For teaching purposes:
[References for this review may be found at <Nyland>]
[Note: All Basque words are in Italics and Bold-faced Green]
EARLY HUMAN SOCIETY *
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Small figurines of well-endowed females have been found in many places in Europe and much of Asia, and some could be dated to ca 28,000 bce. Their exact significance or what they were used for or how is still not clear. However, Nyland (2001) thought it is certain that the people using them believed in a supreme spirit. At the beginning of the Neolithic, about 8,000 bce. we can assume that this spirit had become a Goddess and that our ancestors believed absolutely in such a supreme being. It was the time that the glaciers were fast vacating most of Europe, which therefore became available for settlement. At the same time the climate of the central Sahara started to deteriorate, which caused the tribes in the affected area to migrate to the north and west coasts (see Climate). Archaeological evidence indicates that this was a time of enormous change in living, travel and thinking. Before the Neolithic, people had been part of nature and subject to its whims and dangers. Nevertheless, a great deal of experimenting had already been going on in various fields of study from animal husbandry and medicine, to sailing, construction, navigation, fishing, tanning etc. The domestication of wild animals such as goats, pigs and sheep and the first agricultural trials with grains produced a revolution in the way the tribes lived and prospered.
The social anthropologist, Dr. Anthony Jackson of Edinburgh University, studied the society of the Picts in Scotland in detail. He came to the conclusion that an instructive parallel could be drawn between the society of Neolithic Scotland and that of the still existing Society of the Trobrianders, so ably described by Dr. Bronislaw Malinowski in his book "Argonauts of the Western Pacific", published in 1922. Edo Nyland has made full use of both Jackson's and Malinowski's writings in the following:
The Irish and Scottish people lived in a matrilineal society, which meant that the succession of rank, membership in all the social groups, and the inheritance of rights and possessions descended in the female line. Young people belonging to the same tribe were not allowed to marry. Instead, the young man would leave his own tribe and move to the tribe of his new wife, and their children remained part of the mother's tribe and carried her name. The father had no legal rights to his own children; instead the mother's brother was the real guardian of them. The reason for this was that the father belonged to a different tribe, possibly quite some distance away. Thus, the nearest man who was able to teach the young child the trade secrets of his incarnation was the brother of its mother. The child’s real kinship existed only with its mother's relations. However, the biological father was expected to give his children gifts and help in time of danger or need. If a child was sick or in trouble, it would always be the father who would worry and undergo hardships or expose himself to danger, and seldom the maternal uncle. The maternal uncle's position of close relation was regarded as right by law and usage, whereas the father's interest and affection for his children were due to sentiment, and to the intimate personal relations existing between them (Malinowski p.72).
This organization of responsibilities and the respected position of the female in the tribes were especially irksome to the new Judeo-Christian clergy. Therefore, the first thing to be changed was the imposition of a patrilineal order, to the detriment of the women. The new clergy had been used to dealing with patrilineal tribes where the son inherited the title of his father the chief. Once the chief had been converted to Christianity, the son and the tribe would quickly follow. Not so with the Picts, because the son of a chief never followed in his father's footsteps, and the result was that the missionaries had to start religious conversion with the members of the tribe itself from the bottom up, a much more time-consuming and frustrating job.
The conservatism of the early civilization has been commented on by many researchers. Archaeologists working in the Indus valley found that the original layout of the cities of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa had been meticulously maintained for millennia. The artwork of the cathedral caves in the region of the Pyrenees was carried on for over 25,000 years. Hand-held images of the Goddess have been made for at least as long. They were used from Japan to India to the Sahara and arctic Europe. However, what did cause such stability? The answer appears to lie in the periodicity of nature and of the female body. The cyclical nature of the moon in concert with the menstrual cycle of human females and the tides, and the gradual shifting in intensity of the sun's radiation causing the different seasons. It all dictated that time was to be measured in cycles, in what is now called circular time. In a female directed or Holistic civilization, time repeated itself year after year. People who died were reincarnated, i.e. their bones were placed in the barrow tomb (the womb of the Goddess), and therefore were still the same individuals as those who had passed away. They inherited all the achievements, skills and learning of their ancestors. The history of the ancestors belonged to their individual reincarnations, in other words the people were history themselves. Women knew no history because events repeated with the seasons in perfect harmony with nature. This all changed when male domination arrived, purposely inverting all the characteristics of the gylanic society. The formerly Holistic society became a Dualistic society, which brought along controversy. As the male body is not subject to noticeable cycles, male time is measured linearly; time no longer repeated itself and change became the order of the new civilization. Consequently, reincarnation no longer took place. Under the new male regime, the ancestors suddenly were disposed of, buried and quickly forgotten, except for a few exceptional leading male figures who received monumental graves. A completely new mentality took over the earth, which required the writing of history because history was no longer cyclical and the property of each individual. In other words, history, but not civilization, started with the coming of male domination. In the old religion, the women's dances had all been circular, such as the May Pole Dance, while the men's dances were linear, such as the Morris (Maurrits) dances. Instability, change, and upheaval became the order of the new society, a state of affairs which is still with us today.
