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Category: Mythology

The goddess has no face

The goddess has no face

Who is the Goddess of the Beginnings, then, who has genitals but no face?

—Jean Markale, The Great Goddess


One night several years ago, I journeyed down a moonlit inner path to meet the Lady. I found her in a copse of trees, on the edge of a deep forest. She stepped into a clearing and let the silver light fall on her face. She was beautiful.

Then she changed.

Every time I blinked, she wore a different face. Her hair shifted from black to gold to red. Her eyes became dark pools of mystery, then blue as sky. The more I tried to hold a single image of her, the faster her faces slipped away.

In my first encounter with the goddess of the Wica, I learned that she has no face.

You could, of course, just as truthfully say she has many faces. Maid, mother, crone. Star goddess, moon goddess, earth goddess. So many names. So many aspects. You could just as truthfully say she has no face of her own because she wears the face of All.

Listen to the words of the Great Mother, who was of old also called Artemis; Astarte; Diana; Melusine; Aphrodite; Cerridwen; Dana; Arianrhod; Isis; Bride; and by many other names.

—Doreen Valiente, “The Charge of the Goddess”

But I love her best when she has no face.

If you look at paleolithic cave paintings and figurines such as the Venus of Willendorf (above), they often depict a great mother goddess with no face. Anthropologists can make all sorts of guesses as to why. Maybe they depersonalized their images to make it clear they represent transpersonal forces rather than individual people. Maybe those early artists simply couldn’t imagine features beautiful enough to belong to her.

Venus of Laussel, PD-US

To be honest, I don’t often see a goddess statue I like. It’s the faces that bother me. Even when the symbolism is all there, something about the face just isn’t quite right to me. When I mentioned this to a witchy friend, he said the facial features shouldn’t matter. It’s the energy of the piece that counts.

But that was exactly my point. The more rudimentary the image, it seems to me, the more it captures her essence—and the more her energy comes through. More often than not, the face just seems to get in the way.

Having tried to paint her myself, I suspect we just weren’t meant to pin a face to the goddess. Even in myth, she’s always changing. One minute she appears as a hideous hag, the next she’s a beautiful princess. Or an animal. Like Joseph Campbell’s mythic hero, she wears a thousand faces, and she can change them without warning. Beatific mother one moment, merciless devourer the next.

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Instructions for the afterlife

Instructions for the afterlife

To the left side of Hades’ palace is a spring;
close by stands a ghostly cypress tree.
Here, souls descending to the underworld may dissolve.
Do not approach this spring;
go on to the spring of chill waters from the Lake of Memory.
The Guardians there will interrogate you;
asking what you seek in the gloomy underworld.
Say:  ‘I am a child of Earth and of starry Heaven,
but my lineage is of Heaven: this you know yourselves,
and I am parched with thirst and perishing;
refresh me with the waters from the Lake of Memory.’
And they will present you to King Hades,
and give you drink from Memory’s lake.
And then you will follow the sacred path
that many other renowned initiates take.

—Orphic Mysteries


Featured image: Orpheus Leading Eurydice from the Underworld by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot

The three realms of Arianrhod

The three realms of Arianrhod

I know all the names of the stars from North to South;
I have been in the galaxy at the throne of the Distributor…
I have been three periods in the Prison of Arianrhod

Hanes Taliesin


Ancient poets spoke of a revolving castle where brave travelers could claim the gift of inspiration. Within this spiral tower, the powerful star goddess Arianrhod ruled over the cycles of death and rebirth. Those who touched her realm and lived to tell of it became prophets, endowed with clear sight and silver tongues.

But how did they get there?

The way wasn’t easy. It required a deep understanding of the Celtic cosmos, which encompasses three realms: land, sea, and sky. The land comprises the physical world we live in. The sky consists of the upper realm, or heavens. The sea serves as a boundary between our world and the lower realm, or underworld.

