Lady Liberty: The Sovereignty Goddess of the USA Part 3

by JoHarrington

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?

John Gilmary Shea, American Catholic historian, writer and theologian, was not best pleased. He'd just heard that the Statue of Liberty was coming to New York Harbor.

As far as he was concerned She was a Pagan Goddess with no right to be in a Christian country. Plus incorrect claims were being made in Her name.

It was no Roman deity, Shea wrote, but Jesus Christ Our Lord who was the 'true light that enlighteneth the world'. Ditto freedom. 'He HATH made us free', not the false idol destined for the otherwise fully liberated Bedloe Island.

Nor was it only Catholic thinkers opposed to Her presence. The words 'Pagan' and 'idolatry' were being furiously bandied about by plenty in Protestant congregations too. Christians of all stripes were writing letters to their political representatives, outraged in sheer disbelief at the notion of a Pagan icon being placed anywhere on US soil, let alone in the first place that most visitors saw upon arrival.

No-one in the 1870s and 1880s missed that Liberty was a Goddess. It was even there in President Cleveland's speech at Her statue's dedication - 'we contemplate our own peaceful deity keeping watch before the open gates of America'.

It's only the decades since which have over-written, in the minds of the majority, Her Pagan roots with Her modern allegorical meaning of the American ideals for liberty and freedom. But She's still a Pagan deity.

By the end of this article, you'll know which one.

Which Pagan Goddess is the Statue of Liberty?

Apologies for the rant to begin, but I've had three days of this. Call my response the revenge of a Pagan historian.

I've seen some truly fabulous flights of fancy in commentators trying to answer this question.

It's a measure of Lady Liberty's importance, as a national emblem and embodiment of American values, just how many people feel the need to address Her Pagan roots, and/or uncover Her 'secret meaning'.

There was one theorist on YouTube, linking Liberty with Hecate, which wasn't meant by its uploader to be a comedy. I must have laughed for a good five minutes, especially when she linked the triskele tattooed on my back with 666 and proclaimed Liberty to be the consort of Lucifer.

Lots of people do that. She's not Lucifer.

She's not Hecate, Isis, Ishtar nor the Whore of Babylon. Neither is She variously Jupiter, Saturn, Helios and/or Apollo in drag. Nor are any of those aforementioned deities the same thing, and that thing is Satan.

Yep, I've had hours of fun exploring the theories! This seems to be as good a place as any to give words of advice to fellow questing spirits through the dark petticoats of Liberty:

  • Simply finding another Pagan deity wearing the same hat doesn't make them Liberty in disguise. Lots of deities are shown adorned in similar attire, because those are the symbols of divinity. It's just the same as God, Mary, Christ, archangels, angels and every Christian saint in Medieval art glowing with divine radiance and fitted with halos. Mary and God aren't the same Being. Hecate and Liberty aren't the same Being. They just each share a hat.
  • Just because a deity is Pagan, it doesn't make said deity the Devil. Titan outside the Rockefeller Building, and Prometheus inside it, are Titan and Prometheus. Not Lucifer. And once again for luck - because it appears to be the most common theory out there - Liberty is not Lucifer. Even if one does hold a torch and the other is also called Morningstar. In fact, the Morning Star isn't even a torch, it's Venus. (Look! An opening to link a Pagan deity with Satan! Go pick on Aphrodite and/or Venus instead! It'll make slightly more sense and be less divinely dangerous.)
This article may prove useful in differentiating between Pagan deities and Lucifer:
This article has its genesis in a request by a Christian to explain what Wicca really entails, as opposed to what he'd been led to believe. I hope it answers those questions.

Before anyone comes up with any more theories regarding Lady Liberty's Pagan antecedents, may I just point out a few key facts:

a) Liberty holds aloft a torch because She was originally installed to double as a lighthouse, which function She performed from 1886 (it took that long to get through the red tape regarding the power supply) until 1901. She was the first lighthouse in the USA to use electric lighting.

Though constructed for this purpose, it was found that Her light in New York Harbor wasn't particularly useful for navigation through it, so Her torch was switched off. Responsibility for Her upkeep passed from the Lighthouse Board to the War Department in 1902, then the National Park Service in 1932.

If Bartholdi hadn't been building a lighthouse, he would have given Liberty anything from a sword to the Liberty Bell instead. But he was, so that aspect was incorporated into the design and labelled Liberty Enlightening the World.

It's not because She is Lucifer.

b) You can't look at Her crown now and determine anything about the original symbolism embedded into it. Liberty's head was blown off in 1916 in a terrorist attack. The one we see now was reconstructed along slightly different principles.

