4/4/11

Goddess of the Week: Gaia

Gaia (Greek Mythology)Image via WikipediaEsther needs a goddess, and I'm giving her the Greek goddess Gaia.

Actually, Esther is a character in the novel This Vacant Paradise. It is by Victoria Patterson, who I love, and who wrote the short story collection Drift. The mother in me can't stop thinking about this character. I think it's because she reminds me of so many young women that I've taught, women who, to this day, think their primary talent is looking good on some guy's arm. Their biggest ambition is marrying well, and yet, every once in a while they'll turn in some essay about how spiritually empty their lives are or how afraid they are of thinking too deeply because then their entire worlds will explode.

So for Esther, and all those young women like her, I give Gaia. Gaia is mother earth. Lonely, she created Uranus, the sky, and he became her partner. They gave birth to the Titans, a giant race of gods. Beautiful and strong, she loved them because they were her children. Her next children were not so beautiful: A giant cyclops, a beast with fifty heads, another with 300 arms. Uranus called them monsters. He thought they were so ugly that he hid them in the depth of Tartarus so they couldn't see the light of day and so that he wouldn't have to look at them.

But Gaia loved them. They were her children. Their appearances meant nothing to her. She worked with her youngest Titan son, Cronus, to destroy Uranus so that she could free her children, but then Cronus deceived her and kept them hidden. So she worked to topple Cronus, and she did, with the help of Cronus's own son Zeus. Zeus put the cyclops to work in his own forge, Gaia's other children he left hidden so that heroes would be able to fight them and earn glory (which seems kind of a bum deal for them, but I guess they saw it as noble work because Gaia seemed ok with it).

Gaia reminds us that the real monsters are those who conflate wholeness with beauty. Shame on Cronus, and shame on the fathers, mothers, and institutions who still tell girls covertly or overtly that they are nothing more than commodities. The smaller the nose, the slimmer the waist, the higher the price. Believe this lie all you want, but it is a game you cannot win. Good genes or plastic surgery may let you pull ahead for a while, but time will beat you. Guaranteed. You can age with dignity and looked regal, or you can make your lips look like sausages and pull your face so tight that you can't cry. How sad is that?

Channel this goddess: When your culture is lying to you and telling you that your looks are your currency, when it's tell you aging is a disease that must be stopped, so, basically, all the time.

Need a goddess? I got goddesses! Post a comment explaining why you need or want a goddess. Then check back in a week or two and see who you got!

PS: Read This Vacant Paradise. It's got some of the best, most elegant writing you'll find, the story is terrific, Esther will make you cry (and I'm always looking for excuses), and it will give you a lot to think about.
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28 comments:

Petrea said...

Oh, Margaret. This is a great, great goddess.

"...how afraid they are of thinking too deeply because then their entire worlds will explode."

They need Gaia, who shows them their worlds need to be exploded, and how much happier and more powerful they'll be once that's done.

Daisy said...

A Goddess much needed in our days Margaret. So much sadness in our superficiality and fear.

Victoria said...

LOVE this, Margaret. Thank you. Esther loves it, too.

Joanne said...

I agree with Petrea, they need for their worlds to explode. What better way to fill that emptiness than with the wisdom that comes from picking up the pieces and rebuilding their worlds.

Tammy said...

I just love Gaia...thank you so much for sharing this.

Shanna said...

What wonderful insight you provide. Yes to all that you said.

Desiree said...

Love this post. On the other hand, thinking deeply is overrated. It leads to too many evenings with a bottle of vodka in the crook of one's arm.

wv: shallow me

Olga said...

Oh, that needed saying! Thanks.

TheChieftess said...

I've often wondered if women who get botoxed, lips plumped, cheeks plumped, skin pulled and stapled...do they ever look at a mirror or look at other women who've had all that done??? Now, I'm at the age where I understand the pull to do something...but then I see Melanie Griffith or Joan Collins or any number of Hollywood's aging femme fatales and I'm cured!!! No thanks!!! (although I'm kind of leaning towards a good ol' fashioned tummy tuck!!!)

