April 13, 2013

Milda: Baltic Goddess of Love & Freedom

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , at 6:37 am by Babs

Milda is the Lithuanian goddess of love, courting, friendship and freedom.  She is the worst enemy of loneliness and she is often portrayed as a woman who drives a chariot pulled by doves.  She likes to ride naked, causing hearts to flutter and it is rumored that one glimpse at her delightful vision as it wafts down the street and you’re mere seconds away from love, romance, smooches and all the other stuff you’ve been waiting for.  Her name is the nickname of Latvia’s Monument of Freedom in Riga.

In May the Milda festival is celebrated.  She is probably a 19th century invented Lithuanian love goddess but her traditional May feasts are connected with love, delight and youth. In villages Gegužines are celebrated during the whole month.  An important mythological creature during the May feasts for Milda is the Cuckoo.  She is zoomorphic and takes the shape or symbol of Laima, goddess of birth and destiny. Milda is one of the most important deities in Lithuanian folklore, similar to ancient Greek Ananke (mythology) and Moirai when Laima appears in trinity.

She does not care about marriage.  In her eyes, matrimony is secondary to love and friendship.  Milda means freedom to her worshippers.  If you have been married and then divorced you can probably relate to this goddess!

stylised capital letter ‘M’If you are not sure whether you are destined for friendship and love, just take a look at your palm.  Her symbol (pictured to the left – M) is there!  Milda thinks that nobody should be alone and enjoys helping her fans to meet each other no matter their appearance, social background, language, age or orientation.  It could be said that her LGBT views are part of her freedom aspect!

She was hated by many religious fanatics… So Milda has many common features with Greek Aphrodite, Roman Venus and Scandinavian Freya. It is quite possible that these are just other names of the European goddess of love. We do not know for sure.  Most pious Catholics and other followers of Jesus Christ and Yahweh (God, Allah) hated Milda. These gods many times stated that only they themselves are worth of supreme love and devotion, so their priests could not stand the goddess who encouraged people to love each other.

Therefore, the Catholic Church tried hard to erase even Milda’s name from the history of Lithuania. Only few historians have mentioned Milda as well as Ragana in their reports over the traditional Lithuanian faith.

Milda’s day of the week is Friday (literally, Freya’s day), the best day for starting new friendships and falling in love. Anybody enjoying any good relationship should at least remember Milda every Friday.  Milda’s day of the year is the 13th of May. That’s the best day to celebrate Spring and love, especially out of the town—our Lithuanian Euronian May-day.

If you look for a friend or partner or you are not sure if the person you dream to see beside you feels towards you in a similar way, just ask Milda for help. Do not pray, kneel, or make offerings, just ask her. If you are sincere, Milda will always help you one way or another.  She especially enjoys helping people to overcome their shyness and various complexes, to break taboos and prohibitions in the name of love.

More about Lithuania’s Pantheon:

The Lithuanian pagan faith and mythology, as well as the ritual connected with them, are among the oldest phenomena of human spiritual creation.  Religious and mythic imagery permeated all the spheres of society life that was based on hunting and gathering during the period of the early tribal system which comprised the Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic.

The history of Lithuanian faith and mythology can be subdivided into three epochs.

  • The first epoch is that of the early matriarchal tribal system, during which religious imagery (totem, animist and craft cult imagery) connected with feminine supernatural beings appeared in the hunters’ and gatherers’ society (the Upper Paleolithic and the Mesolithic).
  • The second epoch was that of the late matriarchal  tribal system, based on hoe agriculture, during which religious imagery connected with the cult of feminine deities of the Sun, the Moon, the Earth developed as well as those representing fertility and water.  In the period of matriarchy the goddesses were responsible for the birth, existence and death of man, fauna and flora.  Those deities took care that the continuity of life wand fecundity be maintained in the universe through constant interchangeability of life and death.  The goddesses supervised the sky, the earth, water, fire and the atmosphere.  Art, especially the symbolic art, was created in the sphere of the cult of feminine divinities, while the rites of this cult was performed by women themselves survived into the period of patriarchy.
  • The third epoch was the period of the patriarchal tribal system and its disintegration, followed by the formation of class society.  The chief gods appeared during this period, while most of the feminine deities lost their supremacy, though not all: some of them remained in the pantheon of Lithuanian gods together with masculine deities.  After the state of Lithuania was formed and the Christianity was adopted in the country, the Lithuanians still refused to renounce their gods for the considerable period of time.The tribes of the Aestii created their religion jointly throughout millennia.  In the middle of the 1st millennium C.E., as they began to split into separate nations, their religious imagery changed but a little.

