by Tracy Boyd

© 1977 & 2009



Late 20th century Baluch tribal rug. Baluchistan, Iran.

The mysteries that were preserved for millennia in the temples of the Great Goddess by her priestesses and priests were, for the most part, mysteries of life and death.  In the process of unveiling them, we are confronted by something infinitely larger than we can imagine: thousands upon thousands of years of magic and healing.  As the goddess’s symbols are revealed, it becomes apparent that the Feminine in all of its manifold aspects is the bringer of consciousness and wisdom.


One of her most potent images is that of the eternal weaver.  That weaving was ex-clusively the art of women is now well established; however, the more far-reaching implications of this art with regard to the worship of a female divinity are described only in vague references here and there.  Thus the mysteries that weaving once symbolized remain to be woven into a pattern that will ultimately reveal the goddess at its center.

Kilim pattern design.

Catal Huyuk shrine wall.

c. 6400-5700 B.C.E

The diamond-shaped kilim pattern that appears from one of the earliest levels onward (from c. 6400 to 5700 B.C.E.) in the wall paintings of the goddess-worshipping site of Catal Huyuk in Anatolia provides incontrovertible proof that “kilims have been woven in Anatolia since the late seventh millennium B.C.[E.] or for at least the last eight thousand years.” (1)  The kilim design, reserved exclusively for the shrines of the goddess, appears even before her anthropomorphized images at the site and is probably a representation of her birth-giving womb in geometric abstraction.  There is certainly a wealth of images at Catal Huyuk depicting the theme of a goddess of life and death to support this idea.

The diamond-glyph shape, even as far back as the Upper Paleolithic period, represents not only the womb but implies the idea of a female divinity as universal source and origin of all life.  The geometric hieroglyph is found in the earliest art of the Upper Paleolithic and continues cross-culturally for some thirty thousand years into the iconography of Judeo-Christian art.  It is not, then, by mere chance that the diamond design at Catal Huyuk is the same pattern that is a prominent feature of the “Eye Dazzler” rugs woven by Navajo women. 

Seen as womb, the universality of the diamond-glyph pattern supports the analysis of modern dreams which has shown that “the mystery of giving birth is basically associated with the idea of spinning and weaving.” (2)  The thread motif, which incorporates the ideas of spinning, weaving, and a complexity of beliefs in the knot as an instrument of magic and the weaving of spells, runs throughout the tradition of the mythology of rebirth and its attendant artifacts.  Whatever form it takes, it is always associated with the realm of the Feminine.  The motif survives even in the fairytales of Europe in which the themes of spinning and weaving are frequently encountered.  There are as many variations on the symbolic thread device as there are names of goddesses, and what is described in many of the myths are rites of initiation that facilitate the passages from one stage of life, or consciousness, to the next, over which a goddess, or an emblem of her, presides as “mistress of initiation.”

The analogy between initiation and death is shown in a great many initiatory rites and accompanying myths of the primitive world.  Initiation, which means ‘introduction to a mystery’, frequently incorporates a ritual entry into a representation of the womb.  The same pattern is found “in a large number of initiatory myths and rites.  The idea of gestation and childbirth is expressed by entrance into the womb of the Great Mother (Earth Mother), or into the body of a sea monster, or of a wild beast!!!” (3) 

The symbolic return to the womb is probably intended to recall an earlier memory of being torn to pieces in the vaginal “teeth” of the Earth Mother or of being swallowed into the belly of the monster.  Although the rituals are often marked by an element of terror and risk, the emphasis is placed on the mystery rather than on the actual danger or peril.  The initiate merely acts out a ritual death in a quest for the sacred and mysterious forces that will guarantee regeneration.

In the much-romanticized Cretan myth of the Minotaur, Theseus embarked upon a “typical initiatory ordeal . . . [characterized by] the ‘struggle with a monster’ . . . represent[ing] the forces of the unconscious” (4) – an initiation made “by way of ritual entry into a labyrinth.” (5)  Theseus is the acknowledged hero, and yet the real credit for his success belongs to Ariadne (‘Mother of the Barley’), the sister of the Minotaur and daughter of Pasiphae and Minos.  She is specifically associated with the labyrinth in one of its earliest known written references, a Mycenaean Linear B tablet from Knossos, which identifies her as “goddess of the labyrinth” and “mistress of initiation.” (6)

“Eye Dazzler” Serape Style woven rugs. Navajo 1850-1860.

