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The Virgin Mary and the One Goddess

Matthew Shirfield

According to the Russian philosopher, mathematician, and theologian Pavel Florensky, the study of female deities places the researcher on a trail towards a female monotheism. His understanding was that all the female Goddesses that emerged throughout the ancient realms were in fact isolated facets of the one Mother. Within the context of what Florensky identifies as ‘female religions,’ the male god is associated with order, suffering, and martyrdom; aspects of which can be evidently seen from a previous blog post about Isis and her murdered husband, Osiris. Most female deities are associated with the all-encompassing chaos which gives birth to order and then absorbs it within itself once again. However, the archetype of the suffering male god is also present within biblical stories which give reverence to the hierarchical heavenly Father. Thus, one may argue that this aspect of the suffering male god may be interpreted as a permeation of past religious beliefs.

It is within this context of a constant revelation flow that one may edge closer to understanding Giuseppe Schembri Bonaci’s representations of the Christian Virgin Mother interpreted through primordial prehistoric forms. The theological and spiritual mystery of Mary, Theotokos, which is encompassed by Dante in his verses ‘Virgin Mother, daughter of thy Son,’ bears an approximation to the One Goddess as the bringer of life and the absorber of death. Mary is the bearer of Jesus Christ, who at the same time is the doting mother mourning her son as he is placed on her lap. This echoes the prehistoric ashes that were ritualistically placed on the thighs of the One Goddess.

By re-membering these two female figures of worship, Schembri Bonaci’s works merge the deities’ ordered and recognizable iconographic representations, returning them back to the womb which is the original conceptual origin of all things - chaos itself. It is only through this process that the artist negates the contemporary normative absorption that renders society spiritually numb and opens the possibility for re-discovery. As beautifully articulated by Peter Serracino Inglott in an article published in the Sunday Times of Malta in 1999, Schembri Bonaci’s works, dialectically encompass a whole ‘Prehistoric-Byzantine’ wave and are a representation of ‘the titanic battle between evolution and entropy, or rather [they are a depiction showing] the temporary victories of entropy embodied and embedded in the larger flow of everlasting life.’


'Goddess of Ħaġar Qim', c. 3600 B.C.


Michelangelo Buonarroti, ‘Pietà’, 1498-9.

Goddesses 8.jpeg

Giuseppe Schembri Bonaci, 'Pietà', 1998.

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