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. 

Birthed by Isis – a poem

She carries her pain like flowers.

There are few women whose
grief can hold back the flood;
fearsome to behold, all wait in
bated breath for her to shed the first
tear.

None loved him more than she.
She doesn’t cry at the funeral, nor
in the night as she caresses her
growing belly. The first tears are
reserved for labor, for the first cry
of their child. And they do.
Even still, she does not
grieve.

The pain of Isis seeded into
something
new
something
of magic and wombcraft and cloud walking

She placed him in the arms of her sister

gathered the lillies and the scorpions
and departed for war.

How I Named the God Who Visited My Dream Space

Atum, the self-created god of Before-Time, came into my life by reaching out to me in a dream.

This is by no means uncommon; many pagans experience the divine or Spirit communication through dreams, and that often leads us to question and wonder at what we witnessed. Very often, we can sense that the Being in our dream is a deity – but Who?

I’m of the opinion that the gods find us in sleep because dreams are limitless. It is only there that our consciousness is willing to defy the laws of physics or storytelling and visit the familiar and unfamiliar, all in favor of gaining a lucid experience. When we wake, we’re left to interpret symbols; but with Divine dreams comes the challenge of interpreting the Divine.

I want to walk through this process by exploring how I uncovered my patron, Atum. It began with a lucid dream from a mysterious Egyptian God. I devoted hours to research the details of my dream in order to narrow down who it had come from – and what I did once I had a couple guesses on their identity.

The Dream

I’m grocery shopping with my partner at our usual market when, at check-out, I’m suddenly convinced that it would be silly of us to go home and cook. There were a few hours left to the evening, I told him. Instead, we should get on the last ferry to Jamaica, or Costa Rica, or wherever it takes us.
We arrive on an island somewhere in the sea. My partner is present but I don’t know where. The island is a large, round, and pure sand with tufts of grass on its borders. We’ve arrived with a dozen other seekers, here to witness the Man wake-up. This happens once every 30 years.
The sun is setting, and I see stars. A bright constellation in the shape of an arrow catches my eye first, followed by one that looks like a cave art drawing of a human being.
As darkness falls, we gather in the sand and begin to spread out. The Man wakes up.
In the dark, he pulls liquid light from beneath the sands and fashions them into the souls of animals. A cheetah spirit, tall and boundless, pounces on me; I felt the weight of her paws on my shoulders. When we touched, she became briefly material; when we broke away, she returned to liquid light form. I laughed at her nuzzle.
I made eye contact with a lion. It was a brief moment steeped in profound, deep love.
There were other animals. In addition to lions and cheetahs, I saw orangutans, gorillas, a bear, crocodiles, and vague beasts I didn’t fixate on. Indeed, these are some of my favorite creatures of the Earth – with the exception of a crocodile.
Then I see the Man.

He appears in front of me, almost floating above the sands. He’s older, dark-skinned, with small patches of white in his hair. His eyes are shut but I can sense that he sees me through the lids. He carries a staff made of wood, but it’s strong like metal, with a hook on its end. It emanated a creative power.
The cloak he wears shifts in color from dark green, deep blue, to brown.
I gaze up at him for a moment, smile, and bow my head. Tears in my eyes, I thank him for this gift of “the most beautiful experience of my life,” and I return to interacting with the light-being animals.
But time is short. The sun begins to rise, and they all collapse back into the sands. The Man disappears with them for another 30 years. Tears finally spill from my eyes, and I call out to him as “Jupiter.” The crocodiles, however, do not disappear. As the sun hits their bodies, material snakes emerge. I run from them back to the boats and realize only then that I am alone.
Who is this God? This mysterious Man wouldn’t leave my mind’s eye, but luckily the dream was extremely lucid and provided a good stack of details to use in research.

