THE WOMB OF MOTHER EARTH
In ancient times it was believed that the Underworld was either the nether home, i.e. “haunt,” of spirits or the great womb of Mother Earth. This latter concept, especially, gave some hope of resurrection - the possibility of being born from the womb a second time. Since the Mother’s dead offspring were crammed in her belly, like pips in a pomegranate, to the point of bursting, the resurrection had to occur when her distended womb could hold no more.*
An apocryphal scripture, called variously “Second Esdras” or “Fourth Ezra,” presented the concept that souls would be born from the great Womb of the Earth Mother at the end of time.**
(The angel Uriel said to Esdras): “...the age is hastening swiftly to its end.” (4:27) Then I answered and said, “How long and when will these things be? Why are our years few and evil? He answered me and said, “You do not hasten faster than the Most High, for your haste is for yourself, but the Highest hastens on behalf of many. Did not the souls of the righteous in their chambers (in the underworld) ask about these matters, saying, “How long are we to remain here? And when will come the harvest of our reward?” And Jeremiel the archangel answered them and said, ‘When the number of those like yourselves is completed, for He has weighed the age in the balance, and measured the times by measure, and numbered the times by number, and He will not move or arouse them until that measure is fulfilled.’” Then I answered and said, “O sovereign lord, but all of us also are full of ungodliness. And it is perhaps on account of us that the time of threshing is delayed for the righteous - on account of the sins of those who dwell on earth.” He answered me and said, “Go and ask a woman who is with child if, when her nine months have been completed, her womb can keep the child within her any longer.” “No, my lord,” I said, “it cannot.” He said to me, “In Hades the chambers of the souls are like the womb. For just as a woman who is in travail makes haste to escape the pangs of birth, so also do these places hasten to give back those things that were committed to them from the beginning.” (4:33-43)
*Also, the men of old saw that a dead body returned to dust, and so to them it was obvious that the first man must have come up from dust in the beginning. It followed that at death, being thrust down into dust again gave the likelihood of yet another ascent from dust.
**Taken from Second Esdras ( or Ezra IV), as translated and formatted by B. M. Metzger, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Edited by James H. Charlesworth, Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1983
He (the angel) said to me, “Even so have I given the womb of the Earth to those who from time to time are sown in it. For as an infant does not bring forth, and a woman who has become old does not bring forth any longer, so have I organized the world which I created.” Then I inquired and said, “Since you have now given me the opportunity, let me speak before you. Is our Mother, of whom you have told me, still young? Or is she approaching old age?” He replied to me, “Ask a woman who bears children, and she will tell you. Say to her, ‘Why are those whom you have borne recently not like those whom you bore before, but smaller in stature?’ And she herself will answer you, ‘Those born in the strength of youth are different from those born during the time of old age, when the womb is failing.’ Therefore you also should consider that you and your contemporaries are smaller in stature than those who were before you. And those who come after you will be smaller than you, as born of a creation which is already aging and passing the strength of youth.”* (5:48-55)
(The Lord said): “For the age has lost its youth, and the times begin to grow old. For the age is divided into twelve parts, and nine of its parts have already passed, as well as half of the tenth part. So two of its parts remain, besides half of the tenth part. (14:10-12)**
“For the weaker the world becomes through old age, the more shall evils be multiplied among its inhabitants.” (14:17)
In ancient Greece, the Womb of the Great Mother was physically manifested at various locations. At Delphi, there was the entrance to the Womb, and at Mycenć, so-called “beehive” tombs were constructed as wombs of stone to receive the dead.
At Delphi, the temple of Apollo with its Oracle was located on the east side of Mount Parnassos, away from the Itean Gulf and the town of Delphi. One reason for this location with an eastern exposure was to catch the sunrise, since Apollo was the god of light. But the most compelling feature that made it sacred to the ancient people was the crevice of the Castalian Spring (Krhnh Kastalia) that was seen as the genital aperture of the goddess Gaia, Mother Earth.
*Adam and the antediluvians were believed to live for centuries and to be of giant size. After the Flood people became smaller and lived normal lifespans - reverse evolution.
**The end time can be calculated from 2 Esdras by taking the assumption of 12 “days” as the span of the earth’s existence. Each of these heavenly “days” would equal 360 years in human time. Thus, the 2 1/2 times remaining would be 2 1/2 x 360 days, which is 900 “days” or “years” from the time of Ezra. Taking the prophet’s lifetime to be at about 457 B.C., the end would be due to come in 443 A.D. (Calculation: 900 - 457 = 443.) This time was projected from the time when the book of 2 Esdras was written, about 70 A.D., to be just about three centuries in the future. Obviously, the world did not end at the time foretold by Esdras.