The legend relates that having fallen in love with the Athenian youth, the fair Ariadne offered Theseus a ball of golden thread (the weaver’s clew) which enabled him to retrace his steps and find his way out of the labyrinth.  The labyrinth is the way, the passage leading to the center, which is the path to consciousness, and it is Ariadne as “goddess of the labyrinth” and “mistress of initiation,” who provides  the knowledge of the way by means of the “thread of initiation.”

The palace of Knossos was itself called labyrinthos or ‘the palace of the double axes’, and both the labyrinth, a universal symbol of the uterine maze, and the double axe (or labrys), derive their meaning from the word labrys (‘lip’), which specifically refers to the female labia protecting the dark entrance to the womb.  The labrys, the highly venerated crescent-shaped double axe, an instrument of sacrifice and death, is thus an emblem of the fertile womb of the Great Goddess.

Egyptian Labrys/Labyrinth Scarab. Found in Crete.

Middle Kingdom c. 2500 B.C.E.

In many parts of the world women have introduced the labyrinth motif, as they have in the contemporary Stone Age level culture of Malekula near the New Hebrides, where the deceased must “thread their way . . . through a maze-like design drawn in the sand by the Guardian Ghost,” (7) a being of undetermined sex who lives in a cave and who is often regarded as female.  Their ritual sand tracings, originally drawn by women as they still are in other places, are intricately woven labyrinthine webs whose central structure, shaped like a diamond-glyph, is a representation of the tomb.

20th century Stone Age Ritual Labyrinth Sand Tracing.

From Oba, north of Malekula, New Hebrides Islands.

Other examples of this maze pattern are found in “parts of Scotland and north England (where today) women draw . . . ‘tangled thried’ designs on their thresholds and hearthstones as a prophylactic against evil influences and witches.” (8)  And in South India, similar threshold designs are made with the same intent.  Such images of the diamond-shaped glyph placed at the entrance to the house are known to serve identical apotropaic functions as those of the Evil Eye. (9)

Although usually regarded with a certain element of fear, the spider, who is the spinner of the natural labyrinthine web, is often mentioned in this connection of protection.   In her more menacing aspect, the spider is a symbol of the devouring womb, “not only because it [she] devours the male after coitus, but because it [she] symbolizes the female in general, who spreads nets for the unwary male . . . [and whose] dangerous aspect is much enhanced by the element of weaving.” (10)  The word spider actually derives from the Old English root spinnan, ‘to spin’, or ‘to draw out and twist fibers into thread’, as does the word spinster, whose original meaning was ‘a woman who spins thread or yarn’.  It is of interest to note that it was the supernatural being, Spider Woman, who taught the Navajo women to weave. 

The protecting aspects of the spider are particularly evident in relation to the mother and child.  In the Vedic sacrament of Namakarana, ‘name-giving’, a spider-like web of scarlet-colored threads is woven around the newborn child as a protection from evil.  With similar intent, a special rite of preservation is performed on expectant mothers which is called Raksabandhana, “the Binding of the Protective Thread to ward off the Evil Eye, illness and jealous spells.” (11)

In India the three-day Upanayana, or ‘Sacred Thread’ ceremony, initiates the young male of the Brahmin and other castes as a “twice-born” man.  Now solely restricted to Hindu males, the Upanayana was at one time an honor equally bestowed upon girls as a symbol of regeneration.  During the investiture with the sacred thread, a threefold cord which has been spun by a Brahmin virgin, is twisted three times and tied with a triple knot.  The duration of the rite and the knotting of cords suggests an association with the triple lunar aspects of the three-fold goddess: the personification of birth, life and death; the waxing, waning and full moon.  The sacred Indian thread may be likened to the umbilical cord that nourishes the fetus in preparation for its eventual entry into the world, for the rite of the “twice-born” marks the adolescent’s separation from the mother, and the beginning of manhood. (12)

A parallel for the Indian custom is found in ancient Egypt where knots of cloth inscribed with magic words of power were worn as a protection against illness and harm.  In Egypt, Meskhenet (‘birth-house’) (13) is the goddess who cuts the umbilical cord.  She wears a uterus headdress.  As one of the Seven Hathors, she pronounces the fate of children at birth, and is the goddess of childbirth, death, and rebirth.  In the rites of the dead she presides over the place of purification, or Meskhen, and “allows (the) soul to enter (the) body” reborn. (14)  Her name is given to the brick on which women crouched in birth-giving position. 

