What Has Mary to do?

What has the Christian Mary to do with Isis, or to reverse it what has  Isis, the Pagan Goddess, to do with Mary?  Christians who believe that all the expressions of hatred and contempt for Paganism found in the Bible are the “Word” of God will of course answer “None at all!” Many Pagans  will respond with a  “None at all!” answer as well. After all what can enlightened, tolerant, free thinking Paganism have in common with  Mary the white bread imitation of a goddess that Christianity  created as a substitute for the real thing.

I do not want respond to these perceptions in this post. However, I do want to  explain why I think that Isis and Mary  have a lot to do with each other. Since I suspect that most of the readers of this blog  are Pagans most of this  writing will be a discussion of  Mary. To talk about  Mary is impossible unless one also discusses Jesus and Christianity. The problem is that  there are  many forms of Christianity some of which have theologies that are morally repugnant and some of which have real moral and intellectual credibility. Many still interpret Christianity through the lens of intolerant and theologically  problematic Protestant and Roman Catholic forms of fundamentalism. For those who see these interpretations as being definitive of what Christianity is,  little can be said positive of the religion. A rigid belief system which focuses primarily on the afterlife, on  a literal  heaven, hell, or purgatory has little to recommend it. A religion which interprets   salvation by faith in Jesus to mean that all other non Christian people are lost to an everlasting hell is abominable. The same goes for the   belief that the Bible is the only, infallible Word of God. This Christianity  is clearly incompatible with the humane  religion of the Goddess Isis.

Fundamentalist versions of Christianity,  however, are not the only interpretations of Christianity possible. Christian liberalism, social gospel, liberation theology all represent forms of Christianity  which focus primarily  on the Christian concerns  of love of God and neighbor, political, social and economic justice, the kingdom of God and living life righteously in this world. These forms of modern Christianity categorically reject hatred of the other. Further more historically  for every Christian Inquisitor and Crusading butcher there have been Christians such as St. Theresa of Avila, Meister Eckart, St Frances of Assisi and countless anonymous men and women who have attempted to live by the highest moral standards.

Something must also be said about the civilizational role of Christianity. I am talking here of the beauty of Christian art and icons,  architecture, the great cathedrals, and the great liturgical traditions of worship. I mention these because for many all that Christianity has produced is horror and brutality. Certainly horror and brutality are part of the historical record of Christianity. However that has not been the full picture. Christianity’s record is complex and ambiguous.  In that it is entirely human.

The last word I have about Christianity is of course its relationship to Mary. Clearly Mary was the human mother of Jesus who came to be seen by Christians as both Christ and Divine. Early Christianity  saw little remarkable in Mary beyond the fact that she suppossedly gave birth to Jesus as a virgin. The Church fathers attention was almost entirely focused on Jesus. After the year 400 CE all of that changed. By 450 CE approximately fifty years latter, Mary had began to receive the adoration and prayers that have characterized Marian devotion within the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christianity

Ukraine, St Sophia Cathedral

The raise of Marian theology and devotionalism is interpreted in many ways. Protestantism of course interprets it negatively. The goddess like status of Mary is a form of Christian paganism or idolatry. Roman Catholic traditionalists while they want to maintain their rich devotional relationship with Mary want to make sure that Mary is kept in the nice  safe theological confines of Christian patriarchy. For  theologically heterodox  Marians, for  Mariavites, Collyridians, Sophian Gnostics, etc;  Mary  is seen and adored as the Feminine Divine, the Incarnation of the Holy Spirit, or the Divine Sophia.

From a theological / historical perspective I  believe that the earliest form of Christianity  saw God only in  the man Jesus. The patriarchal Jewish roots of Christianity  could not see the light of God which shined in Mary. What happened in the Fifth Century CE with the rise of the Marian tradition within the Church was the revelation  of the Feminine Sacred within Christianity. The theological rise in the status of Mary was not a distortion of the faith but a correction of it.

Glenn King

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A Song to Neda

Introduction

This post may seem a bit off the topic but I do not think that it is. Isis is the Goddess of Maat / Righteousness and Justice. She liberates from oppression. Mary has  often  been seen as one who liberates from injustice. An important example is the liberating role of Mary  in Mexico as the Virgin of Guadeloupe. Religious faith is property centered on political economic and social justice. Now in Iran the  people are  struggling against the tyranny of a small but powerful theological / political elite. I think that Aset Maryam is on the side of those struggling for liberation. She is not an apolitical Goddess. I am closing this post from another blog which I own which deals primarily with political issues.

