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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fertility – May Day; MSH#15 – Vanir; Mary, the Virgin Mother of God (celebrated the month of May)

May Day is a joyful celebration of the return of fertility to the earth. [Yeah! Spring!] It is often pictured as flower bedecked girls dancing around May poles. [A pretty phallic symbol and celebration of sexuality.]

Mythological Species of Humanoids #15 – the Vanir – From Norse Mythology, The Prose Edda (the Younger Edda) and The Poetic Edda (the Elder Edda). Long ago, the war gods, the Aesir of Asgard, waged a war on the fertility gods, the Vanir of Vanaheim, known also for wisdom, prophecy and dark magic.
The war gods won. As a symbol of peace, all participants from both sides combined spit in a vat. This vat usually spilled out was instead used to form Kvasir, the god of poetry. There was an exchange of hostages. The most famous of the Vanir sent to live with the Aesir, was Njord and his children Frey and Freya, who were set to rule the elves of Elfheim. In some versions, Kvasir was also a hostage from the Vanir, sent after they killed one of the two Aesir hostages sent to them for their lack of good counsel. When they then sent Mimir's head back to the Aesir, it was placed at Mimir's Well and spoke to Odin, giving good advice and prophecy. [Go figure!]

One of the hostages, Freya, like the Greek goddess Aphrodite, the Roman goddess Venus and in some ways the Mesopotamian goddesses Astarte and Ishtar, was a fertility goddess. [Think super models with magical powers.] They are often shown in art as half naked woman standing next to some sort of plant. Nymphs and dryads were often depicted in the same way. [But fertility goddesses had power, not just beauty.] The Greek goddesses, Demeter and Persephone, were fertility goddesses, too. [For the record, Demeter was a mother goddess as well.] but their story had an ugly twist associated with beauty and fertility.

Stories of beauty often have ugly twists. Examples of this can be found in the Bible stories of Susanna, Delilah, Judith and Ester and the fairy tale stories of Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast and Snow White. Beauty often results in misuse and inappropriate responses.

Whenever I trim flowers in the yard and put some in a vase, the process of selecting the prettiest blooms and throwing out the others reminds me of modeling agencies deciding which pretty girls will be used in their pictures and which to cast aside. When I reflect on the fact that in a few days even the prettiest flowers will be thrown away, the correlation to modeling agents depresses me. I much prefer the flowers left in the yard to smile at the sun, help the bees make honey and turn into seeds, that I collect for next years flowers.

Fertility is often reduced to beauty and sexuality, symbolized by half naked women, [In a previous post I discussed several responses to large amounts of exposed skin in images of flower fairies.] but fertility is so much bigger than sex. Just like the fertility of the earth is so much more than putting the seeds into the ground and the beauty of flowers is more than cutting them to put into a vase then throw away when wilted. Fertility is the rearing of new life. The fertility of the earth is also the growing plants and the harvesting of food. The beauty of a flower is also the pollination and the promise of a future with the production of seeds for new plants and fruit to entice animals to help with seed dispersal.

Focusing on the beauty and sexuality part of human fertility without also including the abundant children that are the true purpose of beauty and sexuality is cheating. Sex without responsibility is a lie. Telling people they can have sex without thinking about the babies they are making is harmful to both the individuals and society as a whole. Modern media are big time cheaters when it comes to presenting sexuality. [I've never seen a picture of a super model surrounded by children.] And the modern tools to separate sexuality from children rearing - birth control and abortions - only complicate the lie. Birth control is not fool proof and abortions are never simple. [Just an aside, the pre-modern way to separate sexuality from child rearing was to abandon the babies at city gates, on monastery doorsteps or in the woods, but that is illegal in our modern culture and the horrific topic of historic child abandonment deserves its own future post.]

Mary, the Virgin
Mother of God, is also celebrated for the whole month May, but at least in part for the opposite reason. There is an icon, a statue, of Mary in our church with her son, the child Jesus, on her lap surrounded by children from around the world. Mary sometimes symbolizes for me the opposite view of fertility from modern media: children without sex. She is pure, chaste and modest, yet abundantly blessed with new life, and not just any new life, but the Son of God himself.

Even in Greek mythology the virgin hunter and moon goddess Artemis, friend of virgin nymphs and dryads, was frequently asked to help protect and rear or place among her friends to rear, demigod babies and the offspring of royalty. [The fact that children are often with virgins seems to be a serious disconnect between sex and the children it produces.]

My hippy mother often lamented about the state of the public image of sexuality, the rise of the super models and the main streaming of soft pornography, back in the 1980's. The hippies for all their misguided drugs and free love did seem to understand at least one thing clearly: the complete story of fertility is that sex is how babies are made. [Though I'll never be comfortable with the image of John Lennon, Yoko Ono and their son walking naked into the ocean.]

Separating children, the result of human sex, from beauty and sexuality is a cheating lie that preys on the weak and lustful among us for power and financial gain. Though sex related violence plagues humans no matter how suppressed beauty, sexuality and women are, I can't help but connect the idea of immodesty and media lies, about fertility and the promise of sex without responsibility or children, with the encouragement of sexual frustration and the increase of sex related violence. [I write “encouragement of” but stress it is “never an excuse for!” That said, nobody likes to be cheated and lied to.] The devaluing of sexuality to a product to be sold by magazines and Hollywood turns people into one use items to be bought, used and thrown away. The only people who benefit from cheap images of sexy super models is the people who sell them and we all pay the price. We must stand against this dehumanization of sexuality.

I would love to see the focus of fertility shifted back from the focus on beauty [the flower half of humanity] back to child rearing [the fruit half of humanity.] The fertility goddesses and super models should stand next to a cradle or a gaggle of kids. [May and spring maybe the month of flowers but it is also the time of strawberries.] Let's stop believing the lies about fertility and sexuality and embrace the responsible procreative aspect of sexual fertility. Let's stop pretending that babies and sex are unrelated.

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