Tag Archive: creation myth


Goddess Tellus Mater

“Mother Earth” by *MD-Arts

“Tellus Mater’s themes are earth, ecology, promises, abundance, prosperity and fertility. Her symbols are the globe, soil and grain.  The Roman Earth Mother celebrates today’s festivities, the Earth’s Birthday, by sharing of Her abundance, being a Goddess of vegetation, reproduction, and increase. In regional stories, Tellus Mater gave birth to humans, which is why bodies are returned to the soil at death – so they can be reborn from Her womb anew.

According to James Ussher, a seventeenth-century Anglican archbishop, God created the earth on October 26, 4004 B.C.E. While this date is uncertain at best, it gives us a good excuse to honor Tellus Mater and hold a birthday party on Her behalf.

Make a special cake for the Earth Mother out of natural fertilizers. Take this to a natural setting (don’t forget the candle). Light the candle and wish for the earth’s renewal, then blow it out, remove the candle, and bury your gift to Tellus Mater in the soil, where it can begin manifesting your good wishes!

While you’re outside, pick up a pinch of soil, a stone, or any natural object that strikes your eye and keep it close. This is a part of Tellus Mater, and it will maintain her power for abundance wherever you go today. It will also help you stay close to the Earth Mother and honor the living spirit of earth in word and deed.”

(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)

“In ancient Roman religion and myth, Tellus or Terra Mater (‘Mother Earth’) is a Goddess of the earth. Although Tellus and Terra are hardly distinguishable during the Imperial eraTellus was the name of the original earth Goddess in the religious practices of the Republic or earlier.  The scholar Varro (1st century BCE) lists Tellus as one of the di selecti, the twenty principal gods of Rome, and one of the twelve agricultural deities.  She is regularly associated with Ceres in rituals pertaining to the earth and agricultural fertility.

Tellus/Pax panel of Ara Pacis

The attributes of Tellus were the cornucopia, or bunches of flowers or fruit. She was typically depicted reclining.  Her male complement was a sky god such as Caelus (Uranus) or a form of Jupiter. A male counterpart Tellumo or Tellurus is mentioned, though rarely. Her Greek counterpart is Gaia (Gē Mâtēr), and among the Etruscans She was Cel. Michael Lipka has argued that the Terra Mater who appears during the reign of Augustus is a direct transferral of the Greek Ge Mater into Roman religious practice, while Tellus, whose temple was within Rome’s sacred boundary (pomerium), represents the original earth Goddess cultivated by the state priests.” [1]

Patricia Monaghan tells us: “The Roman ‘Mother Earth’ was honored each April 15 [Fordicidia], when a pregnant cow was sacrificed and its unborn calf burned.  The Romans tried to offer appropriate tribute to each divinity and they felt that the earth – pregnant in spring with sprouting plants – would especially appreciate such a sacrifice.

“Ceres” by ~rebenke

Tellus’ constant companion was Ceres, the grain Goddess, and the two of them interested themselves not only in vegetative reproduction but in humanity’s increase as well.  Therefore, they were invoked at every marriage that they might bless it with offspring.  Tellus too was considered the most worthy Goddess on whom to swear oaths, for the earth, witnessing all doings on Her surface, would see that an oath taker kept his promise.  Finally, Tellus, to whom the bodies of the dead were returned as to a womb, was the motherly death Goddess, for unlike Her Greek counterpart Gaia, Tellus was associated with the underworld as well as the earth’s surface” (p. 293 – 294).

“Nerthus” by MarisVision

On a side note, “the identity of the Goddess Nerthus, called Terra Mater, Mother Earth by Tacitus in Germania, has been a topic of much scholarly debate.”  Click here to read a fantastic article by William Reaves entitled “Nerthus: Toward an Identification”.

 

 

 

Sources:

Monaghan, Patricia. The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines, “Tellus Mater”.

Reaves, William P. “Nerthus: Toward an Identification“.

Wikipedia, “Terra (mythology)“.

 

 

Suggested Links:

Berger, Pamela C. Goddess Obscured: Transformation of the Grain Protectress from Goddess to Saint.

GardenStone. The Nerthus Claim.

Lipka, Michael. Roman Gods: A Conceptual Approach.

Novaroma.org, “Fordicidia“.

Took, Thalia. Thaliatook.com, “Cels“.

Wikipedia, “Fordicidia“.

Rainbow Serpent

“Rainbow Serpent Dreaming” by Lorraine Williams

“Rainbow Serpent’s themes are beauty, life, joy, fertility, tradition, children and health. Her symbols are flowers, rainbows, rainwater and pearls. The Aborigine Goddess, also sometimes called Julunggul, represents the fertile rains and the waters in the seas. According to tradition, She flows into people’s lives, bringing children, joy, the knowledge of magical healing arts, and protection for sacred traditions.

