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Earth, Our Mother

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Humankind in its infancy clung to the primal comprehension of a maternal Earth, in the same way that any completely dependent child hangs onto her mother's hip. The reality of our utter reliance incontrovertible, we held on for dear life. Until only five, six thousand years ago, the archetypal Great Mother, She Who Birthed the Earth, creatrix of all existence, matriarch of the races of god/desses, reigned supreme everywhere. Homer sang Her praises: "I shall sing of Gaia, Universal Mother, firmly founded, Oldest of all the Holy Ones." Foremost in all early religions, the Earth was personified and identified in many ways, but She was universally regarded with reverence and deference as a living mother.

Many creation myths describe how Earth was made from Her sacred body. According to the Apaches, all creatures came from the Earth: "Just like a child being born from its mother. The place of emergence is the womb of the Earth." Asintmah, the first woman of the Athapascan peoples of Western Canada and Alaska, was midwife to Mother Earth. She wove Her a great blanket of Earth to use during Her confinement and laid it carefully across Her body. She then reached under this birthing blanket and pulled out a mouse, and then a rabbit, and then, one by one, She brought forth each of the Earth's vast multitude from the loins of the Great Mother.

Earth is often seen as an island floating in the vast sea, very much as an embryo is suspended in the womb. Falling Woman, the ancestress of the Iroquoian tribes of the North Eastern portion of North America, was said to have tumbled out of the watery sky into the waters below. Otter, beaver, muskrat and sea bird pulled soil up from under the water to create a mound to soften Her fall and to serve as a solid, dry place between the liquid sky and the wet depths for Her to stand upon. The body of the Sumerian-Babylonian Earth Mother, Tiamat, also defined the division between the watery realms above and below, like a horizon differentiates the heaven from the deep blue sea. Her title, Dia Mater, "Goddess Mother," gives us the word, "diameter," the dividing line which stretches across the center of a circle.

Other myths relate how clay, the flesh of the fertile Earth, is shaped by the Goddess into living beings of skin and bone and breath, of blood and brain and flesh. Another version of the Iroquois creation story is that in which the Great Turtle tosses the mud off of Her back to create the Earth and all that lives on Her. As She shimmies, shakes and shrugs, each clod creates a different species of creature. The Shake Dance is still danced by women in ceremony and at pow wow gatherings. It is a deliciously, sinuous rendering of the subterranean rhythms of that great grandmother terrapin and a sensuous celebration of the great landmass which She created, Turtle Island.

The Shilluk people of the Sudan tell of the divine Juok who fashioned people from Earth. The white people were made from white loam and the Arabs were made of brownish soil. The black people were made of the finest and best Earth, which is the fertile black clay from the banks of the Nile. The Ewe of Togo say that good people are created from good clay and bad people are made out of stinking mud. The creator of the Dogon of Mali is Amma, who created the sun and moon out of clay pots decorated with copper and brass, and then created the Earth from clay in the shape of a reclining female figure. Her head faces north, Her feet, south. Her mons veneris is an anthill, and her clitoris is a termite hill.

The Mesopotamian Goddess, Aramaiti, was known as Mother of the People Made of Clay. Aruru was the potter who not only fashioned figures from clay, but also breathed into them the animating energy of the universe. The Assyrian Goddess, Mami, Mother, formed the first seven pairs of people, the original male and female fashioned from clay. The Sumerian, Ninhursay, created the human race from a mixture of clay from Her own body and Her menstrual blood. This clay-converted-into-flesh myth cycle eventually culminated in the ass-backward biblical tale of God creating Adam from clay and then creating Eve from out of Adam's body.

The biblical name, Eve, means Mother of All Living. Her name is derived from those of much older Earth Mothers. In India, she was known as Jiva or Ieva, The Creatress of All Manifested Forms. A Tantric appellation was Adita Eva, The Very Beginning. The Hittites knew Her as Hawwah, Life, the Persians called her Hvov, The Earth, and the Anatolians named her Hebat, Virgin Mother Earth.

Adamah, the original feminine form of Adam, means "bloody clay," although male scholars usually refer to this generative element as "red Earth." Hmmmm. Eve means something like, "Mother Earth the Creator" and Adam means, "Made from Earth." So I ask you, just who gave birth to whom? And who, if you please, Doctor Freud, is envious of what?