zaterdag 2 november 2013

Womb (Symbolism:Cave/Grove,Sacred/Apple/Cherry/Pomegranate/Peach/Cauldron/Grail,Holy/Ship)


The Sanskrit word for any temple or sanctuary was garbha-grha,
The great annual festival of Aphrodite in Argos was called Hysteria,
"Womb." The oldest oracle in Greece, sacred to the Great Mother of earth,
sea, and sky, was named Delphi, from delphos, "womb."
Megalithic tombs and barrow-mounds were designed as "wombs"
to give rebirth to the dead. Their vaginal entrance passages show that
Neolithic folk went to considerable trouble to devise imitations of
female anatomy in earth and stone. Tomb and womb were even
related linguistically. Greek tumbos, Latin tumulus were cognates of
tumere, to swell, to be pregnant. The word "tummy" is thought to
have come from the same root.3
Womb-temples and womb-tombs point backward to the matriarchal
age, when only feminine life-magic was thought efficacious.
Rebirth from the womb-tomb was the meaning of the domed funerary
stupa of the Far East, where the remains of the sainted dead lay
within a structure called garbha, the "womb." 4 The parallel with barrow
graves, Mycenaean tholos tombs, cave temples, and other such
structures is now well known. Even a Christian cathedral centered on
the space called nave, originally meaning "belly." Caves and burial
chambers were said to be sunk in the "bowels" of the earth-that is, of
Mother Earth. The biblical term for "birth" is "separation from the
Archetypal womb-symbolism is as common today as it ever was,
though not always recognized as such. Paul Klee said, "Which artist
would not wish to dwell at the central-organ of all motion ... from
which all functions derive their life? In the womb of nature, in the
primal ground of creation, where the secret key to all things lies
hidden?" 5


"Womb," the orgiastic religious festival of Aphrodite in Argos, where
the Womb of the World was adored and symbolically fructified.1
Hysteria was given its present meaning by Renaissance doctors
who explained women's diseases with a theory that the womb
sometimes became detached from its place and wandered about inside
the body, causing uncontrolled behavior.


"Womb"; Greece's oldest, most famous oracle, where Mother Earth
was worshipped under the name of Delphyne, the Womb of Creation,
along with her serpent-son and consort Python.1 At various times the
oracle was said to belong to the Sea-goddess, or the Moon-goddess,
various designations of the same primal Mother, whose priestess-daughters,
the Pythonesses, controlled the rites. Eventually the
patriarchal god Apollo took it over, retaining the Pythonesses, but
claiming to have placed the Serpent in his underground uterine cave,
whence came the oracle's inspiration. Apollo murdered the priestess
Delphyne, and held the oracle until it was closed by the Christian
emperor Theodosius. After him, Arcadius had the temple entirely


Porphyry said before there were temples, all religious rites took place
in caves.1 The cave was universally identified with the womb of Mother
Earth, the logical place for symbolic birth and regeneration. Etruscan
and Roman temples featured a subterranean mundus, meaning both
"earth" and "womb." 2 Similarly, the Sanskrit word for a sanctuary,
garbha-grha, meant "womb." 3
Holy places of Hinduism were caves representing the Great
Mother's yoni. Many gompas (holy hermitages) were first established
in caves. Like ~mountain of paradise, home of the gods, the Four
Great Caves of Sikkim were distinguished according to the four
cardinal points. North is the cave of the god's hill; west, the cave of great
happiness; south, the cave of occult fairies; east, the secret cave, from
which the sun is born.4
Among the oldest forms of the Hindu Goddess was Kurukulla, a
matrikadevi colored red like the womb, and called Mother of Caverns.
5 As an emanation of Kali she was worshipped in cave-temple
complexes like Ellora, Ajanta, Elephanta. Her western counterpart
was Phrygian Cybele, " Cavern-dweller," the Great Mother of the
Gods. A Latin form of her name was Sybil, the prophetic spirit in the
· cavern-dwelling Cumaean sybils, by whose order the Great Mother of
the Gods was brought to Rome in 204 B.C.
Cybele's castrated priests claimed none of their brotherhood ever
died. Instead, they went "down into the cavern" to be united with
their Goddess. Cybele' s cavern-shrines were also called marriage chambers,
like the pastas of Eleusis. The Alexandrian poet Nicander called
them "marriage bowers of Rhea Lobrine." 6 They were also the "sacred
subterranean places" where those who had emasculated themselves
in honor of Attis and Cybele used to come to deposit the offering of
their genitals.7
Rhea was the Cretan name of the same Goddess, during the long
period when fatherhood was unknown or negligible in Cretan society.
8 All life was supposed to have arisen from her uterine cave on
Mount Dicte, whence came the e-dicts of her holy law; hence her
title of Dictynna, Lawgiver. She was also called Britomartis the "sweet
virgin," the mother without a spouse.9 From the same uterine cave
she gave birth to Zeus, who later claimed to be Father of Gods.
Cave-temples of Rhea Dictynna evolved into dicteria, which the
Laws of Solon designated public brothels. In the era of the promiscuous
priestesses, words for cave, temple, and brothel were often
interchangeable.10 To visit the cave and lie with the holy harlot was
an act of worship. During the early Christian era, most pagan mystery
cults celebrated their most sacred rites in caves or underground
Followers ofMithra considered the cave so essential to proper
worship that, if the site of a temple had no natural cave, an artificial
one was dug. The cave on the Vatican belonged to Mithra until 376
A.D., when a city prefect suppressed the cult of the rival Savior and
seized the shrine in the name of Christ, on the very birthday of the
pagan god, December 25.11
Despite the church's efforts at suppression, the old deities continued
to be worshipped in sacred caves for many centuries. So many
"grottoes" contained pagan idols that decorative ideas for cathedral
sculptures were copied from them: hence the grotesques or "grottocreatures"
swarming in Gothic art. As late as the 15th century, Pope
Calixtus II tried to forbid religious ceremonies in sacred caves. 12 As
entrances to the underworld, caves were still associated with the Great
Mother's yonic gate. A long-revered gate to the womb of the world
was a sea-cave on the southern Peloponnese near the shrine ofMarmari-
Mother Mari, the Sea-goddess whose other names were
Aphrodite Marina, Marah, and Mary. 13
Up to the 18th century, a cave called Tangrogo in Denbighshire
was kept by <''three fairy sisters" -the three Fates-whose fobtprints
were often seen around the edge of its magic pool. The cave was said to
contain "hidden treasures," a term that often meant paraphernalia of
the Old Religion.l4
Spenser said the hidden treasures of the Faery Queen's Bower of
Bliss were the same as those of the virgin Mary's secret "enclosed
garden": a magic pool of regeneration, a Tree of Life, singing birds,
apples, and roses, including the central Rose of Love. Andreas
Capellanus said the grotto of the pagan Goddess was a Palace of Love
in the center of the earth (in media mundi), with the male and
female symbols of a Tree of Life and a sacred spring. 15
Sacred caves were still used as "marriage bowers" long after
paganism had been forced underground-literally. Bards who adored
the heretical Goddess of Love (Minne) mentioned certain Grottoes of
Love, hewn by heathen giants in the wild mountains, where people
could hide when "they wished privacy to make love." Gottfried von
Strassburg said whenever such a cave was found, it was sealed with a
bronze door inscribed La fossiure ale gent amant, the Grotto for People
in Love. "Above, the vault was finely joined, and on the keystone
there was a crown, embellished beautifully by the goldsmith's art with
an incrustation of gems. The pavement below was of a smooth,
shining and rich marble, green as grass. In the center stood a bed,
handsome and cleanly hewn of crystal, high and wide, well raised
from the ground, and engraved round about with letters whichaccording
to the legend-proclaimed its dedication to the goddess
Love." 16
The healing waters of all the sacred springs in Europe acquired
new myths ascribing their virtues to saints or to the Virgin, but their
real traditions sprang from the regenerative caves of the pagan Goddess.
Up to the 19th century a sacred cave near Dunskey, Scotland, was
used for the curative magic of its spring. The sick were brought from
great distances to be bathed in the waters, always "at the change of
the moon," showing that the place was a matriarchal shrine. Its magic
baptisms were believed especially beneficial to weak or undernourished
children. l7

