Most people know Portugal as a deeply Catholic country with a rich Islamic past and an ancient Sephardic Jewish heritage reaching back to Roman Lusitania. But what about the country’s pre-Roman, pre-Abrahamic Goddess cultures?
Like many foreigners, I moved to Portugal knowing nothing about Portugal’s Goddess heritage.
Then I met Luiza Frazão, Priestess, author, and independent scholar who studied at the Glastonbury Goddess Temple in England with Kathy Jones. After years of training and steeping herself in the lore of the Celtic Goddesses of the Avalonian Tradition, Luiza returned to her native Portugal to research the rich Goddess lore of her country. Intrigued and eager to learn more about her research, I met up with Luiza in the medieval town of Óbidos.
Mary Sharratt: It’s so exciting that you’ve researched the Goddess heritage of Portugal. Can you give an introduction into some of the Goddesses your work has brought to light? You mentioned that even the name Portugal relates to a Goddess. Can you tell us more about this?
Luiza Frazão: I started to search for the Goddesses of my land after my first pilgrimage to Glastonbury, UK, twelve years ago, and especially after I started my training there as a Priestess. After much study and attention to Her stories I could see Her in the land, giving name to places, to rivers, mountains, in the old stories and legends. In Glastonbury I was surrounded by people crazy about stones, ancient stone circles, burial monuments, and megalithic monuments in general. And I realized how much of these monuments exist in this part of the world. These stone monuments, natural or constructed, belong to that time and culture where Goddess was worshiped all over the world.
We are part of the Iberian Peninsula, the westernmost part of the European continent, which indicates that our central Goddess is a Crone Goddess of death and rebirth, following the natural movement of the Sun, of the light. The Crone is indeed very present in our folklore and sacred stones, like Cabeça da Velha (Crone’s Head) in Serra da Estrela, and many other places and myths. The work of Sorita d’Este and Davil Rankine, Visions of the Cailleach, gave me the perspective that our Crone was actually the very ancient Celtic Goddess originating in Iberia, that gave name to Cailicia [Galicia, in Spain] and to Portugal. The name of my country comes from an area in the North, in the mouth of the Douro, in Oporto, named Portus Cale. Portus Cale was the first capital of the Portucalense Country, and Portugal derives from the expansion of this country which corresponds to the present area between the Rivers Douro and Minho.
Because, She is Goddess of Death and Rebirth, She is also a double Goddess, and She still rules the middle land as the Queen of Summer and the Crone of the Winter. From May to October She is the Summer Goddess, and the rest of the year She is the Crone, or the Hag of Winter. In my new book, I present all the conclusions of my research on the subject which I found absolutely fascinating, this division, this ancient cult could survive all this time, with the Goddess hidden in plain sight.
As the Summer Queen She is very much the Lady of Fatima (actually Cova da Iria), but also of Almurtão, of Azenha, and Lady of the High Heavens (Senhora do Alto dos Céus) of Lousa. And other places where Her return is celebrated in May. Acording to the myth, She is “killed” on October 20th Tomar.
Otherwise, this dichotomy is very much part of Cailleach and Bridget Celtic lore.
In the center of our Wheel of the Year there are other Goddesses: Ophiusa, the Serpent Goddess, ruling the underworld, and the solar Goddess Hesperia, Iberia, ruling the upperworld, as we belong to the Iberian Peninsula.
In addition, there is also another very strong cultural layer considering the eight solar festivals of the Celtic year. They remain very visible under the layer of Christian acculturation. Associated with this energies and elements I have found many other Goddesses that have been worshiped here, like Trebaruna, Sul/Sulis, Aurora, Icona-Loimina, Helena dos Caminhos (Elen of the Ways), Maia, Nabia, Tetis, Caria, Broenia, Brigantia, Gaia, Ategina/Ataecina, Ana/Dana.
They are of Celtic origin, but also from the Mediterranean area, and also of Roman and Middle Eastern origins.
In this time of the Summer Solstice we honor especially Nabia of the running waters, Tetis of the Sea, and Cynthia and Diana, the Moon Goddesses.
MS: Many Goddess-women in the UK look to Glastonbury as the site of the ancient and ever-living mystic Avalon. In your book, A Deusa do Jardim das Hespérides, you describe Portugal as the site of the mythic Garden of the Hesperides. Can you tell us a little more about this?
LF: Remember that Hesperides comes from Hesperia, meaning West in Greek.