The ancient Greeks, the Achćans, were a matriarchal society, unaware of the male’s role in sexual reproduction. Their primary worship was of the Great Mother. Women were believed to become fertilized by touching a flower or eating a particular fruit or sleeping under a certain tree, or even being impregnated by the wind (the Spirit-wind, PneumatoV, in the case of the Virgin Mary). The early settlers also saw the crevice as a mouth of Hades - another name for the underground Womb - and so this gave it a double meaning and significance.
The layout of the sacred grounds at Delphi was patterned after the body of the Earth Mother. At one end was a round stone called the Omphalos, her Navel. In the middle, the cliffside had a hollow that suggested the shape of her womb. And at the other end, was the crevice of the Castalian Spring that was her vaginal opening.
THE LAYOUT OF THE HOLY SITE OF DELPHI
Theater Crevice of the
NAVEL WOMB GENITAL FISSURE
The Omphalos was the Center of Earth, the spot from which distances were measured in all directions. In the hollow cliff, the Womb, the Greeks built a semicircular theater, for religious dramas and festivals, as well as the temple of Apollo, the chief god of the shrine. And opposite the crevice of the Spring, the temple of Athena, the primary deity of Athens, was situated. Thus, the temple of Apollo was in the “womb” and the temple of Athena was set at the lower end of the genital fissure. The spring that flowed from the crevice provided holy waters where pilgrims could wash their faces and hands in ceremonial purification before offering sacrifice or consulting the Oracle.
The name “Delphi” supports the “womb” concept, because there is a double meaning for the name. These two derivations are as follows:
1. Taken from Delphinos: “dolphin.” The god Apollo was born on the Island of Delos and was transported to land on the back of a porpoise (dolphin), hence as “the boy on a dolphin,” his name was Apollo Delphinos, and his shrine was at Delphi.
2. Taken from Delphus, “womb.” The word for brother, adelphos (adelfoV), means “from the same womb.” (Cf. Philadelphia, the “city of brotherly love.”) It is likely that delphus also meant the female genitalia. (This is true of the Sumerian word sal, that means “vulva,” “womb,” and “woman.” Also, the Latin matrix carries the meanings “female cavity,” “womb,” “matron,” and “mother.”) Hence, Delphi was the womb, the genitalia, and the navel of Mother Earth, all at the same time. This made it a very holy place.
At Mycenć, the famous beehive tomb of the ancient Greek kings was on a hill adjacent to the city. Its domelike construction was a deliberate attempt to represent the womb of Gaia (L. Gća), Mother Earth. The long entranceway had walls on both sides, sloping upward to the mound of the tomb, a perfect representation of the upper thighs sloping up to the pregnant belly. The door to the tomb was a narrow slit that represented the genitalia. And over the door was a wedge-shaped indentation, the pubic triangle, which was inverted to form a niche for the image of the Tree of Life guarded by two Lions. (The sculpted figures formerly in that triangle are now missing, but this Tree of Life motif can still be seen, because it was duplicated over the main entrance to the city itself, the Lion Gate.) The great size of the monumental vault, built like a massive Eskimo igloo, was impressive. The Great Mother’s womb was a cool place, even on a very hot day. The dead rulers of Mycenć once lay all around on the floor with their faces covered with masks of gold - an obvious attempt to mimic the golden sarcophagi of the Egyptians.
About 1500 B.C. a proto-Celtic culture developed in the British Isles, and round-barrow tombs like those in Crete and Mycenć were introduced. (A barrow, also called a tumulus, was a burial mound of the prehistoric inhabitants of northern Europe.) Previous to the round-barrow era, the ancient people had preferred long barrows, likely developed from ship-burials. The idea of interment in the Great Mother’s womb was to prove the more popular custom, however, because it was probably a more comforting belief.
In the old days, a lifespan was not “from womb to tomb,” but “from womb to Womb.”
THE OMPHALOS AT DELPHI
(The Navel of Earth)
THE CREVICE OF THE HOLY CASTALIAN SPRING
THE LION GATE OF MYCENĆ
In the triangular niche above the gate, two lions guard a stylized Tree of Life, atop which there once stood an image of the goddess Athena. The city of Mycenć was dominant in Greece from 1600 to 1100 B.C., at which time it was overthrown and destroyed by fire. Its most famous king was Agamemnon, who led the Greek forces in the Trojan War.
A ROUND-BARROW TOMB IN DENMARK
(Note the triangular stone above the entrance, which resembles the niche above the doorway to the beehive tomb at Mycenć.)