Goddesses Of The Earth


The most common symbol for goddesses is the earth, although it can be argued that the symbolism goes the other way around: that goddesses symbolize earth, both as soil and as planet. 

Whichever came first, the connection of goddess and earth is found through out the world. 

It is not, however, invariable. The binary opposition of male/sky and female/earth is sometimes reversed. 

Earth gods are found in some cultures, often asso ciated with sky goddesses, a subject that has not been sufficiently studied to determine its frequency. 

Despite exceptions, however, earth and goddess are connected in many cultures, so much so that goddesses whose symbolism was originally other evolve into earth goddesses over time. 

In some cases, however, writers unthinkingly and inap propriately use the term ‘‘earth goddess or ‘‘earth mother where the divinity in question is a celestial or cosmic figure. 

Earth goddesses are often described as creating the earth (see also Creatrix, below); such goddesses can be described as self-creating. 

In Korea, MaGo created the world by singing, while in Greece, the earth goddess Eurynome created the universe through dance. 

Some earth goddesses do not create the land but populate it by creating humans and animals. 

African Butan was the first creation of the double-sexed primary god. 

She then populated the world without need of mate. 

Earth goddesses often create vegetation from their bodies, the rich soil. 

Because humans and animals require vegetation to survive, earth goddesses are envisioned as benevolent and generous. 

In some cases, the connection between earth and nourish ment is made clear, as with Indian Basmoti who created rice by vomiting it forth. 

This generosity can be seen in the name of the early Greek earth goddess Pandora, ‘‘all giver, or Danish Gefjion, ‘‘gift (see Scandinavia). 

Such images tend to come from cultures that practice agriculture. 

Where people live from fishing and hunting, the goddess of abundance is more typically connected with wildlife (see Animals, below). 

Many earth goddesses are described as maternal forces, providing for the creatures of earth as a good mother provides for her children. 

Some myths put special emphasis on the maternal feelings of the goddess, as in the Greek story of Demeter and her lost daughter Persephone. 

Baltic Zˇ emyna appeared at the birth of every child, and Sibe rian Umay (see Circumpolar, Umaj) was the placenta that feeds the fetus as the earth feeds its creatures. 

Other myths connect goddesses of earth with human fecundity. 

Estonian Ma-Emma (see Finno-Ugric) was the fertile, endlessly pregnant earth, and as such controlled the wombs of young women, permitting them to bear children suc cessfully. 

The Roman earth goddess Anna Perenna responded to the sexual activities of humans by growing more fertile. 

Goddesses like Scandinavian Fulla and Roman Ops, from whose names the En glish words ‘‘full and ‘‘opulent derive, represent both bountiful vegetation and the abundant life expressed in human procreation. 

African goddess Aje was similarly con nected with abundance of all sorts, including food, money, and beloved children. 

She created the soil that bears crops by scratching at it in primordial times, when it was hard as rock and she wore the body of a chicken. 

Hindu Laks˛mı, often represented by coins and bills, began as an earth goddess whose abundance created monetary wealth. 

As an esoteric symbol, she represents spiritual wealth as well. 

The earth has rarely been seen as a solitary divinity. 

Rather, she is envisioned as part of a divine family that includes gods as well as other goddesses. 

At times, the earth was part of a family headed by the maternal sun, as with Finno-Ugric earth goddess Mu kilˇsin-Mumi, whose sister was the sun, or Baltic Z˘ emyna, who was the suns daugh ter. 

In other cases, we find the earth as mother of a clan that includes goddesses of cul ture and of food; the Pawnee earth divinity was Atira (see Native American), whose daughter was the corn goddess. 

Often, the earth mother was the mate of a sky god. 

In Polynesia, the earth goddess Papa lay in perpetual intercourse with her sky husband and had to be forcibly sepa rated from him in order for other life to emerge. 

In Greek myth, earth mother Gaia birthed many children after mating with the sky god but finally grew weary of his end less sexual demands. 

She convinced one of her sons to castrate him, thus ending their endless embrace, after which she gave birth parthenogenetically. 

The Zun˜i goddess Awitelin Tsita lay in continual intercourse with the sky until she conceived the human race. 

Her husband, the sky, solicitously attended upon Maka of the Lakota as she cre ated humanity (see Native American for both). 

