June 6, 2013

Hel: Queen of the Underworld

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , at 12:15 am by Babs

Hel (“the Hidden” from the word hel, “to conceal”) is the Norse goddess of the dead, ruler of the nine worlds of the Land of Mist, Niflheim or Niflhel, located in the far north – a cold, damp place that is home to frost giants  and dwarves.  Her hall is called Elvidnir or Eliud/ Eljudnir (misery) and her table is called Hungur (hunger).  The name Hel was applied both to the Queen of the Underworld and the land itself and it is thought that the land gave the Queen Her name.  In the late Christianized form of the myth, when Hel became Hell, she was said to be the daughter of Loki, who was equated with Lucifer.

She is the sister of Fenrir (Fenris-wolf) and Jormungand (Midgard serpent).  The asen knew about the anger which those three represent to them, so they threw the Jormungand in the sea, where she grew to the Midgard serpent that surrounds the whole world.  The chained the Fenrir with an unbreakable ribbon.  Finally they put the third child of Loki into the Underworld.  There Hel was the mistress of nine worlds, which were part of Helheim.  There she ruled as Queen over those who did die of age or illness.

Helhaim is the realm which has 32 rivers that all come from the spring Hwergelmer.  One of these rivers (Gjoll) surrounds the whole realm.  There is a bridge over Gjol called Gjalarbridge, on which the giantess-virgin Modgudur (Modgud) keeps watch and asks those who come there: What is your name? What is your family? Afterwards, she shows the arrivers the way to the palace of Hel.  Her palace is guided by two virgins (Bigvor and Listvor), who have iron blood.  If this blood falls on the earth it causes quarrel and war.

Her realm was not a place of punishment, but the home of those, who did not die of wounds or in battle.  Normally their afterlife there was peaceful.  Over the times and through the Christian belief her realm turned into the horror-afterworld, the hell.

In appearance She is said to be a fearsome sight.  She is described as being piebald, with a face half human and half blank, or more usually, half alive and half dead.  It is told that when She was born, disease first came into the world.  She was said to sweep through towns and cities bringing plague.  If she used a rake, some would survive; if a broom, none would.

She has two aspects: first she is honored Queen of the Underworld, but she is also one of the demons that want to overthrow the Gods.

She has a knife which is called Sultur (gluttony/ voracity).  Her bed named Kor (exhaustion).  The blanket of her bed is Blickandibol (slander).  Her servants were called Ganglate (go slow) and Ganglot (go lazy).

When the beloved Baldar was killed through Loki’s treachery, the entire world bgged Her to release him from death.  Hel agreed, but only if every creature on earth truly mourned for him.  So beloved was Baldar that everything – gods, humans, animals, trees, stones – wept for him.  All except an old giantess, called Thokk, who was Loki in disguise.

Hel in a reading can represent a time of simultaneous endings and beginnings, the point at which the circle is completed.  She can also indicate integrity, as opposites unite to form a stronger whole.  Alternate spellings: Hella.

Due to her remote and lonely home, she was not part of many Norse myths and therefore has little detail surrounding her.  Hel’s possessions are described thus:

She has great possessions there; her walls are exceeding high and her gates great.  Her hall is called Sleet-Cold; her dish, Hunger; Famine is her knife; Idler, her thrall; Sloven, her maidservant; Pit of Stumbling, her threshold, by which one enters; Disease, her bed; Gleaming Bale, her bed-hangings.  She is half blue-black and half flesh-color (by which she is easily recognized), and very lowering and fierce.

– Brodeur translation

Later in the same source it is described how Hermoor tries to retrieve the dead Baldar’s soul from Hel.

Now this is to be told concerning Hermodr,  that he rode nine nights through dark dales and deep, so that he saw not before he was come to the river Gjoll (or Gjallar-river) and rode onto the Gjoll-Bridge (or Gjallar-Bridge); which bridge is thatched with glittering gold.  Modgudr is the maiden called who guards the bridge.

It has been suggested that this description of Hel is of later date, and that She originally was a much more neutral goddess over the realm of shadows, where all, both good and evil, courageous ad cowardly, gather after death.  This can be seen as being supported by the etymology of Hel (Lat. Celare, Ger. hehlen), meaning the “hider”.  It is important to note that also the noble Baldar and the brave Sigurd are sent to Hel after their deaths.  Bishop Wulfila uses the Gothic word Halja to translate the Greek “Hades”.

Viktor Rydberg, in particular, advocated this view.  In the book “Our Fathers’ Godsaga” he theorizes that the correct name for Loki’s daughter is in fact “Leikn” and that, in Christian times, She was confused with Uror, one of the three Norns and the dis of fate and death.  Rydberg’s theories are not generally accepted.

Associations:

Tree: Elder

Plant: Holly

Sacred Objects: Wells

May 28, 2013

Nicevenn: Goddess of Samhain

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , , , , at 8:58 pm by Babs

NicevennThe Middle Ages of Western Europe are commonly dated from the end of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century until the rise of national monarchies, the start of European overseas exploration, the humanist revival, and the Protestant Reformation starting in 1517.  These various changes all mark the beginning of the Early Modern period that preceded the Industrial Revolution.

The Middle Ages are commonly referred to as the medieval period or simply medieval (sometimes spelled “mediaeval”).  Arguably the biggest milestone in history from which a true end to the Middle Ages can be dated is Humanism.  It is a broad category of active ethical philosophies that affirm the dignity and worth of all people, based on the ability to determine right and wrong by appeal to universal human qualities – particularly rationality, common history, experience, and belief.  Humanism is a component of a variety of more specific philosophical systems, and is also incorporated into some religious schools of thought.

Humanism entails a commitment to the search for truth and morality through human means in support of human interests.  In focusing on the capacity for self-determination, humanism rejects transcendental justifications, such as a dependence on faith, the supernatural, or divinely revealed texts.  Humanists endorse universal morality based on the commonality of human nature, suggesting that solutions to our social and cultural problems cannot be parochial.

Before the demise of much of faith related ideals in existence long before the rise of monotheism there was paganism and folklore.  Celtic folklore has a long and rich history and for this time of year the Celts celebrated Samhain.  The Samhain celebration survived in several guises as a festival dedicated to the dead. In Ireland and Scotland, the Feile na Marbh, the “festival of the dead” took place on Samhain.

Samhain Eve, in Irish and Scots Gaelic, Oidhche Shamhna, is one of the principal festivals of the Celtic calendar, and is thought to fall on or around the 31st of October.  It represents the final harvest.  In modern Ireland and Scotland, the name by which represents the final harvest.  In modern Ireland and Scotland, the name by which Halloween is known in the Gaelic language is still “Oiche/Oidhche Shamhna”.

Bonfires played a large part in the festivities.  Even into Christian times, villagers cast the bones of the slaughtered cattle upon the flames, cattle having a prominent place in the pre-Christian Gaelic world.  The English word ‘bonfire’ derives from these “bone fires,” but the Gaelic has no such parallel.  With the bonfire ablaze, the villagers extinguished all other fires.  Each family then solemnly lit its hearth from the common flame, thus bonding the families of the village together.

