From the Archives: Where Did the Gods Come From? by Barbara Ardinger

This was originally posted on June 10, 2012

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.”[1] 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.[2]

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.[3] 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?

        Subliminable, man.

        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.

Author: Barbara Ardinger

Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (, 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.

4 thoughts on “From the Archives: Where Did the Gods Come From? by Barbara Ardinger”

  1. “biker gangs,” but that’s what they were. Testosterone-crazed invaders out to have a good time.”….. I call them the gang gang boys – we have tons of them around here – all ages – guns and fast cars trucks, racing boats, raging fireworks – is Barbara sure we have only thirteen of them? I feel surrounded by millions.


  2. Thanks, Barbara, for telling it like it is/was! Time for the Goddess to return, before patriarchy does us in!


Please familiarize yourself with our Comment Policy before posting.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: