Monday, August 31, 2009

Goddess of the Week

For the first time in one of these readings I pulled Macha. She is an Irish Goddess, usually considered one aspect of the great triple Goddess of war and sex the Mórrígan. Macha, like Rhiannon in the medieval Welsh tales, is understood to be a woman of the Otherworld, but like Rhiannon She likely has roots in an ancient Goddess, perhaps even the same one--the continental Celtic Goddess of Horses, Epona.

The Mórrígan is a name meaning 'great queen', which is the exact Irish parallel of Rhiannon's name (which is more apparent when you consider the probable Romano-British form of the name, Rigantona); on the continent in Roman times, Epona was frequently given the Latin epithet Regina, 'queen'. Likely, then, we are talking about several Goddesses Who grew out of the old continental Celtic Epona.

The three aspects of the Mórrígan are not entirely clear, and there is disagreement as to how to arrange the strands of Her; usually, though, Her three aspects are named as Badb, Nemain, and Macha (others leave out Nemain, substituting a singular Goddess called the Mórrígan, and then call the whole trio the Mórrígna, which as far as I can tell is just the plural form of the name, meaning 'great queens').

The Mórrígan may additionally be an aspect of the Irish Earth Goddess Ana, which then links Her with Danu, making Her roots very old indeed, as Danu (which is, incidentally a hypothetical name) is linked with the Danube river in central Europe.

The Mórrígan as Goddess of War is a prophetess and shapeshifter Who often takes the form of a crow; Her aspect Badb, Whose name means 'hooded crow', haunts battlefields and takes joy in slaughter (She is also called Badb Catha, 'crow of battle'). Nemain's name means 'battle fury.'

Now to Macha. The meaning of Her name is a little hazier; it may mean 'earth' or 'field', and She may also be an aspect of an Earth or Sovereignty Goddess, not unlikely given that there are at least a couple places named for Her, Emain Macha (site of a late bronze age hill-fort, and the mythical capital of Ulster in the legends) and the city and district of Armagh (older Ard Macha, 'height of Macha').

In a peculiarly Celtic fractallated way (these tangled strands and slightly shifting variations on a theme remind me very much of the twists of Celtic knotwork, or the improvisations within the set rhythm of a reel), Macha, Herself an aspect of a triple Goddess, can be split into a further trio, as there are three distinct Machas in Irish myth. They are all, however, said to be the daughter of Ernmas, Who is also the mother of the triple Sovereignty Goddesses Banba, Fódla, and Ériu; the latter Goddess is the one after Whom Ireland is named.

At any rate. The first Macha is a prophetess, considered the wife of Nemed; not much is known of Her. The second is Macha Mong Ruadh, Red-Haired Macha; She is a queen of Ulster Who defeats Her rivals to the throne in battle. The heads of those slain in battle are called after this Macha mesrad Macha, the mast or acorn crop of Macha.

The third Macha is the most well-known. Like Rhiannon, She appears to be an Otherworldly woman Who seeks out a mortal man for a husband; unfortunately, also like in Rhiannon's tale, said husband proves to be, well, an idiot. He was a farmer named Crunniuc, and after they have been living together for a time he tells Her he is going to a great festival; but She warns him not to make mention of Her to anyone there.

As you might guess, once there Crunniac immediately brags about his wife, telling the king that his wife can outrun any of the king's horses. This, understandably, annoys the king, who demands that Macha then run against his horses; though She protests that She is nine months pregnant and about to give birth, the king threatens to execute Her husband if She does not run. So She does, and easily beats the horses; but just over the finish line She goes into labor, giving birth to twins.

And as She dies She sets a curse on the men of Ulster. For eighty-one generations, the men of Ulster are destined to suffer the pain and debilitation of childbirth. This pain is to last five days and four nights, and is only to apply when they are in great need, i.e., at the most spectacularly worst times possible.

The women of Ulster are, of course, exempt.

I have shown Macha here as a war Goddess with a hooded crow, in clothing the color of dried blood, walking the battlefield in the morning mists.

This week in my area we had a spell of hot summery weather followed by a much cooler patch; and it has put me in mind of autumn. Chilly nights and clear days, the crunch of acorns beneath your feet and the impending descent into the dark. It is coming.

