The Order of the White Moon Goddess Gallery Presents
Guardian of Civilization
Athena Plaque from the Ancient Sculpture Garden
~ Aethyia ~
A Level I Final Project for The Sacred Three Goddess School
© 2010. All original material in this site is under copyright protection and is the intellectual property of the author.
While Athena may be best known as one of the Olympian Goddesses of Greece, there is ample evidence to suggest that Her worship is far older than the Olympians and ranged far beyond the shores of Greece. While She is often described simply as a Goddess of War, Her actual nature is far more complex. In many ways, we will see that She has evolved alongside humanity, continuing even to the present day to be a vital source of Wisdom.
HER ORIGIN AND PRESENCE IN VARIOUS CULTURES
The many tales of the Wisdom Goddess' long life are quite diverse. There are a number of theories about Her origin. There are some scholars who identify Her evolution by examining Her symbols. Marija Gimbutas is foremost in this approach. Scholars of this type tend to see Athena’s origin as widespread throughout the Mediterranean and the spread of Her worship and the changes in Her imagery, a result of evolution.
There are others, like Robert Graves, who, rely upon the historical documents of authors such as Herodotus and Plato. These see the spread of Her worship as having occurred as a result of migrations and interactions of tribes of people.
There are also those writers, such as Norma Lorre Goodrich who believe that Athena is the Goddess of a patriarchal culture which merged the identities of a number of Goddesses into one who is ultimately their own creation.
What is particularly interesting about Athena is that there are also those who perceive Her as still playing an active role in the spiritual lives of humanity, in a manner that is quite different from her earlier mythos. In this role, writers such as Helena Blavatsky and Christopher Penczak, identify Her not only as Goddess and also as an Ascended Master; a guiding force for Light workers and Theosophists.
Marija Gimbutas identifies Athena’s presence in the world as early as the Neolithic-Chalcolithic era. During this early incarnation, she appeared as the Bird Goddess: "borne in the womb of mythical water...the primordial element."(1) This imagery may remind us of many other tales of the origin of life, in which the divine element rises above the waters of chaos, Her spirit soaring, ready to create.
From the primitive past, Athena evolved yet maintained an aspect of Her earlier self. Marija Gimbutas writes: "Athena; the bird-form has been shed but Athena is occasionally winged and the bird is her attribute. She sometimes appears in the semblance of a sea eagle, a gull, a swallow, a vulture, or a dove." (2)
Athena is particularly identified with the Owl. She is frequently seen in ancient sculptures and in mythic tales with Her Owl. This association is also found in one of Her many titles: Athena Glaukopis. This title has layers of meaning. Glau is generally translated as “gleaming” (and sometimes grey or bluish grey) and Ops is translated as “eyes”, giving us the meaning: Goddess with the Gleaming Eyes. But Glaux is also the word for Owl and so we might think of Her as Owl Eyes, the Wise One who can see Truth in the Darkness. (3) (She is holding up Her owl in figure 3, above.)
The imagery of Her roots as Bird Goddess is also retained in the form of Nike, the winged Goddess of Victory, seen in numerous sculptures standing in the hand of the Goddess. (See Figure 4) Athena Nike is also a title of Athena and so we might interpret this imagery to mean that Nike is another aspect of Athena. It is not often that we see Athena as winged Herself, but we do find her winged in Figure 5.
