Father God or Mother

The most ancient form of the Fertility Cult, as I said in the last chapter, is that which arose from a consideration of the physical mechanisms by which mammals reproduce their kind. The modes of reproduction of the other branches of the animal kingdom - fishes, birds, reptiles - are not so easily perceived, especially when, as in the case, say, of moths and butterflies, their brief lives are lived as it were under two very different forms, the larval stage preceding that into which they emerge as 'true' butterflies or moths.

So long as Man remained the nomad hunter, so long did his religious views take their coloration from the perceived life of the mammalia. Only when he began to raise crops, in however primitive a fashion, did he find himself dependent upon a form of life whose reproductive system baffled his ingenuity to explain. However, the willing, undaunted mind of Early Man accepted this, as he was to accept many an even more testing, challenge.

The connection between seed and crop must soon have been established, but how came the seed? Were there male and female in the realm of the plant, as in the realm of the animal? Certainly, close examination of flowers seemed to shew structural (and so, presumably, functional) differences which might argue a sexual differentiation. But whether as primitive emmer or cultivated wheat, Man's 'staff of life' shews no obvious reproductive mechanism - a fact which may account for one of the original meanings of Latin vagina, 'the sheath of an ear of gram; the hull, the husk'.

One aspect of the mysterious reproductive system of plants, especially of plants necessary to life, seemed 'obvious' to the early observers of Nature: the reproductive mechanism was either hidden within, or fulfilled its functions in, the earth -the place (the implications here call for careful note) in which the Dead are inhumed. This deduced connection between the burial of the human being and the upspringing of the crops accounts for the close connection, in myth, between the Corn Goddess -Ceres, to give her one of her better-known names -and the Underworld, the Place of the Dead.

When crops began to supplement the flesh of hunted animals, the Fertility Cult had necessarily to be widened in 'doctrine' to embrace the magic requisite to the healthy and plentiful growth of corn and other staples. But the additions to the basic religious creed did not oust that creed from its strong hold on human belief and human reverence. The proof is that the totemistic origin of so many gods and goddesses was never forgotten, and that the totem 'patrons' of tribes and clans and nations multiplied rather than died out. The Italians were the people of the Calf (viteliu), the Ulpian clan were the Family of the Wolf ((w)lups; lupus in Classical Latin), Taurinum (modern Turin), was the City of the Bull (Latin, taurus, 'bull'), Cynetae (possibly, though not necessarily, a translation into Greek of the indigenous name), the People of the Dog (Greek, - kuon, 'dog') - neighbours, it seems, of those Celts of Britain, one of whose kings named himself (or was named) Cunobelin, 'Hound of (the God) Belin'.

All the great gods of classical and non-classical mythology seem to have had an animal, that is, a totemistic, origin, from the Sacred Milch-cow which became the Isis who wears the two-horned uterus as her crown, to the Sacred Farrowing Sow who became Demeter, 'the Pig-Mother', or that Sacred Bear which was the theological ancestor of the goddess Artemis.

It is time now to say something of totemism, one of the least explicable, because least understood, of those 'religious' impulses of Early Man, yet one whose provenience is world-wide, and whose influence has been of the strongest in shaping and modifying primitive religious belief.

The Dawn of Magic: A doctor-priest of the Palaeolithic Age, dressed in ritual 'garments', a bull's hide and horns, with glove 'hoofs' and a 'bull-roarer', performs the Fertility Dance - the earliest representation of this ancient ceremony yet discovered. (From an incised drawing in the Fourneau du

Diable, Dordogne.)

I have never, so far, encountered what, to me, seems the obvious, simple explanation of the origin of sacrifice - the 'staking out' of an animal or human so as to attract the attention of the Totem. From the prevalence of human sacrifice in all cultures, one might assume that the human victim was considered preferable to the non-human. Of course, there were some totem-animals - horse, calf, beaver - which would have had no interest in a human being offered as a sacrifice; but the list is small, and most of the totem-animals - bear, wildcat, wolf, bull, dog, lion, scorpion, etc. - are just those animals which enjoy an unenviable reputation for ferocity.

Totemism is, in its later and more defined phase, the placing of a family, tribe or nation under the magical protection of an animal whose admired and envied characteristics caused it to be chosen as totem. After 'installation' as the group's totem, the selected animal then became the 'luck' of the group, which usually adopted its name.

