Mut, Motya, Mutya and Mutyalamma : Four Variants of the Goddess as Cultural Icon, Sign and Archetypal Figure
By Grace Odal-Devora
[figures not available at this time]
This paper examines the bases for the similarities among four goddess figures, namely Mut (Egypt), Motya (Phoenician-Punic), Mutya (Philippines) and Mutyalamma (India). Based on a morphemic, semiotic and archetypal study of these goddesses, it appears that they show commonalities as iconic, indexical and symbolic sign.
As iconic sign, there is sound resemblance among them in the presence of the morphemes ‘mu’ and ‘mut’ in all their names, which literally and figuratively signify ‘mother,’ ‘origin,’ ‘foundation’ and ‘essence.’
As indexical sign, physical contiguity is indicated in the devotional relationship and partnership existing between subject and object, or goddess and devotee.
As symbolic sign, they serve as models of what is ‘precious’ and ideal; as archetypal symbol – of Womanhood and the Divine Self.
These similarities may be attributed to the following: diffusion through international maritime trade connections and migrations; common linguistic origins; psychic unity of humankind; and all these in varying degrees.
Keywords: Peircean semiotics; morphemic study; polysemy; semantics; woman archetype; cultural icon; archetypal symbol ; hermeneutics
Ce papier examine les bases concernant les similitudes parmi quatre figures de dОesses И savoir: Mut (Egypte), Motya (Phoenicie), Mutya (Philippines) et Mutyalamma (Inde). BasО sur une Оtude morphОmique, sОmiotique et archОtype de ces dОeses, il paraФt qu’elles montrent des similaritОs au niveau iconique, indexique et signes symboliques.
Au niveau iconique, il existe la prОsence du morphПme mu et mut dans leurs noms qui signifient dans un contexte dОnotatif et figuratif: mПre, origine, fondation et essence.
Au niveau indexique, elles indiquent une sorte de relation dОvotionnelle menant И une union existant entre un sujet et un objet ou une dОesse et un croyant.
Au niveau symbolique, elles servent comme modПles de ce qui est prОcieux et comme symboles et mythes archОtypes de la Femme et de l’EntitО divine.
Ces similitudes peuvent Рtre attribuОes aux facteurs suivants: la diffusion qui est issue des connections maritimes de commerce internationale et les migrations; des origines linguistiques communes; l’unitО psychologique de l’humanitО; et tout ceux-ci И des degrОs variables.
This paper will use the descriptive design based on the qualitative research tradition. In particular, it will employ the interpretivist-constructivist paradigm that focuses on understanding ideas and concepts – interpreting, constructing and formulating meanings, looking at their existential and humanistic significance for contemporary life. To do this, morphemic, semantic, semiotics and archetypal approaches will be used in a mixed fashion.
The paper will be divided into three parts. The first part will give a short description of the physical features and the cultural and historical contexts of the four goddess figures. The second part will make a comparative study of the four figures based on morphemic study of names and a semiotics analysis (Peircean) of them as natural signs, extracting similarities found among them as iconic, indexical and symbolic signs. A brief discussion of the significance of these figures as archetypal symbols will follow. The third part will conclude with a hypothesis explaining the reason for such similarities, interpreting such similarities, and expounding on their symbolic significance and probable origin as a tradition.
In linguistics, morphemic study refers to the study of the minimum units of meaning or grammatical function in a word called morphemes. It is done by breaking a word or lexicon into its basic units (morphemes). A morpheme may be either a bound (dependent) or free morpheme (independent). For instance, the word talking. The word is composed of two morphemes : the free morpheme talk and the bound working ing which has the grammatical function of serving as a verb. In the word tourists, there are three morphemes. The free morpheme tour (indicating travel as noun), the bound morpheme ist (indicating person who does something) and the bound morpheme s (indicating plurality).
For this paper, the morpheme mut is identified and studied inter-textually across cultures and claimed to have formal sound resemblance as iconic sign of the principle of motherhood.
