Monday, April 15, 2013


The Roman goddess of love and beauty, but originally a vegetation goddess and patroness of gardens and vineyards. Later, under Greek influence, she was equated with Aphrodite and assumed many of her aspects. Her cult originated from Ardea and Lavinium in Latium. The oldest temple known of Venus dates back to 293 BCE, and was inaugurated on August 18. Later, on this date the Vinalia Rustica was observed. A second festival, that of the Veneralia, was celebrated on April 1 in honor of Venus Verticordia, who later became the protector against vice. Her temple was built in 114 BCE. After the Roman defeat near Lake Trasum in 215 BCE, a temple was built on the Capitol for Venus Erycina. This temple was officially opened on April 23, and a festival, the Vinalia Priora, was instituted to celebrate the occasion.

Venus is the daughter of Jupiter, and some of her lovers include Mars and Vulcan, modeled on the affairs of Aphrodite. Venus' importance rose, and that of her cult, through the influence of several Roman political leaders. The dictator Sulla made her his patroness, and both Julius Caesar and the emperor Augustus named her the ancestor of their (Julian) family: the 'gens Julia' was Aeneas, son of Venus and the mortal Anchises. Ceasar introduced the cult of Venus Genetrix, the goddess of motherhood and marriage, and built a temple for her in 46 BCE. She was also honored in the temple of Mars Ultor. The last great temple of Venus was built by the emperor Hadrianus near the Colusseum in 135 CE.
Roman statues and portraits of Venus are usually identical to the Greek representations of Aphrodite.

Cernunnos - The Horned God

Cernunnos is a horned god found in Celtic mythology. He is connected with male animals, particularly the stag in rut, and this has led him to be associated with fertility and vegetation. Depictions of Cernunnos are found in many... parts of the British Isles and western Europe. He is often portrayed with a beard and wild, shaggy hair -- he is, after all, the lord of the forest.
With his mighty antlers, Cernunnos is a protector of the forest and master of the hunt. He is a god of vegetation and trees in his aspect as the Green Man, and a god of lust and fertility when connected with Pan, the Greek satyr. In some traditions, he is seen as a god of death and dying, and takes time to comfort the dead by singing to them on their way to the spirit world.
In some traditions of Wicca, the cycle of seasons follows the relationship between the Horned God -- Cernunnos -- and the Goddess. During the fall, the Horned God dies, as the vegetation and land goes dormant, and in the spring, at Imbolc, he is resurrected to impregnate the fertile goddess of the land. However, this relationship is a relatively new Neopagan concept, and there is no scholarly evidence to indicate that ancient peoples might have celebrated this "marriage" of the Horned God and a mother goddess.
Because of his horns (and the occasional depiction of a large, erect phallus) Cernunnos has often been misinterpreted by fundamentalists as a symbol of Satan. Certainly, at times, the Christian church has pointed to the Pagan following of Cernunnos as "devil worship." This is in part due to nineteenth century paintings of Satan which included large, ram-like horns much like those of Cernunnos.
Today, many Pagan and Wiccan traditions honor Cernunnos as an aspect of the God, the embodiment of masculine energy and fertility and power.
We celebrate and honor Cernunnos as the Green Man in spring and summer, the light half of the year, and as the Dark One or the Dark God in autumn and winter, the dark half of the year. He appears in spring as the young Son, child of the Goddess, embodiment of the budding, growing, greening world. In summer He is the Green Man, vibrant, pulsing with life essence, the consort of the Green Lady Goddess. But, it is in autumn, the dying time, that perhaps we see the Horned God most clearly. He is the sacrificed one, who, wounded unto death begins his journey to the Underworld, returning to the Earth from which he was born and where the seeds of light released from his decaying body will quicken Her womb with a new Son/Sun once again.
The path to Cernunnos is both through the natural world: seeking out the wild places and a deep understanding of the processes of growth, bounty, decay, rest, and rebirth, and through Otherworld journeys to the Middleworld forest of which he is guardian. One may experience this both actually and symbolically by following the path that disappears over the horizon into the distance and moves away from the "civilized" world and into the heart of the Wild Wood.

Justitia - Roman Goddess of Justice.

