Sky And Earth As A Pair

In the lengthy lists of deities invoked as witnesses to Hittite treaties, 'Heaven and Earth' regularly appear as a pair. They do not, to be sure, stand in a position of any prominence but in the middle of the closing sequence of cosmic entities: 'Mountains, Rivers, Springs, the Great Sea, Heaven and Earth, Winds and Clouds'.61

The Vedic evidence is of much greater mythological interest. Here Dyaus the father is frequently paired with Prthivi the mother.

Diyaus pitah, Prthivi matar adhrug.

O Heaven (our) father, Earth (our) guileless mother. (RV 6. 51. 5)

Dyaus ca nah pita Prthivi ca mata.

Heaven is our father and Earth our mother. (AV Paipp. 5. 21. 1)

Cf. RV 1. 89. 4, 164. 33, 191. 6; 6. 70. 6; AV Paipp. 2. 64. 3. They are called 'parents of the gods' (devaputre, literally 'having gods for sons', RV 1. 106. 3, 159. 1, al.), 'the former-born parents' (purvaje pitara, 7. 53. 2), 'the parents good of seed' (suretasa pitara, 1. 159. 2, cf. 6. 70. 1). They are good of seed because from their union all things grow. Dyaus' seed is more specifically the rain (1. 100. 3; 5. 17. 3), with which he fertilizes the earth.

In Greek epic formula Zeus is 'the father of gods and men'; Earth, as we have seen, is celebrated as 'the mother of the gods' or 'mother of all'. However, the two of them do not make a couple as Dyaus and Prthivi do. The ancient pairing has been broken up. We see why. As Zeus developed into something much more than the deified Sky, his place as primeval father of the gods and consort of Earth was transferred to Ouranos, a new personification made from the ordinary classical word for 'sky'. A theogonic scheme was worked out (as in Hesiod) in which Ouranos and Gaia, Heaven and Earth, are the primeval parents, while Zeus is born only in the third generation. His traditional title 'father of gods and men' survived in spite of this. The old designation of the gods as Celestials was also maintained (or reinvented) after the loss of the word *deiwos, by calling them the Ovpaviwves (Il. 1. 570, 5. 373, etc.).

In Hesiod the union of Ouranos and Gaia is put in the distant past. The amputation of Ouranos' genitals by Kronos put a stop to it. The oriental myth of the castration is incompatible with the Vedic picture of Heaven's impregnation of Earth as a continuing process whose effects we witness. But

61 Gurney (1977), 5; Beckman (1999), 29, 52, 58, 63, 68, 92, 121.

this picture reappears in the tragedians. In a famous fragment from Aeschylus' Danaids (44) Aphrodite describes how, under her influence, Ouranos and Chthon/Gaia are seized by mutual desire for sexual intercourse; the rain falls, Earth conceives, and brings forth pasture, cereal crops, and foliage. The passage is echoed more than once by Euripides (frs. 839, 898, 941). But in fr. 839 he replaces Ouranos by AOs Aldrp, Zeus' Air, whom he then calls 'progenitor of men and gods', giving Zeus' title back to the Sky-god; and in fr. 941 the speaker instructs that the boundless aldrp that holds earth in its moist embrace is actually identical with Zeus.

If Zeus is not Gaia's standard consort, he is Demeter's and Semele's. We have seen that both of these are likely to have been in origin manifestations of the Indo-European Mother Earth, adopted by the Greeks from neighbour peoples. Demeter in union with Zeus gives birth to Persephone, who is intimately associated with the growth of crops. Semele has a more electrifying encounter with the Sky-god: she is struck by lightning. Her child, Dionysus, is again a deity much involved with fertility and growth.

Pherecydes of Syros in his idiosyncratic, half-mythical, half-philosophical cosmogony described a wedding between two primal deities, Zas and Chthonie. Chthonie changed her name to Ge when Zas married her and clothed her in a robe embroidered with a map of the world. 'Zas' seems to be a conflation of Zeus and the Anatolian weather-god Santa or Sandon. Pherecydes had a father with the Anatolian name of Babys, and he may perhaps have drawn on Anatolian as well as Greek myth for his inspiration.