According to Irish mythology, during that night the great shield of Scathach was lowered, allowing the barriers between the worlds to fade and the forces of chaos to invade the realms of order, the material world joining with the world of the dead.  At this time the spirits of the dead and those yet to be born walked amongst the living.  The dead could return to the places where they had lived and food and entertainment were provided in their honor.  In the three days preceding Samhain, the Sun God Lugh, maimed at Lughnassadh (August 1st), dies by the hand of his Tanaiste (counterpart or heir), the Lord of Misrule.  Lugh traverses the boundaries of the worlds on the first day of Samhain.  His Tanist is a miser and, though shining brightly in the winter skies, he gives no warmth and does not temper the breath of the Crone, Cailleach Bheare, the north wind.

In parts of western Brittany, Samhain is still heralded by the baking of kornigou, cakes baked in the shape of antlers to commemorate the god of winter shedding his “cuckhold” horns as he returns to his kingdom in the Otherworld.

The Romans identified Samhain with their own feast of the dead, the Lemuria.  This however, was observed in the days leading up to May 13th.

With Christianization, the festival in November (not the Roman festival in May) became All Hallows’ Day on November 1st followed by All Souls’ Day, on November 2nd, after which the night of October 31st was called All Hallows Eve, and the remnants festival dedicated to the dead eventually morphed into the secular holiday known as Halloween.

Nicevenn, also known as Dame Habonde, Abundia, Satia, Bensozie, Zobiana, Nicheven or Herodiana is a Scottish Witch Goddess from the Middle Ages.

According to Scottish myth Nicevenn is a crone witch goddess who rides through the night with her followers on Samhain.  Her name can be translated as “Divine” or “Brilliant.”  She is equated with the Roman Goddess Diana.  Tradition places her night according to the old (Julian) calendar, on November 10th.  In modern times she is called an evil faery.

Nicevenn has been called the Scottish Mother.  Her direction is center.  One would call on her to manage Winter, Witchcraft, Divination, Ghosts, Magic, Peace and Protection.  She rules over all Samhain rituals and her symbols are Gourds and Pumpkins. Unfortunately she has no known totem animal.

May 21, 2013

Damona: The Divine Cow Goddess

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , , at 9:04 am by Babs

Damona was a Gaulish goddess known from a number of Burgundian inscriptions where she is generally partnered with Apollo and Borvo.  At Alise-Sainte-Reine she is associated with Apollo Moritasgus, at Bourbonne-les-Baines she is associated with Apollo and Borvo, Whereas at Bourbon-Lancy she is associated with Borvo and Bormo.  Both Apollo and Borvo are associated with healing spring sanctuaries and Damona may have been the goddess of the waters.

Alise-Sainte-Reine, ancient Alesia the center to Apollo and Damona who presided over the restorative powers of a pool in which pilgrims bathed in the hope of curing their ailments.  All that remains of Damona’s image at this shrine is a stone head crowned with ears of corn and a hand with a serpent coiled around it.  At Bourbonne-Lancy the inscription to Damona directly associates her with the curative sleep undergone by pilgrims to her shrine; in the hope that within the dream they would be visited by the goddess and be cured.

The association of Damona with the cow and the presence of corn ears on her statue strongly suggest a fertility component to her cult.  The serpent may be symbolic of her function as a healer; rebirth being associated with the sloughing of the snake’s skin.

Unusually, at Aignay-le-Duc Damona was associated with the indigenous deity, Albius.  Within the votive pit in which the inscription was found there was a fragment of sculpture depicting the head of a serpent and a human arm entwined within its coils.  Very similar imagery to that found at Alise-Sainte-Raine.  Other inscriptions found at Bourbonne-les-Baines and Rivieres, Charente show that Damona could be invoked alone, in the absence of a male consort.

As the Healer Goddess of Gaule, She is depicted with a crown of corn ears and a serpent curled around her hand.  Inscriptions link her with the practice of incubation, wherein pilgrims sleep at healing shrines and receive cures through dreams.  Her consorts are Borvo: (boiling, masses of sea water) and Albius: (tree).  In Ireland she is a sacred cow related to dawn.  She guards the clouds.

Animal worship pure and simple had declined among the Celts of historuic times, and animals were now regarded maily as symbols or attributes of divinities.  The older cult had been connected with the pastoral stage in which the animals were divine, or with the agricultural stage in which the animals were divine, or with the agricultural stage in which they represented the corn-spirit, and perhaps with totemism.

May 15, 2013

Eingana: Snake Goddess of Primordial Dreamtime

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , at 4:07 am by Babs

The Australian natives call her, Mother Eingana, the world-creator, the birth mother, maker of all water, land, animals, and kangaroos.  This huge snake goddess still lives, they say, in the Dreamtime, rising up occasionally to create yet more life.  This primordial snake had no vagina as her offspring grew inside her, the goddess swelled up.  Eventually, tortured with the pregnancy, Eingana began to roll around and around.  The god Barraiya saw her agony and speared her near the anus so that birth could take place as all creatures now give birth.  She is also the death mother.  They say Eingana holds a sinew of life attached to each of her creatures and when she lets go, that life stops.  If she herself should die, they say everything would cease to exist.

Bieingana – The Aboriginal Story of Creation

“The first being we call Eingana.  We call Eingana our Mother.  Eingana made everything: water, rocks, trees, black fellows; she made all the birds, flying foxes, kangaroos, and emus.  Everything Eingana had inside herself in that first time.

Eingana is snake.  She swallowed all the black fellows.  She took them, inside herself, down under the water.  Eingana came out, she was big with everything inside her.  She came out of Gaieingung, the big waterhole near Bamboo Creek.  Eingana was rolling about, every way, on the ground.  She was groaning and calling out.  She was making a big noise with all the black fellows, everything, inside her belly.

One old man named Barraiya had been traveling a long was.  All the way he had heard Eingana crying out, rolling about and moaning.

 Barraiya sneaked up.  He say Eingana.  He saw the big snake rolling and twisting about, moaning and calling out.  Barraiya hooked up his stone-spear.  He watched the big snake.  He saw where he must spear her.  Barraiya speared her underneath, near the anus.  All blood came out of that spear-wound and all the black fellows came out after the blood.

Kandagun the dingo chased after all those black fellows.  He chased after them and split them up into different tribes and languages.  When Kandagun chased the black fellows, some flew away as birds, some bounded away as kangaroos, some raced away as emus, some became flying foxes, porcupines, snakes, everything, to get away from Kandagun.

That first time, before Barraiya speared Eingana, nothing and no one could be born as they are now.  Eingana had to spew everything out of her mouth.  Black fellows had to spew everything.  Children could not be born as they are now.  That is why Barraiya had to spear Eingana.

