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My Son, in all the prophets was I waiting for thee that thou shouldest come and I might rest in thee. For thou art my rest; thou art my first-begotten Son that reignest for ever
Barbelo, Gospel of the Hebrews

Barbelo is the Aeon of impenetrability, stasis and ineffability and refers to the wife of God in several forms of Gnostic cosmogony.

Overview

Barbelo's True Form (Art by Erica Anderson)

Barbelo is often depicted as a supreme female principle, the single passive antecedent of creation in its manifoldness. This figure is also variously referred to as 'Mother-Father' (hinting at her apparent androgyny), 'First Human Being', 'The Triple Androgynous Name', or 'Eternal Aeon'. After God, she’s the foremost inhabitant of the Pleroma, the Gnostic name for Heaven. God didn’t create Barbelo; instead, she came into existence as an opposite in appearance to God.

God the Father, Barbelo the Mother, and Christ the Son form a three-member divine family. The Gnostics thought of this as the divine model of which all earthly families are an imperfect, corrupted reflection.

If that heavenly family sounds a lot like the Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that’s probably no coincidence. To be sure, the idea that Barbelo, the divine mother of Christ, is identical to the Holy Spirit is seldom. We should therefore be careful about categorically claiming that this was a view held by all or even most Gnostics. But the extant Gnostic texts certainly seem to assume such a view in their mentions of Barbelo, such that we can indeed tentatively ascribe that view to most if not all of the Gnostics.

Barbelo is portrayed as the mother of Jesus Christ. Barbelo is described as "the first power, the glory, Barbelo, the perfect glory in the aeons, the glory of the revelation". All subsequent acts of creation within the divine sphere (save, crucially, that of the lowest Aeon Sophia) occurs through her co-action with God. 

Appearance

As an ineffable primordial entity that exists before Creation, whose true form (if any) transcends comprehension, Barbelo must use physical forms in lesser planes of existence. She always appears to the Archons in a beautiful form, that by beguiling them she might gather up her own scattered power. Other times, however, she will change her appearance depending on her mood. Their appearance in Heaven is usually hermaphrodite, which has made them known as "Father-Mother" or "Triple Androgynous".

As the "wife of God", she always appears in female form. Her usually appearance is that of a very beautiful 20 year old woman with snow-white hair extraordinarily long, loose and straight on top of her head, but from the neck down styled into an extremely large braid running past her waist with eyes that are purple and blue, with her height being slightly shorter than the usual 20-years old. She appears wearing a white tunic that covers her from shoulders to her feet. Sometimes, like Anti-God and Primeval Waters, she uses a more gothic form, to serve as the antithesis of God, her resplendent masculine "counterpart." Her appearance is that of a beautiful slender woman with black hair and red eyes.

One of her other forms appears as a beautiful young woman that is in her mid to late twenties. For attire, she usually seen wearing a Japanese Buddhist nun; she wears a tight dress with a slit up the left side exposing her leg and a large white habit similar to a hood with a large gold necklace wrapped around it.

When she saw the female form of God, she decided to use a masculine form in contrast. In his masculine form, Barbelo is a man handsome with pleasant features and slim body. It has fair skin and violet eyes. Just like her first female form, her hair is white and very long, reaching past her waist. He appears wearing a white tunic that covers his body, with a hood behind the same color. Underneath his tunic, he wears a tight black tank top, leaving his muscles detachable when they are exposed. Also, he wears black pants to match his shirt. His face is so beautiful that Earth women say calling him "beautiful" should be considered an insult, his beauty shines through purity and innocence. Like your Son, he summons about 14 wings on his back, wings whiter than snow that are as bright as the sun, the 7 pairs of white wings represent the perfect number of God.

Personality

Barbelo is often inactive in earthly affairs, as God is always in control of the situation, she then only intrudes when needed. Whenever humanity is in danger or heading towards chaos, she will always send a Messiah to guide humanity from darkness to light. Like the time she (along with God) sent her son beloved, Jesus Christ, to rid mankind of Satan and Yaldabaoth, and bring Sophia back to the Pleroma. Despite this, most of the time, she prefers to sleep for countless years until they need her help. Your sleep is not a literal "sleep", she just distributes its essence throughout creation in a state of omnipresence, without emotions, desires, wants or words, existing as a concept, still and quiet, in total silence.

