As a gay man, when I saw that Ariana Grande had a new music video, I was pretty excited. Then when I listened and watched the new music video, as a feminist queer goddess-worshipping pagan witch, I let out such a loud “yaaasss” that it was probably heard in other dimensions. There’s so many goddess and feminist references, and the message of the video like her last two singles have been extremely optimistic, serving as a light of hope and empowerment during dark times.
There’s so many references that I’m sure I’ve missed some, but I wanted to write up what I see as a witch when watching this video before vapid conspiracy theorists start misinterpreting and twisting pagan and occult symbolism as they always do to fit their narrative of the “Illuminati”. The video is full of yoni (vagina), caves, wombs, celestial, underworld, nature, water, and light – which are all goddess symbols. There’s also lots of women in white clothing, which is most likely a nod to the suffragettes. The whole video seems like a manifesto of a new vision that Ariana is holding for our country and our world. The title of the song is most likely a reference to the famous book by Merlin Stone entitled “When God Was A Woman” which had a huge impact on both feminist spirituality and witchcraft (since they often intersect).
Also, she released the video on Friday the 13th, a day that’s surrounded by superstition as unlucky, which has its roots in hatred of witches and the goddess Frigga.
“The actual origin of the superstition, though, appears also to be a tale in Norse mythology. Friday is named for Frigga, the free-spirited goddess of love and fertility. When Norse and Germanic tribes converted to Christianity, Frigga was banished in shame to a mountaintop and labeled a witch. It was believed that every Friday, the spiteful goddess convened a meeting with eleven other witches, plus the devil – a gathering of thirteen – and plotted ill turns of fate for the coming week. For many centuries in Scandinavia, Friday was known as “Witches’ Sabbath.”
– Charles Panati
Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things
Here’s the full video:
Now let’s begin:
This scene is an homage to the statue Le Penseur (The Thinking Man). I interpret this as Ariana Grande holding a philosophy of a higher vision for the world, than the one that patriarchal forces have constructed, which has become a modern hell full of phallic skyscrapers and two-dimensional monochromatic thinking. The men throw slurs and insults at her to try to topple her down, but she stays steadfast in her philosophy and vision.
“The Thinker (French: Le Penseur) is a bronze sculpture by Auguste Rodin, usually placed on a stone pedestal. The work shows a nude male figure of over life-size sitting on a rock with his chin resting on one hand as though deep in thought and is often used as an image to represent philosophy.
The Thinker was initially a figure in a large commission, begun in 1880, for a doorway surround called The Gates of Hell. Rodin based this on The Divine Comedy of Dante, and most of the many figures in the work represented the main characters in the epic poem.”
This scene has Ariana with three-dog heads barking as she sings “When you try to come for me, I keep on flourishing.” This is another reference to the underworld and Cerberus who guards it. As we’ll see, the theme of the underworld is prominent in the video. This could also be seen as a reference to Persephone, who was abducted by Hades and brought down to be the queen of the Underworld.
In Greek myth, Persephone is allowed to emerge back on Earth for a period of time which ushers in the Spring season, which ties into the video as well as we’ll see. It’s hard also to not think of the goddess Hekate when you see triple headed dogs, as dogs were sacred to her and she is often viewed as triformis – or having three heads or three bodies while being a singular goddess. Hekate in the Chaldean Oracles is viewed as the Anima Mundi, or the Soul of the World. Hekate is most commonly known for not only crossroads, but for being the torch-bearer and for ushering in light during dark times to guide people.
“The three-headed hound, Cerberus (Kerberos) who guarded the entrance way to the Underworld was also connected to Hekate. The fearsome Cerberus was on guard to keep the living from entering Hades and the souls of the dead from leaving. The poisonous herb aconite, also a symbol of Hekate, was thought to grow wherever the foam from Cerberus’s mouth landed on the ground. A series of paintings on Early Hellenistic vases show Hekate in Hades along with Cerberus. Hekate presides over the three way crossroads, and is protector of entrance ways, households and thresholds. Humans in both ancient and modern times have kept dogs as protectors and companions.”
– The Covenant of Hekate
The scene where she’s dancing in a candle flame as if it was her aura I believe is a reference to both Brighid and Imbolc (as we’ll explore later) but mostly a reference to The Star Goddess. Ariana is embodying the light.
“Unlike religious traditions that posit a God outside the physical earth, the Star Goddess may transcend the earth, but not our cosmos. With intimate connection, she is woven into the fabric of the natural world, in space, time, stars, and green growing grass. This is immanence, the divine in all things. In her vastness, the Star Goddess may feel transcendent, but God-out-there is not separate from the immanent God-in-all-things that many call Goddess, and Victor and Cora called God Herself. She is akin to Egypt’s Nuit, Babylon’s Ishtar, Hine Turama of the Maori, and the Welsh Arianrhod—lovers, creators, and Star Goddesses all. She creates from lust and bears from her womb, messy, sticky, and full of life. Hers is not the creation from pure intellect, birthed only by wind and word.”