Briefly, Peircian semiotics expounds on the concept of natural signs as something purposive – that is, working towards an overall meaning. A sign has an interpretant that cognizes, and an object that serves as a particular object in the physical world. For this study, the signs are the goddesses Mut, Motya , Mutya and Mutyalamma . The interpretant is the people’s cognition of the figures as goddesses based on their historical settings and cultural traditions. The objects are the specific physical images by which these goddesses are apprehended by the people in the material world. However, the sign on the level of object has three aspects : the object as icon , as index , and as symbol. A sign is an icon according to its physical resemblance to the actual object of experience (visual – photograph; vocal – onomatopoeic sounds; etc.) A sign is an index when its existence indicates or points to the presence of something else besides itself (smoke indicates fire; baby indicates mother, etc). Hence, the sign becomes an index when an existential relationship is indicated and established between one thing and another thing. A sign is a symbol when meanings are arbitrarily attached to it based on traditional and conventional usage.
Archetypal theory as formulated by Carl Jung expounds on the unconscious foundations of images, symbols, and mythical themes. He says that all these spring from archetypes – the collective primordial energies that have constellated in the unconscious of humankind since time immemorial as recognizable patterns of meaning and being. The main archetype to be used here is that of the Woman Archetype : the Mother as gentle nurturer and fierce protector of life; the Beautiful Maiden of heavenly beauty and great character functioning as a lover , a companion and partner; and the mature, wise, old and enlightened woman functioning as a shaman or a sibyl. Despite the universal claim to these archetypal images of woman , I recognize that these images may also be modified by unique historical, cultural and geographical givens of localities.
The Goddess Figures
The Goddess Mut
The goddess ‘Mut’ served as the Mother figure of ancient Thebes in Luxor. Her name ‘Mut’ (‘mwt’), literally denotes ‘mother’. It is written with the hieroglyphic depiction of the griffin vulture (Gyps fulvus) believed to represent her earliest form (Wilkinson 2003). The word indicating ‘vulture’ also denotes ‘mother’ , hence, Mut wears the headdress of the vulture-goddess , symbolizing both the beneficent and fierce aspects of motherhood (Wilkinson). As such, she was considered both as mother of the gods and as mother of the king whom she protects. She was further identified with the Egyptian queen, especially the New Kingdom queens who wore vulture headdresses to symbolize their divine motherhood (Wilkinson).
Mut is distinguished by her vulture headdress surmounted by either the White Crown of Upper Egypt or the Double Crown of the combined Two Lands. She was said to be the only one among the many goddesses to wear the double crown symbolizing rulership of Upper and Lower Egypt (See Figure 1).
As Divine Mother , she was the second figure in the Divine Triad of ancient Thebes : Amon-Ra (father), Mut (mother) and Khon (son). She was not only the Heavenly Mother of the Universe; she was also the Mother of the Pharaoh who gave birth to the divine son (assumed by the pharaoh) and nurtured him to become a great ruler on earth. This triad had each a temple precinct in Thebes, and their images were paraded during festivals along the Nile River carried by royal boats. In the Opet Festival her image, together with Amun-Ra and Khon , was paraded overland from Karnak to the central temple at Thebes and back through the royal barges amidst a rejoicing procession of dancers, musicians, priests and local folks (Wilkinson).
[Figure 1 : The goddess Mut]
The Goddess Mut with her double crown depicting the vulture-crown of Upper Egypt and the uraeus-crown of Lower Egypt.
Source: John Fletcher’s Egypt’s Sun King : Amenhotep III. London : Duncan
Publishers, 2000. p. 11.
