Gather round, Witchlets. Time for Moon School.
Today we’re going to discuss something called UPG – Unverified Personal Gnosis. Sounds long, doesn’t it? Gnosis means knowledge but, more specifically, knowledge of deity. It’s spelled with a silent “g.” Do you know what deity means? Deity is an another word for the gods, or god, or higher power. It’s a great word to use when you want to speak of the gods in general, or don’t know if the person with whom you’re speaking believes in one god, two, many, or none.
You understand the word “personal,” so what do you think the word “unverified” means? [let them answer] It means that you can’t prove it. So put it together, if “unverified” means you can’t prove it, “personal” means yourself, and “gnosis” means knowledge, or experience, of deity, what would Unverified Personal Gnosis, or UPG mean? Knowledge of deity that you can’t prove. It’s a personal experience that’s, well, personal.
Everyone experiences deity differently. You see, deity is infinite. That means that there’s no beginning and no end. It just goes on and on, forever. There’s no place that it’s not; there’s no limit. We humans can’t completely understand infinity. We can try but, we’re finite beings, meaning that we have an end and a beginning; I was born, and one day I’ll die. I’m only here for a certain number if years, not forever. My body has a limit; I’m sitting here on this pillow, I’m not spread out all over the room, or house, or city, or state, or country, or planet, or universe, etc. You see what I mean? I’m just one small being.
So, we experience deity differently because we perceive everything differently. You and I are different. We taste things differently. My daughter loves everything chocolate, and my son prefers vanilla. Some people prefer sweet foods, and others prefer salty.
We also see things differently. For example, my brother is color blind. Now, that doesn’t mean that he can’t see colors, it means that there’s are certain colors, like red and green, between which he can’t tell the difference. And of course, we experience differences in the rest of our five senses – touch, hearing, and sight. I love hot baths but, my son considers even lukewarm water to be too hot. [Ask the kids how they experience senses differently than their siblings, parents, friends, etc.]
Some people are monotheist or see one, universal God. You’ll see that in religions like Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Sikhism. Some people are duotheistic like many Wiccans and other Pagans. They might see all the gods as one God, and all the goddesses as one Goddess. Some people are atheists; they experience deity as something other than gods if they experience deity at all. Some people are polytheists; they see many gods and goddesses.
Now, the gods don’t always talk to us with words. They don’t call us up on our phones and tell us what to do, and they certainly don’t text, lol. They often communicate with us by putting certain people in our paths or cause things to happen that point us in the direction they think is best for us. [Ask the kids how they experience deity if they do at all. How do they see it? As gods don’t always talk to us, they communicate in various ways. Ask how have they show up in the kids’ lives.]
The fact that we each experience deity differently is beautiful, and how it’s supposed to be. UPG is a testament to the beauty of the infinite.
A group of gods and goddesses from a particular society, or country, is called a “Pantheon.” Like the group of Greek gods are called the Greek Pantheon. Can you name some other Pantheons? [suggestions could be Egyptian, Norse/Viking, Roman, Celtic, Tibetan, African, Chinese, etc.]
While there are MANY different pantheons, they are some themes that that are pretty common and are in most of the pantheons. There are almost always gods that represent the divine feminine (woman) and the divine masculine (man). There’s almost always a mother goddess, a father god, a goddess who protect children, fertility gods, tricksters, ones that represent prosperity, ones that help people cross over into the afterlife.
Let’s talk about some of the mother goddesses.
[we read them stories about Mother Earth goddesses from other cultures and discussed the similarities and differences]
My favorite version of her story comes from D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, pp 10-21. But, when you talk about how Chronos swallows his babies, I make certain to say “No gods were harmed. Remember, these are gods, not humans, so they were ok.”
[Isadora, my fellow teacher, got a kick out of saying “Mama Mia.”]
