12 Empowering Goddesses and Their Iconography in Art

For thousands of years, goddesses have been worshipped in cultures around the world. These prominent female deities are not only revered, but often credited with powerful attributes such as cosmic energy, ageless beauty, divine prophecy, and healing capabilities, among other gifts. A vast array of goddesses exist from different cultures, each embodying a unique set of characteristics. From love to motherhood to the arts, these powerful female entities have transcended time and continue to inspire contemporary audiences.

How Goddesses Are Depicted in Art

The power and influence of female goddesses is a cornerstone of both Eastern and Western iconography. In 1633, Rembrandt van Rijn produced a powerful depiction of Bellona, the Roman goddess of war. Later, in 1898, Viennese artist Gustav Klimt notably recreated the classical Greek version of the goddess in Pallas Athene. Today, the auction market is rife with representations of these powerful women through a variety of media, from Hindu statues to Greek pottery. We’ve highlighted some of these enlivening goddesses and the attributes they possess that can inspire your day-to-day and pave the way for a more creative life.


This Hindu deity is associated with knowledge, music, art, and wisdom. She is commonly depicted seated on a white lotus, a symbol of light and knowledge. Saraswati often carries a veena (or vina), one of the oldest Indian string instruments, intended to represent creativity and the arts.


A Plaster Bust of Hera. Sold for £3,360 via Dreweatts 1759 (December 2010).

This Greek goddess of marriage, life, and love is often referred to as the “Queen of the Gods.” She is portrayed in art as a matronly woman wearing a polos crown. Her chariot is pulled by peacocks, the ancient symbol for mortality. Hera is often idolized as a loyal wife and great leader despite the hardships she encountered in her marriage to Zeus.


Goddess Seshat. Image via Wiki Commons.

Seshat is the Egyptian goddess of wisdom, writing, and knowledge. Her name literally translates to “Female Scribe.” She dons a leopard skin robe, which is said only to be worn by pharaohs and priests of the highest caliber, and is often pictured in art with a reed pen and papyrus scroll meant to signify her love of writing and record-keeping.


Roman goddess Diana represents hunting, the moon, and nature. She is depicted in art wearing a short chiton (tunic) for agility, often with a dog or deer by her side. Her hunting spirit makes her a fighter, inspiring the pursuit of her own goals and dreams.


Hathor, one of the most famous goddesses of Ancient Egypt, is symbolic of many things in art, most notably motherhood, music, and joy. Thus, she is often depicted with a sistrum, a powerful musical instrument that, when shaken, produces a sound that ranges from a rattle to a jangle. She is also seen with the Ankh, an Ancient Egyptian symbol of life.

Kuan Yin (Guanyin)

Bronze Seated Kuan Yin. Sold for $889 via Skinner (February 2012).

The Buddhist goddess of compassion, Kuan Yin (also referred to as Guanyin), is often shown in art sitting atop a lotus, which symbolizes purity, peace, and harmony. She carries a vase or water jar in her hands, containing pure water thought to be the divine nectar of life. Depictions of Kuan Yin serve as a reminder to live an empowered, spiritual life.


Freya (also spelled “Freyja,”) is a Norse deity who represents love, wealth, and fertility. She is portrayed in art wearing a diadem or Viking helmet and carrying a sword. Her passionate spirit will inspire you to pursue your own path through life, love, and the arts.


This well-known Greek goddess represents many things including wisdom, courage, skill, and the arts in general. In classical art, she’s depicted wearing the full armor of a warrior. She often appears with an owl on her shoulder, which is her sacred animal and a symbol of esteemed wisdom.


Brigid, the Celtic goddess of fire, poetry, healing, childbirth, and unity, is often shown artistically with farm animals, representing the flourishing of living creatures. She is seen wearing Brigid’s cross, said to protect a house from fire.


Tibetan Bronze Figure of Shakti. Sold for $517.5 via Eldred’s (August 2014).

Shakti is one of the most powerful Hindu goddesses. She is even referred to as “The Great Divine Mother.” She is illustrated colorfully in art. She has multiple arms and their power in numbers is believed to hold a great force over humans. In them, she often carries a Sruk (ladle) utilized in the act of performing sacrifices, a rosary, a Kamandalu (water pot) and Pustaka (book) interpreted to be the Veda, the most ancient Hindu scriptures containing hymns, philosophy, and guidance on rituals.


This Sumerian goddess of love and procreation is a powerful, sensual figure. She is shown in art with a hook-shaped twisted knot of reeds representing the doorpost of a storehouse which was said to be a symbol of abundance and fertility. Sometimes, she is shown next to a lion that represents her courage.


The Greek goddess of victory, Nike is depicted in classical art as a young, winged woman. She carries a palm frond or laurel wreath to reward victors of glory and fame.

Drawing Inspiration from Goddesses

The stories related to these goddesses are still relevant in modern context; they each embody unique qualities that have the power to generate specific results in life. Though their origins stem from cultures and religions that are thousands of years old, these goddesses can still be a source of inspiration and motivation for contemporary audiences. Channel your divine cosmic energy and ward off your personal demons with Shakti’s spiritual guidance, use Hathor’s artistic encouragement to restore joy within your own career, or channel Brigid as your muse while writing.

Whether you’re looking to perfect your artistic talents, advance your career, pursue your passions, or simply overcome an obstacle, channel the attributes of these eleven empowering goddesses in art and mythology to inspire daily life.

Life throws us many obstacles and challenges. Whether you’re looking to overcome a hardship, struggling to find inspiration, or newly in love, everyone can seek guidance to gain courage.

Art from the Greek, Roman, and Egyptian cultures, among others, has celebrated female deities as masters of the arts through their various skill sets and empowering characteristics. Their influence lives on through these powerful representations in paintings, sculpture, and other artistic forms, and spending time with these works of art can reignite your own passion and strength.

Sources: Greek Mythology Pantheon | Listverse | Huffington Post | Exemplore | Greek Gods and Goddesses