Although typically the earth goddess hungered for intercourse, a few earth god desses were unwilling sexual partners. 

Hindu Tarı (see India) refused the solicitations of the sun god, whereupon he created human women to serve his sexual needs. 

Even when the goddess is energetically sexual, many myths describe tensions among the divine family, with the earth mother siding with her children against her spouse. 

The earth goddess is never described in fearsome or negative terms, although she can be seen as a strict keeper of order, as was the case with Greek Themis, who represented the force of law. 

Judgmental goddesses sustain the natural laws and punish those who break them. 

Such goddesses could be punitive, as when the Mongol earth goddess Etugen brought about earthquakes to purify the land of peoples wrongdoing. 

Hindu P rthivi (see India) also showed her displeasure at human failing by shaking fiercely, as did South American Pachamama. 

Because earth goddesses serve as all-seeing witnesses to what transpires on their surface, people turned to them when oaths were required. 

Slavic people held a handful of soil while swearing by Zˇ emyna (see Slavic), and Romans pointed downward toward the earth goddess Tellus when they made a pledge. 

African Ala was a force of social order, for she witnessed all promises and knew instantly when one was bro ken because there was nowhere on earth where one could hide from her. 

Also in Africa, followers of Oddudua devote themselves to maintenance of social order. 

Greek Demeter was known as the lawgiver (‘‘Thesmophoros), for she created the order of the ideal human society as she did for the rest of nature. 

The connection between earth and human society can be detected in the name of the Scandinavian earth goddess Fjo¨rgynn, from which we derive both the words ‘‘earth and ‘‘hearth. 

Just as she could see anything that happened on her surface, the earth goddess could see into the future. 

Thus she represented the force of destiny. 

Iranian A rmaiti (see Eastern Mediterranean) ruled both reproduction and fate, which in many cultures were seen as inextricably linked. 

As the overseer of birth, the goddess was in the position to know the fate of each newborn. 

Just as often, earth goddesses are connected to death, especially in cultures where the dead were entombed within the earth; the dark skin of Russian Mokosh (see Slavic) was not only the color of fertility but of the endless night of death. 

The earth goddess was literally the earth beneath our feet. 

Siberian Mou-Njami had soil for skin and green grass for hair. 

In that culture, digging into the earth was forbid den, because to do so would be to injure the goddess. 

Southeast Asian Ponniyamman is depicted as a rock head, sitting on the earth, which forms her body. 

Some goddesses occupy specific and delimited areas of land—for example, mountains. 

One of the worlds most famous peaks is named for the Hindu goddess Annapur˛na (see India). 

Sometimes a single peak is designated as the embodiment or residence of the goddess, as in the Irish triad Bandba, Fodla, and E riu, or the Native American goddess Tacoma of the mountain that bears her name. 

In other cases, goddesses occupied entire mountain ranges, such as Celtic Echtghe, after whom low hills in County Clare are named. 

Occasionally the goddesss mountain is an imaginary one; Xiwang Mu of China was envisioned as occupying the supernatural Jade Mountain. 

Volcanoes were commonly imagined as goddesses, but connected with fire rather than earth (see Fire, below). 

Goddesses inhabited and embodied forests. 

Because these forests were important sources of wild food, Celtic Ardwinna and Greek Artemis were connected with hunt ing, while Finno-Ugric Vir-Azer-Ava was associated with foraging for berries and mushrooms. 

But dense forests could also be dangerous. 

Thus threatening figures were described as ready to kidnap people who lost their way in the woods, like the Scandi navian Skogsnufvar (see Buschfrauen) who froze people to death for wandering in her domain. 

Mountain and forest goddesses can be seen as specialized forms of the earth goddess. 

Another category was the territorial goddess who represents not the entire planet but the region occupied by a single group. 

The alternative name of the Roman Tellus was Italia, a name also given to the long mountainous peninsula she ruled. 

In India, multiple goddesses called by the generic Gramadevata represent the land on which a villages people depended. 

In Ireland, land goddesses often appear as god desses of the watershed, showing the necessary connection of earth and water for fer tility (see Celtic Aveta, Sequana, Berba, Boand, Sınann). 

Given the frequency of association of goddess and earth, it is not uncommon to find earth goddesses also iden tified as goddesses of water, abundance, and creation. 

~ Kiran Atma

You can learn more about Goddess Symbolism here.