The Goddess & Signs Out of Time: Marija Gimbutas

gimbutas

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.

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The Road to Chidambaram

Natraja-Temple

Braving the notoriously dangerous traffic, this short essay that I wrote back in 2007 is about a spontaneous, (almost) death-defying, 80 kilometer day trip by scooter to Chidambaram, a holy site in southern India.

Sun-baked and fleeting, the humid South Indian landscape falls beneath the thrumming wheels of our old scooter. In a roaring blur, we miraculously manage to stay alive on a treacherous road, competing with gigantic, gaudily-painted trucks, ramshackle buses, whining mopeds, overloaded tractors, obliviously slow bicycles, stubborn crowds and sauntering, humpbacked cows.

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