Gaia : The Earth Our Mother
Gaea, in Greek mythology, the earth; daughter of Chaos, mother and wife of both Uranus (the sky) and Pontus (the sea). She was mother, by Uranus, of the Cyclopes, the Titans, and others, and, by Pontus, of five sea deities. She helped cause the overthrow of Uranus by the Titans and was worshiped as the primal goddess, the mother of all things.
While many believe that the Goddess was destroyed by patriarchy this is not the case – She is much more flexible and adaptable than that and has taken many forms and guises over the centuries.
In Her more recent re-emergence She has received support from very unlikely sources - both ecologists and quantum physics. Quantum physics has re-conceptualised the universe as an interactive, interdependent and integrated whole where each part is absolutely dependent on each other part. This is reminisent of the web of life and the Goddess as weaver of life.
Ecology has claimed Gaia as the symbol of the interdependent life of the world ecosystems. The work of James Lovelock was instrumental in this and he named his work The Gaia Hypothesis:
The Gaia Hypothesis is the theory that living organisms and inorganic material are part of a dynamic system that shape Earth's biosphere… The earth is a self-regulating environment; a single, unified, cooperating and living system - a superorganism that regulates physical conditions to keep the environment hospitable for life Evolution therefore is the result of cooperative not competitive processes. (Dr James Lovelock - Gaia - A New Look at Life on Earth).
It is fairly easy to make the connection between the traditional conception of the Earth Goddess and James Lovelock's "Gaia-hypothesis"; the idea of the Earth as a single living super-organism. While Lovelock uses the concept of Gaia as a metaphor, he does not personify Gaia. So while Lovelock has raised the profile of the Living Earth, the understanding of Gaia as a Divine being is the result of various Neo-Pagan and ecologically minded people who have popularised, and in so doing modified, his theory.
People who have popularized Lovelock’s theories are referred to as Gaians and Gaianism is a very broad and inclusive philosophy and emerging spirituality with various religious expressions. Gaians hold a strong belief that the Earth is an entity that defines us as only one species of the planet.
Maintaining a close relationship with the planet to bring world peace, maintain global homeostasis and find inner fulfillment are fundamental.
The beliefs of Gaianism include:
1. Honor the Earth who represents the co-dependent "Web of Life" that includes all physical forms of existence from plants to humans; the Universe itself.
2. Endeavor to Soften or Reduce the Human Impact on Gaia by being mindful of one's actions.
3. Be Respectful of Life in All Its Forms not only of human life, but also animal and to an extent plant life. (From Wikipedia).
Based in Greek Mythology
Gaia (Gaea or Ge), for the Greeks, personified the Earth; a primordial deity in the Ancient Greek pantheon and considered a Mother Titan or Great Titan. Her equivalent in Roman mythology was Terra Mater (Wikipedia). She is sometimes called Gaea, Gaya, Ge, Gea and the goddess Rhea is sometimes considered to be similar to or another form of Gaea.
According to the website Women in Greek Myths , there are two accepted versions of classical creation: Hesiod's and Ovid's. Both versions begin with Gaia's emergence from Chaos. She has a parthenogenic birth, that is she only needed one parent, and she was, apparently, able to birth many children in the same way. She ‘lay’ with Her firstborn Uranus and had many children who were major figures in Greek mythology. She was truly a great mother:
Gaia is the Greek Goddess of the Earth, mother to all the Gods. In the beginning, there was only Khaos, the nothingness of space. From Khaos, there appeared Gaia (Goddess of the Earth), Nyx (Goddess of the night), Tartaros (God of the Underworld), Erebos (God of shadows and darkness), and Eros (God of sexual love). Gaia then created Ouranos (God of the sky), Pontos (God of the sea), and Ourea (God of the mountains). With Ouranos, Gaia is the mother of the twelve Titans: Theia (Goddess of sight), Rhea (Goddess of female fertility), Themis (Goddess of divine law), Mnemosyne (Goddess of memory), Phoebe (Goddess of light), Tethys (Goddess of nursing), Okeanos (God of fresh water), Koios (God of intelligence), Krios (God of constellations), Hyperion (God of observation), Iapetos (God of mortality), and Kronos (God of time). (From Sabrina, Goddess a Day, October 2007)
However Uranus was lusty and cruel to her. Gaia persuaded her other children to help her subdue their father and Cronus, her son, took a flint sickle and castrated his father, throwing his severed organs into the great sea. The goddess Aphrodite was then born of the mixing of the blood and foam. Gaia then went on to have other children with other mates.
Prayers to Her
"First in my prayer, before all other deities,
I call upon Gaia, Primeval Prophetess . . .
The Greek great earth mother."
Hesiod wrote the following hymn to Gaia:
Gaia, the beautiful, rose up,
Broad blossomed, she that is the steadfast base
Of all things. And fair Gaia first bore
The starry Heaven, equal to herself,
To cover her on all sides and to be
A home forever for the blessed Gods.
