Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Gods and Goddesses

All the recent talk generated from the post about religion and how it relates to masculinity and femininity reminded me of something.
That post of course concentrated on Catholicism, but that's just a function of my own familiarity with a little part of Christianity.

I was wondering if Deities in other religions had a 'gender' aspect to them, and if so, did this affect the practice of these religions in any way?

In a sense, it shouldn't matter what happens in other religions, where the point of this post is concerned.
Because one really only needs one template for discussions such as these. Unless there is something especially relevant in another religion which would render our template useless.
An example would be if someone could provide examples of a religion where one or more Deities is asexual. That would be interesting. I don't think I have ever come across something like that before.

Our template does not have to be Christianity of course.

Bellita has been educating us all lately about the Deities in Greek mythology with her posts on Heidi Klum and Emma Watson, aka Aphrodite and Artemis.

As far as I know, the Greek Gods and Goddesses (and their Roman equivalents, I might add) were certainly not shy about displaying their gender-specific traits.
In a sense, they could almost be described as the perfect fodder for a parody of male-female interaction.
These guys are us, but like a million years ago :-)

Films like 'Clash of the Titans' and 'Jason and the argonauts' absolutely fascinated me. Sadly they were really my only education about Greek mythology, until Bellita's posts.

But alas, I have to switch back to Christianity for a specific point I would like to make.

The post about God practising 'Game', albeit a joke, made me aware of my inability to escape my own female nature. This little bit of self-awareness changed my outlook on a lot of things.
It helped.

But then I realised something else.
Something which, of all the churches in christendom, is unique to Catholicism.
And that is, the role of the mother of Our Lord.

Catholics hold Our Lady in extremely high esteem.
I grew up with this sense of reverence to Our Lady, being Catholic.
I assumed it was only natural, given I was female and she was a great female role model.
But I never imagined that boys or men could see Our Lady in more or less the same way I saw her.

Catholicism is a Patriarchy. That is undeniable.
But it is also often decribed as a 'Maternal' religion. The 'Mother' religion.
There is a link here to Our Lady.

During the last decade, several Church of England members switched to Catholicism as a rebellious move against the ordination of women priests in the Anglican church.
All of a sudden, there were many more young, handsome guys at Mass than there were the previous months. It was literally raining men at my local parish.
'Keep ordaining those women,' was my silent message to the Anglican Church.
(Don't look at me like that. I like rain :-).

One of the rain droplets surprised me though. For him, it wasn't the ordination of women that had pushed him over the edge, so to speak. He was always a closet catholic born into an Anglican family, I suppose. I guess he was really an outlier.
He had converted to Catholicism because he was really looking for a religious 'Mother-figure'.
This guy had a mother. I didn't get it.

Pope John Paul II had a great love for Our Lady. I am guessing if he hadn't been born catholic, this wouldn't have changed anything. But I understand why, in his case.
His mother died when he was eight years old. He lived with his father unil he too died several years later.

Is this kind of reverence towards a female Deity the basis of 'pedestalisation' when a man falls in love with a woman?
My favourite psychologist thinks so: This is what he says on the matter:

Strange Goddesses:
"I am the Lord Thy God. Thou shalt not have strange gods before me."

Most men have a much harder time with strange goddess than strange gods. These goddesses are strange because they pop up in a man's life as a live woman. They rise up when a man falls, falls in love. "Love" turns an ordinary woman into a goddess whether she wants that transformation or not.

He continues:

The whole psychospiritual journey of a man calls him to dance with the feminine in her many guises, be it mother, lover, his own soul, the feminine face of God. To a man, the feminine is the life force. He is brought life by his mother who nurtures and protects him when he is most vulnerable to forces that can take that life. He dances with his mother from toddler to teenager, unless she is taken from him too soon.

Mother seems the first goddess because she is the life force he came from and the life force that nurtures and protects his own life. She gives life to a child, and if the child is chronically neglected or inadvertently abandoned, the child instinctively knows she has the power to take that life away. She is the creator. She is the higher power.

Mother energy, represents the grace of the life force, freely given without asking. She can be a reflection of the nurturing, protective face of God. Mother energy flowing through a woman carries an unimaginable strength of character, willing to give until her own life force is totally depleted even to death, for the sake of her children. There is no expectation of payback here. In many ways a man's mother can be the embodiment of the feminine face of God, the face of God that exudes unconditional love and nurturing.

So, God has a feminine face, and it is your mother's face.

Charming Disarray reminded us what God himself thought of his own mother.
He couldn't say no to her.

Is this the face of God men can relate to? This feminine version?
As opposed to my masculine version?
Or would this only apply to men who belong to 'Mother' religions?


Anonymous said...


Lots to think about here. As an Anglican, I haven't given Mary much thought. Between you and Bellita, I'm seeing a side of Christianity that isn't particularly familiar.

I'll try to follow along.


Spacetraveller said...


I may be Catholic, but I am confused about a lot of things in my own religion!
I am fumbling through in the dark a bit here.
Let's hope the better informed Catholics, and well... the better informed anyone can shed some light...
By all means follow, but things may go 'bump in the night' a little...not because of ghosts but because I have no torchlight and I don't know where the obstacles are where I am treading :-)

Grasshopper said...

…I think the answer ST is not the effect Mary has on Catholic men but the effect she has on Catholic women. The appeal for men is not in Mary herself but that the laity women have a very revered role model that appeals to men. Not all Catholic women are like that of course.

…To me the whole God thing is a father/son type deal. God does not have a feminine nurturing side to relate to he is father. Father does what he does, has the best interests of the kids at heart and has the role of provider and protector.

…Going back again to our first impressions of God coming in childhood – Mary as God’s mother …. I mean I thought God behaved himself and did good because his mother was right there in heaven watching his every move…. ;-) Kind of like grandma…


Spacetraveller said...

@ Grasshopper,

Wow, I see...
Thank you for that insight.
I never saw it from that angle before.

By inference, there must be similar models in other religions, no?

One thing I do know is that in Islam, the equivalent of Jesus (Isa) is just another prophet, but his mother Maryam (i.e. Mary) is also held in high esteem.
She is actually considered to have conceived Isa through a virgin conception too, so in this sense, Islam is on the same wavelength with Catholicism, more so than with other Christian churches who chose to reject the notion of the Immaculate conception.

During one of the visions at Medjugorje, one of the visionaries asked Our Lady who she thought was the holiest woman in the village, and Our Lady is reputed to have given the name of a Muslim
woman who lived in the village.
And I believe that village was mostly Catholic, with Muslims in the minority.


Food for thought.
Thanks, Grasshopper :-)