Monday, January 24, 2011

Goddesses in the Dirt

Unearthing the Divine Feminine, one archetype at a time.......

To scale replica of Athena Parthenos. Nashville, Tennessee
Issue #2: Athena


Imagine for a moment that you live in 430 B.C. Athens. You walk into the dark interior of the Parthenon, located on the Acropolis plateau. Stepping out of the bright sunlight, you leave day behind and enter the interior, known as the cella. Darkness enfolds you; in the distance you see a flicker in the gloom. A little further into the sanctuary and suddenly you are aware of a figure made of gold and ivory; towering above you, over 40 feet in the air, is the legendary statue of Athena made by the master sculptor, Phideas. This is the crown jewel of a temple dedicated in her name, and it is an honor to be standing where you are at this moment in time.


Until recently, I never felt much of a connection with Athena. She seemed boring to me, the goddess of war and wisdom. I was always more attracted to goddesses with deep pathology, like Persephone, of course. All that death and life transition stuff, that was where it was at. And Artemis. Always shunning men, or being chased by them, but preferring her animal consorts and fellow female companions as they ran through the forest, following their own lights. 


But I have new found respect for Athena. After all, I've been traveling to the city named after her for 30 years. It's about time I got to know her better.


According to Robert Graves, the great mythologist, Athena was born fully formed from the forehead of her father, the king of all gods, Zeus. This event is the subject of the sculptural group on the western pediment of the Parthenon (the pediment refers to the triangular portion of sculptural decoration located at both ends of the temple), the remains of which are located now in the newly-opened Acropolis Museum in Athens. Makes you wonder about what kind of psychological motivation provoked the ancient Greeks to come up with this story......it has a bit of an Adam and Eve ring to it -- that the male came first and out of him the female could then emerge. 


Athena takes center stage on both the eastern and western pedimental sculpture of the Parthenon, named for her aspect as Athena Parthenos - the Virgin goddess. The eastern pedimental frieze, above, depicts the battle that took place between Athena and Poseidon, the god of the sea, over who would control the city. Naturally, Athena was victorious. Kudos to the Greeks for having the presence of mind to elect a goddess to reign supreme throughout one of history's most enlightened periods of development in art, architecture, literature and science.


Athena is mostly widely known from literature as Gray Eyed Athena in The Odyssey by Homer, the goddess who watches over the hero Odysseus, giving him advice and assistance in his journey back to his beloved Ithaka after the Trojan War. The owl is closely associated with her, and represents wisdom. 


And what of the gold and ivory statue mentioned above? It disappeared in the years following the Golden Age of Athens, when the temple was ransacked, its precious materials disassembled then bartered or sold off, and ultimately destroyed in a later fire that engulfed the sanctuary. All we have left are records that tell us of its glory.  To add insult to injury, the temple itself survived intact until 1687. At this point in time, the Ottoman Turks had occupied the temple, using it as an arsenal for gunpowder. In an attempt to take the citadel, the Venetian army lobbed a direct hit on the structure, blowing out the southern flank of the building and destroying its integrity forever.
Room with a view. Athens, November, 2010.
Regardless of her statues, temples and image being destroyed or lost over the ages, Athena lives on today, as yet another guise of the Divine Feminine, waiting to be unearthed. She lives on in the stoic mother, nursing a sick child, in the neurosurgeon, focused on a procedure through a high-powered microscope, through a Secretary of State, bent on brokering a peace treaty between warring nations.


She lives on in the voice of the Great Horned owl I've been hearing on my walks through the frozen winter nights of our small neighborhood. I feel blessed by her presence, making her haunting call from the heights of a frozen chestnut branch.  She is here with us, as long as we honor her, as long as we don't forget her importance and place in our lives. She is telling us to remember our essence, remember our wisdom, to remember whooo we are.....



