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20. Love Goddesses (Themed Episode #5)

In our fifth themed episode, we talk about love goddesses! We discuss Astghik from Armenian mythology, Turan from Etruscan mythology, Prende from Albanian mythology, Xochiquetzal from Aztec mythology, Cliodhna from Irish mythology, Qetesh from Egyptian mythology, and Milda from Lithuanian mythology.

Sources:

Astghik:

Wikipedia

WikiPagan

Goddess Astghik - Legends of Ancient Armenia

Turan:

Etruscan Pantheon

Turan, Etruscan Goddess of Love and Beauty

Turan: A Goddess of Ancient Etruria - PaganSquare

Etruscan Amore: Open affection, Etruscan style - Lust, Love, and Longing in the Ancient World

Prende:

Wikipedia

Deities of Love - Prende

Xochiquetzal:

Aztecs: An Interpretation by Inga Clendinnen

Xochiquetzal – Mythopedia

Xochiquetzal: Aztec Goddess of Beauty, Pleasure and Love… But Don’t Mess With Her!

Cliodhna:

Wikipedia

Clíodhna of the Banshees

Qetesh:

Egyptian Gods: Qetesh

The "Holy One" by Johanna Stuckey

Love, Sex, and Marriage in Ancient Egypt

Milda:

Wikipedia

The Demonic Paradise Wiki

Analysis:

"Can a Sexist Model Liberate Us? Ancient Near Eastern 'Fertility' Goddesses" by Jo Ann Hackett

"Goddess Worship - Ancient and Modern" by Gary Beckman

Transcript below:


Musical intro

Zoe: Hello and welcome to Mytholadies, the podcast where we talk about women from mythology and folklore all over the world. We're your hosts--

Lizzie: I'm Lizzie.

Zoe: And I'm Zoe.

Lizzie: So, today is February, which is the month of Valentine's Day! So we thought we'd talk about love goddesses. So there are a lot of really well-known love goddesses, such as Aphrodite and Freya, but we won't be talking about them today because we can dedicate an episode to each of them in their own right. So today we'll be talking about lesser-known goddesses. We're defining love goddesses as goddesses of romantic love, erotic love, beauty, and fertility. Many love goddesses throughout world cultures are seen as female, which is because love was associated with marriage and marriage was considered to be a woman's domain. Love deities across world cultures can show the values of that culture regarding romantic love, marriage, and sex, as we will see with the goddesses we have for you today. So Zoe, who's our first lady?

Zoe: Alright. Our first lady is Astghik, and she is from Armenia!

Lizzie: Cool!

Zoe: Yeah! So Astghik is the Armenian goddess of fertility and love, and then later also maidenly beauty, water, and streams. She was actually originally considered a creator goddess of heaven and earth, but later she was demoted to a more maidenly character, with her role as creator being replaced by the chief god, Aramazd. She was associated with both the Greek Aphrodite and the Mesopotamian Ishtar/Inanna, who we cover in Episode 2. And that's gonna be a theme. You'll see a lot of these goddesses, um, these goddesses of fertility and love are related to other more well-known goddesses that you may have heard of.

Lizzie: Yes.

Zoe: Um, and she is said to be the lover of Vahagn, who was the Ancient Armenian god of thunder, war, and fire, and actually he was later associated with the Greek hero Hercules, to get more of an idea of what he was like. So that's fun.

Lizzie: Interesting.

Zoe: Her name comes from a diminutive of the Armenian word for star, astł, and that's because she was connected to the planet Venus, or the morning star. So in some stories, um, she's considered to be the daughter of Ziusudra, who was the protagonist of the Sumerian flood myth. And she was born after the floodwaters had receded. So after Ziusudra had died, his sons, Titan, Iapetos, and Zrvan began to fight for power over the universe. Astghik was able to stop their fighting and bring peace. And so Titan and Iapetos accepted peace with Zrvan under the condition that all of Zrvan's sons would be killed so they could not take power away from them. And so the first few sons were killed, but afterwards Astghik and Zrvan's wives stole his children away to Mount Dyuznetsk, saving them and raising them. And so, um, another story associated with Astghik is that she used to come to Earth and--often to bathe in a river in western Armenia. So men heard about this--

Lizzie: Wait, so where does she live usually?

Zoe: Um, it's unclear. I'm guessing there's some sort of, like, heavenly area--

Lizzie: Yeah.

Zoe: --you know, like, domain. Um, so, the men heard that she liked to bathe in this river, and they would hide in bushes around the river, trying to catch a glimpse of her as she bathed. However, Astghik was shy, and created a mist to surround the area and herself as she bathed. And so the area is now called Muš, or "mist." And so what I find interesting about both those myths is that they sound kind of similar to other Greek myths, um, that are more possibly well-known.

Lizzie: Yeah, I was thinking of Artemis.

