The word “Earth” has so many meanings that it is dizzying. It the name of the planet on which we stand and on which life has evolved, it sustains us and gives us shelter from our environment on a local and cosmic level. It is the large scale organism which we are all a part of. It is the fixed unchangeable element of Hermeticism and magic as well as the star signs of Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn, grounding our nature and brining stability both to our lives and our practice. There have been many “earth” Goddesses, such as Gaia (Ge) and Cybele, worshiped as life bringing matriarchs by those ancient cultures that have gone before us. Both loving and vengeful these primal deities were seen as the source life and the being which we returned to after death.
Regardless of whether you are of a spiritual mind-set or firmly set in the realms of science the word “earth” has a strong resonance and touches us all at very deep level because it is so vital to our existence.
So many things come to mind when I think of Earth, both metaphysical/spiritual and mundane. I’ll get onto the mundane in a moment but I want to first consider this magical thing called “Earth”.
Earth is one of the four magical element invoked during the casting of a sacred space. It is called in the northern quarter and is associated with winter and midnight and represents stability and foundations. It is usually invoked in spells which focus on health, wealth and prosperity as well as fertility and matters surrounding material things and the home. There are many animals and mythological creatures associated with the Earth, such as the Stag, Wolf, Gnome and Dryad, as well as deities such as Demeter, Hades, Pele and Pan. We honour the earth by maintaining animal and plant life and ensuring the sustainability of the planet. My favourite earthy spell is to write a wish onto a piece of paper and bury it into the roots of a house plant. As the paper breaks down and nourishes the plant the wish/spell grows with the living organism. Most often this kind of spell is focused on fertility and finances however it can be used as a sympathetic healing spell or even to add love and protection to an environment as the plant will come to radiate the intent of the wish/spell.
Earth has also been personified into a deity by many cultures. In an effort to understand the processes which we now call plate tectonics, such as earthquakes and volcanos, as well as explain the world around us it was common for cultures to develop mythology and divinities. Most of us will be familiar how this works in more complex pantheons such as the Greek and Norse traditions however there are hints at older traditions which were matriarchal and focused on the Earth as being a Goddess. Much of this depends on your interpretations of the evidence, such as statues like the Venus of Wildendorf and other so called Venus Statues found throughout Europe.
A rather compelling, if highly fictionalised, explication can be found in The Earth’s Children series by Jean M. Auel. The Mothers Song (which I have included below) is Auel’s interpretation of a Cro-Magnon creation myth which explains creation and evolution as a process performed by a benevolent matriarch in order that her Children may survive, though it is acknowledged that she is prone to anger (as evidenced in natural disasters) and jealousy (taking of life through disasters and animal attacks).
Although the tales of Ayla, Jondalar and the peoples described within the series are fiction and contain a lot of license on the part of the author factual information and archaeology were taken into account in the tale. The idea of a matriarchal society and religion isn’t uncommon with ancient history, looking to an alternative society the ancient Egyptians were predominantly concerned with matriarchal lineage, which is why there are so many instances of intermarriage within the Pharonic lines.
The Mother Earth motif appears in many different cultures throughout history and across the world and heavily features within modern Paganism. A composite goddess, seen as representing all female divinities as well, She is see as representing nature and life in all its forms as well as being the source of life and is the personification of the planet Earth. As a witch, in tune with the turning of the solar year and the ebb and flow of life cycles and natural rhymes, the Earth Mother sits outside of my normal duotheistic practices as an entity which should be revered and honoured at all times. She personifies the planet on which I and my children live on and I feel a large amount of responsibility towards Her be it in disposing of my ritual offerings in a mindful manner, honouring the turning of the year of being interested in ecological issues.
Ultimately the Earth is our home planet. It is the blue green ball of rock on which we reside as we float our way through the Solar System and Cosmos. We are a speck within the grand scheme of things on the cosmic level but that doesn’t mean that the Earth isn’t the most important thing in our lives. Without it we really don’t have a home or natural environment, although how can we call it that when we spend all our energy and intellect in trying to find new ways to control it. We are responsible for our home, and issues of climate change, renewable energy and recycling of resources are critical to ensuring that we have a home in the future.
The Earth reminds us again and again through natural disasters and extreme weather that regardless of our hubris we are not in control and are subject to her whims. We forget that climate change is a natural process which has ebbed and flowed over time.Ice Ages and the event known as Snowball Earth were driven by natural processes and have shaped both the world and life as we know them. They will happen again as part of processes so great that the human sense of time struggles to comprehend them.
