ikhet_sekhmet: (Angel of the Birds 1)
More gendery stuff later, but now for something completely different: Barbara Walker's Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets and the word "bitch".

The word "bitch", Walker tells us, became "a naughty word in Christian Europe because it was one of the most sacred titles of the Goddess, Artemis-Diana". Walker gives no citation, and after a lot of unsystematic rummaging, I haven't been able to find any evidence that "bitch" was a title for either Artemis or Diana - let alone "one of the most sacred titles" for either goddess.

In the Iliad, "bitch" is certainly not a compliment, with Helen repeatedly castigating herself as "bitch" (kunos) and "bitchface" (kunopis - an insult also thrown at Aphrodite by the bard Demodokos), and Menelaus calling the Trojans "evil bitches" (kakai kunes). In the Odyssey, Penelope calls a treacherous maidservant kuon. In fact, "bitch" seems to pop up pretty frequently as an insult in Classical literature, well before "Christian Europe".

I've found hundreds of epithets for Artemis, but the closest to Kuon which I've been able to find is Kynagon, "leader of the dogs". (No luck with Diana's epithets, either - no "canicula" or "catula".) Surely there's such a thing as a complete list of Artemis' epithets? That would settle the matter.

Loraux, Nicole. "The Phantom of Sexuality". in The experiences of Tiresias: the feminine and the Greek man. Princeton University Press, 1995.
Barbara G. Walker. The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. San Francisco, Harper & Row, 1983.
ikhet_sekhmet: (Butterfly hair)
Some surprising revelations about Mesopotamian celestial deities. *loooong whistle*

ETA much later: Here's the source of the trouble: the author has confused Sin's daughter Nana/Nanaia with Sin's own Sumerian name, Nanna. (And the male Sumerian sun-god Utu with the goddess of spinning, Uttu.) Her thesis about "Sin-Nana" is heavily drawn from this article about Nana from JAOS (she spells the author's name incorrectly in her references, which tripped me up at first :). So the androgyny she sees in Sin-Nana ("I have heavy breasts... I have a beard") is in fact Inanna/Ishtar's much-noted androgyny.


Sep. 1st, 2009 09:39 pm
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
Now, this is interesting. You may've encountered the loopy anti-Islamic claim that Allah is really an idol - a Middle Eastern moon-god - perhaps via Jack Chick. I was perusing an extensive lay refutation of the claim, and discovered that (amongst other things) it relies on one of the great traps which everyone from qualified scholars to Neo-Pagan online shops falls into: assuming that if deities share a similarity - even just similar names - then they're the same deity.

Coincidentally, I've just read Henri Frankfort's "Excursis" on the Dying God of the Ancient Near East in Kingship and the Gods. It was, tbh, a bit hard to follow and a bit light on footnotes, but Frankfort's basic argument is solid: there are major differences between gods such as Osiris, Tammuz, and Adonis; lumping them together as variations on the same god ignores those differences and impedes rather than increases understanding. Which is a useful reminder when you're reading about Egyptian deities, all right, with their complicated, shifting interconnections; or if just generally, if you happen to be a Neo-Pagan. Especially if you're shopping. :)

ETA: My own debunking of the claim is over on my main lj.
ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
I don't want to spend a lot of time in this LJ debunking the bollocks out there about ancient religions. For one thing, I'm not expert enough; for another, there's just too darn much of it. Most of the rubbish is fairly harmless New Age looseness with the facts, but check out this bit of Catholic-bashing: The Pagan Origin Of Easter, which is at least as free with scripture as it is with mythology. You may recognise fragments of Egyptian and Greek mythology, but most of it is wild invention with nothing in common with Mesopotamian religion or history but a few borrowed names. Apparently this bizarre concoction originates with an 1853 anti-Catholic pamphlet; I suspect it's still around mostly thanks to Jack Chick. It's tempting to go through the pamphlet and point out the inventions and errors, in the context of a summary of Ishtar and Her worship from rather less dodgy sources. We've got the benefit of a century and a half of archaeology and translation over the original Catholic-basher, who had to base his fantasies on Classical sources. His modern imitators have no such excuse.
ikhet_sekhmet: (Butterfly hair)
I read a devastating short review of Leonard Shlain's The Alphabet and the Goddess. Now to be fair, I haven't read this book; I have glanced at it, and was immediately suspicious of the idea that the alphabet shifts thought to the left brain and therefore culture to violent patriarchy. It's all too easy to project whatever ideas we like onto peoples that have left no written record. The review yanks the carpet out from under the book entirely, pointing out that speech predates writing. If language is linear and hierarchical, those properties altered our brains millennia before writing of any kind - let alone the alphabet.

Algeo, John. The Awful Alphabet (review of Shlain, Leonard. The Alphabet versus the Goddess: The Conflict between Word and Image. New York, Viking, 1998.). American Speech 76(4) 2001 pp 427-429.


Mar. 16th, 2006 04:43 pm
ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
I've been rummaging on teh Intarwebs, and as always it's full of profound rubbish when it comes to mythology. IMNSHO it's disrespectful and lazy when Pagans just make up any old crap about their deities - doubly so if they're doing it to sell something.

Triply so if they're ripped off a living Native culture and then made up a bunch of crap about it so they can sell something. Today I stumbled across a pair of earrings, made by a Californian artisan, which pinches an Indigenous Australian design. I emailed the seller to ask for details on the design, and apparently neither she nor the artisan have the slightest idea what the figures represent - it took me about two minutes to find out online from an Indigenous art shop.

Despite what you may read online, the Mesopotamian goddess Inanna didn't create the universe, nor civilisation. Like a Greek god, She came later in the story of the cosmos, and rather than being born great, She made Herself great. To neglect that part of Her story, with its trickery and thievery, is to distort Her character. Nor was Inanna a mother goddess, nor a moon goddess, nor a comet goddess. She has so much personality in the surviving translated literature, She is such a unique individual, that blurring Her into generic roles means losing sight of her altogether.

When I first became a Wiccan, I was doing a lot of ritual and a lot of buying, and not much in the way of study. That's changed over thirteen years - now there's almost no ritual and no buying, and it's all study. I risk becoming a snob - but basic information about these deities is available to anyone at the local library.
ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
I love stuff like this: "Enjoy the power and protection of the ancient Aztec Moon Goddess." No, I don't think you will - she's just been thrown off a mountain by her brother, which is why she's lying at the foot of his temple in a dozen pieces.


ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
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