On a recent journey to Greece, I purchased two necklaces, one for myself, and one for my daughter. My older sister has an Athena necklace - a replica of an ancient coin - and for many years I had always admired it. She was with me on this trip, and purchased one for her daughter as well, and together we bought another for our younger sister. On all these necklaces, Athena's portrait is stamped on the obverse, her sacred owl on the reverse. Before I took them home to give to my daughter and sister as Christmas presents, I wore the necklaces to the Parthenon to gain the full blessing of the goddess.


Alone with Athena's temple

At the edge of the Acropolis plateau, overlooking the Herod Atticus theatre


May the wisdom of Athena live on with you all.


xo♡a


Photos  from Stoa and Google images

40 comments:

  1. I have always liked to read Greek myths:) I saw this figure of Athena, of course much much smaller or in the new museum of Acropolis or in the National Museum in Athens. Anyway, the replica is very impressive.
    You have fantastic pictures from the Acropolis hill:)

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  2. Ahh, you grabbed my heart once again. Athena is my love. Wonderful picture of you by the Acropolis plateau. Enjoying your words this morning.

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  3. Fascinating! I enjoyed this post and photos. Thank you!

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  4. finally back from my holidays, I discovered your latest articles that are always interesting to read and your photos always very impressives !

    Bye :))

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  5. Same syne wave again! Just this morning I envisioned Athena the gold statue in the Parthenon as a whole living breathing goddess. She and Owl are talking to us - and better yet - we are listening!

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  6. Fascinating post, comme d'habitude.

    I've been to the Acropolis once when we were on holiday in Athens in the early 70s. My father was researching a book about Greece; he spoke fluent Greek and was a Greek classicist. But I think I was more interested then in ouzo and the beach babes!

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  7. What an eloquent post!

    I'm enjoying this series immensely. I especially love your description of how Athena lives on in the guise of the Divine Feminine.

    My son (who is now the father of my two grandchildren) was diagnosed at age 10 with Crohn's Disease. It was then that I had my first experience with the "stoic mother" as well as the "warrior" who went into battle on his behalf.

    That statue is IMPRESSIVE. Thanks for the visual.

    The necklace? OH, how beautiful. Is it available anywhere online? I'm coveting it now as my own personal symbol of the Divine Feminine.

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  8. I have always loved the Greek myths and when I was younger, I would read them over and over again. I especially loved the stories of Artemis - the huntress and the one associated with the moon (if I remember correctly).

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  9. An epic post if there ever was one ! Will never hear a hoot owl hooting in the same way again. Why did we ever change from female deities ? A sad day in human history when that happened... when one looks at where male dominated macho religions and culture have gotten us. If more people start wearing necklaces infused with the full blessing of the goddess... that can only help, right ?

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  10. Absolutely stunning. I LOVE this post and all the pictures are gorgeous including YOU Amanda. My compliments for this journey to the history, culture and mythology!

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  12. ola, the scale of the statue is hard to imagine. i must stop the next time i'm driving through nashville to see it, instead of passing through~

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    yoli - i can see why athena is your favorite - completely suitable, coming from a strong mommy and fencer rolled into one ;-)

    xx

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    box lady -- welcome and thanks for visiting!

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    mr. le chat rouge - bienvenue - i was wondering where you had gone! looking forward to the great fotos your holidays will surely produce~

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  13. fascinating - gold and ivory eh? how amazing. i love the sacred feminine and the owl symbology. enlightened indeed. thanks so much for this x

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  14. I wonder if the Greeks felt ambivalent about kicking out the female goddesses of the previous civilizations and attempted to humanize their gods by giving them mothers, daughters, lovers. Athena is certainly the most honored, still a bit too "reasonable" and almost manly in her comportment.

    Just wondering out loud.

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  15. Thank you for personalizing Athena's story for us.

    ειρήνη και χαρά

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  16. sister - was that a dream or one of your lucid visions?? either way, your imagination is on fire!!

    and i'm listening, i'm listening.......

    xxx

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    dd - at that age, it would be difficult to be interested in little else. greece is a great place as a young'un to be interested in the goddess in one way, and as an elder to see the goddess through yet a different set of lenses.

    your dad speaks fluent greek? panagia mou!! i'm impressed.......

