There were almost certainly gods before people made the association between copulation and conception; but all indications are that they were of the ‘Culture Hero’ type: keen-minded men who supported the ruling queen and helped mold people into a single, strong society with not only a common language, but common customs, clothing, skills, morés, taboos, spiritual observances, festivals, and so forth—to the point that upon their death, they were often deified and poetically associated with the moon that lit the darkness, the thunderclap that immediately got one’s attention, the creative power of simply words, and whatnot; but as a second-tier power that hadn’t created the world or anything else in nature, but only a society or culture within that world, they were never elevated to a status higher than that of the Great Mother, who in people’s mind remained the sole source of the world itself.
But all that was about to change.
Archaeologists digging about Europe at the level of the Old Stone Age sometimes run across phallic shaped carvings such as the ones below—though admittedly, some don’t exactly leap out at the viewer as phallic representations.
And even those that do seem disconnected to anything somehow, since they’re never even depicted as part of a man (‘ithy-phallic’) or in any way associated with a woman and procreation; notwithstanding that there are one or two barely distinguishable cave-wall engravings from that period, which may or may not represent lone ithyphallic sorcerors or something of that sort.
But then, sometime around fourteen thousand years ago, ithyphallic gods began showing up—and they’d remain ithyphallic in every sexually knowledgeable society until the coming of the Christian Creator.
This seven thousand year old (at most) clay depiction of a seated man found in Thessaly is one of the earliest examples of distinctly ithyphallic art found to date. Unfortunately, the phallus itself has been shattered, so that only the testicles remain.
A god who represented fertility, among other things, his erect phallus is included in the artwork above as the very badge of his divinity.
Sometimes the creators of these things could get a little carried away.
One can hardly turn around in Egyptian art without bumping into this ancient god of fertility.
This ancient papyrus portrays the aroused Egyptian Earth-god Geb trying to reach his sister/consort the Sky-goddess Nut, after they’d been forcibly separated by the Air-goddess Shu in Egyptian mythology.
This unnamed figure, probably a fertility god, looks out upon us from a small household shrine.
These items, known to archaeologists as ‘Herms’, are found all over Greece, especially at crossroads, where they’re supposed to have something to do with fortune.
Yes, the artist may have gotten a little carried away here too; but then, he/she does establish the responsibility of this divinity most prominently.
Also said to be a god of wisdom.
In Shinto Japan and some other lands, the Divine Phallus itself is commonly worshipped as the fount of all creation. Note the pile of surrounding prayer-cards.
Every spring, whole Japanese families pour into the streets of their city to celebrate sex, fertility, and ultimately the creation of life by parading a giant phallus down their main thoroughfare. Above, such a scene in Tokyo.
In Hindu India, the Divine Phallus, called the lingam, represents the divine power of the god Shiva who necessarily destroys the old in the process of creating the new—which in Brahmanic Hinduism, can mean anything from destroying the hymen in the process of creating new life to destroying what’s merely illusory in the process of being awakened to spiritual reality. The lingam appears in all Shaivite temples and in private, household shrines throughout India.
The female counterpart of the lingam is the yoni (literally, ‘womb’, but also connotes the vulva, vagina, and uterus); here portrayed round, it may also be depicted in other geometric shapes, such as a square. The joined lingam and yoni, as depicted above, is one of Hinduism’s most common symbols. Not quite, say, the signature of the circular, half-dark, half-light symbol of Chinese Taoism’s yin and yang—also shown above—but in principle the same; and if you happen to hear the word ‘yin’ in ‘yoni’ and surmise that the concept represented by both probably goes back a long way in history—certainly longer than ‘yang’ and ‘lingam’, words that must have been coined separately since they sound nothing alike—give yourself a star.
Every morning, some of Shiva’s worshippers bring his ubiquitous lingam offerings of flowers, fruit, or maybe a few coins; while prior to their their arrival, his priests will have carefully bathed it, coated it with fresh milk or sometimes honey, and otherwise prepared it to receive the day’s visitors, along with their various entreaties.
So the gods were now phallic—but was there really a ‘male takeover’ from the domination of the female? Well, you be the judge.
