Instead of looking up to the skies for the Creator, look underfoot. Gaia is Earth and Gaia is the Goddess. In the beginning, before anything existed, there was Chaos; the void. Gaia, the Earth, emerged from Chaos and formed the sea (Pontus) and the sky (Uranus) from her own body. Thus begins an ancient Greek creation saga. It is the point from which virtually every general Greek mythology book begins.
• Hesiod’s version of Creation skips right over the part with Chaos and starts with Gaia.
• Gaia is praised in the Homeric Hymns to Ge as the oldest of divinities.
Gaia and Uranus become lovers and generate more beings (the Titans and Cyclopes, for instance). Following their separation, Gaia begat more children with Pontus. Gaia is literally the Earth: you can stand on her, but she is an active goddess with a personality, too. She is not a goddess of agriculture (that’s Demeter). Instead she is the spirit of the wild, sacred Earth containing untold treasure and potential.
Gaia is devoted to all her children, accepting them as they are, unlike the many fathers (Uranus, Kronos, Zeus) of Greek mythology who prey upon their heirs and seek to suppress them. Gaia battles with gods on behalf of her children.
This mythic Gaia is based on the cosmologies of Greece and southern Italy, regions highly prone to earthquakes, where Earth is experienced as an active, living presence. She is not static or motionless but very much alive. Earthquakes may be perceived as expressions of divine anger, but they also physically resemble birthing contractions. I lived at the epicenter of the 1994 Northridge, California, earthquake just four months after giving birth and can personally vouch for the resemblance between aftershocks and labour contractions.
Gaia is an ever-present spirit of justice. She is never absent. Greek citizens swore public oaths to her. Shrines were dedicated to her; they were built near deep chasms, believed to be the most accessible place to communicate with her. Her shrines were associated with oracles such as those at Delphi, Athens, and Aegae (Macedonia). Delphi was the most famous oracle of the ancient world: Gaia’s priestesses, known as pythonesses, prophesied after inhaling vapors emerging from a fissure in Gaia. Essentially, they spoke directly with her. The oracular spirit Apollo staged a coup, slaying the shrine’s sacred serpent and installing himself as deity in charge. However, even after Delphi was rededicated to Apollo, the pythoness began her formal address to the deities with the words, “First in my prayer before all other deities, I call on Earth, primeval prophetess.”
The Greek-influenced Russian Church officially places Gaia under the dominion of the Creator. According to a Russian folk legend, Gaia complained bitterly to the Creator about the pain humanity causes her. The Creator advised her not to cry as “in the end, you’ll eat them all.”
ALSO KNOWN AS:
Ge (as in geology or geography)
Earth is her body; all of Gaia is sacred, but her place of utmost power is Delphi, her navel chakra.
Traditionally Gaia was given simple primeval foods like barley cakes and honey, as well as libations of pure water; offerings may be given at any time but are especially important before plants are gathered or when there is to be digging and extraction; place offerings in small holes directly in Earth.
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.