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KORE PERSEPHONE (PROSERPINE)

KORE PERSEPHONE (PROSERPINA)

Hellenic goddess of the Underworld, vegetation and changing of the seasons, guardian of the souls of the dead, daughter of Demeter and Zeus, wife of Hades. The myth of her abduction was an explanation of seasons changing and the base for Eleusinian Mysteries. Her first name, Kore, means ‘a young girl, a maiden’, her second name probably originates from a foreign language which was unknown to the Hellens, one of the possible etymology is perein phonon meaning  ‘bringing death, causing death’.

ABOUT GODDESS

The myth of Kore’s abduction has already been told in the post about Demeter so let me simply quote it

Kore was a young girl when she was playing on the meadow with fellow nymphs on a sunny day. Her mother allowed her to weave wreaths from all the flowers but a narcissus dedicated to the gods of the Underworld. Unfortunately, Kore forgot her mother’s warning and picked this flower. It brought the darkness over the meadow, the ground cracked and a chariot led by black horses  emerged from the abyss. It was Hades, the lord of the Underworld, he captured Kore and abducted her to his realm below the surface of the earth. It was all so sudden that nobody was able to react or even realise that Demeter’s daughter disappeared. Only Cyane (Kyane), a water nymph and Kore’s companion, heard her friend’s cry and hurried to save her. However, it was too late and one of the horses kicked her in the shoulder so she could only massage the sore spot and cry after Kore. Terrified Demeter kept searching for her daughter everywhere but she did not realise that Zeus had promised his daughter as a wife without her mother’s knowledge and consent.

When Demeter found out about the conspiracy (either from all-seeing Helios the sun god or Hekate, goddess of the night and witchcraft), she became so furious  that she cursed the earth and told her not to raise crops until her daughter comes back to her. This interrupted the order of the seasons so plants began to wither and people started to complain they would not be able to gather them and they would suffer from hunger.  Zeus had no option but to return Kore to her mother. However, the girl was lured to eat a couple of grains of pomegranate in the Underworld and this made her belong there forever. In the end the gods and goddesses entered into a compromise: Kore was to spend one third of the year with her husband as Persephone the Queen of the Underworld but for the remaining two thirds she could return on the surface and enjoy the time with her mother. This is how the Hellens understood the seasons change: in winter the earth was saddened by the absence of Kore Persephone together with Demeter and in spring and summer when she was coming back, the earth was showing joy by letting leaves and blossoming the flowers.

Kore's abduction

It is the first and the most significant appearance of Kore Persephone in the Hellenic mythology but not the last one. She is present as the wife of Hades in many stories telling about the hero’s descent to the Underworld. She is so moved by Orpheus’ song that she convinces her husband to return his wife Eurydice to him. She helps Heracles fulfil his twelfth labour of tying Cerberus, the guardian dog of the Underworld. She is sometimes involved in a story whether she wants it or not, such as in the case of Pirithous, a hero and a friend of Theseus, decided to take Kore Persephone away from Hades as a revenge for the death of his own beloved wife Hippodamia. The plan failed and both heroes were sentenced to be imprisoned in Hades and enchained to the rock. Theseus was freed from the ordeal by Heracles,  Pirithous, however, had to remain enchained in Hades forever.

Kore Persephone has also participated in the dispute with Aphrodite concerning Adonis. According to myths Adonis was an illegitimate child of Princess Myrrha who made Aphrodite angry, and the goddess punished Myrrha by making her fall in love with her own father. Princess managed to deceive him and spend a couple of nights with him but when the affair came to the light, furious king seized the knife and started to run after her. Escaping his rage, Myrrha begged gods for rescue and they turned her into a tree which was later named after her. After nine months tree bark cracked and a boy came out of the trunk. Aphrodite put the baby into the chest and entrusted to Kore Persephone. However, the goddess of the Underworld fell in love with young Adonis herself and decided to keep him in Hades forever. This made Aphrodite furious. The disagreement must have been eventually resolved by Zeus who decided that Adonis was to spend one third of the year with Aphrodite, one third with Kore Persephone and the remaining part of the year wherever he wants to. According to another version of this myth young man died pierced by the tusks of boar, the animal was in fact jealous Ares in disguise. Aphrodite’s grief was so big that Zeus let her lover return to the goddess during spring and summer, Adonis, however, must have come back to Hades for autumn and winter.

According to most of the myths, the marriage of Kore Persephone and Hades remained childless* but some versions claim that she was the mother of  Zagreus/Iakchos/Dionizos (with Zeus).