Mut was not only represented by the vulture-goddess, but also by the lion-goddess and the cat-goddess (Wilkinson). She had been associated with the lion-goddess from the New Kingdom times, and was depicted as a woman with the head of a lion. As a lion-goddess, she was called the Eye of Ra showing her ferocious aspect in guarding the pharaoh with a fierce motherly love. In some vignettes of Chapter 164 in the Book of the Dead, Mut was depicted in the form of ‘composite deity with outstretched wings, an erect phallus and three heads depicting the vulture, the lion and the human’ (Wilkinson) – interpreted as ‘bizarre images’ that represented an aggressive deity mightier than the gods.’ In the Twenty-First Dynasty, there were several illustrations of Mut as a composite goddess with three heads, a phallus, a pair of wings and the claws of a lion (Lesko 1999). (See Figure 2).
[Figure 2 : Mut as the composite goddess]
According to Lesko, beginning in the Twenty-First Dynasty, in more than one illustrated version of the Book of the Dead, Mut was portrayed as possessing three heads (pakhet, human and vulture), and with a phallus, a pair of wings and the claws of a lion.
Source : Barbara Lesko. The Great Goddesses of Egypt. Norman : University of Oklahoma Press, 1999. p. 147.
Mut is usually shown standing or an enthroned figure, holding a papyrus or lily-headed staff beside Amun and Khonsu. She was also depicted with the feather of Ma’at (Goddess of Justice) at her feet (Wilkinson). According to Wilkinson though her earliest representation was as a lion-goddess ( about 1,700 BC), her later depictions were anthropomorphic, wearing a dress either in red or blue color, with patterns suggestive of feathers (Wilkinson). In her seated representations, she was usually shown nursing the infant Khonsu. Such representations were depicted in amulets and votive images.
The Goddess Motya
The second goddess to be presented is Motya. She is a Phoenician-Punic goddess of the Carthaginian-founded trading-post island named also Motya. This island lies on the western tip of Sicily, and founded by Carthage in the year 780 B.C. (See Figure 3).
[Figure 3 : The island of Motya]
Motya is an islet situated on the western tip of the island of Sicily, Mediterranean Sea. It was first inhabited by the Phoenicians and then made into a Carthaginian trading post by the Punics between its founding in 780 B.C. and its sacking in 397 B.C. by the Greek forces headed by Dionysius.
Source : Gaia Servadio. Motya : Unearthing a Lost Civilization. London :
Phoenix, 2000. p. 117.
It got sacked by the Greek Dionysius in 397 B.C. According to Servadio (2000), the Punics called their new city MTWA, the Greeks Motie, the Romans Motia, and the Italians call it today Mozia . In an internet article, the variant Mothya for the island is given.
This goddess has no identifiable visual representation directly called Motya. She is merely identified as a water goddess from folkloric accounts. She was held to be either a nymph or a sibyl of a holy spring in the islet. From her name, the islet’s name was derived. In another account, she is said to have helped the hero Melqart while at his passage in the island during his wandering adventures. Near Lilybaem, there is a place called the field of Heracles. Thucydides narrates the legend that in the green pastures of this field, Melqart’s flock of sheep was fond of grazing. One day, it disappeared for it was stolen. Melqart suspected that it was stolen by the king of Elymi and he looked for it but could not find it. On his way, he passed by the grotto of the sibyl called Motya and she revealed to him where it was hidden. In gratitude, Melqart founded a city which he called by the nymph’s name. (Servadio).
In yet another account, the name Motya is further speculated to derive from the morpheme mot. The morpheme is read in two ways. One interpretation is that mot signifies slime or mud. According to Servadio, this root is Phoenician and could mean slime, referring to the seaweed and mud of the site where it was built. On the other hand, Moscati says that Mot is the name of a cosmic egg that gave birth to creation as revealed in the account of a Phoenician myth by Philo of Byblos . According to this myth, Mot (putrefaction of watery mixture), otherwise known as Ilus (mud), was born from the embrace of Chaos and the Wind. From Mot sprang all the seed of creation formed in the shape of an egg. Also from Mot shone forth the sun, the moon and the stars. In another version of the same account, it is said that from Darkness and Chaos sprang forth Wind (Pneuma) that united with Desire (Pothos) to bring forth M_t (slime or putrid water). M_t was in the form of an egg and within M_t were formed the first ‘germs of creation.’ M_t then burst forth into light, sun, moon, stars and the great constellations (Hastings).
