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Pagan Matriarchy: Boba the Foremother

Let's dive into matriarchal paganism! We're now having this awesome season that English speakers call the Indian summer. Here in Lithuania, we have a much more original name. It's Bobų vasara, or women's summer. Now Boba is quite a special term with a long history. I am not the historian but I've read many authors on Lithuanian mythology and ethnology (such as Marija Gimbutas, Julius Greimas, Klimka, and others). I have also translated books of celebrated Oriental authors (Paramhansa Yogananda, Sri Ramakrisna, Vivekananda, Babaji) who taught me a great deal of a spiritual realm and a bit of Sanskrit, a language that is astoundingly related to Lithuanian. Anyway, Boba has a vivid background to share, apparently. I will try to name major words related to this title, and try to summarize how Boba could help us track some very ancient history of the feminine triumph.

Neringa J. Teišerskienė
2020 m. Spalio 30 d., 14:42
Skaityta: 46 k.
Mother Goddess.
Mother Goddess.

First of all, Bobų vasara is the only pleasant thing about Boba nowadays. For some reason Boba has become the opposite of what it once used to be, that is, an honourable title of a reputable woman, usually married and thus possessing a higher status if compared to a young girl. If someone calls you Boba, you might get the idea of being demanding, dominating, commanding and thus bothersome and ugly woman. But do not rush to break into tears, for this "modern" interpretation of Boba is only the surface under which we may find priceless treasures!

Ethnologists say Boba was the term denoting a foremother, the one who gave birth to the whole kin in matriarchal societies. I can easily imagine that, and I will gladly share the reasons why I believe so.

DNA and the womb of Neringa. All illustrations by Neringa J. Teišerskienė.

First of all, we need to look at Sanskrit which also has the term Baba, meaning a wise man. This can still be traced in the names of spiritual Indian leaders, such as Satya Sai Baba or Babaji. No doubts that Baba is a reputable title, and that's why I call it so, a title. In the Oriental tradition, which has been patriarchal for at least several thousand years, authority, wisdom and leadership fit men only. Surprisingly enough, Lithuanian language reveals yet another collocation of wisdom. Boba is strictly feminine (we have Diedas for men, which is also said to be an honourable title for forefathers. Not so nowadays, either. Diedas today bears the meaning of an ugly old boresome man) and therefore shows another direction of authority, wisdom and leadership. Lithuanian language gives the keys of wisdom to women! So what? Well, words reflect values and perspectives. I strongly believe Boba is the remnant of matriarchal society which was once prevalent in the whole Europe (read Marija Gimbutas to find out more about it (also available in English); there are archaeological claims to that all throughout Europe).

Why do I think so? Language and --- traditions again! Not so long ago, when Lithuanians lived in small communities in the villages, women gave birth at home. Sure enough, they weren't left alone. There existed a group of women who helped and take through the woman at birth. If we took the English name for these women, it would be a midwife. The French word for this special woman is sage-femme, or a wise woman. Lithuanian term is pribuvėja. Pribuvėja derives from the verb "pri-būti", i.e. to be nearby when in need. One could also dig deeper and find "prie būties", which is "at the existence". I would add, "at the threshold of existence", for that is exactly her function and domain: to meet the newborn baby, and to lead a woman through this existential experience. Now, pribuvėja had a more common name. The folks used to call her bobutė, which is a diminutive form of Boba!!! Furthermore, Autumn was the time when people would express their gratitude for bobutė, a midwife, for the special work she has done. Here comes the name Bobų vasara! The summer of these wise, subtle and gentle women.

There are yet more things to say! There's one more role of Boba in Lithuanian culture. When taking the harvest of crops, the last bit of crops were not cut as people believed that was where the Spirit of Crops, or Rugių Boba, lived. There's another curious ritual, the plait of crops. The ryes of that sacred bit of the harvest, still uncut, were plaited into a braid so that the ears of ryes would go to the soil again. The plait is called Jievaro tiltas and symbolizes the connection to the ancestors. It also resembles the umbilical cord. This is also the mythical Tree of Life. Meanwhile, the last sheaf of rye was made to resemble a woman and called Rugių Boba. There were rituals held to honour the Mother Earth. Rugių Boba, the last Sheaf, was often kept till the next year to guarantee a good harvest. So again, we have the woman who is a mythological creature, the one who gives life not even to a human being but plants of the Earth as well. She is the Mother of all, the one to be cherished.

We also meet Boba on Easter. Velykų bobutė is a mythical woman who brings gifts to kids (eggs precisely) on the Easter morning. What is an egg? The symbol of life. In a sense, we all come from an egg in the mother's womb. So here again, this time in Spring, Boba participates in the festival of rebirth (the Easter) as a benevolent giver. People pictured her as a beautiful woman who lived in the forest. Hares were her helpers and helped her to paint the eggs. This motive reminds me of Eostre, the German goddess and Ishtar, the Babylon goddess, which both had to do with Spring, fertility, rebirth, sexuality and had hares as totem animals. The matriarchal world it is, from The Baltic sea to Germany to Babylon. What about that?!

To sum up, Lithuanian Boba left her footprints in Lithuanian folklore and language. Despite the degradation of the title, Boba reminds us of a rich culture where the feminine power was once honoured and celebrated. She is the embodiment of wisdom, fertility, and the Force of Life itself. There's no reason we should forget our roots and cut off the umbilical cord with our Primal Mother for our happiness and wellbeing can only thrive when the harmony and the memory are restored.

Goddess of crop.

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