Deity descending into the Underworld was a popular explanation of seasons changing in the ancient times. A similar motif in present in the mythologies of the Middle – East, be it Attis (see the post about Cybele) or Osisris (post about Isis) and the theme of a young woman abducted to the Underworld is also present in the story of Ereshkigal (see the myth of Ishtar). Basing on the mythology and archaeological remains, it can be assumed that an agrarian cult of Demeter and Kore Persephone was one of the oldest in the Hellas, older than the cults of Olympian deities. It is possible that it came to Hellas from other countries (the Hellens were writing the name ‘Persephone’ in many ways, it may suggest that they were unable to pronounce it themselves so it either originated from a pre-Hellenic language or was a borrowing from a foreign language). The beginnings can be dated up to 1400 – 1200 before Christ based on the inscriptions on the tablets found in Pylos, her name is written as Preswa and this may be its oldest form. There is also enough evidence to assume that Persephone was venerated in the Minoan Crete. Similarly to Egypt, the eldest deities were strictly associated with nature and often depicted as half – humans and half – animals (a Cretan figure of Minotaur, centaurs, satyrs, tritones, mermaids, sirens etc seem to be the remaining of this cult in mythology). An image of two women was discovered in the temple of Despoina in Mycene, it is assumed that these were either Demeter and Kore Persephone themselves or their priestesses wearing animal masks, this proves how early their cult was. Cretan agrarian cults have not used images of any deities  (similarly to the oldest forms of the Great Mother Cybele’s cult), they were mostly performed by females and the rites themselves included dancing, shaking trees and worshipping stones (most probably  meteorites). There are also reasons to believe that Kore Persephone was identified with yet older goddesses such as Despoina or Ariadna. Excavations on the temple sites suggest that places of worship were situated near springs and fire was burning in them all the time.

women wearing clothes from the Minoean age and dancing around (most probably) Kore Persephone, the Isopata ring

Demeter’s daughter was the goddess of both Underworld (as Persephone) and vegetation (as Kore). She was depicted on sarcophagi as a symbol of revival and eternity. Apart from the Eleusinian Mysteries, Kore Persephone was also venerated separately in the temples located in Corinth, Megara and Sparta. She was worshipped as Despoina (Mistress of the House) in Arcadia, furthermore she was known under other nicknames, the most popular were those presenting her in the most favourable way to gain her benevolence: Hagne („Pure”, it was primarily the name of a spring nymph), Melindia or Melinoia („Of Honey”), Melivia, Melitodes, Aristi Tchonia („The Best of Chtonic”). In her aspect of the vegetation goddess she was called Kore Soteira („The Saviour Maiden”), Neotera („The Younger One”), etc., she also often appears together with her mother as Two Goddesses (Demeter being The Older and Kore The Younger) in Eleusis, The Great Goddesses and The Mistresses in Arcadia, Karpophoroi („The Bringers of Fruit”) in Tegea and Thesmophoroi („The Legislators”) during the Thesmophoria festival.

The cult of Demeter and Kore Persephone had many local versions but the most important festival was of course the Eleusinian Mysteries celebrated in the autumn. Celebrations were aimed at the immortality of life and were filling the initiated with hope for the good fate (it was most probably believed that they were sent to the best part of Hades called The Elysian Fields after death). Mysteries were divided into the Lesser ones (celebrated every year) and Greater ones (celebrated every five years, on the fifteenth day of boedromion month ie. at the turn of August and September/September and October, they lasted ten days). A prerequisite for participation was only freedom form “blood guilt”, the festival was open for women and slaves. This was the time of  initiation and involved a couple of degrees of initiation. The Eleusinian Mysteries required keeping the secret so only a few people with the highest degree of initiation knew what was hidden in kiste, a sacred chest and kalathos, a lidded basket. It is speculated that the Demeter’s sacred objects were golden serpent, an egg, a phallus and seeds.