This does not negate the harvest-theme of the past couple weeks; rather it throws into sharper focus the fact that there is more and more dark mingling with the light. There is death here, or there is dying here; it is dark but it is not something unexpected, either, unless autumn takes you by surprise every year. It is also aftermath, pumpkins in a field after the frost, pumpkins which by some modern trick of tradition get substituted for faces, jack-o-lanterns and scarecrow's heads.

It must be the cold weather here putting this in my mind; or maybe it was the magazine cover I saw today of, of all people, Martha Stewart hamming it up for the Hallowe'en issue of her magazine as a witch posing with an eldritch-looking black horse.

Last year I wasn't the only one to notice the veil thinning earlier than usual; whether I'm seeing the same signs this year or merely fearing it I don't know. And I have to ask, if this is a trend, is it because we humans, in our relentless poisoning of the planet, have worn it threadbare?

I am afraid to ask, a little, but She is here, and She will be heard:

Do not fear. I am on the side of every woman. I should have thought you would know that by the stories. I am sister, mother, the Earth Herself. I know a victim when I see one, and I do not fault the women. I do not curse women.

Men, though. If you would undo the harm, invoke me. If you would see it all undone, invoke me. Acorns make fertile soil.


Main source: Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, by James MacKillop.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Goddess of the Week

This week's pick is again Idun, Who showed up just about two months ago here. She is the Norse Goddess of Youth and Springtime, Who grows, keeps, and metes out the apples that keep the Gods young.

Last time for whatever reason She was coming across to me in a sort of Winter aspect, oddly enough given that it was the middle of summer where I am; perhaps it was something to do with the legends that tell of a possible descent to Niflheim or the Underworld, much like how Persephone's descent in the Greek legend brought on the winter season. Now, however, I am inclined to interpret this card as one of obvious harvest, and a continuation of that theme from last week's card, that of the Roman Grain-Goddess Ceres. Though it isn't apple-picking season here, and won't be for another couple of months, there are other harvests going on right now, such as that of the vegetable garden.

This card, then, is about the ongoing work of harvest, and being in the midst of a time of abundance. This can be quite literally of the garden variety (let me tell you about tomatoes), or the fulfillment of another creative project. The important thing to remember is that it is really still only just getting under way. It will still require effort and maintenance on your part, but if you tend and harvest your projects carefully the results should last you quite some time. Perhaps the metaphor here is that of canning summer's bounty to put up for the coming winter and lean times.

What does Idun say to us this week?

Yes, harvest and hoard. Be careful, let nothing be wasted. If there is a spot on the tomato cut it out, then chop it to can with the rest. Be accepting, and do not unreasonably expect perfection, for much good, much abundance, much nourishment, will be missed. I'm not saying the times ahead are dire, or at least that they are not any more dire than any winter is, just not to discard things of value if they are not quite exactly perfect. Cast a wide net at this time. There will be need of all of this harvest later.

Also, never forget to save your seeds.

What do you think? What is your harvest right now?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Play-Along Reading

I thought it might be fun to try some join-in practice readings. By which I mean, I'll pick some cards from my Goddess Oracle Deck, and then folks who want to can try their hand at interpreting them in comments. The readings can be as simple as you like (or as elaborate as you like if you tend that way).

Here, I'll start. Reading these three as past-present-future:

You are coming out of a time of trial, one in which you know you have been in the right, but you have not been able to do much about it except to have patience with circumstances. You are now being vindicated. However, this will lead you to a choice, a crossroads; and keep in mind there are more than just two possibilities before you. The future may be a little stormy, but if you can weather it, bright blessings are promised.

Anyone like to give it a try? You can read them any way you like, as self, other, and the relationship between, as (one of my favorites) Maiden, Mother, Crone, or whatever speaks to you.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Goddess of the Week

This is the first time I've picked Ceres for the Goddess of the Week. Not too surprising given the time of year up here, that being late summer with its long golden days and the harvest fast approaching.

Ceres is the Roman Earth Goddess, and is especial patroness of the cereal crops like wheat, barley, and spelt. Her name comes from a root meaning 'to grow' or 'to nourish'; and cereal means 'that of Ceres.' She is a very old Goddess, and though She was early on assimilated to the Greek Great Mother Demeter, Her roots go back at least as far as the beginning days of Rome.

