June 19, 2013

Baba Yaga: The Slavic Goddess of Death

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , , , , at 7:44 pm by Babs

It is only through examination of our dark side that we can hope to be reborn.  It is in crossing the comfort zones and visiting our shadowed selves that we can empower ourselves spiritually, psychologically, emotionally, and physically.

The ancient Slavic Goddess Baba Yaga is the wild old crone guardian of the Water of Life and Death.  She is the Goddess of Death and Birth associated with autumn, who sings while sprinkling corpses with the Water of Life to let them be reborn.  Although she is fearsome to look upon, like all forces of nature that are often wild and untamed, she can also be kind.

Often depicted living in the deep center of the earth, or in a hut built of human bones, complete with bone fence with inset skulls whose eye sockets light up in the dark.  And it’s a mobile home; it runs around supported on gigantic chicken legs.  She represents the power of old age, of which, and of the life cycle that is birth, death, and rebirth.  She is therefore also associated with birch forests (birch being the tree of beginnings and endings).  Another image is that of “White Lady” or Death Crone, as she is stiff and white and carved of bone (she can also be referred to as Goddess of Old Bones).

Baba Yaga’s own eyes turn humans to stone,  and her mighty mouth has knives for teeth.  She can also pole herself around in a giant pestle and mortar which she also uses to grind up and un-petrify her victims.

Baba Yaga by Ivan Bilibin

In Russian folklore there are many stories of Baba Yaga, the fearsome witch with iron teeth.  She is also known as Baba Yaga Boney Legs, because, in spite of a ferocious appetite, she is as thin as a skeleton.  In Russian that’s: “Baba Yaga Kostianaya Noga”.  In some stories she has two older sisters, who are also called Baba Yaga, just to confuse you!

Her nose is so long that it rattles against the ceiling of her hut when she snores, stretched out in all directions upon her ancient brick oven.  Not being a boringly conventional witch, she does not wear a hat, and has never been seen on a broomstick.  She travels perched in a large mortar with her knees almost touching her chin, and pushes herself across the forest floor with a pestle.

Whenever she appears on the scene, a wild wind begins to blow, the trees around creak and groan and leaves whirl through the air.  Shrieking and wailing, a host of spirits often accompany her on her way.

Being a somewhat secretive lady, in spite of the din she makes, she sweeps away all traces of herself with a broom made of silver birch.  What are brooms for anyway?  She can also fly through the air in the same manner.

Baba Yaga lives in a hut deep in the forest.  Her hut seems to have a personality of its own and can move about on its extra-large chicken legs.  Usually the hut is either spinning around as it moves through the forest or stands at rest with its back to the visitor.  The windows of the hut seem to serve as eyes.  All the while it is spinning around; it emits blood-curdling screeches and will only come to a halt, amid much creaking and groaning, when a secret incantation is said.  When it stops, it turns to face the visitor and lowers itself down on its chicken legs, throwing open the door with a loud crash.  The hut is sometimes surrounded by a fence made of bones, which helps to keep out intruders.  The fence is topped with skulls whose blazing eye sockets illuminate the darkness.

When a visitor enters her hut, Baba Yaga asks them whether they came of their own free will, or whether they were sent.  One answer is the right one!  Thankfully, she appears to have no power over the pure of heart, such as Vasilisa and those of use who are ‘blessed’ meaning they are protected by the power of love, virtue, or a mother’s blessing.

Baba Yaga rules over the elements.  Her faithful servants are the White Horeseman, the Red Horseman and the Black Horseman.  When Vasilissa asks her who these mysterious horsemen are, she replies, “My Bright Dawn, my Red Sun, and my Dark Midnight”.  Amongst her other servants, are three bodiless and somewhat menacing pairs of hands, which appear aout of thin air to do her bidding.  She calls them “my soul friends” or “friends of my bosom” and she is more than a little reticent about discussing them with Vasilisa.

