International Mother Earth Day is coming up!
The United Nations will be hosting International Mother Earth Day on 22nd April 2023. The UN celebrates this observance through the Harmony with Nature initiative, a platform for global sustainable development that celebrates annually an interactive dialogue on International Mother Earth Day. Topics include methods for promoting a holistic approach to harmony with nature, and an exchange of national experiences regarding criteria and indicators to measure sustainable development in harmony with nature.
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As humans, our connection with the Earth is inescapable. For 200,000 years, our ancient ancestors depended on the lands in which they lived to survive and thrive. Much like the other creatures of Earth, they tuned in to the cycles of nature in order to get by; the solar year, the lunar phases, animal migration patterns and the tides. Food, water, shelter; all of it was necessary to survive and all of it was a gift from the Earth. Is it any wonder that the earliest religions may have incorporated the worship of a Great Mother, perhaps the Earth herself?
The most archaic form of the Earth Mother transcends all specificity and sexuality. She simply produces everything, inexhaustibly, from herself. She may manifest herself in any form. In other mythological systems she becomes a more limited figure. She becomes the feminine Earth, consort of the masculine sky; she is fertilized by the sky in the beginning and brings forth terrestrial creation. Even more limited reflections of the Earth Mother occur in those agricultural traditions in which she is simply the Earth and its fertility.
The Earliest Earth Known Goddess: Dhéǵhōm
In the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European cosmology, the sky father Dyēus was the deified daylight sky. His likely consort was Dhéǵhōm, the earth mother. Whereas Dyēus was light and associated with the heavens, Dhéǵhōm was dark and dwelled in the realm of mortals.
She was the giver of all life, and also the receiver of everything that died. Thus, Dhéǵhōm was linked with both fertility and growth, as well as decay and death.
Archaeological discoveries such as the Venus of Hohle Fels, (dated between 40,000 and 35,000 years ago) and other Venus figurines point to the possible worship of a prehistoric Mother Goddess who represented fertility and reproduction.
Hòu tǔ is the Chinese Queen of the Earth, and the deity of deep earth and soil. In one of her myths, she saved many lives by correcting the flow of water during the Great Flood of China. Hou T’u, in Chinese mythology, the spirit of the earth, first worshipped in 113 BCE by Wudi, a Han-dynasty emperor. In the latter part of the 14th century Hou Tu, became a female deity. Modern temples thus enshrine the image of a woman who is known as Hou Tu Nainai.
The Gaelic deity Litavis was most likely an earth goddess. Her name has been found in inscriptions in which she is invoked alongside the god Cicolluis (linked with Mars, Tîwaz, and Týr).
In Ancient Greek Mythology, Gaia (also spelled Gaea) was the primordial mother of all life and the personification of Earth. She birthed Ouranos (Uranus, the sky), then with him bore the Titans. She also gave birth to the sea, Pontus, from whose union she bore the primordial sea gods. Gaia was depicted in ancient artwork as matronly and “wide-bosomed,” sometimes only half-risen from the earth.
The Roman counterpart of Gaia was Terra Mater, (literally Earth Mother), also called Tellus, was concerned with the productivity of the earth and was later identified with the mother-goddess Cybele. She was primarily celebrated during agricultural festivals and fertility festivals, often alongside Ceres. The Ancient Romans may have invoked Terra during certain rites of passage, such as the birth of a child. Her temple on the Esquiline Hill dated from about 268 BC. Though she had no special priest, she was honoured in the Fordicidia and Sementivae festivals, both of which centred on fertility and good crops.
Jörð is the personification of the earth in the Old Norse religion, and the mother of the god Thor. Her name translates literally to “land” or “earth,” and is sometimes used as a kenning (a type of figurative language popular in Old Norse writings) in skaldic poetry.
The Roman historian Tacitus likened the Germanic goddess Nerthus to Terra Mater or Mother Earth. In his book Germania, he described a ritual in which a consecrated chariot drawn by female cattle was driven from a sacred grove through the countryside, followed by days of feasting. This may have occurred on the island of Zealand in Denmark. Nerthus is usually identified as a Vanir goddess in Norse mythology.
Žemyna is the mother goddess of the polytheistic Lithuanian religion. She personifies the fertile earth, and nourishes all human, animal, and plant life. Worshippers may have sacrificed baked bread and animal bones. Her consort was either Perkūnas, the thunder god, or Praamžius, the sky god.
Among the Aztecs of Central Mexico, the name of the Sacred Mother was Tonantzin. She was also regarded as the Goddess of Sustenance, the Honored Grandmother, and the Mother of Corn.
To the Incas, the indigenous peoples of the Andes, she was Pachamama: the fertility goddess who sustains all life on earth, presides over harvests, embodies the mountains, and has the ability to cause earthquakes. According to mythology, Pachamama was the mother of the sun god and the moon goddess.
In Māori mythology, Papatūānuku was the earth mother who created the world with the sky father Ranginui. Their children, the gods, were born into a world of darkness, as Papatūānuku and Ranginui were locked in a tight embrace. The gods forced their parents apart, and to this day the sky father’s tears fall towards Papatūanuku in grief, and she sometimes shifts and stretches in an attempt to break free.
When Mother Earth sends us a message
Mother Earth is clearly urging a call to action. Nature is suffering. Oceans filling with plastic and turning more acidic. Extreme heat, wildfires and floods, have affected millions of people. Even these days, we are still facing COVID-19, a worldwide health pandemic linked to the health of our ecosystem.
Climate change, man-made changes to nature as well as crimes that disrupt biodiversity, such as deforestation, land-use change, intensified agriculture and livestock production or the growing illegal wildlife trade, can accelerate the speed of destruction of the planet.
With his touring installation Gaia, artist Luke Jerram aims to inspire peple to look after the earth.
He says, “I hope visitors to Gaia get to see the Earth as if from space; an incredibly beautiful and precious place. An ecosystem we urgently need to look after – our only home. Halfway through the Earth’s sixth mass extinction, we urgently need to wake up, and change our behaviour. We need to quickly make the changes necessary, to prevent run away Climate Change.”
Energy Heroes provides resources and workshops for Primary Schools, to help educate pupils about climate change and energy efficiency through a range of context-rich Maths, Science, English, Geography and Art lessons.