It remains unknown what were the mysteries like because revealing the secret was punished by death, however the descriptions of public celebrations were written down. The Greater Mysteries in Athens began on the fourteenth of boedromion when the sacred objects were brought to Eleusinion, a temple situated at the base of the Acropolis Hill.  The next day was the time of Agyrmos (“the gathering”) when the priests announced the beginning of holiday and offered sacrifice. On the sixteenth day of the month, the rituals of purification in the sea were taking place near the port of Phaleron and on the seventeenth it was the time for Epidauria (so called “festival within festival”), celebrations for Asclepios, god of healing, when he was invited symbolically to the city with his daughter Hygieia goddess of hygiene and led in procession to Eleusion. On the nineteenth day procession was moving from the Kerameikos cementary to Eleusis along Hierá Hodós (“Sacred Way”), participants were swinging the branches called bacchoi. At a certain point they started to shout obscenities to commemorate (Iambe), an elderly woman who was trying to make Demeter laugh while she was grieving the loss of daughter by pulling the skirt up and saying naughty jokes, people were also shouting “Íakch’, O Íakche!” to celebrate Iacchus. When the procession reached Eleusis, it was the time for one day fasting to commemorate Demeter’s hunger while she was searching for her daughter, the only thing allowed to drink was kykeon made of barley and pennyroyal. On the 20th and 21st it was time for the proper celebrations when the crowd was gathering in Telestrion, a great hall („Initiation Hall”) where those waiting to be initiated gathered, in the centre there was Anaktoron („Palace”) where only the priests were allowed to come because sacred objects were stored here. Before entering Telestrion adepts had to say, I have fasted, I have drunk the kykeon, I have taken from the kiste (“box”) and after working it have put it back in the kalathos (“open basket”).  At first two special vessels were filled, then one was emptied in the direction of west and the other towards east and the worshippers were looking at the sky and earth whispering the rain fertilising the ground. The story of Kore Persephone’s abduction was told in three acts, first descent, then search and finally ascend and reconnection with mother. A ‘divine child’ was placed on hearth (check the story of Triptolemus in the post about Demeter) and those initiated to the highest degrees were to cut in silence a sheaf symbolising revival of life after death. The festival was completed with Pannychis, an all-night feast with dancing and rejoicing accompanied by the sacrifice from the bull and remembrance of the dead by libation the next day.

This is how Cicero wrote about these celebrations, For among the many excellent and indeed divine institutions which your Athens has brought forth and contributed to human life, none, in my opinion, is better than those mysteries. For by their means we have been brought out of our barbarous and savage mode of life and educated and refined to a state of civilization; and as the rites are called “initiations,” so in very truth we have learned from them the beginnings of life, and have gained the power not only to live happily, but also to die with a better hope.. (Laws II, XIV, 36)

Another holiday for Demeter and Kore Persephone was the festival of Thesmophoria celebrated all over Hellas from the 11th to 13th of the Pyanepsion month (October) when married women were free to come out of the houses** and participated in the women exclusive rites. Not much is known about this festival for a very simple reason: only married women participated in them and they were not the ones who wrote chronicles or memories. What we do know is that there were processions on the first day, the second one was the time of mourning, extinguishing the fire and eating pomegranates and the third was sacrificed to the rather unknown in mythology Kalligenea, goddess of beautiful birth. There were also records saying that at night swine were sacrificed in the trenches and caves and the remains of the animals sacrificed in previous year were retrieved and placed on the altar, mixed with seeds and planted. There was also Anthesphoria, the festival of flowers and cereals, celebrated in the Hellenic colonies in Italy (so called Magna Grecia) and in the Peloponnesus.

Ancient Romans took the cult of Kore Persephone over from Hellenic colonies established on the south of Italy and Sicily. She was called Proserpine in the local local dialect and this version of her name was adopted in the Apennine Peninsula. It is interesting to notice that she was venerated as the patroness of marriages in one of these cities called Epizephyrian Locris (present day Locri), this usually was the domain of Juno (Hera). Children were entrusted to Persephone and brides were bringing her their garments before weddings as votive offerings. A very popular image of Kore Persephone and Hades surrounded by plants and animals attributed to them comes precisely from Epizephyrian Locris.

Kore Persephone and Hades

In the 5th century before Christ Empedocles, a poet, philosopher and healer, has created the concept of four elements. He connected Kore Persephone named here Nestis with the element (or to be more precise with the root, it was not until Plato when the word ‘element’ was used) of water: Now hear the fourfold roots of everything: enlivening Hera, Hades, shining Zeus. And Nestis, moistening mortal springs with tears. Empedocles uses the nickname of Nestis and does not pronounce her real name which was considered to be a taboo since the earliest times. It was not advised to call the Queen of the Dead even in a simple conversation nor to speak her name aloud so Nestis was used as her cult title (Homer in his hymns refers to her as the Queen of the Shades).

IMAGES, SYMBOLS AND ANIMALS

The type of the oldest Hellenic sculpture is called kore, some hypotheses assume the figures represent Demeter’s daughter.

 KoreKore

Moreover, Kore Persephone is also presented sitting on the throne as majestic Queen of the Underworld with a sceptre, fruit, sheaves of grain and a liknon basket used to separate seeds from chaff.

Kore Persephone

DIVINATION MEANING

Person

A young girl, a teenager. A person who experienced a sudden or tough events. A person who is emotionally immature. Someone who was charged with too much responsibility too early. Somebody who became bitter due to bad experiences, childhood traumas or seriously betrayed trust. In negative a person with a victim pattern and not enough self – esteem and maturity to face the problems on their own.