As “the knot is a dire instrument of the enchantress,” (15) it is not surprising to see the knot as an emblem of the Great Goddess and her regenerative womb and as a magical symbol of her protection.  The highly venerated stone Omphalos (‘navel’) of Delphi, originally the goddess Gaia’s sacred site before Apollo arrived, was believed to be the center or navel of the world.  The iconic stone, which is said to be the grave-mound of the sacred python of the oracles, is completely covered with a woven net of fillets or threads. (16)

In the very male-dominated Arabic traditions in which women are regarded as little more than chattel, “figures and drawings of the right hand of the lady Fatimah (the ‘Weaver’) were held to be powerful amulets.” (17)  There are Muslim prayers in the Qu’ran against witchcraft, which ask that the devoted be saved “from the evil of (women who) are blowers on knots.” (18)  “The words ‘blowers on knots’ refer to magicians, male and female, who recite incantations which are intended to do harm to . . . [men] whilst they tie knots in a string – in other words, ‘weave spells’.” (19) 

The worship of the goddess Net, or Neith, whose name is thought to stem from the root

netet, ‘to knit’, ‘to weave’, (20) extends back into predynastic times (before 3400 B.C.E.). The shuttle with which she is crowned identifies her as the great weaver who created all that is in the world.  In Egyptian texts, where Net is looked upon as a powerful goddess of protection, she is sometimes represented by a hieroglyph whose meaning has been interpreted as that of a magical knot.  “The Egyptian word used . . . to express the meaning of ‘protection’ is sa . . . .  The character represents a knot of a peculiar kind . . . [which] indicates that the protection which Net exercised on behalf of the dead must have been of a magical character.” (21)

The Hieroglyph ‘SA’ Variations of the Ankh, the Sign of Life.

A more readily recognizable knot is the Ankh, which she carries in her left hand.  The Egyptian Ankh, the knotted sign of life, is a hieroglyphic representation of the womb and a symbol of protection. (22)  One scholar, who was known for his decipherment of the ancient symbols of the goddess, has made the interesting observation that “it is probably more than a coincidence that in Coptic art the Ankh sign often resembles the familiar sign for Venus.” (23)

Another goddess, whose name, Tanit, is thought to mean ‘Land of Net’, (24) shares certain attributes with Neith and other deities of the region.  Little is known about this partheno-genic fish-goddess who was worshipped in Carthage from the fifth century B.C.E. through early Christian times.  She is represented by a geometric emblem known as the ‘Sign of Tanit’, which closely resembles the Ankh or sign of life, the Sacred Knot of the Cretan Mother Goddess, and other hieroglyphic symbols emblematic of the womb and the pro-tection it affords. 

The same representation occurs in the Tjet, or Girdle or Knot of Isis, which is one of the most common of Egyptian amulets and an emblem of “the uterus and vagina of Isis.” (25)  This widely-venerated goddess was known for her magical ability to restore the dead to life and was acknowledged as having invented the cultivation of crops and the spinning of threads in Egypt. (26)  As the amulet of the Tjet was placed on the neck of the deceased, an incantation from the Book of the Dead was recited over it: “The blood of Isis, the virtue of Isis; the magic power of Isis, the magic power of the Eye, are protecting this great one.” (27)

The Sign of the goddess Tanit. Carthage.

c. 5th century B.C.E. to 2nd century C.E.

“The blood of Isis, the virtue of Isis;

the magic power of Isis,

the magic power of the Eye,

are protecting this great one.” (27)

The Tjet, or ‘Knot of Isis’. Emblem of Her womb.

New Kingdom Egypt. 1375 B.C.E.–641 C.E.