The extension of the Goddess religion into an environment where the main food supply came from the ocean, instead of from herding domestic animals, required some adaptation to the traditional thinking, but this was easily done. In both the herding and fishing environments the men had to be away from home for many months at a time and the women were left in total charge of the home front. In the Sahara, the society had compared itself with the elephant family structure in which the tribe was led by an older female while the mature males, roaming the country side as rogues, were only allowed back in the family at breeding time. The male clergy of the priestess, The Abade, long ago had adopted an Elephant tattoo which they brought with them to Scotland and which still can be seen on many of the symbol stones scattered around the countryside. After copying this symbol over many centuries without ever seeing a real elephant, it had become a funny looking beast which appears to be more at home in the water than on land, but it is a recognizable elephant just the same. In Denmark, the Order of the Elephant is still the highest order the king can bestow. The Danes are unable to explain why the elephant was chosen for this honor.
The development of reliable ocean navigation had opened up the world around 10,000 bce. and gave our ancestors contact with other peoples they never had heard of before. The many tribes had invented a variety of ingenious means to produce their own reliable food supply. Some of these had the technology to exploit the unlimited food resources of the ocean. In fact, our word ocean, the Greek word okeano, comes from the Basque/Saharan words oke-ano, okerrezin (infallible, unfailing) ano (food supply): "an unfailing food supply". Without this dependable and abundant food supply from the ocean and its shores, increasing the populations and permanent living in the Hebrides, in spite of the better climate then, would not have been possible.
The sacrament of the Sacred Marriage shows us that fertility in nature was not taken for granted in the Goddess religion. The first of certain products were offered ritually to the priestess by the harvester during the growing season, starting with the first egg of an important wild bird. This tradition is continued in Holland, when the Queen is presented with the first-found lapwing egg of the spring,. It culminates in the Thanksgiving celebrations after the main harvest was safely stored. Frymer-Kenski wrote:
"... in performing these rituals, the celebrants acknowledged their dependence on fertility and their desire to participate in assuring the continuation of the natural cycle." (p.92)
In the Bible, this dependence on human interference was taken away from the people. In Genesis 1: 10-13 we are told that on the third day God created dry land and on the same day He put forth trees and plants yielding seed and trees bearing fruit. Inherent in this statement is that fertility was given to the earth by God and that
"there is no need for humans to focus concern on the creation or continuation of this fertility. Just as people do not have to think about helping the sun to rise..." (Frymer-Kenski 1992 p.93).
The writer of Deuteronomy 26: 1-10 re-focused the traditional awe inspired by the ability of the priestess and Tammuz (human sacrifice) to bring back the season's fertility, by thanking the Lord for his gift of the land of Israel:
"When you come into the land which the Lord your God gives you for an inheritance, and have taken possession of it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from your land that the Lord your God gives you, and you shall put it in a basket, and you shall go to the .... priest who is in office at that time and say to him: 'I declare this day to the Lord your God that I have come into the land which the Lord swore to our fathers to give us. Then the priest shall take the basket and set it down before the altar of the Lord your God.
"There is no awe, reverence, or gratitude for the fertility of the soil and its bountiful harvest. Indeed the ability of the earth to grow harvest is assumed rather than celebrated" (Frymer-Kenski p.94).
A sincere celebration of the wonderful gift of fertility of the earth was re-written into something that was a characteristic and automatic state, such as the rising of the sun.
By 8,000 bce. many changes were taking place which effectively created a very different, even vibrant society. Life had become much more centrally directed, specialized trades had continued to evolve, and people started to grow older than before. The one truly outstanding feature in their religion was that the wonder of the human female had become the revered center of their civilization. The realization that the peoples' survival depended entirely on the productivity of the earth and the life-creating, nurturing and food-gathering ability of the women meant that the women had become highly regarded. The Goddess represented the abundance of the living earth and she was portrayed in a large variety of personalities, all doing different good works. These many personifications of the one supreme Goddess were the cause of the oft repeated fallacy that there were many Goddesses in the early religion, when in fact there was only one.