Another aspect of Athena that links Her with the far distant past is Her very strong association with snakes. If we look at art work depicting Athena we find that She is almost always accompanied by or adorned with snakes. In some cases She is frequently seen wearing a gown of living snakes; holding a spear around which snakes are entwined or carrying a shield upon which one or more snakes are drawn. (Note that in Figure 5, Athena is both winged and wearing the gown of living snakes)
Marija Gimbutas sees a relationship between the two sets of imagery, of bird and snake. She writes: "Is this imagery not an inheritance from a deeper antiquity, from times when the cosmic Bird Goddess has as her counterpart a Cosmic Snake?" (4)
Athena's snake symbolism is represented in Her temples. Buffie Johnson examined the language of symbols in two of Athena’s temples; one in Mycenaean Knossos, where she was known as Potnia Atana and the other in Athens (allegedly built due to her gift of the olive tree). She informs us that in both temples we find: "the same cluster of symbols found later in Genesis: woman, tree and serpent. Athena herself is the goddess of wisdom and so it makes sense that the problem in Eden revolves around a tree of knowledge" (5) (Note that in Figure 7, Below, Athena Hygieia is seen leaning against a tree and the snake is climbing the tree. )
Though many writers of Classical Greece inform us that Athena was born of the head of Zeus, there are also those who questioned the true origin of their Goddess. The philosopher Plato (429 - 347 BC) suggested that Athena was originally known as Neith, a multi-faceted Goddess of Egypt, worshipped since the Pre-dynastic period. But Neith was said to have originated in Libya. There are many writers who identify Athena's origin as North African. (6) Martin Bernal proposes that the worship of Neith/Athena was imported from Egypt to Greece in the third/second millennia. (7)
Robert Graves proposes that the worship of Athena was brought from North Africa to Crete as early as 4000 BC. He suggests a complex origin, from both Libya and Egypt and proposes that Her name was derived from Anna, or Ath-anna, an inversion of Anatha, another name for Neith. (8)
In the White Goddess, Robert Graves relates various stories of Her life as a Goddess in Libya, worshipped in a culture that honored the female warrior. This association with the Amazon culture of North Africa is shared by both Neith and Athena, and there are other scholars who support the idea that Athena was at one time worshipped by Amazons. (9) (10) A commonly told tale of the origin of Her name - Pallas Athena- is that she once had a constant companion named Pallas. One day the two young women were practicing their fighting skills and Athena accidentally killed Her friend. She grieved deeply and added Pallas' name to Her own so that she would never be forgotten. (11)
Graves also suggests that according to even earlier accounts, Athene was a Sea Goddess, worshipped in Libya and Cyprus. Graves provides a variety of theories, which may indicate Athena's connection to the Sea. Athena, for example, is associated with Lake Triton. In one account, Graves reports, Athena is the daughter of Triton, a sea god. In another she is the daughter of the Sea Goddess Amphitrite. In other accounts she is the daughter or even consort of Poseidon. Graves suggests that Poseidon became a sea god when he conquered the Peloponnese and the Gulf of Corinth and married the Sea Goddess, Amphitrite, who is also an incarnation of the moon. Graves states that Amphitrite is one of Athena's many titles. (12) While these various theories of Her origin may be confusing, they establish Athena as a very ancient Goddess of the Mediterranean.
Both Patricia Moynihan and Charlene Spretnak agree that Athena was worshipped in Crete. Moynihan describes Athena as a household goddess, "the essence of the family bond, symbolized by the home and its hearth (who) by further extrapolation..was the symbol of the community itself, the larger social unit based on countless homes". (13)
Spretnak describes her role as far more significant. She points out Athena's role as an inventor of various tools and the teacher of weaving, architecture, music, and various household arts. (Athena's association with weaving is widespread - from Crete to Egypt - and may explain her association with that other famous weaver: Arachne. )
Spretnak also informs us that the base of Athena's worship existed among the matrifocal peoples of the Peloponnese, as well as, Argos, Aparta, Troy, Smyrna, Epidaurus, Troezen and Pheneus. (14)
In later years, these matrifocal tribes would be conquered by a more patriarchal culture, but their Goddess would survive. Her ancient origin would be hidden, for in the new ruling culture, all must be subordinate to the king, particularly the king of the Gods: Zeus.