That the goddess of death also possesses the power to resurrect is shown in “the oldest recorded account of the passage through the gates of metamorphosis” (28) in which Inanna (Ishtar) descends to the netherworld where Dumuzi remains as surrogate to die in her place.  The vegetation-goddess returns to earth as the embodiment of the grain-spirit reborn.  The swirling reed-bundle standard of life-giving Inanna is a form that “exactly resembles the Minoan and Mycenaean emblem of the Goddess [and] combines the knot with the spiral of entry or birth.” (29)  The Minoan knot is none other than the Sacred Knot of Ariadne which, with its prominent diamond-glyph patterning emblematic of the womb, and the knotting together of its threads into tassels, has associations with the “thread of initiation” as the “key of life” (30) and the shamanistic cord or rope as the path to consciousness.

In modern times, evidence of the initiatory thread or knot can be observed among Christians in Syria who “bake (knotted) rolls . . . to be eaten once a year on Easter morning,” (31) thus equating the labyrinthine knot with the bread of life and the resurrec-tion of the soul.  The braided Sabbath-loaf, or Berchisbrod, of the German Jews evidently has its origin in ancient goddess rites.  We know that:

        The Teutonic goddess of fertility, Berchta, or Perchta, was worshipped by the

        women with rites which included offering their hair to her. In time this cere-

        mony became obsolete and was replaced by a symbolic offering of the hair in

        the shape of a loaf representing intertwined braids . . . . (32)

Hebrew scholars have offered alternative suggestions as to the derivation of the Berchis-brod, as for example, that the name Berches stems from the Old High German Berchit, which also describes the loaf known as ‘Brezel’. (33)  In any event, the pretzel, too, is baked in the form of a loose triple-knot, and was probably, in early times, an offering made for a festival in Berchta’s honor.

With few exceptions, the goddesses who spin and weave are goddesses of Fate, goddesses of childbirth, protectors of women, deities of war, and bestowers of wisdom.  Perhaps the most famous goddess of war and wisdom is Athene who, in one of her numerous functions, was the protectress of spinning and weaving.  It is an awkward function, evidently a remnant from earlier times, as Athene is a foe of women and of matriarchal ideals in Classical Greece.  The Lydian princess Arachne, whose name means ‘spider’ in Greek, is said to have hanged herself when the jealous Athene destroyed her weaving which had not a single imperfection.  The myth relates that the vengeful goddess “turned her into a spider–the insect she hates most–and the rope into a cobweb.” (34) 

The wise owl, a bird with lunar associations who is generally regarded as a creature of ill omen, is among Athene’s most sacred emblems.  In some traditions the owl is represented as a nocturnal weaver.  An Old German refrain offers a chilling description of a crone-like creature spinning in the darkness:

        Even in a starless night nothing is concealed.

        A morose old owl lurks in her somber little chamber

        Spinning on a tiny silver spindle

        As she watches the evil in the darkness. (35)

The weaving of the Greek Sirens, who assume bird-shape in their earliest representations, is of a more abstract nature.  They are the ‘Entanglers’, ‘those who bind with a cord’, who lure with their eloquent song, promising knowledge whose attainment implies death, which is to say, spiritual initiation.  

In the Norse Eddas, the three Norns, whose collective title is thought to stem from an Old Norse word meaning ‘to twine’, are goddesses of Fate whose names, Wyrd, Verandi, and Skuld, approximate the meaning of ‘Past’, ‘Present’, and ‘Future’. (36)  They spin the threads of life under the shade of the evergreen ash tree, Yggdrasil, whose upper branches reach far into heaven, and its roots, deep and far into the earth.  The Norns are sometimes confused with the golden-haired Valkyries (‘Choosers of the Slain’) who decide who will die in battle and then carry the warriors of their choosing to the paradisiacal Valhalla (‘Hall of the Slain‘).  The confusion may have arisen from the fact that Skuld, as spinner of the future, is named as one such Valkyrie in at least two of the 13th century Eddas. (37)

The Teutonic Frigg (Frigga), in her original form, is a goddess of love, knowledge, and justice who spins golden thread and weaves the clouds in heaven.  She was much reduced in later folklore, but it should be remembered that the “demons and bogeys are invariably the reduced gods or priests of a superseded religion” (38) or, in this case, goddesses or priestesses.  Frigg(a)’s later counterpart in German lore is Holde, Held, or Frau Holle, who

        appeared as an ugly old witch, with long, matted hair and protruding teeth.