The morpheme mot also appears as the name of the ancient Canaanite god Mot, who was the favorite son of El (master), the oldest in the Phoenicians’ pantheon of gods. Mot was the spirit of harvest and also the god of mud, chaos and the beginning (Servadio). In this account, El is said to have ruled the fertile countryside and his son Mot the desert plains that rarely rained. At the time of the harvest, Mot was sacrificed, but did not remain long dead and is reborn. In some areas in Phoenicia, reports Servadio, Mot was replaced by the names Eshmun and Adonis.
Tracing the etymology of the word, it was discovered that the name is derived from the Semitic *mwt, ‘to die’; Akkadian mutum ‘death’ (Leick 1991). Mot , therefore, is both the personification and deification of death. To die is to be ‘eaten by Mot’ (Leick). In the Ugarithic texts, Mot is presented as the adversary of Baal . Leick further reports that his epithets were bn ilm mt (Mot is a son of the gods) and ydd il gzr (beloved of El), representing his connection with the earth – a land of decay, filth, spittle and slime. Sometimes he was represented as a serpent and by other chthonic images. In the Ugarithic texts, Mot vanquishes Baal, but Mot is killed in revenge by Baal’s sister Anat. However, he reassembles himself to be reborn later in a never-ending cycle of birth-death-rebirth (Servadio). This image of Mot as the god of death is usually explained as a metaphor for the fertility rites of an agricultural year.
The rendition of Mot as a male does not violate the goddess principle presented because death is an aspect of the Mother principle, too. The Mother gives birth through her womb in the beginning of life, and the mother claims back her child in the tomb at the end of life. This indicates that Motherhood embraces the life and the death principles. Hence, though Mot is presented as Death, he nevertheless is part of the Mother Principle of life and death. Furthermore, his identification with the earth as a slime that gave birth to light, bespeaks of a maternal function of mud in association with water.
The Mutya as Goddess
The third goddess to be presented is the Philippine ‘Mutya ng Pasig’ (The Goddess of the Pasig River). This goddess has been popularized by the folk music titled Mutya ng Pasig (See Figure 4).
[Figure 4 : Mutya ng Pasig 1 (Goddess of the Pasig River 1)]
This is a cover of the libretto of the song “Mutya ng Pasig.” It shows the mutya
figure sitting upon a rock under the light of the full moon, singing of her love for
a vanished kingdom.
Source : from the copy of the libretto
The lyrics of the song are based upon a traditional story of an ancient nymph who used to appear either as a mermaid or a maiden of great beauty. She was believed to inhabit a cave beneath the river. For as long as the local folks were treating her and her river-kingdom with love and respect, she gave them prosperity and happiness. However, whenever they desecrated the river, she turned destructive, causing drowning, loss of fish, epidemics. This myth became so prevalent that it led to the mermaid’s depiction in the old seal of the town of Pasig (See Figure 5).
[Figure 5 : Mutya ng Pasig 2 (Goddess of the Pasig 2)]
The mermaid form of the mutya was formerly used as a seal of the town of Pasig, Metro Manila.
