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Discovering the Divine Feminine as Mother Goddess through Polytheistic Traditions


Meeting the Goddess


My first understanding of the divine feminine was Mother Mary. She was one the few females mentioned in my Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) classes through the Catholic Church. I discovered her at age five, inside a cramped church, with no air conditioning, in high summer. I sat alongside a hundred other parishioners, all of us melting in our Sunday best. I let my eyes relax; the constant flicking of paper fans looking much like the wings of moths taking flight, as we strained to hear the droning words of the priest. I found myself distracted. I gazed at the massive stained glass windows and statues, and my eyes stopped on the little statue of Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was arrayed in a pure white dress and a long, pale blue mantle. The hint of a smile on her lips was sad, yet serene, like a sainted Mona Lisa.


Mary, and her story of suffering, became an anchor for me amid a religion where my participation was obligatory, and one I had informally rejected by sixth grade. For years, I have been drawn to her beautiful sad face. I’d spend the first ten minutes of mass trying to catch a glimpse of her diminutive statue over the heads of the adults. Although she was the Mother of God, the various depictions of her in the Catholic churches I attended were half the size, and less ornate, than those of Jesus or the male saints. This frequently confused me. Why was Mary so small if she gave Jesus to our world? Shouldn’t she be exalted, high above others, as the mother of the King of Kings? Why was she three steps down from the altar, in the corner, as if the statue was just an afterthought? Shouldn’t she get equal billing? Instead, it became clear that her positioning was a symbol of what was unreachable, unattainable, and untouchable for most women in the Catholic Church. I remember asking my parents about her station and my mother saying, “Well, it’s not like she’s God. She’s just the mother of God.” This made no sense to me, but in retrospect, the goddess herself was setting me a challenge: to discover what the concept of God meant to me. This was an open invitation to understand divinity in a new way, through my experience of Her.


“And thou who thinkest to seek for me, know thy seeking and yearning, shall avail thee not, unless thou know this mystery: that if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee.” 1


In ancient polytheistic cultures, the divine feminine, known primarily as “goddess”, was celebrated. In the eras of pre-Christian matriarchy, women, too, were heartily celebrated. From Eurynome, a creation goddess of ancient Greece, to Ninmah, the mother of ancient Sumer, the mythos of the divine feminine as mother are steeped in adoration and reverence in many cultures around the world. They were, after all, responsible for the propitiation of all life!


“Eurynome was born from Chaos, and her first work was to separate the water from the sky. When she had accomplished this, she began to dance across the water. It was a beautiful, sensual dance of creation. Impregnated by Ophion, soon the Goddess lay the Universal Egg. Ophion [as the great world serpent] wrapped his body around it seven times, at Eurynome's bidding. As it opened, the earth spilled forth, born populated with animals and plants.”2


These stories gave ancient peoples hope. They gave me hope. I assimilated with mother goddesses more than others. Perhaps it was an attempt to understand my own mother and counter the lack of mothering I needed in childhood. The goddess became my surrogate mother and gave me a new understanding of what it is to be a strong, loving and caring female.


Divine Mother


To me, the moon is female, and I have very early memories of watching her, sitting in my car seat, completely fascinated by her constant silvery presence, as our car whizzed down the road. I thought she was following us, no matter where we would go, and I felt she was always with me. (“Man” in the moon, indeed!)


During the years of late teens to young adulthood I was a sponge, soaking up all I could to enhance my spiritual growth. When I took up the mantle of priestess, I chose the name Selene, (numerically spelled out as Cellina), the mother phase of the full moon in Greece. It was very important to me that my patron goddess was a kind and giving mother who would be a constant presence and resource in my life.


After learning that early Christians slaughtered thousands of goddess worshippers, and built their churches on the foundation of their razed temples, during my more “up-in-arms” teen years; I moved even further away from Christianity. Although Jesus and his disciple Paul opened the newly Christianized churches to women,3 in the era where much of northern Europe turned from polytheism to Christianity, all aspects of women were removed from altar stations; statues and other depictions of the goddess destroyed, and no longer were the words goddess or priestess uttered without fear of retribution.


The inception of the Holy Bible, written in the years 1200-165 BCE preceding the life of Christ, provided stories that perpetuated the misconception that women were lowlier than men, and more likely to sin; a derivative of Eve’s story and original sin. Instead of being celebrated as sacred, a woman was relegated as the scheming and lowly whore; akin to Mary Magdalene or Eve, and had no place in leading a congregation in worship. Eve was seen as the original schemer, the deceiver of truth, one who could not be trusted. Mary Magdalene was viewed as someone who operated from only the basest of human desires.


