The Goddess Speaks Through Google Translate

The Goddess Speaks Through Google Translate October 5, 2016
Women with Child. Photo by Katanos Adonis (cc) 2008. Mycenae 15c BCE.
Women with Child. Photo by Katanos Adonis (cc) 2008. Mycenae 15c BCE.

I first got the idea for this from a wonderful, young singer who I discovered on Youtube, Melinda Kathleen Reese who takes Disney hits, runs them through Google Translate numerous times with many of different languages, and comes up with fun songs, her version of Frozen’s “Let It Go” has been viewed close to 9 million times.

This too, happens on a much slower scale with religious texts. Consider what Christians have to put up with. Words which were likely first spoken in Aramaic, written down in Greek of the Roman Empire, then translated into Latin, Middle English, then Early Modern English under the direction of a king who grew up in Scotland.

Venus of Wilendorf. photo by Lisby. (cc) 2009.
Venus of Wilendorf. photo by Lisby. (cc) 2009.

For those of us who follow Goddess traditions, some of which may substantially pre-date Christian practices – this gets magnified. It’s the “Telephone Game” that gets played out thru the millenia. Especially, if you are considering the Neolithic Goddess cultures, as everyone before the invention of farming was, at least to some extent, nomadic and always encountering different cultures on their travels.

To put the shoe on the other foot, as it were. I took one of the best known pieces of modern Pagan liturgy, Doreen Valiente’s Charge of the Goddess and ran it through Google Translate.  I tried to pick languages which at least had some history of Goddess worship. Many that I wanted to use (Sumerian, Babylonian, etc.) were not available, as Google does feel the need to use languages which don’t have living fluent speakers. Some like Coptic, which is the closest living relative to Ancient Egyptian, aren’t spoken widely enough for Google to consider commercially viable.

What I did end up using were: English -> Welsh -> Lithuainian -> Persian -> Yoruba -> Gujarati -> Traditional Chinese -> English

First, here is the original text from Doreen Valiente’s website:

The Charge Of The Goddess

Listen to the words of the Great Mother, who was of old also called Artemis; Astarte; Diana; Melusine; Aphrodite; Cerridwen; Dana; Arianrhod; Isis; Bride; and by many other names.

Whenever ye have need of anything, once in a month, and better it be when the Moon be full, then ye shall assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of me, who am Queen of all Witcheries.

There shall ye assemble, ye who are fain to learn all sorcery, yet have not yet won its deepest secrets: to these will I teach things that are yet unknown.

And ye shall be free from slavery; and as a sign that ye are really free, ye shall be naked in your rites; and ye shall dance, sing, feast, make music and love, all in my praise.

For mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and mine also is joy on earth; for my Law is Love unto all Beings.

Keep pure your highest ideal; strive ever toward it; let naught stop you or turn you aside.

For mine is the secret door which opens upon the Land of Youth; and mine is the Cup of the Wine of Life, and the Cauldron of Cerridwen, which is the Holy Grail of Immortality.

I am the Gracious Goddess, who gives the gift of joy unto the heart. Upon earth, I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal; and beyond death, I give peace, and freedom, and reunion with those who have gone before. Nor do I demand sacrifice, for behold I am the Mother of All Living, and my love is poured out upon the earth.

Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess, she in the dust of whose feet are the hosts of heaven; whose body encircleth the Universe; I, who am the beauty of the green earth, and the white Moon among the stars, and the mystery of the waters, and the heart’s desire, call unto thy soul. Arise and come unto me.

For I am the Soul of Nature, who giveth life to the universe; from me all things proceed, and unto me must all things return; and before my face, beloved of gods and mortals, thine inmost divine self shall be unfolded in the rapture of infinite joy.

Let my worship be within the heart that rejoiceth, for behold: all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals. And therefore let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honour and humility, mirth and reverence within you.

And thou who thinkest to seek for me, know thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not, unless thou know this mystery: that if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee.

For behold, I have been with thee from the beginning; and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.

A lot of you will find that very familiar, whether it is because you’ve heard it in Wiccan rituals, or seen excerpts of it in the UU hymnal (Singing The Living Tradition, #517) incorrectly attributed to Starhawk.

Wall-e à l'Etang. photo by Yan Gar (cc) 2010.
Wall-e à l’Etang. photo by Yan Gar (cc) 2010.

And then, someday in the far, distant future, thousands of years from now; on a roasted, irradiated planet, perhaps the surviving sentient robots will whisper words something like these to each other in a reverent, prayerful way:

Listen to the great mother, the old man who was called Artemis. Astarte, Diana, Melusine Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Smart, Ariane Radish, Isis, Bride, and many others.

All Wizards I.

You must be a slave.

My life is ecstatic and the earth is still happy. I like the variety of all creatures.

Off her white upper class. If you try, but do not let me stop you or will you get inside.

My secret door opened on the ground. Mining and a glass of wine, and the Cerridwen Boiler, which is the Immortal Holy Grail.

My goddess is cordial, and who gives the gift of the Spirit is joy. On the ground, my spirit, knowledge and eternity transcend death, I give peace, freedom and reunion with the former who also rises. I do not ask people to sacrifice, I am the mother of all life, my love fell to the ground.

Star of God, your feet the dust of heaven. Get up and go with me.

For me, the natural world, the spirit of life I am. I have something moving, I have to go back to everything. And I, dear God and man, before the sacred inner self, you must specify the ecstasy of infinite pleasure.

So beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, joy and respect for you.

You see, I have told you from the beginning. I ended up buying Won.

 


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  • hahnitree

    I personally found the translation an amusing improvement on the original.

  • Erin Lale

    lol omfgs the translation sounds exactly like translations of ancient texts and it introduces maleness where it wasn’t so many times it’s like exactly the kind of stuff we have to explain when we’re trying to teach newbies about mythology “now it says God here but you know that’s not what they really meant back then…” / “but it says God!” / “Yes I know but you have to read it knowing about the translator” / “But it says God!” / “Yes but it’s not to be read literally…”

  • Yes! I was working on a new translation the Emerald Tablet, and this sounds WAY too familiar (in tone if not in substance).

  • Hth

    I can so clearly imagine generations of goddess scholars poring over this text, debating intensely the exact meaning of “reunion with the former who also arises,” while denominations rise and fall arguing about whether the glass of wine, Cerridwen’s Boiler, and the Holy Grail were three separate objects or all referred to the same Vessel.

    And it would still work. People would still be having spiritual experiences, meditating on “I have something moving, I have to go back to everything.” People would insist that they don’t *have* to understand exactly what the secret door opened on the ground is, and they certainly don’t have to still believe the part about how She wants us to be slaves, because the most important part is that the mother of all life’s love fell to the ground, so get up and go with her.

    And they’d be right.

  • David Pollard

    I can only imagine the confusion that would have ensued if I had found a language in Google translate that had multiple genders enshrined in its grammar!