What Does Gaia Mean?
Quite simply, Gaia is life. She is all, the very soul of the earth. She is a goddess who, by all accounts, inhabits the planet, offering life and nourishment to all her children. In the ancient civilizations, she was revered as mother, nurturer and giver of life. She goes by many names, but in an effort to better connect and understand this energy, let’s explore the myriad of forms in which she appears on Earth.
Gaia in Goddess Traditions
Every culture has their version of the Earth Goddess. The Greeks called her Gaia, while the Incas know her as PachaMama. In some cases, she predates writing: ancient, pre-linguistic references to her have been found, alongside shrines, statues and paintings of her in every corner of the globe. She is the first goddess, the primeval one, the creator of all life and the fullness of her legacy is still being resurrected after patriarchal suppression.
The paleolithic Venus figures dot all of Europe, hearkening a worship of the feminine earth mother which has been lost to us. Despite the efforts of many historians, archaeologists and artists, we’re only now beginning to remember the stories of the goddess.
Gaia in Greek Mythology
To the Greeks, Gaia was the ultimate goddess of raw, maternal power. In the beginning, there was chaos, nebulous ethers waiting to take form. This primordial landscape awaited direction; it’s then that the spirit of Gaia arrived to give structure to the formless and the Earth was conceived.
Mother of Life
She became the Earth, birthing all form of landscape, plant and creature. Though her creation was majestic, her solitude was great. She longed for love and created the sky with whom she mated, igniting a creative force which birthed countless offspring: Time and the Fates, the Muses and the oceans, to name a few. She’s considered the primeval mother of whom all gods—and life itself—descended.
A Return to Divine Feminine
As the prevalence of gods and goddesses in the 19th and 20th centuries faded away, so did history books’ tales of female pharaohs, women scientists and amazon warriors. History is kept by the victors—and the victors are most often men. This left a void in collective consciousness and Gaia was relegated to mythology alone. With the convergence of feminism in the 1970s, all that changed when a groundbreaking pro-female establishment was founded, providing new understanding of how our planet operates.
Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis
In 1970, chemist James Lovelock and his research partner Lynn Margulis (the wife of Carl Sagan at the time) proposed that the earth is a living being, self-regulating the elements to sustain life on it. This revolutionary hypothesis was seen as heretical, but has since been accepted as fact; a theory, no longer a hypothesis.
Their work suggested that in the earth chemicals all “talk” to one another to protect life on the planet; all elements work in perfect harmony to ensure life on earth is sustained. The stability of life and its consistent ability to self-regulate and protect earth’s creatures connotes a universe much more intelligent than previously imagined. Gaia theory taught that a sophisticatedly aware universe is regulating these many facets to protect and preserve life on the planet.
Far beyond the mythological Gaia, the name has come to represent an all-loving, nurturing and intelligent cosmic force which oversees life on earth. The goddess traditions have worked tirelessly to resurrect the ancient teachings of the Great Mother and ensure her presence as a force of love on the planet. More than saving the planet or participating in Earth Day celebrations, we can treat every day like a ceremony. To be in a sincere connected relationship with Gaia, we must acknowledge her sundry gifts and be open to receive her wisdom.
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