The city of Queensland, Australia, blossoms around this time of year in a colorful array of flowers. This carnival honors the joy of living, something the Rainbow Serpent embodies.

If you have floral prints, definitely wear them today to inspire the Rainbow Serpent’s ability to flow and adapt, using beauty and happiness as a powerful coping mechanism.

If it rains today, it is a sign of this Goddess’s blessing. Release your inner child and dance in the downpour. Jump in puddles and let Her fertile, productive energy splash freely all over your life and everything around you.

 

To internalize a little of the Rainbow Serpent’s attributes, collect rainwater in a clean pan on or around this date, then steep some edible flower petals (like roses) in the water. Drink or cook with this today so Her power can blossom in your heart.”

(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)

The Australian Rainbow Serpent” by Susanne Iles

“In the Australian Aboriginal mythology of Arnhem Land, Julunggul is a rainbow snake Goddess, who oversaw the maturing and initiation of boys into manhood. She was a fertility Goddess, associated with rebirth and the weather.

She is also known as Kalseru.

Another name for this deity, Yurlunggur, is also the name of an extinct genus of madtsoiid snakes (Yurlunngur), specifically named after the Aboriginal myth.” [1]  Some believe that belief in the Rainbow Serpent is closely linked to the Wonambi naracoortensis which is an extinct ancient snake of gigantic proportions.” [2]

Patricia Monaghan says that “the rainbow snake Goddess of Australia was able to be male, to be neuter, or to be androgynous.  She was said to be embodied in the ocean and waterfalls, in pearls and crystals, and in the deep pools in which She lived.  A Goddess of initiations, Julunggul was approached in Arnhem Land by boys who, symbolically swallowed and regurgitated by the mother snake, were vomited out again as men” (p. 173).

“The Snake Painting” by Peter Eglington

“The stories associated with the different types of Rainbow Serpents across Australia depend on the tribe and what part of Australia they come from. Those tribes that experience monsoons depict the Rainbow Serpent as interacting with the sun and the wind to create them in their Dreamtime stories. Those tribes that are more central in Australia and do not experience such turbulent weather tell their tales of a Rainbow Serpent that reflect their own environmental condition.” [2]

Susan Iles explains: “There are as many legends of the Rainbow Serpent as there are tribes of people, but the common elements can be found as follows.

“Kandimalal and the Rainbow Serpent” by Boxer Milner, Billiluna

The All-Mighty Creator formed the Earth and the heavens. However, at the time of creation the Earth in the Dreamtime was flat, colourless and desolate. The Rainbow Serpent descended from the sky and moved over the face of the Earth creating deep valleys and rivers, nourishing the planet and giving it form. Some legends tell the story of the Rainbow Serpent populating the world with plants, humans and animals. Other versions tell of the great serpent calling out to all the living creatures of the planet to come out of hiding and enjoy the land. The wise serpent taught them the laws of community, structure, ethics and respect.

By embracing our mythical past and remembering the wisdom of our ancestors we can re-create the sacred trust between Heaven and Earth to ensure a future for humankind.” [3]

Hhmm…there’s that whole Ancestors theme popping up again… 😉

On the Australia.gov.au website, it explains that “in most stories of the Dreaming, the Ancestor Spirits came to the earth in human form and as they moved through the land, they created the animals, plants, rocks and other forms of the land that we know today. They also created the relationships between groups and individuals to the land, the animals and other people.

Once the ancestor spirits had created the world, they changed into trees, the stars, rocks, watering holes or other objects. These are the sacred places of Aboriginal culture and have special properties. Because the ancestors did not disappear at the end of the Dreaming, but remained in these sacred sites, the Dreaming is never-ending, linking the past and the present, the people and the land.

Our story is in the land … it is written in those sacred places … My children will look after those places, That’s the law.
Bill Neidjie , Kakadu elder.

The Creation or Dreaming stories, which describe the travels of the spiritual ancestors, are integral to Aboriginal spirituality. In many areas there are separate spheres of men’s and women’s stories. Knowledge of the law and of the Dreaming stories is acquired progressively as people proceed through life. Ceremonies, such as initiation ceremonies, are avenues for the passing on of knowledge.

Photo of Uluru/Ayers Rock, Northern Territory, Australia by Lil [Kristen Elsby]

Traditional knowledge, law and religion relies heavily on the Dreaming stories with its rich explanations of land formations, animal behaviour and plant remedies.” [4]

 

And now for your viewing pleasure, a video about the Aboriginal Dreamtime Stories – story by Dick Roughsey and narrrated by David Gulpilil.

 

 

 

Sources:

Australia.gov.au, “The Dreaming“.

Iles, Susan. Susanneiles.com, “The Dragon & Creation: Reclaiming the Sacred“.

