I’ve had people ask me why I use the name ‘Zoe’ to refer to the Holy Daughter in my practice.
For starters, the name of the Holy Daughter was never set in stone. In the original Madrian texts, She is referred to by the name Inanna. However no Deanist would state that She is the exact same character found in the Sumerian myth; ‘The Descent of Inanna’. The goddess of that story travels to the Underworld for an entirely different motive than that of the Holy Daughter in the Mythos, one many scholars believe may not been altruistic given the reactions of other characters and themes continued from other Inanna-related myths. There is no ‘sacrifice’, only a ritual murder at the hands of the Dark Queen. Inanna is a goddess most commonly associated with war and sexuality, while the Daughter is revered for Her great love and wisdom. So why was the name ‘Inanna’ revealed to the Madrians when creating the Scripture? Other than the fact Her name translates to ‘Queen of Heaven’, we do not know the real reason for this. Perhaps this was the ‘true’ descent of Inanna before being replaced with a less flattering version of Her? Only Dea knows.
Yet I have met very few Deanists who refer to the Daughter as ‘Inanna’, let alone as an exclusive name. In other edits of the Scriptures, She is called Rhianne. In others, She is Kore. Some have taken to calling Her ‘Aurora’, referring to Her being the Dawn of Heaven. Kore, like Inanna, is also a goddess famous for descending into the Underworld, most famously in the myth of her abduction by Hades. Putting aside which version one believes is the ‘true myth’, Hades being Her abductor or Kore going with him willingly, it is Her relationship with Her mother Demeter which gives the story more of a link to the Recital Mythos than the Descent of Inanna, in my opinion. Demeter’s determined quest to regain Her daughter from the Underworld speaks true of Our Mother’s longing for all her lost children to unite fully in Her arms.
Much like how the Janati are Seven Rays of Dea’s light, it seems the Daughter has also shown Her story upon the world throughout history, in different versions. The Clear Recital supposedly reveal how these myths tie together to create the real journey and purpose of Our Lady. She is not a kidnapped bride or a deceived fool. She is our Saviour. She leaves Her Mother’s side out of Her own desire to rescue Maidkind. She sacrifices Her divinity piece by piece willingly, enduring all the horrors and agonies of this world, without ever wanting to turn back or call out to Her Mother to save Her. This is a revelation that has been glimpsed by many enlightened souls throughout time and scattered like the Holy Soul Herself. Of course we would give Her many names and many stories, just as we have given God so many different names and origins, varying on how She (or He or They) appear to us.
So why do I choose the name Zoe? Even as a Sophian, isn’t Sophia more commonly identified with the Daughter aspect than the Mother?
Even as a Gnostic, I personally never connected to the idea of Sophia as ‘the Daughter’, as in the opposite place of Christ as ‘the Son’. Yes, there is a Daughter aspect side to Sophia, which we will come to later. However, Sophia’s most renowned act in the Gnostic mythos, for better or worse, is being a Creator. She is the lowest of the Aeons – emanations of the True God – and is the furthest to be set apart from ‘Him’. This results in Her ignorance and fall which brings about the Demiurge; an amoral false god who captures the Light of the True God and traps it in the material world he creates with the help of his seven Archons. Whatever the consequence, Sophia remains as the Mother of ‘God’ (though not the True God) and thus the Mother of our Universe. Infamously, Sophia refuses to co-create with a male consort, impregnating Herself with the light of the ‘Unknown Father’. While this is viewed negatively in Gnosticism, for a Sophian Déanist one can draw a comparison to the Heavenly Mother becoming pregnant purely by the essence of the Great Mysteria. Sophia, like the Heavenly Mother, becomes the Genetrix of the Great Mysteria’s essence (who in Gnostic texts was referred to as ‘the Barbelo’).