Modern survivals of totemism are more numerous than most people realise, even in, particularly in, the 'civilised' parts of the world. The 'mascots' of British regiments, the bears maintained by the City of Bern, the ravens of the Tower of London and the Barbary apes of the Rock of Gibraltar - these are all healthy survivals, into modern times, of the totemistic attitude towards animals which first began to colour our ancestors' religious beliefs perhaps as much as fifty thousand years ago (if the clay bear in the Neanderthal grave is evidence of totemistic belief).

The heads of beasts worn as helmets by the heroes portrayed in Greek and other ancient painting and sculpture, the zoo-morphic helmets of Roman and Goth and Viking; the animal skins worn, not so much as articles of clothing as marks of superior martial rank - all these shew the tenacious hold that totemism retained upon human consciousness, even as religion, throughout the world, was becoming more and more spiritualised, more and more sophisticated.

But, as C.G. Jung has pointed out, there are primordial concepts, buried deep in the collective unconsciousness of humanity. Calling these concepts 'archetypes', Jung defines them as 'inherited predispositions to reaction', and offers an acceptable analogy in suggesting that they are 'perhaps comparable to the axial system of a crystal, which predetermines, as it were, the crystalline formation in the saturated solution, without itself possessing a material existence'. (1)

[1] Quoted by the late Dr G. B. Gardner ('Scire') in his excellent The Meaning of Witchcraft; London: The Aquarian Press, second edition, 1971.

The totemistic reaction to some admired animal characteristic - the survival-quality of the cat, the tracking-ability of the dog, the cunning self-protectiveness of the wolf, the blind ferocity of the shrew -is evidently one of these 'inherited predispositions to reaction' that Jung claims are buried deep in the collective unconsciousness of humanity. But before totemism had to come, the belief that a shared mode of reproduction - and thus (presumably) a shared collection of emotions centred about the sexual act -made Man somehow the Brother of Brother Animal, as St Francis of Assisi restated, in paraChristian terms, thousands of years after Man had first deduced the common humanity of the animal or the common animality of man.

In his progress towards a greater spirituality of faith - which, too often, has meant a greater complexity of doctrine - Man took along his earlier beliefs with him; and totemism long continued a most important part of his religio-emotional baggage. When, in addition to a God or Gods, a Goddess or Goddesses added themselves to the pantheon, the totemistic background of all those goddesses is clearly perceived. But it was from specifically female animals, and not from animals considered in any general sense, that the goddesses were developed.

At what point in human enquiry did the truth that the female is 'the other half of a reproductive totality make itself evident to human understanding? Behind the revelation must have come more careful observation, since the changes which overtake the female genital apparatus during the oestrum are not as readily perceptible as those that tumescence induces in the male. Yet there are changes, and at some time or other some observant man - or woman - saw them. Reflection then brought to mind the truth of the matter: that it takes two -male and female - to reproduce one's kind. Woman, one may assume, rose in social dignity and esteem as a result of that detection of the obvious; and now Man's eager questing into the shadowy background of life led him to postulate a spirit which, at the time of the sexual act, was immanent in the female pudenda, as a Spirit of Life was simultaneously immanent in the life-transmitting organs of the male.

All the same, the raising of woman's social status, with the provision of female god or gods in analogical reflection of the god or gods already hypothesized to account for the miracle of male tumescence, can have come about only in a culture already sympathetically disposed to hold Woman in great, almost excessive, respect. It has been correctly pointed out that the Great Mother, as an object of worship, is to be found in all parts of the ancient and not-so-ancient world; it is, however, equally correct to point out that She was not always worshipped with the same fervour everywhere, and that, whilst exercising superior divine authority in some regions, she held inferior rank in others.

The impulse to see, in the dominant Great Mother, an import from the mother-dominated peoples of Asia Minor and the eastern Mediterranean is irresistible. Even today the 'Old Religion' of Italy, maintained and served by the hereditary female witch-priesthood for a 'church membership' not higher socially than the lower middle-class, has but one supreme divinity, the goddess Diana, and one subordinate divinity. Diana's daughter, Araldia; the male Horned God of northern Europe having been completely dismissed.

