Lady Liberty: The Sovereignty Goddess of the USA Part 2

by JoHarrington

Lady Liberty is often depicted as representing the USA itself. She is its iconic, ideological Mother. She is its Sovereign Goddess. But what does that actually mean?

The Statue of Liberty was a gift to the people of the USA from those in France.

It depicts an allegorical figure who'd stood strong during the French Revolution, and inspired its citizens with notions of freedom ever since. Her name was then both Libertas and Marianne.

But even as French revolutionaries were using Her - to incite the passions of their compatriots into fighting for Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité (Liberty, Equality and Fraternity (or Brotherhood)) - they were merely updating legends that were centuries old.

This imagery already deeply engrained in the cultural and spiritual consciousness of the French. Etched before their country was even France, because the invading Franks that formed that nation did so over territories in Gaul.

It's amongst the Gauls that our tale of Liberty as the US Sovereignty begins.

The Gallic Goddess of Sovereignty

Before France was even France, the land was seen as a Goddess. She would need to be wooed and won by whoever sought to rule within Her realm.

The Gaulish (or Gallic, or Gaelic) people were what we'd today call Celts.

Through the prism of a Celtic world view, our land is sentient and alive with divine energy. A Sovereign Goddess made of water, soil and flora.

It's an idea which isn't so strange, when you consider that we still allegorically refer to Mother Nature or Mother Earth. Even the most secular amongst us can comment upon the 'feel' of a place, or certain location, without anyone thinking they're in the least bit strange.

Sovereignty didn't represent the people themselves, but where they lived. She had to award Her favor before any tribe could exist peaceably in Her territory.

In order for that to occur, the representative of the people - their ruler - underwent a ceremonial coupling with the Goddess of Sovereignty.

If anything went wrong - famine, drought, bad weather, constant attempts by erstwhile conquerors - then it was understood that Sovereignty wasn't happy. For thousands of years, that resulted in the husband of the land, Sovereignty's human consort and the chieftain of his people, being sacrificed to appease Her.

There's much debate about this, but it's thought that human sacrifices were being made to Sovereignty as late as the 6th century CE. Remains of an individual, bearing all the tell-tale hallmarks, were preserved in the Lancashire bogs in Britain. The best theory thus far going is that he was killed to try and stem the tide of the Anglo-Saxon invasion.

The British were ethnically the same people as the Gauls. Sovereignty turns up in the Gallic legends too, not to mention their history.

It's not that Sovereignty demanded blood sacrifice per se, though to the uneducated eye, it may have appeared that way. (I'm looking at you, Rome.) It's that She would only accept the strongest candidate as Her consort.

It was no good passing off an idiotic weakling as a Celtic tribe's new chieftain, just because he happened to be the son of the last one. (Or indeed nephew, as the succession went through the sister's line for some Celts, on the basis that this one DEFINITELY had royal blood. Not all queens were entirely honest about who'd fathered her off-spring.)

The Goddess of Sovereignty would have considered it an insult to Herself and nature itself, if She wasn't paired with the best that the tribe had to offer as husband of the land. Even if that was someone with otherwise low social status.

An inordinate amount of Celtic legends concern themselves with the sons of pig-farmers, poor widows in woods or other such unlikely candidates suddenly rising to chieftain. In every one of those stories, the Goddess Sovereignty appeared in some guise to make it happen.

As such, Sovereignty's reputation for being blood-thirsty flowed via two main avenues:

Firstly, power struggles and territorial expansions generally resulted in war. Nobody just turns up and says, 'I've come to take over your land, because Sovereignty likes me.'  And if they did, then the reaction of the ancient Celts would be akin to how we'd react today. It certainly wouldn't just be handed over.

Secondly, human sacrifice, which in itself took two forms:

Number one - the ritual killing of a reigning king. This was the tribe's way of saying, 'Sorry! We got it wrong! This unworthy piece of scum was wedded to you, and now we've avenged the insult against you by brutally ending his life. Now can you please stop with the bad weather/crop blight/animal disease and/or supporting rival chieftains in attacks on our borders?'

