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Immortality and Transformation Through a Paleolithic Lens With Special Attention to Symbols of the Great Goddess

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Bloodmother


Author: Bloodmother
VR Publish Date: Feb 06 2008




Paleolithic Era: early part of the Stone Age, when early humans made chipped-stone tools, from 750,000 to 15,000 years ago.

Neolithic Era: Latest period of the Stone Age, between about 8000 BCE and 5000 BCE, characterized by the development of settled agriculture and the use of polished stone tools and weapons.


Paleolithic humans left an indelible record of their worldview through their stone carvings, tombs and sarcophagi. Images repeat countless times, and allow us to see the foundation for belief in immortality.

For early humans, there was no division of the Goddess into her later designations as fertility goddess, Venus, or death giver. There were no eroticized brides, wives or daughters, goddesses of light or dark goddesses. One Goddess with many functions reigned supreme. We know this by the numerous images carved into rock, ivory or bone, and painted on cave walls and vases, or made into clay or alabaster figurines. Many of these images took the form of animals, insects or plants, and were symbolic. The transformation of human to animal, snake to tree, uterus to fish (or bull’s head and horns, or butterfly) was an interpretation of the reemergence of life energy in another form.

By examining the conjunction of symbols surrounding the Goddess, one sees the earliest foundation of man’s thinking regarding immortality. To these people, life and death and life again were part of a great cycle controlled by her. She appeared as a waterfowl or bird of prey, reptiles (both harmless and poisonous), but these were manifestations of one Deity. The vulture, owl, or crow were ominous predictors of death, but they are shown with breasts and life-giving labyrinths in the stomach area. Or she is a triangle (vulva) or an hourglass-shape (double triangle) with vulture feet. Perhaps she is shown as a bee or a butterfly.

The death aspect always appears with other symbols representing regeneration.

In her death aspect she is the same entity who gives life, and comes calling when that person, animal or plant’s time has arrived. She can do this because “life cycle” is under her control. Death is not a punishment or evil. In the Paleo and Neolithic worldview, earth is in continuous transformation, and regeneration starts at the moment of death very much as cyclic renewal occurs within nature.

The moon renews, snakes shed their skin and continue to live, menstruation begins, ceases, and begins again, spring and the waterfowl returned: there was no solid end to life, no eternal death. There was only death and regeneration. Immortality was assured through the eternal cyclic rise and fall of creation and destruction in nature.



The Symbols of the Goddess (adapted from Marija Gimbutas in the Language of the Goddess, 1989).



Arcs: rising life

Amphibians: regeneration

Bear: primeval birth-giver

Bee: regeneration

Bird: Goddess as Giver of all, including life and death, happiness, and wealth.
1. waterfowl (duck, goose, swan) bring happiness, wealth, nourishment
2. birds of prey (vulture, owl, rave, crow) are omens of death
3. prophetic birds (cuckoo, owl)
4. soul birds: (dove, cuckoo)

Black: color of fertility

Boar: death and regeneration

Bone: death, especially the phalange

Breasts: in megalithic tombs represent the regenerative powers of the Goddess. Breasts often found on the Bird Goddess.

Brush: energy sign, often associated with vulva. Interchangeable with wings.

Brautstein: German for “bridestone,” a stone having the power to bestow fecundity on barren women. The polished surface is from the oft-repeated sliding of naked hind parts.

Bull head and horns: woman’s uterus, symbol of regeneration. In Minoan sarcophagi, appears with the head of a vulture.

Butterfly: Minoan art, it emerges from between the horns of a bull. Related to hourglass and X figures.

Buttocks: symbol of the strength of two, related to breasts, double fruit, double seed. Many Bird Goddess representations with pronounced buttocks.

Cairn: heap or round mound of stones over graves, sometimes of white and shining quartz stones, symbolic of the egg (regeneration) or of death (the color of bone)

Caterpillar: symbol of becoming, related to the crescent moon and horn

Cave: the Goddess’s regenerative womb

Checkerboard: symbol for water.

Circle: engraved on rocks or on standing stones, a transmitter of concentrated divine energy (cupmark, well, menhir), related to the sacred ring dance.

Crescent: energy sign, symbol of becoming, denoting the beginning phase of the lunar cycle.

Crow: symbol of death and regeneration. Also raven.

Cuckoo: prophetic Goddess’s (Fate’s) bird, omen of spring and death. Soul bird.

Cupmark: a depression in stone filled with the sacred water of the Goddess/Life giver. Source of life and health, related to the divine eye and well.

Double figures: Duality. Two fruits grown together, two seeds, caterpillars, snakes, phalli, or human figures as the symbol of the strength of two, summer/winter, young/old.

Dove: bird of spring and soul bird.

Egg: universal symbol for regeneration.

