Mythology across cultures includes descriptions of the Goddess as Virgin, Mother, and Crone. In Greek mythology, one way this archetypical triad plays out is in the story of Persephone, Demeter, and Baubo.
Many of us were taught how Hades, Lord of the Underworld, kidnapped Persephone, the Goddess Demeter’s young (virginal) daughter, and Demeter’s subsequent refusal to restore fertility to the earth during her mourning. What I wasn’t taught was the story of Baubo, the Crone, who persuaded Demeter out of her mourning, thus restoring light and fertility to the world.
Perhaps the reason Baubo’s story is unfamiliar has to do with her methods, which may be considered too risque for typical classroom lessons. To persuade Demeter out of her dark mood, Baubo told bawdy jokes. To punctuate the jokes, Baubo, the Crone, began to dance, lifting her skirts to expose her naked vulva. The silliness of Baubo’s dance and her earthy joking induced Demeter’s laughter and persuaded her to eat, thus breaking her period of mourning.
Japanese mythology has a similar story. According to Barbara G. Walker in The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols & Sacred Objects, the crone Ame-no-uzame-no-mikoto, or Alarming Female,
“created a face on the front of her body to draw laughter from the Heaven-Shining-Great-August-Goddess Amaterasu, when she was hiding her light in a cave. The Alarming Female induced Amaterasu to emerge, bringing sunlight to the world again.” (236)
Walker also makes the observation that “in both mythological traditions, the “alarming” idea seems to be that the world’s welfare depends on the relief of female sadness or fear and the restoration of female sexuality, merriment, and joy.” As it should be.
Ancient figurines representative of Baubo have been found; Walker drew this widely-copied image for her book. To see how the artist Magritte interpreted Baubo, consider his many renderings of La Viol (The Rape), an exploration of what it means to objectify the female form and disregard her personhood.
For more information about about Uzume, the Alarming Female, or Baubo, her Greek counterpart, Wikipedia has some resources you might investigate:
Also, for your perusal, I present the Vulva Museum, which defies additional description (other than to say that Baubo is there!) but is certainly worth a look if you’re in the mood to celebrate female sexuality.
WHO WRITES THIS BLOG?
The author of Alarming Female is a middle aged (if I live to be 95) idealist who resides in the US and thinks about stuff all the time.
I adopted the name Alarming Female for my blog for a number of reasons, not least the implications inherent in goddess mythology, but also because I’m the type of woman with whom many people are uncomfortable. To clarify, I don’t seek to make people uncomfortable; in fact, I’m often oblivious to what I do that offends. But, nonetheless, I’m sometimes described as “scary,” “aggressive,” or “mean.”
My best understanding of what this means is that my style is direct, and that my observations, though without judgment, are often perceived by those who would judge as inappropriate for “polite” public discourse. I am also an unapologetic feminist. So be it.
Luckily, in the blog world, one can find like-minded people, and avoid interacting with those who find one distasteful. No one out there has to be offended by me unless they want to be.
Here you’ll find my feminist perspective on family, domestic violence, teaching, attention deficit disorder, racism, sexism, and politics, as well as knitting, soap making, reading, movies, photography, and chess. I have a photoblog here, and an online handmade soap shop here.
And since I think about stuff all the time, other topics are bound to show up. For insight into what other topics might catch my interest, check out 200+ Things About Me.
You can contact me at alarmingfemale AT gmail DOT com.