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Guest Post: Makosh vs Moist Mother Earth

Traditional Ukrainian embroidery, T. Vitta’s personal collection. Photo by G. Krasskova. Do not use without permission.

While our House does not practice Rodnovery (1), given that two of us have strong Slavic backgrounds (the author of today’s piece actually having been born and raised in the Ukraine), it was perhaps inevitable that the occasional Slavic Deity would creep into individual devotional practices (2). For instance, our guest writer today, T. Vitta, has a deep devotion to Moist Mother Earth and when a mutual friend asked about the relationship between this ancient Power and the Goddess Mokosh, it provided an opportunity for T.V. to explore her understanding of these two Deities. I found her words inspiring and asked permission to share them here. She agreed with the caveat that this reflects her understanding and practice. One should always note that there is the possibility for distinctive regional cultus to develop in many different ways (and such most certainly happened as a matter of course in the pre-Christian world), and as part of that, syncretism may also happen. This is always a given point of understanding undergirding her approach. There is obviously a deep working relationship between these two Deities, at the very least, and she acknowledges that this can take forms for other devotees of which she herself is heretofore unaware. 

Mokosh and Moist Mother Earth

By T. Vitta

Moist Mother Earth is much much older than Makosh (3). She is ever present, in Russian fairy tales, embedded in Russian language so strongly. She is a matter of course a part of Russian swears, Russian promises, and an inescapable part of Russian speech.  I sometimes listen to my parents and their friends, but more often Russian movies and Russian documentaries and smile at how expressions are littered with Her, in ways that tell you plainly who She is – very often without people giving full credence to what they are saying. 

If there has ever been a human bodily representation of Her, I have never seen one or found one, not in writings and not in archaeological findings. I don’t believe She has ever taken human form, not from what I have seen, read, or experienced (but I can only speak from my point of view and my experience.)  I just don’t think She ever had a need to do so.  She is the Land, the living spirit of the Slavic lands.  She is the progenitor of health, wealth of the land, fertility, death and the afterlife.  She nourishes when those of Her land are ill, She picks up those who are tired and hurt, and when people of Her land are near death, She collects them, She is the One in whose arms we fall for the last time.  She is so ingrained into the very make-up of the Slavic people, Her names are still embedded in the language.  Today, I hear Her invoked more when people are dying or are dead, probably because people live in cities.  You can’t separate Her from the language, it’s a part of it.  Last year I did a translation of an old Russian fairytale for one of Galina’s publications, and at her encouragement I made a very detailed footnote on Her (4).  One of the oddities about the US to me is how people here, compared to those I grew up with, don’t have this attachment to the land whatsoever (5).  All the nationalistic songs in Russia and Ukraine, the very way that the people there fight wars, fight for their land – it all goes back to Her.  When you read all those old stories you see it staring you in the face – heroes who are far away from home saying how their aching bones need to go back to their land, to feel Moist Mother Earth under their feet, how when they fall on the field of battle, they lay themselves on the Moist Mother Earth, asking for Her peace, for Her to embrace them at the moment of their death.  What has been amazing is that this past year, when faced with illness or lack of vitality, I instinctively prayed to Her for strength and healing, and She heard me, immediately coming to my rescue time after time.  I think it’s the bloodline, She recognized the bloodline and reached out to Her people.  I suspect that there is an unbreakable contract between the Slavs and Moist Mother Earth, and that this contract is so strong and they still uphold it, still ask for Her help, and She still comes to us all.  She is the seeded field.  She is the health of the soil.  She is who gives us power and gives us the right to the land.  She is the fertility of our land.  She feeds us with Her strength when we are weak and sick.  Her cold embrace takes us in when we must transition.  

