One of the oldest objects of worshiping on earth was Mother goddess. Woman, mother, the one who gives birth to everything what is alive, the one who gives food, the one who takes care of everything.
In my ancestor's lands, now known as Baltic lands mother goddess was main figure in all times, even today. Woman was always special here, each woman. It is known as before Indo European came with their male pantheon, in almost all Europe mother goddess was the main figure of worshiping and there ware matriarchy as a social structure.
My ancestors at least 7 generations before me are from tribe named Žemaičiai [Zh e m a i tʃ i a i], tribe know for stubbornness and keeping of traditions. Even today some of Žemaičiai call them selves not Lithuanians (as country is named under tribe which united many tribe to fight against christian sacred war, which was the longest in whole Europe's history sacred christian war - crusaders war). We feel that we have separate identity than other Lithuanians. Even our language has such dialect that other Lithuanians (other 3 of 4 tribes which are under name of Lithuania today) are not able to understand it easily. We have kept many of old traditions and worshiping of mother goddess is very strong today. As we are Christianized now, mother goddess reincarnated in to Maria. I think most of the calling Lithuania "Land of Maria" is influenced by my tribe (Žemaičiai).
As we had oral tradition and Christianity tried to cover up everything carefully, there are informational gaps today in many traditions of my land. Some says we had runes as writing system, but they ware destroyed together with our sacred places. But it is fact that for a long time our old pantheon of gods ware in the territories of churches, even today it is possible to find statues of our old gods in territory of few churches. Funny isn't it? 600 years from the time our land is Christianized, and old traditions are still alive.
The goddess which was closest with it's image to Mother goddess is Žemyna [Zh e m i: n a], we call "earth" as "žemė" [zh e m e] (can't find sound in English which would fit the last sound of Lithuanian word). So name Žemyna comes from word of žemė (earth), or žemė (earth) comes from Žemyna, I am not sure which comes first. Word "žemė" can be translated not only as "earth" but "soil" too.
I am from family with unknown number of generations who worships Mother goddess. My grandmother always prayed to Maria, my mother did that too.. Jesus is somewhere around, but the one who is asked for help is Maria. As my mother made little altar at her home with photos of her fathers and my father's fathers, Maria also took the main place in it (strong believe in help from ancestors is alive today too, even she does think it is christian thing and I know it is not).
So who was Žemyna?
Above: Goddess Žemyna
Žemyna (Žemė, Žemelė, Žemynėlė, Žemynėlyna - other names of her) is a goddess of earth, soil which gives all the fruits, goddess of everything what is alive. She is goddess of Lithuanian tribes and Prussia. She comes from "Mother of the gods". She has brother Žemėpatis [Zh e m e p a t i s] and they together take care of fields, fruits given by earth, all plants, animals, home and everyone who lives at home.
Mother of gods is said to be the same as Prusian Seva, Latvian's Žemė motina (mother earth), Slavic Živa [Zh i v a]. Goddess of earth where know to all tribes which worked in a fields.
Dievų motina [D i e v u: m o t i n a] (mother of gods) is said to be changed Mother of universe, goddess Lada [l a d a]. For Indo Europeans nations Žemė (Earth) was not only mother, but also wife of heaven god. Žemė gets it's fertility from the first thunder of spring, god Perkūnas [P e r k u: n a s] given water - rain. At that time falls the axe of Perkūnas, which has special power of fertility. And Žemė becomes pregnant. Also fertility of Mother Earth is connected with Sun and Moon. Earth can be fertile only if she has contact with heaven, that means to be warmed by Sun shine (Saulė [S a u l e] - she) and Moon shining (Mėnulis [M e n u l i s] - he), getting rain (lietus [l i e t u s] - he) or dew ( Rasa [ R a s a] - she).
This contact is very seen in art.
Above Maria - Mother goddess and Baltic cross, also known as Sun cross.
In art is usually seen sun, moon, stars, rain motives, also Sun warmness and fire symbolising crosses, plants, blosoms, fruits, animals.
Žemyna is goddess which helps for man who works soil. The bad farmer was the one who didn't worked well soil. Goddess did not blessed such farmer, didn't help to grow crops, gave one misfortune after another.
The Earth (Žemė maitintoja - the earth which gives food) from great respect people kissed on various occasions. Most often they kissed before going to bed, when wake up, starting various works. When kissed the earth chant was "Iš žemės parėjau, į žemelę nueisiu" ( i came from earth i will come to earth). It is very similar to christian "You came from dust, you will become dust".
Earth was kissed and on important moments of life, like girl who is getting married and leaves home of her parents. Before whole family was praying on it's knees, then kissed earth with hope that the one who leave will come back safely.
In old times people gave sacrifices to Earth. Most often they did that when starting various works, and the finishing them.. like sowing crops and taking them off, starting to built house and finishing it, starting new village and so on. Before journey starting to work with soil spilled some beer on earth (beer and the pot was for special occasions) and then drank beer themselves too. Such spill is sacrifice for goddess Žemei (Earth) and god Žemininkui, as a tradition to give drink for Earth.
Also sacrifices ware made when some got birth or someone died.
How Mother goddess influences today's society?
Woman was always the one who takes care of home, man was the one who takes care of fields. They helped each other as they could. So woman was never lower than man in my lands. Well Christianity made some influence and there ware some families where man as the stronger one was over the "sinful" woman, but it was not main course.
Today we have president who is woman, leader of army is woman and prime minister is woman. So 3 of 4 main places in government is taken by woman. Not many "modern" western nations can say about themselves something like this.
Western culture has it's influence on system of values and often working at home, taking care of home and family is something "lower" or "not work". But there are some changes in this.. i believe in bright future :) More and more young people are willing to find out more about our old traditions and to make them alive again.
Lithuanians, with all tribes which unites this name, are one of the fasted dieing out nations in the world. Many young people leave country for "better life" in other European countries, USA, Canada and so on. So if we will not die out, we might be the hope of earth for surviving this "Earth killing age", with our respect for earth, with out philosophy and attitudes.
Be blessed by Mother Earth, from which you came, to which you will come.