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Goddesses (Death & The Underworld)




Africa:

Oya - West African Orisha whose name means “She tore." Much of Oya’s power is rooted in the natural world. She is the goddess of thunder, lightening, tornadoes, winds, rainstorms and hurricanes. A fire goddess, it is Oya who brings rapid change and aids us in both inner and outer transformation. She is feared by many people because she brings about sudden structural change in people and things. Oya doesn’t just rearrange the furniture in the house, she knocks the building to the ground. Oya is also the guardian of the realm between life and death. As such, she is the Goddess of spirit communication, death, funerals, psychic abilities, intuition, rebirth and cemeteries. When women find themselves in hard-to-resolve conflicts, she is the one to call on for protection. Women relate to Oya because she was a great warrior, courageous and fearless in life. “What Oya destroys, you no longer need.” Legend: Oya is the favorite wife of Shango (the God of Fire, thunder and lightning). The only wife who remained true to him until the end, leaving Oyo with him and becoming a deity when he did. She is Goddess of the Niger River, which is called the River Oya (odo Oya), but she ,manifests herself as the strong wind that precedes a thunderstorm. When Shango wishes to fight with lightning, he sends his wife ahead of him to fight with wind. She blows roofs off houses, knocks down large trees, and fans the fires set by Shango's thunderbolts into a high blaze. When Oya comes, people know that Shango is not far behind, and it is said that without her, Shango cannot fight. The verses tell that Oya is the wife of Shango, "The wife who is fiercer than the husband." One time, when Shango and Oya were having a fight, she charged him with mighty horns. But Shango appeased her by placing a big dish of akara (bean cakes) in front of her. Pleased by the offering of her favourite food, Oya made peace with Shango and gave him her two horns. When he was in need, he only had to beat these horns one against the other and she would come to his aid. *Shango and Oya correlate with the constellations Hercules and Virgo



Ala (Igbo) -Ala rules over the underworld and holds the deceased ancestors in her womb. Ala is a goddess of the Ibo, African people of eastern Nigeria. Her name literally translates to "ground" in the Igbo language, denoting her powers over the earth and her status as the ground itself.The daughter of the great god Chuku, she is the mother goddess of the earth and mother of all, ruler of the underworld and cycles, guardian of the harvest, and goddess of fertility for both people and animals.

According to Ibo beliefs, Ala makes a child grow within its mother's womb. She remains near and watches over the child as the child grows into an adult. Later when the individual dies, Ala receives him or her into her womb, known as the pocket of Ala. The goddess is also a lawgiver who shows people how to live a good life. Her laws emphasize moral values such as honesty.



Isis/Nephthys (Egypt): She was associated with mourning, the night/darkness, childbirth, the dead, protection, magic, health, and embalming. The origins of Isis are obscure. Unlike many gods, she can’t be tied to a specific town, and there are no certain mentions of her in the earliest Egyptian literature. Over time she grew in importance, though, eventually becoming the most important goddess in the pantheon. As the devoted wife who resurrected Osiris after his murder and raised their son, Horus, Isis embodied the traditional Egyptian virtues of a wife and mother.


As the wife of the god of the underworld, Isis was also one of the main deities concerned with rites for the dead. Along with her sister Nephthys, Isis acted as a divine mourner, and her maternal care was often depicted as extending to the dead in the underworld.


Isis was one of the last of the ancient Egyptian gods to still be worshipped. In the Greco-Roman period she was identified with the Greek goddess Aphrodite and her cult spread as far west as Great Britain and as far east as Afghanistan. It is believed that depictions of Isis with the infant Horus influenced Christian imagery of Mary with the infant Jesus.



India:

Kali - Hindu Goddess who name means “she who is death.” She is also the goddess of doomsday and time. She makes her first major appearance in Sanskrit culture in the Devi Mahatmya (“The Glorifications of the Goddess,” c. 6th century CE). Kali’s mythology commonly associate her not only with death but also with sexuality, violence and destruction.