Unlike other Goddesses of Justice, Maat, Themis, and Dike, the Roman goddess Justitia was not reckoned among the major gods. As with most of the other Greek gods taken over in Roman mythology, she is mentioned in very few narrative accounts. From the texts of Ovid and Virgil, one obtains the image of a goddess of Justice who has left the earth because of man's corrupt and wicked nature and who now scarcely concerns herself any longer with human affairs. From these and other accounts, it furthermore appears that Justitia does not only show analogies with Dike (with whom she is usually equated), but also with Astraia/Astraea, another daughter of Themis and Zeus, alternatively regarded as the daughter of Astraeus and Eos. She is in this respect known as the constellation Virgo, the virgin of the stars, and as the nurse of the whole universe. No images of Justitia from Roman times have remained, and where mention is made of sculptures, the latter appear to show some correspondence with Dike and Nemesis and to be of Greek rather than Roman origin. It was Aequitas (fairness) rather than Justitia who was personified by the Romans. Justitia was (mostly) equated with positive law, whereas Aequitas required the balancing of all the circumstances of the case. In later times, Aequitas and Justitia were not clearly distinguished from each other as symbols. We thus find Aequitas or Justitia depicted on coins with a cornucopia and with scales, sometimes with a scepter or a staff, sometimes without any attributes. Sometimes only the head of a woman appears, with the transcription, "Justitia".

In the Middle Ages, images of Justitia are characterized by a combination of Christian and Greek-Roman thinking. In this regard, the sword of Dike and the scales of Aequitas/Justitia begin to play an important role. Justitia now becomes one of the Christian virtues entering into battle with the vices. She is personalized and sometimes depicted with accessories, such as a scale. In exceptional instances, Justitia is a male figure. In one image from the eleventh century, Justitia is depicted with a protractor and (optical) plummet, together with three other virtues.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Medusa - Greek Mythology

Medusa, one of the three Gorgons, daughter of Phorcys and Ceto. She was the only one of the Gorgons who was subject to mortality. She is celebrated for her personal charms and the beauty of her locks. Neptune became enamoured of her, and obtained her favours in the temple of Minerva. This violation of the sanctity of the temple provoked Minerva, and she changed the beautiful locks of Medusa, which had inspired Neptune’s love to serpents. According to Apollodorus, Medusa and her sisters came into the world with snakes on their heads, instead of hair, with yellow wings and brazen hands. Their bodies were also covered with impenetrable scales, and their very looks had the power of killing or turning to stones. Perseus rendered his name immortal by his conquest of Medusa. He cut off her head, and the blood that dropped from the wound produced the innumerable serpents that infest Africa. The conqueror placed Medusa's head on the shield of Minerva, which he had used in his expedition. The head still retained the same petrifying power as before, as it was fatally known in the court of Cepheus. . . . Some suppose that the Gorgons were a nation of women, whom Perseus conquered.

Medusa's head, an apparently simple motif linked to the myth of Perseus, was freed through being severed and cut loose from its 'moorings' by the hero in the remote depths of the world. There is something paradoxical about the story since the monster was all the more indestructible because it had been killed. Indeed, the figure of Medusa is characterized by paradox, both in terms of the actual mythical stare, which turned men to stone, and in the interpretations that have been given to it. The fascination that she exerts arises from a combination of beauty and horror. Her head was used, in Ancient times, as an apotropaic mask -- a sort of talisman which both killed and redeemed.

As well as being the very symbol of ambiguity, Medusa's head is also one of the most archaic mythical figures, perhaps an echo of the demon Humbaba who was decapitated by Gilgamesh. Everything implies that it is a 'representation' of the most meaningful aspect of the sacred. Insofar as it is the role of literature to assume responsibility for the sacred, each era, when confronted with the mystery of the 'origins', has re-examined Medusa's head with its mesmerizing stare as something which conceals the secret of the sacred.

Medusa wasn't always hideous, but had once been so beautiful she charmed the sea god Poseidon who then ravaged her in the temple of Athena. Athena was furious that her temple had been desecrated in this way and so she punished the temptress by turning her hair into snakes and making her so horrible men were turned to stone by just looking at her.

The Gorgon face with snaky hair and tongue sticking out is supposed to be apotropaic -- deflecting evil. The History Channel's program on Medusa suggested the enlarged eyes and teeth with sticking-out-tongue reflect the reality of a human head shortly after death.

The head of Medusa is affixed to the center of Athena's shield. This is referred to as the aegis

Arianrhod - Celtic Goddess

Arianrhod is the Celtic Goddess of Fertility, Rebirth, Weaving and Fate. Her name has been translated as silver-wheel, a symbol that represents the ever-turning wheel of the year. The Goddess can shape-shift into an owl, her symbol, which enables Her to see into the dark depths of the human soul.

Ares - Greek Mythology

Ares (Greek mythology) is best known as the God of War. Known to the Romans as Mars, he was one of the Olympians - the gods of the highest order of Olympus. Ares is sometimes shown in art as both young and old, but he always carried a spear and wore a helmet - perpetually ready for battle.

