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‘Semiramis’ – a modern depiction of the Sumerian goddess Inanna. In charge of fertility, sex, and war, Inanna was one of the most violent goddessess of the ancient world.

Girls Gone Wild: World Mythology’s Most Sexualized, Crazed, and Furiously Violent Goddesses

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Myths, legends, and religions tell of gods and goddesses exemplifying all that is good and right in the world. And there are just as many who represent our deepest archetypal sexual desires, taboos, and dreams of ecstasy. Within myths, while it is most often male gods who pay the price for having strayed, supernatural women are almost always to blame for having led them astray. What follows are some of the most seductive, angry, and spiteful goddesses of world mythology who turned the world upside down with raw unbridled violence.

Princess Liễu Hạnh

Princess Liễu Hạnh of Vietnamese mythology was one of the Four Immortal divine entities worshipped by the ancient people of Vietnam’s Red River Delta region and it is believed her cult was created by rice farmers “in need of land and water.” Lieu Hanh was a daughter of the Jade Emperor of Taoism and during her many incarnations on Earth she fell in love with mortal men, but she also used her chaotic magic to drive other men insane. According to scholar Bryan Turner in his 2014  Routledge Handbook of Religions in Asia, during the early days of the Communist regime in North Vietnam, worshipping Liễu Hạnh was forbidden under threat of death, but a recent emergence of interest has her being worshipped again by sects of mainly Vietnamese women.

Princess Lieu Hanh. (Public Domain)

Princess Lieu Hanh. ( Public Domain )

Chía

The goddess Chía was worshiped by the Chibcha speaking peoples of South America and her name means “the one who is like the moon.” She was a triple-moon goddess in the religion of the Pre-Colombian Muisca people who inhabited the Altiplano Cundiboyacense region. In one of her many functions, Chía was the patron deity of the Zipa (ruler), who governed the territory encompassing what is now the capital city, Bogotá. But in her younger aspect, she was worshipped as Huitaca, the goddess of arts, dance, music, witchcraft, and sexual liberation. Leading a life full of joy, games, pleasure, excess, and drunkenness, when she rebelled against the god Bochica he turned her into a white owl and cast her to the moon.

A statue of Chía at the center of the city of Chía commemorates the temple of the Moon, a central place of worship in the Muisca religion. (Juan Carlos Pachón/CC BY SA 2.0)

A statue of Chía at the center of the city of Chía commemorates the temple of the Moon, a central place of worship in the Muisca religion. (Juan Carlos Pachón/ CC BY SA 2.0 )

Chinnamasta

Chinnamasta in both Hindu and Buddhist faiths means ”she whose head is severed” and this self-sacrificing goddess was most often depicted standing on the back of a copulating couple with three channels of blood spurting from her severed neck and two attendants drinking her blood from skull cups. One legend has her as one of the ocean churning Hindu gods and demons who tried to obtain an elixir of immortality and she is said to have “drunk the demon's share of the spoils” before decapitating herself to prevent the demons from reclaiming it. Another myth says Chinnamasta and her attendants became extremely hungry, so she decapitated herself and let her attendants drink the fresh blood.

A decapitated, nude, Chinnamasta stands on a copulating couple inside a large lotus holding her severed head and a scimitar. Three streams of blood from her neck feed her head and two nude women hold a knife and a skull-cup, flanking her. (Public Domain)

A decapitated, nude, Chinnamasta stands on a copulating couple inside a large lotus holding her severed head and a scimitar. Three streams of blood from her neck feed her head and two nude women hold a knife and a skull-cup, flanking her. ( Public Domain )

Inanna/Ishtar

Inanna was a Sumerian (ancient Iraq) goddess of fertility, sex, and war who became known in later Mesopotamia as Ishtar. Associated with the planet Venus and lions, Inanna was a powerful female deity who in retaliation for having been raped by a gardener while sleeping under a tree, caused huge storms, turned rivers to blood, and cast disease among the people, before hunting down her violator and killing him. What is more, in the  Epic of Gilgamesh , when King Gilgamesh rejected her advances she released “the Bull of Heaven” to maul him.

The winged goddess, Ishtar (Sumerian Inanna) is depicted on the left. The weapons rising from her shoulders symbolize her warlike characteristics. (Public Domain)

The winged goddess, Ishtar (Sumerian Inanna) is depicted on the left. The weapons rising from her shoulders symbolize her warlike characteristics. ( Public Domain )

Lyssa

Lyssa of Greek mythology was the Athenian spirit of ‘frenzied’ rage. She was so embedded at the very heart of rage and fury that she was responsible for giving rabies to animals. In her later Roman projection she was Ira, but sometimes ‘Furor’, and in Euripides'  Herakles, rather than responding to Hera’s desire to make Hercules insane, Lyssa taught Iris how to use magic to send him into a ‘fit of rage’ that resulted in him brutally murdering his wife and children. What is more, Aeschylus identifies her as being the malevolent spirit sent by  Dionysus to madden the impious daughters of Minyas, who subsequently dismembered Pentheus.

Pentheus being torn to pieces. Roman fresco from the northern wall of the triclinium in the Casa dei Vettii (VI 15,1) in Pompeii. (Public Domain)

Pentheus being torn to pieces. Roman fresco from the northern wall of the triclinium in the  Casa dei Vettii  (VI 15,1) in Pompeii. ( Public Domain )

Tiamat

Tiamat was the primeval goddess of saltwater who birthed the gods of Babylon. Her consort Apsi grew annoyed by the gods and set out to destroy them; assisted by a vengeful Tiamat who brought it upon herself to use magic to summon an army of demons to attack the gods. But both she and her partner were destroyed. According to scholar Stephanie Dalley’s 1987 book,  Myths from Mesopotamia,  being depicted as a feathered ‘chaos’ dragon, upon death, Marduk became the new king of the Babylonian pantheon and he split Tiamat’s corpse in two, creating “the dome of the sky and the waters of the earth.”

A chaos monster (perhaps Tiamat), and a sun god, perhaps Marduk. ( Public Domain )

Conclusions

The mythological figures of the human imaginations of our ancestors are archetypal human emotions, largely exaggerated. While mythology includes many lustful and furiously angry goddesses, there are undoubtedly others who display the extremes of female virtues; but the most interesting, mythologically speaking, are the angry ones.

Top image: ‘Semiramis’ – a modern depiction of the Sumerian goddess Inanna. In charge of fertility, sex, and war, Inanna was one of the most violent goddessess of the ancient world. Source: KejaBlank/ Deviant Art

By Ashley Cowie

References

Dalley, Stephanie (1987).  Myths from Mesopotamia . Oxford University Press. p. 329.

Swan, Thomas; (2018) What is the oldest story ever written? Owlcation. Available at:

https://owlcation.com/humanities/What-is-the-oldest-story-ever-written

Turner, Bryan S.; Oscar Salemink (25 September 2014).  Routledge Handbook of Religions in Asia . Routledge.

Vellacott, Phillip (trans.) (1963).  Herakles by Euripides. p. 815.

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