Source : Pasig City Hall
In another version, she is depicted as a heavenly being sent down to earth to help humankind. According to the myth, she is sent to the kingdom of Pasig to help rule the people. Together with her three human sisters, she ruled the kingdom of Pasig founded along the river of Manila. As a heavenly being, she was ‘set apart’ and completely devoted to the gods. She did not fall in love with any male human being, and her life was spent in prayer and meditation. She would usually go out at night to walk along the river bank where folks would see her as an apparition of light walking to and fro the river bank. One day, during her meditation, she saw the future. She warned the folks about the coming of conquering foreigners. She warned them about not abandoning love and the other virtues taught them by their ancestors, most of all faith – since these would serve as their spiritual and talismanic powers in overcoming the aggression, persuasion and superior weapons of the conquerors. However, when the foreigners came, they forgot her warnings. They were bewitched by the material power and persuasive words of the foreigners. As a result they neglected their devotion to Mutya and never honored her anymore. As a consequence, she retreated alone to a secluded place by the river, sitting upon a rock and wailing in a sweet haunting melody the loss of her kingdom of love. There her three human sisters followed her to tell the news of their betrothal to three handsome men of the conquering forces. Receiving no more devotion from the folks and her sisters, she loses strength to go on living in the flesh, and so decides to live in the unseen world. However, it is said that once in a blue moon, the apparition of a woman in white walking upon the waters under the light of the full moon, can be seen by pure-hearted individuals. According to folk accounts, they report of seeing a woman and hearing her song bemoaning her lost love. She sings of a time of her return, when she would give back people their freedom – when they learn to reawaken the love inherent in their hearts and use it to recover their lost glory (See Figure 6).
[Figure 6 : Mutya ng Pasig 3 ( Goddess of the Pasig 3)]
The goddess in her apparition as a white maiden walking upon the waters, with
her long hair blown by the winds, wistfully singing under the light of the full-moon about her lost people and vanished kingdom of love.
Source : Oil painting by Ramon M. Devora
The word mutya or mutia is a pan-Philippine term, found in about 33 ethno-linguistic groups in the Philippines. It is a polysemic word literally denoting ‘precious stone’, ‘pearl’, ‘gem’, ‘bead’, and talismanic object spontaneously emerging from nature. Figuratively, the word refers to ‘goddess’ , ‘guardian deity’, a beloved. A sacred place usually has a mutya who serves as its guardian-spirit. One such mutya is Mariang Makiling, the Goddess of Mount Makiling who, like the mutya healing stones , emerged from the mountain to give gifts of gold to people before she disappeared because the people neglected to take care of her mountain-dwelling. Another one called ‘mutya’ is the semi-legendary figure of Ana Kalang – the mystical female ruler who supposedly helped the Spaniards found the town of Nagcarlan. In her memory as legendary Mother, the townspeople hold an Ana Kalang Festival every October. The people construct a giant image of her and parade it around town. In folk tradition, she is supposed to have transformed the lanzones ( a Philippine version of grapes with yellow flesh) from a poisonous fruit into an edible and sweet food.
The word mutya is composed of three morphemes : free morpheme mut (protuberance, mound, wart, outgrowth, pimple, piece of garbage), free morpheme muti (particle, grain, kernel, seed, stone, decoration) and bound morpheme ya (mother), a contraction of yaya or aya – referring to ‘mother’ or substitute mother) (See Burrow 1984). The entire word mutya appears to be a contraction of mutiya, which is further a contraction of mutiyara (mutiara) or mutiyala (mutyala) referring to ‘pearl.’ Figuratively, the word refers variably to a beloved, anything precious, exemplary and excellent. All these are represented in the image of ‘precious woman’ that is symbolic of the concept of virtues, values, models of quality, and ideals of excellence. In contemporary times, this concept is represented by the image of the beautiful woman. Hence, most beauty pageants in the Philippines are called ‘Mutya ng Pilipinas’ or ‘Mutya” of a certain locality.
The Goddess Mutyalamma
The fourth goddess to be presented is the South Indian Mutyalamma. (See Figure 7).
[Figure 7 : Muty_lamma (Pearl Mother-Goddess)]
The Pearl Mother-Goddess of Southern India usually represented by an uniconic stone or rock daubed with red paint. She is called the Goddess of Small-Pox and Cholera and is invoked for protection and healing whenever a plague of cholera or smallpox occurs. Also called _vani , meaning Mother Goddess.
Source : H. Krishna Sastri. South-Indian Images of Gods and Goddesses. Delhi : Bhartiya Publishing House, 1974. p. 225.
