Thoughts on Our Local God’s Birth

I wrote this back in 2006. Perhaps it needs a republication.

I am currently reading E.O. James “The Ancient Gods” (First published 1960). I set out hoping to find some information for my essay on the Flood. There is very little in this volume which will assist me. Just two mentions of the Biblical Flood and two more of the Mesopotamian Flood. He sets all of these in the 3rd millennium BCE. Sorry, Professor James, your chronology is more influenced by Bishop Usher than by the facts on the ground.

Still, there is always something to be learned in any book. I actually learned a lot about life from Alice in Wonderland. And Physics. I learned, from one of the illustrations in my edition of Alice, that girls can fall great distances safely. Their dress acts as a parachute. Even now, I believe in fallen girls – – –

But I digress!

James raises an interesting fact about early Mesopotamian and Egyptian Gods and Goddesses. He quotes Langdon (Tammuz and Ishtar, 1914) on the importance of male Gods depending on the importance of the cities where their chief cult was based. Yet behind all the citied Gods was a prehistoric belief in the female.

The birth cult was brought into step with the seasonal cycle and its vegetative sequence in agricultural societies in Mesopotamia, Egypt, possibly the Indus region and as far afield as North Eastern China. Here the Goddess was often found, not with a consort, but with a son. So that, according to Langdon, in prehistoric times there was a divinity in which the female predominated.

This Earth Goddess was conceived as the generative power in nature and so she became responsible for the Spring renewal of life after the death of the year in a Winter. She was multi-formed in her being, both mother and bride. She became known by many names and epithets ranging from Inanna, Ishtar, Aruru, to Gaia and Rhea. One key to her effect in a society was the co-existence of her son, the major God of the region.

The cultus of the “Goddess and Son” was widespread in ancient times and only came to an end with the spread of Christianity with its Trinity of male God(s). I find it passing strange that James does not mention that one member of that Trinity had a mother. Or that that mother has become known as “The Mother of God”.

Is the biblical Mary simply the continuance of an ancient religious tradition which dates back to the beginnings of agriculture and possible even further? Is there an unconscious matriarchal tradition which has been hidden by the patriarchal religions of Rome, Greece and Jerusalem. Yet the need to acknowledge the generative and regenerative forces within the nature of which we are a part, ensures that it appears in all societies through a form of racial or species memory.

Perhaps the primal and unconscious urge to worship is not the urge to worship the male, but urge to worship the female.

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