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Was Krishna Born of a Virgin?

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

"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)

"Let our Christian readers bear in mind that the worship of the virgin and her child was common in the East, ages before the generally received account of Christ's appearance in the flesh."

Existence of Christ Disproved

"Crishna was born of a chaste virgin, called Devaki, who, on account of her purity, was selected to become the 'mother of God.'"

Doane, Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions

A recurring theme in ancient religion revolves around the manner of the sun god's birth, as well as the chastity of his mother. In a number of instances the sun god is perceived as being born of the inviolable dawn, the virgin moon or earth, or the constellation of Virgo. The virgin status of the mothers of pre-Christian gods and godmen has been asserted for centuries by numerous scholars of mythology and ancient religion. Nevertheless, because of the motif's similarity to a major Christian tenet, apologists attempt to debunk it by simply stating that these Pagan mothers were not virgins, for a variety of reasons, including their marital status, number of children and the manner of impregnation. Regardless, the virgin status of the ancient goddesses or mothers of gods remains, despite their manner of impregnation, because the fathers, like that of Jesus, are gods themselves, as opposed to mortals who physically penetrate the mothers. Also, the mothers are not "real people," but goddesses themselves, who therefore do not possess female genitalia. The Triple GoddessThus, despite being a mother, the goddess retains her virginity. In fact, the Virgin is one face of the Triple Goddess of ancient times, comprising the Maiden, Mother and Crone. Concerning the Triple Goddess, McLean says:

The more general archetype was often seen in mythology as threefold; thus, for example, Aphrodite was seen as Aphrodite the Virgin, Aphrodite the Wife, and Aphrodite the Whore. A similar triplicity is found in the figure of Isis as Sister, Wife and Widow of Osiris.

Regarding the Great Mother Goddess, whether called by the name Sophia, Ishtar or Isis, whose cult extended all over the Mediterranean and beyond, 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 The Once and Future Goddess, Gadon remarks:

Many goddess were called virgin but this did not mean that chastity was considered a virtue in the pagan world. Some, like "Venus, Ishtar, Astarte, and Anath, the love goddesses of the Near East and classical mythology, are entitled virgin despite their lovers, who die and rise again for them each year."

Concerning the Goddess, Rev. James relates:

Among the Sumerian and Babylonians she had been known as Inanna-Ishtar, while in Syria and Palestine she appeared as Asherah, Astarte and Anat, corresponding to Hera, Aphrodite and Artemis of the Greeks, representing the three main aspects of womanhood as wife and mother, as lover and mistress, and as a chaste and beautiful virgin full of youthful charm and vigour, often confused one with the other.

As one example of this confusion, in spite of this mythological theme of the triple goddess and her perpetual virginity, the virgin status of the Egyptian Madonna Isis is challenged because, according to one popular legend, she fecundated herself using Osiris's severed phallus. However, in another tradition Isis was miraculously impregnated "by a flash of lightning or by the rays of the moon." In The Golden Bough, Frazer tells another version in which Isis conceived Horus "while she fluttered in the form of a hawk over the corpse of her dead husband." In this story, Horus is born before Osiris is rent into pieces; hence, Isis does not use the dead god's phallus to impregnate herself. Frazer also says:

The 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

Isis nursing Horus on Throne, Bronze Statue, Egyptian Late Period, 7th-6th cents. BCEThus, as is proper for goddesses, Isis retained her virginity, maintaining her epithets of "Immaculate Virgin" and the "uncontaminated goddess" regardless of her status also as "Mother of God" and "Magna Mater" or Great Mother. The same motif exists within Christianity, in which the Virgin Mother is essentially impregnated by the "holy ghost" but nonetheless remains a virgin. Isis is, in reality, the virgin or new moon, receiving or being impregnated by the light of the sun. In the mythos, the moon gives birth monthly and annually to the sun; hence, she is mother of many yet remains a virgin. Confirming Isis's rank as perpetual virgin, in The Story of Religious Controversy, Joseph McCabe, a Catholic priest for many years, writes:

Virginity in goddesses is a relative matter.

