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Where some ideas are stranger than others...

AMAZONS at the Moonspeaker

The Moonspeaker:
Where Some Ideas Are Stranger Than Others...



Acholoe - allaying anger

Admete - untamed

Aeantis - always opposing; of Aiacia

Aedon - nightingale

Aegeale - she who wards off the hurricane

Aegereus/Aegereon - goatish

Aeigenetes - hard bargaining spirit of the marketplace; associated with war

Aello - storm wind; howler

Aellopus - storm footed

Aethyeia - Athena at Megaris, may be another spelling of Aithuia

Ageleia - she who brings spoil; the forager; leader of the people

Agenios - of the contest

Aglauros - dewfall

Agoraea - protector of assemblies in the agora; protector of the people; used in Sparta

Agraule - rustic one

Aguieidos - neighbour, protector of public spaces

Aigiochos - aegis bearing

Aithuia - diver bird

Akraea - of the highest point; the ever powerful

Alalkomeneis - guardian, when used in Boeotia; elsewhere war cry or Moon strength

Alea - 'she who grinds' or 'gentle warmth;' used at Alea, Tegea, Mantinaea, often to refer to a corridor lit by the Sun, as well as Athena

Alexeteira - guardian, champion

Alexeterios - able to keep off

Alexiares - she who keeps off a curse

Aleximbrotos - protector of mortals

Alkidemos - strength of the people

Alkimache - mighty warrior; mighty defender; used at Lemnos

Alkis/Alke - might, strength; the mighty

Amaria - of the cleft

Ambulia - Goddess who delays death

Amphitrite - ocean; third element; associated specifically with the Mediterranean

Anassa - queen

Anaxophormige - queen of the lyre

Anemotis - subduer of the winds; used at Methone, Messenia

Antianeira - a fitting opponent

Apateira - not having a father

Apaturia - keeper of secrets

Apheta - releaser

Apis - of the pear tree

Arachne - weaver or spider

Archegetis - leader of the first settlement

Areia - warlike; used in Athens

Ariadne - very holy; prolific mother of barley

Aridela - very manifest one; very bright one; originally alternate name of Ariadne

Asia - of the lyre; used at Colchis

Assesia - City Goddess of Asscus in Ionia

Astyocheia - possessor of the city; originally separate Goddess

Astynome - lawgiver of the city; Athena as queen of Athens

Astytone - the unwearied

Atana Potinija - 'Queen Atana,' Mykenaean name

Athana - deathless; Athena's Dorian name

Attis/Atthis - Dawn Goddess; original Goddess of Attica

Auge - radiance

Axiopoenoeis - the avenger; Spartan title

Base - queen; Athena in Kappadocia

Baskarios - bewitcher of the Moon or one who bewitches by the Moon

Boarmia - ox yoker or inventor of the plough; used in Boeotia

Bombuia - the bumblebee

Boudeia - goader of oxen or one who tends the plough; Boudeion named for her

Boulaea - counselor, upholder of the law

Bouphobe - cattle destroying; also a title of Persephone

Brimo - angry one; also title of Persephone

Bulia - Goddess of the cattle

Bune - sea, also alternate name for Ino

Buzyge\Byzyge - ox yoker

Castitas - protector of olive trees; used in Rome

Cesme - fountain; Anatolian title derived from the many hot springs in the area

Chalkidome/Chalkioekus - Goddess of the bronze house; used in Sparta

Chalinitis - restrainer; Athena as bridler of Pegasus, used in Korinth

Chariergos - delighting in mechanical arts

Cherogonia - creating by hand; also title of Persephone

Chrusaigos - with golden aegis

Chryse - golden; island named for this aspect of her

Daedale - bright, cunning worker

Daeria - knowing one; also an Athenian title of Persephone

Damaea - tamer, subduer

Damamene - subduer of strength

Damasippe - horse taming

Deianeira - she who string together spoils

Deino - terrible

Drakontomallos - having snakes for hair

Egersimache - she who is strong in battle

Eilenia - giver of warmth and light; associated with the Sun and the arts, used at Metapontia

Elasibrontos - thunderbolt hurling

Elasippos - horse driving

Elaterbrontes - hurler of thunderbolts

Elikia - she who draws out; she who interprets omens

Engkelados - Goddess of the battle music; Goddess of the battle cry

Enyo - warrior

Epaine - the awesome; also title of Persephone

Ergane/Organe - worker, particularly as patron of arts and crafts; used at Delos; originally the name of a separate Kretan Goddess of work done in the household

Ergatis - work woman; Athena as inventor of weaving and spinning

Eriboea - rich in cattle

Erysineis - protecting ships

Euryale - wide wandering

Eurymedon - wide ruling

Euryopes - the far seeing

Eurytione - honoured far and wide

Erysiptolis - protector of the city

Etephila - lover of truth; also title of Persephone

Glaukochroos - grey coloured

Glaukopis - owl faced or owl eyed

Glaukos - yellow-green; silvery

Gorge - grim one

Gorgolopha - she of the Gorgon crest

Gorgopis - grim faced; death faced

Gygaea - a type of bird; from the name of a Lydian lake

Hellenia (Sellenia) - Moon

Hellotia - Bright Goddess; used at Korinth, may be derived from the Kretan Goddess Hella

Herse - dew

Hestia - hearth

Heuretes - inventor

Hippia - Horse Goddess; used at Athens, Tegea, Korinth, and Olympia

Hippo - horse

Hippolaitis - horse priestess

Hippothea - Horse Goddess

Hippotokos - horse bearing; originally title of Medusa

Histoponos - working at the loom

Homoloios/Homolois - purified at the same time (as Hera); Boeotian title

Hoplophoros - bearing arms

Huperdexia - commnading from overhead; standing by the right hand

Hygeia - healer; in this aspect Athena was symbolized by mistletoe, an all-heal and abortifacient

Hypata - Supreme Goddess

Hypellaios - ruling from the sky; sky queen

Iasonia - Healing Goddess; used at Kyzikus

Ino - she who makes sinewy; originally independent Goddess

Iodama - Moon-calf; originally separate Goddess

Iphtheme - powerful; Athena as Water Goddess

Isodaites - giving to all equally; also title of Plutos

Issoria - of the island of Issa; healing Earth Goddess; used in Sparta

Itone - willow; Athena as rain making Goddess; used in Iton, Thessaly, Korona

Itonia - processual; occasionally used in Athens

Kalliergos - Goddess of good work; creator of beautiful things; used at Epidaurus

Kelaeno - obscurity; screamer

Keleuthea - Goddess of the road or Goddess who gives the word of command

Keleuthiontes - belonging to the road

Kissa/Kissceis - ivy; spring of the jay; originally separate Goddess

Kleidouchos - holding the keys; tutelary deity; guardian of the gates

Kolakasis - of the red water lily; used at Sikyon

Kore - maiden

Koresia - place of the young woman; from the name of a Kretan lake

Koronis - raven or crow

Korotrophos/Kurotrophos - nurse of youth

Koryphasia - dove; light maiden; summit; had temple on the Koryphasium in Messenia

Kranae - rocky one; of the cliffs

Kranaechme - rocky point

Kranaean - of the cherry tree

Kriophagos - she who devours rams

Ktesia - protector of the home

Kudros - most honoured

Kyanaegis - of the dark aegis

Kydonia - glorious tree; used in Elis

Kyneaidos - wearer of the dog's skin, which rendered the wearer invisible

Kyrophogenes - head born

Laosoos - rouser of nations

Laphria - despoiler; originally title of Britomartis

Larissaea - of the citadel; from her sanctuary on the Larissus River

Leiontopales - one who wrestles with lions

Leitis - she who makes or she who gives out plunder

Lemnia - Earth

Lindia - spinner; used on Lindos on Rhodes

Lindoachos - she who receives linen

Lindos - spinner

Lithopis - turning to stone with a look; stony eyed

Locheia - of childbirth

Longatis - high stony one

Lukothares - bold as a wolf

Magarsia - of the writing tablet; used at Megarsos

Malija - originally Anatolian Goddess separate from Athena

Mamersa - mother, grandmother

Marmaropis - turning to marble with a glance

Mechanites - inventor; discoverer of devices; used at Megalopolis

Medousa - Guardian Goddess

Medusa - wisdom

Melanaigis - with dark aegis

Meter - mother; used at Elis, may be from Meteres of Krete, a Goddess of maternity and birth

Metieta - counsellor

Metioessa - wise in council

Minos - Moon, knowledge; used on Krete

Munychia - Moon Goddess

Myklika - she who mumbles (oracles)

Myrmex - ant

Myrine - swift bounding

Narkaea - benumbing; Goddess who petrifies; used at Olympia

Nedusia - leaping diver bird; used at Messenia and Keos, temple on bank of Nedon river

Nereis - wet one

Nerine - valour; Sabine title

Nike - victory

Nikothoe - nimble justice

Okypete - swift flying

Onca/Onga - pear tree (in Phoenician); used in Boeotia, refers to Athena as oracle

Opheoplokamos - with serpent hair

Opthalmitis - protector of eyesight

Optiletis - keen sighted

Otiona - having ear flaps; refers to a type of owl believed to embody the Goddess

Ouleteira - she who wounds

Ouranobatos - skywalker

Oxyderkes - sharp sighted, keen minded

Paeonia - healer; Athena as Snake Goddess, used at Athens and Oropus

Pallas - great maiden; originally separate Goddess

Pallenis - may mean Maiden Goddess; had temple between Athens and the Plain of Marathon

Panachaea - of all Achaea; one who works all day

Panatis - Exacting Goddess; Athena as Goddess of weaving

Pandrosos - dewy

Pangkrateutes - all powerful

Panmachios - ready for any battle

Panoptes - the all seeing

Pansophos - all wise

Panteleia - Goddess who is perfect to all; she who is fulfilled in all ways

Pantheia - Goddess of All

Pantotechno - mother of all arts; originally title of Meter

Pareia - one who passes over

Parthenia/Parthenos - virgin; used in Athens and Samos which was once called the same name

Pasiphae - she who shines for all

Pelemaigis - shaking the aegis

Pemphredo - wasp

Perdix - partridge; originally lost one; pre-Hellenic bird Goddess of Athens

Pero - leather bag (of winds)

Persephone - she who shines for all; destroyer of all; she who gathers everything

Phaedra - bright one

Phemia - Goddess of omens (speech); associated with a method of divination using pebbles

Pheratris - Goddess of the people

Phobestratos - terrifier of armies

Phratria - lawgiver

Plutos - riches; originally separate Goddess

Podarge - light or swift footed

Podarke - running to the rescue

Polemaigis - with warlike aegis

Poliaas - grey-haired

Polias - protector of cities; used in Athens where she had two priestesses running her temple, the Kosmo and the Trapezophoros

Poliatis - keeper of the city

Poliuchos - protecting the city; used in Sparta

Polybulos - exceeding wise

Promachorma - protector of the bay; used at her sanctuary on Mount Buporthmus

Promachos/Promoakkos - champion; front of battle; originally title of Pallas

Pronaea - guardian of oracles; used at Delphi

Pronoea - forethought

Proosopis - foreseeing

Psychopompe - guider of souls

Pteropous - wing footed

Pylaitis - the gatekeeper

Pylotis - of the narrow pass; Latin title

Pyrgia - Goddess of the tower; used in Lokris

Pyrophoitos - she who walks on fire; also title of Persephone

Saïs - named from the Egyptian city

Saïtis - of the Egyptian city of Sais; used at Mount Pontinus near Lerna

Salpinx - of the trumpet; used at Argos

Silla - divinatory dice; Fate Goddess

Skiros - of the white gypsum; of the parasol; used at Phaleron in Attica and on Salamis

Soteira - savior; she who sows the seed

Sounias - of Sunium, an Attic promontory

Stheino - strong, strength; used at Troezen

Stoicheia - marshaller of the ranks

Strateia - warlike

Stathmia - Goddess who measures; lawmaker

Syllania - Goddess who pounds up, reduces things to their base elements

Tabiti - hearth; Scythian title

Tachypous - swift footed

Tachypternos - with winged heels

Techne - of the arts and sciences

Telchine - enchantress; used at Tenemessus in Boeotia and at Kameirus on Rhodes

Tethys - disposer

Tharso/Thraso - confident, courageus, bold

Theseis - she who lays down (the law)

Thetis - disposer

Tithrone - eldest maiden

Tritogeneia - born of the third queen or ocean; Athena as Goddess of wisdom and war

Tritone - third queen, the eldest

Xenia - protector of strangers

Zosteria - girded for battle; having an Amazon's belt; used by the Epinemidian Lokrians


Meaning of Her Name:

Usually Athena is considered almost synonymous with Neith of Egypt, and so her name is given the same meaning as Neith's: 'I have come from myself.' The idea being, that the Greeks took the meaning of the Egyptian name and chose a term that meant the same thing in Greek. However, 'Athena' is not an Indo-European name, and seems to correspond to Greek athanatos 'deathless' by coincidence. Graves suggested that it came from Anatha, whose name means 'Queen of Heaven.'

Each year, Anath as Crone would cast her death curse on the corn god, her consort, in order to send him on his journey to the underworld. The Greek language version of the curse was later taken over by the christian church: 'Anathema Maranatha.' Superficially, Athena's name appears to be a contracted form of 'anathema' however, this is actually quite unlikely as her name is far older than the use of the term 'anathema.' Her name may even be a later form of Ath-Enna, another of Athena's North African names.

A stronger hypothesis is that of Annette Teffeteller, who begins by pointing out the trade contacts between Mykenae and the Hittite Empire via routes running along the southwest coast of Anatolia. Similar to many other cultures, the Hittites considered fresh water springs and the water sources they fed such as pools and wells, sacred. Accordingly they regularly set up sacred monuments by them. Teffeteller suggests that the city name Arinna means 'spring,' that place being best known for the Hatti Sun Goddess whose name was Wurusemu but was called by the Hittites simply 'the Sun Goddess of Arinna.' In time, a series of linguistic transformations occurred as the name passed through different languages down the Anatolian coast to Greece altered it into 'Athena.'

In 'The Wise Wound' (1990), Shuttle and Redgrove translate 'Pallas Athena' as 'Vulva Vulva.' Their argument for this is that most peoples draw the names of their Goddesses from words meaning 'vulva' and 'womb.' This author can find no basis whatsoever for this contention; in fact a striking number of Goddess names refer to light, especially sunlight; personality traits such as generosity, kindness, and righteous anger; or terms that mark the Goddess as a putative ancestor (which includes animal and plant names).

Centres of Her Worship:

Pre-Hellenic sites, including Argos, Sparta, Troy, Smyrna, Epidaurus, Troezen, Pheneus, and Libya; had shrines and later temples wherever Hera did; Thrake, Pthiotis, Athens, Areiopagus, Mount Lykabettus, Pallatine Hill, Boeotia, Kappadocia, Triteia in Achaea, Krete, Kretan and Karian Miletus, Megalopolis, Daulis, Phalanna in Perrhaebia, Amorgos, Ios, Hieraptyna, Lyketos, Heraklaea in Southern Italy, Koronaea, Kolonus, Acharnae, Sunium, Phyle, Pallene, Makedon, Abdera, Byzantium, Thasos, Lemnos, Samos, the Kyklades, Alea, Mantinaea, Kyprus, Karpathos, Rhodes, Spain, Pergamon, Sicily, potentially the temple of Hestia on Mount Melantion, Syria

Other Terms Derived From Her Name:

Athenaea - older name for Panathenaea festival
Athenaikos - of Athena
Athenaion - temple of Athena
Athenaton - temple of Athena
Athenizo - as wise as Athena
Athenaeum - temple of Athena, later a library

Sacred Animals:

sea eagle, swallow, vulture, dove, lark, diver bird, owl, wolf, dog, lion, spider, horse, crow, raven, snake, ram, goat, ox, sheep, ant, griffin, sphinx, swan, duck, gull

Sacred Plants:

ivy, willow, olive, grape, pear tree, mistletoe, oak, poppy, oak

Sacred Places:

Lake Tritonis, rivers, woodlands, desert, ocean, Lake Gorgopis, nesting spots of the little owl, including forests, orchards, hedgerows between fields, niches in walls and buildings (including those of the Acropolis), Paestrum, Tegea

Powers and Qualities:

shapeshifting, strength, thunderbolt wielding, independent, wisdom, lightbringer, deathbringer, action, sobriety, rainmaker, ruler of winds, petrifying gaze, navigator, merciful, controller of drought, old age


Sun, aegis, spear, flute, horse bridle, Moon, ox yoke, divinatory dice, double flute, Gorgon mask, ship, wine, red dye from ivy sap, chariot, olive tree, pottery wheel, pottery, loom, cloth, stones, statues, tombstones, numbers three, seven, and nine, gypsum, sulphur, colour red in general, saw, yellow-green minerals, the 'draweos' a mysterious object dedicated to her only by women, and the bend sinister indicating lack of a father

Patron or Defender of:

arts, literature, philosophy, spinners, weavers, embroiderers, reason, defensive war, crafts, strategy, self defense, shipbuilding, navigation, young girls, women, sports, sailors, older women, smithcraft, mechanical arts, potters, musicians, Amazons

Goddesses Similar to Athena:

Pallas, Myrmex, Arachne, Atthis, Neith, Anatha, Iodama, Lamia, Medusa, Uma, Minerva, Metis, Medea, Kirke, Hestia, Meter, Blodewedd, Branwen


In or on the shores of the inland sea known as Lake Tritonia, according to the Libyan Amazons. Today Lake Tritonia is a much reduced salt marsh of Algeria and Tunisia. Sometimes Athena was said to have been found on the shore by three priestesses in goatskin aegises. At other times she was born of the eldest member of the Triple Goddess triad of the lake, Metis 'foreknowledge, wisdom.' The Kretans claimed their island was the birthplace of Athena, from Lake Koresia. In a sense, both the Libyans and the Kretans were right, see main section Athena.


Athena, like Artemis, is too old a Goddess to be the daughter of Zeus, or sister of Apollo, who was forcibly installed in her Sun temples. Early representations of her (for example, a pithos from 700 BCE) show her leaping, fully clothed, helmeted and armed with a spear, from the head of an enthroned Goddess. This suggests a figure similar to Kali, who sprang from the brow of the enraged Parvati, that is, her third eye. Kali was born armed and ready to defend the helpless. Like Kali, Athena is no passionless, celibate being, but a vibrant deity who creates the world, and destroys it. Originally Athena was probably a triple Crone Goddess, like the Graea 'grey ones,' Metis the Wise Crone, whose name comes from the Sanskrit mita 'measure,' Athena the Destroying Crone, and Lindos or Arachne 'weaver, spider,' the Crone Who Creates, not by giving birth, but by giving thought.

True to her sacred number, seven (into which no whole factors divide but one and itself), Athena had no father or mother in the physical sense. She was born instead of the 'thought' of another Goddess, apparently Metis whose name has been translated as 'foreknowledge' and 'cunning.' According to the Greeks, Zeus swallowed Metis due to a prophecy that she would bear a child that would supplant him. Later versions imply the Delphic oracle made this prophecy, and that first Metis would bear a girl, but next a boy. Earlier versions attribute the prophecy to Metis herself, stating that the child she was pregnant with would overthrow Zeus. As Norma Lorre Goodrich has noted, the claim that Zeus swallowed her, and then managed to have Athena released from his head on the shores of Lake Tritonis in no way trumps the prophecy, and ill-conceals its revisionary nature.


