Goddess of the Month - Gaia


The Millenial Gaia, by Oberon Zell, photo of author's altar
The Millenial Gaia by Oberon Zell from The Mythic Images Collection

Gaia, Ge, Mother Earth... She is called by many names and has been since time immemorial. She is our home, our Mother, the source of life. She is a planet orbiting in an elliptical path approximately 93 million miles from a G2 variable star known as Sol. She is all this and more. The name Gaia is Greek and means land or earth. It is by this name that I know Her and love Her, but She has appellations in all languages, ancient and modern. Some of these include:

Kubau - Akkadian
Hepa - Hurrian
Kubala/Cybele - Phrygian
Heva/Eve - Hebrew
Jr - Norse
Danu - Irish
Papatuanuku - Maori
Pachamama - Quechua
Tonantzin Tlalli - Mexican
Gayatri - Hindu
Phra Mae Thorani - Thai
Spider Grandmother - Dineh
Potnia - Cretan
Tellus Mater - Roman

Gaia in Greek Tradition

Gaia had temples in all cities and was honored universally. Gaia, as origin of the vapors that enabled divine inspiration, is the first Goddess of Prophecy. She the original deity of the Delphic Oracle, which She later gave to Themis. Apollo later usurped this great office by killing Python, child of Gaia, thereby claiming the chthonic power of prophecy for himself. She also had an oracular temple at Olympia. Gaia was guardian of oaths, and of the oaths men could give, those sworn by Gaia were the most binding of all. "I will have as my best witness the mighty mother of the Olympian gods, dark Ge." - Solon, Fragment 36. Gaia was also the one invoked when offerings were made to the dead in the form of libations poured upon a grave, and the one called upon in prayers to avenge the crime of murder, for the earth was polluted by blood so shed.

From the earliest Greek writings, Gaia arose from the primordial Chaos and birthed her children Ouranos, the sky, and Pontus, the ocean deeps. She created them parthenogenetically then lay with Ouranos to create many other children. "Verily at the first Chaos came to be, but next wide-bosomed Gaia, the ever-sure foundations of all the deathless ones who hold the peaks of snowy Olympus, and dim Tartarus in the depth of the wide-pathed Earth, and Eros, fairest among the deathless gods, who unnerves the limbs and overcomes the mind and wise counsels of all gods and all men within them. From Chaos came forth Erebus and black Nyx; but of Nyx were born Aether and Day, whom She conceived and bare from union in love with Erebus. And Gaia first bare starry Ouranos, equal to Herself, to cover Her on every side, and to be an ever-sure abiding-place for the blessed gods. And She brought forth long Hills, graceful haunts of the goddess-Nymphs who dwell amongst the glens of the hills. She bare also the fruitless deep with his raging swell, Pontus, without sweet union of love. But afterwards She lay with Ouranos and bare deep-swirling Oceanus, Coeus and Crius and Hyperion and Iapetus, Theia and Rhea, Themis and Mnemosyne and gold-crowned Phoebe and lovely Tethys. After them was born Kronos the wily, youngest and most terrible of Her children, and he hated his lusty sire." - Hesiod, Theogony.

Depictions of Gaia

Gaia was depicted in many ways. She was frequently shown as a matronly woman rising from the earth. She is also shown in many mosaics as a full-figured reclining on a couch and clothed in green surrounded by beautiful maidens known as the Karpoi, who are spirits of the grain. Another representation, one Gaia shared with Demeter, was that of a woman seated on a throne wearing a crown of towers. Also, She could be shown as a woman holding a kettle drum.

Gaia rising from the earth, Athenian red-figure
kylix C5th B.C., Antikenmuseen, Berlin
Gaia rising from the earth, Athenian red-figure kylix C5th B.C., Antikenmuseen, Berlin
Homeric Hymn 30 to Gaea (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th - 4th B.C.)

I will sing of well-founded Earth, mother of all, eldest of all beings.
She feeds all creatures that are in the world, all that go upon the goodly land,
And all that are in the paths of the seas, and all that fly: all these are fed of her store.
Through you, O Queen, men are blessed in their children and blessed in their harvests,
And to you it belongs to give means of life to mortal men and to take it away.
Happy is the man whom you delight to honour! He has all things abundantly:
His fruitful land is laden with corn, his pastures are covered with cattle, and his house is filled with good things.
Such men rule orderly in their cities of fair women: great riches and wealth follow them:
Their sons exult with ever-fresh delight, and their daughters in flower-laden bands play and skip merrily over the soft flowers of the field.
Thus is it with those whom you honour O holy Goddess, bountiful spirit.
Hail, Mother of the gods, wife of starry Heaven; freely bestow upon me for this my song substance that cheers the heart!
And now I will remember You and another song also.

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