Thursday, 9 January 2020

The faceless one

Kostenki is a very important cluster of Paleolithic sites on the Don River in Russia. Dated to after 25 000 BP, these were settlements of mammoth hunters who lived in dwellings made of mammoth bones...

And they loved making "Venus" figurines from mammoth ivory...



The figurines bodies are all anatomically perfect and different, definitely modelled on real probably pregnant women from the community. But they are all the same in one respect: they are all faceless...




In my recent article about faceless "Palaeolithic venus figurines" from Europe I argued that these figurines were deliberately made faceless to emphasise the they were symbols of fertility, of fertile earth, Mother Earth, and not depiction of real women...

I concluded that this was a proof that Palaeolithic people were able to invent, transmit and understand complex symbols and their meanings...

Then someone replied that I was wrong, and that most likely the reason for making these figurines faceless was that there was a taboo on depicting human faces. Considering that we have lots of depictions of anatomically perfect animal faces.

When I replied that we have found both faceless figurines and figurines with perfectly depicted human faces (both male and female) on same archaeological sites, the same person replied that maybe there was a taboo on depicting only the face of the goddess...

This got me thinking. The thing is The Goddess has no face. Fertility, Fertile Earth, Mother Earth has no face. Putting any face on The Goddess would demeen her and "desecrate her" in the most literal sense of this word...

Our Palaeolithic ancestors seem to have understood this.

Our Neolithic ancestors also understood this, as a lot of the early Neolithic Goddess figurines don't even have a head...

Like this one from Tappeh Sarab, Kermanshah ca. 7000-6100 BCE, Iran



Or this one from Cucuteni–Trypillia, 5500-3000 BCE, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine


Those figurines that have heads are either faceless, like this Cycladic female figurine, from Amorgos, 5300 – 3200 BC...




Or look like they have masks over their faces, like this Vinca culture figurine dated to 5000 - 4500 BC.



I talked about these Vinca culture masked figurines in my post "Mask from Belo Brdo".

If you were a priestess playing the role of the Goddess, wearing a mask would transform you in the eyes of the observers from a mare woman to a Godddess personified...

Masked figurine from Gumelniţa culture, 4700BC-3950BC Bulgaria, Romania



This is very important, as we can see soon in this thread...

Of course, there were also figurines which had faces. But most of these were just outlines of human faces, usually just noses on blank face with or without eyes. Like this figurine from Starčevo culture, 6200-5300 BCE, Serbia



But eventually all Goddess (and God) depictions were made with human face.

Why?

Because if the Goddess (or God) has a human face, we can reason with her (him). We can plead to her (him). We can argue with her (him). We can bargain with her (him). We can (try to) cheat her (him)

If you are staring at an expressionless blank face, all you can do is submit and accept your faight...

Interestingly, by the time we get to the Ancient Greece, the only deity still (sometimes) depicted without a face is the dreaded Goddess of the Underworld: Persephone...



Not Hades, the god of the underworld...

Why?

Well, because it is the Goddess, Mother Earth, is the mother who eats her children...And as our return to the Mother who gave birth to us is unescapable, there is no need to put a face on it. We can't plead, argue, bargain, cheat our way out of it...

Believe or not (again) this faceless Persephone could be preserved to this day by Sorbs (Baltic Serbs)...



Every year, just before Christmas, the oldest unmaried girl in a village gets dressed as a "bride", puts on a faceless mask, and visits the houses accompanied (orginally) by two other girls bringing good luck, good fortune and presents. She never speaks...

I talked about this custom in my post "Bescherkind".

She is "the maiden", "the bride", "the giver of gifts" (all epithets of Persephone as Kore, the Young Spring Earth). Her two female companions are most likely the summer and autumn earth, bountiful Demeter, and winter earth, the "old lady", "the witch" Hekate...

But wait, the winter is in Slavic folclore the part of the year rulled by Morana, the Goddess of Death, the old hag...Why do we then have a faceless maiden wander oround villages in mid winter giving presents to little children?

Because Morana (winter), Vesna (spring) and Mokosh (summer, autumn) are just three faces of The Goddess, Mother Earth. In Serbian mythology she is known as Dajbaba (Giving Mother), the wife of Dabog (Giving God, Giving father)...Da+Mater (Give, Allow + Mother in Serbian)...

Morana, believe or not, was by Slavs also imagined as a white maiden.



Her effigies, were ceremonially burned (heating up the earth) or drawned (thowing the earth) at the beginning of February, beginning of Spring...

These effigies were originally made of sheafs of grain over which a white maiden robe was put on. She was often decorated with necklaces made of egg shells...



The meaning of this effigy was: "spring emerging from under the snow (from underworld, dead part of the year, winter)"

And remember how Serbs believe that all good luck, good fortune, good harvest are all the gifts of their dead ancestors. Which is why the dead are majorly spoiled by the living with constant prayers and sacrifices...Especially during the winter. I talked about this in my post "Wolf feast".

So who better to represent this role of the dead, but the "giver of gifts", "giving mother", the faceless Mistress of the underworld, the land of the dead, the dead time of the Year, Persephone...

Persephone, who was to Minoans known as "pe-re-swa" Interestingly (again) "pe re swa" in Slavic languages means "One who was before all others"...

Fitting name for The Goddess, the Mother Earth, the mother of gods, the one who came before all other gods...

But maybe this is just a coincidence...

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