The Millennial Gaia
by Oberon Zell
“The only myth that is going
to be worth thinking about
in the immediate future is
one that is talking about
the planet…and everybody
on it… This might be the
symbol, really, for the
new mythology to come.”
~ Joseph Campbell
The Power of Myth
You’ve Got the Earth Goddess in Your Hands!
This exquisite figurine, The Millennial Gaia, brings our evolving consciousness of the Earth into physical form. No matter what language you speak, no matter where on Earth you come from, you can hold The Millennial Gaia in your hands and hear Her message. If you live with Her in your home, workplace, school, or place of worship, She will speak to you, too.
Once, exploring the surface of the Earth by foot, horse, and ship was humanity’s great adventure. Now, with the new millennium’s technology, it is the way we communicate about and care for our planet that is our greatest frontier, one that helps us to find a spirit of unity and cooperation among all the Earth’s people.
We offer this pamphlet to inspire you with a taste of the history, mythology, science and spirituality that combine to make The Millennial Gaia a nourishing, empowering message to guide us through the today’s challenges and joys, both personal and global.
One of the many people who wrote to us about her experience with The Millennial Gaia said: “When I come home from a hard day, or if I’m in physical or emotional pain, I meditate on the placid, ageless, serenity of Her face, which contains all the wisdom of the ages. Soon, I am calm and centered. This figure touches the deepest part of me.”
You may want to get comfortable and hold the statue in your hands as you read these words…
We have Always Known Mother Earth
“Of Earth I sing, eldest of all and Mother of the Gods…”
So begins the Homeric Hymn to Gaia, the Earth Mother. Gaia (or Gaea) is the name given by the ancient Greeks to the primordial planetary goddess worshipped by humanity since the dawn of the Stone Age. An even more ancient form of Her name, Ge, is the root of the names of the Earth sciences, Geology and Geography.
Throughout the world, even small children intuitively recognize Mother Earth or Mother Nature. She is the oldest and most universally-acknowledged religious archetype in all of human experience—the Mother of all mothers.
Sculpted images of Her date back to the Cro-Magnon peoples of 30,000 years ago, and are found across the Eurasian continent from Spain to Siberia. In Hesiod’s Theogony (the ancient Greek creation story) Gaia was created by Light and Love from the primal cosmic Chaos. Her first offspring was Ouranos, the Heavens. Fertilized by the cometary arrows of Eros, Gaia gave birth to all the world’s plants, animals, Titans, Gods, Goddesses, and, of course, humanity. So Gaia is the Mother of us all.
The Greeks continued to worship Her with barley and honey cakes placed at sacred openings in Her surface even after She had been supplanted in their mythology as the primary divinity by the invading Olympian Gods. The very rocks and stones were called “the bones of Gaia.” The Cretans called her Rhea and the Lydians, Cybele. She is Prithivi to the Hindus, Yorubans of Nigeria call Her Asaya, Australian tribal peoples know Her as Kunapipi, and in Peru She is Pachamama. Other peoples have known Her as Terra, Nu Kwa, Hertha, Neith, Mami Aruru, Papa, Ala, Nerthus, Unchi-Maka, Danu, Coatlique… In the few images of Gaia that come down to us from the Greeks, She appears enthroned, or as a beautiful and mature woman with wild hair, emerging from the opening Earth.
According to Frank Waters, a Native American tribal elder: “To Indians the Earth is not inanimate. It is a living entity, the mother of all life, our Mother Earth. All Her children, everything in nature, is alive: the living stone, the great breathing mountains, trees and plants, as well as birds and animals and man. All are united in one harmonious whole.”
In a technological echo of this traditional insight, the photos taken from space since the 1960s have awakened people the world over to our Earth as a whole entity. This awareness has caused the name of Gaia to re-emerge, this time into natural science, in the form of “The Gaia Thesis,” which asserts that our entire planetary biosphere is a single living organism.
