Prehistoric Goddess Worshippers….

The Goddess does not rule the world…She is the world”.

(Starhawk – activist and witch)

”In the beginning, people prayed to the Creatress of Life, the Mistress of Heaven. At the very dawn of religion, God was a woman. Do you remember?”

(Merlin Stone – When God was a Woman)

YES!

”I read the Book of Job last night. I don’t think God comes well out of it”.

Virginia Woolf

Most of human culture, up to a certain point in our history, has predominantly feminine iconography. The beginnings of our religious experience as a species seems to have been all about the female. Symbols associated with the feminine, such as the zigzag for water or the symbolic representation of the yoni, are our earliest religious iconography as a species. Snakes and owls emerge as religious icons, also associated with the Goddess. (Later Snakes and Owls become demonised as a threat to patriarchy, and remain so to this day.) The first places of worship were caves and rivers – also symbolic. Symbols of the Great Goddess include cave, moon, stone, serpent, bird, fish, and tree, spiral, meander, and labyrinth; wild animals such as lion, bull, bison, stag, goat, and horse. It is undeniable that between 6500 BC to 3500 BC when iconography of the Goddess became particularly abundant so too did the arts flourish, so too did agriculture flourish. Ceramics were invented. Animals were domesticated. It is said – and I know this is only a theory – that these societies were largely peaceful and egalitarian.

”There is no evidence of territorial aggression in Paleo- and Neolithic Central Europe. The absence of iconography of war implies a peaceful existence. Villages have no fortification and are found on rivers and lakes, unlike a fortified position. Graves and imagery show implements for hunting but not warfare”

The religion of the prehistoric and early historical world was a monotheism in which the female form of divinity was supreme

~Sir Arthur Evans (British Archaeologist who unearthed the palace at Knossos)

“In this archaic religious system there were as yet neither gods nor priests, but only a universal goddess and her priestesses, woman being the dominant sex.”

~(Robert Graves – Poet, Scolar and Writer on Antiquity.)

”The very earliest symbols engraved on rocks and articles of bone/horn reflect a profound belief in a life-generating Goddess who represents One Source..A study of symbols from Paleolithic art demonstrates that the female, rather than the male, was the deity of creation..there are no traces in paleolithic art of a father figure”

~(Uncoiling the Snake – Vicki Noble)

(”Venus” of Chauvet cave..30,000 BC)

”Through the act of engraving an enormous triangle in the center of the
sculpture the artist perhaps visualized the universal womb, the
inexhaustible source of life, to which the ….deceased.. returns in
order to be born again. In this sense the Great Goddess is the magician mother.”

(Gimbutas)

The iconography of the Goddess is the oldest religious symbolism surviving.  Among this iconography are the figurines of Venus…..Venus Figurines are the names given to an almost universal type of art appearing from 40,000 years ago..

Venus of Hohle Fels

35,000- 40,000 years old

Venus of Willendorf

25,000 years old

Venus of Laussel

File:Venus-de-Laussel-vue-generale-noir.jpg

25,000 years old – 13 notches on the horn denoting (most probably) either 13 moons, or 13 menstrual cycles.

Venus of Brassempouy

Venus de Brassempouy.jpg

25,000 years old

Archaeologists are gradually concluding that women made the Venus figurines, and indeed that cave art at this time was also painted by women (because of the size of hand prints)

These Venus figurines from so long ago are so plentiful that they must have had a Universal purpose. The idea of them as being pornography or children’s toys has been generally and wisely abandoned. They obviously represent the spiritual beliefs that were prevalent in their time. There are almost no ”God” figurines or representations from this time.

WHAT CAME NEXT…..

It is said that it was the domestication of the horse, and the Bronze Age (2500 BC onwards approx.) development of metallurgy that gave rise to widespread war. The arrival of the Battle Axe was the death knell for peaceful agrarian cultures. Before this time there are not so many bodies with wounds inflicted by war, and thereafter the numbers vastly increase….

”The Kurgan invasion began around 4000 BCE. It came in several waves, reaching various areas over a span of about 2000 years. The Kurgans arrived on horseback, bearing battle-axes, which had been previously unknown in the area. From the number of bodies found, who had obviously been killed with these weapons, we can deduce that the Kurgan invasion was a violent military-style assault.