The old man Barraiya had been traveling from the east across to the west.  After he speared Eingana, the old man went back to his place Barraiyawim.  There he painted himself on a rock.  He turned into the blue winged kookaburra.  Eingana made the big Boolmoon River, she made the Flying Fox River and the Roper River.  Every river she made.  We have water now.  That’s why we are alive.

Eingana made Bolong the Rainbow Snake.  In the first time when Eingana swallowed the black fellows, she spewed them out and these black fellows became birds, they became Bonorong the brolga, Janaran the jabiroo, Baruk the diver, Eingana spewed out black fellows who became Koopoo the kangaroo, Kandagun the dingo, Balwan the hoanna, Nabininbulgai the flying fox.  All these birds, animals, all these things, Eingana took back.  She talked: “I think that all you fellows have to follow me, you have to go my way.”  Eingana took them all back.  She swallowed them again.  She let them go in the water as snakes, as Bolong the Rainbow Snake.

No one can see Eingana.  She stays in the mild water.  She has a hole there.  In the rain-time, when the flood water comes, Eingana stands up out of the middle of the flood water.  Eingana looks out at the country.  She lets go all the birds, snakes, animals, children belonging to us; Eingana lets all these things go out of her.

Eingana floats along on the flood water.  She stands up and looks out at the country.  She lets every kind of life, belonging to her, go.  When the flood water goes down Eingana goes back to her camp again.  She comes back no more.  No matter cold weather or hot weather, she does not come out.  Next rain-time she comes out and lets go everything  that belongs to her: snakes, birds, dingoes, kangaroos, black fellows, everything.

Eingana keeps hold of a string, a sinew called Toon.  This string is a mystical umbilical cord and is joined to the big sinew of any kind of life, behind the heel. Eingana keeps hold of that string all the time.  Because we call her mother, you see.  When we die Eingana lets that string go (cuts the cord).  I die.  I die forever.  My spirit, Malikngor, follows the way of Bolong.

It might be that I die in another place.  That one, Malikngor, my spirit, goes back to my country, where I was born.  Everyone’s spirit does this.  Eingana gives back spirit to man and woman all the time.  She gives them this spirit in children.  Eingana gives spirit a little bit first time to lubra (woman), them more and more.  You cannot find this spirit yourself.  That one Eingana, or Bolong, has to help you.

If Eingana die, everything would die.  There would be no more kangaroos, birds, black fellows, anything.  There would be no more water, everything would die.”

Another snake goddess of the Aborigines in Australia is Julunggul.  She is called also Kungpipi, Kalwadi, and Her ritual name is Mumuna.  She is a rainbow snake goddess capable of assuming male, neuter, or androgynous form as well.  She is embodied in the pearls, crystals, the ocean, waterfalls, and the deep pools where She lives.  She is eternally pregnant which is a parallel with Eingana.  She is a goddess of initiation (a second birth to the Aboriginies) and puberty.  At initiation young boys were symbolically swallowed and regurgitated out as young men.  In Her legend She came to Arnhem Land in Australia in Dreamtime from a sinking land.  Another similarity with Eingana is seen wither in the legend of the Wawalag Sisters would violate a taboo concerning menstrual blood near Her lair.  For this She continually eats and vomits forth the Sisters in Dreamtime.

May 8, 2013

Akibimi: Japanese Goddess of Autumn

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , at 11:00 pm by Babs

Akibimi is the Yuriban deity of autumn.  Little is known about her, as archaeological evidence of her past worship is extremely rare.  Her sphere of influence encompasses the autumn season, changing leaves, wind, and the first frost.  She often goes by the epithet of “Lady of the Leaves”.  Akibimi-san, the westernmost of Yuriba’s mountains, is named after her.

Common Mythology:

Few myths of Akibimi have been preserved in the modern era and none exist in written form, having been transmitted orally through a few of the island’s older residents.  According to a popular origin story she is physically embodied within the mountain of Akibimi-san.  The myth tells the story of how Akibimi used her power over autumn and the coming frost to create a frost bridge, which the deities Engetsu and Chikyuu used to reach each other and share their love once a year.  Yet when Engetsu’s separation from Chikyuu grew too painful she gathered with the other two goddesses at the apex of the ice bridge.  All three ultimately fell from the bridge, with Chikyuu ultimately using her poers to embrace the falling Engetsu and Akibimi, saving their lives by transforming them into mountains as they hit the earth.  A continuation of this myth tells that Akibimi found herself powerless in the form of the mountain, and in the absence of her powers eternal spring covered the earth. One day a dryad named Momiji stumbled upon the mountain and, realizing that the beauty of the earth cold not be appreciated without the slumber brought on by Akibimi’s powers, offered to free the autumn.  To this end Momiji climbed up onto Akibimi’s head and set down roots, and through her autumn once more fell on the world.

Associations:

Akibimi seems to be associated with any of the colors of autumn leaves, and is also strongly tied to the first frost, which is a time of particular power for her.  Japanese Maples grow heavily on the slopes of her mountain, suggesting that she has a strong connection with that particular type of tree.  Given the myth of Momiji she appears to have some sort of association with dryads and it has been hypothesized that the Shunyannichuan spring is somehow tied to her.  The puzzling method of locating the spring suggests that Akibimi is associated with riddles.

Akibimi is closely associated with Fuyuzora and is often portrayed as Zansho’s lover.  She is considered a dear friend of Amanohara and of Chikyuu.

Akibimi’s association with Fuyuzora is almost motherly.  Lore of the goddess claims that with autumn laid across the earth Akibimi wished to lay herself to rest, and so she laid down a frost across the land.  From the first frost Fuyuzora was born, much to Akibimi’s surprise.  Fuyuzora offered to stand watch over the earth while Akibimi slept, but Akibimi saw that Fuyuzora was cold and callous, and she thus took her to Amanohara and asked the Lady of the Winds to watch over Fuyuzora for her.  However, Fuyuzora and Amanohara became friends, revealing the Lady of the Winder’s playful side to Akibimi and ensuring her that she cold trust her.  Followers of Akibimi believe that the first frost is Akibimi’s last act before she sleeps, serving as a call to Fuyuzora to arrive for the winter.

According to one myth, before Akibimi came to the world eternal summer reigned.  As the summer dragged on Zansho grew tired of maintaining it, but she forced herself to continue for fear of the death that would reign in the absence of summer.  Eventually Akibimi appeared to Zansho and convinced her that by letting the world – and herself – sleep, the summer would be infinitely more beautiful when the world awakened after autumn and winter passed.  Though she resisted at first, Zansho eventually relented and allowed Akibimi to lay her gently to rest on a bed of leaves, with songbirds singing her to sleep.  Local belief claims that at the end of every summer Akibimi comes to repeat this process.

