Zemyna: Lithuanian Goddess of the Earth

Zemyna: Lithuanian Goddess of the Earth

Zemyna: Lithuanian Goddess of the Earth

Zemyna is the Lithuanian Goddess of the Earth, also known as Zemyna Mate.  She is Mother Nature incarnate and brings life to all things, earth, sea, and sky. She watches over children being born and crops being toiled over. She brings the plants into bloom every spring and watches over the seasons. She is given tribute at every festival and special occasion. Her name literally means mother of the soil. Zemyna is the daughter of Saule, Goddess of the Sun, and her husband Meness or Menulis, God of the Moon.  She is also associated with the underworld, in so far as the dead were returned to her arms in the earth. Trees with three leaves or nine branches were especially connected with Zemnya; the oak, the linden, and the spruce were her favorite trees. Women lived on in lindens and spruce; men, in oaks, maples, and birches. Virginal young girls survived as lilies, and village ancestors reside in fruit trees.

 

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Yemaya: Goddess of the Ocean and the New Year

Yemaya: Goddess of the Ocean

Yemaya: Goddess of the Ocean

 

Yemaya, Goddess of the Ocean and the New Year, originated in Nigeria as a river Goddess but as her people left (the Yoruba) as slaves, so did she into the ocean. Yemaya  is the origin of the Ocean  and humanity itself as well as the Goddess of the ocean.  In the creation myths of the Yoruba, the creator Olodumare first created a mortal god-human, Obatala, and gave him a wife. Their children were Yemaya and Aganyu, who had a son together. They named him Orungan. As a teenager Orungan rebelled against his father and brutally raped his mother. When he tried to rape Yemaya a second time, the river goddess fled to a nearby mountaintop where she cursed her son until he died. In sorrow she chose to end her own life on the summit of the mountain. As she died she gave birth to fourteen powerful orisha. (Orisha are powerful guardian spirits that reflects an important aspect of the God of the Ife religion. An orisha  manifests itself as a force of nature.) When her waters broke it caused the great flood that inundated the world and created the seven seas. Obafulom and Lyaa, the first human male and female and the ancestors of all humans, arose from the bones of the goddess. According to legend, Yemaya is the mother of all life.

According to legend, Yemaya’s first gift to humans was a sea shell in which her voice could always be heard. To this day we honor Yemaya when we hold a shell to our ear in order to hear her voice, the ocean.

Yemaya shares responsibility for the ocean with another orisha. Olokun rules the dark and turbulent depths of the ocean. Her domain is the upper level, the part of the sea that the light strikes, where water evaporates to be carried to land by her daughter Oya (the wind) to make rain for the crops. Yemaya’s gentle waves rock the watery cradle of the abundant life forms of the sea.

Yemaya is a mother Goddess, the Goddess of home, fertility, love and family

 

Xochiquetzal: The Aztec Goddess of Fertility and Love

Xochiquetzal: The Aztec Goddess of Love and Fertility

Xochiquetzal: The Aztec Goddess of Love and Fertility

 

Xochiquetzal is the Aztec Goddess of love,  and fertility.  Xochiquetzal was a unique fertility Goddess in that she was also the patron Goddess of prostitutes and her followers believed that her power was not just for procreation but also sexual pleasure.  Unlike other fertility Goddesess she also had the power to forgive wrongdoings that weren’t of a sexual nature. Wife of the water god, Tlaloc, and consort to the creator deity, Tezcatlipoca, Xochiquetzal lived in the Aztec paradise of Tamoanchan. She was widely worshipped and many great rituals were made in her honour; from incredible acts of sacrifice to sombre confessions. She is usually depicted with a feathered headdress and flowers, usually a marigold surrounding her, as well as butterflies and hummingbirds following her. While beautiful she was also feared as she once seduced a priest and then turned him into a scorpion as a mark of her power.

Xochiquetzal was a creator of humans as well as intermediary between them and the gods. Frequently referred to as a facet of the female divine goddess, Tonacacíhuatl, from whose womb the first four Aztec Gods were born, Xochiquetzal witnessed the creation of gods and humans. Although she was a mother herself, this Goddess never grew old and always appeared in the full bloom of youth.

Once married to Piltzintecuhtli (also called Xochipilli) and then Tlaloc, Xochiquetzal became Tezcatlipoca’s lover. She is also the mother of Cintéotl, corn God.