The name signifies Pearl Mother : Mutya, ‘pearl’, and Amma ‘mother.’ Another term referring to the same goddess is Moti Mata : Moti ‘pearl’ , and Mata ‘mother’. Mutyalamma is a composite term made up of several Dravidian morphemes : mut (pearl), mutti (pearl, elderly woman, goddess, decoration), mutu or muttu (pearl), mutya (pearl), mutiya (pearl), mutiyal (old woman; goddess), and amma (mother). All these words come from various Dravidian languages (Burrow & Emeneau 1984). Mutyalamma also belongs to the classification of a Grama Devata ( femalevillage deity) pantheon in South India where every village has a local deity. Mutyalamma is also a part of a group of cholera and smallpox female deities invoked during such epidemics. Her wrath causes epidemics, but when propitiated, she herself becomes the healer. These goddesses all have different beginning names but they all end with the name ‘amma’ (‘mother’) attached to their first names, e.g., Maridamma, Saralamma, Unamalamma, etc. (Thurston 1975).
The Konda Dora of South India worship the deity Mutyalamma and her brother Poturazu., including their women ancestors who have died before their husbands. (Thurston 1975)
Furthermore, Mutyalamma is the name of a local caste in South India. There is also another group called the Mutyala (pearl) , – an exogamous sept, and name of a subdivision of Balijas dealing with pearls. According to Thurston, the Ambalakarans say they were born from the sweat (muttu, a pearl or bead of perspiration) of Parasiva (Thurston 1975).
In the image of the dancing Mutyallama, one sees a woman playing the role of Shiva as the Nataraja or the Lord of the Dance. In this image, Mutyalamma is portrayed as the Goddess of Dance doing the cosmic dance of creation, preservation and transformation. Her fierce aspect is predominant. However, this should not be misinterpreted as negative. This image appears to be a great alchemical symbol of death to the ego and rebirth to the divine self. In this cosmic dance, just as the cosmos is created, preserved and transformed, so is the inner universe of the self created, preserved and transformed into its fullest mutya realization. Furthermore, its Sanskrit parallel word mukt_ (pearl) can be traced to the root word muc ‘to liberate’ , which signifies ‘liberation’ (moksha), alluding to the pearl that gets detached from the mother-oyster (Williams 1872). Hence, the jivan mukti is the liberated soul.
Comparative Study of the Figures as Semiotic Sign of the Divine Womanhood
The Goddesses as Iconic Sign of Life and Motherhood : An Inter-textual Study of the Morpheme ‘Mut’
Based on the study of the four goddesses , it appears that all of them have an aspect of life and motherhood, with all having a dark and fierce aspect. Mut of Egypt literally means ‘mother’ and is the mother to the ‘divine pharaoh.’ She has a dark aspect as the lion-goddess and ‘Eye of Ra.’ Motya has two levels of meaning : the ‘mot’ or the ‘slime’ that gives birth to creation, and the nymph-sibyl called Motya, guardian of the holy waters of a spring in the island of the Phoenician island of Motya. Her dark aspect , related to the name ‘mot’ , connects her to ‘slime’ and to ‘death.’ Mutya of the Philippines, literally meaning precious stone and pearl, is the term used to characterize the muse and guardian spirit of the Pasig River, the mountain spring of Makiling, and the founder female chief of a town. Mutyallama of Dravidian India , the ‘Pearl Mother’ represented by a boundary stone, guards the village entrance and is invoked for healing during epidemics of smallpox and cholera. She is the fierce village mother whose wrath when propitiated is transformed into healing energies during rituals.
Whether as morphemic ‘mut’ or ‘mot’ signifying both life and death, the reference to the mother principle based on sound imagery is clear. The reference to ‘mot’ as slime is consistent with the image of motherhood – for the precious pearl is born from the original slime (or worm) that enters the mother-shell where it is covered by nacre and transformed as a precious gem. The reference to ‘mut’ as ‘ pearl’ , ‘gem,’ ‘particle’ , ‘seed’, ‘pus’, ‘mound’, and ‘eye’ on the literal and metaphorical levels jives with two maternal images : the alchemical transformation of the mother slime or worm into a pearl gem, and the emerging protuberance, outgrowth, particle or small bead born from the mother sea, land, skin or shell and used as talisman.