A story which may or may not be true explains how the Great Mother, in that dominant, savage aspect so typical of her theophany amongst the peoples of the near Orient, was imported into the Roman pantheon.

In 205 BC, Rome had already been waging war against the brilliant Carthaginian general, Hannibal, for twelve (generally unsuccessful) years. At last, in desperation, the augurs consulted the Sibylline Books. The Books gave the - to the Romans - unwelcome advice that Hannibal could be defeated only if 'the Idaean Mother were brought from Pessinus', a city in Phrygia.

Accordingly, Cybele (or Kybebe), the Great Mother, Magna Mater deorum Idaea, was brought to Rome and there installed with a priesthood so odd in their behaviour and so repugnant to the then Roman ideas of 'good order and military discipline', that Romans were forbidden to join the ranks of the Galli, as the castrated priests of Kybele were called.

Cybele s castration forceps: With these highly-decorated bronze forceps, found last century in the Thames near London Bridge, the neophyte priests of Cybele, the Great Idaean Mother of the Gods, were ritually castrated to the service of their divine Mistress. The temple of Cybele -sedes Magna Matris - stood on the northern bank of the Thames, at the entrance to, and to the east of, Roman (timber) London Bridge. The name of the sedes Magna Matris ('Headquarters of the Great Mother) survives almost unchanged in that of the modern church standing on its site: St Magnus Martyr.

For the Galli - Celts, originally? - castrated themselves, almost certainly with a pair of ritual forceps (of which a fine example was found, last century, in the Thames), dedicated the crushed and separated genital organs to the Goddess, and then - provided that they survived this brutal and dangerous mayhem -continued to serve the goddess, but dressed now, henceforth, only as women. (2)

[2] Despite the strong element of 'Mother Goddess' worship in Christianity, Christianity itself, from its very beginnings, dissociated itself from even the most tenuous links with Cybele-worship. It is for this reason that the (now Roman Catholic) Christian Church has always strongly insisted on permitting only completely 'entire' males to be the celebrants of its rites. Up to this present century, when the false delicacy of this Age of Grossness 'refined' certain ancient rituals, it was loudly proclaimed in St Peter's, before the actual enthronement of a new Pope, that he had been physically examined by a committee of cardinals, who had found him to be 'entire'. Under the soaring arches of Bramante, the Latin rang out loud, clear and completely unambiguous - 'duos bonos testes habet!" - 'He hath two sound testicles!' It was essential -and still is, for that matter - that the Christian God and His Divine Mother (the Theotokos) should never be served by eunuchs.

When they moved through the streets in procession, they danced and capered and frothed, working themselves into such a state of hysteria that they gashed themselves with the knives that they carried. This was the Great Mother in her savagely dominant aspect, an aspect which, in origins at least, appears to have been almost exclusively Mediterranean-Oriental. This is any mother when, greedily possessive of her offspring, she says to a growing son, 'I'd rather see you lying dead at my feet [than marry that girl],' or, gazing with insatiable love at her baby, says, 'Ooh, I could eat you - every bit of you!' —and means it. (3)

Compare now this bestial Great Mother, served by half-mad castrati who bathe daily in the hot blood of a sacrificed bull ('A smack in the eye for the Male!'), with the calmly dignified Great Mother as she appears on an Eastern Altaic wall-hanging, in appliques felts, of the fifth century BC. A mounted horseman, elegantly slim and dashingly moustached, with a brightly coloured scarf tied with graceful abandon about his neck, has halted his mount before the chair in which the Great Mother sits. The horseman is not only elegant; he is, for all his elegance, unmistakably masculine. The Great Mother, as elegant in her way as the young horseman is in his, is dressed in one of those wrap-around, high-necked robes that Chinese women wear, or wore until recently.

Her shaved head gives the Great Mother a distinctly non-feminine appearance, without making her in the least masculine. She seems almost as sexless as the priests who serve her more savage aspect five thousand miles away. Her hat is curious, too; obviously a ritual headgear, with nothing feminine about it. But on her calm face is no evidence of that love of savagery for its own sake, that determination to achieve her own will at whatever cost to others, which so brutalises the Great Mother as one gets ever nearer to that focus of religious insanity, the Middle East.