Advice

What you need is patience. This card shows maturing in a hard way and learning to compromise. You cannot accelerate anything. Let things run their course. Give time some time. What you reap is what you sow. At first you will have to work hard and make a lot of effort to put your plans into action and you will be rewarded later. Everything changes sooner or later.

I personally associate strongly the card of Kore Persephone with the rune Jera.

Patience. Maturing. Harvest, crops, abundance, wealth, plenty. Revival. Beginning or end of the cycle. Bad timing, hurrying too much, poor plans, acting blindfold. An insufficient harvest, loss, scarcity.Intervention in the natural cycle. Possible trip but not for pleasure, rather forced by circumstances. Trauma. Abandonment. Compromise. Inevitability. A strong influence of mother. Secret knowledge, esoterics.

 Love

 If you are in the relationship: lack of maturity to a stable and adult relationship. Compromises and patience are required. Hiding from problems. Early marriage, possibly enforced somehow. Being childless. A strong influence of the mother. A cold, emotionally detached or manipulative partner.

If you are single: lack of maturity to a stable and adult relationship. A strong influence of the mother. Patience is suggested. It is also advised not to get into a relationship just to avoid being alone.

Finances

Trip forced by circumstances.  Beginning or ending a certain stage of career. Business involving volatility of revenues depending on time or season. Suspension of business activity. Time of harvesting profits.

 Health

Women: fertility and regular cycle, pregnancy and successful, natural delivery. Therapy limited to taking medicine. Vegetarian, macrobiotic or vegetable, fruit and cereal based diet. Regenerative skills. Checking your health regularly. Negative: laziness, wrong diet, insufficiency, problem with high cholesterol and obesity. Woman’s cycle disorder. Neglecting regular health tests. Eating in a hurry. Endangered parts of the body: the digestive system (particularly stomach, colon, small intestine and the large intestine).

CARDS

Kore Persephone  in Goddesses of the New Light by Pamela Matthews

Kore Persephone in Goddesses of the New Light by Pamela Matthews 

Kore Persephone with Demeter in The Goddess Wisdom Cards by Jill Fairchild, Regina Schaare & Sandra M. Stanton

Kore Persephone with Demeter in The Goddess Wisdom Cards by Jill Fairchild, Regina Schaare & Sandra M. Stanton

Kore Persephone (together with Hades and Cerberus) in Ancient Feminine Wisdom by Kay Stevenson&Brian Clark

 Kore Persephone in Ancient Feminine Wisdom by Kay Stevenson&Brian Clark

Kore Persephone in The Goddess Oracle Deck by Thalia Took

 Kore Persephone in The Goddess Oracle Deck by Thalia Took

Kore Persephone in Goddess Card Pack by Juni Parkhurst

 Kore Persephone in Goddess Card Pack by Juni Parkhurst

Kore Persephone in Goddess Inspiration Oracle by Kris Waldherr

Kore Persephone in Goddess Inspiration Oracle by Kris Waldherr 

Kore Persephone in The Goddesses Knowledge Cards by Susan Seddon Boulet&Michael Babcock

Kore Persephone in The Goddesses Knowledge Cards by Susan Seddon Boulet&Michael Babcock

Kore Persephone in Mythic Oracle by Carisa Mellado&Michele-lee Phelan

 Kore Persephone in Mythic Oracle by Carisa Mellado&Michele-lee Phelan

Kore Persephone in Mythic Oracle by Carisa Mellado&Michele-lee Phelan

Kore Persephone in Goddesses&Sirens by Stacey Demarco&Jimmy Manton

 Kore Persephone in Goddesses&Sirens by Stacey Demarco&Jimmy Manton

Kore Persephone as Eight of Swords in Universal Goddess Tarot by Maria Caratti&Antonella Platano

Kore Persephone as Eight of Swords in Universal Goddess Tarot by Maria Caratti&Antonella Platano

Based on Mity Greków i Rzymian by Wanda Markowska, Dictionnaire de la mythologie grecque et romaine by Pierre Grimal, The Greek Myths by Robert Graves, Wikipedia and http://www.webwinds.com/myth/elemental.htm

* It seems logical that the deities associated with death could not have children themselves. In Egypt Seth, god of desert and death, was infertile and his wife Nephthys craving for a child, got pregnant with their brother Osiris (that could be the reason for Seth’s hatred towards Osiris).

 *** In Hellas women did not participate in public life.

SOPHIA (CHOKMAH/SHEKHINAH)

SOPHIA

God’s wisdom and the co-creatrix of the world considered by many Christian philosophers and artists to be a female manifestation of God appearing to the humankind and Holy Spirit,the third person of Trinity. Sophia means Wisdom in Greek.

