Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.
~ Victor Borge (20th century comedian)
As I mentioned last week, the story of Amaterasu and Uzime is mirrored by the Greek legend of Demeter and Baubo. So today, for April Fool’s, let’s meet one of the world’s oldest and most revered Sacred Fools, the blessed Goddess Baubo.
Greek Goddess of Mirth
by A. C. Smythe
The Goddess Baubo: Who is this mystery woman?
She is Baubo, a fun-loving, bawdy, jesting, sexually liberated—yet very wise—Goddess who plays a crucial, healing role in the Eleusinian mysteries of ancient Greece.
She remains a much-honored figure today among many women—celebrated as a positive force of female sexuality and the healing power of laughter. Her power and energy have survived in the spirits of women down through the centuries.
Because of the scarcity of written references—and the contradictory nature of the writings that we do have—She is a mysterious figure in many ways.
Much of the mystery surrounding the Goddess Baubo arises from literary connections between Her name and the names of other Goddesses. Baubo is sometimes referred to as the Goddess Iambe, the daughter of Pan and Echo, described in the legends of Homer.
Her identity also eventually became blended with those of earlier Goddesses, such mother/vegetation Goddesses as Atargatis, a Goddess originating in northern Syria, and Kybele (or Cybele), a Goddess from Asia Minor. To avoid confusion, we shall refer to Her simply as Baubo in the rest of this article.
Scholars have traced the origin of Baubo to very ancient times in the Mediterranean region, particularly western Syria.
Goddess of vegetation, Her later appearance as a servant in the myths of Demeter mark the transition to an agrarian culture where the power has now shifted to Demeter, the Greek Goddess of grain and the harvest.
This brings us to the wonderful story in which Baubo and Demeter meet up, as told in the Eleusinian Mysteries.
Baubo is best known from this story, where She appears as a middle-aged servant to King Celeus of Eleusis.
According to the myths, Demeter was wandering the Earth in deep mourning over the loss of Her beloved daughter, Persephone, who had been violently abducted by Hades, the God of the underworld.
Abandoning Her Goddess duties of bringing fertility to the land, She took refuge in the city of Eleusis. The disheartened Goddess, disguised as an old woman, was welcomed into the home of the king.
Everyone in the king’s household tried to console and lift the spirits of the severely depressed woman, but to no avail—until Baubo showed up. The two women started chatting, with Baubo making a number of humorous, risqué remarks. Demeter began to smile.
Then, Baubo suddenly lifted Her skirt in front of Demeter.
Different versions of this tale provide very different images of what Demeter saw under Baubo’s skirt, but whatever She saw, it finally lifted Her out of Her depression. She responded with a long and hearty belly laugh!
Ultimately, with Her spirits and confidence restored, Demeter persuaded Zeus to command Hades to release Persephone. So, thanks to the lewd antics of Baubo, all was once again right in the world.
This inspiring story from the Eleusinian Mysteries suggests the meaning of Baubo’s name. Her name, according to many interpretations, means “belly,” indicating the belly laughter that She provoked in Demeter.
According to other interpretations, however, Baubo’s name means “old crone.” Although “crone” has rather negative connotations to us today, the word was originally used to refer to a wise, mature woman.
The “belly” interpretation of Baubo’s name is revealed in some ancient figurines of the Goddess that have been found in Asia Minor and elsewhere. These sacred objects depict Baubo’s face in Her belly, with Her vulva forming Her chin. Other unearthed figurines of Baubo depict Her playfully exposing an exaggerated vulva between Her legs. [Much like the Sheela Na Gig of the Celtic lands. ~ B.]
The story of Baubo and Demeter can still serve as a great comfort for us. Some women who belong to Pagan groups today, for example, join together to appeal to Baubo for the gift of laughter, fun, friendship, and spiritual healing.
In addition, certain Wiccan rituals celebrating the diversity of the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender community invoke the name and spirit of Baubo.
Of course, you don’t have to be a follower of Pagan beliefs to discover the joyful mirth of Baubo.
The Goddess Baubo is always there to remind us to let our hair down and have fun. She tells us to be proud of, to occasionally flaunt, and to be empowered by our femininity and sexuality.
And Baubo reminds us to be sure to let out a good belly laugh every now and then! After all, laughter is one of our greatest gifts from the Goddess!
Wishing you many belly laughs on this day of celebration and mirth! Blessed be!