Zoe: Yeah. Yeah. It sounds like Artemis, and then also the myth of, um, uh--her taking away Zrvan's sons, um, or children, reminds me of the story of Zeus as a child, and how he was, um, saved from his father and, uh, taken and raised on a little island, um, in secret. So her main seat of worship was in Ashtishat, and it was a temple named for her lover, uh, Vahagn again, and it was called "Vahagn's bedroom," so, ooh!

Lizzie: Interesting.

Zoe: Yeah. And, um, there are ancient Armenian structures known as vishapakar, or dragon stones, and they were often erected as part of her worship. There were several other temples to her found throughout Armenia, but many of them were destroyed once Christianity took over the area. And her festival, known as Vartavar, is celebrated in mid-July. Um, and originally it was replaced by a celebration of the Transfiguration of Jesus when Christians took over the area, um, although the celebrations, to this day, involve acts of worship for Astghik. And that includes the sprinkling of water on each other for good luck, and the releasing of doves, which are a symbol for her.

Lizzie: Interesting.

Zoe: And she's actually still worshipped today as a part of Armenian neo-paganism. Um, they often gives sermons at the Temple of Garni, and they asked Astghik to bless Armenia with rain by sprinkling the audience with rosewater and giving wine and apricots to the audience.

Lizzie: Aww.

Zoe: Which sounds like a really great time.

Lizzie: It really does.

Zoe: Mm hmm. But yeah, that's Astghik. I think she's, you know, really great and just a really wonderful love goddess to start us off.

Lizzie: She actually reminds me a lot of my next lady--

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: --as you'll see.

Zoe: Okay! Yeah!

Lizzie: So, my next lady is Turan, who is the Etruscan goddess of love, peace, and harmony, who's also associated with Aphrodite.

Zoe: Uh huh.

Lizzie: So if you don’t know, because I didn’t know, Etruscan mythology comes from Etruria, which was a region in central Italy which then became part of the Roman Empire in about 800 BCE.

Zoe: Ooh.

Lizzie: A lot of their culture seems to have inspired that of Roman culture, and so a lot of mythology has equivalents in Greek and Roman mythology.

Zoe: Mmm. Yeah.

Lizzie: So, her name means “Lady” or “Mistress”, and it’s related to the Etruscan words turannuve, which means “lovable" or "venerated," tur, which means “dedicate”, turan, which means “given,” and turza, which means “offer."

Zoe: Oh.

Lizzie: Which bring together the ideas of love and worship, which implies that that which is lovable is worthy of worship.

Zoe: Aww! That's really nice.

Lizzie: (overlapping) Which is really nice. Isn't that beautiful?

Zoe: (overlapping) I like that a lot, yeah.

Lizzie: And so her Roman equivalent, Venus, has the same idea with the word venerate.

Zoe: Mmm!

Lizzie: Also, the Etruscans also named the month of July after her, or Traneus.

Zoe: Huh!

Lizzie: Which is interesting--

Zoe: Yeah!

Lizzie: --because just like Astghik!

Zoe: Yeah, and--

Lizzie: So, July is a love month, I guess.

Zoe: Yeah, and it's gonna come up again in some of my notes, so--

Lizzie: (laughs) Great!

Zoe: --that's really interesting.

Lizzie: Yeah! She's often depicted with wings, and often associated with birds such as doves, geese, and swans.

Zoe: (overlapping) Mm hmm! Wow.

Lizzie: So I'm thinking there's some relation there.

Zoe: Absolutely, yeah.

Lizzie: So, something interesting is that she is shown with handmaidens, including Lasa, the goddess of fate, who may be shown as one or three goddesses.

Zoe: Hm!

Lizzie: This is so interesting to me because symbolically it’s like love is even more powerful than fate.

Zoe: Mmm.

Lizzie: So that's pretty cool.

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: So in terms of the Etruscan view of love and marriage, a source I have says that unlike Greek and Roman women, Etruscan women often married for love.

Zoe: Oh!

Lizzie: We can see this on their sarcophagi, where husbands and wives were shown on top of their coffins, and seemed to be in loving poses, for example gazing at each other.

Zoe: Aw.

Lizzie: Yeah, so, there's a lot of, like, sort of, like, statues, kind of, but, like, on top of a sarcophagus, you know.

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: It's really nice. You should look up photos.

Zoe: I will.

Lizzie: So another source I have mentions that Etruscan women had a lot of rights for women in the ancient world, enjoying freedom and equality such as being able to freely give their opinions. So that's pretty nice.

Zoe: Yeah!

Lizzie: So, little is known about the Etruscans from their literature and language, as no literature survives and their language has only been partially deciphered.

Zoe: Oh, wow.

Lizzie: So--yeah, so much of the analysis about love in the Etruscan world comes from engraved bronze mirrors, tomb paintings, and sarcophagi.

Zoe: Oh! It's interesting, you know, like those are the-the objects that, um, they have writings of love on--oh, but then you said those are the ones that have been translated, so there's probably other ones as well.

Lizzie: True. But.

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: But yeah. So in one bronze mirror, Turan is depicted as a lover of Hercle, or Hercules.

