Advanced History Lesson 1, History of Paganism

| Introduction | History of Paganism |

Welcome to Lesson 1 of the Advanced History course. Make sure to follow the off-site links, if any, to get the full scope of information available for each subject. At the bottom of this page is a link to move forward to the next lesson. At the end of the course, there will be an online test.

Introduction

Paganism as both a religion and a way of life has continued in an unbroken line from the prehistoric to present times. It is expressed differently from one culture to the next and has even evolved in the form of Christianity, Catholicism in particular. During the Dark Ages, Paganism was persecuted as a movement we refer to today as the Burning Times, although very few burnings took place. In the Middle Ages, Christianity reigned and Paganism was suppressed by the Witchcraft Act of King James I in the year 1601. In an effort to retain ancient knowledge and a way of life, secret societies like the Knights Templar, Rosicrucians, and Freemasons went into hiding. The Renaissance, with its scientific discoveries, launched a renewed interest in the occult and Paganism in general which paved the way for these societies to come out in the open and regain their former place in society at large. The Ancient Order of Druids was also a secret organization which publicly declared itself alongside the Masonic Lodge in the year 1717 in London, England. This was the same year that England denounced Catholicism and declared that the Anglican Church would be the official church of England. Witchcraft was banned in England until the year 1951, yet these organizations so immersed in the occult were allowed to flourish. These societies were allowed to exist in the public eye, so long as they announced a belief in God and Christianity. Apparently, it took 200 year’s worth of membership in one or more of these societies to change the opinion of Parliament and the House of Commons.

Pagan beliefs were separated a second time from Christianity in America during the mid-20th Century after the fall of Communism. Even though Hitler was Lutheran and Communism is a strict Christian form of politics, his symbol--the swastika--is Pagan. Hitler murdered anyone who was not white, and Protestant Christian, to include Catholics, Gypsies and other Pagans. In 1950, Congress added the words, "under God," to the pledge of allegiance as a national show of triumph over Communism. This simple act was a violation of the First Amendment because Congress had passed a law respecting an establishment of religion. Since 1950, America has declared itself to be a Christian nation. Non-Christian religions have to fight tooth and nail for a right that is supposed to be guaranteed by the Constitution. Christians have also denounced anything that could be Pagan, not withstanding a fear of Witchcraft that has survived from the Christian propaganda of the Dark Ages. I firmly believe that Gerald Gardner cashed in on this American paradigm shift when he introduced Wicca the same year. I also doubt that he alone revived people’s interest in Paganism or the occult considering that other books were widely published before his. What Gardner did was combine his knowledge of Freemasonry, with Paganism and ceremonial magic and turn it all into an open religion so this knowledge would be accessible to everyone. Since then, people everywhere have sought Wicca as an effort to re-connect with the ancient past. Only recently have Pagans declared their religious autonomy.

History of Paganism

Paganism is the oldest religion known to man.

The following essay constitutes my notes on PaleoAnthropology from the book, Historical Atlas of World Mythology. In order to prevent any misunderstandings concerning plagiarism or copyright infringement, my own words and commentary are presented within brackets and colorized in [red]. Paragraph headings are also of my own intellectual license. All other text was copied directly from the book, and where there are quotation marks, indicates quotes within the book where other sources were cited. Also, the order of the text presented here is not in exactly the same order as it appears in the book. There is no possible way I could have composed all of this text on my own. However, I have made it available because it precisely illustrates the possible origins of Wiccan belief and some of our ritual practices; it also illustrates patterns of cross-cultural human socialization and interaction, which I feel are pertinent to realizing what I believe to be the most important element of all--the Human Element.

Development of the Human Psyche from a Religious Perspective

An important conditioning factor in the shaping and enforcing of [mythological] imprints during the first many thousand years of human distribution was the character of whatever landscape was entered and made its own by any of the tribes. The earliest periods of expansion were of peoples afoot, moving apart and settling in slow stages. And wherever they came, the animals of the area, the plants and hills became their neighbors and instructors, recognized as already there from of old: mysterious presences which in some sacred way were to be known as messengers and friends. In this way, through the reception of imprintings, there became established between the earliest human communities and their landscapes a profound mysterious participation which in all primitive mythologies comes to expression.

The first function of a mythology is to waken and maintain in the individual a sense of wonder and participation in the mystery of this finally inscrutable universe, whether understood as an effect of the will of an anthropomorphic creator, or in the way of our modern physical scientists--and of many of the leading Oriental religious and philosophical systems. The second function of a mythology is to fill every particle and quarter of the current cosmological image with its measure of this mystical import; and in this regard, mythologies differ as the horizons, landscapes, sciences, and technologies of their civilizations differ. There is recognized in the myths and ceremonial customs of [humankind] a significant number of essential themes and motifs that were apparently universal. These "elementary ideas," in their appearances are clothed always in local forms, known as "ethnic ideas."

One determinant of these ethnic ideas was the landscape. Another, no less influential, was the local moral order; for, if the first function of a mythology is the mystical, and a second, the cosmological--that of converting every feature of the locally envisioned order of nature into an icon or revelatory figure (Deity, Spirit, Profit, Disciple, Tao, etc.)--a third function, no less important, is the sociological one of validating and maintaining whatever moral system and manner of life-customs may be peculiar to the local culture. Indeed, one of the most striking features of mythologies everywhere is their reference to mythological beginnings [in the form of creation stories.]

A fourth, and final, essential function of mythologies is the one of conducting individuals in harmony through the passages of human life, from the stage of dependency in childhood to the responsibilities of maturity, and on to old age and the ultimate passage death. And it is in its service to this function that the most evident of its elementary ideas, are to be recognized. The principal method of mythology is that of analogy; the light of the sun as of consciousness; the experiences of sleep, then, as the (supposed) experiences of death; the darkness of caves, the ocean depth, as of death; the womb, the waning and waxing moon as a sign celestial of death and rebirth; and the serpent's sloughing of its skin as an earthly sign with the same sense. There are many analogies of this kind that are recognized everywhere in the world. Others, however, are local or culturally specific: the majesty of the elephant as an earthbound cloud, or the seven days of a seven-day week as the days of the Creation and God's Rest.

The history and geography of the rise and diffusion of specific myths and mythological systems can be readily reviewed. For we have present in our libraries a prodigious literature of information, as well as, still among us, living representatives of many of the most typical or imposing traditions of belief: popes, lamas, learned churchmen and women, shamans/holy men, rishis, rabbis, etc...; even Stone Age tribesmen like the Tasaday of the Philippines, the Bushmen of the Kalahari, and the Nambikwara of Brazil. In variously modified forms, the influence of the order of primitive rites entered and inspired much of the mythology of the higher cultures, where it survives in myths and rituals of sacrifice and communion with which many of us, or whatever religious affiliation, have been long familiar.

