people don’t realise, however, is that the story is neither unique nor only 2,000 years old. It is one of many many stories in which the Goddess as virgin gives birth from within Herself to a life form that although part of Her is quite different to Her.

Although essentially a solstice story, the birthgiving by the mother to a usually male infant has another broader meaning as well. Let us look at that one first.

The Mother who represents the immortal Goddess as Mother Nature gives birth to a child who symbolises all mortal existence in the universe. The Goddess Herself is the Great Spirit, the universal immortal energy source of all and everything. The Greeks described this permanent aspect of nature as “zoe”, while the Egyptians knew it as “Ka”. Her infant child, on the other hand, represents the transient, finite aspect of nature (known as “bios” to the ancient Greeks and “Ba” to the Egyptians). He stands for all the different individual mortal life forms in existence. The child is usually described as male (i.e. different to his mother) in order to symbolise the great variety of life that Mother Nature gives birth to. His infancy represents his and thus our inherent dependency and connection to the Goddess as Nature. As one of the many life forms in existence we are one with all other life, be they plants, insects or even other mortal creations such as a new star. As the baby is one with his mother so are we one with the Goddess who is immanent in all and everything in existence. This basic truth is always present and represented pictorally in all mother-son myths throughout the ages.

The solstice myth, more specifically, deals with the events that are taking place at this time of year. From our vantage point on Earth it appears that throughout the year the sun moves from being overhead in summer to being barely above the horizon in the winter. It seems that as the year wanes so does the sun become weaker.

Many cultures imagine the Sun as a male figure who is born at the winter solstice, grows up and matures throughout the year until he ages and dies at the end of the year only to be born again as an infant at the winter solstice. [1] In these stories his mother is generally the Moon, for our ancient foremothers and fathers knew that all existence comes from the dark primordial seas of the universe and the Moon with Her close connection to water was seen as Mistress of the Dark Watery Abyss of the Night Sky. The Moon is one of the main manifestations of the Goddess. And so the ancients pictorally told the story of how every year at the winter solstice the Goddess as Moon gave birth to Her son, the Sun.

The essence of this story has to this day been captured and retained in the Nativity Story.

First of all, the story takes place on December 25th. Based on the Julian calendar this was the day after the solstice (December 21st + three days of standstill + the day after).

Secondly, the story takes place at nighttime in a dark corner of a barn or stable and in some versions a cave. This is a very important aspect of the myth, as with all the solstice stories it signifies the rebirth of the young Sun from the darkness.

Mary, although hidden in plain sight, quite clearly is the ancient Goddess Herself. Like all the Great Mother Goddesses before Her She is Goddess of the Sea and the Moon. Her name in Latin is Maria, which is derived from “mare”, the sea. Mary is often depicted sitting on a moon crescent wearing a blue dress – the colour of the sky and the sea. Her pose with Her baby in Her arms is reminiscent of Isis and baby Horus. She wears the mural crown of Cybele and Diana and is often depicted with the Gorgon mask on Her breast.

Mary is Virgin – before, during and after the birth of Her child. As was the case with the Goddess’s more ancient manifestations rather than Mary’s virginity signifying Her castity it really symbolises Her power to create new life from within Herself without having had intercourse with a man.

According to some version’s of the myth Mary was impregnated by the Holy Ghost. Today many people understand the Holy Ghost to be synonymous with the Hebrew god Yahweh, however, that it quite wrong. In the original script the Holy Ghost was Hokhmah, wisdom, which is female in Hebrew. Translated into Greek, wisdom became Sophia, also female. Only in the Latin translation did wisdom change from the female Hokhmah / Sophia to the male Spiritus Sanctus. To this day the Holy Ghost retains Her emblem, the dove, a very ancient symbol of the Goddess. As the Goddess as Wisdom as Hokhmah as Sophia as the Holy Ghost impregnated Mary in Her mortal form, the Goddess essentially impregnated Herself, just as She always did throughout the ages!

Mary is

– “the Mother of God”
– “Great Mother of Life and Death”
– “Queen of Heaven, Earth and the Underworld”
– “Goddess of Animals and Plants” [2]
– “Goddess of Wisdom of the Soul”.

