Serinity Young’s Women Who Fly: Goddesses, Witches, Mystics, and Other Airborne Females, is a cross-cultural, multi-period, feminist study of flying women in myth, literature, ritual, and history. Through examination of sky-going females evident within the religions and iconography of the Ancient Near East, Europe, and Asia, as well as in shamanic, Judeo-Christian, and Islamic cultures, the author creates a typology of flying women through history that culminates in an examination of 20th century fictional airborne women and real female aviators.
I reblogged an article on Nemesis, the goddess of rebalancing, last week, but I’m still really intrigued by this goddess, so fearsome and yet widely worshipped. The Greeks built temples to honour her, and the Romans took her cult to the ends of the Roman Empire, from Dacia to Scotland.
Nemesis is a Greek goddess of revenge and retribution. In particular, she is invoked against those whose hubris and arrogance got the better of them, and serves as a force of divine reckoning. Originally, she was a deity who simply doled out what people had coming to them, whether good or bad.
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A tablet in Linear B from Knossos reads:
To all the gods, honey
To the mistress of the labyrinth, honey.
The civilization at Knossos, on the island of Crete, preceded that of the Greeks. While it is hard to say exactly how much of the later Greek culture reflects that of the Cretans, both considered honey a gift worthy of the gods.
The Celtic peoples had many gods of war, if the number linked to Mars is anything to go by. They also had a lot of war-goddesses, whom we would expect to be associated with Minerva, Bellona or Victoria.
Surprisingly, goddesses paired with Victoria are pretty rare (I will look at Minerva in another post), although there are a few. There are also some native goddesses named “Victory”, all from modern France.
I was originally going to call this piece Poseidon’s Scary Girlfriends, with Demeter the Furious and an unnamed Harpy joining Medusa. But when I began researching Medusa I found so many layers of interpretation that it seemed worth going back to the original sources and seeing what went into the myth.
In fact, it seems like there are almost two different myths, one involving a headless demon that terrified all who saw it, and another about the mortal Medusa, who either was a snaky-headed monster or became one.
This is an extremely condensed look at the goddess Brigantia. For a much more detailed study, see my book Brigantia: Goddess of the North.
The Brigantian federation stretched over most of northern England, and their queen, Cartimandua, is one of the few female rulers known to history. But the fame of their goddess, Brigantia, comes from a Roman statue.