Eons in the millennia, the yoni (vagina), was regarded a sacred phenomenon – the portal between the great heavens and our planet Earth. Some 5,000 years ago, the Indian Tantric culture and the 1000-year-old Chinese Han dynasty, both believed that the yoni was the gateway from which all of life originated. Regarded as the “flowery pool,” or the “mysterious gate,” the two ancient traditions believed that for men to reach a state of balance and good health, they would have to honour the yoni in deep reverence. It was not only about respecting the yoni as a symbol but also about honouring the women partners that these men engaged with in their lives.
The yoni, sometimes referred to as pindika, is an aniconic illustration of the goddess Shakti in Hinduism. It is usually shown with the linga – its masculine counterpart and together, they symbolize the merging of the microcosmos and the macrocosmos, the divine infinite process of creation and regeneration, and the union of the feminine and the masculine that recreates all of existence. The yoni is theorized as nature’s gateway of all births, especially in the esoteric Kaula and Tantra practices, as well as the Shaktism and Shaivism traditions of Hinduism.
With rise of masculine sovereignty and the imbalance of the feminine presence in the modern landscape, the practice of vagina smearing and physical slandering of a woman’s body parts became the order of the day, tradition over tradition. This led to the need for men to down-grade women, considering them merely baby-making machines, created only to satisfy the lust of men from father to son. Men raped women, their mothers, their daughters and their sisters as a way to reclaim the power of the woman and to contravene her to silence – banishing her as the pariah of her clan and the witch that brought doom to her village.
Psychologically, it has been proven that when a woman continually hears of her vagina compared to something unpleasant, her mind will shape itself around the idea – (Richard E. Nisbett: The Geography of Thought). This was the very nucleus of all womb related ailments and the downfall of our planet’s need for vaginal sacrament. As yoni rituals ceased, the people of our planet lost their compass for direction, balance and harmony.
Heavily obsessed by the vagina, the vagina has been called by many names from “pussy,” to “cunt,” to “cock sock,” to “punani.”
The word ‘vagina,’ comes from the Latin word to mean, ‘sheath,’ while ‘vulva,’ means wrapper which originally also meant the uterus.
During the expansion of modernity, our perception of the vagina had transformed so drastically that we have now lost the intrinsic symbolism that was at the vanguard of ancient Eastern cultures. Gone are the days when feminine symbols of the yoni were mounted high on sacred altars in every home, where men, women and children bowed down to the vagina, the yoni – the gateway of our very birth and the origin of all that exists on this planet and beyond.
Although, more and more people are now coming back to the wisdom of the Goddess and yoni worship, the people of the ancient past who held rituals and testament were from many traditions throughout our planet’s history and here are 8 ancient symbols from different traditions in the world.
1. The Ichthys (pronounced: ich·thys)
A Christian symbolism of the fish that bear reference to Jesus, officially called the ichthys, originally represented the vagina. It was an ancient symbol that showed up next to any fertility goddess, including Atargatis, the Syrian fertility goddess; Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and sex, and the pagan Great Mother goddess.
It has been said that it was chosen as a symbol of Jesus because it was so commonly known and used, but today, Christian scholars are attempting to separate it from its vaginal roots as they do not seem to see the image of the vagina befitting their Saviour.
2. The Lotus Flower
The Chinese Han and Ming dynasties especially indicated to this symbol when speaking of the heavenly vagina; the term “golden lotus,” was used often in poetry and sacred Taoist texts such as ‘Art of the Bedchamber.’ It was said to be the core of a woman’s compelling yin essence, which keeps the universe in harmonious order.
Physically and biologically speaking, the lotus is an aromatic flower, pink and plump, known to blossom in spring when everything in nature is in high expression. In eastern Indian spiritual belief, the lotus flower is the symbol of wisdom and vital energy – held in the hand of all that is sacred in all matters Hindu. One such example would be the Lajjā Gaurī – a lotus-headed Folk goddess associated with abundance, fertility and sexuality, sometimes euphemistically described as Lajja (“modesty.”) She is sometimes shown in a birthing posture, but without outward signs of pregnancy. Her fertility aspects is emphasized by the symbolic representation of the genitals, yoni or womb, as blooming lotus flower denoting blooming youth and the infinite fertility (possibilities), that lie within the chambers of the yoni.
3. Vesica Piscis
This piece of sacred geometry is the intersection of two circles with the same radius, referring to the meeting of the pairing worlds: the sacred and the earthly. In Italian, it is called a ‘mandorla,’ which is an almond shape found in many Renaissance paintings, holding the Virgin Mary, who represents the liminality between divine and worldly.
