Žemyna (derived from žemė – earth) is the goddess of the earth in Lithuanian religion. She is usually regarded as mother goddess and one of the chief Lithuanian gods similar to Latvian Zemes māte. Žemyna personifies the fertile earth and nourishes all life on earth, human, plant, and animal. All that is born of earth will return to earth, thus her cult is also related to death. As the cult diminished after baptism of Lithuania, Žemyna’s image and functions became influenced by the cult of Virgin Mary.
Žemyna was first mentioned by Jan Łasicki (1582). It was later also described by Mikalojus Daukša (1595), Daniel Klein (1653), Matthäus Prätorius, Jacob Brodowski (1740), and in numerous folk legends, beliefs, and prayers. Prätorius described a ritual, called žemyneliauti, performed at major celebrations (e.g. weddings) or agricultural works (e.g. harvest). The head of the household would drink a cup of beer, but first he would spill some of the drink on the ground and say a short prayer. Then he would kill a rooster or a hen, which would be cooked and eaten by the entire family. Each family member would receive a loaf of bread and say prayers, blessings, and greetings. The bones and other scraps would be sacrificed to the goddess (burned or buried). Other recorded rites included burying bread baked from last crops of prior harvest in a field before new sowing and sacrifice of black piglet. People would also kiss the earth saying a short prayer thanking Žemyna for all her gifts and acknowledging that one day they will return to her. People addressed Žemyna in various affectionate diminutive names and epithets.
The goddess is said to be married to either Perkūnas (thunder god) or Praamžius (manifestation of chief heavenly god Dievas). Thus the couple formed the typical Indo-European pair of mother-earth and father-sky. It was believed that the earth needs to be fertilized by the heavens (rain and thunder). Thus it was prohibited to plow or sow before the first thunder as the earth would be barren.
Žemyna loves life. She sees people as a part of nature and helps and supports those who spare it. Žemyna’s mission is defending the life on the Earth, even from mankind if necessary.
Lithuanians have always deemed Žemyna the most potent of the goddesses, to whom we have to be grateful for the opportunity to live on such a unique and beautiful planet.
Perkūnas, the most powerful of gods, is usually considered to be Žemyna’s husband. In the Lithuanian tradition, their wedding is celebrated every spring, when nature wakes up and becomes fertile again.
In the Jewish-Christian-Muslim tradition, nature is considered secondary to the man, a commodity that Yahweh-God-Allah has given to people for consumption in their unimportant earthly lives.
There is no point in praying to Žemyna or kneeling in front of any idol. If you want to show her your respect, just pour some wine, beer, or water you are drinking on earth. This old rite does not mean you give it directly to Žemyna. Sharing your drink signifies that you truly respect the Earth and nature and want to be their friend, not ruthless master.
In the Lithuanian (and the whole Euronian) tradition nature is sacred, we understand it as something much more permanent, beautiful, and perfect and, therefore, more important than ourselves. We come and go – nature is always there.
Nobody can harm nature and get away scot-free. Žemyna takes care of that. If you kill an animal in the forest for meal – it is all right. But if you do it for pleasure – you will pay for it. Sooner or later. Not even necessary in your present life.
The more harm you do to nature, the more you pay. Nothing can defend against Žemyna’s anger, any mass, any prayer.
All we are but flowers on the Earth, which is only one for all of us.
Those who most enrage Žemyna, wait long for their next reincarnation. The worst face the consequences immediately – even billions of dollars are powerless against some forms of cancer and some other diseases.
Žemyna makes pay everybody, even entire nations. One day she may even decide that we, people as a species, have become too heavy a burden for the planet.
Although Žemyna is ready to punish for crimes against nature, in general she is good-hearted and loving – like nature itself. In our understanding, Žemyna is the MOTHER of the Earth and all of us.
Žemyna rewards generously everybody who cares about the Earth and its future with rich harvests, good health and pleasant mood.