Powers and Abilities

The Spirit of God made me; and the inspiration of the Almighty gave me life.
Job 33:4

Barbelo is one of the most powerful beings in creation, his powers being extraordinarily greater than those of Yaldabaoth, Satan and Beast, seeing them as nothing more than mere rats. She is more powerful than all aeons, including her Firstborn, who she claims can destroy Beast with a mere word. As a Pre-existential entity that embodies ineffability and impenetrability, Barbelo's power is so great that calling her "powerful" would be an understatement.

  • Nigh-Omnipotence: Barbelo is an entity of almost unlimited power, being able to create an infinite amount of universes, each one possessing a heaven and a hell, and at the same time, she could destroy them all with the simple snap of her fingers. She is the progenitor of all the aeons and is therefore more powerful than all of them, including Sophia, Abraxas, Satanael and Yaldabaoth. The latter being considered the "shadow of God" or the "The God-Eater". She is also the opposite of Tathamet, who is said to be the evil side of God, an entity so dangerous that God could not battle it while facing the other pre-existential, so he created an avatar named Anu to fight the dark entity. As an entity that personifies the ineffable and the impenetrable, it is a deity that cannot be described verbally, with attributes of beauty and perfection so superior to terrestrial levels that they cannot be expressed in human words, transcending everything in the universe, including good and evil, light and darkness, creation and destruction, and so on. Being totally ineffable, unthinkable and indescribable. Although not as powerful as her brothers, she is comparable to Ayin and God, with the latter being a member of the Three Great Titans, that is, she is comparable to the three most powerful gods of creation.
    • Ultipotence: Barbelo possesses truly ultimate/endless power and potential dwarfing everyone else in their setting. Allowing one to potentially achieve anything and everything without any limit depending on how much knowledge and control she has over there power.
    • Multiversal Manipulation: Barbelo can manipulate the entire multiverse and everything within. She may be limited to controlling her own multiverse or the multiverse of a particular universe, just as she has the power to manipulate multiple or all of the multiverses, if she wants.
    • Reality Warping: She can create, shape and manipulate reality, the sum or aggregation of everything that is real or existing within a system, just by thinking about it; while true archangels are limited to what is already considered "real", she can make changes from nothing. She has the power of distorting reality, she can change something as tangible as physics and the universe to something inconceivable like logic.
    • Nigh-Absolute Immortality: She possesses near-complete immortality: don't age, can rapidly heal from wounds, and will essentially live forever. However, there are exceptions to their immortality, with some being able hurt her or kill her, for example; Azathoth and Khaos.
  • Nigh-Omniscience: She is aware of almost every event in the universe. Jesus stated that when Sophia tried to hide Yaldabaoth, she just couldn't hide from Barbelo, showing that nothing could escape her eyes.
  • Nigh-Omnipresence: As the primordial entity that personifies motherhood and Stasis, Barbelo is present in several places of creation.
  • Ineffability Embodiment: Barbelo is ineffability itself. With this ability, Barbelo is transcendent to literally anything or concept, including the dualism of light and darkness, order and chaos, she is not limited by space or time because such concepts were not made for her, rather, they don't exist in relation to she. She is indescribable, unnameable, incomprehensible, she is majestic perfection.
  • Primordial Entity Physiology: It is a primordial entity, it precedes time and space and all universal laws, existing in the primeval void before all things alongside God and the primordial others.
  • Mother Goddess Physiology: It is the very pre-existing entity of motherhood and also the mother of all aeons. If God gained the name of metaphorical "Father" due to his role as creator, Barbelo, as his wife, is the "Mother", not only of the aeons, but of all Creation. The Gnostics even referred to her as the "Perfect Mother".
  • Femininity Aspect Manifestation: She is called the female counterpart of God and Mother of the living, so she embodies all the feminine attributes in her, even more than the female avatar of God, Shekhinah.
  • Gender Transcendence: Despite being called “Mother” and referred to by feminine pronouns, she is also called “Father-Mother” or “three times male", showing that she is not limited to gender. Her ineffability also reinforces this.
  • Transcendent Physiology: As an entity that personifies ineffability, and before the first spark of light, Barbelo transcends everything in the universe, multiverse and megaverse including dualism, neutrality, male and female, space or time.
  • Avatar Creation: She can, like other primordials and deities, create avatars to appear on earth.
  • Complete Invulnerability: As she is a formless entity, being neither corporeal nor incorporeal like her husband, she is totally vulnerable.
  • Supernatural Beauty: She can take on a variety of avatars with different appearances, either male, female or neutral, all of which are so beautiful as to be considered the "peak of human beauty".
  • Gnostic Deity Physiology: She is the progenitor of all Gnostic deities, this includes the aeons, the demiurge, and the archons.
  • Spiritual Perfection: Described as Perfect Mother and Holy Spirit, in addition to being the image of God who is a perfect spiritual entity.
  • Imperceptibility: As she is an Aeon, she is often laid out as incorruptible and impeccable.