Whatever we make of the original myth Isis seems to have been originally a virgin (or, perhaps, sexless) goddess, and in the later period of Egyptian religion she was again considered a virgin goddess, demanding very strict abstinence from her devotees. It is at this period, apparently, that the birthday of Horus was annually celebrated, about December 25th, in the temples. As both Macrobius and the Christian writer [of the "Paschal Chronicle"] say, a figure of Horus as a baby was laid in a manger, in a scenic reconstruction of a stable, and a statue of Isis was placed beside it. Horus was, in a sense, the Savior of mankind. He was their avenger against the powers of darkness; he was the light of the world. His birth-festival was a real Christmas before Christ.

The Chronicon Paschale, or Paschal Chronicle, is a compilation finalized in the 7th century ce that seeks to establish a Christian chronology from "creation" to the year 628 ce, focusing on the date of Easter. In establishing Easter, the Christian authors naturally discussed astronomy/astrology, since such is the basis of the celebration of Easter, a pre-Christian festival founded upon the vernal equinox, or spring, when the "sun of God" is resurrected in full from his winter death. The vernal equinox during the current Ages of Pisces has fallen in March, specifically beginning on March 21st, lasting three days, when the sun overcomes the darkness, and the days begin to become longer than the night. In the solar mythos, the sun god starts his growth towards "manhood," when he is the strongest, at the summer solstice. Hence, Easter is the resurrection of the sun. As does Macrobius, the Paschal Chronicle relates that the sun (Horus) was presented every year at winter solstice (c. 12/25), as a babe born in a manger.

Ptah, Sokar, Osiris approach the baby Sokar in his ark or manger, brought out at the winter solstice, c. 3rd cent. BCE

Concerning the Paschal Chronicle, Dupuis relates:

"the author of the Chronicle of Alexandria expresses himself in the following words: 'The Egyptians have consecrated up to this day the child-birth of a virgin and the nativity of her son, who is exposed in a "crib" to the adoration of the people'"

Another important source who cites the Paschal Chronicle and mentions Isis's virginity is James Bonwick in Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought:

In an ancient Christian work, called the "Chronicle of Alexandria," occurs the following: "Watch how Egypt has consecrated the childbirth of a virgin, and the birth of her son, who was exposed in a crib to the adoration of her people"

CMU cites the "most ancient chronicles of Alexandria, which "testify 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 further states, "According to Eratosthenes [276-194 bce], the celestial Virgin was supposed to be Isis, that is, the symbol of the returning year."

Interestingly, all sources cited herein relate a different translation of the Chronicle, which would indicate that they used the original Latin text and that it contained the word "virgin."

Regarding Isis's baby, Count Volney remarks:

It is the sun which, under the name of Horus, was born, like your [Christian] God, at the winter solstice, in the arms of the celestial virgin, and who passed a childhood of obscurity, indigence, and want, answering to the season of cold and frost.

The virginity of Isis was quite clearly a tenet held by her devotees. By Budge's assessment, Isis is also "the deity of the dawn," which, as we will see, would make her "inviolable" and "eternal," i.e., a perpetual virgin.

Isis suckling Horus, Mary suckling JesusThe worship of the Virgin Isis was eventually turned into that of the Virgin Mary. As Legge says:

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.

Concerning this usurpation, which simply constituted the changing of the goddess from one ethnicity to another, apologist Sir Weigall remarks:

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.

As noted, the tri-fold nature of the Goddess in general reflects, or is reflected in, the moon. In Greek mythology, the "triple moon" is represented by Selene; other goddesses also are lunar, such as Artemis, who was the "virgin" moon, and Hera, Zeus's wife and mother of several Hera suckling Herakles/Hercules, who drinks of the milk of eternal lifechildren. Hera, however, despite being portrayed as having relations with Zeus, remains a virgin, or, rather, becomes a "born-again virgin," by virtue of ritualistic bathing. As McLean says:

Hera's three facets link her to the three Seasons and the three phases of the Moon. In her earliest appearance in myth she is associated with the cow, showing her connection with fecundity and birth, especially associated by the Greeks with this animal. She renewed her virginity each year by bathing in the stream Canathos near Argos, a place especially sacred to her.

Like Hera, Artemis too renews her virginity annually by bathing nude in a "sacred fountain." Even a promiscuous male god such as Zeus was both "Father" and "Eternal Virgin."

In reality, the virgin-mother motif is common enough in pre-Christian cultures to demonstrate its unoriginality in Christianity. In Pagan and Christian Creeds, 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, impregnated 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 saviour Mithra, too, was born of a Virgin, as we have had occasion to notice before; and on Mithraist monuments the mother suckling her child is not an uncommon figure.

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 from the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia, Barcelona, SpainCarpenter also mentions the black virgin mothers found all over the Mediterranean and especially in Italian churches, representing not only Isis but also Mary, having been refigured or "baptized anew" as the "Jewish" Mother of God.

As stated, the theme of the virgin-born god can be found in the Americas as well, including in the story of Quetzalcoatl, but also in Brazil, among the Manicacas. It can likewise be found in India, where natives have revered for eons "Devi" or "Maha-Devi," "The One Great Goddess," in whose name temples have been built. Doane relates that a researcher named Gonzales found an Indian temple dedicated to the "Pariturae Virginisthe Virgin about to bring forth."

This "Devi" is apparently the same as Krishna's mother, Devaki, and, as was the case with these many ancient gods, Krishna has also been considered to have been "born of a virgin." Indeed, Carpenter repeats the assertion, also made by Rev. Cox, that Krishna's father was Vishnu, not the mortal Basudev, a sensible notion in light of Krishna's status as a sun god and incarnation of Vishnu. Regarding Krishna, Doane also states:

According to the religion of the Hindoos, Crishnawas the Son of God, and the Holy Virgin Devaki

The ex-priest McCabe also reports Krishna's mother as a virgin, with Vishnu as his father:

Devaki Nursing KrishnaThus one of the familiar religious emblems of India was the statue of the virgin mother (as the Hindus repute her) Devaki and her divine son Krishna, an incarnation of the great god Vishnu. Christian writers have held that this model was borrowed from Christianity, butthe Hindus had far earlier been in communication with Egypt and were more likely to borrow the model of Isis and Horus. One does not see why they should borrow any model. In nearly all religions with a divine mother and son a very popular image was that of the divine infant at his mother's breast or in her arms.

None of these writers originated this contention, as, moving back in time, we find reference to Devaki's virgin status in the writings of the esteemed Christian authority Sir William Jones from 1784:

"The Indian incarnate God Chrishna, the Hindoos believe, had a virgin mother of the royal race, who was sought to be destroyed in his infancy about nine hundred years before Christ. It appears that he passed his life in working miracles, and preaching, and was so humble as to wash his friends' feet; at length, dying, but rising from the dead, he ascended into heaven in the presence of a multitude."...

The Virgin Goddess

The virgin goddess motif is prevalent in the ancient world because it is astrotheological, representing not only the moon but also the earth, Venus, Virgo and the dawn. As the Roman poet Virgil described or "prophesied" in his Eclogues in 37 bce, the "return of the virgin," i.e., Virgo would, along with other astrotheological events, bring about "a new breed of men sent down from heaven," as well as the birth of a boy "in whomthe golden race [shall] arise."

The virgin-born "golden boy" is the sun. As Hackwood states:

Virgin Mary in front of the sun, standing on the moon, from a Medieval illuminated Latin manuscriptThe 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.

Regarding 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."

...As Albert the Great acknowledged, the virgin-birth motif is astrotheological, referring to the hour of midnight, December 25th, when the constellation of Virgo rises on the horizon. The Assumption of the Virgin, celebrated in Catholicism on August 15th, represents the summer sun's brightness blotting out Virgo. Mary's Nativity, celebrated on September 8th, occurs when the constellation is visible again. Such is what these "Christian" motifs and holidays represent, as has obviously been known by the more erudite of the Catholic clergy. Hence, the virgin who will conceive and bring forth is Virgo, and her son is the sun....

Hellenistic Mother and Child, Boeotia 450-440 BCE. London, British Museum. Photo: Ann Raia, 2006.In vain do apologists attempt to debunk the virgin status of Krishna's mother, because, even if she were not considered as such although she certainly was the other virgin birth stories preceding Christianity are abundant enough to demonstrate that this important aspect of Christian doctrine is of Pagan origin. In addition to the virgin-born deities and heroes already named were a number of others, which is to be expected since we know the astrotheological meaning behind the motif, as it applies to the sun god, who was worshipped all over the world by a wide variety of names and epithets. Concerning these miraculous births, Dr. Inman comments:

Jupiter had Bacchus and Minerva without Juno's aid, and Juno retaliated by bearing Ares without conversation with her consort. We deride these tales, and yet think, that because we laugh at a hundred such we will be pardoned for believing one.

Again, the Christian virgin birth is no more historical or believable than that of these numerous other gods. Moreover, as Robertson says, "The idea of a Virgin-Mother-Goddess is practically universal." The list of Pagan virgin mothers includes the following:

  • AAncient Babylonian Mother and Childlcmene, mother of Hercules who gave birth on December 25th
  • Alitta, Babylonian Madonna and Child
  • Anat, Syrian wife of "the earlier Supreme God El," called "Virgin Goddess"
  • Cavillaca, Peruvian huaca (divine spirit) impregnated by the "son of the sun god" through eating his semen in the shape of a fruit
  • Chimalman, mother of Kukulcan
  • Chinese mother of Foe (Buddha)
  • Coatlicue, mother of the Mexican god Huitzilopochtli
  • Cybele, "Queen of Heaven and Mother of God"
  • Danae, mother of Perseus
  • Demeter/Ceres, "Holy Virgin" mother of Persephone/Kore and Dionysus
  • Devaki, mother of Krishna
  • Frigga, mother of the Scandinavian god Balder
  • Hera, mother of Zeus's children
  • Hertha, Teutonic goddess
  • Isis, who gave birth to Horus on December 25th
  • Juno, mother of Mars/Ares, called "Matrona" and "Virginalis," the Mother and Virgin
  • Mandana, mother of Cyrus/Koresh
  • Maya, mother of Buddha
  • Mother of Lao-kiun, "Chinese philosopher and teacher, born in 604 B.C."
  • Mother of the Indian solar god Rudra
  • Nana, mother of Attis
  • Neith, mother of Osiris, who was "worshipped as the Holy Virgin, the Great Mother, yet an Immaculate Virgin."
  • Nutria, mother of an Etruscan Son of God
  • Ostara, the German goddess
  • Rohini, mother of Indian "son of God"
  • Semele, mother of Dionysus/Bacchus, who was born on December 25th
  • Shin-Moo, Chinese Holy Mother
  • Siamese mother of Somonocodom (Buddha)
  • Sochiquetzal, mother of Quetzalcoatl
  • Vari, Polynesian "First Mother," who created her children "by plucking pieces out of her sides."
  • Venus, the "Virgo Coelestis" depicted as carrying a child

Obviously, the correspondences between Christianity and Paganism, including between the Christ and Krishna myths, are dramatic and not "non-existent," as some have attempted to contend. The debate then becomes whether or not the Christ fable was plagiarized from the Krishna myth, vice versa, or both come from a common root. In this regard, it should be kept in mind that there was plenty of commerce, materially and religiously, between India and Rome during the first centuries surrounding the beginning of the Christian era.

Since it is possible to show that most of the salient comparisons can be found in pre-Christian Pagan mythology, dating back millennia and existing independent of the Krishna story, the point becomes moot as to whether or not Christianity took its godman and tenets from Hinduism, as it already had many other antecedents to draw from. In reality, the virgin-birth motif is primitive and prehistoric, relating back to ages and cultures in which impregnation was considered mysterious and magical.

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

Also by Acharya S: 

Was Krishna's Mother a Virgin?
The ZEITGEIST Sourcebook

Further Reading

Rigoglioso, Marguerite. Virgin Mother Goddesses of Antiquity. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010.
-The Cult of Divine Birth in Ancient Greece. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2009.



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