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    jo - my sympathies to your son and what must have been a tough period -- hoping all is better now. he is fortunate indeed to have an athena momma such as you.

    and the necklace? give me a buzz on my email and i'll see what i can do to hook you up with one.....;-)

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  17. loree - your memory serves you well....artemis is the goddess of the hunt and the moon -- and the subject of my next issue of goddesses in the dirt!!

    she has long been a favorite of mine -- so glad you enjoy these myths as much as i do....;-)

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    owen -- thank you for sounding the call in favor of the goddess --- we need both male and female archetypes.......just a bit more balance would be good. any day now would be good ;-)

    xx

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    philip -- and as a greek, who should know these things better than you, fili mou??

    thank you , as always♡

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  18. 10th dom --- that depends..........how deep is the water???

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    val, i'm still trying to figure out how big that statue would have looked looming above the temple visitor. it was meant to be intimidating and i think the greeks nailed that one for sure.......;-)

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  19. rosaria,

    one of the reasons why athena was never my first choice. manly and reasoning she is. but i've learned to love her in spite of it.

    xx

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    miss sadie,

    once again, you stun me with your canine brilliance.
    peace and joy to you too, and send some along to your master as well ♡

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  20. I dunno... I don't think the Adam and Eve complex applies to Athena, or the Greeks in general. There were too many pre-existing female gods in their beliefs, primordial and otherwise.

    Wasn't Chaos, in quite a few sources, often depicted as asexual (when personified at all)? And Gaia pre-dated most of the male gods, no?

    I'm painfully under-educated on the subject, but that's why I'm here!

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  21. Beautiful portrait of my favorite warrior goddess. She does indeed live in every brave, strong and superhuman female being.

    I believe the olive is the plant associated with Athena. Which tells a lot about her and the contradictory topic of women and war. Women are beings who give birth, they bear life. And in some cases these same women are soldiers, warriors. They have to engage in combat.

    Like you mention, every day warrior goddesses conquer new territories, battle fear and overcome monumental obstacles.
    How can these two opposing factors coexist in one single being?

    I wonder if Athena's olive tree is the answer.

    The olive twig is universally recognized as the symbol for peace.

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  22. jeff, in this particular myth, it strikes me as curious that a major female goddess would emerge from the head of a major male god. of course i didn't go into the backstory, which involves a mother, metis, whom zeus got pregnant. an oracle predicted that the child would be female and would depose zeus from his throne. to prevent this, he swallowed metis whole, thinking he had taken care of business. he soon developed a raging headache the cause of which was athena, who burst fully formed and clad in armor, from his head.

    you're correct that the matriarchal cultures pre-date the greeks. they pre-date just about every culture of historical record. somewhere along the way, we've gotten a little out of whack.

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  23. lola,

    you make an exquisite point -- thank you for your insight and bringing up the connection of athena to the olive branch.

    i love your explanation of athena's seemingly polarized elements of war and peace. maybe that is her greatest legacy, and one we have dreadfully overlooked in the ying-yang world in which we live. it's always the balance we are seeking and athena does indeed seem to embody this.

    you are brilliant, original italian goddess♡

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  24. Amanda, I am stunned by your depth of knowledge in a subject that fascinated me in school, one that I left behind for other interests. I read voraciously at the time and am enjoying a "remembrance" of that education through your posts.

    Holly attended college in Nashville and I have seen that magnificent statue. I can only imagine how overpowering it was in 400BC!

    Bises,
    Genie

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  25. Oh, I`m late! But I am thoroughly enjoying this discussion. Me too, I read all the myths and the Ilias and Odyssee, beginning at age 12, never forgetting. Our first dog`s name was Zeus...
    If Paris had chosen her instead of Aphrodite, maybe more wisdom would have ruled the world. But is it too late?
    I am reading the book "Half the Sky" at the moment, and it makes you wonder if it wasn`t time for a change!