Grove, Sacred

Next to a cave, a grove was the most popular uterine symbol in
ancient religions, even among early biblical Semites, to whom Asherah
was the Mother-Goddess of the Grove. A large tree, pillar, or obelisk
within the grove often represented the male god inside the Goddess as
both child and lover.
Brittany in the 11th century still had a druidic holy wood called
Nemet. This may have been the same as the fairy wood Broceliande,
the grove of Merlin's Nemesis, the lady Nimue, who also bore the name
of the fatal Goddess of the grove.
Patriarchal priesthoods seemed to consider the groves dangerous.
The Bible speaks of many attacks on the asherim or Groves of
Asherah, which were consistently worshipped by both people and kings,
despite the prophets' repeated condemnations: Exodus 34: 13, Deuteronomy
16:21, Judges 3:7, 1 Kings 15:13, 16:33; 2 Kings 18:4,21:7.
Destroyers of the sacred groves feared the Mother's curse, as
shown in numerous moralizing myths. Erysichthon dared to cut
down one of Demeter's sacred groves, though the high priestess forbade
him with the voice of the Goddess herself. Then angry Demeter
cursed him with perpetual hunger that could never be appeased. He
ended as a wretched beggar, frantically stuffing his mouth with filth.4
Druidic sacred groves were somewhat protected by superstitious
fear of similar curses. The oak grove at Derry was one of the most
popular shrines of Irish paganism, its magical name still invoked by the
bardic phrase "Hey, Derry Down" in the chorus of old ballads.
Writings attributed to St. Columba said Derry's grove must be preserved
at all costs. The saint said as much as he feared "death and hell,
he "dreaded still more the sound of an axe in the grove of Derry." 5
Sacred kings in Diana's ancient grove at Nemi were expected to
fight any rival challenger who broke a branch from the holy tree. This
symbolic act occurs so often in medieval romances that it can only be
assumed the custom continued through the Middle Ages. The
Vulgate epic of Lancelot said Parsifal challenged a rival knight in the
same manner as the heroes of Nemi: he "found a tree in the grove
undefended, and broke a branch from it." 6 Evidence is not lacking to
show that breaking a branch from the sacred tree was equivalent to a
threat of castration of the god, or the incumbent sacred king who
embodied the god.7
Marginal notes:
A common Indo-European
word for the
sacred grove was
Nemi (Latin nemus),
indicating dedication
to the Moon-goddess
called Nemesis,
Diana Nemorensis, or
Diana Nemetona-Lady
of the Grove.
Nemeton was the
druidic oak grove.
Strabo said the
greatest shrine of the
Galatians (Gauls) in
Asia Minor was
Drunemeton, the
druid-grove. Southern
Scotland had a shrine
called Medionemeton.
France had another,
called Nemetodorum
(modern Nanterre).
In Spain, the sacred
grove of the Moongoddess
Brigit was
Nemetobriga. 1
Hungary still has
Maros-Nemeti, an
old grove-shrine of

The Irish called a
sanctuary nemed, or
fidnemed, a "forest
shrine," established
by the archaic colonists
called Nemed or
Religious rites
continued in these
forest shrines
throughout the Middle
Ages.3 Christian
writers spoke of
abominations" carried
out in forest shrines
or nimidae.


"Forest-mother," literally "Wood-Mary"; Old Saxon for a nymph or
fairy of the sacred grove, a priestess of the Oak-goddess, or a female
druid. In Bavaria, the wudu-maer were presented with offerings of
foodstuffs to court their goodwill; they were known as Little Wood
Women.1 A similar concept of a forest priestess survived in English
legends of Maid Marian. See Robin


To the druids, holly was the plant of death and regeneration, sacred
to Mother Holle, or Hel, the underworld Goddess.1 Germanic witches
who worshipped her favored holly wood for magic wands. Red holly
berries showed the female blood-of-life color, corresponding to white
mistletoe berries associated with male elements of semen and death.
In the divine marriage celebrated at Yule, they were displayed together.
The "holy" holly was linguistically linked with Hel' s yonic "hole"
(Germanic Hohle, a cave or grave). It was the most sacred of trees,
according to a carol sung by medieval pagans at Yuletide, saying holly
"bears the crown." 2
In the Dionysian cult, female holly was paired with the god's male
symbol, ivy.3 Green boughs of both were used to adorn doorways at
the solstitial festival. Tertullian condemned the custom, saying any
Christian who has "renounced temples" should not make a temple of
his own house door.4 Nevertheless, house-decorating with holly, ivy, or
mistletoe at the solstitial festival went serenely on. The Council of
Bracara ruled that no Christian should bring holly into his house for
Christmas, because it was a custom of "heathen people." 5 Heathen
or not, it was inextricably linked with Yuletide celebrations and could
not be eradicated.
Even the sexual symbolism of the holly was remembered, in a way,
up to the 17th century. Christmas games included a mock battle of
the sexes, in which the master and mistress of the hquse engaged:
"Great is the contention of holly and ivy, whether master or dame
wears the breeches." 6 The kiss under the mistletoe originally represented
sexual union, a peaceful resolution of the battle.