Another strange character who served as a herdsman for Baba Yaga is the sorcerer Koshchey the Deathless.  And here’s a mystery for you: While she is giving instructions to Vasilisa, Baba Yaga mentions that ‘someone spiteful’ had mixed earth in with her poppy-seeds.  What could she have meant?  Could Baba Yaga possibly have an enemy?  Would anyone dare to risk incurring her wrath?

Although she is mostly portrayed as a terrifying old crone, Baba Yaga can also play the role of a helper and wise woman.  The Earth Mother, like all forces of nature, though often wild and untamed, can also be kind.  In her guise as wise hag, she sometimes gives advice and magical gifts to heroes and the pure of heart.  The hero or heroine of the story often enters toe crone’s domain searching for wisdom, knowledge and truth.  She is all knowing, all-seeing and all-revealing to those who would dare to ask.  She is said to be a guardian spirit of the fountain of the Waters of Life and of Death.  Baba Yaga is the Arch-Crone, the Goddess of Wisdom and Death, the Bone Mother.  Wild and untamable, she is a nature spirit bringing wisdom and death of ego, and through death, rebirth.

Suggested Mantra: Rebirth

Suggested Affirmations:

  • I am revitalized
  • My insecurity is replaced with wisdom
  • At my center there is an incandescent fire
  • I release myself from harmful judgements
  • My new life path reveals itself to me
  • I say goodbye to destructive influences

Gemstones:

  • Garnet
  • Bloodstone
  • Tourmaline
  • Smoky Quartz
  • Red Stones
  • Scapolite
  • Amazonite
  • Chiastolite
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November 15, 2012

Gaia – Earth Mother

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , at 5:06 am by Babs

Gaia (Gaea, Ge), according to Greek myth, is the supreme woman, the all-powerful, the original Mother Earth.  The ancient Greeks believed that the universe was originally one big, formless Chaos with light and dark,l sea and land all merged into one.  When Chaos became a little more settled, Gaia emerged as the deep-breasted one – the Earth, considered by Hesiod “the oldest of divinities”.  She was said to be the child of Ether (Air) and Hemera (Day, though some said She was born directly from Chaos, the great void of emptiness within the universe, and with her came Eros (Love) and Nyx (Night).  For timeless spans she existed on her own until she craved love so much that she made herself a son-lover, Uranus, and took him as her husband.

She is credited with creating the Universe, and is known as the mother of many including: Uranus (the starry sky or heaven); Pontos, the sea.  This was achieved parthenogenetically (without male intervention).  Other offspring included the Titans, who include Oceanus, Cronos, Rhea, Mnemosyne (the mother of Muses), Phoebe and Themis; six sons and six daughters.  She gave birth to the Cyclopes and to three monsters that became known as the “Hecatonchires” or the hundred-handed monsters.  The spirits of punishment known as the Erinyes (Furies) were also offspring of Gaia and Uranus along with the Melic nymphs; the monsters Typhon, Ladon and Echidna; the sea-monster Charybdis; and the serpent-king Erechtheus, whose temple is the Erechtheum on the Acropolis.  Other versions say that Gaia had as siblings Tartarus (the lowest part of the earth, below Hades itself) and Eros.

As Heaven arched over his mother Earth in good old Greek incestuous style, Time (Cronos) was conceived.  But as her brood increased with their endless couplings, producing the marvels of the earth, Uranus became so jealous that Gaia had to hide her children from him.  To protect her children from her husband, (the Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheires, as he was fearful of their great strength), Gaia hid them all within herself.  One version says that Uranus was aghast at the sight of his offspring so he hid them away in Tartarus, which are the bowels of the earth.  Gaia herself found her offspring uncomfortable and at times painful, when the discomfort became too much to bear she asked her youngest son Cronus to help her.  She asked him to castrate Uranus, thus severing the union between the Earth and Sky, and also to prevent more monstrous offspring.  To help Cronus achieve his goal Gaia produced an adamantine sickle to serve as the weapon.  Cronus hid until Uranus came to lay with Gaia and as Uranus drew near, Cronus struck with the sickle, cutting the genitalia from Uranus.  As his blood fell over ripe old Mother Earth, she was so fertile that it made her swell with the beginnings of the dynasty of gods and goddesses which colored ancient Greek history including the Erinyes (Furies), the Giants and the Meliae (Nymphs of the manna ash trees).