The main sources of knowledge of the Lithuanian religion and mythology are the archaeological and ethnographic data, as well as the various written sources, toponymy and other objects of linguistic study.

In our attempts to disclose the genesis of religious beliefs and rites, to reconstruct their functional content and to discern their transformation under different social and economic conditions, we turn to traditional folk art and ritual, i.e. to the cultural layer that has reached us from under the cover of millennia.  The semantics of archaic beliefs and of the traces of mythical imagery related to them require a thorough analysis based not only on local but also on general Proto-Indo-European or Indo-European materials that have partially survived in the Christian ritual, in the cult of the Christian god and various saints.  The semantic analysis indispensable to the study of religion and mythology is inevitably connected with ancient philosophy.

A great deal of elements of ancient world-outlook have survived to this day through legends, fairy-tales, exorcism and songs.  Relics of the dissolving religion were transferred into these genres of folklore; rather undisputable evidence of totemism, animism and the cults of ancestors and different deities can be traced there.  This evidence is especially noticeable in ballads and in epic and mythological songs that remind of, and are probably even more archaic than, the ancient Hindu Vedas.

Some religious elements of remote past, going back to the Stone age, can be in use together with the Christian iconology until the 18th century and even the first decades of the 20th century.  These elements reflect the essences of the religious outlook.  the patterns of ornament in folk art are some kind of Holy Writ that needs deciphering, though it sometimes may be difficult to grasp the historical moment or the symbolic meaning of one or another ornament.

In the study of pagan religion, the support of certain written sources and iconological material is indispensable, though often it is already transformed and deprived of its original meaning.

The pantheon of Lithuanian gods is rather rich and diverse.  Lithuanians, as well as other ancient nations, developed in the period of patriarchy an image of the unique supreme god, the creator and lord of the Universe and all life.  “Dievas”, the name of god in Lithuanian, has a common root with the words of this meaning in all ide languages.  The word “Dievas” often personifies the shining sky, light, or day.

The Lithuanian supreme god, as the myth relates, had a wife, the primordial Great Mother, the goddess Lada, who had given birth to the first-born twins.  God’s twin children, in the shape of twin horses, are known from the myths; they are related to the fire of the sky… the Sun and lightning.

The Lithuanian supreme god was considered to be as well the Master of Fate, the Lord of the world who ruled the Heaven and Earth, while his children assisted him.  The names of the supreme and most powerful god varied in Lithuania from region to region during the course of time.  In the Highlands of Lithuania as well as in the major part of the Lowlands the word ‘Dievas’ was used together with personal name ‘Praamzius’, in Suvalkija the god’s name were Prakurimas, Ikurejas, Sotvaras, while in the west Lowlands and in Prussia he was referred to as Ukopirmas.

Praamzius is described as the omnipotent ruler of time, the inescapable fate.  The sky and the air, water and all live creatures had to obey him, with none exclusion even for other deities.  All decisions made by Praamzius are inscribed in stone and thus is no escape from them; while ordering the present, he is aware of both the past and the future.  Similar functions are ascribed as well to Prakurimas and Ukopirmas.

The chief ritual addressed to the supreme god was performed during the winter solstice.  The importance of this ritual especially increased by the time agriculture became known and was cultivated.  The rites permeated with archaic totem, animist, symbolic imagery would continue for twelve days associated with the twelve months of the year.  Together with the rites addressed to the supreme god, souls of remote ancestors from the other world were paid homage.

In Lithuanian religion, just as it is the case with other religions, the trinity of gods is known: Perkunas, Patrimpas and Pikuolis.  The most prominent among these gods was Perkunas, the master of the atmosphere and the “waters” of the sky, as well as the fecundity of flora, human morality and justice.  Besides the supreme God, Perkunas occupied perhaps the most important place in the Lithuanian divine pantheon.  Under the influence of Christianity the supreme god’s image was transformed and Perkunas acquires the position of the Lord of Heaven.