The Great Goddess' original abode appears to have been in the Ahoggar Mountains of southeastern Algiers, a location just west of the center of the Sahara, where an incredible display of rock art may still be seen at the 2000+ m. level. Reverence for life, expressed in the careful conservation of all living things in all their forms, became enriched by mysteries, legends, taboos, magic, sacred springs and groves, special festivity days etc. The basic language, which had naturally developed up to then, was no longer adequate to accommodate the needs of the developing sciences such as astronomy and medicine or to describe the new thoughts, processes and inventions. Probably around 5,500 - 6,000 bce. some scholars were assigned the task to organize and develop the language to bring it up to date to allow the teaching and memorizing of all knowledge, and to prepare it for future expansion with new words. This then created a highly organized and extremely logically arranged language, the first highly evolved invented language on earth. The greatly enhanced language was finished and introduced just before the great exodus from the Sahara began. Consequently, this language was carried with the migrants to the Near East and Europe.
The invention of a fully developed language came about in a time of severe stress, caused by the failing of the rains in the central Sahara. This was followed by an orderly evacuation of the drought-affected areas. The religious center in the Ahoggar mountains, located in the drought area, was no longer central to the needs of the people and had to be moved. As the Sea Peoples on the coasts had taken charge of the placing and transport of the displaced tribes, the most likely site for a new religious center was in the Central Mediterranean, and the islands of Malta and Gozo were selected. Astonishing megalithic temples were constructed, which may still be seen in close to the original condition.
Those tribes that had moved over land to regions like Mesopotamia and who had no sea access to Malta, built their own imitations of the Ahoggar mountain sanctuary and called them Ziggurats. These mountain-like monuments were covered with bitumen, to protect the mud-dried bricks from erosion. Soil was deposited on top of the monuments in which the same trees and lesser vegetation was planted as had been growing in the Ahoggar region. Even the basaltic columns of the Ahoggar were imitated in the sides of the Ziggurat by constructing vertical flutings. In the "Hanging Garden" on top of the Ziggurat, a small temple was built for the priestess, a place where the sacred marriage continued to take place annually or periodically.
In order to spread and stabilize this newly developed language and promote the language arts, it was decided to create different types of schools. All knowledge had to be memorized which was taught by teachers called Gogomaisu (memory teacher). These would endlessly repeat the knowledge they had to offer, until the students could quote it faultlessly. In addition, in Ireland and Scotland there were several schools in places still called Tarbert, from tartar-bert, tartar (talkative) bertsolari (troubadour) where the teachers were instructing in the art of creating poetry, set to song. This art was socially and intellectually superior to the work of the Gogomaisu. A similar form of literary expression is still thriving in the Basque country. For a beautiful description of this ancient art, see Aulestia's book "Improvisational Poetry". After writing arrived, the Olerkari produced another type of literary expression, the poets, whose art only depended on writing not on song. Although some symbols to express certain religious ideas and thoughts had long existed, the clergy of that period did not allow the common people to use them. Strong and very conservative oral traditions evolved that were responsible for the fact that this invented language became the most stable on earth. It has been maintained in almost the original form until this day in the Basque Language. It is still spoken in the Basque country as Basque/Euskera, and in considerably modified form in southern India as Dravidian. The Basque name for their language, Euskera tells us that the age of the Goddess is not forgotten:
eu - us. -
.ke - era
The eminent system of oral education was rigorously maintained for many millennia until the coming of Proto-Judaism, Judaism and Christianity, which totally inverted the original faith, encouraged writing and discouraged memory training. These new religions became a serious threat to the stability of the civilization of the Goddess religion, its ancient language, and its diversity of oral traditions. These traditions had stood in the way of the acceptance of the new, very different patriarchal laws of the new sky-gods, which had been created by turning many aspects of the Goddess religion upside down. However, in the Basque country the shepherds and their families in the mountains remained illiterate although orally proficient until early the 20th Century. Now that literacy is being taught to everybody, the oral traditions could become eroded so that the language and its dialects will start to change. This has already begun with the creation of Euskera Batua (Unified Basque). Here one language has been created out of seven dialects and is being taught in schools. It is now up to the popular Bertsolari to keep up the ancient traditions.
