Art, Spirit, and Wonder: Finding the Sacred Through Art​

Art History tells the story of humanity. Here we'll look at how Paganism has been viewed in art through the ages; into the ancient past, the Renaissance and other eras, and how artists are exploring Paganism today.

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Turan: A Goddess of Ancient Etruria

Posted by on in Studies Blogs

I have to say, making my 2017 resolution to create a drawing of a Goddess a day has been rewarding, challenging, fun, and illuminating. I've had a great time sharing images of goddesses on my Facebook page every day, receiving feedback on my drawings, and getting ideas for new ones. I thought for today's Blog post, I'd write about Turan, a Goddess of ancient Etruria, or what today is known as Tuscany. The Etrurians are more commonly referred to as the Etruscans, which is how I will refer to them here. 

There are a great many things about the Etruscans which still remain a mystery in the twenty-first century, mostly because their language has been only partially deciphered. What we can do is look at the art they created and see visually the things that mattered most to them.   

The Etruscans had a wealthy, well-developed culture that is believed to have begun around 800 BC, up until the area became part of the Roman Empire. Indeed, much of their culture, art, and architectural ideas (such as their temple design) seems to have influenced a great deal of Roman culture. As the Greeks had also influenced the Romans, so they also influenced the ancient Etruscans, as the Etruscans seemed to have developed many ideas in their mythology from the Greeks. I'm especially fond of the Etruscans in the ancient world, because from their art, we can see that women could lead much more satisfying lives than they would have been able to lead in both Greece, and Rome, and that they had more influence and power as well.


Unlike Roman and Greek women, whose husbands were known for faithlessness and not marrying for love, Etruscan women seemed to enjoy love matches. We see this in the sarcophagi in which many of them were buried. Families were often buried in very large underground tombs which resembled their above ground living quarters. Husbands and wives were often shown in loving relationship to one another on top of their coffins. One of my favorites shows an older couple gazing lovingly at one another.


I mention these things because today I want to share an Etruscan Goddess I discovered while doing research on love goddesses for Valentine's Day week. Her name is Turan, and she is considered the Etruscan equivalent of Venus and Aphrodite. She is often represented as a young maiden, often with her retinue of Lasas - the equivalent of Roman lares who were guardians of house and home. She was also associated with doves, geese, and swans. She is often depicted as having wings. 

I created my version of Turan as a young woman gazing into a mirror, with a dove and swan flying by her side. She is applying lipstick as she looks into the mirror - after all this goddess of love is also a goddess of beauty. It was important to me to include a mirror as well, as mirrors seemed to have been prized possessions for the Etruscans, and were buried in many of their tombs. The mirrors themselves tell interesting mythological stories on the back, and often show women in positions of power. 

Although the Valentine's holiday has passed us by, it is of course never too late for love. In Tuscany in modern times, Turan survives as "Turanna," a spirit who helps lovers or guides those in need of help with love. Seek her out if you are looking for assistance in your own love life!

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Helena Domenic has been an art history nerd for her entire life, having toured the Sistine Chapel at the age of eighteen months. She never quite recovered from that experience (thankfully) and has been seeking out the sacred and profane in art ever since. She's even a real-life art history professor at a Pennsylvania university. She is also a Tarot nerd, having created her own Tarot deck, the Fellowship of the Fool.


  • Thesseli
    Thesseli Tuesday, 21 February 2017

    "Unlike Roman and Greek women, whose husbands were known for faithlessness and not marrying for love, Etruscan women seemed to enjoy love matches." -- So I'm guessing the Etruscans weren't Indo-European, then.

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