Glossary entry for
Sophia: Goddess of Wisdom

Sophia is the Goddess of Wisdom. In the Mediterranean world in the first century, Sophia was a beacon to Christians, Jews, Gnostics and Pagans alike. "The Book of Wisdom" says: "Wisdom I loved; I sought her out when I was young and longed to win her for my bride, and I fell in love with her beauty... So I determined to bring her home to live with me, knowing that she would be my counsellor in prosperity and my comfort in anxiety and grief".

In her book Sophia: Goddess of Wisdom (1991), Caitlin Matthews traces the history of Sophia and the various ways in which she has been considered. Matthews states: "Sophia is the great lost Goddess who has remained intransigently within orthodox spiritualities. She is veiled, blackened, denigrated and ignored most of the time; or else she is exalted, hymned and pedestalled as an allegorical abstraction of female divinity. She is allowed to be a messenger, a mediator, a helper, a handmaid: she is rarely allowed the privilege of being seen to be in charge, fully self-possessed and creatively operative".

Contributed by Alan Pert, Sydney, Australia

Other sources connect Sophia to the Celtic goddess-figures known as "Sheela-na-gigs", as noted in this 1994 newsgroup message from Peter Doran - UKC, Canterbury:

The ancients believed that the Great Mother was a divine power outside of themselves - present in the cosmos. They believed that she was the Mother of all things - but also the goddess of death and the underworld. Fertility of the land depended on her good favour. Regular sacrifices were offered.

The Great Mother was essentially a collective cultural phenomenon and her power was experienced as being "totally" other. In this outward projection the ancient people remained unconscious of the forces within their own psyche. They lived in a mystical participation with the landscape, the cosmos, the seas.

The feminine Goddess has taken a number of forms -

  1. The Moon - as sign of transformation, creativity, birth, new beginnings.
  2. The Good Mother and Bad Mother - mother as source of nourishment and fertility and the Mother as Snake, the archetypal sign of Mother as the other point in the dual identity of an ever changing deity.
  3. Bridgit - the celtic Mother - The triple goddess of Ireland, connected to learning, craftsmen and healing, but also with childbirth and animal abundance.
  4. The Terrible Mother - can appear as devouring moster who eats her children - is the hungry earth which devours its own children.
  5. Sophia - Goddess of Wisdom/Fate

See: Neumann, E, The Great Mother, An Analysis of the Archetype
McCana P, Celtic Mythology

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