The seafarers from Morocco, today called Berbers, explored and controlled the Atlantic coast and islands of Europe. Those people who left Morocco for lands to the northwest had brought their Goddess along. (This northwestern extension of the ancient religion is discussed by Joseph Campbell in "Primitive Mythology" pages 427-434, but Edo Nyland does not take his references to Irish mythology too seriously). The many megalithic monuments that can still be seen in Ireland and Scotland are proof that the Goddess traveled with these migrants from Morocco. The religious monuments these people built in both Morocco and Ireland are so startlingly alike, that they should be regarded as textbook cases of diffusion or direct cultural contact. For instance, take the passage tomb of Newgrange (Ireland) and the tumulus of M'Zora just south of Tangiers, Morocco, of which Bob Quinn (1986) writes:
Coming nearer, we could see the circle of stones, some of them trespassing on gardens. It was true. It was the remains of a tumulus. Most of the central part had been gouged out, probably for the stones and gravel, just as similar tombs had been in Ireland. There were 167 stones in the circle according to our count. The pillar dominated the landscape. Newgrange once boasted such a stone. It was last seen in 1770.... I managed to take two pictures of what was, to me, unmistakably a first cousin of Gavrinis and Newgrange. I learned that the site had been mentioned by a Roman historian, Sertorius. It was also described as being the grave of a native god, Antee; this coincided with the tradition of Newgrange being the grave of an Irish god, Aonghus. (Quinn p.72-73)
The American James Mayor had written an article about the M'Zora monument, but it attracted little attention. There are innumerable such similarities with Ireland in northwest Africa. For instance, the many hundreds of stone circles in Senegal are identical to those in Cornwall. The individual tribes brought along the same Goddess and the same language and oral traditions. Their religious structures, although certainly different from their neighboring tribes in Africa, were being built exactly the same in their new homeland. Any remarks suggesting a link between Ireland and Morocco have up to now been put down by historians as 'unsubstantiated'. This is similar to the words of the Moroccan Ibn Khaldoun, known in the west as Averrous, the Father of Sociology.
"Historians have committed frequent errors in the stories and events they reported. They accepted them in plain transmitted form, without regard for its value. They did not probe them with the yardstick of philosophy, with the help of the knowledge of the nature of things, or with the help of speculation or historical insight. Therefore they strayed from the truth and found themselves lost in the desert of baseless assumptions".
The Neolithic view of female sexuality was death denying and life affirming. In contrast, the Judeo-Christian view was and still is life denying and death affirming. Consequently, the civilization and religion of our Neolithic ancestors was very different from the society we experience today. Death meant something very different to our ancestors because it was always followed by reincarnation in a newborn babe. Death was not the end of a person's life, but it was recognized as a serious setback and as such was mourned because a productive and needed loved one was gone. However, in time everybody knew that this would be followed by a joyous return. People believed absolutely that they were the reincarnation of someone who had passed on. They accepted the same name of the deceased and all associated achievements. They learned all the special knowledge of the predecessor. They were also brought up to follow closely in his/her footsteps. This belief provided the highest degree of stability for the society, but was also the foundation of a form of caste system that at times created different social classes. When such a presumed reincarnated person was interviewed by an anthropologist in modern societies, he/she would sometimes tell of happenings in a life that was known to have occurred centuries ago. The first anthropologists doing such interviews among contemporary societies were incredulous and did not know what to make of such sincere testimony. It finally was realized that this was typical of the Neolithic faith. These people had no history, they were history themselves; it was the time-less society.
A newborn child was never named until it was certain to survive. In addition, it would not be known whose reincarnation this child was to be, a weighty decision to be made by the Abade of the tribe. In the meantime, the child was given a temporary descriptive name such as 'sickly' (Erik, from erikoi), 'forgetful' (Hans, from hantzkor), 'having fun' (Olga, from olgau), 'lovable' (Meta, from maita), 'nervous' (Larry, from larri), 'lacking' (Gabi, from gabe izan), 'capable' (Alison, from alizan), 'gossip' (Merran, from erran merran), making excuses (Haiko/Heiko, from haiko maiko), breaking things (Lorry, from lorrinaldi), go to sleep (Lotte, from lotaratu), etc. Most of these names are still in use today and a long list can be drawn up, but this will suffice. As times went by a nickname often replaced the original descriptive name when there was reason to do so.
Later in life, when the individual had done honorable or special things in a particular field of endeavor, a new name was agglutinated from a sentence or descriptive term and a special ceremony was held to install the name, such as Odysseus, Homer etc. To have such a special name was a great honor and brought with it enormous respect. The new Judeo-Christian clergy was intolerant of this system, especially as related to reincarnation. Instead they insisted on giving newborn children their life-long names shortly after birth.
Life on the Hebridian Islands throughout history was difficult and often dangerous. The population at first increased slowly until the limits were reached which could be supported by the environment. The stability shown by these people over so many millennia must be due to a high level of sustained well-being. Well-being of a population could be measured by, or expressed in, such items as happiness, a full stomach for everyone, a warm dry place to live, longer than usual life-expectancy, low infant mortality and high (especially female) oral literacy or exchanged knowledge. In spite of the high mortality among the sea-faring men, the Irish and Scottish societies appear to have been happy and delightful.
There was a great deal of comforting solidarity within a tribe. This was partly based on the vague feeling of communal affinity to the totem animal with which all were to be tattooed. Much more so was the influence of the many social duties, such as the performance of certain ceremonies, especially those related to the ancestors, which banded the members of the tribe together. However, the firmest solidarity was only found in the smaller tribes where everyone was closely related and attached to the locality where the ancestors were revered in their own stone-built tomb.
