Eve (yeah, THAT one, the one from the Bible) from a pagan feminist perspective

Eve, she wants to know things
Eve, she wants to know things
Eve, she wants to know why we’re belly down, you’re not supposed to think

Β –Eve’s Song, Dyonisis


I’ve been listening to this song a lot the past week and a half, and something occurred to me yesterday when my mom was visiting. (When I say yesterday, I mean Wednesday, because sleep is for the weak.) She and I were chatting, and inspiration hit me as it often does when we talk.

Eve is a figure in Judeo-Christian mythology: Adam’s second wife, she brings the downfall of humanity because she gives him an apple. Or something; it never seemed very logical to me and definitely smacks of misogyny.

Years ago I always preferred Lilith, Adam’s first wife. She was created from the clay at the same time as he, and so attested they were equal and refused to submit. Next to Eve, the one who does submit, she seemed pretty badass.

Lilith (1892) by John Collier in Southport Atk...
Lilith engagin’ in some snake-lovin. (Image via Wikipedia)

But now, reevaluating Eve, I see she’s even cooler. Lilith refuses to submit, and then leaves (and gets turned into a demon; surprise surprise). Eve instead submits at first because she has been taught nothing else. Then she discovers that there’s more out there than she ever thought, and she wants that knowledge. When she discovers it, she decides it’s so awesome she must share some with the man she loves. And he rejects it, and she is punished for her transgressions, and they are evicted from the Garden of Eden.

Anyone else see an interesting metaphor?

Woman raised in patriarchal society; taught not to question, taught to submit. Gets a hint of different knowledge, and suddenly sees that things don’t have to be this way: equality could be the way things go. Thinks this is really awesome, and wouldn’t her lover like that too? A woman he could meet on equal ground?

But when she shares her new knowledge, she gets shot down and hurt and punished for daring to think.Β 

Michelangelo's painting of the sin of Adam and...
Painting of them being cast out from the Garden. (Image via Wikipedia)

Eve’s story is a metaphor for the struggles of feminists in the modern world. I’ve been told that feminists deserve to be raped, that they should be rounded up and shot, and other horrid things by family members, not to mention, oh, say, a bunch of fuckheads I don’t even know.

People try to brush that sort of behaviour off as trolling, or just some dudes being dicks for the fun of it, but it’s not. It’s misogyny and violence, and it’s excused as “just a joke!”

It’s a backlash of the kyriarchy against those who dare to challenge it.Β 

Eve wasn’t so lucky. She got the Original Sin thing and didn’t make the changes that should have been made.

But we can honor her, outside a JC context, as a spiritual ancestress of a) people who seek forbidden knowledge within an oppressive society, b) people who seek to change the status quo, and c) feminists (which includes a and b).Β 

With these new ideas in my head, I think I’ll be putting a picture of Eve on my ancestor/Mighty Dead altar, and thanking her for taking the first steps against oppression.

What are your views on Eve from a pagan perspective?

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35 replies on “Eve (yeah, THAT one, the one from the Bible) from a pagan feminist perspective”

  1. Being brought up in the Catholic faith, the story of Adam and Eve was one of the first things ‘taught’ to me, and one of the things I’ve always enjoyed re-reading. Now, even though I wouldn’t call myself very Pagan (or Catholic, for that matter), the story is still very interesting, but of course with questions.
    Cleopatra’s Moon, written by Vicky Alvear Shecter, includes skepticism from an Egyptian viewpoint about this story.
    “But if both the man and the woman ate of the fruit, why does the woman get all the blame?” asks the historical fiction character Cleopatra Selene to a Jewish rabbi. The Jewish rabbi replied “Because she is weaker and tempted the man … Therefore, she is more evil.”
    This portion of the book, chapter four, intrigued me. Why was curiousity, a human nature, wrong? And why are women below men for this reason in Christianity (and Judaism, I believe, along with Islam)?
    From an anti-Catholic and somewhat Pagan-viewpoint, I believe Eve is inspiring and I can even easy to relate to, especially as a female. Her curiousity got her banned from the Garden and more, but she stood up to God Himself. That must’ve taken some guts.
    So, I respect Eve greatly.

    1. I’ll have to check out that book. πŸ™‚

      I believe in Judaism there is a lot more scholarship surrounding the Torah, and other religious texts, and there is also far more room for differing viewpoints. On one end of the spectrum of Jewish belief, yes, women are seen as lesser; but on the other end you have fairly feminist Judaism, which is something I see as difficult working with Christianity.

      I much enjoy looking at the women of the Bible from a more pagan and definitely feminist viewpoint, because it raises my respect for them quite a bit. It’s not their fault they were characters written by men who didn’t know how to write women. πŸ˜‰

  2. Awesome post!!!

    “People try to brush that sort of behaviour off as trolling, or just some dudes being dicks for the fun of it, but it’s not. It’s misogyny and violence, and it’s excused as β€œjust a joke!”’

    I have told my kids this, “If it’s mean it’s NOT a joke” since they were little and now they say it to others who need to hear it, and I love it every time I hear them saying it. I find it a crying shame that children as young as 10 understand something grown ups in office still struggle with!

    1. I find it a crying shame that children as young as 10 understand something grown ups in office still struggle with!

      Ditto. Good on you for teaching your kids that! πŸ™‚

  3. Loved your post! The story as told in the Bible never made much sense to me, because I wondered why seeking knowledge is wrong (and I wondered why an all-knowing god would plant the tree in the garden if he could have foreseen Eve eating its fruit, but that’s a different can of worms).
    I very much like the way you link Eve to modern feminist issues. And I was honestly shocked when you quoted the things that are said about feminists.

