Tag Archive: terra mater


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“.

Goddess Maia

“Spring Enchantress” by Karl Bang

“Maia’s themes are sexual prowess, playfulness, and wishes.  Her symbols are braided and knotted items.  This Roman Goddess, whose name means ‘mother’, offers all who seek it fulfilment and renewed zest. Maia gave Her name to the month of May. She is the queen of the flowers, and today was one of Her festival days, celebrated suitably with an abundance of blossoms. In later times, Maia became strongly associated with Bona Dea, whose name literally translates as ‘good Goddess’.

As a child, on this day I left bundles of wildflowers anonymously at neighbors’ homes.  As a random act of beauty and kindness, this still holds merit today and certainly honors Maia.

In magical circles people customarily braid wishes into the ribbons of the Maypole and leave them there to germinate and grow until fall. To do this yourself, find three strands of blue ribbon and braid them together so they meet five times, saying:

‘This the month of May, for ______ [health, love, money or whatever]
I wish today Ribbons of blue, help my wish come true.
Braided within, the spell begins.
Bound to and fro, the magic grows.
When in Fall untied, this wish is mine!

 Wear a flowery shirt, skirt, or tie today to welcome Maia and brighten your day.”

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

“In Greek mythology, Maia (pronounced May-ah) is one of the Pleiades and the mother of Hermes. The Goddess known as Maia among the Romans may have originated independently, but attracted the myths of Greek Maia because the two figures shared the same name.

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Maia embodied the concept of growth, as Her name was thought to be related to the comparative adjective maius, maior, ‘larger, greater’. Originally, She may have been a homonym independent of the Greek Maia, whose myths She absorbed through the Hellenization of Latin literature and culture.

“Green Goddess of Beltane” by ArwensGrace

In an archaic Roman prayer, She appears as an attribute of Vulcan, in an invocational list of male deities paired with female abstractions representing some aspect of their functionality. She was explicitly identified with Earth (Terra, the Roman counterpart of Gaia) and the Good Goddess (Bona Dea) in at least one tradition.  Her identity became theologically intertwined also with the Goddesses FaunaMagna Mater (‘Great Goddess’, referring to the Roman form of Cybele but also a cult title for Maia), OpsJuno, and Carna, as discussed at some length by the late antiquarian writer Macrobius, probably under the influence of the 1st-century BCE scholar Varro, who tended to resolve a great number of Goddesses into one original ‘Terra.’  The association with Juno, whose Etruscan counterpart was Uni, is suggested again by the inscription Uni Mae on the Piacenza Liver. The month of May (Latin Maius) was supposedly named for Maia, though ancient etymologists also connected it to the maiores, ‘ancestors,’ again from the adjective maius, maior, meaning those who are ‘greater’ in terms of generational precedence. On the first day of May, the Lares Praestites were honored as protectors of the city, and the flamen of Vulcan sacrificed a pregnant sow to Maia, a customary offering to an earth Goddess that reiterates the link between Vulcan and Maia in the archaic prayer formula. In Roman myth, Mercury (Hermes), the son of Maia, was the father of the twin Lares, a genealogy that sheds light on the collocation of ceremonies on the May Kalends. On May 15, the Ides, Mercury was honored as a patron of merchants and increaser of profit (through an etymological connection with merx, merces, ‘goods, merchandise’), another possible connection with Maia his mother as a Goddess who promoted growth.” [1]

“Goddess of Spring” by Wonderdyke

According to Thalia Took, “Maia is the Oscan Earth-Goddess, and an ancient Roman Goddess of springtime, warmth, and increase. She causes the plants to grow through Her gentle heat, and the month of May is probably named for Her. Her name means ‘She Who is Great’, and is related to Oscan mais and Latin majus, both of which mean “more”. She is also called Maia Maiestas, “Maia the Majestic”, which is essentially a doubling of Her name to indicate Her power, as both ‘Maia’ and ‘Maiestas’ have their roots in latin magnus, “great or powerful”. She was honored by the Romans on the 1st and 15th of May, and at the Volcanalia of August 23rd, the holiday of Her sometimes husband, the Fire-God Vulcan.

“Vulcan and Maia” by Bartholomaeus Spranger

She seems to have been paired with Vulcan because they were both considered Deities of heat: through the increasing warmth of Maia’s spring season flowers and plants sprouted and grew; while Vulcan’s stronger summer heat brought the fruits to ripeness. The flamen Volcanalis, the priest who officially oversaw the rites of Vulcan, sacrificed a pregnant sow to Maia on the first day of May. The offering of a pregnant sow was traditionally given to Earth-Goddesses such as Tellus or Ceres and signified both the remarkable fecundity of the Earth (as there are usually between 6 and 12 piglings in a litter) as well as the darker side of the Earth Mother, as sows have been known to eat their young. Rites to Maia were also performed at the August Volcanalia, a festival to ward off the destructive fires that could be caused by the dry weather and burning sun of summertime.

Portrait of Josephine Crane Bradley by Alfons Maria Mucha

In a later period, Maia was confused with a Greek Goddess of the same name. This Maia (whose name in Greek can take such various meanings as ‘midwife’, ‘female doctor’, ‘good mother’, ‘foster mother’, or ‘aunty’) was a nymph and the mother of Hermes, the trickster God of merchants, travellers, and liars; She was also said to have been the eldest and most beautiful of the seven sisters who formed the constellation of the Pleiades, whose heliacal rising (meaning when the constellation is just visible in the east before the sun rises) signalled the beginning of summer. Through this association the Roman Maia became the mother of Mercury, and Her festival on the Ides of May (the 15th) coincided with the festival commemorating the date of the dedication of His temple on the Aventine.

