Virgin Goddess

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VIRGIN GODDESS is a nonhomogeneous, highly problematic concept for scholarly use, for it was partly made up by the religious politics of Greek city-states in order to further their patriarchal aims, and for the other part has been popularized by a certain kind of feminist interest promoted by followers of the contemporary goddess religion. Goddess worshipers in Western postmodern societies promote a biologistic understanding of femaleness that is focused on the procreative capacity of the female body, and therefore venerate one or several goddesses as givers and takers of life. In relating all possible functions of goddesses from all times and religions to sexuality and fertility, the goddess movement(s) reveal an outlook on the essence of femaleness that resembles that of ancient Greek gender ideology, even though it arrives at a different evaluation of it.

History and Critical Reevaluation of the Notion of the Virgin Goddess

The use of the term virgin goddess is grounded in the assumption that prehistoric societies in Europe and elsewhere worshiped a goddess who could appear in three forms: as maiden (often used synonymously with virgin ), mother, and aged wise woman. A dyad of the goddess as mother and maiden had already been introduced by Jane Harrison (1903), and then taken up by the Jungian scholar Mary Esther Harding (1935), but the idea of a female divine trinity was for the first time formulated by the poet and essayist Robert von Ranke-Graves in his work The Greek Myths (1955). The origin of this construction is unclear, but it was very probably influenced by the trinitarian structure of God according to Christian dogma. Ranke Graves connected the threefold manifestation of the divine matriarch to the phases of the moon (waxing moon, full moon, waning moon) and to the three cosmic spheres: the "upper air" for the maiden, earth and sea for the mother, and the underworld for the old woman. Admittedly owing this construction mainly to his intuition, Graves also may have been inspired by the popular ideas of Johann Jakob Bachofen (1861) about the religion of a matriarchal age in early human history. Bachofen claimed that the relations of the sexes always found a cosmic expression in the relations between sun and moon, and according to his hypothesis the gynaikokratia, the Greek term for matriarchy, a social order that is dominated by assumignly female values, was characterized by the reign of the moon (and the night) over the sun (and the day). More recently, these kinds of ideas have been taken up by Heide Göttner-Abendroth (1993) and Marija Gimbutas (1989; 1991). Gimbutas, who used a great deal of nineteenth-century theory (Hegel, Bachofen, and James George Frazer) in her interpretations of Stone Age artifacts, promoted the idea of a parthenogenetic primal goddess that might have emerged in the Paleolithic era. According to her hypothesis, the primal goddess, who was avirgin in the sense that she did not have sexual intercourse with a male, was equated with nature as a whole and therefore did not have a particular shape. The earliest goddess images, the so-called Paleolithic Venuses (dated before 10,000 bce), are images of the awesome creative power associated with woman and nature. The goddess could be represented by triangular stones or by stone or bone carvings emphasizing her vulva, buttocks, and breasts. In the Neolithic or early agricultural era (which began c. 9000 bce in the Near East), goddess images symbolized the cosmic energy of birth, growth, death, and regeneration, on which farming, and indeed all life, depends. She was often depicted in zoomorphic shape or with animals as her companions (these figures are known as Ladies of the Animals). The anthropomorphic goddess images, according to Gimbutas, gradually became differentiated into two functions, one as "the giver and taker of all," and the other as rebirth and regeneration. Eventually these two images were characterized as the Mother and the Maiden. The Mother was the sustaining power, represented especially by the enduring earth, the bedrock that underpins all life. The Maiden, related to the forces of renewal and regeneration, was represented especially by new life, plant and animal, that emerges in spring. The Mother, the eternal, and the Maiden, the ephemeral power of nature, were understood to be two aspects of the same whole. Gimbutas's theories are very popular among people interested in female spirituality, but they have provoked criticism from professional historians and archaeologists, who argue that hardly anything can be said with any certainty about Neolithic female figurines because of the lack of written information about them.

