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Wow, it's been a looooooooooooooong time. Between sending off my graduate applications and finishing up experiments for my honors thesis, well, my mind has been elsewhere. I'm glad I've found this time to share something with you. There are so many things to talk about, but the topic that has most been on my mind is the great Myth of the Goddess because I am taking Goddess Studies this semester. I would love to continue this: making posts on different topics focused on the Myth of the Goddess and, unfortunately, her eventual downfall (but not disappearance!). However, I don't think I have the time. May be I'll make this a life goal of studying this book....
What is the Goddess Myth?
The myth of the Goddess probably started hundreds of thousands of years ago, before we were even Homo sapiens sapians, but Homo sapiens neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens idaltu. Humans discovered fire about 600,000 years ago, but we do not know exactly what was discussed around the fire and what dreams the early humans had because paint and carving had not yet begun. However, right after the last ice age, about 50,000-30,000 BCE, the modern human emerged into the Paleolithic era. Archaeologists found hundreds upon hundreds of tiny carved statues among the bones and tools of these ancient peoples dated almost immediately after the start of the Paleolithic. These statues are all of women and they are all full of body, suggesting great fertility and bounty. These were the first images of the Goddess dating back as early as 25,000 BCE (figures 1 and 2.) I unfortunately do not have time to go into all of the symbolism, but the goddess for thousands of years is associated with the bull, cave, moon, and the “primordial waters” from which we all spring (these are not the only symbols with she is associated, but the most ancient and long lasting). In figure 1 you can see some of this symbolism in the lines on the back of her legs, like falling rain or waterfall. This also calls to mind the waters of birth. In figure 2 the Goddess holds a bison’s horn, crescent like the moon, and notched with the 13 days of the waxing moon and the 13 months of the lunar year. Her left hand points to her womb and her head tilts towards her crescent moon, creating a relationship between the phases of the moon and the fertility of the womb. A relationship between earthly and heavenly orders are acknowledged. This relationship was acknowledged for thousands and thousands of years, till about half way through the Bronze Age or ~2400 BCE.
The Goddess was not only the symbol of fertility, but the mother of us all: humans, plants, and animals alike; we were her epiphanies and as such she was worshipped all over the world. And, as I am sure you are guessing, women and nature were also respected and revered. Nature gave has food, water, shelter, we all belonged and were one in the Goddess. Women were the flesh and blood images of the Goddess and they did what men could not: give birth. Women contained the mystery of life itself. It is theorized that many of the paintings, found deep within the cave systems in Europe, were most likely done by female shamans. Many of the images were of pregnant animals, like that of figure 3. The heavily pregnant animal has extremely long straight horns that point outwards past its body, possibly pointing into the unknown watery world of the Goddess and the souls of the dead. The cave was a sacred place because it was inside the earth, which was the Goddess, so being in the cave was like being inside her womb. The cave is also where many shamanic rituals took place.
For most of her history the Goddess contained life and death, female and male. The Goddess gave life, but she also took it. Death was seen in the changings of the seasons from summer to winter as the plants died and the animals hibernated. It was seen in the moon, going from full to a dark new moon (more on darkness later, but keep it in mind). This death was seen as natural, an important and essential part of life, and like the bloom of flowers after the chill of winter has left, it was believed that we were also reborn in the womb of the Goddess. The symbols of the Goddess were frequently found in graves and tombs. Not until about 6,000 BCE are male Gods seen, all divine images remained female until this time. However, even with the advent of the Hunter God or myth, the Goddess still contained both feminine and masculine aspects (and these are not to be literalized). The Goddess gives birth to the Hunter, who eventually becomes her lover and then dies, but then is reborn to the Goddess. Contained in this is the fundamental cycles of the seasons, but also the symbol of our regeneration within the Goddess.
I wanted to add here the symbol of the labyrinth or spiral and snake, but I run out of time and have homework to do. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the Goddess! Here’s what to look forward to when I finally graduate! (and I’ll probably start by finishing up the labyrinth symbol): The Grand Civilizations of Çatalhöyük and Minoan Crete - Eden on Earth.
Source: “The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image” by Jules Cashford and Anne Baring