Frightening and Divine: We’re All Goddesses

Great Goddesses: Life Lessons from Myths and Monsters is Nikita Gill’s latest poetry book. It was released on September 3rd this year. As the title suggests, Gill stripped classic mythology down to its bones to deliver lessons that women should apply to their own lives.

I differ from Gill. We don’t have much to learn from goddesses, monsters and mythical women. Ancient civilizations molded their deities after the likeliness of humans. Therefore, Zeus’ impulsiveness, Hades’ loneliness, Aphrodite’s haughtiness and Hera’s jealousy can be relatable for some people. I dare say that mythical women learned many things from us mortal women. And if these transcendent beings portray qualities of human women, then divinity has always been a part of us, and we must embrace it to the fullest.

Here are five mythical women who learned from us.

  1. 1. Nyx

    “Nyx […] home to all things terrifying and glorious.”

    - Nikita Gill

    Nyx was one of the daughters of Chaos, and she was appointed to be Goddess of the Night. She’s mysterious and all the gods know the extent of her power as primordial. Nyx is a vessel of all things dualistic. She contains the good and bad, the tragic and uplifting. Women are dualistic beings by nature. Our bodies can contain life and death. We can heal and break. Someone in ancient Greece thought that women and the night had much in common and created a goddess in our image.

  2. 2. Artemis

    “She laughs as she gestures to the exquisite forest. ‘What about love? I have enough.’”

    - Nikita Gill

    "Wild" is the term most associated with Artemis. In various works of literature, there is a man standing at the edge of a dark forest who waxes about the uncertainty they feel about their journey. But it isn’t the journey that frightens them, it’s the wilderness and the unexplored. The fact of ‘not knowing’ makes the male heroes’ blood turn to ice. Her independence and fierceness set her aside from the rest of the goddesses. She stands as Lady of the Moon. This is an idea derived from the power of women. Since antiquity, the Moon has been associated with women. For example, the Wiccan Triple Goddess represents three stages of a woman’s life — the Crone, the Maiden and the Mother. Artemis is also recognized as the protector of maidens. Adult women tend to be more protective of young girls in comparison to adult men. I speak of experience when I say that women should welcome what we taught Artemis into their lives. I’ve seen women who sacrifice their peace of mind and sanity over a man who doesn’t deserve it, simply because society has deemed romantic companionship compulsory. “If you aren’t married, don’t have children and your only ambition is to have a career. You’re selfish and will never gain satisfaction from anything you achieve in your life,” society says, but Artemis reminds us what we taught her— we are more than enough.

  3. 3. Persephone

    “I wanted a queendom destined to be mine.”

    - Nikita Gill

    Persephone, minor Goddess of Spring turned Queen of the Underworld. This is one of the most dubious and complex character developments in Greek mythology. All of the variations of Persephone’s story include her being abducted by Hades, God of the Underworld. However, she’s commonly portrayed as a damsel in distress. I dare refute this. As Gill wrote, she wanted a bigger role than the one her mother had created for her. I say that Persephone knew what she was doing when Hades offered her the pomegranate seeds to eat. She would have to spend the months determined by the count of the seeds that she had consumed in the Underworld as queen. I say that Persephone knew what she wanted, and given the opportunity, aimed for it, regardless of how her mother and the other deities reacted to her choice. Persephone got her ambition and assertiveness from us, the women who wake up every day and must make choices that could potentially tarnish the way our peers perceive us. We must remember this. We must remember that there is power in our choices, and that power has created queens.

  4. 4. Medusa

    “And I will turn you into a Goddess in your own right, a deity of monsters…”

    - Nikita Gill

    This is where Gill and I don’t see eye to eye. Gill twisted Athena’s intentions of turning Medusa into a monster by claiming that the goddess had wanted to protect her. However, the myth clearly states that Poseidon has seduced Medusa in a temple of Athena, and Athena considered this sacrilege and decided that punishing the victim was the best way to go. This is an example of a wasted lesson of sisterhood. The bond and sympathy between women is a sacred thing, especially nowadays when we find ourselves against the world. We can’t buy contraceptives in public without feeling judged and opt to order them off a website to have them delivered to our doorstep because walking out the door is a risky business. We assemble giant marches on the streets because rape isn’t an important enough subject and we must make it seem a big deal in order to get the attention of the powers-that-be. We end up taking the blame for the assaults instead of protection. Athena should’ve stood up for Medusa. She saw it was assault and turned the other way. If you see something, say something. This is what sisters do.

  5. 5. Megara 

    “Turn the victims into an instrument to aid a plot.”

    - Nikita Gill

    Megara isn’t the feisty Disney princess we all grew to love. No, she’s a pawn in somebody else’s game. She was yet another victim of the pillaging of heroes. Megara was given to Hercules as a wife by her father Creon of Thebes. Political marriages aren’t something new in the history of the growth of civilizations, but she was murdered by her husband, one of the most celebrated heroes in Greek mythology. In Gill’s book, she “laments from the Underworld”. This is the only time we see her in the poetry compilation, and frankly, the poem fell short. This woman suffered nightmares every single day. She had to wake up next to the man who killed their children. Yes, he was insane, but she was never given the choice to save her own life. Not even Gill gave her that chance on page 228. Women weren’t created to fulfill a role in somebody else’s path to glory. Women are their own entities, with their own goals, priorities and themselves to treasure. No man or woman is worth sacrificing oneself to subjugation.

Gill is one of the most celebrated modern poets in this generation. Her themes of femininity, heroism and feminism earned her the golden laurel wreath that adorns the heads of contemporary poets such as Rupi Kaur, Atticus, Amanda Lovelace and Lang Leav. However, many poems in this compilation turned out underwhelming and left me expecting more. Poems like "Pallas and Athena" and "Eurynome: The Mother of All Things" were positively enchanting and inspirational, but the way that Gill wrote about certain characters minimized the importance and impact of the original tales. When all is said and done, and poets write all they want to say, the ultimate lesson must stick with us — goddesses were created after us.

Hero image provided by author.