But some adherents of contemporary goddess religions have taken up Gimbutas's conception and believe that farming societies of the Neolithic venerated a threefold goddess as maiden, mother, and old woman. Moreover, they argue that this pattern is still recognizable in religions of the ancient world. Within the context of a constructed female monotheism, all astral, war, and hunting goddesses venerated in ancient cultures are viewed as expressions of the Maiden, and as a particular focus of interest, this maiden goddess is interpreted as an antecedent of the virginal goddesses of Olympic religion in Classical Greece. Thus, the concept of the Virgin Goddess emerged, although so-called virgin goddesses share no other feature than their youthful virginity, and even this is interpreted in peculiar and inconsistent ways. In various contexts, virginity can mean maidenhood in the sense of prematurity, it can mean temporary or constant willful abstinence from sexual activity, and it can denote a struggle for independence from male domination. By their divine functions, so-called virgin goddesses do not form a coherent group at all, and they have no automatic connection to the category of mother goddesses. The assumption that mother and daughter (maiden)are two aspects of the same deity was taken from certain images in Minoan religion, where a woman figure appears with one or two maidens. The interpretation of these groups is uncertain, and their occurence is by no means universal, but culturally restricted to the Minoan and early Cycladic sphere. Generally, ancient polytheistic religions possessed a great number of highly differentiated female and male deities, and the accessible evidence does not allow for interpretations along the lines of monotheism.

In sum, ideas about the Virgin Goddess are based on several shortcomings and conflations. The monotheistic character of a Neolithic goddess cannot be proven. It remains an hypothesis that may be of some relevance in the interpretation of prehistoric religions, but the evidence from those early civilizations that can inform their modern interpreters through written testimonies reveals a different picture. There is every reason to assume that the idea of the Goddess as one whose mythology focuses on the theme of fertility and procreation is a rather late concept which appeared no earlier than in Hellenistic times (from about 300 bce). Divine oneness as the source for the multiplicity of goddesses and gods is an outcome of philosophical speculations undertaken to systematize and rationalize mythological traditions. Early panthea and also the figurines and statuettes of the Stone Age show a great variety. In Mesopotamia and Egypt there was a vast number of female and male deities with most diverse powers and responsibilities. It seems unlikely that the prehistoric figurines and statuettes that may represent female godheadseven that is uncertainshould indicate a uniform concept of the female divine. Nothing suggests that the numerous sky goddesses, patronesses of war, and Ladies of the Animals and Hunting, as well as several female astral deities, were to be subsumed under anything like the concept of the Maiden or Virgin Goddess.

Moreover, chastity and virginity only became a feature of Olympic goddesses in Greek and then particularly in Hellenistic cults; in other ancient religions, particular sexual or antisexual attitudes of goddesses were not addressed. Instead, it seems that sexuality was considered an integral part of godheads as well as of humans. Thus, linking later virginal goddesses to earlier figures who were supposedly parthenogenetic (i.e., able to create life exclusively out of themselves) is problematic. The assumption of a Virgin Goddess with a history beginning earlier than in Classical Greece lumps together phenomenologically and historically different qualities. It must be concluded that a pre-Greek concept of virgin goddesses did not exist, and that even from the Classical Greek period onwards, virgin goddesses were never categorized as a group. If anything, it could be stated that goddesses of the ancient Mediterranean with virginal features are peculiar developments of archaic mistresses of the animals and the goddesses of the early city-states in Mesopotamia (Inanna-Ishtar) and Asia Minor (Cybele), whose power over natural forces was also called upon for the protection of the urban sphere, but great caution is required to avoid generalizations inapplicable to highly differentiated divine figures.

Greek Virginity and Its Impact on Goddesses

Nevertheless, it is interesting to see on which types of goddesses the Greeks imposed virginity and in which ways they thereby influenced their appearances and their spheres of action. But first, the implications of virginity, and specifically of Greek virginity, need to be clarified. Ideas about the interrelatedness of female sexuality and threat become apparent as ancient iconographic motifs, which are known from northern Mesopotamian representations on seals and also in evidence during the orientalizing period in Greece (eighth century bce), but in the Classical era they became a generally recognizable cultural feature.

