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Who is the Virgin Mary?

by Acharya S/D.M. Murdock

The following article is excerpted from:

Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled 

suns of god cover image

Moon Mary: Queen of Heaven

"The goddesses have stories to tell. One such story—far too long ignored—is that, in their original, unadulterated form, they were parthenogenetic. The word parthenogenesis comes from the Greek parthenos, 'virgin' more or less, and gignesthai, 'to be born.' It means, essentially, to be born of a virgin—that is, without the participation of a male. For a goddess to be 'parthenogenetic' thus means that she stands as a primordial creatrix, who requires no male partner to produce the cosmos, earth, life, matter and even other gods out of her own essence. Plentiful evidence shows that in their earliest cults, before they were subsumed under patriarchal pantheons as the wives, sisters and daughters of male  gods, various female deities of the ancient Mediterranean world were indeed considered self-generating, virgin creatrixes."

Dr. Marguerite Rigoglioso, Virgin Mother Goddesses of Antiquity (1)

"There is but one god and goddess, but many are their powers and names: Jupiter, Sol, Apollo, Moses, Christ, Luna, Ceres, Proserpinfa, Tellus, Mary. But have a care in speaking these things. They should be hidden in silence as are the Eleusinian mysteries; sacred things must needs be wrapped in fable and enigma."

Konrad Muth (1471-1526)

Virgin Mary adored in heavenAs is the case with Jesus Christ himself, the godman's parents, Joseph and Mary, never appear in the contemporary historical record of the time they allegedly existed. Nor are they mentioned in non-gospel Christian writings earlier than the purported time of Church father Ignatius (d. 107 CE). Oddly enough, the Islamic sacred text, the Koran, places Jesus and Mary in the same era as Moses, or the 13th century BCE. Arabs believed that Jesus was Joshua, the Old Testament prophet, and that Joshua's mother was "Mirzam," the Miriam of Exodus, sister of Moses and Aaron. (Robertson, CM, 297) In this regard, Joshua is Jesus in Greek, and both Mirzam and Miriam are equivalent to Mariam or Mary. As Strong's Concordance (Gk. 3137) relates: "Mary or Miriam='their rebellion.'" The Persians likewise believed that Joshua's mother was the Mosaic Miriam. Hence, according to Near Eastern tradition there appeared a Jesus, son of Mary, over a thousand years prior to the Christian era. Moreover, like Jesus, who was called "Emmanuel" (Mt. 1:23), a "Persian title of 'the god Immani,' or E-mani,' venerated in Elam as a sacred king-martyr," the Persian savior Mani was said to have been "born of a virgin named Mary." (Walker, 428)

The Virgin Goddess

In reality, the ancient world abounded with traditions, prophecies, fables and myths of miraculous conceptions and births, long before the Christian era, and the virgin-mother motif is common enough in pre-Christian cultures to demonstrate its unoriginality and non-historicity within Christianity. In early Christian times, Mary herself was believed to have been born of a virgin, which, if taken literally, would represent a virgin [or miraculous] birth prior to Christ, rendering his own nativity unoriginal and mundane, rather than miraculous and divine. One source of Mary's immaculate conception was Christian writer and saint John of Damascus (c. 676-c. 754-787), who asserted that Mary's parents were "filled and purified by the Holy Ghost, and freed from sexual concupiscence." Concerning this matter, the Catholic Encyclopedia ("Immaculate Conception") states that "even the human element" of Mary's origin, "the material of which she was formed, was pure and holy." In other words, Roman Catholic doctrine dictates that, like Jesus, "the Blessed Virgin Mary" was "conceived without sin." (Hackwood, 17) In order to maintain the "uniqueness" of Christ's virgin birth, however, this contention regarding Mary is not taken seriously. What it proves, nonetheless, is that fabulous Christian claims are based on pious speculation, not historical fact, speculation by the faithful that changes from era to era, depending on the need.