The Doomsday Clock , originally used to count us down to a nuclear apocalypse, has included climate change as a cause for the end of the humanity since 2007. In January Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced that the symbolic clock had moved on to 3 Minutes to Midnight giving us 180 seconds until we basically cause ourselves to self-implode. Between climate change, increasing number of countries with nuclear weapons and the inability to deal with nuclear waste disasters we are driving ourselves towards an oblivion. I take it as a sign that we could do more to look after our planet, even though there is a significant political movement around the world to discredit the issue of climate change. We are responsible for this Earth so that our children have something to inherit (to repeat the cliché) and its time that we take things seriously.
To close my musings, as mentioned above, I’m going to finish with the Mothers Song. I wonder what words we should be adding, given the state of the Earth Mother these days. Would she be weeping or would she have further Gifts of Knowledge to help us address the problems that we Her children have created?
Out of the darkness, the chaos of time,
The whirlwind gave birth to the Mother sublime
She woke to Herself knowing life had great worth,
The dark empty void grieved the Great Mother Earth.
The Mother was Lonely. She was the Only.
From the dust of Her birth She created the other,
A pale shining friend, a companion, a brother.
The grew up together, learned to love and to care,
And when She was ready, they decided to pair.
Around Her he’d hover. Her pale shining lover.
She was happy at first with Her one counterpart.
Then the Mother grew restless, unsure in Her heart.
She loved Her fair friend, Her dear complement,
But something was missing, Her love was unspent.
She was the Mother. She needed another.
She dared the great void, the chaos, the dark,
To find the cold home of the life-giving spark.
The whirlwind was fearsome, the darkness complete.
Chaos was freezing, and reached out for Her heat.
The Mother was brave. The danger was grave.
She drew from cold chaos the creative source,
then conceiving within, She fled with life-force.
she grew with the life that She carried inside.
And gave Herself with love and with pride.
The Mother was bearing. Her life She was sharing.
The dark empty void and the vast barren Earth,
With anticipation, awaited the birth.
Life drank from Her blood, it breathed from Her bones.
It split Her skin open and sundered Her stones.
The Mother was giving. Another was living.
Her gushing birth waters filled rivers and seas,
And flooded the land, giving rise to the trees.
From each precious drop new grass and leaves grew,
And lush verdant plants made all the Earth new.
Her waters were flowing. New green was growing.
In violent labor spewing fire and strife,
She struggled in pain to give birth to new life.
Her dried clotted blood turned to red-ochred soil,
But the radiant child made it all worth the toil.
The Mother’s great joy. A bright shining boy.
Mountains rose up spouting flames from their crests,
She nurtured Her son from Her mountainous breasts.
He suckled so hard, the sparks flew so high,
the Mother’s hot milk laid a path in the sky.
His life had begun. She nourished Her son.
He laughed and he played, and he grew big and bright.
He lit up the darkness, the Mother’s delight.
She lavished Her love, he grew bright and strong,
But son he matured, not a child for long.
Her son was near grown. His mind was his own.
She took from the source for the life She’d begun.
Now the cold empty void was enticing Her son.
The Mother gave love, but the youth longed for more,
For knowledge, excitement, to travel, explore.
Chaos was Her foe. But Her son yearned to go.
He stole from Her side as the Great Mother slept,
While out of the dark swirling void chaos crept.
With tempting inducements the darkness beguiled,
Deceived by the whirlwind, chaos captured Her child.
The dark took Her son. The young brilliant one.
The Mother’s bright child, at first overjoyed,
Was soon overwhelmed by the black frigid void.
Her unwary offspring, consumed with remorse,
Could not escape the mysterious force.
Chaos would not free. Her rash progeny.
But just as the dark pulled him into the cold,
The Mother woke up, reached out and caught hold.
To help Her recover Her radiant son,
the Mother appealed to the pale shining one.
The Mother held tight. And kept him in sight.
she welcomed him back, Her loved of old,
With heartache and sorrow, Her story She told.
Her dear friend agreed to join in the fight,
To rescue Her child from his perilous plight.
She told of her grief. And the darkness swirling thief.
The Mother was tired, She had to recover,
She loosened Her hold to Her luminous lover.
While She was sleeping, he fought the cold force,
And for a time drove it back to the source.
His spirit was strong. The encounter too long.
Her fair shining friend struggled hard, gave his best,
The conflict was bitter, the struggle hard pressed.
