Athena and Sophia, Wisdom Goddesses
When I was in 7th grade, my teacher was a Catholic nun named Sister Roberta. She was a bit of a rebel in that she played the guitar and started “guitar masses” at our church. She also introduced weekly “prayer meetings” in our class where we each had a copy of the Bible to refer to. She encouraged us to share random readings and our thoughts about those readings.
I was not with the popular “in” crowd. I was more the quiet, goody-two-shoes-type gal. So it was more in my nature to be the wallflower when it came to sharing things in class. Looking back upon the story I’m about to share, it surprises the adult me even more that I shared the readings I found. It was as though the story could not be kept quiet. The synchronicity had to be shared. It had to have some sort of meaning, some sort of explanation.
I wished I’d written down the biblical references I randomly opened to, but there were several; and the prayer meeting was for voicing our thoughts, not taking notes. It started innocently enough with one reference to “wisdom”. I shared it, some classmates commented, and we moved on. My very next random opening of the Bible brought yet another “wisdom” reference, so I shared this as well with a touch of inner awe at the second reading involving “wisdom”. Two readings shared turned into several—many, many readings all randomly appeared when I’d close and reopen the Bible. It got to the point that I didn’t even need to raise my hand any more. I just started to speak out loud when I’d find the next one and the next one. Even my classmates were beginning to wonder. In retrospect, I know that “wisdom” is a central topic in many of the books of the Bible, but the sheer number of references I found in such a short time span still gives me reason to pause.
My best friend sat nearby and whispered something encouraging to me. I forget what it was. Right about then, I started to notice cold shivers in my body and I remember sharing this with my friend. My mom always overdressed me—but that’s for another story. The point being, I was not cold due to lack of clothing. My friend shared this out loud before I could say anything—not that I minded. I was caught in the wonder of it all. I remember Sister Roberta suggesting that perhaps the readings and the physical manifestation of cold shivers was a visit from the Holy Spirit since “wisdom” is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. I was thoroughly humbled by the idea.
It was from this auspicious beginning that my relationship with “wisdom” as a personal “gift” started. After that, any reference to “wisdom” was like an inside “wink and a nod” from God—an understanding between us. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t feel like I was this newly wisened, holier-than-thou human being. On the contrary, I still felt like I always felt—nothing special—no more, no less. It was just that the whole incident made a huge impression on me. It’s something I’ll never forget.
Fast forward several years. As I matured, my interests in all things magical and mystical grew. I was intensely curious about historical figures, metaphysical subjects, psychic phenomena, angels, fairies (see the opening section to this newsletter), and yes–goddesses. I started to have an attraction to various goddesses. I’m not the only one enamored with the “Asian-equivalent of the Virgin Mary”—Quan Yin. Click here to read about Quan Yin’s presence in my life.
My regular readers know that I am intensely proud of my Polish heritage. My grandmother on my mother’s side is Sophia. So of course I was drawn to studying the goddess Sophia—the divine embodiment of female wisdom. Her name translates literally as “wisdom” in Greek and is often represented in art as a dove. “Later history associated Sophia with the Holy Spirit in Gnosticism. Interestingly, Christianity depicted the Holy Spirit as a dove, imparting divine energy to its recipients.
Gnosticism—derived from gnosis, the Greek word for knowledge—grew alongside early Christianity….Later the Greek Orthodox church named her Saint Sophia.” ~ The Book of Goddesses. A Celebration of the Divine Feminine.” ~ by Kris Waldherr. “In Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christianity, Sophia, or rather Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), is an expression of understanding for the second person of the Holy Trinity.”
In my readings and research I found a connection with Sophia to “Athena”, the goddess of wisdom, and one of the most powerful of ancient Greek goddesses. Athena “was the daughter of Zeus, the Greek ruling god, and his first wife, Metis, whose name meant ‘wisdom’.” ~ The Book of Goddesses. A Celebration of the Divine Feminine.” ~ by Kris Waldherr.
“The word “sofia” was an epithet of Athena in ancient Greek philosophy, namely this word meant the wisdom and divine superiority of Athena in comparison with other Olympic gods.
…in ancient Greece Athena was the personification of wisdom and was the most esteemed goddess before birth of the Christ, but the image of Athena was rethought in understanding of the first Christians and was named Sophia the Wisdom of God, and also the name of Sofia was separated from pagan gods and compared to wisdom…” Source: http://www.numeralgame.64g.ru/num/num6en.htm
Athena became another very personal goddess connection in my life—we were practically related, after all. Athena is often accompanied by an owl—the bird associated with wisdom. Whenever an owl finds its way into my life, I smile. I’m drawn to owl photos, drawings, and sounds. I notice their presence. How about you?
These personal connections to the Divine Feminine are archetypes we all carry deep inside. You need only to acknowledge their existence and suddenly you’ll have your own “aha moment”. I promise. Do you recognize your “goddess within”? I’m sure there are several. Acknowledge and uncover your own personal history—your life stories, and let your inner goddesses evolve into a very personal, unique connection. You won’t regret it. It will be a constant source of inspiration and comfort.
A good friend of mine, Flo Schell, is also a very gifted artist. She has created the most beautiful, stunning goddess paintings and was kind enough to let me post a depiction and link here. I have, of course, chosen the goddess Athena. She’s absolutely beautiful, don’t you think?