A goddess is a female deity in polytheistic religions. Goddesses most often have feminine characteristics that are apotheosize in their pure form. However, in some cases goddesses may embody both male and female characteristics (like Sophia), or they may even exhibit traits that are traditionally associated with the male gender (for example, Artemis). Goddesses have been especially linked with virtues such as beauty, love, motherhood and fertility (Mother-goddess cult in prehistoric times), but because of their flexibility in gender portrayal, they have also been associated with ideas such as war, creation, and death.
In some faiths, a sacred female figure holds a central place in religious prayer and worship. For example, Shaktism, the worship of the female force that animates the world, is one of the three major sects of Hinduism. In Tibetan Buddhism, the highest advancement any person can achieve is to become like the great female Buddhas (e.g. Arya Tara), who are depicted as supreme protectors, fearless and filled with compassion for all beings.
The primacy of a monotheistic or near-monotheistic "Great Goddess" is advocated by some modern matriarchists as a female version of, preceding, or analogue to, the Abrahamic God associated with the historical rise of monotheism in the Mediterranean Axis Age.
Polytheist religions, including Polytheistic reconstructionists, honour multiple goddesses and gods, and usually view them as discrete, separate beings. These deities may be part of a pantheon, or different regions may have tutelary deities. The reconstructionists, like their ancient forebears, honour the deities particular to their country of origin.
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