PaganSquare is a community blog space where Pagans can discuss topics relevant to the life and spiritual practice of all Pagans.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form
Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Marija Gimbutas
Gimbutas Revisited: A Trypillian Clay Phallus, 4500-3500 BCE

In the cash-strapped days following independence, a trio of Ukrainian businessmen watched in horror as illegal digging and the black-market antiquities trade threatened to denude Ukraine of its historical patrimony. The three began to buy up antiquities before they could leave the country, and so assembled the world's largest private collection of artifacts from the Copper Age Trypillian culture (4500-2700 BCE).

I saw a traveling exhibit from this collection at the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis in early March 2011. What I saw there forced me to reassess my analysis of the work of Lithuanian-born archaeologist (and feminist ideologue) Marija Gimbutas (1921-1994). Although none of the ceramics in the collection had been excavated before her death, I found that the analytic vocabulary of symbols that she articulated in her 1989 book The Language of the Goddess again and again produced cogent readings of the art.

Let me take one particularly striking example. The not-quite-life-sized (6¼ x 2½ inch) clay phallus and testes (shown above), from the Khmel'nitska region of Ukraine, dates from the Trypillian BI period, roughly 4500-3500 BCE. Above the testes is a small, inset cup; the clay wedge that supports the phallus gives the entire piece a rather droll, and probably not unintended, resemblance to a quadruped. (“I like the kickstand,” I overheard one visitor say.)

Note the engraved “decoration.” Twin spirals adorn the sides of the testes. There are parallel lines engraved along the phallus itself. Rows of evenly-spaced dots ring the top of the scrotum and run down the length of the shaft.

Last modified on

Although writing in patriarchal Greece from a patriarchal perspective, Hesiod said in hisTheogony or Birth of the Gods that Gaia or Earth alone was the mother of the Mountains, Sky, and Sea. With the male Sky she gave birth to the next generation of deities known as the “Titans,” who were overthrown by Zeus. Hesiod’s was a “tale with a point of view” in which “it was necessary” for the “forces of civilization”–for him represented by warrior God and rapist Zeus–to violently overthrow and replace earlier conceptions of the origin life on earth and presumably also to overthrow and replace the people and societies that created them.

With the triumph of Christianity in the age of Constantine in the 4th century AD, Christus Victor replaced Zeus in the cities, while the religion of Mother Earth continued to be practiced in the countryside. Over time, many of the attributes of Mother Earth were assimilated into the image of Mary, and priests began to perform rituals earlier dedicated to Mother Earth, such as blessing the fields and the seeds before planting. In the Middle Ages “the Goddess” re-emerged within Western Christianity in devotion to the Virgin Mary, the female saints, and figures such as Lady Wisdom, at the same time that the history of the Goddess was being erased.

Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Constance Tippett Chandler
    Constance Tippett Chandler says #
    Thank you for great overview of History and Herstory! As as artist, I believe that Gimbutas's books said it all. She had tons o
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    Amen brother!!! And then we must ask if academics who consider Gimbutas a wild-eyed kook have their heads screwed on straight.
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Thank you for this excellent history. Given the current state of our male military-dominated world, and the concomitant disregard

Additional information