Two issues are important when considering the meanings of Greek virginity. The first regards the status and reputation of women in the urban milieus of Classical Greece, both of which were formed and dominated by patrilineal and patriarchal order. Greek societies were structured by the oikoi (households), and each oikos was ruled by a male head of the family. Girls were born and raised in one household, but later, through marriage, they passed into another domain of living, bringing a dowry as their share of the patrimonial inheritance into another man's household. Thus, a daughter was a threat to men's possessions and to their wishes for a stable existence. In order to guarantee the procreation of the society of the poleis, it was naturally necessary to have women crossing the borders between the oikoi. As a consequence, the female sex was associated with all things hated and abhorred: with changeability, unboundedness, pollutedness, formlessness, uncontrolledness, and natural chaosall oppositions to cultural order represented by men. According to patriarchal ideology, femininity stood for the ability or rather the fate to cross boundaries. The means to control this necessary but dangerous inclination of women was first and foremost a control of their sexuality through the institution of legitimate marriage. In this context the polarity between virgin and wife developed. This polarity is expressed in Greek in the opposition between gunē, which means both "woman" and "wife" and is used to refer to married women, and parthenos, which means "maiden, girl, or virgin" and "virgin" and is used to refer to unmarried girls. Only by a rigid control control of women's sexuality could a man be certain that his children were his. Therefore, it was decreed that a woman must be a virgin at marriage and refrain from sexual intercourse with any man but her husband. Since marriage meant subjection of the female and her control by the male-defined cultural order, virginity made her an outsider and a potential threat. In other words, for the Greeks, virginity became a means to express what was to their standards a paradoxa female who is independent from and even capable of exercising power over men.

For those Greek goddesses who were perceived according to the virgin pattern, this meant that they never became fully subordinated. Consequently, virgin goddesses do not always necessarily abstain from sexuality; they may be virgins in the sense of being unmarried, or even in the sense of not being confined through marriage to a male god. The complex nature of the virgin goddesses is further explicated by the fact that the unmarried girl or woman poses a threat to patriarchal social order because her sexuality is not under the control of man. They carry the connotation of being wild or untamed. This wildness can manifest itself in at least three forms: as a connection to wild places and wild animals not tamed or under control of the city; as passion for the ritual shedding of blood, which draws hunters and warriors away from the city and the family; and as untamed sexuality, by which men are seduced and can be endangered.

A second issue that is important for the rise of Greek virgin goddesses has to do with intellectual currents towards more transcendental conceptualizations of the divine. This move took place in a number of ancient civilizations which are known as the cultures of the Axial Age, according to a theory by the German existentialist philosopher Karl Jaspers (18831969). The gender-specific implications of this theory have not yet been analyzed, but it can be said that in the majority of the civilizations of Jaspers's Axial Age the transcendental is ascribed to male godheads, whilst female deities were linked to nature and the material world. The emergence of the idea of transcendence and the transcendental in the intellectual history of humankind thus supported the polarization of the genders, that is, the belief in fundamental differences in female versus male nature. One way of mediating between the two became the construction of virginity as a "male femaleness," and thus with a kind of physical femaleness that was not acted out and lived as such.

Greek goddesses in general, and the Greek virgin goddesses in particular, combine protective and transgressive qualities in their relation to the cultural standards of the poleis. This results from the ability to overcome boundaries, which in Classical Greek culture was ascribed to women and goddesses alike. Virginity could underline as well as constrain this trait. It allowed for a kind of freedom, independence, and power that was usually refused to females, but it also ensured that married women, who represented by definition the kind of femininity that was demanded by their society, remained securely cut off from these privileges. Goddesses, however, unlike ordinary women, could make exceptions here.