Plus it effectively made Sovereignty a widow. Hence She was free for another candidate to try his hand at divine husbandry.

This was a worst case scenario. Previously the tribe - and absolutely without question its threatened king! - would have tried other sacrifices. Food, tools, weapons or jewels were the first to be offered to Her, thrown into sacred wells, pools, rivers or streams - which is the origin of us chucking pennies into lucky fountains now.

Perhaps animals too, but only because they were otherwise food and/or useful to have around for working purposes. Unless they were pigs or horses, which were sacred to Sovereignty, hence often sent so their spirits could delight Her with their company.

Sacrifice to the Goddess of the Land is still bubbling under the surface of the Celtic mindset. As late as the 20th century kegs of butter were left in a pool, in the midst of an Irish bog, which had been sacred to the local Sovereignty since the Bronze Age. It was found by 21st century archaeologists, as they dug down to uncover the more ancient artifacts.

But if all else failed, then the chieftain got it.

Number two - the ritual killing of a messenger. If the tribe actually REALLY wanted to keep their chieftain, then a proxy could be sent. This one was supposed to volunteer for the job, as the point was for him, or her, to find the Goddess of Sovereignty in spirit form, then argue the case for the defense face to face.

It's theorized that the man found in Lancashire was this, though there's no way to be sure.

Of course, the human sacrifice element was the aspect of Sovereignty which the Romans encountered most often. They were invading Gallic lands at the time, and its people were desperate to appease their Lady before She fully turned Her back upon them.

The important concept here is that Sovereignty stood judgment over those who sought to live upon Her land. If She approved, then they were in. If She didn't, then they might as well give up now.

Otherwise the terrain itself might destroy them (as in the case of a Scottish king, who rode through a storm and had the cliff-top road crumble away, sending him plummeting to his death), or crops would fail (even during the Irish Famine, offerings of food were left in that same Irish bog mentioned above), or the climate would be against them, or Sovereignty as Goddess of War would ride with a rival contender to rule.

She patently didn't support the Welsh chieftain Cynan Gwynedd.

In 812, his fortress of Degannwy was struck by lightning and mostly destroyed. He didn't take the hint. In 813, he lost a territorial battle against his rival Hywel. But still didn't give up his title and get out, instead he retreated to Mona - part of Gwynedd - and held out there. In 814, there were a series of violent thunder storms, which caused fires throughout Cynan's retained realm. In 816, Hywel invaded Mona, destroyed most of those loyal to their king, and Cynan was killed too.

You may read that all as being nothing to do with Sovereignty. Cynan Gwynedd was merely unlucky enough to live during a period of climate unrest, alongside a hostile, stronger neighboring state. But I can assure you that the contemporary Welsh wouldn't have seen it like that.

Sovereignty chose Her side, and that decision was final, unless She changed Her mind. All humanity could do was abide by it.

Hence when the Gauls were conquered by Rome, what were they to make of it? Sovereignty had ruled in favor of their Imperial overlords.

Moreover, what were they to make of the Goddess brought by the Romans to their lands.

There was nothing like Libertas in the Gallic nor any Celtic pantheon, at least as She was introduced by Rome. Though if the full details had been described to the Druids, then precedents might have been found in the like of Cerridwen, Granno or Arduinna.

Instead, the Gallic interpretation had to be through that which made most sense within their own culture. Libertas WAS Sovereignty. Only She'd switched sides on them and was now looking rather more Roman than Gallic.

And the Romans taught that Libertas supported the people too.

Hence the memory of Sovereignty that survived to become the Libertas of the French Revolution incorporated that. She personified a people, throwing off rulers not because they displeased Her personally or weren't the best candidates for the job, but because She supported the masses.

This was the Gallic heritage of the French, filtered through layers of Roman, Germanic and Frankish thinking, which was eventually transported to the USA all wrapped up in the Statue of Liberty.

Though the concept of Liberty as a Goddess, performing a role not unlike Sovereignty, wasn't unknown there either, as this 1850 newspaper cartoon aptly demonstrates.