Xochiquetzal’s home was also that of many other Gods in the Aztec pantheon. Although this was also where the first humans, Cipactonal and Oxomoco, were created, Tamoanchan was off limits to humankind, whose descendants were fated to spend their days on earth. Tezcatlipoca, crafty and defiant creator of the earth, could travel between worlds at his will. Xochiquetzal herself was born there, made from two hairs on her husband, Piltzintecuhtli’s, head. However, she spent time on earth listening to and forgiving the crimes of humans.

Although Tamoanchan has been described in codices as the “country of cold, delicate and frozen gusts” it was also the home of a tree called “Xochitlicacan”, The Flowering Tree whose every bloom was an amulet of love…

Aztec religion was not so wholly separated as we think from the Catholicism practiced by the conquistadors. For instance, spiritual cleanliness was achieved by both religions through self sacrifice, abstention and confession.

Aztec goddesses of fertility such as Tlazoltéotl and Xochiquetzal played important roles in this purification process. Every year, around harvest, men and women flocked to Xochiquetzal’s temple, where they confessed sins ranging from sexual crimes to robbery. Sinners would enter the temple with as many pieces of straw as the crimes they had to confess. After piercing a hole in their tongue, they would pass each straw through the opening and then throw them onto the floor behind them.

The priests gathered all the bloody straws and cast them onto a fire destined to destroy these discarded ‘sins’. So although nobody but the goddess would ever know what type of crimes a person had committed, people nearby could count how many there were by the amount of straws that landed on the floor! Once absolved, those who had confessed returned to their communities and purified themselves by bathing in rivers and springs.

 

White Buffalo Calf Woman

White Buffalo Calf Woman

White Buffalo Calf Woman

 

White Buffalo Calf woman is a powerful woman in Native American culture and several stories are told of her, each varying but each with the same general point and ending.

While two warriors were out hunting buffalo, a white buffalo calf suddenly appeared. As she approached them she changed into a beautiful young woman . . . which is how she came to be called the White Buffalo Calf Woman.

One of the young warriors offended her with his lustful thoughts and White Buffalo Calf Woman asked him to approach.  As he stepped forward, a black cloud descended over him and when it dissipated all that was left of him was his bones.

The other warrior fell to his knees and began to pray. The White Buffalo Calf Woman told him to return to his people, telling them she would appear to them in four days, bringing with her a sacred bundle.

And this she did, appearing to them as a white buffalo calf descending on a cloud. Stepping down, she rolled over on the ground, changing from white to black, then yellow, then red.

When White Buffalo Calf Woman arose she was once again the beautiful woman, cradling the sacred bundle in her arms. Spending four days with the people, White Buffalo Calf Woman taught them sacred songs, dances, and ceremonies as well as the traditional ways.

White Buffalo Calf Woman instructed them to be responsible caretakers of the land and to be always mindful that the children are the future of the people.

On the fourth day White Buffalo Calf Woman left in the same manner she had arrived, telling the people she was leaving the sacred bundle, the White Buffalo Calf Woman pipe, in their care. She promised to one day return for it and to bring harmony and spiritual balance to the world.

White Buffalo Calf Woman prophesied that the birth of a white buffalo calf would be a sign that it was near the time of her return.

In 1994, a white buffalo calf was born, the first one in decades.  Another was born last year in 2012. Each has been heralded by many as a sign of the return of the White Buffalo Calf Woman’s return. Or as a reminder of her lessons she has left for us that the children are the future and the land is our lifeblood.

 

Venus: Roman Goddess of Beauty and Love

Venus: Roman Goddess of Beauty and Love

Venus: Roman Goddess of Beauty and Love

Venus is the Roman Goddess of Beauty and Love. She also assumed responsibility for sexuality, married bliss, and even chastity among women. As Venus Victrix, she was the Goddess of Victory in war and as a nature Goddess she was responsible for gardens and the arrival of spring.  When her son Aeneas fled Troy and founded the Roman race, Venus became known as the divine ancestor of the Roman people (the Venus Genetrix) and was treated with special honor.

The primordial Venus (Inanna, Ishtar, and Astarte) was a triple goddess – the morning (and evening) star represented her as the maiden who rose every morning, renewed in her youthful beauty, then waxing into her fullness of motherhood, and next becoming the crone, gradually waning in her power and strength but planting the seed of wisdom for the next cycle as she faded into the darkness of eternal night.

