For as long I remember, I’ve been reading mythological narratives; it is like sitting inside your room and traveling into ancient histories around the globe. The element that I found to be fascinating in most of these folklores were the women who refused to give in to the conventional norms and instead had a mind of their own. These female characters are the epitome of everything a woman wants to be today—strong, independent, and makers of their own destiny. So, here are some inspirational women from across various mythologies who were complete badasses:
(1) Draupadi: Indian Mythology
The first one is close to home. Fiery as the fire she was born from, the princess of Panchal was known to be not only the most beautiful but also the most knowledgeable and well versed woman of her time. Later, she became the wife of the five Pandavas (for which she had to endure taunts all her life). They went on to establish the kingdom of Indraprastha where she wasn’t only the queen but the treasurer too. Later, her husband, Yudhishthira, staked everything including her in a game of dice and lost. When she was then dragged into an assembly full of men and attempted to be disrobed, she alone still dared to stand up for herself and question the elders who stood watching all of this happen; it was her own integrity and virtue that saved her.
She was intelligent, fearless, loyal, sacrificing, and took everything in her stride. Her resolve to punish the perpetrators of her injustice was one of the main reasons behind the epic battle of Mahabharata. She is said to be an incarnation of Goddess Shakti and has temples in her name across South India.
2) Hel: Germanic/Norse Mythology
Hel is not as well-known or well-regarded as many other Norse deities such as Thor. Nonetheless, she made the best out of her unfavourable circumstances and is revered and feared alike. Soon after her birth, Odin cast her out of Asgard to Niflheim as the other Norse gods were uncomfortable with Hel’s appearance. She became the ruler of this underworld of Norse mythology that came to be known by her name itself. She had the crucial job of ruling and judging the people who died of old age and disease. With a face half dead and half living, she is said to have had a dangerously intimidating sight.
In Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok, she is presented as the Goddess of Death who leads an army of the dead in a ship made from the fingernails of corpses, and literally brings the end of the world with her. This rendition could be said to be an extension of imagination as such an incident is not a part of any of the ancient legends about her.
3) Artemis: Greek Mythology
Artemis was the Greek goddess of the wild animals, the hunt, and vegetation, of chastity and childbirth and the moon. She was greatly skilled in archery. The daughter of Zeus and Leto, she helped bring forth her twin brother, the Sun-god Apollo just after her birth. She decided to remain a maiden and dedicated her life to the protection of young women, men and children.
Artemis’ affections were sought by many men, despite her vow of virginity. Her refusal angered and frustrated them. They tried to rape her and she responded by striking one to death; transforming the other into a girl, when he saw her naked without her consent; and turning the third one into a mighty stag who is later devoured by his own hounds.
She was worshiped in many parts of Greece and Rome, where she was regarded as Diana. She is also the inspiration behind one of DC’s iconic characters–the Wonder Woman.
4) Anat- Egyptian Mythology
Anat was the multifaceted goddess of fertility, sexual love, hunting and war. She was the elder sister and wife of Baal (incest in royal families was considered normal in their culture).
The texts describe her as aggressive and ruthless in battle—she destroyed the enemies of Baal and waded through pools of their blood. She even hunted down and kills Mot (death) when he slayed Baal.
However, another facet of this fierce woman was her tenderness. Revered as the goddess of sexuality, she was considered to be the most beautiful of all of the gods. She was also venerated as a fertility goddess for her powers of looking over and protecting her people, children, animals and the crops.
She is indubitably a controversial and paradoxical deity, but nonetheless someone you would want on your side.
5) Kundalakesa- Buddhist Mythology
The Kundalakesa of Therigatha is a Tamil epic, and Kundalakesa is a treasurer’s daughter. She was beautiful and had amassed a great fortune.
In the mythology, she saves a young thief from execution and then marries him, going against societal norms, for she thinks that he truly loved her. However, the thief tries to kill her and steal all her jewels. On this, she pushes him off a hill, after which she turns to Buddhism. She doesn’t let this episode affect her and moves on to live her life.
6) Morrigan- Irish/ Celtic Mythology
The Morrígan was first and foremost a goddess of war and death. She was also the goddess of prophecy and fate. She was all-knowing, and would occasionally share her knowledge with others, but for a price in return.
She was part of a trio of supernatural women who acted under a single name. The trio was wild and had been shown to spend their free time starting fights and provoking young men into doing stupid things for their amusement. They are commonly shown washing bloody clothes at a river ford; it is said that when approached, they would tell the enquirer the clothes are theirs, in order to freak them out and scare them away.
They are also some of the most powerful female figures I’ve come across in any mythology, and it was believed that without their approval, none of the Irish kings could reign.
7) Ix Chel- Mayan Mythology
The ancient Mayan goddess of the moon, Ix Chel was also the goddess of fertility. Her name Ix Chel literally translates to “Lady Rainbow”. She was equally loved and feared because of her dual forms. In one form, she took the form of an older woman who wore a serpent crown and who dressed in traditional Mayan garb. In the other one, she was young and attractive and much friendlier than the first form.
She fell in love with the Sun God, married him and gave birth to four sons, who came to be the four directions. However, the Sun god was a rather jealous fellow and was under the belief that Ix Chel was cheating on him with his younger brother. After giving her husband many chances to change, she decided to leave him for good. After this, she attended to pregnant mothers on earth and tended to them in their hour of need.
There are many other strong and badass female characters encompassed in the mythologies of the world such as Goddess Kali (slayer of demons), the Mesopotamian Ocean Goddess Tiamat (creator of earth and heaven), Hidimba (queen of the Rakshasas and the first demonstration of a single mother by choice), and many more that I haven’t even uncovered yet. So I could really go on and on, but I hope that you found this read interesting and now you know whom to approach for a stimulating conversation related to mythology!
This post was written by Samridhi Seth (III year)