When Gods Were Mothers
There was a time when motherhood was so sacred that deity was The Goddess.
Even after patriarchy arose, complete with gods defeating goddesses, motherhood remained so valued that male gods sometimes became mothers.
Women: the source of life
It’s not surprising that deity was originally rendered as a goddess. Early peoples didn’t seem to realize that men played a role in procreation. Women birthed life so a goddess must have birthed the world.
Once people figured out the male role, the myths changed: The goddess (immaculately) conceived a son who grew up to become her lover and consort. From these two, worlds were born.
Patriarchy arises and gods overtake goddesses
Over time, agriculture was developed and planting cultures continued to worship both goddesses and gods. The goddesses Isis, Inanna and Ishtar were hugely important.
But in hunting societies male gods rose to higher status and power. Apparently, folks thought that men needed flattery and encouragement to take on the dangerous hunt, using hand spears.
But as warrior cultures overtook peaceful, gender-equal societies, gods became more important pretty much everywhere. But male gods sometimes also took on motherhood. Which speaks to the respect and status that giving birth once conferred. Like in these stories:
Ymir births son and daughter via armpits
In Norse mythology the world’s first creature is Ymir, who bears a son and daughter via his armpits.
Uranus mothers Aphrodite
According to Greek myth, the god, Kronos severed his father’s genitals and flung them into the sea. Hence, Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, arose from the foam of Uranus.
Zeus mothers Athena and Dionysus
In Greek mythology Zeus “planted his seed” in the goddess Metis. But he feared a prophecy warning that his children would become more powerful than he. So he swallowed Metis. Which created an enormous headache. Only a double headed ax implanted in his skull could relieve the pain. And out leapt Athena, fully grown and armed.
Zeus also impregnated a mortal woman, who demanded he reveal himself to prove his godhood. Zeus begged her to take back the request because mortals couldn’t witness undisguised gods without dying. She persisted and she perished. But not before Zeus rescued the unborn Dionysus and sewed him into his thigh — giving birth to him months later.
God the Father creates Adam. And from Adam comes Eve
In the Judeo-Christian Bible, God the Father gives life to humans.
One version of the creation story reads, “God created humans in God’s image, male and female” — suggesting that God is both male and female. But few people think of it that way. So we end up with God the Father — but no mother.
Next, God reached into Adam and pulled out a rib from which to form Eve. In that way, Adam took on the mother role.
Fathers bestow life. Mothers are mere incubators
The next step in the Hebrew tradition was for men to take on the life-giving role, rendering women mere incubators.
Hence, the spilling of semen for non-reproductive purposes was tantamount to murder: so no masturbation and no gay sex!
This belief continued into 18th-century Christianity, via the notion of preformationism, which claimed that only men give life. Women were just nurturers.
We mark Mother’s Day. Yet…
Nowadays it’s clear that mothers are not simply incubators or nurturers. And we revere our moms and mark their honor, especially on Mother’s Day.
Yet when women take on that role full-time, they tend to have less say in the home — deferring to husbands who bring in the bucks. And women’s mothering work is not always given equal weight in dividing assets at divorce. The man made the money so he gets the stuff — unless she made a concerted effort to protect her assets (in most states).
Really, isn’t creating life and raising the next generation just as important as breadwinning? It’s time to regain a greater sense of a mother’s worth!
Related Posts on BroadBlogs