Eve's fruit of knowledge used to be the Goddess's sacred heart of
immortality, all over the Indo-European culture complex. The Goddess's
many western paradises grew the apples of eternal life. The
Celts called the western paradise Avalon, "Apple-land," a country ruled
by Morgan, the queen of the dead. Irish kings received the Goddess's
magic apples of immortality and went away to live with her under the
sunset. King Arthur was taken to Avalon by the Triple Goddess in
person, as three fairy queens.
Scandinavians thought apples essential to resurrection, and placed
vessels of them in graves. 1 The Norse Goddess ldun kept the magic
apple-land in the west, where the gods received the fruit that kept them
deathless.2 Apples carried souls from one body to the next. Sigurd's
or Siegfried's great-grandmother conceived by eating an apple.3 The
Yule pig was roasted with an apple in its mouth, to serve as a heart in
the next life (see Boar).
Greeks said Mother Hera kept the magic apple garden in the west,
where the Tree of Life was guarded by her sacred serpent. Graves
points out that the whole story of Eve, Adam, and the serpent in the
tree was deliberately misinterpreted from icons showing the Great
Goddess offering life to her worshipper, in the form of an apple, with
the tree and its serpent in the background. Similarly, Hellenes
misinterpreted icons of the hero-victim receiving an apple from the
Triple Goddess, before his journey to paradise, as the Judgment
of Paris: a picture of a young man receiving the apple from three
Goddesses, not vice versa. 4
Romans gave the apple-mother the name of Pomona, which was
probably inherited from the Etruscans. She symbolized all fruition. A
Roman banquet always progressed ab ovo usque mala, from eggs to
apples-beginning with the symbol of creation and ending with the
symbol of completion. It was recorded that King Herod finished every
meal in the Roman style, with an apple.5
One reason for the extreme reverence paid to this fruit is revealed
by cutting it transversely, as the gypsies and witches did. Hidden in
the apple's core was the magic pentacle, or sign of Kore (Core). Just as
Kore the Virgin was hidden in the heart of Mother Earth (Demeter)
and represented the World Soul, so her pentacle was hidden in the
The five-pointed star in a circle was the Egyptian hieroglyph for
the underworld womb, where resurrection was brought about by the
mother-heart of "transformations."6 In Christian iconography also, this
apple-sign represented the Virgin concealed within the Mother, like
Kore within Demeter. (See Anne, Saint.)
Among gypsies, "occult couples" carefully cut the apple to reveal
its pentacle and ate it together as magical nourishment during Tantric
intercourse.7 A gypsy maiden was supposed to bring about her partner's
mystic union with the soul of the earth through her own body; thus
she was a Shakti, and the apple was her sexual symbol. It was a custom
for a gypsy girl to choose her lover by tossing an apple at him, just as
Kali-Shakti chose Shiva to be her doomed bridegroom.8
In Celtic paganism the Goddess's apple similarly signified a sacred
marriage and a journey to the land of death. Queen Guinevere, who
was really the Triple Goddess, according to the Welsh Triads, gave a
magic apple to "the Irish knight Sir Patrice," actually St. Patrick,
formerly the father-god or Pater.9 (See Patrick, Saint.) The Irish
knight died; Guinevere was denounced as a witch and condemned to
the stake, from which Lancelot rescued her. Her offense was choosing a
sacred king in the ancient ceremonial style. Pre-Christian legends
show that each king who ruled Britain had to be chosen by the Triple
Goddess, and later slain by her Crone form, Morgan, lady of the
blood-red pentacle and keeper of the Apple-Isle in the west. 10
Halloween apple-games descended from Celtic feasts of Samhain,
the Feast of the Dead at the end of October. Catching at apples
suspended from strings, or bobbing in water, may have invoked hanged
or drowned witches. The games hinted at cheating Death in the form
of Cerridwen, another name for Morgan as a Sow-goddess. At the end
of the game, all players ran away "to escape from the black shorttailed
sow." 11
Halloween apples were also used for divination, as if they were
oracular ghosts called up from the underworld. Such magic was
especially associated with women, harking back to the pagan tradition of
female control of the spirits in that world. The Volsung cycle showed
that a man must be provided with "apples of Hel" by his wife, whose
gift had the power to preserve him when he died and descended
under the earth. 12 Thus, Halloween apples were often linked with
marriage. One who peeled an apple before a candlelit mirror on
Halloween would see the image of a future spouse.13
Apple blossoms were wedding flowers because they represented
the Virgin form of the Goddess whose maturity produced the fruit.
As the pagan symbols were Christianized, Apple-Eve-Mother-Goddess
was said to be reborn as her own younger aspect, Rose-Mary-Virgin-Goddess:
the five-petaled rose and apple blossom often mystically
combined. The red and white Alchemical Rose was an allegory of the
Virgin Mother. 14 Some mystics said Mary, called the Holy Rose,
had invented alchemy. 15
However, the dangerous aspect of apples associated with the
Goddess as Mother Death were never forgotten. Since she was not
only the Virgin and the Mother but also Hel, or Hecate, her apples
were often depicted in Christian folklore as poisoned. Churchmen
declared that a witch could cause demonic possession through her gift of
an apple to her intended victim. 16 Old women were slain for giving
an apple to a child or other person who later became afflicted with fits.
Marginal note:
clan of demigods
favored by Odin,
who used a magic apple
to impregnate the
mother of the original
Volsung. His
descendant Sigurd is
better known as
Siegfried, hero of the
Germanic Ring of
the Nibelung.


Like many slang expressions, the use of" cherry" for "virginity" may
be traced to a mythic past. Like other red fruits, such as the apple and
pomegranate, the cherry symbolized the Virgin Goddess: bearing her
sacred blood color and bearing its seed within, like a womb.
Maya, the virgin mother of Buddha, embraced the cherry tree Sala
while giving birth to her divine child.1 Some said the tree recognized
her divinity and bent its branches down to offer its fruit. The story was
carried to Europe and spawned the medieval Cherry Tree Carol, in
which Maya became Mary.
Gypsies applied the love-magic of the cherry to many magic
charms, especially those associated with virginity. When a gypsy girl
desired to attract a lover, she drilled holes through fourteen cherry
stones on the fourteen nights of the waxing moon, and wore them on
a cord around her left thigh (the "female" side).2 The obvious elements
of this magic were penetration of the cherry, and building up to the
full moon, indicating growth or pregnancy.
French traditions of courtly love perhaps made "cherry" (cerise)
synonymous with "beloved" (cherie). Cherry-red was often considered
the color of love.


Sacred cherry tree, symbol of virginity, under which the Virgin Maya
gave birth to Buddha; celebrated in a similar Christian legend by the
Cherry Tree Carol. See Cherry. The "feminine" qualities of redness,
roundness, and fruition made the cherry everywhere sacred to the
Goddess, along with other red fruits like the apple and pomegranate.

Rimmon, "pomegranate," was a biblical name of the Goddess's genital
shrine (2 Kings 5:18), from rim, "to give birth."1 The pomegranate
with its red juice and many seeds was a prime symbol of uterine fertility.
Therefore pomegranates were eaten by souls in the underworld, to
bring about rebirth. Hellenic mythographers said both Kore and
Eurydice were detained in the underworld because they ate pomegranate
seeds there. Nana, virgin mother of the savior Attis, conceived
him by eating either a pomegranate seed or an almond, another yonic
The Bible says the pillars of Solomon's temple were ornamented
with the female-genital symbols of lilies and pomegranates ( 1 Kings
7:18-20). Solomon himself impersonated the phallic god Baal-Rimmon,
"Lord of the Pomegranate," when he was united with his divine
bride, the mysterious Shulamite, and drank the juice of her pomegranate
(Song of Solomon 8:2).
Argive Hera was worshipped as Our Lady With the Pomegranate
at Capaccio Vecchio near Paestum, formerly a Sybarite colony called
Poseidonia. In ancient times the people laid at the Goddess's feet
offerings of little boats filled with flowers, as she sat enthroned with her
child on one arm, a pomegranate in her other hand, inviting contempla·
tion of the miracle of her bringing forth life. About the 12th century
A.D. the people of Paestum built her a new shrine, to which pilgrimages
are made to this day. There sits Our Lady With the Pomegranate still,
enthroned with her child on one arm, a pomegranate in her other
hand. 2 The people lay at her feet offerings of little boats filled with
Hera was Mother Earth, and the suit of pentacles in the Tarot
pack represented the earth element. Therefore it is not surprising to
find this suit transformed in some medieval packs into a Suit of
Pomegranates, the fruit always opened in an oval orifice to show its
moist red interior.3


Female genital symbol, in China regarded as the source of the
ambrosia of life which gave gods their immortality; corresponding to the
apple in western Europe. Great Mother Hsi Wang Mu ruled the
magic peach garden in the west, where the gods were reborn.1
Peach Blossom meant a virgin in Taoist symbolism, while the fruit
stood for a mature woman whose juices were essential to man's
health. China's patron saint of longevity Shou Lou was an old man with
a high bulging forehead, bursting with "yin juice" he had absorbed
and sent up to his head through sexual coupling with many women. To
reveal his mystical secret, Shou Lou always held up a peach with one
of his fingers stuck into its cleft. 2
Chinese wizards made magic wands from peach twigs. These
might be compared to magic wands made in the west from other
woods sacred to the Goddess, such as witch hazel, witch-willow, apple
boughs, or holly.3
Western writers sometimes confused the Oriental peach with the
apricot, because abricotwas once a European word for the vulva.
Sculptures from the pagan period at Nimes showed examples of this
fruit in conjunction with phalli.4


"Lady-Queen of the West," Chinese Great Mother who kept the
fruit of immortality in a magic orchard in the Far West, as did Idun,
Pomona, Hera, Morgan, etc. Instead of apples, Hsi Wang Mu raised
peaches, the Chinese symbol of the yoni. Once every 3000 years she
gave the gods peaches from her Tree of Life. 1 See Peach.