Teachings:

Little is known about the worship of Akibimi.  In the modern era her only known follower is Moriko, a dryad who appears to serve as a priestess to the goddess.  She has made some effort to relate information about Akibimi through stories.  Though many of Akibimi’s specific philosophies are unknown, the embracing of loss has been well-preserved.  Followers of Akibimi believed that the negative aspects of life were to be celebrated along with the positive, for only through them did the good truly shine.  For instance, in mythology Momiji reveals that though Akibimi and autumn were sealed away she took no joy in spring, and Akibimi responds that “It is only in lumber that one can appreciate the waking world.  It is only in change that one can appreciate the ground.”  This is further emphasized by the association of Akibimi with the first frost.  Scholars have thus concluded that the teachings of Akibimi embraced such things as loss and death as natural.  By this method of thinking autumn and winter are not to be feared because they allow one to appreciate spring and summer.

The followers of Akibimi view death as a natural extension of life, with the certainty of death allowing one to appreciate what life they were given.  They believe in reincarnation rather than an afterlife.

Tradition suggests that the day of the first frost is a holy day in the cult of Akibimi.  A few tales handed down through time tell of impromptu rituals on that day, referred to as Slumber, though what these rituals entailed as unknown.

Temples:

The ruins of a small temple dedicated to Akibimi have been found on the mountain’s slope.  Though they are badly weathered, the foundation and the remaining stonework show that it bears a superficial resemblance to the round “tholos” style of temple, a rarity for the Lilian civilization.  A large Japanese maple  in closer proximity to the temple than the others appears particularly ancient and has drawn occasional attention.  While scholars have been reluctant to draw any direct connection between the ruins and Akibimi, the association was recently revealed by Moriko.

While the Isolated Shrine does lie on the slopes of Abimimi-san, it appears to be tied to the local druidic religion, having no specific attachment to Akibimi.  Modern thought explains the absence of other temples to Akibimi by suggesting that the cult of the goddess favored sacred groves rather than constructed temples.

April 30, 2013

Ahea: Grandmother of all Kachinas

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , at 8:55 pm by Babs

The Hopi and Pueblo tribes of North America believe that every living thing has its own Kachina and that includes non-living things.  To the Hopi, everything that exists, including the rocks, the rivers, and even the rubbish has its own Kachina to look after its life-force.

The Kachinas are considered spirits of nature ad are ruled by Eototo.  There are millions and billions of them.  Between them they control everything from rain and wind and animals to the spirits of the dead.  You have to admire their industry.

The top Kachinas are known as the Wuva.  Kachinas made of wood are very popular and to sow respect they are only made from dead trees.  While dead trees are considered living things they are not quite as living as those still growing and thriving.  Ahea is the grandmother of all the Kachinas.  She is considered to be a spiritual being.

Hopi (contraction of Hopitu, “peaceful ones”, or Hopitu-shinumu, “peaceful all people”: their own name) A body of Indians, speaking a Shoshonean dialect, occupying 6 pueblos on a reservation of 2, 472, 320 acres in north-east Arizona.  The name “Moqui” or “Moki” by which they have been popularly known, means “dead” in their own language, but as a tribal name it is seemingly of alien origin and of undetermined signification – perhaps from the Keresan language (Mosicha in Laguna, Mo-ts in Acoma, Motsi in Sia, Cochiti, and San Felipe), whence Espejo’s “Mohace” and “Mohoce” (1583) and Onate’s “Mohoqui” (1598).  Bandelier and Cushing believed the Hopi country, the later province of Tysayan, to be identical with the Totoneac of Fray Marcos de Niza.

The Hopi are preeminently a religious people, much of their time, especially in winter, being devoted to ceremonies for rain and the growth of crops.  Their mythology is a polytheism largely tinged with ancestor worship and permeated with fetishism.  They originally had no conception of a great spirit corresponding to God, nor were they ever monotheists; and, although they have accepted the teachings of Christian missionaries, these have not had the effect of altering their primary beliefs.  Their greatest gods are deified nature powers, as the Mother Earth and the Sky God – the mother and the father of the races of men and of marvelous animals, which are conceived of as closely allied.

The earth is spoken of as having always existed.  In Hopi mythology the human race was not created, but generated from the earth, from which man emerged through an opening called the pipapu, now typified by the Grand Canyon of the Colorado.  The dead are supposed to return to the underworld.  The Sky Father and Earth Mother have many names and are personated in many ways; the latter is represented by a spider, the former by a bird (hawk or eagle).  Such names as Fire God, Germ God and others are attributed designations of the great male owners of nature, or its male terminate principle.  All supernatural beings are supposed to influence the rain and consequently the growth of crops.  Every clan religion exhibits strong ancestral worship, in which a male and a female ancestral tutelary of the clan, called by a distinctive clan name, are preeminent.  The Great Horned or Plumed Serpent, a form of sky god, derived from the south and introduced by the Patki and other southern clans, is prominent in sun ceremonies.  The number of subordinate supernatural personages is almost unlimited.

They are known as “Kachinas” a term referring to the magic power inherent in every natural object for good or for bad.  Many of these Kachinas are representations of clan ancestors; others are simply beings of unknown relationship but endowed with magic powers.  Each Kachina possesses individual characteristics, an dis represented in at least six different symbolic colors.  The world quarters, or six cardinal points, play an important role in Hopi mythology and ritual.  Fetishes, amulets, charms, and mascots are commonly used to ensure luck in daily occupations and for health and success in hunting, racing, gaming, and secular performances.

The Hopi ceremonial calendar consists of a number of monthly festivals, ordinarily of 9 days duration, of which the first 8 are devoted to secret rites in kivas or in rooms set apart for that purpose, the final day being generally devoted to the spectacular public ceremony or “dance”.  Every great festival is held under the auspices of a special religious fraternity or fraternities, and is accompanied with minor events indicating a former duration of 20 days.  Among the most important religious fraternities are the Snake, Antelope, Flute, Sun, Lalakontu, Owakultu, Mamzrautu, Kachina, Tataukyamu, Wuwuchimtu, Aaltu, Kwakwautu, and Kalektaka.  There are also other organized priesthoods, as the Yaya and the Poshwympkia, whose functions are mainly those of doctors or healers.  Several ancient priesthoods, known by the names Koyimsi, Paiakyamu, and Chukuwympkia, function as clowns or fun-makers during the sacred dances of the Kachinas.

The ceremonial year is divided into two parts, every great ceremony having a major and a minor performance occurring about 6 months apart; and every 4 years, when initiations occur, most ceremonies are celebrated in extension.  The so-called Snake and Flute dances are performed biennially at all the pueblos except Sichomovi and Hano, and alternate with each other.   Ceremonies are also divided into those with masked and those with unmasked participants, the former, designated Kachinas, extending from January to July, the latter occurring in the remaining months of the year.  The chief of each fraternity has a badge of his office and conducts both the secret and the open features of the ceremony.  The fetishes and idols used in the sacred rites are owned by the priesthood and are arranged by its chief in temporary altars, in front of which dry-paintings are made.  The Hopi ritual is extraordinarily complex and time-consuming, and the paraphernalia required is extensive.  Although the Hopi culture has become highly modified by a semi-arid environment; it consisted originally of ancestor worship, embracing worship of the great powers of nature – sky, sun, moon, fire, rain, and earth.  A confusion of effect and cause and an elaboration of the doctrine of signatures pervade all their rites, which in the main may be regarded as sympathetic magic.

