Firstly, with the rise of feminism came a renewed interest in goddesses within already established religions. Many argue that the theory of the Great Goddess attempts to find an alternative to a patriarchal society. There is three main path one can take in order to understand this theory. The first is looking at how individuals worshipped certain goddesses in prehistoric times. Here, one base one’s hypothesis on archaeological findings which are often discovered in the Near East, what we today consider the Middle East.
Believers of the ‘Great Goddess’ school of thought claim that humans of a time long past devoted their time to a big-breasted, corpulent female goddess who represented fertility. Moreover, they use the findings of such figurines to support their argument.
The second took an in-depth look at female deities and based on the findings they reinterpreted traditions and sacred texts so the focal point can be these strong females. Finally, there is the goddess revival which states that religion as one knows it is too male-centric and thus women must abandon it.
So long as women are fully and exclusively devoted to a female deity, she can become an equal participant in not only religion but also society as a whole. The research presented in this paper will be based primarily on the second school of thought. Although this may be true, there is also the paradox of the ‘Great Goddess’ which mostly have something to do with her sexual maturity, more specifically her ability to mother countless children while staying pure.
Alternatively, as Anne Kaler expresses it in her book The Picara: From Hera to Fantasy Heroine:
The first attribute of the Great Goddess is the paradox of virginity: she is the fecund mother of nature, bearing children to many lovers, at the same time she remains a virgin.
In the context of Homer’s magnum opus, the Iliad the paradox of the ‘Great Goddess’ has moved away from a question of her purity to a question of whether or not she should accept her position within patriarchy. In the Iliad the view of her changes from this mother of all to that of ‘mother/virgin/lover/hag.’ Within Greek mythology as a whole, Athena plays the virgin while Aphrodite takes on that of ‘lover’ and Hera, the mother.
Secondly, Patriarchy in broad terms refers to male dominance in both the public and private sphere. In this research, ‘patriarchy’ will be used to describe the power dynamics and relationships between men and women. Thus, it becomes a tool to describe the realities women have to suffer through and not just a simple term. Many a female thinker have defined ‘patriarchy’ in various ways. Despite this, they have one building block in common and that is the term ‘system.’ One explains that patriarchy is an arrangement in which male swap ladies. Another make a case for it being a social structure which allows men to dominate, oppress and even exploit women. The word itself meant the rule of a powerful man or ‘patriarch’ and referred to a household where men ruled the roost.
Finally, the problem with feminine beauty today lays in the eyes of the beholder as has been said so often. While in ancient Greece it was seen as something which could be measured objectively. Artistically, beauty falls into three categories: form, function or proportion. These three distinct categories made it possible for the Greeks to assess beauty objectively. In Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle argues that ‘beauty implies a good-sized body, and little people may be neat and well-proportioned but cannot be beautiful.’ Here, he may not touch on female beauty as such, but there is certainly a question of classifying what is beautiful. Further, some scholars argue that the objectivity mentioned above of beauty helps explain beautiful individuals were deemed generic rather than unique. It is this supposed objective view of beauty which made it possible for the Greek to seek the notion of ‘perfection’ or at least what is deemed ‘most admirable.’ In continuation of this, there is the whole heroic ideal which states that there should be a balance between the inner (moral) and outer (physical) beauty. This ideal seems to be easily obtainable for men while for ladies it seems more challenging. In the Iliad, this conflict between inner beauty and outer beauty is beautifully portrayed by Helen since it seems impossible for such a fanciable young woman also to perceived as morally pure. Instead, men view women as ‘beautiful evil.’
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