Nature, Our Mother
by Donna Henes
In the beginning, there was woman. And she was versatile. She breathed, she stretched, she strode, she sat, she foraged, she trapped, she planted, she cooked, she ate, she bled, she danced, she laughed, she slept, she dreamed, she played, she prayed. She made art, she made ceremonies, she made love, she made babies. Our modern minds automatically make a connection between these last two activities. But this is only a relatively recent conception, if you’ll pardon my pun.
Woman, like the female of every species, produces young. And she appears to do so with out any particular help. Parthenogenic. Of course, we now know that this feat is accomplished with a certain modest participation by the male, but the outcome of copulation was not always apparent. What was perfectly clear and obvious, was that she was somehow able to fashion from herself the stuff of life. To bear from her own blood and body a new generation. And, as if that wasn’t wondrous enough, she could also manufacture the substance of sustenance so that she could continue to nurture her consummate creations.
She was prolific, capable of repeating the entire miraculous process again and again. In fact it was — and still is in large parts of the world today — quite common for a woman to wean one child only to immediately conceive the next. Our own grandparents commonly came from families with eight, ten, twelve children. Mme. Vassilet, a nineteenth century Russian peasant is the undefeated record holder in the World Fertility Cup. It is well documented that her twenty-seven full term pregnancies produced sixty-nine children, most of whom grew to adulthood. She gave birth to sixteen pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets and four sets of quadruplets. Mother Vassilet was well known in her time and was honored at the imperial court of Czar Alexander II.
Is this not the way of Nature Herself? Does She not constantly produce and provide? Reproduce and recycle? Engender and embrace? The Earth is alive with the fruit of Her fecundity —inconceivable multitudes of animals, vegetables and minerals. There are more than a million species of animals, 4,000 species of mammals alone. There are more than 350,000 species of plants, 100,000 species of fungi, 100,000 species of protista (algae and the like) and 10,000 species of monera, including bacteria. Each species made up of how many families, how many individuals?
Nature, then, must be female: Mother Nature, Mother Earth. Father Earth was a totally nonexistent concept and has forever remained so. I have never heard, read or dreamed even one reference to him. Have you? Herodotus wrote that all of the known names for the Earth were female. “Nature is our mother,” the Latin proverb proclaims. The Gypsies say, “The Earth is our mother. . .the secret of life comes from the ground.” Asase Ya is the Earth Mother of the African Ashanti. They tell, “We got everything from Asase Ya, food, water: we rest upon Her when we die.”
The land is a mother that never dies.
Humankind, in its infancy, clung to the primal comprehension of a maternal Earth, in the same way that any completely dependent child hangs onto her mother’s hip. The reality of our utter reliance incontrovertible, we held on for dear life.
Until only five, six thousand years ago, the archetypal Great Mother, creatrix of all existence, matriarch of the races of god/desses, reigned supreme everywhere. Homer sang her praises, “I shall sing of Gaia, Universal Mother, firmly founded, Oldest of all the Holy Ones.” Foremost in all early religions, She was personified and identified in many ways, but always everywhere She was regarded with reverence and deference as a living mother.
But now, we, her naughty children, have managed to deface Her every surface and sully her beneficent life-giving gifts. Have we no shame? Like bad seed, humankind seems hell-bent on matricide. Unless we — the Mothers, the Grandmothers, the Queens — have our say and demand our way. It is up to us. We have the whole world in our hands.