On July 13, 2018, Ariana Grande declared, in a four octave vocal range, “When all is said and done / You’ll believe God is a woman.” From the pool of iridescent paint resembling the female anatomy, to the shot of the pop star suggestively straddling a globe, every candy-colored scene in the accompanying music video delivered a heaven-sent message: it’s a woman’s world. And, accordingly, the Internet erupted in feminist applause.
In the context of theological history, though, it’s actually remarkable that Grande’s assertion would make such a splash in 2018. True, female Gods have been considered heretical in many cultures for millennia, and the suggestion that God is anything other than an old, white man in the sky is, for some, still a deeply troubling thought. (Just look at Harmonia Rosales’s 2017 reimagining of Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam,” depicting both God and the first man as Black women, for proof that daring to widen religious imagery can cause serious uproar.) But if we travel back to the ancient origins of human civilization, we find evidence that female deities were worshipped far and wide for millennia. Long before the main world religions were established, during the earliest periods of human development, many belief-systems venerated a supreme female creator.
In her ground-breaking 1976 book, When God Was a Woman, historian Merlin Stone traces ancient worship of the Goddess back to the Paleolithic and Neolithic ages. In the Near and Middle East, she writes, we can find evidence that the “development of the religion of the female deity in this area was intertwined with the earliest beginnings of religion so far discovered anywhere on earth.” This Goddess was unquestionably the supreme deity to rule them all; “creator and law-maker of the universe, prophetess, provider of human destinies, inventor, healer, hunter and valiant leader in battle.”
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