Kali is most often characterized as black or blue, partially or completely naked, with a long lolling tongue, multiple arms, a skirt or girdle of human arms, a necklace of decapitated heads, and a decapitated head in one of her hands. She is often portrayed standing or dancing on her husband, the god Shiva, who lies prostrate beneath her. Many of those portrayals depict her sticking out her tongue, which is sometimes said to indicate her surprise and embarrassment at discovering that she is trampling on her husband. Legend: Men and gods were being terrorized by Daruka who could only be killed by a woman, and Parvati was asked by the gods to deal with the troublesome demon. She responded by jumping down Shiva's throat. This was because many years previously Shiva had swallowed halahala, the poison which had risen from the churning of the ocean during the creation and which had threatened to pollute the world. By combining with the poison still held in Shiva's throat, Parvati was transformed into Kali. Leaping from Shiva's throat in her new guise, Kali swiftly sent off Daruka and all was well with the world once more.

Greco-Roman:

Morta - Roman goddess of death. She is one of the Parcae, related to the Roman conception of the Fates in Greek mythology, the Moirae. She is responsible for pain and death that occurs in a half wake half sleep time frame. Her father is the god of night and her mother the goddess of darkness. She visits and warns in advance of the pain or death about to be endured. Legend: The Parcae controlled the metaphorical thread of life of every mortal and immortal from birth to death. Even the gods feared them, and by some sources Jupiter was also subject to their power. Sometimes, each of the Fates was assigned to a specific period of time: Atropos – the past, Clotho –the present, and Lachesis – the future.

The names of the three Parcae are:

  • Nona (Greek equivalent Clotho), who spun the thread of life from her distaff onto her spindle;

  • Decima (Greek Lachesis), who measured the thread of life with her rod;

  • Morta (Greek Atropos), who cut the thread of life and chose the manner of a person's death.


Demeter/Persephone -Through her daughter, Persephone, Demeter is linked strongly to the changing of the seasons and is often connected to the image of the Dark Mother and the dying of the fields. Demeter was a goddess of grain and of the harvest in ancient Greece.


Legend: Demeter's daughter, Persephone, caught the eye of Hades, god of the underworld. When Hades abducted Persephone and took her back to the underworld, Demeter’s grief caused the crops on earth to die and go dormant. By the time she finally recovered her daughter, Persephone had eaten six pomegranate seeds, and so was doomed to spend six months of the year in the underworld.


These six months are the time when the earth dies, beginning at the time of the autumn equinox. Each year, Demeter mourns the loss of her daughter for six months. At Ostara, the greening of the earth begins once more, and life begins anew. In some interpretations of the story, Persephone is not held in the underworld against her will. Instead, she chooses to stay there for six months each year so that she can bring a little bit of brightness and light to the souls doomed to spend eternity with Hades. Persephone: Queen of the underworld, goddess of death, life, spring flowers.


Sumeria: Ereshkigal - was the goddess of Kur, the land of the dead or underworld in Sumerian mythology. In later East Semitic myths, she was said to rule Irkalla alongside her husband Nergal. In ancient Sumerian mythology, Ereshkigal is the queen of the Underworld. She is the older sister of the goddess Inanna. Inanna and Ereshkigal represent polar opposites: Inanna is the Queen of Heaven, but Ereshkigal is the queen of Irkalla. Ereshkigal plays a very prominent and important role in two particular myths.


Legend: The first myth featuring Ereshkigal is described in the ancient Sumerian epic poem of "Inanna's Descent to the Underworld." In the poem, the goddess Inanna descends into the Underworld, apparently seeking to extend her powers there. Ereshkigal is described as being Inanna's older sister. When Neti, the gatekeeper of the Underworld, informs Ereshkigal that Inanna is at the gates of the Underworld, demanding to be let in, Ereshkigal responds by ordering Neti to bolt the seven gates of the Underworld and to open each gate separately, but only after Inanna has removed one article of clothing. Inanna proceeds through each gate, removing one article of clothing at each gate.


