IV: A startling vision


To those who may be receiving one of these post-notifications for the first time: This is not a blog; it’s actually part of a book, and will make little sense to you without knowledge of what has come before—which you can easily obtain, along with a goodly amount of satirical theatre as matters progress, by simply entering ttgftyri.org into your web browser, opening the menu, and starting at page one. J.J.


ACT TWO: in which things start to get a little crazy.

Scene 1

And so it comes to pass that one morning about the time that people’s first child is beginning to walk upright, First Person is sitting alone under a tree eating some fruit when all of a sudden he finds himself turning to stare at the simple food-thing in his hand as though he’d never really seen it in all his life.

Why, where did nourishing thing from the tree above my head ultimately come from, he wonders, gazing all about and finally cocking his head with the sheer force of his puzzlement. For surely something must have made it, he reasons, same as we men make the spear and woman the child, no?

And reasoning on, he scans the tree from its heavily fruit-laden branches to where it ultimately disappeared into the ground—and grew altogether wide-eyed at the thought that now rose ever so logically from the depths of his consciousness. Of course, he gasps! Somewhere down there, there has to be an ultimate mother who not only spawned all this, but would now responsibly sustain all her vast creation!

Scene 2

And without even waiting to finish his breakfast, he races off to tell someone of this new experience.

“I’ve just had this vision,” he reports breathlessly to a couple of people who are busy eating their own breakfast, as now everyone else begins crowding around them to find out what all the commotion is about. “I envisioned, would you believe, the Ultimate Mother who in fact created all the world and of course provides all the food on which we now routinely sustain ourselves!”

And the women are a little surprised to hear this, but not particularly impressed. They have no doubt that a woman created everything—and merely yawn now and return to feeding their own hungry offspring.

The men, however, tend to receive his story with deep awe and clamors for more information. Surely you must tell us more about this supreme Personage!” one calls out excitedly after another breathless moment. “For instance, just where in the world is she?”

“Down there,” First Person points quite hysterically toward the ground: “She who’s ultimately responsible for all this lies somewhere down there!”

Scene 3

And for the rest of the morning, he paces restlessly about, peering intensely toward the ground and straining to get this new understanding of the world together in his greater imagination—until at length, it seems that he might well burst with the tremendous tension steadily abuilding there.

At which point, he suddenly takes up a piece of soft, volcanic rock or ‘schist’ a little bigger than his own hand and thinks to carve some image representing the Great Mother Below.

Blithely delineating a humanoid figure, he depicts her belly as swollen large with young; carefully inscribes her vulva or glorious birthing orifice; adds enormous breasts with which she might nurture her issue; and then examines his bold artwork at arm’s length.

“Not bad, wouldn’t you say?” he invites the comments of a few men who’ve gathered about him to watch.

“You mean that’s all?” one of them responds in a doubtful tone. “I mean, doesn’t she have any arms?”

“Well yes, I suppose she does,’ First Person allows. Not having regarded arms as of any particular significance to motherhood, he hadn’t been going to bother with them; but now he thinks for a moment, searching for some way to bring them into the spirit of his figurine—and soon gets an idea: he simply portrays them cupping her breasts in an inviting, nurturing gesture.

“Good, now what about her legs?” someone else prods him.

So with a noticeable sigh, he considers how he might include those too—and subsequently carves his figurine to a sharp point at the bottom, so that it might be stuck into the earth as its natural base and even appear to rise from there!

“Ah, much better,” another nods. “But now what about her face? I mean, I want to see what she looks like.”

But here First Person draws the line. “Oh, I have no idea what she looks like,” he readily admits. “I mean, this thing isn’t supposed to be that accurate.”

“Well, you should at least give her a nose, so that she might appear to breathe,” yet another presses him.

And since that seems harmless enough, he bothers to add some modest nostril holes—and again pauses to examine his work at arm’s length.

Actually, he decides, it might have represented almost any mother—or all mothers. Or simply the spirit of motherhood!

An essentially spiritual figure, then—as he intended it.

And finally, he takes up some nearby reddish clay suggesting the color of blood; smears it all over his carving, thereby representing people’s acknowledgment of the great sacrifice that she makes for them at parturition; triumphantly sticks it into the ground; and stands clear.

“Behold the Great Mother!” he declares with much satisfaction, as now some new passersby pause to gape at the quaint object looming ever so mysteriously before them.

Scene 4

And later that evening, as everyone else sits around the fire staring at his wondrous carving, First Person reveals a little more of his growing vision.

