Secret Garden of the Feminine
Separating Spirit from Matter (Mother)
As the centuries passed, the once-supreme creative matrix lost more and more
of her place in our lives. As the people who worshiped her were conquered
and forced to adopt (or adapt to) the religious beliefs of their conquerors
(much like the indigenous people of the Americas), the "Goddess became
almost exclusively associated with ‘Nature' as the chaotic force to be
mastered, and the God took the role of conquering or ordering nature from
his counterpole of ‘Spirit.'"
This split in consciousness, which contains the mythological
roots of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam–the three major patriarchal
religions of the world today–can be traced to a popular Babylonian epic
known throughout the ancient world as Enuma Elish (ca. 2000 B.C.E.).
The story of Enuma Elish recounts the defeat of the original mother
goddess, Tiamat, by her great-great-great-grandson, Marduk. Tiamat, the
Babylonian creation goddess, was seen as the primordial ocean womb whose
fertile depths birthed every living thing–including a younger generation of
gods who then sought to overthrow the older generation. In this epic, Tiamat
is portrayed as a great serpent or dragon (both ancient images of the
After the conquest and murder of Tiamat, the life-giving nature
deity who created him, Marduk uses her body to form creation:
split her like a shellfish into two parts:
of her he set up and ceiled it as sky . . .
heaped up a mountain over Tiamat’s head,
pierced her eyes to form the sources of the Tigris and Euphrates,
heaped similar mountains over her dugs,
he pierced to make the rivers
the eastern mountains that flow into the Tigris.
tail he bent up into the sky to make the Milky Way,
her crotch he used to support the sky.
The original myth, which portrayed the Creatrix birthing everything from
herself, so that she was part of and one with all of creation, was thus
transformed into a myth that suggests that “the lord” makes creation
(and from her body no less). For the first time, “the god becomes the
maker of heaven and earth whereas the goddess was heaven and
earth. The concept of ‘making’ is radically different from ‘being,’ in the
sense that what is made is not necessarily of the same substance as its
maker, and may be conceived as inferior to him; while what emerges from the
mother is necessarily part of her and she of it.”
With the acceptance and perpetuation of the Marduk myth, a new
order of creation was initiated whereby the feminine, symbolized as the
Goddess, became synonymous with the realm of nature as something wild, dark,
mysterious, chaotic, and dangerous. Marduk then represented the new
“spiritual” order of male deities whose religious imperative was to conquer
and order nature. This concept created a split that still affects society
today. This creation myth, which became doctrine, is an early example of
“priestly politics, whereby the mythology of an earlier age and culture is
completely inverted, so that the divinities of an earlier era are named
demons and the divinities of the new order are exalted to a position of
While much of the symbology in the Judeo-Christian belief
system is based on ancient, sacred Goddess mythology (including the Garden,
the snake, the tree), our Western paradigm (by which I mean Judeo-Christian
beliefs) is descended from this Babylonian creation myth, which places
strong emphasis on the opposition between spirit and nature (implying
explicitly that nature is not alive and contains no spirit). This symbology
has left us a heritage of thinking in duality and oppositions. “We find this
. . . in the common assumption that the spiritual and the physical worlds
are different in kind, an assumption that . . . separates mind from matter,
soul from body, thinking from feeling, intellect from intuition and reason
from instinct . . . in addition, the `spiritual' pole of these dualisms is
valued as `higher' than the `physical' pole."
. Baring and Cashford, The Myth of the Goddess,
. Ibid., p. xii.
© Copyright 1995 Judy Tatum aka Xia except where otherwise noted.
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