Mothers

As male gods are in certain cases called Father, so are goddesses called Mother. In the Graeco-Aryan area, however, this is quite rare. The river Sarasvati in RV 2. 41. 16 is addressed as dmbitame, nddatame, devitame, 'most motherly, most torrently, most goddessly', and in the next line as amba, 'mother'. In post-Vedic popular religion a Mother (Mata or Amba) appears as the protecting goddess of a village. In Greece there is a Mother or Great Mother, but she is the Mother of the Gods, a deity of Near Eastern provenance,71 though she suffered syncretism with the Indo-European figure of Mother Earth. Demeter, whose name incorporates 'mother', was perhaps originally a form of Mother Earth (see p. 176), but in classical times she is a separate goddess, and her motherhood is understood in relation to her daughter Persephone, not to her human worshippers.

In the greater part of Europe, especially the west and north, Mothers are much commoner. It seems likely that this reflects the influence of a pre-Indo-European substrate population for whom female deities had a far greater importance than in Indo-European religion. The archaeologist Marija Gimbutas saw the Indo-Europeans as bringing a male-oriented religion into a goddess-worshipping 'Old Europe', and this reconstruction, based largely on iconic evidence, seems essentially sound.

Certain Illyrian and Messapic goddesses (some borrowed from Greek) have the title Ana or Anna, which is plausibly interpreted as 'Mother'.72 In Italy we

69 Usener (1896), 33-5. 70 Vendryes (1948), 266-71.

meet the Umbrian Cubra Mater and the Roman Mater Matuta, Mater Mursina, Luna Mater, Stata Mater, Iuno Mater, etc.73 Celtic and Germanic Matres, Matrae, or Matronae, as individuals or groups (especially groups of three), are extremely common.74 Many of the names attached to them are non-Indo-European.

In the Baltic lands too, especially in Latvia, we find many Mothers, but here they are Sondergottinnen, individuals each presiding over a specific area or function. In the Latvian folk-songs they proliferate: there is the Mother of wind, the Mother of fog, of forest, of flowers, of death, of the tomb, of the sea, of silver, of bees, and so on. It is evident that this was a secondary, local development. Usener notes that where the Lithuanians have Laukpatis 'Master of the Fields' and Vejopatis 'Master of the Wind', adhering to the old Indo-European *poti- formula, the Latvians have Lauka mate and Vgja maate.75

We must conclude that there was a scarcity of divine Mothers in the Indo-European pantheon. Perhaps Mother Earth was the only one.

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