(Essay 5) Response by Dr. Glenys Livingstone to Magos, Muses, and Matrikas: The Magoist Cosmogony and Gynocentric Unity by Helen Hye-Sook Hwang, Ph.D.

Triple Spiral, MoonCourt, photo by Glenys Livingstone
Triple Spiral, MoonCourt, photo by Glenys Livingstone

[Author’s note: This paper is published in the journal, the Gukhak yeonguronchong 국학연구론총 (Issue 14, December 2014). Here it will appear in five sequels including the response by Dr. Glenys Livingstone. Numbers of end notes differ from the original paper.]

Dr. Hwang begins with noting three difficulties for identifying Mago as Great Goddess of East Asia … the primary sources are

  • gynocentric (this is a problem in an androcentric world)
  • they attest to an alternative view of pre-Christian Korean history
  • a pan-East Asian manifestation of Mago makes it a touchy topic

This is a good clarification of issues involved in the pursuit of this topic, and why one would need a good deal of passion to take it on. It is a brave enterprise.

I note a resonance of this work with that of Marija Gimbutas in the West, particularly in the sentence My research is destined to carve out its own methodology to serve the particularities (feminist, translational/cross-cultural, and multi-disciplinary) of what the primary sources implicate.” It is wise I think to interact within and outside East Asian/Korean studies – both are needed. Regarding the “outside”: cross-cultural resonances and similarities in the field of religion have been noted in the work of Marija Gimbutas, Joseph Campbell, Erich Neumann, and many Goddess scholars, but are also evident in ancient art and monuments. An example of this is that Indigenous Australians have been known to have no difficulty with comprehending the art of Old Europe – the interpretations of Marija Gimbutas: the Indigenous mind is still tuned to what most may regard as “ancient” and it spans cultural boundaries. So with Magoism … what may be uncovered is an ancient resonance with other cultures that would support the notion of Mago as a pan-East Asian Great Goddess.

Dr. Hwang also identifies her personal involvement in the topic … as must always be the case for enduring many difficulties. I can identify with the passion to uncover the female principle who is native to being: in my own words (1995)

“The Form and the Shape that they sought

          was not in any Atlas.

Her gaps had been covered up,

          Her hollows filled in,

          Her name blanked out.

She lay buried beneath things, silent,

          but with a detectable visceral pulse.”

It is the detectable “visceral pulse” that keeps calling, and a cross-cultural comparative approach supports the search.

What happened with Korea around late 4th Century (“Sillan ruling elites faced the military and ethnocentric expansion of the Han Chinese rule”) has similarities to what happened in Western countries in Britain with Roman expansion … there are analogies: that is, the Indigenous and more gynocentric cosmologies and practices were worn away, assimilated and sometimes violently suppressed.

Dr. Hwang has noted the resonance of Magoist Cosmic Music and the Muses of the Greco-Roman world: and there may be more to that than is evident from Classical period mythology, as pre-patriarchal scholarship unfolds. I find a link of the dance of Pal-ryeo (p.3) with that of pre-classical Mediterranean myth of Eurynome (who is often equated with Gaia): She dances all into being.[1] Beneath all the Classical tales of Eurynome there is a view that She descended from a Neolithic Mother Goddess (“pre-historic” times), because of the antiquity of Her name.[2] Classical mythology has the nine Muses born of Zeus and Mnemosyne< Goddes of memory, but other sources say they wer more primordial, springing from Gaia and Ouranus.