She is Stella Maris, the “Star of the Sea”.

Mary is Goddess of the Crescent Moon when She gives birth to Her son. She is Goddess of the Full Moon when She mothers Her child. Mary is Goddess of the Dark Moon when She mourns Her son for three days.

The divine child, baby Jesus, who represents both transient life as well as the rebirth of the Sun at the winter solstice, is “Sol Invictus”, the Unvanquished Sun. He is divine in the same way as all of the Goddess’s creations are divine, including every bug, every weed as well as every human being.

The star of Bethlehem that features so prominently in the story has always been sacred to the Goddess. It is the evening star, the planet we call Venus which is sacred to Inanna of Sumer, Astarte of Canaan, Aphrodite of Greece, Venus of Rome and many other guises of the Goddess all across the globe. Similarly, Sothis, the star known to us as Sirius, is sacred to Isis in Egypt.

And finally the three wise men are symbolic of the three phases of the Moon and are therefore also sacred to the Goddess. They follow Her star, they travel long distances to pay homage to the miracle of the Great Mother Goddess giving birth to new life. They pay homage to the rebirth of the Sun.

“The Virgin has brought forth! The light is waxing!”

Happy Solstice and Blessed Be! xxx

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NOTES

[1] Other cultures imagine two alternating male enities – the god of light who is born at the winter solstice and dies at the summer solstice and his brother, the god of darkness, who is born at the summer solstice and dies at the winter solstice. According to Robert Graves the ancient Celts knew these two brothers as the Oak and Holly Kings.

[2] Mary is revealed as such by giving birth in a barn / stable surrounded by the animals.

[3] My primary resource for this article was “The Myth of the Goddess – Evolution of an Image” by Anne Baring and Jules Cashford.

Pisces – The Fish or Dolphins – February 19 to March 20

“Pisces – sign of compassion and empathy –
has great psychic depth
with deep-felt sensitivity.
She’s peaceful and loving, taking all the way they are.
She’s an artist and romantic,
a giving carer – outstanding by far.”
– by Silvestra Silvermoon

Goddess Symbolism

The age-old symbol of the Fish is well known even in modern times. It is associated with Jesus Christ and Christianity and represents good fortune when encountered in fairy tales. But where does it actually come from and why are fish linked to good luck?

A long time ago during the Stone Age there lived a group of people along the Danube river in the region of today’s Serbia. Archaeologists have named them the Lepinski Vir culture. These people lived by and from the river. It sustained them with its water and its constant supply of fish. To the Lepinski Vir people the river and its fish meant life. The Danube river was the Great Mother who fed and watered them. And to honour Her, they built statues along the river shore. [1]

Archaeologists have found many statues made from natural egg-shaped river boulders. They have great staring eyes and fat-lipped gaping mouths. They are the image of the Great Mother of the Lepinski Vir culture – they are the image of the Fish Goddess who brings life and sustenance to Her people.

Some of the statues are all fish, some are human-fish hybrids. One even has human breasts. Many of the statues have bird feet etched into the sides, connecting the life-giving Fish Goddess to Her death-bringing aspect, the Bird Goddess. Some statues also show labyrinths on the body, representing the winding waters beneath the earth, which are governed by the Snake Goddess.

These three aspects of the Great Goddess – fish, bird and snake – encompass the Wheel of Life.

The Fish Goddess is the Birth Giver, and like the embryo swims inside its mother’s womb so signifies the fish the beginning of life. The symbol of the fish is linked to birth and fertility. Its shape resembles the womb and, more clearly, the vulva. It is often drawn as two thin crescent moons facing each other, forming a pointed oval shape, sometimes with one of the points overlapping and crossing over to form a fish shape. This emblem is known even today as the Vesica Piscis. It clearly shows the link between the The Fish Goddess and the Moon. Like the Fish Goddess Herself it is linked to early spring, new shoots and baby animals.