– T. Thorn Coyle
All of these themes fit Ariana’s music video. We have the goddess as the Earth, the Stars, lover, light, creator, intellect, wombs, and birth.
“…. the lighting of the Star Goddess candle is the very first act that we do in a Faery ritual working. This represents the first light that divided the primal dark, and as such each time we light her candle we are tapping into the creation of the universe itself. This makes our ritual circle a true microcosm of the universe. We are participating in the powers of universal creation and destruction each time we perform our rites.”
– Storm Faerywolf
Betwixt & Between
This ties into the lyrics she sings “And he sees the universe when I’m in company. It’s all in me.” The divinity of the universe (the macrocosm) is within the self (the microcosm), and this is what the Star Goddess candle embodies.
The groundhog scene is strange at first glance. A bunch of groundhogs emerge and screams in what sounds like a mix of a bald eagle (the symbol of the United States) and a woman. This is a reference to Groundhog Day. Groundhog Day is a North American observation that came with the Pennsylvanian Dutch immigrants based on Germanic traditions of “Badger Day”. Due to its timing it was conflated and mixed with Candlemas observations, which is derived from the ancient Pagan holiday of Imbolc. Imbolc (the Christianized holiday is called Candlemas) is a celebration of the goddess Bridget’s return to the land and a celebration that light is taking over darkness (as the days are beginning to increase more and more) which sort of parallels the idea of the groundhog (or badger) heralding spring. Bridget brings the first rains, thus the desert scenery and later the water imagery. This is tied into the idea of Persephone arising from the underworld to bring in spring.
“The rite of Imbolc is a women’s ceremony, where the coming of Spring is celebrated with Brighid’s feast (Maiden aspect of Goddess), and the waning of the Cailleach’s winter power is acknowledged (Crone aspect of Goddess). It is at the other side of the wheel of the year from Lughnassad, which is a male rite, celebrating Lugh, the God of Light. The struggle for power between the Cailleach and Brighid is the turning of the seasons from winter to summer. Early February marks the time when winter first begins to lose its power and the light can be seen to increase, thus it is also called Candlemas, when candles are blessed. In the myths, Cailleach brings winter snows while Brighid brings the first spring rains.”
This also ties into the last single that Ariana released featuring Nicki Minaj entitled “The Light Is Coming”, where she sings that “The light is coming to give back everything the darkness stole.”
It’s also a reference to the screaming groundhog meme:
Or it might also be referencing the movie Groundhog Day, which is about reliving a horrible day over and over again until the lessons are learned and right action is taken. Occult-wise, a very Saturnal energy.
This scene seems to be an homage to Rob Gonsalves’ painting “Water Dancing” which has these female water spirits or goddesses dancing down a mountain top. This is right after the groundhog scene, so the water has come as the groundhogs predict and if we reference the painting, it seems to be coming from the moon, a primary symbol of the Goddess.
“During a walk in the forest Gonsalves was struck by the gentle melody of water cascading over a cliff’s edge, splashing off rocks and boulders into a pool below. This experience served as inspiration for Water Dancing, wherein a tumbling waterfall transforms into an ethereal group of dancers and musicians serenading the night. A full moon glimmers in the night air, reflecting upon the waterfall tumbling down a wooded ravine. At the base of the cascade, a much different scenario unfolds, as the music of the waterfall gives rise to beautiful dancers who twist and bend with otherworldly grace.”
– Water Dancing by Rob Gosalves
This scene seems to be an homage to Venus. The astrological glyph of Venus is often used as the symbol for women and has also been used as as symbol of feminism. Venus rules not only love, as most people think, but she was also the goddess of gardens and fertility. This is embodies in the tarot card “The Empress” which has a pregnant Empress amongst flowers. The Empress tarot card is ruled by Venus in its correspondences.
“Venus is the power of love and attraction. Venus is the goddess of love and fertility, birthed from the foaming ocean, and her planet governs all aspects of love and relationship. Romance, pleasure, sensuality, beauty, erotica, and attraction are all under this domain. Venus is the magnetic power, and it attracts all things of value. Anything you value can be drawn to you with Venus, from love and sex, to money, art, and luxury.”
– Christopher Penczak
The Outer Temple of Witchcraft
The Earth-Mother Goddess is also often depicted in art as being pregnant.
“Poisoning through the magical arts was known as veneficus. What is ignored, however, is the fact that the root Latin word vene is derived from Venus. The goddess Venus was originally a deity of cultivated gardens before she became the goddess of love. It was the making of love potions from herbs, the accusations that love potions poisoned the will of its targets, that erroneously stained the Witch as one who literally poisons others to death through her arts.”
– Raven Grimassi
Grimoire of the Thorn-Blooded Witch
This scene is a reference to the myth of the twins Romulus and Remus. The legend of Romulus and Remus was that a she-wolf suckled and raised them as babies and they went on to found the city of Rome. It’s only natural to think that Ariana has given birth to these three men (instead of twins). It’s almost like she’s given birth to a new civilization, or a new type of male that views the feminine with respect and love, just as infants do there mothers. The imagery of this scene is in stark contrast to the previous scene with men where it’s monochromatic and full of industrialization and patriarchy. The colorful sky gives a sense of freedom and limitlessness.