“I figure that in the Beginning,” he sets forth confidently, while nearby, the flames crackle loudly and drive countless sparks soaring high up into the night, if eventually but to fade among the stars, “there was no world, but only the Great Mother—who began to create, as a woman will.

“First, no doubt, she made the simple ground,” he points out, “so that there’d be something firm for the world to rest on.” And then quivering with some excitement, he rises to a squat position and actually pretends to deliver the ground from his own, male body—howsoever much to the surprise and titillation of the women in his audience.

“Then she must have made the sky, or celestial firmament so that there’d be some place to put a light,” he continues—and appears to bring forth this too and set it high overhead.

“Next, I’d say she made the sun, so that there’d be bright days; followed by the moon, so there’d also be some light at night—although of course, not so much as to prevent sleep—and then all the stars, that children might have something with which to amuse themselves when sleep would come slowly.”

And seemingly producing all these in turn, he carefully installs them all about the celestial region.

“After which, she undoubtedly made the plants so that there’d be something to eat,” he continues smoothly; “and then lakes and rivers, for drink; and then stones, for tools and weapons—scarcely to mention firewood and the various medicinal things.” And he distributes these all about the terrestrial plane.

“And finally, all being ready, she created all us creatures, he finally concludes, “—while of course, she made women in her own image and specially imbued them with her great power, that there might be ordinary mothers to carry on with everything and generally look after the whole business.”

Scene 5

And now evening after evening, First Person comes to sit by the fire contemplating his statue with ever deepening fascination by the leaping, teasing flame—while other men often come around with specific questions about She whom it ever so plausibly reoresents.

For instance, it isn’t long before someone asks him, “So where did this Great Mother herself come from?”

“Why, I supposed she always was,” he shrugs off this first question, “—same as she just is now, and probably always will be.”

* * *

“So how old do you figure she is?” someone soon wants to know.

“Oh, I’d say that as the mother of the whole world,” First Person replies easily, “she’s at least as old as any of the mothers that you see around here.”

* * *

“And does this old woman have some domain of her own down there?” still another suddenly prods him.

“Why, of course,” First Person nods after the barest hesitation, “—I mean, she has her own Great Realm down there: where she herself lives, created everything long ago, and produces all our food and so forth even today.”

* * *

“So what’s it like down there,, where she lives?” another now turns with a curious stare toward the ground.

“Oh, it really isn’t much different down there than it is up here,” First Person responds with little delay, “—except, that place being under her personal control, of course everything is perfect down there.”

* * *

“But why doesn’t our world simply fall on top of her and crush her?” someone else next inquires.

“Ah, well you see,” First Person now gropes for some reasonable answer, “she has this Great Elephant down there that she has specially made to hold everything up for her.”

“A male elephant, no doubt, for such a purely servile task,” the other puts in helpfully.

“Of course,” First Person quickly agrees.

* * *

“What I’d sure like to know is just how she manages to see down there without any light,” yet another now seeks this further information.

“Hm, did I forget to mention,” First Person responds after a brief coughing spell, “that she keeps the sun down there by night and the moon and stars by day—so that she really has no less light to see by than we do.”

* * *

“Well, I for one am wondering just how she manages to bring our food and everyone else’s up here,” someone else abruptly pushes on.

“Oh, she’s obviously much too busy to run such mere errands herself,” First Person shakes his head quickly, “—and so she made all these little beetles that you see around here to run them for her.”

“You mean that a little beetle can carry something as big as, say, a whole fruit?” another reacted in an incredulous tone.

“Now who said anything about all that?” First Person sighs with growing weariness. “I mean, obviously, she doesn’t give them the whole fruit, but only its seed; which they then carry to the surface, where the fruit tree will then grow—same as everything and everyone in this world has to grow up sometime, you know?”

* * *

“Are you saying that there’s some kind of passageway between our world and hers?” another promptly wonders, “—I mean, how else might the sun, moon, and so forth be able to pass to and from there?”

“Oh sure. That is, somewhere out there in the wilderness, there still lies—well, you know: this big, vulva-like Great Cavern from which all emerged from her divine womb in the beginning; while if one might only find that venerable orifice today, one would indeed see the sun, moon and so forth still passing to and fro.”

Scene 6

“Which reminds me,” one of the older men clears his throat somewhat sheepishly, as nearby, several youths are now overturning some stones in hope of espying a busy beetle, “does this grown woman have anyone at all down there with whom she might copulate? That is, it would seem to me that every adult needs this ordinary relieving activity once in awhile.”