“Maia is the Oscan Earth-Goddess, and an ancient Roman Goddess of springtime, warmth, and increase. She causes the plants to grow through Her gentle heat, and the month of May is probably named for Her. Her name means ‘She Who is Great’, and is related to Oscan mais and Latin majus, both of which mean ‘more’. She is also called Maia Maiestas, ‘Maia the Majestic’, which is essentially a doubling of Her name to indicate Her power, as both “Maia” and ‘Maiestas’ have their roots in latin magnus, ‘great or powerful’. She was honored by the Romans on the 1st and 15th of May, and at the Volcanalia of August 23rd, the holiday of Her sometimes husband, the Fire-God Vulcan.
“She seems to have been paired with Vulcan because they were both considered Deities of heat: through the increasing warmth of Maia’s spring season flowers and plants sprouted and grew; while Vulcan’s stronger summer heat brought the fruits to ripeness. The flamen Volcanalis, the priest who officially oversaw the rites of Vulcan, sacrificed a pregnant sow to Maia on the first day of May. The offering of a pregnant sow was traditionally given to Earth-goddesses such as Tellus or Ceres and signified both the remarkable fecundity of the Earth (as there are usually between six and twelve in a litter) as well as the darker side of the Earth Mother, as sows have been known to eat their young. Rites to Maia were also performed at the August Volcanalia, a festival to ward off the destructive fires that could be caused by the dry weather and burning sun of summertime.”
“Pachamama is a goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andes. She is also known as the earth/time mother. In Inca mythology, Pachamama is a fertility goddess who presides over planting and harvesting, embodies the mountains, and causes earthquakes. She is also an ever-present and independent deity who has her own self-sufficient and creative power to sustain life on this earth. Her shrines are hallowed rocks, or the boles of legendary trees, and her artists envision her as an adult female bearing harvests of potatoes and coca leaves. Pachamama is the wife of Pacha Kamaq and her children are Inti, the sun god, and Killa, the moon goddess. The four cosmological Quechua principles – Water, Earth, Sun, and Moon – claim Pachamama as their primordial origin, and priests sacrifice llamas, cuy (guinea pigs), and elaborate, miniature, burned garments to her. After the conquest by Spain, which forced conversion to Roman Catholicism, the figure of the Virgin Mary became united with that of the Pachamama for many of the indigenous people. In pre-Hispanic culture, Pachamama is often a cruel goddess eager to collect her sacrifices. As Andes cultures form modern nations, Pachamama remains benevolent, giving, and a local name for Mother Nature. Thus, many in South America believe that problems arise when people take too much from nature because they are taking too much from Pachamama.”
“Xi Wangmu controls the cosmic forces, known as Queen mother. she is honored with the Double seven festival when she is said to return. Xi Wangmu adopted Shang and taught him everything. and give him the rite to rule over the earthly plain Making him the first empire. In another shift, the Han elite invented a husband for the Western Queen Mother: the Eastern King Sire (Dong Wang Gong). As Susan Lullo observes, there is ‘no evidence in Han literature that the King Father ever existed in myth.’ (There was a god of Tai Shan, the sacred mountain of the East, but he never seems to be coupled with Xi Wangmu.) The new husband was added to the eastern wall of tombs, opposite the Western Mother, for ‘pictorial balance’—but also to domesticate the unpartnered goddess.”
“One general truth that threads throughout [many of] the Native American spiritual beliefs is the belief of the Mother Earth spirituality. [Many of ] the Native Americans felt that the earth was our mother, the sky our father, and all things were interconnected. The many Creation myths of the [various] Native American [tribes] stress the mutuality and interdependence between people and other forms of life. There is mutual respectfulness required when interacting with trees, birds, and plants and also natural forces such as the wind and the rain. Their creation stories empathize that Creation did not just happen a million years ago and end there, but that the Spirit that first infused the world is still with us now and can be experienced as ‘immanence’, the spirit which imbues all things.”
Click here for a beautiful story about Mother Earth from the Muscogee Creek tribe. It’s called Grandmother’s Creation Story, by Muskeke Iskwew
Suggested coloring book