Mother Earth

The Earth-goddess is widely celebrated with the title of 'mother'. In Hittite we find Mother Earth(-spirit) (annas Daganzipas) paired with the Storm-god of

35 Hertzenberg (as n. 31). For Damia cf. Hdt. 5. 82 f.; O. Kern, RE iv. 2054.

36 Detschew (1957), 429; U. Dukova, Orpheus 4 (1994), 7 f. The formation resembles the Phrygian zemelo-. The dialect variations in the first element of Dionysus' name (Aim-, Aio-, Aeo-, Zo-) resemble the variants in Thracian personal names (Aio-, Aeo-, Zi-, Zov-, etc.).

38 Rhesa (1825), 300; Schleicher (1857), 220 no. 10, cf. 221 no. 11; Usener (1896), 105; Mannhardt (1936), 357, 402, 532, etc.; Gimbutas (1963), 192; Biezais-Balys (1973), 454.

39 Chadwick (1932), 37. 8, 50. 4, 60. 39, 63. 64, etc.; 237. 12 (recorded in 1619); D. and K. Miladinovi, Balgarski narodni pesni (Sofia 1981), 201, 568. U. Dukova, Orpheus 4 (1994), 10, compares the Iranian goddess Aradvl Sura Anahita.

40 Gimbutas (1971), 169.

heaven (nebisas dU-as) (KBo xi. 32. 31). The Vedic Prthivl often has the epithet 'mother', especially when she is mentioned together with Dyaus the father. Greek poets call Ge 'the mother of all', 'mother of the gods', 'the all-mother' (nappyrwp, napprjreipa) and the like, or simply 'the mother'.41

There is another Greek goddess who has 'mother' incorporated into her name, much as 'father' is in the name of Jupiter. This is Demeter, in the older form of her name Aâpârnp, with a Lesbian variant Aœparnp. As the mistress of cereal crops she clearly had a close association with the earth, and some in antiquity made the equation Anpr^np = ry prr^p.42 The Aa-, however, cannot be explained from Greek. But there is a Messapic Damatura or Damatira, and she need not be dismissed as a borrowing from Greek; she matches the Illyrian Deipaturos both in the agglutination and in the transfer to the thematic declension (-os, -a). (It is noteworthy that sporadic examples of a thematically declined Anpr^pa are found in inscriptions.) Damater/ Demeter could therefore be a borrowing from Illyrian.43 An Illyrian Da- may possibly be derived from *Dhgh(e)m-.

In Asia Minor, to the north of Konya, there was a village with the remarkable name Gdanmaa or Gdammaua.44 It is generally seen as a compound, with the first element, Gdan-, representing a version of the Earth-goddess's name. It is surprising to encounter such a form in Anatolia, as it resembles neither the Hittite and Luwian nor the Phrygian reflexes of *dheghom. It may perhaps be Pisidian, since there are several Pisidian personal names beginning with Gda-. *Gdan could derive from earlier Anatolian *Dgan by a local metathesis. The second part of the compound may represent 'mother'.

In Armenian folklore the earth is the maternal element from which we are born. The supernatural Divs of legend, who represent the old gods, often refer to men as 'earth-born'.45

The Roman evidence for the idea of Earth as a mother is of doubtful weight. Where it occurs, it usually attaches to the name Terra, not Tellus, and it may be due to Greek influence.46

41 Hes. Op. 563, Hymn. Hom. 30. 1, 17, Solon fr. 36. 4, Aesch. Sept. 16, [Aesch.] Prom. 90, Soph. fr. 269a. 51, Eur. Hipp. 601, Hel. 40 (X0<w), fr. 182a, 839. 7, etc.; Dieterich (1925), 37-42.

