I’ve been writing a lot of activist, news-focused, political posts lately, so I thought I should borrow a page from Monty Python: and now for something completely different!
Birth is an awe-inspiring thing. It’s one of the few moments in a person’s life when the constructs of our reality crack wide open and we come face to face with Divinity, in whatever form that takes for us. It’s miraculous. It always has been. Despite all of our technological advancements and NICUs and amniocentesis and IVF, we still don’t truly know why it works, or how it happens. Sometimes babies who shouldn’t be alive live; sometimes babies who look perfectly healthy and medically sound die. There is so much of it which is still out of our hands, and which will always be out of our hands.
I have always been fascinated by myth and folklore, by the roots of things, and where things come from. Naturally, other culture’s myths and birth stories and legends are a treasure trove for someone like me. So, a friend and I put together a list of the Gods, Goddesses and Saints which people have been turning to for centuries to guide them through labor and bring a live, squalling baby into their arms. I know of several modern women who have drawn solace and support and strength from these ancient Goddessses. Who knows: perhaps these Gods and Goddesses are watching over us still.
Hathor (Egypt) Hathor was the protectress of woman and pregnancy. She was sometimes also considered, in some areas, a midwife. Hathor was most often depicted as a cow and she was said to have nourished the mortals with her milk.
Hera (Greece) The Queen of the gods, Hera presided over all things feminine. She was specifically interested in those things dealing with maternity and marriage.
Artemis (Greece) Even though Artemis was a maiden Goddess (i.e. a virgin), she was still called upon to protect and defend women during childbirth, perhaps because of her fierce strength and feminine prowess.
Juno Lucina (Roman) Another face of Juno, Juno Lucina had a dual role. She protected pregnant woman as well as births, bringing the child into the light.
Pukkeenegak (Eskimo) Feminine goddess who was supposed to give children to the Eskimo women.
Uma (India) Her primary function was female-ness in all forms, particularly active ones like childbirth. Sri-Laksmi, the Lotus Goddess, should also not be forgotten—although her fertility aspects often get buried in requests for monetary wealth nowadays, her power over fertility and abundance is even older than Uma’s, and outstrips her connection with material wealth by a millenia.
Isis (Egypt) One of the most important female deities, Isis was the protectress of motherhood, healer of the sick, and protectress of women. She also rules over magic. Sick with grief concerning the murder of her husband Osiris by his brother Set, Isis reconstructed and reanimated his corpse long enough for it to impregnate her with their only son Horus.
Juno Sospita (Roman) Another responsibility of Juno Sospita was to preside over labor and delivery.
St. Anne (Roman Catholic) Patron saint of women in labor.
St. Margaret (Roman Catholic) Patron saint of women giving birth.
St. Monica (Roman Catholic) Patron saint of mothers.
Serket (Egypt) Serket was the scorpion headed goddess. She often assisted during childbirth and protected the pregnant Isis from her evil brother-in-law Set.
Aveta (Romano-Celtic Gallic) Goddess of birth and midwifery.
Eileithyia. (Greek) Female Goddess of childbirth.
Lucena. (Spanish) ‘Illumination’. Light. Mythological Roman goddess of childbirth and giver of first light to newborns. Also refers to Mary as Lady of the Light.
Lucina. (German) ‘Illumination.’ Mythological Roman goddess of childbirth and giver of first light to newborns. Also refers to Mary as Lady of the Light.
Lucinna. (Latin) ‘Illumination.’ Mythological Roman goddess of childbirth and giver of first light to newborns. Also refers to Mary as Lady of the Light.
Nascio. (Latin) Goddess of childbirth.
Nixi. (Latin) Goddesses who helped with childbirth.
Numeria. (Latin) Goddesses who helped with childbirth.
Shasti. (India) Goddess of childbirth.