The Star Goddess

"The Star Goddess" by Sable Aradia (photo manipulation of public domain images).  Copyright (c) 2015.  All rights reserved.

“The Star Goddess” by Sable Aradia (photo manipulation of public domain images). Copyright (c) 2015. All rights reserved.

Listen to the words of the Star Goddess: the dusts of Whose feet are the hosts of heaven, Whose body encircles the Universe:

I Who am the beauty of the green earth, and the white moon among the stars, and the mystery of the waters, and the desire of the heart of man, call unto thy soul, arise, and come unto Me.

For I am the soul of Nature Who gives life to the Universe.  From Me all things proceed, and unto Me all things must return; and before My face, beloved of gods and of men, let thine innermost divine self be enfolded in the rapture of the infinite.

 Doreen Valiente, “The Charge of the Goddess”

*****

O Circle of Stars, whereof our father is but the younger brother,

Marvel beyond imagination, soul of infinite space,

Before whom time is bewildered and understanding dark,

Not unto thee may we obtain unless thine image be love.

Therefore by seed and root, by stem and bud, by leaf and flower and fruit, do we invoke thee,

O Queen of Space, O Dew of Light, continuous one of the heavens,

Let it ever be thus, that men speak not of thee as one, but as none;

And let them not speak of thee at all, for thou art continuous.

For thou art the point of the circle that we adore, the fount of life without which we would not be.

And in this way are erected the Holy Twin Pillars,

In beauty and strength were they erected, to the wonder and glory of all men.

Janet & Stewart Farrar, “The Witches’ Way”

Whenever a Pagan takes on the subject of Deity and speculates on its nature, she dares a great deal.  Any conclusion she comes to is guaranteed to challenge someone else’s conclusions.  There will be arguments.  So let’s assume, then, that I take on this challenge understanding that these are my own speculations.  It is my contention that human beings simply cannot comprehend the fullness of the concept of the Divine, even though we each contain a part of it; and that any conclusion we come to will be incorrect because it simply cannot be fully accurate.  Nevertheless, I believe it is a worthy pursuit to try.

There are many Pagan traditions that speak of the Star Goddess.  The Feri tradition calls Her this, or the Blue Goddess, and She is the primordial Creatrix from which all other deities, all other beings, originate.  Many Vanatru speak of the Star Mother, who is the Goddess of the gods, so to speak. But it is primarily of the Wiccan Goddess that I write because that is the one that I know.

The Stele of Revealing by Hergestellt von jahd via A.M.A. ca. 1990 (public domain image). Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Origins

The Book of the Law

The Star Goddess as we understand Her in modern Paganism appears to originate primarily from Nuit, the Goddess of Thelema envisioned and channeled by Aleister Crowley’s wife Rose Edith Kelly (who is, in my opinion, unfairly and perhaps misogynisticly ignored by modern occult historians,) who is the one who actually performed the channeling that Crowley transcribed to create the Book of the Law.

The couple were touring the newly-opened Egyptian Museum, and through a vision from Horus Rose was driven to find an image of Him.  The one they found was a funerary tablet created for Ankh-af-na-khonsu, a 26th dynasty Theban priest (a replica of which is depicted on the right.)  At the time it also bore the catalogue number 666, which has particular religious significance in Thelema.  It is perhaps also significant that it was recovered from the mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, the infamous female Pharoah of Egypt.  The tablet shows the Egyptian sky-goddess Nut arching over an enthroned, syncretized version of Ra and Horus called Re-Harakhty “Re-Horus of the Two Horizons,” who is speaking to the priest.  They called it the Stele of Revealing, and they saw it as depicting the three deities of Thelema; Nuit (the Star Goddess,) Hadit (the Priest) and Ra-Hoor-Khuit (Re-Horus of the Two Horizons).  They arranged to have a reproduction of the Stele made for themselves.

This image sparked a vision which Kelly then channeled and Crowley transcribed.  That vision became the Book of the Law; which, one could argue, spawned the theology of most forms of modern Wicca and Paganism.  Some quotes regarding Nuit from the Book of the Law which may look somewhat familiar:

Invoke me under my stars! Love is the law, love under will.

I love you! I yearn to you! Pale or purple, veiled or voluptuous, I who am all pleasure and purple, and drunkenness of the innermost sense, desire you.  Put on the wings, and arouse the coiled splendour within you: come unto me!

