The name Sophia may refer to more than one goddess or different human perceptions of one goddess. Sophia is literally the Greek translation of the Hebrew Hochma or “Wisdom.” Alexandria, Egypt, was the home of a large unconventional Jewish population, many of whom exclusively spoke and read Greek. The name Sophia may first appear in print in the apocryphal text The Wisdom of Solomon written in Greek by an Alexandrian Jew in approximately 30 BCE Sophia is described as YHWH’s throne companion—present at Creation—humanity’s guardian and guide, comparable to the Shekhina or Asherah. (A recent theory suggests that at least some of The Wisdom of Solomon was written by women, possibly from a religious community described by Philo as the Therapeutae.)
According to The Wisdom of Solomon, Sophia will not enter a fraudulent mind nor make her home in a body “mortgaged to sin.”
Alexandria was a melting pot, especially when it came to spirituality and mysticism. The different schools of Gnosticism developed here; Sophia evolved into an independent Gnostic goddess, the Lady of Divine Wisdom, possibly distinct from Hochma. There isn’t one school of Gnosticism: there are many and thus many visions of Sophia. Here’s one basic version of her myth: Sophia and the Creator are partners in Creation. Somehow Creation is flawed and Sophia’s desire to live with people on Earth is stymied. She retreats to a celestial realm to hide. Only the Creator knows where she is and visits her, but pure-hearted spiritual seekers can find her if they search diligently.
In other versions, she echoes the Shekhina: separated from her male counterpart and her celestial origins, she is in exile in this world. Her tears are the source of Earth’s waters: the sea, rivers, and springs from which life and healing stem. She gives birth to light.
Sophia is sometimes associated with the goddesses Ma’at and Athena and with the serpent of wisdom. Modern magical traditions sometimes invoke Sophia for academic success.
Statues of Sophia depict her with a book in her left arm. A dove emerges from her heart. She may wear a bay laurel wreath. Sophia is sometimes represented as an angelic figure painted red.
Asherah; Athena; Hokhma; Ma’at; Solomon, King