Goddess of the Month - Mokosz


Mokosh by Alex Fantalov
Mokosh by Alex Fantalov from Alex Fantalov Artworks

Mokosz is the Goddess of the hearth and home. She is also the one who gave the arts of spinning and weaving to humanity. Because of this, She is considered to be an aspect of Fate. Mokusz is also invoked as the Goddess of fertility, midwifery, occult knowledge and divination. Polish women also called Her by the nickname Mokusa, especially when invoking Her at night to leave offerings of fleece by the fire. Her name means "Moisture" in Polish and She was frequently called upon by Polish women to help them with the laundry. Rainfall in Poland was called "Mokosz's Milk". Mokosz was honored throughout the Slavic world and called upon by several names depending on the language of the women involved. The one main thread in Her worship is the fact that She was only invoked by and attended by women. Thus Mokosz can be considered a true Dianic Goddess for those women of Slavic descent who wish to look to a great Goddess who loves and protects them. Some of Her other titles include:

Mati Syra Ziemlja - Moist Mother Earth (Polish)
Matka Ziema - Mother Earth (Russian)
She Who Raises the Flowers
Mother of Plants
Zlota Baba - Golden Woman (Polish)
Mateczka Ziemia - Little Mother Earth (Polish)
Mateczka Woda - Little Mother Water (Polish)

Worship of Mokosz

The Poles did not worship their Deities in temples, but rather in the Swiety Bór, or holy forest. Each Deity had Her own sacred grove within the forest where those who wished to honor Her or to celebrate Her holy days. One of the most celebrated holy sites that has been uncovered is at Lysa Gora (Bold Mountain), where the whole mountain top is surrounded by a stone wall to deliniate the sacred area. Fascinatingly, the towns closest to this site all have names connected to the Goddess: Makoszyn, Bieliny (which comes from the word for white, one of Mokosz's sacred colors), and Zlota Woda (Golden Water). Legend has placed this as a site of gatherings of the czarownici, witches, for centuries. The women who were healer priestesses and shamans of Mokosz were called wolchwynie. Women also celebrated Her rites at home and within the community. Women felt free to invoke Her as needed, and continued to do so, even after the Christianization of the Slavic nations. In fact, Her aspects were completely subsumed into one Catholic saint, St. Paraskeva, who is called Mother Friday in popular parlance in Eastern Europe. Also, the feast of St. Paraskeva, October 28, falls into the period of time each year based when Mokosz's main festival was held, Oct 25-Nov 1, depending on the phase of the moon just after the final harvest. Vegetables were offered to Mokosz on this day.

Mokosz is envisioned as a woman who wanders at night between the end of January and the middle of April, (roughly the Lenten period of the Christian calendar), She visits homes and does the shearing and spinning of wool and flax. She can also travel as a spider, and spiders are sacred to Her. In many ways, Mokosz was also considered to be the Earth Herself, and because of this, in many Slavic areas it was forbidden to spit on the ground in the spring because the Earth is pregnant. Also, if one wanted to swear an oath, one way to do so was to make the oath and then swallow a bit of earth or to place the earth on your head. If you had guilt upon your conscience, it was considered appropriate and good to go to a natural cleft in the Earth and tell your troubles to Mokosz who would send a dream to show you the way to make things right. She was also thought to command the Domowije, or grandfather spirits of the home, who live under the threshold or in the stove and maintain peace and order in the home. These Domowije had to be fed nightly with salted bread, and one had to be attracted to each new home before the stove could be put in by placing bread under the threshold. Other ways of appeasing the Domowije included setting a clean white linen setting at the table to invite him to dine with the family or hanging old shoes in the yard. These spirits would protect the family's pets and livestock and could warn the family of trouble or advise the family of upcoming events such as weddings.

Mokosz was depicted as having dark skin, like the Earth, and long flowing hair. She was frequently portrayed with hands uplifted and accompanied by two horsemen. Images of Her were often carved from birch, Her sacred wood, and wrapped in strands of flax. Her untamed hair was a sign that Mokosz was Supreme and Free. In Slavic cultures until recently a bride's hair was cut as part of the marriage ceremony to symbolize the taming of her freedom and her subordinate position to her husband.

Invoking Mokosz

Women could invoke Mokosz at any time and any place if there was need, but there are some prayers to Her that have survived. One prayer to Mokosh involves going to the fields at dawn in August with jars filled with hemp oil. Turn East and say: "Moist Mother Earth, subdue every evil and unclean being so that he may not cast a spell on us nor do us any harm." Turn West and say: "Moist Mother Earth, engulf the unclean power in your boiling pits, in your burning fires." Turn South and say: "Moist Mother Earth, calm the winds coming from the south and all bad weather. Calm the moving sands and whirlwinds." Turn North and say: "Moist Mother Earth, calm the north winds and the clouds, subdue the snowstorms and the cold." Oil is poured out after each invocation, and finally, the jar is thrown to the ground. A similar prayer which was done at the equinoxes and solstices (and also involves using a jar of hemp oil) goes thusly: East - "Mother Earth, subdue every evil and unclean being so that he may not cast a spell on us nor do us any harm." West - "Mother Earth, engulf the unclean power in thy boiling pits, and in thy burning fires." South - "Mother Earth, calm the winds coming from the South and all bad weather. Calm the moving sands and whirlwinds." North - "Mother Earth, calm the North winds and clouds, subdue the snowstorms and the cold." The jar, which held the oil, is buried after the invocation is completed.

I also found this reference in an article online transcribed from its original print media: "In Russia there was a quite terrifying ritual dedicated to Matka Ziema, and happened on the eve of the 1st World War to preserve their village against a plague of cholera. At midnight the older women circled the village, summoning the other women without the knowledge of the men. They would choose nine maidens and three widows who would be led out of the village. They would all undress down to their shifts. The maidens let down their hair, and the widows covered their heads with white shawls. They seized ploughs, the maidens armed themselves with scythes, and others would grab various objects of terrifying appearance including the skulls of animals. The procession would then march around the village, howling and shreiking, while they ploughed a furrow to permit the powerful spirits of the Earth to emerge, and to annihilate the germs of evil. Any man who had the bad luck to meet the procession was felled without mercy." - Slavonic Mythology 1977:287.

Poem to Mokosz by Paulina Holyszowa(1892-1975) trans Oleszkiewicz

Oh nubble of my earth,
Oh holy relic!
Some incomprehensible force links us together!
You feel in my hand,
As my blood circulates.
The blood that pulsates in me,
Is but Your blood.
For these vital juices,
You generously give,
Become blood of mine
And give me life

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