According to Greek mythology Gaia, the Earth, gaped open and swallowed the hero Amphiaraus. Following this incident, the mythical seer Theiodamas… straightway bids altars twain to be wreathed with living trees and well-grown turf, and on them, in honour of the goddess [Gaia], he flings countless flowers, her own bounty, and heaps of fruit and the new produce of the tireless year, and pouring untouched milk upon the altars he thus begins:
`O eternal Createress of gods and men, who bringest into being rivers and forests and seeds of life throughout the world, the handiwork of Prometheus and the stones of Pyrrha, thou who first didst give nourishment and varied food to famished men, who dost encompass and bear up the sea; in thy power is the gentle race of cattle and the anger of wild beasts and the repose of birds; round thee, firm, steadfast strength of the unfailing universe, as thou hangest in the empty air the rapid frame of heaven and either chariot doth wheel, O middle of the world, unshared by the mighty brethren [Zeus, Poseidon and Haides in the division of the universe left the earth common to all gods].
Therefore art thou bountiful to so many races, so many lofty cities and peoples, while from above and from beneath thou art all-sufficient, and with no effort carriest thyself star-bearing Atlas who staggers under the weight of the celestial realm. (Statius, Thebaid 8. 295 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.)
Gaia’s significance is that she was worshiped widely in many cultures and known by many names. She has been identified with the names Astarte, Cybele, Terra, Demeter, Ishtar and Isis. She reminds us of our connection to the earth and all of creation.
Earth provides the sustenance for all living beings that reside upon her. She represents nurturing and the primeval parent in its most basic and humble origins. In recent years, there has been a resurgence in returning to nature and the awareness of the importance of our environment. Perhaps the spirit of Gaia is once again trying to connect with her errant children (By Darlene Zagata, eHow Contributing Writer).
Gaia was frequently regarded as a prophetic goddess. Aiskhylos equated her with Themis of the oracles. It is believed by some sources that Gaia was the original deity behind the Oracle at Delphi although other sources indicate that She passed her powers on to Poseidon, Apollo or Themis. She was usually worshipped in the open or in caves.
In ancient Greece, oaths sworn in the name of Gaia were considered the most binding of all since no-one could escape the Earth Herself.
Images of Gaia
In classical art Gaia was represented in one of two ways. She is usually represented as a voluptuous woman rising from the earth. In an Athenian vase painting she was shown as a matronly woman only half risen from the earth thus portrayed as inseperable from her native element. Often she is depicted in the act of handing the baby Erichthonius (a future king of Athens) to Athena to foster.
In later mosaic art as shown in the central image, Gaia appears as a full-figured, reclining woman, often clothed in green, and sometimes accompanied by grain spirits--the Karpoi.
As a result of her association with fertility and agriculture, one of the most recognizable symbols in goddess worship is in the form of Venus of Willendorf. This statuette was found near Austria and dates between 22,000 to 30,000 BCE. With her large round belly and breasts, she embodies the rich bounty of the earth at her most fruitful. She is also connected to Gaia in peoples’ minds.
Other figures with such features have been found around the world. Archeologists don't concur as to whether they represent particular goddesses or are in homage to pregnant women. In modern Goddess worship, they have come to represent the all-sustaining mother earth Goddess.
The image of Mother Earth as seen from outer space changed the way in which we view our planet. It showed the interconnection of life and the interrelationship of all parts. There are no boarders or nations from that distance, no conflict between nations, no oppression of one group by another.
Gaia is the One from which all others come and reminds us to recognize the Sacred Feminine in all of creation; to bring balance back to life and the planet that sustains it.
Farrar, Janet and Stewart Farrar. The Witches' Goddess. Phoenix Publishing Inc., 1987.
James Lovelock The Ages of Gaia: A Biography of Our Living Earth , Commonwealth Fund Book Program
James Lovelock Gaia - a new look at life on Earth, Oxford University Press, 1979
Monaghan, Patricia.. The Book of Goddesses & Heroines. Llewellyn Publications, 1993.
Streep, Peg. Sanctuaries of the Goddess: The Sacred Landscapes and Objects. Bulfinch Press, 1994
Women in Greek Myths. Last Updated March 19, 2010
Ritual for the Healing of Gaia
Our Mother the Earth
This ritual is to assist with the healing of the Gaia the Earth
Set up the room with a small altar in each of the four directions. On the altar have a representation of the element – photos, images, candles, incense.
Orange, brown and green for the earth
Blue, green for water
White, silver pale blue for the air
Red, black, gold for the fire.
In the centre of the circle have another small altar with three candles, a Globe of the Earth, fruit, flowers, and other symbols of the plenty of Gaia.
Welcome and Casting the Circle:
As women enter the room they are ‘smoked’ with Lemon Gum and welcomed to the ritual. Ritual Leader:
I want to honour and acknowledge the Indigenous Peoples, guardians of this great southern land and all of their elders past and present. I thank them for their wisdom and protection of our Mother and their connection to Her. I value their knowledge of the land and their ability to teach us their ancient ways, which are essential to these modern times.
Invoking the Elements:
We invite the four elements to join us:
We turn to the North where Fire resides in the heat of the sun and the northwest wind and sing The Fire, the fire the fire the fire, Return, return, return, return………
Light the Candle(s) and say:
Energy of Fire fill us with your passion
Bring us your light and life
Open our eyes Fill our hearts and hearths with love
Heal and nourish us with warmth.