Clay Statue: Model of a Man Designed by the Goddess of Liberty

In 1850, nearly three decades before France offered their statue gift to the USA, this satire appeared in a NY newspaper depicting divine Liberty as Sovereignty.

Columbia - America's Sovereign Goddess

Americans were already attuned to the idea of the land and its people personified by a Goddess. A century and a half before Liberty arrived, Columbia wore Her face.

Their nation had been founded by Britons and, when Liberty arrived, it was within a generation from receiving a huge influx of Irish. The north and a swathe through the center of the USA was populated by descendants of French immigrants.

All three cultures carried with them the old Celtic memory of a Goddess of Sovereignty.

Since 1738, that had been Columbia for America. She still exists in occasional patriotic references, though Her presence became utterly dwarfed by Liberty until She entered near oblivion in modern US culture. Except those who attend the theaters, where Columbia is forever enshrined as the mascot of Columbia Pictures.

She shared many attributes with the Celtic Sovereignty (mostly because She WAS the Celtic Sovereignty), including Her battling nature in defending Her land and people from invaders. As this 1776 Revolutionary War era verse describes:

One century scarce perform'd its destined round,
When Gallic powers Columbia's fury found;
And so may you, whoever dares disgrace
The land of freedom's heaven-defended race!
Fix'd are the eyes of nations on the scales,
For in their hopes Columbia's arm prevails.
- Phillis Wheatley

While also standing alongside the country's rulers, as shown by the fact that the Goddess of Freedom statue atop the United States Capitol Building is, in fact, Columbia. To put it another way, Congress meets, judges, legislates and decides the Fate of the nation beneath Her skirts.

The USA may be 'one nation under God', but what its center of power is really under is Sovereignty.

Depictions of Columbia - Goddess of Sovereignty in the USA

In Celtic terms, Sovereignty Goddesses can't be killed or banished. They simply switch allegiance. Liberty should therefore be seen as Columbia in another guise.
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Discover How Libertas was Imported to the USA as Liberty

'Liberty Enlightening the World' is the official title of this iconic American landmark. But how much do you know of the history and legends behind the Statue of Liberty?

The Statue of Liberty as Sovereignty for US Immigrants

Now that you have a sense of the Goddess of Sovereignty's attributes, hear this story told in legendary terms, as befits that statuesque Goddess.

Lady Liberty, washed in green and pounded daily by the ocean waves, holds aloft Her fiery torch. 

Ellis Island nestles in Her view, once the gateway into the USA for its hopeful immigrants. For those 'huddled masses' approaching, Liberty's appearance on the horizon marked the place they were to land, and confirmation that they had reached their destination.

To all intents and purposes, the Green Lady WAS America, representing hope for their future. The spark of a new life lay ready to ignite now they were in Her presence; a promise nurtured in dreams, now made tangible by Liberty lighting the way.

They could taste it! This tantalizing union of potential citizen and land, subject only to finding favor with the latter. People whose desire to be deemed worthy now inflamed them in a burning passion, pouring all they were and all they wished be into desperate prayers and determination to impress. Sovereign officials, inside the halls of Ellis Island, presided over extensive examinations of each and every candidate wishing to remain.

Some suitors would gain approval to enter the mainland and lay down roots. Wedded to this nation now, futures entwined, a mutual commitment signed and sealed in tests, paperwork and passport. Those enjoined would press beyond the borders, continuing deep inside the Green Lady's gateway, cherishing plans to cultivate every opportunity on offer in their own country. In return, they would contribute to the prosperity of their land.

As they passed beneath, the Statue of Liberty must have appeared to be smiling, Her promise of a new life, flourishing in Her light, all fulfilled and prime with new potential.

Some would fail the challenges of Ellis Island. Sovereign judges ensured their separation from the land. Close enough to see, but not to touch and never to share in Liberty's delights. No longer their mother, bride or erstwhile protectoress, Her aspect seen through a broken heart is nothing but a towering heap of copper, wind grimy and frozen lifeless by the sea. No hope in static metal flames; all pretense long since drenched by waves.

