At the Winter Solstice 2014, Cycles of Healing will begin the new moon healing cycle series of articles. The information below is to help set the stage with historical markers and to present evidence, which although known in some contemporary archaeological circles, may not be widely known to the layperson. The basis of the healing cycle is the awakening of collective memory within the individual, experiencing and feeling the emotion linked with these memories and to allow the release of the, until now, hidden trauma of the loss of the Goddess/Earth paradigm; potential healing on a large scale.
Throughout the world archaeologists have discovered beautiful images of the Earth Goddess dating from before the Age of Libra, the time of the Garden. This strikingly graceful, tiny, carved image of a woman, found in Landes, France, is not the abstract goddess image we are used to seeing. It is carved out of mammoth tusk, is 13/8 inches high, 24,000 years old and is the oldest image of a woman yet discovered. It is, paradoxically, the most modern in appearance.
In Dolni Vestonice, Czech Republic, fired pottery, one of the benchmarks of civilization, 22,000 years old has been unearthed. Images of the Bird Goddess extending pan-culturally from 30,000 – 5,000 BCE very unexpectedly have been found in all cultures across time and space.
It is probable that from 30,000 – 10,000 BCE the caves in southwestern France were being painted and sacred ceremony being subsequently conducted. These interior sacred spaces were not easily approached; often a mile or more of narrow, descending and labyrinthine passages that would terminate in huge, spacious halls. These caverns were ritual spaces, not living spaces, and I don’t believe the people creating them were celebrating ‘the hunt’.
Of unusual note is that the animals and signs interpreted as feminine in these caves are uniformly placed centrally with animals and signs interpreted as male arranged around them or featured peripherally in narrow entrances to back tunnels of the sanctuaries. During this long-ago time, the feminine had center stage and was being honored in ways we can only imagine. An October 8, 2013, article in National Geographic suggests the hand stencils in these caves were predominantly women’s or perhaps women and transgender shamans.
In The New York Times an article by John Noble Wilford (October 8, 2014), reports cave paintings, including hand stencils, which are at least 40,000 years old in Indonesia.
The oldest engraved meander pattern is 135,000 years old, found in Dordogne, France. There are 60,000 year-old Neanderthal burial sites where the occupants are placed in fetal position, facing East, covered in flowers and sprinkled with red ochre; extremely ancient evidence of honoring the dead in very specific ways.
Somewhere around 7,000 BCE the attributes and powers of the Goddess began to be split into male and female, phallus and womb. In Egyptian culture, the twin God myths, i.e. Isis/Osiris, Nephthys/Set, Nut/Geb, etc. would have come from this era. I feel that it is around this same period that the Hindu myth of Rama and Sita was enacted and the fall of the Goddess was archetypally embedded in our collective unconscious, paving the way for the ascendency of the patriarchy mythically and actually.
The serpent, previously identified with the Goddess, morphed into the male ‘consort’ of the Goddess who unites with her to bring fertility to the Earth. The earliest depictions of the sacred marriage of God/Goddess show up in Old Europe around 4500 BCE. This is significant in that it is also the date of the first nomadic, sky-god worshiping invaders riding domesticated horses that eventually shifted the balance of power within the egalitarian Goddess cultures – or basically annihilated them. Axes, thunderbolts, battle-axes and daggers began from this date to show up in art and layers of excavated ruins.
Prior to this date in Old Europe there is no sign of invasion, fortification or other disruption to the culture. Hills were shrines, not forts. There were no depictions of spears, swords, or thunderbolts; no lavish chieftain burials and no hierarchical organization of society. There were no depictions that celebrated or represented war. Burial sites suggest an egalitarian society and clearly non-patriarchal. It was, rather, matrilineal and women were essential in religious ritual. Grain, bread, pot making, sculpture, weaving, and votive gifts were all women’s sacred work.
After 2800 BCE there was a mélange of two very different mythic systems, one usurping the other and doing an excellent job of confusing the older stories of the conquered. By the time of the Greek pantheon Goddesses were marginalized, trivialized and often exhibited such human frailties as jealously and vengeance; most specially directed against women or other Goddesses. Gone was the Great Mother, the preserver and protector of all.
Within the context of these dates, it is to be noted that more advanced dating systems are being developed and as far as I am aware, re-dating has inevitably resulted in older dates than were previously thought. We are currently in a time of re-evaluating not only our place on the planet, but from where we have come as well. This will no doubt turn up unexpected opportunities to rethink humanity’s ancient past necessitating our re-evaluating of our place, as women, in history and to see more clearly what has occurred in the span of the last 5,000 years and beyond.
The information in this article was predominantly researched through The Myth of the Goddess by Jules Cashford and Anne Baring, Vking Press, 1991, unless otherwise noted.
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