The Arctic Goddesses of the Sap Moon: International Moon Circle 9

In the far north, the year is just dawning. The long moonlit nights are finally giving way to dawn. And the full moon of night is giving up its place to the waxing moon of young life. It is a mercy that the moon is in the sky in the Arctic when it is full, during the winter when there is so little sunshine. In summer, the moon is rarely visible, only in the sky when it is dark or new..

Wait. Pause and think on that miracle for a moment.

Creative Commons image by  Daniel Frei

Creative Commons image by Daniel Frei

The moon and the sun dance in this way, never leaving the Arctic in complete darkness. Such is the kindness of the guardians of sun, moon and earth. And the understandable reverence and gratitude toward these goddesses felt by the various peoples of the Arctic for millennia is a powerful meditation for people everywhere. 

If we can connect to this knowledge that, despite the chaos of the universe and the whirling physics of the planets, our sun and moon have conspired to always shed light of one kind or the other on the coldest and loneliest places, In that light, it is easier to believe that our planet will survive the current period of destruction and the forces of returning life will prevail, no matter how deep the darkness.

It is nearly spring and yet I choose now to focus on the Arctic goddesses. Their symbols often appear more apt in the winter to people in temperate climates, but in their essence they are all about the return of light. And for that reason, I feel this is their season.

I have gathered goddesses from various Arctic cultures, connecting this moon with a geographical region rather than a specific culture or pantheon. This is by no means meant as a sign of disrespect, but rather a means of including less known cultures in this circle of moon goddesses.

The Maiden for this moon is Kalteš, the Siberian goddess of the hare, the Mother is the Saami Goddess Akka, and the Dark Goddess is the Inuit goddess Sedna. 

Waxing Moon

Kalteš is a Siberian Ugric goddess of the moon and the hare. She is also called the dawn maiden and she is a symbol of life, hope and energy in a cold land. She is a maiden who helps with births and determines the destinies of humans. Her symbols are the hare, the goose and the birch tree. (Lurker 1987)

The Sap Moon is the time when the birch begins to leaf in our part of the world, leading to the name of the month in the Czech language as Birch Month. A good way to connect with Kalteš might be putting birch twigs into a vase and making hare figures. We often make hare-or rabbit-shaped cookies for Ostara during this moon. 

Full Moon

Akka means old or mother-age woman. She is a Saami goddess of many faces. As Madder-Akka, she is Lady of the Mother, the ultimate mother who gave birth to the others. All that is good comes from her.

As Sar-Akka she opens the womb and is sometimes considered the supreme deity. She was traditionally honored by chopping wood outside the birthing tent, and new mothers ate porridge with three sticks in it to divine the future of their child. Finding the black stick meant death, white meant good luck and the cleft stick meant success.

Juks-Akka is the Bow Woman, the protector of children and the spirit of the wilderness. Uks-Akka is the bringer of light and the guardian of thresholds, both of the womb and of the home. She gives blessings to those going out into the world. (Monagham 2014).

So, this is a good full moon to make porridge from hardy and whole grains--sweet and delicious. Sticks may or may not be added, but divination is also a good way to connect. Blessing all the entrances to the home is also appropriate. 

Creative Commons image by Steve Cottrell

Creative Commons image by Steve Cottrell

Waning and Dark Moon

I rarely find the stories of dark goddesses too dark, but Sedna’s story was at first too much for me. I put her aside for a time, but she came up again and again in seemingly random studies about the goddesses of many cultures. And now that I look more closely I see the awesome power of her story. 

She seems at first to be simply a helpless victim, which was the reason I was initially uninspired. Sedna was a maiden who refused to marry. She ran away but was captured at last by a husband. Then her father came to take her back in his boat. It is possible that it wasn't just her who refused the marriage but also her family.

A storm rose up at sea to block the father-daughter escape. And fearing that his tiny boat would be swamped, the father pushed Sedna into the sea. She clung to the side of the boat but he cut off her fingers and arms. She drowned and her fingers turned into seals and her arms into whales as she sank. The end.

Or so I thought. But through further research I found that Sedna is the Inuit goddess of plenty, not of tragedy, victimhood and passivity. At first, I still wondered if she was a sign that the Inuit people feel they were short changed when it comes to "plenty," given that they inhabit a frozen land and have suffered so much at the hands of other humans. 

But again, this was just my narrow, modern thinking showing. As it turns out, Sedna is truly the goddess of plenty because to the Inuit the sea, the seals and the whales constitute a great and abundant plenty. The Inuit are well aware that we live from the lives of others, that our sustenance requires sacrifices from the earth and from the sea. (Monaghan 1999) This is why the story of the goddess of plenty is one of sacrifice and loss as well.

It is only gratitude that Sedna asks. Instead of the wrath of many dark goddesses, she let’s us suffer our own internal consequences for ignoring these facts of life and nature. Symbols of Sedna are the full figures of whales and other large sea animals as well as waves and boats. One way to connect with her is to honor those beings that provide us with food in whatever climate we may be in and regardless of whether or not they are plants or animals. Activism to protect the oceans and ocean creatures from pollution, over-fishing and other human activities are also appropriate in her name. 

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