The British Museum Tries, and Fails, to Recast Paganism as Female Empowerment

Sept. 16 2022

The exhibit Feminine Power: The Divine to the Demonic, currently on display at the British Museum, contains images of goddesses and other supernatural female beings from across the globe and throughout history. To Matthew J. Milliner, it appears a throwback to the “goddess movement” that originated in the 1970s, and imagined a primitive past of matriarchal cultures that worshipped female divinities and stood in contrast to the patriarchal societies of the modern West, with their male clergy and paternal God. But this view of the past never held up to scholarly scrutiny, as is self-evident from the artifacts themselves:

Visitors to this British Museum exhibition are immediately faced with a nude Inanna (whose Akkadian name was Ishtar), the ferocious forerunner of Aphrodite. She stands naked and exposed, just as men like King Sargon the Great of Assyria wished her to be. She is sometimes known as Astarte or the Canaanite goddess Anat, but whatever one calls her, she was merciless and vindictive. Using Inanna to advance female empowerment, as the exhibition intimates, is comparable to prescribing crystal meth to combat mild depression.

The Egyptian goddess Sekhmet was as bloodthirsty as Astarte, and she makes an appearance as well, enabling women (so the gallery label suggests) “to be lionesses and warriors, to be advocates and change agents.” But those who read a bit closer will learn that Sekhmet’s bloodlust, according to Egyptian mythology, is in fact a result of humble obedience to her father, the male god Ra, who sent Sekhmet to do his bidding. In short, even when the goddess went on a rampage, it was because Daddy made her do it. This is no different with Taraka, the Hindu flesh-eating ogre who is also proudly featured in this exhibition.

The Egyptian goddess Isis, who compensated for Astarte’s aggression with an undeniable tenderness, also has a cameo in the show. She shows her breast to her son Horus, urging him to receive her nourishing milk. Still, the fact that much of Isis’s time is spent rehabilitating her husband/brother Osiris’s lost penis gives us quite a window into what Egyptian men felt the job of women to be. . . . In view of the sex-soaked Egyptian phallocracy, no wonder monotheistic women like Miriam shook their timbrels in celebration when they left (Exodus 15:20–21).

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More about: Ancient Egypt, Assyria, Feminism, Museums, Paganism

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism