Part One: The Ancient Ideal
Since the dawn of time art and archeological grave goods reflects the mind-set of those ancient cultures. Then, there were fewer complications to daily life - all that mattered was survival. And, survival meant food, water, shelter, and creating some offspring to carry on the gene pool of the tribe. Let's face it, our bodies evolved to do certain things and there is nothing we can do to change that, although in the modern age there are surgical alterations that can superficially change our appearance, the actual, authentic self remains eternally unchanged since the Ice Age. This blog is by no means an exhaustive or scholarly essay, merely scratching the surface. It will cover a photographic overview from prehistoric times up to the Dark Ages.
Be it a sacred metaphor for the Mother Goddess, or merely a celebration of the creation and nurturing of life, the female form is the cosmic vessel. Agriculturally-based goddess worshipping cultures have always appreciated the child-bearing form, especially geared to survive harsh winters and nomadic migrations of the Hunter-Gatherer cultures. So let us embrace and adore the reality of the female ample shape with large hips and soft spots, and everything in between that jiggles, just let yourself giggle instead of cringe and be comfortable in your naked skin.
Ironically, it is only been since the inception of writing and so-called "civilization" that we have lost the primordial ideal. It is the war-based patriarchal culture has conquered the matriarchal one that the leaner, warrior-type model has been reflected in art, such as during the Classical Age in the Mediterranean, or when the Roman Empire conquered most of the ancient world. The Renaissance artists had the right idea, showing ethereal beauties wil rounded bellies and ample hips, not emaciated or constrained and corseted in dangerously unnatural narrowness.
This is just a light-hearted celebration of the ample feminine ideal, the way nature intended for us to be, adored exactly as we are in an age where reality is clouded and the intellect is overwhelmed.
“BABALON, as the Great Mother, represents MATTER, a word which is derived from the Latin word for Mother. She is the prima matter, called by many cherished and ancient of names: Asasw Ya, Anahit, Chimala, Xochiquetzal, Saule, Sowathara, Brigid, Damara, Damona, Hooded Spirits, Nantosuelta, Onuava, Rosmerta, Theotokos, Hathor, Bes, Heget, Isis, Thesan, Turan, Rauni, Freyja, Artemis, Cybele, Eros, Gaia, Eileithyia, Phanes, Rhea, Haumea, Banka-Mundi, Shaushka, Mama Ocllo, Anjea, Karadjeri, Akna, Inanna, Ama-arhus, Ningal, Atahensic, Hanhepi Wi, Ahahita, Ceres, Fecunditas, Libera, Ops, Terra, Venus, Rana Niejta, Dzydzilelya, Kostroma, Zeme, Atabey, Umay, and Nikkal, to name just a few...
She is the symbolis physical mother of each of usat a cellular level, the one who provided us with material flesh to clothe our naked spirits; She is the Archetypal Mother, the Great Yoni, the Womb of all that lives through the flowing of Blood; She is the Great Sea, the Divine Blood itself which cloaks the World and which courses through our veins; and She is Mother Earth, the Womb of All Life that we know.” SOURCE: Apiryon, T; Helena (2001).
She goes by hundreds of different names, so pick one that you identify with and revere her on behalf of yourself. Mystery of Mystery: A Primer of Thelemic Ecclesiastical Gnosticism (2nd ed.). Red Flame The ancient giver of life, Slavic Mother Earth goddess is called “Mat Zemyla” and her handmaiden, “Mokosh” takes life away.
PHOTO OF THE CLAY GODDESS with Chevron patterns: Ceramic Neolithic female figurine Cucuteni-Trypillian culture, ca. 5500-2750 BCE, Archaeology Museum Piatra Neamț.
"Many of the figurines represent women in stylized abstraction, with truncated or elongated bodies and heaping breasts and expansive hips. The explicit sexuality of these figurines invites interpretations relating to earthly and human fertility." Marjita Gumbutas
Perhaps the most striking and impactful motif for me, pictures above, I think this is my favorite form of the ample goddess. Decorated with tribal patterns symbolic of the energies emanating outward from the sacred centre, the womb and the yoni, the focus of the generative power of human life made divine through and most ancient artful expression in clay and simple lines of reverence.
Like the ancestral cave reliefs found at Laussel, which shows the goddess holding a cornucopia horn, let us toot our own proverbial horn for a change, let's make some noise and shout it to the mountain-tops instead of scowling at our muffin-tops.
Take your mind back in time and enjoy...
Made by Archaic Humans at Berekhat Ram, Israel
The first glimmers of the form that every infant adores the mother goddess that nurtures, comforts and gives forth life.
Photo Credit: Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Pleistocene 230,000 years ago
Venus figurine of fertility Goddess, Hohle Fels cave in Germany
Cro-Magnon (Homo-sapiens sapiens)
Photo Credit: Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
35,000 years ago
Venus of Willendorf, found at Gravettian-Aurignacian site, Austra
This fertility goddess figure symbolizes the primordial reverence for live-affirmative ampleness
Upper Paleolithic 25,000 B.C
Goddess figurine found at Lespugue, Cernavoda, Rumania
Archetype: there are many names the goddess may go by, but she appears, or manifests in the similar form, associated with the reproductive areas, symbolic of creation, destruction and rebirth, containing within all the powers to preserve the order of the cosmos.
Photo Courtesy of: Museum of Man, Paris
Upper Paleolithic 23,000 - 25,000 B.C
Dolni Vestonice, (Moravia) Czech Republic
Archetype: the face of the goddess has no prominent features, to indicate that she is universal, she is in everyone, so her face can be found in creation itself rather than on the figurine, again the swollen belly, associated with pregnancy, childbirth symbolizes creation aspect of the goddess, who nurtures both the life-giving and life-taking powers by perpetuating the death, creation, death, cycle.
Upper Paleolithic 23,000 - 25,000 B.C
Cave relief from Laussel, Dordogne, France
Franco-Cantabrian site of the Magdalenian culture
Photo Credit: Aquitaine Museum of Bordeaux, France
Neolithic 15,000 years ago
Seated Goddess on double feline throne
Found at Catal Huyuk, Turkey (formerly Anatolia)
Found at the temples of Malta and Gozo, created by the hunter-gatherer cultures she celebrates the interdependence between the earth and the divine. Embodying the strong bond to the natural world: crops, animals, and fish.
Photo Credit: Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara, Turkey.
Neolithic: Between 7,250 and 5750 B.C
Tisza culture pottery goddess, Southeast Hungary
The exaggerated lower region of the figure represents the Mother aspect of the Virgin, Mother, Crone of the three aspects of the goddess, as found in tripe goddesses: Babd-Morrigan-Macha, Hera-Athena-Aphrodite, or Boann-Ethne-Etaine.
Neolithic: circa 4,800 - 4,600 B.C
The Vadastra, Koros, and Cultures in this Bronze Age lived throughout the Great Hungarian Plain, leaving unique and widespread archaeological evidence of the reverence of the female divine in it's ample form.
This seated goddess with the tattoo incised pattern is emblematic of the Copper to Iron Age motifs.
Photo Credit: Thomas Holme
Temple Goddess of Hal Safleini, Hagar Qim, Malta
Neolithic 3,500 - 2,500 B.C.E
Mother Goddess fertility idol
Stylized protrusions on the reproductiove areas are found in many areas and cultures of the African Continent.
Ishtar figurine made of alabaster, Babylon
This figurine represent Astarte (Canaanite and Phoenicia), or the Ishtar (Mesopotamia) supreme goddess.
4600 B.C - 525 B.C
PHOTO: Courtesy of the Louvre, Paris
Canaanite Fertility Goddess Asherah relief from Ugarit, Syria
Mother Goddess, the embodiment of both fertility and sexual enjoyment, bringer of abundance. Also, known as Shekhina, Hokhma, Matronit, similar to Sophia in Near Eastern religions, Gnostic and Judaic philosophies.
2000 - 1000 BC
Stone Amulet of the Goddess Isis, Egyptian
Isis is the goddess of the life-giving waters of the Nile River, those who revered this goddess did so after male gods replaced her.
From 743-712BC Napatan Dynasty
Hindu Goddess Durga
Shunga Period, India
The Hindu mother goddess the invincible and untouchabkle divine aspect, Maa Durga, goes by many names including Parvati, Ambika, and Kali.
1st Century B.C
PHOTO: Courtesy of the Radnorshire Museum, Wales
Sheela-na-gig, found usually on church parapets, outside caves, near offering wells, this fertility goddess found throughout Celtic Britain, she is the feisty flasher, showing her powers of creation - as well as the means by which she delivers her power to the earth - through the birth canal.