History

In the beginning there was nothing. An infinite nothing, and the universe was ravaged and empty. There were only chaotic oceans covering the void, and darkness covering the Abyss, and then God came into being. When God looked at his reflection in the Aquatic Abyss an entity appeared that was Sige, and Sige seeing the beauty of his co-being walked out of the waters towards God, when Sige came out of the waters a shadow was left by her, a shadow that would come to be called Tathamet. Both Sige and Tathamet are considered Gods equal and opposite, being opposite in appearance and gender.

The role of the Goddess of Creation is unknown during the primeval war, all that is known is that she was God's helper during the war, having always been by his side. After defeating the agents of chaos and imprisoning them, the Lord breathed into the abyss and said "let there be light" and there was light. And as the universe expanded, new worlds were created, including the Heaven that was found by God and he decided to make that place his home. God then named Sige of Barbelo, and they both got married and had a son, the personification of the Word, the firstborn of creation, the Autogenes, God proud when contemplating his son said: Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Barbelo then decided to create a new species of beings, the aeons, and when she did, they praised the Invisible Father, saying: "It is because of you that everything exists and everything will return to you. I will praise and glorify you and the Autogenes and to the three aeons: the Father, the Mother and the Son, the perfect power."

Myths and Legends

So prominent was her place amongst some Gnostics that some schools were designated as Barbeliotae, Barbelo worshippers or Barbēlōgnostics.

In some Gnostic texts, God’s inexhaustible profusion of thought overflows, and a new being, Barbelo, emerges from that intellectual flood. Elsewhere, it’s said that Barbelo arose when God stared down into the primal waters and saw his luminous reflection, which then became a new being.

We don’t know what the name “Barbelo” means, but it might be related to the Coptic verb berber, “to overflow” or “to boil over.” That connection would be fitting in light of Barbelo having been born from the overflowing thought of God in some Gnostic scriptures.

The word for “spirit” in Hebrew and other Semitic languages is feminine, so to the ears of people who spoke those languages, the name “Holy Spirit” would have almost automatically connoted a feminine being. This seems to be a conception that was actively cultivated in at least some early Christian circles. For example, the Jewish Christian Gospel of the Hebrews has Jesus refer to the Holy Spirit as his mother.

The same view is attested in Gnostic literature, too. In the words of the Valentinian Gnostic Gospel of Philip, “Some said Mary became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. They are wrong and do not know what they are saying. When did a woman ever get pregnant by a woman?”

Pistis Sophia

In the Pistis Sophia Barbelo is named often, but her place is not clearly defined. She is one of the gods, "a great power of the Invisible God", joined with Him and the three "Thrice-powerful deities", the mother of Pistis Sophilight" or heavenly body; the earth apparently is the "matter kishan choure of Barbēlō" or the "place of Barbēlō".

In patristic texts

She is obscurely described by Irenaeus as "a never-aging aeon in a virginal spirit", to whom, according to certain "Gnostici", the Innominable Father wished to manifest Himself, and who, when four successive beings, whose names express thought and life, had come forth from Him, was quickened with joy at the sight, and herself gave birth to three (or four) other like beings.

She is noticed in several neighboring passages of Epiphanius, who in part must be following the Compendium of Hippolytus, as is shown by comparison with Philaster , but also speaks from personal knowledge of the Ophitic sects specially called "Gnostici". The first passage is in the article on the Nicolaitans, but is apparently an anticipatory reference to their alleged descendants the "Gnostici". According to their view Barbelo lives "above in the eighth heaven"; she had been 'put forth' "of the Father"; she was mother of Yaldabaoth (some said, of Sabaoth), who insolently took possession of the seventh heaven, and proclaimed himself to be the only God; and when she heard this word she lamented.

Others, Epiphanius further seems to say, told a similar tale of Prunikos, substituting Caulacau for Yaldabaoth. In his next article, on the "Gnostici", or Borborites, the idea of the recovery of the scattered powers of Barbelo recurs as set forth in an apocryphal Book of Noria, Noah's legendary wife.

In both places Epiphanius represents the doctrine as giving rise to sexual libertinism. Mircea Eliade has compared these Borborite beliefs and practices involving Barbelo to Tantric rituals and beliefs, noting that both systems have a common goal of attaining primordial spiritual unity through erotic bliss and the consumption of menses and semen.