Eyes: generative source of the Owl Goddess, associated with aquatic symbolism (steams, cupmarks).

Feet, (birds): Goddess of Death.

Fish: symbol of the uterus. Regeneration.

Footprints: symbolic of the Goddess’s presence, a stimulating and healing force; if filled with water, related to cupmarks.

Frog (or toad): uterus.

Goat (male): awakening nature, guardian of young life, portrayed flanking the life tree. Participant in animal processions, symbols of cyclic time.

Gold: color of death.

Gorgoneion (mask): frightening face of the Snake and Bird Goddess in her death aspect.

Hands: stimulating force prophylactic against the powers of evil and death.

Hare: Goddess in regenerative function.

Hedgehog: symbol of the uterus, Goddess of Death and Regeneration.

Hill: pregnant belly of the Earth Mother.

Holed stone: crawling through meant strengthening with the Goddess’s energy stored in the stone; renewal, initiation, health.

Hook: energy symbol, related to the horn and spiral.

Hourglass (two triangles joined at tips): simplified anthropomorphic shape of the Goddess of Death and Regeneration in her guise as a bird of prey. Bird’s claws reveal her identity.

Ithyphallic (male figure): rising life energy, interchangeable with phallus and snake; excited male.

Labyrinth: regenerative womb associated with images of the Owl and Fish Goddess.

Life column: portrayed in tombs, temples, and on pottery, a vertically winding snake, tree, snake and tree combined, fir tree or fern, phallus, stalagmites and stalactites in caves – the symbol of life rising from water, cave or womb.

Lozenge: with a dot, sign of the pregnant Goddess, fertility symbol.

M: sign of water, related to the Egyptian hieroglyph M, Greek mu, and emblem of the Goddess in her life-giving function.

Menhir: a standing stone representing the Bird Goddess.

Mound: pregnant bell of the Earth Mother, akin to hill and oven.

Mouth: as a round depression or open beak of the Bird Goddess – nurturing source. As a dash with three lines emanating: triple life source.

Net: “water of life” or amniotic fluid, pubic hair, associated with lozenge, triangle, egg, and uterine signs.

Octopus: portrayed on Late Minoan sarcophagi as the Goddess regenerative.

Omphalos: navel of the Earth Mother, concentrated life-producing power, stone or circular summit of a hill, knob orunevennesson a menhir, umbilical cord or snake on the Goddess. Head of the abstract hill-shaped figure of the Goddess in megalithic art.

Oven: shaped as a pregnant belly.

Owl: prophetic bird, death messenger. Images appear on stelae and megalithic tombs of W Europe and as urns in SE Europe and W Anatolia.

Phallus: symbol of spontaneous life energy, interrelated with the life column. When fused in sculptures with the female body, the phallus enhances the life power of the Goddess Creatrix.

Ram: magic, wealth-bringing animal, sacred to the Bird Goddess, associated with waterfowl and the snake. Ram horns interchange with snake coil and oculi motifs.

Red: the color of life.

Seed: birth and embryonic life symbol, homologue of the vulva.

Serpentiform: a winding snake, often with 14-17 twinings denoting the waxing moon, or with 29-30 symbolizing the days of the moon cycle.

Snake: life force. Upward winding is life column. Horizontal is serpentiform. From Gimbutas: “Spirals, horns, crescents, half-circles, hooks, axes, hounds, he-goats, and excited men, which flank a rising, watery life column, serpent, tree, and anthropomorphic Goddess or her pregnant belly, are all energy symbols.”

Sow: sacred animal of the Pregnant Goddess.

Spiral: energy symbol, serpent force.

Stone: The Goddess’s power.

Stream: The Goddess’s life and health-given water and rain.

Sun: seasonal renewal, interchangeable with the Goddess’s eyes, snake coil, and ram horn coils.

Tomb: The Goddess’s regenerative womb.

Triangle: womb, the earliest of all known symbols evidenced in the Paleolithic.

Tri-line: totality, triple source.

Turtle: regeneration, related to frog and hedgehog.

Umbilical cord: unevenness on stone projections, serpentine connection between the mother and new life, most frequently on owl images.

V: The Bird Goddess’s emblem from Upper Paleolithic times, main sign in the sacred script of Old Europe, pubic triangle.

Vulva: external female genitalia depicted as an oval, seed or lens, and triangle. Encountered on rocks from the Upper Paleolithic.

Wavy lines: water, stream

Whirl: four-corner sign and cross, energy sign, usually associated with the life column.

White: the color of bone, symbolic of death, also alabaster and gold.

X: Four-corner representing the Bird Goddess, interchangeable with the hourglass and butterfly.


For a brief bio and disputation of Gimbutas’ archaeomythology see:


Gimbutas

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