Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building Bridges: A World Religions Program for 8th-9th Grades

Alternate Activity 2: Goddesses

Activity time: 20 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint, markers, and tape
  • Optional: Computer with Internet access

Preparation for Activity

Description of Activity

Youth explore the role of goddesses in indigenous religions.

Invite participants to brainstorm the names of goddesses. Have a volunteer list the names on newsprint.

When the group runs out of goddesss names, contribute these (or, add your favorite goddesses):

  • Aphrodite/Venus - Greek/Roman goddess of love and beauty
  • Artemis/Diana - Greek/Roman goddess of the moon and the hunt; protector of wild places and animals
  • Athena/Minerva -- Greek/Roman goddess of wisdom, courage, intelligence and just war
  • Bast - Egyptian lion or cat goddess of pleasure, music, and dancing
  • Brigid (also pronounced "BREED") - Celtic goddess of inspiration, poetry, springs, and blacksmithery. Primary goddess of Wales and Ireland. Imbolc is a festival in her honor celebrated by modern-day pagans and Wiccans, parallel in modern Ireland with Saint Brigid's Day (after a Catholic saint)
  • Demeter/Ceres - Greek/Roman goddess of agriculture
  • Freya - Celtic goddess of spring, fertility, and love
  • Hecate ("HEH-cah-tay") - Greek goddess of transformation, crossroads, childbirth, the moon and the spirit world; only goddess strong enough to travel across three worlds: heaven, earth, and underworld
  • Ishtar - Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility, love, war, and sex
  • Isis - Egyptian goddess of motherhood, magic, nature, and fertility
  • Ixcacao - Mayan goddess of chocolate and agriculture
  • Ixtab - Mayan goddess of death
  • Mama Cocha - Incan goddess of the sea
  • Mbaba Mwana Waresa - Zulu goddess of Southern Africa who oversees rain, agriculture, and the harvest. She gave beer to the people. Her symbol is the rainbow, a link between heaven and earth.
  • Mudu - Aztec goddess of death
  • Nut - Egyptian goddess of the night sky
  • Oshun/Oxum - Nigerian river goddess of fertility, love, beauty, diplomacy, fresh water, harmony, and healing for the Yoruba people. During the time of slavery, her worship spread to Cuba, Brazil, and other countries where Santeria is found. Oshun is one of the few native African goddesses whose name is recognized in the West
  • Sun Woman/Mother - Many names for sun goddesses exist among different people of Australia, including Alinga, Gnowee, and Yhi, to name a few
  • Waramurungundi - The first woman, according to the Gunwinggu people of Australia. The all-creating mother of Australia, she gave birth to the earth and then fashioned all its living creatures. She taught her creations to talk and divided each language group from the next
  • White Buffalo Woman - Brought sacred rituals to the Plains Indians, including the sacred pipe
  • Xochiquetzal (shok-a-KAY-tsal) - Aztec goddess of the earth, flowers, plants, games, dance, and love. Every eight years, a festival was held in her honor and people wore animal masks or flower masks

Acknowledge that the list is incomplete. Discuss, using these questions:

  • What common traits do you see among the goddesses?
  • How is the female portrayed as divine in modern religions? (Mention the Virgin Mary, who is venerated in many Catholic countries almost as much as Jesus, and Catholic saints. Tell participants that Tibetan Buddhism recognizes 21 female Taras ("tara" means "one who saves"); Kuan Yin is a Buddhist deity revered particularly in China (see Workshop 10, Activity 3 for more information); and female images of the divine are common in Sufi Muslim poetry.)
  • Though female divinity is represented in modern religion, it is not represented nearly to the extent as female goddesses in indigenous religions. Why do you think this is so?
  • How do Unitarian Universalists honor the feminine in divinity?

Tell participants that some of the goddesses of indigenous faiths are still worshipped. If you have Internet access and a computer, watch this video on YouTube: Oshun Festival in New York.

Suggest to youth that if they are interested in goddesses, they can find a great deal of information on the Internet and in books.