Hominization

Lucy, the remains of an Australopithecus aferensis c. 3.65 million BCE, is assumed to have been the great-great-great-great grandmother of Eve. [This means that Eve would have been born c. 120 years after Lucy and would have been of the herbivorous Australopithecine species. This would place Eve's birth c. 3,500,120 BCE. The Australopithecine species flourished for c. 22 million years with their only predators being lions, large wild cats, and dogs. Hominization (dispersal) occurred from 3.8 million--7700 BCE ("Go forth and multiply"). The Neolithic Age began after dispersal ceased, marking permanent settlement and civilization, domestication, and agriculture.]. Evidence is accumulating in favor of northeast Africa and the Near East as the 'Garden of Eden', out of which modern Homo sapiens went forth between 50,000 and 30,000 BCE, and through a process of swamping and replacing older and more archaic (Neanderthal) subspecies of Homo sapiens, inherited the earth. The argued implications are that it was in the Near East, in the period of the Riss-Wurm interglacial, that the evolutionary passage was accomplished from archaic sapiens rank to modern. The 'Garden of Eden' may have been the Eurasian Aurignacian complex of c. 35,000-20,000 BCE, which exactly coincides with the appearance of Cro Magnon and with the final retreat of the glaciers.

Five Races of Man

1) Australoid: Australian Aborigines, Melenesians, Papuans, some tribal folk of India, and various Negritos of South Asia and Oceania.

2) Mongoloid: East Asiatics, Indonesians, Polynesians, Micronesians, American Indians, Eskimos.

3) Caucasoid: Europeans and American kinsmen, Middle Eastern Whites (Turks) from Morocco to West Pakistan and most of the people of India and the Ainus of Japan.

4) Congoid: Negroes and Pygmies of Africa.

5) Capoid: Bushmen and Hottentots and other relic tribes like the Sandawe of Tanganyika.

The Bushmen are the last descendants of the tribesmen of the Capsian Great Hunt, pressed southward by an expanding Caucasoid population, and then, from c. 500 CE, by the expanding Congoid Bantu.

England (River Thames area) would have been inhabited by Neanderthal c. 300,000-150,000 BCE near Swanscombe, Wales. Sometime after c. 10,000 BCE, during the Holocene Epoch, Ireland was first inhabited by the Caucasoid race of Homo sapiens.

Hunting

The climate of Europe was moist and extremely cold. The landscape was of an arctic tundra, and the animals upon it were the musk ox, woolly rhinoceros, reindeer, woolly mammoth, arctic fox, hare, wolverine, and ptarmigan. With the further retreat of the ice, the climate though remaining cold, became dry and steppe conditions began to preponderate over tundra. This change brought, in addition to the animals named above, large herds of bison, wild cattle, steppe horse, ibex, and argali sheep; and as a result, the conditions of human life greatly altered.

The earlier hunting of the mammoth was stationary, and so were the tribes (35-20,000 BCE). However, in the period of the great herds (Solutrean), the tribes shifted to a ranging style of nomadism and hunting; they followed the herds. The mammoth remained in the colder reaches of Russia and Siberia as far as Lake Baikal and onward into America. During the Solutrean Period (20,000-15,000 BCE) of Europe, there arrived following the herds, a new hunting race from the east, the Brunn, whose particular talent was for fashioning spear points. After the Solutrean period, there followed another cold, wet period during which the European steppes were replaced by forests. The grazing herds moved northeast and many of the hunters followed them. Some of their descendants went on to inhabit the land bridge into America. Meanwhile, in the forest of Europe there had entered the red deer, fallow deer, forest horse, and moose. The days of the European Great Hunt were gone. At this time, people had also turned to fishing in the rivers and sea.

In North Africa, however, a new arena of the Great Hunt had opened. As the European ice had been decreasing, the African pluvial line had been moving north and revealed plains. In the rock art of that now vanished landscape, we see the bow and arrow and the domesticated dog. This occurred in Tunisia during the Capsian Period c. 15,000 BCE. It was also during this period that the Microlithic tool industry--of unknown origin--spread from Morocco to the Vindhya Range of India and from the Cape of Good Hope to the Baltic. Its breakthrough into Spain and into northern Europe occurred when the glacial retreat was nearly complete c. 10,000 BCE. This spread of the use of microlithic tools has been termed in various parts: Final Capsian, Tardenoisian, Microlithic, Mesolithic, proto-Neolithic, epi-Paleolithic, and Azilian.

With the continuation of the glacial retreat, the pluvial line continued northward, and there ensued from c. 3,000 BCE, a gradual desiccation of the Saharan hunting fields and their transformation into desert. This was answered by a movement of animals and hunters to the south. Survivors of the old European epi-Paleolithic hunt inhabit the arctic fringes of Eurasia (Lapps) and North America (Aleut, Eskimo, etc). So too, in the ultimate refuge zones of Africa-the Kalahari Desert and the Congo-the Bushmen and Pygmies continue living, as closely as possible, in the same manner as their ancestors of 3,000 BCE.

Early Civilization

Out of the initiative of females and from plant gathering, grew the idea of gardening, and with it, the domestication of animals. The earliest zone of gardening seems to have been Southeast Asia, where there also developed the art of sea voyaging that carried such domesticated plants as the yam, banana, and coconut. This time period also inaugurated an epoch when peoples who had long been apart began rediscovering each other and forming the first interdependent civilizations. Some of these civilizations were of hunting and gathering tribes; others were agricultural.

The beginnings of the world development toward higher, literate, and monumental civilizations are now generally recognized as having been established in the lower Tigris-Euphrates valleys. The Sumerians began settling there in the earlier part of the 4rth millennium BCE, and by 3500 BCE had established a cluster of city-states organized around monumental temple compounds. Ur, Kish, Lagash, Shuruppak, Uruk, Ubaid, Nippur, et. al, were the first cities of their kind in the world.

It was by the priests of these temple compounds that the arts of writing and mathematics were invented, together with an early science of exact astronomical observation which had been made possible by recorded notations. The measured movements of the seven visible planets (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) along an apparently circular path through the constellations, led to the realization of a mathematically ordered cosmos. And with this awareness, the focus of mythic concern shifted from the earlier animal and plant messengers (Animism/Shamanism) to the night sky and its mathematics. This cosmic order, illustrated in the heavens, was to be imitated on earth where the festivals of the religious year still follow the seasonal signs of the sun and moon. And to the God whose glory the heavens proclaim, there is daily lifted the Christian prayer: "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." (As above, so below!) The idea was carried to Egypt and appears there with the First Dynasty, c. 2850 BCE; to Crete and eastward to the Indus Valley, c. 2000 BCE; to China with the Shang Dynasty, c. 1500 BCE; and to Mexico four or five centuries later.

In the literate high cultures and their religions which first manifested in the temples of Sumer and in the pyramid tombs of Egypt, there was joined to the timeless earlier mysteries of the animal messengers, sacred mountains, and plant spirits, a new and grander mystery of the circling eons of the heavens. The Goddess Mother of the alternating tides of life and death, who formerly had been chiefly of this earth, then became of the cosmic order; and under innumerable names, she receives worship as the supreme personification of that ambiguous mystery--of life in death and death in life.

First Involution

Social and Spiritual Awareness

[The first involution] occurred c. 60,000-40,000 BCE among Neanderthals with the recognition of death and a belief in an afterlife. In all probability, this belief in an afterlife came from dreams during which ancient humans would have seen images of their world seemingly through a veil of sleep. Thus, through deductive reasoning, they assumed that there must have been a world parallel to their own where they might have seen mental images of those who had died before them carrying on in the same manner as they did when alive. It is highly probable that other members of the tribe would have had the same dream or similar dreams, which attests to a collective consciousness. Also upon awakening, they would have come back to their present world and upon remembering their dreams, they reasoned that there must be a world beyond the present which would have been exactly like the world they were living in.

