Gaia

In Greek mythology, Gaia (from the ancient Greek Γαῖα / Gaîa or Γαῖη / Gaîê), or Gê (from the ancient Greek Γῆ / Gễ, “Earth”), is a primordial goddess identified with the “Mother Goddess”. She is the maternal ancestor of the divine races but also gives birth to many creatures. It also appears as a Chthonian deity that was invoked or sacrificed to light-colored victims at the same time as to other infernal powers, such as Hades, Persephone, Hecate or Nyx. It united with Ouranos, it engendered the six Titans and the six Titanids, then the Cyclops and finally the Hecatonchires (the monsters with a hundred arms). Gaia and Tartarus (his brother) gave birth to a terrifying creature, Typhoon.

Gaia

Gaia (Tellus)
low relief of the Ara Pacis Augustae (Rome)

The only one is Gaia, the land. From Hesiod’s account, it seems that Gaia, who is a goddess with well-defined features, the principle from which all things came out, was the great divinity of the early Greeks. Like the Aegeans, like the peoples of Asia, the Greeks must have originally worshipped Mother Earth, in whom they saw the mother goddess. Gaia “ goddess with a large chest“, was once the supreme goddess, whose majesty was imposed not only on men but on the gods themselves.
She was commonly represented as a gigantic woman.

The creation

 

Gaia

Gaia and the Titans, silk painting from Ann Lan

Alone, Gaia gave birth to the seas, mountains and Ouranos sky. Then she mated with Ouranos.

From the union of Gaia and Ouranos were conceived the twelve Titans, Coeus, Phoebe, Tethys, Oceanus, Mnemosyne, Themis, Cronos, Rhea, Hyperion, Theia, Iapetus, and Crios. It also gave rise to the Hecatonchires and Cyclops.

The only problem was that Gaia could not give birth because, for fear of being dethroned, Ouranos was constantly stuck in Gaia.

Then, Gaia, who could no longer be pregnant, asked all her children if they could help her by cutting their father’s penis with a scythe that Gaia, as the Earth would make them. All of them? No. The youngest of his sons, Cronos accepted. With the help of the scythe his mother had made for him, he betrayed Ouranos. He cut off what his mother wanted him to cut and Ouranos detached himself from Gaia. In this detachment from Gaia, his seed fell into the sea and from this mixture of sperm, blood and scum was born Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty.

Later on, Cronos ruled the Titans, but that’s another story.

the children of Gaia

The descendants of Gaia are very numerous. His descendants include primordial deities, Titans, Giants, marine and aggressive deities, minor deities, various creatures (monsters and animals), kings and peoples2. Among the main children cited by traditions are:

  • Cronos,
  • the Ante Giant,
  • Aristotle,
  • the marine monster Charybdis,
  • Manes,
  • the three Hecatonchires,
  • the three Moires,
  • the three or four primitive Muses,
  • the god Pan,
  • the Satyr-God Silenus,
  • the god attacks Triptolema.

He was also recognized as the parthenogenetic motherhood of distant founding heroes or early men, such as :

  • Alalcomeneum,
  • Cecrops Athenians,
  • Erichthonius,
  • Pelasgos.

And also entire mythical peoples:

  • Cabires,
  • Cypriot Centaurs (Nonnos, Dionysiacs),
  • the Hyperboreans,
  • the Lestrygons of the Odyssey,
  • the Libyans,
  • the Phaeacians (fragment of Aceae),
  • the Pygmies.

 

The revolt against Ouranos

Gaia and Polybotes

Gaia holds Poseidon who attacks his son Polybotes
Antikenmuseen, Berlin

She pulled a sharp flint from her breast, made a sharp sickle, or “harpe”, and instructed her children in the project she had formed. All hesitated, struck with horror; only the brave Cronos, his latest child, dared to assist his mother. When evening arrived, Ouranos, accompanied by Nix (Night), left himself unsuspecting to sleep, Cronos, posted by his mother, armed himself with the sickle, emasculated his father and threw the bloody debris into the sea.
Black blood dripped from the awful wound, which seeped into the earth and gave birth to the fearsome Erinyes, the monstrous Giants and the nymphs of the trees, the Meliads. As for the debris floating on the surface of the waves, a white foam sprang from it, from which a young goddess, Aphrodite, was born, “who was first carried to the divine Kythera and from there reached Cyprus surrounded by waves.
From the embraces of another of her sons, Pontos, she gave birth to marine deities, including Nereus.
From his union with Tartarus were born Typhon and Echidna.
Other theogonies attribute to him the maternity of the giant Antaeus, the snake (or dragon) Python and many other monsters. When the Olympians’ dynasty was victoriously established, Gaia’s prestige was somewhat diminished.

Gaia’s Cult

Gaia’s power was still manifested in the gift of divination vested in her. It should be noted, indeed, that the oracle of Delphes, before passing into the hands of Apollo, had first belonged to Gaia.
Thereafter, the role of this goddess diminished, as other deities were more venerated by men. However, his cult still persisted in Greece. She presided at weddings and was honored as the prophetess par excellence. In Patras, the patients came to see her. It was particularly venerated in Elders, Delphi, Olympia; it had sanctuaries in Dodona, Sparta, and Athens, near the Areopagus. Cereals and fruit were offered to him; but a black sheep was sacrificed to him when he was summoned as guardian of the sanctity and inviolability of the oath.

 

 

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