Eurynome, courtesy of Hallie Iglehart Austen from her book, The Heart of the Goddess
Eurynome, courtesy of Hallie Iglehart Austen from her book, The Heart of the Goddess

Re Mago’s divine realm not limited to Earth: I think that the limiting of Gaia to earth is a later and dualistic development- She was in the beginning All. And certainly when Earth is witnessed in Her Cosmic context, there is no seam that separates Earth from the “heavens”. My understanding is that Earth-Gaia is not separate from Universe-Gaia. Earth is immersed in Universe.  There is no seam that separates Earth-Gaia from Universe-Gaia. There are no heavens “up” there – we are IN it! Gaia can be known, felt, in any single articulation of Herself – within any Self.  Gaia is a nested reality – Universe, Earth, Self.[3] Gaia is a similar Creatrix: “originator of Life on Earth and causes all beings to be born, flourish, and disappear.”(p.4)

Re “The misconception of “Mago” as a name of the particular goddess hinders one’s perception of Mago’s supreme identity” (p.4 fn10) … it reminds me of Jane Ellen Harrison’s comment on a marble relief of a goddess emerging (Rome 480–450 B.C.E)

No one, so far as I am aware, sees that the artist is haunted by, is as it were halting between, reminiscences of each and all. … By their articulation and separation we have immeasurably lost. (Progleroma to the Study of the Greek Religion, NY: Meridian Books, 1957, p.312-314). Also re “For ancients, however, “Mago” meant not only the Great Goddess but also Magoist shamans and priestesses. For that reason, it should be listed as “Magos” like Muses or Matrikas. That reflects an ancient way of thinking that one sees no distinctive demarcation between Mago and Her representatives.”: this is comparable to the virgin priestesshoods of Gaia, Artemis, Hera and Athena of ancient Greece … Her priestesses identified with Her.[4]

Re Mago and Her two daughters as the primordial Triad and their parthenogenetic natures: Hera, Artemis and Athena – all strongly identified with Ge/Gaia Herself – were all considered to have parthenogenetic powers, and each had virgin priestesshoods, according to Rigoglioso (2009). And each had three aspects (were triadic):

  • Hera Parthenia (sometimes Hebe), Teliea, Theria
  • Artemis, Selene, Hecate
  • Athena, Metis, Medusa

Re the prevalence of the triad: the Triple Spiral of Ireland dated at 2400 B.C.E and said to be “perhaps the most powerful representation” of the sacred heritage of ritual celebration of eternal Creation represented in the Wheel of the Year, the phases of the Moon and the lives of all beings … its meaning “goes far beyond verbal expression.”[5] It’s centrality to the Indigenous traditions of that land is being recognized, and it became central to PaGaian Cosmology, as I paired up the three qualities of Goddess with three qualities of Cosmogenesis. Marija Gimbutas notes the tri-line as early as 24,000 B.C.E.. The centrality of the triad in traditional Korea is significant I think, and speaks of a gynocentric pulse still alive.

Re recurrence of seven: Sumerian Goddess Inanna passes through seven gates to the Underworld, seven Sisters in the Pleiades stories cross-cultural.

Re nine: my understanding is that it has been significant in the West as a multiple of three, as are all multiples of three. Also because the three qualities of Goddess are all in each other and are complex and inseparable.

There is also the occurrence of eight – Mago’s granddaughters and Asta Matrikas. In the Western Old European calendar there are eight Seasonal festivals … significant pathways to the Centre, to Earth Wisdom.

The veneration of rocks, mountains, aniconic rituals, and animistic beliefs are all very much part of Old Europe.

I affirm Dr. Hwang’s posit (p.10)  “that there was a Goddess myth once shared by the members of mother community in a remote past.” She speaks of “fragmented testimonies”: those testimonies are in some ways more fragmented in the West – there is nothing like the Budoji in the West, and Magoism is alive in the Korean culture. There are places where this is so in the West, such as Lithuania, and to some extent Ireland.

[1] Noted in Hallie Iglehart Austen’s The Heart of the Goddess (p.8), and Carol Christ’s The Rebirth of the Goddess (p. xi-xii)

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurynome_(Oceanid)

[3] Refer: PaGaian Cosmology p. 29-36

[4] Marguerite Rigoglioso The Cult of Divine Birth in Ancient Greece

[5] Martin Brennan http://gofree.indigo.ie/~thall/newgrange.html

[Read Part 4 here.]

Read Meet Mago Contributor Glenys Livingstone and Meet Mago Contributor Helen Hye-Sook Hwang.