Inspiration from the Green Goddess

This is the third in a series of posts that began with “Naked in the Garden” and continued with “The Green Man, Nature, and Fiction.” Following up on suggestions from comments from Nick, Paul, and Allen, this post attempts to treat something of the female equivalent of the Green Man: the Green Goddess.

As Mother Earth, or as a goddess such as the Mediterranean Demeter/Ceres or the Andean Pachamama, the archetype of the telluric and fertile divine female is highly recognizable and searchable. The general trope of “land” as female, and particularly arable land as one big womb, or mountains as breasts, seems to be a universal one. Mother Earth or Mother Nature is perhaps the most deeply-rooted archetypes associated with women – the image of one of Frida Kahlo’s paintings (below) is only one of many many many such manifestations.

But in searching specifically for the Green Goddess, I found little other than a very interesting master’s thesis on the Poison Ivy character from the Batman universe, by John-David Checkett in 2001. As a sexy ecofeminist manifestation of the Green Goddess, Poison Ivy can tap into the realm of the Green: “As much a state of mind as a physical locale, the Green is a cool, comfortable realm where all worldly cares disappear into the nurturing bosom of the Mother of All Life, the Gaea entity which catalyzes the creation of the elemental” (Checkett p. 130). In so doing, Poison Ivy, through Gaea, challenges Western patriarchal approaches to science and epistemology, which, let’s face it, is an incredibly important thing to do.

I remember, from childhood, another Gaia, a purple “Green Goddess” character from the program Captain Planet and the Planeteers. On that show, Gaia, the Greek earth mother goddess, was sometimes a spirit and sometimes an embodiment of the entire planet.

Gaia from Captain Planet

What’s important about these earth mother avatars–whether the more sensuous West African Oxum and Nordic Freya, or the awesomely terrifying Aztec Coatlicue–is that, like the Green Man, they metaphorically link humankind to nature through creation and procreation. The Green Goddess and the Green Man (why not Green God?) make manifest the coterminous relationship between nature and humanity, at the same time that they impose onto nature an anthropomorphic character–an imposition that only humans would conceive and create. In other words, they both affirm humanity’s place within the natural world and also separate humanity from the rest of the natural world, precisely because of humans’ unique powers of imagination and creativity that allow them to come up with such humanized embodiments of nature in the first place.

Beyoncé channeling Oxum (Oshun) – source
A colorized image of Coatlicue based on the monolith in the Mexican Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia

For writers of naturist fiction, these figures–female, male and beyond–can inform our approach to plot, theme, character development and much else, including world-building, as we explore the links to nature that our naturist characters wish to establish or develop. Nick spells out how the Green Goddess-like figure influenced his work in his comment. Robert, a trained Jungian psychanalyst, writes frequently of the role of archetypes in his works, such as Freya in the René Beauchemin series. Paul’s character Sheila, the Naked Crow, is arguably something of a green goddess herself. In my work-in-progress, one of the main characters is indeed shaped very much by my understanding of Oxum in the West African worldview.

I’m sure there are many other examples to mention. What might you add?

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