Issaura: Goddess of War
Throughout history, in mythologies created by very patriarchal societies, it is surprising and pleasing to discover a number of instances where females challenged the status quo—particularly the idea of the warrior goddess. The first book of the Incarn Saga, Issaura’s Claws, is named after the patron goddess of the Theriomorph race. According to myth, Issaura’s gift to a group of men enabled them to transform into specific animal forms just as the gods could. This ability differentiated Theriomorphs from the humans.
Issaura, also known as Theri, was greatly influenced by Athena/Minerva. I have always loved the concept of a strong, independent female. Like her Greco-Roman counterpart, Issaura is the goddess of war, wisdom and women. I needed this deity to channel feminist strength in a world overtly patriarchal. The clear tomboy of the gods, Issaura’s persona was brave enough to face any opposition. Both goddesses held a certain place in their hearts for mortals. Athena often came down to Earth to aid the heroes of old through gifts of magical items or actions. Issaura made a promise to return if ever the Theriomorph race was at the point of destruction.
The other important Greco-Roman influence was Artemis/Diana, the goddess of the hunt. The concept of the powerful moon goddess helped give rise to Issaura, especially her choice to be a virgin deity. Artemis was also the only female in her pantheon to wear a short dress, which allowed her to maneuver easily in the woods where she was most often found. This idea manifested in my mind and was reflected in the Theriomorph mindset that men and women dress the same.
In addition to deities, Greek myths tell of the legendary race of Amazonians. This all-female race of warriors would appear in many different stories, a number of which dealt with war. From childhood, these women were trained to fight just as well as the men—maybe even more so. In infancy, one breast was cut off the child so that when she grew up, she could draw her bow back further allowing her arrows to travel a greater distance. Beautiful and deadly, the Amazons embody the power of the woman warrior.
In Egypt, a far older pantheon boasts a fierce, through extremely bloodthirsty goddess, Sekment. Lion-headed, this deity nearly slaughtered all humanity the one time she sought vengeance. Because of this, she was sometimes known as “She who dances on blood.” Very clearly hot-tempered, both Sekment and Issaura have embody traits that cause far darker results.
The fact that both of these goddesses share large feline forms is somewhat coincidental. I needed Issaura to have a carnivorous dual form that was adaptable in most terrains. Tigers can naturally handle cold and hot climates and, despite their massive forms, are surprisingly strong swimmers. It fit that this primarily ambush predator be the dual form of my own goddess of war.
Many war gods are found in Norse mythos as well as some surprisingly strong females. Valkyries were a group of demi-goddesses who would assist on the field of battle and then collect the souls of the fallen who were deemed worthy to attain the most esteemed afterlife, Valhalla. In the mead hall, they would shift from warrior to the more accepted role of wine bearers. Nevertheless, the Valkyries were not a people one wanted to cross.
Their mortal counterparts are sometimes referred to as shieldmaidens if not Valkyries as well. These human female warriors appeared throughout the ancient sagas. They fought battles and even fell in love with mortal heroes, often causing the heroes downfall.
You might wonder if a deity that supports war is inevitably bad or even evil? Not necessarily. Although Athena/Minerva was the patron of war and battle, she protected heroes whom she thought were worthy. The Viking culture held dying in battle in high esteem. In their sagas, the Valkyries chose the greatest warriors to die as an honor. The few warriors who were chosen to enter Valhalla would continue to prepare for the battle at the end of the world, Ragnarok, where they would fight alongside Odin, king of the gods, in his personal army. These deities of war were guardians of those who fought for what they believed in.
In the Incarn Saga, Issaura embodies some of the best characteristics of these war goddesses, demi-goddesses, and mythic women.
NOTE: Art by: https://k-cota.deviantart.com/art/Athena-Goddess-of-War-reupld-202854492