Makosh on the other hand is a weaving Goddess.  She is the Goddess of the hearth, the Goddess of fate, Goddess of the “women’s” crafts.  In the days these deities were prayed to, things were strictly gendered between the two sexes, and She is pretty much as close as you can come to a Goddess of female mysteries, if you forgive the expression.  I think this is why people conflate them – they are both Goddesses that bring plentifulness.  The thing is, it’s a very different kind of plentifulness.  Makosh, being the Goddess of Fate and Hearth, brings good luck into the home, helps the bread rise, and weaves the futures of all men (humans, I mean by that).  Moist Mother Earth is the fertility of the earth itself, life coursing and pumping itself through the earth to all the animals and plants.  Close – but not the same.  Moist Mother Earth does not distinguish us from every other living creature living on Her.  Makosh – I suspect those who are Hers will learn to weave, learn to spin, learn to work magic into their cooking and learn the magic of the crafts that were considered traditionally female.  If you pray for- let’s say pregnancy,– you would pray to Moist Mother Earth for fertility.  You could pray to Makosh – but because She will weave fate to bring you a child, because She will bring joy into the home.  

I just googled “Moist Mother Earth” in Russian and the 4th link on google says “ensemble, Jesus the Savior and Moist Mother Earth”…  People don’t even think about it there, it just is (6).

Notes (added by GK): 

  1. Slavic Polytheism, from the word Rodina or motherland. 
  2. In my case, it’s more the occasional Baltic Deity. I have no particular devotion to either of the Goddesses discussed today, save simple respect. 
  3. I have also seen this name spelled Mokosh. We are translating a divine name of a Holy Power honored throughout Slavic lands at one point so there will be linguistic differences in pronunciation and spelling, not to mention all of this is being transliterated into English. If you see it spelled differently elsewhere, relax. 
  4. See Issue 12 of Walking the Worlds, The Bewitched Queen, translated by T. Vitta. The footnote (footnote 7) reads as follows: 

“The expression “moist earth” has a special significance in Slavic language and Slavic culture.  This is a diminutive of the full expression “Moist Mother Earth”, often heard when heroes are expressing their love for the land in which they were born.  It is an intimate prayer to the soil of their land itself.  This is because the language itself has been permanently marked by 1,000s of years of prayer to Moist Mother Earth and is now inseparable from the language and its people, a practice long before Christianity came to the Slavic lands.  She is the progenitor of health, wealth, fertility, and death and afterlife alike.  Moist Mother Earth is the original primordial Goddess the Slavic people prayed to when they seeded the earth and watched the crops grow, when they were suffering and in pain, and when they were far away from the very soil of their homeland.  This expression stayed in the language, an ancient prayer recalling the connection between the land and its people.  Even in cursory sentences like this it is evoked to remind the reader of the fertility of the land, and how we all eventually and rightfully are put into it to take up our journeys after we die.  

This expression is evoked especially in the older written texts such as fairytales when people lived closer to the land, survived and died via the land.  It appears both when the character talks about the fertility of the earth, such as in the above passage, but also in how it is the inevitable place we all must go to when we die.  This appears in such expressions as “he laid his head on the moist earth” that often appear in fairytales to note the hero as close to death.  While this is a tragic point in the tale, a time when the hero is dying, this is also a powerful reminder of our ties to the land.  Moist Mother Earth is not the enemy that forcibly takes you, rather She is ever loving and loyal and takes you in when life is too much to bear.  Dying and coming into her is like coming home.  This is a particular connection between the Slavic people and the Slavic land, a promise, a covenant that the people know so instinctively that long after Christianization erased all memory of the prayers to a deity, they still pray to Her and She still knows them.  She hears their prayers, and She comforts and protects and eventually takes you in. “ 

5. Since taking a course last year in the History of Jerusalem, I have often pondered the lack of connection to a specific land that I see in modern polytheists and pagans. Is it because our sacred sites were destroyed so thoroughly? Is it because at least in America, we are working in diasporic traditions? Is it something in the attitudes of modernity? I don’t know but I wonder what we have lost by this. 

6. Tatyana told me after she sent me this that there are numerous examples of Moist Mother Earth being syncretized with the Virgin Mary. 