Men and women in general had different roles to play in the production and handling of goods. Men were prone to focus on knowledge of how to efficiently input their skills into goods, that is to use the least amount of effort to produce the most goods. Women conventionally apply knowledge of how to efficiently distribute goods, that is how to use the least amount of goods to create the greatest well being. It took a great deal of skill and cooperation on the part of both men and women to live successfully in this harsh but healthy land.
MAGIC IN SOCIAL ACTIVITIES
Magic is the art of achieving seemingly supernatural control over nature. It is an attempt by humans to govern the forces of nature directly, by means of special lore. Everything that vitally affected the people was accompanied by magic, because it was involved in all communal and industrial activities and especially those associated with danger, chance or the ancestors. The rules of magic had to be followed exactly or the results were likely to be disastrous. Malinowski described it in this way:
"Magic is not built up in narrative style; it does not serve to communicate ideas from one person to another; it does not purport to contain a consecutive, consistent meaning. It is an instrument serving special purposes, intended for the exercise of man's specific powers, and its meaning, giving this word in a wider sense, can be understood only in correlation to this aim. They are expressions fitting into one another and into the whole, according to what could be called a magical order of thinking, or perhaps more correctly, a magical order of launching words toward their aim" (p.432).
Magic was indispensable in organizing and motivating the workers involved in building megalithic structures or other stone monuments such as barrow tombs or roads, and other large construction projects like ocean-going ships, storehouses, piers and docks. Communal labor was important in the local economy and each type had a different name. It is important that the reader understands what magic meant to the people of the tribe and the role it played in all their vital pursuits.
First of all it must be realized that the people firmly believed in the value of magic, and that this conviction, when put to the test of their actions, was quite unwavering. We may speak of the sociological weight of tradition that is of the degree to which the behavior of the community is affected by the traditional commands of tribal law and customs. The general injunction of always building boats under the guidance of magic was obeyed without the slightest deviation, for the tradition weighed very heavily. Not one single boat was being constructed without magic, indeed without full observance of all the rites and ceremonial. The forces that kept the people to their traditional course of behavior were, in the first place, the specific social inertia that obtains in all human societies and was the basis of all conservative tendencies. Second the strong conviction that if the traditional course were not taken, evil results would follow. A boat built without magic would be unseaworthy, heavy and slow in sailing, unlucky in difficult circumstances. Thus, no one building or using a boat would dream of omitting the magic rites. So strong was the belief in magic that the right wording of the incantation would even be able to make the boat fly if the necessary magic had not fallen into oblivion. It is also important to understand rightly the peoples' ideas about the relation between magical efficiency and the result of craftsmanship. Both were considered indispensable, but both were understood to act independently. The people understood that magic, however efficient, would not make up for bad workmanship. Each of these two had its own province: the builder by his skill and knowledge made the boat stable and swift, and magic gave it an additional stability and swiftness. If a boat was obviously badly built, the people would know why it sailed slowly and was unwieldy. If two boats were equally well built but one sailed better, it would be attributed to magic on the part of the boat or the crew.
What is the economic function of magic in the process of boat building? Is it simply an extraneous action, having nothing to do with the real work or its organization? Is magic from the economic point of view a mere waste of time? By no means. Magic puts order and sequence into the various activities, and it and its associated ceremonial was instrumental to securing the co-operation of the community, and the organization of communal labour. It inspired the builders with great confidence in the efficiency of their work, a mental state essential in any enterprise of complicated and difficult character. The belief that the magician was a person endowed with special powers made him/her a natural leader whose command was always obeyed, who could fix dates, apportion work and keep the worker up to the mark. When all craftsmanship and magic had been done correctly and the boat was finished, the female magician, or the priestess herself, conducting the benediction ceremony, would invite the Goddess on board and she would become part of the boat. It was then that the eyes were carved and painted on the bow so she could look out for danger. Thereby the boat was instantly transformed into an object of miraculous achievement and admiration, a living thing with its own personality. Around the world, many fishing boats can still be seen with such eyes. Such may be found in the Mediterranean, India and Polynesia, including the very large cedar dug-outs on the British Columbia coast of Canada.
