America’s Two National Goddesses by Barbara Ardinger


I bet almost no one knows this secret: the United States is being watched over by two goddesses! One of them stands on top of the Capitol dome in Washington, D.C. The other stands on an island in New York harbor.

The goddess standing above our congressional building is named Libertas, or Freedom. She’s a Roman civic goddess whose sisters are Concordia and Pax. Although the Romans hardly ever experienced freedom, civic harmony, or peace, they always kept their eyes on the possibilities. Libertas was sometimes merged with Jupiter, sometimes with Feronia, who was originally an Etruscan or Sabine goddess of agriculture or fire. In Rome, Feronia became the goddess of freed slaves. Libertas is shown on Roman coins as a matron in flowing dress and wearing either a wreath of laurel leaves or a tall pilleus, which is called a “liberty cap” and looks like a witch hat without the brim. And there’s also a bird—is it a raven?? She holds either a liberty pole (vindicta) or a spear, and in some paintings of her (she was a popular subject in the 19th century) there is a cat at her feet.

Because the late 18th century is sometimes referred to as the Augustan Age (for classicism in architecture, literature, and art and named after the first Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus), the Roman Libertas became Lady Liberty during the American Revolution. To celebrate the repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766, Paul Revere created an obelisk with an image of Lady Liberty on it, and a short time later, Tom Paine addressed her in his poem, “The Liberty Tree.” An enormous bronze statue of Lady Liberty was commissioned in 1855 for the top of the Capitol building, and she was hoisted up there in 1863, where she stands, hardly visible, to this day.

Here’s my idea. This FAR community has lots of power. We—and at least two thirds of the U.S. population—are very unhappy with the antics of the Lyin’ King and his court…excuse me, the executive and legislative branches of our national government. So let’s visualize Libertas coming to life. Watch her stomp her heavy bronze feet so hard she breaks a hole in the top of the dome. Watch her fly down into the main lobby of the Capitol. Now she turns in one direction and stalks into the Senate. “Gentlemen and Ladies,” she begins, “you were sent here to do a job. You’re not doing your jobs. Work together! Learn to compromise. Stop talking so much. Get to work!” And then she marches into the House. “Why are you here?” she asks. “And why are you here only three or four days a week, and why aren’t you working for the benefit of all the citizens of the United States?” I suspect that Libertas, who is 19 feet 6 inches tall and weighs approximately 15,000 pounds, could indeed put a scare into Congress, not to mention all the lobbyists. Remember, she also carries that spear. And she no doubt knows how to use it.

Our second national goddess? “Liberty Enlightening the World,” whom we call the Statue of Liberty, was a gift from France to the U.S. circa 1886 on the occasion of our centennial. Designed by Frederic-Auguste Bartoldi and Alexandre Eiffel (who also built a famous tower in Paris), Lady Liberty holds a tabula ansata (a tablet evoking the law) in one arm and with her other hand raises a torch, a common symbol of truth and purification through illumination. She wears a crown of solar rays similar to the crown worn by the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

For almost a century and a half, Liberty has welcomed immigrants to our Atlantic shore. Those immigrants were the grandparents and great grandparents of nearly all of us. Now let’s visualize Liberty taking action. Goddesses can perform magic; let’s visualize Liberty multiplying herself into 10,000 Liberties, and then let them travel to Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California and—you guessed it—let them stand facing south. Let these 10,000 goddesses with torches of purification replace the Xenophobe-in-Chief’s wall/fence/border army. Let’s ask Liberty to welcome people into the U.S. Because she’s smart (and the flames of that torch can reveal a lot) and there are indeed drug smugglers traveling in addition to men, women, and children who are coming for sanctuary or safety or work, let her use her torch to reveal the small proportion of criminals trying to sneak in. And let her welcome and protect everyone else and keep families together. (Maybe she could send all the ICE agents off hunting coyotes, who are no doubt smarter and more humane than they are.)

Here is the full text of “The New Colossus” the poem by Emma Lazarus that Lady Liberty proclaims to the world. Maybe our senators and representatives should read it—for the first time, I bet. They should pay attention to what it says and obey the words and principles of this goddess.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Let us visualize both of these American goddesses doing their work and protecting the hard-won rights of everyone who lives in the United States.

 

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 DayFinding 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.

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Categories: Activism, American History, General, Goddess, Goddess feminism, Women's Power

Tags: , , ,

29 replies

  1. An interesting slant on the tedious (but sometimes scary!) business of government.

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  2. Very informative for an Indian national like me. Loved it.