That the indigenous people had an agricultural society can be determined by their diet and the particular sort of tools that they possesed. That they were generally peaceful is readily apparent from the lack of human-caused violent deaths prior to the invasion, and the absence of weapons of war. Moreover, they were an artistic people, which we can quickly appreciate from the ornate and beautifully painted pottery and other works of art, that can now be dated to the pre-invasion period.

The claim that the indigenous people worshipped a Great Mother Goddess is well-supported by the abundance of Goddess figurines that they made. Finally, the fact that women had been accorded an equal status with men is indicated by their similar burials, and the quantity of grave goods found with their remains.

As each successive area was subjugated by the Kurgans, everything changed. They installed a barbaric warrior hierarchy, and imposed their language and religion on the conquered people, the nature of which may be inferred from a large number of crude figurines of a rather stern-looking male god, often bearing weapons.”

http://www.cybele2.com/TNW.html

(Neolithic representation)

There was a long period of violent chaos as the Indo-Europeans (so called ”Kurgans”) swept across Europe, wiping out these cultures, and it is not until about 800BC that a new religion emerges, when the warrior has settled somewhat, and these new religions revolved around the concept of the male (War) God.

Whereas during the reign of the Fertility/Regeneration Goddess death was seen as natural, now, under the sway of the War God, death was seen as the enemy.

Certainly not all Matriarchal religions have been peaceful…i am generalising here..and only giving a brief outline of possibilities….It is said that the war Goddesses came about later, that they were not originally part of the Great Goddess culture, but more an addendum of the developing War God culture. It is also worth noting that the time periods moved through what one might call ”Pure Goddess” period, when the great fertility Goddess held complete sway and on through various times of dilution when the concept of the God arose gradually, and there were pantheons of male and female co-existing, until eventually we came to an almost ”Pure God” age, when the goddess is all but vanquished. So War-like Goddesses such as Kali may have arisen in these dilution times.

(Enthroned Venus from Catal Huyuk – 5700 BC – note: head is restored)

It is difficult to prove conclusively that such cultures dominated by female iconography were matriarchal in their organisation, because written record does not exist…but, as Mircea Eliade said, societies generally patterned themselves according to ”those things first done by the gods”, so we can therefore presume that societies would have patterned them selves according to their temples and icons.

Goddess worship could thus be seen as the Primordial Philosophy of early human kind.

”Our present civilisation stems from] a common cultural inheritance throughout an area extending from Mesopotamia to Egypt and the Ganges to the Mediterranean, [founded upon] the worship of the Great Mother.”

~(Ananda Coomaraswamy)

”Why is it continually inferred that the age of the “pagan” religions, the time of the worship of female deities (if mentioned at all), was dark and chaotic, mysterious and evil, without the light of order and reason that supposedly accompanied the later male religions, when it has been archaeologically confirmed that the earliest law, government, medicine, agriculture, architecture, metallurgy, wheeled vehicles, ceramics, textiles and written language were initially developed in societies that worshiped the Goddess?”

(Merlin Stone – When God was a Woman)

Marija Gimbutas continued the work of earlier archaeologists and historians who posited the theory of a peaceful, egalitarian prehistory where the Goddess was the focus of worship…Gimbutas assesses that there are two religious systems:  the matristic gylanic (peaceful goddess society) and the androcratic (belligerent patriarchies)…

”Marija Gimbutas believed she had proof of an ancient European Goddess-oriented civilization that lived in peace; in harmony with nature; and with a high degree of economic, social and sexual equality, its goddess-centered art exhibiting a striking absence of images of warfare and male domination. This culture, she argued, was invaded by aggressive Indo-European nomads from the Russian steppes, The Kurgan or battle-axe Cultures, who worshipped a lightning God, Perun, The Striker, who brings rain to pastures and shapes the universe with His brawny arms and lightning hammer.And how did He fashion it? He took sprawling valleys, white temples where in dark recesses the Goddess had presided for tens of millennia, whole villages, teeming celebrations, mythologies, artists rejoicing in the supple beauty of their women, dancing limbs circling the fire. . .and He decided to make them perfect.
He shattered them. With no weapons or chariots to protect themselves, they danced in abandon to His music. The throb of lutes falling to the ground, shrieks of women and children shrill as flutes, thuds of skulls against the temple floor, and always the same silent refrain: eyes, as if in worship, upturned, frozen in their final gaze.”

