In the Jewish and Christian traditions, Wisdom (Hochma in Hebrew, Sophia in Greek) is a female figure who is an aspect of deity. This has been forgotten for many years, but people are beginning to re-discover Her.
There was a time when Power and Good counsel walked hand in hand. That was the springtime of the world. In those days men and women honoured each other and honoured also the living world. The sun, moon and stars, the winds, the waters, and even the rocks themselves were known to be alive. In those days Death was no enemy, but a friend to be welcomed when She made the invitation to visit Her country.
But Good Counsel became pregnant, and Power began to be afraid. He feared first that the coming child would take Good Counsel away from him. And then he feared that their child would so well combine the features of the two of them that it would in due course put him down from his place.
Power devised a plan. He opened his mouth to its widest, and pushed Good Counsel in, swallowing her whole. He now felt free of his fears. He began to claim that all the good counsel in the world now belonged to him, and so he declared that it was only fitting he should rule all the world. Though many opposed his claim, he persuaded, and sometimes bullied, others into believing that this opposition was due to bad counsel. And so, though many grumbled and secretly worshipped elsewhere, he set himself up as ruler of the world.
Though Good Counsel had been swallowed, she remained alive inside Power. Her pregnancy continued, until, unknown to him, she gave birth. The infant found her way in due course to his head, where she emerged fully-grown into the outside world. She was given the name Wisdom. In her struggles to become fully born, she had forgotten her mother’s womb, and thought that she was born from her father alone, and that his head was her place of birth. Because of this, she served him devotedly, teaching humans many skills but demanding that these be used only for his benefit. His control over women and men, over the earth and its creatures, grew and grew, until it was so great that it threatened destruction for all.
Then Wisdom began to see that something was wrong. She asked for advice from many people, although she could not tell what they could say that she did not already know. At last she spoke to an old woman, who said “Is it Good Counsel you are looking for?” “Why, yes,” Wisdom replied, “I would welcome good counsel from anyone”. “Then,” said the old woman “I will tell you what I heard from my grandmother, who heard it from hers, and so the tale has passed down many generations. Good Counsel has been missing from the world since your father swallowed her. And she is your mother who you have forgotten.” Wisdom now knew what to do. She approached Power, who was suffering from a stomach-ache from eating too much of the earth’s substance. She offered him a drink to heal him of his pains. When he had taken it, he began to vomit up that which had made him ill, until at last Good Counsel, the first
being he had swallowed from fear and greed rather than from need, was set free at last.
He looked at her. He looked at his vomit. He saw that what was good and wholesome before he swallowed it had been destroyed because of his greed. He saw that, in being afraid of others, he had made himself lonely; and that through loneliness he had made others into slaves, thinking to force them into love and concern for him. He now realised how much damage he had caused since he swallowed her. Humbly he begged her pardon. She replied that she could only forgive him when he had gone far towards curing the damage he had done.
They both looked at Wisdom, and saw that she combined the best features of both of them. Wisdom looked back, recalling that her parentage did not consist of Power alone, but that Good Counsel too was her parent, and had been missing for much of her life.
Power agreed that he had caused great harm, and that healing the damage was his new task. It was not the work of a day or even of a year. It took many years, even with Good Counsel and Wisdom advising him.
When the task was accomplished, Power discovered that what he had feared and tried to prevent was something to be welcomed. The world was no longer to be ruled by Power, whose dictatorship had led the world close to disaster. Having within her the best of Power and Good Counsel, the new mover and governor of the world was Wisdom.
This is a version of the birth of Athene. When Metis (the name can reasonably be translated as ‘Good Counsel’) was pregnant by Zeus (‘Power’ in my story) it was prophesied that if she had a son he would supersede Zeus. In fear of this he swallowed her. In due course Athene (goddess of Wisdom) was born, and emerged through Zeus’s head. In the play The Furies by Aeschylus (the third part of the Oresteia―the play is also called The Eumenides, a Greek word that means “Kindly Ones”), she has a speech claiming that a child is related only to its father, not its mother, giving as a justification her own birth from a father
In the Jewish and Christian traditions, Wisdom (Hochma in Hebrew, Sophia in Greek) is a female figure who is an aspect of deity. This has been forgotten for many years, but people are beginning to re-discover Her. This discovery in the outside world, and the implications that people are beginning to find in this, gives me hope that She will return to govern the world as in my story.
In the biblical book of Proverbs, it is said (Chapters 8 and 3):
The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, The first of his acts of old…
When he established the heavens I was there…
When he assigned to the sea its limits, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, Then I was beside him …
Her ways are pleasant ways, and her paths all lead to prosperity.
She is a tree of life to those who grasp her, and those who hold fast to her are safe.
And in the biblical Book of Wisdom of Solomon (which is in the Catholic bible, but in Protestant bibles occurs in the texts known as the Apocrypha which are often omitted), we are told:
She is so pure she pervades and permeates all things…
She is but one, yet can do all things; herself unchanging, she makes all things new…
She spans the world in power from end to end, and gently orders all things.
In kinship with Wisdom is immortality, and in friendship with her pure delight.
Daniel Cohen has been active in the Goddess movement in Great Britain for many years, and was co-editor of “Wood and Water”, a Goddess-centred, feminist-influenced pagan magazine which ran for over twenty years. He is particularly interested in how Goddess spirituality can open up new ways of behaviour for men, non-oppressive and using their talents to heal rather than harm. He believes that myths and old stories have great power to shape behaviour, and so a valuable tool for change is to find new stories or to tell old stories in new ways. An illustrated collection of twenty-five stories has recently been published under the title “The Labyrinth of the Heart” (ISBN 978-0-9513851-2-8), and can be ordered from both physical and online bookstores. More can be found on his website at http://www.decohen.com
3 thoughts on “OF POWER, GOOD COUNSEL, AND WISDOM by Daniel Cohen”
Many thanks. for telling this story. Especially today, people need to know about Holy Wisdom.
This is a marvelous telling of the Athene story. Let’s hope the ending you wrote proves prescient.
Mary Grey, who writes from a Catholic perspective, has a lovely nook called “The Wisdom of Fools”.