Exploring the 8 Types of Love Goddesses

What are we talking about when we talk about “love”? It’s a pretty abstract term and fluid concept. English basically has one word for “love.” There are many terms to describe affection, fondness, or attraction for or to another person, but with the term “love” we assign all manner of emotions, desires, and commitments. We can love our parents and love our pets, love our lovers and love pizza, love sunsets more than sunrises or love the color blue. The weight of this word is often found in the context of the thing you’re talking about; we understand the weight of loving your life partner to be different than the weight of loving a particular genre of music. 

With this in mind, when we talk about Love Goddesses, what are we really saying about them and their power? What traits, qualities, or actions are we equating with them? 

I think in some cases the answer is obvious. There are Love Goddesses who embody sensuality so obviously that one has to assume that the type of love where they wield power is sexual, pleasurable, or romantic. But there are other Love Goddesses who seem to embody none of these things and are more regal, strict, or oriented towards justice. To those goddesses you might assume they wield power in more structured forms of love, the kinds of love that come with commitment of one’s life, time, or home such as a marriage, a family, or a duty to one’s community. 

These are the 8 main types of Love Goddesses that I’ve observed and I’ve offered a few examples of each. I should say that these lists are definitely not exhaustive. I mention a wide variety of goddesses here because I want to be inclusive. Please feel free to learn and research any of them, but be deeply considerate before deciding to incorporate any into your personal pantheon that are not of your culture. Spirituality is not an excuse for cultural appropriation. 

For now, let’s keep things general and high level. There are 8 types I want to cover today:  

Goddesses who attract Love

Goddesses who rule romantic Love 

Goddesses who rule familial or parental Love 

Goddesses who wield emotional Love 

Goddesses who work in physical Love 

Goddesses who heal broken hearts 

Goddesses who aid in self Love 

Goddesses of unconditional Love 

1. Goddesses who attract Love 

On the surface this might sound like Goddesses who attract romantic love, but I think it’s a little different from that. The desire to attract love into one’s life implies that there’s something absent, that there isn’t a person there who you feel comfortable confiding in, being vulnerable with, or receiving tenderness from. The Goddesses who work in this area can help us create and attract all manner of loving relationships with family, friends, or romantic lovers; in some cases, I think, they’re also able to bring love into our lives in other forms like a dog or profoundly tender experience of kindness from a stranger. 

These Goddesses include many beings related to springtime like Aine, Freya, or Eostre. Benten or Saraswati, Hathor, Psyche, Oshun, Yemaya, Venus or Aphrodite, and Frigga have a lot of influence here too. 

2. Goddesses of romantic Love 

These are more familiar, I think, to most of us. Aphrodite or Venus are the most obvious candidates for romantic love goddesses. Romance is a strange thing in the context of a pagan path, though. In many traditions from the ancient world, we find that romantic love and lovers weren’t associated with things like life partnership or marriage. The ancient world was one where people often married for duty, status, or economy; romantic pursuits were left outside of that contractual relationship. This isn’t exclusive to the ancient world, either; the modern world had this system of separating romantic love from marriage in western and eastern cultures. It wasn’t until recently that we, as a culture, have valued a merging of the two. 

That means we encounter many myths and stories of what we would now consider to be infidelity and cheating, but back then wasn’t viewed in that light. So long as your duties to your spouse, family, and social performance were met, cheating has often been fine. Don’t talk about it on main street but it wasn’t always a case of public ridicule or stoning. Yet, we can also find the opposite example in the ancient world, where sexual or romantic dissatisfaction with one’s spouse was a legal reason to pursue divorce. The Hebrew Canaanites did this as did the Egyptians.  

Some of the more interesting goddesses to explore when considering the boundaries or merging of romantic love and commitment are, in my opinion, Radha, Juno, Freya, and Anath. Isis, Ishtar, Inanna, Yemaya, and Oshun are also very rich in this area.  

3. Goddesses of familial or parental Love 

My two favorite stories here are Demeter and Isis. Both of these goddesses displayed in their myths a passionate commitment to their children and their legacy. Assuming you are a pagan, there’s also a good chance you have had some turbulence with your own parents or family. Many of us abandoned the religion of our upbringing in favor of a pagan path, and many of us have identities that our families are prejudiced against like our sexual orientation or gender expression. Working with a familial or parental Goddess has been really healing for me. I resisted seeing Isis as a mother figure for so long because I had such a bad taste in my mouth about mothers, and I wanted her to feel more like a big sister. But as I allowed myself to be vulnerable in that way, I was able to work through my own trauma. Now that I’m about to be a mother myself, I am so much more confident than I could have ever imagined in facing the task of raising a child. 