Glenn King

A Song to Neda Tuesday, Jun 23 2009  1 glenn3land 8:06 pmEdit This

Enclosed are links to both the Song to Neda and Poem for Neda  posted on The Writing Life II blog. As those  following the current political struggles  in Iran are aware,  Neda Agha-Soltan,  a 26 year old woman – was killed this past Saturday as she got out of her automobile for a breath of air. She was shot in the heart  presumably by forces firing at anti government protestors of the stolen Iranian elections. See the NYT’s article.  Her death was recorded on U-tube and has been circulated globally and Neda is now mourned as a martyr and a symbol of sufferings of Iran’s people. Perhaps this poem and the music may give a better picture of the true nature of the current events in Iran than would several news stories. Part of the poem goes thus”
Stay, Neda—
Look at this city
At the shaken foundations of palaces,
The height of Tehran’s maple trees,
They call us “dust,” and if so
Let us sully the air for the oppressor
Don’t go, Neda
Glenn

Aset Maryam

I am going to shift gears here and hopefully eliminate some confusion. Any one who has read all the messages posted within this blog will note that subject of the blog initially was focused on  the Virgin Mary, who functions as the “feminine divine” within the Christian history.  The blog was named “All things Mary” to reflect that interest. The blog’s name was then changed  to “From the Margins” in March.  A month ago I changed the name to Aset Maryam.
The name “Aset Maryam” reflects fully  the reality and direction of this blog at this time. It symbolizes several aspects of the blog. First it symbolizes my continued devotion to the Virgin Mary, the Feminine God, the Goddess of the Christian tradition. The fact that the Roman Catholic Church seems to be rapidly back tracking to a  biblical, rationalist, Protestantizing position on Mary does not change this reality. Second it symbolizes both my prior and continuing devotion to Isis the Great Goddess, the Creatress of heaven and earth. In this blog therefore the discussion will  have  a dual focus. One focus will be on Isis and all things related to Isis. Thus Isis’ relationship with the culture of ancient Egypt,  her classical mythology, her relationship with the gods Osirus and  Horus, and goddesses such as Neith and Hathor will be discussed.
However the conversation will not end there. I also want very much to be able to have a conversation on the relationship of both Isis and the Egyptian religious traditions  to  historical Judaism and Christianity.  I am in particular interested in the relationship between Isis and the Virgin Mary.  Note. People should not misunderstand me here. I do not believe that the relationship between the religion of Egypt and Christianity is as clear cut as some charts on the internet which propose to show the parallels between Jesus and Horus seem to suggest. In fact the so called Jesus / Horus parallels are  fraudulent. However real connections do exist between the moral ethical, and religious culture of Ancient
Egypt and Judaism / Christianity. I hope that a good discussion on these issues can also occur within this blog.
Since Aset Maryam  is named after both Mary and  Isis, it is still a place for “all things Mary.”  I am still interested in a three way:  heterodox vs. liberal feminist vs.  traditionalist Marian discussion on the theological role of Mary within the Christian tradition. I am certainly interested in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions of Mary. The theological relationship of Mary and Jesus interests me obviously.
The new name of the group “Aset Maryam” thus reaffirms the initial purpose of this group but it also increases the scope of the conversation to include “all things Isis” as well. Note. When I pray I often repeat Aset Maryan, Aset Maryam, Aset Maryam ……. It is as they say part of my spiritual path. That may be important to note as well.

Why Isis?

While I began worshipping the Goddess in the late 1980’s,  Isis became the center of my devotion and worship only after the turn of the century. It was after  a decade of exploring the classical goddesses of the ancient world, the Hindu Goddesses, the esoteric Sophia tradition of Christianity, the Shekinah tradition of the Kabbalah in fact all  the traditions of the goddess of which I was aware that my attention and prayers increasingly centered on Isis.

