The Virgin. (Mary’s cult and the Re-emergence of the Goddess) – Varghese Pamplanil

How will you wean a Milking child to a different harder intake? Only a woman, a mother will know, not a man! It needs a lot of cajoling and coaxing! So it is with all our thinking and reasoning in our childish or teen age stages.
We absorbed our religious convictions, like devotion to Mary Mother of Jesus
from our mothers. Since we are so attached to her, we revolt against any one
who speaks against her. No wonder!

A personal Experience!

I love Mary, who can stop me? In my teens “Memorare” (Remember Oh Mother…) to our Lady was my only precious prayer, nay she was the only God I prayed to and I got them all. “Tainted nature’s solitary boast!”(Worldsworth),I loaded her.
Imagine I came to know Jesus only very late in life. Why? Are not most of the Churches dedicated to her, hardly any to Jesus? This is just to say we stick to our childhood practices unshakably. The article below is not for children, but mainly for those who are in the “Grahastashrma” for those who are mature and go by reason and logic. Think of Socrates!

Think of the great wise old man ‘Socrates’? Why was he poisoned to death? Because he taught youngsters to question, the “Socratic method”, which the unthinking public said made them rebellious and violent. But the secret of all knowledge and discovery is locked up in the art of questioning anything and everything, to find out answers to: Why, what, where, which, how and for what reason?
We would have been in the stone or dark ages if some Crazy guys were not tormenting us with all sorts of awkward or painful questions: Why should the stone fall to the ground and not go up to skies? Why god is up in sky? How many children god has? Wives? god’s father? Seen god? Why should one believe what cannot be proved?

Questioning man!

Our friend Pamplanil is a living example of a questioning man, like doubting Thomas? His research and study has revealed that Jesus could have had a Biological father! To prove, is he bluffing? You have to first make an invisible God visible and show how he made a virgin girl pregnant. Possible?

We know from written biblical sources that Mary gave birth 7 times: Jesus, his four brothers and two sisters. If so how can she remain virgin? Is not impregnating women a sin only for the celibates? Aren’t we all forced to use the rationality each is provided with in different measure? Go ahead logically!

After researching the paternity of Jesus, it is only logical, he should try to reveal the back ground of Mary to help her shine better in spite of her being a poor village girl! So read below his findings with an open but critically, also to help him. james kottoor, ccv editor

Varghese Pamplanil

A study of the elevation of Mary/Miriam//Myriam (in Aramaic) , probably an ordinary, rustic Jewish woman, to the status of “Mother of God” and the “Queen of Heaven” would be rather fascinating, if not   intriguing. What led the Catholic Church to mould Myriam  as a  perpetual “Virgin” despite her delivering at least half-a-dozen children through her birth canal as a result of  many penetrative sexual intercourses with her male partner beats common sense. What theological significance arises  out of  the rupture or otherwise of  her “maiden head”. It is a biological impossibility that Mary to have an  intact hymen. What this theological absurdity impacts anyone’s life is a million dollar question!  

Catholic Christianity has hailed Mary over the centuries as the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven, Our Lady of Lourdes, Guadalupe, Velamkanni etc., Flower of Carmel House, House  of God, Ark of the Covenant and what not? . She is the Madonna, patroness of millions of churches. She is touted as born without the stain of “original sin” viz., Immaculate Conception. She is also the Co-Redeemer with her Son, the only human being besides him to be assigned this role!  

Whatever be the genesis of the Marian dogma, neither it is rooted in any fact nor attested by the New Testament. Medieval attempts to reason out this dogma do not rest on any foundation. Legends giving fanciful details are mere afterthoughts about these beliefs. 

The history of Virgin Goddesses prior to Mary. 

Historically speaking, over a large part of the world, before the rise of any verified gods, human beings did indeed worship goddesses. More particularly they worshipped “The Goddess”, the “ Eternal Womanly”. 

Early Stone Age art doesn’t show any proven images of male deity. But it does give female ones – figurines with gross breasts and bellies —exaggerated tokens of motherhood. These were carved in Siberia and Europe before 10,000 BCE as cult objects of hunting tribes, later spreading to agricultural peoples in Indus Valley and Middle East as figurines made of ivory, terracotta or clay with more realism, in the context of more advanced art. 

However fragmented she may be before, the Eternal Womanly she did  exist, though not always through conscious intercommuni- cations, but psychologically,  under many names and aspects. Few surviving myths portray her alone. Nearly always she enters in the company of other divine beings. But she is senior to them all. Her protean nature comes through at different stages in theogony, some far more primitive than others. She is in the myth, “Dawn of All”. Sometimes she is a world matriarch of immeasurable age, sometimes she is a wife or mistress, sometimes she is a maiden. She takes on animal forms too. Occasionally one aspect of her encounters another.

