A dark brown bronze statue of Lilith with piercing green eyes.

Exhibition resources

Feminine power
the divine
to the demonic

#FemininePowerExhibition

Room 35

The Joseph Hotung Great Court Gallery

Here you'll find resources to support your visit to the Citi exhibition Feminine power: the divine to the demonic, including:

Accessible guides:
While designed for specific visitors, these can be used by everyone. 

Exhibition layout and key text

This guide gives you an overview of the exhibition’s layout and main texts. An online large print guide containing the entire text is also available. There is also a PDF version available.

Feminine power: the divine to the demonic

From goddesses and spirits to demons and saints, feminine power appears in many guises in faiths around the world.

Many of these figures are seen as distinctly female – from the divine Shakti in Hinduism to the life-giving Oshun of the Yoruba in Nigeria. 
In some, the female blurs with the male. Others transcend gender entirely.

What these deities and other beings share is a profound influence on human lives, both past and present. They are central to how many cultures explain the world and their rich, often contradictory traits affect how we understand femininity today.

Main texts

In conversation: responses to feminine power

The Museum invited five commentators to share their responses to the objects and ideas in the exhibition. You can hear their perspectives below.

In conversation: Bonnie Greer, playwright, author and critic

Listen to Bonnie Greer’s response to objects and ideas relating to creation and nature.

In conversation: Bonnie Greer 1

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Bonnie Greer on Lakshmi, Hindu goddess of abundance.

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Bonnie Greer audio 2

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Bonnie Greer on Mami Wata, spirit of water and wealth.

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Bonnie Greer audio 3

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Bonnie Greer on the sheela-na-gig.

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In conversation: Mary Beard, classicist

Listen to Mary Beard’s response to objects and ideas relating to passion and desire.

In conversation: Mary Beard 1

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Mary Beard on the sculptures of Venus and Lilith.

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Mary Beard audio 2

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Mary Beard on Venus and military conquest.

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Mary Beard audio 3

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Mary Beard on Venus, Inanna and power.

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In conversation: Elizabeth Day, author and broadcaster

Listen to Elizabeth Day’s response to objects and ideas relating to magic and malice.

This content contains references to sexual violence. 

In conversation: Elizabeth Day 1

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Elizabeth Day on fear of witchcraft.

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Elizabeth Day audio 2

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Elizabeth Day on Cihuateteo, Mexica warrior women.

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Elizabeth Day audio 3

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Elizabeth Day on Medusa, Taraka and female rage.

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In conversation: Rabia Siddique, humanitarian, barrister and author

Listen to Rabia Siddique’s response to objects and ideas relating to justice and defence.

This content contains references to sexual violence. 

In conversation: Rabia Siddique 1

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Rabia Siddique on Sekhmet and Kali’s powers.

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Rabia Siddique 2

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Rabia Siddique on Athena / Minerva, Greek goddess of war and wisdom.

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Rabia Siddique 3

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Rabia Siddique’s own story of seeking justice.

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In conversation: Deborah Frances-White, comedian, podcaster and writer

Listen to Deborah Frances-White’s response to objects and ideas relating to compassion and salvation.

In conversation: Deborah Frances-White 1

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Deborah Frances-White on Isis, Egyptian Great Mother.

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In conversation: Deborah Frances-White 2

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Deborah Frances-White on Guanyin, Chinese goddess of mercy.

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In conversation: Deborah Frances-White 3

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Deborah Frances-White on Tara, Tibetan saviour.

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Circe: divine Greek sorceress

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During the development of the exhibition, the Museum worked alongside a collective of people who identify as witches and Modern Pagans. They are members and associates of Children of Artemis, a UK-based Witchcraft organisation aiming to promote an understanding of Witchcraft. 

In John William Waterhouse's painting (shown below), the ancient Greek goddess Circe is presented as both alluring and threatening. Listen to find out what this representation of magic means to a practising witch.

Duration: 2 minutes 48 seconds

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John William Waterhouse 'Circe offering the cup to Ulysses'

A painting of a female figure wearing a blue dress seated on a throne raising a glass to the viewer.
John William Waterhouse (1849–1917), 'Circe offering the cup to Ulysses', 1891. © Gallery Oldham

Dance of the nine maidens

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During the development of the exhibition, the Museum worked alongside a collective of people who identify as witches and Modern Pagans. They are members and associates of Children of Artemis, a UK-based Witchcraft organisation aiming to promote an understanding of Witchcraft. 

Listen to find out what Ithell Colquhoun's painting of the nine maidens (shown below) and its representation of magic means to a practising witch.

Duration: 3 minutes 12 seconds

Download a transcript of the audio.

Ithell Colquhoun 'Dance of the Nine Maidens'

A drawing of a partially nude female figure dancing outside.
Ithell Colquhoun (1906–1988), 'Dance of the Nine Maidens', 1940. © Tate Archive

Celebrating the goddess Kali

The London Durgotsav Committee is a Bengali Hindu charitable organisation based in London, UK. They have held annual Durga and Kali Puja celebrations for devotees since 1963, generously allowing representatives from the Museum to attend and film the 2021 Kali Puja ceremony in Camden, north London. The Committee’s expertise has been instrumental in the acquisition of a Kali icon for the Museum’s permanent collection. 

This film shows devotees from the group welcoming the icon to the Museum and explores Kali’s continued relevance to them.

Duration: 5 minutes