By Jesse Wolf Hardin
We’re all relatives, organs and extensions of a surging creative force, channeled through the feminine: the living Earth, Gaia. We are Gaia hungering in heat. Gaia carrying the seeds of deepest potential and purpose. Gaia giving birth to herself!
I spend perhaps all too much time on this laptop, trying to spread messages of insight and affirmation to any who will read them. Sitting Buddha-like on my busy desk is Oberon Zell’s sculpture “The Millennial Gaia,” serving to remind me of the ways I am the Mother Earth, expressing herself through the devotions of heart and hand. From her head fall braids of twisted DNA, on the arterials of which every manner of ancient and contemporary life dance and climb. Her belly is the swollen globe, a fertile womb heavy with promise. It is She to whom every thing and being is born.
The ArchWizard’s Gaia figure is but one of the finest of Earth Mother images, and one of the latest in an ancient lineage of hand-carved reverence and respect. The well-known “Willen-dorf Goddess” or “Venus of Will-endorf” was carved from bone in Europe some 32,000 years ago, and was long held to be the oldest verifiable human artifact.
But a very similar Mother figurine was recently discovered in the Golan Heights dating between 232,000 and 800,000 years old! This “Acheulian Goddess,” with her milk-laden breasts and divine vulva, predates the Willendorf by an astounding quarter million years! This sets the date for the beginnings of human culture — and by inference the earliest worshipping of the Blessed Mother, the sacred feminine — back to the very roots of human experience.... to the Paleolithic itself!
To quote Homer, She is “the eldest of all, and mother of all the Gods.” She is the embodiment of Spirit in this section of the universe, and thus the Source and Wellspring for all primal religion. It is She who inspires the found-ers and informs the practitioners of every ecocentric spiritual practice — including Wicca and Wizardry, pantheism and Neopaganism, Deep Ecology and Druidry. No matter what we call ourselves, Gardnerian, Universalist, Eclectic or Voudou.... Gaia is the source of our beings and the venue for our visions.
Mothers don’t need to compete for attention with the other Gods and Goddesses, for they are Her children, and of her. She is the mother all seekers can turn to for encouragement and direction, and her dreams can bring clarity, focus and power to every form of spiritual and magic practice. And for everyone, even those who deny or dishonor Her, She is the lap and cauldron we tumble back into when we die.... the flesh and the prayer from which we arise.
Depending on the tongue, she is Mother Earth, Cybele, Mami Aruru, Nu Kwa or Terra. She is known as Assaya in Yoruba, Kunapipi to the Aborigine, the Hindu say Prithivi — and to the indigenous people of Peru she is Pachamama, from whose body we sprout and grow like limbs or appendages.
To all cultures in touch with the natural world, any attempt or tendency towards separation would deny us the blood and nourishment of the Earth, and thereby insure our doom. Even to neglect or ignore Her, and our connection and duties to Her, is felt to be enough to bring us the disease of civilization and the attendant environmental crisis.
It is from the ancient Greeks we get Her name “Gaia,” (lately pronounced such that it rhymes with “Maya”). In their version she is created from light and love out of the encompassing chaos. Her first born was Ouranos, the heavens. Fertilized by the energies of Eros, she bears the many influences and spirits we call Gods and Goddesses, as well as the continents and oceans, the animals and plants.... and us.
This universal symbol has been powerfully revived in contemporary culture thanks to Oberon’s 1970 paper “TheaGenesis: Birth Of A Goddess” and the subsequent writings of NASA researchers, James Lovelock and Lynn Marguellis, whose “Gaia Hypothesis” postulates a self-regulating and intentional living planet. In a synergy of the scientific and the metaphysical, we find an increased recognition of the Goddess just as humanity seems to need the wisdom and alliance of the Earth the most.
While I don’t often get to see my own offspring anymore, their essence is stamped on my being.... just as ours is imprinted on the clay soul of the Earth. I was fortunate to be there, and to be the only one there when it came time to receive two of them. I’ll never forget the way they, like all expecting mothers, came to embody a Gaia willing to hurt to give life. I can still picture the sweat on their brows, like the clouds that hug the top of the canyon’s cliffs, and then drip off its flesh-toned sides. The heaving of the abdomen like arching lions mating, like mountains being born. The stretching or tearing of the holy cave, and that wonderful smell! — the smell of salt water, the smell of Gaia’s uterine seas.
The umbilical is cut, but the connection with the feminine, with the Source, is never fully severed. Each infant is fed by the energies and examples of Gaia in all her forms and shapes. Each grows into an adolescent with the choice to treasure or disdain what the young child once felt and knew, and yet Gaia will speak to them still.
And as adults facing those dark pivotal moments of terror and disorientation, it will be some face of Gaia, in whatever leafy or fleshen guise, that turns them back into balance with the light. Those who consciously stay close to Her throughout, or who courageously return to Her embrace, are the assigned agents of a New/Old way: Gaia’s way. Whatever their gender or race, they step forth as Her glad and purposeful children — Her babies, Her suitors, Her champions, Her love.
Jesse Wolf Hardin is an acclaimed teacher of Earth-centered spirituality, living seven river crossings from a road in an ancient place of power. He is author of Kindred Spirits : Sacred Earth Wisdom (Swan•Raven 2001) and Gaia Eros: New Nature Spirit-uality (New Page 2004). Wolf and Loba share the riverside sanctuary where he offers men’s quests and intuitive counsel, and she hosts women for quests, wild-foods gathering, and special resident internships: The Earthen Spirituality Project & Sweet Medicine Women’s Center, Box 509, Reserve, NM 87830. Please see www.concentric.net/~earthway
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