In Sumeria four or five thousand years ago, she was Nin-Khursag or Nintu, the life giver, “mother of all”, “queen of the gods”. She was also the alluring Inanna. In Babylon she had a dark and monstrous shadow aspect before her creation as Ishtar. For Canaanites she was all “Mother Asherah”. Asherah’s as Ashtroreth or Astarte, was worshipped in Syria. Canaan itself knew her as a more sophisticated version called Anath, voluptuous, beautiful and martial. Such Goddesses  of Middle Eastern religions were not sharply etched.  They could not be. All were sovereign bestowers of life and fertility. Inanna and Ishtar “theGoddess” pure and simple. Asherah, Ashtoreth and Anath despite the growth of myth that gave them conflicting personalities, tended in practice to overlap and fuse. 

In Egypt,  the Goddess was primarily Neith, secondarily Isis, an anomalous form with a special destiny, one of several that attracted the title: Queen of Heaven. In Central Asia Minor, she was Cybele, the Mighty Mother, ruler over wild nature. In the western zone she was Artemis, whom the Romans called Diana and saluted as Lady of the Moon. On the Greek mainland she was Earth, mother of all beings, including the Titans, who were the oldest deities. But she was the chief Titanass Rhea and sovereign of many shrines under various names.

Multi-faceted, multi-visaged, yet mysteriously consistent, she  was something of the sea about her. As Aphrodite (afterwards Venus) she rose out of the foam and took possession of Cypress, then glided over the waves to Greece; the Greeks identified Aphrodite with Astarte,  the Syrian; the deity of the sea- faring megalith builders.  

The Goddess’ high summer belongs to the later Stone Age and the early and middle Bronze Age.  It fades in the second millennium BCE. Agriculture a female pursuit, was paramount; male talents, such as prowess in war and hunting, had only marginal value. There was even (it has been argued) matriarchy. Everywhere the Goddess reigned in the person of the arch-priestess,  kings were not overlords but sacred functionaries, ritually married to the priestess, and put to death at regular intervals.

Women may well have been powerful then through the monopoly of the arts of magic;  the Eternal Womanly and powerful. There are hints of honoured status for women in traces of matrilinear custom —that is, inheritance through through the mother and not through the father. The reason for the custom is simple: a child’s mother is known whereas the father’s identity may be doubtful. It went deeper, the name of the Goddess was wound up with it. The ancient people were hazy on procreation itself. In the presence of birth, they were doubtful not merely about the father’s identity but about his existence too. Sex relations often occurred without preg-nancy. Woman alone was the visible life-bestower. The Goddess as Mother Earth, woman’s cosmic counterpart, obviously produced life in a medley of ways, and often for no known cause at all. 

This is the background of many legends of impregnation by many strange means such as swallowing a blade of grass or standing against the wind. In the more civilised tales of this type, the agency whatever it is, tends to be interpreted as the mask of a male god. Thus Diane becomes pregnant by a shower of gold, which is Zeus in disguise. But further back the male was absent. In that primal phase, the Goddess existed  and gave life without a male, deity or otherwise.

 In some cases, she can generate other deities unaided. Thus Neith gives birth to the Sun God Ra  by her own power.  At later stages, there are myths of male element within the Goddess; which splits off and turned into a partner for her. That is how Cybele, whose cosmic femininity contains maleness, acquires a consort named Attis.

The Goddess, in her earliest form, after a fashion, was a Virgin as well as Mother. She might —as in her Neith identity—have no spouse at all; she would have an Attis type companion in herself. Anath, the Canaanite Goddess, the Mother of Nations, despite her blatant sex life, somehow retained her Maidenhead as well as her Virginity. Artemis or Diana was coolly virginal – “Queen and Huntress – Chaste and Fair”. In her temple at Ephesus, she presided as a many breasted image of cosmic motherhood wearing a garland of bull’s testicles. 

The ascendancy of male deities. 

During the second millennium BCE,  male deities took command partly through the ever-strengthening institution of kingship, partly through changes in the inter-relations between sexes and partly through war and conquest. 

The predominance of male god corresponded to the new outlooks and new norms of world order. In Greek lands Goddesses’ lingering presence was so great and so elusive that it  prevented direct calumny. But femininity  was attacked through  the myth of Pandora’s box or jar which is believed to have  unleashed every woe upon humankind. 

The change in the status of the female in the Hebrew religion was an important factor. Among the Israelites, she was embodied in the person of Eve, “Life”, the mother of all living things. She was introduced in  paradisal state in the Hebrew Golden Age, walking naked through the Garden of Eden beside the “tree of life”.  But the story underwent a total turnaround which cut  her down and traduced her with exceptional severity. She has been reduced to a mere woman, a trouble maker, created from the rib of the senior and dominant first man. 

In Canaan where the Hebrews had settled by force, after the Exodus, there happened violent rejection of the cults of the native Canaanites; the most conspicuous version of which was Goddess was Asherah. The dying and rising god of the seasonal cycles in the  various forms of Baal was also rejected. 

The reason for this lies in the character of Yahweh, the male Lord God of Israel, with his fierce ethical demands. Yahweh’s spokesmen, the  priests and prophets laboured hard  to stamp out the influence of Baal. For them the “Female” meant the very  abomination of Canaanite Goddess worship. Therefore, the  official Hebrew religion grew more rigidly. The Hebrew myths were rewritten accordingly. Whatever the Life-Goddess was originally  appeared, she refined  in Genesis, as a  Hebrew Pandora, the villainess in a story of human misfortune. Through the first couple’s fall, humankind was  tainted with sin and got alienated from Yahweh. Thus, tragically, the brief Golden Age of Eve ended in ignominy.