Virgin Mary adored in heavenAs it turns out, the Virgin Mary is, like Jesus Christ, a mythical character, founded upon older goddesses. Following on the heels of goddesses such as Aphrodite, Astarte, Cybele, Demeter, Hathor, Inanna, Ishtar and Isis, Mary is "both virgin and mother, and, like many of them, she gives birth to a half-human, half-divine child, who dies and is reborn." (Baring, 548) Regarding the Great Mother Goddess, upon whom Mary is based and whose names are legion, in Forerunners and Rivals of Christianity (II, 45) Francis Legge says:

"Her most prominent characteristics show her to be a personification of the Earth, the mother of all living, ever bringing forth and ever a virgin…"

In Pagan and Christian Creeds (159-161), Edward Carpenter recites a long list of virgin mothers:

Zeus, Father of the gods, visited Semele…in the form of a thunderstorm; and she gave birth to the great saviour and deliverer Dionysus. Zeus, again, Danae impregnated by Zeus as a golden shower. Greek Red Figure ware, c. 5th cent. BCEimpregnated Danae in a shower of gold; and the child was Perseus… Devaki, the radiant Virgin of the Hindu mythology, became the wife of the god Vishnu and bore Krishna, the beloved hero and prototype of Christ. With regard to Buddha, St. Jerome says: "It is handed down among the Gymnosophists of India that Buddha, the founder of their system, was brought forth by a Virgin from her side." The Egyptian Isis, with the child Horus on her knee, was honored centuries before the Christian era, and worshipped under the names of "Our Lady," "Queen of Heaven," "Star of the Sea," "Mother of God," and so forth. Before her, Neith the Virgin of the World , whose figure bends from the sky over the earthly plains and the children of men, was acclaimed as mother of the great god Osiris…

The old Teutonic goddess Hertha (the Earth) was a Virgin, but was impregnated by the heavenly Spirit (the Sky); and her image with a child in her arms was to be seen in the sacred groves of Germany. The Scandinavian Frigga, in much the same way, being caught in the embraces of Odin, the All-father, conceived and bore a son, the blessed Balder, healer and saviour of mankind. Quetzalcoatl, the (crucified) saviour of the Aztecs, was the son of Chimalman, the Virgin Queen of Heaven. Even the Chinese had a mother-goddess and virgin with child in her arms; and the ancient Etruscans the same…

Black Madonna and Child, Anjony, France, c. 17th cent. (Photo: Francis Debaisieux)In addition to the omnipresent mother-and-child imagery beginning at least five millennia ago are the black virgin-mother statues found all over the Mediterranean and especially in Italian churches, representing the very ancient Egyptian goddess Isis, as well as the later Mary, having been refigured or "baptized anew" as the Jewish Mother of God. Concerning this development, in its article the "Virgin Birth of Christ" the Catholic Encyclopedia ("CE") remarks:

"A first class of writers have recourse to pagan mythology in order to account for the early Christian tradition concerning the virgin birth of Jesus. Usener argues that the early Gentile Christians must have attributed to Christ what their pagan ancestors had attributed to their pagan heroes; hence the Divine sonship of Christ is a product of the religious thought of Gentile Christians…. Conrady found in the Virgin Mary a Christian imitation of the Egyptian goddess Isis, the mother of Horus…"

Concerning the usurpation of the Virgin Mother by Christianity, which simply constituted the changing of the goddess from one ethnicity to another, in The Paganism in Our Christianity (121-123) apologist Sir Arthur Weigall observes:

"Isis nursing her Divine Son, Horus…while the story of the death and resurrection of Osiris may have influenced the thought of the earliest Christians in regard to the death and resurrection of our Lord, there can be no doubt that the myths of Isis had a direct bearing upon the elevation of Mary, the mother of Jesus, to her celestial position in the Roman Catholic theology… In her aspect as the mother of Horus, Isis was represented in tens of thousands of statuettes and paintings, holding the divine child in her arms; and when Christianity triumphed these paintings and figures became those of the Madonna and Child without any break in continuity: no archaeologist, in fact, can now tell whether some of these objects represent the one or the other."