The Goddesses as Indexical Sign of Beloved Partner and Muse
All the goddess figures exhibit physical contiguity as ‘beloved’ partners who serve as indispensable companions towards a certain direction. Mut functioned as a partner in the form of sister, wife, and mother to the pharaoh. She was a patron who bestowed legitimacy and authority upon the pharaoh, culminating in his deification through a divine marriage. Motya served as guiding muse and sibyl to Melqart , converting his suspicion into revelation and certainty. Mutya ng Pasig necessitated devotion from her people. To neglect her was to cause her disappearance . So was the case with Mariang Makiling. The people’s negligence of her mountain abode and their lack of gratitude for her blessings are believed to have caused her disappearance. Mutya Ana Kalang, however, was put on the pedestal by the people. Thus, they still believe that her memory gives blessings. Mutyalamma on the other hand, is said to have a precious brother with whom she has a love relationship like that of Osiris, Tammuz and Adonis. Her favor to people transforms her ferocity into healing. Hence, every mutya has a beloved partner, necessitating the presence of a devotee to realize her ‘mutya-hood.’
The Goddesses as Symbolic Sign of What is Precious, Ideal, Excellent and Perfect
The four goddesses all serve as models of excellence. Mut is the ideal of womanhood as mother. Motya is the ideal of womanhood as helpmeet. Mutya is the ideal of woman as conduit of divine love. Mutyallama is the ideal of womanhood as a model for the transformation of the negative into the positive. All these ideals of womanhood point to a common theme – woman as symbolic of the highest aspirations, virtues, values and dreams.
The Archetypal Symbol of Woman – Enlightenment
Mut of Egypt is the only female goddess with a headgear combining the vulture and the serpent. As the serpent headgear symbolizes Lower Egypt and the vulture headgear symbolizes Upper Egypt, it is believed that the combination of the two headgears is symbolic of the union of the two symbolic forces of bird and serpent in her being: the principle of the spirit (bird) and the principle of earth (serpent.) This unity is a symbol of illumination illustrating the realization of divinity in being able to harmonize two opposite principles within.
Motya of Phoenicia, as a sibyl symbolizes illumination. She is a conduit of divine revelation. She gives divine wisdom to the devotees who seek her grotto.
The Mutya ng Pasig, who was sent down from heaven, symbolizes spirit incarnated. But in her humanity, she was recognized as divine by the people. She functioned as a seer, prophet and ruler. Above all, she was the awakener of divine love in people. She knocked at the door of their sleeping hearts, whispering that divine realization was possible through love and devotion.
Mutyalamma of Dravidian India who had the power to transform the negative into positive, sickness into health – symbolizes the creative impulse and imagination – hallmarks of the divine spark in humanity.
As semiotic sign, the four goddesses, on the levels of iconic sign, indexical sign and symbolic sign, appear to share a family resemblance in having overlapping categories of similarities. These similarities revolve around the idea of being ‘beloved’ and ‘precious’.
Even if the goddesses have not demonstrated any persistent specific trait , they demonstrate the essential value of female potency, and the essential function of devotional relationship – revealing the relational nature of these goddesses .
As cultural icons, the goddesses serve as an Idealized System. Actuality may be far from ideals, but they continue to survive in the consciousness of people because these are constructed by them to organize their world in ideal terms. When the world of actuality collapses, the world of ideals awakens to dream a new reality.
As archetypal myth, the stories revolve around the mythical theme of the lost beloved, lost treasure, lost princess, etc. This loss is symbolic of the lost Self. The hero myth symbolizes the soul in search of its own true self. He undertakes a journey to search for the lost princess who becomes symbolic of the search for his hidden divinity.