The nostalgia.

In most of the Middle East and Graeco-Roman region, the last centuries of BCE were haunted by a sense of far-off lose of a “fall”, not exclusively in the moral sense, but in the context of “death”. Hence a deep feeling of nostalgia for the life giving divine Female and all she had implied revived. By that time the male god’s state-endowed priests had almost effaced memory of her in her true majesty. But the haunting magic of her rituals disjointedly persisted and her eclipse was not absolute. Through myths and special aspects she continued to survive. 

The cults of Goddesses that re-emerged out of Asia and Egypt during the early years of Pax Romana, groped their way back towards female deity through a sense of absence and loss. The Jews heirs of ancient Israel had already struggled with the same problems—mortality, futility, things closing in on them. But their own male god seemed too tremendous to allow a maternal answer. He had spoken through the Torah or the teaching communicated by Moses and that brooked no dissent, no appeal. What the Jews did instead was to add the new doctrine brought from Persia that of bodily resurrection of the dead and a Paradisal World to come. 

They also envisaged a savior of their own, a royal descendant of King David, the Messiah,  God’s earthly Anointed and  in Greek, the Christ , who would usher a world of transformation. This yearning seemed to have fulfilled in Paul’s resurrected Christ. Judaism did not succeed in keeping the Eternal Womanly out.  She entered as Wisdom, also known as Sophia, a mediator between God and his world, enthroned in Zion. 

 Diana of Ephesus and the Mary cult.

One of the important cities in the Roman Empire was Ephesus where goddess Diana was worshipped especially by infertile women as goddesses of fertility. It is not surprising that Mary drew upon the imagery of  this particular goddess because that was  the only imagery that people were familiar with. It is not surprising that Mary drew upon the imagery of associated with this particular  goddesses. In fact the reign of Diana is so fundamental to the cultural history of her worshippers of Ephesus that even the vicious  onslaught of early Christianity failed to dispose her off.  Instead she  survived and prospered under the guise of Mary , mother of Jesus, the theotokus, i.e., mother of god. The church initiated action to  convert Ephesusians to  Christian out failed; the people of Ephesus reshaped  and reinterpreted Virgin Mary to the traditions of Diana.

The person who brought Mary into the limelight was a holy man, but he was not any priest. His name was    Ephraem from Ephesus in Syria. A gifted poet he composed and  sang many hymns and poems including several addressed to the Virgin: “O Virgin Mother of God” “Gate of Heaven” and “Ark”. He says “Mary is the garden upon which descended from the Father the rain of benediction” He addressed  0her “My Most Holy Lady, Mother of God, Full of Grace, Glory etc. Early in 371, Ephraem went to Caesarea in Cappadocia to visit Bishop Basil and his brother Gregory as well as Gregory Nazianzus. These three set upon spreading the Marian cult vigourously.  

The negative side of the Virgin cult  was the growth anti-sexual prejudice. “Would the Lord Jesus have chosen for his mother, a woman who would defile the heavenly chamber with the seed of a man, that is to say one incapable of preserving her original chastity intact” goes the curious lopsided observation of Bishop Ambrose of Milan (5t century ). 

The Summation 

What is the relevance at  this time of  the 21st century , of an archaic belief,  without any semblance of common sense,  historical or logical foundation about an ordinary Jewish woman who would have led a prosaic and mundane life, two thousand years ago in a nondescript hamlet of  Galilee called Nazareth. The sore point in the matter that sticks out, is the doubt about the parentage of her first born, Jesus. 

Any amount of verbal gymnastics will not make Mary a significant  historical person of any importance despite the unbelievable yarn  of her Immaculate conception; her bodily ascendance to a non-existing heaven etc.

The Christians of the first few centuries of the Common Era conceived a heaven in the model of the Court of Emperor Constantine with his mother Helena breathing down on his neck and giving instructions to him might be including, probably, how to murder by her daughter-in-law by boiling her alive by Constantine. Then what else can be expected of a former bargirl. 

The earth would not shake or rent asunder if Mary were violated by the  Roman soldier by name Julius Tiberius Abdes Pantera  (courtesy Prof. James Tabor of North Carolina University, USA) and gave birth to Jesus, no fault of his. 

Will human life be ennobled because some woman is presented as conceiving a child in an asexual manner and though delivering it in the normal way through her virginal birth canal but touted both as mother as well as a Virgin? No epoch making earth event except for the so called celibate priest- hood denied of the touch and smell of a woman. This earth had not collapsed even if Mary had lost her virginity and along with that her maiden head with the first sexual intercourse she had with some male. The claim of the virginity of Mary is the nadir of stupidity. What else to say? 

Instead of brooding over the so called Virgin Goddess Mary, the Ecclesiastical may well accept and acknowledge, approve of and respect the female members of the Church instead of treating her the temptress and fallen Eve. And honour the Female. After all Mary was also a WOMAN. They as well desist from denigrating and condemning the very precious gift of the nature,  human sexuality. 

Varghese Pamplanil.

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