Individual Virgin Goddesses and Heroines

It is helpful to consider in more detail the expression of virginity by, or the impact of the virginity concept on, some mythological figures.


Strangely, the Greek goddess Kore, whose very name translates as "maiden," has so far attracted comparatively little attention by propagators of the threefold goddess. Kore was closely related to death, which corresponds with general Greek ideas about human parthenoi. Their state of being was regarded as very similar to being condemned to death. In rites that should prepare them for marriage, girls from aristocratic families underwent rites connected with the cults of either Artemis or Athena, initiating them to the theme of sexuality by exposing them to a death-like experience. In Kore's myth this is symbolized by her abduction by Hades, the god of the underworld. The sixth century bce saw a very rich production of Kore statues, mainly, apparently, for a grave cult. On the Athenian Parthenon there were six Korai, who probably functioned as grave-servants for Erechteus, the legendary first king of Athens.

Hestia, Artemis and Iphigeneia, and Athena

Greek goddesses virgin in the sense of sexual abstinence by an adult woman were Hestia, Artemis, and Athena.

Hestia, the personification of the hearth and the sacrificial fire, transcends the boundary between humankind and the goddesses and gods. She had a major role in female rites of passage such as marriage and childbirth. Because the mythology as well as the iconography of the goddess Hestia are poorly developed, further implications of her virginity are not traceable.

Artemis was the goddess of wild places, flocks, and the hunt; she was named Potnia Theron ("lady of the wild animals") in the Iliad, and "slayer of wild beasts" in the Homeric hymns. She had particularly close ties to deer, as indicated by the legend that pregnant does swam to her island in order to give birth, and to bears. Bears play a significant role in the rites and roles of a cult dedicated to Artemis Brauronia, which were performed by young girls. The stages of the ritual are not clear, but it included libations and spinning and weaving, and it was finalized with a goat sacrifice. In Artemis's mythology, even humanand particularly maidensacrifices are significant. According to a study by Ken Dowden (1989), such plots can be interpreted as literary encodings of girls' initiation rites performed in the service of this goddess. Near the temple of Artemis Brauroneia there was a shrine for Iphigeneia, the daughter of Agamemnon and Klytaimnestra, who on her way to her wedding with Achilleus was almost sacrificed to Artemis. A deer was then slaughtered instead of the girl, and Iphigeneia was whisked away by the goddess herself in order to serve her on the Tauris Peninsular. Artemis was there venerated under the name Parthenos, or as Iphigeneia, which confirms the closeness of the two figures. Artemis was a virgin herself and shunned men except for her brother Apollo, and she insisted ruthlessly on the chastity of her mythical attendents, the nymphs. Yet, the goddess as well as the nymphs were intimately familiar with sexuality, the female cycle, and childbirth. The sexual appeal of nymphs is apparent in, for example, the story of Odysseus and Kalypso, in which Artemis was explicitely invoked as Elei-theia and Locheia, goddess of childbirth. She was one of the most powerful patronesses of life and death and all passages between them.

The Greek Artemis is clearly the heiress of the Mistress of the Animals, but her wildness was acceptable in a patriarchal culture only if it was understood that she was not like other women. Thus she was superficially bereft of her female sexuality, and although she always remained the goddess of women and female affairs, she was often portrayed as a masculinized huntress, clad in a short tunic, slaying wild animals with arrows from her quiver. However, the image of the Ephesian Artemis, which stressed her nurturing qualities by depicting her as a mature female with many breasts, proves that the Homeric shape of the goddess was not authoritative.