Magic, far from being a useless appendage, or even a burden on the work, supplied the psychological influence, which kept people confident about the success of their labours and provided them with a sort of natural leader. [E. Legner suggests that this is akin to modern day prayer] Thus the organization of labor in boat building rests on the one hand on the division of functions, those of the owner, the expert and the helpers, and on the other hand on the cooperation between labor and magic" (Malinowski p.115-6)
Ownership, giving this word in its broadest sense, is the often very complex relation between an object and the social community in which it is found. In ethnology, it is extremely important not to use the word "ownership" in any narrower sense than that just defined, because the types of ownership found in various parts of the world differ widely. It is especially a grave error to use the word ownership with the very definite connotation given to it in our own society. For it is obvious that this connotation presupposes the existence of very highly developed economic and legal conditions, such as they are among ourselves, and therefore the term "own" is meaningless when applied to a Neolithic society. What is worse, such an application smuggles a number of pre-conceived ideas into our description, and before we have begun to give an account of the local conditions, we have distorted the reader's outlook.
Each type of ownership has customs and traditions attached with different sets of functions, rites and privileges. Moreover, the social range of those who enjoy these privileges varies. Even with regard to one object, a number of people may lay claim to ownership. People having the full de facto right of using an object, might not be allowed to call themselves the owner of the object. The use of this title is highly valued because it is the social psychology of the people with their ambition, vanity and desires, to be renowned and well spoken of. Sailing expeditions were extremely important and the name of the boat was always associated with the name of the owner, which in turn was identified by his magical powers and assured good luck in sailing.
It is a widespread fallacy that the primitive 'Golden Age' was characterized by the absence of any distinction between thine and mine. If we consider the numerous theories that see nothing but primitive economics, or simple pursuits for the maintenance of existence, it must be made clear that the tribal life is permeated by a constant give and take. Every ceremony, every legal and customary act is done to the accompaniment of material gift and counter gift; that wealth given and taken, is one of the main instruments of social organization, of the power of the chief, of the bonds of kinship and of relationship in law (Malinowski p.167)
Sorcery is the bringing about of destructive or harmful events in the near future with the help of evil spirits. Minor ailments can be brought about by a variety of causes such as bad food, exhaustion, exposure, colds. However, if a person sickens for any length of time and the strength is draining away, then black magic or sorcery is certainly the cause. Even accidents such as drowning are not believed to happen without cause. To become a sorcerer does not take any special initiation except knowledge of the spells. The special spells and incantations can be obtained for a high price from a recognized sorcerer, or can be taught by the mother's brother to her son. He will then continue the matrilineal tradition of powerful sorcery spells and the use of special paraphernalia. When a sorcerer attacks someone, his first step is to cast a light spell over the habitual haunts of the victim which, for instance, will affect him with a slight illness, and keep him in bed where he will try to cure himself by staying warm near a fire. The sorcerer then can proceed in a great variety of ways, one of which is that he will approach the house of the victim at night, accompanied by night birds such as owls, which keep guard over him. He is surrounded by a halo of legendary terrors that make all neighbors shudder with fear, just from the thought of meeting him on such a nocturnal visit. The sorcerer will then impregnate a bundle of secret herbs with deadly charms, place these at the end of a long stick and thrust these through an opening into the fire near where the sick person is lying. The fumes of the burning herbs will then be inhaled by the victim, whose name has been uttered in the charm, and he/she will contract one or the other deadly diseases, of which the people have a long list. (P.75-6). Sorcerers are regarded with great fear and apprehension, and avoided by non-family members. A large collection of sorcery lore has been collected and is available in many books such as those by James Fraser and Joseph Campbell.
It has been traditional among early writers to depict the 'heathens' as happy-go-lucky, lazy children of nature who shun as much as possible all labor and effort, waiting until the bounty of nature falls in his/her lap. No one who believes in this attitude will be able to understand the aims, motives and enthusiasm involved in carrying out the often-enormous enterprises. Some semi-popular economic literature will tell us that primitive humans, the common savages, are prompted in all actions by a rationalistic conception of self-interest, and achieving aims directly with a minimum of effort. Instead, work and effort, rather than being merely an end, is collectively a way an end. The truth is that the Neolithic population did work extremely hard and systematically, with endurance, pride and purpose, and did not wait until pressed into action by immediate needs. This is proven by the impressive archaeological remains of barrow tombs, stone circles, processional ways, menhirs, corpse-exposure monuments etc. The so-called 'Protestant Work Ethic' is simply a continuation of good work habits from pre-Christian days. Gain, such as is often the stimulus for work in modern communities, never acts as an impulse to work under Neolithic conditions (Malinowski p.156). The real force that binds all the people and ties them down in their tasks is obedience to custom, to tradition.
In carrying out a project, whether boat or tomb construction, there always was one person in charge. If it were a religious project, the priestess would first come and dedicate the site with the appropriate magical words. Detailed planning had preceded this dedication. This included optimizing road access, the most appropriate location with respect to the village, the availability of stone quarries, need for decoration etc. The head person overseeing the operation could be male or female, depending on the involvement of the community council. In case of heavy stone construction, the leader would usually be a man. This person would take responsibility for the whole undertaking. The people doing the work were often full time employed and needed to be paid, usually in the form of food, which was the duty of the project leader. This meant that everyone in the community was involved in providing the leader with large supplies of whatever was required, from garden produce to fish, berries, dairy products, meat etc.