Zoe: Oh!

Lizzie: This is interesting because Aphrodite was not known as a lover of Herakles in Greek mythology.

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: And we don’t know any specific tales of them, because, like I mentioned, there is no surviving literature, but evidently they were lovers in Etruria.

Zoe: Wow.

Lizzie: So that's nice.

Zoe: Yeah!

Lizzie: She was also the patron goddess of the city of Vulci, a large city in Etruria famous for its cemeteries. So Turan is one of few Etruscan deities to survive into Tuscan folklore, where her equivalent is Turanna, a spirit or fairy of beauty and happiness who helps people in love.

Zoe: Awesome!

Lizzie: Isn't that nice?

Zoe: Yeah, that's super cool.

Lizzie: I think Turan is really interesting because she can tell us a lot about how the Etruscans viewed love.

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: And clearly they viewed it a-as very, like, holy and sacred--

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: --but also they view it in a very sweet way, in a way where men and women were equal, as opposed to, like, the Greek and Roman view of love where, like, tenderness wasn’t necessarily the main quality in their romantic relationships. So I think that's nice.

Zoe: Yeah!

Lizzie: And that's Turan for you.

Zoe: I love that, yeah. That's super interesting because, like, Astghik also, um, is associated with the, um Hercules, or Heracles equivalent, but--

Lizzie: Yeah!

Zoe: --in Greek myth, again, there's not any--there's no connection between Heracles and Aphrodite, so...

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: And that's--I just think that's interesting, yeah.

Lizzie: (overlapping) Interesting.

Zoe: So my next lady is Prende, and she is the Albanian goddess of love, beauty, and fertility. Um, and so she's the wife of Perendi, who was the god of the sky and thunder, and the chief god of the Albanian pantheon. And when I was looking at it, I was reminded that, um, Vahagn is the god of thunder and war and fire--I don't know. Maybe it's a connection! I don't know.

Lizzie: It's interesting that the, like, wife of the main god is the beauty and, like, love goddess.

Zoe: Yeah! Yeah.

Lizzie: It's pretty nice.

Zoe: I think that's really cool, cause, like, in a lot of places, or at least, like, you know--well, if, like, we're talking about the, you know, the more well-known ones like Aphrodite and Freya are not the wives of the chief gods.

Lizzie: Like they're important, but they're not, like, as important as some of the other goddesses.

Zoe: (overlapping) Yeah. Mm hmm. Um, and so she was originally worshiped by the Illyrians, which is a group of Indo-European tribes that lived in the Balkans, and alongside the Ancient Greeks and the Thracians. So like the three groups interacted with each other. And so, uh, speaking of that, her worship was tied to the worship of Venus, the Roman goddess of love, and also potentially Freya, the Norse goddess of love. So, there you go!

Lizzie: Everything is connected!

Zoe: It really is all connected. Um, and so she was widely worshiped in northern Albania, particularly by women, until recently. And she's celebrated in a festival on July 26!

Lizzie: No way!

Zoe: Yeah! So, on this day, devotees would dress in fine clothes and set out a mortar and pestle, which represents the sexual union between men and women, so...

Lizzie: (laughs) Okay.

Zoe: Sounds like a fun time, I guess (laughs). Um, the rainbow is referred to as “Lady Prende’s Belt," and she rides in a carriage drawn by swallows.

Lizzie: Hm.

Zoe: Once Albania was Christianized, Prende became identified with St. Anne, the mother of Mary, and called St. Veneranda. St. Anne, according to Wikipedia, is the patron of housewives, mothers, pregnancy, sterility, and seamstresses, just to name a few. She's also the patron of a lot more, but those felt like relevant to our discussion. Uh, so St. Veneranda was so popular among Albanian folk culture that among the 275 churches created in the 16th and 17th centuries, 33 were dedicated to her. And this was more than any other saint, aside from the Virgin Mary and St. Nicholas.

Lizzie: Wow.

Zoe: Yeah. So she was very important. And even more churches were dedicated to her in the 18th and 19th centuries, and pilgrimages to these churches were popular among both Christians and Muslims, which I thought was interesting.

Lizzie: Yeah.

Zoe: So she's still very much relevant. And, um, often these pilgrimages were made in hopes of finding cures of mental illnesses, according to one source I found. Um, which they didn't say anything else about that, but I thought that was interesting.

Lizzie: Yeah! Interesting.

Zoe: Yeah. Um, her sacred day is Friday. Um, which might sound familiar because it's also the sacred day of many other love goddesses, including, uh, Venus, as is the root of the word for Friday in French, vendredi, and it's named after her in Albanian as dita e prende.

Lizzie: Ah! That's really nice.

Zoe: So yeah! That's Prende.

Lizzie: She's great. I like her.

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: So my next lady is Xochiquetzal--

Zoe: Mmm.

Lizzie: --who is the Aztec goddess of song, dance, fertility, and erotic love, and the patron of disadvantaged women, such as slave women, as well as young mothers.

