“If the prospect of living in a world where trying to respect the basic rights of those around you – and valuing each other simply because we exist – are such daunting, impossible tasks that only a super-hero born of royalty can address them… Then what sort of world are we left with? And what sort of world do you want to live in?”
-Diana, Wonder Woman #170 (Phil Jimenez and Joe Kelly)
“Wonder Woman has shaped, freed, and transformed more women’s limits than the Virgin Mary has done in 2000 years. If it were possible to do so, I would nominate her for sainthood.”
–Rt. Rev. John Shelby Spong, D.D
Let me begin this missive by stating that it is my sincere belief that the character “Wonder Woman,” the beloved superheroine of comic book fame, is a modern form of an ancient goddess. Though some might scoff at such an assertion, I mean it with all the sincerity and deep spiritual reverence that a person of considerable devotion can offer.
My faith in this claim is based on personal experience, but also in hearing the stories of others who have shared similar views. I have written about Wonder Woman previously as a spiritual and magical focal point, and I was not prepared for the amount of correspondence I would receive from those who felt the same. A common theme began to emerge that painted a picture of those who saw in this beloved character a shining ray of hope and even evolution. Her stories made people think – about right and wrong, about culture and devotion, about violence and peace. She inspired people to live better lives, to hold true to their highest ideals, even when the situation seemed bleak.
It is taught in some traditional Witchcraft circles that the works of certain artists, writers, and poets carry within them glimpses of the otherworld: messages from the hidden power of the land, the spirits, the faeries, or the gods. Certain authors, such as J.R.R. Tolkien and H.P. Lovecraft, have been regarded as oracles of this hidden kingdom, describing in their fictional tales and histories spiritual truths that can assist us in our quest for knowledge of the numinous. Once we accept that some artists and authors may be “tuned in” to the powers-that-be, it is not so much of a leap to then realize that this might extend to all artistic genres, even the popular comic book.
Wonder Woman was created with the goddess in mind. She was named after the goddess Diana, whom the ancient Romans had known as a virgin moon goddess, a goddess of the hunt, and of childbirth, whose origins stretch back into ancient Italy, where she was regarded as the queen of the witches.
The fictional character first appeared in 1941 in All Star Comics #8 and was created by Charles Moulton (the pen name of William Moulton Marston), a psychologist and inventor of the lie detector. Moulton was a feminist theorist and was driven by the idea that young women needed powerful role models. In 1943 he wrote for The American Scholar magazine on the subject:
“Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don’t want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.”
Consistently Wonder Woman has stood as an example of strength for women and girls wanting to make it in “man’s world.” Especially in the era of her creation, women were explicitly taught to remain quiet and to put their own needs and desires aside so that they could attend to the needs and desires of the men in their lives. In the face of this gender-based oppression Wonder Woman stood tall to show women of all ages that there is another way.
In standing up for women’s equality, Wonder Woman also inspired another group of people: gay men. By embodying the qualities of peace, love, compassion, and truth –alongside those of strength, skill, intelligence, and cunning –Wonder Woman showed the world that there are alternatives to the much publicized version of strength as embodied by the culture of men – that of arrogance, aggression, and dominance.
Those stereotypically “masculine” qualities that I intuitively rejected as a young queer boy in the 1970’s, identifying instead with those espoused by strong female role models whose characters resonated with my own soul. Wonder Woman didn’t just want to “beat up the bad guy” (no matter how good she might look doing it!); she wanted to win hearts, minds, and souls. She wanted to educate and elevate the level of discourse to promote the “Amazonian ideals” of peace, love, strength, and freedom. More often than not, she wanted to reason with the evil-doer, often persuading them to reform.
Those who have followed her various incarnations from comic book, to cartoon, to television series, and more, have seen in her stories the stuff that myths are made from. True myths are the stories that speak to our souls. They reach inside us and elevate us so that we can get a better look at the divine, and in doing so, ourselves. This is what sets them apart from a “mere” work of fiction. They inspire us to really look at what we value by tapping into what we feel. These stories and the symbols depicted within them are avenues by which we are able to grasp a deeper understanding of ourselves in relation to the universe, through principal players within the myth. Whether they reflect actual events or are comprised entirely of wholesale fabrication (it matters not which) they communicate via the realm of symbolic to our deep sub-consciousness. In short, myths invite us to better ourselves.
For those not familiar with the iconic story of Wonder Woman I will attempt to relay it here, knowing full well that – like so many deeper spiritual teachings — her story is a mystery that cannot be fully told, only experienced. This is because her tale is not static, but bardic, with key points changing with every retelling that serve to expand the depth of meaning for the tale, rather than to detract from it. Over the years her origin story has been retold, again and again, adding an element here, re-visioning an event or a relationship there, and sometimes completely contradicting itself and even restarting completely. In this we see the same patterns as in the ancient myths, with family trees being rewritten, origin myths being retold with different attributes – even human beings being elevated to godhood – and the story of Wonder Woman is no different.
Her original myth places her on “Paradise Island,” later called “Themyscira,” an island inhabited by a tribe of women, the Amazons of myth. They were the reincarnated souls of women who had been killed by men throughout history, granted immortality by the ancient gods to live in seclusion, free from the contaminating influence of men. In this woman’s paradise the Amazons formed a utopian society and excelled in science, art, athletics, and mathematics.
As the story goes, Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, desired a child above all else. Being without a way to have one of her own, she formed a baby out of clay and prayed to the gods to give the image life. The gods appeared and answered her prayers, blessing the child princess with attributes of their heavenly power. Named Diana after the goddess of the hunt and the moon, she excelled in all of the Amazonian arts, performed amazing feats of strength and skill, and eventually grew into a formidable warrior and scholar.
In the original story she falls in love with Steve Trevor, an American fighter pilot who crash landed on the mythical island after being shot down by Nazi forces during World War II. Having decided that the Nazis present a definite danger to the world, Queen Hippolyta announces a contest to determine which of her Amazons will accompany Trevor back to “Man’s World” and act in defense of democracy. Diana is forbidden to enter the contest, but does so anyway wearing a mask to conceal her identity. Diana easily defeats all of her opponents and earns the right to become the ambassador to the outside world dressed in the colors and symbols of the American flag to show her allegiance.
In another version the Amazons have been charged with defending the world from an ancient evil that is imprisoned beneath their island. In this version a female pilot, Diana Trevor, crash lands on their island and is instrumental in saving the lives of Amazons when that evil is accidentally released from its prison. Trevor sacrifices herself in order to save others, an act that earns her deep respect among the Amazons. In death, the Amazons honor her as one of their own, creating formal garb from her military uniform and a tattered American flag, forming the basis for the iconic armor that Wonder Woman possesses. The contest is then enacted to determine who will be the ambassador to “Patriarch’s World,” and Diana wins this honor.
In her various tales she has lost and regained her powers several times, lost and regained (and lost again) her immortality, lived as a human among us, and was even elevated to godhood among the Olympian deities as Diana, goddess of truth, only to return to earth as an avatar of the Olympian deities once more. In a more recent retelling, her origins from clay are said to have been a cover for her true origins as a daughter of Zeus.
As with most ancient gods she is in possession of magical artifacts. While all Amazons wear silver slave bracelets as reminders of when they were enslaved at the hands of men, Diana’s silver bracelets are formed from the aegis of Athena and are capable of deflecting any weapon. Her unbreakable golden lasso was formed from the golden girdle of Gaea and burns with the fires of Hestia, compelling those who are bound with it to speak only the truth. Her golden tiara, symbol of the monarchy, is a magical throwing weapon. She even had an invisible plane that responds to her mental commands (or, occasionally, an invisible Pegasus-drawn chariot), variously depicted as being of Amazonian technology, the mythical Pegasus transformed, an invention of Batman’s given to her as a gift, or even a telepathic shape-shifting alien being.
Over the years, and the many retellings of her story, certain patterns have emerged that seem to form the “mythical core” of Wonder Woman as an actual Goddess. She is consistently depicted as fighting for freedom and truth; engaging the world in a way that is selfless and aligned toward the good of all life. One of the most inspiring of her stories, in my opinion, comes from the pages of a 2001 graphic novel and involves her wrapping her magic lasso of truth around herself in order to become aware and purified of any potential self-deception that might lead to her misusing her power:
“She’s seen what unchecked power can do, even to those with the best of intentions. Her single GREATEST fear, the thing that harries her across her dreams—is that SHE will one day TURN from the path of truth, and become a DESTROYER.” (JLA: A League of One, Christopher Moeller)
Her stories have inspired people to claim their own power and to live meaningful lives in the face of adversity. To me this alone begins to reveal her power as a modern face of the goddess. But to really feel her power, we should do what any good Witch or Warlock would do and that’s to invoke her.
As is my preference for working with any deity, I advise building an altar to her. Adorn it with images of her to your liking – as a character with 80 years of publication history, there are an incredible number of options here, including one of the many statues or action figures that have been made in her image.
I have designed rituals to Wonder Woman that invoke her by means of candles in her sacred colors: red, white, blue, silver, and gold, along with a golden cord and the theme to the 1970s television show starring Lynda Carter. Like any great goddess, she can be called in a variety of aspects, as a warrior, an ambassador, a patron of love and compassion, a protector, a truth-bringer. (Just try not to tell any lies while using that golden cord!)
Whether we connect to this image as a modern form of the goddess, or as simply an egregore or magical thought-form, the image and mythos of Wonder Woman can be a potent tool in our magic to inspire us to strive toward our highest ideals in the presence of difficulty. With her image and stories touching so many people over so many years, the current of energy is quite strong, just waiting for the magically minded to “tap into” it, so as to feed our magic. May her beauty and wisdom guide us all.
For the Glory of Gaea!
Editor’s note: Portions of this article previously appeared in Modern Witch Magazine.
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