18 August 2011

O Queen of Darkness, Where Art Thou?

I've always had a thing for goddesses. It's hard to say why exactly, but I wouldn't say it was any kind of feminist thing, like Goddess worship seems to be for so many neopagan writers. Rather, I think it stems from the simple fact that I'm a heterosexual male (and single, to boot). Should I worship someone, it's only logical that it was someone whose appearance I found pleasing...

Now, there are plenty of different goddesses in mythology. But pondering aspects of 'Dark Side' spirituality lately, it seems there are far less interesting female characters in the demonic realms. (Of course I don't pretend to be an expert on the topic. My knowledge tends to be confined to skimming sources like Wikipedia...)

We've got Lilith, of course. Some references to more obscure characters like Naamah. A few demons, like Gemory in the Lesser Key of Solomon, are described as appearing in female form. (But the texts still often refer to them with 'he'!) But, with the exception of Lilith, I've run into precious few very well known female 'bad guys' in occult sources. Of course the angels as well are usually described as male in these sources. I can only surmise that this has something to do with the patriarchal attitudes of the monotheistic cultures where these characters originated. But, considering the attitudes towards women in the Middle Ages, it is a little surprising that stories aren't brimming with female temptresses and destroyers. Yet Satan and his cohorts seem to be almost exclusively male.

The same goes somewhat for pop culture characters as well, I'm afraid. From Sauron to Sephiroth to Voldemort, all the major, world domination or apocalypse kind of villains tend to be male, with just a few exceptions like Narnia's White Witch or Glory from Buffy (now that could be a fun goddess to worship).

There are many female monsters in mythology, of course. And many goddesses have a darker side to them. Female characters are often associated with death, darkness, magic, sexuality, etc. Eris, Hecate, Freyja, Kali. The list goes on and on. But the deities of pagan mythology, even the darker ones, are rarely 'Evil' (capital 'E'). There is no obvious 'light vs. dark' setup in most mythologies. Which is fine most of the time, since such dualistic thinking is often less than helpful. But sometimes you feel like rebelling...

Just to pick one character from mythology at random, I recently ran into Atë (on Wikipedia, not literally), Greek personification of delusion, folly and ruin, who 'led both gods and men to rash and inconsiderate actions and to suffering' (theoi.com). Sources on her are rather sparse. Hesiod lists her as one of the children of Eris. According to another myth related by Homer, she was a daughter of Zeus, and after angering him was cast down from Olympus, never to return. This is, of course, deliciously akin to the 'fallen angel' trope. I haven't run across descriptions or art of what she was supposed to look like. If we take the Hesiod genealogy, it wouldn't be a great leap to picture her as a woman with black wings, since both her mother Eris and grandmother Nyx have at times been pictured thus. (I kinda wish her name was a little more impressive, though.)

This trio of relatives together is of course quite fascinating. Nyx, to me, represents the beauty of the night, the aesthetic darkness. Eris brings a little chaos into our lives (and through the writings of the Discordians reminds us not to be too serious about all this). And Atë... well, she just might be the darkest of the three, and the dark side is powerful...

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