Athena's story was re-written by the Hellenic Greeks, yet hints that Her origin is far older than the Olympian Pantheon, remain embedded in the tale. Norma Lorre Goodrich reminds us of the writings of Hesiod (circa 700 BC). Hesiod wrote that Athena was conceived parthenogenically by Metis, the Titan Wisdom Goddess. (15) Zeus feared that her child would be greater than he and so he swallowed Metis. Athena was born of Metis, though still inside Zeus. Zeus' head began to pound (as well it should). He called upon Hephaestus to split his head open and Athena leapt out free and fully armored. (16) She is not a product of Her father; She is the survivor of an earlier age.
ATHENA’S MANY ROLES
In the art of Classical Greece and Rome, we can easily identify Her, by Her helmet and spear, so we tend to associate Her foremost as a Goddess of War. If we read of Her, however, in the tales of Hellenic Greece we find that She was not a Goddess of the battlefield as much as she was a wise and cunning counselor of warriors and heroes. She helps Odysseus return to his home. (17) She comforts and advises Hercules (see figure 9) throughout his accomplishment of the Twelve Labors. (18)
Athena also leads Theseus to Amphitrite, to obtain the golden ring. (Figure 10) It is suggested by Erich Neumann that this tale demonstrates the Goddess' power to initiate the male, suggestive of her earlier sovereignty. (19)
Of course, we also remember that Athena helped Perseus slay Medusa. One might wonder how myths are born and if this last tale was created to explain why Athena is seen so frequently with the head of Medusa upon Her breast. If we consider that Athena was worshipped by the same matrifocal peoples who were later conquered by the Dorian Greeks, it may be that there is a far older explanation, one that was forgotten by the patriarchal tellers of this tale. In Buffie Johnson's Lady of the Beasts, we find the suggestion that the "Gorgon's mask stood for the moon, others saw her as Athena's double... She may well personify Athena's dark side, since Medusa represents the chthonic power of the Great Goddess in the underworld". (20) In figure 11, we see the Medusa upon Athena's breast and her gown adorned with snakes.
In the complex world of Classical Greece, Athena was a multi-dimensional Goddess. She was worshipped as the Goddess of Wisdom, Arts and Crafts. She was Athena Polias, Protector of the City . (21) She was known as Athena Agoraia (the marketplace), Athena Agripha (of agriculture), Athena Hygeia (the healer), Athena Axiopoinas (the wise judge) and Athena Aristobulo who gives wise counsel. (22)
Athena, we find, is not associated with the primal force of nature, as is Gaia, or of the elemental powers, as is her rival, Poseidon. Anne Baring and Jules Cashford, write: “Poseidon provides the horse, while Athena bridles it and builds the chariot; Poseidon rules the waves, while Athena constructs the ship that rides them…Her gift is not the salt spring gushing upwards from the depths of the earth, as is Poseidon’s, but the carefully cultivated olive, whose oil was the prize at her festival” (23) Athena is the Goddess who walks with humanity, guiding us in the varied tasks that make up our lives.
To the philosophers, She was intelligence itself and their special muse. Plato, in particular was devoted to Athena and wrote:
That is a graver matter, and there, my friend, the modern interpreters of Homer may, I think, assist in explaining the view of the ancients. For most of these in their explanations of the poet, assert that he meant by Athena "mind" [nous] and "intelligence" [dianoia], and the maker of names appears to have had a singular notion about her; and indeed calls her by a still higher title, "divine intelligence" [Thou noesis], as though he would say: This is she who has the mind better than others. Nor shall we be far wrong in supposing that the author of it wished to identify this Goddess with moral intelligence [en ethei noesin], and therefore gave her the name ethonoe; which, however, either he or his successors have altered into what they thought a nicer form, and called her Athena.(24)
One of the stories of Athena that demonstrates Her gift of intelligence to humanity is from Ovid. According to Ovid, Prometheus created the first people from clay and Athena infused Her spirit into them, awakening their minds (illustrated in Figure 14). (25) (26)
Athena, in the role of co-Creatrix of humanity, is recognized in the writings of modern Theosophical writers. Helena Blavatsky describes Her as "the mother of manasputric kumaras", meaning that Athena divided her energy, creating spiritual entities which infused and endowed human beings with intelligence. (27)
EVOLVING AND CONTINUING PRESENCE
Zeus may have been right to have feared that the child of Metis would become greater than he, for Athena has continued to be a force in our evolution. Her image is found decorating universities, academic organizations (28), government buildings, the state seal of California, even money! A town is named for Her in Oregon. In Tennessee, Her Parthenon has been reconstructed.