Thus, death was like sleep; and upon awakening from death, the spirits of the dead would have entered the parallel world seen in their dreams. It also seems apparent that this analogy leads to the belief that the dead would need everything they had in their former life in order to survive in the afterlife. Thus, we have funerary objects and companions such as axes, knives, food, and other implements, as well as dogs, women, and children. It may have been believed that the dead would also need their family in the next life. They must have reasoned that death was not final, and was simply a means of passing from this life to the next.

The most notable Neanderthal burial was found in a cave located in Shanidar, Iraq and is dated c. 60,000 BCE. The grave consisted of a male with a badly crushed skull. The body had been laid to rest on a litter of evergreen boughs heaped with flowers. An infant had been placed first in the grave, two women above the infant; then there was made room for the man. [The text does not say how the infant and women died, nor does it give their relationship to the man. One can only assume that the infant was the man's child or grandchild and of the women, one or both may have been wives, or one may have been a daughter and/or mother of the infant.]

The surviving pollens of the flowers have been identified by microscopic analysis. The plants of this earliest known funereal bouquet were: 1) Achilles santolina--Yarrow; 2) Centaurea ajanis--Cornflower; 3) Centaurea solstitialis--St. Barnaby's Thistle; 4) Senecio vernalis--Ragwort or Groundsel; 5) Muscari spp.--Grape Hyacinth; 6) Ephedra altissima--Woody Horsetail; 7) Althea spp.--Hollyhock

There were at least eight species of plants found in the grave, seven of which listed above are medicinal and are still in use today by natives of Iraq and abroad. This discovery supplies evidence that botanical medicine had become a thriving practice as early as 60,000 BCE, if not earlier. This particular grave also tells us that this man was probably the healer of his group and was considered very important.

It is obvious that this man did not die of natural causes. In reference to the crushed skull, it has been argued that,
"men did not stop at the persuasion that death releases the soul to a free and active existence. They quite logically proceeded to assist nature by slaying men in order to liberate their souls for spiritual uses. Thus there arises one of the most widespread, distinct, and intelligible rites of animistic religion--that of funeral human sacrifice for the service of the dead. Also, when a man of rank dies and his soul departs to its own place, it is a rational inference of early philosophy that the souls of attendants--slaves and wives--put to death at his funeral will make the same journey and continue their service in the next life. And, the argument is stretched further to include the souls of new victims sacrificed in order to enter upon the same spiritual servitude."

[The women found in the grave also shed light on the institutions of marriage and/or slavery. We do not know of the women--which was a wife, the other a slave--or if both were slaves, or both wives. One or both of them may have been training to be healers themselves. What we do know is that the women were acknowledged by the group as part of the man's immediate family either by coupling, heredity, slavery, or by obligation for saving a life. We can also reason that the women and infant were not claimed by anyone else in the group. Otherwise, they might not have been buried with him. Keep in mind that this reasoning is only speculation. Of course it is possible that the women and infant may have been offered as a sacrifice, possibly against their will. Obviously the infant had no choice in the matter. It is also possible that the women chose to accompany the man in death. In conclusion, the grave or type of burial does not give definitive answers as to the social status of the women and infant, nor does it tell us the nature of their death.]

This particular burial site at Shanidar, Iraq had been in use by at least one tribe of Neanderthals for about 100,000 years judging by the approximate dates of the skeletons. Within this site, excavations have opened a succession of levels to a depth of 45 feet. At a depth dated c. 8600 BCE, 26 skeletons of a proto-Neolithic period were unearthed, beneath which at various levels, the remains were found of seven Neanderthal burials. That of c. 40,000 BCE was of a one-armed male, crippled since childhood, whose right arm and shoulder had never developed. And at some time in his life, his left arm had been amputated below the elbow. Thus, the man had no upper limbs. He had been about forty years old when he was killed by a roof fall within the burial cave. The fact that he had survived to that age tells us something about Old Stone Age Neanderthals not formerly suspected.

He had to have been cared for by his tribe all of his life, because with no arms or hands, he was obviously of no practical use to them. If anything, he would have been a burden. This tells us that Neanderthals (at least by this time period, if not earlier) were caring and compassionate, and may have felt some sense of loyalty and obligation to the tribal unit. They possessed a sense of humanitarian cohesion, and were apparently just as sentimental and honorable as we are today. They could easily have killed him when his physical handicap became obvious. They understood the sanctity of human life. Another gravesite which points to the idea of marriage or exclusive coupling among Neanderthals was discovered at La Ferrassie, France. It was a family burial consisting of a man, woman, and four children.

Second Involution

Religion

[Man's second involution, which occurred in conjunction with burial and exclusive coupling, was religion in the form of Animism/Shamanism. They had not yet developed the idea of an anthropomorphic deity. Instead, they invoked the spirits of the animals they hunted to ensure a successful hunt. The religion of the Neanderthals was very similar to that of the North American Plains Indians of centuries past and today. Neanderthals also had a holy man and/or medicine man among their tribes. Therefore, Pagans today look to Native American religious beliefs and practices as a living model to guide us in discovering our ancient European shamanic roots and connect with our own independent past.]

Evidence of Animism, which dates between ca. 100,000-20,000 BCE, was found in Switzerland, Germany, and Middle Franconia, where there were skeletal remains of the cave panther, cave lion, and cave bear were found in caves at a height of 7-8,000 feet above sea level. It has been observed that in hunting societies, the principal or largest food animal is the primary figure of the animistic religion (Buffalo, whale, etc). The most significant finds were at Wildkirchli (Wilderness Chapel) and Wildenmannlisloch (Wild Man's Den) in which was found a workshop for fashioning weapons (stone knapping), living quarters, and bone repository. These caves were the dwellings of the cave bear hunters. The workshop consisted of stone tables and benches, and there were quartzite chunks, a hand axe, and a scattering of stone and bone implements. A screened fire hearth marked the living quarters. In the far reaches of the cave, there were large stone cabinets containing numerous cave bear skulls. Some of the skulls were found in what appeared to be intentionally symbolic arrangements, such s a skull surrounded by a circle of small stones.

There can be no doubt that archeologists have found evidence of a religion founded in veneration of the cave bear, which was of the same period as that of the earliest known human burials. Thus, the interpretation of death as a passing had been applied to both man and animals as the objects of his hunting. The cave bear was cast in the role of Animal Master probably because it was the largest animal of this period and perhaps because the skeletal structure and behavior of the bear most closely resembled that of humans. They may have thought of the bear, in a spiritual sense, as their ancestor. Among hunting tribes, this is a commonly recognized power, upon whose goodwill the appearance of game animals is dependant. They devised elaborate rituals and ceremonies according to their lifestyle. On a good hunting day, rites of gratitude and appeasement were enacted to ensure that the next hunt would also be successful. Thus the rituals of burial and animal worship became complimentary.

The Ritual Meal

[I must inject something here as to the possible beginning of the ritual meal, a custom we adhere to in the present day.] In a five-chambered grotto on the Italian coast at Monte Circeo southeast of Rome, a single Neanderthal skull set in the midst of a roughly circular heap of stones has been found. Receptacles round about contained the remains of sacrificed animals, and the skull itself was broken open at the base, as were all those found at Ngandong. The headhunters of Borneo still open skulls that way in order to eat the brains, and there were a number similarly opened in the caves of Peking Man. Jane Goodall has told of one of her chimpanzees enjoying the brains of a young baboon from its freshly taken head, broken open at the crown. Apparently, primates like the taste of each other's brains. However, the formal arrangements of the Solo skulls, and the way in which Monte Circeo had been set upon its pile of stones, suggests not simply cannibalism, but a ritual communion of some kind.