The symbol commonly opposed to the cross, as the witches' object
of worship; in pagan tradition, the Great Mother's cosmic womb. As the
"pot of blood in the hand of Kali," the cauldron signified cyclic
recurrence, as opposed to the patriarchal view of linear time.
Shakespeare followed the traditional pattern in associating the
cauldron with three witches, since, from its earliest appearances in
Bronze Age and Iron Age cultures, the cauldron stood for the Triple
Goddess of fate, or wyrd in Old English: the three Weird Sisters.1
The Egyptian hieroglyphic sign of the threefold Creatress, mother
of the sun, the universe, and all the gods, was a design of three
cauldrons.2 The Norse god Odin stole his divine power from three
cauldrons of Wise Blood in the cave-womb of the earth, where he
entered in the shape of a phallic serpent and beguiled the earth-giantess
by making love to her. 3 Then he drank the magic blood from the
cauldrons and became a shape-shifter, turning himself into a bird to
carry the precious blood back to other gods. This myth was based on
that of the Aryan sky-god Indra, who also drank the Goddess's ambrosia
from three cauldrons, the three wombs of Kali's trinity.4 Indra stole
the elixir by allowing himself to be swallowed by a vast serpent
representing female sexuality (Kundalini). He too turned into a bird
to carry the elixir to other gods.
In nearly all mythologies there is a miraculous vessel. Sometimes it
dispenses youth and life, at other times it possesses the power of
healing, and occasionally, as with the mead cauldron of the Nordic Ymir,
inspiring strength and wisdom are to be found in it. Often ... it effects
transformations. s
The cauldron that effected transformations was the same as the
womb that churned out rebirths, changing shapes each time. In Babylon
it was under the control of the Fate-goddess Siris, mother of stars. Her
cauldron was the blue heaven, where she stirred the mead of
regeneration. "Siris, the wise woman, the mother, who had done what
was necessary. Her cauldron is of shining lapis lazuli. Her tub is of
pure silver and gold. In mead stands jubilation, in mead sits rejoicing." 6
Lapis lazuli was the blue heaven stone prized for its power to cause
rebirth. The Papyrus ofNekhtu-Amen said an amulet of lapis lazuli
stood for the heart (ab), source of mother-blood; therefore the amulet
was inserted into a mummy to generate a new heart for the
Chaldean cosmology saw the sky as a nesting of seven vessels, the
planetary spheres, like inverted bowls or cauldrons. Beneath the earth
lay the mirror image of this celestial realm, seven more spheres sometimes
described as cauldrons. A Hittite myth called them the vessels
of Mother Death, dark twin sister of the heavenly M.other Siris: "The
doorkeeper has opened the seven doors, has unlocked the seven bolts.
Down in the dark earth there stand seven cauldrons, their lids of abaru
metal, their handles of iron. Whatever goes in there comes not out
again." 9
Egyptians sometimes saw the seven-circled nether womb as a
regenerative cauldron called the Lake of Fire. 10 The corresponding
celestial vessels were "above heaven." 11 But the divine cauldron also
appeared right on earth, within the sacred precincts of the temple.
King Aeson was resurrected after being boiled in the cauldron of
Medea, "Mead of Wisdom," eponymous mother goddess of the
Medes. King Minos too was boiled in the Goddess's cauldron and
deified in Tartarus, where he became a judge and a Lord of Death.
Under the name of Demeter, the Goddess restored Pelops to life in her
cauldron. 15 According to his inscription at Mount Hermon, the
Roman emperor Elagabalus was likewise "deified in the cauldron." 16
St. John the Evangelist was oddly assimilated to the pagan myth of
the regenerative cauldron. He was boiled in it and came forth livelier
than before. His symbols were a bleeding heart and a boiling cauldronP
The syncretism of the "Feast of St. John at the Latin Gate"
eventually became too embarrassing, and the festival was expunged
from the Christian calendar in 1960.18 The apocryphal St. George,
however, continued to enter the cauldron as one of his alleged tortures.
By making the sign of the cross, he rendered it lukewarm and
harmless, an example of a matriarchal symbol made subordinate to a
patriarchal one. 19
Among the Celts of Gaul and Britain, the Cauldron of Regeneration
was the central religious mystery: reincarnation within the womb
of the Goddess. The Irish who worshipped the threefold Morrigan
called the second person of her trinity Badb, "Boiling," the producer of
life, wisdom, inspiration, and enlightenment. 20
To Welsh bards she was the Goddess Branwen, "one of the three
Matriarchs of the Island," owner of the Cauldron of Regeneration in
which dead men could be resuscitated overnight.21 As "a powerful fairy
queen," the Lady of the Lake of the Basin, she dwelt in a sacred lake
from which her brother Bran the Blessed raised the cauldron later
known as the Holy Grail. 22 This pagan god was Christianized as
Bron, alleged brother-in-law of Joseph of Arimathea who was supposed
to have brought the Grail to Britain. Actually, the Grail was well
established in British paganism long before its legend was assimilated to
that of Christ.23 Branwen, Goddess of the Cauldron, had yet another
incarnation in medieval romance as Brangwain, the wise-woman who
gave Tristan and Iseult their fatal love potion.24
The Goddess had earthly incarnations too. Childeric, son of
Merovech or Merovig, founder of the first dynasty of French kings,
married a druidess named Basina (Cauldron), who foretold the future of
his dynasty.25
Like the "seas" in ancient temples, the Cauldron of Regeneration
also had its counterparts on earth. Each Celtic temple had its sacred
cauldron. Aubrey's A Natural History of Surrey mentioned a pagan
cauldron still preserved in Frensham Church, "an extraordinary great
kettle or cauldron" brought by the fairies, according to locallegend.26
An 8th-century Salic Law against priestesses-or, as the church
called them, witches-prohibited the pagan practice of "bearing the
cauldron" in procession to "the places where they cook." 27
The Welsh bard Taliesin claimed to have received the mead of
wisdom from his mother, the Goddess Cerridwen, "the Celtic Great
Mother, the Demeter." 28
She resolved, according to the arts of the books of Fferyllt (Fairy-wisdom),
to boil a Cauldron oflnspiration and Science for her son ... which
from the beginning ofits boiling might not cease to boil for a year and a
day, until three blessed drops were obtained of the Grace of
Inspiration. 29
Taliesin's poetry contained oblique allusions to the magic cauldron,
couched in the semi-opaque terms that concealed mystical secrets
from the uninitiated. His "year and a day" was a reference to the
lunar calender of the pagans, a year of thirteen 28-day lunar months,
364 days, with one more day to make 365. The same "year and a
day" occurred in many fairy tales. (See Menstrual Calendar.) Taliesin'
s Preiddeu Annwn (Harrowings of Hell) spoke of the Nine
Maidens, priestesses of the perpetual fire that boiled the symbolic worldcauldron;
and of the yonic shrine, He!' s gate, to which the king' s
sword (or phallus) was lifted:
In Caer Pedryvan (four times revolving)
The Word from the cauldron it would be spoken
By the breath of nine maidens it would be kindled,
The head of Hades's cauldron-what is it like?
A rim it has, with pearls round its border;
It boils not a coward's food: it would not be perjured.
The sword of Llwch Lleawc would be lifted to it.
And in the hand of Lleminawc was it left.
And before the door of Hell's gate lamps were burning,
And when we accompanied Arthur, a bn1liant effort,
Seven alone did we return from Caer Veddwit. 30
Nine sisters were the same as the nine Goddesses of the
Fortunate Isles ruled by Morgan le Fay, and the nine Muses of Greek
myth, and the pre-Hellenic ninefold Goddess Nonacris, queen of the
Stygian birth-gate.31 She, or they, came from Oriental traditions almost
as old as civilization. During their Bronze Age Shang period, the
Chinese represented the Great Goddess of birth by nine tripod cauldrons
like the mixing-vessels of the Muses.32
The primitive cult of the cauldron obviously discouraged "cowards"
because it was cult of martyrdom. Like Christian martyrs, the
cauldron's victims were promised immediate resurrection into a life of
glory. Strabo spoke of Cimbrian priestesses who sacrificed men,
making them divine heroes, and caught their blood in magic cauldrons
and read omens in their entrails. 33
Some myths hint at cannibal cauldrons large enough to boil a
human body, and beliefs that death in the cauldron was not really
death. A gypsy legend spoke of a hero forced by a mystic Lady to milk
dangerous mares, then bathe in a boiling cauldron of their milk. A
god in the form of a royal horse promised to breathe frost on the
cauldron and render it comfortably lukewarm.34 The story recalls the
Corinthians' "man-eating mares," or horse-masked priestesses, who
caused Bellerophon to mount to heaven on the royal horse Pegasus,
symbol of apotheosis after death. 35