300px-Egypt-Hieroglyphs

Step 1: Isolate the Concrete Details

I knew He must be an older man associated with arrows, wild animals, and perhaps blindness if I’m to guess from his shut eyes. I received a sense from Him that He had a need for darkness in order to create – a very common archetype – and I sensed ethereality in Him too. What stumps me most is the Jupiter calling card, as I’m confident he was not a Greek or Roman deity. The number 30 is also notable.
My first thought was for this to be a call for working with Amen-Ra/Amun-Ra, but some part of my intuition told me it could’ve been a dream from Khnum to begin worship of him. At first, I was hung up on animal associations. What Egyptian God is associated with cheetahs, lions, and apes?
Later, as I sat at my pottery table, it occurred to me that in the dream I specifically thanked him for the “gift” of the experience to connect so deeply with these animals. Indeed, big cats, apes, and bears are all part of my animal totem spiritual work. They’re my favorites since childhood. So, perhaps the animals had more to do with me than him.

Step 2: Divine

I was able to perform a little divination late at night, underneath the Sagittarius Waning Moon and the planet Jupiter shining brightly beside it. The only reason I was up and noticed that the Moon was positioned so perfectly in my living room window was that my cat, Zhu Li, had been running in circles meowing like a fire had started.

I reluctantly got out of bed, half expecting to find a rodent in the garden. Instead, it was quickly obvious that it was the Moon and Jupiter she was meowing at. Both were perfectly positioned in the garden window as if peering in at us. I was beyond giddy at the synchronicity of arrow imagery and Jupiter from my dream earlier in the afternoon and resisted the urge to shake my partner awake. I quickly found and lit a fresh pillar candle, burned frankincense, and sat at the window. I tied a blindfold around my eyes while facing Jupiter.

I asked: What was this dream gift’s deeper message? The answer was short, but hit me to my core:
“Show respect for all things that take form. Nature carries many secrets.”
That was the divined answer I needed, the founding philosophy upon which I could figure out who the dream had come from.

Step 3: Gratitude 

This mysterious Egyptian God didn’t appear out of nowhere. He arrived through a plea I had put out into the universe, asking for a masculine energy to come into my feminine-dominant life. I requested the Goddesses I work with, Aset/Isis, Bast, and Asherah, for assistance in finding a male patron God, because my own research and worship wasn’t leading anywhere that fit.

Step 4: Interpretation and Research

I was offered some very specific hints at His identity: the number 30, the planet Jupiter, arrows, specific animals, and the short divined message: “Show respect for things that take form. Nature carries many secrets.”

alien-planet-3823298_960_720.jpg
Image Source: ChristianBodhi/Pixabay

The Planet Jupiter

Modern planetary correspondences to ancient gods is a tricky business. I’ve seen more than a dozen sources relate Osiris to Pluto, for example, when we know that the Ancient Egyptians had no knowledge of Pluto in the first place. I like to make some room for these correspondences, though. Pluto is related to Hades, God of the Underworld. Osiris is an Egyptian counterpart. So, naturally, we would attach the planet to both gods. I don’t see anything too wrong with this.
Which leaves me with this: what does the planet Jupiter symbolize on a spiritual and mythological plane?
In Greek and Roman myth, Jupiter/Zeus is the Father of the Gods, the Sky Father, and a King. In astrology, Jupiter represents expansion, spiritual enlightenment, travel, fortune, and is associated with Sagittarius’ arrow and the fish of Pisces.
From this, I can deduce that I’m probably looking for a King of the Gods type figure. Someone who is likely self-created or, at least, someone transcendentally spiritual in tone. This doesn’t narrow down my list of potential Gods much, but it does cross a few off like Thoth/Djehuty.

The Number 30

In my dream, I was told that the God woke up every 30 years to perform what I saw. In numerology, the number 30 is reduced to 3. This happens to be my personal lucky number, but it’s also associated with creative expression in both numerology and Tarot. In Hebrew Gematria, 30 is associated with 3/Lamed, another personal favorite of mine. Lamed and Qof are the only two Hebrew letters to rise above or below the written line of text, something I’ve always found funky and attractive. The Hebrew term “Father in Goodness” shares a 30 value.
So far, so good. I can assume he’s creative (which, honestly, was pretty obvious from him literally creating souls in the dream).
But what of the 30-year cycles related to Saturn? I’m big on researching Saturn returns, and am anxious for my own. Could this God share characteristics of Saturn as a Lord of Karma, maker of bones, or one who brings order from chaos?
With this idea, I’m tempted to add Set to my list with a little question mark. Perhaps he’s related to the God of this dream somehow.