Ovid gives several possibilities as to how the month May got its name, and though he admits confusion, one of the possibilities he gives is that it is named after the personification of Majesty, whom he describes as seated in a place of high honor on Mt. Olympos, clothed in gold and purple. At face value it would seem he simply made this up; but as an alternate name (not just an epithet) of Maia is Maiesta, “Majesty”, he may have been closer than he thought.

Though a Goddess of the merry flowering springtime may seem kinda fluffy-bunny, the roots of Her name point to a powerful and ancient great Goddess of the Earth, growth, fertility and heat. It is rumoured that Maia was the ancient and original name of the Bona Dea (“the Good Goddess”), whose name was so sacred it was forbidden to be spoken aloud; and through this connection Maia was associated with the Goddesses Fauna and Fatua. She was also associated with Ops, the Earth-Goddess who symbolizes the wealth of the Earth, and the eastern Great Mother Cybele.

Alternate names: Maiesta, Maja, Majestas, Majesty.” [2]

Sources:

Took, Thalia. The Obscure Goddess Online Directory, “Maia“.

Wikipedia, “Maia (mythology)“.

 

 

Suggested Links:

Carnaval.com, “May Day“.

A Chapel of Our Mother God, “The Day of Maia“.

Ladd, Stephanie Anderson. Owl & Crow, “The Goddess Maia – Queen of May“.

MXTODIS123. An Inner Journey: The Moon, Mythology, and You, “Maia“.

Revel, Anita. Reconnect with Your Inner Goddess, “Maia“.

Visuddhi, Sr. Dea. Order of Our Lady of Salt, “The Goddess and the Wheel: Maia, the Goddess of May“.

Goddess Nerthus

“Nerthus” by Lisa Hunt

“Nerthus’ themes are spring, cycles, health, energy, peace and prosperity.  Her symbols are fire, chariots and soil.  This Germanic earth Goddess welcomes the season with Her presence. She was so important in Danish regions that no weapons or iron tools could be left out during Her festivals, because that was thought to invoke Her displeasure. During spring rites, Her statue was covered on a chariot until the priest determined She had arrive to oversee the festival.

Traditionally, Buergsonndeg is a day spent before a bonfire that greets the sun and banishes the last vestiges of winter. So, take down your heavy winter curtains, and let some light into the house! This restores Nerthus’s positive energy and expels any lingering sicknesses. If it’s cloudy out, turn on some lights, don dazzling-colored clothing, and find ways to brighten up your living space with flowers and decorations that speak of earth (Nerthus) and spring’s beauty.

Another customary activity is turning the soil, mixing it with an offering of milk, flower and water. Even if you don’t have a garden, turn a little dirt near your apartment or home and leave a similar gift. This action rejoices in Nerthus’s awakening and draws the Goddess’s peace and prosperity to your residence. Take a little of that same blessing with you, just collect a bit of the soil-milk mixture in a container and put it wherever you need peace or prosperity the most.”

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

“Nerthus” by MarisVision

Nerthus was an ancient Germanic earth Goddess. She was known since the time of the Roman Empire. Tacitus, the Roman historian in 1st-2nd century AD, identified Nerthus with the Roman Goddess Terra Mater. Nerthus was a popular Goddess since She was worshipped by seven Germanic tribes – Reudigni, Aviones, Anglii (Angles), Varini, Eudoses, Suarines and the Huitones.  She was worshipped in a sacred groove on an island in the North Sea or the Baltic Sea (possible Sjaeland), but the center of Her worship was in Denmark.  She can be found dwelling in the hidden realms underground. Like the strong earth-dweller She is, Her symbol is also the boar.

“Nerthus” by Thorskegga

Tacitus described Her as living in a holy birch grove.  He recorded that each year there was a festival where the Goddess would supposedly travel in a chariot pulled by two white heifers, escorted by the priest, bringing prosperity and good harvest.  It was good luck for those settlements She visited in Her journey and doors were opened in hospitality.  No one was allowed to take up war or bear arms during the festivities that accompanied Her; even iron tools were locked up during the Goddess’ journey.

“Nerthus” by ErebusOdora

When the priest discerned that the Goddess grew tired of human company, the priest would guide the chariot to a sacred lake, where Nerthus would bathe. Her chariot would be covered with a cloth. After the selected slaves bathed the Goddess in the lake, the slaves were then drowned, as sacrifices to Nerthus.

Nerthus’ attributes also resembled that of the ancient Celtic counterpart, Matres or Matrone, the group of mother Goddesses that was popular around the Rhine River.

Though the worship of Nerthus seemed to have ended in the 5th or 6th century, the later tradition says that She had been identified with Norse god, Njörd (Njord), the Vanir god of the wind and sea. Njörd was the male form of Nerthus. How had Nerthus undergone a change of sex, still baffles modern scholars.

Nerthus may well have been the unnamed sister and wife of Njörd, in the Norse myths, who became the mother of Freyr and Freyja. Though none of the Norse authors ever gave a name to Njörd’s sister. Or She may well be the ancient form of Freyja Herself. Since the Norse writers believed that the Vanir deities were older than the Aesir, then that Teutonic Nerthus became the Norse Freyja is more than likely true.” [1][2][3][4]

 

 

 

 

Sources:

Asatru Religion, “Goddess Nerthus Or Eartha Or Jordh“.

Encyclopedia Mythica, “Nerthus“.

Monaghan, Patricia. Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines, “Nerthus” at p. 488.

Mystic Wicks, “Nerthus {Goddess of the Week}“.

 

 

Suggested Links:

Krasskova, Galina . Northern Tradition Paganism, “Who is Nerthus?

PaganNews.com, “Nerthus“.

Reaves, William P. Boudicca’s Bard, “Nerthus: Toward an Identification“.

Wandering Woman Wondering, “The Goddess Nerthus“.

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