Like the Christian Mary and Egyptian Isis, the Canaanite goddess Astarte, mentioned in the Old Testament, was the "Virgin of the Sea," as well as the "blessed Mother and Lady of the Waters." (Baring, 459) Another virgin goddess was the mother of the Phrygian god Attis, whose widespread worship "must have influenced the early Christians." As Weigall (115-116) recounts:

Attis was the Good Shepherd, the son of Cybele, the Great Mother, or alternatively, of the Virgin Nana, who conceived him without union with mortal man, as in the story of the Virgin Mary… In Rome the festival of his death and resurrection was annually held from March 22nd to 25th; and the connection of this religion with Christianity is shown by the fact that in Phrygia, Gaul, Italy and other countries where Attis-worship was powerful, the Christians adopted the actual date, March 25th, as the anniversary of our Lord's passion.

The pre-Christian virgin goddess Myrrha was the mother of the god Adonis, who tradition holds was born at Bethlehem, "in the same sacred cave that Christians later claimed as the birthplace of Jesus." Indeed, Myrrha was "identified with Mary by early Christians who called Jesus's mother Myrrh of the Sea." (Walker, 10)

Buddha born through the side of his mother, Maya. Gandharan frieze, 2nd cent. AD/CEAlso a product of a virgin birth, the Indian avatar Buddha's conception is portrayed as coming to his mother, Maya, in a dream, similar to the conflicting gospel tales of Joseph's dream or the angel appearing to Mary. Regarding Buddha, in Christianity Before Christ (87) Dr. John Jackson states:

"He was said to have been born of the Virgin Maya, or Mary. His incarnation was accomplished by the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Virgin Maya. The infant Buddha, soon after birth, spoke to his mother, saying: 'I will put to an end to the sufferings and sorrows of the world.' As these words are uttered, a mystical light surrounded the infant Messiah."

This mythical theme is not uncommon, as the birth through the side of the virgin was also claimed of Jesus by early Christian "heretics." It was likewise said that Julius Caesar was born through the "side of his mother," whence comes the term "Caesarean section." So too was the Egyptian sun god Ra "born from the side of his mother" (Bonwick, 107), a motif that reflects the relationship between the sun and moon. Part of the "lunar phenomenon," the mother's womb symbolizes the moon, in which the solar child can be seen growing. Hence, Buddha's mother, Maya, was depicted as transparent, as was the pregnant Mary, "as may be seen in Didron's Iconography!" (Massey, 181)

Like Buddha's mother, Queen Maya, the carpenter's wife Mary is also a "queen," as in "Queen of Heaven." Precursor of Mary, the immensely popular Isis's status as "Queen of Heaven" was established eons before, and continued well into, the common era. In his Latin novel of the second century ce, The Golden Ass (XI.2), Lucius Apuleius describes Isis's introduction of herself to the "hapless quadruped" as follows:

"I am she that is the natural mother of all things, mistress and governess of all the elements, the initial progeny of worlds, chief of the powers divine, queen of heaven, the principal of the gods celestial, the light of the goddesses. At my will the planets of the air, the wholesome winds of the seas and the silences of hell are disposed. My name, my divinity, is adored throughout the world, in divers manners, in variable customs and in many names, for the Phrygians call me the mother of the gods; the Athenians, Minerva; the Cyprians, Venus; the Candians, Diana; the Sicilians, Proserpina; the Eleusinians, Ceres; some Juno, others Bellona, others Hecate; and principally the Ethiopians who dwell in the Orient, and the Egyptians…do call me Queen Isis." (Siculus, 31fn)

As can be seen, Isis was fervently revered as the epitome of Divinity, long before Mary achieved that rank.