        In medieval Germany she had developed into the demon-witch who gobbles

        up children. She was held responsible for entangling hair at night; [thus] ‘er

        ist mit der Holle gefahren’ [‘he has gone with Holle’] was said of one whose

        hair was disheveled and knotted. (39)

It is the same Held, the thirteenth wise woman in the tale of Sleeping Beauty, who is excluded from the princess’s birthday celebration because there are only twelve golden plates in the palace.  And so she curses Sleeping Beauty with death, a curse which another godmother who has yet to make her wish, softens to a blessing for a long sleep.  Years later, the princess finds the old wise woman spinning in a tower, and it is her spindle that pricks the girl’s finger and causes her to sleep for one hundred years. (40)

In the lunar calendar there are thirteen months, the thirteenth being “the death-month, ruled over by the Three Fates, or Spinners.” (41)  The Greek Spinners of Fate or Moirai, whose name derives from “the Indo-European root *mer, *mor, mean[ing] ‘to die’,” (42) are named Clotho (‘Spinner’), who spins the thread of life; Lachesis (‘the Disposer of Lots’), who measures the length of the thread; and Atropos (She who is ‘unchangeable’ and ‘not to be turned’), who cuts the thread at its determined time.  This greatly feared lunar triad, who determined one’s destiny at the moment of birth and upon whom matters of life and death hung in the balance at birth and beyond, are the parthenogenous daugh-ters of the goddess Ananke, or Necessity, as she is more commonly known. 

Eileithyia (‘She who has caused to come’) is the leading figure in another triad of Greek goddesses of childbirth, the others being Artemis and Hera, both of whom have the spindle as their emblem.  In the Delian hymn sung at her altar, she is Eileithyia Eulinos (‘with the goodly thread’), a goddess of destiny whose sacred emblem is the cord.  She is a magician and sorceress who, when she held her knees together, clasped her hands with crossed fingers, and muttered charms, could postpone labor at will.  The images in her many shrines always showed her veiled and in places she was regarded with such sanctity that only her priestesses were permitted to see her image. (43)

To be veiled means ‘to weave’.  It derives from the same Anglo-Saxon root as ‘witch’, from wiccian, meaning ‘to use as sorcery’.  The words web and weave share an identical Indo-European root (webh-) and an identical meaning: ‘to weave’.  And “‘to weave’ is . . . ‘to perform a sacred action’.” (44)  Wherever she appears throughout the world and in whatever guise, the goddess of many names who is but one, “weaves the web of life and spins the threads of fate.” (45)  She is the Sakti, the fiery female energy by which the universe comes into physical being and, at times, the one whose veil shields us from seeing that world. 

The Indian concept of the woven Veil of Maya, the veil of illusion, which goes so far as to say that the world itself is an illusion, undoubtedly stems from the idea of woman as the eternal weaver of a complexity of intricate webs.  A most unusual example of the weaving of a convoluted web, in this case, a brilliant web of deception, is found in the actions of Penelope (‘with a web over her face’) (46) in the Odyssey.  She literally wove her own fate, remaining true to her beloved Odysseus, eluding the many suitors hoping to take his place by secretly unravelling at night the weaving she had done by day.  The object of her travail was her wedding veil, which, because of her honorable duplicity, could never be finished. 

The veiling of the bride in ancient Greece appears to have evolved from the elaborate women’s rites surrounding the worship of Hera (Juno in Rome) as moon goddess.  Hera was identified as the moon itself.  Her worshippers, whose blood cycles corresponded to the phases of the moon, formed a symbiotic relationship with the moon as it hid, invisible in the sky, until the rising of its new virginal phase.  During this time of darkness the women secluded themselves, and statues of Hera were heavily veiled – bound with bands of cloth – and removed from view.  (47) 

In contrast to this self-imposed veiling, the marriage customs of ancient China suggest that the veil was forced upon the bride, who was all too often a victim in an arranged union.  The bride was elaborately veiled to conceal her face during the rite of betrothal.  To further prevent her possible “defects” from becoming known to an unwitting groom, marriage ceremonies were required to be performed only in the hours of twilight.  Her face remained hidden throughout the marriage celebration right up until the moment when she revealed herself to the groom in the bedchamber.

