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Home | Exhibitions | Online | The Sacred Feminine | Models of Knowledge and Power

exhibition bannerModels of Knowledge and Power

Introduction

The concept of the female as an embodiment of power has often been rejected in cultures both past and present. In matriarchal societies, it is customary for women to hold positions of wealth and power, but such systems are few. Even in the most patriarchal of societies, however, the female as a source of power and inspiration becomes manifested in a form of the sacred feminine.

The lack of congruence between the status of goddesses and women in a society is not easily explained. Whereas goddesses may be associated with knowledge, strength, and success, the female was typically compelled to suppress such attributes and capabilities. In ancient Greece, women neither served as high-ranking political figures, nor had citizenship or property rights; however, the Greek pantheon included powerful goddess figures. Athena, for example, was not only a personification of wisdom, but also of military strength and valor. The Greek goddess Nike, who was worshipped as Victoria in Roman culture, was a personification of triumph. Women in Roman society enjoyed far more privileges than Greek women, such as citizenship and property rights, yet they also functioned in a male-dominated hierarchy.

Though Africa has been the source of a number of matrilineal societies, female subservience is still common in some of its countries. On the other hand, spirit companions and ancestors are often females who provide spiritual enlightenment and comfort to the living.

In the East, the Hindu goddess Durga is associated with military strength, like the Greek Athena. In many respects, she violates the behavior expected of a Hindu woman since she is neither submissive nor answers to a male deity. Lakshmi, however, represents the model Hindu wife, and she brings wealth and success to those who worship her. Saraswati, also a model wife, is a goddess of poetry, music, and culture, and today is worshipped as a goddess of learning.

(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

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