Yuletide Shopping Guide – Books

Today is the last and final installment of my Yuletide Shopping Guide. I created the Yuletide Shopping Guide in part because Yule is one of my favorite times of year. The guide features items polytheists might enjoy seeing in their homes or under their tree this yuletide. All with the hope of spreading some holiday cheer in a difficult year by finding items that can help feed our devotions within our polytheistic traditions, but also to hopefully along the way lift up some of the artisans in our midst too.

So far I’ve included resources for crafters, makers, and DIYers: cookie cutters, crafting molds, fabric (MesoamericanEgyptianGreekNorthern Europe), machine embroidery designs, cross-stitch and embroidery patterns, as well as knitting and crochet patterns. I’ve also highlighted some items on a Krampus theme. I’ve spotlighted items you can use to deck the halls & trim the tree. 

Check out the Greco-Roman themed products relevant to devotees of Cultus Deorum and Hellenismos, the Egyptian themed products ( Part 1 & Part 2 ) relevant to devotees of Kemetism, Northern European themed products ( Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 & Part 5) relevant to Northern Tradition polytheists (Heathens, Asatruar, etc.), as well as some Miscellaneous ( Part 1 & Part 2 ) spotlights featuring artists and artisans who offered a range of product across pantheons, or whose work focused on a tradition that I didn’t have enough items to spotlight on its own. Peruse with care and you will find items related to deities from the Norse, Slavic, Celtic, Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Hindu, Polynesian, Mesoamerican, Minoan, Assyrian, Sumerian, Welsh, Asian, Native American/Inuit, and more!

Today I’ll be spotlighting books.

Affiliate Advertising Disclosure

I am an avid reader and quite the bibliophile. If I really wanted to do this section justice, I could be writing for over a year on suggested books. So I decided to approach this list primarily from the point of view of more recently published works I have either personally read and therefore recommend, or for texts that are on my to read list. I’ve also sprinkled in a few classics, and some books I felt kids could enjoy too so we can pass our traditions to the next generations.


Academic Reading

Unfortunately, I will warn you that some of the academic books are part of small academic print runs and can be prohibitively priced as a result.


Books for Polytheists

The Illustrated Havamal and Illustrated Voluspa takes the old Bellows translation of those eponymous texts but is released with illustrations by artist Sam Flegal. The Man Who Spoke Snakish is a fictional work with strong themes that should resonate with polytheists. The remaining texts were all written by polytheists for polytheists.


Mythology Books

Many of these texts are geared towards children and young adults, so content tends to be adapted for that audience.


Coloring Books

Coloring books for both kids and adults.


My Books

In case you missed it since last December I have released 9 books. A Modern Guide to Heathenry is a significantly revised and expanded book built on the foundation of Exploring the Northern Tradition with over 70,000 words of additional, new content. Sigyn: Our Lady of the Staying Power is a re-release after a change in publishers. The other books are all new releases.


Walking the Worlds

After several years and 12 volumes, Walking the Worlds, a peer-reviewed journal of polytheism and spiritwork has concluded its run. In commemoration, here are the links to each release of the journal in case you missed any.


What books are on your to read list? What books would you recommend? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Day 6 – for Frigga

You are the Mighty Witch Queen,
Oracle and Seer of the Gods.
The threads of Fate are at Your fingertips
and the Nornir alone equal Your skill
in reading those sometimes-twisted skeins.
It is from Them that You learned
to lay those mighty threads
and You have honed that power well
nurturing it deep within
the ferocious fastness of Your breast.

You work Your will, Weaver of charms,
through conjure and cunning.
Often Your techniques are hidden
behind the modest ways of the well-run home:
spinning and thread-craft, cooking and care,
the management of Fensalir,
the overseeing of servants,
and most of all the keen-edged-threat
of Your ever-so-gracious hospitality.
Your ways preserve the Aesir
and by Your power order is sustained
across the architecture of the cosmos,
the rainbow bridge little more
than another thread
through the needle of Your will.