Monaghan, Patricia. The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines, “Julunggul”.

Mythicalcreatureslist.com, “Kalseru“.

Wikipedia, “Julunggul“.

 

Suggested Links:

Aboriginalartonline.com, “The Rainbow Serpent“.

Adelaideartscult.weebly.com, “Origins Of The Rainbow Serpent Myth“.

Didjshop.com, “The Rainbow Serpent“.

Expedition360.com, “Dreamtime Stories“. (Includes some suggested critical thinking and writing activities).

Kuchinsky, Charlotte. Voices.yahoo.com, “The Rainbow & Various Myths Surrounding It“.

Muenster.org, “Rainbow Serpent“.

 

Goddess Izanami-No-Kami

“Izanami” by Jay Tomioka

“Izanami-no-kami’s themes are art, creativity and excellence. Her symbol is poetry.  In Japan, this creative Goddess is considered to have made all things, and She inspires similar inventiveness within us. Traditionally, She is honored through artistic displays, including dance, song, music, and poetry reading.

Every September, poets from across Japan come to the Imperial Palace to compose verses. Upon receiving a cup of sake floated down the river, each poet must create an impromptu verse. The winner becomes the nation’s poet laureate.  In keeping with this idea, concentrate on trying your own hand at a little sacred poetry today, perhaps even a haiku. Traditional haiku contains seven syllables in the first line, five syllables in the second line and seven or five in the last; each line evokes an image or feeling in the reader’s mind. Here’s one example:

Izanami-no-kami
paints the universe
radiant – eternity

If poetry isn’t your forte, engage in another art form through which Izanami-no-kami’s imaginative spirit can shine. Ask for Her assistance and inspiration before you begin, and see what wonders Her nudge can arouse in you. Or, visit an art gallery, making notes of the things that really strike a harmonious chord in your spirit.”

(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)

So, I’m not exactly sure where Patricia Telesco’s description of Izanami comes from, because the descriptions I found paint Her as a creatrix and Queen of the Underworld, sharing some common elements with Persephone‘s story.

Patricia Monaghan writes: “Before this world, there was only a chaos of oil and slime, which slowly congealed to produce unnamed and innumerable divinities.  [The first gods according to Wikipedia were Kunitokotachi and Amenominakanushi who] finally, said the Japanese, [summoned] two distinct [divine beings]: Izanami, the inviting woman, and Her consort, Izanagi, the inviting man.  Standing on the rainbow, they stirred chaos with a spear [named Ame-no-nuboko] until a bit of matter formed.  Placing this island on the oily sea, they descended to create and populate the earth.

But they did not, at first, know how.  It was only after watching two water birds mating that they understood the necessary procreative act.  So they too mated, and Izanami gave birth to the islands of Japan, to its waterfalls and mountains, and then to the animals and plants that live there.

Last to be conceived was fire, which virually exploed from Izanami’s body, leaving Her retching and bleeding.  From all Her excretions – from Her blood, Her vomit, Her urine – new creatures sprang up and established themselves on the new land.  But Izanami Herself died.

She traveled to the underworld – Yomi (‘gloomy land’).  Izanagi, however, desperate without Her, traveled to Yomi to ask Her to return.  She, however, had already established Herself in the world of death and refused [a few sources state that She had already eaten the food of the underworld and was now one with the land of the dead. She could no longer return to the living].  But She suggested that he speak to the lord of death, asking for Her release.  Izanami warned him, though, not tot enter the palace.

“Izanami” by Matthew Meyer

Heedlessly curious, Izanagi approached the dark building; then he took a broken comb and broke off its last tooth.  Lighting it, he looked inside, where the body of Izanami was decomposing.  Her spirit attacked him, humiliated at having been seen that way; She drove him from the underworld and, as they parted, claimed his actions constituted a final divorce.  Some say that Izanami rules still as queen of death from Her home in gloomy Yomi” (Monaghan, p. 168 – 169).

The actions that Monaghan writes of were Izanagi pushing a boulder in the mouth of the Yomotsuhirasaka (cavern that was the entrance of Yomi) thus creating a boundary between the world of the living and the world of the dead.  This infuriated Izanami-no-Mikoto and She screamed from behind this impenetrable barricade that if he left Her She would destroy 1,000 residents of the living every day to which he replied he would give life to 1,500.

To purify himself after coming into contact with the dead, Izanagi bathed in the sea and as he bathed, a number of deities came into being to include the sun Goddess Amaterasu, born of a tear from his left eye.

 

 

Sources:

Monaghan, Patricia. The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines, “Izanami”.

Wikipedia, “Izanami-no-Mikoto“.

 

 

Suggested Links:

Britannica.com, “Izanagi and Izanami“.

Goddesses.info, “IZANAMI“.

