Neat stuff. As long as warfare has existed women have only had two choices in warfare, fight and be considered a man or not and be considered a spoil. Not a great pair of options.
This I have been sitting on for awhile. Below is a listing of some of the more important fertility deities, grouped by geography. If one starts with China and assumes a diffusion from that point over time, then the initial letter of deities’ names change by a predictable pattern; it moves along the plosive consonant chart. Generally in English, that is q->g->k->d->t->b->p. So the Chinese gods Nu-Kua and Kui begin with a phonetic “q”. Hindu gods begin with “g”, and have “k”. The fact that the names there continue up through “b” suggests that prehistoric India was inundated with several waves of fertility goddesses over a long period of time. History would support this conclusion. Their Greek cousins similarly had “g”, and “t” in their fertility goddesses, and several examples of the slightly off line “th”. Celts had “t”.
The Fertile Crescent had a “k”, while the next generation had “t” and the initial consonant was absent in another goddess. As one would expect, Egypt has the early “g” and slightly later “k”. Among the older cultures of Europe, the Basque have a “k” and the Etruscans a “t”.
The concept of a fertility goddess appears to have traveled in other directions as well. The Inuit have fertility beings beginning with a soft “g” and a “p”. Going south, the Polynesians have a “k” and “t”.
It should be said that listing below is not comprehensive of all the gods of every pantheon. On the other hand, I could easily add twice this number to a list if I was willing to account for other factors in consonant shifting. I think the data below stands well on its own, no need to complicate things.
What does it mean? The neat answer is that the concept of Mother Earth is a universal one that was developed through millennia of trade and given a standard name before the break up of trade routes with the development of martial regions in the fifth millennium. The honest answer is simply that what is summed up below represents something very interesting in the early development of human culture.
Hindu Sumeria Inuit Other
Gauri Ki Pinga Ekhi (Basque)
Kala Pana Tinia (Etruscan)
Kali Babylonian Yhi
There seems to be no blogs dealing with the concept of a universal goddess that isn’t drenched in feminist propaganda that overwhelms the subject or some sort of retaliation to that propaganda. That’s a shame, this is potentially a very interesting subject.
It is a common misperception that the Celts had an Underworld, a place of the dead. The fact is that the Celts believed in reincarnation, and that the time between lives was spent in the unpleasant Tech Duin. Those gods normally associated with the Underworld are nothing of the sort, nothing more than misperceptions based on our own views of the world. For instance, Pwyll of the Mabinogion seems to be no more than a king who travels from one world to the next. Manawydan, a Welsh god, is the eponym for part of Lothian and the island of Man. He is more closely related to the sea than the dead.
The confusion is due to Celtic mythology’s complexity. The mythologies of Greece, Rome, and the Norse as they have come down to us have been simplified and systematized by the likes of Bulfinch and Snorri Sturlsson. The Celts had no one like that. As a result their mythology is more difficult to follow and often inconsistent. Irish myth held that their gods were only the second most recent of five invasions by supernatural beings, the Tuatha de Danaan. These beings had residences similar to the gods of other mythologies, on mountains, in the sea, and what not.
But the enemies of the Tuatha de Danaan responded differently. In Norse myth, the enemies of the gods were still active and needed to be constantly subdued. In Greek myth, the Titans were brought to Tartarus once they were beaten. The Irish believed that once defeated, the Tuatha de Danaan’s foes hid using their magic. Their sanctuaries were apart from the world the Celts knew, magical and hidden. It was these Other Worlds to which heroes often went, the realms of fairies and the other creatures of myth.
Because they were places of hiding, it comes as no surprise that the Otherworld had so many geographical locations. For the Celts they were the hills of the countryside, the islands to the west, and the darkest places in the forest. To get an idea of what the Celts imagined, think of a Guillermo del Toro movie such as Hellboy II or Pan’s Labyrinth. These mysterious, magical people lived in magical places that confounded the Celt’s concepts of space.
In the British Isles there dwelled leprechauns, fairies, elves, and dozens of other perfectly civilized beings of shrunken size. These all lived in worlds other than those humans could see. None of their worlds are actually named, so it’s impossible to know if they all lived in the same Otherworld or different ones.
What I find fascinating is the make-up of the world or worlds themselves. The older stories about them always had rulers who gave opulent feasts and royal entertainment for guests that far outdid anything to be found in the human world. But what I’ve found interesting are the occasional hints at magic/superior technology. A mist conceals the entrance through which no human can see, occasionally a glass boat takes the knight there. Time moves at an accelerated pace. Fairies can fly. Otherwise there is the distinctive feel of something well beyond human abilities or technology, though nothing specific is said. For the Celts these were superior beings not to be trifled with in our world. To go into theirs was to court disaster.
Celtic mythology was designed a little bit differently than other cosmologies the West is familiar with. There were no consistent interactions between gods and humans as with the Greeks. Celtic Gods did not regularly visit and seduce mortals, nor did they interfere with their wars, kings, or anything else.
Nor were they quite so standoffish as the Norse. Their entire careers were not spent waiting on and undermining the strategies of their enemies. They didn’t do battle with their supernatural enemies like Thor or spy on them like Odin. It is not uncommon for humans and gods to interact, it just isn’t common, either.
Instead, Celtic gods were somewhere in the middle. They had their own homes, their own lives, and they seem to have been involved in the lives of Celts only when they were needed. I have in previous blogs mentioned Medb, who served as the goddess of Connaught. There is also the story of Conn being given the kingship by Lugh. In the ancient past many of the gods had been kings of the earthly realms. Myth has it they retired to their own world with the migration of the Irish people.
Nor were the homes of the Celtic gods easy to find, as was the case with both the Greeks. In this they were more like the Norse. There was only one way to enter the Otherworld; a person had to follow an animal who was from there. These beings were easy to spot but extremely rare. They could be distinguished by one curious trait; their bodies were white and the tips of their ears were red.
Stories about these animals leading heroes into the Otherworld abound in Celtic myths. Gwynn’s hounds had the Otherworld markings, as did the hart they were chasing. In the Arthurian world, it’s often a deer hunt, or a “hunt for a white hart” that leads a hero to the Otherworld. Lanval meets his queen in this manner. Gawain’s adventures with the supernatural begin in “The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Lady Ragnell”, “Sir Gawain and the Carle of Carlisle”, and “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” with a deer hunt. The holy grail quest and episodes within the many stories often use the white hart as a part of the symbolism of the grail.
In time the deer hunt became a stock motif, a means of getting the warriors out of the castle so that they could find new adventures. But in Celtic myth it was always a journey into the Otherworld that served as an introduction to these adventures anyway.