I give unimaginable joys on earth: certainty, not faith, while in life, upon death; peace unutterable, rest, ecstasy; nor do I demand aught in sacrifice.

Aradia, Gospel of the Witches

Charles Leland published Aradia in 1899, which he claimed was a direct transcription of the words of an Italian strega, referred to as “Maddalena;” in which Diana, the Moon Goddess, seduces Her brother Lucifer, the Sun God, to create their daughter Aradia; who is sent to earth to teach witchcraft to the masses and liberate the oppressed.  Modern historians doubt its accuracy, but it seems clear that he based his work in some element of folk tradition, and many of the more poetic words of the text later found their way into the most familiar of Wiccan invocations.  Diana, in this text, is not seen as simply a Moon Goddess; but also a goddess of night, magick, the stars, nature and animals.  Some quotes you may recognize:

When I shall have departed from this world, whenever ye have need of anything, once in the month, and when the moon is full, ye shall assemble in some desert place, or in a forest all together join, to adore the potent spirit of your queen, my mother, great Diana.

She who fain would learn all sorcery yet has not won its deepest secrets, them my mother will teach her, in truth all things as yet unknown.

And ye shall all be freed from slavery, and so ye shall be free in everything, and as a sign that ye are truly free, ye shall be naked in your rites, both men and women also: this shall last until the last of your oppressors shall be dead . . .

 

. . . all shall sit down to the supper, all naked, men and women, and the feast over, they shall dance, sing, make music, and then love in the darkness, with all the lights extinguished; for it is the Spirit of Diana who extinguishes them, and so they will dance and make music in her praise.

The White Goddess

Robert Graves’ creative examination of poetic myth also influenced the concept of the Star Goddess.  He proposed the idea of a White Goddess, represented by phases of the moon, who lay behind the diverse goddesses of European cultures.  Modern folklorists challenge this idea — I am myself inclined to believe that ideas influence other ideas like spreading viruses — but “common thread” deity theories were popular among anthropologists in 1948, when his book was originally published.  It may have been partially inspired by Sir James Frazer’s 1922 publication The Golden Bough, which proposed a similar idea for sacrificial male deities; and these, in turn, were likely influenced by the Victorian understanding of Hindu deities, in which all gods are aspects of the One, the Brahman.  This idea of a single deity with many names, in the form of a goddess of “birth, love and death,” and a god that lives, dies, and is reborn, is a foundational concept in the syncretic Wiccan religion and its derivatives.

The Wiccan Charge of the Goddess clearly has its origins in Charles Leland’s Aradia, Gospel of the Witches; and also in the Book of the Law, with some curlicues from The White Goddess.

'Night" by Edward Robert Hughes.  Public domain image.

‘Night” by Edward Robert Hughes. Public domain image.

Interpretations

Crowley interpreted Nuit as representative of the vast Mystery of the Cosmos.  She is  “Our Lady of the Stars,” and “Lady of the Starry Heaven;” and the “Queen of Infinite Space,” or, colloquially, the “Queen of Heaven“, a title borne by the Creatrices and Great Mothers of many pantheons.  As Wikipedia aptly put it:

Nuit represents the infinitely-expanded circle whose circumference is unmeasurable and whose center is everywhere (whereas Hadit is the infinitely small point within the core of every single thing). According to Thelemic doctrine, it is the interaction between these two cosmic principles that creates the manifested universe similar to the gnostic syzygy.

It’s probably hard for a modern reader to appreciate the revolutionary, transgressive nature of this cosmic vision.  The binary universe, up to that point, had been conceived by metaphysicians as “good” and “evil,” and the material was seen as “evil” while the spiritual (and non-material) was seen as “good.”  Even the Gnostics, whose work obviously strongly influenced Kelly and Crowley, conceived of the physical universe as being the misguided manifestation of the feminine force of creation Aeon Sophia, who dared to create without masculine guidance, and thus formed the illusory, malevolent Demiurge.  Starhawk called this “the culture of estrangement” in her book Dreaming the Dark.

Kelly’s vision, and Crowley’s interpretation, does not conceive of divisions between physical and spiritual.  To them, the spiritual is imminent and intrinsic in the physical and we are seeking evolution, not transcendence.  The gods are manifest in this world.  Crowley sought to make (0r restore) the physical to the status of the sacred, and so he often used language that remains transgressive today, giving deity status to the Whore of Babylon (given the name Babalon in Thelema) as the Great Mother (which I’ll be covering in another article) and equating Lucifer to Prometheus.  Crowley often described himself as “the Great Beast,” which is often taken as being Satanic.  In a way, it is.  It comes from the Book of Revelation, where the Whore of Babylon rides in “on the back of a Great Beast.”  In this he meant that he was the priest of the Great Mother.  And in many ways, like him or hate him, he was right.

