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The Mother Goddess


       The mother goddess is depicted by the Ancient Irish & Norsemen in America and their Amerindian descendants as a divine being with a celestial grace, whether she be shown as a young woman, or as an elderly grandmother figure.  The Norsemen, on the other hand, depict the terrifying aspects of worship of the goddess, in which a priestess and elaborate ritual becomes her voice and announces mysterious instructions.  The concept of a divine mother seems to be the most ancient religious belief, for the Paleolithic peoples left behind them images and paintings of pregnant females, apparently expressing the wonder and the importance of fertility to the maintenance of the band or tribe.  Later, when the essential preliminary role of the male in fertilizing the female was understood, the religion seems to have changed toward a father-god orientation, and the divine couple bred numerous divine progeny, each of whom became responsible for one or another of the fundamental human activities and interests.


       Fig. 152 shows one of the Milk River inscriptions at Writing-on-Stone, near Coutts, in Southern Alberta, where fringe ogam identifies the female figure as "Byanu, Mother of the Gods, Queen of the World," the language being Ancient Irish.  Fig. 153, by way of contrast, from the same region, shows a Norsemen version of the goddess, seen in the guise of her priestess, as graceless and repulsive as the Irish version is attractive.


       The megalithic symbols of the mother goddess in America are the same as she has in Europe-- the Men-a-tol or female stone, literally "stone-with-a-hole."  Fig. 154 shows a men-a-tol at Land's End in Cornwall, England, and Fig. 155 a New England equivalent found and photographed by Hulley M. Swan at Jefferson, New Hampshire.  The precise significance of these "holey-stones" in Europe has been debated.  In modern times engaged or newly married couples exchange kisses through the aperture, and babies are passed through the hole to bring good luck.  These may be ancient practices.


       The sun, and his celestial manifestation as a sun god, was always appealed to for warmth, and rain to promote growth of crops.  But so also was Byanu, the Ancient Irish mother goddess, as an inscription at Tule Lake, California, shows (Fig. 156).  Wayne and Betty Struble photographed it.  Other gods were also invoked.  An inscribed stone placed in an ancient plantation in New York and found by John H. Bradner, invokes both Byanu and her divine son, Mabo.  The Dakotas and Mandans invoked Thunor, in his later transformation into a rain god.  Plowing was virtually impossible in North America, for lack of suitable draft animals.  Thus we are perhaps to interpret Woden-lithi's inscriptions [at Peterborough, Ontario, Canada] of what appear to be plowmen (Fig. 157) as no more than a didactic reference to Scandinavian practices.  A Danish version of an early Bronze Age plowman is shown in that same figure.


       When the Ancient Irish & Norsemen traveled west and discovered the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, they established a sheep-farming industry based on stock running wild, but rounded up (on foot) once a year for shearing....  The product of this farming industry was, of course, raw wool.  This, in turn, became the basis of a spinning and weaving industry, and the inscriptions in Nevada indicate that the mother goddess-- or a mother goddess-- was considered the tutelary deity of such activities.  In the guise of a female that looks like the Irish Sulis, we find inscriptions in Nevada dedicated to some female divinity (Figs. 158 & 159).


       The rocks of the Nevada plateau are rich in their petrographic commentary on the activities of these early farmers and wool-workers.  At one site w find depictions of needles and thread, each labeled in fringe ogam with the names of the tools in old Gaelic.  We find pictures of embroidery stitches.  One ingenious petroglyph at Lost City, Clark County, Nevada, is in effect an advertisement for the wool industry, showing the production of cloth from the sheep's back by means of a looped wool thread, with pendant threads that spell ogam letters (Fig. 160).  The various stages in converting the raw wool into yarn, then into a ball of yarn, including the carding, are all depicted (Figs. 161, 163, 164 , 165  & 166).  Setting up the warp on a frame is shown on Fig. 161, and a vertical loom of the type afterward used by the Navajo appears in petroglyphs at Valley of Fire, Nevada (Fig. 163).  The various tools of the weaver, the battens, rods for weaving to cause the shed to alternate between throws of the shuttle, pegs, and loom combs (which replace the modern reed) all appear (Figs. 162, 164 & 165).  And the final product, in this case a dress length, embroidered at the warp-ends (Fig. 166), is shown.


