If you Google "Venus of Hohle Fels" today, you will find articles regarding this major archaeological find. It is one of the oldest known examples of figurative art in the world and is at least 35,000 to 40,000 years old. She was found by an archaeologist in Germany, Nicholas J. Conrad.
Big news, but at the same time, take note of the articles you find. They have titles like: "Busty Figurine Likened to 'Paleolithic Playboy'" and "Buxom Babe." Right Here on the Huffington Post you'll find, "Venus of Hohle Fels: PREHISTORIC PORN." A New York Times article describes the figurine's blatant sexuality as "bordering on pornographic" and she is described as being associated with fertility beliefs.
You've got to be kidding me, and if you weren't, I had a good chuckle anyway. I have been working with the modern implications of the Goddess archetype for years now and it relates to the emergence of right brain "feminine" strengths in men and women. My presentation "In Our Right Minds" is a real eye-opener for audiences. We are all using our right hemispheres more and this is changing everything! Funny thing is, back in those Paleolithic days, humanity used to be in balance in terms of utilizing right brain skills, and they venerated the Goddess -- yep, I said it, the Goddess. Maybe there is something we can learn from the past and our Venus of Hohle Fels.
Today's articles fail to mention that Paleolithic cultures, the era from which the Venus of Hohle Fels hails, were Goddess cultures. In Paleolithic and Neolithic cultures, the driving force behind all things was considered female. Dr. Elinor Gadon, Cultural Historian writes about these Goddess cultures: "...Goddess religion was earth-centered, not heaven-centered, of this world not otherworldly, body affirming not body-denying, holistic not dualistic. The Goddess was immanent, within every human being, not transcendent, and humanity was viewed as part of nature, death as part of life. Her worship was sensual, celebrating the erotic, embracing all that was alive."
It is nearly impossible for us to see the Venus of Hohle Fels as sacred, even as -- dare I say it -- God the Mother. She is a messenger coming to us from a culture that honored all things female. Goddess cultures are our history, and in fact they persist, with characteristics worthy of our attention.
In a survey of 150 cultures today, anthropologist Peggy Reeves Sanday compared cultures structured around male dominance with those that embrace female power. She found a clear correlation between female power in society and Goddess veneration. Where the divine has a feminine face, there is a correlation with the society's honoring of nature, women's role as officiators of sacred sacraments, connection to the land, and female power. In these societies, there is egalitarianism, rather than women holding power over men. These cultures value community, birthing, nurturing, empathy, intuitive intelligence, earth, nature, connection and interdependence. Also, the orientation of time is not linear, but is cyclical and aligned with the eternal cycles of birth, growth, death and renewal. The divine is understood to be embodied in every person and in nature, not somewhere else, abstract and disembodied. Sensuality and sexuality are honored as sacred.
What we have come to describe as "feminine" values are actually attributes that belong to women and men; they are a valued part of society when the feminine is not subjugated. They are not women's tenets, they are societies'.
It is certainly out of alignment to describe an artifact from this ancient era as "pornographic." This is quite at odds with the sacred sexuality of egalitarian Goddess cultures.
Pioneering archaeologist Marija Gimbutas published The Language of the Goddess in 1989. Before she died in 1994, Gimbutas studied thousands of Paleolithic and Neolithic artifacts and uncovered a language of prehistoric peoples -- the language of the Goddess. As a scholar, Gimbutas had to rise above the prevailing intellectual perspective that could not get past seeing through the lens of modern culture. Judging by today's headlines, things haven't changed much.
Before we so quickly dismiss the Venus of Hohle Fels as pornographic we should consider our loss in doing so. As Eric Neumann wrote: "Comparative religion ... teaches us that there is in man (beyond the psychological need for a father symbol) an equally great, or possibly even greater need: that of the divine woman who appears in many different forms throughout the world, yet remains basically the same everywhere."
Maybe we can learn from our foremothers and forefathers. What other goodies come with feminine-venerating cultures? Dr. Elinor Gadon writes, "Perhaps the most provocative discovery of recent archaeological research is that nowhere in Neolithic Goddess cultures is there any sign of warfare. There is no evidence of fortifications, of violent death, invasion or conquest. We can only conclude that there was some direct relation between Goddess religion and peaceful coexistence. Neolithic Goddess culture was woman-centered, peaceful, prosperous, and nonhierarchical."
Vicki Noble writes, "Archaeologists ardently seek to find evidence of war in earlier societies, but there is actually no proof whatsoever of violence or war before the middle of the fifth millennium B.C.E. Although people built houses close together and lived in fairly high population density in the early urban centers, they apparently developed ways of resolving conflict and living in harmony with their environments that allowed them to share food and resources, irrigate fields, and participate in large ritual and artistic endeavors...Goddess scholars believe that content and form cannot be separated and that the reason for the lack of violence and conflict in early societies is the presence of the active worship of the Great Mother."
Hmmm...No warfare, no gender hierarchy, honoring of earth, sacred sexuality -- quite a history our Venus of Hohle Fels connects us to. If we were to travel back in time, our ancestors would simply not comprehend what we have done with sacred sexuality, the greatest force on the planet. Imagine if at the dawn of adolescence, our daughters could embrace their sexuality as sacred as opposed to slutty? Wouldn't it be great if our sons could see the female form as holy rather than pornographic? Something to ponder on this May day in 2009, as we look at an artifact that we have called "pornographic" and our ancestors called "holy." The Kagaba Indians of Columbia sing, "The Mother has left a memory in us all." I think we would do well to remember.
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