She is a Goddess of women, nourishment and growth; at Her rites in August, which were only open to women, She was given the first fruits of the harvest.

Though it is not yet quite the traditional harvest time, I can tell you that my garden at least is currently overflowing with tomatoes and green beans. (It would be overflowing with other stuff, had not the rabbits/groundhogs/deer nibbled everything else to the ground. One of these days, dammit, I will grow some zucchini.)

So, then, I'd say Ceres this week is about early harvest, a sort of preliminary or unlooked-for bit of abundance and bounty; something, maybe, that you were not expecting was going to be done or ready quite so soon. Something, even, that you may not recognize as a harvest. Look around. See what in your life is already bearing fruit.

Also, could be that you are looking at the beginning signs of a major harvest or the first stirrings that a project is finally coming to completion. Keep tending to it, for it is not over yet; it also may require a bit of work to keep up as the harvest continues to roll in.

What does She say?

I bring beginnings, too, don't forget; I am the Goddess of the sprouting seed. Yes, of course being who I am my timing, my schedule is intrinsically bound to the seasons; still, beginnings, creation, growth, new or continued is mine. So while you plan for the harvest, and it is wise to do so, look also to the seeds that are coming up still. There are all kinds of harvests. One might even plant lettuce in December, further north than you might have thought possible. So do not forget to look to a circumstance of what you might think unusual timing. It is still mine.

But mostly, yes, harvest. Gather the wealth in to you and yours; tend the plants and the fields, whatever form they make take; and remember to give thanks. Gratitude always makes the crops grow higher and more abundant. This I promise you.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Happy Happy Happy!!

Well I sat down to write today, encouraged by the feedback I had gotten from a recent post I'd left at the Aeclectic Tarot Forum (if you'd like to participate over there it's in the Tarot Deck Creation board, although, granted, my deck isn't a Tarot one but an Oracle, as they call them), and having gotten overwhelmed by just how much information there is out there on Diana (and me without a copy of Roman Religion and the Cult of Diana at Aricia--can you tell I am lusting, lusting, after this book?), so much information, actually, as to be almost useless (kinda like trying to define just what Isis is the 'Goddess of' in a single sentence) I instead decided that maybe I'd be best off getting back into the groove of things by starting a little smaller. So I chose Laverna, the Goddess of Thieves, as a good place to start.

And so I went through the books I've got on Roman religion (most of which just say She had an altar in Rome by the gate named after Her the porta Lavernalis, and a grove somewhere near by); and after going through those I turned to the internet.

Where I found that someone had lifted, word for word and including my titles and picture, and not of course crediting me, my entry for Laverna on a random forum. I couldn't decide at first if it was simply Divine irony (being that She is Goddess of thieves) or if it was in fact worth getting my panties in a bunch about; in the end I concluded, that, since I'd have to sign up to the damned place to comment that it wasn't worth my time.

And so I went through my usual routine of research for the Roman Goddesses, looking up the Latin, &c. When I came to an old bookmark, an old sad bookmark.

It was for the Ancient Library site, one that used to have the entirety of William Smith's 3700-page Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, which, though written in 1867, is still an indispensable resource, and surprisingly less outdated than you'd think. After all, in the 19th century they had pretty much all the texts we have now; and though some of the interpretations may have changed, the basic references are the same.

But Ancient Library had disappeared a while back, I don't know why (funding, maybe?) and that had made me very, very, sad. Now, Smith's stuff has also been entered into Perseus over at Tufts, but I've never been able to get that site to work in anything approaching a timely fashion, and, so, well, rather than tear my hair out I just kind of gave up on the damned thing.

But lo and behold today when I nostalgically clicked on the Ancient Library link there it was, back to its former glory! I suppose only a Goddess-geek like me finds this that wonderful, but let me tell you it has made my day.

Because it will make writing the Goddess Oracle Deck book a Hel of a lot easier. I'm taking it as a sign.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Goddess of the Week

And for the third time we get the Black Virgin.

My first thought upon seeing Her was that, gee, maybe I should get around to painting an image of Cybele one of these days. (It surprises me the major Goddesses I have not drawn; there are some interesting loopholes in my work, like, say, Demeter. All right then, I'll officially take that as a hint.)