Horseback riding is a sign of deification on the famous silver
sacrificial cauldron recovered from a Gundestrup peat bog. Manufactured
about 100 B.c., the vessel showed a ceremony of sacrifice. Victims
appear to be identified with the Horned God, Cernunnos, seated in a
yogi's lotus position holding male and female symbols, the serpent and
torc.36 On foot, a row of victims approach the sacred cauldron which
is shield-shaped and double-lobed, resembling a yoni. A priest or
priestess is shown plunging one victim headfirst into the vessel. 37
Above, the heroes depart glorified, on horseback, riding literally into the
sunset, which represented heaven. Cernunnos himself was dismembered
and cooked in a cauldron to rise again, which made him the
obvious god for such rites. 38

A scene similar to that of the Gundestrup Cauldron occurs on a
sacred cista from Palestrina-Praeneste. Rome's Mother of Time,
Anna Perenna, appears to the dying god Mars in the guise of his virgin
bride, Minerva. She stands over her naked lover and pushes his head
down into a boiling cauldron, while the dog of the underworld gate
looks on, as also on the Gundestrup example.39
Some pagan Mysteries employed visions of the Cauldron as
symbolic death and rebirth. Before a Siberian shaman could practice,
he was required to undergo hallucinatory experiences of being chopped
to pieces and boiled in a cauldron, sometimes for a period as long as
three years. Yakut, Buryat, and other tribes say the shaman must be
killed by the spirits of ancestors, cooked in their magic cauldron, then
given new flesh. "Shaman" comes from Tungusic saman, "one who
died," a man assimilated to the Lord of Death called Samana in
Sanskrit. Tibetan shamans made the soul-journey to the "Great Hell"
pictured as an iron cauldron, called House of Iron or Iron Mountain.
There the aspirant was dismembered by rakshasas-obsolete ancestral
deities-and boiled, not in punishment for sin but as an initiatory
Skald-shamans of Scandinavia made the same soul-journey to
Hvergelmir, the Mighty Roaring Cauldron, source oflife-giving
waters at the foundations of the earth. This was another version of the
triple cauldron in the earth-.womb, from which Odin received inspiration
and power. Hvergelmir was triple too, accompanied by the fount of
wisdom and memory called Mimir (an archaic "mother"), and the
fount of ongoing life called Urdarbrunner, the stream of Mother Earth.
Founts and cauldrons in the earth were tended by the three Fates
(Noms), of whom the first was Mother Earth hersel£.41
Even when the Cauldron of Regeneration entered Christian
tradition as the Holy Grail, supposedly the chalice of Christ's last
supper, it was referred to as an escuele or "cauldron." 42 Arthur's knights
originally sought the Grail in the underworld of Annwn, receiving
their divine vision of it in the castle of Elaine, or Elen, the virgin aspect
of the triple Moon-goddess. It appeared in her hands, heralded by her
yonic dove. It meant death for her chosen one, Galahad, who reigned as
a sacred king, then died at the altar as he saw his vision of the Grail.43
The Cistercian Estoire del Saint Graal said "two heathen rulers,"
Mordrain and Nascien (Death and Rebirth) were blinded by the
vision of the Grail, but healed by the touch of the lance that pierced
Christ, both of these objects being kept in the same sanctuary.44 The
motive seems to have been to belittle the female symbol (grail) in favor
of the male symbol (lance).
Marginal note:
Large cauldrons in
Egyptian temples were
called shi, the
prototype of the brass
"sea" in Solomon's
temple, which was
certainly a Cauldron
of Regeneration. 12
Babylonian temples
had the same vessel,
called apsu or
"abyss," for baptism,
ceremonial lavage,
and r .obirth rituals.Il
Such a "sea" was
also called "the Deep,"
tehom in Hebrew. 14
Like the Christian
baptismal font
descended from these
forerunners, the
cauldron or "sea" was a
womb symbol.
Solomon's "sea"
represented his
Goddess, Ashtoreth
(Astarte). It was
decorated with her
yonic lilies: "The
brim thereof was
wrought like the
brim of a cup, with
flowers oflilies"
(l Kings 7:26).


"Mother," archaic name for the Egyptian Goddess as a trinity. The
first of Mut's three heads was the Virgin Maat, wearing the plumes of
Truth. The second was Hathor, Mother of the World, wearing the
red-and-white crowns of the Two Lands. The third, painted black and
wearing vulture feathers, was Nekhbet, the Crone of Death.1 The
Goddess's trinitarian name may have been a cognate of Kali's name
Mutteyalamma, one of her manifestations as a disease-causing
Mut mothered all the gods of Egypt. Though some myths said Isis
was the oldest deity in the world, others claimed Isis was born along
with Osiris from the womb of Mut. Her hieroglyphic sign was a design
of three cauldrons, representing the Triple Womb.2 See Cauldron;


Norse name of the Earth-goddess or primal "giantess" from whose
underground cauldron Odin stole the wise blood of immortality,
magic, and feminine mana, to make himself a supreme god.1 Though
her myth underwent several revisions, Gunnlöd was another form of
the Triple Goddess, keeping three cauldrons (or wombs) in the
bowels of the earth, which meant in herself.

