‘The Faces of the Goddess’

by Rhyannan                                                                                                                                                                                 
The primary quality of the Goddess is ‘gatheredness’ and active ‘drawing in’ (like magnetism and gravity), and all other concepts of the Goddess derive from these two, despite the multiple and progressively distinctive forms/faces She eventually develops. Not all forms/faces turn up in a single mythology, although many are universal. In order to understand the volume of the qualities of the Divine Feminine, we can consider Her
evolution within mythology itself – that is, weaving world mythologies together into a cohesive progression (1).PRIMAL MATRIX – four abstract stages 1. ‘virgin’ in the ultimate sense – She who is ‘one unto herself’ – undifferentiated, no ‘other-ness’ – ultimate IS-ness, not ‘doing’ as yet.2. Chaos, the ultimate Void/Abyss; the ‘Power-of’ that is beyond the ‘Power-to’; the Darkness that is beyond (experienced) Darkness; the ‘circumference which is nowhere’; the ‘Godhead’; ‘suchness’ (Buddhist); “the intuitive experience of the infinity and the all-embracing oneness of all that is” (Govinda, 77); the ‘unconditioned’ (Hayward, 11); the awesome power of ‘empty space’ (Bohm, 191)*(2)3. The cosmic ocean; the ‘great round’; the ‘ground of being’ (Tillich); the “utter multiplicity of potentialities” (Hayward, 225, quoted from Whitehead); the first emanation of the concept of space, ” not [yet]… an actual entity” (Hayward, 241); “the plenum which is the ground for existence of everything…”(Bohm, 192); the eternal ‘Shimmering’, ‘full vacuum of space’; IS-ness.4. gynandrous union (3) of all possible differentiable/distinctive qualities, and in particular, the God/son which is ‘sleeping within Her’, as His first form, the Ouroboros; the beginning before any ‘activated’ beginning.CREATOR MOTHER – four stages of preparing for creation 1. ‘raw energy’ – ultimate Yin/Shakti (Hindu); “Unconditional nature….What is” (Hayward, 28); Mother principle, rather than Pure Principle of Wholism; the desire to ‘see/be (Her) self’.
2. Creation of the universe – cosmic egg and the hen that gestates it; Alpha/Omega; ‘t/womb’; original/final Unity; parthenogenetically pregnant; initial creation/unfolding of time and space.3. Creator of the Godde (4) (with God/Son’s first emanation)- conceptual differentiation; ‘One becomes Many’; matrix of archetypes; the original dragon-body of the Universe ‘shattered’ into multiplicity; initiation of all polarities/paradoxes and therefore, of all choices.4. World Womb – manifestation of possibilities in/of/on this planet (heaven manifested on earth: ‘as above, so below’); the Great Mother; the Mother Pot; ‘the natural, inevitable order of things’ (Farrars, 146); “the totality of what can be known” (Campbell, 116); all-embracing destiny; ‘Maya’ (‘necessary illusion’, Hindu); ‘Manas’ (Tibetan)

GODDESS – 7 manifestations of existence/life 

1. The elements
earth – “‘soul manifested in matter” (Walker, 266); fertility of the soil and cell; guardian of all that dies and ‘returns to dust’; fates and furies; healing,
water – primordial Gaian ocean; ‘watery abyss of heaven’ (Neumann, 218); magical power of rain; fluidity; untame-ableness,

fire – “the dynamic of the life” (Neumann, 219); night-mother of all light; hearth (and oven); all fire related crafts (pottery, blacksmithy, and healing); sexuality/passion and all artistic pursuits,

air – Mother of the Winds; ‘winds of fate’; in-spire-ation, intuition, and enlightenment; prophecy, psychic experience, mystery and magick, and

ethers – Void/Return/Paradise – She who ‘dis-spells’ Maya, “Virgin Paradise” (Walker, 769); Nirvana (Buddhist).

2. Consciousness — Gnosis; weaver of dreams/dream-world; Muse’; feminine power of the unconscious; ” a wisdom…that is infinitely superior to the wisdom of man’s waking consciousness…” (Neumann, 330); “primordial intelligence beyond thought and concept” (Hayward, 280); lunar consciousness which “moves in and out of time” (Woodman, 143); Moon-mirror to deeper self/soul; Truth (that is beyond the spoken word).

3. Life and Death – all life/fertility (see elements); “she who bleeds with both life and death” (Neumann, 180); with Shiva (Hindu), part of the “mad partners in a cosmic dance that is destined to destroy the worlds” (Kinsley, 105); the Time that devours all; necessary laws of existence; wildness (continued chaos, order out of chaos).

4. Knowledge – She who lifts the ‘veils of Maya’; ultimate saviour; both the lesson to be learned and its teacher; mother-prototype of Logos (Sophia); the wedding/weaving of spirit and matter; wisdom personified; ‘body’ of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Cosmic Tree; the ‘measuring’ (the word ‘measure’ comes from the same root as Moon, month and menstruation); the “Wyrd…Intelligence of the unconscious… Memory/Past; Action/Present; Intelligence/Future” (Bleakley, 219); “The laws of divine order, the justice of the inevitability, the truths of cosmic reality…” (Farrars, 147); inventor of language, writing, the keeping of records, mythmaking, and prayer/incantation/mantra.

5. Supreme Divinity – Queen of Heaven and ‘throne’ of earth (Her ‘lap’ – euphemism for vulva/vagina); maker of kings; ‘ground’ of authority.