Athena's position as the patron Goddess of Athens has lead to a preservation of detail on the festivals celebrated in her honour matched only by Demeter and Persephone. It is difficult to say how much the Athenian festivals paralleled Amazon ones, although there are likely to be broad similarities.

Athens' festival of 'common fatherhood' has been changed to one of motherhood. Prior to the Hellenic takeover, clan bonds would have been traced through the mother, and this festival probably dates from that time. Considering how similar the words 'patria' and 'phratria' are, the festival may even have begun as a celebration of Athena as lawgiver.

Great Festivals:

  1. 5th Day of the New Moon in August-September
    Festival of Arrephoria, culled from the rites of the Augralids, a trinity of Dew Goddesses. Dew was important to the olive harvest: too little, and the olives would be small and sparse on the trees, while enough heralded a fine harvest. As time went on, the Athenians added smaller ceremonies in honour of other dew-keeping Goddesses for extra insurance, including Aphrodite. The Arrephoroi 'the uncarried, unborn' were probably titled from Athena herself, the ultimate unborn deity. They were two girls who began a year of life in the temple by carrying in a sealed package they did not open. The sacredness of their role was reemphasized by the light bread they ate, referred to as Anastatos 'risen.' Most famous of their other tasks was beginning the process of weaving Athena's peplos(robe), most likely by threading the warp on the loom. They finished their term in the temple by carrying out the sealed package, even as their replacements carried in a new one.
  2. 12th Day of the New Moon in August-September
    Festival of Skiraphoria, attended by women only. Athena's statue was painted with white gypsum (skiros) or a temporary statue was carved from it, and a priestess carried a white parasol to the cliffs of Skiron. The day included running events similar to those of the Heraeon in Argos and on Samos.

    Festival of Skiraphoria, attended by women only. Athena's statue was painted with white gypsum (skiros) or a temporary statue was carved from it, and a priestess carried a white parasol to the cliffs of Skiron. The day included running events similar to those of the Heraeon in Argos and on Samos.

  3. Dark Moon in November-December
    Festival of Chalkeia (of the Copper Pot or Cauldron), when the Ergastinai, the sacred weavers of Athena, set up the temple loom in order to weave her new peplos, a task taking several days. Decorated with vivid pictures, it took nine months to make, and was presented to Athena's statue at the Panathenaea. The Ergastinai mirrored the work of Athena the world creator, who strung its beginnings on her loom, then wove for nine months until its completion. In other myths, she placed the dead in her great cauldron, tending them over her sacred fires for nine months, when they sprang from the pot, all age and illness gone from their bodies.
  4. Seven Days After the November-December New Moon
    Festival of Oschophoria 'the festival of the carrying of the grape clusters,' when branches loaded with grapes were carried at the head of an all female procession. Grape clusters are still symbolic of female genitals in Turkey, so this festival probably celebrated fertility and sexual pleasure. The other members of the procession carried baskets of food for the culminating event, a great feast.
  5. Day After Oschophoria, Festival of Theseia
    A celebration of Athena as Lawgiver, the day began with a porridge of husked wheat and milk, followed by participation in yet another procession. Midmorning to late afternoon was dominated by track and field events and torch races. The day ended with a free feast.
  6. Just Before the Dark Moon in December-January
    Festival of Challynteria 'sweeping out.' The temple of Athena was swept out by women, who then used a fennel stalk to hold embers from the eternal flame. The greater fire was then put out and its sconce cleaned and refilled. Finally, it was relit from the embers in the fennel stalk.
  7. Dark Moon in December-January, at the rising of the Pleiades
    Festival of Plynteria 'washing,' when Athena ended the old year. Her statue was stripped of its peplos and jewels, then taken to the sea to be washed, probably at sunset. This was done by the two girls who had joined the temple personnel at Arrephoria. The statue itself was made of olive wood and portrayed Athena naked, seated, and crowned... reminiscent of Cybele. The procession to the sea was proceeded by the wrapped statue and a woman carrying an offering basket of fig pastries or a fig cake called a Hegeteria. The fig represented not only fertility, but purification and removal of negative energies. Two groups of priestesses played a major role in the festival: the Plynterides who washed the temple, and the Loutrides 'washers with water' who washed Athena's statue.
  8. January-February Full Moon
    The Feast of Common Motherhood (Amatrya), which stretched over the three days of the Full Moon, with a fourth day sometimes added for hangover recovery. On the first day there was a clan reunion and feast; on the second day sacrifices were made to Athena; and on the third day any new family members were officially brought into the clan.
  9. May-June New Moon
    The day of the sacred procession, the 'Pompaea.' The fleece of Athena's sacred ram was carried through the streets, while her snake staff (caduceus) was used to place her protection on children and crops. The fleece of sheep in general is still a metaphor for pubic hair in parts of Anatolia, and this with the vaginal symbolism of the snake suggests the members of the procession were invoking the generative and protective power of Athena's vulva, a concept dating from the Neolithic.
  10. The Panathenaea in April-May (Hekatombaeon)
    Greater festival celebrated on day before, day after, and days of the Full Moon every five years. It was always superimposed on Rhea's festival, the Kronia. The Panathenaea was the penultimate festival of Athena, celebrating her as Goddess of the arts, the city, and athletics. Below is a rough schedule for the Great Festival.
    • Night before day one:
      Vigil in the temple of Athena by the runners for the next morning's first event.
    • Morning, day one:
      A race to the temple of Eos 'dawn' to kindle the sacred torch, followed by a race with it to the altar of the temple of Athena. The torch was used to light a flame of the same type that now regularly features in the modern Olympics. The winners of the races were given hydrai (water jars) with which they could provide and pour water during sacrifices and other ceremonies.
    • Afternoon, day one:
      Sacrifices begin with Ge (Gaea), for whom barley and honey cakes were left at openings in the Earth.
    • Evening, day one:
      Girls referred to as Karrephoroi 'fate bringers' threw barley from baskets over animals to be sacrificed and ritual implements at the head of a grand procession.
    • Morning, day two:
      The Ergastinai 'workers' carry out Athena's new peplos, hung on a model ship like a sail. They were followed by young girls carrying jugs, incense burners, and other ritual equipment.
    • Remainder of day two:
      Verse and singing contests. Prizes for these and other such contests were olive sprigs and jugs of olive oil for sacred use.
    • Morning, day three:
      The 'bearing in of Pallas,' a procession in which the Palladium was carried from the Acropolis to Phalerum.

      Two procession lines, one from the North for Athena, the other from the South for Pandrosos. The latter's temple was older and considered more sacred. A ewe was sacrificed to her, while a cow (originally Moon bull) was sacrificed to Athena. Meat from both sacrifices was given out to the populace. The lines were completed by rows of people bearing honeycombs, barley cakes, and olive branches. Foreigners carried oak branches.

    • Evening, day three:
      The carrying of the Palladium from Phalerum to Athens proper.
    • Majority of days three and four:
      Trilogies of plays produced by competing bards, a tragedy, a comedy, and a history.
    • Night of day four:
      As the new peplos was laid across the knees of Athena's statue for the first time, her sacred snakes were fed and small offering tables set up for the Augralids, Eumenides, and Erinyes.
    • Day five:
      A satire was produced and dedicated to Athena, children's contests held. Day ended with a feast.

    It has long been assumed that this festival is the subject of the 'Panathenaea frieze' of the Parthenon. However in 1996 Joan Breton Connelly, a classical archaeologist called this assumption into question. She noted first that all other ancient Greek temples showed scenes from known myths. No evidence exists to suggest the Parthenon is any different in this respect, and such a monumental break with tradition could hardly have been done in silence. A play by Euripides tells a version of the Athenian foundation myth in which the three daughters of the first king of Athens sacrifice themselves to save the new city, and Connelly identifies this myth as the subject of the Panathenaea frieze.

Lesser Festivals:

  1. The Third Day of each Moon.
  2. Procharisteria 'feast of the Goddess who is first in Grace and Wisdom' March-April
    Sacrifices made at the first show of spring growth, when Athena officially returned from the underworld after the winter.
  3. April Full Moon, Lesser Panathenaea (See Panathenaea Above)
    Athena's peplos was presented to her statue, her snakes fed and small offering tables set out. It ends with smaller sacrifices and a procession.
  4. Eiseteria 'feast of entering' Waxing Moon in June-July
    Festival held in honour of Athena Boulaea.
  5. Synoika 'to live together' Full Moon of June-July
    Feast in honour of Athena Poliouchos.
  6. The Alaean Games, Full Moon in August-September
    Lesser known athletic games held in Athena's honour, which may have been participated in only by women and were held in the same month as similar games of Artemis and Hera.
  7. Nikephoria
    Established first at Pergamon circa 283 BCE by a member of the Attalid monarchy in order to celebrate Athena specifically as a bringer of victory (the meaning of the title). Eventually the festival became Pan-Hellenic.


Aegina 'dazzling sea' or 'great strength,' this Sun Goddess was a companion of Athena. A river and an Aegean island were named for her, the latter eventually being colonized by Myrmidonian Greeks.
Aegis 'dazzling mantle' or 'shield,' Goddess of Libya and Thrake who gave her name to the Aegean Sea. She is better known for her sacred breastplate or apron, which is called by her name, and was worn by all Libyan Amazon Goddesses, including Athena. It symbolized authority, sacred mysteries, and the feminine, and was also associated with a gorgon mask and leather fringes representing snakes. Like Athena, she was a Sun Goddess and had the power of prophecy.
Agretai 'those who are chosen,' Agretos 'she who is chosen' titles applied to priestesses of Athena.
Aidos 'conscience' a simplistic rendition of her name, which actually refers to a feeling of serving the greater good by doing what is right, together with a personal humility which causes a person to feel blessed. Her altar was on the Athenian Acropolis, and she lived among mortals.
Akantha 'bright flower' or 'burning Sun,' an Amazon and priestess of Athena.
Alala 'war cry' an ancient War Goddess associated with Athena.
Alektrona 'amber' a pre-Hellenic Sun Goddess of Rhodes who was eventually confused with Athena. No beast of burden of any kind was allowed in her sanctuary, and anyone who had been in contact with one, from riding a horse to leading a mule had to be purified before they could approach it or participate in her rituals.
Angrides 'healers' priestesses of the warm sulphur springs near the mouth of the Anigrus River in Elis. The spring waters were believed to cure skin ailments.
Asia 'lyre' or 'of the lyre' eponymous Goddess of the continent who may therefore have Anatolian origins.
Askalaphus 'short eared owl' companion of Athena as Psychopompe who greeted the dead as they were led into the underworld. Each year she heralded winter by taking a short trip to the land of the living.
Astyocha/Astyocheia 'possessor of the city,' guardian of the lake near the mouth of the Acheron river and the nearby entrance to the underworld, she helped Athena tutor Heraklaea. Daughter of the River Goddess Strymo 'harsh one' of Thrake, she had several sisters including Hesione 'queen of the lyre,' Kullo 'divinatory dice,' Aethylla 'swift to anger(?),' Medesicaste 'one who has a cunning aspect,' and Prokleia 'most famous.' Astyoche was also a powerful warrior, and her name was borne by two great Thesprotian queens.
Athanas 'she who binds' a Fate Goddess sometimes associated with Athena, other times considered an early form of her.
Auge 'radiance,' daughter of Naea 'new,' priestess of Athena.
Bateia 'queen' in a Libyo-Thrakian dialect, a title carried by a queen and friend of Athena in Northern Thrake.
Bia 'force,' daughter of Styx 'sacred' whose sisters were Zelo 'zeal,' Kreta 'power,' and Nike 'victory.' She was a giant who helped tame fire for humans.
Boudeia 'goader of oxen' or 'Goddess of oxen,' friend of Athena, she invented the plough for her people.
Boulis 'counsellor,' a Goddess who was associated with Athena because of her totem, a diver bird.
Bubona, originally a Roman Goddess who protected cattle, her image was given to Athena. She is very old, for figurines of her were placed in the cattle pens where she was expected to work, a practice as old as the Neolithic if not older.
Chariklo 'kind spinner,' a companion of Athena and Goddess of prophesy, her daughter Endeis 'entangler' sometimes rode with Athena in her chariot, or bathed with her in the Hippokrene fountain.
Chalkis 'brazen one' the founder Goddess of an eponymous town in Euboea, she was considered the inventor of bronze weapons.
Chryse 'golden,' Snake Goddess and ruler of the Sun, her temple was known for the guardian snake kept by the main door. This once common practice was reintroduced to some temples of Athena in Greece.
Elektra 'amber,' high priestess of Athena who initiated Harmonia 'concord' into the mysteries. Her strength was so great that she turned back an attack by Zeus on the temple she served in.
Elektryo 'beaming' friend of Athena, Sun Goddess of Rhodes.
Enyo 'War Goddess' a shadowy Goddess of war and the Moon numbered among the Gorgons or assimilated to Athena or the Roman Goddess Bellona. The latter derived her gorgon-like appearance from her.
Erinona 'intelligent in many things,' friend of Athena, Goddess of Kyprus.
Erythra 'crimson,' priestess of Athena and helper of Heraklaea, she may have been a giant.
Eukleia 'good fame,' an Athenian War Goddess worshipped with Athena at commemorations of the Battle of Marathon.
Genaera 'old woman,' title of priestesses of Athena in Argos.
Hyperippe 'swift horse' Goddess similar to Athena whose totems were the horse and the diver bird.
Hypekkaystria 'she who lights a fire underneath,' priestess of Athena.
Ino 'she who makes sinewy' a hunter Goddess of Boeotia who strangled a lion that attacked her in the forest, a feat later copied into the labours of Herakles. Besides hunting and wrestling lions, Ino determined the time and amount of rainfall in the region. When attempts were made to forcibly replace her with the foreign Goddess Nephele 'obscurity, cloud,' a drought and subsequent famine was considered evidence of her wrath by the frightened populace.
Iodama 'blood of the Moon,' or 'taming Moon' Great Goddess of Koronaea and Boeotia, and even after the Greeks took over her priestesses continued their rituals. Each day, in defiance of the new conquerors, they carried the sacred fire around Iodama's statue, calling three times, 'Iodama is alive and wants a burnt offering' in the Boeotian dialect. Iodama and her daughter Thebe 'admirable' were Warrior Goddesses, famed for their skill in sword play. The Greeks remembered them as two of Athena's sparring partners.
Kallisto 'the fairest,' Trojan priestess of Athena.
Kissa/Kissceis 'ivy' or 'spring of the jay,' an Arkadian Goddess whose totems were the ivy plant and the jay, as indicated by her name.
Kommo 'haloed,' one of the priestesses who adorned Athena's statue on the Acropolis.
Koronis 'crow' or 'raven,' Crone Goddess and friend of Athena.
Kullo 'divinatory dice' priestess of Athena, named for the dice carved from the bone of an ass and used in predicting the future.
Kurissa 'dirge,' a member of a trio of Snake Goddesses, completed by Periboea 'surrounded by cattle' and Chariboea 'grace of cattle.' They were known as friends of Athena, whom she protected from followers of Zeus and Apollo. The Goddesses were prophetic and able to grant the power of prophecy or understanding the speech of animals. The ritual cleansing of their sanctuary at Dia was done by priestesses in bare feet and plain tunics, although this gear was probably practical rather than ritual in itself. Chariboea was paired with Porkes 'fate' at Troezen.
Laodoke 'receiver of the people,' daughter of Helike and named for a Chthonian Goddess, she sent a robe to the temple of Athena at Tegeaand founded a temple of Aphrodite there as well.
Lysimache 'battle disbander,' a priestess of Athena who served for sixty-four years mentioned by Pliny. Unfortunately, he did not specify where the temple she served in was, although Athens seems most likely.
Meter 'mother,' oldest of Greek Goddesses whose name eventually became one of Athena's titles. Her name comes from the root sounds 'ma' and 'met' the basis for any form of the word 'mother' as well as words for wisdom, learning, measurement, and mind. Her statues were left uncarved from the waist down to indicate that she was synonymous with the Earth, ever present and unfailing.
Myrrhine 'myrrh tree' a priestess of Athena Nike, who proclaimed in her epitaph that she was the first such priestess in Athens.
Oenone 'wine,' Goddess of healing as well as wine, friend of Athena. One of her great healing shrines was at a mountain named for her on the Troad. Her island on the Aegean was later controlled by the Myrmidons.
Pegae 'priestesses of the springs,' water priestesses of the Pirenian spring who served Athena as Rainmaker. They also reared Pegasus 'the springs,' who was named for them. This spring was also associated with Hera, and the priestesses were believed to be horse-headed 'man eating mares.'
Perdix 'partridge' or 'lost one,' sister of Athena, she was also an inventor and craftswoman. The saw and pottery wheel were her inventions, although they were usually attributed to Athena. Her totem was the partridge, a later meaning of her name. During the Greek takeover of temples of other Goddesses, they threw Perdix' statue into the sea. Legend has it that rather than splash as they expected, a partridge burst from the water and flew high in the sky until it was lost in the glare of the Sun. Later Perdix was masculinized.
Phasithea 'Goddess who shines for all,' Theope 'divine face,' and Eubole 'good markswoman,' Goddesses of the crops worshipped by some Athenians even after the arrival of Athena.
Phoebe 'bright Moon,' Spartan priestess of Athena.
Polykaste 'much tin' perhaps 'great upheaval,' Bird Goddess, sister of Athena.
Theano 'Goddess,' also called Autolyte 'praying herself,' she was a Thrakian priestess of Athena.
Theophane 'appearance of the Goddess' friend of Athena who sometimes wore the form of a ewe, and produced the ram with the golden fleece.
Triteia 'third queen,' priestess of Athena, queen of the Achaean town of the same name, which was founded by Libyan Amazons.


'I am the alpha and the omega,

the beginning and the ending,

all that is, all that was, all that will be,

and no man has put asunder the

veil that covers me.'

Like Artemis, Athena is an ancient Goddess with origins in the Neolithic period of Anatolia and Southern Europe. Her position as Great Goddess of Athens would lead most to expect a wide variety of stories and legends to be extant about her, with a description as detailed and complex as that of Artemis. Unfortunately, the opposite is the case. The figure created by the elite Athenians which has come down to us today was cold and desexed, as devoid of colourful detail as the ice she was sometimes likened to. To make Athena an acceptable figure, many rituals and festivals of other Attic Goddesses had to be assimilated to her, and her Amazon connections erased. The confusion between Athena and Medusa and her association with the owl allow some of this lost information to be reconstructed.

Athena's owl totem points to her Neolithic ancestors, the Bird and Eye Goddesses, as described by Dr. Marija Gimbutas. Dr. Gimbutas also explained that the Bird and Snake Goddesses were always closely associated if not considered alternate forms of the same Goddess. This is reflected by the close connections between Athena and Hera, the descendant of the Snake Goddess, in Archaic Greek art. A figurine of Athena found in an Attic tomb had snakes for arms, clearly showing her as a Snake Goddess of the underworld. As Bird Goddess, later her best known form, she became patron of woman-associated arts like weaving, spinning, and pottery making. A terra cotta plaque depicts an owl with human arms spinning cloth, and her title Glaukopis means 'owl faced' rather than 'bright eyed,' a name also applied to the Moon. Although she was always associated with birds, snakes, and hypnotic eyes, nevertheless great effort was taken to remove all suggestions she might ever have had an animal form. Changing the accepted meaning of Glaukopis and the confused figure of Erichthonius come from these revisions.