Grail, Holy

Christian myth said the Holy Grail was the chalice used by Christ at
the Last Supper when he poured wine for the disciples to drink, saying,
"this is my blood" (Matthew 26:28). After the crucifixion, Joseph of
Arimathea took the chalice to England and established it in a shrine at
Glastonbury. Later, it disappeared.
This myth wasn't heard in Europe until the 12th century. The real
origins of the HoIy Grail were not Christian but pagan. The Grail
was first Christianized in Spain from a sacred tradition of the Moors. 1
Like the Celts' holy Cauldron of Regeneration, which it resembled,
the blood-filled vessel was a· womb symbol meaning rebirth in the
Oriental or Gnostic sense of reincarnation. Its connotation was
feminine, not masculine.
The Grail was kept in a magnificent temple governed by a queen
named Repanse de Joie (Dispenser of Joy), an ancient title of a holy
harlot. Bards said her husband was a Moor, and her son John founded
the eastern order of the Knights Templar, a group of warriors
dedicated to the Grail temple and the defense of women. When a lady
needed help, Grail knights like Galahad, Parsifal, or Lohengrin
would receive orders in fiery letters on the rim of the Grail and ride to
the rescue.
Hispano-Moorish tradition located the Grail temple on Montsalvatch,
the "Mount of Salvation" in the Spanish Pyrenees.2 The
temple was a model of the universe, topped by a gigantic ruby
representing the maternal heart of the world, the Holy Rose. The
pseudo-universe even included a miniature of itself enclosing the sacred
The temple itself was one hundred fathoms in diameter. Around it were
seventy-two chapels of an octagonal shape. To every pair of chapels
there was a tower six stories high, approachable by a winding stair on the
outside . . . . The vaulting was of blue sapphire, and in the center was a
plate of emerald . . .. All the altar stones were of sapphire . . .. Upon the
inside of the cupola surmounting the temple, the sun and moon were
represented in diamonds and topazes, and shed a light as of day even in
the darkness of the night. The windows were of crystal, beryl, and other
transparent stones. The floor was of translucent crystal, under which all
the fishes of the sea were carved out of onyx, just like life. The towers
were of precious stones inlaid with gold; their roofs of gold and blue
enamel. Upon every tower there was a crystal cross, and upon it a
golden eagle with expanded wings, which, at a distance, appeared to be
flying. At the summit of the main tower was an immense carbuncle,
which served, like a star, to guide the Templars thither at night. In the
center of the building, under the dome, was a miniature representation
of the whole, and in this the holy vessel was kept. 3 ·
Like the Ar'lbian brotherhood of hashishim (see Aladdin), the
legendary Knights Templar waited for the Desired Knight, or Mahdi, to
rescue the world from tyranny and establish the benevolent rule of
the Grail. The alternative was a dire prediction of the Waste Land,
modeled on the arid wilderness of Arabia Deserta, which some
eastern sages attributed to the departure of the Goddess.
The Grail temple was sometimes called Montjoie, "Mount of
Joy," like the castle Joyous Card to which Queen Guinevere retired
with her lover. It was the same as the Mons Veneris, or Venusberg. Its
sexual symbolism served to rally heretical uprisings against the antisexual
church. A 14th-century peasant leader calling himself William
Karle, or Cale, adopted "Montjoie" as a battle cry, and banners
showing the Goddess's traditional triple lily.4 The same battle cry was
used by the legendary soldiers of Roland, supposed .to have died in
the vicinity of the Grail castle. 5 Even older myths said the battle cry of
the Grail king was Amor (Love).6
The Grail was first converted into the chalice of Christ's last
supper in the Joseph d'Arimathie of the Burgundian poet Robert de
Borron, between 1180 and 1199. The origins of the mystic vessel were
yet suspect. It was formerly a jewel in the devil's crown. Sixty
thousand angels gave it to Satan when he still lived in heaven. During
his descent to hell, the jewel fell from his crown to earth, where it was
found and fashioned into a cup.7 Joseph of Arimathea acquired the cup
and gave it to Jesus to use at his last meal with his disciples. It was the
cup of doom, of which Jesus pr,ayed to God in a weak moment,
"Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me" (Matthew
The poet said Joseph was imprisoned by the Jews and left in a
dungeon for a year and a day without food or drink; but he remained
alive and well because he had the Grail with him. He was set free by the
emperor Vespasian, who was converted to Christianity after being
cured of leprosy by the veil with which St. Veronica wiped Jesus's face.
Joseph then traveled to England with a group of pilgrims, built the
temple of the Grail at Glastonbury, and installed the Round Table for
the rite of the holy supper. Among his followers was Bron, the Rich
Fisher, directly stolen from pagan myths of Bran the Blessed, Welsh
god of the sacred cauldron. For a touch of anti-Semitic propaganda in
this chowder of fantasy, de Borron claimed the vacant Seat Perilous at
the Round Table was the seat of Judas. Another Jew, Moyses
(Moses) once dared to sit in it, but for his hubris he was swallowed up by
the earth.8
About 1230 appeared the even more chaotic Vulgate Cycle,
L 'Estoire del Saint Graal, a quintet of prose romances in Old French.
The author pretended his book was given by the ghost of Christ himself
to a Cistercian monk on Good Friday, 717 A.D. This work frankly
called the Grail by its old title, an escuele or "cauldron." The company
of the Grail colonized the holy city of Sarras, ruled by Mordrain and
Nascien (Death and Birth). Moys (Moses) was snatched away from the
Seat Perilous by fiery hands. Solomon's ship, which moved by itself
on the sea, carried Christianity to all lands. Members of the Grail
company had various adventures: Bron went to Scotland and sustained
a poisoned wound, like Tristan. He was cured by the local
princess, then he killed her father and married her. Alain the
"Hunting Dog" went to a foreign land and built a new castle for the
Grail, Castle Corbenic (cors-benoiz, meaning either Horn of Plenty
or Sacred Heart). The seventh Rich Fisher, Lambor, was slain by a
Saracen with the magic sword from Solomon's ship, and the land of
the lost Grail became la terre gaste-the Waste Land.9
A final step in the kansformation of the Grail from a pagan symbol
to a Christian one was taken in La Queste del Saint Graal, written by
a Cistercian monk. Now Galahad was said to be the perfect Desired
Knight, of the lineage of Joseph of Arimathea. Gala had occupied the
Seat Perilous safely, because he was virginally pure. He drew the magic
sword from a stone that floated on the river, for the same reason . .
Through him the Grail vision was bestowed on all the Round Table
knights, who promptly left their games, feasts, and tourneys (i.e., their
paganism) to follow the vision to the ends of the earth in search of the
real thing.
The Queste showed obvious hostility to the contemporary cult of
courtly love; but when the Grail's aura of feminine mystery was
removed, its romantic appeal declined. If the Grail was nothing more
than the cup of Christ's blood, then there was no reason for the great
Quest at all. The cup of Christ's blood was readily available to all, in
every chapel; and even though it was called a holy sacrament, its
discovery somehow lacked thrills. 10 As matters turned out, to Christianize
the Grail was to neutralize the magnetism of its secret nature.
The monkish author's real purpose was to tout the virtues of
virginity. All but one of the Round Table knights failed the Grail
quest because they were guilty of sexual sins. Perceval was abandoned
because of his past links with the cult of courtly love. Gawain, who
played the part of Desired Knight in other romances, failed utterly.
Lancelot, having committed adultery with Guinevere, could never
see the Grail except in a dream. The only chaste knight was Galahad,
the new, purified Lancelot. Galahad's virginity led him to every
Christian treasure, including the shield of Joseph of Arimathea, laid up
in a Cistercian abbey. It was white with a red cross- the same "hues
of innocence and blood" on the red-and-white emblem of the Assassins'
brotherhood, borrowed by the crusaders, and later by mystics calling
themselves Knights of the Rosy Cross, or Rosicrucians. 11
The Grail remained secretly pagan for many centuries in isolated
areas. English Grail stories were modeled on the Irish Horn of
Plenty, containing blood/wine for drinking and named the Vessel of the
Spirit. A festival called a Grail was celebrated every seventh year in
Brunswick, until it was outlawed in 1481. 12


"Mount of Salvation," the Temple of the Holy Grail vaguely located
in the Pyrenees. This was probably an alternate name for the fortress of
the heretical Cathari at Montsegur in the Pyrenees, where members
of the sect were trapped and beseiged for years by papal armies, until the
fortress was finally captured and destroyed in 12 44.1 The Grail
temple was supposed to be the residence of Knights Templar who rode
forth to the assistance ofladies in distress.2 See Grail, Holy.

Vas Hermeticum, Vas Spirituale

Alchemical terms for the symbolic Grail, signifying the womb of
matter, a universal vessel of all transformations. The original symbol was
the "Vase" of life and death representing the womb of the Great
Goddess Rhea Pandora. Among Christian mystics, Vas Spirituale was a
common title of the virgin Mary.


Female-symbolic Holy Vase, used in the Eleusinian Mysteries as a
uterine receptacle for corpses, to give them a blessed rebirth. The
Goddess herself was represented by a vase or pot in the guise of
Pandora the "All-Giver." (See Pandora.) The identity of the Great
Mother with this vessel of rebirth and regeneration was an idea
common to most ancient cultures, where the manufacture of pots and
vases of all kinds was usually the business of women.1
In Christian custom the pithos was transformed into the pyx or
"box" that enclosed the body of Christ; and Erasmus confused the
two vessels in translating the patriarchal version of Pandora's myth.


