Excerpt from Invoking Animal Magic: A guide for the Pagan priestess
Early religious art was predominantly animal. The cave paintings of Spain and southern France are mostly of animals and animal symbols, like the chevron, egg, crescent, vesica piscis, and spiral. Even obvious goddess figures often have an animal theme, such as the horn that the “Venus of Laussel” holds in her right hand or the feline creatures crouching beside the “Seated Woman of Catal Huyuk.” As the Stone Age progressed, goddess imagery became more pronounced, yet goddess/animal combinations were still common. With the development of writing, goddesses were associated in picture, inscription or verse with specific animals. Some of these goddesses were linked with many animals, or even given the title Mistress of Animals.
One of the oldest animal mistresses on record is the Sumerian goddess Ninhursaga, addressed by worshipers of her day as Lady of the Animals, Queen of the Mountain, Lady of the Vulva, Midwife of the Gods, Mother of All Children and Lady of the Stony Ground. Her worship began in southeastern Asia Minor by at least 3500 BCE and spread throughout Mesopotamia. Ninhursaga is mother of both animals and people, which is not a contradiction when you consider humans a part of the animal family. Her place of residence is the rugged mountain steppes, an acknowledgement of the wild origins of humans.
Along with her symbolic omega (Ω), which bears a stylistic resemblance to the womb, Ninhursaga is typically depicted with horned headdress, a bow and some type of animal, especially a lion cub or doe. We could call her the Goddess of Bow and Doe. Sometimes Ninhursaga is pictured with a trilogy of cow, bull and calf, a popular motif throughout the region. More obscurely, Ninhursaga is the mother of a dying and resurrecting ass-god of the western deserts. Many of Ninhursaga’s attributes are associated with goddesses we remember today: the Akkadian Ishtar, the Anatolian Cybele, the Greek Artemis, the Roman Diana.
Hearth Moon Rising is a Dianic priestess and a priestess in the Fellowship of Isis. She has taught magic for over twenty years. Hearth is a licensed outdoor guide and lives in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. Invoking Animal Magic can be found in bookstores or ordered online. See http://invokinganimalmagic.com for more details.