Pre-Hellenic Athena on the Greek peninsula developed from two more strands. Her origins lie in North Africa, among the Libyan Amazon tribes, of whom the most famous were the Gorgons. A Triple Goddess of the Sun, snakes, and death, Athena developed from Neith and possibly Wadjet of Egypt, and Lamia, also of North Africa. Lamia was a Serpent Goddess, while Neith was strongly associated with the vulture, later one of Athena's totems as well. Wadjet is a Cobra Goddess whose blessing and protection was needed by the pharaoh to rule, just as kings of Athens did from the City Goddess. Athena eventually developed into a powerful black Crone Goddess, deathbringer and psychopompe. Metis was actually one of her titles as keeper of mysteries and wise woman.

Another of her titles was Lindos or Arachne, one meaning spinner, the other weaver, referring to her as Creator Goddess and Weaver of Fate. Hence one Libyan trinity, who may have been the original Graea, was Athena, Metis, and Lindos. Like Crone Goddesses elsewhere, Athena was prodigiously strong. Mount Lykabettus was a boulder she had dropped. Her Libyan temples were the sites of ritual howling at the Moon in her honour, and so may have been roofless, like those of Artemis. Medusa was no monster, but the original Amazonian Maiden Goddess. This makes Metis the mother figure to Athena's crone, and fills out a second Libyan trinity.

Besides the Libyan Goddesses she evolved from, Athena was often accompanied by another, the cattle deity Pallas, who later became strongly associated with the ass and the goat. A War Goddess and Athena's lover, Pallas arrived on the Greek mainland with her, but was soon amputated by the well known story of her accidental death. She may have been a deity who ruled the 'fever winds' of the desert, a female counterpart to Set of Egypt, who also controlled such winds and was also associated with the ass. In any case, it soon became common practice to call Athena 'Pallas, our lady of Athens' or Athenaia 'she of Athens' as confusion deepened about how these two Goddesses were truly connected.

The third strand came from Krete's Minoan household Goddess, leading later Kretan priestesses to claim Athens' patron Goddess was born on their island. Ruler of pottery making, weaving, house building, and cooking, her priestesses not only plied these trades, but were also renowned snake handlers. They tended the sacred serpents living by the doors of Athena's shrines and in wheat storage bins, where the snakes ate the inevitable rodents. Their Athenian counterparts, the Errephoroi tended an eternal flame and brought cakes to the Erechtheum, which was in fact a temple of chthonic Athena, for its resident snake. The image of this Goddess and her priestesses is preserved in famous bare breasted figurines in bell-shaped skirts, and they presided over the bonds between family members and larger bonds in the community, each symbolized by the hearth and home. Later these concerns were taken from Athena and transformed into the shadow Goddess Hestia, who has no iconic images for this reason. Present day Ionians still perform the old winter solstice ritual of pouring wine and oil through a ring shaped cake into the hearth fire in her honour.

Archaeological study of religious sites in Arkadia, particularly those dating to the period between 1200 and 700 BCE has revealed some information on how this syncretic Athena was worshipped. Due to its relative isolation, Arkadia retained older customs and language dialects, and its mythology continued to feature bears, wolves, and horses.

The earliest remains of Athena's Alean shrine date from the 12th century BCE, when she was a protecting Goddess who ruled the crops and was symbolized by the deer, bear, and pomegranate. The progression of remains at her Tegean shrine repeat a similar construction story: first an open air altar, congruent with Minoan depictions, then by the late 700s BCE at the latest, a large stone temple was built to the west of the original altar. Early offerings were hollow birds and pendant labryses made of clay or bronze. After temple construction, the variety of offerings increased: anchor pendants with animal heads at the ends of the prongs, stamps, bronze pomegranates, beads, combs, tiny figure eight shields, and figurines of deer. Particularly striking are the figurines of a woman (Athena, priestess, or donor) riding a horse with arms upraised. Similar figures were dedicated to Artemis and Hera in the Bronze and Geometric ages. Votive pottery was decorated with horses, birds, fish, lozenges, zigzags, cross hatched triangles, triple lines, and female dancers. So besides giving this litany of offerings, the Arkadian women likely participated in dances and possibly horse riding in Athena's honour.

Despite the later work done to separate Athena from her snaky origins, artists continued showing her with snakes wound about her head or edging her robe. One particularly evocative image places the snakes thick and curling around the edge of her aegis, some of them seeming to twine about her upper arms. Athena Onga was worshipped in sacred groves, her image made of pear wood and unmistakably that of a snake deity.

Athena's birth from a Goddess' head was portrayed on a pithos dating to circa 700 BCE, prior to patriarchal influence becoming pervasive. She was born of the 'Third Queen' the eldest, who personified the ocean, as the yearly bath of her statue in the sea shows – this annual bath probably also related to the apparent se-bath taken by the Sun at the end of each day. Athena was born, not from the Sea Goddess' womb, but from her furrowed, furious brow, in the same way as Kali was born from the brow of Parvati. She sprang up helmeted and armed with a spear, her purpose to balance the forces of life and death and to defend women. She came from 'female wisdom' or 'wise counsel' in other words, not for revenge or vindictiveness. Athena was known until late as 'nous kai dianoia' primeval power and wisdom, embodiment of prudent and swift action.

It took long effort to disconnect her from Amazons and women in general, whiten her skin and remove her sexual freedom. The new vehicle for Greek misogyny, the stories of her lesbian lovers were rewritten so that she spurned or accidentally killed each one. Yet, to live where Athena was worshipped was once synonymous with children taking their mother's names, women owning property, being citizens, and having the vote. These rights were trampled in what even the Classical Greeks portrayed as a fit of sour grapes, because women would not agree to all that men wanted. But now to return to the pre-Hellenic Athena, Wielder of the Thunderbolt, possessed of the Petrifying Gaze.

The Mykenaeans struggled with what to call this Goddess whose shrines were always near Hera's, whose skill in weaving was such that she was said to have made Hera's peplos, which served as the sky, and then wove the very world. So they called her 'Athana Potinija,' Queen Athana, and carried her wherever they went... or rather, the women did, eventually founding a shrine the men built the acropolis on top of, off limits to dogs long before the arrival of Islam in the region. Shuttle and Redgrove suggest the Acropolis was originally a women's gathering place, and that Athena originally had menstrual mysteries publicly associated with her. Persistent menstrual associations may actually explain why many scholars have been caught between noting that the Goddess was renewed monthly, and took a virginity renewing bath in the ocean once year.

Athena was a virgin in the sense that she belonged only to herself, her gorgoneum representing menstrual mysteries and hidden knowledge of the afterlife. Sometimes her aegis was tinted the deep purple-red of menstrual blood, at others it shone blinding bright like the Sun. It was commonly considered a key component of weather-controlling equipment. Statues, tombstones, and other monuments raised to the dead were referred to as petrified men, and her gaze was so feared that even in modern Greece, Anatolia, and Southern Italy belief in the evil eye is prevalent and warded off by her own talismans – that is, proper respect for the Goddess is indicated by them.

Initially Athena was worshipped mainly by the previously mentioned Gorgons, who lived in the Atlas Mountains and surrounding regions. Some of them travelled North, as followers of Artemis would later, carrying their Goddess with them. The most famous of all the Libyan Amazon festivals of Athena climaxed with a mock combat by two teams of women who fought with sticks and stones. They may or may not have had a procession led by a woman impersonating Athena and driving a chariot... Herodotus records this, but also had a habit of attributing Athenian practices to the Libyans, perhaps in order to legitimize their continued use in Athens. It may have included demonstrations of horse riding and other equestrian events, for Athena taught horse breeding and training, and a dance later performed by the Athenians. Called the 'Pyrrhic' (fiery) dance, the participants were fully armoured and presumably demonstrated agility, athleticism, and teamwork. The Amazon shield dance has been all but lost, but for the occasional image of Athena with her round, spiral (Gorgon-head, Sun, or Full Moon) decorated shield... and Athena's followers regularly carried 'Moon haloes' meniskoi, which looked more like shields. The shields of defeated enemies were dedicated to her and hung in her shrines or piled about her statue, as the Romans did for the Goddess Tarpiea.

The gradual removal of Athena's Gorgon identity lead to a sequence of changing stories that gradually moved her further and further from the place where Perseus would murder Medusa. At first, Athena became the fierce, warlike deity who fought Medusa in person, beheading her, then flaying her to make the famed aegis. With strictures against women bearing arms, Perseus was introduced to act in her stead; after he did the dirty work of murdering and beheading the hapless Gorgon, Athena then continued with the flaying and aegis making. Eventually this grisly part of the story was removed, possibly contributing to the myth of Marsyas who was flayed by Apollo, and whose skin was also sometimes associated with an aegis of some sort.

While there may have been rules against women materially bearing arms in most Greek settlements, many of them stubbornly refused to change their stories of Athena to make her an exemplar of those rules. She was somewhat known as a giant-killer, starting with the strangely misnamed goat-giant Pallas; the story of her killing and flaying of this giant was a late explanation for the ancient worship of her in Pallene. She went on to pin down the giant Enceladus either with Mount Aetna or with the entire island of Sicily itself... it isn't entirely clear which due to the name of the giant in question. He is usually identified as a fire Titan whose name means 'the burning,' but if the name is Greek it seems to mean instead 'he who is within the din of rushing water.'

Athena never failed to have a snake with her or to wear snake decorations. These represented and sometimes gave the power of prophesy and wisdom. Sometimes symbolically synonymous with lightning, snakes were also the vehicle of Athena's wrath, and could fly. Another of her snake aspects was Hygeia the healer, whose priestesses were driven out by the priests of Askelepios. Hygeia received offerings of hair like Opis of Ephesus. Later Athena was considered the protector of other Snake Goddesses, whom she sometimes concealed behind her mantle. This reflects literal sheltering of their priestesses in her temples, and also suggests a provocative scenario: that Athena hid them in the underworld, beyond her veil to wait until it was time to return to the world of the living. Originally her spear was wound about by snakes, but these were transformed into 'fillets' the strings of offerings so common in Hera's temples.

The altar of Athena was considered so sacrosanct even in patriarchal times that some priestesses escaped rape and injury by throwing themselves on it. In myth at least, this was disregarded only once, after the fall of Troy, resulting in the destruction of the Greek fleet.

Early stories gave Athena two consorts, Pan and Hephaestus, one of the wilds, the other of artifice and invention. Like her Amazons, she mated with one of them only once a year if she wished to have a child... unlike her Amazons, she could choose to conceive her children parthenogenetically instead. Autumn and winter were her times of gestation as well as of the waning Sun. Athena was focusing her energies inward in order to bear a child or complete some other creation.

Besides being a Sun Goddess, Athena did have connections to Moon deities, although not considered an embodiment of the Moon herself. The Graea and the Gorgons were sometimes considered Moon trinities which were associated with her, and Athena even absorbed a few of their associated totems, such as the swan. Her version of the crone was oddly similar to the Cailleach 'veiled one' of Celtic lands, who had blue-black skin and one bright, glowing eye, personifying the Moon in the sky, as Hera did its starry regions when she wore her peacock feather robes during her time as prophetic crone. Other times, Athena herself wore the starry robe and embodied the night.

Most famous of all of Athena's familiars is the owl, especially the species now called athene noctua or little owl, native to Greece. Originally it was called glauke, for the similarity of its eye colour to a yellow-green mineral ore. This is the colour of Athena's eyes, rather than the mistranslation 'grey-green' which was based on the colour of the sea. Little owls nest in the hedgerows between fields, and openings in walls and buildings where they may encounter people frequently, as well as the forest. It's facial proportions are similar to those of humans, and it is willing to exchange gazes with them, another source of Athena's penetrating and petrifying gaze. In fact, the Greeks came to call the owl by the same word that meant 'to examine,' skops. The common scops owl, which migrates between southern Europe and Northwestern Africa was also connected to Athena due to its home range and its sad, flute-like call.

More subtle symbols of Athena have survived in surprising places. The sign of Athena is a cross surmounted by a triangle, a sign later applied to the element sulphur until Mendeleyev reworked the periodic table of elements. It is the same sign as that of the Bird Goddess, identified by Marija Gimbutas:. An old name for sulphur (which is bright yellow in elemental form), 'brimstone' is related to her title Brimo 'furious woman' an aspect associated with purification.

At other times, Athena's avian form was the diver bird. In this guise she was ruler of ships and all crafts, arts, and sciences involved with them, from navigation to ship building which she invented herself. If represented as a human, she had wings, like Medusa, and was called Aithuia. 'Thuia' refers to a mortar or drinking vessel, tool of the healer and crone. These vessels were made by stone carving or clay working, once exclusively female arts which she was reputed to have taught to humans. In fact, humans were once said to have been created by Athena. First she molded them in clay or carved them in stone, then she breathed each of them to life.

Each year's end, Athena's statue was stripped of its peplos and ornaments. Then it was carefully wrapped in cloth and carried in a great procession to the sea. Once on shore, the statue was unwrapped and washed in the ocean to renew the Goddess' virginity and wash away the detritus of the old year. Sulphur was sometimes burnt for purification during the same day, hence its sacredness to Athena, her acquisition of the title 'Brimo,' and later use in sickrooms. Dry and replaced in the temple, the statue remained naked until the Panathenaea, when the new peplos was received. This is clearly central to her worship, for the women of Troy performed the same rite down to the presentation of Athena's new peplos on their own acropolis. A nearly identical ritual was carried out for Hera in Argos and Samos.

Athena's signature temple, the Parthenon, was so sacred and popular that Christians and Muslims eventually co-opted, then destroyed it. A complete replica of it, down to the statue of Athena with winged Nike standing on one upturned palm is in Nashville, Tennessee. However, the older images of Athena Nike may have been almost identical, except for the pomegranate she held in one hand instead. Another temple of Athena was built in Troy in response to the arrival of the Palladium, which fell from the sky. It seems to have been a meteorite, although later claims were made that it was a literal statue. Ancient Greeks seem to have had had some difficulty believing that Troy would have a temple built for the sole purpose of enshrining an aniconic stone, despite the fact that this was a time honoured practice in Anatolia. In any case, the Palladium was powerful, bringing the Goddess' protection to any city that it was kept in. The reasons given for the Greek attack on Troy included a desire to steal it, the Romans wanted it, and Thebes already had a Palladium of its own.

In the course of researching Athena's aegis, Noel Robertson has brought together considerable information on the statue type usually referred to as a Palladium. It is actually an exceedingly ancient form, originating from either Krete or the Peloponessus. Today most people when asked to describe a statue of Athena are not describing this statue type but one Robertson refers to as the 'Promachos,' developed in Peisistratid Athens. In a sense, Palladia are rather plebian statues, intended to be carried, carved naked so that they could be dressed in the sacred peplos and real goatskin aegis, derived from a goat flayed and sacrificed for the occasion. The Athenian Palladium bore the epithet 'Derioneon,' based on a name itself derived from a root meaning 'strife.' This may simply record who carved this particular Palladium, which would make it unusual in that respect.

The tragedy 'goat song,' despite being a major feature of the Panathenaea is regularly considered a part of the latecomer Dionysus' ritual, and rather strangely named since he has little or nothing to do with goats. However, if tragedies began as tales of the enemies Athena must destroy yet also mourns because she acts by necessity rather than desire, then their naming makes far more sense. If this in turn relates to the scapegoat ritual best known from the Bible but used by many cultures, the connection seems even more appropriate.

Matters become particularly interesting when Robertson begins to examine the two Palladium carrying processions occurring on day three of the Greater Panathenaea. The first procession brings the Palladium from the Phalerum harbour to the city, the second into the city proper. At other times the Palladium was kept just outside the city gate southeast of and closest to the Areiopagus. There is quite a time gap between the two processions, reiterated by statements that the second had to be torchlit. Robertson suggests that what fills in the time gap here is the type of ceremonial combat Herodotus will later attribute in altered form to the Libyan Amazons, and that inscriptions say nothing about it because they deal only with the activities of the young men who have just reached puberty.

Another of Athena's important aspects was as spinner and weaver, the Creator of the World and Fate Weaver. A temple dedicated to her under the title of Lindos was in Argos, and her spider connections stretch back to Minoan times. Karian Miletus in Amazon territory and its mother city on Krete both used a spider emblem. Spiders were considered soul carriers for fallen Amazon warriors, as mantises were of prophets. In spider form, Athena also controlled the weather, using strands of silk to rein the winds, or weaving the heavy tapestry of a stormy sky. Today spiders are still sometimes believed to predict or affect the weather, as in the saying, 'Killing a spider starts the rain.' When Athena wove Fate instead, she was weaving the inescapable web of consequences for human actions. Women called upon Athena or Minerva, a similar Latin Goddess, for so long while spinning and weaving, the christian church took to inveighing furiously against it... contradicting earlier recommendations that if a woman wanted something, she should call upon the Moon, which of course meant the Goddess.

The ram also belongs to Athena, due to its triangular head and curling horns. The triangle and the number three represented Athena as Crone and Fate, while the horns invoked the spiral symbolism of the labyrinth, which was not a maze. Rather, it was a sacred path walked for spiritual development, consisting of two lobes like the labrys. Labyrinthine patterns were used to focus concentration by women in labour, connecting again to Athena as a Goddess of Birth, Death, and Fate. Athena carried the labrys as a weapon or a sceptre, and was titled Minos as Light Goddess of Krete. Sacred bulls with Sun disk markings were sacrificed to her there before the Mykenaean conquest, a practice that eventually reached the mainland. Today her Sun disk and triangle are still powerful talismans in Anatolia where nomadic tribes wear them for protection.

Athena's worship once extended from the territory of Amazonian North Africa to the Black Sea and Asia Minor, on into Greece. Boeotian Tritone, called her birthplace in some myths, was founded by Libyan Amazons. Flute music always played a central role in her worship there, rivaling the reputation of Athens for fervour and skill in works of art dedicated to her. Their torch races celebrating Athena as lightbringer were later adapted by both Athens and Korinth. Her various aspects coexisted with many other Goddesses until Hellenic times and the great recodification of Greek religion. Among them were Myrmex 'ant' in Pthiotis, later reduced to mortal status, and Amphitrite 'third queen who surrounds,' a prominent Sea Goddess eventually forcibly married to Poseidon.

A number of plants and trees dedicated to Athena suggest that her worship once included ecstatic and shamanic rites. The leaves of the ivy plant release an intoxicant when chewed, and its sap can be made into a vivid red dye, perhaps the original colourant for Athena's aegis. Mistletoe was her plant of universal healing and a passport between the lands of the living and the dead, and like Persphone or Hera, Athena sometimes carried a pomegranate. The crow or raven, her assistant in healing and her messenger, carried a sprig of it in its beak for this purpose. Its opposite number was Aphrodite's white dove, which carried a sprig of olive indicating that for the soul it carried there was no return to the living unless it was by rebirth.