To frame the French for anything, you'll need to find a picture of how She looked when She left Paris. Let me help out here. All the images below depict the original face of the Statue of Liberty.

c) Nor can you base anything off what She's holding. Her original torch is in the lobby. It was taken down and copper pillaged from it, in order to reconstruct Her head in 1916. That torch couldn't have remained in place anyway, because it was badly damaged in said terrorist attack.

We're not even seeing that replacement now. The torch that we see today dates from 1986, when a lot of reconstruction was enacted. Therefore if you're going to use the modern Statue of Liberty as evidence of Satanism, then it won't be Bartholdi in the frame, but the Reagan administration. Whereupon you might find me finally in accord.

But here you go, if only because I do hate to stifle scholarly inquiry. Pre-1916 pictures of Liberty's torch:

d) Liberty is wearing a seven pronged crown as a compromise towards the American elite. People like J.P. Morgan were lobbying at the time not to have Her in the US at all. She would incite the lower classes into thinking they deserved Liberty.

Originally Liberty would have worn a Phrygian cap, as was awarded to manumitted slaves in ancient Rome, and which was later co-opted as the head-wear of Revolutionaries in France and also turned up as an emblem in the American Revolutionary War.  We would now call it the Liberty Cap.

Sol Invictus - Unconquered Sun on a Roman Coin

Image: Sol Invictus with uncropped panel
Image: Sol Invictus with uncropped panel

e) The fresco deity, whom so many of you are labeling as Hecate and/or Lucifer, is actually Sol Invictus with the panel showing his name cropped off.

But good try and thank you for playing.

f) Many Pagan deities and other classical/religious figures wear a spiked ray crown, because there was a fashion for depicting them as such in 19th century Italy. It was neither the first nor last time this became a thing, but it did inspire Édouard René Lefèbvre de Laboulaye - the designer of Liberty's statue - who spent some time in Milan.

Before you have an ah-ha moment with a statue or figurine of a Pagan deity in such attire, check when it was made and by whom. If it was 19th century Italian, or any other period where such things were artistic fads, then chuck it out.

Let's practice with this image:

Image: The New Testament at Duomo di Milano
Image: The New Testament at Duomo di Milano

You're looking at a personification of the New Testament (Biblical) as sculpted by Camillo Pacetti for the facade of Duomo di Milano (Cathedral in Milan) in the 1820s. It actually DID inspire the Statue of Liberty, as Laboulaye was a frequent visitor to the cathedral and admired that specific design.

So artistically speaking at least, Milan's New Testament statue has a proven route all the way to Liberty Island and the Goddess standing upon it. Italian; 19th century. Lucifer or not Lucifer?

With all of that out of the way, I would share only one more tip - if you're tracing the divine origin of any statue, you need to look at the history of the persona up there. Not its fashionable aspect.

As both a historian AND a Pagan, I'm in the perfect position to do just that.  Ready to strip back the layers of Liberty's religious roots? Because we're finally here.

Let's skip past the part where She's Libertas, freedom loving Goddess of French Revolutionaries, because that's already been covered in the previous two segments. France acquired Libertas when the country was still part of Gaul. The Gallic-Frankish Libertas evolved out of the Roman Goddess of the same name.

We'll begin with Her.

'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?
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?

Books about American Goddesses

Liberty came from Europe. As a deity, She's not alone in that, but She would have found home-grown aspects of the feminine divine already in situ in the USA.

Libertas - Goddess of Liberty and Freedom

You might think you know what Freedom means and you'd be right. But you'd also be narrowing the field immensely, if it's just about kicking out a tyrant.

The Roman Goddess Libertas began life as a muse, but not quite in the way that you may imagine.

We see Her as the patron of freed slaves and people throwing off the yolk of monarchies and dictators, because that's how She was portrayed by the French. Americans adopted that meaning and built upon it to make Liberty their own.

It wasn't entirely without precedent. Libertas stood for emancipated slaves even in ancient Rome.

But She meant so much more too.

Slaves and ex-slaves usually didn't have the capital to fund Her temples. It was others who did that and they had their own reasons.

Liberty and freedom don't necessarily have to relate to nations, nor an individual's status in society. It can be far more personal than that; downright primal in fact. To be governed by Liberty - to be liberal - was not to swop one set of rules for another, however more palatable the second set may seem. It was to behave without any constraint at all.

Libertas, Liberty and liberal all come from the root word 'liber'. It means to be 'free, unrestricted, unimpeded; unbridled, unchecked, licentious'. This was the Goddess's domain. Today a better term might be 'anarchy'.

