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For example, Semitic Astarte/Babylonian Ishtar, Hittite Shaushka, Slavic Radegast, Irish Anann, etc. In studying mythology and folklore, I can't help but notice that violence and sex are often associated and I can't help but suspect that there's a deeper meaning.

  • 1. I can't see any significant connection with sexuality in Radegast. 2. I am wondering if this is a legacy of a single goddess cult. Then it would really answer the question. And many mythologists consider these some of these goddesses are the same figure. 3. Also, it can be interesting if sexuality really is connected with domination and consequently war. Then it would be merely a descriptive coincidence. That people say in mythology what they find to be true. – rus9384 Jun 27 '18 at 21:22
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This answer will be evolving as I run down more suitable references, and add examples, but just to quickly give you a lead on this perceptive question:

I wouldn't necessarily make the association with war, but specifically with death, and even violent death.

  • This falls under the concept of the Hieros Gamos (ἱερὸς γάμος), the "Sacred" or "Great Marriage" between the Goddess and her consort. This often results in death for the consort.*

ἱερὸς has a range of meanings related to divine power, but also including sacrificial victims

γάμος is a word for marriage or wedding. [III. ἱερὸς γ. ritual marriage]

In terms of the why the association, it likely has to do with the cycle of life. Where earth is the Great Goddess, from whose womb comes all life, so all living return to her embrace when they shuffle off this mortal coil. Death itself can be understood as the Great Marriage, returning to the embrace of the mother goddess.

It also likely has to do with the process of sowing and reaping. Seed is planted in the spring. Crops grow and ripen. When they are in the fullness of growth, they are cut down, and by this reaping humans are sustained.

Death is not necessarily eternal. After the winter, the process begins again and the cycle repeats. Thus, some dying gods are resurrected, and some goddess-slain mortals are immortalized in the stars.

  • Essentially, death and life are inextricably linked, and you can't have one without the other. Ritual marriage (sacrifice) in this context is a commemoration.

*The scholarship on this has been evolving, and uncertainty was injected by the the Golden Bough, which although no longer considered reliable, nevertheless had a profound influence on modern literature, resulting in a sort of contemporary mythologization of Frazer's thesis. Regardless, his underlying insight seems to hold in that we do see these cycles of sex & death in regard to union with various goddesses going back to the earliest surviving texts, as you note.

Just for fun: Gene Wolfe wrote a novel on this subject called There Are Doors.

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    The only thing I would have to say is that there is a big pattern of associating war with sexuality explicitly. Freya, Astarte, Inanna, and even more fertility gods and goddesses associated also with war. The idea of the cycle which you propose could also play a factor in that as well. Such as peace and war also being a sort of cycle in that regard. – Noah Sullivan Apr 27 '18 at 18:32
  • @NoahSullivan The extension to relationship with war is interesting and worth exploring. You'll also want to look at the tripartite Irish war goddess, The Morrígan. Also, the relationship of Medb and Ferdia, which leads to Ferdia's death. – DukeZhou Apr 27 '18 at 20:27

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