Ancient female figurines (was Medieval Dragons, dog/snake, Greek Dr

From: Jean Kelly
Message: 17799
Date: 2003-01-19

>This is the neolithic, not the tech age. They didn't know what "planets"
were in the modern sense. Doubtful they thought about the "elliptical
planes", the "zodiac", and "celestial equators" that modern-day hippies
in coffee shops take for granted. With only what they could directly see
with the naked eye and some simple "common sense", they produced ideas
about how the world works that are alien to modern thinking, perhaps
even alien to later Greeks, Babylonians and Egyptians. It is important
to understand the simple foundation for everything and then how it
evolves over time getting all skewed out of proportion in the process.

Clearly, no one in the Neolithic had up-to-date astronomical knowledge.
Planets might, however, have attracted particular attention because of their
resemblance to stars that, unlike the fixed stars, followed the plane of the
ecliptic. The ecliptic is the sun’s yearly path. The celestial equator,
meanwhile, is earth’s equator, projected out into space. In most earth
locations, these two invisible planes form an equally invisible cross
overhead. Clearly, it would have taken many millennia to identify and
distinguish such complex astronomical phenomena – but some astronomers, such
as Michael Rappenglueck and Alexander Gurshtein, have suggested that, even
as early as Lascaux (ie, 15000 BC), people might have begun to identify and
depict star groups that marked the equinoxes – ie, the points in the year
where the ecliptic and celestial equator intersect. Whilst it should be
said at once that these theories are highly controversial, and have
frequently been attacked, I think that the statements that you make about
“common sense” observation perhaps don’t take the fullest account of some
other evidence and theories about perceptions in the Neolithic and perhaps
even earlier eras.

>Here, the neolithic "cosmos" of the Mediterranean was meant to be as I
stated before:

The sky above,
the land around us,
and the waters below

This is a common sense tripartite world-view model that appears to be
alongside the earliest function of the Goddess as creatrix.

This view is based on straightforward observation, certainly. However, what
am I trying to say is that there might have been other, more complex,
perceptions of the way in which the cosmos worked.

> There is
further support, given that this three-way contrast must be the source
of the earliest "trinities" recorded in history (like the Sun-Moon-Venus
triad in Babylonian mythology) as well as the rivalry seen between El
and Baal, or *Manus and *Yemos, or Horus and Osiris, or Yggdrasil's
eagle and serpent (thanks to that pesky trouble-making go-between, the
squirrel). The serpent, by the way, "gnaws" at the roots in a figuritive
sense because the serpent is symbolic of the waters in which the tree
sits. This also adds perspective to Eve's "bruised heel".

>So, this is the neolithic definition of the "cosmos" that I'm using
here. Makes sense?

Perhaps I have misunderstood the argument, but there seem to be some
conceptual leaps here that leave me rather puzzled. Ideas associated with
the number three were certainly very popular, as you say. But the point
about the myths of *Manu and *Yemo, and Osiris and Seth, was that they were
twins, one of whom killed the other, who then became the first ruler of the
kingdom of the dead. I’m not quite sure what either duo would have to do
with Ygddrasil’s eagle and serpent.

>On Level VIa at Çatal Hüyük is a shrine depicting a spreadeagled woman
>giving birth to a bull, [...] whether the bull might be an early form of
>Ouranos, her son and husband, [...] The lady, however,
>is not depicted as particularly corpulent.

>Yes, this is exactly what I'm talking about. The woman is the mother
of the cosmos and the bull has come to represent the "sky", or rather
the sun and moon combined (alluding to a trinity). We are also
reminded of Sumerian Gugulanna, the bull of heaven. The whole
son/husband/wife thing is an example of a derivated form of the
trinity, which itself was born from the tripartite model of the cosmos
that I just finished explaining.

>For instance, El (sky) and Baal (storm) can be seen to spring from the
natural dual opposition between "skies above" and "waters below". Over
time, the "waters" become "waters of the sky" (tying in with the dragon
topic) and there is a new altered opposition between "clear sky" and

I don’t accept your interpretation – but I think we’re just going to have to
agree to differ on this one!

>The corpulence of the Goddess is not an absolute necessity to convey
her as is seen by even "skinny" models of a central Goddess figure
(the snake lady of Crete comes to mind), but surely this must have been
part of the motivation to sometimes use exaggerated obesity as a symbol
of her great size.

>[...] I would still like to know how anyone in a hunter-gatherer society
>could have had access to the sort of food that would have caused so much

As I already stated, this is unimportant because "fat" is symbolic of
cosmic size. That level of girth is not really based on reality and
many can see that these figurines _exaggerate_ the human body for some
purpose, but even mobile hunter-gatherer societies can have fat

This is a point that I admit I hadn’t fully appreciated before. I would
have thought that they were all thin.

>(I think Jean's been watching too many Hollywood movies.)

I only wish I had the time!

>It's not the antiquity of the figures that I question, but the part that
>they played in the ancient consciousness. Could they have symbolized the
>divine entity that gave birth to at least part of the cosmos, as you argue?
>Possibly: but I'm not entirely convinced.

>Yet, if you lack any other credible answer to the origins of the common
themes existant in Mediterranean-based mythologies, what unaddressed
reasons are left for your resistance against this one? I don't think
that this theory is ridiculously complex and I do think that it ties all
the mythological themes together in a credible way.

I can see the reasoning behind your arguments - some of them, at any rate -
but I don't think that they necessarily fit every case. Some traditions,
for example, had it that the world was born of a cosmic egg.

Best regards,

Jean Kelly