The prayer “As we bless the Source of Life, so we are blessed,” based on a Hebrew metaphor which refers to a water source and set to music in a Jewish feminist context by Faith Rogow, has become one of the bedrocks of my Goddess practice.
In Minoan Crete, seeds were blessed on the altars of the Goddess and the first fruits of every crop were returned to Her. The ancient Minoans piled their altars high with barley, fruits, nuts, and beans, and poured libations of milk and honey, water and wine, over the offerings they placed on altars. Evidence of these actions is found in the large number of pouring vessels stored near altars.
Recreating these rituals on the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete, and singing together, “As we bless the Source of Life, so we are blessed,” again and again, we begin to understand that the gestures of our ancestors were based in gratitude for Life itself. They understood that the fruits of the earth, the grain, the wine, and the oil, the cherries, the peas, the olives, and everything else that we eat, are gifts of bounteous Mother Earth.
Our ancestors’ rituals are often categorized (and dismissed) as “primitive magic” designed to ensure rains will come, seeds will sprout, and harvests will be abundant. Anthropologists and historians of religion are right that this was one of the purposes of agricultural rituals. What they may fail to understand is the profound honor, respect, and gratitude for the Source of Life that underlay the rituals.
On the first Friday after Easter, the Greek Orthodox church celebrates the feast of the Zodoxos Pigi, the Life-giving Spring, the Source of Life. Her icon depicts the Panagia, She Who Is All Holy, Mary, seated in a fountain holding the Christ child. Water overflows from the fountain and into the baptismal fount.
This complex image both evokes and denies the ultimate holiness of the waters that break when every child is born. The Mother is honored, but the Son is elevated. The Zodoxos Pigi is not honored for herself, but because she gave birth to a Son who brings salvation. In Greek Orthodox baptism rituals, the hands of the priests, the earthy representatives of the Son, are kissed, while the mother of the child stands in silence, neither permitted to speak, nor to approach the holy altar behind the icon screen.
Still, the icon of the Zodoxos Pigi reminds us that “in the beginning” springs themselves were understood to be holy, for they were the literal Source of Life, for plants, animals, and human beings. Because gratitude for Life itself could not be eradicated from the human heart, many Christian churches, like this one in Petra, Lesbos, where water rises up through the rock, were built over springs.
Carol P. Christ is a founding mother in the study of women and religion, feminist theology, women’s spirituality, and the Goddess movement. She teaches online courses in the Women’s Spirituality program at CIIS. Her books include She Who Changes and Rebirth of the Goddess and the widely used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions. One of her great joys is leading Goddess Pilgrimages to Crete through Ariadne Institute.