Original Great Mother Tradition
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In the beginning...was the Great Mother. She was percieved as primordial Darkness, corresponding with the awesome dark universe. There was a great intuition about this "Abyss of the universe", being the Womb giving birth to the world. In many cultures it is stated that the "The Light was born out of Darkness", the former represented by the sun, the moon and the stars. This was later confirmed by spiritual Realization, in which "The Divine is born out of Nothingness".
The astonishing thing is, that reminders of the Great Mother still can be found in all cultures - archaic, indigenous and modern - and in patriarchal religions. From matriarchal tribes in Africa and elswhere, Neolithical fertility mothers in Europe, sayings of South American Indians, womb-shaped tombs in pre-historic China, the Devi Matri as the original Great Mother of India, the Great Mother traditions of the Middle East and Egypt, the hidden Mother symbolism of Islam to the more obvious reminders in Christianity (Mary).
The Great Mother
It leads us to the (fiercely disputed) hypothesis of an ancient universal matriarchal culture, having preceded patriarchy. The Universal Great Mother Tradition aims at restoring the original Wholeness of Life, making the feminine principle the foundation of modern cultural, religious and social life.
In prehistoric times, the Mother was considered the "center of the universe". The Mother was the only source of life, since the connection between pregnancy and sex wasn't known. People draw parallels between human life and other phenomena in nature. They compared the fertility of the earth with that of the Mother. Everything depended on the (her) cycle of birth and death. Hence, all rituals were centered around fertility: the death of the seed and its rebirth. This earthly experience had its counterpart in a great intuition about the Essence of the universe. The latter was considered the Great Cosmic Womb, the Origin of birth and death.
This intuition might well have been there from a very early beginning: that of the black mothers in Africa, the neolithical mothers of Europe, those of the Middle East, India and China. The Mother has been the underlying principle of almost all ("great") civilizations. The first written accounts have been found in Sumer, at a time that patriarchy already made its first beginnings. "Women had the experience, men wrote it down". The Original Great Mother was the "Queen of Heaven and earth", the Womb that gave birth to both the Gods and the universe. She "embodied" (re)birth, preservation and death. Everything originated from and returned to Her. She was the All-Embracing One.
The first Great Mother we know of was Inanna (Sumer). Although some (early patriarchal) texts talk about Inanna "created by God", there is convincing evidence that She existed at "the beginning of time before anything else". She was the Origin of all things. Later Inanna turned into Ishtar, the Mother-goddess of Babylon. Through many clay tablets quite something is known about them. Especially the hymns are moving documents of the devotion people felt for the Great Mother. In later times Astarte was the Mother-goddess of Canaän. It was this goddess, whom the Israelites considered their most deadly enemy *, especially because she was revered by the Israelites themselves, a.o. many women and kings (Solomon, David). In Egypt it was the Mother-goddess Isis, who has had an astonishing long tradition. Her last temple was closed in Soissons (near Paris) in the year 550.
* Not by the people, but by the fanatic Levite priests! See chapter "The Bible".
* Han Marie Stiekema "The Lap of the
The main characteristic of the Great Mother is unifying all aspects of life. Her Womb rules (re)birth, preservation and destruction simultaneously. As discriminating consciousness proceeded, the aspects of the Mother increasingly "started a life of their own". The Original Unity fell apart in many separate units. It was the beginning of the era of the goddesses. The Mother-goddess Isis was a transitional figure. She is both the Mother, while possessing countless different aspects. At other places and times, three categories took shape, according to the three aspects of the Mother: fertility goddesses, those who were protectresses of life and the destructive ones. Example of the first was Astarte; the second had her representative in the famous Artemis of Ephese and the third category included Lilith. Through identification with various aspects, projected in countless goddesseses and cults, the original wisdom about the Origin of the universe slowly faded away. The power of the Mother was weakened accordingly. It was under those circumstances, that patriarchy with its masculine God(s) found a "fertile ground" for its expansion.
Going deeper into:
* The Cybele Cult
© 2000 Copyright Han Marie Stiekema