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  26. What beautiful photos and fascinating information! What a cool blog post.

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  27. This was fantastic! I have always felt an affinity for Athena and She is who I prey to mostly. I think it's because I'm always in desperate need of wisdom! xo

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  28. amanda, i skipped right by this in my studies so now i am ready and you are a fine teacher!!

    that statue and your photo are equally super duper.

    love
    kj

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  29. It has been many years since I read the Odyssey, but this post brought it back to mind. I love the divine feminine that I can feel reemerging from a deep sleep. Thank you for this post, I enjoyed it very much.

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  30. I really enjoyed this post. It makes me want to open my mythology books- I have so many. And, it reinforces the fact that I must get to Athens soon...I haven't been there in years.

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  31. that replica is breathtaking and thanks for the lesson - my knowledge of mythology is non-existent. I'm a new Athena fan!

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  32. i LOVE this post - and have always admired Athena, but had never even seen a picture of that statue. My, she was quite some babe eh?

    I also love the image of Zeus swallowing Metis whole and getting a raging headache. Score one for Metis.

    I'm heading back to my archaeology books for a quick review -thanks

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  33. genie-- nashville seems like a cool town -- holly must have gotten to know it well and mom, too, from multiple visits! next time i'm driving through on the way to south carolina i will make a stop for sure!

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    geli - your mention of that book reminds me of a wonderful video i saw on yoli's blog about the power of a girl, called the girl effect. here is a link: http://prettyparrot.blogspot.com/2011/01/girl-effect.html

    since you recommend half the sky so much i must read it ♡

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    julie - thank you ;-)

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  34. sara -- but i think you aren't the only one in desperate need of wisdom!! thank you mon amie.

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    kj - i'm so glad you enjoy this series -- i hope what i've got lined up continues to entertain (and if it ends up teaching a little bit, too, i'm alright with that ;-)

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    nancy - you're welcome. and i agree, the divine feminine is waking up after a very - very- long sleep

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  35. cheryl - wow -- i thought since you live in greece you'd go to athens all the time!

    but i don't blame you, with all the pollution and traffic -- but it is definitely worth a visit to see the new acropolis museum!!

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    janet - you're an athena woman if i ever saw one!! strong, independent -- likes to set out on the road by herself...sound familiar?!

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    mim - haha! i love that - score one for metis indeed!! serves him right for swallowing her whole.... ;-)

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  36. Dear Amanda,
    I am TRULY late.... a lot of personal thingies have kept me quiet....

    I love this post.....ironically, I have always loved Athena..... feeling the closeness with her Avatar, the Owl. (In fact, looking at your post, sent me off to my jewel box - where I kept a ring from my Mum (gone these 28 years) that she bought in Greece.....a coin ring, with some Grecian God on top, but underneath, the Owl!

    Also loved your Acropolis photos!
    They, too bring back memories of my Mum and me.... I will have to find a photo she took of me there....and will e-mail it to you.

    Athena was actually a cool Goddess...who can fault someone whose main attribute is Wisdom! (Certainly not me.....)

    Anyway, sending you a big hug.....I will be visiting here more.....

    Love,

    Your "Twin",

    ♥ Robin ♥

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  37. robin -- that ring your mother bought sounds like it's a coin as well - i'm wondering what other god or goddess was on the flip side of the owl?

    so glad to 'see' you dear twin and hoping that the things with which you've been occupied are all good♡

    sending love and hugs,

    xxx

    amanda

    p.s. yes!! please send me the foto of you in greece!!

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  38. Dear Amanda - Beautiful post! A couple of years ago I heard a hooting in the back yard, saw the big bird flap off into the night...maybe to your neighborhood! Now I suffer from owl envy; you are so lucky! Love, Renee

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  39. renee -- owl envy -- haha!!! i hear there's a nesting pair in forest park, so maybe they will be coming your way soon!!

    xx

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Thank you for visiting♡