If parental or family love is something you struggle with or are thirsty for, I highly recommend learning about or possibly working with the goddesses Demeter, Ceres, Frigga, Tiamat, Parvati, Ereshkigal, Shekinah, or Isis.  

4. Goddesses of emotional Love 

How do you experience love? Like, personally? What words would you use to describe the emotion of love, as you feel it? Your answer is probably going to be different from mine, different from your partner’s answer, different from your friend’s answer. We all have our own love languages because we all have a different experience and understanding of the emotion of love. When I think of Goddesses who wield this emotion as one of their realms of power, I think of ones who are large in their pantheons, dominating, and have stories that demonstrate many different ways of offering up that pure ray of love. 

Isis comes to mind again, but others who embody this pure essence include the Sophia, Venus, Branwen, Inanna, Kuan Yin, Laksmi, Oba, and Erzulie. These are goddesses who emanate in the purest form the emotion of love, and their stories and folklore demonstrate the different ways that that emotion manifests into action. 

5. Goddesses of physical Love

Emotion manifests into action, often acts of service or sacrifice. But attraction, physical attraction, also manifests into action. Physical attraction to a person is about more than sexual desire. That desire is what leads us to want to observe that person, be around them, experience their auric field, drink in their personality or style. It’s often a building block to creating a deeper emotional bond, or even emotional love.  

Goddesses of physical love can help us make that first move. They encourage us to send that first message on Tinder. But they also help us discern safe and unsafe situations; a Goddess of Physical Love is there with us on that date and can help us determine whether or not a hookup with the other person is going to be an experience worth enjoying or one that might eat away at our energy. These goddesses help us pick out lingerie, select the perfume we want to be our signature scent, and encourage us to be creative in the bedroom. 

Aphrodite is perhaps the most famous of goddesses who wield power in this area, but she’s definitely not the only one. Bast, though originally a goddess of war, gradually came to embody these qualities of seduction and lust. Anath, Freya, Lilith, Kali Ma, Shakti, Astarte, Ereshkigal, Hathor, Inanna, Qetesh, Kupala, Isis, and Oshun all have influence in this realm of experience. You’ll notice, I hope, that many of the goddesses most associated with physical love and lust are also associated with things like the underworld, the dark moon, or war. This isn’t a coincidence. 

6. Goddesses of the broken hearted

Going through a breakup is hard. Getting rejected by a longtime crush is devastating. Being strung along by a friend with benefits can be emotionally traumatizing. Losing your partner is an immeasurable grief. 

Having one’s heart broken isn’t some unfortunate, random experience. It’s a guarantee in life. Most people experience their first heartbreak in their teen years shortly after puberty, and when you’re young it feels like you won’t survive it. As you age, the stakes surrounding the loss of love rise; the pain of heartbreak never ceases, but we as individuals do learn ways to build resilience to those knives. 

The people of the ancient world felt this too. Disease, famine, and war took their lovers then as they take our lovers now; rejection and betrayal occurred then as it does to us in now; even the modern difficulty of catching feelings for a friend with benefits has a mirror in the ancient world of concubines and mistresses. It sucks to be a side chick, but it’s not new. 

My favorite goddess by far when it comes to the healing of a broken heart is the Morrigan. Occasionally seen as one goddess, other times seen as a trifecta, her own experience of heartbreak and devastation, her own dark nature, is deeply healing. If that dark, gothic aesthetic doesn’t work for you, Hestia is a great alternative. She’s warm and will make staying curled up in bed crying a lot less lonely. Other goddesses for the healing of a broken heart include Oba, Kuan Yin, Ereshkigal, Devi, Venus, and Shakti. I’ve also heard positive things about Yaoji and Red Tara

7. Goddesses of self Love

Self love is a challenge. It’s a challenge to separate it from ego, it’s a challenge to maintain it in the face of emotional ups and downs, and it’s a challenge to learn what it looks like for you. Some of us struggle a lot more with body image than we do confidence in our intellect, while others among us rely on our physical beauty to mask our fears of being seen as uninteresting or not charismatic. We all worry in one way or another if we’re good enough for the rest of the world, if we’re going to be accepted by it; we worry that we might lose the love of a partner or family member if we were to fail to live up to some version of ourselves we think they expect. 