[This is not as far-fetched as it sounds. A scene of the Faces of Death series documents a similar custom still prevalent in the Middle East where the brains of the Rhesus monkey are considered a delicacy. In the scene, there were several people seated around a table, in the middle of which was placed a live, bound Rhesus monkey, with only its head protruding through the center of the table. Each of the dinner guests took turns hitting the monkey in the head with wooden mallets until its skull broke open. After which, they ate the monkey's raw brains with appetizer forks. I do not know anything about the possible symbolism of the Rhesus monkey within this culture, nor the occasion for the meal. But it was obviously a special meal of some kind.]

"In no nation, however savage and crude, are any human actions performed with more sacred solemnity than those of religion, marriage, burial, [and the feast]. The institution of marriage exhibits variations. Nevertheless, the elementary idea can be recognized of an institution whereby men and women are joined in a special kind of social and legal dependence, for the purpose of founding and maintaining a family. Marriage, so defined, appears to be indicated in the caves of La Ferrassie and Shanidar. What the forms or form of marriage may have been, we do not know; nor can we tell whether ceremonial manners of disposal of the dead other than burial may have been observed. However, it does appear as though these elementary institutions may have come simultaneously to manifestation when, in the course of the evolution of life, the first degree had been attained of the sapient mind. The evidence for burial is secure, that for marriage is circumstantial, while that for religion asks for a more generous definition. Religion is the understanding of the propitiation or conciliation of powers superior to humans which are believed to direct and control the course of nature and human life. Thus defined, religion consists of two elements, theoretical and practical--namely a belief in powers higher than humans and an attempt to propitiate and please them. But unless the belief leads to a corresponding practice, it is not a religion but merely a theology or philosophy."

[Concerning the ritual feast, one can speculate that the eating of brains brings one closer to the spiritual essence of the subject, making it a religious ritual of communion, such as the Eucharist, but we can not be certain of that since we do not know what Neanderthal Man was thinking. Furthermore, we do not know whether the subject from whom the skulls were taken were members of the tribe and had been sacrificed for reasons unknown, or if the subjects were members of a neighboring tribe and were killed during battle or taken as sacrificial victims. We also do not know if they were male, female, or both, or if women took part in the feast. The act of cannibalism among Neanderthals may have only been the partaking of a rare delicacy which inspired the ceremonial placement and seating arrangement which has been handed down to us in the form of the evening meal, Thanksgiving feast, and various religious sacraments throughout the world.]

Third Involution

Goddess Worship

[The third involution is of Cro Magnon Man--modern Homo sapiens--our direct ancestor, who inhabited the Dordogne region on the southern tip of France. Since we know very little of Cro Magnon's beginnings, we can only assume that they held all of the social institutions established among the Neanderthals. Within 3,000 years after Neanderthal's extinction, Cro Magnon had dispersed across western Europe where Neanderthal Man had reigned.] The Venus of Laussel ca. 20,000-18,000 BCE is a female figure carved into the wall of a limestone rock shelter. She is shown with her elevated right hand holding a bison horn engraved with 13 vertical strokes, with her left hand resting on her belly. She represents both the mythology of the hunt [and the human reverence for the mystery of birth and the female power to bring forth life and preside over it. This finding also suggests that Paleolithic humans had knowledge of and revered deity in the form of a Goddess. They believed that the feminine power was responsible for their livelihood and survival, for all life comes from the female. Man had not yet learned of his role in reproduction.]

"The 13 marks on the horn also represent the 13 crescent moons. Judging from this, the horn may also have been a lunar symbol. It is also the number of days between the first crescent to just before the days of the full moon." The left hand laid on the belly may have been significant of the womb as the vessel of birth and rebirth, which in its monthly mystery is matched by the measures of the moon. It is proposed that the Venus of Laussel illustrates a legend well known to the period. There is a comparable legend known to a number of the bison-hunting tribes of the North American plains of a woman who married a bison and through her life-restoring power, became the institutor of the hunting rites by which their lives were restored of the slaughtered beasts. Such rites are well known to hunting cultures everywhere. There is no reason to believe that the races of the Paleolithic knew nothing of them. [We can also go so far as to say that these rites were handed down from the Paleolithic. This would mean that the symbol is both a horn and a lunar symbol.] The phases of the moon were the same for Paleolithic humans as they are for us today; so also were the processes of the womb. It may therefore be that the initial observation which gave birth in the mind of humans to a mythology of one mystery involving earthly and celestial things, was the recognition of an accord between these two time-factored orders: the celestial order of the waxing moon and the earthly order of the womb.

At the Abi du Roc aux Sorciers, located near Angles-sur-Anglin (Vienne), there was discovered a wall bearing three female presences, dated 13-11,000 BCE, chiseled in the rock. One thinks of the triple-goddess clusters of later European mythologies: the Three Graces, Fates, Furies, Norns, and the great triad of the Judgment of Paris, Aphrodite, Hera, and Athene. The Paleolithic triad is standing on a bison so that, there is again, an explicit association with this animal. A third significant site was discovered at La Madeleine (Tarn), where there are reclining female figures carved in a style unique to the Old Stone Age which is also dated c. 13-11,000 BCE, and would be contemporary with Abi du Roc aux Sorciers. Both figures lie stretched out in positions of repose; an unexpected delicacy of line and an elasticity in the surface of the skin are expressed. A new representation of the female figure was here announced: a long-legged, slender figure with smaller breasts. Development had followed a radically different direction before its time. But, as in nature, art has sometimes put forth strangely premature blossoms which are condemned to perish. The figures appear on either side of the cave entrance. Below the figure on the left, there is a bison. To the right of the right-hand figure, there is a horse. The classic formula of a Magdalenian bison/horse composition is here displayed. The attitude of the women is unique in Paleolithic art, reflecting a nonchalant sense of freedom of which we know no other example. We may also assume from this artistic observation that Paleolithic woman was independent of man. Roughly another hundred centuries later, there is the carved square block of a Celtic, Gallo-Roman altar, excavated from the site of the Paris Cathedral of Notre Dame, on one face of which, there is standing a bull beneath a tree with three cranes perched upon its head. In Celtic mythologies, the Triple Goddess appears in the form of a crane. Both the bull and the horse are representations of the masculine power, over which the Goddess presides.

Religious Icons

Also contemporary with the Venus of Laussel, was the Venus of Willendorf, c. 20,000-18,000 BCE, found in Austria. It is the earliest of many female statuettes (3-6" high) that had appeared over a large part of Europe. All such images are without feet and the heads are featureless, with the accent falling on the breasts, sexual triangle, and buttocks. The Venus of Lespugue, from the foothills of the Pyrenees (Haute-Garonne) is the undoubted masterpiece. It is fashioned of mammoth ivory, 5 2" high, and translates the most typical features of its genre into an aesthetic statement. These features are in an arrangement that bears witness to a conceived abstraction. The Venus of Willendorf is similarly symbolic as are all the other figures in this series. Only one example, that from Dolni Vestonice in Moravia (Czechoslovakia), is exceptional in that the sexual triangle is missing. Also, there are four holes in the top of the head which suggest that flowers, leaves, or feathers may have been inserted to signify the power of the Goddess to foster seasonal growth. Otherwise, it may simply have been decorative. Of considerable note, is a tiny ivory head from Brassempouy (Landes) with facial features and is the only one of its kind found thus far. The hair, eyes, nose, cheeks, chin, and neck are clearly discernable. It is only lacking a mouth, and it appears to have been broken off from its body. It hints of the likeness of a specific woman and tells something of the features and form of the Cro Magnon woman.