       Other and equally important information comes from the burial goods deposited with the bodies of the dead at ancient burial places, such as those of the early Woodland Period investigated by members of the Archaeological Society of Tennessee at Snapps Bridge, Near Kingsport.  Here we find actual pieces of equipment, such as loom weights, inscribed with appropriate words in ogam or Iberic, in the Iberian (noted as Celtimberian) or Basque languages, indicating the functions of the objects, which were evidently buried with their owners....  These latter finds came to notice through the observations of Dr. William P. Grigsby, who first noticed what he correctly inferred to be writing on some of the artifacts in his large collection.


       Similar artifacts are found in Britain, as for example at the Windmill Hill site, occupied by the late Neolithic builders of Stonehenge.  These have been recorded and well illustrated, and it is plain to see that inscriptions similar to those in North America occur, even the identical words.  And similar inscriptions to those found on amulets in graves are also found inscribed on the stone chambers of New England.  Thus, an invocation to the goddess Byanu, the mother-goddess....., occurs on a Windmill Hill amulet, and a similar text was reported in 1976 in America B.C. from a stone chamber dedicated to Byanu at South Woodstock, Vermont (also ee Mystery).


       On the ceiling of the same chamber at South Woodstock occurs a depiction of Byanu in her guise as Tanith, the mother goddess of the southern Iberians and of their Carthaginian neighbors (Fig. 168).


       Near the same site John Williams and Barry Fell found in 1975 the torso of a fallen image of a female divinity, evidently Byanu, whose name appears in various local contexts (Fig. 167).


       These examples illustrate the continuing and widespread influence of the concept of a mother goddess in North America just as in Europe.


Giants and Monsters-- Twilight of The Gods


       In Scandinavian mythology the underworld, Jotunheim, is inhabited by the evil progeny of Loki and by other giants and monsters.  One of Loki's children was the giant worl Fenrir, who became a menace to the gods, and had to be placed under restraint in a magic halter.  None dared to capture the beast, however, until Tyr, the god of war, allowed the wolf to take his arm in his jaws as a guarantee that the halter would not restrain him.  When Fenrir discovered that he had been tricked, he bit off Tyr's arm, so the god is depicted as maimed.


       This ancient myth, as noted previously, is depicted on Woden-lithi's inscription [at Peterborough, Ontario, Canada] in at least two places, Fig. 111 & Fig 112.  About 21 feet from the main sun figure, slightly east of the north-south axis, occurs a wolf figure that is labeled L-Z  F-N-R.  The beast appears to be caught in some kind of trap.  The inscription seems to mean, "Fenri locked," assuming that L-Z is the root laesa in Old Norse, "to lock."


       Another depiction is seen some 30 feet southwest-by-west of the main sun figure (Fig. 169).  it shows the wolf running free.  it is lettered W-N-R  M-L  M-N-D [= Wenri mel mond].  This evidently means "Wenri Crunch-Hand," the form Wenri being alternative to Fenri (Fenrir in Norse), mel being the verb to "crush" or "grind," and mond meaning "hand."  The figure of the wolf is placed just to the left of the main image of the god Tsiw, whose left hand he has just bitten off.  The god, with blood still dripping from the wound, stands defiantly, over the conspicuous dedication made by Woden-lithi (Fig. 111).


       Two giants with similar names occur in Norsemen mythology.  One of them, Ymir, is present at the creation of the earth, and his body is carved up to constitute the world.  The other, Himir, is a sea monster that is defeated in battle with Thunor.  The version presented by Woden-lithi's artists shows the sea giant, but he is named Y-M-R, hence Ymir.  He is shown beside his ship (Fig. 170), which is carried along the waves by a huge sea horse.  The inscription reads Y-M-R  N-GH-W (Ymira nokwi), readily translated as "The ship of Ymir."  The giant may have been feared by Woden-lithi's mariners, so his defeat by Thunor would be cause for veneration of the Thunderer.