Those leaving tributes at Her shrines, or devotionals at Her temple altar, were seeking to shrug off all pretense at law and order. They were getting back to nature in its fullest sense, going wild, growing feral.

However, the Goddess didn't come from Rome. She emigrated there, carried in the devotion of faithful admirers during the Classical Period. We'll have to head east to find Her origin.

Books about the Roman Goddess Libertas

Two history books and a historical novel about the Roman forerunner of Lady Liberty.

Eleutheria - Greek Goddess of the Fool's Unfettered Speech

Roman Libertas had a prototype imported from the democratic ideals of Classical Greece. Liberty as Eleutheria was ALL about lighting the way.

It may help to know that the Romans borrowed Libertas originally, as a muse, from Greek Pantheon.

Even the name has its roots there. 'Liber' came from 'leudh-ero' (free), through which we find the Greek Goddess Eleutheria.

Also known as Eleftheria, in this aspect, She represented much that we'd recognize from Liberty today.

Freedom of speech was a biggie, as was democracy, after all Greece was the civilization from which these concepts derive. Eleutheria led the charge against oligarchy. She was the personification of republicanism.

But how She came to define that is apparent in the context by which Eleutheria entered the common language. To act in the spirit of Eleutheria was to speak freely, without fear of retribution, ridicule, censure, nor anything else that works to silence expressing the thoughts within. There was no censorship, not even self-censorship.

As a verb, 'eleftheria' became parrhesia, but in its purest sense is more like our concept behind the phrase 'it's a fool's prerogative to speak truths to kings' or 'out of the mouths of babes and fools comes great wisdom'. These people didn't grasp that society expected them to think or speak in certain ways, hence their utterances came unblemished by any other factors.

It's worth noting that both modern phrases reference the fool. In a Classical sense, the Fool had a very specific role - which is still retained in its representation as the first Major Arcana tarot card. I'll include it here, as it's a useful way of explaining Eleutheria, if you know your tarot.

If you don't, then you should recognize this as the basic plot-line of practically every movie you ever saw, or novel that you read.

The Fool sets out on a journey of discovery, knowing nothing, an empty vessel. Along the way, the Fool picks up all manner of context, information, knowledge, wisdom, which culminates in the complete destruction of its world.

Only beyond that point (The Tower) can the Fool attain true insight. It arrives at the start, seeing that place again for the first time. The Fool has attained a higher level of being, growing beyond and rising above.

The etymology of Eleutheria means to go (eleu) to the place of love/wholeness/completeness (eran). As a Goddess, She governed that journey, or transition, between two states. From innocence all the way to inner sense; from blind curiosity to enlightenment.

But along the way, that meant tearing up everything that anchors a person (or society) to itself - losing self-identity in the absolute annihilation of self - in order to rise higher like a phoenix from the ashes.

This is closer to what the Goddess Libertas represented too. Even more so the divine root of Eleutheria, because She didn't begin as a deity in Her own right. She was (and still is) simply an aspect of a greater deity.

Statue of Liberty as You've Never Seen Her Before

At least not under that name anyway...

The Divine Source of Lady Liberty

Liberty went through quite a journey to become the iconic Sovereign Mother of America. But whose statue is really holding a torch aloft in New York Harbor?

In Ancient Greece, Eleutheria was just one facet of the Moon Goddess Artemis.

She was also the Wild Huntress, the Queen of the Beasts, the leader of the pack. She was Mother Nature unleashed, at its most uncivilized and untamed.

She taught kings and commoners alike that they are all so very small and equal, in the face of natural forces.

Though if you caught Her on a good day, She could also supply nature's bounty.

She could tear a person apart in a frenzy (Doric Artamis - to butcher) or lead them home safely (Artemḗs - to be unharmed), but that all depended upon how willing each individual would be to place their trust and Fate in the Great Huntress.

And if they were prepared to give up their society to unfettered nature, unpredictable in its scope.

Artemis was the midwife of the Fates. Those petitioners courageous and humble enough to shed self at Her altar might enter into a shamanistic journey. If they survived long enough to find favor, then they'd find Artemis lighting the way back to the material world. They emerged changed, risking life and sanity in the quest for enlightenment.

They had peeled back the layers of their old order; lost themselves in the primal void of euphoric, dangerous, passionate, anchored chaos; smashed all that they knew to be true of themselves and their universe; then (hopefully) followed Artemis's guiding light to a place of pure sanctuary, where they could gather together a new reality based upon how it was now illuminated for them.

