The Mother Goddess has come into American politics. Her appearance through Sarah Palin is divine sign of an American identity crisis as deep as any in our history, and her intercession promises to alter national identity forever as well.
Why she has come into us is a great story. But to tell a great story right we must begin at the beginning.
The Mother Goddess began around the fires of caves, in the ice age Pleistocene at the dawn of human identity: with men carving figurines of women we call "Venuses." Their exaggerated sexual characteristics radiate not simply fertility but the eternal Promise of birth.
But there were harder times before. Between 195,000 and 123,000 years ago humanity was an endangered species. The climate became dry and cold. Animals that sustained us died in droves, and at last we clustered on a perch called Pinnacle Point jutting out into the Indian Ocean in what is today the Republic of South Africa.
There were just a very few thousand women who might keep humanity going. The Goddess prototype. Survive we did because of them and a human community that learned to adapt, as Curtis Marean describes in the August 2010 Scientific American. What he also found was the first paint, for the first art, tens of thousands of years before the cave paintings we celebrate -- and it was always red ochre, and always made red, "associating the color with menstruation and fertility" -- and why not?
We yet lived! The Goddess had arrived. Later Magdalenian Venuses shows us simply how deeply existential recognition of her had intertwined into our being and belonging: Because of the Mother Goddess the river of humanity would abide.
With city-identity (from the Latin civitas, what we call civilization) the needs of identity demanded more complex ritual nurturing. Now city tribes needed the Mother Goddess to offer as well the promise of purification. The complex identities of the Poleis needed sacred venues to celebrate belonging and keep identity strong.
Hence, by the original milestone -- the ground zero of their identity in the Forum Romanum -- was the temple of Vesta, the most ancient in the city. Vesta was goddess of the hearth, of the cave and its fire, made forever incarnate in the living heart of Rome.
Serving Vesta were the Vestal Virgins, extraordinary women accorded legal equality among men, who sacred in their chastity underwrote the eternal promise of Roman virtue, meaning the continuity of Roman identity: Forever undiminished.
Fertility and chastity -- Rebirth (the river of identity) and Purity (a perfect oneness of belonging) -- were cunningly incorporated into Christian Rome. Mary (Theotokos, she who gives birth to God) literally gave us a Mother Goddess metamorphosis: graciously offered by her to meet the needs of a new universal consciousness.
Goddess Mary could save (through rebirth, keeping the river) but also purify (by redeeming corrupted identity). She could do so iconically, and she could become the Mother Goddess incarnate:
- In Byzantine civilization there emerged the Virgin Hodegetria, an iconic standard of miraculous power, Theotokos holding the baby Jesus, pointing to him as the hope of salvation for humanity. An entire monastery, Panaghia Hodegetria, was built just to house and celebrate this sacred artifact. But its amazing powers appeared to Christian and Turk alike in the 1422 siege of Constantinople, when an apparition of Mary appeared above the beleaguered walls to deliver the city yet again. Goddess indeed!
- At the same time in the Latin West, Jeanne d'Arc -- "Maiden of Orleans" -- burned at the stake at 19, was the divine agent of French redemption. In her person she represents a medieval retelling of the Passion of the Christ, except as Goddess. She is clearly the incarnation of Madonna made flesh -- And so both human and divine. In Late Antiquity women had great spiritual power, as though through Christianity they had somehow swept away the male constructs of a hard Romanitas (emperor and army) and were everywhere instead creating new centers of faith. By the Middle Ages men had apparently buried this movement -- until Joan. Goddess indeed!
Like Christianity in Late Antiquity, our Modernity again petitioned the Mother Goddess for metamorphosis. Always beneficent, she offered herself as the Goddess of religious nationalism. The French were first with Marianne, followed by Britannia and Germania. Even new nationalisms with heady identity dreams, like Greece and its Megale Idea, had their Athena, or is she Aphrodite?
