I wanted this painting to be a devotional piece to honour the goddess in these dual aspects of mother as life giver and the dark mother. To show how I see the goddess in her primal form as life bringer, as well as destroyer dark mother. For me this duality of light and dark, life and death is fundamental in learning to find balance in my self. To focus on her in both forms I can ground and heal. This image was created not only to honour the primal goddesses but also to help me find that calm centre inside myself.
If we look back to find depictions of the goddess we find the Venus statues from Neolithic Europe such as the Venus of Willemdorf which I have drawn at the base of the painting. Although most opinions on the purpose and beliefs related to these figures are suppositions the general consensus is they were associated with fertility, so she is my choice for the most ancient keeper of life, the base on which holds us all. Then the whole becomes the dual as we move up the painting. Gaia, primal goddess, giver of life squats above the Venus, she is life brought forth from the clouds of chaos which I have drawn inside her pregnant belly, vines of apple and fig spring forth from hands and body, curling and entwining in bountiful growth, she is life incarnate. Above Gaia, with a serpent connecting them, stands Ishtar the Dark Mother. She is cosmic dust of the supernova before new stars are born, dark matter, the destroyer of life, bringer of death what I call the dark mother. From her spring the twisted winter branches, dead and silent in the sky. Between the two we can find balance and harmony.
This painting was commissioned by Wyn Abbot for her book ‘Persephone and Demeter’ which I thoroughly recommend for a deeper more nuanced exploration into the story of these two goddesses, as well as their connection with the more primal goddesses and the divine feminine.
More on Gaia and Ishtar
Gaia is a Greek primordial goddess who represents the Earth itself, often referred to as the personification of the Earth. She is considered one of the earliest deities in Greek mythology, born from Chaos, the primeval void that existed before the creation of the world. Gaia’s name is closely associated with the Earth itself, and she represents its fertility and abundance. She is often depicted as a woman emerging from the Earth or as a vast and ancient Earth figure. Gaia’s influence can be seen in various myths and stories throughout Greek mythology, making her a central figure in the pantheon, and a key -layer in many tales including that of Persephone and Demeter.
Ishtar is a prominent goddess in Mesopotamian mythology, particularly in the ancient Sumerian and Babylonian civilisations. She is often associated with love, beauty, fertility, war, and sexuality, amongst many others. Ishtar was a star goddess, or heavenly being, as she was associated with the planet Venus, which appeared as both the Morning Star and the Evening Star. She was also seen as a goddess of love and sensuality, believed to bring about love and passion among humans and was often invoked in matters of romance and procreation or fertility rites.
I look upon Ishtar as the primal goddesses who brings forth life and also takes it away. She embodies both the gentle aspects of love and fertility and the fierce attributes of war and power and the dual opposites of life and death.
Ishtar’s martial aspect is what I describe as the ‘Dark Mother’ and is her warrior form. In this way she is like The Morrigan, goddess from the Celtic lands. I also see Persephone this way in her role as Ruler of the Underworld, and Demeter in her mourning.
She also shows similarities to Persephone in Sumerian mythology where Ishtar is called Inanna.
Inanna’s descent into the underworld is a famous myth and later could be seen in the story of Persephone. Where the goddess journeys into the realm of the dead and faces various trials and is transformed into the dark mother of death and destroyer of worlds, who will then in turn travel back out of the realm of the dead to burst forth as life renewed. Both stories and goddesses symbolise the cycles of life, death, and rebirth.
A3, A4, A5 Altar Card, A6 Mediation Card