April 28, 2013

Pachamama: Incan Earth Goddess

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , , , at 8:13 am by Babs

Though Peru is likely to be forever synonymous with the Incas, who built the spectacular city of Machu Picchu high in the Andes and countless other gret palaces and temples, the society was merely the last in a long line of pre-Columbian cultures.  The Inca Empire (1200-1532 CE) was relatively short-lived, but it remains the best documented of all Peruvian civilizations.  Though the height of its power lasted for little more than a century, the Inca Empire extended throughout the Andes, all the way from present-day Colombia down to Chile – a stretch of more than 3,500 miles.  At its apex, the Inca Empire’s reach was longer than even that of the Romans.

The Incas were a naturalistic and ritualistic people who worshipped the Sun God Inti and the Earth Goddess Pachamama (pronounced Pawch-mama), as well as the moon, thunder, lightning, and the rainbow, all regarded as deities.  The Inca emperors were believed to be direct descendants of the Sun God.  The bold Andes Mountains were at least as important in their system of beliefs: The dwelling places of respected spirits, the 22,960 ft. peaks were the sites of human sacrifices.  The Incas founded Cusco, the sacred city and capital of the Inca Empire (which they called Tahuantinsuyo, or Land of Four Quarters).  The ruling sovereign was properly called the Inca, but today the term also refers to the people and the empire.

In Inca mythology, Mama Pacha or Pachamama was a dragoness fertility goddess who presided over planting and harvesting.  The earth was seen as a dragon goddess (Pachamama) who lived beneath the mountains; occasionally she quivered, sending earthquakes through the world.  Pachamama, goddess of the earth or earth mother, wife of Pachacamac, is still the object of a cult all over the Andean mountains where people make her offerings of coca leaf and ‘chicha’ beer and pray to her on all major agricultural occasions to assure a sufficient food supply.  Pachamama has also been identified with the Virgin Mary by Indian Christians.

Incas used to offer llamas and other animals as sacrifices to the EArth Goddess.  According to an ancient legend, the first Incas had sacrificed a llama before entering their capital Cuzco.  They entered the city with the lungs of the llama and the golden wedge that symbolized the Sun God Inti.

Incas of ancient Peru believed that Pachamama personified the Earth.  Both Pachamama and her husband Inti, the Sun God were viewed as generous deities.

Inca Civilization

Inca can be spelled Inka and was known as Tiwantinsuya.  As ancient civilizations sprang up across the planet thousands of years ago, so too the Inca civilization evolved.  As with all ancient civilizations, its exact origins are unknown.  Their historic record, as with all other tribes evolving on the planet at that time, would be recorded through oral tradition, stone, pottery, gold and silver jewelry, and woven in the tapestry of the people.

The Inca of Peru have long-held a mystical fascination for people of the western world.  Four hundred years ago the fabulous wealth in gold and silver possessed by these people was discovered, then systematically pillaged and plundered by Spanish conquistadors.  The booty they carried home altered the whole European economic system.  And in their wake, they left a highly developed civilization in tatters.  That a single government could control many diverse tribes, many of which were secreted in the most obscure of mountain hideaway, was simply remarkable.  No one really knows where the Incas came from that historical record left in stone for archeologists to unravel through the centuries that followed.  The Inca Empire was quite short-lived.  It lasted just shy of 100 years, from ca. 1438 AD, when the Inca ruler Pachacuti and his army began conquering lands surrounding the Inca set out from their base in Cuzco on a career of conquest that, during the next 50 years, brought under their control the area, the Inca established a totalitarian state that enabled the tribal ruler and a small minority of nobles to dominate the population.

Most of the accounts agree on thirteen emperors.  The Inca emperors were known by various titles, including “Sapa Inca,” Capac Apu,” and “Inti Cori.”  Often, an emperor was simply referred to as The Inca.

The first seven were legendary, local, and of slight importance.  During this period the Inca were a small tribe, one of many, whose domain did not extend many miles around their capital city, Cuzco.  They were warriors, almost constantly at war with neighboring tribes.  Ritual sacrifices were common, evidence of which is found by archaeologists to this very day.

Cusco was the center of the Inca Empire, with its advanced hydraulic engineering, agricultural techniques, marvelous architecture, textiles, ceramics and ironworks.

Language and Religion

The Incan language was based on nature.  All of the elements of which they depended and even some they didn’t were given a divine character.  They believed that all deities were created by an ever-lasting, invisible, and all-powerful god named Wiraqocha, or Sun god.  The Kin Incan was seen as Sapan Intiq Churin, or the Only Son of the Sun.  The Inca were a deeply religious people.  They feared that evil would befall them at any time.  Sorcerers held high positions in society as protectors from the spirits.  They also believed in reincarnation, saving their nail clippings, hair cuttings and teeth in case the returning spirit needed them.

The religious and societal center of Inca life  was contained  in the middle of the sprawling fortress known as Sacsahuaman.  Here was located Cuzco, “The Naval of the World” [we call it the Solar Plexus] the home of the Inca Lord and site of the sacred Temple of the Sun.  At such a place the immense wealth of the Inca was clearly evident with gold and silver decorating every edifice.  The secret of Inca wealth was the mita.  This was a labor program imposed upon every Inca by the Inca ruler.  Since it only took about 65 days a year for a family to farm for its own needs, the rest of the time was devoted to working on Temple-owned fields, building bridges, roads, temples, and terraces, or extracting gold and silver from the mines.  The work was controlled through chiefs of thousands, hundreds and tens.

The Incas worshipped the Earth goddess Pachamama and the sung god, the Inti.  The Inca sovereign, lord of the Tahuantinsuyo, the Inca Empire, was held to be sacred and to be the descendant of the sun god.  Thus, the legend of the origin of the Incas tells how the sun god sent his children Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo (and in another version the four Ayar brothers and their wives) to found Cuzco, the sacred city and capital of the Inca empire.

Inti Raymi, the feast of the sun, The “Inti Raymi” or “Sun Festivity” was the biggest, most important, spectacular and magnificent festivity carried out in Inca times.  It was aimed to worship the “Apu Inti” (Sun God).  It was performed every year on June 21st, the winter solstice of the Southern Hemisphere, in the great Cuzco Main Plaza.

In the Andean mythology it was considered that the Incas were descendants of the Sun, therefore, they had to worship it annually with a sumptuous celebration.  More over, the festivity was carried out by the end of the potato and maize harvest in order to thank the Sun for the abundant crops or otherwise in order to ask for better crops during the next season.

