Many cultures around the world and across the ages have woman-centered creation myths. These might be stories of a goddess birthing culture, or tales about how the world itself was created. Often pregnancy, birth and motherhood themselves have the protection of a goddess or saint.
The Earth Mother is a common theme among these creation stories. She is a fertile goddess embodying the fertile earth. She is typically the mother of other gods and goddesses, and is seen as protector of motherhood. One creation story in Chinese culture, for instance, is that the earth mother, Nu Wa, who created humans from mud until she tired of the work and gave humans the job of procreating themselves.
Many creation stories pair an earth mother with a sky father to give birth to a society or culture. For instance, the Greek earth mother, Gaia, gave birth to the sky god, Uranus, and they produced the first generation of Greek gods and goddesses. Among the Maori, the creation myth pairs the earth mother, Papa, with the sky father, Ranji. They were locked in an eternal embrace until their child, Tane, separated them by pushing his father up to become the sky and his mother down to become the earth. Once this was accomplished, the rest of the nature gods could be born.
Goddesses and earth mothers tend to be tied to the unknown aspects of creation, giving them power but also making them both awed and feared. The connection of fertility, birth and death is seen in many cultures.
- The Morrigan, a Celtic goddess, controlled life, death and sexuality.
- Juno, the ancient Roman goddess, is the guardian of women and childbirth. Hera is her Greek counterpart. In Celtic cultures, this goddess is Brigit.
- Egyptians believed the goddess, Meskhenet, presided over birth and arranged each baby’s destiny. Meshkenet’s symbol was often found on the birthing tile over which Egyptian mothers squatted when giving birth.
- Also in Egyptian mythology, Isis is the protector of mother, child and family.
- While not a goddess, the Theotokos, or Mary, Mother of God, serves as the Christian saint with a connection to birth. Being the Virgin Mary, she is the spiritual mother of all Christianity.
The story of the creation of the Milky Way is another great connection to womankind. One version of the Greek legend of how the Milky Way was formed claims that Zeus decided to let his infant son, Heracles, nurse from his divine wife Hera (and not Heracles’s mother) while she was sleeping to give the baby godlike qualities since his mother was mortal. When Hera woke up and realized that she was breastfeeding an unknown infant, she pushed him away and the spurting milk became the many stars of the Milky Way.
Creation myths and earth mothers are a way for cultures to explain the unknown. But they can also be a way for modern mothers to feel more connected with creation. Now that you are a mother, you are a goddess! Allow yourself to feel that kinship with other women now and in the past. Feel connected to creation. Know you are part of the cycle of life, no matter what culture or religion you belong to.
Written by Michelle, childbirth instructor, lactation consultant, and mother to 4 busy kids
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2016. All rights reserved.