“Baubo: The Belly Goddess
The earth mother, Demeter, had a beautiful daughter called Persephone who was playing out in the meadow one day. Persephone came upon one particularly lovely bloom, and reached out her fingertips to cup its lovely face. Suddenly the ground began to shake and a giant zigzag ripped across the land. Up from deep within the earth charged Hades, the God of the Underworld. He stood tall and mighty in a black chariot driven by four horses the color of ghost.
Hades seized Persephone into his chariot, her veils and sandals flying. Down, down, down into the earth he reined his horses. Persephone’s screams grew more and more faint as the riff in the earth healed over as though nothing had ever happened.
The voice of the maiden crying out echoed through the stones of the mountains, bubbled up in a watery ay from underneath the sea. Demeter heard the stones cry out. She heard the watery crying. And then, over all the land came an eerie silence, and the smell of crushed flowers.
And tearing her wreath from her immortal hair, and unfurling down from each shoulder her dark veils, Demeter flew out over the land like a great bird, searching for, calling for her daughter.
That night and old crone at the edge of a cave remarked to her sisters that she had heard three cries that day; one, a youthful voice crying out in terror; and another calling plaintively; and a third, that of a mother weeping.
Persephone was nowhere to be found, and so began Demeter’s crazed and months-long search for her beloved child. Demeter raged, she wept, she screamed, she asked after, searched every land formation underneath, inside and atop, begged mercy, begged death, but no matter what, she could not find her heart-child.
So, she who had made everything grow in perpetuity, cursed all the fertile fields of the world, screaming in her grief, ”Die! Die! Die!” Because of Demeter’s curse, no child could be born, no wheat could rise for bread, no flowers for feasts, no boughs for the dead. Everything lay withered and sucked at parched earth or dry breasts.
Demeter herself no longer bathed. Her robes were mud drenched, her hair hung in dreadlocks. Even though the pain in her heart was staggering, she would not surrender. After many askings, pleadings, and episodes, all leading to nothing, she finally slumped down at the side of a well in a village where she was unknown. And as she leaned her aching body against the cool stone of the well, along came a woman, or rather a sort of woman. And this woman danced up to Demeter wiggling her hips in a way suggesting sexual intercourse, and shaking her breasts in her little dance. And when Demeter saw her, she couldn’t help but smile just a little.
The dancing female was very magical indeed, for she had no head whatsoever, and her nipples were her eyes and her vulva was her mouth. It was through this lovely mouth that she began to regale Demeter with some nice juicy jokes. Demeter began to smile, and then chuckled, and then gave a full belly laugh. And together the two women laughed, the little belly Goddess Baubo and the powerful Mother Earth Goddess, Demeter.
And it was just this laughing that drew Demeter out of her depression and gave her the energy to continue the search for her daughter, which, with the help of Baubo, and the crone Hekate, and the sun Helios, was ultimately successful. Persephone was restored to her mother. The world, the land, and the bellies of women thrived again.
I have always loved this little Baubo more than any other Goddess in Greek mythology, perhaps better than any figure, period. She is no doubt drawn from the Neolithic belly Goddesses who are mysterious figures with no heads, and sometimes no feet and no arms. It is paltry to say they are “fertility figures”, for they are far more than that. They are the talismans of women-talk – you know, the kind women would never, never, ever say in front of a man unless it was an unusual circumstance. That kind of talk.
These little figures represent sensibilities and expressions unique in all the world; the breasts, and what is felt within those sensitive creatures, the lips of the vulva, wherein a woman feels sensations that others might imagine but only she knows. And the belly laugh being one of the best medicines a woman can possess.”
from: “Women who Run with the Wolves” by Clarissa Pincola Estes