Besides, it is during the solstices when the Sun is located in the farthest point from the earth or vice versa, on this date the Quechuas (native people of the Andes who speak “quechua” language) had to perform diverse rituals in order to ask the Sun not to abandon its children.

Preparations had to be carried out in the Koricancha (Sun Temple), in the Aqllawasi (House of Chosen Women), and in the Haukaypata or Wakaypata that was the northeastern sector of the great Main Square.  Some days before the ceremony, all the population had to practice fast and sexual abstinence.  Before dawn on June 21st the Cusquenian nobility, presided over by the Inca and the Willaq Uma (High Priest), were located on the Haukaypata (the Plaza’s ceremonial portion), the remaining noble population were placed on the Kasipata (southwestern portion).  Prior to this the “Mallki” (mummies of noble ancestors) were brought and they were located in the privileged sectors so that they could witness the ceremony.

At sunrise, the population had to greet the Sun God with the “much’ay” (“mocha” in its Spanish form) sending forth-resounding kisses offered symbolically with the fingertips.  After all that, people sang in tune solemn canticles in a low voice that later were transformed into their “wakay taky” (weepy songs), arriving like this to an emotional and religious climax.

Subsequently, the Son of the Sun (the Inca king), used to tak in his two hands tow golden ceremonial tumblers called “akilla” containing “Aqha” (chicha = maize beer) made inside the Aqllawasi.  The beverage of the tumbler in the right hand was offered to the Sun and then poured into a golden channel communicating the Plaza with the Sun Temple.  The Inca drank a sip of Chicha from the other tumbler; the remaining was then drunk in sips by the noblemen close to him.  Later, chicha was offered to every attendant.  Some historians suggest that this ceremony was started inside the Coricancha in presence of the Sun representation that was made of very polished gold that at the sunrise was reflected with a blinding brilliance.  Later the Inca, along with his retinue went toward the great Plaza through the “intik’iqllu” or “Street of the Sun” (present-day Loreto Street) in order to witness the llama sacrifice.

During this most important religious ceremony in Incan times, the High Priest had to perform the llama sacrifice offering a completely black or white llama.  With a sharp ceremonial golden knife called “Tmi” he had to open the animal’s chest and with his hands pulled out its throbbing heart, lungs and viscera, so that observing those elements he could foretell the future.  Later, the animal and its parts were completely incinerated.

After the sacrifice, the High Priest had to produce the Sacred Fire.  Staying in front of the Sun he had to get its rays in a concave gold medallion that contained some soft or oily material in order to produce the fire that had to be kept during next year in the Koricancha and Aqllawasi.

Subsequently the priests offered the Sanqhu that was something like “holy bread” prepared from maize flour and blood of the sacrificed llama; its consumption was entirely religious as a Christian host is.

Once all ritual stages of the Inti Raymi were finished, all the attendants were located in the southwestern Plaza’s sector named Kusipata (Cheer Secto” present-day Plaza del Regocijo) where after being nourished, people were entertained with music, dances and abundant chicha.

Nowadays, the Inti Taymi is staged annually in Saqsaywaman on June 24th with the participation of hundreds of actors wearing typical outfits.  It’s a great opportunity to imagine the life at the Incas time.

Pachamama was also the deity of agriculture; rituals in her honor had to be performed daily during planting and harvest, women wold travel tot he fields to talk softly to Pachamama, sometimes pouring a thankful offering of cornmeal on her surface.  She is a companion to women.  The mountain peaks are seen as her breasts, the flowing rivers, her life-giving milk, and the tilled fields, her fertile womb.

This full-bodied earth goddess is the primordial feminine image.  She is one with the earth, centered, calm, and content.  But she is also a dragon Goddess and when the people do not honor her, she sends them earthquakes as reminders.  This Earth Mother brings grounding and centering.

It is unusual to make images of the Inca fertility goddess Pachamama, or Mother Earth as she is called in the South American Quechua language.   Pachamama’s image was commonly replaced by the Virgin Mary by the conquistadors in South America.

April 20, 2013

Epona: Goddess of Horses, Travelers & Dreams

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , , , at 9:32 am by Babs

Celtic Goddess Epona and her white mare bring dreams to you.  She helps manifest the dreams if you allow her to accompany you on your path.

The maiden Goddess Epona is usually portrayed as riding a white mare side-saddle, sometimes with a foal, or standing while surrounded by horses.  Her symbol is the Cornucopia (horn of plenty) which suggests that she may have been honored as a fertility goddess, although she is most commonly known as a goddess of horses and travel.  She fed her beloved horses from her cornucopia filled with corn and apples, symbolic of mother-love and abundance.

From the Iron Age, the Celtic goddess’ faith spread across the whole of ancient Europe, eventually being embraced by the Romans and to a certain extent, Christianity.  Epona had a shrine in almost every stable of the Roman empire – in fact, she was the only Celtic goddess to be honored by the Romans with a temple in their capital city.

According to many pre-Christian Roman sources Epona had a shrine in almost every stable of the Roman empire.  The cult seems to have been very popular.  Historians count more than 343 inscriptions worshipping her.

Still in the Christian middle age she was worshipped as a kind of holy maid for the horses. possibly the origin and one of the main centers of her cult seems to have been east France with the city of Alesia.

Only in Roman times she was brought to the Britain Islands and worshipped there, but Rhiannon and Macha show that the horse cult was famous on the Britain Islands before that.  Even in Romania and Yugoslavia there were found a lot of inscriptions worshipping her.  Spain also has some statues and inscriptions.

Lately, it seems that Epona is coming back into Her own with the growing popularity of the internet.  Most people identify with Her through Her connection with horses – She is the protector of them, after all – but most people don’t seem to be aware of all Her aspects.

Our Lady Epona seems to have her beginnings in Gaul and then spread from the western coast of Ireland to the lands of Bulgaria.  In Ireland, She was paired with Horned One, Cernunnos – the Mare and Stag being two potent fertility symbols.  In other places, She was paired with the thunder-god Taranis – why, I don’t know.  She was and is also a ‘domestic’ deity, being a goddess of fertility, prosperity, abundance as well as the aforementioned horses and horse breeding.

Horses are such a part of Her, She is never depicted without them.  She is always shown either standing beside a horse, usually a mare, or is riding side-saddle.  Other symbols She is sometimes depicted with are a cornucopia, ear of corn or a key.

In ancient times, horses weren’t always so easy to come by.  In Europe, they were considered ‘prestige’ animals.  Still, they did all the usual jobs – mostly by providing transportation, either by carrying humans directly or pulling carts.

The Celts revered the horse for several things; its beauty, speed, bravery and vigor in the sexual arena.  In time, the horse came to symbolize the warrior – elites, the aristocracy, in Celtic society.  They thought so much of their horses that even their greatest horse deity’s name incorporates the very word, epos, in Her name.