Unlike the Fish Goddess, the Bird Goddess is the Bringer of Death. The people who lived along the Danube river left their dead outside, most likely on specially designed platforms, in order for their remains to be picked clean by birds to facilitate the person’s journey back to the Goddess. This custom prevails even today in parts of the world. The Bird Goddess is linked to the Upper Waters, the Sky. Long ago our foremothers and fathers understood the blue sky to be made of water, which would occasionally drip down in the form of rain. The bird to them was related to the fish, as both “swim” through water: the bird uses its wings to navigate the Upper Waters, while the fish uses its fins to “fly” through the Lower Waters.

The Snake Goddess and Her emblem the labyrinth is the Regeneratrix. She governs the waters beneath the earth that wind around like a serpent. The labyrinth represents the path to the Otherworld and the Mysteries of the Goddess. It symbolises the time of renewal and regeneration that takes place between death and rebirth.

With that in mind the egg-shaped statues with faces like fish, claws like birds and the meandering lines of the labyrinth depict the neverending cycle of death, regeneration and rebirth. These statues represent the Great Goddess in Her many guises:

– She is Mistress of the Upper and Lower Waters.
– She is Goddess of Heaven, Earth, Water and the Underground.
– She is Goddess of the Above and Below.
– She is Goddess of Fertility, Birth, Life, Death and Regeneration. She is Goddess of the Neverending Cycle of Life and Death. She is the Great Goddess of All Existence.

The Fish Goddess as the Bringer of Life and Fertility is truly the Bringer of Good Fortune, which, as said above, has remained with us in disguise within our fairy tales, where the fisherman who catches the lucky fish is rewarded with great riches. The same imagery is retained in the mystical Mermaid who lives at the bottom of the sea and has the upper body of a woman and the lower body of a fish. She is the Virgin of the Sea, the Great Goddess again in disguise. We will find out a little bit more about mermaids further down.

The Goddess as Fish is not just limited to Central Europe. All over the world the Great Goddess is linked to the sea, to water and fish.

In China She is Kwan-yin. In India the Dark Goddess Kali is also known as “the fish-eyed one”. In Egypt it was a fish who swallowed Osiris’ phallus to symbolise regeneration. In West Africa She is Yemaya, Goddess of the light upper part of the ocean, and Olokun, Goddess of the dark bottom of the ocean. Both are usually depicted as mermaids.

Along the east Mediterranean the fish became the dolphin, which until about 2,000 years ago was a common sight in the region.

The Minoans on Crete have left behind some of the most beautiful dolphin frescos. They are bright and colourful and almost cartoon-like in their artistry. It is fascinating to think that they were drawn over 3,000 years ago! Unfortunately the Minoans didn’t leave many written records and those that have been discovered have not yet been deciphered. So we don’t know for sure what meaning the dolphins had to the Cretans, but based on Greek mythology we can assume that they were sacred to them as an emblem of the Goddess.

Over the waters in ancient pre-olympian Greece the Goddess Eurynome was said to have danced over the sea creating order from chaos. One of Her children was Themis, one of the original Titan Goddesses and later Goddess of Order. Themis was once known as a Fish Goddess. She was the Keeper of the Oracle of Delphi, the Navel of the World. This very fact gives away Her fish origins: In Greek “delphis” means dolphin, whereas the very same word spelled with a “y”, i.e. “delphys”, means womb. It clearly shows the connection between the fish symbol and the womb of the Goddess. (Note, obviously we now know that dolphins aren’t fish but mammals, but chances are that our foremothers and fathers saw them as fish plus they sure look like fish.) This connection to the womb also explains why Delphi was thought of as the Navel of the World. Themis as Fish Goddess, as Dolphin Goddess, was the original Mermaid in European mythology, a symbolism to be shared with later Aphrodite.

Aphrodite as we know Her today is a shadow of Her former and real self. She is so much more than just the Goddess of Love and Beauty!

Aphrodite is the Great Goddess of the Sea. She is the Queen of the Mermaids with Her fish tale and yonic comb that symbolises great riches and good fortune. Like all Fish and Sea Goddesses She is also Goddess of the Moon. This Moon connection is captured in the traditional long-handled hand mirror that Aphrodite as mermaid holds in Her hand. It represents the Moon and the reflectiveness of water. Aphrodite’s mirror would later be adopted by Roman Venus and become immortalised as the symbol for planet Venus as well as the sign for “female”.