Worshiped in her temple, the Parthenon, Athena Parthenos was a very different expression of a virgin goddess than Artemis, for she was very much identified with the city and its distinct, male-defined culture. Athena was said to have been born from the head of her father Zeus, and in the Eumenides of Aeschylus she was said to have declared that she sided with her father against her mother in all things except marriage, which she shunned. She was born fully armed as a warrior and was usually depicted wearing a helmet and holding a spear and shield. Her title polias indicated that the city was her home; her titles promachos and nike named her victorious against its enemies. She avoided the company of women but nurtured such heroes as Odysseus, Theseus, Herakles, Perseus, and Erichthonius. Her virginity meant that she could consort with men as an equal and engage in the masculine pursuit of war. However, she also figured in important initiation rites for girls, the Arrhephoria, the theme of which seems to have been an encounter with overpowering and frightening aspects of male sexuality. Moreover, she was patroness not only of the masculine art of warfare but also of the arts and crafts associated with women, including pottery, weaving, and healing. One of the rituals performed in her honor involved the weaving and presentation of a new robe (peplos) for her ancient wooden statue; girls and women played important roles in these rites.

Hera and Aphrodite

If the designation virgin goddess is interpreted in the sense of a refusal to be submissive to a male partner, two other Olympians deserve mention here, although both are sexual and, according to Olympian mythology, sexually active.

Hera, known as wife of Zeus and as mother of Hebe, Eleitheia, Ares, and Hephaistos, was also known as an independent goddess. Before Zeus entered Greece, Hera was the indigenous goddess of the island of Samos, which was once called Parthenia, and of Argos; even at Olympus, her temple is older than that of Zeus. Her union with Zeus as presented in the Iliad was a sacred marriage that brought fertility to the earth. However, another legend reports that every year she renewed her virginity at a sacred spring called Canathus in Nauplia.

Aphrodite, too, although fully and joyously sexual, can be viewed as virginal in the sense of self-determined. Her sexuality is unbridled, untamed, and her own. She is married to Hephaistos, according to Olympian mythology, but she is neither submissive nor faithful to him. Although she is a mother, her child Eros ("love, desire") is but a reflection of her sexuality. Aphrodite is related to the Lady of the Animals, as indicated in the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, where she is portrayed as followed by wolves, lions, bears, and leopards, in whom she awakens the spark of desire, and she is also connected to the Near Eastern goddesses of sexuality and of warfare such as Anat, Ishtar, and Astarte. Like Inanna-Ishtar and Astarte, she is identified with the morning and evening stars, which mark the transition between night and day. Aphrodite is an island goddess who entered Greece through Phoenician ports in Cythera and Cyprus; her temples were often found in the marshy ground where sea transforms into land, or on the cliffs where the sea rises as mist to the land. Thus, the nature of her sacred places underlines her transcending capacities as they are also expressed through her irresistable sexual appeal.


Although in the classical culture of Greece the meaning of virginity was not necessarily confined to sexual abstemiousness, certain currents in Hellenism and particularly in Hellenistic Judaism became obsessed with the religious benefits of chastity. This development applied to men and women alike, but in the context of virgin goddesses only the implications for female virginity are relevant.

Due to the "ascetic tension" (Fraade, 1989) in Judaism in the Hellenistic age, the feminine aspect of the Old Testament God acquired an independent identity, with a huge impact also on Gnosticism and emerging Christianity. In several Jewish texts of that period (e.g., Proverbs, Ben Sira, c. 200 bce, Wisdom of Solomon, c. 150 bce), Sophia as a personification of divine wisdom figures prominently, and chastity is described as one of her important traits. Another female figure in a number of writings (e.g., Proverbs 9; fragment from cave four in Qumran) is clearly recognizable as Sophia's counterpart: the "strange woman," one of whose most obvious marks is her lasciviousness, as opposed to the wise woman's purity. Thus, a discourse developed in which virginity was regarded as a means to, and even as a code for, salvation. According to Gnostic mythology, the origination of the lower worlds of psychic and material quality (as opposed to the upper world of spiritual substance) results from the fall of a female soullater replaced by the Jewish Sophiaand her involvement in passion and sexual activity. In the end, the soul is restored by union with a male salvational figure in a "virginal" bridal chamber. In Sethian Gnostic texts, the original, purely spiritual creation of the pleroma, or fullness, is ascribed to the goddess Barbelo, who is characterized as a "male virgin." The Apocryphon of John, the Gospel of the Egyptians, and The Three Tablets of Seth know of her as the "thrice male" and the "masculine female virgin."

