Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ancient people revered the sacred feminine

In the ancient world, women were revered for their life-giving ability. And apparently, there was a different concensus on body image and beauty that reflected this appreciation.

These were once known as venus figures, but, since we don't know their exact purpose, they are now referred to as "figure of woman."

At the left is the Venus of Willendorf. She was found in Austria and appears in many, many art history texts.

Below are the Venus de Lespugue and the Venus of Vestonice.

These figures date back to 40,000 - 8,000 B.C. -- known as the upper paleolithic period -- the time in human history when art first appears.

Many of them were found throughout Europe.

So what happened to the goddesses?

In her book, "The Creation of Patriarchy," Gerda Lerner addresses the fall of the sacred feminine. What Lerner calls the “dethronement of the goddess”began with shifts in society such as the establishment of kingships (kingdoms) and increased militarism. A king - a male figure - had the power over the lives of his subjects and made decisions in battle that resulted in life or death.

Gradually, the same shift occurred within the concept of creation. Emphasis shifted away from the mystic and revered force of female fertility and along with it the status of the goddess changed too.

With the introduction of a male consort, creation became an act involving gods of both sexes. Eventually, the male consort became the god who eclipsed the goddess altogether. Monotheism put a male figure in the highest, ultimate position of power – the power to give and create life -- thus opening the door for a permanent trickle-down effect that allowed for the perpetuation of patriarchy.

Religion and spirituality have always been powerful and inherent forces within humanity as a means to search for the meaning of life, the origins of life, and the possibility of life after death. However, once male dominance ascended to a supernatural level, it was elevated to the point where it was unquestionable and unchallengeable.

Who would want to risk the anger and wrath of the Almighty (male) God? As the centuries progressed, monotheism became firmly established and it was assumed to be the norm.

Goddess worship has experienced a comeback in recent years – albeit a quiet comeback. Feminists gravitate to it, perhaps in search of a more balanced form of worship.

Many are part of Paganism, Wicca and other earth-based religions that link life with the seasons. Many women are disillusioned with the female role models in traditional religions and find it empowering to worship a deity that resembles them, thus reestablishing a connection that was broken with the emergence of monotheism.

The elimination of the sacred feminine has been exposed and a minority seeks to restore the goddess to her proper place of esteem.

Perhaps this is a small step towards what Lerner calls “a world that is truly human.”

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