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The Goddess Ungentle.

It is very tempting to regard Goddess-centred religion as essentially gentle. It makes a welcome change from the cruelties of God-centred religions.

But the Goddess herself, though she can be tender and gentle, has other aspects. She is the Morrigan, the crow goddess of battle. She is the Furies, bringing vengeance on those who kill their kindred. She is Kali, who dances one age to destruction to provide space in which she creates the new age. She brings death to all at the time she finds appropriate, despite the pain it causes. She is the Lady of sexual passion and of birth; are these gentle? She is Necessity, and does what must be done, whether it seems harsh or gentle. She encompasses all, gentleness, strength, tenderness, powerfulness, both separately and at once. If we close our eyes to all but her gentle aspects, She may well force us to see her in all her harshness, in a more frightening way than if we had been willing to try to face Her reality.

Rosemary Sutcliff (in her novel The Mark of the Horse Lord) says “What has the Great Goddess to do with gentleness or ungentleness? She does not do, she only is. She is the Lady of Life and Death. When a man and a woman come together to make a child, she is in it, and when a pole-cat finds a thrush's nest and tears the young to shreds while the parents scream and beat about its head, she is in that too”.

And Christine Downing writes (“Beginning with Gaea” in cycle 5 of Lady-Unique‑Inclination‑of‑the‑Night) “Gaea is not benign: she is creative — that is her only principle. The Python and Typhoeus, the Furies, the Giants, the Titans, the Cyclops, the Hundred‑handed are terrifying and there are ever new forms of terror. No kiss transfigures them into fairy princes. There is, irreconcilably, that which does not conform to human scale, that which is not moral or purposive. Gaea is never present as a model for human beings — but she is never to be ignored reality.”

Wood and Water volume 2, number 5, Samhain 1982
© Daniel Cohen

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