Category Archives: Muses

Another Pocket Goddess

Astarte

A mix of styles, and some ancient Egyptian symbolism, decorate this household shrine to Astarte. Tiny in size but powerful in influence, Astarte perhaps watched the goings-on from a niche in the wall of her 6th-century Phoenician house. Made in terra cotta, this goddess looks like an everyday woman, albeit one with pet hippos (perhaps the maternal goddess Taweret) and googly-eyed Bes, protector of children. Now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston #GoddessID

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Green Tara

Tara

There are many forms and colors of Tara, each having different powers and offering different protections. The Green Tārā, (śyāmatārā) is associated with peacefulness and enlightened activity is the most depicted and the central aspect of Tārā from which others emanate. In her Green form, she is often also known as Khadiravaṇi-Tārā (Tārā of the acacia forest). Green Tara’s color symbolizes youthful energy.

Tara’s name means “star” or “planet” and therefore she is associated with navigation and travel both literally and metaphorically as spiritual crossing to the ‘other side’ of the ocean of existence (enlightenment).

This small and elegant 18th-century Tibetan Green Tara, in gilt copper alloy and turquoise, is from the Dallas Museum of Art

#GoddessID

 

Small Goddesses

PintSizedArtemis

With apologies to Terry Pratchett (author of Small Gods, among many, many other books), here is a pint-sized and somewhat anonymous goddess, one of many in a case of painted terra cotta women. This eight-inch goddess, possibly Artemis (for lack of a better attribution, according to the nearby label), sits on a throne-like chair and was made in about the second century BC. She is beautifully and simply modeled; traces of her hands, hair, jewelry and clothing remain, delicately painted in red and black on the off-white ground covering the red terra cotta. The painting hints at what was once a lifelike presentation of a deity resembling a dignified matron of her era. She appears to be mold made—perhaps an inexpensive, ordinary goddess to place in a household shrine. #GoddessID

Nepthys

Nepthys

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts is crowded with goddesses, and I’ll be posting pictures from a recent visit over the next few days.

This tiny and perfect bronze Nepthys is in the Egyptian wing. Sister of Isis, Nepthys accompanied the night boat of Ra through the darkness. She is usually represented with a headdress in the shape of a house since the literal translation of her name is “woman of the house,” which is not at all synonymous with “housewife.” Nepthys is a nursing mother, sometimes depicted as nurse to the Pharaohs themselves, and mother to the jackal-headed Anubis, lord of the underworld. A mortuary goddess, she is also in charge of festivals and beer. Like many ancient goddesses, her past is somewhat checkered, her roles are many and widely diversified, and well worth further reading.

#GoddessID

mfa.org

Inanna, Ishtar, Astarte, Aprodite

Inanna

The ancient Sumerian mother goddess Inanna has a complex history and a wealth of attributes which perhaps indicate her extreme age and longevity. Inanna was the goddess of war, combat, justice, and political power as well as love, beauty, sex, fertility, and desire. Her symbols were the lion and eight-pointed star, she was associated with the planet Venus. Inanna bargained with the lords of the underworld to retrieve a loved one, like Demeter; she stole the container of positive and negative aspects of civilization, like Pandora; like Juno she flew into divine rages and killed rivals. Inanna gradually merged with the sky goddess Ishtar; she was an influence on the Phoenician goddess Astarte who influenced the development of the Greek goddess Aphrodite.  It is recorded that Inanna was worshipped in parts of Iraq until the eighteenth century.

Photo: Fragment of a stone plaque from the temple of Inanna at Nippur showing a Sumerian goddess, possibly Inanna (c. 2500 BC)[ courtesy Wikipedia

First Goddess?

The mysterious giant megalithic goddesses of Malta resemble many of their smaller neolithic and paleolithic sisters. But will we ever know the name of this original Goddess? Dismissed as “statues of obese women”—and similar trivializing phrases—these figures spanned thousands of years with remarkable stylistic consistency. Here’s an excellent description:

http://potnia.theladyofthelabyrinth.com/malta-megalith-temple-and-goddess-gallery/

#GoddessIDMalta

Gillian Wearing, Millicent Fawcett

MillicentFawcettStatueUnveil_c.-GLA_Caroline-Teo-2-720x1082

Gillian Wearing’s statue of Suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett was unveiled in London’s Parliament Square. Read more at Hyperallergic.

Gillian Wearing’s statue of Millicent Fawcett, Parliament Square London (photo by Caroline Teo, courtesy Greater London Authority)

Victory / Nike

Sally

Sally Farnham‘s Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Memorial in Ogdensburg, New York, was inspired by the Nike of Samothrace, a sculpture the young Sally saw in the Louvre. The historic photo at left is the clay sculpture before casting; at right, the finished monument on its plinth. Check #GoddessID for my recent posts. Sally’s over-life-size bronze goddess is described in some historic detail here.

A Medusa

 

MedusaHosmer_artsmia minneapolis

Harriet Hosmer is widely recognized today as one of the first and most skilled female neoclassical sculptors in America. She was particularly interested in the historic plight of women, which is seen in her extraordinary bust of Medusa, created in 1854. In Greek mythology, Medusa was a beautiful girl cursed by Athena, who mutated her into a vile, homely Gorgon. Medusa’s hair turned to snakes and she gained the power to petrify men. Hosmer’s Medusa is compassionately rendered in a fixed state of transformation, with snakes intertwining her lovely hair. In addition, Medusa bears two feathered wings, reminiscent of the winged horse Pegasus that was born from her neck after she was beheaded.

Photo and text courtesy of artsmia.org

Images of Ourselves

Olmec2

Now streaming on PBS, an interesting survey of representative sculpture and the art of the body in “How Do We Look,” part of the Civilizations series: https://www.pbs.org/video/how-do-we-look-5kwh6n/

pictured: jade Olmec figurines