It is true that, as I say, the Great Mother is found everywhere, but she differs so in aspect, according as we encounter her in the Altai mountains (from which the wall-hanging came) or in the humid flats of the Mediterranean littoral, (4) that it seems hardly possible to consider Cybele, the Great Mother of Idaea, and the unnamed Great Mother of the Scythian wall-hanging, as one and the same concept of divinity. Gods alter with physical surroundings, simply because Man's basic characteristics change in reacting to the demands of this harsh climate, to the licence of that gentle one.

[3] Female mice, rabbits and pigs would fully sympathise with this sentiment. The animals, though, are not restrained by any social taboos; they do actually eat their young.

[4] We must, however, note that, for all the bloodiness of her aspect through the Near East generally, the Great Mother is surprisingly different when encountered in the Minoan and sub-Minoan (Mycenean) cultures. Her representation on the gold ring found at Tiryns so closely resembles that on the wall-hanging found in Mound 5, Pazirik, Eastern Altai, that there can be no doubt of the common origin of the two, separated though they were by many hundreds of miles and by many different peoples and cultures. But the 'gentle' Great Mother, of the Scythian nomad and the sub-Minoan Greek were divided by a cultural barrier of great extent, within which the Great Mother was worshipped only under her most savage aspect. There is, all the same, no difficulty in Unking the Altai and the AEgaean 'religiously', since the trade links were long established, through the Greek cities - Sinope, Sebastopol, Panticapaeum, etc. - on the Black Sea.

Great Mother of the AEgaean: Allowing for small regional differences in dress and presentation, this 'benign' Great Mother, receiving the tribute of the Sacred Drink from her lion-headed beetle servitors, is identical with the Goddess from the Pazirik wall-hanging. Yet this! Great Mother is depicted on the bezel of a large gold signet ring found in a Mycenean treasure at Tiryns, on the Aegaean Sea.

We should, therefore, expect to find an early and well-developed worship of both Sun and Moon in such a place as Egypt, where the Sun literally 'rules the day', and the Moon, 'the lesser light5, so brilliantly 'rules the night'. And so we do.

It has been pointed out that the probable reason for facing the four sides of the Great Pyramid of Cheops with finely worked slabs of white limestone was that, in the moment of the Sun's reaching its zenith, the four 45°-angled sides of the Pyramid would flash a dazzling beam of intense radiance to the four corners of Egypt - a flash as momentary, as concentrated, as intense, and - perhaps - as startling as that with which the first atom-bombs exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The dazzling beams of sunlight would have been only instantaneous; within a second of time, the Sun would have passed the zenith, and the brilliancy of the light would have faded to a gentle glow on the polished limestone.

But note: pyramids (the Greek word - pyramis, though misunderstood by the later Greeks, bears out the theory of that Pyramid's having been a light-reflector) exists only where there is an ever-present and powerful Sun. We find the ziggurats in the plains of Mesopotamia, the teocallis in the level lands of Mexico, Guatemala and Yucatan, the pyramids in Egypt: all places where the Sun beats fiercely down, and is obscured by cloud only for the shortest periods of each year.

Those who have visited, say, Egypt may never forget the all-demanding presence of the Sun, which seems to leap out of the Eastern horizon, so that - in the desert at least - the sub-zero temperatures of pre-dawn (5) are raised, within seconds, to a heat in which even the lightest clothing becomes intolerable. The burning rays beat down on the parched skin; the eyes dazzle and ache from the bright light reflected on the iridescent, shimmering sand. In that nightmare of sweltering heat and blinding light, there is room in the aching consciousness for only one reality: the All-conquering Sun.

As far north as Rome, we find the worship of Sol Invictus, 'the Unconquered Sun' whose 'birthday' -dies Solis Invicti Nati - was celebrated on December 25, a day which was later appropriated by the Roman Church for the celebration of Christ's Nativity.

[5] Water freezes during the Egyptian night, a fact utilised by the pyramid - and temple-builders to split the granite blocks from the mother-rock. Small holes were drilled in the granite, plugs of soft palm-wood introduced. The plugs were soaked with water, and during the night the water froze, expanded, and split the rock.

But, as we proceed even farther north - and especially into the north-west (where, says Herodotus, the Cynesii, 'The People of the Dog', dwell) - we certainly find evidence of both Sun-worship and Moon-worship, though the fact that, in Anglo-Saxon, mona, 'the Moon', is a masculine noun may argue that Sun and Moon worship originated independently. But, in a truly literal sense, such Sun-worship as existed north of, say the Massif Central, was strictly 'down to earth'.