When I was studying the materials for my training as a priestess of Avalon, I came across a title by Stuart McHardy, The Quest for the Nine Maidens, about an institution of nine sacred women who are at the origin of the founding myths of various cultures around the world, the most famous being the Nine Greek Muses. The book immediately caught my attention and while reading it a friend of mine sent me a text about the Goddess in Sintra where the author mentioned Santa Euphemia and her eight sisters. It was so exciting to discover that we have also nine sacred sisters here! Avalon is sustained by the energies of Nine Sisters, with Morgan La Fay at the center. From there, I started to try to remember what I had already heard about some mythical dimension of this territory, and I arrived at the Garden of the Hesperides. Several Portuguese authors will say the same, based on some Greek authors, like Strabo or Hesiod.
I wrote about that in my first book, The Goddess of the Garden of the Hesperides, that’s a long story, but in his Geography, Strabo said: “The poets who came after Homer continue to repeat in our ears similar stories [myths created in Iberia]: Hercules’s expedition in search of Geryon’s cows as well as his expedition to find the golden apples of the Hesperides.” And Hesiod, locates in the Iberian Peninsula the western Garden of the Hesperides, nymphs of the West, daughters of Atlas, whose function was to take care of this garden where the golden apple tree existed.
As the end of the earth, of Europe, we need to consider that, besides the amount of gold, silver and other metals, the abundance of water, the fertility of the land, and the pleasant weather, the finisterrae have always been considered by classical authors as places of abundance, wealth and happiness, of the body and soul, as well as places of the presence of the divine.
Thus, for authors such as Dalila Pereira da Costa, the Hesperides were priestesses of the Goddess who have been worshiped here until very late in a society that remained matriarchal long after the patriarchal take-over in central Europe, as this was a more remote and peripheral zone. So, it was a much more peaceful and balanced society. Homer refers to the happiness of the inhabitants of Hesperia, which he considers reminiscent of the Golden Age.
We believe that the Garden of the Hesperides, like the sacred Island of Avalon, is the dimension of the Goddess is this territory. There is a special physical counterpart of this paradise, which covers Sintra and goes even further north to Ericeira. The entrance portal is at Praia das Maçãs [Beach of Apples]. However, like Avalon, we can always enter there through the door of our heart.
MS: Can you tell us a little about your Goddess Temple in Óbidos, and your local ministry and teaching? How can interested people get in touch with you?
LF: The Óbidos Goddess Temple is held by the Cultural Association of the Garden of the Hesperides, created in 2017, and it has been created in a part of the house where I live, even if our aim is to have a bigger and more independent venue nearby. It is in essence a place of devotion to the Goddess. Here, I organize the Priestess training and other Goddess events. I also organize retreats and pilgrimages in Portugal and in Glastonbury, UK.
I have a course online, Magna Mater: Goddess Culture and Spirituality, and as a Priestess of the Goddess, I perform bespoke pagan ceremonies like hand fastings, naming, funerals and all rites of passage. We celebrate the wheel of the year, often in the landscape, and in the recent times online.
The Temple is open to the public on Tuesday afternoon, from 2:30 to 6:00 pm.
We are located in Óbidos, Travessa Maria Adelaide Ribeirete, 6
Website – https://www.templodadeusa.com/
My website – https://www.luizafrazao.com/
MS: What inspired you to found the Portuguese Goddess Conference? Hopefully by next spring, Covid will be under control and I hope you’ll receive many overseas visitors from the UK, North America, and elsewhere. What can visitors expect to experience and how can they order tickets?
LF: This event was inspired by the Glastonbury Goddess Conference, created by Kathy Jones almost thirty years ago. I went there for the first time in 2011, and every year since that time. At our first Conference, held in Sintra in 2019, we had many people from Portugal and from abroad—North America, UK, Brazil and from other places.
This is a big get-together of Goddess people, where we can experience Her healing and magic energies through ceremonies, sacred performances, workshops, connection with the land, music and dance. We can also learn more about the Goddess and about earth activism from our presenters, who are from Portugal, but also from the US, Italy, and hopefully from the UK, Kathy Jones herself.
We will also have a Marketplace where people can buy or sell Goddess inspired art and artifacts.
The Conference will take place in Varzea de Sintra, at Ten Chi, from the 13th to the 15th of May 2022.
For the program and tickets please consult our website –https://www.conferenciadadeusa.com/
Mary Sharratt is on a mission to write women back into history. Her acclaimed novel Illuminations, drawn from the dramatic life of Hildegard von Bingen, is published by Mariner. Her new novel Revelations, about the mystical pilgrim Margery Kempe and her friendship with Julian of Norwich, is now available wherever books and ebooks are sold. Visit her website.