After the separation of the Earth from the Sky, Gaia gave birth to other offspring, these being fathered by Pontus.  Their names were the sea-god Nereus, Thaumas, Phorcys, Ceto and Eurybia.  In other versions Gaia had offspring to her brother Tartarus; they were Echidna and Typhon, the latter being an enemy of Zeus.  Apollo killed Typhon when he took control of the oracle at Delphi, which Gaia originally provided, and then the “Sibyl” sang the oracle in Gaia’s shrine.

It was Gaia who saved Zeus from being swallowed by Cronus, after Zeus had been born, Gaia helped Rhea to wrap a stone in swaddling clothes, this was to trick Cronus into thinking it was Zeus, because Cronus had been informed that one of his children would depose him and so to get rid of his children he had swallowed them.  Gaia’s trick worked and Zeus was then taken to Crete.

Gaia being the primordial element from which all the gods originated was worshipped throughout Greece, but later she went into decline and was supplanted by other gods.  In Roman mythology she was known as Tellus or Terra.

While Gaia is considered the Mother of All who nourishes and cares for Her children and brings rich blessings she is the Goddess of the Earth, meaning She was also an Underworld goddess who brought all Her creations back to Her and therefore she destroyed as well as created.  Gaia as the ever-present Earth was invoked in oaths as a witness, and as one who being All, knew all, was considered a goddess of prophecy: the Olympian oracle was Hers, and the famous oracle at Delphi was originally Hers, before Apollo either stole it, or before it was passed down through Her daughter Phoebe to Him.

It is interesting to note that the ancient super continent of Earth, the primeval union of the land before continental drift gave us the current configuration, is called Pangaea; which literally means “All EArth”, but is also the names of the Great Mother Goddess and the Universal God, the “Great All”, Pan.

Gaia in a reading indicates a time of fruitfulness and bright blessings, of nourishment and fulfillment.

“First in my prayer, before all other deities,

I call upon Gaia, Primeval Prophetess…

The Great great earth mother.”

~ Aeschylus ~

Creation of Her

Gaia, more frequently spelled Ge, was the Earth.  She is rarely even referred to as a deity, she is more a power.  Wat is.  She was one of the firsts.  Well, one of the firsts in some versions.  There are actually a couple of different creation myths, and not all of them include Gaia.  The original Greek Mythology (i.e. pre-Classical) was Pelasgian myth (the Pelasgians came to Greece from the Asia Minor 3,000 years before Hesiod).  The Pelasgian creation story focuses on Eurynome, the Goddess of All Things.  Here we will focus on Gaia.  There are two parts: Creation of Her and Creation by Her.

There are two accepted versions of Classical Creation: Hesiod’s and Ovid’s.  Both versions begin with Gaia’s emergence from Chaos.  She has a parthenogenic birth (i.e. only one parent needed).  According to Ovid, Gaia pretty much just appeared (similar to the Judeo-Christian creation story).  After her birth, Ovid continued to see the hand of a Creator at work (an unnamed Creator), who populated Gaia with the necessary mountains, seas, flora, and fauna.  I much prefer Hesiod’s version.

Before I tell you about what Hesiod has to say, I’m going to give you this wonderful quote from his creation story:

“Gaia, the beautiful, rose up,

Broad blossomed, she that is the steadfast base

Of all things.  And fair Gaia frist bore

The starry Heaven, equal to herself,

To cover her on all side and to be

A home forever from the blessed Gods.”

And now back to the story.  According to Hesiod, the first beings sprang into existence without cause or explanation.  After Gaia came Tartarus (the lowest level of the Underworld, also viewed as a sort of huge cave or pit) and then came Eros: Erotic Love.  Chaos continues her parthenogenic streak, giving birth to Erebus and Nyx.  In her sleep, Gaia gives parthenogenic birth to Uranus (the Universe, who emerges as big and powerful as Gaia) and Pontus (the Sea, and the God of the Sea_.  Uranus, bursting (literally) with love for Gaia (possible only by the creation of Eros, you see), showers her with fertile rain and this is how Gaia gives birth to the rest of creation (you remember, seas, mountains, etc. – we already covered this with Ovid).  Gaia and Uranus also gave birth to the Titans, the three Cyclopes and the three Hundred-Armed Giants.