And along those lines I'm inclined to interpret this card, for this week anyway, as Cybele Herself, and not just as an unusual form of the Virgin Mary Who is linked to the worship of the old Goddesses such as Cybele and Isis. After all, this card is about roots, and the old under the mask of the new: what would happen if this time we focused on the old, those roots?

Now, Cybele is an ancient Anatolian Goddess, Anatolia being the name for (roughly) modern Turkey; Her worship was adopted in Greece, and later Rome. She was known for orgiastic worship, with wild dances and drumming and cymbal-playing; but Her worship was looked upon a little askance, at least by the Romans (who could be pretty uptight about some things, like, oh I don't know, fun). Probably this was because, in addition to the raucous partying aspect, some of Her priests practiced self-castration, in imitation of the story of Attys, the beloved of the Goddess.

Attys was a beautiful boy, the son of a river-nymph, conceived when She ate an almond (i.e. parthenogenetically, a virgin birth); Cybele fell in love with Him, and made Him promise to be faithful to Her. Her swore He would; but in time He fell in love with a hamadryad named Sagaritis. When Cybele found out She cut the nymph's tree down, thus killing Sagaritis; and Attys went mad on a mountaintop, castrating Himself. He died under a pine tree, and the blood from His wound sprang up as violets.

A three-day festival was celebrated to Him in the Spring, in which a pine tree was decorated with violets (echoes of the Maypole, though I don't know that they are necessarily connected); and for two days the participants mourned and searched for Attys with wild rites. On the third day, however, He was found; and the mourning and sadness turned to joy at His rebirth.

Attys, then, falls into the category of the (vegetation) God Who dies and is reborn, like Dionysos, Adonis, or even Inanna's Dumuzi; and Cybele, as the Great Nature Mother, is properly His lover (or mother).

That, of course, is the Classical version of Her story. But we are interested in roots today: so what of Cybele's actual Anatolian origins?

Well, first of all, the Attys story is something that was attached to Cybele at rather a late date and is not known before the 6th century BCE. Cybele Herself is a particularly complex Goddess, and would appear to have a variety of strands making Her up; one of them may trace back to the deified Sumerian Queen Kubaba, Who was eventually adopted into the Hittite pantheon through the Hurrians, where She was identified with Hannahhannah (She, Who, in the story of Telipinu sent the bee to wake Him); She may also be related to the Hurrian Mother-Goddess Hebat. She may even, though this is pretty speculative, be related to the Goddess depicted in the famous statue from Çatalhöyük, a neolithic city in southern Anatolia, dating from the eight to sixth millennia BCE. This small statue shows a large, nearly nude woman perhaps giving birth, seated on a throne flanked by lionesses; though there is quite a large gap in time, it does recall later depictions of Cybele, Who was shown in much the same way, enthroned with a lion to either side.

Old roots, then. Old Mountain Mother Cybele, old as the hills, old as the mountains; old as the first cities, whose walls She wears as crown. She is wildness and civilization both; or, She is the wildness within us that does not go away despite civilization.

And I recall, that while I was away last week on my vacation at an event of the large festival type, that one night I stood behind the drummers drumming loud and wild and watched the dancers, while I added my zils, my little finger cymbals, to the drumming. I have, myself, been celebrating Cybele.

So, then, what does She have to say?

Old Mountain Mother am I. Yes. I am old, old old, old as the first stirrings of humans, old as the first bands of hunters following the wild animals, old as the green and dangerous mountains themselves.

And I am still here.

Remember your wildness; it will connect you with something vital, something not to be ignored, something that must be remembered to life live best; the drum is the heartbeat, after all, the very center of who you are.

Fireworks and drumming and dancing, all open your heart, all BAM! explode it out, open it up, loudly, joyously, raucously. It must needs be done. Especially now, when the world is inhabited by the timid, those who have forgotten what it is like to live.

Strip off your civilization! Dance far into the night! Collapse exhausted at dawn, then do it again the next night! Mourn, mourn the old you, then celebrate the new that is born through my grace; I will be here to birth you.


Well then! What do you think?

Home Again Home Again Jiggetty Jig

I've been to London to visit a pig?

No, wait, that's not quite right.

At any rate I am back; I will have a Goddess of the Week up tonight.