Zoe: Awesome.

Lizzie: She is also associated with the moon and the lunar phases.

Zoe: Okay.

Lizzie: So, she's also known by the name Ichpōchtli, um, which means maiden or young woman. Uh, this term originally only referred to her young age, but after the Spanish conquest, it took on a virginal connotation.

Zoe: Mmm. Okay!

Lizzie: Yeah. So her name is a combination of xochitl, which means “flower," and quetzalli, which means “precious feather."

Zoe: Uh huh.

Lizzie: And so she can be referred to as “Precious Flower Feather."

Zoe: That's really pretty.

Lizzie: Yeah. And so too great indulgence in sexual pleasures was said to be “punished” by Xochiquetzal--

Zoe: Hmm!

Lizzie: --by afflicting boils and pustules upon those who failed to observe her protocols.

Zoe: Interesting.

Lizzie: Is what one source of mine said.

Zoe: Hm!

Lizzie: So, most Aztec goddesses were depicted as matrons, so it’s unique among Aztec goddesses that Xochiquetzal is depicted as a young woman.

Zoe: Hmm.

Lizzie: She was often shown adorned with flowers and wearing rich garments. The association between flowers and sexuality was because the Aztecs, like many other cultures, viewed flowers with, like, a--like, a yonic interpretation.

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: As is understandable.

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: I will also mention that the Aztecs had a different view in regards to variance in sexuality and gender--

Zoe: Mmm.

Lizzie: --and were much more accepting, or so it seems to me from my very little research, and her brother Xochipilli was the patron of homosexuality.

Zoe: Oh, cool!

Lizzie: Very cool.

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: So, Xochiquetzal was one of the oldest Aztec gods, though not much is known about her story. A recurring theme in her myths is her relation to the moon!

Zoe: Hm!

Lizzie: She is thought to have a-a Maya origin, and her correspondence in Maya mythology is known as Goddess I. And she represented fertility, procreation, erotic love, and weaving, much like Xochiquetzal.

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: The symbolism between pregnancy, weaving, and the moon may seem sort of random, but they’re actually linked in Aztec symbolism.

Zoe: Okay.

Lizzie: So, pregnancy and weaving were connected through the idea of a spindle.

Zoe: Hmm.

Lizzie: As a weaver worked, the spindle gradually became more round. As a pregnancy progressed, the mother-to-be’s belly would also grow rounder.

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: As a lunar deity, Xochiquetzal had an additional link to pregnancy because the moon also grew rounder over the course of its cycle.

Zoe: Mm hmm. Yeah!

Lizzie: So you can see the connection.

Zoe: Yeah, definitely. That's really fun.

Lizzie: Yeah, very! I think it's a really nice little connection there. Um, also especially between, like, pregnancy and the moon--

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: Like, ooh! Nice.

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: So, also weavers were meant to have been, like “loose women."

Zoe: Hm!

Lizzie: I think weavers were also associated with slavery, like, being slave women.

Zoe: Mm. Mm hmm.

Lizzie: So I think it's because of that. So, that’s why Xochiquetzal was associated with weaving, also.

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: Similar to Eve from the Bible, Xochiquetzal is also considered to be the first woman to commit sin.

Zoe: Okay!

Lizzie: She is said to have seduced her brother Yappan, who had taken a vow of chastity.

Zoe: Hmm.

Lizzie: She was punished, and Yappan was turned into a scorpion, who hide their shame by crawling under rocks.

Zoe: Wow! Okay.

Lizzie: I think it's interesting that Yappan gets punished, but not--but, like, turn--like, that's a pretty severe punishment.

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: But then Xochiquetzal gets to walk away, pretty much. I mean, she gets punished too, but not as badly.

Zoe: (overlapping) Yeah. Yeah, that is interesting. And--yeah, it's interesting that, um, that she's committed the first sin and so now she sort of punishes people for, um, like--

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: --you said, like, improper sexual behaviors.

Lizzie: Yeah, I didn't, like, find, like--

Zoe: Or like--

Lizzie: --that much details about that, but...

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: Came across that.

Zoe: Yeah. So she's like, sort of, a cautionary goddess, trying to like keep them from doing things that she did?

Lizzie: I suppose so. Yeah, that's a good way of thinking about it.

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: I was also thinking about, like, because, like, sex is sort of seen as, like, kind of holy--

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: --so there's, like, rules associated with it I guess.

Zoe: Yeah, that makes sense.

Lizzie: (overlapping) That's sort of my thought, I don't know what--I don't know. But.

Zoe: Yeah. Yeah, and then also my thought is that maybe that was added later, after colonization, but.

Lizzie: (overlapping) I was also thinking that as I was talking. Yeah, it sounds like what was--I don't know exactly what was, um, added after the Spanish conquest--

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: But--

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: Yeah.

Zoe: I mean, I don't have any authority to say what was or wasn't, but.

