Temple of Athena, Greece. Image Source: Guild of Sommeliers.
The anniversary of 9/11 yesterday got me thinking about how we live in a world of male gods. If you are a man, it is easy to be completely oblivious to the sweatlodge mentality that has dominated the concept of divinity over the past 2,000 years. This is not a post about warlike men and peaceful women. Nor is this a call for hand-holding and harvest goddess votives. This is merely a contemplation on what happened to our spiritual worlds, starting with the Ancient Greeks and ending now.
The Website that really made me think about the masculinizing of religions was the excellent blog, An Inner Journey, the Moon, Mythology, and You. Every day, that blog offers a profile of a different goddess. There are thousands of them from all of human history that millions of people once worshipped for thousands upon thousands of years. Where did these female gods go? And is the world really a better place with no serious, mainstream, respected religion that includes an all-powerful female deity?
For the past 2,000 years, the worship of female deities has been marginalized and ridiculed. It is true that that removal of female deities has gone hand in hand with the march of civilization. It is easy to assume there is a causal link there, even if there is not. It is also easy to see how the clarity of worshipping a single god rather than a pantheon ironically obliged an intensification of scientific pursuits.
Worshippers of female gods have retreated into off-the-beaten-path faiths like Wicca or New Age belief systems. In America, goddesses appear in geeky corners of popular culture. And despite the prevalence of gnosticism everywhere you look these days, there is no female Demiurge to mirror a Millennial male counterpart. It is that marginalization that I am questioning. I am not talking about a return to Paganism. I am not interested in thanking the Goddess at the Solstice. The Virgin Mary is a supporting character.
Dominant spiritual tenets justify the whole power structure of human society. The vicious madness in the name of faith that was 9/11, the hellish malaise that has followed, and the long, ugly trial that continues to unfold in its wake forced us all to sort out what we believe and seek to defend it. This, in a world where there are critical spiritual missing pieces in contending faiths dominated by male gods and male prophets.
In a similar troubled atmosphere, in another time and place, if I had lived in Ancient Greece, I would have made a visit to the temple of Athena by now. This was the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, warfare, strength, strategy, female arts, crafts, justice and skill. And yet, a reconstructed image of what her great temple looked like tells us how alien that world was. The last time there were mainstream, respected, powerful goddesses, this is what the world looked like:
Reconstruction of Athena's temple in Athens, Athena Parthenos statue by the sculptor Pheidias. Image Source: Archaeology of the Bible: Ancient Religions.