Tony Van Helsing said...

I'mm still trying to get my head around the one with 300 arms.

zocy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Desiree said...

Channel the goddess zocy when you're swimming in Chanel bags.
Guess she didn't read the anti material post.

wv: malogize--
an exceptionally poor apology

Star said...

Grew up in San Diego. Know the overwhelming pressure to be BBBBS*. Was so happy to get OUT of that hurtful mentality, when I came to Italy. Unfortunately, it's now spreading here, too, at least the BBS** part, and I really feel for the young girls, who have to crash through that wave, and make it safely to the other side. It's one thing to be within a range of weight-height ratio for one's health. It's a whole other thing to make a young girl feel completely worthless because she doesn't look like the models in the magazines that have formed her--and her male contemporaries'--idea of beauty.
*BBBS: Blonde, Buxom, Beautiful, Beach-going, Skinny
**Buxom, Beautiful, Skinny
P.S., In the end, either way, it's B.S., with, or without, the Beaching-going Blonde part.

Lindsay N. Currie said...

Wow, I love this post. Actually, I love the idea of these different goddesses in general. I've been looking for a symbol for my own creative muse - something inspiring and positive. Got a goddess for me??

... daisy... said...

Wonderful...
Gaia is the name I'd choose for my daughter... it also means happy in Italian... :-)

Margaret said...

Lindsay, You got it!

altadenahiker said...

All right, so shoot me. I revel in all kinds of beauty, including the purely physical. Unfortunately, there's just no arguing with the expiration date on that one.

Margaret said...

AH: Re my many secret boyfriends, I do too. But I'm saying is a degree in economics might be a wiser investment than a new nose.

gaelikaa said...

Gaia, the earth mother. A great read as always.

Incidentally, have you got anything, an earlier post maybe, on the goddess Rhea? I often confuse her with Gaia. My daughter is named the same as Rhea, although of course we spell it the Indian way, Riya.

It's goddess time in India again. The twice yearly Durga Puja is having it's spring sessionn.

Jean Spitzer said...

You're great, looking out for a fictional character. Thanks for the reading recommendation.

Jess said...

I went to Borders the other day to kill some time, and I decided to look at the posters. There were a bunch of posters of various famous men- MLK Jr; Che Guevara, Muhammad Ali- all with inspiring quotes about better yourself, bettering the world, and inner strength. There were 3 with women. One with Marilyn Monroe and a quote about sex/sexiness, one with Audrey Hepburn with a quote about judging a man by the jewelry he buys you, and one with Lucille Ball and a quote from the show about a made-up health supplement. Where are the powerful, inspirational women talking about strength, and wisdom, and betterment of yourself and society? And, more importantly, what have we been teaching generations of little girls?

Susan Campisi said...

Oh, I like Gaia. So wise and powerful. I read recently about a mom who injects her 8-year-old girl with Botox as part of her beauty pageant regimen. Very sad.

Margaret said...

Gaelika: Yes, you're right in the thick of the season. Enjoy:

Jess: Brilliant thoughts. Really interesting observation; You should talk about it on your own blog.

Susan: That is scary, scary. Although, I'm thinking of trying to get my daughter botox for her migraines. Hey! Do you need a housewarming goddess?

Petrea Burchard said...

A couple of my friends are regular performers in this insane, funny, profane web series that tears these little girl pageants to ribbons. It is hilarious. I recommend you watch from the beginning if you can.

http://www.prettytheseries.com/

Margaret said...

Petrea: That is too funny!

Petrea Burchard said...

I told my friends I won't pick out a favorite character, but I'm crazy about the mom who smokes cigarettes for a living.

Susan Campisi said...

"Pretty" is funny! Go Team Annette!

Margaret, will a housewarming goddess help me stay calm in the midst of chaos? Will she help me to feel less overwhelmed? If yes, then yes, I do need a housewarming goddess! Thank you so much for asking!

Bec said...

Need a new book to read for fun (not for work, and not to a 3 year old). I'll put this on my list!