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Neohelicon

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 125–135 | Cite as

The female face of god

  • Perle Besserman
Ergasterium
  • 145 Downloads

Abstract

Locating the influence of modernity on gender in the ancient world of the Near East, this discussion of women’s spirituality traces the history of the idea that the monotheistic god of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity was originally both male and female. Paralleling the myths of the Hebrews and their pagan neighbors, which developed around fertility cults prominently featuring women, the author argues that patriarchal reforms ushered in during the 7th century B.C.E. forced worship of the female face of god underground. Thus split off from mainstream worship, the old fertility cults nonetheless continued to flourish in secret mystical communities. Here, god’s female aspect was worshiped symbolically as “Shekhinah”, the “bride of Yahweh” — now metaphorically identified with the exiled community of Israel. Focusing on the sexually charged and gendered mystical imagery resulting from the reformist prohibitions against goddess worship, the discussion pinpoints its sublimation in mystical contemplative practices from the Deuteronomic period to the present. Locating the influence of modernity on gender in the ancient world of the Near East, this discussion of women’s spirituality traces the history of the idea that the monotheistic god of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity was originally both male and female. Paralleling the myths of the Hebrews and their pagan neighbors, which developed around fertility cults prominently featuring women, the author argues that patriarchal reforms ushered in during the 7th century B.C.E. forced worship of the female face of god underground. Thus split off from mainstream worship, the old fertility cults nonetheless continued to flourish in secret mystical communities. Here, god’s female aspect was worshiped symbolically as “Shekhinah”, the “bride of Yahweh”—now metaphorically identified with the exiled community of Israel. Forcusing on the sexually charged and gendered mystical imagery resulting from the reformist prohibitions against goddess worship, the discussion pinpoints its sublimation in mystical contemplative practices from the Deuteronomic period to the present.

Keywords

Female Face Hebrew Letter Pagan Neighbor Ritual Bath Jewish Mystic 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Perle Besserman
    • 1
  1. 1.North MelbourneAustralia

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