“Oh, now I certainly can’t imagine her caring about all that,” First Person interrupts—suddenly feeling very uncomfortable at the thought of having to associate even his ultimate mother with sexual desire.

“And even if she might,” he concludes as nonchalantly as possible before the others, “I don’t know why such mere recreation on her part should be of any concern to us.”

Scene 7

“You know, I’d sure like to watch this Great Mother as she goes about making everything down there,” the old man who’d once been reluctant to move to the rear of the council approaches First Person next evening by the fire, “—for then just think: we men might find out just how she does it.”

“Oh, but I doubt whether she’d want us to find out,” First Person frowns. “I mean, you know how mothers are—she probably figures that if we, her children, were to become privy to her Great Secret, we’d only start playing around with it and ultimately make a mess of everything.”

* * *

But the other wasn’t put off so easily. “Last evening I heard you mention this lost cavern whence we all emerged in the Beginning,” he dismisses First Person’s response without comment, “—and so, do you have any idea where one might go looking for that primal grotto now?”

“Oh, no way,” First Person shakes his head stubbornly. “For she’s deliberately made all those other caverns that you see out there,” he continues after a moment, “so that anyone searching for the real one might only grow hopelessly confused.”

* * *

“But if one could find the real one?” the other moves on with obvious determination, “—might oner then not just re-enter that place?”

“Certainly not!” First Person recoils with obvious deep consternation. “That is, she’s also covered the entrance with this Great Stone that can’t be moved except by a special method that she alone knows: words, you’d have to know the right words.”

* * *

“Well, what if one of us cerebral types could figure them out?” the other persists with growing exasperation, “—might one finally not pass within?”

“Not if one values one’s life!” First Person glares at the other with mounting tension. “For then one would find that she’s also created this Great Panther—and I mean, a colossal beast whose hide is so thick that no spear might hope to penetrate it—as her ultimate defense against anyone who might have the nerve to come poking around her sacred orifice, looking to steal her Great Secret and subsequently tamper with this whole wonderful thing!”

* * *

“What whole wonderful thing?” the older man finally explodes, rising to his feet and glancing around the fire in hope of finding some support amidst First Person’s own generation. “Listen, while you were babbling about that poor, overworked elephant, hardly to mention all those harried beetles, I was thinking about a few things that no else seems to have noticed around here.”

And now breathing heavily with his own vision of it all, he continues, “For instance, we all know how from time to time the ground starts trembling and heaving, until all of a sudden things go tumbling over—sometimes causing some of us creatures to be killed. I mean, it seems to me that our ‘Divine Mother’ often treats us quite carelessly!

“And what about when our whole mountain blows up, turning the very slope beneath our feet molten and spewing flame and ash from somewhere down in that personal realm of hers, until at best, those of us who manage to survive find ourselves left with a terrible mess up here and precious little remaining foodstuff? Pretty clumsy of the Old Broad, wouldn’t you say—whatever she was trying to do down there.

“Or what about when the sun grows so hot that it dries up our whole world because You Know Who apparently forgot to mix in some cooling rain—or when she remembers to provide the rain, but then forgets to stop it, until in the end, we find ourselves surrounded by all this deep, impassable water?

“What about when certain plants that this all too irresponsible What’s-her-name sends us only turn out to make us sick—or worse? And the diseases that often victimize us; and the accidents that no truly attentive mother would ever allow her children to suffer? I mean, has it ever occurred to you that this all-powerful Ultimate Mother must also be the source of all our misfortune?

“And did I hear you say that she has imbued ordinary women with her great power?” he plunges on. “Because I’d say she botched that too—since we all know of women who can’t seem to conceive, want though they might; hardly to mention those whose share of her power is found to produce only miserably deformed young, when even live young at all!

“Oh, I could go on and on listing this Ultimate Bungler’s Great Failures,” the other now pants hard, “but the bottom line is that I for one find her mighty imperfect; and so I’ll de damned,” he spits defiantly, “if I’ll ever worship her.

“Rather, just lead me—man or not—to her secret power,” he finally demands as everyone else around the fire gapes at him in near-disbelief, “and see how much better I’d handle it!”

Scene 8

And First Person parted his lips to respond—but before he could utter a single word, others sprang to the Great Mother’s defense.

“She’s handling it just fine herself!” a young man nearby fairly screamed at the other amidst a general roar of indignation: how dare anyone impugn the mother?