The Virgin Mary

Many features of ancient virginal goddesses survive to the present day in the Virgin Mary. Throughout the Near East, Europe, and Latin America, churches to the Virgin Mary were built at the holy places of the goddesses. Even though she is not prominent in the New Testament, Mary eventually became the repository for all the lingering images of the goddesses. To the Greeks she is panaghia, which means simply "the all-holy." In the Gospel of Matthew, a prophecy from Isaiah that reads "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son" (Mt. 1:23) is applied to the birth of Jesus. Although the Hebrew word almanah in the original prophecy might be translated "young woman" without the necessary imputation of virgin, both the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint, and the Gospel of Matthew use parthenos. Lest there be any ambiguity as to its interpretation, the author of Matthew clarifies, Joseph "knew her not until she had borne a son" (1:25). The theme of Mary's continual virginity despite of Jesus' birth emerged already in second-century theological discourse, there. The church agreed at the Council of Ephesus in 431 that Mary would be called theotokos ("God bearer"), and confirmed this title at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

The dogmatic establishment of Mary's virginity is a continuation of the Greek strategies to mark particular and powerful women as virgins, but it also needs to be understood as a confirmation and even superelevation of the most important function of Greek goddesses: the mediation between different spheres of existence, which in Mary's case is the mediation between humans and the divine.


A different kind of virgin goddess, which is completely detached from the specific cultural conditions of the eastern Mediterranean, can be found in Nepal. Here, the goddess Taleju, an aspect of Durga, inhabits a human virgin who is correspondingly worshiped as the goddess herself. The custom of having an immature girl residing in Taleju's temple in Kathmandu is said to go back to a legend from the late sixteenth century about the king Jaya Prakash Malla, who used to play dice with the goddess when she regularly visited him in his palace. On one occasion he developed "unholy thoughts" about his companion; she recognized this and then disappeared. When the remorseful king begged forgiveness, Taleju said she would return only in the form of a virginal little girl who would have to live next to the royal palace. Since then, the living Kumari is chosen from the Sakya community in the Kathmandu valley. Although Taleju is a Hindu goddess, the living Kumari comes from a Buddhist family (the Sakyas are descendents from the Buddha's clan) and is selected by high-level Vajracharya priests. Apart from her virginity, further criteria are an unblemished body and a fearless mind. When the girl approaches puberty, she ceases to be Kumari and in theory can live a normal life. However, she does not receive school education or any other training that would prapare her for such a life, and moreover she is unlikely to get married because she is still believed to be possessed by supernatural powers.

Possible meanings of virginity in Indian and Himalayan religions are less well researched than for Greek and Hellenistic antiquity, and particularly the political aspect of itas it is suggested by the close bond with the Nepalese royalshas so far been neglected. Interpretations given agree on the assumption that the phenomenon should be explained in the context of shaktism. According to this branch of tantrism, the goddess is understood as creative energy. This energy remains untouched and therefore complete, as long as the goddess is virgin.

See Also

Goddess Worship, overview article; Lady of the Animals; Mary, overview article; Virginity.


The concept of Virgin Goddess was developed by the works cited above, including Johann Jakob Bachofen, Das Mutterrecht: Eine Untersuchung über die Gynaikokratie der alten Welt nach ihrer religiösen und rechtlichen Natur (Stuttgart, Germany, 1861); Jane Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion (Cambridge, U.K., 1903); Mary Esther Harding, Women's Mysteries, Ancient and Modern (New York, 1935); Karl Jaspers, Vom Ursprung und Ziel der Geschichte (About the Origin and Aim of History, Zurich, 1949); Robert von Ranke-Graves, The Greek Myths (New York, 1955); Ken Dowden, Death and the Maiden : Girls' Initiation Rites in Greek Mythology (New York, 1989); and Heide Göttner-Abendroth, Die Göttin und ihr Heros, 10th edition (Munich, 1993). Most influential were the popular books by Marija Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess (San Francisco, Calif., 1989) and The Civilization of the Goddess (San Francisco, Calif., 1991). Positive assessments of Gimbutas's views can be found in several articles in issue 12 (1996) of the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, pp. 33119.