As archetypal symbol, the Woman Archetype can be given the following conceptual frame : Woman as mother represents the biological work to house and nurture life; Woman as partner represents the emotional grounding and psychic bonding that woman provides ; Woman as shaman and sibyl represents the spiritual liberation that woman symbolizes.
The morpheme ‘mut’ must be very old, possibly a residue of a pre-diluvian matriarchal water-based (moon governed)and mountain-based (sun-governed) global culture centered in Asia that practiced a cult of stones , shells, and seeds, and utilized them as talismanic implements and ornaments. With the hypothesized sudden dispersals of members of this culture across the world, cultural differentiations occurred , causing the retention, modification, loss of original mother-language forms, or expansion through metaphorical extensions of meanings. However with the development of navigation, global contacts resumed with the probable result of some morphemes being revived through repossessions and borrowings. Based on this, I would posit for the existence of multiple culture areas in the world that would have parallel and cross-cultural connections based on shared core symbols. One such core symbol, is the use of talismanic artifacts and ornaments. These culture areas are composed of the Austronesian world of the Pacific and Southeast Asia; Dravidian world of Southern Indian; and the world of Sumeria, Babylonia, Phoenicia, and Egypt.
In ending, let me illustrate this continuing web of interconnections based on maritime trade of talismanic artifacts and ornaments such as pearl and gem beads (See Figure 8).
[Figure 8 : Map of sea trade routes]
Map of areas covering the trade on precious stones, gems and beads
Source: Peter Francis, Jr. Asia’s Maritime Bead Trade. Hawaii : University of
Hawaii Press, 2002.
Mutisalah refers to the highly prized glass beads of insular and mainland southeast Asia. They had been said to originate from South India, thus the name ‘Indian reds.’ (See Figure 9).
Figure 9 : ‘Indian Red’ beads
Sample of the mutisalah beads also known as Indian Reds believed to have originated from Southern India, particularly from Arikamedu. These beads were traded in many parts of the world, reaching up to Africa where they are called ‘trade wind’ beads. . They were highly valued in mainland and insular southeast Asia where imitative local production centers were established in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. They are considered precious especially in Timor where they are called ‘false pearls’ by the people. They are also called ‘heirloom’ beads and are found in archeological sites of the pre-European era.
Source : Lois Sherr Dubin. The History of Beads from 30,000 B.C. to the Present. New York : Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated, 1987.p. 223.
They had also been exported to Africa where they were called ‘trade wind’ beads. In the Philippines, mutisalahs were known as heirloom beads and found in archeological sites. In Timor, mutisalahs were characterized as ‘false pearls’ indicating that these glass beads were imitative of pearls, corals and other rare gems. Mutisalah derives from the morphemes muti ‘pearl’ and salah ‘prayer’. ‘Muti’ is Dravidian but ‘salah’ appears to be Arabic referring to ‘prayer’ or even the name of a deity ‘sala’, ‘ala’ or ‘alah’ . The word would literally signify ‘pearl for praying’, ‘pearl of a god’ or ‘pearl of God.’ Like a string of rosary beads, the mutisalah reveals its role in bringing union with the divine through meditation. The pearl represents the path of union through the devotional love of the Highest. Since Woman symbolizes excellence , she is the path and the goal, the Shakti and the Divine Sophia. And this womanhood is not a matter of gender. It is but a symbol of a state of consciousness. The open and ever–expanding consciousness of the universe.
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Mutya, by Grace Odal (post 1 of 2) here at Babaylan Alive.
Other articles by , by Grace Odal Devora, University of the Philippines, Manila
- Some Problems in Determining the Origin of the Philippine Word ‘Mutya’ or ‘Mutia’
- Ang Kamalayang Pang-isip ng Tagalog Pinoy, Isang Mapaglarong Pagwawari sa Diwang Isip.” Series on Filipino Spirituality Heritage. No. 10 (pamphlet) Mamamathala, n.d.