Going back at least nine thousand years to the early agriculture of the Near East and Old Europe, we have a tradition of the power of the Goddess and of her child who dies and is resurrected—namely, it is we who come from her, go back to her, and rest well in her. This tradition was carried through the cults of ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and down into the Classical world, before finally delivering the message into Christian teaching
Goddesses: Mysteries of the Feminine Divine
Joseph Campbell brought mythology to a mass audience. His bestselling books, including The Power of Myth and The Hero with a Thousand Faces, are the rare blockbusters that are also scholarly classics. While Campbell’s work reached wide and deep as he covered the world’s great mythological traditions, he never wrote a book on goddesses in world mythology. He did, however, have much to say on the subject. Between 1972 and 1986 he gave over twenty lectures and workshops on goddesses, exploring the figures, functions, symbols, and themes of the feminine divine, following them through their transformations across cultures and epochs.
Editor Safron Rossi, a goddess studies scholar and professor of mythology, collected these lectures to create Goddesses. In this evocative volume, Campbell traces the evolution of the feminine divine from one Great Goddess to many, from Neolithic Old Europe to the Renaissance. He sheds new light on classical motifs and reveals how the feminine divine symbolizes the archetypal energies of transformation, initiation, and inspiration.
Other quotations from this Title
Pandora is another inflection of the idea of the woman who brings bounty into the world. The later, smart aleck, masculine-inflected story of Pandora—the notion that every woman brings with her a box of troubles—is simply another way of saying that all life is sorrowful. Of course, trouble comes with life; as soon as you have movement in time, you have sorrows and disasters. Where there is bounty, there is suffering.
Originally Artemis herself was a deer, and she is the goddess who kills deer; the two are dual aspects of the same being. Life is killing life all the time, and so the goddess kills herself in the sacrifice of her own animal. Each life is its own death, and he who kills you is somehow a messenger of the destiny that was yours from the start.
Gods are metaphors transparent to transcendence. And my understanding of the mythological mode is that deities and even people are to be understood in this sense, as metaphors. It’s a poetic understanding. It is to be understood in the same sense as Goethe’s words at the end of Faust: “Alles Vergängliche ist nur ein Gleichnis” (“Everything transitory is but a reference”). The reference is to that which transcends all speech, all vocabularies, and all images. [share]
When mythology is properly understood, the object that is revered and venerated is not a final term; the object venerated is a personification of an energy that dwells within the individual, and the reference of mythology has two modes—that of consciousness and that of the spiritual potentials within the individual. [share]
The fairy world is just one small dimension deeper than the visible world; it’s everywhere. The fairies are the inhabiting nature powers, and the reason they are so fascinating and enchanting is that their nature and your unconscious nature, your deep nature, are the same. The fairies are representatives of that permanent energy consciousness that underlies all the phenomenal forms of life. This is Mother Goddess stuff. [share]
What is the Siren's song? It is the song of the mystery of the universe that makes it impossible to go on with mere phenomenal work. [share]
One of the great disadvantages of a literary or scriptural tradition like the biblical one is that a deity or context of deities becomes crystallized, petrified at a certain time and place. The deity doesn’t continue to grow, expand, or take into account new cultural forces and new realizations in the sciences, and the result is this make-believe conflict we have in our culture between science and religion. [share]
In Martin Buber’s book I and Thou, he says, “The I that is related to thou is different from the I that is related to an it.” Think about it. Think of yourself: do you have a thou relationship to an animal or an it relationship? There is a real difference. [share]
On the simplest level, then, the Goddess is the Earth. On the next, archaic level, She is the surrounding sky. On the philosophic level, She is Maya, the forms of sensibility, the limitations of the senses that enclose us so that all of our thinking takes place within her bounds—She is IT. The Goddess is the ultimate boundary of consciousness in the world of time and space. [share]
What the virgin birth represents is the birth of the spiritual life in the human animal. It has nothing to do mythologically with a biological anomaly. In the Indian kuṇḍalinī system the first three cakras are our animal zeal to life, animal erotics, and animal aggression. Then at the level of the heart there is the birth of a purely human intention, a purely human realization of a possible spiritual life which then puts the others in secondary place. The symbol in the kuṇḍalinī system for this cakra is a male and female organ in conjunction—an upward facing and a downward-facing triangle. At this level the spiritual life is generated, and that is the meaning of the virgin birth. [share]
Going back at least nine thousand years to the early agriculture of the Near East and Old Europe, we have a tradition of the power of the Goddess and of her child who dies and is resurrected—namely, it is we who come from her, go back to her, and rest well in her. This tradition was carried through the cults of ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and down into the Classical world, before finally delivering the message into Christian teaching [share]
People ask, "Did Jesus go to India?" He didn’t have to—India had already come to the Near East. One wonders how this idea of the inward Christ came to this young Jewish prophet, because it’s not in the Jewish tradition at all. This I think is what knocked St. Paul off his horse—when he realized that the actuality of Christ’s death and alleged resurrection was an actual historical enactment of the sense of the mystery religions. [share]
I regard The Odyssey as a book of initiations, and the first initiation is that of Odysseus himself into a proper relationship to the female power, which was put down at the time the Judgment of Paris when the male principle was dominant in an excessive way. Now the female power must be recognized to make possible a proper relationship—what I call an androgynous relationship—in which the male and female meet as co-equals. They are equals, but not the same, because when you lose the tension of polarities you lose the tension of life. [share]
I have read somewhere of an old Chinese curse: "May you be born in an interesting time!" This is a VERY interesting time: there are no models for ANYTHING that is going on. It is a period of free fall into the future, and each has to make his or her own way. The old models are not working; the new have not yet appeared. In fact, it is we who are even now shaping the new in the shaping of our interesting lives. And that is the whole sense (in mythological terms) of the present challenge: we are the 'ancestors' of an age to come, the unwitting generators of its supporting myths,the mythic models that will inspire its lives." [share]
The goal of all meditation and mystery journeys is to go between the pair of opposites [share]
The rules of love, they really are severe. If you're giving up everything for something, then give up everything for something and stay with it with your mind on where you're going.
Now the energies of nature are present in the outer world, but also inside ourselves, because we are particles of nature. So when you are meditating on a deity, you are meditating on power of your own spirit and psyche, and on powers that are also out there.
All I can tell you about mythology is what men have said and have experienced, and now women have to tell us from their point of view what the possibilities of the feminine future are. And it is a future––it's as though the lift-off has taken place, it really has, there's no doubt about it. [share]