One who is veiled is a guardian of sacred mysteries.  The unveiling of those mysteries is a numinous act which induces an epiphanic threshold experience for the beholder.  A revelation, or ‘unveiling’, (from the Latin revelare, ‘to lay bare’, derived from re-, ‘again’ + velum, ‘veil’) just such as this, was recorded at Catal Huyuk, where a pregnant goddess is depicted revealing herself to her worshippers as she opens her veil-like garment, which is richly patterned in an elaborate net-like diamond-glyph design.  A Syrian goddess of fertility discloses her sacred mysteries in the same attitude some five thousand years later (c. 1000 B.C.E.), and there are countless others like her who reveal their mysteries in a similar manner – the veiled Isis, the great enchantress, being not least among them.

The subject of a great many well-known myths, which form the basis of much of the greatest literature of the world, is that of the goddess revealing or withholding her wisdom.  Her shimmering veil conceals the mysteries of the universe from those who are not initiated or from those not destined to see.  The lifting of the veil is a dangerous business, and the essential message of these stories is that nothing should be revealed to anyone who is not prepared to receive the knowledge that is being offered.  Oracular wisdom such as that proffered by the oracle at Delphi, was couched in enigmatic form, and in other places and times, riddles were posed to be solved by only the most suitable of candidates. 

The veil that shrouds the goddess and her vast wisdom can be likened to the aura of mystery which surrounds the Riddle the Sphinx.  The Sphinx (‘the Strangler’), who is represented as a hybrid animal with female head and breasts, is herself the very symbol of this hidden wisdom.  The riddle she posed to the inhabitants of Thebes was of the nature of a highly sacred initiatory ordeal, and all who failed to unravel her mysteries were strangled on the spot.  When Oedipus solved the enigma, thereby becoming a king through matrilineal descent, the age-old matriarchal Sphinx committed suicide.  But Oedipus’s eminent downfall is history. (48)

In the Old Testament, the Queen of Sheba, who was versed in the magic arts, presented questions of a similar initiatory character to test the wisdom of Solomon.  She was most pleased with the expanse of his knowledge.  In contradistinction to this story is that of the Gordian Knot, which is perhaps the most famous symbol of knowledge in history.  Be-cause the message formed by each of its knotted runes contained the name of a sacred goddess, the knot was meant to be untied.  It was a riddle to be solved through superior spiritual consciousness.  Alexander (‘defender of men’) failed to solve the problem it posed and, as he “had not the learning, patience or ingenuity to perform the task decently, used his sword” (49) to sever the knot.  By sheer force, he, with many others, brought the ideals of mother-right to an end – and yet the veil remained untouched.  Alexander was poisoned by an unknown hand and died at the age of thirty-three.

The Egyptian goddess Net (Neith) was unmoved by those who wished to unravel her veiled secrets.  She was the most ancient of all the gods, “the mighty mother who had given birth to Ra [the sun], . . . the first to give birth to anything . . . when nothing else had been born, and . . . she had never herself been born.” (50)  As the first, the ‘One’, (51) she was, before all others, “the personification of the eternal female principle of life which was self-sustaining and self-existent, and was secret, and unknown, and all-pervading . . . the prototype of partheno-genesis.” (52)

Although Plutarch diligently noted that “the Egyptians often called Isis by the name Athene, which signifies, ‘I have come from myself’,” (53) he knew that Net was the first of the goddesses about whom this could be said – and Isis but an emanation of, and another name for, this great weaver of all creation. (54)  There is such a merging of identities that these goddesses of many names who are but one, are often impossible to distinguish.  Plutarch, himself, was guilty of misnaming them.  He claims to have seen an ancient inscription on a statue in Sais, which he identifies as a likeness of Pallas Athene (or Isis), but which was more than likely an image of the indomitable Net, who was, after all, the ‘Lady of Sais’. (55)  No trace of it remains except for his precisely penned written record, which reads:

        “I am everything which hath been, and which is, and which shall be,

        and there hath never been any who hath uncovered (or revealed) my veil.”