The name Aphrodite is generally taken to mean “foam born” (aphro = foam, dite = born). However, according to The Amazon Nation “dite” with the meaning of born can’t be traced further back than Aphrodite Herself. The origin of Her name therefore lies somewhere else outside of Greece. In Chaldea, south eastern Mesopotamia, a Goddess similar to Artemis in nature was known as “Aphradah” which means “She Who Subdues Wrath” (aph = wrath, radah [f] = to subdue). It is likely that these are the origins of Aphrodite’s name.

Aphrodite was brought via the sea to the island of Cyprus (or Kypros) by Middle Eastern women, who established the matrifocal and matristic colony of Paphos there. Note how according to Greek myth Aphrodite’s birth place is said to be just off the coast of Paphos on Cyprus.

The Goddess Aphrodite was known all across the ancient Middle East by different names:

In Egypt She was Ay-Mari.
In Persia She was Anahita “The Immaculate One” and Esther “The Star”.
In Canaan She was Hadusah “Myrtle” for their star-shaped flowers. Still under the Greeks the myrtle was sacred to Aphrodite. In Her honour sometimes the clitoris was called myrtle berry. The Canaans also knew Her as Asherah and Astarte. She was Warrior, Mother, Queen of Heaven, Sea Goddess, Measurer of Time and Alotter of Fate. [2]
In Babylon She was Ishtar.
In Sumer, Her (as far as we know) earliest manifestation, She was Inanna.

According to Classical Greek mythology Aphrodite is said to have risen from the sea after Uranus’ testicles fell into the water thus fertilising Mother Sea. Aphrodite’s birth therefore represents the separation of heaven and earth, but here in this patriarchal version of the myth unlike Her alter ego Inanna She is no longer the Mother Goddess of Heaven and Earth, but is merely the daughter of a father.

According to a lesser known birth story Aphrodite’s origins lie in the Euphrates river in Mesopotamia, where an egg fell from the sky into the water. This is likely to refer to a meteorite, as many Goddesses were represented by them. This egg was then brought to shore by a fish, symbolising the Goddess as Sea, and was warmed by a dove, another vulva symbol, until She finally hatched. [2]

Aphrodite is a Sea Goddess. She has many sacred emblems, but the ocean and dolphins are particularly dear to Her. The Vesica Piscis is one of Her signs, showing Her again as Goddess of the Sea and the Moon.

One of Her early incarnations was Moira “The Strong One”, one of the Fates. Later this would be changed to Mari, the Sea, and attached to Her name as in Aphrodite-Mari. Mari was also a name of an ancient Sumerian town, revealing yet again Aphrodite’s Middle Eastern origins. The Virgin Mary, who has adopted many of Aphrodite’s emblems continues to be known as Stella Maris “Star of the Sea” and even the name Mary is reminiscent of Mari.

Like the ancient Stone Age Goddess, the net is sacred to Aphrodite. She wears it as a robe or over a skirt.

Fridays were Her special day, when people would eat fish to honour Her life-giving essence, hoping for lovemaking and fertility (cf. aphrodisiac). This rite would later be adopted by Christians minus the sexual aspect.

On Paphos the rites of Aphrodite were celebrated on the cusp of spring under the sign of Pisces. Again, this reveals Her connection to the ancient Neolithic Fish Goddess. Spring is the season Aphrodite is connected with. Interestingly, the ram with his spiral horns also belongs to Her (cf. in astrology both the sign of the Fish and that of the Ram are spring signs).

It is due to Aphrodite’s connection to the Neolithic Fish Goddess, the Great Giver and Sustainer of Life, that we can understand the origins of Aphrodite’s Hellenic denomination as Goddess of Love and Beauty. While She once was the embodiment of new birth and new life, of springtime and renewal, of basically the life-giving aspect of nature itself, as humanity moved further away from Mother Nature and natural law, this life-giving essence of Her would be reduced to meaning romantic love and sex only.

Unlike Aphrodite, Pisces, the sign of the Fish, retains its Great Goddess symbolism: it is the sign of the Primordial Watery Womb, the Great Goddess of the Sea, the Bringer of Life and Fertility, of Early Springtime, Pregnancy and (Re)birth. Due to the Precession of the Equinox the dates of the sign are likely to have been early February, probably falling on the Holy Day of Imbolc, the Festival of Purification and Cleansing, of Early Lambing and the First Signs of Spring [3].

