Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Cult of the Mother-Goddess by E.O. James

 Here's Brahms Piano Sonatas.

 My house Friday, February 19:

My house the following Monday:

 As I write this on Tuesday, it is 78 degrees Farenheit outside.  I'm trying not to put on the air conditioner.


 Fascinating read of the origins of the worship of female idols.

James is mostly empirical with his observations with very little speculation, which I appreciate. He does not try to tell us who these goddesses were or why they were worshiped. He mostly describes the archeological finds and where they were discovered. The reasons they were worshiped are evidenced in early manuscripts or can be derived from surrounding artifacts.

In a nutshell, they were worshiped for fertility of both the land and humans.

He begins with the earliest known civilizations as developed in Mesopotamia, and works his way into surrounding Middle Eastern countries, Syria, Anatolia, Palastine and Egypt, then goes east as far as India.

He then turns around to go west and compares and contrasts the earlier goddesses and how they were possibly, if not probably, absorbed into the Greco-Roman Pantheon.

Finally he compares the attributes of the mother goddess and her relationships with men, both as husband and son and makes a case for how this resulted in a syncretism of Christian and pagan beliefs, explaining the rise of Mary as, not only the earthly mother of Jesus, but into the Mother of God, perpetual virgin, and co-redemptix of mankind.

What I find striking is that the exaltation of Mary did not occur before the 4th century and she was not offically recognized as the Christian Magna Mater until the 19th century, the same century when the infallibility of the pope was made official Roman Catholic doctrine.

The reverence of Mary as Magna Mater in the Greek Orthodox Church must have occurred earlier since the schism between Roman and Greek churches occurred during the middle ages.

In conclusion, this book answered a lot of questions I had concerning the history of Mariology in the Roman and Orthodox Churches. 

A question that does arise for me is how fertility goddesses morphed into the Co-Savior of mankind.  These are two very different functions.  The one is worshiped in order to provide earthly needs, the other for the salvation of the soul.

James' conclusion is a valid one.  Since both religions developed on parallel lines, starting at the turn of B.C. to A.D., it is logical to assume that, as Biblical illiteracy increased due to less people knowing Latin, that some pagans converting to Christianity could create sects deviating from the original faith and retained vestiges of their old worship practices. 

 But it is remarkable they carried over the attributes of the mother goddesses, but changed her purpose.  I also feel he did not satisfactorily explain how the relationship of Mother reigning over a subordinate son cropped up in pagan religions and then was attached to the Roman Catholic and Orthodox religion.  I felt James created the one relationship in order to explain the other.

However, there is still enough attributes of both pagan goddesses and the Mother of God to gain an understanding as to how Mary, who is mentioned only a few times in the Bible, rose to such prominence in Roman and Orthodox Churches, as well as the hundreds of years this development took place after the dawn of Christianity.

One wonders what Mary herself, who humbly referred to herself as the Lord's handmaiden "to do with as he pleased" would think of all this.


The author:

 The Reverend Professor Edwin Oliver James (1888 – 1972) was an anthropologist in the field of comparative religion. He was Professor Emeritus of the History and Philosophy of Religion in the University of London, Fellow of University College London and Fellow of King's College London. During his long career he had been Professor of History and Philosophy of Religion at the University of Leeds, Lecturer at the University of Amsterdam and Wilde Lecturer at the University of Oxford.

 He received his education at Exeter College, Oxford and at University College London, where he studied under the famous egyptologist Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie.

From Goodreads.



Brian Joseph said...

Hi Sharon - The book sounds fascinating. I wish I Kew more about the entire subject and I guess that this book would be a very good place to start.

Wow. You are getting some wild swings in weather. Here on long Island our snow is slowly melting.

Have a great week!

mudpuddle said...

this sounds like rather a door-stopper, but interesting nonetheless... lots of cross-communications in very early times i gather...

Sharon Wilfong said...

mudpuddle,I cannot stop laughing at your calling this book a door stopper.

I thought it was interesting, but that is because I was looking for a confirmation of my own belief that the Roman and Orthodox churches' reverence of Mary is rooted in pagan cult goddesses. I am in no doubt that this subject is not most people's cup of tea.

I'm still giggling.

By the way, thank you so much for your delightful postcard. What a pleasant surprise and yes. We are pretty much back to normal after "Snowgedden" as last week is being called.

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi Brian,

I lived in New Jersey several years ago and our snow fall here would have been a pleasant snowy day in the northeast. But down here we are ill prepared. No snow plows and our water pipes burst and natural gas froze.

Hence we are calling it "Snowgedden" or the "Winter Apocalypse."

R.T. said...

No one exists without a mother ....
note altered address ...

Sharon Wilfong said...

With our mother we are born into the world. With Christ we are born into the next. Thanks for the new address, I'll swing by.

R.T. said...

2nd note ... blogger meltdown forced restart with different address ...