- In Siberia, the Chukchee people used to worship a Sea-goddess named Cinei; but following the coming of the phallic gods, she was forced to become the wife of a new Sea-god, Peruten; of course, with an accompanying reduction in her local profile—and in the influence, or political power of her cult. (Lowchen Australia, Siberian Goddesses) http://www.lowchensaustralia.com/names/siberian-goddesses.htm and (GodFinder, Table of Gods) http://godfinder.org/index.html?q=Cinei#home
- Not that all women—whether goddesses or mere mortals—submitted willingly to this new idea of accepting a husband; or that their willingness even mattered. In ancient Rome—where there was a god or goddess for every part of life, down to the smallest detail—the goddess Virginiensis was made responsible for untying the girdle of the new bride; after which, the goddess Prema was tasked with holding her down on the bed, legs apart as necessary; the god Subigus then helped make her completely submissive to her husband’s will; while the goddess Venus provided her with whatever passion that might be required to get her in the proper mood; of course, the god Priapus hastened to supply her husband with an erection; the goddess Pertuda made sure that there was actual penetration, and so forth. (Wikipedia, List of Fertility Deities, Roman) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fertility_deities
- Among the indigenous peoples of South America, many of whom aren’t yet terribly far removed from the time when matriarchal rule was still the social norm, references to the male takeover survive to this day in the form of various myths and legends. (Suppressed History Archives, historian Max Dashú citing anthropologist John D. Monaghan, 2009) https://www.suppressedhistories.net/goddess/fdivsa.html
- A few centuries ago, European mariners sailing around Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America, only six hundred miles from perpetually frozen Antartica, saw so many fires on the dozens of islands that they passed that they named the place Tierra del Fuego, the ‘Land of Fire’. For despite the frigid clime, the islands were inhabited by a few native peoples so thoroughly acclimated to the place that they actually walked around completely naked; slept in the open, completely unsheltered and unclothed while the fully clothed Europeans shivered under howsoever many blankets; swam in the extremely cold sea in search of shellfish and other edible marine life that they could capture with their bare hands; and were otherwise indifferent to the bitter cold and biting wind—although they did bother to cover themselves all over with animal grease, knew how to make and control fire, used the few available rock formations to shelter themselves from the elements, and habitually rested by assuming a deep squatting position so as to reduce their surface area and thus conserve their own body heat. In other words, they were still living pretty much at the level of the Stone Age. (Wikipedia, Yaghan people) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yaghan_people
- One of these peoples, the Yaghan, still recount in their legends how long ago, men killed the ruling women, including their leader, Húanaxu, in a bloody patriarchal coup; after which the furious Húanaxu rose into the sky, became the moon, and sent a great flood from the sea as punishment for their slaughter. (Suppressed History Archives, historian Max Dashú citing cultural anthropologist John D. Monaghan, 2009) https://www.suppressedhistories.net/goddess/fdivsa.html
- The neighboring Selk’nam, a nomadic hunting people who similarly went about at most, skimpily clad, told visiting anthropologists that once, a powerful shamaness named Kreeh, who’d led the women’s council, had been overthrown along with the rest of the council by the men—who nonetheless continued to fear her, since after being driven from the earth, she’d simply taken over the moon. (Suppressed History Archives, historian Max Dashú citing Chapman, pp. 67-73) https://www.suppressedhistories.net/goddess/fdivsa.html
- Further north, in the Gran Chaco region of northern Argentina and bryond, the Chamacoco people report that the male overthrow actually went so far as to kill all the female deities. Only, their own great goddess Aishnawerhta managed to regenerate herself and angrily avenge her sex. The Chamacoco—who over the years, have killed or driven off missionaries of every stripe, and in fact have recently accepted government relocation precisely so that they might be left alone to continue their traditional ways—revere Aishnawerhta, who they describe as all-knowing, present everywhere, beyond time itself, and as their Great Teacher whose wise Words and Laws created their traditional culture. (Suppressed History Archives, historian Max Dashú citing anthropologist Edgardo J. Cordeau, pp. 268-70) https://www.suppressedhistories.net/goddess/fdivsa.html