I was angry for the ancient women of the past who had suffered much from celebrating the divine feminine. To appease my parents, I would attend mass and sit in church, sometimes positively seething with teenage angst, for this god that would allow many to die in his name. Straddling the two worlds of Christianity and Paganism that I lived in for years was not an easy feat. I looked to the mythos of ancient cultures to better understand my ever-changing world, the inequalities, and the deceptive twisting of sacred mythos and the traditions of women. Then, a lightbulb went on. It was through song, prayer, sacred dance, and meditation that I began to fully comprehend the magnificence of mother goddess as one of the faces of God. I met divinity, in my heart, my soul, and with my whole being.


The Reachable Deity

Ancient polytheistic traditions, and their culturally established goddess mythos, gave me a way to discern answers to the larger questions of life. What is God? What is religion? What I have found to be very interesting is that Mary Magdalene is actually believed to be an ancient priestess, and progenitor of the Magdalene Priestess lines, in a once thriving polytheistic society during the life of Christ. 4


I am heartened that now, in modern day spirituality, Mary Magdalene is often perceived as an ascended master. Through the surge of feminism in the late 1960s, the goddess-renewed perceptions of the divine feminine and the triple aspects of the goddess known as the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone were once again remembered as actual parallels to God as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


Through celebrating the goddess; and what Mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Selene have represented to me for years, I found what I have always craved: a reachable, attainable, and touchable deity. In that two-way street of communication, between divinity and humans, a concept not subscribed to by Catholics, I found my true Holy Mother.


Opening to Even More: Grokking God as Goddess


There was solace in being a participant in a religious ceremony, rather than just a witness. It was through this tangible communion that I found a connection to the divine feminine. I found joy participating in the recreations of ancient polytheistic ceremonies. These traditions mirrored the beautiful divinity in each of us, and provided me with answers to questions common to the plight of women as the oppressed gender. It was through my marriage, with my loving and spiritual husband, that I rediscovered a gentle and compassionate male deity. A god that expressed his love through the renewal of the earth with the changing of seasons; who loved me as I am, and who is depicted as an equal to the divine feminine. God was renewed within me.


My vision of divinity has been opened wide to embrace all of the support of the universe: the angels, Light Beings, and ascended masters that are also part of the Divine Plan. After all, does it matter which name we give to who authored the Divine Plan: God, Goddess, Ninmah, Gaia, Eurynome, Allah or Yahweh? I feel it’s more important that we are each coauthoring this plan by participating in life, and knowing that we have a pathway to God or to the Goddess. We just need to cultivate the sacred relationship and commit to living a good and just life. “I have no quarrel with the Christ, only with his priests, who call the Great Goddess a demon and deny that she ever held power in this world.”5


Now, as a result of knowing the divine feminine and divine masculine, I have found that any angst I have carried about Christianity, throughout my life, has faded like the smoke of a censer burning in an ancient stone temple. My heart-held prayer is that the world continues to open to a more-encompassing world religion; a place where people can understand that the goddess is the divine feminine; and where religions are inclusive and focused on sharing hope, inspiration, and renewal; and where her wisdom is given credence and her validity is restored. “The worlds shall once again come together, a world with room for the Goddess, and for the Christ, the cauldron and the cross.” 6


Cellina Rhiannon Whiteflame was ordained a priestess in 1998 and is legally recognized as such. She is also: a spiritual coach, an energy healing facilitator, a way-shower, a guide and spiritual leader, who provides Priestess of the Spiral accredited training where exploration of the divine feminine is used as a catalyst to helping women understand their own divinity.


You can join the next available training starting in January 2024! Go here for more information.



Resources

1 Doreen Valiente, The Charge of the Goddess, 1953

2 Ailia Athena, Journeying into the Goddess article, 2001

3 “Women in Early Christianity: Pagan Precedence and Evangelical Acceptance” by Cherokee Gonzalez from her thesis paper, 1994

4 Lynn Picknett, The Secret History of Mary Magdalene: Christianity’s Hidden Goddess, 2000

5 Marion Zimmer Bradley; The Mists of Avalon, 1983

6 Marion Zimmer Bradley; The Mists of Avalon, 1983

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