Winged Isis in cruciform, Tomb of Seti I

Mary, Goddess of the Moon

The virgin-goddess "Queen of Heaven" is prevalent in the ancient world for the reason that she is astrological or astrotheological, symbolizing the moon, the earth, Venus, Virgo and the dawn. The many goddesses thus resolve themselves to variants on a theme, one of which is the moon, a feature of the ubiquitous sun-god mythos, in which the moon, by mirroring the sun's light, "gives birth" to the sun. In Christ Lore (30-31), Hackwood describes the astrotheological development of this theme:

Virgin Mary with Stars atop a Crescent Moon. Albrecht Durer"The Virgin Mary is called not only the Mother of God, but the Queen of Heaven. This connects her directly with astronomic lore. The ornamentation of many continental churches often includes a representation of the Sun and Moon "in conjunction," the Moon being therein emblematical of the Virgin and Child….

"As the Moon…is the symbol of Mary, Queen of Heaven, so also a bright Star sometimes symbolizes him whose star was seen over Jerusalem by the Wise Men from the East.

"The many depictions of Mary with the crescent moon reflect her status as the ancient moon goddess, exemplified by the Egyptian goddess Isis."

In his book dating to the first century BCE on Egyptian antiquities, Greek writer Diodorus Siculus (14-15) affirms that the Egyptian god Osiris symbolizes the sun while his wife/sister, Isis, is the moon:

"Now when the ancient Egyptians, awestruck and wondering, turned their eyes to the heavens, they concluded that Isis with moon and lunar horns nursing Horustwo gods, the sun and the moon, were primeval and eternal; and they called the former Osiris, the latter Isis, assigning each of these names according to some relevant characteristic…

"…Now Isis, in translation, signifies "ancient"—a name bestowed for her ancient and immortal origin. They depict horns on her head, both from the moon's horned appearance when in its crescent, and because the horned cow is sacred to her among the Egyptians."

Concerning Isis's prototype, the Egyptian lunar virgin goddess Neith, who predated the Christian era by millennia, in The Ancient Gods (84) Rev. James observes:

…She too was the virgin mother of the Sun-god, having given birth to Re [Ra] as the great cow, and was identified with Isis as the wife of Osiris, later becoming one of the forms of Hathor. Indeed, she was "the Great Goddess, the mother of all the gods."…

…She was eternal, self-existing, self-sustaining and all-pervading, personifying the female principle from very early times. She was believed to have brought forth the transcendent Sun-god without the aid of a male partner, very much as in the Memphite Theology Ptah created all things virtually ex nihilo by thinking as the "heart" and commanding as the "tongue."

The virgin-mother goddess represents not only the moon but also the constellation of Virgo. This important information regarding the Virgin is found in ancient texts, such as the Eclogues (37 BCE) of the Roman poet Virgil, in which is described or "prophesied" the "return of the virgin," i.e., Virgo, who would bring about "a new breed of men sent down from heaven," as well as the birth of a boy "in whom…the golden race [shall] arise." This virgin-born "golden boy" is in actuality the sun.

Commenting on the Virgo-Sun relationship, the author of Christianity Mythology Unveiled (CMU, 105) notes:

In the ancient zodiacs of India and Egypt, there is seen this virgin nursing a male child, with sun rays around his head…which is emblematical of the infant sun at the winter solstice, and of his being then in the sign of the Virgo.

Regarding the solar nativity, in The Golden Bough (416) Sir Frazer further explicates:

Egyptian Virgo, from Oedipus Judaicus by DrummondThe ritual of the nativity, as it appears to have been celebrated in Syria and Egypt, was remarkable. The celebrants retired into certain inner shrines, from which at midnight they issued with a loud cry, "The Virgin has brought forth! The light is waxing!" The Egyptians even represented the new-born sun by the image of an infant which on his birthday, the winter solstice, they brought forth and exhibited to his worshippers. No doubt the Virgin who thus conceived and bore a son on the twenty-fifth of December was the great Oriental goddess whom the Semites called the Heavenly Virgin or simply the Heavenly Goddess…

