Finding the Goddess
In most Pagan and traditional, pre-Christian faiths, there is always at least one Goddess, and it’s easy to understand why.
All of us as human beings are the product of a woman giving birth. Until science creates machine incubators for human embryos, this is the most absolutely true and certain thing anyone can say. Everyone you know, everybody you’ve ever read about or seen on TV or on a movie screen, everyone you pass on your way to work or in the corner store – all human beings come from a mother.
Every human mother gives life from her own body, nurtures her children with the milk she produces, and – in most cases – protects and loves her children as they grow. Even if a woman doesn’t become a mother herself, she had a mother at the start.
We may not know her, or we may not always get along with her if we do, but we all, every single one of us, owe our mother a debt of gratitude for struggling through her physical pain to bring us forth.
The ancients, who felt the rhythms of the earth and the energy of the land more acutely than we do in our disconnected modern time, looked around themselves and saw that the earth herself did what human mothers did.
She produced life from her own body – plants sprouting from the rich soil, almost magically coming to life with no apparent help from any other being. Those plants survive on the soil of the earth, and the animals of the world survive on the plants, and other animals survive by preying on those animals, and on and on. The cycle and the circle of life would have been self-evident to our ancestors.
How does one explain this? In the presence of nurturing and fertility so vast, with the power of the earth and the elements singing in our own blood and bones, how can we deny that we, too, are born from the earth and nurtured by her as we grow?
If the earth is our mother, and our human mothers have names, then what is the name of our Mother Earth? And if our human mothers are also born from this same Mother Earth, then doesn’t that mean that She is eternal and the Mother of us all? What kind of power can do that?
There’s only one power that can. It’s the Goddess.
The Earth has been honored as our Mother for centuries, under as many different names as there are human societies who try to understand Her. It might be that She is a faceless source, pure energy, a natural phenomenon who is too vast to be truly comprehended.
It could also be, alternatively, that She is a woman with vast powers, a spirit woman whose energy informs our own, and who has a name and a personality and likes and dislikes, just like we do. In contemplation like this, the knowledge of the Goddess was born.
She has many different names, and many different attributes. She is all women, and She is more than any woman could ever be. She is ineffable but as real as the mud between your toes when you step into a lake. She is everything. In the words of Zsuzsanna Budapest, who has written many songs of praise to Her, “We all come from the goddess, and to Her we shall return, like a drop of rain flowing to the ocean.”
Goddess worship was the first worship that has been proven in prehistory. Her first face is revealed by the Venus of Willendorf, an 11-inch-tall statue that was found in Europe dating back 25,000 to a tiny paleolithic village in what would someday become Austria. She was carved in limestone and stained with ochre, a pigment that has been used for millennia in spiritual practice.
Her hair is show carefully braided, and Her body shows heavy hips, a swollen stomach and pendulous breasts – the signs of a pregnant mother. Archaeologists believe that She was used as a fertility fetish, that is, a cult object intended to bring about fertility in worshippers through sympathetic magic (like attracting like). She is, quite simply, the Goddess in her Mother aspect.
There are mysteries to a woman’s existence, and the Goddess takes part in these mysteries. Women pass through phases more so than men do, and the Goddess presents herself in these phases: Maiden, Mother and Crone. Because She is one Goddess with three faces, She is called the Triple Goddess.
She begins as a young girl, pure and innocent, full of promise and not yet tarnished by hardship. She exists in an idealized world of gentleness and flowers, the Spring made flesh. She is soft and sweet, a friend of children and childish things, the new beginning of the life of the world. She is the waxing moon, growing in Her power as time goes on.
As with all women, the time comes when Her innocence gives way to knowledge of fertility and the power of Her own sexuality. She comes into her greatest strength when She is ready to bear a child, and She is passion and growth, power and stability and all good things in the fullness of the world. She is the Mother, shown in the full moon, shining and bright.
The time for childbearing passes, though, as it does for all women, and She transitions into her Crone aspect. The Crone is the waning moon, hard-earned wisdom, and the knowledge that all things must end as surely as they began. She is magic and secrets and the whisper of the impending grave.
She is serenity, too, and nothing to fear, for in time, with the turning of the wheel and the re-emergence of the moon in the night sky, She will return as the Maiden, reborn for another month.