The major imagery representing Perkunas is of zoomorphic character, while later on it becomes anthropomorphic, sometimes retaining certain zoomorphic attributes.  Perkunas used to inspire awe and punish people, thus he was often called the “god’s scourge”.  He was supposed to punish by throwing at the culprit his stone axes, that often had symbols of the Sun and Lightening.  People knew then how to turn away Perkunas’s wrath.  The second god was Patrimpas.  He was supposed to bring the spring, joy, peace, maturity, abundance, as well as to take care of domestic animals, ploughed fields, and crops.  Sheaves of corn, amber, flax, etc., were offered to him during the rites.  The third member of the Lithuanian divine trinity was Pikuolis, otherwise called Pikulas.  He was the god of the underworld, all kinds of evil and death.

When presented in a horizontal and vertical lines, the divine, trinity of the Aestii celestial bodies, as well as the god Menulis (Moon) and the goddess Saule (Sun).  The latter two constituted the celestial family: Menuo (another forms of the name Menulis) and Saule are represented as spouses, while the planets and stars are their daughters.  The god’s sons are known too.  It is interesting to note that in the mythologies of some other nations the Sun and the Moon may be of opposite sex.

The Lithuanians respected the gods and goddesses of the farmstead and home.  The cult of these deities originated from the deified remoteRadegast-Slavic god primordial mother image; later on the father image influenced it, too.  These deities protected the house, the people living there, farm buildings, domestic animals and fowl.

Some archaic elements of the primordial mother cult survived as long as the 19th century.  During the wedding, as the bride bade farewell to her paternal home and its gods, she would pray and make sacrifices to a female idol made of a sheaf of straw, begging to forgive her for leaving home and moving to a new one, where she would have to adore other gods.  Nonadieve, a goddess mentioned in the Voluine Chronicles (middle of te 13th century), must probably have been the domestic goddess.  She corresponds to J. Lasickis Numeja.  The sentence “Numeias vocant domesticos” should be translated as “Numejas are called domestic goddesses”.

The goddess Dimstipati mentioned in the written sources was later transformed into a male deity Dimstipatis, but the offering rites addressed to him were performed by women, which may indicate his feminine origin.  Women used to take care of the most important place in the house, the corner behind the table, where goddess were supposed to live.  Zeme pati, the goddess of the farmstead mentioned in the written sources, was also later transformed into a male god Zemepatis.

Since ancient times, the Lithuanians used to respect fire.  In the course of time, fire was personified and at first it assumed a zoomorphic image, which later became ornitomorphic and finally anthropomorphic (female).  The personified and deified fire was referred to as Gabija, while the fire in the threshing barn was called Gabjauja.  These goddesses protected not only fire but also the farm itself, the cattle and women’s chores in the whole.

The goddesses of birth and death were, respectively, Laima and Giltine.  They both belonged to the senior generation of goddesses.  Laima was responsible for fertility, predetermined the fate of the newly born, took care of women in childbirth, ordained the cosmic phenomena.  Originally her image was ornitomorphic, but gradually she acquired human shape.  In the area of Aestii, the flint birds found in the ground must have represented the goddess Laima.  These bird figurines express the idea of the feminine element.  The cult of lime trees is kindred to that of Laima bird.  As Laima acquired an anthropomorphic image, she became the protectress not only of the earthly but also of the heavenly life.

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5 Comments »

  1. Diane McConnich said,

    Thank you for this. The Slavic Deities are little.known. Did you do the drawings of the Pantheon?

    • Babs said,

      Not sure where I saw her referenced as a Slavic but she is actually a Baltic goddess so I corrected the title of the piece. No, the drawing of the pantheon was taken from an image search. If anyone knows the owner of the image, please let me know so I can give full credit.

  2. Milda said,

    Sorry, Milda is the Baltic Goddess of Love and Freedom…
    Nothing to do with Slavs (Lithuanians have never been Slavs, and vice versa).
    Should you need sources, I could indicate them.
    Thanks for correcting this.
    Sincerely

    • Babs said,

      The title has been updated.

  3. John said,

    My wife’s name is Milda who was taken fron some Lithuaning friends who once lived in Chicago and friends of my I laws.


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