ABOUT GODDESS

The concept of Sophia i.e. Wisdom has already been known in the times of antiquity, Pitagoras, Socrates and Plato perceived philosophy literary as philo (‘love for’) – sophia (‘wisdom’). According to Plato, Wisdom was one of four cardinal virtues (as Prudence) therefore it was believed that the philosophers should rule the Utopian country because such rulers would admire prudence. The love for wisdom itself was also shown in the behaviour of Socrates when he said I know that I know nothing. Contrary to what may seem, such statement opens the mind for Wisdom because this makes it resemble an empty jar which can be filled with knowledge; it is also a contrast to the attitude of Sophists who claimed they were able to teach wisdom, for an appropriate price of course. Later the Hellenistic philosophers merged the concept of Sophia with Logos (‘Word’), this idea was then adopted by the author of the Gospel of John (introduction: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God) and it is resulted in perceiving Jesus as the Word of the Father.

Sophia has a special status in monotheistic religions. Wisdom is called Chokmah/Hokmah in a Jewish tradition and she is the subject of many books of the Old Testament (Proverbs, Song of Songs, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Book of Wisdom, Wisdom of Sirach). The part which is crucial for the interpretation of Divine Wisdom is the quote from Proverbs when Wisdom speaks about herself

The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works,
before his deeds of old;

I was formed long ages ago,
at the very beginning, when the world came to be (…)

I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing always in his presence,

rejoicing in his whole world
and delighting in mankind.

(NIV Bible, Proverbs 8:22).

This fragment is widely discussed, some claim that it the basis to assume that Chokmah is a divine person while others believe that it is only a symbolic representation. Honestly speaking  I am not surprised at all by the latter attitude because the female element is usually treated in a symbolic way in monotheistic religions . The description of creating the first human is an additional reason to believe in a personal, not symbolic interpretation of Chokhmah

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness”

  (NIV Bible, Genesis 1:26).

If God was all alone, he would probably have said ‘my’, not ‘our’. And from limited but still logical human point of view the personal interpretation seems to be justified, in the end you need both male and female energy for the act of creation.

Those interested in the Kabballah are aware of the fact that  Chokmah is the name of the Tree of Life’s sephirot, which together with Binah is the closest to the sephirot Kether (it must be said however that Chokmah represents male energy there). The word Shekhinah meaning God’s Presence on Earth (e.g. in the Temple of Jerusalem, in the burning bush when God appears to Moses, in the inspiration of the prophets and King David when he creates psalms) is feminine which allows some researchers to identify her as Chokmah basing on what she speaks about herself, I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind (NIV Bible, Proverbs 8:22).

According to the Jewish law Shekhinah is where at least seven pious Jews gather. In Kaballah Shekhinah is also called Matronit and in some religious songs she is identified as the Bride from Song of Songs. According to the Jewish tradition Shekhinah is the essence of womanhood with whom every man contacts through his wife.  Kabballah teaches that every pious Jew has two partners, one on Earth and the other in Heavens; the mystery of matrimony reflects in the fact that mating with his earthly companion he becomes close to the heavenly one in a natural way because the one on Earth represents the one in Heavens. There are also different interpretations of the name Ruach Ha Kodesh which is used to describe God in Psalms 51:11 and in the Book of Isahiah meaning ‘the Divine spark, the Divine inspiration, insight, breath, wind, invisible moving force’ (‘ruach’ is also feminine).

In Christianity Divine Wisdom is also one of the most important themes as it appears in gospels and apostolic letters. She is particularly worshipped in the Eastern Christianity where she is identified as Divine Word (Logos) which was incarnated into Christ. In the Orthodox liturgy the priest is introducing the reading of the Bible with the word Sophia! to make everyone pay attention. The best example of the big respect shown to Divine Wisdom is certainly basilica Hagia Sophia (which had been built in Christian Constantinople, later it was turned into a mosque and it is a museum now).

 

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

However in the Western Christianity there were also people who had a special reverence to Sophia. These were among others  Hildegard of Bingen (below you will find her picture of Sophia), Jakob Böhme , 16th century visionaire whose philosophy strongly influenced other thinkers or Jane Leade, 17th century English mystic who was describing her visions and dialogues with Sophia (similarly to Vladimir Solovyov who will be presented later).

It may seem natural for Christianity to follow the Jewish tradition of Chokmah and Shekhinah and to attribute the feminine features to the Holy Ghost. Indeed the representation of the Holy Trinity as Father, Son&Sophia remained in the church in Urschalling in Upper Bavaria

However, when the Old and New Testament were translated into Greek, the Holy Ghost was described with the word pneuma (literary ‘breath’, it is neuter) and in Latin the form Spiritus Sancti was used (it is a second declension so the gender is definitely masculine). The Holy Ghost was therefore presented either as a man (below you will find a famous icon Trinity by Andrei Rublev, all the three divine persons are young men) or as a dove.

