The great mother goddess, known as Bendida, is one of the most important deities of the Thracians. Specialists translate the name "Bendida" both as "white, radiant, pretty" and as "radiant woman", but mostly as a derivative of the verb "connect, combine." The name of the goddess comes from her capacity as patron of fertility, marriage and cohabitation. She is believed to be the guardian of the spiritual connection between human and divine, as well as of generic associations. Bendida is also a lunar deity. The rock relief is represented by a moon sickle in the hair. At the same time, she is a goddess of nature, who is closely related to the Greek goddess of hunting Artemis and the Roman Diana. Bendida has the power to immortalize with the twig she holds in her hands and with which she is depicted on rock reliefs or on coins. Often when ancient Greek writers refer to Artemis in the Thracians, they actually refer to the Great Mother Goddess Bendida.
Bendida is one of the personifications of the Great Mother Goddess of the Thracians, along with Zerinthia, Brauro, Cotito and Hippa. It is important to point out that it is Bendida's figure, such as the Mother Goddess, and the cult towards her that are best attested in the written sources. Therefore, it would be interesting to say more about this Thracian goddess. Because it is the most striking symbol of the feminine and the most revered female deity in both the virgin (in the form of a virgin) and matron (in the image of the mother) aspect.
Why is the image of the Great Mother Goddess so important to the Thracians? Connected with their ancient representations of the structure of the world, encoded in mystical teaching, known as Thracian orphism. The great mother goddess is Cosmos itself. She conceived and gave birth to her Son, who is the Sun during the day and the Fire by night. Specialists in Thracian orphism indicate the ten-tier cosmogonic representations of the Thracians (4 + 3 + 3). At least the first four are to be noted. The Great Mother Goddess, who is both Cosmos and Mountain, is initially stationary (1), then moves and conceives (2), bears fruit (3), gives birth to her Divine Son (4), etc. You can see the importance of the Great Goddess as beginning the universe and giving birth to Life.
In which geographical area is the cult of the goddess best represented and what information do we have today? The first to mention Bendida are Hiponax (6th c. BC), Hecateus and Hizychius. Plato and Xenophon are also told about the Bendida cult. In his work, Aristophanes calls Bendida the "Great Goddess," which implies the meaning of an omnipotent mistress and omnipotent. Herodotus mentions the Great Goddess of Thracians as the goddess of fertility. The Bendida cult is most popular in southwestern Thrace and on the island of Lemnos, along the rivers Strymon (Struma), Axios (Vardar) and Nestos (Mesta). Titus Livy (2nd c.) Cites the Bendida Temple "in the open", located downstream of Hebros (Maritza). The temple has a golden statue of the goddess. In his comedy, Kratin calls Bendida a "double-copy," because "two types of veneration - heavenly and earthly - are defined by lot." So she carries two copies in her hands. This means that Bendida has two entities - solar (solar) and chthonic (terrestrial). It glows with two lights: its own (the moon) and the sun.
Bendida is also revered among the Thracian tribe of Asia Minor. It is present even in coins of the Vitamin kings, for example Nicomedus I (III c. BC), where she is depicted as a warrior - with two spears, a sword and a shield. One month on the birthing calendar even bears the name of the goddess Bendideios. The memory of Bendida (also called Artemis) has been alive for centuries in the lands of the Witches. In the life of St. Hippatius it is told how the saint meets in Bithynia the goddess, who is as tall as ten men. She simultaneously yarns and feeds a herd of pigs. Spinning symbolizes the binding of the threads of life, and the pig is the sacrificial animal used in Bendida rituals.
The Thracian goddess began to be celebrated in Athens after 430 - 429 BC. This is by a decree issued by the Dodona oracle. The festivities in her honor are called Bendidia and are held in Piraeus in May and June. Initially, only Thracians participated in the festivities, since the goddess is unknown to the Hellenes. In Piraeus, parade participants are received at the Nymph Sanctuary where the pig sacrifice is made. There, mushrooms and water bottles were prepared to clean the sacrificial animal and collect its blood. Afterwards, attendees girdle themselves with wreaths and have a festive lunch in Nympheon. As Plato testifies, in the evening the processions continue with "torch racing with horses in honor of the goddess." The following is an orgiastic night feast.
The British and Copenhagen reliefs (IV century BC) depict the goddess Bendida in full height. She has a slightly tilted head, her left hand resting on a spear. She is dressed in a double-breasted chiton, with a cloak, and is dressed in high boots. The Bendida cult has spread to Egypt and Italy.
It is very interesting for the lovers of antiquity in Bulgaria whether this so revered Thracian goddess is not known in any form in Bulgarian folklore. One can see how the cult towards it is popular throughout the Mediterranean basin from the 4th century AD. next. In the ancient world (Greek and Latin), Bendida is also known as Artemis, Diana, and Hecate (Goddess of the Moon). According to some researchers, Bendida is the female version of the Thracian Horseman.
The closest in folklore to Bendida are the self-styled ones. Like her, they are riders, deities of the wild and goddesses of the moon. "In the Thracians, Bendida - Artemis - Diana - Hackate is the image of the self-will, which is often present in Kralimarkov songs" (G. Mihailov). It remains debatable how much the Samodives are the direct successors of Bendida, because there are speculations that they are heirs rather of Roman Diana.
Over the centuries, the Great Mother Goddess of the Thracians has received a number of other nicknames. This is due to the mixing and merging of different religious beliefs and the unions of cults between Greeks, Romans and "barbarians".
"The supreme lord of the Thracians gradually eliminated and romanized, embodying the image of a number of Greek or Roman goddesses, but no one would doubt that under the alien iconography the local population honored their Great Mother. In the Roman era she was also Cybele, and Hera, and Aphrodite, and Hecate, and Artemis, and Selena, and Demeter, and Persephone, and all the as yet unknown goddesses who stand before the figure of the Thracian god-horseman. "(V. Fall and D. Popov).
The Great Mother Goddess, the Supreme God, and the Thracian Horseman (King-Priest - King-God) are the three most important Thracian deities. Bendida is most popular as the name and image of the Great Mother Goddess, so she has a special interest in all lovers of glorious Thracian history and mythology.