“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have domination over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth (Genesis 1.28)”
Fertility and fecundity are the earth’s mechanism for maintaining life, and she bestows the gift of reproduction upon all living things indiscriminately. The slug, toad and grain of wheat are all equipped with the miraculous capacity to regenerate their species. As seeds are planted, fawn and fowl are born and trees bear fruit, so the offerings of nature enrich and fill up the earth with abundance. Only with the continued fertility of all living things can the diversity of life on earth be sustained. Early, earth-worshipping civilizations paid homage to the phenomenon of reproductive diversity with a variety of reverent rituals.
Every year the high priestess of the Great Mother Inanna engaged with the king of the land in ritual fertility rights. The copulation of the king with the human embodiment of Mother Earth ensured fertility and abundance across the kingdom for the following year. The high priestess was also responsible for the allocation of the fruits of her gifts of fertility and distributed grain and other commodities among the people. Given the importance of her responsibilities and to maintain impartiality, the high priestess was not allowed to produce heirs of her own during her tenure lest she bestow unequal favor upon her own descendants. The worship of Inanna and observation of her sacred fertility rituals were maintained for millennia and continued after Yahweh’s people came to inhabit the lands of Mesopotamia (1).
Many of the matriarchs in the Old Testament are barren women in the tradition of the high priestess, and the text of the Bible is ripe with indications these powerful women served in the ancient role. Abraham’s wife Sarah engages in perplexing sexual encounters with Pharaoh and King Abimelech for which the couple are richly rewarded with silver, sheep and slaves. But the jealous Yahweh intervenes and puts an end to the ancient fertility ritual, symbolically sequestering the power of fertility from the earth into his own hands.
“God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, “You are about to die because of the woman whom you have taken…it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her (Genesis 20.3 – 20.6).”
Once Sarah is prevented from fulfilling her ritual acts of fertility, her reign as high priestess is ended permanently when she becomes pregnant with Isaac at an unnaturally advanced age, giving her an heir and rendering her unable to perform her sacred duties forevermore. The womb of the goddess, once the vessel of fertility for all living things, became the reservoir for the children of men alone.
As Sarah’s womb became the domain of her husband Abraham and his God Yahweh, so did the womb of the earth and all her female inhabitants. Fertility, once a source of reverence, virtue and feminine domain, became sordid and was manipulated to serve the purposes of men. Rather than having the freedom to choose their own sexual partners, women became the property of their fathers and husbands. While men were free to copulate and reproduce with as many wives, slaves and concubines as they could, a woman’s virginity was carefully guarded until she was married. Once married, she would remain faithful to her husband alone under penalty of death, thus securing a man’s lineage through the sequestration of his wife’s womb.
As Yahweh and his male human followers wrestled control of fertility from the earth, the Great Mother was systematically removed from her throne and fecundity was subjected to the will of mankind. Men became the guardians and rulers over the wombs of women selfishly spreading of their own human seed and relegating the earth’s sacred fertile web of life to the subservient role of mere provision of sustenance. Rather than engaging in ritual acts of annual renewal, fertility was coveted, appropriated and controlled to suit man’s purposes. Without reverent attendance to sustaining all life, Fertile valleys became deserts, great forests fell and the great web of biodiversity now stands in peril because of man’s avaricious theft of the Great Mother’s rich fertility for his own purposes. Now, a single place on earth does not exist, that remains untouched by man and his activities.
The species Homo sapiens is what ecologists refer to as a “successful” species. It is successful because it has managed to survive and multiply at an impressive rate. Other successful species include the common housefly, rat and cockroach. Today the earth sustains almost 7 billion human beings.
As the human species proliferates, it does so at the expense of all other living things.
Every environmental problem, whether it is resource depletion, extinction, loss of biodiversity, global warming, water pollution, toxic waste or any of the countless environmental woes that now plague the planet, can be traced to a human cause. Simple mathematics dictates that increasing human populations will result in increased environmental problems. More people burning fossil fuels, more people consuming resources, more people throwing stuff away, more people going to the bathroom, etc. can only lead to more global warming, more deforestation, more toxic waste and more pollution of water, air and land. Humans alone are the species that have created this plethora of environmental destruction, and the more of us that come to fill this planet, the worse these problems will become. People are at the heart of the matter.
A healthy, diverse ecosystem implements its own population controls. The coyote controls the fecund rabbit. Wolves ensure that deer will never overrun their food supply. If by chance a population does grow out of control, disease usually corrects the imbalance. Unfortunately, the human species has upset the natural balance at almost every turn.
In spite of the obvious correlation between environmental degradation and human population growth, faithful adherents to Yahweh’s two-thousand year old creed recoil at the idea of population control. In the face of all evidence to the contrary, they believe their God will resolve any problems humankind imposes across the face of the earth. What is He waiting for? Perhaps it would be more prudent to act instead on the earth’s behalf and restore the Queen of Heaven’s sacred rite of fertility to once again embrace the glory of the diversity of all life. To do so, we must first acknowledge that as a species, the population of Homo sapiens is dangerously out of balance with the rest of the ecosystem and take systematic steps to control its growth.
1- Wilson, Kelpie. Genesis Gets the Crumb Treatment at http://www.truthout.org/1025091