Creation by Her:

Don’t know you your mama is?  That’s OK, Gaia’s the default, and you can always accurately claim her along with all of her children listed on page one.  A good mythical example of this is when Pyrrha and Deucalion had to throw their mothers’ bones over their shoulders!

What is Gaia?

The Gaia Hypothesis proposes that our planet functions as a single organism that maintains conditions necessary for its survival.  Formulated by James Lovelock in the mid-1960’s and published in a book in 1979, this controversial idea has spawned several interesting ideas and many new areas of research.  While this hypothesis is by no means substantiated, it provides many useful lessons about the interactions of physical, chemical, geological, and biological processes on Earth.  Thus, it is a good starting point for our study of oceanography, providing a broad overview of the kinds of processes that will interest us.

Throughout history, the concept of Mother Earth has been a part of human culture in one form or another.  Everybody has heard of Mother Earth, but have you ever stopped to think who (or what) Mother Earth is?  Consider these explanations:

The Hopi name for Mother Earth is Tapuat (meaning mother and child), symbolized by a form of concentric circles or squares.  These forms symbolize the cycle of life, the rebirth of the spirit, its earthly path, and, possibly, its return to the spiritual domain.  The lines and passages within the “maze” represent the universal plan of the Creator and the path that man must follow to seek enlightenment.

A more imposing definition of Mother Earth might be found in the Hindu Goddess Kali.  She is the Cosmic Power, representing all of the good and all of the bad in the Universe, combining the absolute power of destruction with the precious motherly gift of creation.  It is said that Kali creates, preserves, destroys.  also known as the Black One, her name means “The Ferry across the Ocean of Existence.”

The ancient Greeks called their Earth goddess Ge or Gaia.  Gaia embodies the idea of a Mother Earth, the source of the living and non-living entities that make up the Earth.  Like Kali, Gaia was gentle, feminine and nurturing, but also ruthlessly cruel to any who crossed her.  Note that the prefix “ge” in the words geology and geography is taken from the Greek root for Earth.

James Lovelock has taken the idea of Mother Earth one step further and given it a modern scientific twist.  (Are our modern Mother Earth “hypotheses” any more refined than ancient Mother Earth myths?)  Lovelock defines Gaia “as a complex entity involving the Earth’s biosphere, atmosphere, oceans, and soil; the totality constituting a feedback or cybernetic system which seeks an optimal physical and chemical environment for life on this planet.”  Through Gaia, the Earth sustains a kind of homeostasis, the maintenance of relatively constant conditions.

The truly startling component of the Gaia hypothesis is the idea that the Earth is a single living entity.  This idea is certainly not new.  James Hutton (1726 – 1797), the father of geology, once described the Earth as a kind of super organism.  And right before Lovelock, Lewis Thomas, a medical doctor and skilled writer, penned these words in his famous collection of essays, The Lives of a Cell.

Viewed from a distance of the moon, the astonishing thing about the Earth, catching the breath, is that it is alive.  The photographs show the dry, pounded surface of the moon in the foreground, dry as an old bone.  Aloft, floating free beneath the moist,, gleaming, membrane of bright blue sky, is the rising earth, the only exuberant thing in this part of the cosmos.  If you could look long enough, you would see the swirling of the great drifts of white cloud, covering and uncovering the half-hidden masses of land.  If you had een looking for a very long, geologic time, you could have seen the contents themselves in motion, drifting apart on their crustal plates, held afloat by the fire beneath.  It has the organized, self-contained look of a live creature, full of information, marvelously skilled in handling the sun.

Thomas goes even one step further when he writes: “I have been trying to think of the earth as a kind of organism, but it is a no go… it is most like a single cell.”