Scientific Knowledge Fuels a Spiritual Awakening
(Oberon’s Vision that led him to sculpt the Millennial Gaia)
On Sept. 6, 1970 I had a mystical experience that altered the course of my life and work. While lying down and gazing up at the stars I had a vision that recapitulated the evolution and consciousness of the living Earth. I followed the thread of my own DNA like a river back to its original source—back to the first cell that ever was—and then watched it dividing and replicating back up the evolutionary Tree of Life until I felt my own presence, through the DNA molecule, in all life; and the presence of all life within me.
My consciousness rose high above the Earth as I watched teeming life spread across its surface—all one vast planetary organism. The wisdom of Gaia flooded through me, and in my Vision Her eyes opened to penetrate deep into my soul. She smiled at me, and said, “Now you know Me.” Since then Her living presence and Divine inspiration have never left me. I have devoted my life and work to Her evolution and emerging consciousness; one biosphere, one Being.
As a founder and catalyst of the Neo-Pagan religious movement, I wrote my revelation in the form of a theological premise deeply influenced by science. “TheaGen-esis: The Birth of the Goddess”—was published in 1971 as a lead article in Green Egg magazine as well as Llewellyn’s Gnostica News, Caveat Emptor, The New Broom, and other journals. The introduction of “Theagenesis” electrified many people and groups, generating volumes of correspondence, lecture tours, interviews, and further articles.
“The effect of ‘TheaGenesis; the Gaea Hypothesis’…has been extraordinary…” –wrote journalist Margot Adler, in the first major history of the Neopagan movement, Drawing Down the Moon (1979).
Then, in 1972, James Lovelock, an atmospheric biochemist residing in England, published a Letter to the Editors titled “Gaia as Seen Through the Atmosphere” in Atmospheric Environment. This was Lovelock’s first published reference to the notion, and the first use of the name “Gaia” as a scientific reference to Earth’s planetary biosphere. In later writings, Lovelock came to refer to this concept as “The Gaia Hypothesis:” I see the synchronicity of my theological revelation shortly before Lovelock’s scientific one as evidence that both Lovelock and I were serving unawares as vehicles for Gaia’s emerging synergic intelligence.
In a later article, “The Quest for Gaia,” Lovelock wrote: “It appeared to us that the Earth’s biosphere was able to control at least the temperature of the Earth’s surface and the composition of the atmosphere. Prima facie, the atmosphere looked like a contrivance put together co-operatively by the totality of living systems to carry out certain necessary control functions. This led us to the formulation of the proposition that living matter, the air, the oceans, the land surface were parts of a giant system which was able to control temperature, the composition of the air and sea, the pH of the soil and so on as to be optimum for survival of the biosphere. The system seemed to exhibit the behavior of a single organism, even a living creature. One having such formidable powers deserved a name to match it; William Golding, the novelist, suggested Gaia, the name given by the ancient Greeks to their Earth Goddess.”
The Gaia Thesis – Science Meets the Goddess
To understand the nature of Gaia, let us explore how our own bodies come into being. We begin as a single fertilized cell (a “zygote”). Through many divisions and multiplications, that cell redistributes the same protoplasm. The protoplasm that now courses through the several trillion cells of your body is the very same substance that once constituted the original zygote. For when a cell reproduces, the mother cell does not remain intact, but actually becomes the two new daughter cells.
Dr. Leslie Orgel of the Salk Institute, La Jolla, Cal., states: “If life had arisen and evolved spontaneously here, it seems at least possible that many different forms of life would be competing with each other. But in fact we know that all living things have evolved from a single cell which inhabited Earth about three or four billion years ago—and there don’t seem to be any traces of any extinct competitors which arose in different ways…”
That original cell, the first to develop the awesome capacity for reproduction, divided and redistibuted its protoplasm into the myriad plants and animals, including us. Just as each individual arises from a single cell, so all life on Earth originated from a single cell. Just as the cells in our bodies take on different functions and cooperate, so the different cells of Gaia take on different functions and cooperate. The seas and the rainforests produce the oxygen that we mammals consume; and so on. This planetary creature is identified in the hearts and minds of many people with the entity referred to since ancient times as “Mother Earth.”