“Why, no doubt she has some perfectly good explanation for all these little irregularities that you mention,” someone else quickly added, “—and her more devoted children will absolutely refuse to hear otherwise!”

And hauling him before the full council, they demanded that he immediately be driven into the wilderness, lest the Great Mother be offended by his further presence among them.

Scene 9

“Now then, just why does the ground sometimes tremble, the mountain blow up, and so forth?” one of the Great Mother’s more adoring offspring asks First Person next evening, after the outrageous one had finally departed and all was again calm around the fire.

“Well, it’s certainly none of the Great Mother’s fault,” First Person gulps.”

“No, the fact is,” he continues quickly, “the trembling of the ground is caused by the Great Elephant—since as you can imagine, it sometimes stumbles under its heavy load as it moves about to feed.

“And when the mountain blows up,” he declares, “it’s only because our Divine Mother has been offended by something up here and wants us to know of her displeasure.

“And then, when it comes to sickness, accidents and so forth—of course, those are just her way of punishing certain individuals who’ve offended her.

“And finally, regarding those problems with infants,” he takes a deep breath, “well, I must report that the Great Mother finds some of you women insufferably arrogant!

“And so she’ll sometimes withdraw her creative power from you; or cause you to bear imperfect young; or even take your perfect young back—that you might learn to behave more humbly before her.

“Really, you women need to be more careful about that,” he advises them cooly—and notes that they can but stare expressionlessly back at him without any sure rejoinder.

* * *

Then First Mother beckons to him and announces, “Indeed, you’d seem so wise regarding all these ‘ultimate’ matters that I think you should sit by me at the council and be my advisor, lest someday one of my decisions inadvertently offend the Great Mother and bring some terrible suffering upon us.”

“Oh, but you scarcely need my advice,” he began to protest earnestly—suddenly feeling very nervous.

“Now, now, don’t be so modest,” First Mother dismisses his protest with a firm wave of her hand, “—I think we all agree that our relationship with the Great Mother should be your personal responsibility.

“And make no mistake,” she warns him fairly in conclusion: “we don’t expect to find ourselves overtaken by any unforeseen problems with her!”


Okay, Gather ‘Round

  • We’re about ready to begin exploring not only the past and present world of the Great Mother, but various aspects of her figure in worldwide imagination.
  • In the process, we’re often going to be working with scholarly sources that simply list the names under which these aspects are distinguished by the world’s various peoples.
  • While some of her more important aspects —that is, those beheld almost worldwide—can easily exceed a hundred or even two hundred examples, we’ll seldom feel a need to mention more than a few dozen, save in cases where we want to emphasize the universal appeal of one. In other words, please bear in mind that the lists aren’t meant to be comprehensive.
  • Granted that most of our sources routinely refer to female deities and their various aspects, if any, as ‘goddesses’, we won’t be using that word here until after the word ‘god’ first comes into use toward the end of our journey; rather, for now we must be satisfied to speak of them as simply ‘deities’.

_________________________

  • Aakuluujjusi: the arctic region’s Inuit name for the Great Mother, who’s believed to have created and to still create the inland animals that the Inuit need in order to to survive
  • Acna: ancient Mesoamerican deity who name simply means ‘Our Mother’
  • Ararat: according to the ancient Anatolians, life was created from her bones and will be sustained forevermore by her flesh; yes, Mt. Ararat in the modern Caucasus region is named in her honor
  • Birrahgnooloo: some aboriginal Australians revere her as having planted all the world’s vegetation and fashioned its creatures, including themselves, from clay before ultimately breathing life into them
  • Gaia: the ancient Greeks’ ultimate mother of the world and everything in it; beheld as the common earth. The Romans called the same deity, with a few local modifications, Tellus.
1. Gaia/Tellus
Museo dell’Ara Pacis, Rome
  • Hutsipamamau’u: southern California’s Chemehuevis, the southernmost tribe of the Paiute people, traditionally think of the Ultimate One as an old grandmother and claim that she created the world from her own flaking skin
  • Kohkomhthena: the Great Mother’s Shawnee name; the most important figure in their religion
  • Nana Buluku: Fon people’s primal mother and Supreme Being of the Fon religion in West Africa
2. Nana Buluku
Private Collection
  • Sherida: early Sumerian Great Mother; one of the oldest known deities of ancient Mesopotamia

_________________________

Photo Credits

1: Pinterest http://ancientrome.ru/art/artworken/img.htm?id=4675

2: Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/pin/440930619758998609/?lp=true