- Mat Zemlya
Mat Zemlya, also Matka Ziemia (literally Mother Earth, various other names are in use as well) is the collective term applied to a number of Slavic deities devoted to plants, growth, birth, creation and patrons of field works.
In the early Middle Ages, the Mother Earth was one of the most important deities in the Slavic world. Oaths were made binding by touching the Earth and sins were confessed to the Earth before death. She was worshipped in her natural form and was not given a human personage or likeness. Since the adoption of Christianity in all Slavic lands, she has been identified with Mary, the mother of Jesus.
An example of her importance is seen in this traditional invocation to Matka Ziema, made with a jar of hemp oil:
East – "Mother Earth, subdue every evil and unclean being so that he may not cast a spell on us nor do us any harm." West – "Mother Earth, engulf the unclean power in thy boiling pits, and in thy burning fires." South – "Mother Earth, calm the winds coming from the South and all bad weather. Calm the moving sands and whirlwinds." North – "Mother Earth, calm the North winds and clouds, subdue the snowstorms and the cold." The jar, which held the oil, is buried after each invocation and offering is made at each Quarter. (Slavonic mythology 1977:287)
In present-day Russia there was a quite terrifying ritual dedicated to Matka Ziemia, and happened on the eve of the 1st World War to preserve their village against a plague of cholera. At midnight the older women circled the village, summoning the other women without the knowledge of the men. They would choose nine maidens and three widows who would be led out of the village. They would all undress down to their shifts. The maidens let down their hair, and the widows covered their heads with white shawls. They seized ploughs, the maidens armed themselves with scythes, and others would grab various objects of terrifying appearance including the skulls of animals. The procession would then march around the village, howling and shrieking, while they ploughed a furrow to permit the powerful spirits of the Earth to emerge, and to annihilate the germs of evil. Any man who had the bad luck to meet the procession was felled without mercy. (Slavonic Mythology 1977:287)
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