Lizzie: Yeah, same. So also, Xochiquetzal was celebrated during the festival of Toxcatl, which honors the month of the same name, which corresponds roughly to the 5th to the 22nd of May.

Zoe: Oh, okay.

Lizzie: Basically--oh, were you gonna be like, oh is it July again?

Zoe: I-I was gonna--I was like, is it July, is it July? Mm. It's fine.

Lizzie: Pretty close. Ish (laughs).

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: Couple months away.

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: So basically, a virgin was chosen to impersonate Xochiquetzal, and then she was wed to a warrior that represented Tezcatlipoca.

Zoe: Oh.

Lizzie: And then she would be sacrificed, and then a bunch of gross stuff happens that I won’t describe to you because it's really gross.

Zoe: Mm hmm. Okay.

Lizzie: Like, some really--yeah. But that's Xochiquetzal!

Zoe: Great! (laughs)

Lizzie: It's pretty hardcore (laughs).

Zoe: Yeah! Uh, yeah, uh, once you said someone, uh, pretends to be her, I was like there's gonna be a sacrifice, yeah. Well. Onto the next lady! (laughs) Um, who is Cliodhna, is the Irish queen of the banshees and the goddess of love and beauty.

Lizzie: Cool!

Zoe: So, Cliodhna's companions were three birds whose songs can cure all diseases. And she was very beautiful, perhaps most beautiful woman in the world. She could make warriors weak just by standing in front of them because of her beauty (Lizzie laughs). Um, and she lived in a palace called, uh, Carrig-Cliodhna near Mallow, Cork. Um, and that means "Cliodhna's rock." She was associated with many of the powerful Gaelic clans from, um ancient Ireland, um, and she had a few love affairs with many of the members and then was adopted as the faerie woman by a few, in sort of, like, mythology and folklore. And she was referenced in poetry by Edward Walsh as an unwelcome pursuer of some of the, uh, clan stuff, but, um, then I'm like, is that the same way poets like to personify luck and love, so.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: It's, like, oh, love came down on us and we didn't wanna be in love, but, like, Cliodhna came and--

Lizzie: (overlapping) Yeah, like the poetic kind of--yeah.

Zoe: (overlapping) Yeah. However, she also has a dark side.

Lizzie: Ooh.

Zoe: It was said that she would lure sailors to the seas, where they would drown and die.

Lizzie: Cool!

Zoe: Yeah (both laugh). Um, so one day she decided to leave her home in the Land of Promise in the Underworld, and join her mortal lover, Ciabhán of the Curling Locks, in the mortal world.

Lizzie: Aww.

Zoe: So...yeah. She left where all the gods were and stayed with her lover, which I think was very sweet.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: But one day, Ciabhán went on a hunt and left Cliodhna at home. She was waiting for him to return and remained at the seashore. As she waited, the warrior king Manannán MacLir began to play a song. The music created a wave that washed her away into the harbor. And whether or not she drowns depends on the story, apparently. Um, but yeah. She got washed away.

Lizzie: Oh.

Zoe: Yeah. So the tide in Glandore, Cork County is known as Tonn Chlíodhna, which means, “Cliodhna’s waves.”

Lizzie: Aww. That's kind of nice.

Zoe: (overlapping) And supposedly--yeah! And supposedly every ninth wave washing on the shore is a particularly strong wave, and that represents the wave that swept her away.

Lizzie: Hmm.

Zoe: The most famous legend associated with Cliodhna involves some aid she gave to a member of the McCarthy clan.

Lizzie: Oh!

Zoe: So one man named Cormac McCarthy, not to be confused with the modern-day author (Lizzie laughs), was having--(laughs) was having legal troubles and he asked Cliodhna to help. So she told him that the next morning he should kiss the next stone he saw, and if he did, his problems would be solved. So he did as she told him to, and argued his case with such passion and eloquence that the entire court was persuaded. After he was--his day of success in court, he had the stone set into the wall of his castle, known as Blarney Castle--

Lizzie: Ahh! You see, I was wondering!

Zoe: Yep! And it is still visited and kissed by many to this day, and that, of course, is the Blarney Stone of legend and folklore.

Lizzie: Nice!

Zoe: And it's--yeah! And it's said that even Queen Elizabeth I could not convince Cormac to surrender the castle to her.

Lizzie: Ooh.

Zoe: He was just too good with words. And then, um, I don't actually--so she's called the queen of the banshees. There's not a ton about her being the queen of the banshees. Um, antiquarian, um, John O’Donovan references Cliodhna as a banshee in an 1849 letter, where he references her weeping in the mountains in response to the Great Famine.

Lizzie: Hmm.

Zoe: I think it's still a cool title, so I kept it. And yeah, that's Cliodhna. It's a lot. She did a lot. She does a lot.

Lizzie: I really like her. I'd love to know more about her.

Zoe: Me too. I will definitely look into her more.

Lizzie: So my next lady is Qetesh, the Egyptian goddess of fertility and sexual pleasure. So, she was originally a Semitic goddess of Syrian or Sumerian origin who was syncretized into the Egyptian pantheon.