Eleven Mighty women stand proudly in Your service.
Every Queen needs loyal retainers
and They are the lynch-pins of Your court.
They are Your eyes across the winding paths of Bifrost,
Your ears wherever human or alf,
dwarf or God or errant wight might wander.
Let me list Them. They work Your will.
and Their names are power:

First among Them stands Your sister,
golden-tressed and stately Fulla.
She is Keeper of all Your secrets,
nearly as wise as You,
and there is none more trustworthy in any court.
Her counsel is precious, her judgment unerring,
and She is Your loyal,
(sometimes red) right hand.

Then there is Gna and Her steed:
shiny-hooved Hofvarpnir,
second only to Sleipnir
in endurance and speed.
She carries Your messages
across all the Worlds,
and carries information back to You in turn.
Few think to watch their words in Her presence.
They underestimate Her at Their peril.
Like Heimdall, She hears all.
Thus, like Heimdall, do You as well.

A Queen requires a ferocious guard.
Doubly powerful and weapons-wise
stand Hlin and Syn in Your service.
They guard Your door from usurpation,
battling malicious wights,
driving back enemies and pollution
from Your holy spaces.
They bear the cost of this well and firmly,
for They allow nothing malignant
to impugn Your holiness.

Also within Your Hall,
the heartbeat of Your court,
maintaining harmony
amongst Your many
potentially fractious guests,
sits Snotra, elegant and wise.
Nothing escapes Her notice
and there is no plot She cannot untangle
(and no treachery She cannot engender,
should You desire it, kind and sweet
though She may seem).

Lofn and Sjofn do Their part too,
moving amongst Gods and mortals both.
They foster affection and love,
sometimes lust and longing—
whatever pleases You or furthers Your plans.
These gifts They bear are sacred
but also powerful distractions.
This is often convenient.
Your Husband knows this too.

At Your counsel table sits Gefion,
regal, great, and mighty,
She too a Sovereign Power.
She fosters alliances between Gods,
land-wights and kings.
In politics and cunning,
amongst Your retinue,
only You are greater.

In like fashion keen-eyed Var,
mind as sharp as steel,
stands unswerving witness
to all negotiations and contracts,
be they small or large,
pertinent to Your interests.
Woe betide any foolish enough
to break their given word.
She does not forgive
and vengeance is also sacred.

Eir is Your court’s physician,
the mightiest Healer amongst the Reginn.
She is Your hand in battle
and Her mercy is as unyielding as the dead.
Like Fulla, She keeps silent counsel.
Like Fulla Her hand too is sometimes red.

Saga brings to Your use the magic of Story.
She sits often in Your hall,
when not working in Her own,
listening and crafting Her word-spells,
teaching the ways of holiness and valor,
of honoring the dead,
of nourishing tradition
to those wise enough to listen.
She whispers glory in Her word-art,
and She is the memory of all the worlds.
In Her youth, She apprenticed at Urda’s well,
drinking deeply of its bounty.

Finally, Vor, Your most gifted Seer,
stands at the threshold of all the worlds.
She serves as Your assistant
when You spae upon the threads.
Every volva should have a singer of charms
an invoker of chants to open doors,
call the spirits, ward the space,
and bring the volva back to Herself again.

Long and lengthy, this list of Your allies;
through Them Your reach is lengthy too.
You have no need of endless wandering,
You have Power come to You.
This is one of Your greatest secrets.
This is one of Your greatest spells.
Through Your inspiration,
and through the example of Your Holy Women,
may we learn well the ways of reverence.
May we be efficient and ruthless
in supporting the sacred order of the Gods
through devotion, piety, and right action.
May we nurture what ought to be nurtured.
May we prune what ought to be pruned,
in our minds and hearts most of all.
Teach us to be gently unyielding
in our commitment to veneration.
Let nothing deter us from walking
the royal road of reverence,
that our faith and our communities
might flourish for generations.
Hail to You Frigga, mighty Queen,
Preserver of the Heavenly Court,
and Hail Your holy retinue.

(by G. Krasskova)

GIVEAWAY TIME

This giveaway is designed for FACEBOOK, so that means entries must happen on facebook. Here’s the direct link to the appropriate post: ( http://bit.ly/2WMLxNs ) . Deadline is end of the month, I wanted to give people a chance to get their copies in.

living_runes-giveaway

 

In case anyone is having problems viewing the image with the giveaway information above, I’m also including it below as text.