The Goddess also shows her aspects in the seasons of the year. In the Spring, She is the Maiden. Spring warming into Summer sees Her growing into full maturity, and at the height of summer She is the Mother in all Her glory. Summer fades toward autumn, and she begins to age, transitioning from birthing and rearing children to seeing them grow and begin to leave her.
By the time Winter comes, she is the Crone, with the snow reflecting the silver in Her hair, and the cold air presaging the cold of the grave to come. She is also the spark of warmth that is the promise of the return of Spring, and the Crone descends into the Underworld until she returns again in Her new life as the Maiden. Like humans, She lives many lives, and the circle spins and spins without end.
Every major pantheon in the Pagan sphere has multiple faces and names for the Goddess as she transitions through these phases, and each aspect has domain over different skills. Depending on what we need and where we stand in our own journeys, we can find an aspect where She most matches our experience.
There is power in names. These are the names of the Goddess, divided into Maiden, Mother and Crone. There is a chant that is used in many covens to call Her and to raise Her energy, and it’s called the Goddess Chant. Her names are repeated, and She hears, and She comes.
As you go through the following list, give a thought to what you’re asking of Her and where you stand in your own life, and ask Her to join you in your works by using the proper name.
Names of the Goddess
Throughout the centuries, every different culture has developed names and stories for the Goddesses in their midst. You can look at these stories as fables, or as entertaining bits of fiction, but in reality, there are very deep truths hidden in the roots of these tales. The myths of the Greeks and the Romans, the stories of the Egyptians, and the Epic of Gilgamesh from Mesopotamia (among others) all contributed to the library of truths that we have about Her. The following list will name the facets of the singular jewel that is the Goddess.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. I encourage you to research the pantheons and find the aspect of the Goddess where you feel Her most. She will be there. Call for Her. I promise you, She will hear.
Aine – Love, growth, light
Arianrhod – Fertility, rebirth, weaving, the Silver Wheel
Badb – Life, death, wisdom, inspiration
Branwen – Love
Brighid – Poetry, healing, smithcraft, the hearth
the Cailleach – Death, Sovereignty, storms, wild animals, winter, disease, plagues
Cerridwen – The moon, magic, agriculture, poetry, music, art, science
Danu – The Earth Mother, creator, fertility, wisdom, wells, wizards, magic, abundance and plenty
Flidais – The woodlands, wild animals, wild nature
Macha – War, Sovereignty, fertility, cunning, sexuality, physical prowess, domination over males (an aspect of the Morrigan)
Mebd – Sovereignty, sexuality, fertility, passion, revenge, war, wealth (an aspect of the Morrigan)
the Morrigan – The Great Queen, Sovereignty, war, fate, death, revenge, the night, magic, prophecy, witches, shapeshifting, battle madness
Nemain – War, panic, venom, battle frenzy (an aspect of the Morrigan)
Scathach – War, the dead, those slain in battle, magic, prophecy, smiths, healing
Rhiannon – Fertility, rebirth, wisdom, magic, beauty, artistic inspiration, birds, horses
The White Lady – the Queen of Death; the dead, destruction, annihilation
Ancamma – Water, waterways, navigation
Andraste – Victory in battle
Arduinna – Hunting, the forest
Artio – Wildlife, transformation, abundance, bears
Brigantia – the arts, crafts, fertility, war, flocks, cattle, water, healing, victory
Belisama – Lakes, rivers, fires, light, crafts
Coventina – Wells, springs, healing waters
Damara – Fertility, crops
Dea Matrona – the Great Mother
Druantia – Trees, fertility, sex, passion, knowledge, creativity
Epona – Fertility, the journey to the underworld, horses, dogs, mother goddess, maternity, protection
Muireartach – Mariners, the sea
Nantosuelta – Nature, the earth, fire, fertility, bees, doves, domestic arts, childbirth, wells
Nehalennia – Sailors, sailing, fertility, the bounty of the sea
