Leto: Death and Motherhood

As I am getting closer to the conclusion of my pregnancy, Leto has been on my mind a lot as she was during my previous pregnancy. I have been trying to find a way to work her into the domestic calendar of my household just because she is such an important goddess, and then it occurred to me, given her associations with the underworld and with motherhood, it would be the most appropriate to honor the goddess just prior to the sunset signifying the beginning of Noumenia as the goddess of the previous period that has died and gone and mothering the new month brought forth by Apollon Noumenios even as she mothered him. It would be akin too to a birth of a new day via the night shroud of the goddess who herself has been described as being darkly garbed in a very concealing and obscure manner.

In some ways the close association with motherhood and the dead is kind of an odd one, but yet in other ways it makes sense, especially given just how dangerous of a time child birth was in the life of a woman. So much so that the clothes of mothers who died in childbirth were offered to Artemis at Brauron. Likewise the transmission of new life into being is so like that of death that it requires a certain period of miamatic influence from the presence of the spirits and beings associated with death as would a person upon dying (but perhaps less so since the purification period is considerably shorter than the 30 days following the day of a person). Still the very real link between birth and death as having a common access is one that really indicates strongly the nature of Leto as both an underworld goddess and a mother goddess. Especially in cults that believed in reincarnation, we could see this exemplified as a return of souls via the mother as portal. In some ways this may also be linked to an association with Demeter in which the grain goddess in some versions is also the a mother of the god Iakkhos in the netherworld, Demeter herself regarded at times as a mother of the dead likely in a similar manner in which the stones of the earth are linked to the bones of one’s ancestors. The dead and the tomb is intricately linked to the advent of new life. As a goddess linked to the tomb and underworld she is thus the ultimate mother of life.  Even her mild, often sweet-tempered and calming disposition (when not riled into anger) is very suggestive of her underworld connection as a kindly being that brings rest and comfort to the souls of the dead even as she grants forth the souls of infants to inhabit the wombs of mothers.

It is of little wonder that creatures that go beneath into the hidden realms of the earth are largely sacred to her, such as bees (creators of sweet elixir) who build hives in the roots of trees, in the earth…and in the myth of her grandson Aristaios in the carcass of bulls, frogs which multiply in great numbers beneath the surfaces of ponds and are intimately connected with the underworld as we see in the play “Frogs” where they keep the nursery of Apollon’s reeds (another teasing connection of birth place and the underworld), earth-denning wolves, as well as serpents and shrew (especially in connection with her syncretism with the Egyptian goddess Wadjet) that likewise nest within the ground and spawn numerous offspring from these recesses. Symbolically then it may seem that the earth itself is spawning the young of these creatures from deep within.

As this makes her even more so a great candidate as the mother of Noumenia, even as her niece Hekate closes the month. This will be a great continuation of what I am already doing at the doorway in which she is the deity I address first in my prayers, as mother of the underworld, mother of mothers, mother of the portal and sacred gates. This has become such a significant part of my understanding of the nature of this goddess and it has had a profound impact on the way I am building my relationship with her and her presence in my oikos. Hail Leto!





1 thought on “Leto: Death and Motherhood

  1. Interesting, I’ll try to do this also, honouring her during the daytime before the eve of Noumenia. I usually honour her on every day that I honour Artemis or Apollon, but perhaps a time for her specifically, in her own right and not as mother of the Letoides, would be beneficial. At the very least it couldn’t hurt (unless the Goddess gives signs she is displeased with it, off course).

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