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  3. My father was a poor Italian immigrant who came to this country with his family -six siblings – in 1930. He was twelve years old. He loved the Statue of Liberty and said she was the first thing he saw when the family sailed into New York Harbor…. As a child I felt the reverence he had for her without understanding why – what was it about this imposing metal statue that moved him so much (he used to take his two children to climb her)?…. Now I think I do…This Lady was the symbol of Liberty – oh, how could we have come to this? Thank you Barbara for reminding me of this memory.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for your comment.

      When my high school senior class took a trip to New York, we all climbed up into the Statue. It was wonderful. I bet we’ve all seen movies in which people coming to the U.S. see the Statue before they see any other part of the U.S. My great great grandparents came from Holland and Germany and no doubt were inspired by Liberty before they traveled across the U.S. to Missouri.

      Liked by 1 person

      • As the Stature of Liberty was placed in NY harbor in 1886 Barbara, your great grandparents and mine probably did not see it on arrival, nor did they go through Ellis Island, which was established in 1892. I thought everyone went through Ellis Island when I first visited it, but no… Most but not all of the non-Jewish German immigrants came to the US in the middle of the 19th century. Immigration in the second half of the 19th and early 20th century was mainly from Eastern and Southern Europe. Our Northern European ancestors were immigrants nonetheless and some of mine would have seen her as they were still living in Manhattan and Brooklyn and later Queens and Long Island.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. To all you have written in this inspiring post, be it so!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Elizabeth. I think we all need to start doing some magic to bring these goddesses and their attributes of liberty back into the life of the U.S. before we become the Dysfunctional States of America.

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  5. A wonderful post and reminder of the ideals these goddesses represent and their spiritual power in human form (all the marchers, persisters, resisters across not only this nation but the globe) who are doing their best to bring our country up to and back to those ideals. As Sara says, Lady Liberty, especially, is deeply revered among so many immigrants and their descendants. May we, as a people, live up to Her promise soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This was wonderful, thank you for sharing!

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  7. When I was in 6th Grade (1960) in Los Angeles, we memorized “New Colossus”, and there were tortured renditions until Sr Celsus quit before her ears fell off! Twenty years later, I commuted on the Staten Island Ferry and saluted The Lady twice daily. I now live in DC and salute the Lady clearly visible on the Capitol Dome every time I am downtown.

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    • Thanks for your comment. Does anyone know why the Congress doesn’t do its proper work??? I’m glad Libertas has you to salute her.

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  8. Starhawk has a spell focusing on the Statue of Liberty: https://starhawk.org/a-spell-for-justice/, great minds think alike

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks, Carol. I watched Starhawk’s little talk about her spell. It and she are terrific, and I hope everyone will click on the link you provided.

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  9. As usual, you provide insight and careful thought. A wonderful thoughtful piece on that state of US.

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  10. I witnessed the action of gods and goddesses as I watched the reports of the gatherings on Saturday. The power is already here; but we, throughout the earth, (because this is not only a US event) need to support it and grow it and birth it over and over and over. I pledge to do what I can – to resist hatred and act with love, to speak out when I see injustice, to be aware and watchful right where I am.

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  11. What a great post, thank you. I feel that the fact that the statue of Liberty is a woman, hasn’t been recognized much. The greatest symbol of all what women present.

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  12. Thanks, Barbara. I have always admired large public Goddess art and look for it whenever I am visiting a city. What other pieces do people on this list know of?

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    • Several years ago, I read a book that discussed subtle reminders of goddesses and the power of women in the architecture of many cities around the U.S. I wish I could remember the title of that book, but I do remember that it said to look up. Most of these goddesses are architectural and near roof lines of buildings. And many of them are symbols, not necessarily statues of women. Maybe someone else here knows about this book, too??

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      • Last Christmas in New York on the side of the Macy’s building was a very large banner of lights that said “Believe!” Right under it were four Greek Goddesses/ caryatids. I have a photo, but don’t know how to post it.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you, this was a lovely meditation on the Goddess/es we should be focusing on as a nation, instead of the God who seems to be wielding his never-tirinr power over our country–Money/The Almighty Dollar/Greed.

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  14. Omg Barbara— this is soooo wonderful. I’m with you! All the way!!! And it reminds me of something I happened to post earlier in the day- a photo of a striking cloud formation across the lake by my house, which looks like Lady Liberty angrily storming forward! See my snarky post about it here.

    Rock on, Goddess!!! <3

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Trelawney. Those photos are indeed awesome. She’s raising her arm like she means business. Let us hope so! Well, one of the climate change-deniers is out now, so maybe that lake will remain clean and safe. Let’s hope the Goddess does some Serious Stomping in D.C.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you for this article. Emma Lazarus’ poem was almost certainly partly inspired by the Jewish image of Shekhinah as a divine mother who accompanies her children into exile, who cares for refugees. I am proud to have one of America’s visions of Goddess in New York Harbor!

    Liked by 1 person

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