From the ship taking them back to the old, rejected country, a fixed glare upwards exposes a final truth. The only power retained by Libertas is the freedom to look away.

Books about Ellis Island - Gateway to America

Discover more about the place where generations of immigrants passed beneath the gaze of Lady Liberty in a bid to become American citizens.

Libertas: The US Sovereignty as Goddess of War

There is an extremely dark aspect of the Goddess of Sovereignty, which may cause some discussion and debate in Pagan circles.

It was one of those moments that you cringe about later, but at the time was just an expression of academic inquiry.

I was one of the moderators on a Pagan forum, and also a prolific poster. Each day, you'd see at least a couple of contributions to the general discussions from me, and usually brand new topics scattered like confetti, as my mind rushed through its quests.

I've always been curious. I look up everything that catches my eye. Then I want to share it, talk about it, explore it.

When the focus is a subject that perennially interests me, and I'm not only surrounded by like-minded people, but also vaguely responsible for maintaining the forum's vibrancy, then you can imagine how much I managed to produce in posts.

The day I enlightened the forum about Liberty was totally in the spirit of all that. I'd discovered that the statue was indeed a representation of the Goddess Libertas. I wanted to know more.

My scholarly trip through books and search engines uncovered a disturbing array of mythology and history. She was the Goddess of Sovereignty, that much I understood already, but She was that Lady in Her most dread aspect.

Liberty rarely comes softly. Tyrannies don't dismantle themselves for the asking; tyrants are loathe to give up power. Chains do not disintegrate because the enslaved wake up one morning and decide to be free. Dictatorships are dissolved as ashes, falling in the inferno of protest, riot and all out revolution. Battle-lines and blood mark the way.

Liberty is Sovereignty won in the heat of war. She is not the Goddess to be hailed in a peaceful succession. Her province never yelled, 'The King is dead, God save the King!' She is there for the huddled masses breaking free, not the crowned heads keeping their thrones.

As I posted to the forum, it's the equivalent of raising Morrighan over Dublin, invoking Her always instead of Éireann. The Celts understood. The rest needed a little more spelling out of the details.

Sovereignty on the battlefield incites blood sacrifice to keep Her favor. Only the strongest survive to be Her consort. (In this case, the President, or - at least - the mayor of New York City, or a senator of the surrounding states.) But this was Libertas! Her Consort was the masses.

What are you actually saying? Came the response from the people used to me going off on one, but requiring a little more context to keep up with my flights of reason and fancy.

My partially tongue-in-cheek answer: That periodically the lands She overlooks will have to provide enough blood to keep Her sated.

I wryly queried whether NYC was known for its elevated murder count? Or if natural phenomena occasionally took out a proportion of the population - perhaps a mega-storm or tornado, earthquake or tsunami?

I posted that in the first week of September 2001. A week later I was cringing.

YouTube Footage of September 11th 2001

This video was filmed by people living close to the World Trade Center that day. Some of the scenes are disturbing, please watch at your own discretion.

Did the Statue of Liberty Cause 9/11?

No. She's a statue. She no more caused that terror than a figurine of Jesus on the cross answers Christian prayers. But some things are bigger than the symbol.

Even the most ardent Pagan would never claim that a 151 feet copper figurine of Lady Liberty caused 9/11. It would not only be monumentally stupid and potentially dangerous, but spiritually short-sighted too.

Pagan statues do not kill people. Hijackers in airplanes do that.

What a Pagan will tell you - and I did with excruciating timing - is that Libertas governs Liberty and Freedom, and that usually arrives hard won in rivers of blood.

The Statue of Liberty was erected to mark 100 years since the United States of America was forged from the sacrifice and carnage of the American War of Independence. The British did not hand over their colony on a plate. Over 61,000 people were killed, and thousands more wounded, before the Revolutionary War ended in liberty and the USA.

Libertas was the perfect choice of deity to signify all of that.

Whatever we may think of the tactics employed by those flying planes into the World Trade Center, they personally considered themselves freedom fighters. It was again utterly - and horrifically - in-keeping with Her general theme.

