Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Folklore - The Mother Goddess

Geo Center, Møns Klint.
Our beautiful planete is Mother Earth, also known as the great Mother Goddess in prehistoric time - in various cultures named Demeter, Istar, Astarte, Afrodite. From southern Europe she walked to the German people and to the Celts.

The goddess appeared in many forms in the North, not at least by the Celts. The Moon was one, the Sun another. When the moon was waxing, the period was fertile, and the peasant had to sow, while the springs and trees grew stronger at full moon. It was not advisable to sow, when the moon was decreasing. When the sun went into hibernation, she had to be strengthened at winter solstice by cultic ceremonies, and when spring arrived, she was awoken by spring rituals, typically of a strong sexual character. At harvest people were singing her lullabies, before she went into hibernation again.

Mother Earth appeared in animal shape like other deities. Her most important sacred animal was the Sow. The sow grew fast, was very fertile and round like the full moon. When she appeared as the Sow, she was usually followed by nine or twelve pigs, her priesthood. The goddess, the Big Sow, was sacrificed at winter solstice, when the pig was fattened and slaughtered for the great sacrificial feast. The deity herself was eaten in order to wake up her life forces. This custom is known from other religions, even from Christianity, where the body and blood of Christ is given in church at the sacred supper. Pork roast at the Christmas table is an ancient  phenomenon.

The great Goddess of Earth was worshipped in the North up till present time. One of the old customs was to hide the last sheaf from the field in the furrow. The furrow was the womb of the earth, and the sheaf was a sacrifice to Mother Earth. The sheaf was in other districts hidden until Christmas time. The sheaf was considered as the goddess herself, it was given obscene names, and at Christmas it was sacrificed by giving it to the birds - another continuing custom. 

The Danish archaeolog, professor P.V. Glob wrote a book "Mosefolket" (the Moor People), where he gave a representation of Mother Earth's role in the Danish prehistoric period, based upon archaeology. The finds tell us that the goddess was a dominating female deity from *Bondestenalderen up through Bronze Age. The male influence grows during Iron Age, and in the Asatru the male god Frøj took over some of the functions of the great goddess. The female Asa-god Freja inherited the role of the goddess. She adopted the sow as her sacred animal, and she is called the Sow in myths.

It seems that people held on to the great goddess, not just in Asatru, but also later, when the church was the victor. The Mother Goddess was in southern Europe replaced by Virgin Mary, who was worshipped as an independent goddess, but in the North she never became a goddess of the people in spite of the efforts from the church. The old legends describe women figures, who protected village, life and growth. This figure had  various names, and it seems that she had a central place in the consciousness of the peasant. She was a buxom and motherly protector, and she is often described as a pious and mild, but also a masterful and just woman figure with power over things. She was always on the peasant's side. The old Mother Earth was still earth itself to the peasant, and life and growth were created in the sacred marriage between the goddess and heaven.

The Celtic influence on the Nordic religion is not fully known, but there was a close connection in the great migration-period and Viking period between the North and the Celtic land areas in Ireland and North England. This might explain the strong position of the goddess by the Scandinavian farmer.

The Tollund Man
Who was the strong deity of the Moor? The springs and water streams and brooks gushed forth from the womb of Mother Earth. There was a direct access to the great goddess through the water. This might be the final explanation why moors were a preferred sacrificial place.Several moors - or lakes which they were in ancient times - were sacred places for a large piece of land. The sacrifices go back to *Bondestenalderen, and they seem to have continued for the rest of prehistoric time. The Great Goddess was known and honoured through the whole period. Some sacrifices were invaluable treasures, like the magnificent Gundestrupkar
  , lurerne , or valuable members of the society. (Tollundmanden) . Sacrifices like these must have been absolutely necessary - there was either famine, hostile attacks, epidemics, floods or sand drifts, all threatening the existence -  and people went for the last resort in order to avoid destruction.

*Bondestenalderen = 4000 BC - 1700 BC

Source: Mads Lidegaard, Danske søer og vandløb fra sagn og tro, Nyt Nordisk forlag, Arnold Busck, 1999. 

photo : grethe bachmann 
photo The Tollund Man:  stig bachmann nielsen, Naturplan Foto  


Teresa Evangeline said...

Look at those little piglets! Aren't they sweet? The mama doesn't look so sweet, though! That little one out front I could take home with me.

That's an interesting sculpture and the mummy(?) was a sacrifice if I understand correctly? I'm glad we're not still living under the old belief systems.

Your header photo is beautiful! and that opening photo, as well.

Thyra said...

Those little piglets jumped up and down and played with each other like children with nothing to worry about, while the big sow was looking at the disturbers outside the field with a watchful eye. I think you could have such a piglet, a buddy for Buddy!
The statue: I think it's by a French artist, but I have forgotten!!Yes, the Tollund-guy is a bog-mummie, a sacrifice to the gods in the moor. The link shows a fine close-up photo of his face. I had forgotten too that I've written a small post about him once. He was examined from head to toe and outside and inside! The label brings out my post.
Thank you for your sweet comment!
Mother Nature gave me the sunset!! ´)
Nosehugs to Buddy!

Out on the prairie said...

All very interesting, there are some similarities found in Native American lore.

Thyra said...

Hello Bill! This is just why I like to find things like this and write about it. It is similar to other cultures far away. Fascinating.
Grethe ´)

Wanda..... said...

Great post, Grethe and reading more in the link, about he Tollund Man and how scientists preserved him, was very interesting.

Thyra said...

Hello Wanda! Thank you! I'm actually very glad that you've read the link, because the bog mummies tell us so much about the time they lived in, thousands of years ago. when I'm out in a moor, I would like to find a gold bracelet!! Who wouldn't? At least you'll receive the gold value for it. But if I saw a foot sticking up I think I would run and tell someone else!
Have a nice week-end!
Grethe ´)