Operation Athena is the name for Canada's role in the current conflict in Afghanistan. Their goal is: " to leave Afghanistan to Afghans, in a country that is better governed, more peaceful and more secure." May Athena provide them with the necessary Wisdom to accomplish such a Herculean task….but then that is a specialty of Hers. (29)
Though Christianity would later replace the old religion and the worship of the Goddess would seem abandoned, the memory of Holy Sophia, enthroned and winged, continues into the modern era. Her worship has been restored by Neo-Pagans. She is invoked by Lightworkers and Theosophists.
Athena continues to be recognized as both Goddess and spiritual mentor. She is considered a vital part of the evolution of humanity by many Theosophists. One famous Theosophist, Alice Bailey, identifies Athena as a member of the Karmic Board.(30) To many light workers, Athena is an Ascended Master and Guide who can be invoked for guidance and protection. (31)
Christopher Penczak, in Ascension Magick, reports that, “Pallas Athena can be called upon in all matters of wisdom, intelligence and ingenuity. Though a great warrior, she learned how not to fight when it was not necessary, and how to use diplomacy, intelligence and strategy to defeat one’s enemy.” (32)
The Goddess of Wisdom continues to communicate Her gifts to many spiritual seekers. My own journey to discovery of the true nature of Athena began when I received a reading from a minister of the New York Spiritualist Church. This meditative experience revealed to me a Being of Light, Wisdom, Protection and Guidance. I find that when I open my spirit to communicate with Her, I am filled with Peace.
SYMBOLS OF THE GODDESS
Herodotus describes many rituals of the rituals that honored Athena. For my ritual (below) I was inspired by two that he described. (34)
The first was in Plynteria, the Feast of Adorning was observed every May for 5 days. During this time the priestesses washed and purified themselves, their sanctuary, the statue of Athena and her clothing.
The second was celebrated in Sais. The people celebrated the Feast of Lamps. They created oil lamps (saucers filled with oil and salt) and burned
these throughout the night, filling the whole city with light.
The altar should also be cleaned and prepared ahead of time.
v Altar cloth: Athena's colors are solar (gold, orange), emerald or indigo/dark blue. (I used a dark blue cloth)
v Candles: 5 white or gold candles, placed in the four directions and in the center.
v Incense: cedar.
v A bowl with orange water.
v For the feast: bread with crushed olives and wine/ juice (I prefer juice) and an offering bowl.
v candle snuffer
v Possible images of Athena: a statue or pictures of Athena, Her owl, snake or other totems.
Bathing: Bath oil and/or soap with one of her scents, perhaps patchouli and orange.
During the bath use an affirmation such as "By the Light of Athena, I am purified in all ways". (speak to Athena about the planned ritual)
Dressing: If possible use Athena's colors. and if possible wear jewelry that includes her gems: Lapis Lazuli, Star Sapphire, Turquoise, Onyx and Ruby.
CAST THE CIRCLE
Using wand or athame.
Cedar is one of Athena's scents and is good for purifying the circle. Light some cedar incense, saying, By the light of Athena this space has been purified.
BLESSING THE CIRCLE
Light the candle in the center: Athena, Goddess of Light Eternal. Bless this circle in Wisdom and Peace. In light I create the temple of the Goddess.
Cast the circle with light! Walk around the circle with the candle (keep it in its holder so that it can be placed on the altar easily). Chanting: In light I create the temple of the Goddess.