The olive of course, is first of Athena's sacred trees. Among her first acts on the Greek mainland was splicing a graft from the Libyan olive onto the Greek variety, officially setting the foundation of an industry that is still a major staple of the Greek economy today. Olive oil became a major component of religious supplies, dedicated for offerings, and used for purification. Wreaths of olive branches were as prestigious as those of laurel. Second of Athena's sacred trees was the pear tree, shared with Hera. The Phoenicians considered her the progenitor of the entire species, and another soul bird, the partridge, was shown nesting in it as a sacred talisman. It is still invoked in the Christmas carol, 'The Twelve Days of Christmas.' Male worshippers of Athena referred to themselves as partridges in her honour. The willow was part of her weather changing gear as well as her healer's kit, and provided materials for baskets, furniture, and forked sticks for water divining. Then there was the oak, which Athena often struck with lightning bolts.

Always a defender of women and guardian of women's mysteries, Athena didn't merely wear the gorgon mask, or attach it to her aegis. She was the Gorgon, and prevented men from seeing or interfering with women's mysteries on pain of death. Her priestesses proved resilient despite intense persecution, titled their Goddess Apaturia 'guardian of secrets,' and dedicated new temples to her, defying all attempts to wrest control of women's rites from them. Some others tried to explain temples of Athena Apaturia as bitter monuments from women she had lied to. The frankly ludicrous gloss was hurriedly suppressed.

A skilled and prolific inventor, Athena was then titled Ergane, Mechanitis, and Daedale. Her inventions ran from pottery to house building, the lost wax method of bronze casting to mathematics. Neolithic crucibles have been found marked with Bird Goddess symbols, and Athena was later associated with metal smelting and forging. In Plato's version of the story of the theft of fire by Prometheus, although Athena and Hephaestus share a workshop, she is clearly the masterworker of it, as she has all the mechanical arts, while Hephaestus has only fire. The Libyan Amazons associated Athena with flint mining and tool knapping. She invented two types of flute, the double flute, carved from the bones of a stag, and the common flute, made from the leg bones of predatory birds. Then she created the aulos, a reed instrument related to the oboe, an instrument of such sorrowful tones the ancient Greeks believed it imitated the keening of Queen Medusa's mourners, or the commanding tones of her own voice. Athena also created agriculture, calendars, graphic arts, music, and architecture... in short, all civilized arts. She created the trumpet, another vaginal symbolic object, to allow distant groups of Amazons to communicate with each other. Perhaps her winged, helmeted image blowing on this instrument inspired later depictions of angels. She too may have played a role similar to that of Rig-Heimdall in later Scandinavian mythology, blowing the final trumpet blast indicating the end of the world.

Occasionally Athena was called the inventor of the quadriga, a type of two wheeled chariot used in racing. These required fine control and only ran successfully on stretches of flat ground, suggesting they were of little use in war. The maximum number of horses that could be controlled by a human driver using such a chariot was four; beyond that only the Goddess herself was considered able to successfully guide the vehicle.

The famous inventor Daedalus was created from the masculine form of Athena's title as mistress of smith and stonecraft. He was a jealous, paranoid figure who went so far as to murder his sister's nephew rather than allow him to become a rival inventor. When he buried his own son, his sister took the form of a partridge and sat in a tree nearby, mocking him. His 'sister' seems to have been Athena herself in another of her bird forms.

At war, Athena fought in and supported only defensive battles, although later the Greeks claimed she had supported them against Troy. Immensely strong, invulnerable, and an expert strategist, she was unbeatable, although Athens was not. Greek myths recorded her regular bestings of Ares, from knocking him flat to foiling his plans. Ares' singular lack of ability may be due to his makeover from a storm god to a war god. Hence his bluster, violence, and step back for every step forward. Greeks despised Ares and in turn the people of Thrake, whom they associated him with. Originally Ares was a wind god emanating form the North, and a parthenogenetic son of Hera. His association with the North-inhabiting Thrakians was coincidental. The real reason Greeks despised Thrakians was because they were Goddess worshippers and in many Thrakian tribes women held high social status. Graves suggested that the name of the Athenian lawcourt 'Areiopagus' should be translated 'hill of the propitiating Goddess' based on Athena's reputation for voting for the release of a defendant in the case of a hung jury and her title 'Areia', rather than 'hill of Ares.' However, the root of the title refers exclusively to war and warlike behaviour, then secondarily to conceptions of 'manliness.' So perhaps the translation could be 'hill of the warlike Goddess.'

War or peacetime, Athena was eminently practical. When vying for control of Athens, her gift was the olive tree. Poseidon could only offer salt water and earthquakes... curiously, salt water is a symbolic substitute for blood in mythology and ritual, while earthquakes stand in for war and upheaval. This can be interpreted as a metaphor for the results if the followers of Poseidon had not given up their claims on Athens, or as a metaphor for the difference between the worship of a Goddess versus that of a god. The invention of war was often attributed to male deities rather than female ones.

Connections between Herakles, Odysseus, and Athena are more complex than they first appear. Herakles began as Heraklaea, ally and defender of women, daughter of Hera. Athena, Hera's companion Goddess would certainly have assisted 'Hera's glory.' Most of Odysseus' schemes and plans emanate from Athena, suggesting that 'his' journeys may have begun as hers, a reflection of the sea journeys of her Gorgons.

Since she was a Death Goddess, Athena was associated with various means of achieving apotheosis (being made into a god after death), or better still, in lieu of dying. She alone could harness and ride Pegasus or the female flying horse, Aganippe. Any mortal who attempted the feat was thrown off to their death, and straight into divine status. 'Lifting the veil,' that is, seeing the future could have the same result. Still another method of deification was to receive an apple from the Triple Goddess, usually misunderstood as the 'Fall of Adam and Eve' or the 'Judgment of Paris.'

Considerable effort was taken to find suitable symbols to represent Athena's ineffable nature and unusual origins. Part of it involved assigning appropriate numbers and geometric figures to her, an effort applied to all deities by Pythagoreans and similar philosophical groups. In the process a wide range of mathematical knowledge was uncovered, including the angle at the vertices of a seven sided polygon, which can only be approximated. Any other figure with ten or fewer sides can be constructed using the vesica piscis, an almond shaped figure representing the womb, as a base. Seven is also a prime number, divisible evenly only by one and itself.

'Webs of Athena' are figures created by joining the vertices of a heptagon by lines crossing its interior, representing the Goddess as Fate and Spider. Another, more elaborate web resembles 'Penelope's Web,' sign of the demoted Fate Goddess known mainly as Odysseus' wife.

Unlike the Lady of the Beasts, represented predominantly by Artemis, Athena has not been as obviously worshipped from ancient times to the present. Artemis remained so vivid in popular imagination that the christian church was forced to canonize her as several different spurious saints. Athena is different because her most well known portrayal is as a propaganda device for patriarchal views. In Athens she became rather like the Statue of Liberty, a representation of qualities the city wished to associate itself with. Her directly spiritual or religious connotations began to fade, and she became more strongly connected to concepts of patriotism and obedience to a father figure. It is only recently with the revival of the Divine Feminine that she has been recognized once again as a Great Goddess in her own right.

'But know this, I have never betrayed my women, women who loved me the world around. I am not a "scab" who crosses over to the enemy; I never endorsed matricide. I never preferred men to women; I have never abandoned you.'

- from 'The Grandmother of Time' by Z. Budapest


Athena the Eye Goddess

Few concepts of the Goddess have become as enmeshed in contradiction and superstition as the ancient Eye Goddess. In the Neolithic, her wide, staring eyes were everywhere, sometimes carved with spiral patterns modern cartoonists use as visual shorthand for the powers of the hypnotist. Sometimes only her eyes appear, carved all over great stones as at the New Grange Tumulus in England, or one eye serving as the Sun or Moon in the sky. Like the Sun, her eyes were both friendly and threatening, able to warm or scorch. In fact, the words Sul, Sol, and Solis mean both 'Sun' and 'eye.' This fascination with eyes reflects the human habit of watching mainly the eyes and mouth to determine expression and guide communication. Novice artists often render faces out of proportion by drawing precisely what they see: a face dominated by the eyes and mouth.

So it is no coincidence that one of the Eye Goddess' later incarnations, Medusa, has wide, bulging eyes and a large mouth. As guardian of women's mysteries, particularly those involving sex and menstruation, not many other images could say 'keep out, go away' more effectively or universally. A long, direct, unblinking gaze is still seen almost universally as an aggressive, threatening, gesture. The tamed Athena worshipped by Athens who was originally Medusa herself has her eyes continuously described by writers. They are piercing, keen, flashing, stony, blue like the sky, grey-green, or green-yellow. Storytellers could claim Medusa was some mortal woman whose murder Athena arranged, but they couldn't avoid referring to her as 'the Goddess with the petrifying gaze,' a gaze that only seemed to affect men. Athena was the original Persephone, the Sun Goddess who Shines for All, whose name means simultaneously Destroyer of All. The dragon has been defined as a 'monster with the evil eye' and the word itself is derived from an Indo-European root meaning 'to see.'

The Eye Goddess always has penetrating, wise eyes. There was no evading or fooling her, yet she was predominantly protective and kindly, her warm bright gaze causing the plants to grow, or her cooler gaze guiding people home in the evening. By the time of the ancient Greeks, she had been transmuted into a frightening being whose gaze was always deadly. They could never completely separate this darker aspect from Athena, who always wore a gorgoneum on her aegis, or on her shield. Between the discomfort Greeks felt about women in general, let alone their sexuality and their penetrating eyes, eye amulets began to be called evil eye amulets. They were no longer worn to keep the gentle gaze of the Goddess nearby at all times or to demonstrate proper respect for her, but to fend off the presumed evil of a woman's glance, especially a post-menopausal woman. The Greek version of the evil eye amulet was a small disk marked with Medusa's image, and new rules officially relegated most women to virtual imprisonment in their own homes. The reality was that mainly aristocratic women were so imprisoned, others having to work outside the home because they could afford neither slaves nor servants. In Anatolia and the Middle East this was further expressed in the new rules declaring a woman must always cast her gaze on the ground, or cover her eyes with a veil.

Turkey's famous blue evil eye amulets are still produced mainly around Smyrna, founded by Libyan Amazons, many of whom worshipped Athena. The amulets typically consist of a circle or oval, with two more circles, one blue and one white, set into its centre. Sometimes the amulets consisted of a blue hand with an eye set in the centre, which seems more like a demonstration of the eye's ability to see through any covering that can be cast over it. Other amulets were blue horseshoes marked with eyes instead of nails, with an eye or a bunch of grapes hung from the arch. The symbolism has been curiously reversed here as well. The horseshoe and its omega shape originally symbolized female genitals, which has evocative implications for what the things hung from it actually refer to. Finally, today a still current Eastern folktale claims that should a man look at a woman's genitals, he will be struck blind. This seems to be a garbled or inverted memory of a holy sight indeed, the eye-like appearance of the cervix at the end of the vagina, the gateway between the womb and the outerworld. Within the womb we are blind to the outside world, once born we are often able to see.

Goddess of the Sun

The Greeks never called Athena a Sun Goddess outright, in fact they stubbornly maintained Apollo was the Sun deity, even when this had foolish results. Titling him 'Phoebas,' a feminine monicker, for example. There is plenty of evidence showing Athena was the original solar deity, however. The frequently appearing gorgon-head Sun comes to mind first, but there are several specific features that can be examined. As explained by Patricia Monaghan they are: possession of a sacred mirror and glowing necklace, the invention of weaving, association with a dance of power, and having a companion Goddess who is a smith and/or shaman. Athena does indeed have a sacred mirror, although in Greek myth it has become a shield. Her glowing necklace has become the snaky aegis... the snake is often associated with the Sun's rays and reputed to shine like the Sun. Even the Greeks maintained that Athena invented weaving and was the very spirit of the craft. The famous Pyrrhic dance, centrepiece of the Athenian Panathenaea was performed in her honour.

Snakes are interwoven with a great deal of provocative symbolism, some of it already examined in the previous chapter. Their coiling bodies suggested the spiral, itself used to represent the Sun and the eyes of the Goddess. The coiled snake also suggests the coiled thread Athena used while weaving, and the ball of thread Ariadne used to guide souls in the labyrinth, a literal thread, or the umbilical cord. Athena is related to Ariadne by being a psychopompe, a role already mentioned in the main section in speaking of a small statue of Athena found in an Attic tomb with snakes for arms.

Sun Goddesses were frequently psychopompes, and the labyrinth was itself connected to the Sun. It's entrance was carefully faced East to catch the first sunlight of the day. Patricia Monaghan's research has shown that the labyrinth accurately charts the Sun's path in the sky in the far North. It also marks the counter clockwise apparent orbit of the Moon as it waxes, followed by it's clockwise apparent path as it wanes. Travelling the labyrinth made rebirth possible, whether it be by the Goddess leading the dead from its centre beneath the ground, or the priestess Ariadne guiding initiates through it for a spiritual rebirth. Winding up the thread originally recreated the globe of the Sun, rebirthing the Sun Goddess herself. The ubiquitous pools near labyrinths or Kretan Goddess temples were probably meant to act as mirrors. The Sun's reflection was used for divination, rather than the endless circling of the fish... ancient peoples were well aware that staring or looking directly at the Sun was dangerous to the eyes.

All of Athena's temples and any sacrifices had to include fire in some way, be it the eternal flame tended only by old women, burning incense, or burning the sacrifice itself. Women regularly used lenses to start altar fires, as they did their fires at home, and still had this duty in the days of the Roman Empire. The burning lenses were also used to cauterize wounds, and so they were also sacred to Athena as Goddess of healing. The hot springs Athena heated as she travelled in the underworld at night in her solar boat were also dedicated to her healing aspect. This was done most famously at the Celto-Romanic shrine of Minerva Sulis, Minerva being the Roman Goddess Athena ultimately absorbed.

The Sun Goddess was protected, encouraged to stay during the winter, and encouraged to remain benign in summer in many ways. Spirals invoking her and mirroring her beauty were carved and embroidered everywhere, the still pools and bronze mirrors did so literally. Some version of Cat's Cradle may have been played by Greek children to hold the Sun in the sky, or perhaps provide a new set of reins for her chariot, in case the originals broke or became tangled. Dancing moonwise during the day was strictly prohibited for fear of weakening the Sun. To insure Athena reappeared in the morning, her priestesses performed a variety of mysterious nightly rituals.

Bronze mirrors were sacred to Athena from an early date, as they were to many Sun Goddesses, from Ma'at to Amaterasu. The cave of Aralokhori South of Knossos on Krete was one of Athena's sanctuaries as well as a bronzesmith's shop... which points back to the question of where the expected shaman Goddess companion is.

There is such a Goddess in Greek myth, named Baubo (an Egyptian term for female genitals) or Iambe, who brings Demeter out of her misery and allows Persephone to return from the underworld by dancing lasciviously, crowning the striptease with the exposure of her genitals. 'Persephone' can be translated 'destroyer of all' or 'she who shines for all' and is one of Athena's alternate names. The labrys is an abstracted rendition of the female labia. Cowries and triangles were both sacred because they resembled a woman's genitals and were symbols of Athena. Both her rival Poseidon and the enemy of her Amazons Belleropheron were sent running in terror by the sight of a line of women marching on them with genitals ritually exposed. Today the genitals of an adult woman are still considered powerful literally and symbolically. Apparently the rebirth of the Sun Goddess was considered a difficult and dangerous time, demanding the most powerful magical measures to assist.

None of this is to suggest worshippers of Demeter and Persephone considered the latter identical to Athena, or even that one is somehow derived from the other. Rather, elements of their worship were probably similar, and the confusion over Baubo's name is in fact an accidental preservation of the name of Athena's companion Goddess of smithing and shamanism, Iambe.

The Spinning and Weaving Athena

When spiderwebs unite, they can halt a lion.
- Ethiopian proverb

Sun Goddesses have almost always been spinners and weavers, and Athena is no exception. She was considered the inventor of both crafts, and all the plants and tools associated with them were sacred to her. These included the blue flowered flax plant and the mortar and pestle used to ready the flax for spinning. Sometimes the mortar became an impromptu boat the Goddess used to row herself across the Underworld sea. Amber became sacred to Athena for its colour and because it was often carved into spindle whorls which her ever practical worshippers used for jewelry when they weren't full of thread. The Greek word synophaeno 'weaving together' referred particularly to the spider.

Sheep were sacred to Athena because they provided fibre for spinning, and males were sacrificed to Athena the Fate Weaver. Today Friday is still a special day to the Spinning Goddess in rural Europe. On that day no turning, twisting, or spinning work may be done out of respect to her.

After marrying, young Athenian women cut their hair and wound it around spindle whorls for dedication to Athena. Marriage was considered a sort of coming of age, and it was likely at the first time a young woman menstruated that Amazons performed the same ritual. Today Anatolian women still don't cut their hair until they marry. Anatolian weaving and dyeing traditions also reflect the practices of Athena's weavers: patterns, which plants gave which dyes, and how to dye various fibres has been passed from mother to daughter for centuries. Some dyeing and weaving techniques have been taken over by men, but only after the demand for certain types of cloth and rugs increased the prestige of the practitioners.

Decorations were applied to everything for both practical and aesthetic reasons. Their symbols gave protection or blessings, and the added tensile strength made clothing and rugs more durable. Women were always spinning or weaving in ancient times, as nomadic women still do all over Asia. In fact the terms spinster 'a woman who spins' and webster 'a woman who weaves' in English reflect just how everpresent these tasks were. Every piece of cloth came from their hands, and yet another suggested cause of the Trojan war is a Greek desire to enslave the city's weavers. The bobbing spindle whorls and the tedium of the job helped induce prophetic trances, and in ancient Greece sphondulomantis 'prophesying from the spindle' was still known, and suggests yet another reason the christian church became incensed if women called upon Athena while spinning. The Heliades and their ever falling amber tears are actually their spindle whorls, forever moving as they wove the clouds.

The Heliades are another link between Athena and Hera. They tended Hera's sacred apple trees in the Far West where the Sun set. In other cultures, the Sun itself was an apple. The Balts in particular spoke of their beloved Sun Goddess Saule, who slept in an apple tree at the end of the world in a beautiful garden each night. This also explains why 'Apollo' has been translated 'destroyer' or 'apple keeper.'

The majority of words in the Greek language concerning spinning or weaving are not Indo-European in origin, and so must have been culled from the languages of conquered peoples just as the vocabulary of the stone workers was. The word 'histos' is particularly interesting. In ancient Greek, it meant anything set upright, such as a vertical loom, or the beam of the vertical loom, which holds the warp. 'Histion' may mean a web, cloth, or sheet. The story of Philomena shows that picture stories were regularly woven into cloth, and likely these were the first external devices that helped storytellers keep track of their tales. It also suggests that the general consensus that stories were only recorded by methods other than memorization before the advent of writing is false.

After Athena absorbed the Egyptian Goddess Neith, it was often said that she wove the world, but it may be that she actually spun it on her distaff, along with human consciousness. Taboos against dancing widdershins during the day were meant to avoid spoiling her spinning. If a moment is spent imagining what a tangle inverting the spin of a distaff would cause, the impetus behind the rule can be seen in practical and metaphorical terms. By preventing the fouling of the Athena's spinning, people were doing no less than preventing the spread of chaos.



