A couple of years ago, I came across the ideas and writings of archaeologist and former professor emeritus of archaeology at UCLA Marija Gimbutas in a heavy tome that I chanced upon in one of my used bookstore haunts (The Language of the Goddess). Filled with diagrams of artifacts and patterns found in Neolithic sites all over Europe, Gimbutas asserts that these clues point to a matrifocal society that worshipped a great mother goddess, and which initially developed the arts of pottery, weaving and agriculture — an Old Europe that believed in earth deities. “Archaeo-mythology” indeed; yet, culture is the set of stories we tell ourselves.
Gimbutas gained fame — and notoriety — with her last three books: The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe (1974); The Language of the Goddess(1989), which inspired an exhibition in Wiesbaden, 1993/94; and her final book, The Civilization of the Goddess (1991), which based on her documented archeological findings presented an overview of her conclusions about Neolithic cultures across Europe: housing patterns, social structure, art, religion, and the nature of literacy.
The Civilization of the Goddess articulated what Gimbutas saw as the differences between the Old European system, which she considered goddess– and woman-centered (gynocentric), and the Bronze Age Indo-European patriarchal (“androcratic”) culture which supplanted it.Via: Wikipedia
Gimbutas wrote in the Goddess books that
The primordial deity for our Paleolithic and Neolithic ancestors was female, reflecting the sovereignty of motherhood. In fact, there are no images that have been found of a Father God throughout the prehistoric record. Paleolithic and Neolithic symbols and images cluster around a self-generating Goddess and her basic functions as Giver-of-Life, Wielder-of-Death, and as Regeneratrix.
The multiple categories, functions, and symbols used by prehistoric peoples to express the Great Mystery are all aspects of the unbroken unity of one deity, a Goddess who is ultimately Nature herself.
Gimbutas’ ideas found currency in the emerging second wave of feminism; Signs Out Of Time is a documentary that provides deep insights into Gimbutas’ life and ideas and its social context. Fascinating to watch; I love the folkloric soundtrack and the ending song by Stellamara.
Today, coming across a project that was located in the Orkney Islands, north of Scotland; I wondered, what islands are these? and came across this video of its mirrored, mythical-looking landscape, dotted with silent stands of stone, stupa-like mounds, arranged in rounds (see video at 4:25), and a site that locals call the Temple of the Moon. Imagine standing there, encircled by sky, earth and stone, under an effulgent moonlight that is cast back by placid waters.
Images that sent chills up my spine…!
It’s funny; doing a search on “the Goddess” comes with top hits pointing to an old pre-war Chinese silent film on a young mother forced into prostitution to support herself and son, and to another tragic 1950s Hollywood film of the same name. Where is the real Goddess? (or perhaps these are the real Goddesses; as I was once told, one does not have to look too far, as the Goddess is everywhere we look.)
What really was in our collective “deep past”? What deep memories do we have of those times, and what lessons can we bring here to the present to integrate, balance and move forward intelligently and with an open spirit?