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: She is known as “Mistress of all Gods,” “Lady of the stars and heaven,”and “Eye of Ra, without her equal.” In terms of etymology, her name comes from the Semitic root meaning “holy” and was likely pronounced by Egyptians as Qātiša.

Zoe: Ooh!

Lizzie: As we mentioned in the--

Zoe: Yes!

Lizzie: --Aisha Qandisha episode. Because they were associated with each other as well. So, her center of worship was Qadesh, in present-day Syria. She is depicted as a nude woman standing on the back of a lion, or a horse outside of Egypt--

Zoe: Awesome.

Lizzie: --and carrying a lotus blossom in one hand and a snake in the other, which were symbols of fertility.

Zoe: Mm hmm. Awesome. Very cool.

Lizzie: Yeah. As--yeah. Imagery. So, she's associated with Anat and Asherah, two Semitic goddesses; as well as Astarte, a Canaanite and Phoenician goddess.

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: Her worship was equal to that of Inanna, Isis, Aphrodite, and Astarte, who were also called “mistress of all gods."

Zoe: Wow.

Lizzie: So she was a pretty big deal.

Zoe: Yeah, sorry, her being called "mistress of all gods" reminds me of, like, when we were saying, you know, Aphrodite's not the wife of Zeus, so--but she's still really important, but she's not, like, that level of importance. But, um, being called "mistress of all gods" reminds me of, like, the goddesses who are the wife of, like, the most significant one.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: The most significant male god. Um, and then, like--I think that shows, like, being called "mistress of all gods" shows, like, a similar sort of relationship or, um--

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: Uh, view, um, even if they're not, like, married.

Lizzie: (overlapping) In terms of, like, influence, and--yeah.

Zoe: (overlapping) Yeah. Even if they're not married to the-the chief god.

Lizzie: Yeah.

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: And so Qetesh may have been a triple goddess merged into one.

Zoe: Oh!

Lizzie: Her triple goddess form is Qudshu-Astarte-Anat, who was a representation of herself, Anat, and Astarte.

Zoe: Oh, cool.

Lizzie: So, it was a common practice for Canaanites and Egyptians to merge various deities through syncretism, as is shown through the triple goddess.

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: So not very much is known about Qetesh, but I can tell you a little bit about how love was viewed in Ancient Egypt.

Zoe: Oh, okay.

Lizzie: So, first of all, men and women were considered to be equal, in accordance with a myth that says that Isis made the sexes equal in power.

Zoe: Awesome.

Lizzie: However, men were still considered the dominant gender and were the ones who wrote literature with various views about women. So.

Zoe: Hmm.

Lizzie: Yeah. So, marriages were arranged for personal advancement, but there’s still evidence that romantic love was important. It was a popular theme for poetry, especially in the New Kingdom from 1570 to 1069 BCE, which was also the period of time when Qetesh was syncretized into the Egyptian pantheon. So, maybe a connection there.

Zoe: Mm hmm. Yeah.

Lizzie: Also, sexuality wasn’t considered to be taboo in Ancient Egypt but was just a part of everyday life, and the only thing that was stigmatized was infidelity.

Zoe: Mm.

Lizzie: And also incest, but only among the lower classes.

Zoe: Yep. The--the emperors sure had a lot of incest going on.

Lizzie: Yeah. No, yeah, higher classes--it was fine for them.

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: So also there was no word for "virgin" in Ancient Egyptian.

Zoe: Hm!

Lizzie: Which signifies that the concept of sexual experience or lack thereof was not important.

Zoe: Awesome.

Lizzie: Which is pretty cool. Also, marriage was meant to last your entire life and also in the afterlife, but also life expectancy was very short, with men dying in their thirties and women often dying in their teens from childbirth.

Zoe: Oh my gosh. Wow.

Lizzie: So, yeah. And that's Qetesh.

Zoe: Awesome.

Lizzie: And she also has a sort of connection with the other ladies, cause there's, like, Astarte--

Zoe: Yeah!

Lizzie: There's, like, Inanna--

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: It's all sort of together.

Zoe: Yeah. Yeah! So, um, rounding out with our last lady, Milda. So Milda is the Lithuanian goddess of love, courting, and friendship. Unlike many of the goddesses we’ve talked about today, she prioritizes love and friendship over marriage and courting, and places friendship at a higher priority than marriage and romantic love.

Lizzie: How interesting.

Zoe: Yeah. She's known as both Milda and Aleksota, and she had many temples in places around Lithuania, most of which were replaced by churches. Her sacred month was the month of April, and she was celebrated every year with a festival called Witolorauda.

Lizzie: So we have, like, all the goddesses being, like, spring or summer--

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: --months.

Zoe: Yeah, which I think makes a lot of sense for fertility and love. Um.

Lizzie: True.

Zoe: Yeah. Her sacred day is Friday, as is, like I said, lots of love goddesses.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: She sounds really cool and fun, right?

