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Depiction of Goddesses

Common cross-cultural ways of depicting goddesses can be discerned in the figures of several religious traditions. While the attributes of all goddesses are hardly identical across all cultures, the attributes they do possess frequently owe something to their conceptualization as females and to popular conceptions of female characteristics. To different degrees, female deities also reflect cultural norms, including social norms in which (human) males dominate. The principal goddess figures of three religious cultures--Kuan-yin in Chinese Buddhism, Aphrodite in ancient Greece, and Mary in Christianity--reflect principles that appear to be dominantly female in each culture. This is not to say that they determine that culture entirely, but rather that each represents a dominant stream of thought and felt experience within that culture.

Kinsley describes Kuan-yin, goddess of mercy and compassion who "is quick to answer please from her devotees for help" (Kinsley, 1989, p. 26), as the most popular female deity in the Buddhist tradition that traveled from India to China. He notes that femaleness may not have been an essential attribute of Kuan-yin in its earliest manifestations (a total of 23 separate forms) but that the female form predominated from the 11th century onward, owing to the fusing of Kuan-yin with a variety of indigenous Tibetan and Chinese goddesses identified with compassion and various senses of the power of maternal protectiveness.

One of the principal powers connected with the indigenous precursors Kuan-yin is the ability to protect or rescue devotees from danger. In this aspect can be seen Kuan-yin's relations (or identification) with other deities, as well as her principal functions. This is the special power of the Tibetan goddess Tara, born from a (male) god's compassionate tears and sometimes considered one form of an Indian god. Kuan-yin appears to have absorbed the child-protecting and fertility power of the ...

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Depiction of Goddesses. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 19:33, October 01, 2020, from