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Thursday, June 06, 2013

Bendis - Goddess of the Moon

Other Names: Bendida
Origin: Thrace; Dacia; Scythia
Animals: Fox, deer, leopard, snake.
Plant: Mistletoe
Attributes: Torch, spear, dagger, bow and arrow in a fquiver, cup, staff, phallus.
Mounts: A doe or a leopard; Bendis rides a chariot drawn by three winged horses.
Spirit Allies: Bendis is accompanied by an entourage of Nymphs, maenads, and satyrs. She is closely allied with Artemis.
Planet: MoonBendis is especially powerful during waning and dark moon phases. She is also the goddess of the winter sun.

Bendis is so primordial her origins are lost in the mists of time. Bendis was the great goddess of gynocratic Lemnos and Thrace, where girls worked the land and tended the sheep and cattle. She was known as the fierce Huntress of the Two Spears. She provided the religious underpinning for the Lemnosian women’s revolt through which each of the men of the island were slain. Her name means “to tie”. In Her image She is depicted holding a branch of the tree that is thought to grant passage towards underworld. It is told that Her women wore lion pelts and fox skins. Those that worshipped Her did so in her own Sacred Groves.

Bendis' name is interpreted as "moon" or "to bind." "Binding" may indicate marriage or shamanism: Bendis binds different realms together. She is the mother of the now nameless spirit called the Thracian Rider, Horseman, or Hero. Her procreative powers are so great that she brought forth her son from herself without male assistance. Mother and son may be venerated together.

Hesychius says, how the poet Cratinus called this goddess dilonchos, either because she had to discharge two duties, one towards heaven and the other towards the earth, or because she bore two lances, or lastly, because she had two lights, the one her own and the other derived from the sun.

Thracian immigrants brought her to Greece, where she became very popular. She was famed in a ceremonial in Athens called the Bendideia,  which included grand processions and races. The Thracians themselves may have received her from their neighbors, the Dacians, whose kingdom was mainly in what is now Romania and Moldava but also incorporated parts of modern Bulgaria, Hungary, and Ukraine. Bendis may originally be of Scythian origin.

A Thracian mother goddess. Bendis was often identified with the huntress goddess, Artemis. She was a huntress, like Artemis, but was accompanied by dancing satyrs and maenads. Bendis first came out in Athens, through the Peloponnesian War, where she was Hellenised. Because of this, what is now known of Bendis tends to be filtered through Greek vision.To the Greeks, Bendis was the actual same Thracian Artemis worshipped by the Amazons as Tauropolis. She was also closely aligned with Cybele and Hecate. As Hecate, She was Moon and Night; Earth and Nature. She had great control of heaven and earth. She’s also the goddess of healing.

By approximately 428 BCE, Bendis had an official state cult near Athens. An annual feast, Bendidea, was held in their own honour. The geographer Strabo says how the rites and customs with the Bendidea are just like those within Thracian and Phrygian different types of revelry – Bacchus (Dionysus) and Rhea (actually Cybele). The philosopher Plato also mentioned the festival within the dialogue between Adeimantus and Polemarchus in the Republic about a horse-race at nighttime, where each rider carried a torch. Although honored, she was also considered disreputable, a goddess of foreigners. She never shed her Thracian identity (unlike Dionysus, who was incorporated into the Olympian pantheon). The Greeks identified Bendis with Artemis and Hekate, although she is even more intensely lunar than either.

Bendis is at home in the wild and in the city. She is a spirit of divine ecstasy and passion. Bendis epitomizes lunar, female power. She is petitioned for fertility, successful childbirth, protection, good health, and good fortune.

Manifestation: Back in the day, Bendis was described as wearing a peaked Thracian hat, cloak, short tunic, and fox-skin boots. Often she is depicted holding a torch.

Iconography: In the fourth century BCE, Bendis was depicted with a group of male devotees, winners of nocturnal races in her honor; the men are depicted as significantly smaller than she is and display erect phalli. In second centry BCE, Bendis; peaked Thracian hat is sometimes designed to resemble a phallus.

Sacred days: She had various festivals throughout the year: two were celebrated at the full moons just preceding or coinciding with the solstices; her festival, the Bendidaea, featured ecstatic dancing, sexual rites, and nightly foot races and/or horse races with torches. Eventually, the Athenian government banned all her rituals except for the races. Other rituals were forced underground and practiced in secret.

Offerings: Lunar images and images of her sacred animals.

From: Encyclopedia of Spirits and various other sources.

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