Thoughts on importing Celtic Goddesses into the Southern Hemisphere

by Jill Smith

Brighde of the Elements, by Jill SmithA point which Geraldine brought up in Issue 7 gave me much food for thought. She expressed concern about importing Celtic Goddesses into lands in the Southern Hemisphere, if this is indeed happening.

This is a topic which has long bothered me, but with an even broader spectrum of concern.

There are many different concepts amongst us of what “Goddess” is; what "a" goddess is; "the" goddess is ...

I do not have “a” goddess like a female version of “God”. My goddesses are pretty well all in some way or other manifestations of the spirit of place. This includes an awful lot: aspects of the seasons - very much related to place, weather, landscape on many levels - the depth and quality of rock and all the ancient and current forces which created it, its earth, its plants, its animals and the quality of life of the people who have grown from and made their living upon it.

All this is manifest in the “quality” of each aspect of goddess - what she has come to represent and for which she is turned to by humans - for help, guidance, protection, healing etc.

I have become troubled when I have heard of goddesses from other parts of Britain, Europe or the whole world being invoked at places which already have their own goddesses and spirits of place. I feel this can really disturb something in the balance of energy of the place. I feel very strongly that when people move to or even visit places, especially ones they have never been to before and know little of, they should have the courtesy, humility and care to spend some time relating to those places and being open to some awareness of who actually may already be there and may make their presence known.  This rather than to rush in, invoke, and impose some "alien" goddess on a place which already has its own, which can seem quite arrogant. How do local goddesses/spirits of place react to such lack of respect and awareness?

We do not always know the names of local goddesses. I have encountered many whose presence is very powerful and distinct, but for whom I have no name.

Some goddesses manifest in different aspects in different areas, and I think we need to be aware of this.  For example many of us know, love and honour Bride. Bridget, Brighde - her names are many. And that, I think, is the point. She manifests in different aspects in different places, though these differences may be subtle, but important to respect. Having lived in the Western Isles, I know that Brighde or “Bride of the Isles” is a very specific manifestation of the energy of those islands. I do not meet her exactly in Glastonbury, where she manifests as a different aspect of Bride. I am sure that the Irish Bridget is again a subtly different aspect, each reflecting her own place.

So I am often troubled by goddesses from different lands being invoked here in Britain. And likewise "our" goddesses being invoked elsewhere. We may carry their presence with us, like guardians, which is a bit different; but I feel when in some other place, we need to be still, aware, open and to ask to meet those who are already there.
Gaia Dancing, by Jill Smith It does become a great problem when one culture moves en masse into another place altogether, for example Europeans moving to the Americas or to Australia and other places in the Southern Hemisphere.

In the latter, not only are the goddesses of Europe “moved” to another land entirely, but the seasons are completely different and everything opposite to the Northern Hemisphere. So, for example, come Imbolc in the North, do you celebrate it at that time in the South? Or the opposite cross-quarter day relating to the solar year where you are? Even though the seasons may not only be opposite but actually quite different.  Most Australians have this problem celebrating Christmas (which arose from Midwinter) at Midsummer.   Whenever you celebrate Imbolc or Beltane, Lammas and Samhain, do you celebrate them at all, coming as they do from a northern culture'? Do you "take" your northern goddesses and invoke them in the south, as well as taking your festivals? This is Geraldine's question. I have no answer but my instincts feel it is wrong.

lf you have lived in the North, spent a long time in the North and then you go or return to the South, I am sure you may carry that energy and protection of the goddesses you have known here, to there, but that is a private and individual thing. It does not seem right to me to invoke/manifest/even ritually celebrate those goddesses in a very different place. Surely you need to learn the Southern land, to learn who manifests in that land and celebrate what belongs to that land.

It is a dilemma for Europeans living in places such as Australia. Do you "import" your own culture or relate to a land in some way that does not disturb the culture of a people to whom that land “belongs”? Peoples who have lived there for 40,000 - 60,000 years and then had their own culture and way of living with their land destroyed by European invasion, do not want to be culturally or spiritually “ripped off”' by Europeans looking for a cultural or spiritual “quick fix”, “instant enlightenment” or whatever. I have heard of several European Australians being told to go back to their own land to understand their spiritual origins, rather than taking those of the Aborigines, but that does not necessarily mean “importing” your own spiritual origins back into their land. It IS a dilemma, and needs much consideration.

My own time in Australia taught me much about how it "works”, that relationship between human and land and everything else, so when l returned here I understood my own land and my relationship to it and something about how my ancestry had grown from it. Perhaps a lesson also learned was not to impose my goddesses or anything else from here on those other places but to listen to those places and try to hear what they had to teach me and to maybe become aware of the spirits who were there, respect them, and wonder whether they really minded my being there!

So, I have no answer, but I feel it is a very important question and something that does require a lot of discussion.

Love and blessings
Jill Smith
July 2008, Northern Hemisphere

©Jill Smith

Jill Smith

Jill Smith

Jill Smith is an artist and writer living in the Western Isles of Scotland.  Known as Jill Bruce she was, in the 70s/early 80s, a celebratory, ceremonial, ritual Performance Artist, who then made ritual journeys through the sacred landscapes of the British Isles before settling in the Hebrides.  For more of her story and work, visit her website.
Jill Smith

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