From European Russia, many notable finds have come from stations of the Late Paleolithic mammoth hunt which continued in that region. At Yeliseevici, there was uncovered an accumulation of mammoth skulls arranged in a circle with a Venus statuette among them as a Goddess/Matron of the hunt. At Kostienki, on the right bank of the Don River, a number of images have been found, three of which were discovered in a rounded niche about 6 feet from the hearth. One of limestone about a foot tall (the largest yet found anywhere) had been broken in four pieces. Other signs at this site and at other settlements along the Don show that an unknown disaster overtook these people and it was thought important that the statuettes be broken.

The most interesting Russian discovery has been made at Mal'ta in Siberia, northwest of Irkutsk. Here were found 20 female statuettes of mammoth ivory, one represented as though clothed in a cave lion's skin, the others nude. Fourteen animal burials were also found: six of the arctic fox, six of deer (each with antlers and hindquarters missing), the head and neck of a large bird, and the foot of a mammoth. Also found were six flying birds and one swimming, made of mammoth ivory, representing geese or ducks, along with an ivory fish with a spiral labyrinth on its side--the earliest known spiral in the history of art; an ivory baton, possibly a shaman's staff; and most remarkably, the skeleton of a four year old child.

The skeleton was found lying in the fetal position with its head facing east, the direction of rebirth and the rising sun. Over the grave was a curved large mammoth tusk, and there was a large amount of red ochre in the grave--a common finding among Paleolithic sites. The child was also ornamented with mammoth ivory jewelry. One medallion was engraved, on one side, with three wavy serpents; on the other side, a spiral of seven turns with "S" forms enclosing it. Again, it is the earliest known spiral in the history of art. This site is dated c. 16-13,000 BCE and would have been contemporary with the Venus of Laussel. The inhabitants of pre-historic Russia were probably a fishing and hunting culture as is evidenced by the effigies of fish and geese or ducks. They would have marked the changing seasons by the flight pattern and behavior of these birds, just as we do today. These birds would also have been hunted as a food source. The massive amount of mammoth ivory is self-evident.

Also self-evident are the numerous female figurines distributed across the whole of the European Upper Paleolithic field which bare undisputable testimony of Late Stone Age mythology--that of the Goddess who presided over and was responsible for the hunt, pregnancy and childbirth, women's mysteries, the hearth and home, survival of the tribe, seasons of the earth, phases of the moon, death and rebirth. She would also have been a Goddess of fertility of vegetation and seasonal growth. The Naked Goddess of the Paleolithic was depicted in association with the bison, horse, and mammoth, and possibly associated with the snake which was depicted in a set of three, as was the Three Goddess found in the cave at Abi du Roc aux Sorciers. She was also possibly associated with the arctic fox, deer, and geese/ducks. We do not know the symbolism of the fox, deer, or water fowl; however the snake, in modern times, represents rebirth or transition because of the shedding of its skin. [Likewise, in our day, the Triple Goddess represents the Maiden, Mother, and Crone, as well as, the three primary phases of the moon--Waxing (Crescent/Horned), Full and New. We can not be certain that this symbolism was the same in Paleolithic times; however, it had to have evolved in the distant past for us to be so certain of it today. What we can be certain of is that Goddess worship was the second religion and that it was practiced both independently and in conjunction with Animism/Shamanism--the first religion.]

Of further interest concerning the Mal'ta cave is the imagery of the water birds, and serpents, which are specifically cobras--depicted with large, oval heads. [I remind the reader that the Mal'ta cave was found in Siberia. There are no cobras in Siberia; cobras are native to Asia, and are profoundly revered in India.] Also revered in India is the wild gander, which is symbolic of the universal spirit and the flight of the spirit. [Therefore, these two images are of Asian origin, rather than European, and suggests that the inhabitants of Siberia had traveled there from Asia. This discovery leaves several unanswered questions: did the inhabitants of the Don River region travel to Asia after the unknown disaster evidenced at Kostienki, and then leave for Siberia from there? And if so, did someone stay behind to carry on their mythology to the present day? What happened in Asia that would have caused them to leave? What of the inhabitants of Mal'ta; did they follow the mammoth herds across the land bridge to North America, or did they travel back to Asia?]

The Merging of Two Religions

Also found in the cave at Laussel, dating 20-18,000 BCE, was a female with the head and shoulders of a male beneath her in what appears to be a birth scene, or the earliest known representation of coitus. There were also fragments of stone found inscribed with female genital symbols and another figure of a male. [This finding suggests that man may have discovered his role in reproduction about the same time as the development of Goddess worship. In any case, it represents a balance of powers, of masculine and feminine, Animal and Goddess Worship.]

Only a few miles from Laussel is the cave of Lascaux, one of 17 painted temple caves discovered across France and northern Spain, all of which are dated between c. 17-12,000 BCE. Here, we see the idea of religious sites separate from living quarters. [The cave of Laussel may also have been one of the earliest known temples dedicated to Goddess Worship. The cave of Abi du Roc aux Sorciers, dated c. 13-11,000 BCE, would have been contemporary with these painted temple caves, and attests to the fact that Goddess Worship and Animism/Shamanism shared a harmonious existence. Within these painted caves, we also see evidence of male/female balance depicted by the animal drawings and their accompanying symbols. This tells us that our Paleolithic ancestors saw this balance in nature, more specifically in the animals they hunted. However, it was a symbolic representation of this balance as they were not male and female pairs of the same species. Rather, the animal pairings were of different species--one representing the feminine (found associated with the Goddess in other caves previously mentioned), the other representing the masculine, found in association with the Shaman. This tells us that Paleolithic humans had not yet developed the idea of a masculine form of deity.

We can neither confirm nor deny the existence of a female shaman during this or earlier time periods. It is possible because of Goddess Worship, but archeologists have found not evidence of this. Secondly, the shaman drawings of the caves are depicted as having male genitals and in association with animals which are represented in relation with a masculine power. Lastly, shamans who themselves were attuned to these unseen powers would have enjoyed a god-like status among their tribes. Therefore, we can deduce that the shamans of this period were male and that they represented a masculine form of deity not yet recognized in our modern sense. However, they understood its existence as evidenced by the specific animals chosen to represent this masculine power. We can also conclude that the Goddess or feminine power played a welcome and active role in men's mysteries.]

Early Religious Symbolism and Art

[Some of the animals depicted in these caves were long extinct by the time they were painted. This tells us that the mythology portrayed was probably in existence during the time of the woolly mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, cave lion, and cave bear, but that humans had not yet learned how to draw. Thus, art was born of humankind's psychological need to visually depict his/her religious beliefs possibly to formalize them, to convey the message, "This is what we believe, and our beliefs are set in stone."]