(The Language of the Goddess – A Conversation with Marija Gimbutas by James N. Powell)

Dismemberment of Coyolxauqui

Note : Perun – the male lightning God of these invaders – is the one God in Heaven who rulesover all the earth. It is likely the name comes from the Slavic root ‘Per’, which means ”to strike or to slay”. He corresponds to the Vedic Indra.

”Presuming a Goddess culture existed, the disappearance of this peaceful agricultural society has been linked to the Indo-European invasion of war-like patriarchal hierarchy societies.  Archaeological evidence, mythology, and comparative linguistics indicate a contrast and conflict of the two cultures in religious and secular life.  The semi nomadic invaders, labeled as “Kurgans”, were from southern Russia and first arrived in the Lower Dneiper region in 5,000 B.C. and would continue to arrive for 2,000 years.  The migration occurred in three surges…Prior to  4500-4300 B.C., neither weapons were found among grave goods nor were hilltop defenses to be found until the Indo-Europeans arrived with metallurgy and weapons such as daggers, spears, and bow and arrows …  Some archaeologists, however, have found that weapons already existed in the former non-Indo-European cultures:  “Mellaart reports that male burials at Catal Hoyuk contained weapons:  stone maceheads, obsidian arrowheads and javelin heads, also daggers” (Linnekin 2).  Some critics point out that “[later] cultures which still engaged in goddess worship were warlike”, citing the Celtics as an example (Miller).  Evidence for the appearance of the Kurgans and characteristics unique to them appear in a wide range of archaeological evidence.  The earliest example of horses represented in sculpture were found in cemeteries from the Volga region dating back to 5,000 B.C. around when Kurgans arrived in Old Europe.  Flint and stone daggers can be found in the cemetery of S’ezzhee after the arrival of the Kurgans, along with a unique burial style ….  They made pit graves with huts of wood or stone covered by mounds, that were not seen in Neolithic Europe before their arrival.  The Kurgans also supposedly brought with them the patriarchy, which would come to replace the peaceful egalitarian system.

http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~gloria/Goddess.html

This over-running of the Goddess culture was said to have occurred most systematically from about 5000 years ago and led to the near-constant spread of warfare that has characterised civilisation since then. If we look at primarily Goddess-centric civilisations such as the Minoan or the Etruscan we see very peaceful cultures. There has been a backlash apparently in archaeological circles against this designation of a prior-existing and peaceful Goddess culture heading back into prehistory. Seems strange when much of the archaeological evidence points towards its existence, and to an absence of persistent warfare. These cultures, it should be noted, were not dominated by women but rather were egalitarian.

”How can they say the Goddess does not exist if there are hundreds and hundreds of temples in Catal Huyuk alone? There are 180 walled paintings preserved. So there is an enormous richness of mythology there. In Europe there are thousands of sites. So only somebody who doesn’t know anything can say that it’s a questionable thing that the Goddess existed. ”

~ Marija Gimbutas.

Goddess from the Tarxien temple, Malta.

Here is an extract from  an interview with Marija Gimbutas…..

Marija Gimbutas: When I was writing about Indo-Europeans, for a long time I never considered them awful people. But I spent maybe fifteen years writing about weapons! I never look at these books now. I don’t even keep them here.
James N. Powell: And when you read about pre-Indo-European Old Europe you don’t see anything about weapons.

Marija Gimbutas: Nothing.

James N. Powell: You see art.

Marija Gimbutas: And that is it! When I started to study Old Europe I felt I was in my own realm now. My own interest sphere. …..

James N. Powell: Was Old Europe a utopia?

Marija Gimbutas: It was reality! Well, we can call it “utopia” if we want to use the word.

James N. Powell: Was the Goddess civilization of Old Europe Dionysian in the sense of being orgiastic?

Marija Gimbutas: Well, that was still in Greek ritual and was in Old Europe. It had to be. It cannot be proven very well, but I think this is what it was. You can sense it. Because there were no patriarchal families.

