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Sophia Goddess of Wisdom

Sophia Goddess of Wisdom.

This is our brief synopsis from Caitlin Matthew’s 1991 book, 'Sophia Goddess of Wisdom', which traces the Goddess Sophia’s path through history and her contributions to the major religions of the Western World. 

In Gnostic literature Sophia is Anima Mundi – the World Soul. Sophia is the morning and evening star as Lucifer and Venus respectively, Ialdabaoth and Sophia. In qabalah Sophia is the bride of Malkuth, the Earthly Virgin of Virgo. The Number 7 is her number which equates to Netzach and Venus. Gnostic myth accords the role of controlling human fate to the seven planets and refers to seven planetary initiations. In Egypt Sophia is seen in the sacred marriage of Isis and Osiris, or as Ianna and Demuzi in Samaria.  She is also viewed as part of the Christian trinity, God as Logos, Son as Christ, Sophia as the Holy Spirit.

Sophia has an apocryphal archetype in the Shekinah of Judaism recorded as the Tikkun in Jewish mysticism, the ‘putting right’ or ‘the restoration of all things’.  The Shekinah is God’s Holy Spirit. She appears during the first 4 Centuries AD and accompanies the Jews of the Diaspora to their dwelling place. In future times it is said she will appear at the Battle of Og and Magog. The Biblical Sophia, attributes her to Wisdom enshrined in King Solomon’s’ temple. Her symbol is the Dove which represents the ‘words’ of Sophia. She was often known as a Black Goddess, as Sheba Queen of the South, and Bilgis in Islam (Ethiopia).  She is associated with the Sumerian Black Goddess, the Shulamite.  Traditions speak of finding Black Madonnas in caves, famously associated with the Magdalene and Isis cults in the Languedoc and Provence. Black Madonnas are also found in Cathar and Templar lands such as Montserrat, and areas linked to the famed Priory of Sion.

Sophia has both ‘white’ and ‘black’ goddess attributes and mythologies, in her dark aspect she embodies the problem of evil in Gnosticism - but she is also the power of redemption through Mary mother of Christ. Sophia is both ‘Sophia Nigrans’, the despised Eve and ‘Sophia Stellarum’, the redeemer Mary. Christian Sophia has a presence in all of the Biblical Marys. Mary means ‘temple’ and ‘dwelling place’ and Mother Church as ‘Ecclesia’ wherein St Anne becomes the grandmother of God. Sophia is also associated with Mary as the Virgin Mother and as Mary Magdalene the wife and sister of Christ, from tales contained in the Gnostic and Orphite texts and translated by St Iraneus.

In Gnostic texts, Sophia’s son is Ialdabaoth who has Seth or Set as ancestor whom it is said caused the enslavement of spirit in matter. Mary’s distant ancestor is Eve whose eating of the apple caused the fall, Mary then conceives the Christ child who becomes mankind’s redemption from matter.  Eve is a Black Goddess, Mary Virgin Mother is a white goddess, and this polarity is seen in many of the goddess myths, particularly those linking back to the cults of Isis. Mary Magdalene is scapegoated along with Tamour, Rahab, and Ruth Bathsheba as whores. Sophia is both harlot and bride of Christ. Mary Magdalene and John the Baptist, Christ’s closest disciples, were taught the secret wisdom, the true Graal.

The Gnostic Gospel of Eve contains the amazing verses of ‘Thunder Perfect Intellect’, parts of which are included in the ‘Spirit of Sophia’ Pathworking. According to St Epiphanius and the Apocrypha of John, Sophia’s Daughter is Zoe, the Greek ‘Epinoea’ or ‘Life’ and said to be the Virgin of Light. Sophia is ultimately the Goddess who seeks to reconcile the sparks of spiritual life from created matter, just as Isis searched for the dismembered parts of Osiris’ body. Sophia represents the loss of the Divine Feminine from human consciousness. Her purpose and ours is to seek for the scattered fragments of wisdom and to personally embody them. She represents the resacralising of the self and of the church – in its broadest sense.

Sophia’s footsteps are also evident in ‘Mother’ Russia, where she is ‘moist mother Earth’ – ‘Mokosha’. She is found in the myths of Babayoga and Vasilisa the fair. The protective power of Mother Mary is venerated in Russia. (I am minded of Putin’s recent threat to provide his missile shield against the US in the Syria conflict)  Then there are the Cathedrals of St Sophia in Kiev and Novgorod, each mirroring the Great Cathedral of Constantinople. Vladamir Soloviev (1853 – 1900) had three visionary meetings with Sophia - one when he was reading Gnostic texts in the British Museum in 1813. Father Sergie Bolgakov 1871 – 1944 was a Russian Gnostic who influenced the work of Nicolas Roerich (1874 – 1947) the Russian mystic painter, responsible for the ‘Roerich Pact’ which aimed to preserve cultural institutions and artefacts in times of war - for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1929.  He painted the Madonnas which appear on the cover of Catlin’s book. 