 

GIVEAWAY!

To celebrate the release of Living Runes: Theory and Practice. I’ve decided to run a giveaway. The prize consists of a set of 20 prayer cards featuring Frigga and her retinue (Saga, Eir, Gefion, Fulla, Sjofn, Lofn, Hlin, Syn, Snotra, Gna, Var, and Vor), as well as Odin and his sons (Thor, Baldr, Vidar, Bragi, Hermod, and Vali). I will select one US winner, and one International winner randomly from all valid entries. Each winner not only receives all those cards, but actually receives a duplicate set of those cards that they can gift to one very lucky friend or divvy up the awarded prayer cards to share among as many friends as they like. So, this is actually one giveaway that entering with your friends can increase your chances of coming away with something.

Here’s how to enter:

Take a picture to share of Living Runes: Theory and Practice. This can be you reading it, or for those that don’t like to post pictures of themselves you can show it on your bookshelf, in your reading nook, posed with your cat, beside a cup of coffee, with your runes–you get the idea. For those of you with ebook copies, just show the cover on your chosen electronic device. I’ll even accept pictures in bookstores, or in libraries (for bookstore and library pic entries please be sure to list the name of the establishment and the city/state/country you found it in). Once your pic is ready:

  • Like and Comment on this giveaway post on the Galina Krasskova – Wyrd Ways FB Page: http://bit.ly/2WMLxNs

    • include your Living Runes: Theory & Practice picture
    • tag at least one friend
    • include the name of the country in which you currently live
  • Share this post on FB (toggle the “include original post” option)

  • Deadline: June 30, 11:59pm EST

 

 

Day 2: for Frigga

Beloved in the Arts of War

Serene and elegant,
let no one misunderstand:
You are the power-broker of Asgard.
Even more than Your Husband,
You weave strategies and plans,
owning the field of combat,
whatever it might be.
Victory has already formed in Your mind.
You have woven it into wyrd,
before any conflict ensues.
None may challenge Your mastery.
You must. It is Your duty:
to guard Your territory,
to protect those within.
One Who loves Her people,
does what She must
to ensure Their safety.
You are nourished
on the thunderous joy of winning,
especially against Your husband;
when You clash wits, the worlds tremble.
Clever Goddess, You are fire and ice
and everything in between,
and You hold the worlds in Your hands.

May we always honor You,
in the fullness of Your being.
without hesitation.
Let us always celebrate Your glory.
Hail to You, Beloved Frigga.

(by G. Krasskova)

Day 1: For Frigga

To the Keeper of the House

 In the morning before Her household wakes
She sits in silence, taking counsel from the dead.
She reads the passage of stars, patterns in the wind,
listens to the voices of the fire dancing in the hearth.
She is wise this Lady, Maintainer of Her Home,
a fierce Defender with blade and spear,
an Equally fierce manager at wheel and loom.
There is no equal to Her quiet force,
and it is She Who orders Asgard,
ensuring its bounties flow.
Before Sunna streaks across the sky,
relieving Her brother to His daily work,
the Queen of Asgard, whispers with the Moon,
and Mani tells Her of things He has seen far and wide.
There is no secret hidden from Her keen eyes,
no power She does not understand,
though She holds Her knowledge secure in Her breast,
shared only with a trusted sister, perhaps,
and never with the man Who shares Her bed.

(by G. Krasskova)

First Submission to Saga’s Agon

For the Lady of Sokkvabekk
by E. Blakely

How deep
How clear
How cool
This singing surge of substance without form
Ever flowing through the Realm of Sokkvabekk.
Warded by Saga Odinsdaughter, Frigga’s Handmaiden.

How deep does it flow?
As deep as the Generations that add their Substance to the Stream.

How clear does it flow?
As clear as Truth given form and served in cups kissed by the Light of Day.

How cool does it taste – refreshingly cool or bitter cold?
Only the taster can judge this.
Truth is what it is and each Generation that feeds Sokkvabekk paid the price for inclusion.