The Scythians, according to Herodotus (4. 59), considered Earth to be the wife of Zeus. Their name for Zeus was Papaios, meaning perhaps 'Father' (see above), and for Earth Apia (variant reading: Api). It would be nice if this meant 'Mother', but we have no ground for thinking so. We can only guess at its etymology. One possibility may be 'Kindly One', a cognate of Vedic api-'friend' and Greek rfntos 'gentle, kindly'.

The formal parallelism between the names of the Illyrian Deipaturos and the Messapic (Illyrian) Damatura may favour their having been a pair, but evidence of the liaison is lacking.62

Tellus Mater is invoked together with Jupiter in a consecration-prayer recorded by Macrobius (3. 9. 11), and for literary purposes by Varro (De re rustica 1. 1. 5):

Primum (inuocabo), qui omnis fructos agri culturae caelo et terra continent, Iouem et Tellurem: itaque, quod ii parentes magni dicuntur, Iuppiter pater appellatur, Tellus {terra} mater.

First (I will invoke) the ones who delimit all the fruits of agriculture with sky and earth, Jupiter and Tellus—and so, as they are said to be the great parents, Jupiter is called Father and Tellus Mother.

It is doubtful whether this coupling has genuine ancient roots in Roman religion.63

Snorri, in the passage cited earlier where he calls Odin 'father of all gods and men', states that It^rö, Earth, was his daughter and his wife. As we have said, Odin cannot be directly identified as a sky-god: rather he has stepped into an older scheme in which the Sky became father of gods and men in marriage to the Earth.

Another Germanic echo of the myth is to be seen in that Old English ploughing prayer, also cited earlier, where Earth, addressed as mother of men, is exhorted to become fertile—that is, pregnant— on Godes fapme, in God's embrace. The Christian God here takes the place of the old Sky-god. The prayer may have an Indo-European pedigree, as the association of ploughing with magical-religious ritual must go back to its very beginnings.64 As the farmer ploughed his first furrow he would utter the simple prayer that Mother Earth with the aid of Father Sky might bring forth a heavy crop. The Greek version is recorded by Hesiod (Op. 465-9):

Pray to Zeus of the Earth and pure Demeter for Demeter's holy grain to ripen heavy, at the beginning of ploughing when you take the stilt in your hand and come down with a stick on the oxen's back as they pull the yoke-peg by the strapping.

Here again the earth-goddess is coupled with the sky-god, even if he is now understood as a Zeus of the Earth (Chthonios), that is, Zeus operating in the earth.65

64 I note in passing that nakedness once had a ritual potency in connection with ploughing and sowing. According to Hesiod (Op. 388-93), 'this is the rule of the land . . .: naked sow and naked drive the oxen, and naked reap, if you want to bring in Demeter's works all in due season, so that you have each crop grow in season'. Pliny (HN 18. 131) reports a belief that one should sow turnips naked, with a ritual prayer. 'Aus Deutschland ist an mehreren Stellen die Sitte bezeugt, daß der Bauer nackt die Saat bestellen muß. Um das Ackerfeld gegen die Vögel zu schützen, begab sich in Siebenbürgen der Bauer vor Sonnenaufgang aufs Feld, und schritt, nachdem er sich nackt ausgezogen hatte, das Vaterunser betend, dreimal um das Feld herum; dasselbe tat auch der dänische Bauer auf der Insel Fünen' (de Vries (1956), i. 290). In times of drought Hindu women still perform a naked ploughing: Frazer (1911-36), i. 282-4; reported from Uttar Pradesh, the Guardian, 27 August 1979; from Nepal, Daily Telegraph, 12 August 2002 (the husbands were shut indoors with the windows closed).

65 For Indic ploughing prayers, which are not so similar, cf. AV 3. 17, 24; 6. 142; TS 4. 2. 5. 5 f.; 5. 2. 5. 1-4; Oldenberg (1917), 258; Hillebrandt (1927-9), ii. 199-202.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

If Pregnancy Is Something That Frightens You, It's Time To Convert Your Fear Into Joy. Ready To Give Birth To A Child? Is The New Status Hitting Your State Of Mind? Are You Still Scared To Undergo All The Pain That Your Best Friend Underwent Just A Few Days Back? Not Convinced With The Answers Given By The Experts?

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment