Athena, Mother Julie


1 When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.” 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

Genesis 6:1-4

On the one hand, myths are just that. Myths. Stories.  On the other hand, particular myths aren’t limited to one culture. All ancient peoples have similar myths. Great Flood myths. Creation myths. Garden of Eden myths. Even the Bible speaks of god-like beings dabbling with humanity, (found in those strange verses quoted above from Genesis 6).

Which leads me to wonder: Either we are born with this god-information hard-wired into our psyche, or these stories have their basis in some truth. Perhaps it’s a little of both.

Which, in my quest for the Divine Feminine, leads me to wonder about the Godhead’s original intent for creation and humankind. I see God/dess as a circle of male, female and child. The Trinitarian symbol of family and community. A circle of relationship. This is the image in which we were created. …because creation cannot take place without male and female. It is not possible for the Father God to create anything alone. My proof? Take a basic course in reproductive biology. So, what happened to Mother God?

As Inanna (Inanna and the Huluppu Tree), is an allegory of man’s usurpation of woman in the Godhead, we see similar devious behavior in the conception, gestation and birth of the goddess Athena.

The characters of Athena’s story include Zeus/Father of gods, Metis/Athena’s mother, Gaia/Mother Earth, Ouranos/Father Sky (Heavens) and Prometheus/Athena’s “deliverer,” all of whom weave a tale of intrigue, deception and salvation.

Athena’s father, Zeus is the greatest of Olympian gods. The father/creator of gods and goddesses. Some narratives claim Zeus “creates” his first wife, Metis. And from clay! Hmm.

Metis, Athena’s mother, is described as a worker of righteousness, wiser than gods and mortal men. She is the one who gives counsel. She is Wisdom.

Ouranos is both son and husband of Gaia, Mother Earth! Strange bedfellows, indeed. …well, they would be, if Ouranos’ sons had not castrated him as revenge for their imprisonment.

Prometheus is a Titan god. Immortal.  Prometheus cares for humanity. He is an heroic sufferer and as an omniscient seer, foretells future events. Prometheus and Athena become co-creators of mankind (by order of Zeus), molding mortals out of earth, water and wind, and breathing life into them.

“His [Prometheus’] attempts to better the lives of his creation brought him into direct conflict with Zeus. Firstly, he [Prometheus] tricked the gods out of the best portion of the sacrificial feast, acquiring the meat for the feasting of man. Then, when Zeus withheld fire, he [Prometheus] stole it from heaven and delivered it to mortal kind hidden inside a fennel-stalk. As punishment for these rebellious acts, Zeus ordered the creation of Pandora (the first [human] woman) as a means to deliver misfortune into the house of man, or as a way to cheat mankind of the company of the good spirits.” 4

It is Prometheus who redeems Pandora and all mortals by placing Hope in Pandora’s box of evils infestations.

In the Greek version of the Great Flood story, Prometheus saves his son, Deucalion and daughter-in-law (Pyrrha) by building them a ship.3

At a time when Zeus wants to exterminate the human race and start over again, Prometheus prevents it, and for their good, relieves humans of the ability to see their futures (their deaths) and plants Hope within their hearts, instead. Prometheus is the Savior archetype. There’s so much juicy theology in here I could write volumes!

The Story:

Now Zeus is not a loving, caring archetype of a father god. He’s got issues. He lives in constant fear of losing his power. Like most other gods, he too, is vengeful and violent.

And there’s trouble in paradise. Some narratives have Metis disguising herself in different forms in order to avoid having sex with Zeus. Wow. I wonder what Freud would say about that.

Metis conceives a girl-child with Zeus. A prophecy arises that Meta’s children will be full of wisdom. Her second child, a boy, will become king of gods and men. Not good for Zeus. “But when she (Metis) was about to bring forth the goddess bright-eyed Athena, Zeus craftily deceived her with cunning words and put her in his own belly, as Gaia (Earth) and starry Ouranos (Heaven) advised. For they advised him so, to the end that no other should hold royal sway over the eternal gods in place of Zeus; for very wise children were destined to be born of her, first the maiden bright-eyed [Athena], equal to her father in strength and in wise understanding; but afterwards she [Metis] was to bear a son of overbearing spirit, king of gods and men. But Zeus put her [Metis] into his own belly first, that the goddess might devise for him both good and evil."1

Prometheus, meets Zeus on a riverbank and strikes him on the head with an axe. Athena is born from the wound. She emerges fully grown and fully dressed in her military armor.

Prometheus and Athena are connected in many myth narratives. With Athena’s help, Prometheus ascends into the heavens to retrieve fire (to benefit humanity) from Helios’ chariot. Prometheus “carries a torch” for Athena, as well, in that he loves her, but she remains a virgin goddess.

Athena gives wise counsel and war strategy. She is a fierce warrior. What I like about her is that she seems to be a helpful archetype. Even though associated with war, she’s not so vengeful or cruel. She aids her dear friend, Prometheus, in caring for the mortals they created (together). But she’s not touchy-feely. She’s aloof and pragmatic.

Her narrative includes friendship with Artemis and Persephone, and places the three of them in the story of Persephone’s abduction. Apparently, they were all frolicking in the meadow, collecting flowers when Hades erupted from the Underworld and snatched Persephone away.

But, what a sad tale of Metis. If you recall, Inanna, (Mother goddess, Tree of Life), is cut down to become furniture for the ruling Warrior King. In Athena’s story you have the Father god ingesting his pregnant wife (Metis, the righteous and wise), so that he may be the bearer of her all-wise children, maintaining control over his offspring. “And she remained hidden beneath the inward parts of Zeus, even Metis, Athena's mother, worker of righteousness, who was wiser than gods and mortal men.” 2

To be cut down in her prime so her power-hungry husband might have control of their offspring is the basest form of cruelty and misogyny. And who are Gaia and Ouranos to counsel him in this way? More evidence that our God-ordained origins of an equal Mother/Father, Female/Male was given over to the sin of Patriarchy. Yes, let’s call it what it is. A Sin. A selfish turning away from what the Creator intended. An affront to the Godhead.

1Hesiod, Theogony 886 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.)

2Hesiod, Theogony 929a ff

3Prometheus Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology

4 Theoi Project Copyright © 2000 – 2015, Aaron J. Atsma, New Zealand