James N. Powell: They obviously weren’t too concerned with population control. Were they able to lead such a carefree existence because they lived in an environment where they did not have to compete for food and land? Was the cooperative social structure to some degree a function of low population density—an absence of Malthusian constraints?

Marija Gimbutas: Well, population density was growing. About the 5th millennium it tripled or quadrupled. So at the end there is some competition and the settlements become protected by ditches.

James N. Powell: But before that?

Marija Gimbutas: Before that, no personal property. They were collective units. The religion as I imagine it included collective property. The land was around the village and everybody worked there. And the surplus was probably kept in the temples. Just like in Minoan Crete.

James N. Powell: So there we no real pressures on these villages. They didn’t have to compete with other villages for food or territory?

Marija Gimbutas: No. There was enough land for a long time, for millennia.

James N. Powell: Could that same sort of social structure exist in a more populated environment?

Marija Gimbutas: From what we know, it was functioning from the beginning of the agricultural period for at least two or three thousand years without conflict. But then it coincided with the fact that locally they had more problems. Plus the steppe people arrived at the same time, so then we have a crisis. The steppe people, the Indo-Europeans, had horses. They had weapons. And, of course, they had a different social structure. From the 6th and the 7th millennium B.C. the patriarchy had started with them in Southern Russia, so they were different socially.

James N. Powell: Nomadic people in general are less complex societies than settled agricultural societies. They have less folklore and games dealing with negotiative skills and strategy and more dealing with strength, power and bravery. You can see that in the “barbarian” invasions of China, for instance, as they penetrated south through the Great Wall.

I think one problem underlying the criticism of your work is that your work poses a threat to the whole structure of our civilization, which is based on Indo-European values.

Marija Gimbutas: With weapons, with hill forts, with war. That is a civilization? Only then we call it civilization [chuckle]—when weapons were used. But if there was a beautiful art and another type of social structure, then it was not a civilization. It was “pre-civilization” –or according to the title of one book, Before Civilization [laughs]!

James N. Powell: How about folklore, myths? In the Greek mythology and also in Indian mythology you find that the pre-Indo-European Great Goddess becomes the wife or consort of object of rape of the Indo-European Sky God. She no longer is free, self-sufficient.

Marija Gimbutas: Yes, Hera becomes wife of Zeus—and in my Lithuanian mythology the main Goddess never became the wife of the Indo-European God of the Shining Sky. They were together. Both of them—very important—both of them appeared in the most important ritual, standing, one next to the other. Both are very important. Both are rulers [chuckles].

(Interview with Marija Gimbutas)


What perhaps linked the Goddess worshippers and differentiated them from the incoming God worshippers was the absence of a belief in ”original sin”. Life was nature. Sex was nature. Spirit was nature. The world was Divine. Was it only possible to maintain this peaceful agrarian civilisation because resources were plentiful? With the onset of scarcity did a male deity have to come into being to divide out the resources and order a class system of those who would be more entitled than others?

I understand that modern Goddess worship has been associated in many minds with radical feminism, but I am looking at some thing else. Were the Goddess worshipping cultures more innately peaceful than the cultures which came later and venerated the Solar God who was transcendent, that is to say ”above” nature, separated, descending in order to instill order out of chaos, because for the Goddess cultures the Divine was immanent? In many cultures there are stories of the ”dismemberment” of the Goddess by the incoming God-focused religion. Marduk killed Tiamat and scattered her parts, and thus were the heavens and earth said to be cretaed. In Mexico the War God Huitzilipotli killed his sister the Moon Goddess Coyolxauhqui and threw her body from a mountain top in pieces to symbolise his absolute victory.

Tiamat – the Dragon Goddess being chased…

”And the lord stood upon Tiamat’s hinder parts,And with his merciless club he smashed her skull.He cut through the channels of her blood,And he made the North wind bear it away into secret places.”

Two Examples of Goddess Worshipping Society……

Catal Huyuk – neolithic site in Turkey – dated from 7500 BC – appears to show no evidence of social classes and no diiscrimination between the genders. Men and women were of equal status and women functioned as priestesses.

