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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in cave painting

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Fat Lady and the Animal Man

Some 30,000 years ago, they first appear: the Fat Lady and the Animal Man.

For 20,000 years after that, the ancestors kept making Fat Ladies and Animal Men.

We find their likenesses across Eurasia, literally from Spain to Siberia.

We don't know who they were or what they meant to the people that made them. Across such vast distances and time-spans, it's likely that they meant many things to many different people.

What's maybe most amazing is that, across those vast distances and time-spans, they're still recognizably themselves.

Some decades ago it became intellectually fashionable to deny that the Fat Lady and the Animal Man were gods. In the case of the Animal Man, the word shamanism got bandied about a lot: an explanation that explains very little, really.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks for the close reading and the corrections, Andrew. The development of agriculture is, of course, exactly what distinguishes
  • Andrew
    Andrew says #
    "Some decades ago it became intellectually fashionable to deny that the Fat Lady and the Animal Man were gods." Do we have any pr
  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    Nicely said.Cheers, Tasha

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Womb of the Earth

Chauvet Cave, in southeastern France, is one of Europe's oldest painted caves, thought to date from the Aurignacian period, between 32,000 and 30,000 years ago, but its secrets will be immediately sensible to any witch today.

In Werner Herzog's 2010 film Cave of Forgotten Dreams, we travel with the film-maker through chamber after chamber of stunning animal art. Finally we reach the last and deepest of all, the culminating holy of holies, the room known as the Gallery of Lions.

In the wall directly opposite the entrance is a 10-foot vertical crevice, looking for all the world like a giant vulva. Directly in front of the crevice hangs a phallic stalactite. Painted on it are a woman, shown from the waist down, with emphasis on her vulva, merging with a man with the head of a bison. They are the only human images in the entire cave.

The walls of the chamber itself are painted with a 360° circle of animals, shown in such a way that they appear to be emerging from the giant vulva on one side, and to be re-entering it on the other.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    As I grow older it seems increasingly clear to me that the deepest mysteries lie hidden in plain sight in the obvious. Goddess b
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    I couldn't agree with you more. The basic structures of ritual and meaning are not esoteric. Dance indeed! But when scholars don't
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    yup, but so often, they don't see what is so obvious. marija gimbutas called it indolent assumptions, others call it the patriarch

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs


b2ap3_thumbnail_perugino_047-sm.pngLegend has it that, following the crucifixion, Mary Magdalene fled to southern France, spending the last years of her life in the sanctuary of Sainte Baume. Her relics are said to rest in a church in nearby Saint Maximin.

Whoever Mary Magdalene was in fact, whether she partnered with Jesus to birth a child, whatever her actual history, the idea of her heartens and strengthens me. For me, and perhaps for you too, she carries the energy of fierce compassion, fearless integrity. A woman interweaving spirit and matter, activating her body-centered power to manifest creation. A gutsy woman par excellence.

This sense of woman integrating heaven and earth, sheltering pro-creative power within her body's center, may be as old as human consciousness.

Much of what we know about human origins comes to us from southern France, the prehistoric cave paintings and engravings discovered there. Our ancestors' art, such as the Venus of Laussel, shows our original impulse to revere women and the center of women's bodies.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Venus-de-Laussel-detail-bras.jpgThis limestone engraving, discovered in 1911 in the Dordogne, has been a central inspiration for The Woman's Belly Book. Seventeen and one-half inches high, the ochre-stained engraving dates back 25,000 years.

The Venus of Laussel brings forth a full-figured woman. She rests her left hand on her belly, perhaps pointing to her navel. Her head turns over her right shoulder; she's looking at the horn she's holding up in her right hand. Thirteen lines scratch the horn's surface.

Who knows what the sculptors had in mind and heart when they carved out this figure? Who knows what they meant their work to signify?

As I see her, this figure is using her arms and hands to link her belly with the calculation, the calendar, which is the horn she is holding.

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  • Lisa Sarasohn
    Lisa Sarasohn says #
    I certainly got carried away. The Venus of Laussel engraving is about seventeen and one-half inches high, not seventeen and one-ha

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
The Women Who Painted in Caves

As the upcoming Mercury retrograde and the natural progression of the seasons here in the Northern Hemisphere takes us on a journey into the Underworld, let us contemplate our deep, ancient ancestors. Fittingly, we will travel into the caves of our past, if only in our minds.

Cave paintings have been presented to us as a masculine narrative. Often, these stunning examples of paleolithic art, have been interpreted as created by male hunters to increase the hunt. Other theories have suggested that the paintings were to communicate something to visitors to the caves, perhaps of religious significance. Intriguingly, these paintings depict both predator and prey animals. However, that’s not all. Cave paintings also sometimes depict voluptuous female figures and symbols for the vulva.

Who painted these images?

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Ms. Mills, Thanks for the insight! It helps to illuminate not only the how and the why, but the who, of paleolithic cave art. It

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