Neo-Pagans recognize that women in particular have been harmed by patriarchal monotheism with its exclusively male image of God. The image of the Neo-Pagan Goddess offers women a new self-image and facilitates the re-discovery their own innate goodness and natural divinity. This image enables women to redeem and revalue the divine feminine principle and offers them positive images and symbols of female empowerment. Images of the feminine divine can also transform how men think about gender, including how they relate to women, other men, and their own own selves.
Rita Gross writes that a study of the world’s religions reveals that
“the absence of goddesses in monotheistic religions, not their presence in all other religions, ancient or contemporary, is rye unusual situation, the religious practice in need of explanation. In other words, contemporary pagans and other goddess worshippers, including Jews and Christians who address the deity using feminine pronouns, are doing nothing remarkable or innovative if their practices are looked at from the bigger perspective of human religious activity overall, rather than through the much narrower lens of Abrahamic, monotheistic religions.”
The most common forms of the Neo-Pagan Goddess are the Mother Earth Goddess or Gaia and the Triple Goddess of the Moon, which are modern creations. But Neo-Pagans also recognize the divine feminine in image and stories of goddesses from goddesses from across the ages and around the world, like the Egyptian goddess Isis, the Sumerian/Babylonian Goddess Inanna/Ishtar, and the Celtic goddess Morrigan. For many Neo-Pagans, these ancient goddesses are understood as aspects or partial manifestations of a unitary feminine divine called “the Goddess”.
For many Neo-Pagans, the Goddess is a radically immanent deity that can be experienced directly through our senses. The Earth and all of the material world is understood as the body of the Goddess. We human beings can connect to the Goddess through our experience of our own bodies, as well as the “body” of the Earth. The Neo-Pagan Goddess is constantly changing, manifest in the changing of the seasons and the human life-cycle, and perpetually self-renewed.
It is not necessary to believe in the Goddess to experience her. In The Spiral Dance, Starhawk explains:
“People often ask me if I believe in the Goddess. I reply ‘Do you believe in rocks?’ It is extremely difficult for most Westerners to grasp the concept of a manifest deity. The phrase ‘believe in’ itself implies that we cannot know the Goddess, that She is somehow intangible, incomprehensible. But we do not believe in rocks we may see them, touch them, dig them out of our gardens, or stop small children from throwing them at each other. We know them; we connect with them. In the Craft, we do not believe in the Goddess we connect with Her; through the moon, the stars, the ocean, the earth, through trees, animals, through other human beings, through ourselves. She is here. She is within us all.”