We still talk about Mother Earth. She’s a mom in a lot of religious traditions, not just that of the ancient Greeks, and it is also true that there are plenty of earth-related mother-affiliated goddesses in the Classical and pre-Classical pantheon who weren’t the Earth’s personification. But when Mahud, of Between Old and New Moons, suggested doing a synchroblog on Landscapes and Mythology, Gaia seemed to be the appropriate goddess to discuss.
A powerful Gaia does not seem to fit into the heady, patriarchal world embodied by philosophers like Plato and Aristotle and ruled by male gods from their heavenly thrones on Mt. Olympus. As goddesses go, she was much less about the adventuring and talking, and much more about the Being. She was, literally, Earth. Her name, in its various grammatical forms, is the word Earth whether you are attempting to be religious or not. To put it another way: she doesn’t necessarily have a personality because it is more important that she IS the earth, than that she be an actor in stories.
In fact, the only stories in which Gaia plays a really active role are pre-human, namely the creation myths wherein the power of heaven is passed from father to son to grandson, all through the machinations of Gaia and her daughter Rhea. When the story begins, it is a powerful Gaia - a goddess with opinions and the ability to give birth without the aid of a male - who is determining the course of the world. Then her partner tries to stunt that power by stuffing their children back into her womb. She wasn’t having it, and Aphrodite is born from her erstwhile lover’s severed sexual bits. Then, when Rhea and Cronos were more in charge (put there by Gaia), Cronos tries to swallow all of their children. Again, the mother goddesses weren’t having it and they overthrew Cronos and passed the reins to Zeus. When he felt threatened by the same cycle - what with having children stronger than he by virtue of a hardcore mama - he not only swallowed the child, he swallowed the mother. Athena, the product of that union, was very strong but her lack of mother kept her from challenging her father even when he transgressed against the mothers’ wishes (stuffing Gaia’s children back into Tartarus, for example). And Zeus was now doing what only Gaia could do when this started: having babies all by himself. And the cycle ended.
Outside of this creation myth, we rarely see Gaia enter stories, let alone take as active a role as castrater or King-maker. And that is because it is in this story that Zeus, as the leader of the Classical pantheon, usurps the power of reproduction, or fertility, and yes, even of the land itself.
Other participants in this synchroblog on mythology and the land include:
The Aquila ka Hecate (King and the Land are One)
Symbolic Landscapes of the Norse Mythology (A. Venefica’s Weblog)
Executive Pagan (Nature and Me)
Manzanita, Redwoods and Laurel (The Importance of Local Landscapes)
the dance of the elements (landscape and mythology)
Druid’s Apprentice (Landscape Synchroblogging)
Quaker Pagan Reflections (Gone Away)
Pitch313 (Transcendental Experience Out Of Doors Opens The Gateway To Magic )
Between Old and New Moons