As does Latin authority Macrobius (5th cent. CE), the Paschal Chronicle recounts that the newborn sun (Horus) was presented to the public every year at the winter solstice, as a babe in a manger. The pertinent part of the Chronicle reads as follows:

"To this day, Egypt has consecrated the pregnancy of a virgin, and the nativity of her son, whom they annually present in a cradle, to the adoration of the people; and when king Ptolemy, three hundred and fifty years before our Christian era, demanded of the priests the significance of this religious ceremony, they told him it was a mystery." (CMU, 100)

The Chronicle author(s) further confirms that Christianity is a continuation of the ancient astrotheological religion when he states that the "Annunciation of our Lady," i.e., the conception of Christ by the Virgin Mary, occurred on March 25th, the vernal equinox, exactly nine months prior to the December 25th birthdate, at the winter solstice. (CP, 166)

Virgin Mary, Clothed in the Sun, While the masses have been kept in the dark, the knowledgeable elite have been aware of what the Virgin truly represents, even as they have attempted sophistically to explain "her" relationship to the "earthly" life of "our Lord." Concerning the astrotheological nature of the gospel story, including the virgin birth/immaculate conception, the famous Christian theologian and saint Albertus Magnus, or Albert the Great (1193?-1280), admitted:

"We know that the sign of the celestial Virgin did come to the horizon at the moment where we have fixed the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. All the mysteries of the incarnation of our Saviour Christ; and all the circumstances of his marvellous life, from his conception to his ascension, are to be traced out in the constellations, and are figured in the stars." (CMU, 97-98)

The virgin birth thus refers to the hour of midnight, December 25th, when the constellation of Virgo rises on the horizon.

Assumption of the Virgin MaryAnother example of the ancient astrotheology appears in the observance of the "Assumption of the Virgin," celebrated in Catholicism on August 15th, when the Virgin Mary was "assumed" or "taken up." The observance is not representative of an actual event that happened to an historical character but commemorates the time when the constellation of the Virgin is "rendered invisible by the solar rays." (Higgins, 6) In other words, the summer sun's brightness blots out Virgo. Mary's Nativity, observed on September 8th, occurs when the constellation is visible again.

The goddess is not only the moon and Virgo but also the dawn, who daily gives birth to the sun. By eminent Christian Egyptologist E.A. Wallis Budge's assessment (cxiv), the versatile Isis is likewise "the deity of the dawn," which, according to very ancient mythology, would make her "inviolable" and "eternal," i.e., a perpetual virgin. Even Christian writers have understood the connection between the Virgin and the dawn, as exemplified in "one of the homilies of St. Amedus on the Virgin," which includes the following regarding Mother Mary:

"She is the Fountain that waters the whole earth, the Dawn that precedes the True Sun. She is the health (salus) of all, the reconciler (conciliatrix) of the whole world, the inventress of grace, the generatrix of life, the mother of salvation." (Lundy, 221)

Isis suckling Horus, Mary nursing JesusAs is evident, the worship of the Virgin Isis was eventually and nearly seamlessly transformed into that of the Virgin Mary:

"The worship of the Virgin as the Theotokos or Mother of God, which was introduced into the Catholic Church about the time of the destruction of the Serapeum, enabled the devotees of Isis to continue unchecked their worship of the mother goddess by merely changing the name of the object of their adoration, and Prof. Drexler gives a long list of the statues of Isis which thereafter were used, sometimes with unaltered attributes, as those of the Virgin Mary." (Legge, I, 85)

As Weigall (204-208) elucidates, Christianity in general constitutes a rehash of Paganism:

From Pagan mythology Christianity had unconsciously taken over many a wonderful story and had incorporated it into the life of Jesus…

