Friday, February 29, 2008
The Hind of Hinds - Continued
With or without Mohammed, Islam succeeded in becoming completely male-dominated, making no place for women except in slavery or in the seclusion of the harem. Islamic mosques still bear signs reading: "Women and dogs and other impure animals are not permitted to enter."(14) Nevertheless, traces of the Goddess proved ineradicable. Like the virgin Mary, Arabia’s Queen of Heaven received a mortal form and a subordinate position as Fatima, Mohammed’s "daughter." But she was no real daughter. She was known as Mother of her Father, and Source of the Sun: "the illumination that separates Light and Darkness; the Tree of Paradise; the Red Cow who suckles all the children of the earth; Fate; the Night, the World, the Moon; the Pure Essence of being."(15) Like her western counterpart Mary, she was compared to the Burning Bush, and the Night of Power; "she personified the center of the genealogical mystery."(16) Fatima’s name means The Creatress. A Shi’a text, Omm-al-Kitab, said she appeared "at the creation of the material world," crowned, seated on a throne, holding a sword, and "ornamented with a million varicolored shimmering lights" which illuminated the entire garden of Paradise. She was the first to occupy the Seat of Dominion, "the resting place of Allah, the Most High."(17) Her symbol as Holy Virgin, the crescent moon, still appears on Islamic flags.(18) She is called Al-Zahra, "Bright-Blooming," a former title of the Great Mother. It is said the symbol of her hand, surmounting the solar disc, "represents the whole religion of Islam."(19) Within Islam, deviant sects like Shi’ites or Sufis carried on Tantric worship of the female principle, maintaining that the feminine powers of sexuality and maternity were the powers that held the universe together.(20) The greatest medieval poet of Sufism, Ibn al-Farid, was known as "the sultan of lovers."(21) He said true divinity was female, and Mecca was the womb of the earth. As woman-worshipping minstrels of medieval Europe were attacked for their devotion to the Goddess of Love, so the Sufis were attacked for their "voluptuous libertinism." Ibn El-Arabi, the "greatest master" of Sufi mystics, was accused of blasphemy because he said the godhead is female.(22) [Side Note: Shi’ites – Minority sect of Islam, tracing descent of a sacred caliphate from Mohammed’s daughter Fatima and her husband ‘Ali. One line of Shi’ites established the powerful Fatimid caliphate, now represented by the Khojas, Bohras, and the Druze of Syria.] Shi’ites split off from orthodox Islam and claimed to follow a purer line of imams directly descended from the Fatimids. In the 11th century they united under Hasan ibn al-Sabbah, i.e., Hasan ben-Shaybah, another "son of the Matriarch." Hasan seized the fortress of Alamut and made it the headquarters of a brotherhood of warriors, the hashishim or "Assassins" (see Aladdin). The fortress fell to the concerted attacks of Mongols and mamelukes in 1256, after having waged war on Turks and Christian crusaders alike for more than a century.(23) Still the Shi’ite sect survived to the present, awaiting the coming of the Virgin named Paradise (Pairidaeza), who wil give birth to the Mahdi, the "moon-guided" Redeemer, whose title in Europe was the Desired Knight.(24) One of the hidden secrets of medieval bardic romance is the Arabian origin of the Waste Land motif, most prominent in the Holy Grail cycle of tales. Despite monkish efforts to convert it into a Christian chalice, the Grail was generally recognized as a female symbol, whose loss implied fear for the fertility of the earth. Crusaders had seen for themselves the desolation of Arabia Deserta, one of the most lifeless regions on earth. They heard the Shi’ite heretics’ explanation for it: Islam had offended the Great Goddess, and she had cursed the land and departed. Now nothing would grow there. Western mystics thought the same calamity would strike Europe if the spirit of the Mother were not brought back from the limbo to which the Christian church consigned her. This may have been a reason for the frenzy of cathedral-building in honor of "Our Lady," the Queen of Heaven, during the 12th and 13th centuries. The Waste Land theme haunted the collective psyche of the early Renaissance with a threat of conditions actually realized in the land of the infidel. (Not sure what she means; is this an allusion to the Black Plague, or to some sustained period of drought?) Traces of the matriarchate survived to the present among some of the Arabs of North Africa, ancient home of "Libyan Amazons."(25) Targi and Tuareg Berber women remained free of many sexual restrictions. Virginity was not prized. On remarriage, a woman could command twice the bridge-price of a young virgin. Men of the Walad ‘Abdi tribe insisted the success of their crops depended on the sexual freedom of their women, whom the French labeled common prostitutes. Hassanyeh Arabs of the White Nile allowed wives to be unfaithful on certain days of the week, according to the marriage contract drawn up by the bride’s mother – who took pride in preserving her daughter’s sexual liberties.(27) Most of Islam, however, restricted women as much as possible. Many Islamic theologians said women couldn’t enter paradise, and must not receive religious instruction because it might bring them "too near their masters."(28) Notes: I’d be happy to provide you with a PDF of the Bibliography if you email me – you can find the contact info at Goddesschess. (1) Assyr. & Bab. Lit., 120. (2) de Riencourt, 193. (3) Sobol, 55. (4) Harding. 41. (5) Pritchard, S.S., 96. (6) Shah, 390. (7) Briffault 3, 80. (8) de Riencourt, 188. (9) Briffault 3, 80. (10) Briffalt 1, 377. (11) de Rienourt, 187-89. (12) Beard, pp. 293-94. (13) de Camp, A.E., 153. (14) Farb, W.P., 144. (15) Lederer, 181. (16) Campbell, Oc.M, 446. (17) Campbell, Oc.M., 445-46. (18) Briffault 2, 630. (19) Budge, A.T., 469. (20) Bullough, 150. (21) Encyc. Brit., "Sufism." (22) Shah, 263, 391. (23) Encyc. Brit., "Assassins." (24) Lederer, 181. (25) Wendt, 52. (26) Briffault 1, 286; 3, 200, 314. (27) Hartley, 166. (28) Crawley 1, 58.