World goddess Origins
There are literally hundreds of fertility goddesses listed among cultures around the world. Each one is as diverse at the language or people group they come. But as much as they change, there seems to be a set of underlying matching characteristics between most of them. My theory is thus: To compare these matching characteristics to determine beyond a reasonable doubt that many of these ancient goddesses worshipped around the globe originate from one known or unknown source.
Definition of Key Terms
This proposed theory falls under the discipline of comparative mythology and anthropological diffusionism.
Comparative Mythology: Comparative mythology is the comparison of myths from different cultures in an attempt to identify shared themes and characteristics. Comparative mythology has served a variety of academic purposes.
Diffusionism: Diffusion is defined as the spread of a cultural item from its place of origin to other places.
Bryan C. Nelson in 1931 published A Deluge Story In Stone that included two charts of importance. The first was a comparative chart of flood legends showing 3 lines of unchanging cross diffusionism among people groups when it came to a world wide flood.
1. An ark that preserved life.
2. Universal destruction of living things by water.
3. A seed of mankind preserved
Byron C. Nelson, The Deluge Story in Stone (Augsburg, Minneapolis, 1931), Appendix II, Flood Traditions, Figure 38)
The second chart Nelson put forth brought the assumption that if a universal flood occurred, then the survivors who migrated would take the story of that event to wherever they traveled.
Byron C. Nelson, The Deluge Story in Stone (Augsburg, Minneapolis, 1931), Appendix II, Flood Traditions, Figure 37)
The oldest goddess legends reside in the findings in the area of ancient Assyria-Babylonia-Mesopotamia. The early Neolithic human occupation of Mesopotamia is well documented with different dates proposed in various studies. Like the flood chart comparison across different culture groups, the evidence of one fertility goddess changing across migratory paths of ancient people groups is present with the same mostly unchanging characteristics and attributes.
Chart created by Zachary Bauer (New2Torah.com) 2017 (no copyright – share as desired)
Dr. Calvert Watkins, Dr. J.P. Mallory and Dr. Douglas Adams all support the connection of the goddess Eostre with that of Indo European goddesses such as Hausos and link them as originating from the same source.
Gaius Julius Hyginus (64 BC – 17AD) wrote of the Roman goddess Venus being the same as the ancient Syrian goddess Atargetis. Fabulae Fables –  CXCVII. VENUS
The historical and comparative approach for linking similar myths of ancient goddesses to one another is supported by modern researchers such as Dr. Michael Witzel of Harvard University who specialize in comparative mythology.
When you look at the amount of linking attributes across the wide range of cultural groups around the world, what is the statistical probability of so many parallels? Unlike Nelson’s chart linking 3 main features across world flood legends, the goddesses chart above ties 5 main features across the most popular of the world’s female goddesses.
The chart is limited as there are literally hundreds of mythical goddesses among culture groups around the world. Space was a factor in order to provide adequate reading space and share ability among social media sites. Regional goddesses such as those located in ancient Japan, Poland, Ireland and others would fit nicely inside this chart model and meet many of the attributes.
Some may argue that Hathor should be the fertility goddess listed for ancient Egypt and it’s true that some studies and scholars support that Hathor was an Egyptian fertility goddess that predates Isis. However most scholars agree that Hathor and Isis are the same goddess and was known during certain time periods as simply Hathor-Isis. This is more evidence that fertility goddesses can be traced back to a single origin and names change as people groups change and migrate.
Isis is the Egyptian goddess listed as it’s clear from most scholars of the linkage between Isis in Egypt and the Roman Isis and Venus and their connection with the egg in their myths. When you take into account the direct connection from Hyginus to Venus of Rome to the Syrian goddess of Atargatis and that they all have a connection to springtime fertility and the egg, it makes it an elementary conclusion that there is some sort of link to Bede’s mention of Eostre and springtime fertility worship known as the modern Easter.
One could write an entire paper and separate chart with the parallel links on the fertility goddesses of India. Dr. Karen Tate claims that the Indian/Hindu goddess Parvati and Aditi are one in the same. With so many diverse language and cultural groups among the people of India, there were multiple goddesses that were linked with one another. According to the Census of India of 2001, India has 122 major languages and 1599 other languages. So it would be reasonable that different names of the same goddess would appear across the cultural landscapes. For the purpose of this thesis and chart, I chose one of the more popular Hindu goddesses of fertility. It’s worthy of note that another Hindo fertility goddess, Ammavaru is linked with an egg that hatched the gods of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma.
Due to the overwhelming evidence of linkage to goddesses worshipped through antiquity, it becomes safe to conclude that the majority of fertility goddesses are the same with the origin being in the area of ancient Mesopotamia/Babylon. The oldest of these goddesses starting with Atargatis being linked to Asherah/Anat were worshiped with their shared traits throughout 1500 years of cultural history. From there, the migration of people and culture groups spread the legends of these fertility entities that changed names but kept most of their original attributes.
What is the statistical probability of so many varied fertility goddesses across the globe and time having so many similar traits?
- D. Calvert Watkins How to kill a dragon : aspects of Indo-European poetics 1995 Oxford U. Press New York
- Mallory, J. P.; Adams, D. Q. (1997). Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. London and Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. ISBN 1-884964-98-2.
- J.P. Mallory, “A Short History of the Indo-European Problem”, Journal of Indo-European Studies (JIES) 1 (1973): 21–65.
- Fabulae Fables –  CXCVII. VENUS Hyginus
- Karen Tate, Sacred Places of Goddess: 108 Destinations
- Ian Shaw (2000) The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt
- Plutarch, (1936) De Iside et Osiride, edited by Frank C. Babbitt
- Abbott, George Frederick (1903). Macedonian Folklore
- E.J.M. Witzel, “The Origins of the World’s Mythologies, New York : OUP 2012