I’m pleased to introduce a friend and author of the wonderfully named young adult novel, “Southern Fried Wiccan”, Susan Sipal on my blog today. She’s going to be talking the evolution of the myth I’ll be discussing on the blog in tomorrows Mythology Monday, Artemis.
But first a little bit about Southern Fried Wiccan. I’ve posted a review here. And here’s the blurb:
Cilla Swaney is thrilled to return stateside, where she can hang up her military-brat boots for good. Finally, she’ll be free to explore her own interests—magick and Wicca. But when she arrives at her grandma’s farm, Cilla discovers that life in the South isn’t quite what she expected. At least while country hopping, she never had to drink G-ma’s crazy fermented concoctions, attend church youth group, make co-op deliveries…or share her locker with a snake-loving, fire-lighting, grimoire-stealing Goth girl…
…Who later invites her to a coven that Cilla’s not sure she has the guts to attend. But then Emilio, the dark-haired hottie from her charter school, shows up and awakens her inner goddess. Finally, Cilla starts believing in her ability to conjure magick. Until…
…All Hades breaks loose. A prank goes wrong during their high school production of Macbeth, and although it seems Emilio is to blame, Cilla and Goth may pay the price. Will Cilla be able to keep the boy, her coven, and the trust of her family? Or will this Southern Wiccan get battered and fried?
Sounds like a good read, huh? Learn more on amazon.com.
Without further ado, I’ll turn the blog over to Susan.
From Amazons to Artemis – Anatolia Rocks the Goddess
By S.P. Sipal
As a reader and a writer, I’ve been following the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign with a lot of interest. To me, it only makes sense that the diversity of reality is represented both on the page and on the screen. And as the mother of two kids born of a mixed ethnic, national, and religious heritage, I believe it’s important that they, and others like them, see themselves in the books they read and the heroes they admire.
But this desire to see ourselves reflected in our contemporary heroes is nothing new. Indeed, it goes back to the most ancient of days when people saw themselves in the adventures of their gods and goddesses…the novels of their day. As Cilla, the main character in my YA contemporary novel Southern Fried Wiccan discovers, being able to see yourself in the divinity you worship is quite empowering. The first time Cilla saw the Divine depicted as a young, powerful woman rather than an old, white dude was game-changing.
When Cilla gazed upon the statue of Artemis in the museum of Ephesus in Turkey, it changed her life. She realized then, in a very personal way, that a spark of the divine could live in someone like herself. It’s by no coincidence that I had Cilla experience the goddess first in Turkey.
Asia Minor, or Anatolia, the peninsula where most of modern-day Turkey now rests, is one of the major cradles of civilizations. It was here that the earliest sanctuary has been discovered, built by hunter-gatherers BEFORE settling down to farm. Here that many of the great Greek and Roman cities birthed the thinkers that pushed forward what we now call western civilizations. It was also in Anatolia that a long line of mother goddesses flourished in the hearts of her followers, worshipped by both men and women who envisioned the divine power that unites us all in the fertility of a woman’s body.
In Turkish, Anatolia is called Anadolu, translated by Dr. Rashid Ergener literally as “land of the mothers.” Anatolia is indeed filled with powerful mothers, goddesses who transformed throughout history due to cultural changes. And this, to me, is where the beauty of diversity fully blossoms. Because we can see in each of these incarnations how the people of the time adapted their goddess in their own image while still preserving a central core from the female power she preceded.
The Evolution of a Goddess:
The Mother Goddess from Çatal Höyük is one of the earliest examples of mother goddess worship from Anatolia. Found in a Neolithic settlement over 6000 years old, this ancient female gives birth in a throne-like chair supported by lions. To me, she embodies primordial female power, of both fertility and a link to the rawness of nature. And she must have to the ancients as well, because her legacy survived the permutations below to last until today.
Cybele – This Phrygian mother-goddess has lost a bit of weight and wears better clothes than her predecessor, but she still sits on a throne framed by lions and displays her divine power in all its wild and fertile glory.
Cybele’s “association with hawks, lions, and the stone of the mountainous landscape of the Anatolian wilderness, seem to characterise her as mother of the land in its untrammeled natural state, with power to rule, moderate or soften its latent ferocity, and to control its potential threats to a settled, civilised life.” (source) But it was this raw power that transformed her further, as the rising city-state rulers sought to harness her power for their own political purposes.
Women untamed by civilization, living on its border, was further spread through the belief in the Amazons, who, according to one legend, are said to have founded Ephesus. It was here that the Temple of Artemis, one of the Great Wonders of the Ancient World, drew worshippers for thousands of years to gaze upon this goddess in awe and wonder.
Artemis of Ephesus – In Ephesus, Artemis was viewed from a different angle than Artemis in other parts of the Greek world. That is because she descended from Cybele and the mother goddess of Çatal Höyük above. While this goddess is standing in the pillar pose rather than seated on a throne, you can see that she is still envisioned as mistress of the animals with lion-like figures at her side as well as the stags, bees, and bulls depicted along her ceremonial clothes. Most people think the protrusions from Artemis’ chest are breasts, but there are other theories, such as pollen sacks (she was in part a bee goddess).
Mary, Mother of God – Although Mary is not considered a goddess and is indeed not from the Anatolia region, it was in 431 CE at the Council of Ephesus, home of Artemis, that she was given the title theotokos (mother of god) and depicted with many of Artemis’ attributes. With the worship of Artemis now in decline, thanks to the rise of Christianity, Artemis’ loyal followers transferred their adoration to a new face of the female divine. From this icon at Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, at the heart of the apse of the great Byzantine basilica, we see the same commanding mother on a throne of power. Bordering her (out of sight of this picture), she is garlanded with natural images of vines, flowers, berries and pears.
Four amazing females. Four inspiring images of feminine power. Each one slightly different than the one before, re-visioned and re-clothed in the costume of her own particular culture, and yet still lit by the ancient spark of universal subconscious that brought her to life.
If cultures have been reimagining the divine in their own image for millennia, why would we stop doing so today? Especially when it so profoundly affects how our children see themselves?
Thank you so much Susan for posting on my blog today 🙂 I enjoyed the read and can’t wait to see other projects you’ve got in the works. If you want to learn more about Susan and her writing, follow her website, blog, or twitter,
More about Susan:
Born and raised in North Carolina, Susan Sipal had to travel halfway across the world and return home to embrace her father and grandfather’s penchant for telling a tall tale. After having lived with her husband in his homeland of Turkey for many years, she suddenly saw the world with new eyes and had to write about it. Perhaps it was the emptiness of the Library of Celsus at Ephesus that cried out to be refilled, or the myths surrounding the ancient Temple of Artemis, but she’s been writing stories filled with myth and mystery ever since. She can’t wait to share Southern Fried Wiccan with readers in March 2015.