Pele, Vestia, Bridgid, Ida, Oya and Sekhmet
We welcome you.
Turning to the East where the Water is located here in the south east of the continent we sing The Water, the water, the water, the water, Return, return, return, return….
Pour the water and say:
Spirits of the East, Water of Life flowing through us,
One to the other and to the source
Streaming water, rivers of plenty,
Stillness of billabongs
Wildness of oceans
Join us in our celebration of The Mother
Danu of the rivers and streams
Yemaya of ocean currents and waves
Tethys, Mehurt, Mazu
We welcome you.
Turning to the South where Air resides between us and the southernmost land form we sing: The Air, the air, the air, the air Return, return, return, return……
Light the incense and say:
Breath of Creation, Move through and with us
Surround us with the perfume of the heavens
Fill us with the song of the birds, the rustle of the trees
The majesty of the great and vast unknown
Open our hearts to opportunity and the window of our soul
Khaos, Grandmother of the space between heaven and earth
Arianrhod, We welcome you.
Turning to the West the centre of this great land, home of the Earth Chakra - Uluru we sing:The Earth, the earth, the earth, the earth, Return, return, return, return…
We pour the libation on the earth and say:
Soft footed land, red centre
Bless us with your presence
Nourish with your grace
Feel us touch your being through the lines of song
Deep beneath in the foundation
Bring us your stability and your plenty
Hold us in your arms and Join us
Ceres of plants
Devi Sri goddess of fields and abundance
We welcome you.
Turning to the Centre we light the candles say to the three levels:
Spirit of Creation of all that is, is below and is above
Join us Great Mother
Created from Chaos
Provider of Order
Giver of Life
We beseech thee bless us with Your presence.
Isis - Goddess of Fertility and Motherhood
Anu - Goddess of plenty, Mother Earth, Deity of health, fertility, prosperity, and comfort.
We welcome you.
Going around the Circle anti clockwise we each say:
I am a woman and I give you my hand
My name is ______________ and my mother’s name is/was___________
And I bring to the circle _______________________
Then holding hands we say together:
We are women and our Circle is powerful.
To Gaia (Earth) the Mother of All.
I will sing of well-founded Gaia (Earth), mother of all, eldest of all beings. She feeds all the creatures that are in the worlds, 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 (semne thea), bountiful spirit (aphthone daimon). Hail, Mother of the gods (theon mater), wife of starry Ouranos (Heaven); freely bestow upon me for this my song substance that cheers the heart!
(Homeric Hymn to Gaea (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th - 4th B.C.)
Ask everyone to sit (or lie) in a comfortable position with both feet flat on the ground and bodies relaxed. Suggest that they close their eyes or de –focus so that they are not distracted.
Commence with breathing and relaxation so that everyone is fully present.
Lead every one to create a safe space for themself; this could be one they know and use or it could be an imagined space or colour or piece of music.
Reassure them that they can return to this space at any time and that they are in complete control of their experience.
(The guided meditation involves us flying high above the earth, noting the places of beauty and then those spots where there is pain and hurt. We then join with a group of other Goddess people and return to the places of pain and together we circle the area and send healing energy).
Now you are going to move out from your safe space knowing that you can return there at any time. To your amazement you start to fly, slowly and gracefully above the earth until you can see all below you. You are able to move up and down as you need. It is a wonderful calm and relaxed feeling. PAUSE
Below you can see the landscape of our southern land spread before and behind you. How do you feel when you see that vista? Now you are moving over the oceans and to another continent. Below you see scenes of great beauty which fill you with joy and delight…..what do you see? What do you hear? How do you feel? PAUSE
Now as you move across the landscape of this wonderful earth you become aware of dis-ease and you can sense, see and hear pockets of the landscape that need healing. It might be the physical, the human or some other aspect that is in pain. PAUSE.
You are also aware of other pockets of pain. Where are these? PAUSE
Up ahead you see some others flying and they seem to be waiting for you. As you join them the group becomes bigger and energy expands so that as you approach some of those places that need healing you are able to direct the raised energy to help with the healing. PAUSE
As you watch the Earth below you can see the image of the Goddess rising towards you, reaching for you, sending you thoughts of love. What is her message? PAUSE
Gradually others leave the group as they come to their homes and when you see/sense that you are above your safe place you also leave and slowly come to rest where you can relax and reflect on your experience. PAUSE
When you are ready please rejoin the Circle.
Sharing and Focusing:
Each of the women now has the opportunity to speak of that which she desires for the healing of Gaia and message she received from the Mother and to place an offering on the centre altar.
As each person identifies a place on the globe we all place our hands on that place and send energy there. Allow time for each person to share the key messages from the meditation and encourage the group to draw from these to focus the intention of the group on change and action.
Have everyone stand and shake themselves, then place both hands on the ground and send the energy to the Earth.
Preparing to Leave:
Each take a colour for protection in the world this week/month.
Open the Circle:
Thank each element and Goddess for joining us and invite them each to stay with us. Sing “The Circle is open but unbroken” or Sacred Sister’s ‘Farewell to the Elements’.