Religious Imagery

JeninCanada replied to a post of mine, mentioning how a lot of Pagan religious imagery portrays the Goddess as a fat woman, with the Venus of Willendorf being the most famous example. I was curious about artistic representations of goddesses and saints, and for the most part, it’s a lot of conventional beauty. The cool thing is that looking at art from different times shows how beauty standards change. Like, I really like Jan van Eyck’s Virgin Mary in the Ghent Altarpiece. Kind of an inbetweenie, with a roundish face. A beauty by Renaissance standards, probably less so by today’s. I think she’s really pretty.

I just find it interesting how varied religious images are, and how they say more about what the people of the time and place idealize than the figures they’re supposed to represent. Like, Jesus–not a white guy with blue eyes. No, really. On a similar note, it bugged me a bit when I noticed that every figure in my nativity set, with the exception of one black wise man, is white and very European looking.

This idealization of whiteness is problematic for so very many reasons. One of the more subtle ones is that it makes it easy to other or dismiss people who are different when we (as in white, American Christians) go around with an image of Jesus in our heads that looks like us. And I can only imagine how alienating it must be for a non-white Christian to have an image of Jesus who looks nothing like them, especially knowing that he actually didn’t look like that.

On the weight score, it strikes me as a little messed up that so many representations of Mary are thin, especially in the Nativity. You know, right after she had a baby.

I admit to not knowing much about how religions other than my own represent fat and thin, other than the obvious that there are a lot of fat Goddess and fat Buddha images. -=


4 thoughts on “Religious Imagery

  1. meerkat says:

    Speaking of fat Buddha, I was annoyed when I saw the line in the Wikipedia list of commonly believed misinformation saying that Buddha wasn’t really fat, because it went on to elaborate that OF COURSE Buddha couldn’t be fat because fat people are GLUTTONOUS and that goes against Buddhism. Eyeroll!

    • itsalllissasfault says:

      Wow, that is annoying. I’d have been tempted to change it, but starting an edit war would probably be completely futile. Do they have any evidence other than “fat = glutton” that he wasn’t, or is it totally based on that stereotype?

  2. Bri says:

    I wouldn’t say there is ‘a lot’ of fat goddess imagery. In fact, VOW is one of the only ones I can think of! (I am a pagan by the way). There might be some inbetweenie imagery but other that VOW I am racking my brain trying to think of some fat goddesses that I have seen (fat, not just with big boobs) and I am not coming up with any. I would be interested in being shown any others because I would like to be wrong about this one!

    • itsalllissasfault says:

      Ah, okay. I’d been thinking there were more, but I may have been thinking of the other Stone Age ones similar to VOW. This site has a bunch of those figures, some fat, some not, some so abstract I have trouble telling.

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