Llandrinod Wells, Wales
Dark Ages circa 408 to 1095
Sheela-na-gig in the Oriantalist style
Although, historically, the Dark Ages are a time of illiteracy and the lack of sharing of knowledge, a time when the Christian religion takes a foothold, the fall of mankind is blamed on Eve, the earth goddess seems to venture underground - and becomes morphed, renamed, and obscured by male gods of war, she survives as a shadow of her former self in the Mary Magdalene and Virgin Mary, and those art pieces dedicated to mythological and folkloric themes. In the Arab world, Japan, Asia, ancient Greater India (which included the expanse from modern Afghanistan to Vietnam, and from Nepal to Indonesia).
The reason was mainly because the Buddhist belief system and Hindu religion which had a multitude of gods and goddesses. Tara, Kali, Yakshi, Lakshmi, Sarasvati, goddesses remained front and centre in reverence and practice in these countries. But, this would also give way to the dominance of male gods, but for a while the goddess enjoyed a flourishing in artistic sculpture which revealed themselves on temple reliefs, bronze figurines, and.
"The Dravidian civilization of the Indus valley- related to ancient Mesopotamia-flourished be- tween 3000 and 1500 B.C. Its principal gods were the prototypes of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, Siva the destroyer, and especially the Goddess. The Aryan conquest of the Indus valley took place about I500 B.C., and in the process of the Aryan migration across the north of India and their subsequent infiltration of the south, the Dravidian gods of the Indus valley cities were superseded by and amalgamated with Aryan gods of wind, water, fire, sun, et cetera, over all of whom presided the king of the gods, Indra, wielding the thunderbolt and command- ing the rain clouds. The next millennium, the Vedic period, produced a synthesis of the two religions. Gradually, however, the native Dra- vidian gods in their many aspects came to the fore again, in a slow but irresistible G6tterdam- merung for the Aryan invaders. Practically all Hindu religious art as we know it dates from periods after the completion of this process. "
SOURCE: The Sculpture of Greater India by Aschwin Lippe, Associate Curator of Far Eastern Art
The Khmer Emire of Cambodia, which begins in around 550 A.D, was also included as an empire in which the people followed Hindu religion and the rulers, likely more enlightened and scholarly, chose to be practiotioners of Buddhism. Yet, the devotional art for both religionsis quite prolific and significant:
"More even than their religion, the art of the Khmer developed in a sequence of styles entirely its own, which took it far away from its Indian origins. The particular genius of Khmer sculpture is evi- dent, beyond the differences of costume or orna- ment and the reduced and purged repertory, in a more abstract treatment of the body and a noble, somewhat heavy dignity. But just as in the sculpture of India proper, the forms proceed from the heart, not from physical perception. The image is an outer vessel corresponding pre- cisely to the inner vision of the divinity. Its beauty is a contribution to its magical force as a yantra, or utensil of worship-not for the enjoy- ment of the beholder." (Aschwin Lippe)
The Dark Ages seems to also signal a time when the goddess becomes associated with all that is evil, so she ventures underground, retreating into the shadowy realm. Christianity also would blame Eve solely for the Fall of humanity, and demonizing Lilith, Adam's first wife in the Garden of Eden who was cast out because she would not take a submissive position with her husband.
"Generally speaking, in this period, the Cult of the Goddess took place in underground movements. And, by far the most important of these was Witchcraft. Here the old goddess names were retained, and the goddesses themselves represented by the coven priestess. Thus, Lilith is presented, - the Assyrian storm goddess appearing 4,500 years ago, the first wife of Adam, the mother of those half-human beings known to the Hebrews as Lilim, to the Arabs as the Jinn and to the Irish as the Sidhe. Then there is Ashtoreth, the moon and love goddess of Syria - her worship was transmitted through the Greek and Roman witches, to continue in the Medieval covens, The moon-goddesses of Greece and Rome, Hecate (who is mentioned by Shakespeare in Macbeth) ans also Diana were venerated. New goddesses appear: Bensozia, Aradia, and others...Another great preserver of the old religion was the Tarot..."
SOURCE: The Religion of the Goddess by Lawrence Durdin-Robertson.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE READ:
THE GODDESS VS. THE ALPHABET: The Conflict Between Word and Image by Leonard Shlain
THE GODDESS: CREATION, FERTILITY, AND ABUNDANCE... by Shahrukh Husain
Living Wisdom/Little, Brown & Company 1997
THE GREAT COSMIC MOTHER by Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor
THE GREAT GODDESSS by Jean Markale
Inner Traditions International 1999
Check out Part Two, and Part Three and Four of this continuing blog on the ample goddess...