Thursday, July 12, 2012
Gaia: The Ancient Earth Mother
Gaia: The Mother
An ancient story about the Greek Earth Mother, Gaia, provides us with a deeper understanding of how to do this. Hesiod's Theogony states that . . . first there was Chaos, and then appeared "broad-bosomed" Earth, who bore, first of all and as her equal, the starry Sky, Ouranos. Then She bore the great mountains, valleys, plains and the Sea, and after that She mated with Ouranos and bore many children, among whom were the Titans and Titanesses, the ancestors of the Olympian divinities, who represented the 'titanic' forces of the earth. Yet, although Ouranos came every night to mate with his wife, Gaia, from the very beginning he hated the children whom Gaia bore him. As soon as they were born, he hid them and would not let them come out into the light. He hid them in the inward hollows of the Earth, and it is said that he took pleasure in this wicked deed.
The goddess Gaia groaned under this affliction, and felt herself oppressed by her inner burden. Therefore she devised a stratagem. She brought forth gray iron and made a mighty sickle with sharp teeth. Then she took counsel with her sons and daughters, asking who would avenge her for this wicked deed. Only Kronos (Saturn) took courage and agreed to act on her behalf. So Gaia rejoiced, and hid Kronos in the place appointed for the ambush, giving him the sickle and telling him her plan. And when Ouranos came at nightfall, inflamed with love and covering all the Earth, his son thrust out his left hand and seized his father. With his right hand he took the huge sickle, quickly cutting off his father's manhood, and cast it behind his back into the sea.
Gaia received in her womb the blood shed by her spouse, and gave birth to the Erinyes - the strong ones - and to other creatures. The father's genitals fell into the sea, and it mixed with the foam and gave birth to Aphrodite. Since that time, the sky has no longer approached the earth for nightly mating.8
As with any story, this one must work on your heart and your imagination. What it has to say about life and creativity is significant, for the Earth gives birth to the whole world, just as our experience of the Earth, and our personal relationship with nature, gives birth to our own world-view. This myth says that first there is chaos, or nothingness, and then there is Earth, or form. If we look at this story as we would a dream image, that is, more as a picture than as a narrative, we would see that chaos and form appear at one and the same time. This way of looking at chaos and form would imply that within chaos there are inherent forms. Each moment of chaos has shapes within it, or 'each chaos mothers itself into form'.9
Admittedly, it is very hard for most of us to imagine living within the chaos, for we are troubled by any confusion in our lives. But this image also warns us that there is a need to allow some chaos, for there is always the danger that we will try to get rid of the confusion too quickly, thereby losing whatever new forms are about to emerge from it. The very nature of creativity entails chaos and times of daydreaming, as any artist will tell you. Joseph Campbell said that "Until you are willing to be confused about what you already know, what you know will never grow bigger, better, or more useful."
There are fallow periods in our lives and in our days when nothing much seems to happen. (Oh, how hard that is on our masculine consciousness!) What do we do with the fact that the very nature of our being is chaotic? For we consistently create ourselves and our realities each moment and those moments do contain the chaos of imminent creation.
Ouranos symbolizes the Divine Plan before manifestation, the cosmic laws that order the Universe, the urge for perfection, the ideal vision of life. It’s very hard for the Ideal to manifest in all its perfection. Therefore, like Ouranos, that first masculine consciousness who takes pleasure in the feminine but rejects the fruits of their union, we may too quickly impose a form, an agenda on our chaos; the 'shoulds' and 'oughts' of our lives are imposed too readily onto our inner and outer chaos and children. Perhaps this myth explains why our modern masculine consciousness has such a hard time giving over power to feminine consciousness: the masculine likes order and control and loses itself too readily in the chaotic processes of creation.
There is always a tension and antagonism between the creative idea and its manifestation. Overwhelmed by the power of our ideal vision, our own creativity (which is of the Earth) rebels and might retaliate – because of time constraints, day to day pressures or just plain giving up under the pressure (Saturn/Kronos as worldly authority and time and constriction) – by cutting off the source of inspiration, our creative imagination.
Potentials of new life (an important goal of creativity in the sense of 'fullness of life') are often rejected and kept hidden away within us because it frequently come into consciousness as a hated or ugly thing, like Dame Ragnell; that is, something that we have been taught to regard as wrong. It is often our unconscious instincts that know what we need to do, but our ego consciousness cannot accept the alternative offered. Often these are aspects of our psyches which have never been allowed to live in the light of day. Being kept in the dark, like seeds, they gather energy for new life, as we saw in the tale of Allerleirauh.
But before this new life can become viable, we must face the stunted thing, the old fantasy that is stuck - the very thing that we have rejected for so long. Jung spoke of these stuck potentials as the Shadow, areas of our psyches which carry buried within it the very thing which is lacking in consciousness, the thing that has been missing from our lives which is required for further growth and development. We saw this 'rejected' aspect in Allerleirauh in the mantle of furs, which symbolizes the earthy, instinctual aspects of life. It was only when the princess accepted her rejected instinctual nature that she came into her own Selfhood. We saw it in the collective problem that Sir Gawain had to acknowledge and accept by marrying Dame Ragnell.
Besides these stunted potentials that need breathe and light, there is also the new life that grows spontaneously from within our inner chaos. This is the mystery of continuous creation we need to open ourselves to. This is the mystery of Spring, of new life that comes out of seeming death. Our directed, goal-oriented, reasonable ego-consciousness hates mystery, and is afraid of the creativity of feminine consciousness because it is wild and passionate, unpredictable and chaotic, and often demands the death of old, worn-out ego ideals before it can create something new. Perhaps this is why Ouranos feared to let his children out, for then he would have had to change and adapt, and not live in absolutes. We all need to face our fears, which means facing our creativity and our desires. Can we let the forms, or in a psychological sense, the images that are inherent within us come into the light of day? Can we allow them a place in our lives so we can be co-creators of our lives? There is so much potential within each one of us if we can only allow it to gestate in the chaos.
To begin to do this, we must re-learn what it means to mother ourselves, which is essentially to give birth to ourselves. If we can accept the image of mother as our grounding and nurturing as well as our sense of lack, the dark abyss, Chaos, we might discover a more fulfilling way to live life.
Here is a dream of the Goddess as Mother, a dream that asks the dreamer to accept deep love and mothering from her inner dark Goddess. When she accepts this nurturing, she is restored. She is a beautiful woman and the whole universe is hers!
I am an infant, lying alone in the grass. A great Being picks me up. She is huge and black skinned. She has a beautiful face and large soft breasts. She has the kindest smile I have ever seen. She holds me and sits down on the great stone steps of an alabaster temple. She nurses me with the milk of human kindness. I grow into a woman. We are dressed in the most beautiful garments. I have on a rose madder color robe and she has on a ultramarine robe with small silver stars on it. It is the entire universe.