- Then, how could anyone have killed her? The men claim that it was actually done at her own instruction, because she felt guilty about the fact that for centuries women had looked down on men and tricked them; and so the goddess had revealed to her chieftain lover how to kill her and all her kind just by striking “the mouths hidden in the hair on their left ankles”. (Suppressed History Archives, historian Max Dashú citing anthropologist Arturo Escobar, pp. 30-5, and Edgardo J. Cordeau, p. 268) https://www.suppressedhistories.net/goddess/fdivsa.html
- When Christian missionaries first encountered West Africa’s 4.5-million Fon people and found them already patrilineal, they figured that if push came to shove in their attempt to convert them, it would be easy enough to just re-interpret the Fon mythologies within the patrilineal Abrahamatic framework, and with the two thus synchronized, maneuver the Fon into adopting the new religion. After all, they’d already used that tactic successfully on many other peoples around the world. But to their dismay, the Fon priests turned the tables—as has happened in more than a few cases elsewhere—and simply re-interpreted the Abrahamic myths into their own religious framework. (Wikipedia, Fon People, Religion) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fon_people
- In the Fon’s framework, imparted orally from one generation to the next since ancient times, the goddess Nana Buluku is the Supreme Being and ultimate source of the universe; although it’s said that after creating it, she retired, leaving the task of creating all that the universe would eventually contain to her hermaphrodtic child, perceived as the aforementioned Moon-goddess Mawu and her twin brother, the Sun-god Lisa—although in the myth, Mawu does most of the work. (Wikipedia, Fon People, Religion) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fon_people
- While the various peoples of West Africa all have their own languages, it’s worth noting here that most of these belong to the Gbe group within the Niger-Congo linguistic family—indicating that they were once a single people with a single culture; much as, say, English is one of the West Germanic languages within the Indo-European family. And so we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that despite their disparate tongues, most West Africans revere Nana Buluku as the primordial Mother-goddess—notwithstanding that in some Gbe languages, such as the one spoken by the Fon, she’s known as Nana Bukuulu, or in some Fon dialects, as Nana Bukuu; by the Akan of Ghana as Nana Buruku; by the Yoruban and Igbo peoples of Nigeria as Nana Kuruku and Olisabuluwa respectively, and so forth; while the rest have come to focus on Mawu-Lisa as the only one who really matters now—with Mawu getting all the worship, and Lisa mentioned today only inasmuch as he happens to be linked to her in name. Which brings us to . . .
- The Ewe, another West African people numbering in the millions, who have recently come up with a very different version of all this: for as they would now have it, Mawu is actually the male and as such, should heneforth be perceived as a creator along the lines of the Christian God. Now how do you suppose all that came about? If you need a hint, you should also know that in some villages, the Ewe’s more manipulable priests have even given ‘him’ a second name: Yehowa. (Face2Africa, Nana Buluku, the revered goddess and . . . ) https://face2faceafrica.com/article/nana-buluku-the-revered-goddess-and-supreme-deity-of-west-africa-and-the-caribbean (Wikipedia, Mawu) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mawu
- Across the continent, in northeastern Africa, the Kafa people of Ethiopia used to have a fertility goddess named Atete who was the subject of an ancient, annual, rite in which women would collect various plants sacred to her and throw them in a local river. The rite is still performed; but since their conversion to Christianity and the assimilation of Atete’s cult into that of the Virgin Mary, it has come to be called Astar yo Mariam, in Kafa, ‘the Epiphany of Mary‘. (Wikipedia, Atete) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atete
- In ancient Persia, a mostly arid land today known as Iran, (from its original Indo-European name, ‘Ariana’, a land ruled by the Aryans), the oldest and most worshipped nature deities were those associated with water in all its forms, or the Āpas (‘Waters’)—in the language of that day, a feminine noun, since all of the Āpas were female. The Āpas actually personified rain, rivers, streams, lakes, springs, wells, pools, mist, droplets, dew, really just any kind of moisture—while by far the most popular and widely revered of these was Aredvi Sura Anahita, ‘Moisture Mighty and Pure’, who over a period of time came to represent the very spirit or ‘essence’ of water; through her association with water, healing; and due to her ability to heal, wisdom. At her height, Anahita, as she’s commonly referred to today, had more temples and shrines dedicated to her than any other Persian goddess—even after the rise of Zoroastrianism in the region, which left no room for any Creator other than its