The female symbols were triangles, concentric ovals, rectangles, and claviforms. The male symbols were barbed strokes, short lines, and dots. The male symbols were found almost exclusively at the point where the sanctuary begins and in the remotest part of the caves; they also appear in the transitions leading from one central composition to another. Within central compositions, female symbols are associated with symbols of the male set. The caves were also separated into female and male sides. On the female side, are the ox, bison, and hind. On the male side are the horse, stag, and ibex (goat). In the caves at Arcy-sur-Cure and Pech Merle, the mammoth (male) appears with the bison (female), whereas at Baume Latrone, the bison's companions are the lion and horse (both male). The mammoth seems complimentary to bovine (bison, bull)/horse arrangements. What constituted the heart and core of the caves is the panels in the central part, dominated by animals of the female category and female signs, supplemented by animals of the male category and male signs. The entrance to these caves is decorated with male symbols, either animals or signs. The back of the cave is decorated with the same signs, reinforced by horned men and the rarer animals (cave lion or woolly rhinoceros). Animals were also depicted in herds and were portrayed as though being hunted.

A third point of significance is that the number of species represented is much mower than the number of species known to have existed at the time. Paleolithic artists did not portray just any animal, but animals of certain species, and these did not necessarily play an important role in their daily life. The primary animals are the bison and horse; next in importance are the hinds, mammoths, oxen, ibexes, and stags. Bears, lions, and rhinoceroses play an important role, but there is only one representation of each per cave, and they are not present in every cave. [Apparently, the worship of some of these animals had survived from humankind's earliest beginnings.] Evidence of surviving bear worship was found in a cave at Montespan (Haute-Garonne). A clay mound in the shape of a bear was found in the middle of a chamber with the skull of a bear between its paws--the remnant of a bear skin that had been draped over the effigy. The clay body had been punctured with a number of holes as though it had been dealt sharp blows during a hunting rite.

Returning to the cave of Lascaux, there is a bison/horse group separated from the rest of the composition found in one of the tunnels at the end of the Axial Gallery. Further down the tunnel, there are a few engraved horses, at the end of which are the red markings that usually indicate the end of decorated parts of the caves. The Axial Gallery consists of two alternating groups: cow/rectangles/horses (female), and bull/barbed sign/cow (male), both groups flanked by stags; there are complimentary ibexes, and an isolated bison/horse composition. In the Passageway, there is an ox/horse and ibex group with a bison/horse composition. In the Nave and to the right, is a frieze of the heads of five stags. To the left is a bison/horse/ibex group with associated rectangular and barbed signs along with an ox/horse composition which also includes male and female signs. These are followed by two bison, back to back. Then, there is the Chamber of Felines with about thirty figures of animals and a great number of signs, distributed among three sub chambers. In the first two are six uncolored engravings of lions among horses, ibexes, a bull, and a number of male and female signs. The last sub chamber comprises horses, stags, bison, a rhinoceros, strokes and other signs, and a series of red dots.

Role of the Shaman

Now we move on to the shamans themselves beginning with the cave of Les Trois Freres located at Montesquieu-Aventes (Ariege) in the Pyrenees, dated c. 14,000 BCE, 2,000 years earlier than Lascaux where the images are engraved in stone rather than painted. At the end of a long passageway, the is a large gallery with a lot of red and black dots. Then, there is a very low, narrow tunnel that ends in another large gallery where an entire wall is covered from top to bottom with engravings of animals that lived at that time in southern France: the mammoth, rhinoceros, bison, wild horse, bear, wild ass, reindeer, wolverine, and musk ox. Smaller animals also appear: snowy owls, hares, and fish; there are also darts everywhere flying at the game. Several pictures of bears have holes where the images were struck and blood is shown spouting from their mouths.

Engraved above the entrance is the famous Sorcerer of Les Trois, the Animal Master Shaman presiding over the animals there assembled. He is poised in profile in a dancing posture, with the antlered head turned to face the hall. It is the only picture rendered in paint. Its legs and feet are that of a man; the tail is that of a reindeer; the genitals are that of a lion; the body, upper torso, front legs and paws, mane, head, eyes, and ears are also of a lion; and, the antlers are that of a reindeer. Along the opposite wall is another engraving which includes: thirty bison, ten horses, four ibexes, one reindeer, and a rhinoceros. At the top left is the head of a lion, and hidden among the animals are human faces. Central to this hunting scene is a dancing shaman wearing the head and skin of a bison. Its legs and feet are human with human male genitals. Its arms and legs are the forequarters and hooves of a bison. And, as though guarding the way to the main sanctuary, there are in a chapel just before it, two lion heads with bodies in profile, but with faces and eyes turned upon the entering initiate.

We are now closer to understanding the religious beliefs of Paleolithic humans and their ritualistic ceremonies, [primarily that of men's mysteries and their initiation rites.] The Shaman becomes one with the spirit of the animals in order to direct them and preside over them, thus becoming the Animal Master as was the Cave Bear of long ago. The beast to be slaughtered is interpreted as a willing victim, or as a knowing participant in a sacred covenant wherein the mystery of life is comprehended in its celebration. The essential effect upon the young boys, who were by these rites made men and initiated hunters, would have been the opening of their minds to the secondary nature of the passing forms of time that they should become capable of expressing a reverence for life in the act of taking it. [This belief is held among tribal cultures around the world, but how can we be certain that this is what Paleolithic man was thinking? They may have only been taking shots at the bear to practice for an upcoming hunt. Considering their limited number and frailty of weapons, the aim would had to have been precise and their shots fatal; i.e., "one shot, one kill." Their survival depended upon the number of animals they killed every hunting season. It only seems logical that they would practice before the actual hunt, just as hunters do today. Therefore, are we justified in alluding to any modern ideal in discussing the imagery of a Paleolithic sanctuary? Is it scientifically proper to apply our own rationalistic laws of thought to the interpretation of forms within a Paleolithic temple cave?]

"If we cannot assume that a language is not understood by those who speak it, we must assume that a doctrine is coeval with the symbolic formulae in which it is expressed. The symbolic formulae here to be noted are: 1) A departure from the light and a world of time-factored knowledge and relationships, through a subterranean opening, into darkness; 2) A difficult, dangerous, frightening struggle through a narrow, tube like passage; 3) A releasing entry into a vast chamber, torch lit, where 4) a semi-human, semi-animal form presides above an everlasting 'Happy Hunting Ground'. All these complicated hidden passages lent themselves to extraordinary effects which would be inexplicable to the uninitiated novices, who must have been deeply impressed."

In the immediately neighboring cave, the Tuc d' Audoubert, also dated, c. 14,000 BCE, seems to have been part of the system of Les Trois, separated by ten yards or so of roof-fall. There is a succession of chambers that can be entered only by way of a very small opening. At the end of a gallery, there are two bison modeled in clay against a projecting rock--a male following a female. They probably represent fertility rites destined to obtain multiplication of the species. In a neighboring recess, there are clay puddings kneaded into phallus form and, on the smooth surface of the clay pool, are fifty small-sized heel prints of a young human being. In another sanctuary is the antlered figure of a dancer. In the cave of Le Gabillou at Dordogne, is the figure of a man with a bison's head and tail.