He also painted the ‘Madonna Oriflamma’ which shows a Madonna wearing the ‘Banner of Peace’ this was turned into a flag which was attached to important buildings containing valuable art collections during the world wars. The banner is comprised of three circles, the symbol of the Vesica Piscis, which also surrounds the black Ka’ba stone at Mecca and which is also found in the three-circle glyph covering Glastonbury Well. Sophia is associated with the artificial hill ‘Ziggurat’ in the Ershkigal Myths and to Glastonbury Tor. 

In 1877 the famous Russian mystic Madam H.P. Blavatsky wrote her first major work, ‘Isis Unveiled’, signifying a return to the Goddess and of her secret wisdom traditions.

Sophia’s footprints are also found in pre-Islamic Mazdaism, and in the religion of the ancient Persians. The teachings of Zarathustra or Zoroaster preceded Mohammed. Like the many faces of Mary, Fatima was seen as the Mother creator, she was also the prophet’s daughter and mother of the Holy Imams. In the tale of Ibn Arabi, Ibn was a pupil of two Sufi mystics; both were women, Yasmin of Marchena and Fatima of Cordova.  At 36 he fell in love with Nizam Ayn al Shams (Harmony eye of the sun) According to legend, he circumnabulated the Ka’ba stone in Mecca seven times and she appeared to him.

Caitlin notes that the Koran is as uncompromising in its suppression and relegation of the divine feminine as the Torah and the Old Testament and yet her footsteps can still clearly be discerned. Sophia and Isis are veiled Goddesses, within Islam, the veil is symbolic of the divine feminine and the Hijab, perhaps a sign of the divine black goddess. In the ancient Persian lands alchemy was venerated as the highest art, and in modern Islam science is still considered a Holy Art.

As the Apocalyptic Virgin she reverts to Anath (a Syrian Goddess) and to Ishtar in her role of Queen of Battle, John’s vision in Revelations 12 is of a woman clothed with the Sun and with the Moon under her feet who does battle with the seven headed dragon. She has been attributed to oracles and to the voice of the Sybil.

‘’The voice of the Sybil has ever been a true voice of the earth, of the Black Goddess.  Hers is a hard and warning voice since she is diagnostician of the times’’. (p206) We are reminded of the lament in Matthew:

 ‘’O Jerusalem how often would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings and you would not. Behold your house is forsaken and desolate’’.

There is a strong peace - war dichotomy in her myth. Mary is an anagram of Army; Emperor Heraclitus has marched into war under her banner as did other Byzantine Emperors until Constantinople fell. King Arthur bore the image of Mary on his shield.

In Scottish and Irish Celtic myths Sophia is linked to the Grail Goddess, the Irish ‘Cailleach’ who is both a crone and beautiful maiden, whom the grail seeker must kiss if he wishes to marry.  She usually manifests near wells, and was known to the Celts as a damsel of the wells. Like the Greek ‘Minerva’, Sophia in Ireland also signifies the marriage of the King to the land and is personified in myths and allegories of initiation into wisdom. In the tales of Ceredwin, the Graal becomes the cauldron wherein re-birth takes place.  Caitlin describes Sophia’s wisdom as ‘motherwit’. As ‘Bride’ or ‘Bridget’ and as ‘Britannia’, she is ‘mistress of the mantle’, to whom sacred fires were lit in Kildare in ancient times. She is associated with the Court of Joy, and to the Proserpine myths, wherein rape and abduction in the underworld causes barrenness to fall upon the earth. It is not until Proserpine is freed and reunited with her mother that fertility returns to the land. This is another allegory of the fall into matter, but this isn’t misfortune, it is an opportunity for God’s creation to experience it’s most vivid and dense manifestation.

Sophia in her guise as Eve ‘caused’ the fall of humanity it is said, but she is also the ‘woman clothed with the sun’, of Revelations 12; who will fight the beast with seven heads in end times. She is also personified in Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’ and as the redeemer in his vision of the apocalypse. She features in the Novalis poem ‘Henry Van Oflerdinger’, and in Goethe’s ‘Faust’. She is the shameful Eve who later transforms into chaste Mary.  She is also the human soul, pictured as a diamond body of Light. She was known to Aristotle as Philosophia, she is also associated with the patronage of Katherine of Alexandria and Hypatia. According to Asvin circa 800 AD - she is founder of the seven liberal arts of the trivium and quadtrivim, but also with Alchemy. As a black Goddess she is the prima material and in her transformational aspect she is the Red Queen. As white goddess, she is perfected matter, the philosopher’s stone, the black Ka’ba stone of the Islamic temple in Mecca.