The name of this symbol, when translated literally from Latin, means ‘bladder of a fish.’ This symbol figures prominently Pythagorean history and is considered a holy figure because the ratio of its width to its height was believed to be 165:153 or 1.73203—a holy number. It should be noted that the number 153 is written in the Gospel of John as the number of fish that Jesus miraculously caught. Because of this, some believe that it is the symbol for Jesus Christ (ichthys, as mentioned above). The shape was also said to be found in the Ark of the Covenant.
Used as an architectural design to frame doorways in Churches and cathedrals throughout time, the versica piscis, is also a symbol commonly found in major corporate brands like Coco Chanel, Mastercard, Gucci, Bloomingdales, Under Armour, the Olympics logo and Audi to name a few.
4. The Pomegranate
The word ‘pomegranate,’ comes from the Latin word “granatis,” which means seed of grain. Greeks described the pomegranate as a gift of love that is constantly inviting, and it symbolizes fertility, abundance, and the arrival of spring. While it’s often used in works of art to allude beauty and exuberance of the vagina, it specifically is meant to represent the ovary and ova cells.
It has been associated in the Renaissance period to paintings of the Virgin Mary and Her son, the ultimate gift to humankind. The juice that comes from the fruit is meant to represent blood — both menstrual blood and the blood of Christ — that is eternally giving, hence, it is not uncommon that the fruit is called the “blood of life.”
5. The Serpent
The first thing that possibly comes to mind is how the snake tempted Eve in the Bible to eat a piece of fruit that was supposedly forbidden, although scholars contend that this was one of the first times that the serpent had been negatively portrayed in relation to females. However, long before that, Egyptian goddesses, representing nature and beauty, were portrayed with snakes in Their hands, as the serpent is a symbol of divine sexuality.
During the Ancient Crete civilization, from 3000-1200 B.C., images of the Great Goddess always had snakes entwined around Her to represent birth, regeneration, and overall protection. The famous Greek text Metamorphoses told the story of Arethusa, who transformed Herself into a serpent, representing the powerful vulva, to mate with Her true love.
6. The Boat
In Sumerian hymns that praised women as goddesses, the vulva was often referred to as “a boat of heaven,” a vessel meant to carry all the magnificent gifts from heaven down to the mortals.
Devadatta Kali writes in ‘In Praise of the Goddess: The Devimahatmaya and Its Meaning,’ that the ancient Indian text, from 16 centuries ago, identified the womb as floating in the middle of the ocean, extending through the sky to bring down creative power to the earth below. The Divine Mother and Her boat of a vagina are depicted as the center of the universe.
For thousands of years, Taoist sexual texts explicitly used jade as a symbol of the vagina and female sexuality in general. The opening of the vagina was called the “jade garden,” and men were instructed to suck on a woman’s nipples to extract “jade juice.”
8. The Ankh
The ankh is an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol that was most commonly used in writing and in art to depict the word for “life,” or “breath of life.”
In general sense the ankh stands for fertility as the loop represented the vagina and the line below the penis in union with the vagina.
The most well-known treatise about worshipping the yoni is, without doubt the Yoni Tantra – a tantric text depicting a dialog between Shiva and Parvati, which discloses the highly venerated sadhana practiced by kaulas (tantrics), the yoni puja.
It is Patala 3 of the Yoni Tantra, it is mentioned that, “Devi is at the base of the yoni and Naganandini is in the yoni. Kali and Tara are in the yoni chakra, and Chinnamasta in the hair. Bagalamukhi and Matangi are on the rim of the yoni. Mahalakshmi (Kamalatmika), Shodashi (Tripura Sundari), and Bhuvaneshvari are within the yoni. By worshipping the yoni, one certainly worships Shakti.”
And Patala 4 of the same text states: “Worshipping this causes Shivoham. Listen, Parvati! Krishna, after worshipping Radha’s yoni, became God Krishna. Shree Rama Janaki Nath worshipped Sita’s yoni. Killing Ravana and his clan, he then went to Ayodhya City and lived in a beautiful palace there. Vishnu, Brahma, the saints and I myself all were born from a yoni. What knowledge in the three worlds can match the magnificence of the yoni tattva? “
Every single vortex on this planet is a represent of the yoni: from the eye of the hurricane to the openings of ancient caves, indicative of nature’s need of the sacred portal that transcends dimensions and epochs of existence – the whole Universe depends on it; it is what aids us in our spiritual ascension and guides us to reaching our highest calling lifetime after lifetime…
May you ascend in the wisdom of the Goddess – Jai Maa!
SUJATA NANDY WORLD GURUKUL