MU logo University of Missouri sitemap | map | parking | directions | contact the museum
Home | Events | Museum Info | Calendar | Education | Exhibitions | Collections | Support
Home | Exhibitions | Online | The Sacred Feminine | Devotees and Consorts

exhibition bannerDevotees and Consorts

Introduction

From priestesses to nuns to laywomen, images of the human devotees of religion have abounded in the art of all periods. Such representations serve to glorify and commemorate individual piety as well as inspire it in others. In addition, human and divine consorts of the gods are frequently represented, often destined to bear fantastic offspring and savior-heroes.

Religious ritual was one activity in the ancient world in which women were able to hold leading positions. In Egypt, priestesses were prominent in the worship of Isis and Hathor, two of the foremost Egyptian deities. In ancient Greece, priestesses enjoyed much more social prestige than laywomen. They often presided over sacrifices to deities, a custom integral to religious ritual. Rome’s Vestal Virgins promised thirty years of chaste service to the goddess Vesta. The requirement of chastity in religious dogma has continued in modern times. Nuns, for example, must also commit to such vows. Chastity, however, can be countered by promiscuity in religion. In ancient Greece, devotees of Aphrodite often practiced ritual prostitution in the goddess’s temples, and such practice has been documented in a number of cultures. Even in the religious sphere, women are susceptible to sexualization.

Females also served as sexual consorts to various gods. In Hinduism, goddesses often play the role of consort to a male deity. Saraswati, for example, who presides over poetry and learning, is also the consort of Brahma, the god of creation. Upon mating with Brahma, they conceived the demigod Manu, who became creator of the world. In Greek mythology, the god Hades abducted Persephone, daughter of the goddess Demeter, and forced her to become his consort for six months of the year.

(Use the links on the right to see this online exhibition.)

The Sacred Feminine Links:

The Sacred Mother
- Introduction
- Objects

The Dangerous Feminine
- Introduction
- Objects (opens new window)

Beyond Human: Female Sainthood
- Introduction
- Objects (opens new window)

Models of Knowledge and Power
- Introduction
- Objects (opens new window)

Devotees and Consorts
- Introduction
- Objects (opens new window)

The Divine Queen
- Introduction
- Objects (opens new window)

The Cult of the Virgin
- Introduction
- Objects (opens new window)

Contemporary Interpretations
- Introduction
- Objects (opens new window)

exhibition illustration

Copyright © 2014 The Curators of the University of Missouri | DMCA | all rights reserved
An equal opportunity/affirmative action institution

Museum of Art and Archaeology | College of Arts and Science | University of Missouri
1 Pickard Hall | Columbia, MO 65211-1420 | phone: 573-882-3591 | fax: 573-884-4039 | Email the museum
AAM logoaccredited by the American Association of Museums

Attention:
The Museum is currently closed and moving to Mizzou North. Please continue to check our website for updates and the openings of galleries.