Ancient moon priestesses were called virgins. ‘Virgin’ meant not married, not belonging to a man. A woman who was ‘one-in-herself’. The very word derives from a Latin root meaning strength, force, skill; and was later applied to men with the word “virile”. Ishtar, Diana, Astarte, Isis were all all called virgin, which did not refer to sexual chastity, but sexual independence.
And all great culture heroes of the past…, mythic or historic, were said to be born of virgin mothers: Marduk, Gilgamesh, Buddha, Osiris, Dionysus, Genghis Khan, Jesus – they were all affirmed as sons of the Great Mother, of the Original One, their worldly power deriving from her. When the Hebrews used the word, and in the original Aramaic, it meant ‘maiden’ or ‘young woman’, with no connotations to sexual chastity.
But later Christian translators could not conceive of the ‘Virgin Mary’ as a woman of independent sexuality, needless to say; they distorted the meaning into sexually pure, chaste, never touched. When Joan of Arc, with her witch coven associations, was called La Pucelle – ‘the Maiden,’ ‘the Virgin’ – the word retained some of its original pagan sense of a strong and independent woman. The Moon Goddess was worshipped in orgiastic rites, being the divinity of matriarchal women free to take as many lovers as they choose. Women could ‘surrender’ themselves to the Goddess by making love to a stranger in her temple.