Pisces’ Traits and Characteristics

Pisces is most certainly one of the most misrepresented signs of the zodiac. Traditional western astrology just doesn’t understand Pisces’ incredible gifts and discards a whole host of amazing people as basically “washed out, weak substance abusers”. This couldn’t be further from the truth and it’s high time the record were set straight!

First of all remember that Pisces, the sign of the Fish, is closely connected to the Goddess as Life Bringer and Nurturer. The fish to this day symbolises good fortune, which explains why the original Piscean ruler was Jupiter, the planet of luck, youthful exuberance and opportunities. Although modern astrology has transferred Piscean rulership to the much darker Neptune, it is vitally important to remember Jupiter’s original influence on Pisces to truly understand the motivations of this sign. So far from being victims and martyrs who sacrifice themselves for the good of others, Pisceans are actually good natured, happy people who choose (!) to share their kind-heartedness with those around.

The other important thing to remember when trying to understand Pisceans is their watery nature. Never ever underestimate the strength of water! It will never break, but always flows around obstacles, apparently making way for more solid objects. However, after a time even the hardest rock gets worn down by the strength and energy of flowing water. And it is this very strength through adaptability combined with their giving and compassionate nature that enables many Pisceans to do something most of us couldn’t cope with: taking care of the most unfortunate souls inside health and mental institutions. Most of us would break under the emotional strain of such an emotionally difficult task, and yet Pisceans are able to do this day in day out. Is it really so surprising that they occasionally need to withdraw to recharge their batteries? I think not. There is nothing “fragile” about a Piscean!

Overall Pisceans are happy, playful souls that enjoy living life to the full. They are kind and generous with a sensitive, sympathetic heart. But that is not what makes Pisceans so unique. The special gift that Pisceans have been bestowed upon is their almost uncanny empathy. They are so deeply intuitive and insightful they can make psychic connections with others and “see” things most of us are blind to. They can almost read other’s thoughts and are most certainly able to put themselves into anyone else’s shoes. As empaths who are gifted with great sensitivity they can’t avoid absorbing the emotions of others. Some say that by taking on the negative energies of other people, Pisceans are able to liberate them from their troubles. This can be quite overpowering and exhausting for the Piscean. Again, it is not surprising that at times they require solitude and / or choose to indulge in their imagination and fantasy in order to revitalise themselves. Besides, is imagination, fantasy and dreams such a bad thing? Once upon a time those blessed with such abilities were revered as wise women, priestesses, druids, shamans, bards and, of course, (even today) as artists and storytellers.

Pisceans are understanding and totally non-judgemental of others. They are all embracing and accepting of different kinds of people. Due to their open-mindedness Pisceans are often described as being somewhat elusive and difficult to pin down. This is only so, as they can see and understand all sides of a story. As far as Pisceans are concerned we are all one, we are all connected. Pisceans are possibly the most spiritual of all the signs.

Pisceans have a wonderful imagination, they are very much in tune with their unconscious, dreamy side. They are romantic, creative and poetic and make the most amazing artists and actresses / actors. Due to their perceptiveness and empathy they can mimic and mirror others easily.

Pisceans are exceptionally well equipped to cope with chaos. This might not sound like much, but most people get quite upset when things aren’t in their ordered places. It is this ability to take chaos in their stride that Pisceans are able to learn new things so easily.

Pisceans are quite unique individuals. They neither like rigid structures nor can they stand their personal freedom being hampered. They are quite independent and despite what traditional astrology would like you to believe are perfectly capable of self-control and self-direction.

Pisceans are warm and sensual people. They are charming and have a way with words.

One of Pisces’ traits that is often expressed in a negative way is their self-lessness, their devotion. They are neither ego-centric nor ego-driven, something that our society can’t comprehend (although this is changing) and those in the far East try to attain over many years of training.

Pisceans are persisting yet able to adapt to whatever life throws at them. They may need a recess, but will never stay down. Like water Pisceans are incredibly resilient  Yours is a sign to be proud of!

