One of the most famous goddesses in Greek mythology is the goddess Aphrodite. Known primarily as the goddess of love and fertility, she had many lovers, including gods such as Ares, and men, such as Anchises.
Another deity, Aphroditus, was portrayed as having a female form like Aphrodite, but also a phallus. He is often depicted as a female who lifts her dress to reveal male genitals. He therefore represents male and female unity. (Photos: Naples National Archaeological Museum; National Museum in Stockholm)
2. Japanese deities
Kichijōten is considered by many Japanese people to be the goddess of fertility, happiness and beauty. In some Japanese sects, she is given an individual status as an object of Buddhist worship. She is usually depicted as a beautiful Tang period court lady, wearing a richly embroidered gown, while holding a “wish-granting” jewel in one hand. She’s sometimes shown wearing a tiara containing an image of a phoenix. (Photo: Tokyo National Museum)
To Catholics, Saint Gerard Majella is the patron saint of expectant mums. Mothers, mothers-to-be, and those trying to conceive often turn to the Italian saint, who was born in 1726. Saint Gerard became the special patron of mothers because of a miracle that happened a few months before his death in 1755. He accidentally dropped his handkerchief when he visited a family. When one of the family’s young daughters tried returning it, he told her to keep it as she might need it someday. Years later, when the now woman was on the verge of losing her life in childbirth, she asked for the handkerchief to be brought to her. After placing it over her womb, the pain disappeared immediately and she gave birth to a healthy child. (Photo: Catholic Online)
4. Hawaiian mythology
According to Hawaiian mythology, Haumea is the goddess of fertility and childbirth. It is said that the first men were made by Haumea, and she’s the mother of many others. Most of her children were said to be born from various parts of her body. (Photo: Painting of the Hawaiian goddess Haumea, by Isa Maria)
5. East Asian deities
Commonly known as the “Goddess of Mercy”, Guan Yin is revered by Taoists. Often depicted as a beautiful, white-robed woman, this immortal is also often referred to as the “most widely beloved Buddhist Divinity” with miraculous powers to help all those who pray to her. Because of her unconditional love and compassion, many regard her as the protector of women and children, and also capable of granting children to couples. (Photo: Christie’s)
6. Roman mythology
Not unlike the Greek goddess Aphrodite, in Roman mythology, Venus is the goddess of love, sex, beauty and fertility. Venus was legendary for her romantic affairs with both gods and mortals, and as Venus Verticordia, she was charged with protecting girls’ and women’s chastity.
Juno Lucina is the goddess of childbirth who defended the lives of expectant women in labour. Offering fertility, protection and safety to mothers, she was often invoked by women who wanted children but had difficulty conceiving. (Photos: The Louvre; Brooklyn Museum Archives)
7. Hindu mythology
Shashthi is a Hindu folk goddess known to bestow children on mortals and protect them, as well as support childbirth. According to some Hindu teachings, King Priyavrata and his wife Malini performed a fire-sacrifice ritual in an effort to conceive a son, but after being pregnant for 12 years, they delivered a stillborn son. On his way to the cremation grounds with the his son’s corpse, Priyavrata saw a celestial woman dressed in white silk and jewels, riding in a heavenly chariot. She said that she was Shashthi, and had the power to grant children to devotees. After resurrecting the infant, Shashthi was about to take the child with her when Priyavrata pleaded for the return of his son. The goddess agreed on the condition that Priyavrata fostered her worship. Shashthi, who is especially venerated in Eastern India, is often portrayed as a motherly figure, riding a cat and nursing a baby. Women suffering from infertility often entreat her for blessings and help in conceiving. (Photo: Used in the book Hindu Mythology, by W J Wilkins)
8. Egyptian mythology
In ancient Egypt, Tawaret is the protective goddess of childbirth and fertility. The river goddess is most commonly portrayed as a hippopotamus standing on hind legs that resemble a lion’s. She has pendulous female human breasts, and the back of a Nile crocodile. Her hand is sometimes shown resting on the “sa” symbol, which represents protection. Pregnant women in ancient Egypt often wore amulets with her name or likeness to protect their pregnancies.
Bast, another protection goddess, is the daughter of the Sun God, Ra. She not only looked after women, children and domestic cats, she was also the goddess of family, fertility and birth, since domestic cats tend to be tender and protective towards their offspring. Ancient Egyptian women who wanted to get pregnant would sometimes wear an amulet showing the goddess Bast with kittens ― the figure denoted the number of children she would like to have. (Photos: http://www.ancientegypt.co.uk; Louvre)