Having cast the circle: The circle is cast. The temple is established, blessed in the Light of Wisdom and Peace.
Light the candle in the East (using the central candle): In Light I create the temple of the Goddess. Facing East invoke one of the images of Athena: I call upon Minerva, Goddess of the Dawn and Emerging Light. Bless this circle with the power of air. Bless my mind with your insight.
When ready to proceed, use the central candle to light the candle in the South: In Light I create the temple of the Goddess.
Invoke Neith: I call upon you Ancient Neith, Great Pythoness of Prophecy! Bless this circle with the power of fire. Fill my spirit with your Truth.
Proceed with the central candle to the West and lighting that candle again say: In Light I create the temple of the Goddess. In the West invoke Sulis: I call upon you Sweet Sulis, Power of Purification, bless this circle with the power of water. Heal me of dis-ease and negativity.
Continue to the North and light that candle, saying once again: In Light I create the temple of the Goddess Facing the North say: I call upon you, Hagia Sophia, whose holy presence has blessed the earth for millennia. Bless this circle with the power of Earth's Resilience and Creativity.
Return to the center and invoke Athena:
THE INVOCATION OF THE GODDESS
I am the light of the ages
I am the gift of awakening
I am the plan for she who leads
I am the guide for she who seeks
I am the muse for she who creates
I am comfort for she who mourns
I am salve for she who must heal
I am courage for she who despairs
I am rejuvenation for she who is weary
I am inspiration for she who brings peace
I am the shield for she who takes a stand
I am vision for she who must know
I am the mentor for she who would be wise
(using orange water - anoint crown)
Bless me Great Athena with Your Awakening
(anoint inner eye)
Bless my eyes with Vision
Bless my throat with Truth
Bless my heart with your Understanding
Bless my body with your Strength
Bless my journey with your Guidance
Bless my work with your Inspiration
RAISING THE CONE OF POWER
(Breathing deeply, I use my consciousness to raise the energy in my body. Energy of the Earth rises into my feet, up into my legs, up into the trunk of my body, up the spine, shoulders, arms, throat, head, up to the crown to reach upwards. This breathing exercise charges my body with energy and opens my third eye. I begin to journey to Athena. I reach Her temple. I visualize my connection to Her. I merge with Her.)
Holding the plate of bread and crushed olives and the cup of juice, I say: Beloved Athena, infuse these offerings with your strength and your love. I place a piece of bread in the offering bowl and pour in a little grape juice. What I have received I shall freely give. And then I eat and drink and ground myself.
OPENING THE CIRCLE
Thank the Goddesses.
Then with candle snuffer in hand and saying: The temple of the Goddess remains within me, extinguish the candles.
Finally: using athame or wand, open the circle.
2. Ibid., p. p 148-149.
3. Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, 1940, A Greek-English Lexicon, ISBN 0-19-864226-1, online version at the Perseus Project. Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, 1940, A Greek-English Lexicon, ISBN 0-19-864226-1, online version at the Perseus Project.
4. Gimbutas, Marija, p. 148
5. Johnson, Buffie, Lady of the Beasts: The Goddess and Her Sacred Animals, (Inner Traditions: Rochester, Vt., 1994), p.156.
6. Graves, Robert, The Greek Myths, (Penquin Books, London, UK,1992), Chapter 8 pp. 44-45.
7. Bernal, Martin, Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1987), 21, 51–53.
8. Graves, Robert, The White Goddess, (Farrar, Strauss, and Groux: New York, NY), p. 371. (Also, found in The Greek Myths, Chapter 8.)
9. Wilde, Lyn Webster, On the Trail of the Women Warriors: The Amazons in Myth and History, (St. Martin's Press: New York, NY,2000), p. 32 and p. 96.