This Canaanite Goddess' name means 'to answer' and may be related to the Akkadian word ettu meaning 'active will.' She was a major deity all over the western parts of the Near East, including Egypt where she was later considered to be the same Goddess as Libyan Neith. Titles for her include Belet'net 'virgin Anath,' ‘Nethebely 'the destroyer,' and Yebemet-limm 'widow of the nation(?).' Her worship extended from the 2nd millenium BCE deep into the Hellenistic Age, when it began to be forced underground. Like the original Athena, she ruled battle, the hunt, and the passage of souls from one world to the next. She was also a Death Goddess who wore the goatskin aegis – or at least, the Egyptians attributed Neith's aegis to her. This sacred garment has been described as a cloak, apron, breastplate, or shield. In Anath's case, it shifted in function as religious ceremony changed. Originally it was probably a garment worn by each Libyan woman when she came of age, made of cloth and marked with snakes and Moon symbols, or made of many braids of string. Later it was remade, parts of its feminine symbolism removed and turned into a garment worn during animal sacrifices. Then it was decorated with severed penises, representing both types of death men experience, loss of erection and the ending of their lives.

As Anath's image was melded into that of the Minoan Bird Goddess, the penises became snakes again, and the aegis a cloak. The result helped to effectively concealed Athena's ancient Libyan origins while unwittingly reintroducing some of the older symbols. The sacred rite in which Anath's consort, represented by the last of the grain harvest, died during the ritual of the last sheaf's reaping and division into food and seed was cut out altogether. Such drastic action was required to further match her to Libyan Athena, who consorted with no man unless she wished to conceive a child by other than parthenogenetic means. Conversely, Anath was never associated with giving birth unless she had taken an animal form.

Anath was a famous warrior and powerful protector, a sort of 'ultimate woman' in a way somewhat analogous to Athena's early Greek role. She was worshipped by many Israelites, who considered their god her consort, and was frequently mentioned in Ugaritic texts. The Phoenicians also adored her, naming settlements for her. One of them was called Panorma by the Greeks, connecting her to their 'universal mountain mother' Gaea or Rhea.


Arachne doesn't really fit in this category, since she was never a separate Goddess, although her story mirrors Myrmex's in Greek mythology. She represents the confusion experienced by Greek invaders when they found depictions of Athena with her totem bug, the spider. Arachne is actually her title as Spinner of the Thread of Life, and Weaver of Fate. In this aspect Athena was worshipped from Thebes to Lydia and Phrygia. Curiously, Arachne also appears to be an older name for the Swan Goddess Leda.

Priestesses of this aspect of Athena were probably called by this name as well. Expert weavers, they gave oracles and wove the images from their religion and culture into great cloth wall hangings. These picture stories were often misunderstood, and tended to portray the new patriarchal deities as the priestesses saw them, which was in a negative light, considering their experiences and the later descriptions of Arachne's tapestry. The invaders responded by shredding them, a fate similar to that suffered by a vast corpus of Goddess oriented literature and art, exemplified by the fragmentary works of Sappho, cut up to wrap mummies in Egypt.


'Dawn Goddess' for whom Attica was named. Part of a pre-Hellenic trinity with Kranae 'rocky' and Kranaechme 'rocky point,' she was among the original divinities of the region. Various sacred rocks, cliffs, and summits may derive from sites of their worship. Sadly, little detail remains of them, beyond the similarity between Atthis and Eos 'dawn,' and how her sisters may have been Cybele-like in character.

The Augralids

Agraulos 'rustic one' mother of :

Aglauros 'dewfall'

Herse 'dew' sometimes also called a daughter of Selene

Pandrosos 'she who is completely covered in dew'

Pre-Hellenic Triple Goddess of the dew, which determines the size and quality of the fruit in the olive crop, long a staple of the region of Attica. Besides their concern with agriculture, the Augralids represented the organization of their society by matrilineal clans. Like Athena and many other Goddesses connected to the Earth, the snake was one of their totems. Pandrosos was the first to spin, while Herse was concerned mainly with the olive tree, and Agraulos and Aglauros protected mortals. A clear night lit by a Full Moon often heralded a good 'dewfall,' so the olive tree and these Goddesses were also associated with the Moon.

They were never entirely excised from Athens. The old temple on the Acropolis was dedicated to Pandrosos, and was always considered more sacred than Athena's. The city's sacred olive tree grew in it, and the tree was cared for by the women of the Hersephoria. The entire Acropolis was originally theirs, with statues of the three sisters in the main temple. Herse and Pandrosos' were removed, although Aglauros' was maintained and renamed. Eventually the statue was replaced, presumably after its final removal would no longer outrage the general populace.

Eventually the Augralids were reduced to the status of mortal women, daughters of the serpent-man Kekrops. Pausanius spoke of how Kekrops only became king of Athens by marrying a 'daughter' of his predecessor, a strong hint that the queen determined who would be king. The garbled tale of Erichthonius suggests a test that potential high priestesses of Athena may have had to take. In the myth, Athena gave an order which required ignoring the cries of a probably hungry, soiled, or lonely child. Whoever had the courage and compassion to ignore the order and care for the child would be suited for the position. In an attempted reconciliation between the followers of the old and new Goddesses, Agraulos was credited with passing the test... and it was insisted that she was a mere mortal.

Festivals and customs from the worship of the Augralids continued long past Classical times, until quashed by christianity. During Arrephoria for example, the transfer of unopened packages in and out of the temple of Athena, or the Hersephoria 'dew gathering' participated in exclusively by girls. Before going into battle, Athenian soldiers dedicated themselves to Agraulos, insuring that they had her protection and that she would grant them rebirth. Each sacred procession included three priestesses, two to scatter dew, and one with a branch tied to her elbow, perhaps on the same principle as carrying the caduceus.


Considerably more than a night bogey, this Serpent Goddess is closely related to Athena through Medusa and the Gorgons. Snake bodied but having a woman's head, she was demonized because she represented the Dark Mother who receives her children after death. Lamia was a prophetic Goddess, and one of her priestesses was known as the Libyan Sibyl. Long after she had become the stuff of nightmares in Greece, a tribe in Latium claimed her as their divine ancestor. Rites similar to those in Eleusis were celebrated in her honour.

The image of the snake with a female head bears similarity to the feathered serpent of the Central American cultures that symbolized the power of the divine. It could be a form of the divinity as lightning or as the Earth dwelling snake. While most feathered serpents of Central America have been identified with gods, the presence of a Goddess cannot be ruled out.


The people named for this Goddess come down to the present as anything but Goddess worshippers. The Myrmidons, exemplified by the strangely ambivalent Achilles, appear in the most detail in the story of the fall of Troy. They were the defenders of patriarchy, and helped destroy the city. The first Myrmidons were quite different, considering themselves the descendants of their Ant Goddess. As their homeland of Pthiotis was overrun by Greeks who briskly demoted Myrmex to mortal status and replaced her with their desexed, whitened version of Athena, they must have wondered what would become of their people.

Ants were considered wise beyond human reckoning for the same reasons snakes were: they lived in continuous contact with Mother Earth's wiseblood. Myrmex could fly, as ants were known to sometimes do. She was also an inventor who created the plough and the saw for her people. Like her totem insects, Myrmex was industrious and honest. The Greeks liked to claim that Athena fell in love with her for these qualities, then spurned her over a disagreement about the invention of the plough.


Akusaa - the westerner
Ament - the hidden one; the westerner
Anatha - Queen of Heaven
Åpt-Uet - opener of the way, firstborn
Mehurt/Mehetweret - cow of heaven; flowing water
Mut-Neter - Mother Goddess
Neith - self-made
Nebet-Pet - lady of heaven
Net-Mehit - great lady
Rat - the Sun
Tayet - shroud
Wenet - the one

Like the Goddess Mene (Menos), Neith is so ancient that her history begins before the Egyptian Dynastic period, perhaps before Egypt itself. Budge traced her to Libya, and she remained associated with the West, the West bank of the Nile where all deities once lived, and the land of the dead. She was considerably more than the Goddess of war. Neith was synonymous with the primeval waters and was the First being, Creator and Sustainer of all other life, embodying the power that held communities together. Since no other being was older than her, her own birth was unrevealed and unknowable. So fundamental was Neith that her name is difficult for scholars to translate today, fixed as they are on single meanings and unable to accept easily that her name is in fact a complex metaphor for all sorts of beginnings. A few of those many meanings and metaphors are: She Who Is, Self-Made, Primeval Water, the Weaver. The Egyptian verb for to knit or weave may be linguistically related to neith: netet. She was also called Net(er), Nut 'sky' who birthed the Sun each day, or Nekhbet 'she of Nekheb' a major city of southern Egypt. Later the Greeks would mistake this alternate name for a separate Goddess, whom they would refer to as Nephthys.

At root, Neith is a true psychopompe figure. First she invented birth, the guiding of life into existence. Then she invented mummification and its attendant rituals to guide the dead into the underworld. Her unguents preserved and restored the dead; she wove their bandages and shrouds. Archaeological evidence for the earliest deliberate mummification is of women in Archaic Egypt, and Neith likely had a crone aspect represented by her vulture totem. Later the hieroglyphic symbol for grandmother was a vulture holding royal symbols. Egyptians and Greeks alike believed there were only female vultures, and they could cure disease and bring luck because they ate the dead to take them to heaven without becoming ill from eating rotten flesh. Yet Neith's earliest symbol is two corssed arrows over an animal skin, possibly reflecting the skills of early warrior priestesses.

By Early Dynastic times members of the royal families were using 'neith' as part of their own names to a significant degree. In time this connection would be expressed through Neith's frequent wearing of the red crown (deshret) of Lower Egypt and of both the red and white (hedjet) crowns of the unified country. The common word for Goddess was Netert (plural Neterit or Neterut). Neith's principle city in Upper Egypt was Seni, called Latopolis by the Greeks, where she was portrayed as a woman with a green lioness head and titled 'Mother of Mothers and Father of Fathers.' But her most ancient sanctuary was in Lower Egypt at Saïs (Sa¨t), home of a famed healing sanctuary and medical school, for Neith was Goddess of healing long before Isis. The Egyptian pantheon most are familiar with is in fact the 'Heliopolitan pantheon' an alien group of deities that new priests attempted to impose on Saïs. This never took well, even after they made Neith the head of the Heliopolitan pantheon there. Saïs was also the founding city of the Feast of Lamps, the great annual festival in honour of Neith. Houses were decorated with lamps and torches fueled with a mixture of oil and salt, and tapers were sometimes arranged indoors. All of these lights were kept burning until morning.

As time went on, Neith became increasingly complex, dispensing wisdom, health, and useful inventions. The snake became one of her familiars, as evidenced by a tiny bronze figure of her kept in the Canadian Museum of Civilization which has the unmistakable body of a snake rearing up beside her, although its head has been broken off. The unification of Egypt began to cause other changes. Even as Neith was identified with every other powerful Goddess among the local deities of the freshly unified provinces, and matrilineal descent was considered important enough for memorial cults to be established and maintained for centuries, the status of living women was declining. Non-royal women were only referred to in relation to males in their families, and tombs of royal women were far fewer than those of the men. Neith's original priestesshood was suppressed and driven out, perhaps leading to the reappearance of the Goddess as a Muse at Delphi.

Nevertheless, even after the much sharper drop in women's and Goddess' statuses after the introduction of Hellenistic rule, Neith remained so important that numerous Egyptians and Greeks wrote of her. Most famous and frequently repeated is the verse recorded by Plutarch and quoted at the beginning of the section on 'Athena': "I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the ending, all that is, all that was, all that will be, and no man has put asunder the veil that covers me." The composer of the book of Revelation found this verse so striking he repeated at least parts of the first two lines twice.


The origins of 'Great Maiden' or 'Great Vulva' are a source of considerable confusion. On one hand, she has been called a deity of invading Greek tribes, who found Athena already firmly entrenched on the peninsula. On the other, like Athena she has been traced to Libya. Her descendants, the tribe of war priestesses called Pallantids were perennial enemies of Athens. Given this, it is most likely that Pallas is indeed from Libya originally, and came with Athena to the Greek mainland, carried by wandering Amazons. Later Hellenic tribes removed her when they remade Athens.

Yet Pallas reappears repeatedly, from the word 'palace' to the Pallatine Hill. The Arkadian city of Pallanteum was dedicated to her. The Romans celebrated a feast in her honour each April 21 called the Parilia 'Shepherd's Day' when people leapt through local fires of straw, laurel, and olive branches and the main ritual fire was also sprinkled with blood and ashes from the day's sacrifices. Also considered a shepherd and guardian deity of cattle, the ass was her main totem animal. Like the ass god Set of Egypt, she may have represented the barrenness of the desert, which can be produced or aggravated by overgrazing and drought. Companion and lover of Athena, as intimate as the desert is to the Sun, they fought side by side like their Amazon tribes, the Gorgons and the Pallantids.


Boulaia - of the assembly
Prytaneia - of the city hall, used in Syros, Lesbos, and Sinope
Tamias - steward

Part of the reason Hestia is such a shadowy deity is due to her origins, which were not as an independent Goddess, but as a repository for qualities Hellenic Athena had been stripped of. Athena was the embodiment of family bonds in pre-Hellenic times, symbolized by the hearth. These hearths were Hestia's earliest altars, and may have been as inviolable as the official altars in places like the anteroom of Delphi were. In fact, the Homeric concept of 'xenia,' the correct treatment of a guest may be related to this former inviolability of each woman's home. The hearth continued to be maintained by the women of the household, and each woman who left her mother's house to set up her own brought embers from her mother's fire. Later Greek colonies would follow a similar practice, carrying coals from their mother cities. The ritual was immeasurably old, and may reflect the challenges of lighting fires in certain conditions as well as the need to treat fire with respect. Today there are many 'eternal' flames maintained in honour of events people wish to remember.

However, this matrilineal tradition ran counter to the patriarchal mores of Athens, so her title as Hearth Goddess 'Hestia' was taken away and remade into a separate being, an older 'sister' of Zeus. It is for this reason that Hestia had no human form, and never lived on Mount Olympus. If the cause of her lack of human form is her age, it begs the question how there can be images of the Great Goddess later called Cybele, Rhea, and so on, from the Paleolithic age, together with aniconic images.

Each of Athena's cities had a Prytaneum, a communal hearth that was kept burning at all times. One of its descendants graces the grounds in front of the Canadian Parliament buildings in Ottawa, decorated with the arms of each province and territory, along with that of Canada itself. In ancient times, the sigil of each clan was probably used to decorate the Prytaneum in the same way. Further proof of Hestia's origins lie in the time of year she protected, which was roughly December-January. Athena also protected this time, and the inviolability of her sanctuaries was shared by those of Hestia. Early altars were modelled on the hearth at the centre of each house, consisting of a cauldron set over a fire. The cauldron is a common attribute of the Crone Goddess, and reappears among many deities related to Athena. And finally, like Athena, Hestia was a snaky Goddess, worshipped mainly by women.

Vesta 'Shining One' and the Vestal Virgins

Aeterna - eternal
Amata - beloved
Ara - altar
Fornax - oven
Pales - maiden, shepherd
Prisca - ancient
Sacra - holy one
Tutela - protector

Latin Vesta is at once very similar to and very different from Hestia. Like Hestia she was the deity of the hearth, family harmony, and the strength that held society together. She was ever-present as the hearth, or as any round table used to serve food, which were formerly called Hestias or Vestas. Unlike Hestia, Vesta was worshipped as the giver of fertility and the maker and keeper of the calendar. Her round calendar table was called Mensa 'Moon' or 'Measurer.' However, she does not seem to be the original Goddess of the Latin eternal flame.

That Goddess seems to be the mysterious Caca whose name unfortunately means 'bad' in Latin but may have meant 'fire' in an unrelated language. That unrelated language may even have been Etruscan, since the Romans themselves recorded that they learned many aspects of their religion from the Etruscans. However, the nature of Vesta's temple may partially mitigate this idea. It was highly unusual in that it was not rectangular but round with a domed roof and no angles anywhere, surrounded by a wall, and stood outside of the official first boundary of Rome. Even the altar was round, an almost unheard of innovation in Roman or Hellenistic temples. Furthermore, Vesta's temple was set up on officially unconsecrated ground that the augurs never set foot on. The rectangular temple form was taken up from the Etruscans; on the other hand, the temples of foreign deities were traditionally set up outside of the city. Some belief also persists in a sacred oak grove of Vesta at the foot of the Palatine Hill (apparently cut down as Rome grew), and analysis of what may have been ashes of the Vestal fire include evidence of oak wood.

Several other fairly mysterious Goddesses were absorbed by Vesta besides Caca. There was Amata 'beloved' whose name also became a title for the women who served Vesta, the sister of the Goddess Venetia, ruler of the winds and ocean. Fornax, Goddess of every aspect of making bread became an aspect of Vesta even though her Festival of Ovens (on February 17), the Fornicalia did not seem quite congruent with the usual chaste image of the Hearth Goddess. Last but not least, Vesta absorbed Karmentis, a Goddess of healing, prophecy, and memory of the past. She invented the alphabet, and her daughters Prorsa and Postverta were mainly known as the Karmenti and as members of the prophetic priestesshood of the Karmenae. These mysterious women and Goddesses who included Egeria, Antevorta, Karmentis, Proversa, Tibutus, and Timandra were associated with fountains, springs and groves. They may have been the founding mothers of the Vestal Virgins, because they watched over the springs at Rome's Porta Capena where the Vestals drew water.

The first half of June was taken up with overlapping rites of Juno and Vesta. The Vestalia began on the fifth and finished on the fifteenth officially, with only women being allowed in the temple for the duration. The biggest day for the rest of the population was June ninth, when banquets were set out in front of each house, meals were sent to the Vestals to offer to the Goddess, and both the millstones and the donkeys that turned them were garlanded. The donkeys in particular were lead around the city, probably as charm to bring fertility to each household. On the last day Vesta's temple was vigourously cleaned and swept, with the resulting debris dumped down the Porta Stercoraria nearby.

The Vestal Virgins themselves seem to be hedged around with confusion, mainly because the Romans tried to change the meaning of the word 'virgin' from 'a woman who belongs to herself' to 'a woman who has not had sex with a man.' This change has never been entirely successful, leading to many contradictions in writings about ancient religion. A common etymology given for the word is that it comes from Latin vir 'man,' which makes little sense. It helps to look rather further back to the Sanskrit root vr (ver/vir) which means 'to envelop.' 'Virgin' may originally have meant 'one who is able to envelop' with a related term 'one who can be enveloped,' that is, virtue. Even more likely however, is that it meant 'self-enclosed' as in being independent and able to care for oneself. Virtue could then be a quality of both women and men, but would have referred especially to women due to parthenogenetic phenomena. The similarities between this terminology and those referring to maleness could easily lead to them being confused once differences in pronunciation were forgotten or otherwise lost.