       According to Snorri's Edda, the world will end with Ragnarök, the Twilight of the Gods, when the monsters of Jotunheim finally overcome the Aesir and Vanir.  During the last battle Thor (Thunor of our Ontario text) manages to hold at bay the giant serpent that encircles the world and is called Midgardsormen (Worm of Middle Earth); at length his hammer Mjolnir avails no more, and Thunor and the other gods succumb.  Parts of this scenario are depicted in various places on Woden-lithi's site.


       A little west of a point 30 feet south of the main sun figure there can be found a number of serpents, with inscriptions scattered among them.  The inscriptions (Fig. 172) include M-O-L-N (Mjolnir or Old Norse), the hammer of Thunor; R-M (orm, "serpent" in Old Norse); M-D-N-M, apparently to be understood as Midn[gardsorm] nama ("Worm of Mid-Earth is its name"), nama being a south Germanic form, replacing nefni of Old Norse.  Another serpent is labeled S-W, presumably svika, "twisting."  The collection is identified (Fig. 171) as R-G-N  D-M (Regin Domr, Doom of the Gods).  Another picture of the Worm of Mid-Earth appears in the engraving of Thunor given in an earlier [section].  The word A-K-W, Old Norse akava is written beside yet another serpent: it means "fierce."


       The earth is now given over to flame, and the Aesir gods under the leadership of Woden form in procession to ascent the rainbow (in Norsemen lore called Bridge-of-the-Gods) to enter Valhalla, there to await their own doom.  This last scene is the subject of a petroglyph engraved some five feet southwest of the main sun-god {Fig 173} figure [at Peterborough, Ontario, Canada].  The petroglyph includes the Tifinag letters W-L-H-L, Walhol, which is also the Anglo-Saxon manner of pronouncing Valhalla.  Inconsequent as it seems, perhaps because of the random manner in which the various pieces of Norsemen mythology have been ground into the rock platform, a Yule-man seems to be taking part in the proceedings, wearing the disguise of the equinoctial hare, while he wrestles another clown dressed as a bear.


       These ancient Norsemen myths were to some extent acquired or inherited by the Algonquian and Sioux tribes who were the neighbors of the colonists.  Pictographs and petroglyphs of dragons and other monsters found along the banks of the St. Lawrence [River] present features remarkably like the monsters of Norsemen tradition.


       Even more surprising is the persistence of these stories into quite modern times among the Takhelne of British Columbia, who speak a language derived in part from Ancient Irish.  In modern times, not more than one or two centuries ago at most, painted inscriptions lettered in ogam script, were created by artists who not only recalled the form of the monsters, but also retained the ability to write the names of the supernatural beings in legible ogam script.  An example of such work, depicting Loki and the dragon of Middle Earth, is shown in Fig. 174.  It serves as a visible reminder of how long a folk memory can persist if the demands of tribal tradition so require.


Business Transactions in the Bronze Age


       Most of us, consciously or unconsciously, tend to interpret the past in terms of the present.  Since we ourselves use trading tokens and coins, we assume that our remote ancestors may have done the same.  But when did this custom begin?  When was simple barter replaced by more sophisticated business dealings, involving standards of exchange comparable to coinage?  In the 1950's Fell became interested in this question, and published his findings in two papers.  The conclusions he reached are relevant to this discussion. The inquiry was prompted by events in Britain that resulted from World War II.


       At that time the people of Britain faced a severe food shortage caused by the blockade of ships bringing farm products from overseas.  To help overcome the crisis, every possible strip of land, no matter how narrow, was plowed and planted.  Along the ancient highways, many of them going back to Roman or even Ancient Irish times, the bordering verges of grass were put to the plow and then planted.  But many an ancient foot-traveler had once wandered along these routes, occasionally dropping coins by mischance, or in other cases deliberately concealing pots of coins if danger threatened.  Many a burial had remained intact when the owner had met with ill fate, or perhaps could no longer return, or failed to locate his treasure.  Tens of thousands of ancient coins, Roman, Saxon, and medieval, were discovered by the plowmen.  As a result the market value of ancient coins dropped with a crash, and it became possible for many people of quite modest means to assemble valuable and instructive collections of these intriguing relics of our ancestors.