I would not go so far as to say that the Thelemic Nuit is precisely the same as the Star Goddess of Wicca (or the Blue Goddess of Feri or the Star Mother of the modern Vanatruar,) any more than She is the same as the Kemetic Goddess Nut.  However, there are significant overlaps, and much of what They are came from Her, and so understanding Her helps us to understand Them.  Origins are important in that they influence our present understanding.  Whether or not the idea of a “source Goddess” existed prior to Robert Graves, certainly the idea exists now; commonly phrased in Paganism as “all goddesses are one Goddess.”

More modern writers, such as Joseph Campbell and Starhawk, have chosen to interpret the Great Goddess as more of an archetypical concept in the Jungian sense; though I doubt that Crowley, Gardner, Valiente or the Farrars would agree!  Nor, I imagine, would the Andersons of the Feri tradition.

Aspects

Queen of Heaven

Listen to the words of the Star Goddess: the dusts of Whose feet are the hosts of heaven, Whose body encircles the Universe . . .

 “The Charge of the Goddess”

Since I am Infinite Space, and the Infinite Stars thereof, do ye also thus.

“The Book of the Law”

O Circle of Stars, whereof our father is but the younger brother, marvel beyond imagination, soul of infinite space, before whom time is bewildered and understanding dark, not unto thee may we obtain unless thine image be love.

“The Witches’ Way”

For he is ever a sun, and she a moon. But to him is the winged secret flame, and to her the stooping starlight.

 “The Book of the Law”

 

Apothecary by Sable Aradia.  Copyright (c) 2015.  All rights reserved.

Apothecary by Sable Aradia. Copyright (c) 2015. All rights reserved.

The Queen of Heaven is a title given to the primary female goddess of a pantheon; the one who is usually either the Royal Consort of the King of the Pantheon, or occasionally the Queen in Her own right.  The Queen of Heaven is also the primary Creatrix of the pantheon, and sometimes the Mother of the cultural Hero-God.  She is usually also a sky goddess.  Queens of Heaven include IsisInannaAnatAstarteHeraJunoFriggaMary Theotokos, and possibly Asherah; and many of these goddesses are named in the Charge of the Goddess as the names that the Great Mother has been called.

It seems clear by the last quote, and through other references throughout the text, that Kelly and Crowley were also influenced by Aradia, Gospel of the Witches.  And if they weren’t, Gerald Gardner certainly was, as his earliest versions of the Charge of the Goddess included lines stolen directly from Aradia, as well as lines stolen directly from the Book of the Law; though the Charge was later refined by the talented Doreen Valiente.

It is by virtue of these influences, and by virtue of the phrase “the dusts of whose feet are the hosts of heaven, whose body encircles the universe,” that I interpret the Star Goddess and the Great Creatrix as being one and the same; though there are many Witches and Wiccans who will disagree. But in either case, the Star Goddess is, at least in part, a syncretic Queen of Heaven for the “Wiccan pantheon.”

Goddess of the Cosmos

Then the priest answered & said unto the Queen of Space, kissing her lovely brows, and the dew of her light bathing his whole body in a sweet-smelling perfume of sweat: O Nuit, continuous one of Heaven, let it be ever thus; that men speak not of Thee as One but as None; and let them speak not of thee at all, since thou art continuous!

“The Book of the Law”

For I am the soul of Nature Who gives life to the Universe.  From Me all things proceed, and unto Me all things must return.

“The Charge of the Goddess”

And in this way are erected the Holy Twin Pillars, in beauty and strength were they erected, to the wonder and glory of all men.

“The Witches’ Way”

Since I am Infinite Space, and the Infinite Stars thereof, do ye also thus.

“The Book of the Law”

She changes everything She touches, and everything She touches changes.

Starhawk

 

“Tree of Life” by Rodrigotebani (public domain image).