It should be mentioned that doves have always been connected to womanhood (below the picture of Aphrodite from the deck by Hrana Janto).

Nevertheless if you asked an average Christian what does the Holy Trinity look like, the answer would probably be, An old man, a young man and a bird .

It was Gnosticism, the religious and philosophical movement popular in the East of the Roman Empire in the first and the second century, which developed the concept of Sofia. The Gnostics were inspired by many beliefs and religious systems such as Judaism, Christianity, Zoroaster and Hellenic and Roman philosophers. Its main assumption was the belief that the material world in which we live is imperfect and gnosis (cognition) is the only way to liberate oneself from its limits. It is difficult to analyse it nowadays because not many materials remained and particular Gnostic currents differed from one another but there are some common points for all of them:

1. Sophia is a female emanation from the very beginnings (which connects her to SigeSilence Before Creation). It is in Pleroma (Fullness, Oneness) with other  emanations (aeons). It is associated with the Divine Wisdom known from the Jewish stories which was co-creating the world, although in the Gnostic version it happened in quite an untoward manner. Sophia is an emanation of God and represents his female aspect who extracted herself spontaneously from the unnamed highest creature, the primary aeon (Jah/Bythos) as his „reflection”, mental power and wisdom. She is his lowest and furthest emanation together with Christ (aeons are paired, male and female ones exist together).

2. She experiences the first cognition, Sophia becomes pregnant all by herself, without the participation of God, and brings Demiurge (also called Archon or Yaltabaoth – ‘Child of Chaos’) to the Universe (quoting The Secret Book of John from the Nag Hammadi archives, And an imperfect product appeared from her, and it was different from her pattern because she created it without her partner. And it was not patterned after the likeness of its Mother, for it had a different form. When she saw (the product of) her will, it was dif­ferent, a model of a lion-faced serpent. His eyes were like flashing fires of lightning. She cast him out from her, outside of those places so that none among the immortals might see him, for she had cre­ated him in ignorance).

Demiurge organises the material world which is not perfect because it lacks a spiritual element. He is not aware of God’s existence therefore he considers himself to be God and together with seven Archons (‘Rulers, Watchers’) keeps the mankind in the veil of illusion thus breaking the primary divine oneness. There are different reasons given to explain why Sophia becomes pregnant, it is either the will of disconnecting from God or haughtiness  or an uncontrolled need of creating or madness.

3. Through disconnecting from the divine oneness it is also Sophia who has to exist in two forms: Sofia Ennoia i.e. the High Sofia, Neverending One, The Power of the Thoughts as well as the Low Sofia called the Small Sophia or Sophia of Death. In this way Sophia combines two elements: the divine and the human one.

4. After the creation of the material world, Sophia gets stuck there and God feeling compassion for her, sends Christ to help her. Thanks to him, Sophia gets rid of low motives and comes back to the Oneness with Divinity (in another version it remains in the material world for the sake of the humankind whom she loves). Christ comes to Earth to teach people how to recognise wisdom so that they could participate in Pleroma, too.

In 19th century a movement based on the Gnostic tradition called sophiology was born in Russia. Sophiology is a belief in the metaphysical cognition of the Absolute through the contemplation of Sophia as his emanation. The Russian movement was started by Vladimir Solovyov, a thinker and esoteric whose doctrine was called ‘a mystic intuition of Sophia’. According to what he said himself he had experienced three meetings with Sophia which enlightened him; his first vision occurred when he was nine and during the service he saw a female image of God. When he grew up and this image kept appearing in his dreams, he decided to take up theological studies. He was particularly impressed by the texts of Jakob Böhme and Emanuel Swedenborg, he also got interested in Kabballah and then Sophia reappeared to him and ordered to go to Egypt to continue his study about her. Probably because of that Sophia had some aspects of Isis: the vision was accompanied by the scent of roses, goddess’ flowers,  besides it was Egypt where the cult of Isis began to transform into the belief in Sophia identified as Mary and all the doctrines assuming the faith in the female aspect of God’s Wisdom such as Hermetism, Gnosis and alchemy also originated from Egypt. Sophia’s message to Solovyov and other people was that the world is changing through love and human choices which allow to return to the divine Oneness.