       Since the Anglo-Saxon silver pennies are the oldest inscribed artifacts we possess from the ill-documented period that followed the withdrawal of the Romans from Britain in the fifth century after Christ, Fell began to research the Old English manuscripts in an effort to discover what role these coins played in our ancestors' daily lives; later, as stated above, he summarized his findings in two papers published in 1954 and 1955.  What at first puzzled me greatly was that nearly all the references to monetary transactions that occur in the Saxon literature are to shillings, pounds, and marks-- yet the only coins that are found in the soil are pennies and pieces of lesser value, such as feorthungs (farthings, that is, quarters of a penny, cut with shears for change) and some irregular coins called stykas, issued in the first years of the Saxon occupation.


       Now, a typical Saxon entry relating to money is represented by this passage, which Fell translated from the seventeenth-century laws of King Inc of Wessex:  "If a man owns a hid of land, his wer [that is, property value] is to be reckoned at 120 shillings, half a hide 80 shillings, and if he owns no land 60 shillings."  Apparently taxes were apportioned according to one's wer.  Again, King Aethelberht, who died in the year 616, decre3d that if a man had one ear smitten off in combat, the aggressor must pay him six shillings amends.  There is a whole table of possible injuries and the appropriate compensation payable in each case-- injury to the mouth, 12 shillings; loss of an eye, 50 shillings; the four front teeth, 6 shillings each; an eyetooth, 4 shillings; the first premolar, 3 shillings; other teeth a shilling each-- and so on.


       But what were these "shillings"?  Certainly not the silver coins of that name that were first struck in England in the Middle Ages.  It turns out that in Saxon times all these monetary terms were merely units of account.  A shilling in nearly every case actually means a sheep.  The true equations of account were as follows:


6 sheep equal 1 ox

8 oxen equal 1 man


30 silver pence equal 1 ox               48 shillings weigh one pound

5 silver pence equal 1 sheep           1 sheep equal 1 shilling

240 silver pence equal 1 man         1 man equals 1 pound of silver



       Almost all debts were extinguished, not by coin of the realm (which was scarce) but by barter payments of sheep and oxen.  The system remained almost intact until inflation set in, caused by labor scarcity during the Black Death (1349).  hence, we may hazard the guess that the Saxon system was an ancient one, and that it had been introduced from Denmark and northern Germany, the homelands of the Angles, Jutes, and Saxons who invaded England after Roman rule ended.


       According to the ancient historians of Greece and Rome, the oldest city in Europe is Cadiz (Gades of the ancients), founded by Phoenician traders in the twelfth century BC.  The Phoenician script rapidly spread through southern and western Spain and Portugal, soon assuming a characteristic Iberian form in which certain letters were written somewhat differently from their original form as developed in Phoenicia (Lebanon), where the parent cites of the Phoenicians, Tyre and Sidon, are located.  Later, as the Phoenician colony of Carthage, in Tunisia, became independent, other varieties of Phoenician script arose and spread through the Iberian Peninsula.  In addition, mysterious scripts of apparently native Iberian origin occur in Spain and Portugal in archaeological contexts that certainly long antedate the Romans and may well antedate those of the Phoenician traders of Cadiz.


       At the time when Cadiz was founded the Norsemen peoples were settled in lands that we now call Germany and Scandinavia.  Their cousins the Pre-Irish occupied much of Gaul and parts of Britain, and were beginning to penetrate into Spain.  Much of the Iberian peninsula was peopled by tribes who probably spoke Basque, and the Basque philologist Imanol Agiŕe is of the opinion that Basque-speaking tribes were also to be found in Britain and Ireland as well as parts of Gaul.


