Goddess of Laussel— 22,000 B.C., France
Religion of The Paleolithic
Cave people looked out at the constantly changing faces of the moon, which is constantly changing in ways that are constantly the same. The daily dramatic journey of the moon helped teach the primitive human psyche to think in patterns. Thinking about “the fixed” and “the variant” gave them the first notion of sequence, measurement, and time. The changes of the moon made possible the earliest measurement of time longer than a day, and abstract thought developed. This is because the unseen is the abstract.
Paleolithic tribes saw a pattern of growing and decaying, endlessly renewed, and this would have given them trust in life. They learned to recognize darkness as the time of waiting before the resurgence of new life. With death, they were taken back to the dark womb of the mother and reborn—as the moon is—into a renewed visible life. In addition to being a pattern, the moon’s journey also united what had been broken, by perpetually returning to it’s own beginnings; duality was contained and transcended in the moon’s totality. The goddess reflects this.
“Out of this ability to experience life imaginally rose the inexhaustible creativity of humanity. MYTH was an expression of this primordial experience. They learned to take the internal and make it external. Myth is a metaphor for our inner existence, a narrative of the psyche; a metaphor for an intangible. This mythic domain is a part of our soul. The myth makes us immortal and transcendent.” (Joseph Campbell)
The great Goddess was the image of the moon. Through understanding this image, people learned life and death aren’t to be perceived as opposites, but as a part of the whole pattern (zoe/bios), endlessly rhythmic, and eternally renewed. Life never ends, but continues in a circular pattern. Lunar mythology preceded solar in almost every human culture on earth. Humans die, vanish like the moon, to be reborn and return.
Women living together in small gathering and hunting bands have their bleeding times together, at the same time of the month, in the dark of the moon. Human consciousness evolved in synchrony with the powerful observed fact of all females bleeding together, bleeding mysteriously, bleeding without injury, without dying, and in tune with the disappearance of the moon. No one experienced menstruation in private; it was not a personal phenomenon. Female puberty rites of first menstruation were a celebration of female power—we bleed but we do not die—and women’s monthly cycle is the same duration as the moon’s cycle. In most languages, there’s a common root word for ‘moon’ and ‘menstruation’ and ‘month’. Words for wisdom, matterknowledge, spirit, soul, and time are always cognates with words for the moon.
Now we call it “the curse”. The more warlike and authoritarian a culture is, the stronger its menstrual taboo. Warlike, aggressive male societies have always been in psychological rivalry with women over which sex sheds the most sacred blood. War is men’s response to women’s ability to give birth and menstruate—all 3 are blood-shedding rituals. Women’s blood rites give life, however, while men’s give only death. To compensate for this, patriarchal/ authoritarian societies culturally repress and degrade womens’ blood functions, while elevating murderous war to a holy act. (All wars in patriarchy are Holy Wars).
RENEWAL is the most dramatic and profound theme of The Goddess. The obvious analogy is nature’s fundamental UNITY. The goddess is immanent, rather than transcendent, and therefore, physically manifest (moonifest). Lunar symbolism is built around the understanding that life is in eternal transformation, in constant and rhythmic change between creation and destruction, birth and death. Life giving, death giving, and transformational, as the moon in her rising, dying, and self-renewing. Immortality is secured through the innate regenerational powers, fluxing and easily perceived within nature herself.
Women are forced, by law and violence, to bend to and accept men’s paranoid projections. Patriarchal man’s entire self-concept depends on the fact that he is not a woman. These tenets have since been enshrined as scripture and handed down to all modern religions. Patriarchy exists by demanding that sex and spirit be opposites, and then punishing and repressing women for contradicting this fiat. Only dependent motherhood is celebrated and recognized as holy and legitimate. Menopause is treated as the end of a woman’s use to this world.
Venus of Willendorf—30,00 B.C., Austria
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