Whether the Earth is a cell, an organism, or a super organism is largely a matter of semantics, and a topic that I will leave to the more philosophically minded.  The key point here is the hypothesis that the Earth acts as a single system – it is a coherent, self-regulated, assemblage of physical, chemical, geological, and biological forces that interact to maintain a unified whole balanced between the input of energy from the sun and the thermal sink of energy into space.

In its most basic configuration, the Earth acts to regulate flows of energy and recycling of materials.  The input of energy from the sun occurs at a constant rate and for all practical purposes in unlimited.  This energy is captured by the Earth as heat or photosynthetic processes, and energy is captured by the Earth as heat or photosynthetic processes, and returned to space as long-wave radiation.  On the other hand, the mass of the Earth, its material possessions, are limited (except for the occasional input of mass provided as meteors strike the planet).  Thus, while energy flows through the Earth (sun to Earth to space), matter cycles within the Earth.

The idea of the Earth acting as a single system as put forth in the Gaia hypothesis has stimulated a new awareness of the connectedness of all things on our planet and the impact that man has on global processes.  No longer can we think of separate components or parts of the Earth as distinct.  No longer can we think of man’s actions in one part of the planet as independent.  Everything that happens on the planet – the deforestation/ reforestation of trees, the increase/ decrease of emissions of carbon dioxide, the removal or planting of crop lands – all have an effect on our planet.  The most difficult part of this idea is how to qualify these effects, i.e. to determine whether these effects are positive or negative.  If the Earth is indeed self-regulating, then it will adjust to the impacts of man.  However, as we will see, these adjustments may act to exclude man, much as the introduction of oxygen into the atmosphere by photosynthetic bacteria acted to exclude anaerobic bacteria.  This is the crux of the Gaia hypothesis.

Gaea – Love this Earth

Gaia connects us to the universal source of “mothering” and “nurturing”, leading us to a feeling of profound peace and balance.

Suggested Mantra: Peace

Suggested Affirmations:

  • Wherever I go, I am loved.
  • There is purity in th quiet touch.
  • Love is eternal and ever-lasting.
  • Love flows into my life like a river.
  • I stand in complete satisfaction.
  • I embrace life in its absolute fullness.
  • I’m calm and centered, now and always.

Gemstones: Green Calcite, Amber, Jet, Black Tourmaline, Geodes

More about Gaia:

The Romans believed every element in the universe, whether on land, in the sea or sky, was a single living entity of Gaia, the primordial Great Mother.  More than any other goddess, Gaia, is identified as the divine and animate Earth Mother.

She is the living, conscious planet who provides sustenance and nutrition and the wisdom inherent in the earth itself.  Her values are rooted in the sacredness of all life, whether it be plant, animal or the stars in the sky – respect for other is paramount if we are to attain the deep sense of balance and completeness that a connection with Gaia brings.

Gaia represents virginity and pure love.  She also represents raw sexual energy.

The full and seductive, terrible and wonderful Gaia always has something to offer.  She is the brother, father, sister, mother, lover and friend.  She is the fiend, monster, beast and brute.  She is the sun and the ocean; she is the grass and the dew.

Dear ladies, please wake up the goddess within you – be a woman proud to be a woman, sensual and inspiring, radiant and able to spread out clarity, love, power, beauty, and sensuality.

Gaia as Prophetess

Gaia was the original prophetess whose priestess presided over the Delphic oracle.  Delphi was considered to be the omphalos, the navel of the earth, the connection point where human life and earth met, and the place where the wisdom of both worlds could be interpreted.  Originally the omphalos could have been a grave mound.  It is possible that Gaia was a death goddess who received the dead back to her body, the earth.  Her oracle was situated over a deep cleft in the earth and on it resided the Python, the symbol of women’s wisdom.  Vapor from the earth arose through the cleft, and the presiding priestess interpreted Mother Earth’s information for the seeker.  Gaia’s oracle was revered because it represented the wisdom inherent in the earth itself.  The information revealed to the seekers aided in the sustenance of human life.  Under later Greek patriarchal rule, the temple and the oracle at Delphi were assumed by the Greek god Apollo.

