Friday, May 20, 2011
The Goddess Series- Paleolithic Figures
One of the most popular figures related to ancient goddess forms is the Venus of Willendorf, one that I have been drawn too for over a decade. One of my first pagan jewelry items that I purchased was a mini amethyst Venus figure, which I was always able to get away with wearing because everyone always thought it was a bunch of grapes. I have always felt drawn to images from this period of human history, including cave art, earth art and of course, goddess figures.
There are several aspects that have always drawn me to these figures. First and most importantly, her shape. She reflects a natural and realistic view of a woman, instead of our modern emaciated models. She has a large flabby tummy, wide hips and enormous breasts. She also does not hide her body or attempt to hide her sexuality. In Sandro Botticelli, Birth of Venus, the figure actually hides her breasts and genitals and shows modesty. However, Venus of Willendorf places her arms above her breasts and displays them and her enlarged vulva for the world to see. She is exposed in all aspects and to me this is tied to embracing sexuality and womanhood fully. It shows her power as a woman and yet does not denigrate who she is. And lastly, she has no face, and thus she could be anyone and also a part of us all. Her anonymity also reflects a certain aura of her being beyond personification. If she had a face, it would distract from these Venus figures more womanly and openly fertile representations. Overall, when I see these figures I see a woman in her most fully primal state and it reminds me of the Goddess within myself.
There has always been some debate over the meanings behind these, the biggest being the battle over if these figures represented goddesses or not. Some believe they are representative of fertility and womanhood. Some think they were made by women to aid other women through menstruation, and child bearing. The Venus of Willendorf has a coating of red ochre, possible symbolism anyone? However, language and cultural barriers aside, no one is going back 25,000 years to ask the artist what the piece represented to them.
Regardless of what they represent, there is no doubt in my mind that these figures were made with an important agenda. Think about this. Can you go camping with nothing but hand tools and come back with a perfect replica of the Venus of Willendorf? I know that I couldn't not even if I used special tools designed for carving limestone. If someone spent the time and energy to make such a piece of art, wouldn't you think it was rather significant? Yes we see in our art world some things that have no meaning to us on a deeper and spiritual level, but they have some to the artist. If we look at it from an artists prospective, we still are given a high probability that this statue honored fertility and womanhood. One Carving in particular, The Venus of Laussel, carries a cornucopia in her hand with 13 notches on it. The number 13 is the same amount of lunar cycles in a year, which is paralleled by a womans cycle. Honoring these, is indicative that they too honored the feminine aspects of humanity on a larger scale. Even if these Venus figures are not goddesses, they represent a huge part of the female experience and should be honored as such.
There are lessons we can learn from these figures as spiritual beings ourselves, despite the meaning behind them. Be yourself and do not hide your femininity, embrace it and let your inner goddess shine. The scars of motherhood are not to be shamed, wear your hips, tummy, and breasts as a badge of honor. We may be very different from those who created these figures, but we still have a common tie through our womanly features, cycles and birth. Most importantly, we are surrounded by goddesses every day and they should be honored as such.