So many pagans will first mention the Great Mother Goddesses as being “under our very feet” in a confused expression of reverence, without much thinking of the implications. It is, after all, a borrowed phrase from a monotheist patriarchal view of the world where the Land–and therefore, women–are already conquered and subjugated. And, because the monotheist patriarchy is so deeply embedded into our cultural DNA, it passes on to neopagan and modern polytheist minds all-too-easily.
In fact, it is more accurate to say that the Great Mother is all around us, enfolding us in a loving embrace, at all times. That means she is not just the ground beneath our feet, but also the life that springs up from it–including ourselves. She reaches up into the Heavens, and if we’re true to global myth, she is the Heavens themselves. The clouds and air and howling winds all belong to her onto the orbit of the stars, the Sun and Moon. Just as well, she reaches down, through the roots of new and ancient trees, and into the waters below. She is sedimentary and metamorphic rocks–even the magma and, eventually, lava. She is the world entire, without need of another.
But there is another dimension that a great deal of many neopagans fail to consider. That is, unless they have grown deep roots into their local practice and become conversant in the animist principles that underpin this gnosis. The Goddess is also, literally, here and in many different lands. That is to say, that she is not the same in Virginia as she is in Greece, not even the same in North Carolina. She varies from place to place because each land possesses its own features and histories. By necessity, Earth Goddesses are plural and local.
Yes, we can adore the bounty of Gaia of the Grecian Mainland while standing in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but in doing so we forget to honor Grandmother Appalachia, her most-ancient history, and her People. We can give thanks to Danú, if we could only place her in Europe, but neglect the Flowing Waters of Florida. While they do not often object, and Goddesses are wont to wander and bless when invoked, what do we lose from all around us?
To blame this trend on the colonial period’s penchant for severing ties with Old World roots is just a tad unfair. Historically, many Goddesses have migrated with their people and taken root elsewhere (Danú, as mentioned, but also Kebele). Similarly, some Goddesses have been imposed on foreign lands through conquest and assimilation (the entire Roman pantheon on Britain, for example). But these were movements of history usually following specific tribal groups who clung to their identity and honored their ancient ways. In such examples, the cosmological view of the people in question could not be inextricably excised from the Land of their ancestors. So, in some unknown way, the Land traveled with them.
The present neglect of local Mother Goddesses has another aspect, however, evident only when one establishes connection with place. The ecopsychological wounds that haunt Westerners, transplanted without recourse to their ancient past already half-forgotten, is almost immediately alleviated with a strong local connection. Setting down a new spiritual root in the Land We Are connects us to a powerful current of the present moment. The soil, air, and waters nourish the spirit into new growth and health. One begins to move in step with the local environment and finally notice the little miracles of bird song, atmosphere, plants and fauna. Each become invitations to participate in the unfolding rebirth of life around you.
The Goddesses here are as titanic as the Goddesses there. They encompass the world you inhabit and experience fully, already part of your body’s sacred chemistry. Present from the moment you breathed the air–and drank the local water, and ate local fruits–this node of connection stretches back through ancestral helices. Through these links, the Goddesses converse with one another, speaking their histories and serving as introductions. And, when you pay mind for their gift of sustenance, new relationships will come alive in the spirit and the flesh worlds.
You will, finally and fully, belong to where you are.