Solovyov paid attention that regardless of a language her name is always feminine: in Hebrew it is ‘Chokmah’ (Wisdom, Knowledge), in Greek and Russian – ‘Sophia’ (Wisdom), in Hindi ‘Maya’ (Idea, female image of divinity), in Latin ‘Sapientia’ (Wisdom). He also claimed that throughout the Jewish and Christian tradition she has never been a separate deity but a female emanation of God. He perceived Sophia through the Gnostic and Kabballistic tradition as both Chokhmah and Shekhinah (a female beginning in God). The messages conveyed by his automatic writing survived  and among them there was one with the notice An-Soph, Jah, Soph-Jah wchich can be translated as An Soph – ‘Hidden God of Kabballah’, Soph – ‘End’, Jah – ‘Unnamed God’. The whole notice means that Sophia is  ‘the end of God’, a link between God and human kind, a mediator between energy and matter (which corresponds to the Gnostic tradition of Sophia as the aeon closest to Earth). Solovyov also maintained the Jewish belief that a female aspect of God is reflected in the beloved woman on Earth and love allows to see his visible image in the material world. He was following the philosophy of Jakob Böhme about death being the disintegration which began when the sexes of a primary androgenic creature were divided. He also assumed that a human who comes back to Oneness can become immortal therefore a harmonious relationship based on higher feelings can lead to the eternal life.

It is interesting to notice that in the 19th century Solovyov had only been capable to study Gnosticism from the texts of its opponents such as St.Irenaeus, Origen, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria or Hippolytus of Rome because a great number of Gnostic works was not discovered until the forties of last century when the archives of libraries in Nag Hammadi and Qumran were discovered. And yet despite Solovyov’s unacquaintance of these essential texts, his sophiological concepts are surprisingly consistent with the main assumptions of Gnocistism.

Solovyov has created very personal and sensual poems to Sophia which somehow resembled the relation between a priest and his goddess. He was calling her Eternal Friend, Queen, Goddess, Mystical Bride, Nature of the Universe, Most Beautiful Lady, Heavenly Maiden, Maiden of the Rainbow Gate, Dawn (Aurora), Ewig Weibliche, Boehme, etc. Sophia has many names in his works because she is divine therefore she can be anything. Solovyov has showed a special appreciation to love making because it is a chemical bond of two creatures thus it leads to the oneness. Even maternal love cannot be compared to it because it is always accompanied by the mother’s loss of individuality. This is why building good relationships with other people especially with women was for him the best expression of worship Sophia as woman had an exceptional position in sophiology.

Solovyov has immediately found many followers even though revelation is an individual and very intimate experience. Among those who shared his belief in Sophia were his brother Mikhail and nephew Sergey Solovyov, Alexander Blok, Boris Bugaev (Andrei Bely), also Pavel Florienski, Nikolai Berdyaev and most of all Sergey Bulgakov who perceived Sophia not as a part of Trinity but a being co-existing with the Trinity, equally powerful and acting as a female force apart from male Trinity (which was considered to be a heresy). Why was sophiology so popular in Russia? A possible explanation is that unlike Western Europe this country has not gone through the Age of Reason with its cult of logics and rational perception while the Orthodox Christianity retained some aspects of old religions with its visions of a cosmic order which resulted in mysticism and following spiritual leaders. Moreover, if you take a closer look at the Western culture, art and literature in the second part of the 19th century, you will find an image of a femme fatale as a main representation of womanhood (the motif of Salome with the head of John the Baptist was particularly popular). Such attitude was probably caused by progressive emancipation of women and men’s fear of losing their position. Meanwhile in Russia the trend was totally different. Some kind of mental revolution occurred in the middle of 19th century which promoted the image of woman being an intellectual partner for a man as the ideal image of a woman. This is why the well – born maidens were educated and encouraged to develop themselves, of course it was only possible in those families who were able to afford it.

IMAGES, SYMBOLS AND ANIMALS

In Hellenic culture Sophia was rather a philosophical concept but sometimes her personifications have been made (here is her allegoric figure from the Library of Celsus in Ephesus).

It was similar with Shekhinah as the Israeli were forbidden to represent God through sculptures or pictures thus there are no figures nor other images of Wisdom neither.

As it has already been mentioned the most popular symbol representing Sophia in the Western Christianity is a dove while in the Eastern one the sophiological iconography is well developed.

Sophia’s symbol in the Christian culture is also a circle of seven pillars of knowledge (Proverbs again: Wisdom has built her house; she has set up its seven pillars. Proverbs 9:1)

There is also a certain riddle concerning The Creation of Adam fresco by Michelangelo. Here it is if you don’t remember the details

Have a closer look at the person with blond hair, distinct eyes and slender silhouette who is embracing the Creator and differs from other cherubs.

The identity of this person was discussed; some believe that because of her female beauty this may be the figure of Eve waiting to be created, however if you look at the other parts of the fresco you will find Eve painted in a completely different manner

So who can that be? At least a couple of researchers believe it is Sophia herself.