Their minds stripped of all its shackles let them perceive their world as something brand new. They had transformed into a virginal state of intellect and spirituality; able to speak without fear, gaining further insight through curiosity and query, like new-born babies or fools.

What followed now was wisdom, genius, madness or simply an unblocked, flowing stream of consciousness. They had entered into the spirit of liber, they were liberated, and thus had accepted Artemis's gift of eleutheria.

Human Sacrifices made to Artemis and Dionysius

Ancient Greeks assumed that Artemis needed appeasing, when natural forces were unleashed. According to this stele from the 4th century BCE, heads would roll.
Votive Stele Depicting a Sacrificial Procession to Dionysus and Artemis. 4th Century BC

Centuries passed and the reward became the thing itself. Greek society awarded itself the automatic right - and expectation - to achieve eleutheria. The gain without the pain, culturally dressed up as parrhesia; facilitated by isolating that aspect of Artemis with Her torch, semi-divorced from all context and eventually named after the thing She governed. Like She was suddenly a separate Goddess entirely.

The Romans stole the idea of Eleutheria, too late to the party to realize they were looking at a single role fulfilled by Artemis (else they would simply have spliced it onto Diana). The idea became inspiration. The muse developed into deity. The Goddess Libertas was born and carried throughout the Roman Empire; where notions of Her lodged in the Gallic consciousness, understood through the prism of their own dark muses and therefore akin to Sovereignty.

Rome fell. Gaul fell. Half a millennium on, their descendants - now long since Christianized and French - retained some imagery of a fragmented Artemis, all mixed up with the Goddess of Sovereignty, and labelled Libertas. It was a hybrid that worked to glorious effect by the time of the French Revolution.

Sovereignty's influence meant that Libertas could personify the land as a nation. She brought politics into it. Artemis made it all about liberty; Sovereignty added fraternity; and the French themselves threw in equality. Sovereignty brought the fight to a real world battle-field. Artemis turned it into a frenzy. She epitomized freedom and the breaking of chains; Sovereignty contextualized that as directed towards the ruler.

As single entities, neither Goddess was particularly interested in representing the people. But that was the only interpretation that made sense, once their elements had been mingled in this way. Incidentally, not everyone was entirely blind to the origin of Libertas, as you can tell from the image on the front of this book.

There's enthroned Libertas, displaying the French constitution, with another Goddess under her Freemason symbol dangling hand. That Goddess is Artemis.

Ephesus Artemis Statue

Ephesus Artemis

By now the Wild Huntress Artemis must have been thoroughly fascinated to discover Herself the divine embodiment of a civilization, with all its governmental trappings. Not to mention that Her Enlightenment apparently now used scholarly research, rationale, learning and logic as its touchstones. It was all about as far from losing oneself in the primeval melee of a Shamanistic voyage as it's possible to get.

But the frenzy remained, and the Terror, and even the possibility of dismemberment, once there had been the addition of a guillotine. And in this form, She was transported to America, where Her Romano-Gallic-French name Libertas was Anglicized as Liberty.

In short, the Statue of Liberty is ultimately a statue of Artemis.

Discover Artemis - Goddess Behind the Statue of Liberty

In truth, no-one involved in the conception, creation and erection of Lady Liberty can be expected to have known that she was originally Artemis. But you do.

More Strange Histories and Mysteries of the USA

History is an on-going tale, which directly affects the modern day. Each event is part of a domino effect causing ripples across the world.
An aggressive ghost attacked a family and visitors to a home in Atchinson, Kansas. No-one can live there now.
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, New England suffered a vampire epidemic. At least some thought so, and Connecticut was a hotbed for this belief.
The Civil War Battlefield of Chickamauga is haunted by a tall, hairy, bipedal creature with eye-shine. That sounds more like Bigfoot than the ghost of its own legend.
Updated: 05/28/2014, JoHarrington
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JoHarrington on 05/22/2014

By the end of my research here, every time I encountered another 'Liberty is Lucifer!' theory, I thought, 'If only I could set Frank onto you....' Now you've actually answered them yourself. Thank you for that.

I do understand the reasoning behind equating Pagan deities with Lucifer. If you're taught that there's only one God, and then another turns up, then that God has to be explained. But it does get a little tiring, when you're trying to pick through the genuine history and the path is so muddied.

I'm glad that you liked the article. There was some serious research involved, but fortunately much of the history and spiritual concepts I already knew, which helped enormously. I'm also pleased that I was able to teach you something new. It's always fun when the familiar takes on a whole different hue.