Honoring Gaia with Song:

Orphic Hymn to Gaia (Translated and interpreted by Virginia Stewart, M.Ed.

Oh Goddess, Source of Gods and Mortals,

All-Fertile, All-Destroying Gaia,

Mother of All, Who brings forth the bounteous fruits and flowers,

All variety, Maiden who anchors the eternal world in our own,

Immortal, Blessed, crowned with every grace,

Deep bosomed Earth, sweet plains and fields fragrant grasses in the nurturing rains,

Around you fly the beauteous stars, eternal and divine,

Come, Blessed Goddess, and hear the prayers of Your children,

And make the increase of the fruits and grains your constant care, with the fertile seasons

Your handmaidens,

Draw near, and bless your supplicants.

Gaia Homeric Hymn, 7th Century B.C.

I will sing of

well-founded Gaia,

Mother of All

eldest of all beings,

she feeds all creatures,

that are in the world,

all that go upon the goodly land,

and all that are in the paths of,

the sea,

and all that fly:

all these are fed of her store.

Honoring Gaia with Ritual:

The Altar: When choosing your candles and symbols for your altar, here are some manifestations to evoke Gaia’s attributes into your life: the color green, the gem stones of green calcite, amber, jet, black tourmaline, geodes.  Fragrances of honeysuckle and cypress.  All flowers and vegetation.

The Cakes: Karri Allrich writes in her book “Food and the Goddess” that “by aligning ourselves closer to nature’s cycles, we bring the Goddess back into our everyday awareness.  When we eat what the season offers, we connect with the changing rhythms of the Goddess Gaia, the earth herself.  This connection between food and the Goddess is an ancient one.  Earliest peoples worshipped Mother Earth as the Great Provider, finding sustenance in her seeds, roots and fruit, and healing in her herbs and sparkling waters.  Within her caves and caverns they found shelter.”

To this end, I suggest the following recipe for grounding at the end of your ritual, it is taken from The Vegetarian Mother and Baby Book by Rose Elliot and is for Rice Pudding:

  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 1/2 Cup Pudding Rice (rounded)
  • 4 Tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 5 Cups Milk or Soy Milk
  • Freshly Grated Nutmeg

Set oven to 325 degrees.  Use the butter or margarine to grease a shallow oven-proof dish.  Rinse the rice thoroughly under cold water, then put it into the dish with the sugar and mils – stir gently.  Grate some nutmeg on top, then place in the center of the oven and bake for about 2 hours or until thick and creamy.

In the autumn and winter earth this hot and steamy.  In the summer cool and top with fresh berries.  Couple this with fresh sparkling water following the ritual.

The Invocation:  Cast your circle and call in those you wish to join you.  Ask Mother Gaia to join your circle with this invocation:

Of her I sing, the All-Mother,

old and rock-hard and beautiful.

Of her I sing, the Nourisher,

she upon whom everything feeds.

Of Gaia I sing.  Whoever you are,

wherever you are, she feeds you.

from her sacred treasury of life,

bountiful harvests, beautiful

children, the fullness of life:

these are her gifts.  Praise her.

The wide blue sky wants to penetrate the earth.

The earth longs for utter union.  Look: it comes.

Rain falls.  Rain falls as sky meets earth.

Rain falls.  Earth bubbles with life.

Life springs forth from the damp soil:

flocks of sheep like clouds, oceans of wheat.

Body of the Ritual:  Depending on the time of year the focus could be flexible.  For example, Earth Day or Arbor Day are natural (excuse the pun) days to honor Gaia.  Either would be a wonderful time to thank the Earth Mother for her beauty and nurturing, or to pray for her healing.  The Autumn would be ideal to offer prayers of thanksgiving.  Meditate on the Earth Mother and your connectedness to her.  Ask Gaia to guide you as you use your preferred divination techniques to answer a pressing question.

Raise the Energy:  You might choose this chant from “The Voices of Gaia” to raise some energy.  After, close your circle and ground yourself with the rice pudding and sparkling water refreshments.

We are the rhythm of the earth.

We are the flow of the sea.

We are the spirit on fire.

We are the air we breathe.

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