Ave Maria, Pagan Goddess

This post started because I had the medieval Catalan song to the Blessed Virgin Mary, “Los Set Gotx” [The seven joys] stuck in my head. The tune requires someone who can sing in that high Mediterranean wail,((A sound that seems to connect all the way from Portuguese fado to Greek rebitiko — why is that?)) but we less-good singers can join on the refrain: “Ave Maria gracia plena Dominus tecum Virgo serena” [Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, serene Virgin].

It is on my very short list of tunes “that I could die while going forward with that song on my lips.”

Virgin of Montserrat
Virgin of Montserrat

“Los Set Gotx” comes from the Llibre Vermell de Montserrat [Red book of Montserrat], a book compiled during the 14th century at a monastery in Catalonia where pilgrims came to worship the Virgin of Montserrat.((One of the so-called Black Virgins, although not originally painted black as she is now.  Her feast day is April 27th.))

Ever since I consciously turned Pagan at the age of 21, I have accepted her as a goddess—not the one that I give the most attention to, but a goddess nevertheless. If we follow an interpretatio romana, which was pretty common in the ancient world generally, not just with the Romans, then perhaps we could say that Mary is another name for Isis.((The name may in fact have an Egyptian origin.)) The polytheism of those days not was adamantine “hard.”

How did a Judean1teenage bride named Maryam2 get to be a goddess? There are several traditional ways.

The Greeks had a word for one way apotheosis, the process by which a human is raised to divine level. There are examples of apotheosis from cultures all over the globe. A well-known painting in the U.S. Capitol shows the apotheosis of George Washington.3 The idea of apotheosis shades off in early Christianity to the concept of “adoptionism,” in which a deity—here the Hebrew God—”adopts” an especially virtuous man—in this case, Jesus of Nazareth—and raises him to be his divine son. Adoptionism now considered a Christian heresy, but some early followers of Jesus believed that it explained his story.

Another way might be to say a person “carried,” incarnated, or for some time embodied a deity, while after death becoming sort of fused with that deity. Consider how people see the rock star Jim Morrison (1943–1971) as having incarnated or carried the god Dionysus.

Yet another, related to the idea of apotheosis and favored by some magic workers, is the “savings bank” notion of divinity; in other words, if you put enough energy into a “container” over time, you can make a deity.

While she always received some honor from Christians, in the West a switch was thrown, so to speak, in the early Middle Ages. A body of theology grew up around her, she was more celebrated in the liturgical year, and cathedrals were dedicated to her. I think that to many Catholics she became more important than God the Father, Son, or Holy Ghost. She certainly received many “deposits” of devotional energy over the past two thousand years.

I had this blog post cooking on a back burner in my mind, and then came the fire at Notre Dame cathedral. I see that the Wild Hunt posted its predictable “Pagans respond to . . . ” article yesterday.((I do not disagree with Jason Mankey, Byron Ballard, John Beckett, and anyone else quoted. I would like go a little farther though.)) (Like anyone else cares what we think.)

I am glad to say that I have seen no Pagans celebrating this event. The people who do celebrate it seem to be the usual Marxists who hate anything spiritual.((In fact, France had no overseas colonies in the 12th century when the cathedral was commenced.)) And, of course, the Islamic jihadists have to try to exploit the fire too.

We Pagans could well see Notre Dame as the temple of an important goddess. So rebuild it!

  1. The Roman province was called Judea, not Palestine. []
  2. An Aramaic variation of the Hebrew Miriam. []
  3. Have you lit some incense for him lately? []

3 thoughts on “Ave Maria, Pagan Goddess

  1. Kalinysta

    ” then perhaps we could say that Mary is another name for Isis.”
    Well, the name “Miriam,” which is the original Hebrew name, means bitter. The Greeks, of course, modified it.
    When I was writing a paper on Russian Icons for a Medieval Art History Course I took, I decided to research the beginnings of icon painting which led me to Roman Egypt and the sarcophoguses (sarcophogi?) where the custom started, as well as the earliest painting of Mary. What a shock to find that some paintings of Mary showed her not only in the guise of Auset (Egyptian name) holding the child Horus (possibly Egyptian ?a?ruw) but also wearing a cloak-like piece of cloth with the traditional Isian knot on the left shoulder! So whether Mary is a form of Isis or not, she was certainly portrayed as Auset.

    I have a hypothesis that the Christian religion actually devolves from ancient Egyptian religion and not from Gnosticism as a lot of people suppose. Why? Main tenets of Christianity (other than Yeshua being the savior god) is a 1) judgment after death which is absent in Hebrew beliefs but very much a part of ancient Egyptian religion; “In the fully developed afterlife beliefs of the New Kingdom, the soul had to avoid a variety of supernatural dangers in the Duat, before undergoing a final judgment, known as the “Weighing of the Heart”, carried out by Osiris and by the Assessors of Maat.” (from Wikipedia); 2) belief in heaven and hell; contrast that with the ancient Egyptian belief that “Ammit (devourer of the dead) lived near the scales of justice in Duat, the Egyptian underworld. In the Hall of Two Truths, Anubis weighed the heart of a person against the feather of Ma’at, the goddess of truth, which was depicted as an ostrich feather (the feather was often pictured in Ma’at’s headdress). If the heart was judged to be not pure, Ammit would devour it, and the person undergoing judgement was not allowed to continue their voyage towards Osiris and immortality. Once Ammit swallowed the heart, the soul was believed to become restless forever; this was called “to die a second time”. (from Wikipedia).

    There are other parallels but these are the ones that pop into my brain right now.

  2. Hraefna

    A small correction in the translation of the refrain: “… the Lord is with thee.” Thanks for the article and the music link!

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