Significance of the Lion-Sun Theme

[Now, we come to the symbolism of the lion.] On a face of a rock in northwest Africa, in the Sahara-Atlas Mountains, high above a series of engravings of elephants, giraffes, an antelope, and a buffalo, there is to be seen where the first rays of the sun should fall upon it, the engraved outline of a lion's face in a pose and position like that of the Sorcerer of Les Trois. In the Sahara-Atlas engraving, the lion is visibly in this position, as it is also in the entrance to the sanctuary and organization of the figures of Les Trois. These two works are of the last millennia of Paleolithic art: the Sorcerer, c. 12,000 BCE, and Lion of Atlas, c. 7, 000 BCE. The lion, in its mythic role, is traditionally a solar beast. And the position of the Sahara-Atlas lion, daily touched by the first rays of the sun, illustrates this theme. In the Spanish cave of Altamira, which is about contemporary with that of Les Trois (14,000 BCE), bulls are painted on the ceiling. Leaning back to view them, one might be gazing at the pictured constellations of the night sky. In a sanctuary at the back of the cave there is a featureless head of a rock, showing large, round solar eyes. Generally among hunting tribes, the sun is the model and Patron of the hunter and his life-sustaining art, the sun's rays being equivalent to his darts, and the night stars equivalent to the beasts to be slain.

"In light of what we know of the mythological world of Animism/Shamanism, as carried forward by today's cultures, the high Deity of their pantheons is typically the Sun. The testing Father, master of all the trials to which young boys are subjected, is again the Sun. The Sun is both the testing Father and model of the hunter's and warrior's given task. By submission to and identification with his will, beyond pity and fear when accomplishing the essential act of living--which is killing, the hunter would know himself to be at one with the order of his own animal nature. This would be the fruit of the realization of these initiations."

How Religious Symbolism Affects the Human Psyche

[Here, I will use personal observations of human mating practices to give the reader a more familiar example on which to base the following deductive reasoning.] Many of the choreographic patterns developed through the intermeshing sequences of stereotyped responses to specific signals from the partner have been learned. All are common to the species, released from within compulsively in response to specific sign stimuli. [The sign stimuli for a man would be a woman's breasts and buttocks in combination with the movement of a woman's body. The man may become aroused at the sight of the woman. This arousal may result in an erection, the sight and movement of which is sign stimuli for the woman, as would be the man's touch or kiss which may result in further sign stimuli for the man released by the woman's response--erect and swollen nipples and/or wetness in her vagina. Sometimes, however courting among humans fails and any further advances should cease.]

As far as available facts go, this dependence upon only one or a few sign stimuli seems to be characteristic of innate responses. Conditioned (learned) reactions are not usually dependent upon a limited set of sign stimuli, but on more complex stimulus situations. The strict dependence of an innate reaction on a certain set of sign stimuli leads to the conclusion that there must be a special neuro sensory mechanism that releases the reaction and is responsible for its selective susceptibility to such a special combination of sign stimuli. This mechanism is called the Innate Releasing Mechanism (IRM). [The man's erection and wetness in the woman's vagina are examples of an IRM.] In general, no two reactions of a species have the same IRM. The fact that each reaction has its own releasing mechanism may lead to ambivalent behavior when two sign stimuli belonging to different reactions are present at the same time.

These innate releasing mechanisms exist in the human nervous system. The mouth waters and the stomach growls when the nose catches the scent of cooking food. IRMs are of two sorts; the first is already noted in the above example of mating practices. The other is one of self-preservation, flight or fight. Baby chicks just hatched will scamper for shelter is a hawk flies overhead, but not if the bird is a gull, or a pigeon. Furthermore, if a wooden model of a hawk were flown over their coop, they react as though it were alive--unless it were drawn backward, then there is no response. Here we have a precise image, never seen before, yet recognized with reference to its form and its form in motion, and it is linked to an immediate, unplanned, unlearned system of appropriate action: flight to cover. The image of the inherited enemy is already sleeping in the nervous system, and along with it, the reaction. Even if all the hawks in the world were to vanish, their image would still sleep in the soul of the chick--never to be roused, unless by some accident of art--the wooden hawk.

Likewise, in the central nervous system of the species Homo sapiens, there sleeps any number of such archaic sign stimuli, surviving from [our] centuries of evolution during periods of the woolly mammoth and the cave bear. Not only of woolly mammoths, but memories--deeper--of some seat of silence, do seem to sleep profoundly in the nerves, which wake at times with a shudder, mysteriously, to some sound or sign of recollection.

The animal, directed by innate endowment, comes to terms with its natural environment, not as a consequence of any long slow learning through experience, not through trial and error, but immediately and with the certainty of recognition. The sign stimuli that releases the responses are immutable and correspond to the inner readiness of the creature as precisely as key to lock and are known as "key-tumbler" structures. There also systems of animal response that are established by particular experiences. In such, the structure of the IRM is described as "open." It is susceptible to "impression" or "imprint." And where these open structures exist, the first imprint is definitive, requires sometimes less than a minute for its completion, and is irrevocable.

[This is what happens when someone experiences Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as the result of some traumatic episode at any given point in a person's life, especially during childhood. Furthermore, if the trauma occurred before the child is old enough to remember the traumatic event, there will still exist within the subconscious of the child the innate releasing mechanism which sparks an immediate, emotional and unexplainable reaction to the sign stimuli that initially triggered the "memory" (either purely emotional or in combination with a mental image). Since these impressions are irrevocable, it is therefore safe to assume that a person who has experienced a traumatic event or series of events, will continue to react to specific sign stimuli relative to the event throughout that person's life.]

Imprinting is not to be compared with conditioned learning, which is not only slow and tedious, but also usually dependent on more complex stimulus situations. An imprint occurs instantaneously, at a moment of ripened readiness when, in a critical period of the animal's growth, the innate disposition intended comes to maturity. Most of the IRMs of the human species are of this kind, "open," open to imprinting; and the imprintings are culture bound, specific to the time and place of the individual's birth, earliest impressions, and development. Yet, in spite of the differences of the sign stimuli in the various theaters of human life, the innate energies to be released remain the same throughout the species. They are not of the culture, but of nature: innate, transpersonal, pre-rational, and when altered, compulsive.

The address of mythological symbols is directly to these centers; and the responses proper to their influence are neither rational nor under personal control. The symbols function as energy releasing and directing signs; and in traditionally structured cultures, they are deliberately imprinted in vividly impressive (often painful) rites. In this sense, a mythology might be defined as a corpus of culturally maintained sign stimuli fostering the development and activation of a specific type, or constellation of types, of human life. Its address is not to rationality, but to primal centers of the nervous system, "central excitatory mechanisms" (CEMs) and "innate releasing mechanisms" (IRMs), such as motivate the human animal, which has developed zones in the brain that are unmatched in any other beast and are open, to extraordinary imprintings and to possibilities of intentional learning and performance otherwise unknown to the animal world.

