UPLIFT LOGO
0

The Ancient Practice of Marrying the Land

By Sharon Blackie on Saturday November 28th, 2015

The Ancient Practice of Marrying the Land

Reigniting the divine feminine through Celtic stories and traditions

The native pre-Christian mythology of the Celtic nations which stretch along the Western Atlantic seaboard of Europe is highly woman-centred. In our oldest stories, the creative, generative essence of the universe was female, not male; women represented the spiritual and moral axis of the world, and the power of men was predominantly social.

But the Celtic divine female was a long way from the remote, transcendent sky-deities we’ve grown used to in recent centuries here in the West: she had one foot in the Otherworld for sure, but she was firmly grounded and deeply rooted in place, indivisible from her distinctive, haunting landscapes.

In Ireland in particular, the Dinnseanchas — the ancient stories and lore of place, the foundation-stones both of personal and communal identity, and of moral obligations to the land and the tribe — tell us how so many major features of the landscape came to be named after women.

Alt text hereOtherworldly woman of the land

Feminine Authority of the Otherworld

Almost all Irish rivers, for example, bear the names of Otherworldly women. Ancient Irish literature is filled with stories of powerful women who were incarnations of Sovereignty, the goddess of the land who was its guardian and protector. Sovereignty was the spirit of the Earth itself, the anima mundi, a deeply ecological force.

She’s been treated badly over the centuries, this old goddess of Sovereignty. She began to lose her power when stories from the ancient oral tradition of the Celts were committed to paper by Christian monks; their written words formed the new and only permitted truth. A goddess could not be tolerated in this brave new world: theirs was the only god.

These powerful, complicated divine women who carried with them all the authority of the Otherworld, and the fertile and creative power of the land in all its ambiguity and complexity, were reinvented as saints. And if the qualities they embodied in their specific incarnations didn’t fit the new image of what a good woman should be, they were portrayed simply as ‘fairy women’, or remodelled as promiscuous, pseudo-historical queens.

By the seventeenth century, when a woman could no longer be accepted in any significant position of influence, all that remained of the story of the powerful goddess of Sovereignty were the dreamlike visions or aislings in which she appeared to inspire the poets – a weak, melancholy maiden, romanticised and unreal.

Alt text hereThe power of the goddess rests in the land

When the King married the Goddess of the Land

In the days when our native traditions predominated, the power of Sovereignty — the power of women — was also the power to determine who should rule the land. In the old myths, Sovereignty’s power was paramount. If the power she bestowed was abused, then we invited disaster.

During the reign of a king favoured by the goddess, the land was fertile and prosperous, and the tribe was victorious in war. But if the king didn’t match up to her expectations, he didn’t last long. And what she expected more than anything was that the king, and through his example, the people, would cherish the land.

So it was that the ancient rites of kingship in Ireland included a ceremonial marriage, the banais ríghi, between the king and the goddess of the land, and so fundamental was that idea to the Irish way of life that those rites lasted into the sixteenth century.

In this sacred marriage, the king swore to uphold and protect the land and his people, and to be true to both; in return Sovereignty, the source of life, granted him the gifts which would help him to keep his oath. But the source of life must be respected.

While there is mutual respect between the two partners – between the goddess and the king, between the land and the people, between nature and culture, between feminine and masculine – then all is in harmony and life is filled with abundance. But when the contract is broken, the fertile land becomes the Wasteland.

Alt text hereRespect for the Celtic goddess brought fertile land

Reclaiming the mythical woman of the past

And so it is that today we find ourselves in an ailing world, cut off from our roots. So we find ourselves in a Wasteland of unbelonging; in the throes of a worldwide environmental crisis of our own making which threatens the existence of so many species on this planet.

I began to write my forthcoming book, If Women Rose Rooted, because I believe we need to find our way out of the Wasteland, and I believe that women hold the key. The key is there, in the mythologies that are indigenous to my native lands. For women particularly, to have a Celtic identity or ancestry is to inherit a history, literature and mythology in which we are portrayed not only as deeply connected to the natural world, but as playing a unique and critical role in the wellbeing of the Earth and survival of its inhabitants.

Celtic myths for sure have their fair share of male heroism and adventure, but the major preoccupation of their heroes is with service to and stewardship of the land. And once upon a time, those stories tell us, women were the guardians of the natural world, the heart of the land.

The Celtic woman who appears in these old tales is active in a different way from their heroes and warriors: she is the one who determines who is fit to rule, she is the guardian and protector of the land, the bearer of wisdom, the root of spiritual and moral authority for the tribe.