own, male Ahura Mazda. According to Zoroastrianism’s founder Zoroaster, Ahura Mazda generated all of the lesser deities out of his own essence, thus making all the ancient gods and goddesses his children—meaning that the priests and priestesses of Anahita, among others, could no longer act as independently as they had before, but would now be subject to the approval of Ahura Mazda’s. Nonetheless, reverence for water has remained so deeply ingrained in the Persian psyche that even many Zoroastrians continue to make offerings to their back yard well or some nearby stream in the name of Anahita; while her remaining worshippers continue to visit her temples in Zoroastrian communities everywhere, seeking her divine support and counsel to this day. (Wikipedia, Anahita) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anahita and (Wikipedia, Aban) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aban
- According to the ancient Sumerians, in the Beginning the goddess Nammu, in the form of the primeval sea, gave birth to the sky and earth—or to quote directly from the An-Anum, a cuneiform list of the Sumerian deities that eventually came to be accepted throughout the ancient Mediterranean world, she was the “mother who gave birth to the heavens and the earth.” And here we must note, in view of what follows, that no male deity is mentioned on this list—or anywhere else in the Mediterranean records of that day—in connection with that event. (Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses, Nammu) http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/amgg/listofdeities/namma/index.html
- And then, in the Sumerian poem Enki and Ninmah, written later, she’s also described as the “original mother who gave birth to [all of] the gods in the universe”—again, according her primary status among the deities. (AncientMesopotamian Gods and Goddesses, Nammu) http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/amgg/listofdeities/namma/index.html and (Wikipedia, Nammu) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nammu
- But in the subsequent creation story of the Babylonians, the Enûma eliš—generally found to date from no more than four thousand years ago—Nammu gradually fades in importance throughout the region as her role as the primordial sea in the story is taken over by the Babylonian goddess Tiamat; only, in the Enûma, Tiamat is but one of two primeval seas—and the other, Abzu, is her male consort in creating the world and all its deities; which the two bodies of water—hers salty, and his of the drinkable kind—accomplish by simply, well, “mingling”. Obviously, the fact that in the Sumerian story, the Creatrix needed no male partner, while in the later, Babylonian version she did, would be of great interest to us here. (Wikipedia, Enûma Eliš) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/En%C3%BBma_Eli%C5%A1
- And in the Enûma, another important, pivotal fact is that while at the beginning of the story, the Babylonian myth-maker portrays Tiamat as a positive, mother-like figure, as the story progresses, he gradually turns her into a monstrous root of all chaos who must be killed; which is subsequently handled by the heroic god Marduk—who finally splits her body in two, thereby creating heaven and earth from her torso, rivers from her eyes, mountains from her breasts, and so forth, before going on to become the ‘King of All the Deities’, and then of course, ultimately the divine patron and protector of Babylon itself. (Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses, Tiamat)http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/amgg/listofdeities/tiamat/index.html
- In Brahmanic Hinduism, which holds that an all-pervasive female energy powers the universe and empowers everything in it, every god is believed to include a portion of that, or his own shakti—not to be confused with’wife’—within himself, else he would have no power whatsoever. For instance, in the Hindu’s holy trimurti (‘trinity’), the divine shakti of Brahma, the god who continually creates the new, is Brahmani; while that of Vishnu, the god who for as long as possible sustains what has been created, Vaishnavi; and that of the aforementioned Shiva, the god who necessarily destroys what is old in order to make room for the new, Maheshvari—inasmuch as in one of Shiva’s own aspects, he’s also known as Maheshvara. And the point here? Well, these and the shaktis of four other major Hindu gods comprise the widely revered Saptamataras, or the ‘seven mothers’—one of whom, Badi Mata, eventually fell out of favor and is now described as being of evil intent, especially towards children who might otherwise be inclined to seek her maternal protection. (Wikipedia, Shakti) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakti and (Wikipedia, Saptamataras) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matrikas
