Creativity—the power to manifest physical and psychic reality—is one of the Goddess’s primary aspects. People have long identified the feminine as the source of all being. She appears as the Great Mother, the Sustainer of Life, the Cosmic Creatrix. It is from her that all life proceeds and to her that it returns. By its very nature, our ultimate cosmic origin comes before any gender or even species identity. But if one wishes to give human form to the Original Source, a female being, whether she be called Grandmother or Great Goddess, is the logical choice.
Archeologist Marija Gimbutas and art historian Max Allen, among others, assert that our oldest religious symbol represents the birth-giving power of the Great Goddess: It is a diamond-shaped figure with extending arms and legs; there is often an x-shaped fetus within the diamond. This abstraction first appeared in 25,000 b.c.e. and has since been encoded in the women’s textiles of eastern Europe, Asia and the Pacific. Even today it is the most common motif in Eurasia and Indonesia. It is interesting to note that the diamond is the shape of the vulva at the crowning in birth, and the molecular shape of the female hormone. The process of gestation and birth is one of the great mysteries of life. Our vastly complex bodies, personalities and characters seemingly emerge from microscopic specks. Surely, to our ancestors birth was the original mystery. They must have watched with awe the miracle of a child growing in and emerging from the body of a woman. Throughout the millennia, woman was revered for her unique abilities to give birth and sustain life, and because she was able to recreate both herself and her “opposite”: a male child. As our forebears looked around at the rest of life, the trees, mountains and rivers, they must have thought that all this came from a very great woman’s body—that of a Goddess, the “mother of all things.”
The oldest recorded account of the creation of the universe, a Babylonian text, says that “When above the heavens had not been formed, when the earth beneath had no name, Tiamat brought forth them both. . .Tiamat, the Mother of the Gods, Creator of All.” The power of the Goddess’s original act of creation could also be called upon during creation in the microcosm, as in a seventeenth century b.c.e. Babylonian text which encourages a woman in labor by telling the story of the Goddess Mami, who made the first person out of clay and blood. The female act of birth is sanctified even in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, where the innermost shrine is enclosed by four pillars, three depicting the face of a woman in various stages of childbirth, the last the face of a newborn baby. Yoni-shaped leaves and”flowers” representing the female reproductive organs surround the mother.
Just as our ancestors honored woman’s ability to create humans from her womb and feed them from her breast, they also honored the Earth as the Great Mother who nourishes us and from whose body we are all created. Rejoicing in her and celebrating the beauty of life were the natural expressions of our forebears’ art and mythology. In time, as men and male deities took power, stories evolved which told of the Mother giving birth to or creating the Gods and Goddesses. Even in our patriarchal era, we can trace the original power of the Great Goddess in the art and myths of the Mothers of the Dieties.
As weaver or dreamer or womb source of the universe, the Cosmic Birth Mother is the embodiment of creativity. At times this dynamic creativity has been associated with a particular life giving element of Nature such as the sun. At others the nurturing motherliness of the Goddess is expressed through Mothers of the People, deities who protect, guide and provide a sense of common identity for the members of a culture. Perhaps it is because the Goddess spins life out of her own body that she remains so closely connected with her creatures. For she is also Lady of the Plants and Animals, moving easily between human and animal form, growing in the fields as grain—the One whose own body is the infinite variety of life forms she creates.
The Creation images I have chosen reflect the richness and abundance of earthly life. Each of these figures was lovingly made in awe and gratitude for all that the Goddess has given. In speaking of the Goddess’s and human creative abilities, I mean the spiritual, psychic, healing and artistic powers, as well as those of physical birth and nurturing. Mothering is a powerful image for all acts of creativity, whether they be making a work of art, a relationship or a livelihood. By contemplating these images of the Creation Goddesses, we can learn more about the process of consciously giving birth and of consciously creating all aspects of our lives. As we honor the Creation Goddesses, we reclaim the source of existence. We rediscover life itself, as well as the possibility of living fully and creatively on the Earth.
O Great Mother, mother of us all, oldest of the old,
come to me through the labyrinth of time to help me
remember the wisdom of my forebears, the eternal
life- giving power of woman.
Bird-Headed Snake Goddess, Africa, C. 4000 B.C.E.