In summary Piscean women (and men) are:

– empathetic
– sensitive
– receptive
– psychic
– mediumistic
– spiritual
– almost able to read minds
– absorbing

– fluid
– flexible
– adaptive
– versatile
– with a love for change

– non-judgemental
– all embracing
– accepting
– sympathetic
– understanding
– with belief in wholeness and universality
– with belief that we’re all one and interconnected

– laid back
– easygoing

– benevolent
– humanitarian
– compassionate
– generous
– nurturing
– kind
– caring
– patient
– giving

– self-less
– modest
– not ego-centric
– not ego-driven

– devoted
– generating
– perserving yet adaptive

– curious
– seeking answers
– always learning

– peaceful

– dreamy
– visionary

– responsive

– introspective
– intuitive
– with great foresight
– with great emotional depth
– insightful
– with retentive memory

– subtle
– elusive
– difficult to pin down
– independent
– with dislike of structured situations

– non-conforming
– not able to “fit into square hole”
– original
– innovative

– exuberant
– playful
– idealistic
– resonant
– sociable
– with zest for life
– with love for pleasure
– with love for a good time
– with great sense of humour

– beautiful

– imaginative
– creative
– gifted with vivid and lively language skills
– expressive
– artistic
– poetic
– romantic
– able to mirror and mimic others

– sensual
– warm
– charming
– loving

– able to cope with chaos
– able to multi-task
– resilient
– self-controlled
– self- directing
– with personal integrity
– courageous

– drawn to the sea

Pisces is a mutable Water sign that is ruled by Olokun, Goddess of Dreams and the Dark Realms of the Unconscious. Pisces’ previous ruler was Artemis, the Maiden of the Silver Bow.

Pisces is associated with lavender, turquoise, sea greens and watery colours.

Within the body Pisces is linked to the feet.

Piscean qualities are most prominent when the Sun, the Moon or the Ascendant (Rising Sign) are in the sign of the Fish.

NOTES

[1] These could very well be the origins of the Celtic Mother Goddess Danu who is connected to the river Danube and is the Bringer of Good Luck and Fortune for Her children, the Tuatha de Danaan.

[2] See The Amazon Nation

[3] Part of Aphrodite’s rites in early spring was the cleansing of the Goddess in order to wash away the traces of winter and to renew and regenerate Her virginity (here likely to represent the youthfulness of early spring).

Aquarius – The Water Pourer – January 20 to February 18

“Aquarius – sign of revolution and social change –
is an innovator and reformer
with talents of the broadest range.
She’s objective and free-thinking,
unconventional and unique in every way.
Her focus is towards people,
her aim for social justice : a reality to stay.”
– by Sivestra Silvermoon

Goddess Symbolism

At first it might seem strange to find that Aquarius, the sign of the Water Pourer, is an Air rather than a Water sign. In order to discover the reason why this is so and why it makes perfect sense, we need to look yet again way back to the Palaeolithic or Old Stone Age.

All through the ages our ancestors knew that all life on this planet originated in water. Water is the source of life, the Mother of all existence. Water represents birth, life and, of course, fertility. The Goddess as Mother Nature Herself is the Mistress of Water. It pours from Her dark earthly womb, it falls as nourishing rain from the sky like milk from a mother’s breasts.

The Goddess as Mistress of Water is Queen of the Upper and Lower Waters. Long ago our foremothers and fathers believed the blue sky like the blue sea to be made of water. These Upper Waters nourish life on Earth by pouring down in the form of rain. The Lower Waters are all water on Earth – the oceans, lakes, rivers as well as underground springs.

Aquarius, the Water Pourer, is linked to the Upper Waters or the Sky. When She pours the water from Her jugs rain falls on Earth. Essentially Aquarius symbolises the nourishing rain itself.

Why the jars?, you might ask. Like water itself, the cup or vessel is inherently linked to the Goddess. She gives birth over and over to new life. And like the amniotic fluid water nourishes Her children in all their guises and gushes forth from Her dark earthen womb.

Symbolically the vessel, cup, jar or vase represents the womb of the Goddess. It symbolises fertility, birth and life.

