Conversations with Columbia: Part the Second


My Sisters and I have been talking about getting together at some point and simply spending time telling each other (in more careful detail) our stories. Whenever you get to know someone, and I’m a firm believer that magical workers need to know really know each other, it’s helpful to know their history. You know: their family, their stories about school, and love, and life. What critical events shaped them? How did they get to this point? Who is it that, while not present at the table, is still influencing events? What song sums up their life? What’s their favorite movie, emblematic tarot card, one unrealized dream?

Developing a relationship with a particular Goddess or God is often the same. It helps to know their stories. There’s some speculation that Hecate was Demeter’s eldest daughter, or maybe she was Persephone’s beloved aunt, which would explain her presence in the narcissus fields as a chaperone. Which would explain her shadow issues and guilt over Persephone’s abduction (or did Persephone willingly ride away with her unacceptable motor-cycle-riding boyfriend? Did Hecate initially blink, beloved co-conspirator, but then tell on Persephone? Or was she simply the one person willing to cry “rape” when all of Patriarchy conspired to to turn a blind eye? It’s so murky, as stories about guilt, and love, and the Underworld tend to be.) Aphrodite, according to Hesiod’s Theogony, was born when Cronus cut off Uranus’ genitals and threw them into the sea. Aprhrodite came from the sea foam (semen), and married Hephaestus, a crippled blacksmith, who loved her in spite of her many love affairs. Isis’ parents were Nut, the Goddess of the sky, and Geb, the God of the earth. She married her brother Osiris and begot Horus upon him.

As I noted before, a large part of my spiritual practice is developing a relationship with the Goddess Columbia, for whom my city is named. Because she’s a new Goddess, we know little about Columbia’s history and I’ve set out to learn more about her, so that, as with my Sisters, I can know her better and do better magic with her. Of course, it’s easy to see that Columbia has, if not a clear ancestral line, at least ancestors. I can trace her somewhat broken line back to Athena, another Goddess for whom a city was named. Not only do they look a bit alike, but they are both “virgin” (in the sense of unmarried) Goddesses. Wikipedia says that:

As the goddess of wisdom, civilization, warfare, strength, strategy, female arts, crafts, justice[,] and skill[,] Minerva, Athena’s Roman incarnation, embodies similar attributes. Athena is also a shrewd companion of heroes and the goddess of heroic endeavour. She is the virgin patron of Athens. The Athenians built the Parthenon on the Acropolis of her namesake city, Athens, in her honour (Athena Parthenos).

Athena’s veneration as the patron of Athens seems to have existed from the earliest times, and was so persistent that archaic myths about her were recast to adapt to cultural changes. In her role as a protector of the city (polis), many people throughout the Greek world worshiped Athena as Athena Polias (Ἀθηνᾶ Πολιάς “Athena of the city”). Athens and Athena bear etymologically connected names.

Wiki goes on to say that:

Hesiod (c. 700 BC) relates that Athena was a parthenogenous daughter of Metis, wisdom or knowledge, a Titan. Other variants relate that, although Metis was of an earlier generation of the Titans, Zeus became her consort when his cult gained dominance. In order to avoid a prophecy made when that change occurred, that any offspring of his union with Metis would be greater than he [nope, no changes related to Patriarchy going on here], Zeus swallowed Metis to prevent her from having offspring [get it?], but she [was] already . . . pregnant with Athena. Metis gave birth to Athena and nurtured her inside Zeus until Zeus complained of headaches and called for Hephaestus to split open his head with his smithing tools. Athena burst forth from his forehead[,] fully armed and grown with weapons given by her mother. She famously wields the thunderbolt and the Aegis, which she and Zeus share exclusively.

Plato, in Cratylus (407B) gave the etymology of her name as signifying “the mind of god”, theou noesis. [And I will never be able to hear or see the words “mind of god,” without thinking of Our Town, and a letter written to Jane Crofut. It was addressed to: “Jane Crofut; The Crofut Farm; Grover’s Corners; Sutton County; New Hampshire; United States of America; North America; Western Hemisphere; the Earth; the Solar System; the Universe; the Mind of God.” And the USPS delivered it, as they ought to have done, but this is, or maybe it is not, a diversion.]

I see even later, and perhaps more direct, connections to Columbia in Marianne, related to the mother of Romulus and Remus of Rome, and of whom Wikipedia says:

Marianne is a national emblem of France and an allegory of Liberty and Reason. She represents France as a state, and its values (as opposed to the “Gallic rooster” representing France as a nation and its history, land[,] and culture). . . . [Marianne] is displayed in many places in France and holds a place of honour in town halls and law courts. She symbolises the “Triumph of the Republic”, a bronze sculpture overlooking the Place de la Nation in Paris. Her profile stands out on the official seal of the country, is engraved on French euro coins and appears on French postage stamps; it also was featured on the former franc currency. Marianne is one of the most prominent symbols of the French Republic. The origins of Marianne, depicted by artist Honoré Daumier, in 1848, as a mother nursing two children, Romulus and Remus, or by sculptor François Rude, during the July Monarchy, as an angry warrior voicing the Marseillaise on the Arc de Triomphe, are uncertain. In any case, she has become a symbol in France: considered as a personification of the Republic, she was often used on republican iconography — and heavily caricatured and reviled by those against the republic. . . . Why is it a woman and not a man who represents the Republic? One could also find the answer to this question in the traditions and mentality of the French, suggests the historian Maurice Agulhon, who in several well-known works set out on a detailed investigation to discover the origins of Marianne. A feminine allegory was also a manner to symbolise the breaking with the Ancien Régime headed by men. Even before the French Revolution, the Kingdom of France was embodied in masculine figures, as depicted in certain ceilings of Palace of Versailles. Furthermore, the Republic itself is, in French, a feminine noun (la République), as are the French nouns for liberty (fr:Liberté) and reason (fr:Raison).