Vestal colleges were established at Rome, Tibur, and Lavinium. The Lavinian college may have been the oldest, as its founder was supposed to be the daughter of Armata, Lavinia, and Lavinia was the legendary founder of the ruling line of Alba Longa. Alba Longa is the Roman mother city in legend, and its sacred fire remained lit until the fourth century BCE. Originally these colleges seem to have little or nothing to do with Vesta at all. The first colleges in Alba Longa were actually priestesshoods of Rhea Silvia and Tarpeia. Eventually the Romans set out a contradictory legend of the founding of their own Vestal college, claiming the second Sabine king of Rome founded it, in the face of the fact that the Vestals originally chose and deposed Latin kings. They were completely independent of men, and their children were born into the religious orders. The status and rights of women became considerably eroded as Rome became more deeply militaristic, and the rules and qualifications of the Vestals had been so interfered with by the time of Augustus that he was forced to go on recruiting drives that were at best marginally successful.

Right into the time of the Roman republic, unlike other women Vestals could manage their own financial affairs, a key symbol of their independence. In some instances they could override the rulings of the city magistrates and could be buried within the city limits. When testifying at trials, their word was so respected they were not required to take an oath. Special front seats were reserved for them at the gladiatorial games. They owned their own horses. The number of Vestal Virgins seems to vary from two to six in this period, and their thirty years of service was divided into three parts. For ten years they learned the various functions and rituals of the college. For ten more years they actually performed those rites and duties. Finally, they spent ten years teaching their skills to new members.

Among the Vestal duties was a task that seems to have been a special one of all daughters in ancient times, maintaining and relighting the fire. If the temple flame went out it was relit using a burning lens or a bronze parabolic reflector. This was the 'root flame' of the city; all other temple fires were lit from it so it could not be relit in any other way. A curious aspect of the centrality of fire here is how almost every author ignores the sexual connotations of the lighting and relighting of the Vestal flame considering Vesta was worshipped as a provider of fertility. Conversely, the fire was considered a means of purification through literal burning or use in sweat baths.

Related to this purification aspect is the preparation of the sacred mola salsa or salted flour. No aspect of the preparation of this substance was carried out by non-Vestals. They processed and ground their own salt. The eldest three Vestals gathered the spelt grain used in the mola between May 7-14 on the odd numbered days, then it was parched and ground in the temple. Ovid said that the mola salsa was originally called Februa, from the Sabine word februo 'I purify or burn' that may also be related to ferveo/ferbeo 'I boil.' This substance was required for sacrifices when it was sprinkled over the head of each animal before it was killed, similar to the Greek practice of sprinkling barley grains. It was also used on June 9, on September 13, and on February 15 during the Lupercalia when the last of the supply was used up. On March 1 the Vestals deliberately doused the eternal flame, cleaned its sconce, then relit it. Five days later they performed the main sacrifice to Vesta.

Throughout the year the Vestals protected Rome's holy relics, mysterious objects only they and certain Roman officials saw. They said public prayers and were entrusted with important legal documents, including wills and treaties. Similar to Greek hetairai, their presence in force was demanded at every important ceremony.

However, numerous limitations and changes came together in imperial times to make the Vestal college exceedingly difficult to maintain. Their financial independence was stripped when the city's high prest was made their legal guardian. Candidates now had to be patricians, have both parents living, been born in Italy, never had a dishonourable occupation, could only be considered for the office between the ages of 6 and 10 years inclusive, and could not have any physical disabilities or 'imperfections.' Once a girl became a Vestal, she ceased to be a member of her family. She could no longer inherit from any member of her birth family. If she fell ill she was forbidden to return home to recover, and instead was carried to a chosen household. The mere accusation of 'looking sexy' could lead to flogging and other punishments. Any offence could be punished with being forced to strip naked and submit to a beating by the fully clothed high priest. For a Vestal, being accused of having sex was a sentence of death by being buried alive. She suffered the same fate if she was raped. Conversely, there seemed to be no penalty for raping a Vestal Virgin, let alone sleeping with one. There was little Vestals could do to avoid drawing attention or to get away quickly if they were attacked. Each Vestal had to wear a long white linen tunic, a 'palla' a short tunic with slit sides that fell to the hips, plus a woolen overrobe with a purple border. The High Vestal was also assigned a special hood fastened at the neck by a brooch.

All of these limitations and changes reflected the fact that the Roman emperors had taken almost personal control of the administration and staffing of the priestesshood. The purpose behind this micromanagement is not entirely clear, although the restrictions and destruction of female agency and independence, important drawing points for new initiates indicates a slow strangulation of the order. Nevertheless, it persisted for over 1 100 years and was disbanded by force in the 300s CE. As their last act, the final priestesses destroyed the sacred holding area of the temple along with its relics to prevent them from being desecrated.


Her name and the net she wore over her hair indicate her Neolithic origins. The net symbolized water and fertility, appropriate since she was after all, a Fertility Goddess. Like Athena, she was a weaver and had a water bird totem, the spotted duck, which is one translation of her name. Others are 'she who has a veiled face' or 'she whose eyes are behind the veil,' so she was also a Goddess of Fate and the Future whose completed weaving meant the death of the person whose life it represented. As weaver of the world, Penelope undid the work she had done during the day each night to preserve it for awhile longer.


Arae - Latin deities of destruction and retribution eventually absorbed by the Eumenides
Dirae - furies; Latin title making them equal to multiplied forms of the Goddess Dira who presided over retribution
Erinyes - strong ones
Maniae - madnesses
Melanaegiae - black shielded ones
Potniae< - queens, revered ones
Praxidikae - keeper of oaths; exacter of justice

Underground Goddesses originally from Sikyon who pushed up the new shoots each spring, rulers of reproduction in general associated with the pomegranate. Their worshippers wore robes the colour of menstrual blood and met over low altars placed deep in caves, lit only by a few torches. They were called upon to bless and protect new families as well as established ones. The best known of their sacred caves is the one on the Athenian Acropolis, which was also called a temple of the fearful Erinyes. This was not confusion or an attempt to flatter the darker Goddesses, but a recognition that just as the Eumenides emanated from Gaea (or Nyx) and were friendly and helpful when the laws of the mothers were respected, they became angry and frightening when those same laws were broken. Although no list of names has been given for the Eumenides, the Erinyes were: Alekto 'the unspeakable' or possibly 'the voiceless one,' Megaera 'anger' or 'vengeance,' and Tisiphone 'avenger of blood.' They carried swords and whips, and Tisiphone in particular wore a long cloak dyed blood red. The Greeks believed that they wept poisonous blood from their eyes and attempted to placate them with offerings of black sheep, honey water, white doves, and narcissus. Three more are sometimes added to their number, Megaira 'she who holds a grudge,' Telphusia 'far reaching storm,' and sometimes Deina, the Goddess of fear. The Romans referred to these powerful Goddesses as Furies who sometimes accompanied Bellona, but named only two, Alekto and Furina 'furious.' The Etruscans had a sacred grove dedicated to the Furies, and a festival in their honour, the Furinalia. Only one of them was usually mentioned by name, Nathum.


Great Goddess of the Medes, titled Aeetias 'the untouchable' by the Romans, she is another embodiment of the Sun and funerary deity that Athena descended from. Like her sister Kirke, she was a skilled astronomer, so much so that overawed spectators believed that her priestesses caused eclipses and other phenomena rather than merely predicting them accurately. Her name meant 'wise or cunning one,' the source of healing and medicine. The Greeks called her mother Idryia 'knowledgable.' Like Demeter, she could restore the dead to life or renew the aged by placing them in her cauldron (womb). Another meaning of her name was 'mead of wisdom' referring back to the belief that menstrual blood was the source of all knowledge. Mead was sometimes considered synonymous with the nectar consumed on Mount Olympus because it was fermented from honey. Medea was also a Serpent Goddess, suggesting her as another guardian of women's mysteries.

Possessed of all wisdom and a great chariot drawn by fiery serpents, she was associated with the golden fleece and its power to call for protection of children and crops. Later this was shifted to Athena, and the golden fleece was carried during the Pompaea. The fourteen 'children' whom Medea left in the care of Hera's Korinthian temple when she left Jason were her priestesses, massacred when her rites were considered too violent... or perhaps they involved the return of traditions of female independence only recently stamped out.

Medea was unphased by all of this. After all, she had defeated the bronze giant Talos and dared to assist in the theft of the golden fleece. Ruler of Earth and Sky, she simply leapt aboard her chariot and left for the Elysian fields, where she acquired a new name, Angitia 'Snake Goddess.' Her popularity was greatest in Italy, where she ruled sorcery, healing herbs, and poison antidotes. Sicily, an island still famous for its witches became an important centre of her worship, rivaling the forest named for her near Lake Fucinus roughly 100 kilometres from Rome.

Classical writers tried to explain Medea as a daughter of Hekate or a priestess of Artemis or Hekate, a clear indication that both Goddesses were associated with astronomy and witchcraft. In fact, Medea's mother was Asterodeia 'Goddess of the Sun,' ruler of the Kaukasus mountains who may have been absorbed by Artemis. This Goddess was also mother of Chalkiope 'brazen face' ruler of Kos. Medea's own children included Eriopis 'many eyes' the sky, and Argus 'bright hound' embodiment of the Dog Star, Sirius.


Initially a Hunter Goddess and Lady of the Beasts of Kolchis named Aeaea 'ululation,' she became the funerary Goddess of the island known by her name. She was believed to have travelled there from Kolchis on the shores of the Black Sea by riding the Sun's rays. The ululations of her name became funeral laments, and she was renamed Kirke 'falcon' or 'circle.' Her name also closely resembles the word Kerkis 'weaver's shuttle.' The falcon was believed to carry the dead to the Goddess, while the circle was the Karmic wheel or the sometimes death dealing Sun. Her other totem bird was the periodically self-immolating phoenix. She was commonly said to weave on her island with her maidens. Sorceress and skilled astronomer, Homer suggested that she controlled the forces of nature by braiding and unbraiding her hair. Like the Sun or inexorable death, Kirke was hypnotically beautiful, and her daughter Kassiphone 'ensnaring voice' may have been a prototypical Siren.

Daughter of the Sun Goddess Perse or Perseis the 'lightbearer' or 'destroyer' who became the underworld Goddess Persephone 'she who shines for all or destroyer of all,' she also had an aunt, Klymene 'famous strength or famous Moon,' and several sisters. Kirke's sisters included Pasiphae 'wide shiner' owner of the Moon hare, Kalypso 'concealer,' Argeia 'bright,' and often Medea 'wise one' who was sometimes called her niece instead. Klymene's daughters were the keepers of golden horned cattle in the lands of the Dead, the Heliades. They were also keepers of oak and poplar trees, their fallen branches frequently used for fuel during sacrifices. Kirke was said to turn men into swine for sacrifices, which reflects changes in practice, rather than literal metamorphosis... changes from symbolically reaping grain or other food plants in the original ceremonies to sacrificing men (usually slaves) in patriarchal Greece. Literal human sacrifices were then superseded by animal sacrifices, since human sacrifice became understandably unpopular, and the ritual began to represent the annual death of the boar-god. The yule pig with an apple in its mouth comes from the similar origins.

Kirke lived in a cave in the midst of heavily forested Aeaea, surrounded by bears and wolves. Besides performing sacrifices, she presided over funeral games, hence the Latin circus, which was once an enclosure such games were held in. Greeks believed participating in such games could remove blood guilt for murder, leading to the Argonauts stopping at Aeaea. Hearing of Kirke dealing with an unwanted suitor by changing him into a pig and holding him hostage until friends came for him and he swore to leave her alone did nothing to discourage them. Neither did her assistance to her sister Aega 'shining one,' who was forced to hide underground for a time, which resulted in the divisions of day and night.

Today Aeaea has been identified with the peninsula of Monte Cristo, or an island at the mouth of the Po River on the Adriatic Sea. Kirke's friend Hals 'sea' leant her name to the Etruscan town of Halson Pyrgos 'Town of Hals,' yet but for the Argonauts and the reputation Southern Italy has for witches, little else is remembered of her.


According to the Greeks, Herakles' last wife and his murderer – or his executioner. She was roughly connected to the Moon Goddess whose totem was the guinea fowl on Ogygia 'navel of the sea' and to the healing Goddess Althaea. Yet even the Greeks seemed confused about her. A warrior, yet incapable of defending herself. Independent, but willing to ally herself with the violent Herakles. Herakles is more closely identified with Tyrian Melkaart in the story of his death, hence his cremation and deification, another source of confusion.

Deianeira is in fact Athena herself, as shown by her fame as a warrior and chariot driver, and her shadow 'sister' Gorge, another hastily personified title. When Athena was known as 'she who strings together spoils,' and 'the grim' she was the Destroying Goddess. This can be interpreted in several ways. For example, that Athena had been pushed fully into the role of a Goddess with a dying year god for a consort who was in turn absorbed by the Greek Herakles. After consummating his marriage with the Goddess, he was dressed in ceremonial tunic, shot to death with poisoned arrows, and cremated. Or, Athena struck down Dorian Herakles with arrows in retaliation for his violent mistreatment of women and children.

A more provocative explanation for Herakles' end has been worked out by the expert in ancient textiles, Elizabeth Wayland Barber. In her studies of the various pigments used in ancient times, she found the purplish red sulfide of arsenic, realgar, often used to colour royal robes. Sometimes it was called dragon's blood because thin deposits of it were found smeared across harder rocks. Unfortunately for the individual wearing a garment coloured with realgar, the substance was deadly if kept in prolonged contact with the skin.

Herakles' deadly tunic then, may well have been coloured with crushed realgar. Like any king, he was reluctant to put aside the garment that was so important to his rank. Just before he died, Wayland Barber notes that he would have had excellent skin tone. However, this would have done him little good, as arsenic poisoning starts by causing headaches, confusion, and drowsiness, then progresses to convulsions, vomiting, hair loss, and stomach pain.

Eventually Deianeira was attached to Kalydonian Althaea because Arkadia was long a home of Amazons who lived in its mountains and forests independent of men. It was no stretch to imagine that Althaea's daughter lived in the same way, especially since Althaea was always remembered as an embodiment of matrilineal laws that prevented bloodshed among family members. When one of her sons killed the other, she had the murderer sent to the underworld. 'Althaea' means 'Great Goddess' or 'to cure' from the Greek name for the marshmallow. It has beneficent effects on the respiratory, urinary, and intestinal tract, and eases inflammation. Apparently Althaea could save or take life at will, and may have been an underworld judge of the dead.


Alosydne - the sea born
Boeopis - ox eyed
Gaeeochos - Earth surrounding
Halsodyne - sea born

Another pre-Hellenic Goddess of the ocean, particularly the Mediterranean, and also of islands on the ocean. These islands were the lands that Poseidon later coveted... meaning he coveted the world, for every continent is an island. Amphitrite passed her days shepherding the fish and sea mammals of the ocean, her nights dancing by the island of Naxos 'whetstone' (named for a formerly independent Goddess) or arranging underwater caves that contained her jewels, sea life such as coral and brightly coloured fish. These may be the ultimate source of the enduring belief that underwater treasures are hidden in difficult to access sea caves. Some of these treasures were only temporary deposits, as they were the souls of the dead who had been buried or died at sea.

Amphitrite may also be a Moon Goddess or mother of a triple Moon Goddess, as suggested by Robert Graves. The three Goddesses were called Tritone 'third queen,' Rhodes 'rosy coloured,' and Benthesikyme 'wave of the deep,' New, Full, and Old Moon respectively. When shown in art, Amphitrite wore a fishnet over her hair and a crab claw crown.


Ariadne, titled Minos 'light, or strength,' called Ariatha or Aratha 'nourisher' by the Etruscans, was the ruler not only of the summer Sun and waxing Moon, but also of the stars of the sky where she kept her crown, now called the Corona Borealis. She oversaw the underworld and the growth of plants and animals. Each soul was guided into the labyrinth by her immortal hands, and out again in order to give them rebirth. Spiritual, in the case of her physical shrines on Krete, and literal in the case of the tomb. Ariadne was worshipped beyond her home island, on Amathus and in Mykenae. Garlanded white bulls were sacrificed to her, their horns later used as sacred decorations in her shrines.

Ariadne was worshipped exclusively by women, and had at least two other known names, Dia 'Goddess,' and Aridela or Aridelos 'the very visible one.' Sometimes she was associated with a daughter Alkaea 'the mighty one' who may have been associated in turn with the star Sirius. The Sun and Moon Goddess Pasiphae 'she who shines for all' was considered her mother, and the Sun Goddess Phaedra 'shining one' her sister. The initiatory ordeal of her priestesses was suffered by the Goddess herself: she allowed herself to be hung by her wrists from the branches of a plane tree, and in the resultant period of unconsciousness... or death, depending who was telling the story, she passed into the underworld, learned its mysteries, then returned.

Years after the ruin of the Minoan culture by invasion, Athena absorbed most of her rites. Artemis was installed as the new titular Goddess of Naxos, formerly called Dia after Ariadne herself.


The First Doric Raid handed the Greeks their first defeat at the hands of the Thermodontine Amazons. Among the warriors who helped defend Themiskyra and give it its invulnerable reputation was Andromeda. A member of the ruling council and a follower of Athena, she bore a shield marked with a serpent. At the height of the final battle, Andromeda led a force that helped push the Greeks back to their boats and out to sea. Her service to her Nation and her Goddess were with such distinction that after her death, Athena placed her in the sky among the stars.


Alkidike - mighty justice; Persphone when judging the dead
Anesidora - she who sends up gifts
Bouphobe - cattle destroying
Brimo - furious one
Cherogonia - creating by hand
Daeria - knowing one
Deonia - daughter of De
Enodia - gatekeeper
Epaine - the awesome
Etephilia - lover of truth
Hermione - pillar queen
Kore - maiden; used at Eleusis
Melaina - black one; early name
Meltitodes - sweet as honey; title shared with Kore, used to refer to them when in the underworld
Pais - child
Pasikrateia - ruler of all
Persephassa - dove killing (?)
Plutos - riches
Praxidike - just action
Proserpine - Roman name for Persephone
Prsipnei - Etruscan name for Persephone
Pyrophoitos - she who walks on fire
Soteira - saviour; she who sows the seed
Thesmia - she who lays down

Persephone 'light bearing face or destroying face' began as Perse 'lightbearer or destroyer' a Greek Sun Goddess and possible waning Sun paired with the Goddess Elektra 'amber' as the waxing Sun. Daughter of the ocean and mother of Pasiphae and Kirke, like Athena Perse may have Kretan connections. In time, Persephone became the crone form of the Triple Demeter who metamorphosed into the maiden Kore during her time in the underworld. In other words, Persphone was the World Soul hidden inside the Earth before being rejuvenated. When this was forgotten, confusion between her and Kore was inevitable.

Elysium was sometimes considered Persephone's home of the blessed rather than Hera's, especially when she was accompanied by one of her snakes. Ruler of certain death, keeper of the keys to both heaven and hell, Persephone gathered up the souls of the recently dead. On her annual trip to the underworld, Persephone was accompanied by boars and pigs, one form attributed to the souls of the dead before rebirth. According to Homer, she was queen of this world and it was named Hades. Not until Hesiod is a god named Hades added to this seasonal cycle. Although not a mother herself in this form, by guiding souls to rebirth she ensured that living women could become mothers themselves. Helping her in this work were the Sirens and the Koronides 'ravens, crows, or maidens' who brought Persphone souls just as the Valkyries did to Freya. However, there were only two Koronides, Menippe 'Moon horse' and Metioche 'having arrows,' deified priestesses of Boeotian Orchomenos. They won full apotheosis by ending a famine there, possibly by introducing irrigation techniques badly needed in that part of Greece.

