(Essay 2) The Old Sow by Hearth Moon Rising

Meet Mago Contributor Hearth Moon Rising.

The pig was domesticated shortly after the sheep and cow, about 12,000 years ago. This ushered in the era of pig goddesses, who were probably originally boar goddesses like Freya. Boar lore became transferred to the domestic cousin, but grew in complexity due to the relationship between pigs and cereals. Unlike ruminant animals raised for consumption, the domestic pig requires grain in order to thrive since she does not digest grass. Thus the sow goddess had a vested interest in grain production and she was propitiated for an abundant harvest. The appearance of animal husbandry at roughly the same time as agriculture was not an accident. Pigs were used to clear fields after harvest, aerating the fields as they rummaged. They helped reduce garbage and provided manure for fertilizing cropland. In some forested areas pigs were allowed to forage as a way of reducing groundcover and managing woodlands.

Ceres, Greco-Roman counterpart to Demeter. Note the torch in her right hand and the sheaves of grain on her crown.

Ceres, Greco-Roman counterpart to Demeter. Note the torch in her right hand and the sheaves of grain on her crown.

The goddess Demeter is the best known of the sow-grain goddesses. She is often depicted carrying a torch, used for traversing the dark underworld, symbolizing her association with death as well as motherhood and sustenance. The main ceremonies once associated with Demeter were Thesmophoria, a women-only retreat where piglets were sacrificed, and the Eleusinian mysteries, the reenactment of Demeter’s loss and reunion with her daughter Persephone.

Sculpture of Adonis by Guiseppe Mazzouli, 1709 c.e. Photo Yair Haklai.

Sculpture of Adonis by Guiseppe Mazzouli, 1709 c.e. Photo Yair Haklai.

In myth the Semitic vegetal gods Adonis and Tammuz are gored by a boar, again emphasizing the death aspect of the boar. The sky goddess Nut is sometimes represented as a sow, which was probably her earlier form. The ithyphallic vegetal god Min, whose cult was overtaken by Osiris, is the son of a white sow. In some legends the Egyptian god Osiris is gored by Seth in the form of a boar. The Sow Goddess was important in pre-dynastic Egypt, but her worship steadily declined as the pig established a reputation as an “unclean” animal. This also occurred in Babylonia, and it was rooted in the pig’s need to regulate body temperature, which must have been especially great in these hot dry climates. A pig greatly prefers to cool off in clean mud, but will wallow in sewage if there are no other options. In the highly populated areas in Mesopotamia and along the Nile cleanliness was a persistent concern, while opportunities for ideal pig wallows were probably becoming scarcer. Neither culture forbid pork consumption, but the meat did grow out of favor for those who could afford cattle. Egyptians continued to carry pig charms and use pig ingredients in spells and healing remedies. Sow pictures or figures are occasionally found in tombs from all eras.

Egyptian pig amulet in blue-glaze faience. Raised area on back is probably meant to signify erect bristles, emphasizing sow’s ferocity. 600 b.c.e. Drawing HMR.

Egyptian pig amulet in blue-glaze faience. Raised area on back is probably meant to signify erect bristles, emphasizing sow’s ferocity. 600 b.c.e. Drawing HMR.

 

To be continued. Read part 1.

Hearth Moon Rising is a Dianic Priestess living in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York and the author of Invoking Animal Magic: A guide for the Pagan priestesswww.invokinganimalmagic.com. She blogs at www.hearthmoonblog.com.

Sources:

Barrett, Clive. The Egyptian Gods and Goddesses: The Mythology and Beliefs of Ancient Egypt. London: Diamond Books, 1991.

Bottero, Jean. The Oldest Cuisine in the World: Cooking in Mesopotamia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.

Cooper, D. Jason. Using the Runes. Wellingborough, UK: The Aquarian Press, 1986.

Germond, Phillippe. An Egyptian Bestiary: Animals in Life and Religion in the Life of the Pharoahs. London: Thames and Hudson, 2001.

Gimbutas, Marija. The Living Goddesses. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1999.

Gimbutas, Marija. The Language of the Goddess. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989.

Graves, Robert. The Greek Myths. London: Penguin, 1960.

Graves, Robert. The White Goddess. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1948.

Green, Miranda. Animals in Celtic Life and Myth. London: Routledge, 1992.

Johnson, Buffie. Lady of the Beasts: The Goddess and Her Sacred Animals. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 1994.

O’Sullivan, Patrick V. Irish Superstitions and Legends of Animals and Birds. Dublin: Mercier Press, 1991.

“Pigs,” Ancient Egyptian Bestiary, http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/bestiary/pig.htm

“Pigs in Egypt,” Tour Egypt, http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/pigs.htm

“Welcome to Eleusinian Mysteries,” Eleusinian Mysteries, http://eleusinianmysteries.org/SubjectIndexP_Z.html

We, the co-editors, contributors, and advisers, have started the Mago Web (Cross-cultural Goddess Web) to rekindle old Gynocentric Unity in our time. Now YOU can help us raise this torch high to the Primordial Mountain Home (Our Mother Earth Herself) wherein everyone is embraced in WE. There are many ways to support Return to Mago. You may donate to us. No amount is too small for us. For your time and skill, please email Helen Hwang (magoism@gmail.com). Please take an action today and we need that! Thank YOU in Goddesshood of all beings!

(Click Donate button below. You can donate by credit card or bank account without registering PayPal. Find “Don’t have a PayPal account?” above the credit card icons.)

Advertisements

One thought on “(Essay 2) The Old Sow by Hearth Moon Rising

  1. That is really interesting. I don’t remember pigs being mentioned in the archaeological reports I found, but obviously there must have been wild pigs, especially on the Continent. And yes, they could well have been domesticated when you record, but not necessarily mentioned, (nor were goats). Congratulations on such an interesting informative essay.

    Like

Your Comments

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s