The Earth Goddess in Kahlil Gibran’s Oeuvre
“And when we reach her heart and are merged,
No more shall we wrangle and reason of tomorrow.”
Kahlil Gibran, The Earth Gods, 1931.
The Earth Gods by Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) is a collection of discussions between three earth gods regarding the creation of earth and its cyclic regeneration.
Gibran introduces the reader to a universal spirituality, which arguably bridges prehistoric figures of the earth gods to the Holy Trinity in the Catholic religion. This metamorphosis is emphasised by the Third God’s description of the formation of humans - “It is a thing of clay/And in clay let it find its end” - echoing the Genesis narrative.
Creation for Gibran is the unity between the earth gods and humanity where humans end “a deathless death” and their last breath is a fragment of the breath of the gods. This is reflected in his watercolour painting of Mother Earth dressed in crimson clothing and donning a white veil. Her divinity is expressed by her gigantic presence echoing the representation of the Assumption of the Virgin by Titian. In contrast to Titian’s painting, Gibran unites the earthly humans to the divinity of the earth goddess personified by female beauty, while humans cling to the heart of mother earth. Earth is the “mouth and lips of Eternity, the strings and fingers of Time, the mystery and solution of Life”. Gibran’s heteroglossic symbolism of the figure recalls the work of William Blake, echoing what Giuseppe Schembri Bonaci terms as Josef Kalleya’s line-as-prayer works.
In The Treasured Writings of Kahlil Gibran, the goddess transforms destruction into new life, thus bringing solace to all while observing the regeneration and the seasonal ritual of earth. Humans are fragments of the formation of earth returning to her heart upon death.
“You are ”I” Earth,
Had it not been for my being,
You would not have been!”
Kahlil Gibran, The Treasured Writings of Kahlil Gibran (verses from ‘Earth’), 1980.
Kahlil Gibran, 'Mother Earth from The Earth Gods', c. 1931.
Titian, 'Assumption of the Virgin', 1516–1518.
William Blake, 'The Virgin and Child in Egypt', 1810.