6. Trinity and Quaternity of the Goddess – trinity of Maiden, Mother and Crone, plus Midwife (also includes the Dark Mother) – the qualities of life’s cycles – 3 Erinyes, Fates, Furies, Gorgons, Graeae, Grey Ones, Horae, Moraes, Muses, Norns, Nymphs, Wyrds and Zorayas: 3 daughters of Allah and Gwenhwyfar, 3 Brighids, 3 Marys of the Cross, and 3 ‘grandmothers under the earth’ of Malay: Triple Universe as Bhavani, Triple Pussa as Kwan Yin and 3 realms of the world as Diana Triformis: the Morrigan (various three-fold form); the 3 heads of Kali and Mut (and many dragons).

– Maiden (5) – Creator – Possibility – future, heaven: dawn, spring: life, enchantment, benevolence, kindness (via Creativa),

– Mother – Preserver – Actuality – present, earth: noon, summer: growth, ripeness, attachment, love (via Positiva),

– Crone – Destroyer – Fulfillment – past, underworld: evening, autumn: death, wisdom, veneration, respect (via Negativa), and

– Midwife – Transformer – Potential – ‘out of time’, ‘out of space’: midnight, winter: re-birth, truth, non-attachment, resonance with all (via Transformativa).

7. Moon – 3 visible faces of the Moon (waxing, full, and waning), plus Dark Moon. At one time or another in a particular mythology, the Moon usually is the source of, or absorbs, all other concepts of the Goddess, except the Sun Goddess (6) or God, to whom She is sister (and often, twin). She is usually the mother of the ‘dying sons’ saviours – Osiris, Sin, Tammuz, Baal, Horus, Mithra, Adonis, Pallas, Shiva, Zagreua, Pan, Dionsysus, and Jesus (the Virgin Mary is identified with the Moon). As noted before, She is also the ‘mirror to the soul’, and therefore, related to all concepts of wisdom/knowledge, prophecy/magick/intuition, and healing.

MORTAL – Priestess, mother of the Divine Child. 

In later mythology, the Goddess becomes ‘incarnate’ in the mortal mother (for example, the Virgin Mary), and/or the priestess and sacred prostitute. There is evidence that several of the Goddesses were originally mortal wymyn, deified because of their role on earth – for example, the Queens Isis (of Egypt) and Inanna (of Sumeria). Priestesses had basically all the same roles that priests eventually came to have, but a significant addition element was representing the Goddess in the ‘hieros gamos’ (sacred marriage) – the King had to participate in this ritual marriage (representing the God, married to ‘the land’), as it was often the only acceptable way that he could authentically hold the throne. Often, the mythological ‘Divine Child’, saviour, or hero resulted from these matings.

In many cultures, the concept of priestess and prostitute were not separate – to sleep with the priestess was to bring the Goddess’ blessing to your family, crops or trade. Holy Priestess/Prostitutes included the sacred whores, the brides of God, the holy harlots, temple and/or vestal virgins, the dancing ‘harlots’ of South India, and those who formally mourned the dead.


1. Definitions from “Momma Births – Son Dies: or the Great Round of Life” (a study of the Universality of the Combined Archetypes of the Virgin Mother and the Dying Son) – honours thesis by Pashta MaryMoon.

2. * indicates that I have not quoted the author but summarized the statement made.

3. Alternative term for androgynous.

4. The ‘Godde’ refers to all possible archetypes that could be imaged as a Goddess or God ‘face’ – inferring a collective unit of/emanating–from the Divine, containing an infinite number of distinctive ‘faces’/images.

5. Note: each word, in each of the descriptions of the Quaternal Goddess, is the parallel of the others, in the same order – ex. future/present/past/ ’out of time’.

6. One of the inconsistencies in the ‘faces’ of the Goddess involves Her as Sun or Moon. In some harsher climates (especially northern ones), the Sun is seen as a Goddess – a distinctly beneficent/nurturing force: in this case, the Moon may be seen as either Goddess or God. In some equatorial regions, the Moon was originally seen as a God, although usually in this case, there is either a non-dominant Sun God (oddly enough consistent with the actual physical creation of the earth out of cosmic gases through which the Sun would not be seen: Sun Gods are often of a ‘younger’ generation than those of storms, winds, earth, etc.) , or one who is considered somewhat malevolent. However, it is also important to point out these Sun Goddesses are usually quite benevolent, and do incorporate many of the secondary qualities of the Earth Goddess in other traditions. Furthermore, all light (Sun or otherwise) is considered to be born (often on a daily basis) out of Mother Night.


Alan Bleakey. Fruits of the Moon Tree: the Medicine Wheel and Transpersonal Psychology (Gateway Books, 1984).

David Bohm. Wholeness and the Implicate Order (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1980).

Joseph Campbell. The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Princeton University Press, New York, 1949).

Janet and Stewart Farrar. The Witches’ Goddess (Phoenix Publishing, 1987).

Lama Anagarila Govinda. Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism (Samual Weiser Inc. 1969).

Jeremy Hayward. Perceiving Ordinary Magic: Science and Intuitive Wisdom (New Science Library, Shambala, 1984).

David Kinsley. The Sword and the Flute: Kali and Krsna: Dark Visions of the Terrible and the Sublime in Hindu Mythology (University of California Press, 1975).

Erich Neumann The Great Mother: an Analysis of the Archetype (Princeton University Press, 1963).

Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor. The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth (Harper and Row, 1987).

Barbara Walker. The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets (Harper and Row, 1983).

Marion Woodman. The Pregnant Virgin: a Process of Psychological Transformation, (Inner City Books, 1985).