In this scene we see Ariana’s eyes turn into that of either a black cat or a black panther (or both). This may be a nod to the Black Panthers and their fight for racial equality and social justice. It may also be another goddess and witch symbol, as I’ve written before about the connection between witches, goddesses, and cats.
In this scene we hear Madonna as the voice of God speaking, reciting a quote was also recited in Pulp Fiction which is supposedly Ezekiel 25:17, but in actuality only has a few lines from it:
“And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger
Those who attempt to poison and destroy my sisters
And you will know my name is the Lord,
when I lay my vengeance upon you.”
– Madonna in God Is A Woman
“There’s this passage I got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17. “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness. For he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.””
– Pulp Fiction
“And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.”
– Ezekiel 25:17
Ariana is dressed in battle gear with gloves that say power. She holds a giant judge’s gavel, a symbol of justice. She then takes the mallet to smash the glass ceiling.
“A glass ceiling is a metaphor used to represent an invisible barrier that keeps a given demographic (typically applied to minorities) from rising beyond a certain level in a hierarchy. The metaphor was first coined by feminists in reference to barriers in the careers of high-achieving women.”
I should also note that Ariana sings “And I, I feel it after midnight” which may also be a reference to Madonna’s “Like A Prayer” where she sings, “In the midnight hour, I can feel your power.” It’s interesting that this scene is right after the Black Panther eye part, as the video for Like A Prayer was about racial discrimination.
“I knew that we were pushing some big buttons, but I sort of underestimated the influence and bigotry of fundamentalist religion and racism in this country and the world,” director Mary Lambert told Rolling Stone. “I always think that, if my work is successful, it goes beyond my intentions and in this case it definitely did. The most important thing was to force people to reimagine their visual references and really root out their prejudices. Using burning crosses to reference racism to religion. Why not a Black Jesus? Why can’t you imagine kissing him? I wanted to speak about ecstasy and to show the relationship between sexual and religious ecstasy. I think that subconsciously a lot of people understood this and were either enthralled or outraged by it.”
In this stunning scene what really caught my eye was the subtle “mudra” that Ariana’s hands are in. This is the “yoni sign” mudra as Barbara G. Walker explains:
“Sometimes used today as a gesture of greeting or benediction among feminists, the yoni sign was an occult secret for a long time. Like the meaning of the cowrie shell, its meaning was deliberately obscured in a culture that viewed any reference to female genitals as unthinkably obscene no matter how abstract or esoteric it might be. The yoni sign survived, however, and now represents a symbolic invocation of female power.”
– Barbara G. Walker
The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects
This scene is particularly beautiful and again is a reference to a Goddess. This time it’s the Egyptian mother goddess Isis.
“As Pharia, Isis is connected with the great lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and a famous symbol of the city of Alexandria. The lighthouse was called the Pharos after the small island on which it stood. Due to the lighthouse’s fame, pharos eventually became a general term for “lighthouse.” (This persists even in modern languages; in Italian and Spanish, lighthouse is faro and in French, it is phare.)
Just as the illumination of the Pharos lighthouse turned Alexandria’s dangerous seas and tricky harbors into commerce-friendly ports, the spiritual light of the Lighthouse Goddess served as a guide for humankind. Isis Pharia is the guardian of navigation and safe harbors—of ships and of souls.”
– Isis the Lighthouse Goddess
The final scene has Ariana Grande recreating The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo, but this time God is a woman and Adam is Eve – a beautiful black woman. Thus, the manifesto is complete. Ariana Grande’s vision of creating a new world safe for women and minorities is complete.
This also complete’s Ariana’s themes of inner and outer divinity (microcosm & macrocosm), as well as the process of giving birth.
“Several hypotheses have been put forward about the meaning of The Creation of Adam’s highly original composition, many of them taking Michelangelo’s well-documented expertise in human anatomy as their starting point.
Portrayal of the human brain
In 1990, an Anderson, Indiana physician, Frank Meshberger, noted in the Journal of the American Medical Association that the background figures and shapes portrayed behind the figure of God appeared to be an anatomically accurate picture of the human brain. On close examination, borders in the painting correlate with major sulci of the cerebrum in the inner and outer surface of the brain, the brain stem, the frontal lobe, the basilar artery, the pituitary gland and the optic chiasm.
Portrayal of the birth process
Alternatively, it has been observed that the red cloth around God has the shape of a human uterus (one art historian has called it a “uterine mantle”) and that the scarf hanging out, coloured green, could be a newly cut umbilical cord. Recently a group of Italian researchers published on Mayo Clinic Proceedings an article where the images of the mantle and the postpartum uterus were overlapped. According to Enrico Bruschini (2004), “This is an interesting hypothesis that presents the Creation scene as an idealised representation of the physical birth of man (“The Creation”). It explains the navel that appears on Adam, which is at first perplexing because he was created, not born of a woman.”
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