Meyer, Matthew. Matthewmeyer.net, “Oh My Kami: Izanagi and Izanami” and “Oh My Kami: Izanagi and Izanami(part 2)“.

Mythencyclopedia.com, “Izanagi and Izanami“.

University of Georgia: Department of Geology, “The Origin of Japan and her People“.

 

Goddess Voluspa

“Crone Ceremony: Voluspa” by Willow Arlenea

“Voluspa’s themes are foresight, history, perspective, divination and time. Her symbols are stories and storybooks.  This Nordic Goddess was born before all things, with the knowledge of all time within Her. When asked to tell a tale to the gods, She recounted history, including the gods’ downfall. To commemorate this, wise women and seers in the northern climes are sill sometimes called Voluspa.  Voluspa teaches us the value of farsightedness and of remembering our history. We cannot know where we’re going if we don’t remember where we came from.

An old festival in Iceland known as the Islendingadagurinn [Icelandic Festival of Manitoba] preserves Voluspa’s energy by recounting local heritage and custom in a public forum including theater, singing, writing and costumes. For our adaptation, I suggest taking out or working on a family tree, or perhaps a personal journal. Read over the chronicles of people from your ethnic background and honor their lives in some appropriate manner (perhaps by lighting a candle). Voluspa lives in these moments and at any time that we give ourselves to commemorating the past.

Alternatively, get out some good storybooks and read! Turn off the TV for a while and enrich you imagination with the words of bards who keep Voluspa’s power alive in the world. Especially read to children so they can learn of this Goddess’s wonders.”

(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)

The seeress speaks her prophecy from a 19th century Swedish translation of the Poetic Edda. Illustration by Carl Larsson.

Patricia Monaghan tells us that “[Voluspa’s] name, or the similar word volvawas used of wise women in Scandinavia.  The most famous seer in Norse legend was the one for whom the poem Völuspá is named.  Born before this world began, Voluspa was asked to tell the history of the world.  Once started, She did not stop, even though the gods did not wish to hear of their own death at Ragnarok, the doom of the gods” (p. 312).

“Odin and the Völva” by Lorenz Frølich

“The poem [Völuspá] starts with the völva requesting silence from ‘the sons of Heimdallr‘ (human beings) and asking Odin whether he wants Her to recite ancient lore. She says She remembers giants born in antiquity who reared Her.

She then goes on to relate a creation myth; the world was empty until the sons of Burr lifted the earth out of the sea. The Æsir then established order in the cosmos by finding places for the sun, the moon and the stars, thereby starting the cycle of day and night. A golden age ensued where the Æsir had plenty of gold and happily constructed temples and made tools. But then three mighty giant maidens came from Jötunheimr and the golden age came to an end. The Æsir then created the dwarves, of whom Mótsognir and Durinn are the mightiest.

At this point ten of the poem’s stanzas are over and six stanzas ensue which contain names of dwarves. This section, sometimes called ‘Dvergatal’ (‘Catalogue of Dwarves’), is usually considered an interpolation and sometimes omitted by editors and translators.

After the ‘Dvergatal’, the creation of the first man and woman are recounted and Yggdrasill, the world-tree, is described. The seer recalls the events that led to the first ever war, and what occurred in the struggle between the Æsir and Vanir.

The seeress then reveals to Odin that She knows some of his own secrets, of what he sacrificed of himself in pursuit of knowledge. She tells him She knows where his eye is hidden and how he gave it up in exchange for knowledge. She asks him in several refrains if he understands, or if he would like to hear more.

“THE DUSK OF THE GODS” by P. N. Arbo

The seeress goes on to describe the slaying of Baldr, best and fairest of the gods and the enmity of Loki, and of others. Then She prophesies the destruction of the gods where fire and flood overwhelm heaven and earth as the gods fight their final battles with their enemies. This is the ‘fate of the gods’ – Ragnarök. She describes the summons to battle, the deaths of many of the gods and how Odin, himself, is slain.

Finally a beautiful reborn world will rise from the ashes of death and destruction where Baldr will live again in a new world where the earth sprouts abundance without sowing seed. A final stanza describes the sudden appearance of Nidhogg the dragon, bearing corpses in his wings, before the seeress emerges from Her trance.

Versions differ, for example Baldr’s return is present in Codex Regius, but absent in others.” [2]

 

 

 

 

Sources:

Monaghan, Patricia. The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines, “Voluspa”.

Wikipedia, “Völuspá“.

 

Suggested Links:

Kodratoff, Yves. Nordic-life.org, “Völuspá“.

Mythencyclopedia.com, “Norse Mythology“.

Sacred-texts.com, “The Poetic Edda: Voluspo“.

Timelessmyths.com, “Norse Creation“.

Wikipedia, “Völva“.

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