Like the Goddess women also give birth to new life and nourish their children from their bodies. They are inherently linked to the Goddess, nature and the sacred vessel that holds the water of life. In later legends the sacred vessel, the womb of  the Goddess, would become the Holy Grail, the quest for whose discovery essentially symbolises the return to the Mother.

During the Neolithic or New Stone Age jugs were often made in the shape of breasts with nipples instead of spouts. These clearly combined the womb-shaped vessel with the nourishing breasts of the Mother. Water was understood to be sacred and vital to life.

Interestingly, even today we still use funeral urns to bury the deceased. The urn, which also represents the womb of the Goddess, symbolises the return to Her body for regeneration and renewal.

The specific image of the Water Pourer in mythology can be traced to three places in particular: Egypt, Greece and Sumer.

While originally both water and the vessel were clearly linked solely to the Goddess, at some point during the Neolithic when through the development of farming the contribution of the male in reproduction became increasingly apparent, fresh water – especially in the drier regions of the Middle East and North Africa – would increasingly be represented by the Goddess’s son.

In ancient Egypt the god Hapi was the personification of the Nile flooding. Remaining images of Hapi show him as a hermaphrodite. He has the face and goaty beard of a man and the pendulous breasts and pregnant belly of a woman. Clearly at some point Hapi was the Great Goddess Herself, but as time moved on and the Egyptians became increasingly patriarchal, the inundation of the Nile came to be represented by a male god with a female body.

Hapi symbolises running water, his breasts and pregnant belly stand for the fertility the water brings. He is blue-green, often carries a tray with food and pours water from two large jugs or vases. The image of a male water pourer was readily adopted by the Greeks and Romans.

Across the desert in ancient Sumer the origins of Aquarius lie with the Goddess Gula, the Great One. She is described as a Goddess of Healing, but on closer inspection it becomes obvious that the healing that Gula gifts upon the Earth is that of the nourishing rain and fresh water floods that turn the dry land green again.

Ancient records describe Her as:

“Lady of Health”
“Great Healer”
“Great Healer of the Land”
“Great Healer of the Black-Headed One”
“Herb Grower”
“The Lady Who Makes the Broken Up Whole Again”
“The Lady Who Creates Life in the Land”

Gula is also said to have a violent side which She exhibits in the form of rain and thunderstorms:

“Queen Whose Temper, Like a Raging Storm, Makes Heaven Tremble and the Earth Quake”

Gula was linked to the Great Flood and is often depicted with dogs by Her side.

Later accounts describe Gula in the form of Mul Gula as being a male Water Pourer who is immortalised in the constellation of  Aquarius. However, essentially the male Mul Gula is the same image as Enki, the Sumerian Lord of Fresh Water, who is often depicted pouring water from two jugs. (See “Capricorn“).

In ancient pre-hellenic Greece the Goddess of Rain and Springtime was Hebe. She is the Maiden aspect of pre-Hellenic Hera. According to Patricia Managhan (see www.owlsdaughter.com) Hebe’s most ancient name was actually Ganymeda, a name that in its male form Ganymede would eventually be given to the handsome Trojan youth who would replace Her in later Olympian Greek mythology. In Rome Hebe was known as Juventa, the Goddess of Youth (cf. re-juvenate, juvenile).

Pre-hellenic Hebe is the Maiden Goddess of the Moon. She is Goddess of Springtime and Rain. She represents youth, new growth, new beginnings and new promise.

Far back in the earliest times Hebe simply symbolised the nourishing spring rain, the divine source of water that brings with it the return of fertility and the renewal of the land. Like the ancient palaeolithic and neolithic Goddess, Hebe is Mistress of the Upper Waters. As late as ancient Greece this is described pictorially as Hebe being the Divine Cupbearer who pours ambrosia, the nectar of immortal youth, from Her sacred vessel, the representation of Her womb and breasts. This magical nectar symbolises fertility. For us humans it comes in the form of the moon-blood with which She blesses her daughters, while for the land and the vegetation Hebe’s ambrosia takes the form of rain.

Like Hebe and the Great Stone Age Mother Goddess before Her, Aquarius is the Divine Source of Water, the Water of Life, the nourishing rain. By rights the Divine Water Pourer should really be in its female form “Aquaria” for it is She who is Mistress of the Upper Waters.