…many of the old heathen gods had been taken into the Church as saints. Castor and Pollux became St. Cosmo and St. Damien; Dionysos, many of whose attributes were attached to St. John the Baptist, still holds his place as St. Denis of Paris… All over Christendom, pagan sacred places were perpetuated by the erection of Christian chapels or churches on the same sites; and there are hundreds of shrines dedicated to the Madonna on ground once sacred to nymphs or goddesses, while the holy wells or springs of heathendom are now the holy wells of the Church. The statues of Jupiter and Apollo became those of St. Peter and St. Paul; and the figures of Isis were turned into those of the Virgin Mary…

Not only was the worship of Isis usurped by that of Mary but also the countless apparitions believed by prior worshippers to be the Egyptian goddess were subsequently asserted to be appearances by the Virgin Mary. Although many Christians feel that such visions of "Mary" and "Jesus" prove the validity of their belief system, the fact is that apparitions of numerous gods and goddesses to their millions of followers have been quite common globally, in a wide variety of cultures, beginning centuries and millennia prior to the Christian era. The purported appearance of a god or goddess does not, therefore, prove the validity of any particular religion, or it would ensue that every faith in which believers have allegedly seen their god or gods would constitute the "one, true religion."

In the end, like her Son the Sun, the Virgin Moon Mary is a mythical character based on older goddesses who were themselves astrotheological personifications of celestial and earthly bodies and principles. In its most poetic, feminine manifestation, the ancient astrotheology reached exquisite zeniths befitting the Divine Mother of All, flawlessly formless beyond all cultural camouflage and ethnic exteriority.

Bibliography

Anonymous, The Christian Mythology Unveiled, Printed privately, 1842?
Baring, Anne and Cashford, Jules, The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image, Arkana/Penguin, London, 1993.
Bonwick, James, Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought, Falcon's Wing, CO, 1956.
Budge, E.A. Wallis, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, Dover, NY, 1967.
Carpenter, Edward, Pagan and Christian Creeds (1921), Health Research, 1975.
Catholic Encyclopedia
, www.newadvent.org
Chronicon Paschale: 284-628 AD
, trs. Michael and Mary Whitby, Liverpool University Press, Liverpool, 1989.
Dupuis, Charles Francois, The Origin of All Religious Worship, Garland, New York/London, 1984.
Doane, Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions (1882), Health Research, WA, 1985.
Hackwood, Fredk. Wm., Christ Lore: Being the Legends, Traditions, Myths, Symbols, Customs & Superstitions of the Christian Church, London, 1902.
Higgins, Godfrey, Anacalypsis (1836), A&B Books, NY, 1992.
Jackson, John G., Christianity Before Christ, American Atheist Press, Texas, 1985.
James, E.O., The Ancient Gods, Putnam, NY, 1960.
Legge, Francis, Forerunners and Rivals of Christianity: From 330 B.C. To 330 A.D., University Books, NY, 1964.
Lundy, John P., Monumental Christianity: The Art and Symbolism of the Primitive Church, Swan Sonnenschein & Co., London, 1889.
Macrobius, The Saturnalia, tr. Percival Vaughan Davies, Columbia University Press, NY, 1969.
Massey, Gerald, Gerald Massey's Lectures, A&B Publishers, NY, 1992.
McCabe, Joseph, The Story of Religious Controversy, www.infidels.org/library/historical/joseph_mccabe/religious_controversy
Robertson, J.M., Christianity and Mythology, Watts & Co., London, 1910.
Rigoglioso, Marguerite. Virgin Mother Goddesses of Antiquity. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010.
Siculus, Diodorus, The Antiquities of Egypt, tr. Edwin Murphy, Transaction Publishers, 1990.
Strong's Concordance
, www.blueletterbible.org/search.html#strongs
Virgil, Eclogues, classics.mit.edu/Virgil/eclogue.html
Walker, Barbara, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Harper, San Francisco, 1983.
Weigall, Arthur, The Paganism in Our Christianity, Hutchinson & Co., London, 1928.

For more information, including citations, see Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled.

 

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