       Archaeological excavation discloses that these northern peoples were still in the Stone Age as late as 1800 BC, and their emergence into the Bronze Age during the century that followed was occasioned by trade contact with Mediterranean peoples, from whom they obtained bronze swords and elaborate knives and other sophisticated manufactures.  Apparently only the wealthiest members of Norsemen society could afford these imported luxuries, for we find carefully chipped flint imitations of the bronze knives, apparently the property of commoners who could not afford to purchase the bronze originals.  According toe the ancient historians the Phoenicians traded with these northern peoples, taking such valuable wares as purple cloth for their chiefs, and the bronze weapons mentioned earlier, and receiving in return such materials as tin from Cornwall and amber from the Baltic lands.  A so-called amber route has been traced, leading from Denmark southward along the Danube to the Rumanian ports of the Black Sea.  But was this the only door by which the Norsemen peoples could face the trading world of the Mediterranean?  it seems unlikely, for the Bronze Age rock carvings of Scandinavia depict fleets of ships similar to those of the Mediterranean peoples (especially the Libyans of North Africa), and such vessels could certainly cross the open sea.


       An actual example of one of these vessels (though excavated from a site thought to date to about the fifth century BC) is known, and Fell examined it in Copenhagen in 1953.  About 13 meters long, it is constructed in a manner very similar to that of the Polynesian oceangoing craft:  that is to say, of adzed wooden planks held together, not by nails or dowels, but sewn together by cordage.  With similar vessels, called waka, the ancient Polynesians could cross open spans of the Pacific of 3,000 miles, such as the gap between Tahiti and New Zealand.  We know from carefully kept traditional Polynesian sources that the 3,000-mile journey was covered at a rate of 100 miles a day, so that a voyage to new Zealand lasted only a month; vegetable tubers were stored in the lower part of the hull, fish were caught each day, and rain supplemented the drinking water carried in gourds.  Carbon dating has shown that human settlement of New Zealand had been achieved at least by the tenth century AD, as Maori tradition also affirms.


       The Polynesian voyages had spanned the Pacific in the centuries before the occupation of the southernmost region, New Zealand, and this historical fact is accepted without question by archaeologists.  It has therefore always seemed strange that European and American archaeologists seem to have so much difficulty in conceiving that the people who built the Bronze Age ships of Europe could not also have made similar transoceanic voyages.  However, leaving aside for the moment the question of transoceanic sailing, it is surely not to be doubted that the Scandinavian skippers of the Bronze Age must certainly have made voyages along the coasts of the Baltic and the North Sea.  It is inconceivable that any people who inhabited a seagirt land would build ships if it were not their avocation or profession to sail wheresoever their fancy and sea skills sufficed to prompt adventure or trading voyage.


       Inevitably the Scandinavians must have discovered that Phoenician ships and traders were working the western approaches to Europe.  Inevitably their interest would turn upon the valuable trade goods of Phoenicia, available to them either by peaceable trading of the Baltic amber that the Semitic visitors so much craved, or by piratical attack if circumstances might make such a course seem profitable.  Homer and Hesiod, both of whom wrote of the Greek mariners of the Bronze Age, tell us that farmers turned pirate during the summer and returned to reap their crops in the fall, bringing ill-gotten treasure and Phoenician slave women as booty from the summer's expeditions.  It may be taken as given that the ancient Norsemen would do much the same.


       If, then, the Bronze Age Norsemen encountered Phoenician or Iberian traders, either as visitors to their own lands, or as people to whose shores they themselves paid visits, would they not acquire from them a knowledge of writing skills?  It seems they did indeed, as the following implies.


       One of the best known of the Danish archaeological sites is that located at Mullerup Mose, in the western part of the island of Zealand.  The older name of the site was Maglemose, and under the latter name there has been designated a Stone Age culture whose remains are found there.  The site, like many others of the Stone Age, spans a long period of time, in this case thought to range from about 7000 BC down to 1500 BC.  Its later elements, if the dating is correct, would therefore overlap with the onset of the Bronze Age, in the shape of the first trading visitors from Phoenician Iberia, or the return of Norsemen ships from visits to Iberia.


       Among the curious artifacts attributed to the Maglemose people are a series of engraved bones (Fig. 175 14-1), the purpose of which would be hard to determine were it not for the fact, hitherto overlooked, that small inscriptions in the Iberic alphabet can be found on some of them.


       Engravings are found of oxen (cows or heifers) and, beside them, or drawn separately, meshwork patterns that can be recognized as the common European symbol for cloth or weaving, often found engraved on loom weights, for example.  On one engraving of a cow we find the Iberic letters that spell (reading from right to left in the Semitic manner) W-'A-G.  The middle letter, resembling an A, is the letter 'alif, pronounced like the initial A in the German word Apfel: that is, with a slight glottal click.  Iberian writers did not use vowels, and they regarded 'alif as a consonant.  So the word is to be pronounced as wag, with a glottal catch in the voice.  In the modern Scandinavian tongues there is no such word, nor does it occur in the related Teutonic tongues, nor in the less closely related Ancient Irish tongues.  But in the Latin family the root is the base of all the common words for cow in Latin itself (vacca), Spanish (vaca), Portuguese (vaca), French (vache), Italian (vaca) and Rumanian (vacă).  The Swiss philologist Julius Pokorny, after comparing the whole range of words for cow in ancient and modern Indo-European languages, concluded that there were once several different roots used by the various dialects of ancient Indo-Europeans, and that one of the roots must have been uak or wak.  Evidently the people who spoke the language used at the Maglemose site around 1500 BC used that particular root, and pronounced the terminal guttural as a g rather than a k.  This does not necessarily mean that the Maglemose people were not Norsemen, or that they were displaced members of the Latin group.  it probably merely means that the word wag was widely recognized by the various trading peoples of Bronze Age Europe as being a term for cow.  And why should a cow be depicted, and labeled in writing, on a bone, beside a depiction of fabric?


       The answer is not far to seek.  Beside one of the engravings of the symbol for cloth we find the Iberic letters that spell Q-D (Fig. 176), which is the Phoenician manner of writing KH-D, the vowel as usual left unexpressed.  This word again matches an Indo-European root identified by Pokorny:  kwei-, with a terminal -d as the sign of the past participle.  It answers to the modern English word quit and the Old Norse kvitr, as well as many other modern and ancient European forms of the root [e.g., German Quittung], all conveying the sense of "quittance" or "paid."  In fact, these bones are evidently receipts issued by some trader to persons who have purchased from him cloth to the value of 6 shillings:  that is to say, one cow.  And to support this inference we have in the Old Norse language special words, such as kugildi and kyrlag, both meaning "the value of a cow" and corresponding to the Saxon unit of 6 sheep or 30 pence, equaling "... one ox . (click to see monetary terms).  The equation may have varied a little; for example, we know that in one English summer, sheep had become so plentiful that the exchange rate (angilde) fell drastically and became 3 pence to 1 sheep, so that a cow could then only be rated at 18 pieces of silver.  In general, I think the standard rate was the one I have stated.  There were no pennies minted in the days of the Maglemose trader, but if they had been, I think his price for a bolt of woven cloth would be reckoned at 30 pieces of silver, which in Saxon terms is yet another way of saying "the wages of an able-bodied man for one month's work," for a Saxon earned a penny a day and, by the laws of King Alfred and King Guthrum, who ruled the English and Danes, "An Englishman and a Dane are reckoned as of equal value" (Their wives were not so regarded.  The present-day advocates of equal rights for women may trace their complaints back at least to the era we are discussing, when a woman was reckoned as having a value of one half-man, and was accordingly paid one half-penny for a day's labor in the harvest.  To buy her bolt of cloth, then, she must work for 60 days or have a wealthy husband.)


       And why we receipts issued for the purchase of goods?  Receipts or "quittances" were the invention of traders, who issued them to their customers for the same reason that your modern supermarket or drugstore staples a mechanically printed receipt to your purchase-- to prove that you have not stolen the goods.  Traders in ancient Europe would indeed have had to keep a wary eye for shoplifters, as dozens of eager farmers and their wives fingered and examined the wares.  After a purchase was made, the customer would be given a formal receipt, already engraved in advance at the stipulated value.  Complaints against shoplifters could then more easily be handled by the local chieftain, who would know that no more visits from traders could be expected unless he saw to it that due restitution was made.  With such homely materials as these pieces of engraved bone, the life of our remote ancestors acquires a new dimension, one much more familiar to us than the notion that they were savage barbarians.


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