- The Japanese Kojiki, or ‘Record of Ancient Matters’, a traditional, orally transmitted history committed to writing at the request of the Empress Genmei early in the eighth century and believed to be the oldest surviving Japanese literary work of any kind, contains the story of the creation of the Japanese islands, people, and their current gods and ways by the divine pair Izanagi and his sister Izanami. And so does the Nihon Shoki, ‘The Chronicles of Japan’, commissioned by Japan’s fortieth Emperor, Tenmu, during the previous century and finally completed under the editorial supervision of his son Prince Toneri some twenty-four years after his death and fully eight years after the presentation to the imperial court of the by-then well established Kojiki. But the two stories appear to differ in at least one glaring way. In the Kojiki, Izanami dies from terrible burns that she received while giving birth to the fire god and passes into the Underworld; whereupon Izanagi pursues her there, hoping to help her escape—but upon seeing her blackened, rotting corpse, he flees back to the world of the living, where he promptly purifies himself by ritualistic bathing, and in doing so creates—that is, ‘gives birth’, from his two eyes and his nose, no woman necessary—the three most important Japanese deities: Amaterasu, Tsukiyomi, and Susanoo. While in the Nihon Shoki, these deities are said to have already been created by the divine couple prior to Izanami’s great tragedy; and so now, apparently no longer in need of a wife, Izanagi doesn’t pursue her into the Underworld at all, but simply retires to a temple on the island of Awaji. Hm, perhaps the stories aren’t that different after all. (Wikipedia, Izanami) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Izanami, (Wikipedia, Kojiki) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kojiki and (Wikipedia, Nihon Shoki) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nihon_Shoki
If you find the element of brother-sister incest in the Japanese story somewhat disturbing, you might consider the following.
First of all, in most, if not all cultures, the recognition of the relationship between copulation and conception appears to have been immediately followed by the idea that as with all other human activities, sexual activity should be carefully regulated by those who wished to avoid displeasing the Ultimate One, if only by bringing it into line with the natural ways of the world as then understood; while the gods themselves should set the example.
For instance, since the discovery of the fact that without the assistance of a male, the female couldn’t create anything at all, most of the old female cults, such as, say, those whose Mother-goddess had long been associated with the sea—and of course, who was believed to create the fish upon which her children routinely sustained themselves—had suddenly found themselves looking to merge with one of the new, male cults whose own god might now be claiming dominion over the sea; while under the circumstances—the two having arisen from the very same place in mind and all—the myth-makers of the day naturally came to present them, in spirit at least, as ‘brother and sister’, or this divine pair who having properly married, now cohabited in the sea and actually created all those fish together.
And so it was in Japan, whose ancient Creation story as recorded in the Kojiki has it that Izanagi and Izanami were actually but the seventh divine brother-sister pair directed to help with the creation of the world; that is, the world having been started by an Original Pair long before them, and the earth having already been created—albeit at present, still covered with water—their task as assigned by the older kami, or gods was just to create the Japanese islands, people, and their deities; and meanwhile, the myth-makers would have them teach people by example how to behave properly, perform all the required ceremonies, and so forth.
For instance, both the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki report that when the divine pair went to marry by ceremoniously approaching each other from opposite directions around the ‘Pillar of Heaven’, Izanami was the first to speak; after which, they completed the marriage ceremony and only then, mated—but then, produced a grotesquely deformed child; which they promptly set asea alone in a boat, to die as it would.
Then they asked the older generation of gods what they’d done wrong. And you’ve probably already guessed their answer: Izanami shouldn’t have been the first to speak; the man should have been allowed—must always be allowed—to speak first!
And so they went through the marriage ceremony again—this time, in the proper manner—and went on to conceive many healthy offspring. Example set. (Wikipedia, Japanese Mythology https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_mythology)
2: Art History http://www.all-art.org/history16.html
7: Ipernity http://www.ipernity.com/doc/laurieannie/4592313
8: Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/mkandelaki/phallus/
10: Yagbe Onilu https://yagbeonilu.com/eshu-elegbara-aflakete/
14: Wikiwand https://www.wikiwand.com/ca/Lingam
15: See composite photo caption for URLs.