A man in the group leaned forward and asked, “But how did the Goddess get overcome?” So I told him. Young “warrior heroes” came galloping out of the Russian steppes and the Caucasus Mountains, including Afghanistan, which no one (not even Alexander the so-called Great) has ever conquered. The boys were carrying their thunder-solar-sky gods with them.
I attended a book club at a beautiful metaphysical bookstore a few weeks ago where we discussed the conquest of matrilineal civilizations by the patriarchy. A man in the group leaned forward and asked, “But how did the Goddess get overcome?” So I told him. As my friend Miriam Robbins Dexter writes in her essay in The Rule of Mars, young “warrior heroes” came galloping out of the Russian steppes and the Caucasus Mountains, including Afghanistan, which no one (not even Alexander the so-called Great) has ever conquered. The boys were carrying their thunder-solar-sky gods with them. Those gods included Jehovah, Zeus, Jupiter, and Ares. (Allah arrived later.) Some of these young “heroes” were outlaws “who live[d] at the edge of society and are connected in legend and myth to wolves, dogs, or other animals.” Dexter does not use the term “biker gangs,” but that’s what they were. Testosterone-crazed invaders out to have a good time. They ran over every goddess and temple in their path, and to make themselves seem more legitimate, they “married” former Great Goddesses (like Hera) to their thunder gods (Zeus). Their gods are famous for hurling lightning bolts, enticing their generals to invade peaceful, Goddess-worshipping lands (like Canaan), and populating their new turf via rape, which is how the innumerable sons of Zeus were conceived. More recently, during the last two or three millennia, one of those gods has inspired his prophets and preachers to roar about sin and hell and idol-worship and punishment. The new gods and their carriers thus planted the seeds of warfare in society and its literature. I describe one such invasion in the prologue of Secret Lives, where after a horrific vision that causes her the blind herself, the shaman sends her people out into the world to escape the coming hooligans on their horses and become the secretive, dark “little people” of Europe.
Even though statues and paintings of these gods show them as mature, bearded, enthroned men, they were young and energetic when they first arrived in their new territories of Europe and Asia Minor. Their grandmother was the Great Goddess, also known as the Great Mother or Great Creatrix.
This goddess is Anatolian, but we know of ancient, primal Great Mothers all over the world. In her encyclopedic New Book of Goddesses & Heroines, Patricia Monaghan lists 101 mother goddesses, from Aakuluujjusi (the great creatrix of the Inuit people) to Zywie (a Polish great goddess). Monaghan also lists 75 “ancestral mothers,” including Eve and Sarah, Brigantia, and Neith.
Before Jehovah arrived in Abraham’s camp and spoke to him, the people at the eastern end of the Mediterraneanworshipped Asherah, a Ugaritic mother goddess who gave birth to something like 70 gods. Asherah was, alas, conflated with Astarte, given a sex-change operation in the Old Testament, and turned into a demon named Ashteroth. But Asherah was also worshipped in the temple in Jerusalemfor many, many years. I’m not making this up. Read more about Asherah in The Hebrew Goddess by Raphael Patai. It’s an excellent, well-researched book.
Followers of the standard-brand religions do not like to hear about goddesses. I recently had a very brief Twitter conversation with a Sufi poet. When I mentioned Al-Lat, Al-Uzza, and Menat, he said he’d never heard of them. So I told him they were the trinity of primal goddesses of the Arabian peninsula who were worshipped in Mecca, Medina, and across the desert long before the seventh century, when the Prophet met his god. Al-Lat, in fact, means The Goddess, just as Allah means God. (Do you notice the similarity in their names?) The poet did not reply. (Nevertheless, I think it would be interesting to hear a Sufi voice on this website.)
Actually, I solved the problem of where the gods came from while I was writing Finding New Goddesses and Enthusiamma appeared. Note that the word “enthusiasm” comes from the Greek and means “possessed by a god.” Here is the story the Found Goddess Enthusiasmma told me. (And if you recognize a Terry-Pratchettian influence, good for you.)
Enthusiamma: Goddess of Gods
Scene: The Void. Thunder and lightning. Tossing and heaving and crunching where the seas and mountains would be if there were any seas or mountains, which there aren’t any. Yet.
Voice: Let there be light!
Flickers of light. Sparks. Fade to that grungy dim you get in late November when the sun is skulking behind the clouds and seriously thinking about going on vacation back to, say, mid-July.
Let There Be Light!
Flickers and sparks. The light is trying. It really is.
I said, Let There Be…uh…Mother, may I?
Yes, dear. And be sure to clean up after yourself, there’s Nana’s good boy.
And there is Light.
As far as history cares to tell us, the first man to walk and talk with a god was Abraham, who lived about 1,900BCE. We have goddess figures that date to 25,000 years before Abraham and his god. Enthusiamma is the gods’ grandmother. She is also their mum, auntie, nurse, and governess.
It is a little known fact, but true, that there are only thirteen gods—the son/lover, the time-measuring god, the sun god, the wisdom god, the vegetation god, the war god, the craftsman god, the horned god, the sacrificed god, the underworld god, the monopolist god, the anti-god, and Om the Great, god of everything else. What seems to be a vast multitude of worldwide gods is done with nifty disguises like beards and armor and spears and axes and robes and togas, all of which the gods insist on when they have statues of themselves run up. All gods are nineteen years old. That’s why they love to pillage and rape and hold really great banquets where they quaff mead and soma and chianti. And few things make them happier than a new temple full of vertiginous virgins or a really long parade with really big floats depicting the really good stories about them.
Scene: The summer camp on top of the famous mountain.
