7 Goddesses of Empowerment

Marble statue of Artemis, from Ephesus, Turkey
De Agostini / G. P. Cavallero / Getty Images

Think you’d like to embrace the sacred feminine as part of your spiritual development? Here are seven goddesses from around the globe who embody female strength and empowerment in a number of different ways. See which one resonates with you the most!

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Anat (Canaanite/Semitic)

Bronze figure of a Canaanite deity, 16th century BC.
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A goddess of love, sex, fertility, and battle, Anat was a Canaanite and Semitic deity who became popular during the end of Egypt’s Middle Kingdom period. She was a collection of paradoxes, associated with both motherhood and chastity, with love and war, with life and destruction. Cuneiform texts describe her as being fairly bloody, and say she destroys her enemies and splashes around in their blood, while displaying their severed heads and hands on her armor… but she also has a gentle aspect, protecting people, livestock, and crops.

Anat is also fiercely loyal to her brother Ba’al, and in one epic text, she wreaks vengeance upon those who have failed to honor him properly.

She smites the people of the seashore, destroys mankind of the sunrise.
Under Her are heads like vultures. Over Her are hands like locusts.
Pouring the oil of peace from a bowl, the Virgin Anath washes Her hands,
The Progenitress of Heroes, (washes) Her fingers.
She washes Her hands in the blood of soldiery, Her fingers in the gore of troops.

Fun fact: Anat is a common female name in modern Israel.

Marble statue of Artemis, from Ephesus, Turkey
De Agostini / G. P. Cavallero / Getty Images

As a divine huntress, Artemis is often depicted carrying a bow and wearing a quiver full of arrows. Paradoxically, although she hunts animals, she is also a protector of the forest and its young creatures. ​Artemis valued her chastity and was fiercely protective of her status as ​divine virgin. If she was seen by mortals — or if one attempted to relieve her of her virginity — her wrath was impressive. Call upon Artemis for work in protecting animals, or for protection against those who would do you physical harm.​

Fun fact: The Temple of Artemis at Ephysus is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

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The Goddness in all her splendour
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A Hindu warrior goddess, Durga is known by many names, including Shakti and Bhavani. Both a mother and a protector, Durga has multiple arms — usually eight, but sometimes more — and is always ready to fight off the forces of evil, no matter where it may be coming from. Hindu devotees celebrate her each fall during the festival of Durga Puja, in which feasts are held and stories of her exploits are shared. A consort of Shiva, she is also known as “​Triyambake (the three-eyed goddess). Her left eye represents desire, symbolized by the moon; her right eye represents action, symbolized by the sun; and her middle eye stands for knowledge, symbolized by fire.”

Fun fact: Durga appears in a number of Bollywood films. More »

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Beautiful Blonde Sword wielding viking warrior female
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In Norse mythology, Hel features as the goddess of the underworld. She was sent by Odin to Helheim/Niflheim to preside over the spirits of the dead, except for those who were killed in battle and went to Valhalla. It was her job to determine the fate of the souls who entered her realm. Hel is often depicted with her bones on the outside of her body rather than the inside. She is typically portrayed in black and white, as well, symbolizing duality. Hel is a hardcore, no-nonsense goddess. 

Fun fact: It's believed that Hel's name is the origin of the Christian Hell, in the context of a place in the underworld.  More »

05
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Inanna (Sumerian)

Terracotta relief of the goddess Astarte (Inanna) standing on two animals.
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Inanna is an ancient Sumerian deity associated with love and sex, as well as combat and political power. Similar to the Babylonian Ishtar, Inanna appears in legends that depict her taking over the domains of other gods and goddesses, in a variety of creative methods. She became the Queen of Heaven, for example, by taking over the temple of the sky god, and also attempted to conquer the underworld, which was ruled by her sister.

Her temples were built along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and in addition to female clergy, her priests included androgynous and hermaphroditic men. Inanna’s high priestesses led a festival each year at the spring equinox, in which they engaged in sacred sex with the kings of Uruk. Associated with the planet Venus, Inanna is often regarded as moving from one sexual conquest to another, much like Venus moves across the sky.

The most widely venerated deity in Mesopotamia, Inanna has been a bit problematic for scholars, because her aspects are so contradictory. It’s possible that she is, in fact, a combination of a number of unrelated Sumerian goddesses.

Fun fact: Inanna has become important in the modern BDSM community, and scholar Anne Nomis has associated her both with the role of dominatrix and cross-dressing priests.

06
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Mami Wata (West African Diasporic)

Mami Wata in Benin, West Africa
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Mami Wata appears in some of the West African diasporic belief systems, particularly around Nigeria and Senegal, and is a water spirit associated with both sex and fidelity — an interesting paradox indeed! Often appearing in a mermaid-like form and carrying a large snake wrapped around her body, Mami Wata is known for abducting people whom she finds interesting, and taking them back with her to her magical realm. When she releases them, they return home with a renewed sense of spiritual clarity.

Mami Wata is also known as a seductress, and sometimes appears to men in the form of a prostitute. Other times, she simply lures a man into her arms with her feminine wiles but demands he promise her full loyalty and allegiance — as well as his secrecy about being her lover. Men who are foolish enough to break their vow to her find themselves losing their fortunes and family; those who are devoted and faithful to her are amply rewarded. Mami Wata is sometimes called upon by members of African traditional religions in workings related to sexuality and feminine power.

Fun fact: The allusions to the water goddess in Beyonce's Lemonade video are believed to be Mami Wata.

07
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Taweret (Egyptian)

Wooden statuette depicting goddess Taweret with face of Queen Teie
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Taweret was an Egyptian goddess of childbirth and fertility - but for a while, she was considered a demon. Associated with the hippopotomus, Taweret watches over and protects women in labor and their new babies. Taweret was an Egyptian goddess of fertility and childbirth.

She is portrayed as having the head of a hippopotamus, and often appears with parts of the lioness and crocodile as well — all things the Egyptians feared greatly. In some areas, Taweret took on the form of a female demon, because she was the wife of Apep, a god of evil. She was known as a protector of pregnant women and those in labor, and it wasn’t uncommon for a woman about to give birth to make offerings to Taweret.

In later periods, Taweret had the full breasts and swollen belly of a pregnant woman, but maintained her hippopotamus head. She carried an ankh — the symbol of eternal life — and often wields a knife, which is used to fight away spirits that might harm a newborn infant or its mother. Unlike many Egyptian deities, who are associated with pharaohs and kingship, Taweret was a household goddess. Consider working with Taweret if you’re feeling protective of your children or other members of your family.

Fun fact: If you are a are fan of the television show LOST, the four-toed statue on the beach is Taweret.