From the Oak: Let’s hear it for the God!
Many are those that focus on female divinities, leaving male divinities in the shadows if they get mentioned at all. This is a shame. Here I will share my thoughts, stories and prayers on male divinities.
Uni, Etruscan Goddess
Uni is the supreme goddess of the Etruscan pantheon. She is part of a ruling triad together with her husband, Tinia, and the goddess Menrva. The Etruscans were distinct culture that occupied a region north of Rome. They were most likely an aboriginal people conquered by a Near Eastern culture which was then influenced by Greek traders (as I understand it any way). Originally they overshadowed their Roman neighbors who took on a lot of the Etruscan culture, especially religiously. Eventually the Etruscans became subordinate to the Romans and essentially disappeared into the Roman Empire.
So who was Uni? Well she is a bit difficult to pick out from the succeeding layers. Most of the information I found was just repetition of only a few known facts. Repeatedly Uni is compared her with Hera/Juno or associated with the Phoenician goddess of love and war, Astarte (who in turn is compared with Ishtar and Aphrodite Ourania). What is interesting is that Etruscan culture was more accepting of females; likewise Etruscan mythology had more emphasis upon female deities. Yet very little of their writings have survived so everything is inferred from surviving artwork. It seems Uni was considered a powerful deity in her own right and never a mere adjunct like Hera is often depicted. Her duties seem to be marriage and childbirth, including in this is the sexual act of procreation.
Depending on the scholar, Hercle (Etruscan counterpart to Heracles/Hercules) is variously described as being the son of Uni or as her adopted son. One of the few depictions I have found of Uni is on the back of a mirror which depicts her nursing an adult Hercle as part of a divine adoption ritual in the presence of Tinia (Zeus/Jupiter) and three other beings (one of which is believed to be Apollo/Apulu).
By whatever name she cares to be called, whether it is Uni, Juno, Hera or Uni-Astarte may this divine Etruscan goddess be pleased in my attempt to remember her and do her honor.
Etruscan Myths by Larissa Bonfante, Judith Saddling
Etruscan Civilization: A Cultural History by Sybille Haynes
Please login first in order for you to submit comments