I’ve just finished reading The Black Madonna in Latin America and Europe: Tradition and Transformation which is not the book I was looking for, which was La Llorona’s Children: Religion, Life, and Death in the U.S.-Mexican Borderlands, which sold before I could remember where I saw it.

Anyway, The Black Madonna.  The book is not very good in some really not very good ways.  For one thing, the author tells you what she’s going to do in a chapter, does it, and then tells you what she did, which, as you know, is against my religion.  She also has this annoying habit of using a term a couple of times before she defines it.  These are all bad habits we might blame an editor for not beating out of her.

But then there are some factual errors, like Friday being sacred to Freyja instead of Frigg, and a heavy reliance on Barbara Walker’s stuff, which, as you know, I love, but don’t trust.

And I’m not sure that I am comfortable with her matter-of-fact statement that, before the Indo-Europeans showed up in Europe, Europe was a matrifocal, matrilineal, peaceful paradise of mother earth goddess worship.  One would be, I think, hard-pressed to back that up, though it makes an intriguing theory.

Some folks like to look at the various mythologies of Europe and try to draw conclusions from their similarities.  Like how most European creation myths seem to have a younger group of gods fighting and killing off an older group of gods (or in the case of the germanic folks, fighting and then learning to live with an older group of gods).  It makes folks wonder if this isn’t a story of the Indo-Europeans bringing their gods with them as they swept across Europe and what happened when their religion displaced the religions of the earlier peoples.

Or some speculate that these might be stories about how certain gods could travel–Like Odin, Wotan, Goten and Thuner, Thor and Frey, Ing etc. because they were not attached to the land, but that each new place had its own goddesses, tied to the earth, which is why you have Eostre one place and Holda another and Frigg a third–all earth goddesses, all slightly different, distinct goddesses.

I consider myself to be a hard-core polytheist, but I recognize that Wotan and Othinn are the same god in two languages.  I don’t, however, believe that Odin is Mercury, though I see why the Romans would have thought so.

This book is kind of shaking my ability to see these mother goddesses as anything other than fragments, hints at someone larger and older, though, and that’s what I want to talk through.  Basically, what the author is doing is mapping the ways in which attributes held by older goddesses were given to Mary so that people who wanted to continue to worship a female god could.

And so we see these things associated with Mary that are also associated with other goddesses–being called “The Queen of Heaven,” being pictured with a cloak of stars, being pictured with wings or a cloak of feathers, having a son she looses to death who is, often, reborn, being associated with water, etc. 

I’ve been trying for a long time to understand the relationship between Frigg, Freyja, and Hel.  There’s been speculation for a long time that Frigg and Freyja were actually the same goddess at some point–perhaps known as Frige.  They share a lot in common.  They both have cloaks of feathers, they have husbands with similar names (Odin and Od), both are called upon to aid childbirth; both are “daughters” of personifications of earth, both are unfaithful when their husbands vanish, and so on.  And it seems to me that Freyja and Hel share things in common, especially with their association with the dead.

It could be that they just seem similar because they are the highest ranking females in each of their tribes–Frigg is the Queen of the Aesir; Freyja is the most important female Vanir we know about; and Hel is certainly the only Juton we know of who has her own land.

It’s just when you start to look outside the pantheon and you see similar attributes attached to other goddesses, well, I begin to wonder.

I wonder, is it like an echo?

Can we imagine our holy folks standing in a great marsh calling into There and each echoing answer pieced together into a thousand lesser goddesses?

Or is it that some things are just sacred?  A bog is neither quite earth or quite water so of course a goddess might make her home there?  There are some things a male god just can’t do, like preside over childbirth, and so, of course, powerful female gods would be called on for such a purpose, right?

I keep thinking of Zora Neale Hurston–we talked about her a lot in Montreal–and her willingness to go see for herself.  Laying on a couch wearing only a sock for a week, if that’s what it took.

I think, in the end, that’s the only strategy you can use–ask your question and be open to the answer.

The Blogroll

Seriously, my blog roll will drive me to drink.  I have done a complete purge I think.  If you want back on, say so, otherwise, I’m just adding folks as it strikes me, when it strikes me, if it ever strikes me again.

Blogging Maxim #3

Of course, there are no rules to blogging, but there are some “truths.”  I have uncovered three.

1.  If you post something without comment, people will assume you approve.

2.  If you post something or make a comment filled with information people did not know, they often won’t comment.

3.  If you are being teased, reacting like a humourless jackass makes people a whole lot less sympathetic to you.

For instance, Lindsay Ferrier wrote a column for the Scene a while back about celebrity gossip and the only good dirt she spilled was that she discovered once, that Martina McBride had not flushed the toilet.

I’ll admit that, upon reading it, my very first reaction was, “Hey, Lindsay, that’s not fair.  What if she tried to flush it and it just wouldn’t go down?  You don’t know.”

Did I think any less of Martina McBride?  No.  In fact, it seemed like she might be able to get another one of her trademark maudlin songs out of the incident–call it “Porcelain Angel,” this time, about a young child who is the victim of some unfortunate something and no one noticed until it was too late and someone was dead, well, except God.  God noticed and the child is much safer now.  Perhaps the child was the victim of overzealous potty-trainers and, trying to prove that he was indeed “not a baby,” he snuck in to use the grown up toilet and slipped in and drown and ever since then, Martina McBride has had a phobia about flushing the toilet.

I don’t know.  It’s just an idea.

My point is that the whole thing was supposed to be funny and that it clearly didn’t reflect poorly on Martina McBride.

What reflects poorly on Martina McBride?

That she has jackasses like this defending her honor.  Seriously, all the sympathy I had for McBride went right out the window because this woman makes it sound like she doesn’t get a joke when she sees it and that, more importantly, McBride should not everbe troubled by lowly stay-at-home moms like Ferrier daring to forget their places and noticing in a humorous manner that McBride is human.