 

Ukemochi: Shinto Goddess of Abundance

Ukemochi: Shinto Goddess of Abundance

Ukemochi: Shinto Goddess of Abundance

 

Ukemochi is the Shinto Goddess of Abundance.  Ukemochi loved her people dearly and took very good care of them, making sure they were fed and their crops were abundance. One day the Moon God,  Tsukuyomi, brother of Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess,  was sent  to visit. In order to prepare for his visit, Ukemochi, faced the sea and vomited a large quantity of fish and seaweed.  Then she leaned toward the forest and expelled from her body a large amount of game like venison.  Finally she coughed up a bowl of rice. She had the food prepared and set forth an enormous spread for the moon god. Tsukuomi was so insulted by the way the food was gotten and so affronted by her lack of gifts of gold and riches that he thrust his sword into Unkemochi. But living her people she did not die quickly. She made sure she would prepare for them. She turned her arms and legs into cattle. She turned her belly into rice paddies. She turned her hair into grain seeds and shook it out to the people so they would have crops. Her tears turned to bountiful water with plentiful fish to feed her people. She even turned her eyebrows into silkworms so they could provide rainbow colored silk to clothe the people. When she finally died her people were cared for and provided for.  All of the foods she provided were significant as well. Rice is known as a symbol of happiness and sustenance, and  Seaweed represents joyousness. Fish signifies  abundance, represents woman, and also stands for wisdom.  Wheat represents agriculture and in Japan, Beans, are seen as dispelling evil spirits as well as being a food source.

But this is not the end of the story. Tsukuyomi’s sister the Sun Goddess Amaterasu was so angry with him for killing Ukemochi that she never wanted to see him again. And this is why the sun and moon are never in the sky at the same time. …thus why day and night exist.

 

Selene: Greek Moon Goddess

Selene: Greek Moon Goddess

Selene: Greek Moon Goddess

 

Selene is the Greek Moon Goddess. Daughter of Hyperion and Theia, and sister to Helios, the Sun God and Eos the Goddess of the Dawn.  One source believed her birthplace was in the Greek Island of Rhodes and another said she had no temple site of her own.  Every night before riding across the sky in her silver chariot, pulled by white horses, she bathes in the sea to cleanse herself for the night ahead. Selene is usually depicted with a pale face and a crescent-shaped crown on her head.  She wears a cloak in the traditional color of red for the Mother Goddess while raising a torch to light the night sky.

Selene is known for her various love affairs. She had an affair with the Sky-God Zeus, and out of that union produced Pandia, the Goddess of Brightness, Ersa, the Goddess of Dew, and Nemea, the Mountain Goddess.  One day she was seduced by the God Pan.  He disguised his hairy black goatishness with a white fleece, and unaware of the disguise, Selene allowed herself to be coaxed into riding him.   Pan proceeded to ravish her, and then gave her the gift of a white horse or white oxen.

Her most famous love affair was with the handsome shepherd Endymion.    According to mythology, Selene saw Endymion on Mt. Latmus and fell madly in-love with him and began an affair.  She wished for him to remain eternally youthful and cast a spell that would cause him to sleep forever.  It is said that while Endymion dreamt of holding the moon in his arms, Selene bore him fifty daughters representing the fifty lunar months of an Olympiad, the four-year span between Olympic Games.

 

Rauni: Finnish Thunder and Creation Goddess

Rauni: Finnish Thunder and Creation Goddess

Rauni: Finnish Thunder and Creation Goddess

Rauni is the Finnish creation and thunder Goddess. According to the legend, the Earth was barren and devoid of all plant life. So Rauni came to Earth and took the form of the Rowan Tree. Her husband, the Finnish God of Lightening Ukko, struck her with one of His massive lightening bolts, fertilizing her and thus from her came all of the vegetation on earth. All of the trees and grasses and plants and flowers were born of this “intercourse”  thus the root of all life on earth derives from the Rowan tree.

 

In the yard there grows a Rowan.

 Thou with reverent care should’st tend it.

 Holy is the tree there growing.

 Holy likewise are it’s branches.

 On it’s boughs the leaves are holy.

 And it’s berries yet more holy.