This is not to say that Sophia is not a valid name for the Holy Daughter if one wishes to see Her as such. In the Book of Pistis Sophia, She is named as the character who is rescued by Christ from the darkest reaches of Hell, captured by the Archons and hidden from the Light. Her descent bares strong similarities to both the descent of Inanna as well as Kore. In this story, and other Gnostic texts, Sophia represents the Soul of the world, the Divine Spark which lives in all material beings. In many of the texts She is closely linked to Mary Magdalene, who undergoes a ‘descent’ herself where seven demons are said to take hold, until the light of Christ brings her ‘gnosis’ and she arises anew as a great spiritual woman. Many Gnostics hold the idea that the Magdalene is an incarnation of Sophia, while Yeshua is an incarnation of the Logos (the Son). One of Sophia’s titles in Gnostic liturgy is also ‘Daughter of the Light’.
So then who is Zoe and why do I use Her name for the Daughter?
Compared to Sophia and the Magdalene, Zoe honestly doesn’t appear in many of the Nag Hammadi scriptures. The four texts She can be found in are; The Apocrophyn of John, The Origin of the World and The Reality of the Archons. These texts are written as ‘alternative Eden narratives’, giving a different take on the creation story in Genesis and the fall of Adam and Eve. Neognostics tend to look at these stories less as literal explanations for the origin of life and more symbolism of how our souls fall from God into ignorance, and how benevolent forces seek to aid us through the holy powers of Wisdom and Knowledge. The myths paint the Abrahamic God in a rather negative light, viewing him as the false god who sought to corrupt the Light of Sophia, which may have been in response to the antisemitism of many Gnostic groups in ancient times. Modern Gnostics however tend to take a less offensive view that the ‘True God’ is the same as the Abrahamic God worshipped by Christians, Jews and Muslims – and that the Demiurge and Archons are more representatives of human ego distorting divine truth. While I am no longer a Gnostic, I still feel it is important to make that distinction.
While the Gnostics wrote Sophia as a very complex and flawed character, one heavy with regret and yet still worthy of redemption and praise, Zoe is a much more positive and heroic figure. In truth, She is still Sophia, in that She is Sophia’s lesser half that descends into creation to help humanity be free from the Archons’ control:
“After the day of rest, Sophia sent her daughter Zoe, being called Eve, as an instructor, in order that she might make Adam, who had no soul, arise, so that those whom he should engender might become containers of light.” – On the Origin of the World.
Rather than being created as a ‘helper’ from the rib of Adam, the Gnostic Eve is a luminous being. The Archons create Adam alone, empty and soulless to begin with, as their pet slave to control. In Gnostic theology, the material world is ‘hell’, as opposed to traditional Christian and Muslim theology. Zoe descending into the world to become the soul of a human woman that might pass Her light to others rings true of the Holy Daughter’s mission to spread Her essence among all Maidkind. The Archons attempt to defile Zoe/Eve to make Her submit like Adam but they cannot touch Her true form.
“Then Eve, being a force, laughed at their decision. She put mist into their eyes and secretly left her likeness with Adam. She entered the tree of knowledge and remained there. And they pursued her, and she revealed to them that she had gone into the tree and become a tree. Then, entering a great state of fear, the blind creatures fled.” – Origin.
The human Eve is left without Zoe’s full spirit but a spark of Her remains and is lead to eat the fruit of the tree that Zoe has fled into. Interpretations vary on whether the serpent is an agent of Christ or Zoe but Eve eats the apple and gains divine knowledge (gnosis) which reveals the truth of her origins, for every living thing was once a part of the Pleroma; the Fullness of God. This symbolises Zoe as the Savior of our souls, for all gnosis is a gift shared from Her.
Zoe’s story doesn’t end in Eden. She continues to guide humanity towards the truth and help them resist the grip of the false rulers.
“A light filled Afterthought emerged, and he called her Zoe (Life). She aids the entire creation, working with him, restoring him to the Fullness. She taught Adam about the way his people had descended. She taught Adam about the way his people could ascend, which is the way he had descended. The light-filled power was hidden in Adam, so that the rulers wouldn’t know about Her. For [Zoe] would repair the damage her mother had caused.” – Apocryphon of John.
