Throughout history, humankind has attributed wisdom and learning to a multitude of goddesses. Many ancient cultures revered the gifts of women, and immortalized them through their goddesses.
Goddesses weren’t just worshipped for fertility or nurturing aspects within a culture; the truth is far more beautiful. According to mythology, a Hindu goddess bestowed the gift of science while followers worshipped an Egyptian goddess for her prowess with accounting and mathematics. Ancient cultures created a bevy of divine beings that truly idolized the power of women.
Interestingly, most ancient cultures differentiated (rightly) between wisdom and knowledge. Many believed that knowledge could be learned while wisdom must be gained through experience. Some peoples had deities for both, while others had one deity that represented both. In many mythologies it’s goddesses that offer the people opportunities for both knowledge and wisdom.
Apparently, girls have always run the world.
As a new school year begins, remind girls that they can do exactly everything boys can do. In fact, some ancient cultures ascribed science, math, and even technology to female deities. Curious? Check out the list below!
This Hindu Goddess presided over knowledge, music, arts, science, and wisdom. Visual representations often depict her with four hands, each holding a significant item. Her two upper hands hold a book and a string of prayer beads. The lower set hold a vina — an elongated, guitar-like musical instrument. Scholars believe that these items may represent the idea of learning as a process. Wisdom, after all, requires insight into many subjects.
In Irish mythology, Brigid is a goddess of healing, wisdom, and fertility. She shared her learning regarding plants to heal those around her and became a revered deity for those practicing medicine. She is worshiped as a spring goddess, as well as for poetry and smithcraft. Legends have her inventing keening as a way for people to mourn their loved ones, after the loss of her son Ruadán. She also created the whistle.
This revered Japanese Buddhist goddess emerged somewhere between the 6th and 8th centuries. Some historians believe she may have originated from Saraswati. Texts refer to her as the goddess over everything that flows. Water, time, speech, and knowledge are just a few of the concepts in her purview. She is often referred to as the goddess of eloquence. While she is enshrined with only two hands to Saraswati’s four, she does often hold a musical instrument resembling a lute or guitar.
Nidaba or Nisaba
Nisaba existed as a Sumerian goddess in charge of writing, learning, and the harvest. Haven’t heard of Nidaba? You’ve probably heard of her nephew Gilgamesh. In her stories, Nisaba became the scribe of the gods. She was in charge of a school of learning for both mortals and immortals alike. Several myths tell stories of Nisaba settling disputes between mortals on the first day of each new year, using her wisdom to fairly decide issues. Not unlike today’s modern mother settling disputes among her children!
According to Norse mythology, Sága was a goddess of wisdom. Texts also support her as the goddess of history; she would record the history of each day as well as foretell many events to come. Perhaps understanding history led her to predict the future. Scholars believe her name may be related to the Old Norse verb sjá, which means “to see”. In other words, wisdom allows individuals to truly see.
Ra had nothing on this Egyptian goddess who is credited with inventing writing. Without her, archeologists around the world would be far less interested in ancient Egypt and its papyrus scrolls! Seshat bestowed wisdom, knowledge, and the ability to write among her people. Interestingly, she is also known as the Mistress of the House of Books. Her image should decorate math classrooms everywhere: she also became the goddess of accounting, mathematics, and architecture. Seshat finally settled the argument that women are as good at math as men — all the way back in the Early Dynastic Period.
Athena to the Greeks and Minerva to the Romans, this goddess represents wisdom and knowledge. The original supporter of STEAM education, myths attribute many inventions that helped humankind to Athena. According to Greek Mythology, this goddess invented bridles, plows, yokes, pots, ships, chariots, and several musical instruments including the trumpet. She is additionally worshipped as the goddess of reason and strategy. Moms everywhere need a bit of Athena’s strategy to balance the demands of motherhood.
The next time you hear or see a girl shying away from science, technology, or math, remind them that once upon a time, there was a goddess in charge of that particular discipline. Ascribing wisdom and learning to female deities celebrates the abilities of women and honors their ability to accomplish anything they can dream.
Ancient female deities weren’t just beautiful faces; they were the center of their people’s belief in wisdom and learning. Actually, it seems as though goddesses were in charge of pretty much everything!