Goddesses of self love are about fostering not only an independent review of the self but gradually manifesting new practices, habits, routines, and mantras that encourage a life-long relationship of loving oneself. Medusa, though not technically a goddess, is the perfect example of someone who experiences othering as a result of her condition. Other goddesses to consider are Baba Yaga, Artemis, Psyche, Green Tara, Rhiannon, Kupala, Venus, Ame-no-Uzume, the Cailleach, Ereshkigal, and Isis. 

8. Goddesses of unconditional love 

This might seem similar to the goddesses of emotional love, who vibrate with a pure, boundless energy. But unconditional love comes with a few other elements than just emotion. Unconditional love is a package of emotional love, mercy, forgiveness, kindness, and acceptance. Sometimes we need to employ unconditional love when we forgive someone close to us, and sometimes we ache for it in the hope that we can be forgiven. Unconditional love means not holding the mistakes of a person against them, of seeing their progress more than their failures, and encouraging them to continue to grow, improve, and shine. This is often as much about how we treat others as it is about how we treat ourselves. 

The Sophia, Isis, Kuan Yin, and Shekinah all embody this, as do Kali Ma, Ereshkigal, Andraste, and Asherah.  

I hope this served as a useful starting point to identifying which myths and stories to begin reading, or even what goddesses you may want to incorporate into your life. Depending on where you’re at right now you might need a very different kind of Love Goddess. You may be in a loving marriage but feeling distanced from family, in the middle of a hot and cold relationship, or learning to love yourself. 

If you have any additions to these lists I’d love to hear your thoughts. Or, if you’ve worked with any of these goddesses, please feel welcome to share your story. I’d love to read it and I’m sure others would benefit from it too. 

12 Goddesses to Honor for Ostara, the Spring Equinox

Ostara is just hours away, and this will be the first sacred day I’ve fully observed in quite a while! My pregnancy had me exhausted, so beyond a little home decoration at Samhain, Yule, and Imbolc, I’ve done nothing else since last July. Most years I chose to welcome Persephone back to this realm at the spring equinox, but this year I wanted to explore something new. I’ll be making an offering to a goddess I’ve never honored before. Who? Don’t know yet, but I’ve got a little time left to come up with something! Now that I’ve transitioned into motherhood I want to open up relationships with more mother goddesses who can, I hope, teach me to be a better parent.

While exploring options for myself, I wanted to share twelve goddesses who are wonderful options for beginner pagans, baby witches, or anyone looking to greet someone new. This list is, of course, not exhaustive. There are many dozens of goddesses from a variety of pantheons one would do well to honor for Ostara. But this list might offer the right amount of inspiration and direction for you as you craft your rituals.

Persephone
Greek. Also known as Kore or Propserina to the Romans, she is the spring maiden and daughter of Demeter. Together they are the central figures of the Eleusinian mysteries. Persephone is the embodiment of youth, abundance, and growth; but she is also the keeper of souls in the Underworld as a dark maiden, where she spends four months of the year with her consort Hades. Though young, she’s skilled in magick, divination, and wise in the philosophies of life and death.

Associations: Pomegranates, earth, red, pink, rose quartz, black tourmaline, seeds, mint, crowns, torches, deer.

Branwen
Welsh. One of the many Celtic goddesses of sovereignty, Branwen is a daughter of the sea and spring. Married to an abusive husband, she ultimately died of a broken heart when her loved ones perished in their attempts to rescue her. She is thus associated with freedom and new beginnings, especially for people seeking to break free of cruel relationships or failed marriages, and can offer a spiritual home for those feeling trapped. Birds represent her, especially starlings. Her name may in fact translate to “white raven.”

Associations: Cups, cauldrons, starlings, birds, aquamarine, rose quartz, standing stones, blossoms, white.

Anath
Canaanite/Mesopotamian. Also written as Anat or Anatu, Anath is a warrior, lover, and virgin often depicted riding a lion with flowers in her fists. She appears in many forms across Mesopotamia and Egypt, but her character as a warrior remains the same. She is as sensual as she is ferocious, a dedicated lover who can bring the dead back to life. She was celebrated at spring and harvest festivals in recognition of her role in fertility of women and the land.

Associations: Weapons, especially bow and arrows, axes, and clubs; flowers, lions, sashes, red, green, calves, sunstone, copper, iron, Mars.

Demeter
Greek. Mother of Persephone, goddess of grains, parenting, and grief. Though more often associated with the harvest, Demeter teaches the acts of both sowing and reaping, making her guidance at Ostara worthwhile for those looking to pursue goals over the Wheel of the Year. She is central to a many myths, mysteries, and forms in the ancient world, making her a deeply complex goddess of both underworld and agrarian magicks. She suffered over the loss of Persephone to the Underworld, symbolized by the loss of vegetation in the barren winter months, making her an excellent teacher of patience, dealing with loss, and finding hope for renewal in the spring.