Knotted Reed-Bundle. Standard & Ideogram of the goddess Inanna.

Sumer. c. 4th millennium B.C.E.

The Sacred Knot of the Minoan goddess Ariadne. Knossos. Bronze Age. Earlier than 1550 B.C.E.



1. James Mellaart, Catal Huyuk: A Neolithic Town in Anatolia. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967), p. 152.

2. Marie-Louise von Franz, The Feminine in Fairytales. (Zurich: Spring Publications, 1972), p. 39.

3. Mircea Eliade, Birth and Rebirth. Trans. Willard R. Trask. (New York: Harper & Bros.  Publishers, 1958), p. 51; and passim.

4. Mircea Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom. Trans. Willard R. Trask.  Bollingen Series LVI. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970), p, 221.

5. Mircea Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion. Trans. Rosemary Sheed. (New York: Meridian Books, 1963), p. 373.

6. John Chadwick, The Decipherment of Linear B. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), p. 125.

7. John Layard, Stone Men of Malekula. (London: Chatto and Windus, 1942), p. 340.

8. Ibid., p. 653.

9. See: Tracy Boyd, “The Eye Goddess and the Evil Eye” at <www.sacredthreads.net>.

10. Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness. Trans. R. F. C. Hull. Bollingen Series XLII. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1954), p. 97.

11. Mrs. Sinclair Stevenson, The Rites  of the Twice-Born. (London: Oxford University Press, 1920), p. 13.

12. See: Ibid., pp. 27-45 passim.

  1. 13. E. A. Wallis Budge, The Gods of the Egyptians. In Two Volumes. (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1969. An unabridged republication of the work originally published by The Open Court Publishing Company, Chicago, and Methuen & Co., London, 1904), Vol. 2, p. 359.

  2. 14. E. A. Wallis Budge, Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection. In Two Volumes. (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1973.  An unabridged republication of the work originally published by The Medici Society, Ltd., 1911), Vol. I, p. 332.

15. Erich Neumann, The Great Mother: An Analysis of the Archetype. Trans. Ralph Manheim.  Bollingen Series XLVII. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970), p. 233.

16. See Jane Ellen Harrison, Themis: A Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion. (New Hyde Park: university Books, 1962. Reprinted from the revised 2nd ed. (Cambridge, 1927) of the First ed. of 1912), pp. 396-400.

  1. 17. Sir E. A. Wallis Budge, Amulets and Talismans. (New Hyde Park: University Books, 1968), p. 469. 

  2. 18. Ibid., p. 62, citing Surah (‘Chapter’) CXIII. The Chapter of the Daybreak from the Kur’an.

  3. 19. Sir E. A. Wallis Budge, Amulets and Talismans. op. cit., p. 62.

  4. 20. E. A. Wallis Budge, The Gods of the Egyptians. op. cit., Vol. I, p. 451.

  5. 21. Ibid., Vol. I, p. 456.

  6. 22. A. A. Barb, “Diva Matrix” in Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institute, Vol. 16, 1953, p. 199, and Illus., p. 28A.

  7. 23. Ibid., p. 221 note.

  8. 24. See: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neith>  This information, which was not available when the original article was written in 1977, has been added to this edition.

25. The Book of the Dead. E. A. Wallis Budge, Translation and Introduction. (New Hyde Park: University Books, 1960),  p. 45.

26. R. E. Witt, Isis in the Graeco-Roman World. (London: Thames and Hudson, 1971), p. 16.

27. Sir W. M. Flinders Petrie, Amulets. (Warminster, Wiltshire: Aris & Phillips, Ltd., 1972, Reprint of edition first published by Constable & Company, 1914), p. 23. See also: E. A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic. (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1971; An unabridged republication of the work originally published by Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd., London, 1901), pp. 43-44.

28. Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Bollingen Series XVII. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1949), p. 105.

29. Gertrude Rachel Levy, The Gate of Horn. (London: Faber & Faber Ltd., 1948), p. 248, Note 4.

  1. 30. Ibid., p. 248, and p. 248, Note 4.