Nemetona – Sacred spaces, sacred groves, the open air, consecration
Rosmerta – Fertility, abundance, plenty
Sulis – Giver of life, healing waters, granter of and protection from curses
Ammit – Destroyer goddess who devoured condemned souls
Astarte – War, fertility, sexuality; imported from Syria
Bast – Cats, protector of pregnant women, children
Hathor – Love, beauty, music, dance, the sky, the sun, sexuality and motherhood, foreign lands, foreign goods, the afterlife
Heca – Personification of magic; may be the origin of Hecate
Isis – Magic, marriage, healing, protection during life, funerary rights, immortality
Ma’at – Justice, truth, order
Neith – Creation, hunting, the Opener of Ways who allows the dead to pass into the Underworld
Nephthys – Death, protection in death, special protector of the king
Nut – The sky, mother of all of the gods, storms, stars
Qetesh – Sexuality, sacred ecstasy
Sekhmet – Lions, fire, vengeance, protection from disease
Seshat – Writing, record keeping
Tefnut – Moisture, moist air, dew, rain
Ereshkigal – The Underworld
Inanna – Love, beauty, sex, desire, fertility, war, combat, justice, and political power
Ishtar – Another name for Inanna
Nammu – The Primordial Sea, source of all life; the first Goddess
Ninhursag – The earth, crops, agriculture
Ninlil – The air, motherhood
Freya – Love, beauty, fertility, music, war, wealth, divination, magic
Frigg – Marriage, motherhood, love, fertility, childbirth, weaving, spinning, the household
Hel/Hella – Death, the underworld
Idunn – Spring, rejuvenation, apples
Sif – Fertility, wheat, family, the harvest
Aphrodite – Love, beauty, fertility
Artemis – Virginity, the hunt, wild animals, forests, hills, the moon, archery
Athena – War, wisdom, poetry, strategy, art
Cybele – Caverns, mountains, nature, wild animals
Demeter – The harvest, fertility, sacred law, agriculture
Gaia – Mother Earth
Hecate – Magic, crossroads, ghosts, the moon, witchcraft and necromancy
Hera – Protector of women, protector of heroes, marriage
Metis – Wisdom
Nemesis – Retribution and vengeance
Nike – Victory
Persephone – Springtime, queen of the underworld
Selene – The moon, “mother” of vampires
Themis – Divine order, law, custom
Ceres – Agriculture, grain, fertility, motherly love
Diana – Hunting, the moon, nature, wild animals, the woodland
Fauna – Wild animals
Flora – Flowers and plants
Fortuna – Good fortune, luck
Juno – Marriage, fertility, queen of the gods
Minerva – Wisdom, education, science, war, strategy, trade, the arts, medicine, poetry, commerce
Nox – The night
Pomona – Fruitful abundance
Proserpina – Spring, the queen of the Underworld
Venus – Love, beauty, prosperity, fertility, victory
Veritas – Truth
Vesta – The hearth, home, domesticity
Bixia Yuanjin – Dawn, childbirth
Chang Er – The moon
Chaung-Mu – The bedroom, sexual delights
Dou Mu – Light
Kuan Yin – Mercy, compassion, childless women
Gong De Tian – Luck
Hu-Tu – The earth, magic
Tien Fei – Protector of sailors, defender of those who are in danger
Xi Wangmu – Immortality, cosmic forces, life, death, healing, the dead, the afterlife
Xihe – The sun
Wangmu Niang-Niang – The Queen of the Gods, happiness, longevity; commands all female gods
Durga – Protector of the universe, warrior, battles the forces of evil
Kali – Death, doomsday, time, sexuality, feminine energy, fertility, motherly love
Lakshmi – Good fortune, wealth, well-being, prosperity, beauty, purity
Sawaswati – Learning, wisdom, speech, music, art, knowledge
ONE LAST NOTE: You are not obligated as a witch, Wiccan or Pagan to adopt any of these named goddesses, or to dedicate yourself solely to one pantheon. The beauty of Paganism and Wicca is that what you do is in accordance with your own heart, following your own truth. If your heart tells you that you want to venerate goddesses from Egypt, China and Ireland, then by all means, do so.
Conversely, if your heart tells you that the names don’t matter because they’re all part of the same Great Goddess, then leave the names aside and just accept Her as She is.
I hope you find your way to the Goddess, or perhaps She will find Her way to you. I wish you joy and bright blessings and a close relationship with the Queen of the Universe, however you envision Her to be.