Associations: Cornucopias, wheat, bread, torches, grain, sheep, flowers, poppies and opium, fruit such as apples, Virgo, horses, green, black.

Juno
Roman. Though she has a reputation for civilized wisdom and counsel, Juno is also a guide for adolescents going through puberty and adults looking for a special someone. For those looking for love in the spring, Juno’s rulership of femininity and romantic bonds is perfect for attracting romance this season. She is symbolized by peacocks, famous for their courting feathers, and guides young women into their adulthood while promising the perfect match at the right time. Her sacred month is June when spring transitions to summer. As a queen, she is decisive and can be unforgiving in her verdicts. As a goddess of marriage, she deeply values fidelity.

Associations: Earth, air, gold, blue, green, wedding rings, thrones, diadems, the Moon, peacocks, books and scholarship

Aurora
Roman. Like the Aurora Borealis that bears her name, Aurora is the goddess of extravagant light and the dawn. She opens the gates of heaven and offers renewal to the masses. As spring marks the beginning of a new agricultural year, Aurora is the perfect goddess for anyone looking to start afresh or embark on a new path. The mother of the constellations and their light, the four winds are also her children.

Associations: Chariots, saffron, poetry (especially erotic and love poems), cicadas, air, water, stars and constellations, all colors and rainbows

Eostre, or Ostara
Germanic/Saxon. The goddess of spring from whom the holiday Ostara takes its name, Eostre’s very name means “spring.” Depicted as a young woman bearing fertility, she was celebrated with painted eggs and sweet foods that are now found in the Christianized version of the holiday as Easter.

Associations: Hares and rabbits, all colors and rainbows, eggs, dawn, quartz, opal, opalite, wildflowers, meadows

Bast
Egyptian. Before she was symbolized by the domestic cat, Bast was a lioness who ruled the fertile power of the sun’s rays on the land. Protector of children and women, Bast grew from a ferocious warrior of anointing into a goddess who also embodied sensuality and love. As a guardian of the home, she is the perfect companion for a deep spring cleaning – both physical and etheric – and will encourage tidiness throughout the season. Honor her with perfumes from flowers, gold, singing, sex, and feasting.

Associations: Red, green, gold, silver, perfumes, incense, domestic cats, lions, sistrum and music, weapons, beer, carnelian, lapis lazuli, the Sun and the Moon

Atargatis
Phoenician/Syrian. Also spelled Ataratheh, she was protectress of the city Hierapolis near modern Aleppo in northern Syria. Known as the mermaid goddess due to her association with iconography found at Ascalon, Atargatis is a teacher of the advancements that come with civilization: improved agricultural and food systems, social structures and contracts, and inventions. Herself a force of nature, she brings fertility, moisture, and abundance. As vegetation returns with the spring, so do her blessings.

Associations: Doves, fish, whales, seashells, salt water, sand, lions, the crescent moon, red, blue, green, veils, scepters, eggs

Pomona
Roman. Pomona is one of many agricultural goddesses in the Roman pantheon. She offers fertility to orchards, nut and fruit trees. Apples are particularly sacred to her. The ideal goddess for the springtime gardener, she teaches proper care and communication with fruiting and blossoming plants. Pomona is also considered a wood nymph rather than a goddess, and is associated with Demeter in the Greek pantheon.

Associations: Pruning knife, cornucopia, fruits, fruit platters, blossoms, groves and orchards, nuts, green, orange, red, moss agate, fairy stone, malachite.

Idunn
Norse. A great healer and the bestower of immortality, Idunn is the keeper of apples that offer eternal youth and it is she who sustains the everlasting life of the gods. Goddess of youth, she lends her strength to the sick and rules the springtime.

Associations: Fae magick, apples, natural springs, green, red, water, earth, herbal medicine, apples.

Yaoji
Chinese. For the outdoorsy and green-thumb pagans, Yaoji offers lessons in herblore, magical brews, and navigating the wilderness of the mountains. If you’re hoping to spend more time this spring in wildlife reserves and parklands, Yaoji can help you learn to identify herbs, fungi, stones, and other natural artefacts on your hiking trails. Her specialty is the love potion.

Associations: Wild herbs, mountains, waterfalls, mist, fog, cauldrons, axes, dusk, dreamwork, visions, red, green, jade, quartz, rain.