However, Libertas - as Sovereignty - only gives Her favor to those who succeed. Or, to put it another way, we can discern the recipient of Her support by seeing who was the victor. Who won on 9/11? Whom does Libertas serve, and in turn who serves Libertas?

9/11 Memorial Posters Featuring Lady Liberty

One Nation

Petitioning Lady Liberty in a US Leadership Challenge

As the Goddess of the Land and its People, Sovereignty will always act in its best interests, whether that be supporting a chief or in other ways.

Challengers to the rule of a people should take their suit to Sovereignty. She was the ultimate judge over who gained or lost favor.

Whether intentional or not, one unnamed woman invoked exactly this right to contention in 2013.

She walked into the Louvre in Paris and made an inscription upon Eugène Delacroix's famous painting Liberty Leading the People.

What she wrote pertained to Liberty as Sovereignty of the USA, not to mention Her statue's location overlooking Manhattan. It was a direct challenge towards the US leadership too.

Though not in the sense of marching in at the head of an army with a view to usurp the position, nevertheless it represented a kind of throwing down the gauntlet. She'd etched into the framework the code AE911.

If she'd been successful, then the resultant publicity could well have toppled the US administration. Sovereignty's support would have ensured that enough Americans became curious enough about the code to investigate it further, then been convinced by what they discovered when they got there.

The electorate furor may have forced a change of government by impeaching its president.

That's how it should have played out, in a classic Sovereignty situation. So how well did it work?  Did Lady Liberty extend Her favor? It's too soon to tell.

The woman was instantly arrested and the inscription removed by an art restorer within two hours. Her petition to Liberty, as Sovereign Goddess of the USA, was delivered and gone. But her actions did create global headlines because she'd used the medium of Liberty. No-one would have written a thing about it, if she'd scribbled AE911 on a lamp-post.

Moreover, the fact that it happened means that people keep on writing about it, like I am right here and like countless others have across the internet.

Because it's Liberty. Because it's the Sovereignty of the USA. And because AE911 represents an internationally known topic, where feelings run high and theorists across the board are ten a penny.

The unknown vandal may not have toppled a government (which anyway has changed since 2001), but it did serve to highlight once again a major flaw in the US leadership. Regardless of what anyone believes happened on 9/11, very few would argue that it's inconceivable for an official word to be untrustworthy.

Governments lie. Whether the US administration did (and continue to have) on this occasion is another matter entirely. However Liberty as Sovereignty played a hand in underscoring once more that it's not only possible, but plenty of people accept as standard fact their rulers' economy with the truth.

And it's precisely those kinds of flaws which the Goddess of Sovereignty has always sought to expose, criticize and pressure Her consort to eliminate. Liberty is just doing Her job.

Image: Anti-Nixon pinIn this context, it's a fun fact to note that the Watergate burglars were arrested on June 17th 1972, the 87th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty arriving in the USA. That's surely a coincidence, but what wasn't is how the US Sovereignty was used in the aftermath.

Protesters searching for a resolution to the scandal wore pin badges depicting Liberty alongside the legend, 'Clean It Up! Watergate'. Like the vandal at the Louvre, they were challenging the ruler by invoking an image of its Sovereign Goddess.

It was successful, as the Nixon administration was toppled by the Watergate scandal.

US Presidents Impeached or Assassinated While in Office

These individuals apparently lost the support of Sovereignty, as they demonstrably lost the ability to rule over Her land.

Which US Presidents Did Sovereignty Support?

Those favored by the Goddess ruled successfully. Those who didn't soon found it untenable to rule. Where, and why, would you place candidates?
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Finding Favor with Liberty, the Sovereignty of the United States

In centuries past, those seeking to win Sovereignty's support (or appeasement) would sacrifice to Her. Those days are gone, but people still invoke Liberty's favor.

Image: Lyndon Johnson with LibertyIn 1965, President Lyndon Johnson traveled to Liberty Island with an important document in his hand.

It was the Immigration and Nationality Act, which would open the gates of America to those previously subject to restrictive quotas. Those included Africans, Asians, Latinos and other individuals whom bigots considered 'undesirable'.