  2. 31. Ibid., p. 248, Note 4.

32. Joshua Trachtenberg, Jewish Magic and Superstition: A Study in Folk Religion. (New York: Atheneum, 1975), p. 40.

33. Ibid., p. 280, note 48.

34. Robert Graves, The Greek Myths. Two Volumes. (Baltimore: Penguin Books, Inc., 1960), Vol. I, Section 25.h., p. 98.

  1. 35. Angelo de Gubernatis, Zoological Mythology. Two Volumes. (London: Trubner & Co., 1872), Vol. II, p. 250, quot. Rochholtz, Deutscher Claube und Brach, Vol. I, p. 155. Translation from the Old German by Tracy Boyd, with very generous assistance from Ruth Soika.

  2. 36. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norns>

  3. 37. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valkyrie> and <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skuld>

  4. 38. Robert Graves, The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth. (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1974; 7th Printing of Amended and Enlarged Edition of 1966), p. 219, Note 3.

39. Joshua Trachtenberg, Jewish Magic and Superstition: A Study in Folk Religion. op. cit., p. 41.

  1. 40. For an in-depth discussion, see: Robert Graves, The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth. op. cit., p. 421.

41. Ibid.

42. C. G. Jung, “Symbols of the Mother and of Rebirth”, in Symbols of Transformation, Volume  5 of the Collected Works. Trans. R. F. C. Hull. Bollingen Series XX, 2nd Ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967), CW Vol. 5, Para. 371, p. 250.

43. For an in-depth discussion of Eileithyia, see: Tracy Boyd, “A Covenant of Fire: Vesta and Her Brides”, under the heading: “The Knotted Girdle of Fate” at <www.sacredthreads.net>.

44. Erich Neumann, The Great Mother: An Analysis of the Archetype, op. cit., p. 227, Note 4.

45. Ibid., p. 227.

46. This is Robert Graves’s translation of ‘Penelope’ which appears in his Index in Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, op. cit., Vol. 2, p. 404.

47. For an in-depth discussion of Hera, see: Tracy Boyd, “A Covenant of Fire: Vesta and Her Brides” at <www.sacredthreads.net>.

48. For an in-depth discussion of  Oedipus’s fate, see: Tracy Boyd, “Teiresias, the Androgynous Seer: A Question of Balance”, under the heading: “Damnable Soothsayers” at <www.sacredthreads.net>.

49. Robert Graves, The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth, op. cit., p. 461, Note 1.

50. E. A. Wallis Budge, The Gods of the Egyptians, op. cit., Vol. 1, p.458.

51. Ibid.

52. Ibid., Vol. 1, p. 462.

53. Ibid., Vol. 1, pp. 458-59, quot. Plutarch, De Iside et Osiride (Isis and Osiris), lxii.

54. E. A. Wallis Budge, The Gods of the Egyptians, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 457.

55. Ibid., Vol. 1, p. 456.

  1. 56.Ibid., Vol. 1, p. 458, and note 2., quoting the original Greek from Plutarch, De Iside et Osiride (Isis and Osiris), ix, and providing his own translation into English, which is quoted above, verbatim.



“The Eternal Weaver” originally appeared in Heresies: A Feminist Publication On Art and Politics, Issue 5, Spring, 1978 under the co-authorship of Buffie Johnson and Tracy Boyd.  Tracy Boyd was the actual author of that article, which appears here in a slightly edited edition with minor revisions, additions, deletions, and corrections to footnotes that appeared with numerical errors in the original publication.  All of the images that were reproduced in the original article appear again in this edition.  Some of the images were suggested by Buffie Johnson who had been collecting photographs of the goddess and her animals from museums and archives for some thirty years. 

In 1970 Buffie presented her vast image collection to Tracy and asked her to write the text.  The working title of the collaboration was The Great Goddess and Her Sacred Animals.  After some ten years of research and writing, and many rejections from publishers who didn’t get it, the project was set aside.  In 1988 Buffie Johnson published Lady of the Beasts: Ancient Images of the Goddess and Her Sacred Animals with much of the same material in a very different format from that originally envisioned.

I am everything which hath been,

        and which is, and which shall be . . . .”

The Lady of Sais