In the Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosencrantz, Alchemia, a Venus goddess, accompanies Christian on his travels for seven days; their journey is an allegory of the way of the adept.  Venus and Sophia are also linked by the symbolism of the lateral 14th path of the Empress, which links Binah ‘Wisdom’ to Chockmah, ‘Understanding’ on the Tree of Life; thus forming the lateral link between Jochim the Pillar of Severity and Boaz the Pillar of Mercy.

There are also Sophia links with the apocalyptic teachings of the Shaker movement of Mother Ann Lee and with Jane Leade one of the founders of the Philadelphians. Here is one of Leade’s prayers.

 ‘’ O great Goddess and Queen of all the worlds, wilt thou, after so long a time of desertion, once appear again! Who is it who hath expected thy favour and gained a promise from thee, because nothing now will satisfy unless thou bestow thyself, with all thy divine senses, as a co-deified life, to show that thou art not prevailed upon to restore thy own virginity where thy findeth humility and importunity in that personality, which is all beloved of the highest wisdom and only spouse of God, know and remember us who are bought to thy feet, and have been under thy severe discipline, therefore all of thyself to be our garland and crown.’’

Rudolf Steiner in his search for a new Isis for our times wrote of her;

Isis – Sophia

Wisdom of God

Lucifer has slain her

And on the wings of the world wide forces

Carried her hence into cosmic space


Working in Man

Shall wrest from Lucifer

And of the boats of spiritual knowledge

Call to new life

In souls of man

Mary appeared to two young children at La Salette in 1846 – where there had long been a devotion to the Virgin Fatima.  The apparition of Our Lady of the Rosary is by tradition attributed to Saint Dominic in 1208 in the church of Prouille in France where the Virgin Mary appeared and introduced him to the rosary. Some sources suggest that Alan de Rupe (rather than Saint Dominic) was the major influence on the rosary in the 15th century. For centuries, Dominicans became instrumental in spreading and emphasizing the Catholic belief in the power of the rosary.

Here is the Rosary Prayer for Peace.

‘’O Queen of the Rosary, sweet Virgin of Fatima, we beg of thee to watch over our dear homeland and assure its moral and spiritual renewal. Bring back peace to all nations of the world, so that all, and our own nation in particular, will be happy to call thee our Queen and the Queen of Peace.’’

Sophia is strongly associated with the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Balkans; see Mary’s appearance at Medjugorje, Yugoslavia in 1981. Mary’s role is as the Mother of Sorrows, the seven swords piercing the heart of the Eastern Madonna ‘theotocos’, represent the seven inevitable sorrows, folly, and incomprehension, lack of help, weakness, ignorance, spiritual disease and de-sacralisation. To these can be applied the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit; wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, spiritual health and respect for life.

Jung wrote to Freud regarding four feminine archetypes of ancient wisdom;

Hawwah as the Earth, biological woman, fertile mother

Helen as the romanticised earth, erotic woman, muse and inspiration

Mary as the willing earth, spiritual woman, Virgin mother

Sophia as the completed earth, wise woman, world soul

From the mid-13th century onward, the legend of Pope Joan was widely disseminated and believed. Joan was used as an exemplum in Dominican preaching. In the Prophesies of Nostradamus and St Malarchy it is said in end days, there will be two more Popes - perhaps the last one will be a woman?  There are a number of orders devoted to Sophia; Aurora Terrenus, The Holy Order of Wisdom in Santa Cruz, and the school of holy wisdom. Hagia Sophia, Ecclesia Spiritualis, the Order of Santa Sophia in North Wales and Ecclesia Gnostica Mysteriorium founded in 1978. Tau Rosamunde Miller was the first female Gnostic bishop. There is also a Holy Order of Mary Magdalene.

Here is the Prayer from, ‘Celestial communities’.

O Gnostic

O Knower

Of the unity of love and wisdom

And the androgyny of Heaven and Earth

And of Nature and Spirit


O Knower

Of the Great Goddess

The Great Mother

Who calls herself


Holy is her name


Co-creator of all things

Earthly and divine


Divine love

Lives with eternal wisdom

Together as one

As a child is to its mother’s womb


Gathers all her children


O Gnostic

To you she calls

To fulfil the prophesy

To manifest the vision

Of Peace on Earth.


(Perhaps through Sophia, the Divine Feminine, Christianity, Judaism and Islam, can seek to resolve their differences.  Sophia potentially embodies a new emerging, global, and participatory spirituality for all).   

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