Excerpt from The Kalevala,

a compilation of Finnish folk lore

 

Qadesh: Syrian and Egyptian Goddess of Sacred Ecstacy and Sacred Sexuality

Qadesh: Goddess of Sexuality and Ecstacy

Qadesh: Goddess of Sexuality and Ecstasy

Qadesh is the Syrian and Egyptian Goddess of Sacred Ecstasy and Sacred sexuality. Her Semitic name implies the word “holy” and despite her near eastern origins, she was quickly absorbed by ancient Egyptian religion and culture.  She as often worshipped as part of a triad of deities  including the fertility god Min and the Asiatic god Reshep. Qadesh was often linked with Hathor whom she resembled in some ways and with the inherently sensual Near Eastern goddesses Anat and Astarte, both of whom were known in ancient Egypt.

Qadesh is often represented fully nude in the frontal position riding on a lions back with lotus blossoms in one hand and a snake in the other, both representing eroticism and fertility  in Ancient Egypt.  in some representations she is flanked by Min on her right and Reshep on her left, the two gods usually being depicted standing on plinths or shrines which elevates them closer to the same height as the lion-borne goddess.

In the Near East the cult of Qadesh involved in the simulation of a sacred marriage between the goddess and her consort Reshep by her followers. It is not known whether similar rites were enacted in Egypt, where the cult of Qadesh was established at least as early as the 18th Dynasty, but the goddess seems to have been fairly widely venerated. Her image is found on a good many  19th-dynasty votive and funerary stelae and she was worshipped in temples at Memphis and other locations.

 

Psyche: Greek Goddess of the Soul

Psyche: Greek Goddess of the Soul

Psyche: Greek Goddess of the Soul

 

Psyche is the Greek Goddess of the Soul. She was actually born a mortal and was transformed through tasks of amazing feats. Psyche was a beautiful woman and was courted by many many men but was genuinely not interested in love.  Aphrodite thought she was being arrogant and self centered and vain so she sent her son Eros to bring her down a notch by shooting her with a magical arrow that would cause her to fall in love with the first man she saw. However, fate had other ideas, for Eros himself with nicked with the arrow and fell madly in love with Psyche himself. Eros quickly kidnapped Psyche and took her to a private castle where they could be wed and have a long private honeymoon.

Eros was afraid his mother would find out about what happened so he only visited Psyche in the dark and made her promise not to look at him. Falling more and more in love with him, but fearing that she had married a monster, Psyhe finally took a peek at Eros while he was sleeping only to find one as lovely as she was. But Eros woke up and soon fled back to his mother where he confessed the whole ordeal.

While he was gone, Psyche missed him terribly and decided that she needed to be with him fully and in order to do that she had to proved herself to Aphrodite. Aphrodite, full of anger, forced Psyche to complete four tests, each more difficult than the last.

The first Psyche was to spend the night in a room filled with assorted grains and to have them all sorted and bagged by daybreak. Realizing the enormity of the task, Psyche huddled in the corner weeping, when an army of ants took pity on her and came to her aid, getting the job done for her well in advance of the deadline.

 

Next Psyche was ordered to bring back the Golden Fleece belonging to a fearsome ram that had already killed several heroes who had tried to acquire his fleece. Terrified that she too would be crushed, Psyche took the advice of a nearby reed that whispered to her to wait until nightfall when the ram slept before entering the field and to gather the fleece that had fallen off the ram and clung to the branches of the blackthorn trees.

For her third task, Aphrodite gave Psyche a crystal jar and demanded she return with water taken from a waterfall positioned on a high cliff on the River Styx, the entrance to the underworld. In the depths of despair when she arrived and saw the tremendous danger involved, Psyche was amazed when an eagle, circling above her, swept down for the jar and flew off to the waterfall to fill it for her.

For her final task, she was to descend into the underworld, the kingdom of the dead, and to return with a box of sleeping potion from Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld, all the while ignoring the pleas for help from all the unfortunate that she encountered. This task was her longest and hardest: she succeeded, but Psyche was so exhausted by the effort that she took some of the potion for herself. Finding Psyche in a deep sleep and unable to rouse her, Eros rubbed the potion from her eyes and returned it to the box which he sent on to his mother.

Eros at last had had enough of this nonsense from his mother, and under Athena’s guidance, petitioned Zeus to intervene. And intervene he did. He made the marriage legitimate and made Psyche immortal so that she could be with her dear Eros forever. Finally Aphrodite gave them her blessing.

Psyche is depicted often with butterfly wings because of her transition from Mortal to Goddess and because of her process of working so hard to find what she truly wanted which was love and acceptance.