"In Wonders We Sail, Questing for the Answers in Veil"

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Gods and Godesses

The Birth of Venus by the Italian Renaissance painter Botticelli (1444-1510). The wind gods Boreas and Zephyrus waft the goddess to shore where she is clothed by one of the Seasons.

Early written records, such as the Hindu Rig Vedas (some of which date from around 1,000 B.C.), indicate that the ancients had a sophisticated appreciation of the energy forces that went to create and sustain life. However, the origin of these forces was beyond description or comprehension, so it was natural for people to present a rationalized, symbolic picture of ultimate realities. In psychological terms, the early peoples projected outward the archetype of higher powers (which we will discuss in the future posts), and than emerged the concept of the gods - beings graced with all the qualities to which people aspired in their own lives. In many cultures, the gods proliferated, each symbolizing a particular aspect of nature (thunder, the sea, fire, war) or a particular human attribute (compassion, beauty, wisdom). In the most sophisticated forms of religion the individual gods were subservient to, or components of, an ultimate, higher power variously symbolized as a sun or sky god or, less concretely, as infinite potential or emptiness. 

This is not to reduce the gods to mere figments of mankind's fertile imagination. Arguably, the power that created and sustained the universe does indeed reveal itself to humanity in symbolic forms adjusted to mankind's ability to comprehend, and the gods are therefore a synthesis of divine energy and the limitations of human thought. 

Jung believed that the human psyche has a "natural religious function", a pressing need to give conscious expression to unconscious archetypes. This desire - equal in potency to the instincts of sexuality and aggression - may explain the vast energies channeled into building temples and cathedrals, fighting religious wars, and converting members of other faiths. Jung argued that attempts to stifle these urges (especially later in life when youthful ambitions no longer provide sufficient motivation) could lead to psychic instability or breakdown.

God The Father

In Christian art, which reflects the attitudes of predominantly patriarchal societies, God is usually depicted as a wise father figure with a long white beard (A symbol of dignity). Before the 15th century, such images were rare, and paintings of Biblical events usually showed God in the form of Christ, recognizable by a cruciform halo. Islam forbids direct representations of Allah, to avoid misconceptions that may ultimately impede belief.

The Tetragrammaton 

The name of God revealed to Moses as four Hebrew letters YHWH is known as the terragrammaton. This sacred word is thought to be derived from God's statement in Exodus, .I am that I am."

Kuan Yin

A Chinese symbol of godly purity and wisdom. Buddhists see Kuan Yin as the female form of Avalokiteshvara, the thousand-armed bodhisattva who represents infinite compassion.


In Hindu symbology, male and female creative energies are always held in balance. Thus, each of the gods has a consort, equal in importance to himself. Durga, the consort of Shiva, is the divine mother of the universe, the destroyer of evil (in which role she is sometimes identified with the terrifying Kali), and the symbol of insight, discrimination, devotion and bliss. She is often represented as ten-armed ( a symbol of majesty and strength) and riding a lion (spiritual power). 


This is the Plumed Serpent, the Aztec supreme god of the wind and the west. Often associated by Europeans with human sacrifice, Quetzalcoatl was in fact a symbol of gentleness, wisdom and law-making: he was responsible for conquering the devouring earth-serpent and rendering the world habitable. Human sacrifices were offered not to Quetzalcoatl himself but to appease the earth serpent, which still longed for blood. 


The Roman god of seed, agriculture and plenty (equated with the Greek god Cronos), Saturn ruled the earth in the Golden Age - the mythical first, paradisal epoch after creation. His festival, Saturnalia, a celebration of the winter solstice, was a time of freedom and indulgence, and is thought to be the origin of the Western Christmas celebrations.


One of the three principal Hindu deities, and lord of the cosmic dance, Shiva destroys so that life can be renewed.In one of his four hands he carries the flame that consumes and in another the rattle whose sound calls forth creation. His third hand is held out in a gesture of fearlessness, while his fourth points to the dwarf of ignorance under his feet.

For More On Symbolisms And Meaning (Click)


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