10. Salmonson, Jessica Amanda, The Encyclopedia of Amazons, (Paragon House: New York, 1991) See Athena, Gorgons, Medusa.
11. Graves, Robert, The White Goddess, pp. 218, 351-353, 360-361, 371.
12.Ibid, p. 360.
13.Monaghan, Patricia, The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines, (Llewellyn Publications: St. Paul, MN), pp. 59-60.
14.Spretnak, Charlene, Lost Goddesses of Early Greece, (Moon Books, Berkley, CA, 1978), pp. 90-95.
15. Lorre Goodrich, Norma, Priestess, (Franklin Watts: New York, 1989) p 171.
16.Graves, Robert, The Greek Myths, ( Penguin Books, London, UK, 1992) Chapter 8.
17. Ibid. Chapter 171.
18.Graves, Robert, The Greek Myths, Chapter 134.
19.Neumann, Erich, The Great Mother, (Princeton University: Princeton, NY, 1974.) p325
20. Johnson, Buffie, p. 152
21.Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheke, 3.14.6.
23. Baring, Anne and Cashford, Jules, The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image, (ARKANA/Penquin Books, London, UK, 1993), p. 338
24. Plato, Cratylus, 407b
25. Babcock, Michael, Susan Seddon Boulet: The Goddess Paintings, (Pomegranate Books: San Francisco, CA, 1994), pp. 32-33.
26. Graves, Robert, The Greek Myths, 4 b. "...as yet, there were no ((mortal men until, with the consent of the goddess, Athene, Prometheus...formed them in the likeness of gods. He used clay and water...and Athene breathed life into them."
32. Penczak, Christopher, Ascension Magick: Ritual, Myth, and Healing for the New Aeon, (Llewellyn Publications: Woodbury, MN, 2007), p. 164.
34. Herodotus, The Histories, (Everyman Press: VT,) pp. 148-149.
3. Bronze Athena with owl. New York, Metropolitan Museum. retrieved from www.goddess-athena.org.
7. Athena Hygieia from Delos (side view) in which Athena is leaning against a tree and the snake is climbing the tree. From the Popylaeum (gate).Delos Museum, A7780 retrived from www.goddess-athena.org
9. This is a bronze statue of the fifth century BCE. Athens, National Archaeological Museum retrieved from www.goddess-athena.org
11. Attic red figure cup from Caere, Diam. 0.40 m, Attributed to Onesimus Painter, signed by Euphronius Potter, ca. 500-490 BCE Paris, Musée du Louvre G 104 Theseus, Athena, Amphitrite retrieved from www.goddess-athena.org
12.The Athena Giustiniani, a Roman copy of a Greek statue of Pallas Athena with her serpent, Erichthonius. retrieved from wikipedia
13.Minerva as the Head of the Muses by Hans Speckaert (c. 1575)retrieved from www.goddess-athena.org
14.Building the ship Argo, Illustration by T. H. Robinson (1937, London, Longmans. retrieved from www.goddess-athena.org.
15. Christian Griepenkerl (1839-1916), Treppenhaus des Augusteums, Oldenburg. Retrieved from www.goddess-athena.org
17. Euro coin commemorating 60 Years of the Second Republic of Austria, featuring Athena Promachos. retrieved from www.wikipedia.org
19.Pallas Athena visits Envy, 1652. Painting by Karel Dujardin Wien, Gemäldegalerie der akademie der bildende Künste. retrieved from www.goddess-athena.org
as Lady Alchemia retrieved from www.goddess-athena.org. Rome, Biblioteca
Cod. Pal. lat. 1066, f. 224V., 227, 230V., 239
21.Minerva victorious over
Ignorance, Ignorance is at Athena's feet (bottom right).
Painted by Bartholomeus Spranger (c. 1591) Künsthistorische Museum, Wien. Retrieved from www.goddess-athena.org
22. Outside the Museum für Vor und Frühgeschichte. Berlin, Vor und Frühgeschichte Museum. retrieved from www.wikipedia.org