According to Proverbs, I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be (…) Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind, which implies that Sophia must have been present at the creation of the first human (additionally look at Genesis 1:26, Then God said, “Let US make mankind in OUR image, in our likeness”).

It makes sense for me 🙂

I also highly recommend the article by Miguel Conner from Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio about Sophia and her connections to pagan myths.

DIVINATION MEANING

Person

This card represents someone who is wise, not only intelligent. Unlike the card of Athena which concentrates on facts and cold logic the card of Sophia pays attention more to an inner wisdom gathered by observations and not necessarily based on the bookish knowledge. In my personal understanding the card of Athena means studying Science while the one of Sophia talks about Humanities and Foreign Languages). This knowledge is based on love and understanding for others regardless of age, education or race. The person shown by this card is open and forgiving and in negative superficial, unable to predict the consequences of their acting and conceited.

Professions:  a scientist, a lecturer, a teacher (rather on university level than on primary school), an inventor, a person using the intellect and language in their work, a mediator and any kind of intermediary.

ADVICE

Your thoughts create your reality, filter those which may harm you.

Look deeper. Observe without judging. In the situation you are inquiring about you may be expected to behave on a higher level than others. Trust your own wisdom, no those who surround you. Know when it is good to speak and when it is better not to. Do not be discouraged by difficult beginnings, help will come.

This card confirms that your way of perceiving the world is correct. You may feel like being caged in structures, superstitions and superficiality. You may feel lonely and underestimated. Loneliness is often the price of wisdom but remember that wisdom itself has not got a high value if it is not shared.  Others may learn from you and you from them.

Find inspiration.

Education. Understanding. Enlightenment. Time to think. Communication. Mediation.

Love

If you are in the relationship: this card often signifies the beginnings of a relationship, time of joy and playing but accompanied by other cards it also suggests the need of strengthening the bond and behaving in a more careful way. Your partner’s mistake comes from their ignorance, not malice.

If you are single: your loneliness may be caused by the fact that you have not become mature enough for a stable relationship.

Finances

In the situation you are inuring about you may need to consult a specialist or a intermediary. Beginnings of a new project which is very probable to be successful despite initial problems. Do not focus only on profit, look from a wider perspective.

Health

Beware of psychosomatic illnesses and those resulting from stress. Migraines. Insomnia. Possible miscarriage or premature delivery. Endangered parts of the body: psyche rather than a particular part of the body.

CARDS

My favourite image of Sophia and the favourite card of all the possible decks is the one from Goddesses of the New Light by Pamela Matthews (referring to Gnostic philosophy)

The image of Sophia in Goddess Inspiration Oracle by Kris Waldherr resembles the style of Orthodox icons which undoubtedly makes sense if you take into account the respect shown to Sophia by Eastern Christianity

Sophia in The Goddess Oracle by Hrana Janto&Amy Sophia Marashinsky is presented as being pregnant (again in accordance with a Gnostic tradition), she is holding a chalice of wisdom in her hands and is accompanied by a dove (a Western Christian tradition), you can also see the halo of Shekhinah above her head (a Jewish tradition)

Sophia in Goddess Card Pack by Juni Parkhurst has the face of Black Madonna and roses attributed to both Isis and Mary

Sophia in The Goddess Oracle Deck by Thalia Took, I have an impression that this deep look of her eyes somehow refers to the fresco by Michelangelo which was discussed above

Sophia in Goddess: A New Guide to Feminine Wisdom by River Huston&Patricia Languedoc (as Chokmah)

Sophia in Goddess: A New Guide to Feminine Wisdom by River Huston&Patricia Languedoc

Based on:

Rzeczycka Monika, Fenomen Sofii-Wiecznej Kobiecości w prozie powieściowej symbolistów rosyjskich (Andrieja Biełego, Fiodora Sołoguba, Walerija Briusowa), Gdańsk 2002, Divine Sophia: the Wisdom Writings of Vladimir Solovyov by Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov, Judith Deutsch Kornblatt (available here), The Christian Goddess: Archetype and Theology in the Fantasies of George MacDonald Bonnie Gaarden (available here), http://youtu.be/Azrh3IwLFTM, http://www.jstor.org/pss/3045958, http://www.jstor.org/pss/1483492, http://www.oocities.org/athens/agora/6776/break1.htm , http://northernway.org/presentations/godwife/33.html , http://northernway.org/presentations/godwife/38.html ,http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/apocjn-long.html and English Wikipedia. All the quotes from the Bible come from http://www.biblegateway.com (NIV)

And because that was the most complex and the most extensive post I have ever written about any goddess then let me reward myself with an appropriate music which may suit you too

Therion The Perennial Sophia

And one more, very different but also equally moving:

Victoria Williams Holy Spirit

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