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Supernal Midwife: Dark Face of the Mother Goddess

To: alt.religion.wicca,rec.photo.digital,alt.religion.angels
From: paghat@netscape.net (paghat)
Subject: Supernal Midwife: Dark Face of the Mother Goddess
Date: 29 Oct 2003 13:49:51 -0800

I. Midwife Goddess

The arch midwife goddess is Artemis herself, whose arrows decide which
mother lives through childbirth, which infant is born alive. There are
no "nice" midwife goddesses; most are appeased so they won't kill,
rather than called forth out of some inherent protectiveness. The
midwife goddess most strongly underscores the usual duality that is
One -- Life requires Death. In our modern New Age Noodle world of
escapism rather than embracing awesome mystery, one can make up one's
own divinities at random, & they can be quite sweet if you want them
to be, but their insipidity reflects the insipidity of modern
entertainment, not the awe of faith. These modern divinities can have
names like Happy-Face or Mrs. Santa, though even Mrs Santa lives in a
cold cold place & must be an awful lot like Demeter in murderous
winter.

The reason the midwife goddess Juno Sospita received such fervid
prayers is because she was the goddess who CAUSED great pains of
childbirth; by propitiating her it was hoped birth pangs would be
lessoned. It is the same for all healing divinities -- they are
simultaneously the cause of what they can cure, often deeply cthonic
in nature with demonic components, hence their capacity to punish or
reward, protect or harm.

The great Roman center of Sospita's cult was Lanuvium, where maidens
made offerings to Sospita as a Serpent-goddess resembling Syrian
Atargatis who could be very warlike. Maidens who were suspected of
promiscuity, which Sospita despised, would be afflicted with
sterility. Maidens who made offerings to serpents in the temple at
Lanuvium risked being discarded as unmarriageable if their offerings
were rejected (one would hope the offerings would've been mice so
there'd be some small chance of success, but Gibbons supposes the
offerings were cakes -- must've been a lot of girls declared as
unmarriagable!)

Sospita was overall a protectress of women in confinement. As goddess
of women's imprisonment or oriental seclusion after marriage, she was
also the source of whatever small joys could be found in unfortunate
seclusion. Sospita is portrayed with spear & shield, because of her
dual nature to slay (with spear) or to protect (with shield). So not a
good stand-in for the Happy-Face Goddess.

Sospita was not really a midwife goddess like Artemis or even Lilith
however. That would be Juno Lucina, usually portrayed with a child in
her arms & one or two more at her feet. It was She who most famously
restored the fertility of the kidnapped & raped Sabine women, & whose
nature in some ways resembled that of Magna Mater, the Roman Cybele,
Goddess of the Coloseum's brutal sports. As such, this midwife goddess
was the mother of Mars -- that is, of War. Though she restored the
Sabine women, she was also the source of all their misery!

As protectress of women caught on the battlefield she could be quite
callous in selecting who was raped, who was rendered sterile from
repeated rapes, & who would bare the children of her enemy. If any
women did survive more or less unharmed, not impregnated, & not
sterile, they thanked Lucina, sure, but the ones not fully recovering
were presumed to have angered Lucina in some way.

Additionally Lucina was classist; she protected exclusively Roman
matrons, whom she closely resembled, & could care less what happened
to slaves or even to Roman maidens; she could be extremely vicious
toward women who became pregnant out of wedlock. Roman matrons so
feared this statuks-quo midwife-goddess's wrath that during pregnancy
they would direct their servants to make sure there were no knots tied
anywhere in the house, for if offerings were made to Lucina in the
presence of knots, She would tie the matron's umbilical cord in a knot
& kill at least the child.

Juno Lucina also hated girdles which were symbolic of the maiden;
anyone making offerings to Her while wearing a girdle was regarded as
little more than a whore who'd like to have children, & she risked the
wrath of Lucina. If a matron made an offering to Lucina without first
hiding all the girdles in the house, Lucina would kill her during
childbirth. Perhaps in part because the girdle belonged sybolically
rival cults of Diana.

Lucina's festival was the Matronelia held on Mars First, the day She
gave birth to war, but also the day she ended the Sabine war (again,
Goddess of Light/Dark, Life/Death, Terror/Peace ). Matrons held
chariot races in her honor on the Matronelia, racing through the
streets of Rome & ending up at the Coloseum (as also during the
Floralia where matrons & prostitutes raced against one another). And
during the Matronelia, matrons' families gathered in a sacred grove
for a big picnic. Matrons were expected to make some kind of personal
sacrifice as did the selfless Sabine women. This typically being to
spend the afternoon as a servant to her slaves & preparing their meals
during the family grove-outing.

The only goddess I can think of quickly who'd be totally
happy-happy-joy-joy would be the Greek Baubau, patroness of clowns,
who is portrayed as a fat buttocks with a face on it. But even she was
a dwindled form of Gula or Bau, a near eastern goddess of disease &
healing, & of childbirth, whose totemic beast was the dog (because a
bitch gives birth easily), which perhaps explains why the Greek Baubau
showed her ass dog-like to Demeter.

II. Supernal Midwife

"Thou art he that cut me loose from my mother's womb" [Ps 71:6]
defines God's midwife aspect, cutting the umbilical cord of newborns.
This female emanation is called Nukvah the supernal wetnurse; and like
Gula, Artemis, and other midwife goddesses, it is Her decision whether
or not the mother and/or child survive, so has both a bright face and
dark face. In Kabbalah, the supernal midwife can be either Eve or
Lilith. Lilith works in the Chamber of Exchanges, swapping good souls
for evil, evil souls for good. The power of the supernal midwife to do
harm is not in itself evil, for good invariably comes of Lilith's
mischief.

The supernal midwife is viewed as the cause of wars for thrones,
usurpations, and battles within a royal family to decide heirs.
Hagar's son born before Sarah's; and Leah's children before Rachel's
were exchanges made by the supernal midwife. The order of Jacob and
Esau were switched in Rebekah's womb, so that the violent Esau would
emerge first, and gentle Jacob's descendants would have been subject
forever to the descendants of Esau, except that Esau sold his
birthright to Jacob for a bowl of red pottage (symbolic of blood). The
supernal midwife oversees all acts of exchange, as when Laban
exchanged Leah for Rachel as Isaac's bride, or when Moses turned his
staff into a serpent.

She can also remove wealth from one house to another, one kingdom to
another. When Israel became subject to Assyria, it was due to Israel's
own sin, and God's anger which came as a midwife. It was She that
directed infant Moses into the house of Pharaoh's daughter, removing
him from slavery. It was she that induced Joseph's brothers to sell
him into slavery. Solomon lists four things the earth cannot bear: a
slave when he becomes king, a fool when he is filled with food, an
unloved woman when she gets a husband, and a handmaid when she
succeeds her mistress [Pr 30:21-23]. These appear rather trivial, or
at least devoid of moral meaning, unless one understands them in the
context of the supernal midwife's tinkering with the fate of humanity.

The midwife also represents periods of exile, the "exchange" being
such as when Israelite tribes lived among the Egyptians or Persians or
Babylonians, or when Hebrew men preferred Canaanite and Babylonian
wives, themselves being aspects of the midwife seeking to exchange
Yahweh's worship in favor of the Mother Goddess. The midwife's
Lilith's activities explains how good comes from evil, evil from good,
so that David is descended from Lot's incest with his daughters, and
Jesus is descended from Jezebel and Ahab. All exchanges, no matter how
damaging, are in the end beneficial.

 paghat the ratgirl

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