"All-giver," title of the Earth-goddess Rhea, personified as the first
woman in an anti-feminist fable by Hesiod, who tried to blame war,
death, disease, and all other ills on women.1
Pandora's vessel was not a box but a honey-vase, pithos, from
which she poured out blessings: a womb-symbol like the Cornucopia,
anciently used as a vessel of death and rebirth.2 Pandora's Vase became
Pandora's Box only in the late medieval period, when Erasmus
mistakenly translated pithos as pyxis. 3
Hesiod claimed Zeus sent Pandora to earth to punish men, who
had offended him. She bore a vase filled not with blessings but with
curses: strife, pain, death, sickness, and all other afflictions. Pandora in
her curiosity opened the vase, as Zeus knew she would, and released
them among men. In a refinement of cruelty, Zeus also supplied
delusive Hope, to prevent men from killing themselves in despair and
escaping the full meed of suffering their Heavenly Father intended for
them.4 The basic theme is also familiar in the myth of Eve.
Hesiod's story was further adapted to the legend of King Solomon,
who was said to keep a horde of demons in a vase. After his death,
greedy men broke the vase in seeking treasure and let the demons out
into the world.5


"Heart" or "kernel"; the Eleusinian sacred pot, a uterine symbol in
which seeds of new life could sprout. The kernos evolved into the
Garden of Adonis, a pot with sprouting seeds of wheat or barley,
tended by women. Ceremonies of the kernos were still observed up to
the 20th century in Sardinia, Sicily, Calabria, and other areas.1 In
England and Scotland the feast of Harvest Home, Ingathering, Mell
Supper, or (in Christian times) the Festival of Our Lady of Mercy
sometimes had the name of kim. 2


Teutonic Schiff, "ship," descended from Old Norse skop, meaning
"Fate" and also "genitals."1 It was a symbol of the Goddess Frigga
(Freya), whose name also gave rise to "frigging" and "frigate"; she
ruled the ship-shaped burial mounds.2
Denmark, North Jutland, near Aalborg, Viking burial ground of Lindholm Hoje

From these mounds evolved the Norman temples, laid out in the
form of a ship, navis, on which the nave or "belly" of a Christian
church was modeled. Both "navel" and "naval" once referred to the
burial shrine likened to a ship and the Mother's womb at the same
time. The Norse death ship-vessel of the famous "Viking funeral" was
called ludr, meaning boat, coffin, and cradle. 3 It took the dead
back to their Mother-sea; the Norsemen's expression for "death" was
"to return to the mother's womb." 4 The pagan Welsh similarly sent
their dead back to the marine womb and called their funeral dirges
marwysgafen "Giving-back-to-the-Sea-Mother." 5 The vessel of
death and rebirth was always feminine, which may be why a ship is still
Egypt's Lord of Death, Osiris-Seker, was carried away in a boat
under the auspices of a priest entitled "great chief of the hammer,"
the same title held by Thor. The god came to life again in the "morning
boat," tended by a spirit named Matet, evidently the same as Mater
Matuta, the Dawn-Mother.6 Matet was an emanation of lsis the
Mother, to whom the solar boat was dedicated.
Romans worshipped Isis as a ship-goddess, the boat being a symbol
of her womb, each of her temples having a "bark of Isis" carved in
stone at the entrance. The Roman temple where Isis's holy boat was
kept became a Christian church under the name of Santa Maria della
Navicella: Our Lady of the Boat.7 Isis-figures in boats, kept in pagan
temples throughout Europe, gave rise to the curious fairy tale
collected by Grimm under the title of "The Witch in the Stone Boat."
Many "witches" or Goddess-figures appeared in boats even during
the nominally Christian era. A 12th-century chronicler spoke of
singing, dancing processions that followed sacred ships mounted on
wheels, containing as he put it "I know not what evil genius." 8 One
suspects the chronicler knew perfectly well that the wheeled ship
contained a pagan Goddess. Up to the late Middle Ages, the
Goddess's wheeled ship was drawn through the streets of Flemish towns
by the weavers' guilds, accompanied by half-naked male and female
dancers whose behavior, churchmen said, was "scandalously bacchanalian." 9
The Midsummer festival at Douai in 1770 featured a huge
Wheel of Fortune, emblem of the Fate-goddess, and a dry-land ship
filled with people who made "strange gestures," recalling the images
of ancestral spirits in the ship of Arianrhod which was also a starwheel.
10 See Wheel.
Ships were associated with orgiastic rites from the earliest manifestations
of the ship as a womb symbol and an earthly imitation of the
crescent moon. Oriental sages called the moon "the Ark or vessel of
boat-like shape, symbol of fertility or the Container of the Germ of all
life." 11


Central aisle of a church, from navis, a ship; medieval churches
copied the ship shape of Norman burial mounds.1
Anundshög, Västmanland, Sweden

Nave also meant the
navel or omphalos, since both ship and shrine were symbols of the
Goddess's womb to which Northmen returned at death.


Greek word for "brother," dating back to the matriarchal period
when kinship was reckoned only through a mother. Its literal meaning is
"one from the same womb."1