The use of this emblem was initially unofficial and very diverse. A female allegory of Liberty and of the Republic makes an appearance in Eugène Delacroix’s painting Liberty Leading the People, painted in July 1830 in honour of the Three Glorious Days (or July Revolution of 1830).

There are many direct ties between the ideals of the French and American revolutions (“Lafayette, Nous sommes ici!”) and the statue of Columbia that sits atop the United States Capitol is named “Freedom,” a term that is related to, although not completely synonymous with, Liberty.

But there the connections/Columbia’s story seem to stop.

And so, as part of a series of magic workings that I am doing to get to know Columbia, I entered, on the Fourth of July weekend, into trance, surrounded by American flags, and asked Columia: “What is your provenance?” “What’s your story? Who are your people? From whence do you come?”

Again, I pulled a card from the Wild Wood Tarot and again Columbia surprised me.

I pulled a card called “Bear,” known in this deck as “Queen of Stones,” and comparable to the Queen of Pentacles or Diamonds in a standard Rider-Waite Tarot deck. Here’s what the LGB (little grey book, comparable to the little white book in a Rider-Waite deck) says:

Meaning: The ancient ancestor of the modern bear, the cave bear hibernated in caves during the cold northern winter. Neanderthals buried their skulls here and even shared their caves during some periods. Often linked to Arthurian legend, the Bear remains a symbol of the power and protection of the land.

Reading Points: Richness and plenty surround you. Your bounty and welcoming nature make you popular with all. Many depend on you, and your natural sensuality makes you powerfully attractive to others. Pragmatism and generosity open doorways at every point.

I think, although I’m going to continue to mediate about this and would welcome insights from my readers, that what Columbia has been telling me in these recent rituals is that she’s older than I imagine. Her roots run deeper and, while the city may be named for her, she’s not limited by the recent roots of my own, beloved shining city on a hill. She’s deeply related to the power and protections of this land. I’m going to continue to query her about the relationship, if any, between her and the First Peoples of this land. Is she a transported Greek or Celtic Goddess or is she a Goddess whose roots go deep into the land, well before the appearance of those English and French settlers who showed up here a few centuries ago?

Columbia is telling me, I think, that she’s been around a lot longer than I imagine, and that she’s wound up in the protection of this Bit of Earth alongside the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. I’m interested to see what else she’s going to reveal. I’ll let you know what I find out.

Who is the Goddess/God of your particular place? What stories do they tell you?

Picture found here.

4 responses to “Conversations with Columbia: Part the Second

  1. A couple ideas off the top of my head, for you to take or leave.

    Bear is archetypal shamaness, going into the cave in the winter (descending into the darkness) then coming out in spring with her cubs (coming back out into the light with the treasures of the dark with her).

    At least as far as Rome went, since deified qualities or nouns were feminine (and I have only read this; I don’t know Latin myself) it was easy for the Romans to think of them as Goddesses (like Aequitas, Equity, or Abundantia, Abundance). I imagine France may have inherited the tendency along with the Romance language. That’s besides the land, and so the Goddesses Who represent a specific part of the land, being generally seen as female as it’s earth.

    I would think Columbia is of the family that includes Roma and Brittania. She is also pretty much (I’d guess) a Tykhe, which is the general name for patron Goddesses of specific cities (every city had a Tykhe), which ultimately comes out of the original Tykhe, the Greek Goddess of good luck and fortune.

    If Columbia has the trappings of a soldier (I’ve seen Her with helmet and sword) I’d imagine it’s to do with countryhood and armies and conquest. Athena is tricky; She is really really really old, and last I knew nobody could agree whether She was named for the city or if the city was named for Her. She probably acquired military trappings with the Mykenaeans. (Not that I know that for sure but that’s my hunch).

    Okay speaking of hunches, I’m trying to figure out how Bear and Columbia would go together. The whole winter/darkness thing is so cyclical and this country thinks so damned linearly. But then this odd thought: is there anything in your area, hills, river, brook, whatever, named for a bear? In whatever language.

    Had a long day so this is probably pretty scattered, but that last question wanted to be asked so I let it. 🙂

  2. Why does being “ancient” confer more power and respect to a Goddess? Columbia may be a young deity looking for direction. Who better to give Her what She needs than you and your Sisters?

  3. Pingback: Conversations with Columbia: Part 2 - Hail Columbia

  4. I definitely see Her as much older than our country. The Bear card reminds me very much of Cybele (who was often equated with Rhea), the Great Mother of the Gods, who I feel is related to Columbia as a mother figure, if not Her actual mother. This card only reinforces my own UPG regarding their possible connection. I think it is likely that Cybele had traveled to these lands with some of her people on one of the many explorations of this continent that occurred before Columbus. It could be that She gave birth to Columbia as a result of falling in love with the land and people She found here. Columbia grew up here, and She was waiting for us with opened arms, when we arrived. Perhaps that is why She was depicted as a Native American maiden in the beginning. At least, that is what I’ve come to believe at the moment. You’re conversations with Columbia are fascinating. Thank you again.

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