Persephone was strongly associated with Thrake, and her preferred companion in all places was Hekate. In fact, when she was called Praxidike, the ruler of oaths and punisher of oathbreakers, Persephone was depicted with a three faced head as Hekate sometimes was. During the Stenia, a women's night festival held in her honour and Demeter's, women were famous for using Aiskrhologia 'lewd words' sexually explicit language in honour of Iambe, and possibly passing on magical knowledge by word of mouth. This may also be the time when the Thesmoi 'things laid down' cakes in the shape of female genitals and snakes, and piglets were placed in Demeter's underground sanctuary. These may have been meant to feed or fertilize the Earth Mother, often considered synonymous for such Goddesses, or to help the souls of the recently deceased get to the underworld. But Persephone's major festival was the Genesia that honoured the dead with praises and lamentations, held on the fifth day of Boedromion in Athens.

Descriptions of Persephone are conflicting. On one hand she might be described as white, or the greenish white colour of the dead. On the other she might be described as black skinned. She wore a garland of asphodel, symbol of death and immortality, and shared the poppy and narcissus with Athena who with Artemis was sometimes called her sister. The black poplar and yew were sacred to her as Death Goddess, the white poplar or aspen and the pomegranate to her as Goddess of Regeneration. Rosemary, bay leaf, myrtle and mint were all used in burial rites. The use of mint in particular led to Persephone's absorption of Menthe, the underworld personification of the plant and takeover of Menthe's Mount Triphyle 'three leaved' in Bythynia. It was originally Persephone, not Athena, who wove the world on a loom inside a cave, accompanied by a sacred snake.

There were at least two other Goddesses associated with Persephone: Cyane 'dark in colour' the Water Goddess of Syracuse, and Herkyna 'she who protects the home.' Bulls were drowned in Cyane's sacred well, and the rape of one of her priestesses caused her to stop the rain and dry up the springs, inducing a famine. The crisis was not over until the rapist was executed. Herkyna had a cave, grove, and spring at Lebadeia. There people were purified by her priestesses before seeing the oracle of Trophonius. Persephone's daughter, named Melinoë or Chthonia visited the earth each night, causing fear and confusion. Persephone also absorbed several Goddesses, including Auxesia 'increase' the Kretan Goddess of growth and most famously, the Roman Goddess of seed germination Proserpina. Part of each Lupercalia was dedicated to Proserpina, and so she may have been the same as the Wolf Goddess Lupa.


Like Athena, Kore has both Anatolian and Kretan antecedents. Ker or Kar, inventor of charms and the alphabet was the first deity of Persia. The country was still called Karmania 'Kar of the Moon' into the time of Alexander. The name does not appear to be Indo-European, and on Krete meant 'bee' as in such words as kerinthos 'bee head' and related words. The word ker is also translated 'fate' and 'door,' because the Kretan Bee Goddess ruled the cycle of life and death. Death was every person's fate, just as every person was born of a woman. Doors were often symbolically the same as the the end of the birth canal. Yet another suggested etymology relates her name to koro 'sprout.' One of her holiest titles was Hagne 'holy one' a cognate of English 'hag.'

In the end, the Greeks simply couldn't accept this Goddess as she was, and split her in two. The word kardia 'heart,' but literally 'Goddess Kar' derives from her role as Heart and Soul of the World. The pentacle hidden inside each apple represented Kore and the hope of rebirth, an idea shared with Egypt. The underworld was represented in hieroglyphics by a five pointed figure inside a circle. Fifteen was a lucky number because it was a multiple of three, and in Greek numerology the values of the letters of Kore's name added up to it. Ker became the Greek Goddess of violent death, sister of Nyx and the Moirae whose favoured animal form was the black carrion crow. She was multiplied into the terrifying Keres, the many forms of violent death.

Needless to say, Kore was rather more popular. At Thelpousa she was identified with Despoena and worshipped there with her mother Demeter. Her companion was Admete, and Athena and Artemis were sometimes called her sisters. Various places were dedicated to her, including the Sicilian grasslands of Enna, the Kephissus river in Eleusis, Mount Kullene in Arkadia, and the plain of Mysia, which is considered mythical by most classical scholars. The festival of her birth, the Koreion, was the original holiday on twelfth night. On that day, besides the ubiquitous apple, celebrants may have worn lilies.

Latin Ceres, whose name is a cognate to Kore/Ker/Kar and was so similar to Demeter as to be absorbed by her was considered thoroughly benign by Roman times. However, as the co-queen of heaven with Juno and the original Legifera 'lawgiver or lawbearer' she probably once had a grim, justice bringing aspect. Ceres founded the Sabine line of queens and the more egalitarian, matrilineal legal system of early Rome and Tuscany. Her Matronae ruled the area around what is now Rome for over four hundred years. In 200 BCE they were violently replaced by the patriarchal tribes that became known as Romans. Among their first acts was the destruction of all the written records and laws of the Matronae. As the source of all food, Ceres continued to be worshipped, and her mid-June festival was celebrated without interruption until the 1800s.


Early in Egypt's First Dynasty, there ruled a Queen named Djet or Zet. This mysterious ruler, like Menes, has caused scholars considerable problems. She has an indisputably female name and a proper series of royal names, including one that used a specific and unique hieroglyphic form of the uraeus, the cobra all Egyptian pharaohs wore on their foreheads. Scholars insist she ruled for only ten years, which may or not be true, due to the notoriously variable number of years assigned to all dynasties, and the extreme antiquity of the first. Most difficult of all, Queen Zet was represented as the great Cobra Goddess Herself, better known as Wadjet or Djet whose form was that of a woman or a winged serpent. All Egyptian Goddesses were formerly considered aspects of Wadjet 'Cobra Goddess'... Budge considered Isis herself just one more form of this ancient deity. In Lower Egypt, few animals were as sacred as the snake, and few deities were as popular or as powerful in the Old Kingdom.

The Neter, deified female ancestors, visited the living in the form of snakes according to the ancient Egyptians, and the Bari tribe of Sudan still believe this. The writing these grandmothers invented was known as medoo-neter 'words of the mothers' long after the priests of Ra took over the temples. These priests despised the Neter and tried to reduce Wadjet to the tame serpent of Ra, because they could not win the love and respect those ancestors had from ordinary Egyptians, even when the gods were dressed up in artificial breasts. Similar to how the Hebrew priests treated their Goddesses, the priests of Ra edited them out of the sacred writings and religious ritual as far as possible, reducing the lot to a confused morass after the Old Kingdom. Yet even then, Wadjet's power was still remembered. After all, she seems to be the very poisonous snake who bit Ra and so forced him to give up his secret name to Isis, giving her absolute power over him in exchange for saving his life. The ancient Egyptian determinative sign for 'priestess' and 'Goddess' was always a snake, just as the vulture, a form of Wadjet's twin Nekhbet (Neith), was for 'queen' and 'grandmother.'

Wadjet's name has also been translated 'she who is green' from the word wad which means green, fresh, lucky, or happy. The rising of the Nile drove out the many snakes that always keep close to water, and so Wadjet was also called Seby 'guide serpent,' the leading cobra who led the work to guide the Nile over its banks. Another of her names was Saryet 'she who causes to ascend' which may refer to the flood, to evaporation, or even to the Sun. She could be synonymous with the Nile or the Sun. This is particularly suggestive in view of the fact that Hapy, the official 'male' personification of the Nile, had pendulous breasts and a pregnant belly. Other names of Wadjet that referred to her as the bringer of luck and fertility include Tefnet 'moisture,' Renenet 'Nurse Goddess' from a root meaning to rejoice, caress, and bring up, and Rennewtet 'Harvest Goddess.' She likely had still other names referring to her as a prophetic deity, for her temple Per-Uatchet ('House of Wadjet') was an oracular shrine.

But Wadjet was not always benign. She could become angry, either in defense of her people or because of wrong behaviour. In this case, Wadjet was the Sun, especially when called 'i'rt 'She Who is Risen' a name with a root that is also the basis for the word 'uraeus.' Just what was rising again could be ambiguous: was it the Sun, the Cobra, or the Nile? All of these could be benign or threatening. When angry, Wadjet was particularly fond of the form of the spitting cobra, and was then known as the Mistress of Fear and Mistress of Might. Also known as Weret Hekaw 'She who is Great in Magic,' it may well have been her curse rather than her bite that originally struck down Ra – though the two things are of course, metaphorically equivalent. In battle, Wadjet was fully expected to beat the enemy with tongues of flame, and was called Nesert 'Flaming Female Serpent' or 'flame of the uraeus.'

The cobra was synonymous with the eye and female power in Lower Egypt, a feature absorbed by Neith-Nekhbet of Upper Egypt. Both could withhold their blessings and depose rulers, and in this capacity Wadjet was exalted as Nesert and as Iaret or Weret 'She who is Great.' Her union with Neith-Nekhbet represented the unification of Egypt.


Achaea - griever; used at Luceria by the Romans
Castitis - protector of olive trees
Ergatis - work woman
Letham - an Etruscan Goddess absorbed by Minerva
Mensa - measurer of time; Moon; originally an independent Goddess
Nerio - valour; captured arms were dedicated to her
Parthenos - virgin
Pylotis - of the narrow pass
Saïs - from the Egyptian city of the same name
Salus - health; originally a separate Goddess of healing and agriculture with possible Sabine connections
Tritonia - third queen; eldest

The Crone figure of the original Capitoline triad, Minerva ruled wisdom, work, education, and war. Beginning as an Etruscan Goddess, Mnrva, her birth was attended by the mysterious Goddess Ethausva. In time she became highly popular in Rome, where her protection was regularly invoked for the Roman population at large, apparently by priestesses at her chapel at the foot of one of the city's seven hills, because no flamen was assigned to control her worship. Minerva was strongly associated with the Moon and accordingly absorbed the Etruscan Goddess Mensa and the arts of which she was a patron, including invention and calculation of calendars, measuring in general, numbers, tables, and recordkeeping. In these functions Minerva appears to overlap significantly with Vesta, whose calendar table has already been mentioned. Two days were dedicated to Minerva: March 19, the Quinquatrus and June 13, the Quinquirtus Minores. The March festival was a school holiday and teacher payday, when each instructor received their minerval. Eventually it was extended from one day to five, March 19 to 23.

Hints of the Goddess' deeper nature persist in artifacts surviving from classical to late imperial times. The Praneste cista shows Minerva creating Mars by casting a bronze statue preparatory to giving it life. In still other images, a three headed dog similar to Greek Kerberus waits patiently to seize the souls of those Minerva finds wanting as they wait to enter the underworld.


The famed elder sister of Inanna, called Allatu by the Akkadians, Ereshkigal has a number of curiously gorgon-like attributes. She was possessed of a death-dealing gaze, and 'leek-like' long, black hair, that is, dreadlocks. Giant in size, Ereshkigal 'Queen of the Great Below' or 'Queen of the Great Earth' absorbed the dead into herself, suggesting that she was in fact synonymous with the earth in which Sumerians were customarily buried. Later writers claimed that Ereshkigal received the underworld as her share after the division of the world, probably the earliest version of the world division, when land rose from the divine ocean Tiamat.

Today what is often referred to as 'the underworld' was not necessarily synonymous with the places Ereshkigal ruled. Several of the common 'euphemisms' for Ereshkigal's domain include: kur 'mountainius country, foreign lands,' kigal 'the great place,' edin 'the steppe,' and later aruli 'the land of no return.' In other words, Ereshkigal was first conceived of as the ruler of a wilderness at the end of the Sumerian known world, described as surrounded by 'rainbow gardens' called Irkalla or Kirgalla. True to her mountainous home, Ereshkigal could appear as a lion headed woman sailing on one of the rivers, gazing on the offerings set out for her by mortals.

The wild/cultivated division demarked by rivers was a natural one for the people of Sumeria, who lived between the Tigris and the Euphrates, below their confluence near present day Baghdad, and appear to have started from the present day Shatt-al-Arab, an area of reed marshes. Hedging in the river valleys were and are mountains and steppes, harsh lands considered difficult to live in. Later this lead to a tradition stating that the underworld was a dreary, nasty place, where the dead were ghostlike and eaters of dust, contradicting Ereshkigal's role as consumer and rebirther of the dead. The Hittites referred to Ereshkigal's domain as the dark earth 'dankuis,' the Hurrians referring to it as 'the deep' turi.

Ereshkigal was already ancient in period when the Sumerians began to use writing for other than accounting purposes. Old Sumerian offering lists mention her and her temples, and she had a temple in Ur called the place of fate, Kinamtarida, dated to approximately 4 200 years ago.

With the development of astronomy and astrology in Mesopotamia, seven gates to seven worlds corresponding to the seven heavenly bodies were imagined to make up the upperworld, with corresponding mirror versions in the underworld. Each heavenly body was believed to pass below the earth at night, including Venus, the planet embodied by Inanna herself. The doorway to the underworld was named Ganzir, and near it was Ereshkigal's palace, built wholly of lapis lazuli, Egalgina 'place of justice.'

Sumerian Goddesses, like Sumerian women, were in charge of mourning and funerary rites, and so it should some as no surprise that a fundamental myth of death and rebirth should have the two great Sumerian Goddesses of the upper and under worlds at its centre. In the story of the descent of Inanna, which originally does not appear to have involved the mortal shepherd Dumuzi, Inanna readies herself to descend to Ereshkigal's palace, and face her powerful elder sister. Specifically, she girds herself about with the me, a term Gwendolyn Leick says likely derives from the Sumerian word for the verb 'to be.' The me were a whole collection of things that were at once divine powers, cultural norms, and ability to meet obligations. They were neither exclusively positive nor exclusively negative, and their holder was empowered by them and totally responsible for their use.

In the course of her descent, Inanna gives up some of the me, which are then taken to Ereshkigal, until at last she comes into her sister's presence, ostensibly with nothing. For her part, Ereshkigal is groaning alone in heavy labour, bitter and angry at being left alone at such an important and difficult time. What, or rather who, she is re-birthing, are the Dead. This is no mean feat to achieve alone, and the Great Queen of the Below was surely in no mood to deal with her younger sister and her quest.

Wisely, Inanna realizes that she has in fact come into her sister's presence with at least one me still, love and compassion. And so she settled herself in to help Ereshkigal give birth, wiping her brow, listening to the older Goddess' words and calls. When at last the Dead have been reborn, and Ereshkigal is able to relax a little on her throne, and ask just why Inanna has come to her palace in the Great Below. The versions of the story that have come down to us seem to be rather foggy on this point, but in all likelihood Inanna had come to gain knowledge and power over death and disease. Her journey has many qualities of shamanic initiation to it, and accordingly Ereshkigal tells her how Inanna may gain what she seeks.

Ereshkigal were fix her with her death dealing gaze. Her scribe, Geshtinanna, will note Inanna's name down in the long roles recording the names of the dead. Then her daughters, Ningal and Ninazu will take the stricken Inanna and hang her from a meathook. There she will be left to rot, until there is no flesh on her bones. Then Ereshkigal herself will resurrect her. Only after this will Inanna receive the knowledge and power she seeks. It is at this point that Inanna recognizes that she still has yet another me, trust. She agrees to the terms, and Ereshkigal strikes her down with her deadly gaze.

Geshtinanna, whose name has an obvious relationship to Inanna's and has been translated as 'Queen of the Grapevine' promptly stepped forward to play her role. This little known Goddess is always associated with Ereshkigal, and is also called Gashnandubsar 'scribe of the underworld,' appropriately enough. Like Ereshkigal, she initially lived on the steppes. Unlike Ereshkigal, Geshtinanna was sometimes seen in the form of an old woman, or wearing a multicoloured cloak to interpret dreams, one of her other specialties. The Akkadians called her Belet-Seri 'Queen of the Open Countryside.'

Little recorded survives about Ninazu, and only somewhat more about Ningal. Ningal is not identified in Sumerian texts until very late in the use of the language, when it was being used exclusively for religious purposes. Hymns and prayers were composed in her honour, and besides being a daughter of Ereshkigal and underworld deity in her own right, also interpreted dreams and worked various types of magic. The Hurrians called her Nikkal.

Ultimately, Ereshkigal does indeed recover Inanna's bones with flesh and return her to life. The story fragments do not tell directly that she gave Inanna what she desired, but it seems likely since she ascends to the upperworld again, gaining back all of the me she had given up on the way to the underworld. But this is no pure triumph over death; Inanna will have to descend again to help her sister in her rebirthpangs when the time comes.


Athena and the Flute

Banquets attended by deities ran in much the same way as those attended by mortals. At those attended by Greek deities, the first cup of wine was poured for Themis. Then there were at least three toasts afterward, to the Charites, to Aphrodite, and to Eris. After the meal, if there was one, since ambrosia and nectar are liquids and dictate a drinking party, one or more deities performed music or poetry. It was at such a gathering that Athena debuted one of her inventions, the double flute.

She had carved it from the bones of a stag, and delighted the guests with it. The later story that she threw it away for reasons of vanity gave men an excuse to insist that flute playing was 'unladylike' and that women in general were ludicrously vain. Yet the flute was often played by women, especially in sacred settings. Athena invented the single piped flute as well, carving the first set of such flutes from the bones of an eagle. The bones were inherently sacred, since in life the eagle travelled the sky, home of the divine.

The Birth of Athena

In the days when children counted by their mothers, the Goddess Metis ruled by the shores of Lake Tritonis. She was known far beyond Amazonia as a deity great in kindness and wisdom, and even foreign deities like Zeus took her counsel. Libyan Amazonia was huge and stretched as far as the Nile, where some Amazons worshipped Pasht, Queen of Cats. Other people of the region wondered at the mysterious women in leather and brightly coloured cloth who plied Lake Tritonis, sometimes with spears, others with nets.

At the centre of the lake was a small island, and there was Metis' shrine, where she sat on a solid stone throne carved with lions and geese. From there she gazed out at the world, and it was from there that she saw the Egyptian queen Mene finally succeed in unifying the lands of Egypt. Then she saw the Egyptians become aggressive, pushing those they considered foreigners away from the Nile. Soon Amazonia itself had been pushed West, and other tribes clashed with the women of the Nation. An Egyptian army marched toward Amazonia from the East, and strange people from the South who knew no Goddess came from the desert.

And Metis became enraged at the damage done to her people, and the disrespect for the land, and stormed furiously on her island in the night. From her furrowed brow sprang a new Goddess, armed and full grown. Where Metis was kindly, she was angry and roaring. Where Metis built and created, she destroyed. Binding wings to her ankles and the burning Sun on her mantle, Athena sprang from Lake Tritonis to face the hostile armies.

She came among them with starting eyes, lolling tongue and snaky hair, striking fear everywhere she went. Hurling her spears of lightning and roaring like a storm, Athena broke the armies and sent them fleeing into the desert. Then she changed form into a terrible lion, and pursued the terror-stricken Egyptians to the very Nile. So great was her rage and power that she did terrible damage and killed many people, and the Egyptians never forgot her, calling her Sekhmet the Enraged, although they forgot why she was angry. Athena raged until the Nile rose out of its banks, covering the Sun scorched land in fertile silt. Only then did Athena return to the land of the Amazons, and her rage will never be released again, until the end of the world.