Our Lady Epona was the only deity, Celtic or otherwise, that was adopted by the Romans without changes.  Usually when they found a deity that they liked, they appropriated it and gave it the name and attributes of the Roman deity that it most closely resembled.  Even poor Isis suffered, even though she got to keep Her name, believe me when I tell you that She got stuck with the Roman ideals for a deity.  The Roman Calvary adopted Epona wholeheartedly, giving Her a feast day of December 18.  This is where part of Epona’s war attributes comes in.  They looked to Her as a protector of both horse and rider especially the officers who served in the areas of the Danube and Rhine.  Celtic warriors may have also called on Her to protect them and their horses, they used two-horse teams to pull light and fast chariots in battle.

Epona was also a dream goddess, Her specialty seems to have been nightmares.  She was even immortalized in a painting by Henry Fuseli’s painting, The Nightmare.  Many a child in Ireland wer told to be good or Epona would visit them with horrific nightmares.  A folk custom from Western Ireland seems to confirm this:

Just before dawn, find a place where two roads cross each other – they must be perfectly oriented to the four directions (north, south, east and west).  Light eight small fires, one for each side of the roads and be sure to leave enough room for a horse and rider to pass through.  Next, play ‘horsie’ yourself – ride three times around the intersection on a besom and then the fun begins.  Sit and wait for a dark lady dressed in black riding a horse, fleeing west from the approaching rays of morning.  It is said to be Epona, returning from Her night of dispensing dreams.

Epona is the only Gallo-Celtic goddess that made her way into the Roman empire pantheon where she was highly worshipped especially as the protectress of horses and foals.  Almost every stable had a shrine for her and she was very famous in the Roman cavalry.  In earlier times she must have been an incarnation of fertility as the Divine White Mare.

Known as Rhiannon in Wales, Macha in Ireland and Epona to the Gauls this ancient horse goddess is one of the most well-known of all the Celtic gods and goddesses.  Horses played an important role in Celtic society.  Naturally the protector of horses wold play an equally important role in Celtic society.  Naturally the protector of horses would play an equally important role.  Epona has been revered since the Iron Age.

Epona is the protectress of horses, animals, riders and stables.  She is the mistress of animals.  Her many fertility attributes make her a Mother Goddess, which was maybe only reduced later to the horse-aspect.

Epona is depicted sitting side-saddle or lying on a horse, or standing with multiple horses around her.  Much of Epona’s imagery displays the symbolism of fertility and the earth’s abundance.  Epona was also associated with both water/ healing and with death.  The goddess is frequently represented with a dog, which could reflect either healing or death.  She is also identified with the Celtic Goddess Edain.

The symbolism of Epona is complex and multifaceted.  Mediterranean commentators speak of her purely as a goddess of horse and stable.  Horses were of fundamental importance to the Celts, in terms of economics, transport, war, power, prestige and religion.  The Gaulish cavalry in the Roman Army formed a large group of worshippers, Epona may have been perceived as a protectress of horsemen and their mounts.  The symbolism of her key also suggests that here was a goddess who guarded her devotees throughout life and into the next world.  She was the patroness of horses, cavalry, and the craft of horse breeding at one level and at another, she reflected the deep mysteries of life, death and rebirth.

Epona – The Divine Horsewoman, by Veronica Doubleday

In Roman times the 18th of December was the official festival of Epona, the Celtic horse-goddess.  This was a unique honor bestowed on no other Celtic goddess.  According to Miranda Green, an eminent expert on Celtic religion and mythology, Epona may have been one of the most popular deities of the Celtic pantheon.  Her name Epona comes from the Gaulish word ‘epos’ meaning ‘horse’.  The heartland of her cult was Gaul and the land along the Rhine river.  Under Roman rule Epona worship spread, and archeological evidence shows that she was venerated in areas as far-flung as Bulgaria and North Africa.

Most of the information we possess about Epona comes from the Roman period.  Only one Epona temple has been discovered, in Gaul, at Entrains-sur-Nohain (Nievre), near the Loire river.  She was popular in small house-shrines in Burgundy, and probably elsewhere.

Epona shrines may also have been common in Roman stables: Lucius Apuleius (c123-180), the author of The Golden Ass, describes one such shrine: I notice a little shrine of the Goddess Epona, standing in a niche of the post that supported the main beam of the stable.  It was neatly wreathed with freshly gathered roses.

Under Roman rule Epona was important to anyone connected with horses and to soldiers, ordinary foot soldiers and officers, but particularly cavalrymen serving along the Rhine frontier provinces.  In Britain there are significant vestiges of Epona’s cult which predate the Roman period, and we find that she has many divine aspects.  The 360 foot White Horse of Uffingham cut into the chalk in Oxfordshire’s Vale of the White Horse (which runs along the river Thames) dates from between the 1st centuries BCE and CE and was probably carved by Dobunni Celts to signify their territory.

It is close in its design to horses depicted on Celtic coins dating from about 150 BCE.  Thow other very old chalk cut horses are the White HOrse of Westbury in Wiltshire and the Red Horse of Tysoe in Warwickshire.

A well-known nursery rhyme connected to Banbury, in Oxfordshire, also evokes a powerful horse-woman: ‘Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross, to see a fine lady on a white horse, with rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, she shall have music wherever she goes’.  The well-known British folktale of Lady Godiva is located around Coventry, an area occupied by the Celtic Brigantes tribe.  In the story Lady Godiva rode naked through the town of Coventry, with her long hair as her only covering, to shame her husband into lifting onerous taxes on the people.  She blinded a ‘peeping tom’ and her significance as a powerful horsewoman may well connect with Epona’s cult.

Thus far one strand of Epona’s significance emerges: she was connected with territory (and perhaps with rivers as territorial markers).In connection with territorial rule, Epona is probably linked to ancient Celtic horse-ceremonies to inaugurate a sacral king, although she is not specifically named in this context.  The horse-ceremonies entailed ‘sacred union between the king and the goddess of sovereignty, the personification of territory and fertility symbolized as a mare’.

Sculptural depiction of Epona bear out connections with fertility: we find a woman flanked by ponies, or with a mare and foal.  In one statuette the woman offers corn to the horses.  A relief from Beilingen, Wurtemberg, shows the seated goddess flanked by triads of horses and the sacrifice of a pig (another symbol of fertility).  Another relief, from Kastel, Germany, shows the mounted goddess holding a round object which might be a fruit.  Epona is also connected with Celtic ideas about the Otherworld.  Caitlin Matthews defines this supernatural realm: it is the source of their (the Celts) wisdom, the place of their gods, the dimension in which poets and wanderers are most at home.  Whoever has visited the Otherworld becomes more than mortal.  The Otherworld is generally understood to lie close to the borders of the manifest world, but, more especially, to lie within the compass of one ship’s sailing, to the islands of the furthest West.

The goddess is frequently depicted sitting side-saddle, facing right, on a horse that is moving at a leisurely pace; walking, not galloping.  Epona’s posture may connect with the ritual right hand turn which ensured good fortune.  The mare that carries her (and is part of her identity) evidently knows her way to the Otherworld.

