There are many male gods and deities in the world mythologies but we think there's a pretty good chance there are more female ones. The root of our suspicion is that male gods are given broad leadership, creation, and destruction roles, while females gods are given to the more everyday goings on; arguably the more important stuff. There's only so much "big" stuff, but there's a seemingly infinite amount of "little" stuff.
If we asked you to name all the gods you could recall from memory, and then asked you to name all the goddesses your could recall from memory, you'd probably have a much longer list of gods; even if we permitted spirits and deities on those lists.
Don't worry, we're not making a political statement. That's far from our style. We're merely pointing out that there are probably a lot of female deities, spirits, and goddesses that you've not heard of before. So in this week's LMAW Insider, we're going to feature three female entities that we think are pretty damn cool.
1. The Erinyes of Greek Mythology
The Erinyes (pronounced like air-ah-neeze), were conceived when the blood of Uranus, a Primordial God father of the Titans, was spilled before Gaia's body. To better understand the role of the Erinyes, of which there were three, we should visit exactly why and how Uranus' blood was spilled in the first place.
In the Greek Pantheon of Gods and Goddesses there was first Uranus and Gaia; the gods of the Sky and Earth respectively. They bred the Titans, one of whom was Cronos. Fearful of his children's power, Uranus locked his children away in the Tartarus; a deep abyss used as a dungeon.
Gaia couldn't bare this but with each new offspring Uranus gave her, another child would be tossed into the Tartarus. Gaia knew that the only way to prevent more of her children from being locked away was to find a way to stay Uranus' passions. She thus armed Cronus with a sickle, which Cronus promptly employed to castrate his father and throw his testicles into the sea.
And so when the blood from this wound touch Gaia, born forth were not only the Erinyes, but also the Giants and the Nymphs of the Manna Ash Trees (aka, the Meliae). In some versions of the story, the sea froth which kicked up around the discarded flesh of Uranus gave birth to Aphrodite.
In any event, the Erinyes were born. And is it any surprise to what purpose they were given? Why, according to Homer's Iliad, "to punish those whosoever has sworn a false oath" of course. They are related to punishing the wrongdoers and betrayers for their wrongdoings and betrayals. After all, what bigger betrayal is there than a son castrating his father?
The number of Erinyes were never exactly stated but only three seem to ever be referred to. Those are Tisiphone (the avenging), Alekto (the angry), and Megaira (the grudging). These netherworld goddesses specialized in avenging crimes against "the natural order"; with a particular focus on homicide, crimes against the gods, perjury, and the big one: unfilial conduct. Unfilial being defined as "not having or showing the qualities associated with a son or daughter" - no surprise considering the whole castration thing!
2. The Green Tārā of Tibetan Buddhism
In Tibetan Buddhism we find many curious characters but none as far reaching in their purpose as the Taras. There are 8 Taras, all of them female:
- The White Tara, a goddess of compassion, long life, healing and serenity.
- The Red Tara, a goddess of fierce aspect who is associated with magnetizing all good things
- The Black Tara, a goddess associated strictly with power
- The Yellow Tara, associated with wealth and prosperity
- The Blue Tara, associated with the transmutation of anger and rage
- The Cittamani Tara, a goddess of Highest Yoga Tantra
- The Khadiravani Tara, a goddess of the Acacia Forest
Misleading as the colors and titles may be, all these Tara are only different forms of a single Buddhist savior-goddess. That goddess's name is Sgrolma, meaning "she who saves". She is a Goddess of universal compassion and of virtuous and enlightened action. She's no small-fry in the Pantheon; of all the mantras held dear in Tibet, her's (om tare tuttare ture svaha) is the second most common.
Sgrolma was born of the bodhisattva, Avalokiteshvara. It is said that as this bodhisattva gazed down upon the world of suffering, he wept. Avalokiteshvara's tears formed a lake from which a lotus sprouted, and when that lotus bloomed and opened itself to the world, the Goddess Sgrolma was revealed.
Just for the sake of clarity here, and because most people don't have as good a grasp on Buddhism as they do on, say, Greek Mythology: Sgrolma and Avalokiteshvara are names, and so is Tara (kind of). The word "bodhisattva" however, is a term used to identify someone who is truly wishing to obtain buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings; a person who has generated "bodhicitta" (an enlightened mind).
3. Lagertha the Viking Shieldmaiden of Norway
Okay, you got me. Lagertha isn't a goddess, but come on! She totally should be! This woman was one of the baddest ass vikings on record, so cut us a little slack for including her.
Once wife to Ragnar Lothbrok, Lagertha is set apart in yet another way from the other women on this list: She's supposedly non-fiction. Real!. And her story? Canon, in fact!
Recorded by the Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus (draw your own conclusions on that name) in the 12th century, Lagertha's accomplishments were truly legendary. She was said to be an amazon with the courage of the most courageous man. She fought in front of the bravest with her hair loose and her warrior nature on display for all to cower before.
When the viking Ragnar Lothbrok, upon returning to Denmark after many adventures, faced civil war, he called to Norway for support. He called for Lagertha. And even after Lothbrok had divorced her and married another, Legertha took up her shield and brought the support Lothbrok desperately needed. Not just that, but she turned the tides of the battle and with her matchless spirit she won the day for Lothbrok's vikings.
When she returned to Norway, her second husband argued with her, berated her for going to support her ex-husband and lover (whom he knew she still loved), and so Lagertha pulled a concealed spearhead from her gown and slew him in cold blood.
She then usurped his name, sovereignty, and power; saying that it would be "pleasanter to rule without her husband than to share the throne with him".
All this from Saxo Grammaticus. All this from one of the baddest women to have ever lived. But wait, there's a twist! Some historians, Hilda Ellis Davidson and Nora K. Chadwick being two of the most prominent, consider it very probable that Lagertha is the same as Thorgerd, one of the many divine female figures of Norse Mythology; a goddesses in fact. This suspicion has to do with numerous similarities between the writings of Saxo Grammaticus and Snorri Sturluson (poet and author of the Prose Edda and Heimskringla).
So hey, look at that. We may have three goddesses here after all!