…and then, and then, well, I just put on the swan suit and she—
That stupid old swan disguise again? Man, you gotta be kidding. Go for the showeragold. Works for me every damn time.
And then you know what I did? I climbed up that big old tree and hung around, spyin’ on ’em, y’know, till I found—no, till I, y’know, I invented the alphabet! I think I’ll call it roons. Yeah, that sounds good, don’t it.
Sisters are such a royal pain! So I just kept throwing stuff in her, like, bewdwar, and she, like, finally took her stupid mirror and hid in a cave. Why’d we ever invent sisters, anyway? Like, what’ve they got that we don’t got?
An’ I, an’ I—dudes, check this out! I found this board, y’know, and I stood on the pointy end, and held my arms out, and, like, hung ten, and, dudes! I WAS EFFIN’ FLYIN’!
Yeah. Right. ’N’ maybe next time you’ll actually get in the water. Dude.
Don’t bother me, man. I’m eating. You got any more ketchup in there?0
… an’ I went down to my temple the other day and, man, was I stoked! They got tweeters ’n’ woofers to kill for in there. Tunes that’ll knock you out!
I told ’em and told ’em. Don’t worship any body before me, and you know what she said? You know what she said?
She don’t know how to love you?
Shazam! Hey, fellas, look! It finally wfflhnh—
Oh, yeah? Oh, yeah? Well…well…well, Mother always liked you best!
Now I told you boys to settle down. You boys settle down before I have to come in there. You don’t want to make me come in there.
Some days, Enthusiamma is full up to here with gods.
 Miriam Robbins Dexter, “The Roots of Indo-European Patriarchy: Indo-European Female Figures and the Principles of Energy” in The Rule of Mars: Readings on the Origins, History and Impact of Patriarchy, edited by Cristina Biaggi (Knowledge, Ideas & Trends, 2005), 143-49.
 Monaghan, Patricia, The New Book of Goddesses & Heroines, 3rd ed. (Llewellyn Publications, 1997).
 All but the last are described in Janet and Stewart Farrar’s The Witches’ God (Phoenix Publishing Co., 1989). For Om, see Terry Pratchett’s Small Gods (HarperPrizm, 1992), a novel of Discworld.
Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (www.barbaraardinger.com), is a published author and freelance editor. Her newest book is Secret Lives, a novel about grandmothers who do magic. Her earlier nonfiction books include the daybook Pagan Every Day, Finding New Goddesses (a pun-filled parody of goddess encyclopedias), and Goddess Meditations. When she can get away from the computer, she goes to the theater as often as possible—she loves musical theater and movies in which people sing and dance. She is also an active CERT (Community Emergency Rescue Team) volunteer and a member (and occasional secretary pro-tem) of a neighborhood organization that focuses on code enforcement and safety for citizens. She has been an AIDS emotional support volunteer and a literacy volunteer. She is an active member of the neopagan community and is well known for the rituals she creates and leads.
7 thoughts on “Where Did the Gods Come From? by Barbara Ardinger”
Fascinating. It makes more sense than all these ‘modern’ religions. But I still don’t see why people have to have a god. Do slaves have to have a master? Do reasonably intelligent thinking human beings have to have a superior being watching them and directing how they live? Thank god I’m an atheist!
Thanks, John. I’ve know quite a few atheists, some of whom have used their atheism as their gods. Our Goddess is not Up There looking down at us puny mortals. She’s right here with us, growing and learning. Did I ever send you my Found Goddess of Editing? That’s Domineditrix. I invented her, of course.
Reblogged this on Journeying to the Goddess and commented:
This is wonderful and I just had to share it!
Many thanks. It was fun to write. Have you seen my new novel, Secret Lives?
I can see where some of the points made about pagan mythology in this article may be accurate. However, I find the idea that our primitive ancestors had a matriarchal society with a goddess-centered religion is unsupported by historical evidence, improbable, and likely just wishful thinking and over-romanticizing of the past of the sort of thing exemplified in the myth of the “noble savage”. I think we ought to be glad that today we live in a civilized society where we are not pushed around by Alpha males who rule by brute force. Now, another major point I would like to make is concerning Jehovah. Although for grammatical reasons the Bible tends to refer to Hir using male pronouns, it never explicitly calls Hir male or a man, and it also tends to portray Hir as an spirit, rather than a physically anthropomorphic being, which strongly suggests lack of gender. (When Jehovah is described as personal, this refers to spiritual nature. It does not mean that Jehovah has any physical “true form” or permanent body, although Ze is certainly capable of taking on a physical form of either gender.) There maybe a few people out there who worship Jehovah believing Ze is exclusively male, but this is a rather dubious interpretation of the Bible, and I am sure that the majority of Jehovah’s worshipers through history would disagree with it.
I think the important words here are “the idea that our primitive ancestors had a matriarchal society with a goddess-centered religion is unsupported by historical evidence.” All “historical evidence” comes from patriarchal times and sources. This is history written by MEN. There are plenty of “slips of the tongue” and references to the “Ashtoreth” (the old Semitic mother goddess) in the patriarchal Old Testament that clearly show the existence of a goddess-centered religion that preceded patriarchal religion. And, of course, many ARE still being “pushed around by Alpha males who rule by brute force”. What in the world do you think is going on in Syria these days??
Aaron, you’re wrong. So are your faux-nonsexist pronouns. We do have evidence of Neolithic towns where the Goddess was worshipped and men and women were equal. Jehovah is the god of a patriarchal society. What do you mean we live in a society not ruled by alpha males? Do you watch the news? Movies? Are you putting me on??