When I was in second or third grade, my parents attended church every Tuesday night for a novena. The service focused on prayers to Mary, the mother of Jesus. I remember this going on indefinitely, but a search of the Catholic Encyclopedia and Wikipedia tells me novenas usually involve prayers for nine days in a row. We didn’t go every day, so maybe it was every week for nine weeks and only seemed endless because when you’re seven or eight years old that's how time passes.
At the service, I loved inhaling the scent of incense and listening to the almost mystical chants. The priest intoned many titles for Mary. The congregation repeated “pray for us” after each. One title was Queen of Heaven. I heard Mary called that often as I grew up, and the cemetery where my relatives on my mother’s side – and also my niece and my parents – are buried is Queen of Heaven.
I was surprised as an adult when I bought a book of goddess illustrations and saw one for Queen of Heaven. I was even more surprised when I read in a book on women and religion (I wish I could remember which one) that the Queen of Heaven is mentioned in the Old Testament. Not as a precursor to or foreshadowing of Mary, but as a goddess who should not be worshipped. Jeremia 7:18 says the children are gathering wood, their fathers are lighting the fire, and the women are kneading dough “to make cakes for the queen of heaven while libations are poured out to strange gods in order to hurt me.” The version I have of the Bible contains a note that the Queen of Heaven is the Assyro-Babylonian Ishtar, the goddess of fertility, and that cakes like stars were offered in her honor.
It fascinates me that the Catholic religion comes closer to worshipping a goddess than the other Christian religions I know of, despite the transformation of the goddess to Mary, and the strict doctrines that saints, including Mary, are not divine and are not to be worshipped. Mary is supposed to have been conceived without sin (see more on this in the previous post) and also to have been assumed bodily into heaven without dying. Seems very close to a deity. My limited understanding is the Church was trying to bring in people who worshipped goddesses. But despite all this, at the same time, the Catholic Church offers less of a role for women than many other Christian churches, including not allowing women to serve as priests, or, obviously, in any of the roles priests can aspire to, such as bishop, cardinal or pope. That was my first major disagreement with the Church — I couldn't see donating to any organization that would never allow me a role in governing it solely because I am a woman.
The people who inspired me most in the Church, and who seemed to have the closest connection with the community, were nuns. I wonder how many amazing people’s skills, talents, and connections the Catholic Church loses day after day by insisting its leaders must be men.
Lisa M. Lilly is an attorney and author of Kindle occult bestseller THE AWAKENING, short story collection THE TOWER FORMERLY SEARS AND TWO OTHER TALES OF URBAN HORROR, and numerous poems, short stories, and articles.
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