Celtic creation stories tell us that the land was shaped by a woman; Celtic history offers us examples of women who were the inspirational leaders of their tribes. These are the stories of our own heritage, the stories of the real as well as the mythical women who went before us. What if we could reclaim those stories, and become those women again?

How do you feel about this article? Join the conversation.

 

Related

patchfeature

How to Start a Happiness Revolution

The Healing Power of Listening in Stillness

An Indigenous Approach To Healing Trauma

women of visionary art

The Women of Visionary Art

Featured

med 3

Two Simple Ways to Improve Your Meditation Practice

WhichWolfFeature1

Which Wolf Should You Feed?

cry 1

Why Men Need to Cry

Popular

Subscribe to UPLIFT

UPLIFT is dedicated to telling the new story of inspired co-creation.

Get free updates and news about UPLIFT events and films.

channels

Yoga
Wellness
Consciousness
Inspiration

UPLIFT

the yoga channel

http://uplift.yoga

follow UPLIFT on   

references

comments

38
Join the Conversation

avatar
20 Comment threads
18 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
27 Comment authors
J.ThuoClaireMaitiu DavydiukElen SentierАлия Ошова Recent comment authors

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

newest oldest most voted
Rox Boreal Granny Ateah
Guest
Rox Boreal Granny Ateah

“The native pre-Christian mythology of the Celtic nations which stretch along the Western Atlantic seaboard of Europe is highly woman-centred. In our oldest stories, the creative, generative essence of the universe was female, not male; women represented the spiritual and moral axis of the world, and the power of men was predominantly social.” I personally believe this is why the huge difference in Celtic & Roman Christianity . because Rome was an extremely patriarchal pagan culture . the pagan customs carried into the new belief systems always carry on blend in in all cultures really . But I believe this… Read more »

Heidi
Guest
Heidi

Rome was a culture of conquering and warfare, and so that version of Christianity tends to be always at odds with any deviation from the rigid doctrines and dogmas It tends to push down all other religions and “conquer” other beliefs leaving little trace. Celtic culture is slower paced and accepting of things as they are, hence more tolerant of differences and accepting.

Elaine Dolan
Guest
Elaine Dolan

Yes, I agree it will take women to save the earth…but not women who turn back time and restore primitive ways. They must come together on a new moral code that does not leave themselves out as their predecessors did. The witches (healers) will be scientists with authority and in no small way, deflect males weaknesses and excuses.

Dave Shaffer
Guest
Dave Shaffer

Way to take a wonderful, insightful article and ruin it with hateful nonsense. You people have to inject your propaganda in everything don’t you? It’s now coming to light how much of a joke feminism is. Keep your Neo-Leftist doublethink on the west coast where you harpies belong.

Elaine Dolan
Guest
Elaine Dolan

Castration is appropriate for those who have no grasp of their unconsciousness. Don’t need a continuance of you here on the great MOTHER earth.

Dave Shaffer
Guest
Dave Shaffer

Come castrate me then. Oh yeah, you people don’t actually carry out any of your threats because you don’t have spines. You’re probably some pseudointellectual Wicca femtard. I take steps to empower the women around me. I help them embrace their natural maternal instincts and reverse the damage pigs like you have infected our sister’s minds with. Now we’re seeing a resurgence of wise matriarchs and tender mothers. True female leadership reminiscent of the mothers of old. Now until you muster up the courage to actually do something, just sit the fuck down and watch your poisonous ideology fail.

Elaine Dolan
Guest
Elaine Dolan

You masterbate really well. Can you do anything else?

Daven Anglesson
Guest
Daven Anglesson

Good one.

Petrus Kruiper
Guest
Petrus Kruiper

You’re letting the side down Dave…!!!

Petrus Kruiper
Guest
Petrus Kruiper

Point the gun at me Leroy, I’m “one of us” I’ve had the (granted) dubious pleasure of hanging with some neo-leftist doublethink Wicca femtard shit for just too long and can provide you with some info on how to go about these terribly soft people. First of all, for me to help them embrace their natural maternal instincts is exactly the same as a woman helping you embrace thinking with your penis. Now by no means am I suggesting that you are the type of Alpha male egotist who would be guilty of that kind of baseness, but you and… Read more »

Petrus Kruiper
Guest
Petrus Kruiper

Point the gun at me Leroy, I’m “one of us” I’ve had the (granted) dubious pleasure of hanging with some neo-leftist doublethink Wicca femtard shit for just too long and can provide you with some info on how to go about these terribly soft people. First of all, for me to help them embrace their natural maternal instincts is exactly the same as a woman helping you embrace thinking with your penis. Now by no means am I suggesting that you are the type of Alpha male egotist who would be guilty of that kind of baseness, but you and… Read more »