Like the ancient Greeks, the Celts placed their gods in the heavens by mapping their mythology to constellations in the night sky. But their gods didn’t just exist in the upper realm. They also resided here on Earth. Britain is full of physical sites, on both land and sea, where the gods were said to have dwelt.

Arianrhod’s castle is one such place. In myth, Caer Arianrhod was the place where human souls were said to travel upon their death. It existed in all three realms at once, each separate and distinct, and each serving as a portal to the others. Those who knew the way could use the Caer’s revolving door as a gateway for traveling between worlds.

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Your tears are sacred

Your tears are sacred

Beloved Lady of Holy An
look at your tormenting emotions
All the time weeping



I didn’t know it yet, but the first time I met Inanna, I was standing at the threshold of one of the darkest times of my life.

It was during the fall equinox, on the precarious cusp of the dark half of the year. I watched her courtship with Dumuzi played out in ritual. I followed her descent to the underworld. Saw her stripped of her regalia piece by piece. Witnessed her encounter with her dark sister Ereshkigal. Stared in disbelief as she fell lifeless at her shadow-self’s feet. Mourned over her corpse, a rotting slab of meat on a hook.

I didn’t understand yet what it all meant.

Myths and legends of Babylonia & Assyria, PD-US

Later, by the bonfire, Inanna sat beside me and offered to let me try on her sandals. I admired those sandals. I wrapped the beautiful leather straps around my ankles and felt like a goddess.

I didn’t realize at the time what was really happening.

Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth. Inanna, Child of the Moon God. Inanna, this distant Sumerian goddess I’d never heard of.

Inanna asked me to me walk in her shoes.

So I did.

Little did I know the torrent I was unleashing. Little did I know how long the journey through the underworld could last.

Inanna left an impression on me, yet I resisted her for a long time. She felt weighty, demanding. She felt complicated. But she remained in my thoughts, and one day I mentioned her in passing to a friend of mine. She went directly to her bookshelf and pulled down a volume for me.

Inanna: Lady of Largest Heart. An analysis of poems written to Inanna by the Sumerian high priestess Enheduanna, the earliest known poet in world history. One of the earliest women known to history. And humankind’s first example of an individual showing consciousness of her own inner life.

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The moment of ruin

The moment of ruin

your frown blackens the light of noon
your heart picks the moment of ruin
the place you name trembles
what is yours
cannot be crushed

—Enheduanna, High Priestess of Inanna

Birthing polarity: When one becomes two

Birthing polarity: When one becomes two

Light is meaningful only in relation to darkness.

—Louis Aragon


The goddess Ceridwen has two children. One bears the face of the most beautiful maiden in the world. The other, misshapen, becomes known for his unparalleled hideousness.

The goddess Arianrhod steps over a magic wand and gives birth to twins. One emerges from her womb perfectly formed and takes to the sea, spending his life beneath the waves. The other, a mere blob, is nearly overlooked but eventually grows up to claim his birthright as a sun god.

Light and dark. Life and death. Order and chaos. Love and fear. Self and other.

As humans, we inhabit a world divided in two. Two genders. Two hemispheres in our brains. Two divine forces—good and evil—that clash endlessly with each other. The very atoms from which we’re made are composed of both positive and negative particles.

According to Hermetic wisdom, “all manifested things have two sides, two aspects, two poles.” This dual nature is reflected in mythologies the world over, which are peppered with examples of twin deities existing as pairs of opposites. In Zoroastrian mythology, the twins Ahriman and Ahura Mazda represent the spirits of evil and good. An Egyptian creation myth pairs the earth god Geb and the sky goddess Nut together as twins.

In Y Mabinogi we find two powerful creator-goddesses, Ceridwen and Arianrhod, who give birth to children with opposing characteristics, each pair representing one of the most basic and fundamental dichotomies: dark and light. In both cases, the duality of their offspring receives only a brief mention within a much larger tale, yet these few lines speak volumes about the nature of human consciousness—and how we can develop its potential.

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