A critical reconsideration of the threefold Goddess in general and the Virgin Goddess as one of her forms has not yet been written. Thorough reexaminations about the Goddess in prehistoric religions can be found in the collection Ancient Goddess, edited by Lucy Goodison and Christine Morris (London, 1998). Very insightful on the broader context of interpreting goddesses is the volume Engendering Archaeology. Women and Prehistory, edited by Joan M. Gero and Margaret W. Coney (Oxford, 1991). For the Near Eastern context see Tikva Frymer-Kensky, In the Wake of the Goddesses (New York, 1992).

The standard work on understandings of Greek virginity is Giulia Sissa, Greek Virginity, translated from the French by Arthur Goldhammer (Cambridge, Mass., 1990). For several thorough analyses of Greek interpretations of the female bodyincluding its state as a virginal bodyand female roles in Greek culture and religion consult Helen King, Hippokrates' Women: Reading the Female Body in Ancient Greece (London, 1998).

Julia Iwersen, Die Frau im alten Griechenland. Religion, Kultur, Gesellschaft (Düsseldorf, Germany, 2002) deals with virgin goddesses, virginity, and maidenhood in various contexts of Greek religion. Several important articles on the meaning of virginity and maidenhood in Greek religion can be found in the volume The Sacred and the Feminine in Ancient Greece, edited by Sue Blundell and Margaret Williamson (London and New York, 1998); see particularly the contribution of Susan Guettel Cole, "Domesticating Artemis," pp. 2743. Nannó Marinatos, The Goddess and the Warrior. The Naked Goddess and Mistress of Animals in Early Greek Religion (London and New York, 2000) is interesting about functions of Artemis in male-dominated Greek society and also about how the image of this goddess was changed and adapted to Greek gender ideology. As for the maiden Kore, see Katerina Karakasi, Archaische Koren (Munich, 2001) and Andreas Scholl, Die Korenhalle des Erechtheion auf der Akropolis. Frauen für den Staat (Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 1998). For a classical interpretation of the virginity of a Greek goddess see Karl Kerenyi, Sie Jungfrau and Mutter der greichischen Religion (Zurich, 1952), translated as Athene: Virgin and Mother in Greek Religion (Zurich, 1978).

Wolfgang Beinert and Heinrich Petri, eds., Handbuch der Marienkunde (Regensburg, Germany, 1984), and Marina Warner, Alone of All Her Sex (New York, 1976) compile a vast amount of material on the Virgin Mary. For a comprehensive phenomenology of the type in the ancient Mediterranean milieu (from Isis and Cybele to Mary the Virgin and Mother of God) see Stephen Benko, The Virgin Goddess: Studies in the Pagan and Christian Roots of Mariology (Leiden, Netherlands, 1993).

The Nepalese Kumari is examined and interpreted in terms of cultural anthropology by Michael Allen, The Cult of Kumari. Virgin Worship in Nepal (Kathmandu, 1975, with several reprints), and for a more descriptive approach, see Siddhi B. Ranjitkar, Kumari. The Virgin Goddess (New Delhi, 2002).

Discussion of ascetic tension in Judaism in the Hellenistic age can be found in Steven D. Fraade, "Ascetical Aspects of Ancient Judaism" in Jewish Spirituality from the Bible through the Middle Ages, vol. 1, edited by Arthur Green, pp. 253288 (New York, 1989).

Julia Iwersen (2005)