Friday, December 24, 2010

The Great Goddess

From "Who Cooked the Last Supper?"
by Rosalind Miles

Around 2300 B.C., the chief priest of Sumeria composed a hymn in praise of God.  This celebration of the omnipotent deity, "The Exaltation of Innana", is a song of extraordinary power and passion, and it has come down in history as the world's first known poem.  But it has another claim to world attention - both the first God and this first known priest-poet were female.

For in the beginning, as humankind emerged from the darkness of prehistory, God was a woman.  And what a woman!  The Sumerian inhabitants of what is now Iraq worshipped her in hymns of fearless eroticism, giving thanks for her tangled locks, her "lap of honey", her rich vulva "like a boat of heaven" - as well as for the natural bounty that she "pours forth from her womb" so generously that every lettuce was to be honored as "the Lady's" pubic hair.  But the Supreme being was more than a provider of carnal delights. Equally relished and revered were her warlike rages - to her first priest-poet Enheduanna she was "a dragon, destroying by fire and flood" and "filling rivers with blood".

The power and centrality of the first woman-God is one of the best-kept secrets of history.  We think today of a number of goddesses, all with different names - Isis, Juno, Demeter - and have forgotten what, 5,000 years ago, every schoolgirl knew; no matter what name or guise she took, there was only one God and her name was woman.
So arose the belief that woman was divine, not human, gifted with the most sacred and significant power in the world; and so was born the worship of the Great Mother.  The birth of new life out of woman's body was intricately related to the birth of new crops out of the body of the earth, and from the very first, both were interlocked in the concept of a female divinity far more complex and powerful than conventional accounts suggest.

Wedded as we are to an all-loving, all-forgiving stereotype of motherhood, it is at first sight difficult to reconcile this terrifying image of the bad mother with the good.  But both "life" and "death" sides of the Goddess come together without strain in her primary aspect, which is in fact, not motherhood pure and simple, but hersexuality.  As her primary sexual activity she created life; but in sex she demanded man's essence, his self, even his death.  Here again the true nature of the Goddess and her activities have fallen victim to the mealy-mouthed prudery of later ages.  Where referred to at all, they are coyly labeled "fertility" rituals, beliefs or totems, as if the Great Goddess selflessly performed her sexual obligations solely in order to ensure that the earth would be fruitful.  It is time to set the historical record straight.  The fruitfulness of crops and animals was only ever a by-product of the Goddess's own personal sexual activity.  Her sex was hers, the enjoyment of it hers, and as all these early accounts of her emphasize, when she had sex, like any other sensible female, she had it for herself.

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