The Star Goddess represents the vastness of the cosmos.  She represents all of time and space and all that strikes us with wonder as we look deep into the night sky and contemplate the unknowable.  In this, She is also the goddess of eternity and the cycles of time.  This aspect of Hers is connected to (and conflated with) the Moon Goddess, Whose silver wheel turns the cycles of the tides and the seasons, sometimes known as “The Silver Wheel,” through which She might be connected to Diana, Artemis, Aradia, and Arianrhod.  The God ever remains Himself; but the Goddess changes and transforms.  Living in awareness of Her ways and cycles are what Starhawk was talking about when she wrote The Spiral Dance.

Another clue to identifying the Star Goddess as the Goddess of the Cosmos comes in the invocation from The Witches’ Way.  We have all heard the line from the Charge: “Therefore, let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honour and humility, mirth and reverence within you.”  What many modern Witches don’t know is that Beauty and Strength are a reference to the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, which the Farrars point out by calling them “the Twin Pillars.”  The “pillar” on the left of the Tree of Life is known as the Pillar of Severity, which contains the Sephiroth Gevurah “Strength” (the second one down); while the Middle Pillar contains the Sephiroth Tiferet “Beauty.”  Looking around the Sephiroth you will also find Chesed “loving kindness (compassion)” in the “pillar” on the right, which is known as the Pillar of Mercy.  You’ll see the white and black of the Twin Pillars displayed on numerous cards in the Major Arcana, with the subject in between them, representing the balance.

It is my opinion that in this aspect, the Star Goddess is a distinctly modern goddess.  In a way She is the goddess of relativity.  She is the goddess of the immensity, as Brendan Myers would put it; as contrasted to the Horned God, who is the god of the singularity.  All time and space exists within Her, and therefore, She is both ending and beginning; or as another god once said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega.”

In this sense She is also the Great Destroyer, the all-devouring Dark Mother who eats Her children, the keeper of the Cauldron that is both womb and tomb.  So in this She might be connected to Cerridwen, Hecate, the Morrighan, and Kali.  When I was Drawing Her Down once She said, “I am the stars; and the spaces between the stars.”

As a result, She cannot help but be a little removed.  The Star Goddess waxes and wanes with the moon, but never dies because She is the cosmos Herself.  In the meantime, the Horned God, Her consort, slums it with us mortals, and is, in a way, all that is embodied and physical.  He lives and dies each year; knows pain and pleasure; knows how to play and how to grow old.  On the other hand, the Goddess is all that is everlasting but changing and shifting constantly into new forms; including the human soul.  So She is the one who watches over us between incarnations.  The God dies and is reborn; the Goddess kills and gives rebirth.

Goddess of Mystery

I Who am the beauty of the green earth, and the white moon among the stars, and the mystery of the waters, and the desire of the heart of man, call unto thy soul, arise, and come unto Me.

“The Charge of the Goddess”

O Nuit, continuous one of Heaven, let it be ever thus; that men speak not of Thee as One but as None; and let them speak not of thee at all, since thou art continuous!

“The Book of the Law”

I am the stars; and the spaces between the stars.

— The Star Goddess as Hecate, speaking through me during my third degree elevation

Beloved of gods and men; let thine innermost self be enfolded in the rapture of the infinite.

“The Charge of the Goddess”

As the Goddess of the Immensity, the Star Goddess is also a goddess of Mystery.  She represents all that is unknowable and occult.  This is hardly surprising; the goddesses Who are associated with magick are often associated with mystery.  Often They are also seers and intuitives; which is is reinforced by ties to the Moon Goddess.  The Star Goddess is, therefore, also a goddess of intuition, visions, mysteries, and the ethereal and metaphysical. When you gaze into the stars or the ocean with unencumbered wonder, there you find Her gazing back into you; or, perhaps, tempting you with a wink.  And as Nietzsche points out, sometimes that gaze can be rather dark and cold.  She loves crocuses, cockroaches and crocodiles with equal fervour (thank you, S.M. Sterling.)  She loves us, yes; but no more nor less than She loves all of Her creations.  When confronted by Her, we are overwhelmed by awe and wonder; and that awe encompasses both fear and love.

Nuit (Public domain image).

Nuit (Public domain image).

Goddess of Joy

. . . and, the feast over, they shall dance, sing, make music, and then love in the darkness . . .

“Aradia, Gospel of the Witches”

I give unimaginable joys on earth: certainty, not faith, while in life, upon death; peace unutterable, rest, ecstasy; nor do I demand aught in sacrifice.