Lizzie: Yes.

Zoe: Well, she actually may not have existed.

Lizzie: Oh.

Zoe: So, she was first mentions in texts by Teodor Narbutt, who wrote about the history of Lithuania in the early to mid-1800s.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: And Narbutt was inspired by the beautiful Roman nymph Alexothe, described, uh, by the Polish writer, Dominik Szybiński. But there's actually no evidence in archaeology, folklore, written documents, or research that she existed before the 1800s.

Lizzie: Huh.

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: Okay.

Zoe: So despite this--

Lizzie: (overlapping) That's interesting.

Zoe: Yeah. So despite this, Milda grew in popularity and was featured in many pieces of writing. The most important was, uh, the work of Józef Ignacy Kraszewski, and his epic poem "Anafielas." And this poem describes the celebrations and worships of Milda. So, this--even despite the lack of evidence to support that she existed from, like, ancient times, before the 1800s, Milda is still a popular figure in Lithuanian culture, particularly among Lithuanian neo-pagans. So, Milda is a very popular girls' name. The female figure on the Freedom Monument in Riga, the capital city of Lithuania is often called Milda, and there's a mountain on Venus named after her.

Lizzie: Oh!

Zoe: The Milda Mons. Yeah.

Lizzie: That's nice! Another Venus association.

Zoe: Yeah! And I think it's so interesting that, like, you know, she was probably invented by this writer guy in the early 1800s, but she's developed such, like, a cultural significance and importance that then there's an object on another planet that's named after her. Which I think is really cool.

Lizzie: (overlapping) Yeah that's really cool. Like, somebody just decided that she would exist one day, and then she did!

Zoe: Yeah! Um, there's also some conspiracy theories I found that Christians covered up the existence of her worship before the 1800s, so most of her lore has been lost, but honestly I don't think that's true. I couldn't really find a lot of evidence for that.

Lizzie: Mm.

Zoe: Um, but I think it shows the power of mythology in creating a nationalist identity. Um, what we were talking about before is that there are so many of these love goddesses who are, you know, specific to a certain culture, as we've talked about today, but often have their roots in some, like, original love goddess that, like--

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: --from, like, the beginning of humankind and civilizations. And so I think that, um--and, you know, we see that in so many different places, and I think that, perhaps, uh, Narbutt wanted Lithuania to have a goddess like that, and to create a character, um, and a mythology like that as--in order to increase national pride. And something that I think about is the Finnish Kalevala, which was created to celebrate Finnish culture in the late 1800s and to encourage Finnish independence by reviving Finnish poetry. So in a similar way, the creation of Milda allows for the celebration of a specifically Lithuanian cultural icon, and a specifically Lithuanian love goddess that has its origins in other places, as we see with all the other goddesses, and has that history.

Lizzie: Yeah.

Zoe: Um, but is specifically Lithuanian. And it's clear that she's really important, considering that there's a place on Venus named after her, and it's a super popular girls' name, and everything. So I think that's really interesting.

Lizzie: It's like--it's sort of, like, created a need for her, people sort of latched on--

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: It's really interesting.

Zoe: Yeah, and I think it's just sort of an interesting thought about mythology in general, and, like, sort of how we see, like, myths developing and culture and folklore and cultural identities developing together.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: And it's just sort of, like, the creation of these, like, iconic symbols in order to, like, develop, like, something to unite around.

Lizzie: Yeah. Exactly. It's also interesting, like, you were mentioning how a lot of these women seemed to come from, like, one central goddess, sort of.

Zoe: Mm hmm. Yeah.

Lizzie: Sort of like--it's all just sort of one--not, like, in the entire world, but, like, in many parts of the world.

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: It all connects to, like, you know, one goddess, and, like, one very ancient society, or something like that.

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: Like (unintelligible) or somebody.

Zoe: (overlapping) Yeah! Definitely.

Lizzie: Which is really interesting.

Zoe: Mm hmm. Yeah.

Lizzie: It's different for Xochiquetzal, but--

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: She came from the Maya goddess, so...

Zoe: (overlapping) Yeah, so we still have all these different cultures influencing each other.

Lizzie: Mm hmm. Which is really interesting. Like, we see that a lot, but not as much as we do for the love goddesses, I feel like.

Zoe: Mm hmm. Yeah.

Lizzie: Like they seem to all be connected, pretty much.

Zoe: Yeah. Like, there's definitely a connection that we haven't really seen, um, with the other themes that we've done. Where, like, literally almost every lady I looked at was, like, yeah, she's associated with Venus or something like that.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: And I think that it's probably--like we've said, there's a need - there's a need for a goddess of love, um, to the--I think to have the idea that there's someone overseeing, like, the acts of love and romance and sex that happens between humans, because it's such, like, a complicated, like, messy subject.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: Um, and that really, like, is rough to deal with and like, you know, emotionally--

Lizzie: (overlapping) It's nice to think that there's something--

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: Sort of controlling everything, and, like, supporting people.

