A goddess is a female deity. In some cultures goddesses are associated with Earth, motherhood, love, and the household. In other cultures, goddesses also rule over war, death, and destruction as well as healing.
In some religions, a sacred feminine archetype can occupy a very central place in prayer and worship. In Hinduism, Sacred Feminine or Shaktism is one of the three major Hindu denominations of worship along with Vishnu and Shiva. In Tibetan Buddhism, the highest achievement any person can achieve is to become like the “great” female Buddhas (e.g. Arya Tara) who are depicted as being supreme protectors, fearless and filled with compassion for all beings.
The primacy of a monotheistic or near-monotheistic “Great Goddess” is advocated by some modern matriarchists as a female version of, preceding, or analogue to, the Abrahamic God associated with the historical rise of monotheism in the Mediterranean Axis Age.
Some currents of Neopaganism, in particular Wicca, have a bitheistic concept of a single goddess and a single god, who in hieros gamos represent a united whole. Polytheistic reconstructionists focus on reconstructing polytheistic religions, including the various goddesses and figures associated with indigenous cultures.
The noun goddess is a secondary formation, combining the Germanic god with the Latinate -ess suffix. It is first attested in Middle English, from about 1350.
In African and African diasporic religions, goddesses are often syncretized with Marian devotion, as in Ezili Dantor (Black Madonna of Częstochowa) and Erzulie Freda (Mater Dolorosa). There is also Buk, an Ethiopian goddess still worshipped in the southern regions. She represents the fertile aspect of women. So when a woman is having her period not only does it signify her submission to nature but also her union with the goddess. Another Ethiopian goddess is Atete—the goddess of spring and fertility. Farmers traditionally leave some of their products at the end of each harvesting season as an offering while their women sing traditional songs. A rare example of henotheism focused on a single Goddess is found among the Southern Nuba of Sudan. The Nuba conceive of the creator Goddess as the “Great Mother” who gave birth to earth and to mankind.
In Wicca “the Goddess” is a deity of prime importance, along with her consort the Horned God. Within many forms of Wicca the Goddess has come to be considered as a universal deity, more in line with her description in the Charge of the Goddess, a key Wiccan text. In this guise she is the “Queen of Heaven”, similar to Isis; she also encompasses and conceives all life, much like Gaia. Much like Isis and certain late Classical conceptions of Selene, she is held to be the summation of all other goddesses, who represent her different names and aspects across the different cultures. The Goddess is often portrayed with strong lunar symbolism, drawing on various cultures and deities such as Diana, Hecate and Isis, and is often depicted as the Maiden, Mother and Crone triad popularised by Robert Graves (see Triple Goddess below). Many depictions of her also draw strongly on Celtic goddesses. Some Wiccans believe there are many goddesses, and in some forms of Wicca, notably Dianic Wicca, the Goddess alone is worshipped, and the God plays very little part in their worship and ritual.