It has long been suspected, and seems now to have been brilliantly proven by Dr Gerald S. Hawkins,' that Stonehenge was built, about 1850 BC, as an astronomical 'sighting device', whose function had particular reference to the Sun. Over some three hundred years, the 'calculator' was extended in scope and refined in operation, so that, according to Dr Hawkins, it was able, not only to discharge its original function of determining the exact dates and times of the Solstices and the Equinoxes, but could be used to predict eclipses, etc., with remarkable accuracy.

The point, however, of importance here is that there was nothing equivalent at Stonehenge to that interest in the Sun's zenith positions, the information on which, available in Egypt from an early period, enabled Eratosthenes to make the first accurate estimate of the Earth's circumference in the third century BC. All Stonehenge's information is concerned with the Sun's risings and setting; as I said, Sun-worship, north of the Massif Central, was literally brought 'down to earth'.

Now whether or not an original matriarchal rule was replaced by a paternal rule, so that male gods tended to oust female gods (a process reversed as Rome, over the short space of one hundred years, imported no fewer than 1,500,000 slaves, mostly prisoners of war, and almost all from the imaginatively religious lands of the Middle East and Nearer Orient), there is no doubt that a recognition of the indispensable part played by the female in human reproduction led inevitably to the concept of a dual origin of human and other animal life.

[6] The actual date of Christ's birth, as it has been calculated from (mainly) astronomical and other evidence may fairly confidently be given as during the night of 16th-17th May, 8 BC, probably at 2 a.m. The fact that Christ's birth must be dated as 'eight years before Christ' is due to an error made when Dionysius Exiguus began his 'AD' chronology in AD 533.

[7] Stonehenge Decoded; London: Souvenir Press, 1966.

It is this concept which found its artistic expression in the androgyne divinity - the dual-sexed, hermaphrodite supernatural whose form exhibited the primary and secondary sexual characters of both sexes. To such a specialised class of divinity belonged the famous Diana (Artemis) of Ephesus, whose statue shewed not only the many breasts of the goddess, but also her enormous phallus. To this class of hermaphrodite divinity also belonged the 'brother-and-sister' divinity, which, sometimes separated into male and female, as Frey (Fricco) and Freya (Frigga), 'lord' and lady', were more frequently fused into the androgyne form, as a Frigga with obviously feminine characteristics allied, as the mediaeval geographer, Adam of Bremen, observes, 'cum ingenti priapo' - 'with a huge organ'. (Later I shall call attention to the fact that the Inquisitors looked for supernumerary nipples on suspected witches because it was held that their Goddess was Diana the Many-breasted. I do not recall having heard mention of this important point before.)

As I said earlier, even the fundamental characters of 'the same' god or goddess could change radically with a translation to a climate differing greatly from that in which the divinity had originated -originated, be it carefully noted, in response to the enquiry of rationalising minds, in specific climatic conditions Even the experts are liable to forget how greatly a divinity could change with a change of habitat. Thus the usually correct Dr G.B. Gardner, in discussing the universal Great Mother, has this to say:

She is the Great Mother of All, the giver of fertility and the power of reproduction. All life comes from her; all life-giving crops and fruits, animals and people are her children. She is the Bringer and the Taker Away, the Goddess of Life, Death and Rebirth; but all in a sweetly loving way. Laughingly she has been described as "The Mother who lovingly spanks and kisses her children." [My italics -M.H.]

Now this panegyric would perfectly apply to the Great Mother in her aspect of the gentle Kwan Yin, or even of the Virgin Mary as presented for general worship in any run-of-the-mill Roman Catholic church. But how could it possibly apply to 'the same' Great Mother in her savage, bloodthirsty aspect of Cybele, threatening Death rather than promising life, and communicating with mankind through a priesthood of maniac geldings? The equation of a Roman god or goddess with a Greek, as Diana with Artemis, Mars with Herakles, Mercury with Hermes, was seen to have some contradictions inherent two thousand and more years ago; how less likely is it that we may establish a valid equation between two gods or two aspects of 'the same' god, modified in character by climates which, permanently sun-scorched on one side, are foggy, rainy ... and fertile ... on the other?

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