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Mother Nature: The Myth and the Legend

Since prehistoric times, the legend of Mother Nature has represented the life giving and sometimes unexplainable forces of nature. Different societies have different visions of Mother Nature.

Ancient Greece

It is thought that Mother Nature can trace her birth to Ancient Greece. In Ancient Greece, Mother Nature was a mythological goddess named Demeter. Demeter was, technically, the goddess of the harvest. Legend has it that her daughter, Persephone, was kidnapped by Hades and brought to the underworld. Demeter punished the earth and refused to allow fruits and vegetables to grow until her daughter was safely returned to her. Accordingly, Zeus had to intervene and get Persephone back for the good of the world. However, by the time Zeus intervened Persephone had already eaten six pomegranate seeds, the fruit of the underworld. Therefore, Hades could keep her in the underworld for six months a year. Those months represented the fall and winter when the earth did not bear fruit. The myth tells us that during the growing months of spring and summer, Persephone was allowed to live with her mother, Demeter and Demeter allowed the earth to bear fruit, hence her name Mother Nature.

Modern History

Although Mother Nature was not known as Demeter in the Middle Ages, she was a very popular figure. Christian thinkers of the time did not see her as a goddess but did see her as created by God. She was thought to live in the place between the heavens and the earth.

Today, Mother Nature seems to bear responsibility for all that happens with weather, animals and crops on planet Earth. While we certainly know more than our forefathers about the science of nature, the legend persists and is often alluded to when circumstances warrant.

For example, when Hurricane Katrina devastated the United States gulf coast in 2005 people began to talk about what could have been done to bring about Mother Nature’s wrath. Clearly, in the modern day, some people are using Mother Nature as a metaphor – as a symbol who makes the wind blow and the gardens grow.

Yet, while we understand infinitely more about how plants grow and how and why storms form, there is still an element of awe. Perhaps, spiritual human beings will never completely understand why nature comes together as it does. Or, perhaps we need the illusion of control over things, like hurricanes, that we cannot control. It certainly would be easier to stay in Mother Nature’s good graces than it would be to prevent a hurricane from forming and destroying a community.

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