His vigilance waned as he closed his great eye,
Then darkness crept close, stole his light from the sky.
Her pale friend was tiring. His light was expiring.
When darkness was total, She woke with a cry.
The tenebrious void hid the light from the sky.
She joined in the conflict, was quick to defend,
And drove the dark shadow away from Her friend.
But the pale face of night. Let Her son out of sight.
Trapped by the whirlwind, Her bright fiery son,
Gave no warmth to the Earth, cold chaos had won.
the fertile green life was now ice and snow,
And a sharp piercing wind continued to blow.
The Earth was bereft. No green plants were left.
The Mother was weary, grieving and worn,
But She reached out again for the life She had borne.
She couldn’t give up, She needed to strive,
For the glorious light of Her son to survive.
She continued the fight. To bring back the light.
And Her luminous friend was prepared to contest,
the thief who held captive the child of Her breast.
Together they fought for the son She adored.
their efforts succeeded, his light was restored.
His energy burned. His brilliance returned.
But the bleak frigid dark craved his bright glowing heat.
The Mother defended and would not retreat.
The whirlwind pulled hard, She refused to let go,
She fought to a draw with Her dark swirling for.
She held darkness at bay. But Her son was away.
When She fought the whirlwind and made chaos flee,
the light from Her son flowed with vitality.
When the Mother grew tired, the bleak void held sway,
And darkness returned at the end of the day.
She felt warmth from Her son. But neither had won.
The Great Mother lived with the pain in Her heart,
That She and Her son were forever apart.
She ached for the child that had been denied,
So She quickened once more from the life-force inside.
She was not reconciled. To the loss of Her child.
When She was ready, Her waters of birth,
Brought back the green life to the cold barren Earth.
And the tears of Her loss, abundantly spilled,
Made dew drops that sparkled and rainbows that thrilled.
Birth waters brought green. But Her tears could be seen.
With a thunderous roar Her stones split asunder,
And from the great cave that opened deep under,
She birthed once again from Her cavernous room,
and brought forth the Children of Earth from Her womb.
From the Mother forlorn, more children were born.
Each child was different, some were large and some small,
Some could walk and some fly, some could swim and some crawl.
But each form was perfect, each spirit complete,
Each one was a model whose shape could repeat.
The Mother was willing. The green earth was filling.
All the birds and the fish and the animals born,
Would not leave the Mother, this time, to mourn.
Each kind would live near the place of its birth,
And share the expanse of the Great Mother Earth.
Close to Her they would stay. They would not go away.
They were all Her children, they filled Her with pride,
But they used up the life-force She carried inside.
She had enough left for a last innovation,
A child who’d remember Who made the creation.
A child who’d respect. And learn to protect.
First Woman was born full-grown and alive,
And given the Gifts she would need to survive.
Life was the First Gift, and like Mother Earth,
She woke to herself knowing life had great worth
First Woman defined. The first of her kind.
Next was the Gift of Perception, of learning,
The desire to know, the Gift of Discerning,
First Woman was given the knowledge within,
That would help her to live, and pass on to her kin.
First Woman would know. How to learn, how to grow.
Her life-force near gone, The Mother was spent,
To pass on Life’s Spirit had been Her intent.
She caused all of Her children to create life anew,
And Woman was blessed to bring forth life too.
But Woman was lonely. She was the only.
The Mother remembered Her own loneliness,
The love of Her fiend and his hovering caress.
Wit the last spark remaining, Her labor began,
To share life with Woman She created First Man.
Again She was giving. One more was living.
To Woman and Man the Mother gave birth,
And then for their home, She gave them the Earth,
The water, the land, and all Her creation.
To use them with care was their obligation.
It was their home to use. But not to abuse.
For the Children of Earth the Mother provided.
The Gifts to survive, and then She decided,
To give them the Gift of Pleasure and sharing,
That honors the Mother with the joy of their pairing.
The Gifts were well-earned. When honor’s returned.
The Mother was pleased with the pair She created,
She taught them to love and to care when they mated.
She made them desire to join with each other,
The Gift of their Pleasures came from the Mother.
Before She was through. Her children loved too.
Her last Gift, the Knoweldge that man has his part.
His need must be spent before new life can start.
It honours the Mother when the couple is paired.
Because woman conceives when Pleasures are shared.
Earth’s Children were blessed. The Mother could rest.
Words by Jean M. Auel – The Mothers Song taken from Land of the Painted Caves