October 11, 2018

Soul Salve

"It is a gross misunderstanding to imagine warfare as endemic to the human condition."
- Marija Gimbutas, from the preface to The Civilization of the Goddess: The World of Old Europe*
Reading those words Tuesday, as well as the entirely of Preface: What Is Civilization? by anthropologist and archeologist Marija Gimbutas, was a much needed breath of fresh air. A deep, cleansing, releasing breath. 

Examining "the way of life, religion, and social structures of the peoples who inhabited Europe from the 7th to the 3rd millennia B.C." Gimbutas asserts:
Widespread fighting and fortification building have indeed been the way of life for most of our direct ancestors from the Bronze Age up until now. However, this was not the case in the Paleolithic and Neolithic. There are no depictions of arms (weapons used against other humans) in Paleolithic cave paintings, nor are there remains of weapons used by man against man during the Neolithic of Old Europe. From some hundred and fifty paintings that survived at Çatal Hüyük, there is not one depicting a scene of conflict or fighting, or of war or torture.
No warfare, no conflict. Village sites chosen for "convenient setting, good water and soil, and availability of animal pastures," rather than defensible or inaccessible positions. Further, no images "have been found of a Father God throughout the prehistoric record." 
The religion of the Goddess reflected a matristic, matrilineal, and endogamic social order for most of early human history. This was not necessarily "matriarchy," which wrongly implies "rule" by women as a mirror image of androcracy. A matrifocal tradition continued throughout the early agricultural societies of Europe, Anatolia, and the Near East, as well as Minoan Crete. The emphasis in these cultures was on technologies that nourished people's lives, in contrast to the androcratic focus on domination.
Set aside any judgements about Gimbutas's research, and just imagine that for a moment. Culture focused on nourishing the lives of all its citizens rather than a society of division, stratification, hierarchy, and domination. This. This concept/struggle/desire, in a freakin' nutshell, has been the driving force of my art practice for nearly 30 years (which is as long as I have had an art practice).  

I could say, Marija Gimbutas, where have you been all of my life?!?! But, actually, I remember having one of her books on goddesses in my collection during my first year of art school. I had several books on the Goddess and goddesses. I no longer have any of them on my shelves. I can't remember passing them along, nor why I had them to begin with. Did I purchase them? Were they gifts? I can't recall ever poring over them. I'm sure I didn't turn to them for inspiration (as I am wont to do now). What seems likely to me, not that it matters or is of interest to anyone other than me, is that I bought those goddess books for the sole purpose of finding the meaning of Sheela-na-Gig. (I've mentioned this before, under the MUSIC heading in this post). Once sussed, I never really gave the books another glance.

Full circle, eh?

*All quotes in this post are from:
Gimbutas, Marija. The Civilization of the Goddess: The World of Old Europe. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991.

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