John Seed, a founder of the Rainforest Information Center, says: “…the Gaia idea is not an hypothesis, but just the truth in front of everybody’s face: the Earth is a single living organism and all the pieces of Earth like ourselves are cells in the living body of the Earth and they are the life support systems.”
A Message of Hope for a New Millennium…
Joseph Campbell, the world’s foremost mythologist, suggested that the Earth viewed as a whole, with no national boundaries, might be the symbol for a new planetary mythology. From the moment that the people of Earth first saw the image of our planet spinning in all Her radiant blue-and-white splendor through the black velvet night, many of us have felt an almost physical urge towards unity. We inevitably begin to think of ourselves as integral parts of one infinitely diverse, responsive and sustainable macro-organism.
After four billion years of evolution, we have arrived at a magical moment. Gaia floats mighty yet vulnerable amidst the starry heavens. She calls to us, and touches our human hearts, and we feel we are part of a self-aware mind capable of contemplating its own existence. And now, having seen Herself through our satellite eyes, She is awakening to consciousness. What is struggling to be born is a truly planetary—Gaian—mythos that invites people of all traditions in our divided world to know themselves as children of the same Mother—Gaia Herself; Mother Earth.
The eminent scientist and ecology-movement spokesman Rene Dubos told us: “Our salvation depends upon our ability to create a religion of nature…suited to the needs and knowledge of modern humanity.” Duboi’s sentiment finds resonance with many people of many traditions and origins. A survey conducted by the San Francisco Chronicle in 1990 found a surprising 55% of readers agreeing with the statement: “I believe the Earth is a living Being, with a consciousness and will of its own.”
Sculpting Gaia – Oberon’s Account
After decades of writing and lecturing on the Gaia Thesis, and having sculpted many Gods and Goddesses, I wanted to craft a sculpture that could help any person on Earth to feel something of what I experienced when She first touched my soul so many years ago; a “sermon in stone” that would convey the Gaia Thesis. In the Summer of 1995, Pat Winters, a beloved member of our community, was pregnant, and the project began when I asked her to pose for photo studies.
Over the next several years, I continued intermittent work on Gaia, first sculpting a detailed relief globe of the Earth for Her belly, and gradually building a figure around it. A beautiful multi-racial woman named Camilla Parham provided the perfect face, and her many long braids inspired the DNA strands of Gaia’s hair. As I worked on the sculpture, other women posed for various elements: Cinnamon Sky for Her legs; Sara Robinson for Her arms. Throughout this process, Liza Gabriel was my primary collaborator, and her constant inspiration and input were essential to the creation of the Gaia figure.
When my wife, Morning Glory (founder of the Mythic Images Collection, Goddess historian and fellow visionary sculptor) returned in September of 1997 from leading a Goddess tour to Greece, she brought back a small replica of the Omphalos (navel stone) from the Oracle of Delphi (meaning “womb”) I realized then that the belly-globe of the Gaia statue must be positioned so that Her navel was located at Delphi. I had to tear apart the entire figure and resculpt the globe, adding India, Asia and Indonesia.
Once I changed the global perspective from USA-centered to Delphi-centered, I felt my hands were no longer my own. I became a fascinated observer as the figure of the Goddess took form. As they watched, Liza and Wolf came up with the name: “The Millennial Gaia.”
From Dec. ‘97 I worked on The Millennial Gaia continuously. Friends remember me working feverishly even at public events. I had to wear magnifying glasses to see the tiny details that my fingers were forming! Finally, in April of ’98, Liza spirited me off to a house in the country for four days, and read aloud to me while I completed the Sculpture. I made a mold, cast the first prototype, and Morning Glory and I painted Her. We were able to present Her to our community at the May Day ceremonies, where She was ritually consecrated to go out into the world and awaken people’s Gaian consciousness.