Blessed Saga wards this stream – this Flowing Shrine to Lives Lived.
Lives of countess Generations distilled, rendered into Its purest form, but not horded in a well or kept in casks.
The song of our Ancestors given voice, still active and vital and accessible through Saga of Sokkvabekk.

Shrines in Progress: Want to Help?

I am going to sponsor an online shrine each to the Goddesses Pietas and Pudicitia. 

If anyone has prayers, rituals, or essays about either Goddess, and would like to have your material featured on the information page of the shrine, please contact me at krasskova at gmail.com. 

Istanbul_-_Museo_archeol._-_Cornelia_Antonia_come_Pudicitia_sec._II_d.C._-_Foto_G._Dall'Orto_28-5-2006_01

Sekhmet is NOT a “Mother Goddess”

Statue_of_Sekhmet_in_the_Turin_Museum,_Italy

I’ve been reading quite a bit on Sekhmet lately. She was the first Goddess that ever came calling for me and I was ordained Her priest in 1995. Eventually, right around the time I was ordained, She directed me toward Odin, but I still have powerful devotional ties to Her. She’s one of the Goddesses that is bright and shiny and very popular in certain segments of the Pagan community and frankly, I think She’s one of the Goddesses that gets shown the most disresepect. To put it bluntly, I really get tired of people taking Warrior Deities, like Sekhmet (perhaps especially Sekhmet) and trying to turn Them into lunar, and/or “Mother Deities.” She is not, god damn it, a Mother Goddess. She may be the mother of the God Nefertem by some theologies but that does not mean She is a “Mother Goddess.”*

I was going to write about this at length but I think my colleague Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa said it better than I ever could:

This false idea of Sekhmet as a squishy, cudly lion or generic “Mother Goddess”, crone, wise woman, etc., comes from the New Age hippie generation of the Goddess community who are unable to approach the authentic textual sources we have which confirm that the ancient Egyptians venerated and very much feared Sekhmet as destructive goddess known to bring plague, storms and Her “Seven Arrows”, which could annihilate humankind. Sekhmet was NEVER the “Mother Goddess”, crone or wise woman to the Ancients. She was a war goddess FIRST, and a destroyer. Her reputation as a healing goddess emerges later, but the warrior goddess always predominated, and does to this day.

I was having just this very conversation yesterday with the Arch Priestess of Temple of Isis Nevada, and she was expressing her disgust for the New Age view of Sekhmet as the crone, wise woman, shaman/ healer archetype, which has absolutely nothing to do with the very real history of how this great goddess has manifested in the historical record, in the authentic texts and temple inscriptions. We know the Egyptians feared Sekhmet, and did everything to appease Her wrathful nature. They knew that Sekhmet is as likely to curse as She is to bless, to kill as to grant life or heal.

I was ordained as a Priest of Sekhmet by Lady Olivia Robertson, and when she performed my anointing, she said to me, “like Sekhmet, go forth to combat evil!” Sekhmet has always been a warrior, a destroyer and a goddess of divine vengeance. She destroys those who dishonor the names of the Gods, those who refuse to live by Ma’at, and those who become enemies of the Gods. Sekhmet is not a Goddess of mercy or kindness in a human way we would recognize. She gives no quarter, She does not stroke the ego or make us feel better in our ignorance or complacency. She wakes us the fuck up in the rudest manner possible, and She is truly a terrible goddess, a holy terror. She cannot be other than feared and venerated without conditions. She receives our pain and suffering as an offering, and She may very well be our annihilation. (–Ptahmassu Nofra Uaa, quoted with his kind permission).

I see the same thing with other Warrior Goddesses like the Morrigan. These Goddesses are immense and fierce and I can understand the impulse today to soften Them, but I think we need to diligently resist that impulse. These Goddesses aren’t there to make us comfortable, They’re there to be venerated and doing so can be a life-changing practice.

*and this is not even touching on the insipid way we tend to present Goddesses Who ARE Mother Goddesses.