Restoring Dea – Female Metaphor for Deity (Essay Part 3) by Glenys Livingstone Ph.D

This essay is the third part in a series of edited excerpts from chapter 3 of the author’s book,PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion.

She is grain/food

Halmang Bawi in Gangjeong Stream, Jeju Korea

Before She appeared in human form, there were stones, trees, pools, fruits and animals that She either lived in or were identified with Her or parts of Her. For many peoples the stones and rocks were Her bones, the vegetation Her hair. Poppies and pomegranates and other such many-seeded flora identified Her fertility and abundance. poppieGrain/food could represent Her. The earth itself was understood as Her belly, the mountains as places of refuge, caves providing shelter for the unborn and the dead. Primal peoples everywhere at some time understood Earth Herself as Divine One, Deity – Mother. They languaged this in different ways. The pre-Celtic indigenous Europeans named Her – the Land – as Lady Sovereignty.[1] In South-East Asia, where She has been known as Mago, Earth is Her Stronghold, the primordial home.[2] In Greece and in the West, She has been known as Gaia.


Owl-shaped urns, 3000-2500 B.C.E. Ref: Marija Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess, p.191.

Central to understanding the Female Metaphor, is understanding the sacredness of vessels, pots, containers. These objects were understood as representations of Her. Pots, urns, pitchers “made possible the long term storage of oils and grains; the transforming of raw food into cooked; … also sometimes used to store the bones and ashes of the dead.”[3] The vessel was felt as an extension of the female body that shaped life, carried the unborn, and provided nourishment. Kettle, oven, cauldron have to do with warmth and transformation; bowl, chalice and goblet are vessels of nourishment and their openness is suggestive of gift. The making and decorating of pottery was among the primordial functions of woman, often with taboos imposed on men to prevent them from going near. In later periods of human culture, in Eleusis, Rome and Peru and elsewhere the sacred vessels were supervised by the priestesses. The chalice was the holy Cup, felt as Her power to give life. Riane Eisler, in The Chalice and the Blade, compares the chalice’s power to give life with that of the blade, which is the power to take life, and develops how this was borne out culturally. In Christianity, woman was denied the right to handle the vessel as chalice – a ritual metaphor for the huge transition that had taken place in the human understanding; it was as if the female body no longer belonged to the female.

Water was a central Goddess abode, as it nourished and transformed, and also contained. She was identified with the water birds and ducks. As Bird Goddess She was the life giving force, nurturing the world with moisture, giving rain, the divine food – the very milk of Her breasts. So our ancestors frequently featured breasts set in rain torrents on the jars that they made.[4]

The tree as container and shelter, and also sometimes bearer of nourishment as in the fruit-bearing tree, was a central vegetative presence of Goddess. The figuring of such a tree in a negative context in later religious stories of humanity was not an arbitrary matter – this tree, particularly a fruit tree, was understood by the people of that time to be bearer of the Female Metaphor – Dea. The story was clearly a political statement, as many researchers now suggest …

For more Return to Mago E-Magazine

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