There is some dispute as to whether Catal Huyuk ( the ”oldest” excavated city on earth thus far) was actually Goddess-centric, or whether it was more likely a partnership religion. Catal Huyuk seems to have thrived as a centre for the sacred obsidian trade – which was considered as being imbued with the power of the Goddess. Most likely the civilisation of Catal Huyuk dwindled due to over-hunting of the region and deforestation. Catal Huyuk showed no signs of ever having experienced warfare, nor were there any traces of weapons. It is possible the ”sacred” status of the great city preserved it from attack.

The Minoans. 2700BC – 1500 BC. (Crete) A remote island society left largely untouched by the invading Kurgans….

The ancient Cretans were pantheistic. The Universe lived. The Source was embodied in all manifest forms. Cretans were apparently very joyful people, and had no fear of death…they may even have experienced a sense of anticipation. This may be because they endured many volcanic eruptions and catastrophes caused by earthquakes and had grown accustomed, but also becuase the Goddess was considered regenerative, and death was in essence a rebirth. Nicholas Platon (archaeologist) connected ”the zestful spirit of Minoan art with….the mother-goddess…A seal from Knossos provides a portrait. The mother – goddess stands on a peak of a mountain, which is flanked by two lions. ..” (The  Minoan World. Arthur Cotterell).

On another seal from the Minoans we see the goddess sitting beneath a sacred tree at harvest time. She is adorned with poppies. She is holding her full breasts. Statues of the Goddess from Minoan culture show poppies with slits in her head dress suggesting the use of opium in this culture. Also she is depicted as a snake goddess…with three snakes entwining her arms, her hips and her breasts.

Carl Kerenyi argues that the Minoan practices of worshipping this Goddess of wine, bulls, snakes and women foreshadowed the cult of Dionysus.

The Minoans worshipped in simple temples, building shrines in caves, on mountains, in the home. The society appears to have been egalitarian and there was seemingly an even distribution of wealth among the societal strata. Recently it is queried (Barry Molloy, Historian) as to how peaceful this civilisation really was, as weapons and warships have been found, but it has also been suggested by others that because there is no evidence of an army or armed struggle, that these weapons may have been status symbols. The plentiful iconography simply does not support the idea of a warlike culture. Nor are there any documented recordings of war with the Minoans in the Egyptian or Hittite culture  with whom they traded, and these cultures documented pretty much everything.

File:Snake Goddess Crete 1600BC.jpg

Since Darwin’s time there has been a trend to undermine the theory of a peaceful Goddess-worshipping pre-history. Darwin disdainfully equated Goddess worship with undeveloped tribes, a state that humans had to go through before ”evolving” towards the higher religion centred on God,  and this notion remains surprisingly prevalent. It is said that the idea of a peaceful Goddess-worshipping utopia was promoted in the early 1900s by Arthur Evans as deliberate political decision on his behalf and there have been recent attempts to discredit the theory.

.Having said that a conference meeting in Belgium in 1998 found little evidence to support a war-like culture …

“The stark fact is that for the prehistoric Aegean we have no direct evidence for war and warfare per se”

(Krzyszkowska, 1999).

It should also be remembered that women were not archaeologists until relatively recent enough times, in any great numbers at least, so the story of archaeology has not benefited from a diverse perspective. Archaeology is as much an art as a science in my opinion, where in”interpretation” of data and how a story is constructed is often key.

There is a theory that these ” peaceful” civilisations went into demise due to climatic conditions (such as the aftermath of volcanic eruptions ) which disrupted the peace and plenty of the time, and perhaps paved the way for the ascension of the War God.  Certainly around 3000 BC Europe underwent  difficult climatic conditions, which corresponds with the beginnings of the demise of the Goddess culture and the slow but certain rise of the God.

”There is no doubt that the prehistoric veneration of Mother earth survived intact up to the worship of Demeter and Persephone in Greece, Ops Consuia in Rome, Nerthus in Germanic lands, …(and so on)….Her power was too ancient and deep to be altogether destroyed by the succeeding patriarchal religions…she was therefore absorbed …as saints…and as the Mother of god, Marija”

( Uncoiling the Snake. Vicki Noble)

If you got this far, Thank You..I am stopping….NOW.

OM SHANTI.

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Generally just Being. Nothing in particular, no claims to fame. I like gardening and the sea, nature, art in all forms from poetry to films and everything in between, and being in the company of my family.

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