FEMININE DIVINE IN ANCIENT TIMES
~Fall and Winter~
(c)2007 Suzan Vaughn
Fall and Winter are seasons of the year
when jubilant feasting and ceremony celebrated venerable goddesses in Egypt,
Europe, Greece and Rome as ancient week-long rituals suspended routine activity
in 82 BCE communities. As the wheel of the year turned toward winter solstice,
the blessing of the Divine Feminine, the Goddess, was invoked.
Egyptians honored the Goddess Isis, who “made light
with her feathers and wind with her wings." Isis, who caught departing
souls in her wings and shepherded them to a new life;
, the “Divine Mother, Oldest of the Old.”
Professional singers, musicians, and dancers, mostly female, would
perform at the temple during The Isia,
a four day festival held October 31st through
November 3rd. The love
and healing Isis bestows on her husband-brother Osiris is the focus of perhaps
the oldest mystery play known, predating those of
On the first day of The Isia, actors impersonating Isis, Nephthys, Anubis,
Horus and others, along with entire communities, symbolically searched for the
body of Osiris, scattered across Egypt by his brother and murderer Set. (Larson,
Religion of the Occident.)
The fourteen portions of Osiris are found on the second day, and the goddess
reconstitutes and resurrects her husband to immortal life.
In De Iside et Osiride, Plutarch
writes that “On the third day the celebrants go down to the sea at night. They
knead water from golden pots into fertile soil, mix in expensive spices, and
sculpt a figure, then clothe and adorn it. The ritual ends with great shouting
and jubilation that ‘Osiris is found.’”
One lovely rendition of the story tells of Isis turning into a sparrow hawk
next, hovering over his body, and fanning breath back into him with her long,
undulating golden wings. She then heals and resurrects him, their loving union
resulting in the birth of the solar falcon, Horus.
Since the XIIth Dynasty, and probably much earlier, a sacred performance was
held at several places including
in which this scenario was repeated with very similar ritual. (Cumont, Oriental
Devotees believed that if
’ healing and restorative power could work for Osiris, she could and would,
as a result of their worship, heal them as well. (Larson, Religion of the Occident.)
In Rome, winter celebrants looked forward to The
Saturnalia beginning December 18th and
lasting seven days. It was a priestess who conducted the rites of the Saturnalia
. (Seyffert and Lempriere, Dictionaries/Borlase,
Dolmens III, pp9, 828.)
The guest of honor: an Italian Goddess of Plenty, Ops. This wife of Saturn
shared equally the temple on the Capitol and the honors bestowed at the
festival. Offerings were left at the temple, outdoor banquets took place,
schools and courts were closed, work stopped, war was deferred, and no criminals
were punished for the length of the festival.
Wax taper candles and dolls were likely found in the gift exchanges, and the
observance included offering slaves not only every freedom, but also a banquet
in their honor where they were served by their masters.
FOUNDATIONS OF CHRISTIAN CHRISTMAS
Some scholars say our present-day
Christmas celebration, December 25th, is the same day that marks the
birth of a divine child, often a virgin birth, in numerous traditions. Always a
son, his name was Horus, Osiris, Helios, Dionysus, Pryderi, and Aeon, to name a
few; and later Jesus.
, the Goddess Isis gave birth to her son, the Sun God Horus.
, the Babylonian Goddess Astarte, Queen of Heaven, gave birth to a son, and the
nativity of the son of the Persian Mermaid Goddess Atargatis is also celebrated
on December 25th.