Pegasus and the Bridle

Pegasus was a divine, flying horse that sprang from the sweat of Athena's brow as she fought the enemies of the Amazons in the desert. He was a fine animal, and many men and women alike wished to tame him and claim that they owned him. But no one could catch him, by guile or by force, and the rough saddles and halters good for asses were of no use with Pegasus, even if by some miracle someone got one about his neck.

Athena, watching the efforts of kings and commoners, tricksters and daredevils fail, chuckled. Even gods had tried to capture Pegasus, who outran the wind and outsoared the eagles. They mocked Athena as she sat on a rock in the Straits of Cyrene, fiddling with some rope and two bronze rings. 'We attempt great things, and you, you play with a child's toy!' they sneered. Athena merely smiled enigmatically.

Pegasus was her child after all, and he came without question when she called. 'Tell me why you allow none to ride on your back, my son.' Athena said gravely.

'And why should I allow them? All of these people want to put me in a cage, and keep me as a pet, and the ropes they try to put around my neck would strangle me.'

'Well, I certainly don't consider you a pet... rather difficult to call a talking horse with wings a pet... and I have something here that would not choke you, and allow those whom you chose to ride on your back, if that suited you.'

So it was that Athena soared through the sky on Pegasus' back, the first bridle in the world snugly about his head. Everywhere people wondered at Athena's strange device made of bronze rings and hempen rope, or how she had ever been able to tame the flying horse.

The Return of the Sun

Long before the invaders came from the North, Athena was carried to many places by her Amazons. So it was that her bright robes and gleaming dark skin could be seen from the Atlas mountains to the sandy shores of Krete and Anatolia. Wherever she drove her chariot her aegis lit up the entire sky, and people sang and danced in her honour, glad for the Sun. But peace rarely lasts long when there are restless people in the world who think a sword gives them the right to take what they want.

The Mykenaeans were once such a people, and they began by disrupting trade and ended by taking over Krete itself. The temples and sanctuaries didn't impress them, so they burned the cities and threw waste in the sacred pools. They even went so far as to throw down statues and mistreat priestesses. What few Amazons who were still on the island were driven away altogether. Finally the Mykenaean king proclaimed himself a god and raped Athena's high priestess.

Enraged beyond placation even after she struck down the evil king, still Athena remembered the fullness of her rage would end the world. So she withdrew instead, and disappeared into a cave and from there to the underworld, determined never to return to the ungrateful upper world again.

Of course, there was no daylight, and it became cold and wintry. The new Mykenaean king called on his god, having been careful not to call himself one, and his god puffed himself up and created a great fire that he put in the sky. Its weak light gave some relief of the inky dark but nothing else, and now food was running short. The new king was in imminent danger of being deposed. Desperate, he began calling on all of his priests and sorcerers to use their magic and bring back the Sun. One after the other failed, and the Mykenaeans despaired, and paid no mind when the Minoans sent a delegation to Aralakhori, where Iambe made bronze pots and hand mirrors, and danced and sang away illness when asked.

When the Minoans asked her to bring back the Sun, she smiled enigmatically and shooed them away, returning to work on a huge bronze mirror. It was so big she had to limp carefully around its circumference as she polished, or the reflections in it would have been imperfect. Some of the Minoans now despaired as well. Others said, 'Who understands the ways of shamans? She didn't say no.'

And sure enough, after three days, Iambe limped to the area in front of the cave Athena had disappeared into. The ground was full of snow and ice, and the cave was shut tight. Not even air came from it. As if to be sure the cave was shut, Iambe beat the rock closing it with one fist a few times. Then she set up the great bronze mirror, and all sorts of torches until the clearing was lit up almost like Athena was driving across the sky.

'Artemis,' called Iambe. 'Help me out, could you?'

'I could.' replied Artemis, who wasn't talkative to begin with, and was less so now that her sister had locked herself away and their Amazons were fighting invaders everywhere.

'Please shoot that ridiculous fire of Zeus' out of the sky. He's so proud... you'd think he'd be embarrassed to put that there.'

'You could think that about a lot of things he does.' replied Artemis as she strung her bow. One shot, and it was dark everywhere but the clearing.

'Excellent.' declared Iambe. Resettling her robes and her headdress, she began to dance. People dropped what little they were doing and rushed to watch, for it was no ordinary dance. Well, this is true for every dance a shaman does, but for this dance it was even more unusual. It was lascivious and explicit, and as it went on Iambe began to shed her clothes and her many bracelets. The dance went on until people were feeling sweaty and not a little uncomfortable. Finally one of the Minoan women let loose with a catcall, and soon the air was full of clapping and cheering. Someone brought out wine and beer, and the crowd was soon having a rowdy party with Iambe's dance at the centre.

Athena could hear the commotion, but she stubbornly stayed in the underworld, preparing souls for rebirth. This was just what she was doing when Artemis padded up to her. Unlike most deities, anywhere there were shadows, she could go. Artemis just couldn't convince Athena to go back to the upper world with her.

'You're missing an incredible show, sister. Iambe has all but outdone herself.' she said, idly fingering her bow.

'I'm busy.' Athena declared stubbornly.

'Come and see.' and since desperate times called for desperate measures, Artemis grabbed her sister by the arm and dragged her to the cave mouth, blocked by the great stone. 'Go on, take a peek. You'll regret it if you miss everything.'

'Oh, all right.' sighed Athena. She was still determined to stay in the underworld, but she could see what Iambe was doing.

Iambe saw the cave open just a little, and now she began to dance even harder than before. She leapt on top of a rock in front of the bronze mirror and threw off her final robe, leaving only her short skirt. One more gyration, and now certain she had Athena's undivided attention, Iambe threw aside her short skirt... and Athena stuck her head completely out of the cave to see better in spite of herself.

Knowing there wasn't a moment to lose, Iambe leapt out of the way of the mirror, so Athena got to see her own beautiful face. Then Iambe waved at the crowd, and soon had them all calling for Athena to come back. Touched by their pleas and renewed by her own beauty, Athena left the cave and daylight and spring came again.

Athena, the Weaver of the World

Some say that in the beginning, all elements were mixed together, in Chaos. There was no differentiation between hot and cold, wet and dry, light and dark, or any of the rest. But it is not true that nothing existed... everything existed, it was simply all jumbled together as potential. Observing and in the midst of the unseparated everything was an Intelligence. As yet, the Intelligence had no name. It needed none, because there was were no different intelligences needing to communicate with it yet. But this was a situation the Intelligence had determined to change.

First, the Intelligence needed to take a useful form to work in. And so she did, with eight legs and a slim, two segmented body that could lay eggs. She was coloured all black except for a red mark on her back and tiny bright white spots on the bottom of each foot. Sometimes deities in India have eight limbs too... perhaps they hark back to this first form taken by the Intelligence.

Next the Intelligence decided she needed a name... since she was going to birth other intelligences, and a universe for them to live in. She considered this as she began to spin silk, one of nine kinds that she created for varied uses, producing a great wheel, and spiraling slowly towards its centre. Once there, she called herself Athena Ariadne, Athena the Weaver, and began to spin lassoes. With these she corralled each of the elements, earth, water, air, and fire, and fixed them in order. She created giant spheres of matter, and one of these she wound so tightly in silk, it burst into flame and became a star. This she did in many places until the great darkness of the newly separated sky twinkled with countless lights.

Now she turned her attention to the other spheres, places that were not stars, but orbited them, travelling along great loops of silk. Systematically, patiently, Athena descended to each one, suspended from a tether line of silk attached to the great warp she had strung the entire universe upon. At each place, she laid many eggs, the seeds of life.

Pleased after she had finished that task, she turned busily to another. She went about the new universe, tending each part, spinning and weaving the threads of time, place, reality, and fate. Then she wove the lives of the many new intelligences, some smaller and shorter, some bigger and longer. Not until she finished a particular life's cloth, filling it with pictures of the events and epiphanies of each being's life did that life end.

In time, the new creatures began to notice Athena Ariadne in the sky, patiently carrying great balls of silver thread around it. First one way, slowly using it up, then the other, producing more. They began to realize that she had made the universe, and that the many tiny eight legged creatures on their worlds must be direct reflections of herself. And when they had developed this knowledge, Athena gave them the gift of still more... she taught them how to make fire, and that the clean webs of the smaller reflections of herself would staunch the bleeding of wounds and help prevent infection. So it was that some people began to call her 'nous kai dianoia,' primeval power and wisdom, or action and intelligence.

This is how Athena Ariadne wove the world... and when the end of this world has come, she will take hold of its very fabric, the warp and weft she created herself, and tear them to shreds, releasing the elements back into Chaos. And then, ever industrious, she will begin creating again.


  1. Robertson, p. 39 in Deacy and Villings 2001.
  2. Dillon 2002, 84.
  3. The word zdoster/zoster was used to refer specifically to Amazon belts by the ancient Greeks.
  4. Graves, p. 753.
  5. 'Anathema' is an ancient Greek term referring to the act of setting up some object, usually a statue, in honour of a deity (Kiesling 2003). According to the Scott-Liddell Lexicon, 'maran-atha' is Syriac and means 'the lord has come' making the phrase 'Set up a tombstone, the lord has come,' that is, died and been buried.
  6. Teffeteller, 'Greek Athena and the Hittite Sun Goddess Arinna' in Deacy and Villing 2001. The major sound change Teffeteller postulates is from an intervocalic 'r' in Luvian to a 'th' sound in Greek; in other words, A-r-inna > A-th-inna.
  7. McCrickard 1990, p. 203.
  8. 'The Wise Wound: The Myths, Realities, and Meanings of Menstruation' p. 194, 1990 Revised Edition. Needless to say, any suggestin that all gods' names meant something ike 'Penis Penis' would be laughed out of court and likely never published without considerable amounts of argument and examples.
  9. Many peoples refer to specific animals or plants as their putative ancestors, of whom the most famous may be the Aboriginals of the Canadian northwest coast. Other better known examples are the Celts and the Germans.
  10. Metis is the same Goddess as Medusa. It is also interesting to note that by metathesis (sound transposition inside of a word) 'Metis' becomes Temis - that is, Themis.
  11. Gunn-Allen, p. 11-15.
  12. Chrysippus rather comically suggests that Metis made Athena's aegis while inside Zeus' stomach, implying the god must have swallowed a goat as well.
  13. To English speakers the 'p' versus 'ph' sounds are not similar at all, however originally the 'ph' sound was the strongly aspirated 'p' in 'spot' rather than an 'f' sound.
  14. If the name of this destival is taken as 'Apaturia,' it becomes quite a different celebration dedicated to Aphrodite.
  15. Originally probably a ram, as killing female animals on the altar was once taboo based on the practical considerations of domestic animal population control.
  16. Robertson p. 38-39, in Dealy and Villing 2001.
  17. Connelly, Joan Breton 'Parthenon and parthenoi: A mythological interpretation of the Parthenon frieze' American Journal of Archaeology, 1996, 100: 53-80.
  18. The Attalids were descended from the Makedonian general Attalus, who served with Alexander of Makedon.
  19. See Pausanius' 'Description of Greece' Boeotia, XXXIV-1.
  20. The species of crow living in Greece has a grey back and belly.
  21. Dillon 2002, p. 77.
  22. Monaghan p. 227, 1998.
  23. Curiously, Plato refers to an earlier Athens ruled by women, it's laws famous for being especially just and applied with justice. Another half forgotten ancient tradition attributed the creation of Athens to Atlanteans (This point is being tracked down in greater detail by the author thanks to Matilda Joslyn Gage. See 'Women, Church, and State.').
  24. Rose 1959, p. 10.
  25. Shuttle and Redgrove, p. 194.
  26. Robertson in Deacy and Villing 2001. See also Parke 1977 and Loeb translations of Herodotus.
  27. Uncertainty about the proper meaning of the word 'aegis' persists, despite the many stories and analogous uses that imply it must at the least refer to an animal skin, if not a goat skin in particular. (Robertson, p. 30 in Deacy and Villing 2001).
  28. The Romans showed Hygeia with a snake draped around her shoulders and a caduceus entwined by two snakes in an image reminiscent of the structure of DNA.
  29. In Deacy and Villing 2001, Chapter One.
  30. 'Promachos' statues have weapons, helmet, and clothing carved as an integral part of the statue and are too large to carry or move easily (Robertson p. 39 in Deacy and Villing 2001). Athena's helmet is also relatively recent, introduced in the 560s BCE (Ritter p. 146 in Deacy and Villing 2001).
  31. Robertson p. 38, Deacy and Villing 2001.
  32. Robert Graves attempts to derive Hephaestus' name from a masculinized form of 'h( a)faista' drawing the meaning of the word from the Greek verb for 'to remove from.' However, the derivation depends on the retention of the feminine definite article (hé) as an undifferentiated part of the word, a highly unlikely development. The name Hephaistus does not appear to be Indo-European, and tends to defy analysis by professional linguists, let alone authors trained in reading ancient Greek.
  33. The deer is a solar animal in some cultures.
  34. Better known as Boreas.
  35. Graves 1980, p. 72:2.
  36. Divine status seems to be desirable to men in these stories as a means to avoid actual death.
  37. Literally 'a vessel of fish.'
  38. See Daly and Caputi, p. 119.
  39. Bearing in mind that some people are born blind. The connections drawn here suggest that those born blind could well have been considered particularly fortunate or holy.
  40. In 'O Mother Sun: A New View of the Cosmic Feminine.'
  41. Most of the spindle whorls Westerners see today are either fairly large or drawn on an expanded scale to show detail or make the illustration easier to reproduce clearly in the course of printing the book. Spindle whorls may vary considerably in size and shape depending on the thickness and strength of the fibre being spun and the material the whorl is made from. That said, it seems likely that the smallest size spindle whorl that could actually be used would be no less than 2 centimetres in diameter for a very fine thread.
  42. Leick, p. 9.
  43. Ibid. The resemblance between this title and the name Nebthut, better known in its Greek form, Nephthys. Nephthys was of course the sister of Isis, ruler of the dead and important in Egyptian funerary rites.
  44. Ibid. As in the case of ancient Egyptian, no vowels were indicated when these titles were written down. Accordingly, to make them more legible, the letter 'e' has been inserted by this author as it would be in the case of ancient Egyptian.
  45. As previously mentioned, she was later desexed and removed from 'feminine' roles as much as possible in a clear attempt to reconcile desire to use her to justify restrictions on women while maintaining her as an independent and powerful Goddess.
  46. In Classical mythology, after a disagreement, Athena changed her into an ant, hence the meaning of her name.
  47. The ancient Greeks don't seem to have had a strong, overt association between spiders and Goddesses who spun and wove. This seems a bit puzzling today as the connection seems obvious, and there is evidence that such connections are quite ancient. For example, the name of the Sumerian Goddess of weaving, Uttu, was written with the same sign as that for spider.
  48. The Romans called her Carna.
  49. Pre-Hellenic Dawn Goddess.
  50. Whose own daughter was named Alkippe 'strong as a mare.'
  51. Carrying the caduceus symbolically drew health and blessings from the heavens.
  52. Budge p. 451 Volume 2, 1969.
  53. Budge p. 451 Volume 2, 1969. Priestesses remained in charge of the mummification process until quite late, congruent with women's frequent association with tending to the dead (Stanley, 1993).
  54. Scarre and Fagan p. 112-113, 2003.
  55. Stanley 1993, p. 129.
  56. The Canadian Museum of Civilization is in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
  57. Lesko pp. 3-5, 1989.
  58. The second suggested translation being based on the suggestion of Shuttle and Redgrove, page 194.
  59. Laing pp. 36-37.
  60. All of these titles are listed in Farnell's 'Cults of the Greek States.'
  61. See Freeman 1996.
  62. Worsfield Chapter One, 1932.
  63. Bell, 1991.
  64. Admittedly, this doesn't seem necessarily to be an advantage today. Most of the information for this section of the article is derived from Freeman 1996 and Worsfield's 'History of the Vestal Virgins of Rome.
  65. Rose p. 203, 1959.
  66. That is a member of one of the few noble families in the city.
  67. Probably a reflection of the Roman preference for covering the head during religious activities.
  68. Gage, pps. 38-39.
  69. Bell, 1991.
  70. Merope 'eloquent' or 'bee eater,' Helia 'Sun,' Phoebe 'bright,' Aethereia 'heavenly one,' Dioxippe 'divine mare,' Lampetia 'beaming one,' Koronis 'crow or raven,' Aegile 'bright,' Lamethusa 'light being,' Phatusa 'bright being,' and Elektryone 'beaming one.'
  71. In 'Women's Work: The First 20 000 years.'
  72. Graves, p. 61.
  73. Studies of the unpleasant physical effects of crucifixion have found that being hung from the wrists, particularly if the arms are stretched out, exerts pressure on the windpipe, choking off the flow of air. The ordeal of hanging by the wrists has been used in various cultures as a shamanic initiation ordeal. See 'Shamanic Voices' by Joan Halifax for examples.
  74. Rose p. 30, 1959.
  75. Walker p. 514-515, 1983.
  76. See the works of Homer and 'Myths of the Greeks and Romans' by J. E. Harrison.
  77. The ending '-nthos' is one of a number of known markers for non-Indo-European words absorbed into Greek.
  78. The material presented here comes primarily from Sally B. Johnson's 'The Cobra Goddess of Ancient Egypt: Predynastic, Early Dynastic, and Old Kingdom Periods.'
  79. This also sheds more light on Eve's greater trust in the snake than god in Genesis.
  80. Johnson p. 18.
  81. The Egyptian word for deity, 'netert' when written also included a picture of a snake (Robbins-Dexter 1990, p. 6).
  82. Robbins-Dexter 1990, p. 6.
  83. A meaning suggested by Graves, perhaps by analogy to the etymology and meaning for the name 'Achilles' suggested by Palmer in 'The Greek Language' 1980.
  84. Juventas, Juno, and Minerva.
  85. Laing p. 97.
  86. Monaghan 1997, p. 116.
  87. Leick, p. 159.
  88. Monaghan 1997, 116.
  89. Ibid.
  90. So far few hymns or prayers to Ereshkigal have been found, a fact used by some scholars to argue that her worship was minor or even defunct after a certain time in Sumerian history. However, trying to argue from relative amounts of material is a highly risky business, and it would be unwise to project modern fears of death or its invocation to the Sumerians. While later Sumerian beliefs about what happened after death were apparently quite pessimistic, the greater concern seemed to be lest the process of dying be too unpleasant. Afterlife conditions could be ameliorated with offerings of food, drink, and clothing to deceased family members, along with prayers to give them strength.
  91. Leick, p. 117.
  92. Black and Green, p. 67.
  93. The cloak of many colours used in dream interpretation should sound quite familiar to anyone who has read or heard one of the many versions of 'Joseph(Zoser) and his Coat of Many Colours.'
  94. Leick, p. 130.
  95. These legends are derived from 'Greek Myths' by Robert Graves, from the Egyptian myth of Sekhmet the Destroyer, and from the story of the Japanese Goddess Amaterasu.
  96. Partly derived from Aboriginal North American and Ancient Egyptian mythology.
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