Passing into law at the height of the Civil Rights struggles, the Act was widely viewed as highly controversial. To some it was an utter travesty, if only because it allowed more 'people of color' into the United States as prospective citizens.

President Johnson signed it, amid the flashes and glare of hundreds of press cameras, at the foot of the Statue of Liberty.

There were plenty of historic and symbolic reasons for doing this, not least that Ellis Island was just over the water. Perhaps the biggest of all was that it facilitated dozens of pictures taken of the Act being signed in front of the famous plaque bearing Emma Lazarus's poem The New Colossus. With its reference to the USA as a safe haven for the 'huddled masses', it invoked a much more kindly view of US immigration policy than that currently being raged within those same newspapers' editorials and letters columns.

But he could have just quoted that in his speech. It would have been reported, even if he'd said it in a press conference at the White House.

From a Sovereignty point of view, President Johnson was acting much more symbolically than that. He was telling his detractors loud and clear that he had Liberty on side. She was right behind him (literally) and he was their right and proper leader, making correct decisions.

Nor was he unaware of the risks.

Johnson's predecessor, President John F. Kennedy, had presided over many equally controversial bills, and he'd been assassinated for it. (Presumably. No motive has ever been established for that beyond a vague 'Lee Harvey Oswald hated America' conclusion by the Warren Commission.) Now Johnson was signing his own unpopular Act into law.

Whether the American people trusted Johnson or not, they could have faith in Liberty. Her presence projected a kind of trustworthiness onto the document too. It made supporting it seem All American, even as it facilitated a major change in the demographic of its people.

But Sovereignty had judged that those people should be allowed to settle upon Her land, so they were. Sovereignty's decision is final.

Statue of Liberty as the Goddess of Sovereignty USA

These items all depict Lady Liberty as the symbolic embodiment of the United States of America. She wears its patriotic face.

Lady Liberty, the Pagan Goddess

Did I make the case for Liberty as a modern day Goddess of Sovereignty? Tell me in the comments!

Regardless of this very specific divine role, Liberty is a Pagan Goddess.  That was understood before She was brought to the United States. Church leaders petitioned against Her statue being allowed on US soil.

In all that I've argued above, I would like to make one thing quite clear to finish. Liberty, to my mind, is performing the role of a Celtic-style Sovereignty Goddess, but only because that is the position into which She was thrust. I don't think She started out like that.

In fact, I know it, because I've already traced back to who Liberty really is. The third and final part of this trilogy will follow and reveal all.

Before She was ever constructed, the Statue of Liberty was known to be a Pagan Goddess. US Christians wanted to keep Her out. So which Pagan deity is Liberty really?

More Wizzley Articles about the Goddess Sovereignty

It may not always be obvious from the title, but nip onto each page and you'll find stories delving deeper into the Celtic concept of Sovereignty.
Many of our oldest stories and legends conceal a divine journey to find a king or queen. The land itself is personified into a Lady. It's a concept which still has echoes today.
Also known as Geraint Son of Erbin, this tale from the Arthurian Romances looks like the usual Sovereignty story. But there's much more going on than that!
A conspiracy of ravens is interwoven with the Morrigan mythology like a Celtic knot. But why are these birds so linked with Ireland's darkest deity?
Traditionally, Beltane bridal dresses are green, red or white/silver. To match the Lady as a May Queen bride, you will need to don a green handfasting gown.
Updated: 05/28/2014, JoHarrington
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Glenn Reinhardt on 02/23/2017

our lady liberty should have one arm across her face while she's sobbing.

JoHarrington on 05/19/2014

Just posted it. :) Challenge accepted. Mission complete.

Yay! I'm glad that I made it possible anyway. Liberty does seem to fulfill the role to my mind.

Ember on 05/19/2014

Ooooooh. Dat ending. I am excited for the third part.

As much as I understand it all, I believe you have made a case for the idea of Liberty being a Sovereignty Goddess, but also, to be fair, this is all also apart of me forming a greater understanding of that very :|

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