Why Isis as opposed to some other goddess? Why Isis as opposed to Sophia, the Shekinah or some other form of the feminine divine in the Western monotheistic religions. My movement toward Isis worship was  based on  a group of theological, historical, and spiritual experiential  variables. Let me start with the theological. I am not a polytheist. I believe that there is a unified spiritual origin of all reality called God, Goddess, Tao, the Ground of Being, etc. I believe that one of the purposes of religion is to tie human persons,  groups, nations, and humanity to that Being. Therefore I am not much interested in what some might call small  gods and goddesses who  are less than absolute. You can say that  this is an assumption that I inherited from my Christian heritage. Isis is not a small goddess at least not as revealed in the Greco Roman period. She  was both a trinitarian goddess in unity with Sarapis / Osirus, and Horus, and she was the supreme Goddess who  created heaven and earth “through what her heart conceived and her hand created.” [ the fourth hymn at her temple at Philae]  She is the goddess behind all the other goddesses and (gods as well.)  Thus the realm of authority for Isis is total. In that theological vision, Isis is similar to  the Biblical Yahweh. Of course Isis is an inclusive Goddess and Yahweh is a jealous God.

Thus in my world view Isis outshines all the other goddesses even goddesses as glorious as   Demeter, Inanna, and Athena. I of course do not believe that these goddesses are not real or that they are in any way false. I would simply argue that the vision of Isis in its fullness transcended the vision of the followers of these goddesses.  Thus I also choose Isis over the Celtic and Germanic goddesses about whom we in fact know very little.

Isis dominates in the West. However a powerful Goddess tradition  exists  in India. The Hindu goddesses, Durga, Laksmi, Kali, Sarasvati and others are worshiped by millions of Hindus today. These goddesses have living scriptures, theologies and devotional traditions which are lived today by millions of people. Why Isis and not the MahaDevi, the Great Goddess of India. The answer is simple I am not Hindu and the religious ideals and ideas of India do not come easily to me. I am very open to learning from the traditions of India but my heart finds its home more easily in Isis than in Durga and her wars, the Laksmi of wealth, or in the Kali of the funeral piles.

Another alternative to Isis that presented itself was of course the Great Goddess who is worshiped in Wiccan faith and is believed by many to represent an earlier matriarchal Ancient European civilization prior to its overthrow by patriarchal invaders. Since I am not a practitioner of  Wicca  I do not naturally gravitate toward  the Goddess of Wicca. Neither am I persuaded by the Great Goddess of matriarchy. While I suspect that Ancient European civilization was perhaps much more egalitarian than what followed, I doubt that the civilization of Ancient Europe was as  completely peaceful and matriarchal as it is normally portrayed. Further more I doubt that any past civilization has ever worshiped a purely monotheistic Great Goddess. I believe that the Ancient Europeans worshiped several goddesses and gods of which the goddesses were probably more important. The final fact to be noted  is that the Ancient European goddesses like the goddesses of ancient Crete are in fact unknowable historically since the peoples of Old Europe  had no writing.  We can not even know  the names of their goddesses, their myths and practices. At  best all we can do is make educated guesses regarding their nature based on our knowledge of latter history and religious anthropology. This blank slate is nothing on which I can base my faith.

This leaves the last alternative to Isis, the biblical Sophia and the Jewish Shekinah of the Kabbalistic Jewish traditions.
Given my interest in the monotheistic traditions of both Christianity and Judaism I find both Sophia and the Shekinah to be immediately attractive. However there are some real problems in which both share. Nether the  Shekinah nor Sophia  were ever full goddesses in the sense that they received cultic worship and adoration. The biblical Sophia may have been the “creation” of biblical wisdom scholars developed to create in students a love of “Wisdom” (Note. When I say that “Wisdom” may have been created I am not suggesting that She is not real or that She did not inspire the biblical writers to “create” Her.) I do think that many  scholars worshiped Sophia / Wisdom in their inner minds as God’s Wisdom. However given the nature of Jewish monotheism that is as far as it could develop. The Sophia tradition of course latter migrated into Gnosticism and to the Western Esoteric traditions. However she in my opinion has never had the full presence and glory as does Isis. Isis is a Goddess not subordinated to a male God. Sophia has always worn the tint of such subordination. The same applies to the Shekinah.  She appears primarily in the Jewish Kabbalistic writings of the Middle Ages as being the female presence of God. The word Shekinah means “Presence.” The Shekinah as in the case of Sophia was never worshiped in a cult of her own.  I certainly do think that Jewish mystics, scholars, and many  ordinary people had a relationship with her. She may have been worshipped silently  in the heart of many people. Again even though within the Kabbalistic literature the Shekinah functions as the feminine divine, she is always ultimately subordinate to the High Holy One, the King, who receives all of the cultic worship and who is ultimately G-d.

