Buddha, Freud and even Raquel Welch agree: no matter what gender you have (or don’t have), you have a feminine side. And an inner goddess waiting to break out. Read on to find which traits you share with some of the great goddesses of the globe—and where they want you to travel.
We’ve all heard the stories of Medusa, Aphrodite, and Persephone — the monster, the love kitten and the damsel-in-distress — but there’s much more to the divine feminine than rage, beauty and helplessness. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female. All of us have the potential of an inner goddess – a mixture of an internal guide and mentor – that we can learn about from other cultures. But which goddess?
There are some you might not know, rounded up from traditions across the world to spark your wander-lusty imagination — depending on which you vibe with most.
Whether trying to connect with your adventurous spirit, inner-innovator, mother-earth traits, dazzling intellect or your sexy side, these goddesses are ready to light your fire.
If you’re into more than just shoes, turn to the goddess Nike. To the ancient Greeks she personified victory; the ancient Romans called her Victoria. In classical art, Winged Victory flew around rewarding battlefield champions with glory and fame by crowing them with a laurel wreath. In legend she was also friends with Athena, protectress of Athens. And as one of the most commonly depicted deities on Greek coins, Nike was a true badass of antiquity.
Best selfie spot: Next to the statue of Nike in Ephesus, Turkey (see that swoosh?)
If you lean toward music, arts, wisdom and nature then Saraswati is your goddess. She was first mentioned in the Rigveda, written more than 3,000 years ago, and remains one of the most revered goddesses in modern Hindu traditions across India and South Asia. Saraswati’s many arms are thought to represent her abilities within multiple dimensions of reality. She’s part of a holy trinity in Vedic scriptures, along with goddesses Lakshmi and Parvati (the three of them then join up with their male counterparts to help one another in the creation, maintenance and destruction of the Universe).
Best selfie spot: Near her enormous statue on the banks of the Godavari River in Telangana, India
If you consider yourself a “cat lady,” the Freyja is likely your goddess. She’s often depicted riding through the cosmos in a chariot pulled by cats, which made her a true legend in Norse mythology. (Even her tears, it’s believed, turn to gold.) Early Scandinavians invoked her name when thinking about love, sex, beauty, fertility, wealth or magic—among other things. And so many places throughout Sweden and Norway are named for her, one wonders if she’s still active and thriving within those realms.
Best selfie spot: Beneath a towering statue of Freyja holding her alter-ego falcon on Djurgårdsbron Bridge in Stockholm, Sweden
Sometimes two are better than one when true integration is accomplished. And the Fon and Ewe peoples of coastal West Africa worshiped androgynous, two-spirited Mawu-Lisa as the Great Creator and supreme being. Dahomey mythology considered the integrated deity to represent both the moon/night (Mawu) and sun/day (Lisa).
In her female form, gentle and forgiving Mawu is said to create human souls and their destinies. And the fierce and disciplinary male form of Lisa complements her actions and provides humans with tools.
Best selfie spot: Search out statues and depictions of Mawu-Lisa in Abomey, Benin
If you’ve ever been through a rough breakup and continued shining brightly, check out the Shinto deity, Amaterasu-ōmikami. As goddess of the sun and the universe, she was given domain as ruler of the High Plains of Heaven. Her husband was ruler of the night. But after he killed the goddess of food, Amaterasu declared him an evil god and split up with him, thus separating day from night. Until the end of World War II the goddess was considered by the Japanese government a direct ancestor of the Imperial family. Her relics remain the Three Sacred Treasures of Japan.
Best selfie spot: Outside the Ise Shrine located in Ise, Honshū, Japan, houses an inner shrine dedicated to Amaterasu
Calling all Libras and lawyers. The ancient Egyptians loved legends of the goddess of truth, balance and law—and so will you. When traveling through Egypt today, you can’t go a day without seeing images, statues and depictions of the goddess Ma’at—whether hieroglyphs, papyrus paintings, or handmade jewelry. But back in the day only high priests and the Pharaoh were allowed into the inner-parts of temples. So reading stories about the goddess Ma’at—on an epic wall-size hieroglyph panels carved into solid stone—is something only a few very privileged men could do, in ancient times.
Best selfie spot: Any time you spot Ma’at in one of Egypt’s many beautiful temples, markets or the Egyptian Museum in Cairo
If you’re intrigued by clever innovations in sustainability, it’s time to call on the goddess Deohako. Iroquois mythology saw this collective of three of Earth Mother’s daughters as the spirits of corn, squash and beans. They reverently planted these “three sisters” together: the corn creating a stalk for the beans and squash leaves providing a weed barrier near the roots—and sustenance for all.
Iroquois respect for the divine feminine is pervasive throughout its sacred stories and theirs was historically a matriarchal system. The Mohawk (Iroquoian) language is one of the few on earth that “defaults” to a feminine noun class. Its language and culture is protected by organizations related to the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte First Nation in Canada.
Best selfie spot: In front of signage written in the Mohawk language in southwest Ontario’s Tyendinaga Territory
Kim Mott is a travel writer turned filmmaker. She’s currently in post-production on her first documentary, Book of Shadows, about the esoteric history of the Bible (for which she visited 23 countries and 17 US states!)