Petrus Kruiper
Guest
Petrus Kruiper

Point the gun at me Leroy, I’m “one of us” I’ve had the (granted) dubious pleasure of hanging with some neo-leftist doublethink Wicca femtard shit for just too long and can provide you with some info on how to go about these terribly soft people. First of all, for me to help them embrace their natural maternal instincts is exactly the same as a woman helping you embrace thinking with your penis. Now by no means am I suggesting that you are the type of Alpha male egotist who would be guilty of that kind of baseness, but you and… Read more »

coyenator
Guest

Hi Elaine. I do think it is primarily women who will make the difference with feminine energy that is life-giving like that of the old goddesses, healers. So in some ways we do go back in order to go forward, to become more clear on who we are and what we offer the world. And yes, in my view we aim for a partnership way (to borrow from Riane Eisler’s work), a way of balance and mutual respect that births more harmony in the world.

Elaine Dolan
Guest
Elaine Dolan

But Coyenator, seeing the great proliferation of low-vibration populous…people who live within 1-200 are locked into hate, jealousy, killing, war, bloodlust, pornography, hourding, addictions, denial and they are treading water, not progressing because they think this is ALL THERE IS. They would DENY anything they cannot see with their naked eyes …David Hawkins, many years ago estimated these make up 85% of the world….so what would you do to garner mutual respect from this unconscious majority?

Demih Frou
Guest
Demih Frou

“…what would you do to garner mutual respect from this unconscious majority?”
Good point, Elaine, but the answer seems complicated.
What would *you* do, or what do you think could lead us to the solution of such a problem?

Brent Mathieu
Guest
Brent Mathieu

Ab-raham
was a prototypical consort of the priestess of the goddess, Sara, his
half sister whom he married to bless the land. Ab-raham, literally means
the source (abba) of many wombs or nations (ar rahman, ar rahim as love
and compassion).. It’s the blood of the ancients that flows through our
veins. The forms and names change, but the spiral of life remains…

Reverend Mother
Guest
Reverend Mother

We need to realize that gender exists on a spectrum, it’s not an absolute. Gender is, ultimately, energy and we should stop confusing it with the biological manifestations of sex. Also, the world is changing; one symptom of our masculine/patriarchal paradigm is tendency to specialize and break things down into their component parts. Conversely, the new tendency to synthesize and combine specialties is a manifestation of the feminine principle. But it’s not women, per se, who will change the earth, it’s the feminine energy that will do it. It’s an important distinction because there are plenty of men these days… Read more »

Shannon
Guest
Shannon

Very well said. I think a lot do not understand or see the distinction between these terms.

clara andriessen
Guest
clara andriessen

Which shows that even though, we live in a masculine/patriarchal energy, it’s a distorted version of the masculine energy that didn’t even teach us to analyse and break things down properly. Cause if we did we would be able to see that the feminine energy and the feminine sex are not one and the same.

clara andriessen
Guest
clara andriessen

Yes, I totally agree. Would it be ok if I posted your comment on facebook? I have been thinking about this for some time and that this is something that should be brought to conciousness but didn’t find the right words so far. Can I put your name under it?

Rob Bear
Guest
Rob Bear

The Celts had a lot of wonderful wisdom, as did other indigenous groups (assuming we can call Celts indigenous).
Sadly, most of the best info has been lost, because they didn’t write it down.
But caring for the Earth was and is really important.They knew that. So do we.

Terri Abaffe
Guest
Terri Abaffe

Wonderful story! I never heard it before. We have lost our way since the beaking of the contract, the male dominated Christian movement and centurys thereafter of enslavement by men who fear women. We are POWS who need debriefing, the sustenance of history we never knew and the support of others in our journey to find our rightful place, our true responsibility and the strength to do what is right. Break the chains that bind us!!#

Udith Fonseka
Guest
Udith Fonseka

what would muhammad think about all this?

Oscar Mace
Guest
Oscar Mace

The essence of Earth’s femininity cannot be removed from its corporeal reality nor can its essence be solely a masculine force. Humans are the Earth’s soul and it is our responsibility to ensure the soul’s health by maintaining a balance in its interaction with the Earth. As this articles points out, this balance has been out of kilter for centuries, and I would argue since the loss of simple societies. One approach is for humans to step outside their gender roles and assume the responsibilities of the opposite at the same time striving towards the goal of creating a viable… Read more »

UPLIFT Logo