We Americans have Lady Liberty, in glorious copper incarnation begat by Marianne and in 1884 borne to us by the French nation.
So even in modernity's ruthless competition of endless war, when a people might be condemned by Darwin[ism] himself as being unfit, they could still reach out to the Mother of the Nation and beseech her miraculous reappearance. So she would come again to soothe and lash on through the brush-strokes of her artists: Defending the nation under dire attack, leading the charge to collective rebirth and redemption.
But what if we fail her? Or worse yet because of us she is defiled?
This happened to Germany after World War I. Suddenly they saw how the promise their hearts had so burstingly believed in could be brought down and degraded. Germans in the 1920s must have felt like the living dead. Not only was the cruel sacrifice of millions of sons for nothing, those very leaders -- the elite class -- who had promised the world -- World Power transcendence -- and seduced a nation into death, war and defeat, were still living high. Betrayers! Bloodsuckers!
German identity had been defiled in defeat, but just as important the rapists were not simply the victorious enemy (and their Senegalese: A critical trope of rage in the French occupation of the Rhineland) but also the inner evil -- their betrayer elites.
No wonder Germania ravished speaks to the ultimate desecration of identity itself. German identity as it had been promised so seductively since unification was proven a lie. A death lie. Germania, the Mother Goddess, which we see here on the eve of war and its promise, so perfect, so pure, died and was defiled on the cross in the aftermath of German defeat.
Gratefully the United States today is in no such desperate danger. But the fear is there.
The fear is in fact so great as to invoke the Mother Goddess. If American mothers have not lost two million sons in the trenches, there is still some of that same anguish and anger in our nation today.
What do we fear? "We" here means that big chunk of America that hearkens to what Sarah has called the "true Americans." This is the siren song of Glenn Beck and the millions that streamed like pilgrims to his Hajj on the Mall. This is how they feel:
1. Pollution. What sort of America do we live in where even Disney princesses begin to get it on -- and the Barbie franchise might as well be called the hooker-franchise? "Values" -- the supposedly incorruptible tokens of sacred identity itself -- are all debased. We send our precious: our own children into society's sinkhole, a cesspool. Look at our education system, promoting a moral code calibrated for the rat-holes of a singularly corrupted society.
2. Infection. The body of the nation is being infected: The body of us all and each of us, by bacterium from a noxious "swamp." There are Mexicans who are like a virus, weakening us and wearing down our immune system (our pure virtue). Then there are Muslims who are more like killer-pathogens, intent on killing the host. They enter our body to tear it down, so that in death it might rise again zombie-like as part of their glorious Caliphate.
3. Betrayal. Who has overseen the pollution, and who has permitted (even encouraged) the infection? Why the elites of course, the establishment, the so-called leadership class, that cares only for itself and nothing for us; those who would sacrifice American greatness for their own narcissism; who would make a surrender-compact with our enemies to extend their leather-appointed lifestyle. The enemy within = The enemy without.
Together these fears describe a situation from which establishment and mainstream media will surely recoil. Yet as they patronize aspirant-insurgents as quirky marginal complainers, the truth is that many Americans -- Progressives as well as proto-fascists -- are emotionally close to overthrowing their lofty establishment. An American people ready to overthrow their government masters is real emotion if not yet literal reality, just as it was unexpectedly for Germany in the 1920s. Here the Grand Recession is just the sum of all fears -- but economic fears are not the thing itself. Rather they are a touchstone. Why are we in such terrible shape? How could this happen to us? We played by the rules and tried so hard -- while those who have brought us down rake in, Croesus-like, their blood-bonuses.
But Americans in this pass are also asking other things: How could the greatest nation let its own people down? We thought our economic system was about integrity; instead we find out that it is only about greed. Why is our elected leadership -- like Weimar yuppies -- unable to help us in our lives and in our pain?
300 million Americans are in pain, excepting of course the few millions who are doing just fine as they do it in Washington. When the nation is in distress -- in a true crisis of identity -- and the leadership class has nothing to say, no relief to offer, except measures to sustain their own comfort:
Where do Americans turn?