I worry that some persons on reading this post may see it as being an arrogant promotion of a monotheistic Isis and a put down of their own beliefs. I do not intend it as such. What I want  to do is to give an accounting of some of my own reasonings for my own worship of Isis. I certainly do not think that Isis is the only legitimate form of the “feminine divine.” (Note I do not like the terms divine feminine or divine masculine)
Demeter, Inanna, Athena, Cybele  and of course the goddesses of India are all worthy of worship and devotion. Though I do have real problems with the theologies in which they are worshipped as only singular and limited goddesses within  pantheons of like wise singular and limited goddesses. To use an old metaphor if one imagines the Goddess as being a great diamond, each Goddess is a facet and gleam of that diamond. In some of the Goddesses a people see only a partial relatively small part of that diamond. In other traditions a great degree more of that diamond is revealed. In Isis that diamond is seen to the fullest extent possible for this age.

Glenn King
golden Isis

Toward the Goddess

On July 27 1981 I turned 31 years old. At that time I was in the Pentecostal Christian stage of my religious life and certainly had never entertained the idea that the Goddess, goddesses, or Isis  would play any role in my life. I was determined to know the Biblical God Yahweh, to be a Christian and to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I was partly successful in seeking these goals. I  received the baptism, the gift of speaking in tongues, and Jesus for a while. However the fact is that even after I started praying in tongues I was never absolutely certain that God  existed. Neither was I ever able to give up my idea that an everlasting hell and salvation by faith alone made little sense. Within a couple of years I met a women who is still my closest friend who introduced me to a literature that gradually but radically revolutionized my vision of God.

She introduced me to “Ariadne” a novel by June Brindell. This historical novel  introduced me for the first time to  the ideas of matriarchy, the Goddess, and to the idea that in ancient times when the Goddess was worshiped women and men lived in  equality. Later I was introduced to the ideas of  Robert Graves that the  male gods represented  patriarchy, the  repression of nature and the body and war. During the  1980’s I also read such feminist spiritual classics as “When God was a Woman”  by Merlyn Stone, the “Spiral Dance” by Starhawk and the Mists of Avalon by Marian Zimmer Bradley. I even experimented with Wicca for a short time period attempting to blend it with my previous beliefs about God. That did not work  well. I have never been able to completely reject  my allegiance to Yahweh the God who I perceived in spite of all his jealousies and patriarchal tendencies to be a liberating God of justice. The biblical vision of the Kingdom of God and Justice as taught by the Latin American liberation theologians still retained my loyalty. It was liberation theology of the Catholic priests and Marxists of Latin American and the mystical revolutionary theologies of   prophets such as Thomas Muntzer the theologian of the German Peasants’ Revolution of the 1520s who  defined my Christianity.  My Pentecostal theology had collapsed in the first half of the 1980’s.

What did change , however, is that  I began to believe that it was wrong to see God as male only. Not only that, it was   wrong to pray to God as if God were male only. Thus if God is be addressed by the male “metaphors” of Father, King, and Lord then God should also be addressed as Mother, Lady, Queen, and even as Goddess. However I hardly believed in a Goddess or goddesses at this time. What I believed in was  the inclusive gender neutral deity of modern Liberal Protestant Feminism. My god was an androgynous deity. I began to privately pray to God properly addressing God with a balance of  male and female metaphors.

However within a very few years I had become a lover of the Goddess who  I was able to love more than I had ever been able to love either God the Father or Jesus. How did this happen? Well by my prayers and by looking at pictures. I  was introduced to the idea promoted by a Christian writer named  Morton Kelsey that it made sense to meditate on images and pictures. I explored a lot of new ideas in those days. One day I visited  the local Greek Orthodox Church during its  annual Greek festival and picked up one of the bulletins on which portrayed  a beautiful some what westernized icon of Mary and the infant Jesus. I of course had already been introduced to the idea that Mary was the Christian version of the Goddess. That was one of the reasons for my attraction to the icon. Within a few months I placed the icon on a home alter which I had recently constructed.

I would pray before it using my by then standard, balanced, and androgynous our Lady and Lord,  Mother and Father formula. But what happened is that I gradually fell in love with the Goddess that the icon represented. I did not want any longer to pray  to an androgynous God or to a purely sexless God.  I wanted to pray to the Goddess who appeared  within the icon. And you know  I began to feel a greater degree of adoration for the  Holy Mother, for the Goddess, for the Lady than I ever had to the distant God the Father and the ambiguous Jesus.

Glenn King