09 November 2008

Benevolent Goddesses of War and Death

Lately I've been thinking about goddesses, from various cultures and time periods, whose influence spread over not just positive things like love, motherhood and learning but also war, death and destruction. Goddesses like Anat of Ugarit, Kali of Hinduism, Athena and Inanna of Sumeria have especially been occupying my thoughts. These goddesses, and their counterparts from other pantheons, have always fascinated and yet repelled me. After all, my patron goddesses are Aphrodite and Luna, not exactly warlike beings. They've repelled me to the point that I've avoided making a careful study of them for years. I just took it in stride that there could be goddesses in charge of love as well as war and death and refused to look any deeper lest what I might find would further disturb me. I guess it just took me a long time to wrap my head around the idea and now I'm finally ready to put some theories and thoughts down in black and white.

It's not easy, or even possible sometimes, to pinpoint the time period when a specific deity becomes linked with a specific characteristic. Some things can be linked to the conquering of a city or region that leads to the incorporation of qualities formerly belonging to a local deity. Once cultures are absorbed into others syncretism between their gods and goddesses inevitably follows. So, a goddess that might once have been linked with love could, over time, merge with another goddess and thus become a goddess of war as well. But since the historical and archaeological records are oftentimes incomplete it's difficult to state with certainty when and how this type of blending takes place. That said, history doesn't leave us completely clueless, as will be seen in the weeks to come.

Given the complex nature of these goddesses I've decided to start a series of posts about them so that I might devote more than just a paragraph or two to each goddess. I'll start with the four mentioned above but will possibly discuss other goddesses as well. I'm really looking forward to making an in-depth study of these goddesses that, up until now, I've largely ignored. I also look forward to learning the views of others concerning these fascinating deities.


Griffin said...

What I love about Athena is that not only is she a war goddess (but of just wars, unlike Ares, Sacker of Cities), she is also goddess of craftwork, hence the tale of her and Arachne.

Livia Indica said...

Ooh, yeah. Thanks for reminding me of that fact. I'll be sure to compare and contrast Ares and Athena when I get to her.

Jenavira said...

Great idea. I've always felt a connection myself to Macha, one of the Irish crow/war goddesses, who's sometimes associated with the Morrigan. They're a more obscure group of deities than the ones you're already looking at (most Celtic deities are, alas...) but you might find them interesting nonetheless.

Livia Indica said...

Ooh, thanks Jenavira, I might have to look at her too.