 

Arrows

The most obvious answer to arrows is Neith, the Goddess of war and hunting. Interestingly, her consort is Khnum, one of the Gods on my list. Her son, Tutu, is a curious mix of snake, lion, human, and crocodile with his symbol being arrows.

Animals

Speaking of animals, let’s look at those.
As I stated in my previous post, some of the animal symbolism in the dream felt gifted to me as an encounter with my spirit guides rather than an expression of this God. But, I could be wrong. The primarily interesting animals were the crocodiles and snakes, who did not disappear with the sun rising, and the big cats who I interacted with physically.
Cheetahs are associated with Mafdet, a Goddess who protects Ra and is sometimes depicted with a head of snakes rather than that of a cheetah. As Sekhmet and Bast, two lioness goddesses, are also protectors of Ra, I could deduce that the cheetah who pounced on me and the lion who observed me were protecting the God in my dream. In this case, that could be Ra or one of Ra’s many synchronized forms. Maahes, a male lion God of war, doesn’t fit the vibe of the dream, so he’s crossed off the list.
As for crocodiles, Sobek is another protection God. His other qualities of military victory, virility, and safety don’t match the dream, but his relationships to Set and Khnum keep both of them on the list. Set is thought to be his father, while Khnum either his father or son.
Finally, the crocodiles turning into snakes. Snakes are infamously associated with Apep, the enemy of Ra. It is curious that I ran from the snakes left behind with the God’s departure from the island, and Set is the God who assists Ra in fighting off Apep.

Step 5: Deduction

Based on these, the most obvious answer could be Ra. He takes the form of a lion or a snake and is the creative force behind all life. But the dream began with dusk, centered on stars, and lacked any blazing sun of inspiration.
The most likely candidates were two:
Atum, God of the Evening Sun and an Elder. He is the first father, fathering Shu and Tefnut from the waters of Nun, and all things are said to be made of his Ka. The liquid light of the spirits in the dream would match this. His tears created the first human beings and, though a solar deity, lifts the dead to the starry heavens. When in animal form, Atum appears as a snake, a lion, mongoose, ape, bull, or lizard.
Secondly, Khnum, God of the Nile and Pottery. Khnum is an interesting God because he makes the bodies and Ka of human beings on his pottery wheel. The clay he uses comes from the Nile that he himself inundates with water. In the dream, the God I encountered lifted up the liquid light of these animals from the sand. I myself am a ceramicist, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he came to me. The arrow in the sky could be accounted for as his consort, Neith. His animal association is simply a crocodile.
In the writings at Esna, Khnum is said to be the father of Ra with Neith. That’s a fun detail, but I’m going to exclude it since this seems to be a Roman influence.

Step 6: Reaching Out

My process going forward was quite simple. At my altar, I created a candle and offering plate for both Atum and Khnum. Beer, water, and bread are traditional and simple if you’re Kemetic, but there are a plethora of ideas for offerings. For Atum, I included a labradorite crystal because I associate them with the Before-Time; for Khnum, I made a clay figure of Him. From there, I will meditate, pray, and wait patiently for a sign.

Because I focused exclusively on the Egyptian Gods for this search, I included those prayers. What I found through meditation and ritual was not only confirmation that the dream, in fact, came from Atum (woo!) but that Khnum was more than happy to receive worship from me.

Now, they both have a prominent place on my altar.
I hope this write up of my research process is helpful for you in your own search for God or Goddess. If you’d like any pointers on interpreting dream messages from the Divine, leave a comment or shoot me a private email. I’m always happy to help with dreamwork.