Zoe: (overlapping) Yeah, and, like, someone you can pray to for advice, or help, to be like hey, I wanna date this person, like, can you send me some goodwill your way? You know, like, stuff like that.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: It's also nice that these, like, show a lot about how love was viewed in the various cultures.

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: Like especially--my favorite was probably Turan, and how, you know, love is like--

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: Worthy of worship, like that's beautiful.

Zoe: I think that it makes sense that there's such a widespread, like--like I said, every, um, culture needs, like, a love goddess.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: Um. And if you don't have one, you can just make one, um.

Lizzie: Apparently so.

Zoe: Yeah! Um, so when it comes to discussions of love and fertility goddesses, I think there's, like, often discussions about how their worship is distorted and destroyed by patriarchal Christians. And that definitely seems, to some extent, to be the case because many of the women I discussed and their worship were cast aside in favor of Christianity and male gods. Um, people's--but people still found ways to worship these women, even though--even through a Christian framework, so I'm thinking of, like, continued worship of Prende as Saint Anne.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: Um, yeah. I wanna talk about how fertility goddesses in general. And so many ancient goddesses were referred to as fertility goddess. But oftentimes, they actually did not fulfill that role, so sometimes they were actually male fertility gods. So example, in the ca--in the Canaanite religion, both Ba'al and El were considered fertility gods, and not really any of the goddesses involved in the religion. Yet nowadays, they are referred to as the fertility goddesses. Like, for example, Anat, who is primarily a goddess a goddess of war, but there's been, like, a fertility aspect that's been added to her.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: And so I think that sort of says that, like, fertility is a domain that's comfortable for goddesses to have, unlike domains like war, or the ocean, or other traditionally masculine fields. And so therefore sexist Western scholars have sometimes emphasized and created fertility aspects of goddess domains in order to reduce the complexity and ambivalence of the goddesses as characters, and to fit them into more proper womanly, Christian roles.

Lizzie: Interesting.

Zoe: Yeah! And so, to clarify I do think that all the goddesses we talked about today are goddesses of love or fertility or sex, as we talked about, but when we were doing our research, there were multiple times when I was looking at a goddess, and I was like she's not--her domain is not actually fertility, her domain's not actually love. She's more focused on, like, um, filth, and cleaning, or she's more focused on, like, just simply actions in the bedroom, including, like, sleep or childbirth. So it's not just about, like, love. Or sex. And so I think that it's very--definitely has been that influence that, like, female goddesses sort of have their domains transformed into a sort of more of a fertility domain when they have, like, a lot more complex--when that's not really accurate to them.

Lizzie: Mm hmm. I do think that there's, like, a lot of unknown history involved with, like, sort of rewriting some goddesses' domains--

Zoe: Mm hmm.

Lizzie: Like, the stuff that we don't necessarily know about.

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: But it definitely exists.

Zoe: Yeah. And then I think that, you know, the sort of things about, like, you know, the goddesses who are goddesses of sex but maybe not fertility, like, maybe they're, like, the goddesses of sex as an act of pleasure and fun, and not as an act to get pregnant.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: Which also would make, you know, patriarchal Christians uncomfortable and want to, you know, remove the evidence of that, possibly.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: So, I think that, you know, the presence of fertility goddesses and, like, love and sex and beauty goddesses in general, um--it's really interesting how powerful they--most of them are.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: And I think, like, you--I said earlier, kind of, like, it shows the importance of that domain in people's lives. It's something that people think about a lot, it's something that people--that occupies people's thoughts, actions, words, a lot, and it's something that people really want comfort in. And I think it was really cool to learn about all these goddesses that you don't really hear about from a lot of, um, mythologies that you don't hear about.

Lizzie: Yeah, exactly. Like, I don't think we've ever talked about, like, an Armenian goddess, or--or Etruscan.

Zoe: Mm hmm. Yeah! Or Etruscan. I didn't know anything about what you said, like, about Etruscan and the Etruscan language, and I thought that was really cool.

Lizzie: It--well--it is definitely really cool, cause they were also--I mean, it seems to me like a pretty big society--

Zoe: Mm hmm!

Lizzie: --but they got absorbed by the Roman Empire.

Zoe: Yeah! Uh, yeah! So thank you for listening to our episode today! Um, hopefully all these love goddesses can bring you luck in your romantic endeavors this month, and any months to come. Um, if you enjoyed this episode, uh, please make sure to subscribe, leave a review, and tell all your friends that you found this podcast, and you think it's really cool! Thank you so much.

Lizzie: Thank you!

Zoe: We'll be back here again next week with another episode.

Outro, underscored by music:

Lizzie: Mytholadies Podcast is produced, researched, and presented by Elizabeth LaCroix and Zoe Koeninger. You can find us on Instagram and Twitter @ mytholadies and visit us on our website at mytholadies.com. Our cover art is by Helena Cailleaux. Our music was written and performed by Icarus Tyree. Thanks for listening! See you next week!