As a Gnostic, I fell in love with Zoe because She was more than just a divine guide. She was a rebel. She was a champion for Sophia’s children against the Archons. She laughed in the face of the malevolent forces and outsmarted them. She was a religious heroine long before her time and rather exceptional given how harsh feminine characters, including Sophia and the Magdalene, were treated in many of these texts. Zoe is never a damsel in distress. She never despairs or cries out for repentance. She never relies on a male saviour.
In fact another of Her roles is in the redemption of Sabaoth, who is one of the Demiurge’s archons. Sabaoth is loyal to his ‘father’ until witnessing Zoe confronting him when the Demiurge, or Yaltaboath, declares that he is the one true god.
“And Zoe (Life), the daughter of Pistis Sophia, cried out and said to him, “You are mistaken, Sakla!” – for which the alternative name is Yaltabaoth. She breathed into his face, and her breath became a fiery angel for her; and that angel bound Yaldabaoth and cast him down into Tartaros (Hell) below the abyss.
Now when his offspring Sabaoth saw the force of that power, he repented and condemned his father and his mother, matter. He loathed them, but he sang songs of praise up to Sophia and her daughter Zoe. And Sophia and Zoe caught him up and gave him charge of the seventh heaven, below the veil between above and below. And he is called ‘God of the forces, Sabaoth’, since he is up above the forces of chaos, for Sophia established him.” – Reality of the Archons.
It’s possible that Sabaoth can be read as a symbol of humanity seeing through the Demiurge’s lies and turning back towards the Mother Sophia through Zoe. After being restored to his place in the seventh heaven, Zoe continues to act as his instructor and teacher. She is sometimes referred to as his consort, but he has no power over Her, for it was She who saved and redeemed him.
Zoe’s sacrifice is not described in the same way as the Holy Daughter’s or the descent of Inanna, or even what little is known of the (possible) ‘rape’ of Kore. However I believe that Zoe’s story continues despite not being mentioned by name. By becoming one with Eve, Her journey continues predominantly through the female characters descended from Her, most notably in Eve’s daughter Norea and eventually Mary Magdalene. While Zoe is fierce and courageous, She still experiences all the pain and suffering of ‘Life’ which we all endure. She has lived through it all and continues to do so. Every injury, every heartbreak, every anxiety is shared with Her. All of this is done out of Her inconceivable love for all of us. She is the Holy Soul of the world.
Sophian Déanism, unlike Gnosticism, rejects the idea that the Mother created an impure world by mistake, as in the Gnostic myth of Sophia. We believe She laughed the Universe into being with pure joy and love in Her heart. We believe the world She created originally was Good for it was one with Her. However we also believe a divide was created when Maidkind, the first daughter, chose to turn from the Mother. From this divide, this ‘kear’, came the malevolent forces that work against Dea Sophia and attempt to keep us separate from Her. It is for this reason we have our Redeemer. Our Lady. I see Zoe as serving the same purpose as the Daughter – to descend into the world, to endure the sufferings of kear for us, so that we may someday be reunited with the Mother.
I have no issue using other names for the Daughter. If I were among another group then I would use the same name and titles the Madria wished us to for a ritual. I also enjoy finding out other names people prefer for the Daughter. For me, She appears as Sophia Zoe, whose name not only means ‘Life’ but ‘Living Wisdom’.
She is my Kyria (Lady). My Queen, my Instructor, my Protector.
“Then when Sophia Zoe saw that the rulers of darkness cursed her friends, she was angry. And when she came out of the first heaven with every power, she chased the rulers from their heavens, and she cast them down to the sinful world, that they might dwell there as evil demons upon the earth. She sent the bird that was in paradise so that, until the consummation of the age, it might spend the thousand years in the rulers’ world: a vital living being with soul, called the phoenix, which kills itself and reanimates itself for a witness to their judgement, because they dealt unjustly with Adam and his race.” – Origin.
By combining Her name with the more common Filianic name ‘Anna’ (AH-na, as opposed to ‘Anne-ah’), the two names flow together to form Living Grace or Grace of Life. And so either referring to the Daughter as Zoe Anna or Zoe Sophia is fitting. For She is the living embodiment of Déa’s divine grace, wisdom and many other attributes on Earth.
Blessed be the Lady.
Blessed be She.