“The Book of the Law”

In all of our most sacred verses of the Star Goddess, from the Charge and its “parents,” She is mentioned in conjunction with the things that make us happy.  Creation, through Her, is seen not as a lesson, but as a celebration, and we are told again and again that we will find Her at the greatest moments of human joy.  We are also told that She is present within human life, and mystical enlightenment of the Star Goddess is obtained not by standing outside of the world, but by fully embracing it.

Goddess of Love and Desire

For I am divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union.

“The Book of the Law”

 Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices; for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.

“The Charge of the Goddess”

Then when the dance is wildest, all the lamps shall be extinguished and we’ll freely love!

“Aradia, Gospel of the Witches”

For thou art the point of the circle that we adore, the fount of life without which we would not be.

“The Witches’ Way”

I love you! I yearn to you! Pale or purple, veiled or voluptuous, I who am all pleasure and purple, and drunkenness of the innermost sense, desire you. Put on the wings, and arouse the coiled splendour within you: come unto me!

“The Book of the Law”

The Star Goddess is the embodiment of creation and of the life-force.  Since sex is how the force of creation manifests itself in the human psyche; and love is how the force of life manifests itself in the human psyche, She is also the goddess of love, lust and desire.  The Farrars, in their writings, refer to the “point of the circle that we adore,” which comes from the British Traditional third degree initiation ritual, in which “woman is the altar,” and “the point of the circle that we adore” is the vagina of the priestess, representing the womb and tomb of all Creation.  She is a lusty, passionate being who is engaged with the world, though She is also separate from it.  She can be found in the immensity of human connection; from the beauty of friendship to the wholeness of love to the ecstasy of orgasm.  This aspect is Crowley’s Babalon, who is also sometimes associated with Lilith, as well as Astarte, Inanna, and Ishtar of the Babylonian pantheon.

The Star Goddess’ Children

She who fain would learn all sorcery yet has not won its deepest secrets, them my mother will teach her, in truth all things as yet unknown.

“Aradia, Gospel of the Witches”

As above, so below.  As the universe, so the soul.  As without, so within.

Margot Adler, “Drawing Down the Moon”

One must still have chaos within oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.

Nietzsche

We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust.

Rumi

Every man and every woman is a star.

“The Book of the Law”

Perhaps the most significant Wiccan theological concept is that of the Star Goddess’ children, and I find I’m having difficulty articulating my thoughts on this.  We are the children of the Star Goddess, as so beautifully expressed in the Book of the Law.  I believe this idea comes from Orientalized mysticism as interpreted by the occultists of the time. We are all part of the Goddess in the same way that we are all thought to be part of the Brahman; but in the same way, all of us make up all of that which is the Goddess.  That means that we share a small measure of the powers of Creation that the Star Goddess embodies; which is what we call “magick.”  Perhaps more importantly, we are, in part, divine as well as mortal; and therefore, Paganism embraces the original religious concept of humanism, which “emphasizes the value and agency of human beings.”

Looking to the Future, and the Past, in the Spirit of the Silver Wheel

Loving the vast and beautiful Star Goddess is not currently fashionable in the Pagan community.  In general there is a trend towards individualism and separatism, in which the Star Goddess is poorly received because She is seen as a modern concept, born of Jungian archetypes, modern psychology, and Orientalism.  The  sources and origins of Myth and theology are the proper study of Scholars and are often of great interest to “amateurs” like me, but in the end religion is found in the experience of the believer.  In one sense the Star Goddess is a new way that we humans perceive the Divine, in another She is the Goddess who has always been with us.  Indeed, She has been with us since the beginning, and She is that which is attained at the end of desire.


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About Sable Aradia

Sable Aradia (Diane Morrison) has been a traditional witch most of her life, and she is also a licensed Wiccan minister and a Third Degree initiated Wiccan priestess in the Star Sapphire tradition. She is the author of "The Witch's Eight Paths of Power" (Red Wheel/Weiser, 2014,) a contributor to two Pagan anthologies (Pagan Leadership Anthology, Immanion Press, 2015, and Pagan Consent Culture, Asphodel Press 2016) and a blogger at PaganSquare, the Patheos Pagan channel, and Gods & Radicals. To make ends meet she reads Tarot, teaches workshops, makes music, writes speculative fiction, maintains an Etsy shop and works part time at a bookstore. She lives in Vernon, BC, Canada with her two partners and her fur babies. For further information, please visit her website http://www.sablearadia.com.