42 Eur. Phoen. 685 f., cf. Bacch. 275 f.; Orph. fr. 302 K. = (398), 399 B.; E. Fraenkel on Aesch. Ag. 1072.

43 Hertzenberg (as n. 31), 96. The Lesbian Do- may simply reflect a different dialectal pronunciation of the non-Greek name; cf. Messapian Domatriax = Damatrias (Haas (1962), 180). The gemination of p in Thessalian Aappâreip is merely a regional peculiarity; see A. Thumb-A. Scherer, Handbuch der griechischen Dialekte, ii (2nd edn., Heidelberg 1959), 62.

44 MAMA 1. 339, 7. 589. It appears as EKSavpava in Ptol. Geogr. 5. 4. 10, as Egdaua on the Tabula Peutingeriana. Cf. O. Masson in Florilegium Anatolicum. Mélanges ... E. Laroche (Paris 1979), 245-7.

45 I take this from Dieterich (1925), 14, who had it from an Armenianist colleague.

Tacitus reports that the German tribes in general worship 'Nerthum, id est Terram matrem' (Germ. 40. 2). The clearest traces of Mother Earth in a Germanic source appear in an Anglo-Saxon ritual to be performed on ploughland that is unfruitful (ASPR vi. 117 f.). It contains four metrical prayers, superficially Christian but pagan in substance. The first contains the line 'I pray to Earth and Heaven above'. The second begins:

Erce Erce Erce, Eor^an modor, geunne se alwalda ece drihten scera wexendra and wridendra. Erce Erce Erce, Earth's mother, may the Almighty, the Eternal Lord, grant thee growing fields and flourishing.

Erce is evidently an old goddess; she is here titled the mother of Earth, but the following lines suggest identification with Mother Earth herself. The name may mean 'Bright' or 'Pure'.47 The third prayer, to be uttered as one ploughs the first furrow, runs:

Hal wes bu, Folde fara modor: bao bugrowende on Godes fe^me, fodre gefylled firum to nytte.

Hail, Earth, mother of men! Be thou fertile in God's embrace, filled with fodder for men's benefit.

Folde, which has a counterpart in Old Norse fyld, goes back to *plth2wa, 'the Broad One', and so is cognate with Prthivi and Plataia. Csdmon in his famous hymn praises God who created heaven as a roof for the children of men, clda barnum, or according to a variant that has the air of authenticity, for the children of Earth, eor5an bearnum.

In his account of the development of religion in the Prologue to the Prose Edda, Snorri writes that from the properties of the earth men reasoned that she was alive, 'and they realized that she was extremely old in years and mighty in nature. She fed all living things, and took to herself everything that died. For this reason they gave her a name, and traced their lineages to her.'

There is some scattered Celtic evidence. The Gaulish divine name Litavi- is perhaps, as Thurneysen suggested, a further example of ^Plth^a, 'the Broad One'.48 A goddess Ana is listed in Cormac's Glossary and explained as 'mater deorum Hibernensium'; she is said to feed the gods well. That she was the

47 Cf. Old High German erchan, Gothic airkns, Greek dpyos.

Earth is suggested by the name of a pair of hills east of Killarney, Da Chich Anann, 'the Two Breasts of Ana'.49

In Slavonic lore too Mother Earth is a well-established concept. I have referred above to her standing title of 'Mother Moist Earth'. It may be added that peasants of Volhynia and the forests of Belarus held it sinful to dig before 25 March, because at that period the earth is pregnant. She 'gives birth' to the trees and plants that grow on her.50

According to a Latvian song (LD 1224 = Jonval no. 835), vienas mates mes bernini, ne visiem viena laime. Of one mother we are (all) the children; not for all is there one fortune.

This strikingly recalls Pindar (Nem. 6. 1): 'The race of men is one, and of gods one; from one mother we both draw breath; but we are divided by totally differentiated ability'. The common mother is of course Earth. 'Mother Earth' does not appear as such in the Latvian material. In accord with the preference for the 'Mother-of title (above, p. 141), we find instead the 'Mother of Earth', Zemes mate. Her principal roles are controlling the fertility of the fields and presiding over the dead.51

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