Aquarius’s Traits and Characteristics

True to their Airy nature Aquarians are mentally agile and broad-minded. Like their Gemini and Libran sisters they are objective and non-judgemental.

Aquarians are outgoing and outward-focused. They are social creatures that count many different types of people as their friends. Aquarians are very attractive with a natural quite electrifying magnetism. They are fiercely independent and won’t be told how to act or what to think by anybody. Aquarians are unique and self-reliant. They are in fact quite the trend-setters.

Aquarians have a vast array of interests. They can be found in almost all walks of life, provided it is within a mentally stimulating environment. Many Aquarians are attracted to subjects such as philosophy and politics, but can also be found in high tech laboratories and orgnisations such as NASA. Aquarians are forward-thinking and quite futuristic. They are very clever and have a scientific approach to life: they are logical, impartial and systematic.

Aquarians are private individuals who despite their outgoing persona are reserved when it comes to sharing their inner most feelings. That doesn’t mean, though, that they don’t have them! They are open and affectionate with their chosen loved ones.

Aquarians are essentially rebels. They are unconventional and unorthodox and are not afraid to rock the boat. They are opinionated and outspoken and are fiercely against inequalities, hierarchies and privileges for the few. Aquarians are not the sort of people that will just stand by and grumble over unfairnesses, but will actually get up and do something about them. It is thanks to exactly these Aquarian traits in our foremothers that in most parts of the world women today are able to vote and are no longer considered their father’s or husband’s chattel. It is also thanks to Aquarian personalities that racial segregation in the US was finally outlawed just over half a century ago.

Aquarians are very good with words. They are honest, truthful and authentic and make wonderful public speakers and writers.

One of the interesting things about Aquarians is their dual nature. On the one hand they are an Air sign that is versatile and broad thinking. It is their Airy nature that strives for change in order to bring about a betterment for humanity. On the other hand, though, Aquarians are a fixed sign, which is all about being steady and maintaining the status quo. This expresses itself in their natural reliability and conscientiousness. Aquarians, although always striving for change on the outside, have steady and reliable characters on the inside. This duality makes them fascinating and outstanding individuals.

In summary Aquarian women (and men) are:

– humane
– ethical
– with social conscience

– social reformers
– with pure and impartial care for humanity
– revolutionary
– striving for social justice
– humanitarian
– reformers
– idealistic
– egalitarian
– fair
– with a dislike for hierarchy and privilege

– inventive
– experimental
– mentally creative
– able to make new connections between old givens
– looking at something with a fresh eye
– able to see the big picture
– able to see all sides to a story
– able to turn dreams into concrete ideas

– scientific
– systematic
– thorough

– unique
– original
– outstanding

– unconventional
– shaking up the norms
– rule-breaking
– often rebellious when young
– iconoclastic
– radical
– unorthodox

– authentic
– truthful
– honest
– principled
– sincere

– dependable
– conscientious

– firm
– resolute
– bold
– opinionated with strong likes and dislikes
– self-respecting
– strong-minded
– outspoken

– sympathetic towards outsiders

– broad-minded
– free-thinking
– versatile

– reserved
– private
– aloof
– self-reliant
– fiercely independent
– with enjoyment for solitude
– freedom-loving

– intellectual
– clever
– fast-thinking
– sharp-minded
– mentally agile
– curious

– thoughtful
– reasonable
– logical
– head over heart
– objective
– impartial
– observant
– detached
– rational
– making up their own minds based on facts

– with electrifying magnetism
– highly strung

– playful with words

– focused on social group
– in preference for social rather than personal relationships
– outgoing
– service-oriented
– co-operative
– friendly

– forward-thinking
– futuristic
– with love for technology
– progressive

Aquarius is a fixed Air sign that is ruled by Oya, the Wind of Change, the Goddess of Revolution.

Aquarius is associated with electric blue, turquoise and aquamarine.

Within the body Aquarius is linked to the the lower leg, especially the ankles, and the circulatory system.

Aquarian qualities are most prominent when the Sun, the Moon or the Ascendant (Rising Sign) are in the sign of the Water Pourer.

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