Miranda Green connects the Otherworld with death, and provides evidence of Epona in funerary plaques and monument.  The cemetery of La Horgne-au-Sablon at Metz, the capital of the Mediomatrici tribe, produced several Epona monuments, one of which was Epona riding her mare and leading a human, whom she may be conducting to the Afterlife.  The fragment of a lintel from Nages, Gard (in France), decorated with two severed human heads and two galloping horses, is also suggestive of Epona’s cult.

Epona is linked in myth to other Celtic goddesses.  Rhiannon appears in Welsh mythology, riding on a white horse, and her name from Rigantona means ‘great, divine, queen’.  Although she rides slowly no one can catch up with her.  Macha is a three-fold Irish goddess: in one story Macha is a pregnant woman forced to run in a contest against royal horses.  She won the race but immediately gave birth to twins, crying out in pain and putting a curse on Ulstermen (because her husband had broken a promise).

Epona has many meanings, but first and foremost she is a divine woman riding on a mare.  Her swiftness and beauty, her supernatural power, linked with fertility and tribal territory, make her a formidable goddess, especially since she may represent a path to the Otherworld.

Suggested Mantra: Live my dream.

Suggested Affirmations:

  • I see the path intended for me.
  • My future is full of possibilities.
  • I invite new choices into my life.
  • My goals are becoming manifest.
  • I deserve to have my dreams realized.

Gemstones:

  • Cat’s Eye
  • Ruby
  • Moonstone

Epona’s Signs, Symbols, and Sacred Animals:

  • Horses (particularly: mares and foals), birds and dogs.
  • Whip, harness and the key to the doors of the Otherworld.
  • Basket filled with fruits, corn and especially apples. (Cornucopia or Horn of Plenty)
  • Rose garlands were put around her pictures and shrines.

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.

April 3, 2013

Dewi Sri: The Indonesian Rice Goddess

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , , at 5:51 am by Babs

Dewi Sri is the Indonesian Rice Goddess, equivalent of the Indian Goddess Lakshmi.  Sri is the Goddess of the earth and the Mother of the Javanese people.  In the Javanese harvest ceremonies She is worshipped as the Rice Mother and as the Rice Bride.  She is widely venerated as the great benefactress of the people who protects them against hunger, even in the semi-Islamized regions.  Sri brings the rain when the monsoon arrives and appears in dreams to give good advice.

She is unique in the Balinese pantheon for She is the only member of the principal deities who did not originate in Indian Hinduism.  She is the consort of Wisnu, the God of Sustenance.  Dewi Sri is considered to be the inspirer of Bali’s highly productive method of cooperative rice farming as well as Bali’s master landscaper.  She protects and nurtures the rice padi and the farmers pray to her for bountiful harvest.

In the Javanese wayang cycle, Dewi Sri is reborn as the Goddess Sinta to marry her Wisnu in his incarnation as Rama.  Reborn as Rukmini, she marries him in his new form as Kresna.  Reborn as Subadra, she once again marries him as Arjuna, son of King Pandu.

If we are wondering about the beginning of padi and how the earth was first organized, the Sundanese myths have all the stories.  One of the myths that is very well-known by the Sundanese is Nyi Pohaci Sanghiang Sri.  This story about Dewi Sri is written in Wawacan Sulanjana.

Once upon a time in the heavens, the Batara Guru commanded all the gods and goddesses to contribute their power in order to build a new palace.  Anybody who disobeyed this commandment would lose his or her head.  Upon hearing Batara Guru’s commandment, one of the gods, Anta, was very anxious.  He didn’t have arms or legs, and he wasn’t sure how he could possibly do the job.  Anta was shaped as a snake and he couldn’t work.  He sought advice from one of his friends, but unfortunately his friend was also confused by Anta’s bad luck.  Anta became very upset and cried.  As he was crying, three tear drops fell to the ground.  Amazingly, after touching the ground those tear drops became three eggs.  His friend advised him to offer those eggs to the Batara Guru, hoping that he would give a fair judgement.

With the three eggs in his mouth, Anta went to the Batara Guru’s palace.  On the way there, he was approached by a black bird who asked him a question.  He couldn’t answer because of the eggs in his mouth, but the bird thought that Anta was being arrogant.  t became furious and began to attack Anta, and as a result one eg was shattered.  Anta quickly tried to hide int he bushes, but the bird was waiting for him.  The second attack left Anta with only one egg to offer to the Batara Guru.

Finally, he arrived at the palace and offered his teardrop (in the shape of an egg) to the Batara Guru.  The offer was accepted and the Batara Guru asked him to nest the egg until it hatched.  Miraculously, the egg hatched into a very beautiful girl.  He gave the baby girl to the Batara Guru and his wife.

Nyi Pohi Sanghian Sri was her name, and she grew up into a beautiful princess, becoming more and more beautiful as the days passed by.  As her beauty grew, every man who saw her became attracted to her.  Even her stepfather, the Batara Guru, started to feel an attraction toward her.  Seeing the Batara Guru’s new attitude toward Nyi Pohaci, all the gods became so worried about the situation that they conspired to separate Nyi Pohaci and the Batara Guru.

To keep the peace in the heavens, and to maintain Nyi Pohaci’s good name, all the gods planned for her death.  She was poisoned and her body buried on earth in a hidden place.  But the graveyard was to hold a strange sign, for at the time of her burial, up grew a very useful plant that wold forever benefit all human beings.  From her eyes grew the plant that is called padi (rice paddy).

The ‘cili’ goddess or Dewi Sri is typically represented in an hourglass shape such as this example.  Such figures are placed in Balinese fields to protect and promote fertility of wet rice agriculture, and illustrate the importance of rice production in Southeast Asia where it is the staple diet.  Figures like this one made from fragile palm leaf are not intended to last.

The Balinese are an essentially friendly, happy and kind people who have no real concept of western stress.  They know who they are and where they are going.  Broad genuine smiles are common.  Despite the lack of money and prosperity in western terms, the quality of life for most Balinese is very good.  Unlike us, they do not have much “stuff” and for the most part are happier without it than most of us are with it.  The secret is they have what is essential, ties to family and community, reverence and love of Nature, and a positive belief in karma.  Bali is also a land of incredible artists.  In Bali everyone makes art or crafts.  There are vibrant paintings that reflect the tropical jungles, there are incredible wood carvers, and there are batik artists, jewelers, potters, sculptors and fiber artists.  To the Balinese all acts are part of the whole and attention to detail is a sacred thing.

An awareness of the magic and bounty of Nature is all around and impossible to ignore in Bali.  It is in the tiny geckos that magically scurry across walls and ceiling almost everywhere you go.  It is echoed in the many, many processions and celebrations that are central to Bali life.  It is in the hands of the artists and craftsmen/women who carve traditional masks and statues of the God/desses with incredible patience and care.  It is in each and every offering laid on the Temple steps by someone who truly believes in the power of such offerings.

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