In a third passage, enumerating the Archons said to have their seat in each heaven, Epiphanius mentions as the inhabitants of the eighth or highest heaven "her who is called Barbēlō", and the self-gendered Father and Lord of all things, and the virgin-born Christ (evidently as her son, for according to Irenaeus her first progeny, "the Light", was called Christ); and similarly he tells how the ascent of souls through the different heavens terminated in the upper region, "where Barbēro or Barbēlō is, the Mother of the Living".

Theodoret merely paraphrases Irenaeus, with a few words from Epiphanius. Jerome several times includes Barbelo in lists of portentous names current in Spanish heresy, that is, among Priscillianists; Balsamus and Leusibora being three times associated with it.

Babel

Babel, in the book of "Baruch" of the Gnostic Justin, the name of the first of the twelve "maternal angels" born to Elohim and Edem. She is identical with Aphrodite, and is enjoined by her 'mother' to cause adulteries and desertions among men, in revenge for Edem's desertion by Elohim. When Heracles is sent by Elohim as "a prophet of the uncircumcision" to overcome "the twelve evil angels of the creation," i. e. the maternal angels, Babel, now identical with Omphale, beguiles and enfeebles him. She may possibly be the Baalti or female Baal of various Semitic nations, though the intrusive β is not easily explained. But it is on the whole possible to take Babel, "confusion", as a form of Barbelo, which may have the same meaning. The eclecticism of Justin would account for his deposition of Barbelo from the first to the second place, where she is still above Hachamoth.

Writings

Barbelo is found in other Nag Hammadi writings:

  • Allogenes makes reference to a Double Powerful Invisible Spirit, a masculine female virgin, who is the Barbelo.
  • The Holy Book of the Great Invisible Spirit refers to a divine emanation called 'Mother', who is also identified as the Barbelo.
  • The Gospel of Judas—Judas Iscariot says to Jesus that he knows that Jesus is from the immortal realm of Barbelo.
  • Marsanes—several places.
  • Melchizedek—twice, the second time in a prayer of Melchizedek: "Holy are you, Holy are you, Holy are you, Mother of the aeons, Barbelo, for ever and ever, Amen."
  • The Three Steles of Seth offers a description of "the first aeon, male virginal Barbelo, the first glory of the invisible Father, she who is called 'perfect'."
  • Trimorphic Protennoia ('First Thought in Three Forms'), even in the first person: "He perpetuated the Father of all Aeons, who am I, the Thought of the Father, Protennoia, that is, Barbelo, the perfect Glory, and the immeasurable Invisible One who is hidden. I am the Image of the Invisible Spirit, and it is through me that the All took shape, and (I am) the Mother (as well as) the Light which she appointed as Virgin, she who is called 'Meirothea', the incomprehensible Womb, the unrestrainable and immeasurable Voice."
  • Zostrianos—the aeon Barbelo is referred to in many places.

Quotes

Everyone has a mother, the primordial gods are no exception.
Barbelo
This is the first thought, his image; she became the womb of everything, for it is she who is prior to them all, the Mother-Father, the first man (Anthropos), the holy Spirit, the thrice-male, the thrice-powerful, the thrice-named androgynous one, and the eternal aeon among the invisible ones, and the first to come forth.
Apocryphon of John.
Come, silence that dost reveal the great deeds of the whole greatness; Come thou that dost show forth the hidden things. And make the ineffable manifest; Holy Dove that bearest the twin young; Come, hidden Mother; Come, thou that art manifest in thy deeds and dost furnish joy and rest for all that are joined with thee; Come and partake with us in this Eucharist Which we celebrate in thy name, and in the love-feast in which we are gathered together at thy call.
Acts of Thomas 5:50.
The first ogdoad, because of which the thrice-male son came into being, which is the thought, and the word, and incorruption, and eternal life, the will, the mind, and the foreknowledge, the androgynous Father. The second ogdoad-power, the Mother, the virginal Barbelo, epititioch, who presides over heaven, the uninterpretable power, the ineffable Mother. It originated from itself; she came; she agreed with the Father of Silent Silence.
Apocryph of the Egyptians.

Gallery

Trivia

  • According to Saint Irenaeus, some Gnostics believed that The Abyss (God) had a consort who was Silence/Sige (Barbelo). The idea behind this can be interpreted by the fact that God is the abyss, that is, the void before creation, there is nothing in the void except eternal silence, so the Abyss and Silence coexist and are related generating life. Thus, it can be said that Barbelo is the "silence of void".
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