The Survival of an Ancient Legend

Here, we turn back to the painted cave of Lascaux, c. 12,000 BCE, where archeologists have made the most intriguing discovery of all. Upon entering the Rotunda, there is one animal which stands out among all the others and it is the only beast of its kind. It is not represented in any of the other caves. Secondly, it is an animal which could not have lived in this world even in the Paleolithic Age. It has the shape and form of a bull with two very long, straight horns pointed directly forward from its head, and its belly hangs nearly to the ground. [The gazelle has horns very similar to this, but the gazelle did not exist during this time period. Furthermore, the creature in the painting is bovine; the gazelle would have descended from a species of deer. And, it would have occurred in Africa, not in France. It appears to be a creature of fantasy, and one can see how humans may have developed the idea of the Unicorn. The creature is so rare that it only appears in one cave. And like the Unicorn, it has no biological predecessor or descendant. It seems to have been a figment of the imagination in the Paleolithic mind which lives in our minds in the form and myth of the Unicorn. However, I do not know how the fantasy creature changed from a bovine form to equine because horses also existed during this time period. I have also seen Unicorns depicted in the form of a goat. The image of the pan-Celtic Cernnunos also comes to mind, which is depicted with two long, straight horns or antlers pointing upward from the top of his head. Likewise, these antlers are also of an animal that does not and could not have existed in the Celtic world, which includes: Spain, France, and the British Isles. Cernnunos is also a God of animal fertility and a God of the wild hunt.] Of further note is the small animal standing directly in front of the creature, so close that its rump touches the creature's chest. It can be argued that this creature represents animal fertility or presides over fertility.

Lastly, we move to the Shaft of Lascaux, which is about sixteen feet deep. On the way down, there is a small horse's head. On the opposite wall and to the left, there is a rhinoceros, walking away, under whose tail is an arrangement of six black dots representing the animal's dung. Behind this beast and to the right, there is the figure of a man (crudely drawn like a stick figure) with out flying arms. The man has an erect phallus and what would appear to be a bird's head, or perhaps he is wearing a mask. His hands are also birdlike, and there is the figure of a bird perched upon a vertical staff at his right. Birds are rare in Paleolithic art and decorated objects, and their position in symbolism is uncertain. At the bottom of the staff is a barb and there is a barbed stroke diagonally below the man's feet, both of which are male signs. Birds in later shamanistic contexts are normal vehicles of astral projection. Hence it is entirely possible that this man may be a shaman rapt in a trance. Before him is a large bison bull, eviscerated by a spear from its rectum and emerging through its phallus. There is no one behind the bull from whose hand the lance might have been thrown. Also, the bull's head is positioned as though looking back at the source of the lance or looking at the lance itself. The male sign of the barbed stroke may be complimented by the falling entrails of the wounded beast, which descend in four concentric ovals and may be interpreted as a female sign. This may be a variant form of the assimilation of phallus-to-spear, and vulva-to-wound.

Of further interest is the dwelling site of Laugerie Basse, where an engraved reindeer antler was discovered. On one side, there is a bison marked with one stroke and an ithyphallic man with outstretched arms. On the other side of the antler is a horse. The same scene with the same protagonists turns up in sculptured form at Le Roc de Sers and in painted form at Villars. These scenes illustrate a long-held legend which is at least 5,000 years old, and is the second known documented mythology--the first being Goddess Worship. From the position of the illustration in the most inaccessible area of Lascaux, it may have been the inspiring legend of the entire cave with the beast in the Rotunda representing a projection of the power of the shaman in the Shaft, the magic of its pointing horns corresponding to his pointing phallus. [Cernnunos is also depicted with an erect phallus.]

By analogy, there is still practiced in Australia a lethal phallic rite of magic known as the "pointing bone." If a man has been "boned," his dream will show it. First, he sees an opening in the ground, and then two or three men walk toward him within the opening. When they are near, they draw a bone out of their own body. It comes from the flesh between the scrotum and the rectum. The sorcerer or shaman, before he "bones" his victim, makes him fall asleep by strewing in the air some semen or excrement which he has taken from his own penis or rectum. The man who uses the bone holds it under his penis, as if a second penis were protruding from him. Several men hold a "pointing bone" with both hands and pass it just beside the penis. The victim is asleep, and the "bone" goes straight into his scrotum.

It is improper to make comparisons of this kind, jumping centuries and culture provinces. However, the Australian Aborigines have had spear-throwers for some 7,000 years, and so too had the people of Lascaux, 10-20,000 years earlier. Stenciled hands appear in Australia on the rock walls of the Tombs Shelter and Kinniff Cave; so also at El Castillo, Gargas, Pech Merle, and many more of the great European caves. Furthermore, we have learned something of the perdurability of Old Stone Age forms and principles; and where the idea of a spear-thrower could have been handed down, so too can that of a "pointing bone". The horns of the Lascaux creature are remarkably similar in form to the "pointing sticks" worn on the head by performers in ceremonies of the Australian men's dancing ground. And further, the position of the lance piercing the anus of the Lascaux bull and emerging at the penis, spilling the bowels from the area between, is exactly the spot affected by the "pointing bone" of the Australians. Finally, the account of the Australian rite of "boning" lends a plausible suggestion of the force of the pointing penis of the shaman of Lascaux and the six black dots beneath the rhino's tail as representing the magic of its dung. If originally a feature of the legend of the pictured bison scene, the rhino may have played the role of the shaman's trance vehicle. Where so many features fall into place, it is difficult not to suspect a connection.

Conclusion

As the infant is linked to its mother in a profound participation mystique, even to such a degree that it will absorb and thus inherit her tensions and anxieties, so has [humankind] been linked to the moods and weathers of its Mother Earth. And as the infant unfolds according to the laws of growth of its nature, so too has this human race evolved in the way of a single unfolding life through its millions of separate individuals in all quarters of the earth and through all weatherings. Nor has there been any period of the long history when the interaction of these two forces--the inward of organic growth and outward of a shaping fosterage--was it more evident than during the last of the glacial ages, when the stage of Homo sapiens sapiens (modern man) was attained in all quarters simultaneously while the mothering earth itself was passing through a season of great transformations. Biologically, in what we call our animal nature, we are as deeply grounded as the animals themselves; moved and motivated by energies that have been generating, shaping, and destroying living creatures on earth for hundreds of millions of years. The patterns of impulse and response inherent in nerves and protoplasm have thus a long pre-human history, painting back through many stages of ascent from the earliest beginnings of life in Paleozoic brine to the present chaos of international affairs. And from first to last, the question has been, "To eat, or to be eaten?," of which desire and terror are the effects--as represented in the old creation myth from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad of that primordial Being of All Beings who, in the beginning, thought "I" and immediately experienced, first fear, then desire.

The desire was to become two, and then to procreate. And in this primal constellation of themes--first of unconscious unity; then of a consciousness of selfhood and immediate fear of extinction. Next desire, first for another, then for union with that other--we have a set of "elementary ideas" that have been sounded and inflected, transposed, developed, and sounded again and again throughout all the mythologies of [humankind] through the ages. And as a constant strain underlying the everlasting play of these themes, there is the primal polar tension of a consciousness of duality against an earlier knowledge of unity that is pressing still for realization.

The first law of nature is self-preservation. However, one can be so immediately moved by the pain and danger of another that, forgetting one's own well being and safety, spring to that other's rescue, even at the risk of the rescuer's life. This expression of compassion is the result of a subconscious acknowledgement that "I" and "that other" are one. Our sense and experience of separateness is of a secondary order, an effect of the way in which light-world consciousness experiences objects within a conditioning frame of space and time. More deeply, we are of one life: which is the philosopher's way of stating something that in a biological sense becomes clearly evident when the mind's eye, running back along the branching tree of life, comes to its Archeozoic root.

Sources:

Historical Atlas of World Mythology,
Vol.I: The Way of the Animal Powers,
PartI: Mythologies of the Primitive Hunters and Gatherers, passim
" The History of Paganism in Europe" Celtic Traditionalist Order of Druids; 1997 Visited 5/21/2004

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