Guan Yin is not another Virgin Mary, and the Virgin Mary is not a mother goddess

Guanyin (a.k.a. Avalokitesvara)

Some commentators, usually Christian or New Age, believe that the Buddhist entity Guan Yin and the Christian Virgin Mary are similar if not almost identical. Here I use this opportunity to tell you how they’re not.

For starters, Guanyin is Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva who embodies compassion in all Buddhas. Guanyin is another name for Avalokitesvara in East Asian culture, where the bodhisattva is depicted as female and worshiped as a goddess. Avalokitesvara is believed to continuously look upon all beings with the eye of compassion and listen to the cries of sentient beings (hence the meaning of his various names). He is mainly venerated in Mahayana Buddhism and various forms of esoteric Buddhism.

Meanwhile, the Virgin Mary is not a bodhisattva, or a goddess. In Buddhist lore, a bodhisattva is a being who has achieved enlightenment and is ready to pass on into Nirvana, but waives its right to do so in order to help other sentient beings achieve enlightenment and enter Nirvana. Mary however is merely a figure attributed to being the mother of Jesus, who is prayed to and venerated as a saint, despite not really doing anything besides giving birth to Jesus. Her only connection to Guanyin is Chinese artwork of Guanyin holding a baby child, but let me level you; this to portray her as a folk patron of mothers who grants children, not as the mother of a god.

Painting of the Virgin Mary

There’s also those who equate the Virgin Mary with the mother goddesses of the pagan world, such as Isis, and even to the idea of a universal mother. This usually comes from New Age and Neopagan commentary on the Virgin Mary. Let me stress that the Virgin Mary is NOT a goddess, let alone a mother goddess. Her only connection to the mother goddesses of pagan lore is that she gave birth to Jesus, who isn’t even a god to begin with. Also, she’s a virgin, the only reason she was able to give birth to Jesus was because the Holy Spirit supposedly entered her body, and even then this could easily be interpreted as God having sex with her like Zeus coming to earth to frolic with a mortal woman. Either way, as long as it doesn’t count as sex in the eyes of Christians, she’s a symbol and saint of virginity, and the mother goddesses of the pagan world were not virgins. Isis’ husband was the god Osiris, Cybele’s husband was Attis, Asherah’s consort was El or Anu, Durga’s consort was Shiva, every mother goddess worth calling a mother goddess had a husband. Mary on the other hand does not, and has no apparent association with fertility and its powers (at least within the Christian context). She has no real connection to the pagan goddesses besides coincidence.


Part of me thinks I was a pagan without knowing it when I was younger. The idea of goddesses must have had some appeal, or perhaps it is just what they were associated with.

For instance, when I was a kid, I was reading a book about volcanoes and earthquakes, and there was a few pages on mythological representations of these phenomenon. I noticed a Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes named Pele, and some time afterwards for some reason I tried praying to said goddess.

Then, when I entered my teen years (probably at about 14-15 years old), I became fascinated with earth mother goddesses, perhaps from a mixture of Shin Megami Tensei (these goddess were on the Chaos alignment, and I was a huge fan, and still am today) and because I thought many of them were beautiful. In particular, I had a great fascination with the goddess Gaia as a goddess of earth and a mother goddess. Keep in mind though, at that time my thought hadn’t really, shall we say, evolved to the way it is now. For similar reasons I liked goddesses Isis, Cybele, and Parvati/Shakti.

Today, goddesses still have value to me, mainly as representatives of female power, among various of things. And Shakti is very important to me as both a goddess and a concept.

A toast to the gods of chaos

A god of chaos is a mythological deity who represents not just classical chaos or primordial chaos, but also primal forces, and the link between chaos, the primal, the sensual, and creation and destruction. You may not believe some of the gods that I have elected as gods of chaos. Also, not all gods follow the same pattern. Also, I am aware that a there is a god called Khaos in Greek myth, but I do not count it because (a) that would be dumb, and (b) Chaos was more a concept in Greek myth anyway, just like the way I see it. Satan and Angra Mainyu don’t count either, because officially they are not gods.


I swear I’ve said this three times now. Shiva’s intimate link to creation and destruction and primal forces and desires, for me, merits him his staus as a god of chaos, in some way. To add to his primality, he has a heavy association with the Aum, the primordial syllable of creation and the universe.


He’s not here just because everyone else calls him a god of chaos.

Ah, the ancient Egyptians. They sure loved their order, and whenever it was disturbed, they described it in in pretty calamitous proportions. Set was a god of storms, chaos, and dark forces, and he was already a force to be feared, but he could also aid those who worship him, so, like the rest of the pantheon, he was an ambivalent force. Then, politics ruined his image. He became the victim of an Egyptian chaoskampf (“stuggle against chaos”) in which he is slain by Horus, and over time he effectively became an Egyptian Satan. Is it any wonder he became worshipped by theistic Satanists?

Tiamat and Apsu

A painting of Tiamat by Susannah Iles

Tiamat may have been a chaos monster, but she was also a goddess of the primordial chaos, the creatrix of the universe along with Apsu another primordial chaos god. Together they made sweet primeval love and Tiamat birth many gods, as well as dragons and serpents. She would later be slain by Marduk, and become the archetypal example of the Chaoskampf.


Aditi is a creatrix mentioned in the Vedas as a mother of the gods and the goddess of both heaven and earth, in contrast to many traditions having a sky father and an earth mother. Her attributes are freedom, infinity, creation, and might, and she is often corresponded the primordial of many ancient mythologies. Unsurprisingly, this includes Chaos, but it also refers to the waters of space, or the deep, and primordial light. She is also associated with Lajja Gauri, the nude earthly goddess of fertility and abundance in folk Hinduism.


Statue of Kali Maa

Make no mistake, she’s a wild lady alright. Beautiful too. She is really violent and destructive ,but that ain’t the only side to her. In fact, I believe she is just as linked to creation and the primal as well as destruction as Shiva. She might just be a female image of Shiva, though Parvati/Uma and Durga are also the shakti of Shiva.


Jaguars aren’t his only deal.

Tezcatlipoca is a very diverse god, and a very dark one. He’s a god of war, strife, disorder, chaos, the sun (he did rule the sun a few times in Aztec lore), obsidian, beauty, the earth, the night, hurricanes, kings, temptation, and magic. His complexity is the main attribute that merits his status as a god of chaos.


Yeah, as long as we’re talking about gods of chaos, but just what’s so primal about her? Well I suppose she is the daughter of Nyx. You could say she’s the strife side of chaos. Then again, she’s the goddess of Discordianism, whose authors have written this about Eris in the Principia Discordia: “I am chaos. I am the substance from which your artists and scientists build rhythms. I am the spirit with which your children and clowns laugh in happy anarchy. I am chaos. I am alive, and I tell you that you are free.” I guess I can accept that.


She looks beautiful in this modern artwork.

Gaia is extremely intimately linked to primordial chaos, having been directly born from chaos. She is primality. Since she is nature, or all things earthly, and chaos seeps into and is a huge part of the natural world. Chaos then is the blood of the natural world. By this logic, any earth mother can count as a beautiful and bountiful goddess of chaos, or at least most earth mothers.

Now, to raise a glass to these magnificent gods.