    1. Well, it’s a good thing you were shocked, because it means that those sorts of attitudes are not as common as I’ve experienced them to be. And that means there’s hope for the future.

      I was brought up to question the Bible by my Protestant-turned-Buddhist mother, who also taught me the Greek and Latin origin of words and that Lucifer meant “light-bringer”, and that knowledge could be associated with light/being enlightened.

      So [after early childhood] I never saw the devil as the bad guy, and wondered why so many others did.

  4. Ignorance brings a kind of pandemonium that can always be traced back to the one who withheld the truth. The story of the fall of Eden is a great example of that.

    And on the bit about honoring Eve outside of Judeo-Christianity… I’m an Eclectic Witch, so I would say if it fits wear it well πŸ˜‰

    1. *nods* There’s this whole huge thread of ignorance being bliss running through a lot of Christian mythology, I find, and I just look at the state of the world today and shake my head. Ignorance is what causes things like racism, sexism, and a whole host of biases; it causes war and hardship; pandemonium is definitely what we have — not bliss.

  5. Gaining a whole new respect for Eve. I hAd been told in the past that she is the reason for all woman being untrustworthy and evil…. sigh.

    Maybe she is actually the reason for all women being badass ;o)
    Nice post!!

    1. I’d heard that too.

      I think I’ll start replying with a condensed version of this post, and say “Actually, she’s the reason all women are badass, so sorry to disappoint.” πŸ˜‰

  6. Very interesting post! I enjoyed reading it. The story in the bible never made much sense to me, either, as apparently God gave Adam and Eve two conflicting commandments: Never eat the fruit; Populate the Earth… Without eating the fruit, they could never have followed the second. Why then, eating the fruit was wrong was beyond me, and also why Eve was so maligned for the action.

    Oh, well. The bible was written by men (and I don’t mean that derogatorily, just as a fact that humans are not perfect), after all, so we can’t really know how it all happened in the first place.

    1. I’ve heard so much flak from Christians whenever I say that the Bible was written by men and that we’d never know for sure if they were divinely inspired. (Actually, I personally find far more divine inspiration in the words of Hildegard von Bingen.) Many that I’ve talked to seem convinced that the Bible is the literal word of god, as in his hand came down from heaven holding a giant quill and penned the Bible as it is today, and then put it on the printing press himself.

      Have they not heard of the Council of Nicea? Seriously.

  7. I am constantly shocked at the hatred and violence that people can excuse as comedy. Knowledge is power, but not the “power over” of our profit-driven systems, but the “power with” that comes from community, sharing, love and consensus.

    1. Yes! I first read that in Dreaming the Dark and found it explained so well the nebulous thoughts I’d had about different sorts of power, and how it wasn’t black or white.

      In fact, the teachings of Christianity seem to be rather based in the idea of power being a black and white thing, starting with the story of Eden: knowledge is power, and is therefore bad for humans to have. Kind of brings new meaning to ‘the meek shall inherit the earth.’

  8. I like your insights here. I always point out to people that the serpent is the only one who takes responsibility for his actions, and he tells the truth while God doesn’t. God says they’ll die the day they eat it, the serpent says they won’t and that rather they’ll gain knowledge and God fears them becoming like him. Everything he says is shown in the text to be true. So that also makes it a very different story and has God as an oppressor acting out of fear and jealousy in the story while Eve listens to the character who actually wants to help them grow and prosper.

  9. As another commentor stated, I was raised Catholic and was taught the story of Adam and Eve. As I grew up, it never made much sense to me. Why would a forgiving “god” throw someone out of paradise for breaking a, in my opinion, simple and silly rule. He put the tree there, gave Adam and Eve free will to chose what they wanted to do, and expected them to not eat it. Also never made sense that Eve got all the blame when Adam freely ate the fruit as well.
    Guess what I’m trying to say is great post, and gave me a new perspective on this story.

  10. Well… I have actually been thinking about this story WITHOUT Christian values and feminist shades… All of you seem to think it was a bad thing to be “thrown out of the Paradise”, as some sort of a punishment… but was it. I mean, as long as everyone was in Eden, they were children. All their needs were filled, there were no questions, no adventures, just a boring day to day life where nothing ever changed.

    In my old homepage I posted a “celebration of womanhood ritual” copied from Tara MacFarlane: http://web.archive.org/web/20090808104257/http://geocities.com/frudrake/witch/women.html
    In that the apple is a symbol of Paganism and womanhood, and the Snake is a symbol of Paganism and Goddess – women are sort of born Pagan…

    In my mind Adam and Eve were to get out of the Paradise to be able to grow, evolve, develop, become better and more… My favorite tv series of all times is Star Trek the Next Generation, with the celebration of curiosity, tolerance, kindness, and other such values… I don’t see the exit from Eden as a punishment or something bad, quite the contrary. Without it, human race would not be the amazing, wonderful species we are today.

    1. I just wanted to say just that: what’s so bad about not being in Paradise in the first place? Were humans really made to hang out forever in that garden without challenges, without making mistakes, without learning, without being, well, human?

    2. That’s another good perspective. I’d agree with you, and argue that eviction from Paradise was a blessing in disguise.

      Not sure if Eve and Adam saw it that way, though, so from their eyes it probably seemed a punishment; at the very least at first.

      That was the similarity between Eve’s struggles and my own as a feminist I was going for: the “paradise” of patriarchy isn’t one I want to live in anyway, but it’s hard to see that when the hurt is fresh and I’ve been taught that it’s all I want. It’s all about unprogramming oneself, and that takes time. After the hurt, I get angry, and that’s when I start to have an effect on the world around me.

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