The biblical title of Eve, "Mother of All Living," was a translation of
Kali Ma' s title Jaganmata. She was also known in India as Jiva or Ieva,
the Creatress of all manifested forms. 1 In Assyrian scriptures she was
entitled Mother-Womb, Creatress of Destiny, who made male and
female human beings out of clay, "in pairs she completed them."4
The first of the Bible's two creation myths gives this Assyrian version,
significantly changing "she" to "he" (Genesis l :27).
The original Eve had no spouse except the serpent, a living
phallus she created for her own sexual pleasure. 5 Some ancient
peoples regarded the Goddess and her serpent as their first parents.6
Sacred icons showed the Goddess giving life to a man, while her
serpent coiled around the apple tree behind her.7 Deliberate misinterpretation
of such icons produced ideas for revised creation myths like
the one in Genesis. Some Jewish traditions of the first century B.C.,
however, identified Jehovah with the serpent deity who accompanied
the Mother in her garden.8 Sometimes she was Eve, sometimes her
name was given as Nahemah, Naama, or Namrael, who gave birth to
Eve and Adam without the help of any male, even the serpent.9
Because Jehovah arrogantly pretended to be the sole Creator, Eve
was obliged to punish him, according to Gnostic scriptures. Though
the Mother of All Living existed before everything, the God forgot she
had made him and had given him some of her creative power. "He
was even ignorant of his own Mother. ... It was because he was foolish
and ignorant of his Mother that he said, 'I am God; there is none
beside me.'" Gnostic texts often show the creator reprimanded and
punished for his arrogance by a feminine power greater and older
than himself. 10
The secret of God's "Name of power," the Tetragrammaton,
was that three-quarters of it invoked not God, but Eve. YHWH, yodhe-
vau-he, came from the Hebrew root HWH, meaning both "life"
and "woman"-in Latin letters, E-V-E.16 With the addition of an I
(yod), it amounted to the Goddess's invocation of her own name as the
Word of creation, a common idea in Egypt and other ancient lands. 17
Gnostic scriptures said Adam was created by the power of Eve's
word, not God's. She said, "Adam, live! Rise up upon the earth!" As
soon as she spoke the word, her word became reality. Adam rose up and
opened his eyes. "When he saw her, he said, 'You will be called "the
mother of the living," because you are the one who gave me life.'" 18
Adam's name meant he was formed of clay moistened with blood,
the female magic of adamah or "bloody clay." 19 He didn't produce
the Mother of All Living from his rib; in earlier Mesopotamian stories,
he was produced from hers. (See Birth-giving, Male.) His Babylonian
predecessor Adapa (or Adamu) was deprived of eternal life not by
the Goddess, but by a hostile God.
The biblical idea was a reversal of older myths in which the
Goddess brought forth a primal male ancestor, then made him her
mate-the ubiquitous, archetypal divine-incest relationship traceable in
every mythology. The reversal was not even original with biblical
authors. It was evolved by Aryan patriarchs who called Brahma the
primal male ancestor. They claimed their god brought forth the
Mother of All Living from his own body, then mated with her, so she
gave birth to the rest of the universe. 20 In the Hebraic version, a
wombless God made his offspring with his hands, and the actual birthgiving
was left to Adam. The Bible as revised by patriarchal scribes
said nothing about a divine birth-giving, since the scribes were determined
to separate the concepts of"deity" and "mother" insofar as
Gnostic scriptures however reverted to the older tradition and
said Eve not only created Adam and obtained his admission to heaven;
she was the very soul within him, as Shakti was the soul of every
Hindu god and yogi. Adam couldn't live without "power from the
Mother," so she descended to earth as "the Good Spirit, the
Thought of Light called by him 'Life' (Hawwa)." She entered into
Adam as his guiding spirit of conscience: "It is she who works at the
creature, exerts herself on him, sets him in his own perfect temple,
enlightens him on the origin of his deficiency, and shows him his
(way of) ascent." Through her, Adam was able to rise above the
ignorance imposed on him by the male God.21
By this Gnostic route came the Midrashic assertion that Adam and
Eve were originally androgynous, like Shiva and his Shakti. She dwelt
in him, and he in her; they were two souls united in one body, which
God later tore apart, depriving them of their bliss of union. Cabalists
took up the idea and said the paradise of Eden can be regained only
when the two sexes are once more united; even God must be united
with his female counterpart, the heavenly Eve called Shekina.22
Another Gnostic version of the story made God a true villain, who
cursed Adam and Eve and expelled them from paradise out of
jealousy of their happiness. He also lusted after the Virgin Eve, raped
her, and begot her sons Jahveh and Elohim, whose other names were
Cain and Abel. Here was one of several myths that made Eve the
mother not only of Adam, but also of Jehovah, and of all the
elements as well. The myth went on to say the first of Eve's offspring
ruled the male elements of fire and air; the second ruled the female
elements of earth and water. 23
Like her prototype Kali Jaganmata, Eve brought forth death as
well as life-that is, she brought forth all living forms, all of which
were subject to death for the very reason that they were alive. Under
patriarchal systems of belief, the fact that every living thing is doomed
to die was blamed on the Mother who gave it a finite life. Instead of
blaming God for casting Adam out of the paradise where he might
have lived forever, the patriarchs blamed Eve for bringing this about.
The Wisdom ofJesus ben Sirach said evil began with Woman (Eve):
"because of her we all die." 24 Fathers of the Christian church said Eve
conceived by the serpent and brought forth Death. The seeds of all
women already existed in Eve, St. John Chrysostom maintained, so that
in her sin "the whole female race transgressed." 25
The Book of Enoch said God created death to punish all humanity
for Eve's sin, but many patriarchal thinkers hesitated to blame God
even indirectly. The prevalent opinion was that when Eve disobeyed
the deity, death somehow just happened.26 St. Paul blamed only Eve,
absolving Adam from guilt for the apple-eating incident: "Adam was not
deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression" (I
Timothy 2: 14). A church council announced in 418 A.D. that it was
heresy to say death was a natural necessity rather than the result of
Eve's disobedience.27
This was the real origin of the church fathers' fear and hatred of
women, which expanded into a sexist attitude that permeated all of
western society: Woman was identified with Death. Her countervailing
responsibility for birth was taken away, and the creation of life was
laid to the credit of the Father-god, whose priests claimed he could
remove the curse of death. As every woman was understood to be an
emanation of Eve, Tertullian said to Everywoman:
And do you not know that you are an Eve? The sentence of God on this
sex of yours lives in this age; the guilt must of necessity live too. You
are the devil's gateway . .. the first deserter of the divine law; you are she
who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack.
You destroyed so easily God's image, man. On account of your desert-that
is, death, even the Son of God had to die. 28
Medieval theologians said Adam was forgiven. Christ descended
into hell and rescued Adam along with other biblical patriarchs. He
escorted Adam into heaven, saying, "Peace be to thee and to all the
just among thy sons." 29 But for Eve there was no forgiveness. No peace
was offered to her or her daughters. Presumably, they were left
behind in hell. Christian theologians espoused the same theory as
Persian patriarchs, that heaven was closed to all women except those
who were submissive and worshipped their husbands as gods. 30 Even
modern theologians naively blame human death on the Edenic sin.
Rahner said, "Man's death is the demonstration of the fact that he has
fallen away from God .... Death is guilt made visible.'' 31 Theologians
have not yet dealt with the question of what "guilt" causes death
among non-human creatures.
Actually, churches depend for their very existence on the orthodox
myth of Eve. "Take the snake, the fruit-tree, and the woman from
the tableau, and we have no fall, no frowning Judge, no Inferno, no
everlasting punishment-hence no need of a Savior. Thus the
bottom falls out of the whole Christian theology." 32
Equally destructive to Christian theology would be restoration of
books arbitrarily excluded from the canon, such as the Apocalypse of
Adam, in which Adam stated that he and Eve were created together but
she was his superior. She brought with her "a glory which she had
seen in the aeon from which we had come forth. She taught me a word
of knowledge .... And we resembled the great eternal angels, for we
were higher than the God who had created us.'' 33
Some of these once-sacred books made Eve superior to both Adam
and the creator. It was she, not God, who gave Adam his soul and
brought him to life. It was she, not God, who cast down the evil deities
from heaven and made them demons. And she, as the eternal female
Power, would eventually judge the God she created, find him guilty of
injustice, and destroy him. 34
As an allegory, this might reflect a social truth. Fragile constructs
of the collective mind, gods are easily destroyed by those who ignore
them. Early Gnostic documents show that most women of the ancient
world were disposed to ignore the God who was said to have cursed
their sex and their descendants forever. Had one of the other versions of
the Eve myth prevailed over the canonical version, sexual behavior
patterns in western civilization almost certainly would have evolved
along very different lines. Christianity managed to project man's fear
of death onto woman, not to respect her as Kali the Destroyer was
respected, but to hate her.
The uncanonical scriptures were no more and no less creditable
than the canonical ones. Their picture of Eve as God's stern mother,
the defender of mankind against a tyrannical demon-deity, had more
adherents in the early Christian centuries than the picture that is now
familiar. One of Christianity's best-kept secrets was that the Mother of
All Living was the Creatress who chastised God.
Marginal notes:
One of her Tantric
names was Adita Eva:
"the Very
Beginning." 2 In
northern Babylonia,
Eve was known as "the
divine Lady of
Eden," or "Goddess of
the Tree of Life." 3
Assyrians called her
Nin-Eveh, "Holy
Lady Eve," after whom
their capital city was
Eve was one of the
common Middle-Eastern
names of the
superior feminine
power. To the
Hittites, she was
Hawwah, "Life." 11
To the Persians, she
was Hvov, "the
Earth."12 Aramaeans
called her Hawah,
"Mother of All
Living." 13 In
Anatolia she was Hebat
or Hepat, with a
Greek derivative Hebe,
"Virgin Mother
Earth," with the same
relationship to the
Great Goddess Hera as
Kore-Persephone to
Demeter, and Hebe
may have been an
eponymous ancestress
of "Hebrews." A
semitic root of her
names was hayy, a
matrilineal kinship
group, once
considered the "life" of
every tribe by direct
descent from the
Creatress. 14 The
names of Eve, the
Serpent, and "Life"
are still derived from the
same root in


"Womb," personification of rachamin, "mother-love" or "compassion,"
comparable to Sanskrit karuna.1 Rachel's totemic form was the
divine Ewe, mother of the Holy Lamb: an important symbol of early
Hebraic tribal motherhoods. Rabbinical writings admitted that during
this tribal period, the Four Matriarchs-Rachel, Sarah, Rebecca, and
Leah-were more important than the Three Patriarchs-Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob.2

From Barbara Walker's Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets

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