Ares was not the only god of war in Greek mythology. Athena, another Olympian, was also a god of war, but in a very different context. Athena represented the strategic, organized, and victorious side of battle while Ares represented the opposite - bloodlust, courage, and ferocity. Both were thought to be equally important in battle, and warriors would pray for their favor. It is said that Ares would even accepted human sacrifices in order to gain his assistance.
Ares of Greek Mythology
In Greek mythology Ares often had a quick temper and was prone to jealous outbursts. He lusted after Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and eventually lost her to Adonis, the most beautiful man in the world. Not accepting defeat (as a god of war shouldn't I suppose), he turned himself into a boar and killed Adonis.

Ares (Greek mythology) was also father to the famous Amazon women of the Doiantian Plain. These hardy warrior women were some of the most brutal warriors in all of mythology. Ironically, their mother was Harmonia, the goddess of harmony and concord. I guess they took after their father.

In modern mythology, Ares is probably best known as the title "villain" in the hit video game series "God of War". Many people confuse the central character in the series, Kratos, as the god of war, yet Kratos, the character from the game is actually a variation on Kratos, the God of Strength.

Hel - Norse Goddess

Hel is one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted Goddess aspects in history. She has been greatly perverted through the years by patriarchal domination and ultimately used by the early Christian church as a scare tactic to frighten the masses into “righteous” acts. To get the real story, we have to go back to the early Nordic people and look this death Goddess in the face.

According to Norse tradition, Hel is one of three children born to Loki, the trickster, and Angrboda, the giantess. Her body and face were described as half in light and half in darkness. She was half dead and half alive. Her face was at once beautiful to look upon and horrific in form. Her siblings were Fenrir, the wolf who would destroy Asgard during Ragnarok, and Jormungand, the Midhgard serpent who lies at the bottom of the ocean wrapped around the world with his tail in his mouth (it is he that holds the world together).

Hel is cast into the netherworld and becomes the ruler of that underworld to which souls who have not died in battle will depart. As thanks for making Her ruler of the netherworld, Hel makes a gift to Odin. She gives him two ravens, Huginn and Muninn (Thought and Memory). Ravens are messengers between this realm and the next, opening pathways to death’s realm.

Her realm is named for her, Hel or Helheim. Because She accepts all to Helheim, she also becomes the judge to determine the fate of each soul in the afterlife. The evil dead are banished to a realm of icy cold death (a fate that the Nordic people found much worse in telling than a lake of fire) and torture. This particular aspect of Hel’s realm was the basis for the Judeo-Christian “hell” to which sinners are banished and tortured for eternity. Unlike the Judeo-Christian concept, Helheim also served as the shelter and gathering place of souls to be reincarnated. Hel watches over those who died peacefully of old age or illness. She cares for children and women who die in childbirth. She guides those souls who do not choose the path of war and violence through the circle of death to rebirth.

Because of Hel’s special role in the deaths of mothers in childbirth and children of all ages who die, She has become, according to some sources, the special guardian of children. Mother Goose is believed to be based on Frau Holle or Frau Holda who is a kindly and wise, if slightly horrific crone who rewards the industrious and punishes the lazy. The goose aspect is from a legend tradition that says that snow is a result of Frau Holda shaking out her bed linens.

One of the stories involving Hel is the decent of Balder into Helheim. Loki arranged for Balder to die by tricking him into a rigged contest. Because the contest was hosted in Asgard, Balder could not return to that place in death. His relocation sent him to the only other realm for the dead, Hel’s domain. His arrival to Helheim was welcomed with banquet and festival, proof that not all of Hel’s realm was torturous.

Hel governs the world beyond that of the living. In magic, she makes thin the veil between worlds. Seidhr [SAY-theer] or Nordic shamans call upon Her protection and wear the helkappe, a magic mask, to render them invisible (like Hades helm of invisibility) and enable them to pass through the gateway into the realm of death and spirit. In divination, Her special symbol is Hagalaz, hail: The embodiment of the icy realm She rules. Hel stands at the crossroads in judgment of souls who pass into Her realm. In that, She is linked to Osiris and Isis as well as Hecate.

Hel has fallen from her privileged position as guardian and ruler through years of being represented as an evil, ugly entity waiting to devour and torture lost souls. Ignorance as used Her as a means of scaring children and adults into a supposedly righteous path (instead of allowing free will to guide their actions to do what is right). May we learn and dispel the slander of years by seeing Her for the protector, judge, and guide that She originally represented.