Finally, once she has gone through all seven gates she finds herself naked and powerless because she lost one of her magic items to a nymph, standing before the throne of Ereshkigal.


The seven judges of the Underworld judge Inanna and declare her to be guilty. Inanna is struck dead and her dead corpse is hung on a hook in the Underworld for everyone to see. Inanna's minister, Ninshubur, however, pleads with Enki and Enki agrees to rescue Inanna from the Underworld. Enki sends two sexless beings down to the Underworld to revive Inanna with the food and water of life. The sexless beings escort Inanna up from the Underworld, but a horde of angry demons follow Inanna back up from the Underworld, demanding to take someone else down to the Underworld as Inanna's replacement. When Inanna discovers that her husband, Dumuzid, has not mourned her death, she becomes ireful towards him and orders the demons to take Dumuzid as her replacement.




Chinese:

Meng Po - Who resides in the underworld, is the Chinese goddess of forgetfulness. She appears as an old woman with white hair, whose complexion was as clear as a child's.

Legend: According to Chinese mythology, Meng Po serves soup on the Bridge of Forgetfulness or Nai He Bridge. This soup wipes the memory of the person so they can reincarnate into the next life without the burdens of the previous life. Legend says she was a forlorn spirit who couldn’t forget her life and loved ones on Earth, brewing her potion to ensure no one shares her fate. The Jade Guidebook, the standard Daoist text on the Underworld, says she was a devout Buddhist hermit who spent her days in the hills studying the scriptures “until she became unaware of what was past, / And had no care about the future.” Native Indigenous Americas:

(Inuit) Sedna - is the goddess of the sea, marine animals, and the underworld. She is also regarded as the Mother of the Sea or Mistress of the Sea. Legend: There are many versions of Sedna’s story but the most popular one is where she was bluffed into marrying a Fulmar, who appeared as a handsome man and promised a life full of luxuries. When her father came to know about his reality, he tried to rescue his daughter and took her back in his kayak. The entire family of birds started chasing Sedna. To save himself, the father drowned Sedna and chopped off her fingers that Sedna used to cling to the boat. Sedna drowned and became the ocean’s spirit while her fingers became the fish, whales, walruses, and seals. The goddess of the ocean and destruction has a good side, as she sends food to her people where she rules. However, if she isn’t worshipped properly, she does not spare anyone from her wrath and starvation and make people suffer.

The Māori - The Indigenous Polynesian People of Mainland New Zealand: Hine-nui-te-pō: ("Great woman of night") in Maori legends, is a goddess of night and she receives the spirits of humans when they die. She is the daughter of Tane Mahuta / Tane Tuturi and Hine-ahuone. It is believed among Maori that the colour red in the sky comes from her. Hine nui te Po Shepherds the Wairua/souls into the first level of Rarohenga (realm of the underworld) to ready them for the next stage of their journey.

The great demi-god, Māui is tricked by his father into thinking he has a chance to achieve immortality. In order to obtain this, Māui is told to enter into the goddess through her vagina. While Hine-nui-te-pō is asleep, Māui undresses himself ready to enter himself into the goddess. One of his bird friends, the fantail, warned Hinenui-te-po of the situation and woke her. As Māui turned into a worm squirming to enter the goddess, Hinenui-te-po decided to punish the demi-god, she crushed him with the obsidian teeth in her vagina; Māui was the first man to die. Sources: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Kali https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parcae#:~:text=In%20ancient%20Roman%20religion%20and,Greek%20equivalent%20were%20the%20Moirai. https://www.learnreligions.com/gods-and-goddesses-of-death-2562693 https://supchina.com/2021/01/18/hells-bittersweet-end-meng-po-goddess-of-forgetfulness/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sedna_(mythology)