To my wild Celtic mind, the tendency of the Romans towards reification was all to do with keeping order. They thought they controlled everything, down to and including the spiritual. If no deity did what they wanted It to do, then they invented a whole new deity. They tried to make aspects of state administration divine: the Emperor as a God; justice as a Goddess etc. Or sought control over even The Fates by inventing Fortuna to take their place. When Hadrian's boyfriend died, divinity was conferred upon him as the right of the Emperor to do so.

That's the biggest problem with the Romans - their sheer arrogance in thinking that all could be reasoned out and that they were the arbitrators of the divine. Though they did have a very good run there. But ultimately, as you said, it was folk like the Celts whose world view survived.

JoHarrington on 05/22/2014

Ember - Ooooh! It's Kenna! In that case, I wish I'd known to tell her when she was here. :) If you do let her know, do report back what she said.

You just got a compliment in the comment section of the first in this trilogy by the way. I consider it a crowning achievement that I've corrupted your scientific mind into the ways and wiles of Pagan iconology. LOL

frankbeswick on 05/20/2014

This article was a work of scholarship that must have taken much diligence. It will teach me not to compartmentalize. I have looked at goddess statues and yet missed the biggest in the world, because I saw it through the lens of Geography and politics.

I think that the fragmentation of liberty out of and away from Artemis was due to the Roman tendency to reification, in which abstract qualities were treated as beings, demigods in their own right. This fragmentation damaged Roman paganism, and note, it is Celtic and Norse paganism, which did not suffer this kind of fragmentary reification, that has survived in Europe, not the Roman variety.

I do agree wholeheartedly that no good is done by wrongly equating pagan deities with Lucifer/Satan. Satanism is rife with hatred, but your works, Jo, are inspired by kindly and wise spirit. To all my fellow Christians I say that to follow Christ requires you to do justice, and it is unjust to treat Pagans as Satanists.

Ember on 05/20/2014

I still live with Kenna, so we are still in contact. xD Really, i tried to get her to read about LEL and she wouldn't so I dunno if she'll take a look at these. But, I'll probably end up telling her about it, because I wonder what she'd think of it too.

Yes! Thank you for writing them. All of these different things I've been learning from you lately are so interesting, it's really got me thinking about/musing on things the past few days. :) <3

JoHarrington on 05/20/2014

I know I banged on a bit about the Satan thing, but it really is the number one theory out there. And 99% of the time, it's because the theorist has traced back to some Pagan God or Goddess, on the most tenuous evidence, then declared the result Satanic.

It went past funny into boring.

I love your story about Kennbutt. Have you lost contact with her? I'd love to hear what she had to say about Liberty now.

Glad that you liked the trilogy that you inspired me to write. <3

Ember on 05/20/2014

LOL re the Statue of Liberty being a symbol of Satan. Sounds just about right for the state of this nation. :| And I do find it funny, drawing from my own experience, how people can use symbolism to draw conclusions but ignore the source of said symbolism. (EG I once claimed 'proof' that Pagans worshiped the devil in the fact that the god Pan looked exactly like modern depictions of the devil, ergo... Such bad reasoning XD).

I wonder what Kennbutt would have to say about the statue of Liberty being-- at the very least-- partly inspired by Artemis. When we were living together in this attic one summer before our senior year of college, and she was going through a bad breakup, we ended up reading a lot of Jungian psychology. She ended up with this book called Goddess in Every Woman, because it was the representation of two of her favorite things at the time 1. feminism, and 2. it was based on Jung. Anyways, she identified my goddess archetype for me and still occasionally refers to it, and she identified her archetype as Artemis. That transformed over time into various other things, such as her picking up goddess cards and she'd read one everyday, kind of meditate on it, and let it inspire her day. She was obsessed after that, for nearly two years. I was convinced she might end up Wiccan, or some sort of Pagan.

Then, in the end, she met another boy who taught her she didn't need religion, and the only respectable choice was atheism, which she followed because she was so enamored with him (not to say that it was in and of itself a bad thing, or that she wouldn't possibly have ended up there on her own, + people always influence our lives). Anyways, he broke her heart, and she moved to SF. It has never been lost on me that so far two of her darkest periods which I witnessed, something "magical" played a huge roll in pulling her back out. She's got a tattoo of a crescent moon meeting a bow and arrow, which make an 'A' on her ankle, from the time when she was inspired by and drew strength from Artemis. Sometimes I look at it, and in a way it blows my mind, in the sense that people are so very interesting. Spirituality is weird, but powerful.

Anyways, didn't mean to go off here, just made me think of this was all, especially with the intro bit, because I pondered on it and took myself back to a mindset where I could have thought that way.

Wonderful three articles, I learned a lot here. :)

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