Human life has always been defined and understood through relationships. Whether it be focusing on modern-era couples or looking to the wisdom of the ancients, much of this understanding has come from the dynamic relationships of masculine and feminine energies. Humanity’s earliest exploration into the Divine revealed the presence of both male and female essences on every level of creation.
If you look into yourself and at the world, it is easy to see how the Universe manifests these polarizing qualities. This romance between male and female entities has been immortalized in the form of several deities from every ancient culture around the world. When you analyze these relationships, you can identify parallels among divine couples in the ancient lands of east Africa, the lands of far Asia, and the Norse kingdoms of the North.
Today, there is still a lot that you can learn from these archetypical examples. If you are seeking a better understanding of yourself, the world, or your significant other, start by exploring lessons from these divine couples of the ancient world.
Many depictions of divine relationships come from a need to understand the creative processes of the Universe. As people tried to understand how things came to be, as well as their own inner workings, they developed sexual contexts for virtually all of nature. If you look at the world, you will see a constant dance of polarity and the results of that interplay
For example, ancient wisdom traditions often conveyed this truth of creation as universal parental figures. From the Sankhya philosophy of ancient India, you have the example of Purusha and Prakriti. These deities are not only meant to show the interplay of Pure Universal Consciousness (Purusha) with the Natural World (Prakriti), but also of your own consciousness with your mind-body expression. The copulation of Purusha and Prakriti results in all manifestations of the Universe and your experience of life.
You can see similar examples of this truth from ancient Kemet (Egypt) in Geb and Nut, or Asase Ya and Nyame of Akan culture from West Africa. Nut and Geb, literally “Heaven” and “Earth” respectively, were seen as the parents of five of the original deities of mankind. Their coming together was part of the daily cycle as the heavens join and depart from the earth at the horizon. The Akan people believed that Nyame, sky father god or pure spirit, and Asase Ya, goddess of earth and the physical world, were forever united and responsible for all we know of creation.
There are several bits of wisdom to receive from these three primordial power couples, including:
- Polarity/differences can create liveliness and dynamism in relationships.
- Attraction between two people has the potential to produce worlds of experience.
- Equanimity and respect for each other are the foundations of a good relationship.
- Equality in your own dualistic experience (inner and outer) brings health and vitality. Give equal energy to your inner and outer development.
Ancient mythology is full of examples of devotional love. In Kemet, there is one of the most famous love stories of all time: Ausar (Osiris) and Auset (Isis). In this story, Ausar is killed, cut into pieces, and scattered across the Earth. Among other acts, Auset romantically searches the entire globe piecing her beloved back together.
Other examples of this undying devotional kind of love can be found in Psyche and Eros of Greek mythology, or Orpheus and Eurydice. After a series of mistakes and secret plots, Psyche has to go through trials and tribulations, including a mission to the Underworld to redeem her lover Eros. Orpheus also had to make a fateful trip for his beloved Eurydice. Even in later folklore, such as that of King Arthur’s Court, you can find inspiration from Sir Lancelot and Guinevere.
These tales from all over the world show the power of love and devotion to prevail against all odds, even death. Whether they are symbolically conveying a truth or explaining cosmic events, many ancient tales highlight the importance of dedication in undying love. There are some valuable lessons that can be taken from these examples, including:
- True commitment to your partner can mean seeing each other through dark times.
- Devotion to another person may involve helping them become a complete being.
- Sometimes it is best to go about relationships with restraint and discipline rather than blind lust in order to produce the best outcomes.
- Evolution takes devoting yourself to your Higher Self as these lovers do.
- Patience is very important in all aspects of love
Sometimes in relationships it is important to be a source of inspiration for one another. Few stories illustrate this better than the story of Shiva and Parvati. Seen as a reincarnation of Shakti, some legends say that Parvati was so inspired by her love of Shiva that she took up great ascetic trials and tribulations. This not only deified her, but drew Shiva out of deep meditation to once again become empowered in the world.
Similarly, in Kemet, Het-Heru (Hathor) was the wife of Ra or Heru (Horus), and illustrated the empowering effect that feminine energies such as beauty, joy, compassion, and love can have on the dominating solar life force. Although politics and philosophy of the day may have changed the face of the male component, Hathor was always seen as the female in this archetypal pairing. The relevant wisdom concealed in unifying Hathor with either Ra or Horus was found in the principals that they represent. Hathor is seen as the imaginative, creative power of our minds. As you see in other wisdom traditions, the life force and pure consciousness is often depicted as solar energy or light. In ancient Egypt, this was represented by the god Ra and later by Horus. So, the pairing of Hathor with Ra was a metaphor for the ability of the imagination to give form and expression to our will. By dreaming or imagining the things that you most desire, you are able to breathe life into them.
There are so many stories of how masculine and feminine energies cause forces to move in one another. Even in negative reaction or tragedy, the power of one polarity over the other to inspire is undeniable. Here are some valuable lessons that can be taken from these examples:
- You and your partner’s differences can inspire strengths to manifest in one another.
- Love of another can inspire you to new heights in your own evolution.
- Being devoted to your own growth can inspire your significant other by example.
- Be true to yourself, but face the challenges that a relationship presents. Do not be afraid of change or adversity.
Mythology from various parts of the world include some form of god-goddess merging or a divine couple locked in a unified act. There are multiple examples of female and male essences coming together, such as Ardhanarishvara of Indian lore which was a unifying of Shiva and Parvati into one. Also, the Greeks gave us the story of Hermaphroditus, who was merged with the female water nymph Salmacis. These examples act as wise metaphors for the unity of a couple.
Here are some valuable lessons that can be taken from these examples:
- When two souls share life together, their traits rub off on each other.
- While remaining true to yourself, embrace the unified identity, goals, and vision that you and your partner are creating together.
- Cultivate the idea of being “two sides to the same coin.” When done with respect to each other’s individuality, the bonds of a relationship can grow stronger.
Themes of trust and accountability are usually found more so in the lessons from mythology rather than in the behavior of the gods. Still the importance of trust among lovers and in social spheres is important.
Take the story of Izanagi and Izanami from the far east beliefs of Shintoism. Their story shows how going against the wishes of your lover can create a lot of turmoil. In this case, it was the drama of the life and birth cycle, but in your life it may just be drama! Though previously in love, Izanagi violates Izanami’s trust creating a whirlwind of events with human lives in the balance. In retribution for Izanagi’s violation, Izanami vows to kill thousands as well as carry out other destructive acts.
How many times has your partner pushed you to equivalent emotions?
Or how about the story of Ishtar and Dumuzi (Tammuz) of Mesopotamia? After seeing her husband in full gala and undisturbed in the wake of her death, Ishtar doomed him to die and replace her in the Underworld. Obviously, this was a violation of their love bond.
The point to take away from these celestial lover’s spats is that trust and reliability are extremely important. Even when quarrelling over something trivial, if it is a matter of trust, it can cause monumental issues. As two sides to a whole, each partner is invested in the thought of being able to count on the other to respect their thoughts and honor their feelings. If agreements are made, they must be upheld. Without this, it is difficult to commit and sink into love with another. Like Dumuzi, you may find yourself sinking into an underworld instead.
Here are some valuable lessons that can be taken from these examples:
- Do what you say you will do. Always!
- Be accountable to your partner with authenticity through honest communication, presence, and respect. Be true to yourself and give them the real you.
- Be honest about your mistakes and fully receive the consequences. This frees up energy in the relationship and allows for understanding rather than spite.