Not to Washington's senatorial class who style themselves a world class. An American polity that fails its own people cannot be a beacon to humanity.
Not to iconic relief as in the fabled Byzantine Hodegretia. A perfect image, no matter how sacred and magical, is not enough.
We are not yet a nation wholly dominated by women and a Mother Goddess consciousness. So what about the Male Call (riffing off Milton Caniff's fabulous testosterone-fueled comic-strip from World War II)?
Sadly this call, testosterone and all, has been invoked a million empty times since 9-11 and it has let us down every single time. Even in the holiest big-tent-revival-without-the-tent, Glenn Beck labored to beatify our soldiers, almost as American Saints. He dared anoint them with his rhetorical holy water: But it would not wash.
The 9-11 War has burst the male-warrior American Calling. Prince Valiant, All-American, has failed to win. Worse yet through nine long years, the Prince has led us to such negative consequences as might endure long after us:
- US military power is now at once both transcendent and ineffective. It can kill with impunity -- anyone, anywhere -- but it cannot kill identity and idea.
- It is all about us: Our original Prime Directive to redeem humanity has become instead all about protecting America against a threatening humanity: "Your are either with us or against us" -- "We fight them there so that they cannot attack us here."
The American paradigm of Forever War no longer delivers, and its destructive results are even now rippling through the nation. The warrior, the Legion, the gladius-thrust solution -- which has become the Predator and Reaper solution -- is no solution. American men should not be Halo III video-game controllers daily sealing the fate of families and communities. Prince Valiant has failed us because his paradigm daily lets our sacred identity down. Hence we might empathize with a restless American identity seeking both succor and escape: To the warm embrace and unconditional love of the Mother Goddess.
She can provide. She can protect. She can show the way.
Clearly the calling for a Mother Goddess today is a cry for both rebirth and purification, and it has no connection or interest in the rest of humanity.
My first take on Sarah Palin was an American Evita. Eva Peron Duarte was one of modernity's most extraordinary women, and so began my meditation on the Mother Goddess. How had the Goddess come into Argentina? Why had she become a Fascist? Then I remembered Isidora Dolores Ibárruri Gómez, La Pasionaria -- the purest Leninist Vestal Virgin and yet also for a moment the Mother of Free Spain (she did have six children). Going further back there is Malinche, Nahua paramour to Cortés and his indispensible co-strategist: the Mother of Mexico. Jeanne d'Arc, Malinche, La Pasionaria, Evita -- In the Roman successor-world there is a distinct lineage of the incarnate Mother Goddess, who in times of metamorphosis and crisis can command an almost absolute authority among men.
But what of the Calvinist North's cold, cruel heart? That organ seems now to be in irreversible de-cryogenic thaw.
What we do know is that the call for the Mother Goddess has come to America. Such miraculous claims of her body on the state, as mother and lover, are no longer the strange preserve of the "Latin South" -- whether in Europa or America. The "Lion of the North" now ardently embraces a new passage for national rebirth.
Which may explain why Sarah Palin also channels the wives and mothers of Sparta -- her son was in Iraq -- who would admonish her warriors: "Either come back with your shield or on it!" Our Goddess surely has the hardest Calvinist edge. She would be the toughest of tough-love Goddesses.
Understand the return of the Goddess would mean no less than the incarnation of the nation in a divine person. This is the lesson of Evita: expressing both the promise and the deception of sacred kingship -- of the Goddess -- unbound.
We are not there just yet, but be forewarned: We may soon in the impoverished years that lie ahead become increasingly impatient, restless, and afraid. We will be weak and so all the more inclined toward the mercies of the steely-eyed, those who would take us toward the Goddess who is loving but also stern. Then we will cry out for the rebirth that comes with blood, and redemption that breathes only after sacrifice. And when we cry out to her it will be as well for a very different America.