The world is full of amazing female role models — but we didn't need to tell you that. Women make waves everywhere from the
world of beaut y to the medical field. That said, it never hurts to have a few female role models of the holy variety, too.
In honor of International Women's Day, we're taking a closer look at some of the most interesting goddesses from ancient cultures around the world. From the Celtic Epona to Japan's Fuji, these powerful deities inspired cults and rituals completely unique to them.
Although their popularity may have dwindled centuries — or millennia — ago, we can still learn a thing or two from these mighty women. Ahead, we've rounded up eight ancient goddesses whose mythical reputations are more than well-deserved. These women are downright worship-worthy.
Click through to get to know these truly badass goddesses of old.
Gaia Worshipped by: The Greeks
Gaia is best known for, well, kicking things off. After all, she's also referred to as
Mother Earth or the mother of all creation.
Gaia was born literally out of chaos into an empty universe at the beginning of time. She gave birth to the heavenly gods, the oceanic gods, and the giants — if you're at all familiar with Greek mythology, that is a
whole lot of babies.
She's usually depicted as a woman holding the earth or a woman fused with the land. Gaia was mostly worshipped prior to the
Hellenistic period, at which point she fell out of popularity in favor of other gods, but she's always remembered as one of the O.G. mother figures in Greek mythology. Illustrated by Isabella DiMarzio. More
Epona Worshipped by: The Celts, the Gauls, and the Romans
The patron goddess of mares and foals,
Epona was also a funerary symbol. Images of Epona riding a mare were used to represent the soul's journey toward death. Some depictions show her leading others down the path to the underworld, making her not just a symbol, but a companion, to the deceased.
From artifacts found along Gallic soldier's routes of conquest, it's
been determined that her military followers were so zealous that they spread her image across the Roman empire, leading to her widespread worship. Due to the importance of horses during this era of combat, armies would make sacrifices and offerings to her before battles.
Horses were also major status symbols at the time, and, in turn, Epona came to represent prosperity and plenty, too. To sum up, Epona symbolized the peaceful transition into death, war and successful conquest,
and a cushy lifestyle at home. In other words, she's our new role model for having it all. Illustrated by Isabella DiMarzio. More
Xochiquetzal Worshipped by: The Aztecs
This beautiful goddess ruled over pregnancy, the domestic arts, and dancing. It's
said Xochiquetzal was always surrounded by cascading flowers and followed by butterflies and hummingbirds, but she wasn't just there for show.
surprisingly sex-positive, as far as fertility goddesses go. She advocated sex for procreation and for pleasure, and protected couples and sex workers alike. Xochiquetzal could even absolve worshippers of sins.
Oh, and did we mention that she's thought to have
helped invent chocolate? Illustrated by Isabella DiMarzio. More Read More
Nut Worshipped by: The Egyptians
Nut wasn't just the goddess of the sky — she
was the sky, her entire body covered in stars. She was thought to be a giant woman who arched her body over the earth, with her mouth toward the West and her womb in the East. Nut acted as the barrier between the order of the cosmos and the chaos of the rest of the universe.
Naturally, Nut played an important role in the movement of time, as she was believed to swallow the sun when it set and give birth to it the following morning so it could rise once again. In this way, she was also considered a symbol for
life, death, and rebirth. When people died, they were said to have become stars reborn. Illustrated by Isabella DiMarzio. More
Ishtar Worshipped by: The Mesopotamians
Ishtar is, in a word, complicated. Both the
goddess of sexual love , she's associated with creation and destruction, joy and sorrow, fairness and betrayal. and war
She was widely worshipped in the Middle East as a maternal figure.
Certain myths even depict her weeping for the sorrows and plights of humans. Her warlike side was said to manifest itself in the form of wild rainstorms — many took storms as a sign that Ishtar was angry with the other gods.
Simply put, Ishtar contained multitudes and her temper was part of what made her worthy of worship. That alone has our full-throated support.
Illustrated by Isabella DiMarzio. More
Frigg Worshipped by: The Norsemen
Also known as Frigga,
Frigg was the highest ranking woman in her tribe of gods. But, despite her importance in the Norse pantheon, little is known about her specific deeds.
do know is that, along with her high status and ability to weave the clouds, Frigg was thought to possess psychic powers. Often referred to as a "seer," Frigg knew the future — but was powerless to change it. That's a bit of a disappointing power, but at least she never had to admit she was wrong about something.
In keeping with her ties to the future, Frigg was also the goddess of the new year. Her association with beginnings and intuition makes her a fantastic goddess to look to as a moral compass.
Illustrated by Isabella DiMarzio. More
Ix Chel Worshipped by: The Mayans
This goddess of the moon and fertility has something in common with Ishtar, in that she has two very different sides to her:
Many archaeologists believe that she could appear as both a young, beautiful girl and an aged, sage-like woman.
Although Ix Chel
represented sensuality and procreation, she was also said to bring catastrophe, with worshippers even referring to her as "the woman who stands by as the world floods." If that nickname isn't enough already, thanks to her association with rain, Ix Chel was also known as Lady Rainbow. One of these monikers may or may not be our new roller derby name. Illustrated by Isabella DiMarzio. More
Fuji Worshipped by: The Japanese
Fuji, sometimes known as Konohanasakuya-hime, was the goddess of fire and, yes, they named the mountain for her. Bearing in mind that Mount Fuji is also a volcano, it's safe to say that Fuji had an edge.
Worshippers strove to appease her and keep her calm so that they could benefit from her normally benevolent, even
warm nature. She was said to be responsible for the craters in a nearby mountain (after quarreling with that mountain's god), as well as the fires that people used to heat their homes.
The lesson we'll be taking away from Fuji is to stand up to those who'd dim our light, but to shower our supporters with affection.
Illustrated by Isabella DiMarzio. More Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here? Why A Good Cry Is Equivalent To Church In My Book How Daylight Saving Time Can Mess With Your Horoscope The Heartbreaking Reason A Little Girl Stole From This Woman