Under the head person or chief worked the experts. These were the real technical leaders, people who knew how to work the quarry, how to transport the building materials, the master builder, those who were to do the artistic work etc. All were experts in their own fields and had been carefully chosen for their skill and experience. Depending on the complexity and scope of the work there may have been several experts involved.
Thirdly, there were the workers, divided into different groups. The smallest group of workers was formed by the core workers who would be more or less steadily engaged in the different stages of the work, often people directly related to the person in charge of that particular specialty. The largest group was the entire community. It was called in occasionally to help with those tasks that required all available hands, including the moving of huge rocks. In case of construction of a processional way such as the 'smooth road' which Odysseus saw at Killary Harbor in Ireland, this required the help of all hands of several tribes for extended periods, because such projects usually served several communities. The task of finding, breaking, and transporting the millions of stones needed was a good excuse for regular 'working bees' which must have been extremely tiring tasks. However, they were also followed by joyous affairs when each stage was completed. Even so, it must have taken years and great persistence to complete such mammoth tasks. A good example is the Grianan of Aileach monument on the top of the high hill near Letterkenny. In this case all the stones had to be carried up the long processional road, which, except for the top portion, is still in use today.
Stages in construction were always blessed with magic. Magic only worked properly with the best of craftsmanship, and it was up to the workers to make sure that the best possible results were obtained. No magician or priestess would proceed with the blessings if the work had been below standard. Magic was interwoven into all the activities involved in the project, from catching the fish in the sea, the seeding of the gardens, the making of dairy products, the sacrificing of the animal offerings, the splitting of the rocks, to the final dedication of the product. Even the Leprechauns were part of the effort and had tasks to perform, for which they were rewarded with dishes of milk and special places to live.
It was generally accepted that animals were incapable of feeling pain and consequently, the cruelty done to living animals often was abhorring. The squeals of pain from a pig on the spit being roasted alive were the cause of hilarious laughter. The priestess Kirke thought nothing of cutting the throat of a piglet so the blood could flow over the hands of a murderer, to expiate the foul deed. At a religious feast steaks might be cut off a wretched living animal, as was reported by the early Scottish explorer James Bruce in his book "Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile" published in 1790. He was studying the Falashas, the Proto-Jewish people of Ethiopia, who had retained many of the habits of the original Goddess religion. Even today in many countries the 'sport' of catching wild pigeons, hunting foxes, coyotes, wolves and other animals is associated with much unnecessary cruelty. Roosters have their spurs removed, and replaced with vicious steel dagger-like spurs to cut up the opponent better in cockfights. In our own times, the people of Societies for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals deal daily with examples of criminal indifference to the suffering of animals. The days of the Goddess are still with us
Being part of such an energetic community meant a life of hard work and long hours. There were also happy feasts of plentiful food, with dances, instrumental music and singing. In general, the peoples' life was secure, happy, innocent but not safe for those at sea. The coming of Gnostic Christianity of St. Patrick enriched the life of the local people with different forms of art and music, and discouraged the human sacrifice. The Gnostic/Irish priests did not interfere with the Universal Language of the people or their way of life, they just brought the messages of love spoken by Christ, who had died a voluntary death on the cross very much like the sacrifice of a young man in the Whirlpool of Corrivreckan. The evangelists did not criticize the old ways but brought new religious ideas from North Africa, called Gnostic Christianity. The combination of the two religions created a vibrant and artistically creative society, far in advance of anything the continent had ever seen. This was no foreign religion to the local people, and the male clergy of the Priestess apparently embraced the new ideas. The monk/missionaries who went to the continent to spread the words of Christ were mostly converted Abade of the Goddess, and were recognizable by their purple upper eyelids, the front half of their heads shaven, and their long white cloaks. The symbol of Gnostic Christianity from north Africa was the circle in the cross, as is still to be seen on many churches in Ireland and elsewhere, as well as on the many Coptic churches in Egypt. Edo Nyland maintains that the coming of Judeo-Christianity brought about a total upheaval of the ancient values and religion. It brought much resentment and violence, which still makes headlines in our daily newspapers.
A most unusual form of "artistry" in Ireland is found associated with old Roman-Catholic buildings. The "sheela na gigs" are an enormous embarrassment to prim and proper Ireland and Britain. Close to 200 are known to exist, built into church and convent walls, in castles, in stone walls separating fields, displayed on roofs, even found in streams and used as corner stones under buildings. They are impossible to date. However, judging by the age of the buildings, in which they are found, they were installed roughly from 900 to 1200 AD. They are carved out of stone and are found mostly in southern Ireland, but a few are also found in England and on the European continent. A famous one may be seen in its original location in the church of St. Mary and St. David, Kilpeck, Herfordshire, England. They have been described as crude, lewd, most obscene female exhibitionist figures, fertility figures with the legs apart, drawing the attention to enormous genitalia held open with the fingers of both hands. There is absolutely nothing of beauty in them and can hardly be called art, they don't even look like women because most have no, or only tiny flat, breasts. They certainly do not look anything like the healthy round Goddess figurines of the Neolithic. With their large round, often bulbous eyes they look defiantly at the world. Many more of these repulsive things must have been destroyed as they became accessible, when puritans and clergymen got their hands on them. Some of the best were stored in the cellar of the National Museum in Dublin and neither pleading nor money could bring them out. That was until Bob Quinn wrote his little paperback "Atlantean, Ireland's North African and Maritime Heritage". The last chapter of his book is devoted to these 9 to 12 inch high little creatures. The Museum was subsequently deluged with requests to see them, so they relented and two of the less ugly ones were then reluctantly displayed in the entrance to the Treasury of the Museum, where the staff hoped that the sight of masses of gold objects would draw the attention away from the loathsome objects. Only one bookstore in Dublin, very near Trinity College, carried a supply of Quinn's book. At another, Edo Nyland was told that the book was not recommended reading and therefore was not available in that store.
The fact that the Sheelas are mostly found on Roman Catholic churches, monasteries and convents means that they were somehow associated with religion and that they were intended to address a problem. On the continent of Europe, many somewhat similar types of carvings were found. Quinn writes that these continental exhibitionist
"carvings were common on the pilgrim routes to places like Sanitago de Compostella. The object of these carvings was to warn the pious away from occasions of lust. They featured angels, devils, men and women in the most imaginative possible range of acrobatic positions. Indeed, what strikes one is the sheer 'dirty-mindedness' of the medieval carvers. In the most splendid Gothic and Romanesque cathedrals you have an impressive array of male and female anal exhibition, phallic display, genital assault, beard pulling (a euphemism), androgyny, breast display - all of the practices we associate with pornography. Is it possible that these activities reflected the amusements of the ordinary people of the time, including clerics, and which a mediaeval Church - inspired by St. Augustine - wished to eradicate? (Quinn: p. 166-7)
It has been suggested that the Irish carvers were slavishly copying a continental example, but would they have confined themselves almost exclusively to this grotesque female form? Quinn looked into this question and said that Ireland rarely has an example of the continental acrobatics, rarely a decent phallus. The daring range of imagery on the continent does not find its expression in Ireland. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that the Sheelas are a uniquely Irish embarrassment.
Quinn writes that the name itself is not understood. If it is Gaelic it would be 'Sileadh na gCioch', meaning 'shedding (of liquid) from the breasts'. However, as the figures have no breasts this cannot be the meaning. The name may be misrepresented as 'Sileadh na Giog, meaning 'shedding liquid from the hunkers'. "To take this as meaning urinating is a little prosaic. Could it possibly refer to the activity of menstruation?" (Quinn p.170). But then, where does the word 'menstruation' come from? The VCV vowel interlocking formula gives us that answer:
.me - en.
- .st - .ru - ati - on.
Here we appear to have the answer to the puzzle of the Sheela na Gigs. The use of menstrual blood was common for religious purposes in the Goddess religion and this practice was taken over by some of the Gnostic Christian sects like the Manichaeans, the Cathars, the Mandeans and many other sects that the Roman Catholic church denounced as heretics. One of these Gnostic groups moved from northern Africa to the Atlantic coast of Europe. It became established in Ireland, and eventually it formed the Irish Christianity of St. Patrick. This combined with the diverse indigenous activities of the Goddess, created a vibrant religious life. Itinerant Irish clergy who later preached throughout western Europe brought with them from north Africa and Ireland the most beautiful book artistry the world has ever seen. The Christian church adopted many of the practices of the Irish Gnostics and the Goddess religion and adapted them to form the new western Christianity centered in Rome. These practices included the sacrament of the symbolic drinking of the blood/wine and the breaking and eating of the bread.
But what does the name Sheela na Gig really mean? (sh is written as x in Basque). It wasn't a Gallic expression, so it must have been formed out of the pre-Christian tongue:
shi - ila
' na ' .gi - ig.
Here we have two translations, one calling the collection of menstrual blood immoral, the other vulgar. Both words must have been coined by priests or monks of the new religions. This is very similar to the meaning of the name of Utnapishtim, the wise priest of Shurrupak, mentioned in the Gilgamesh Epic (2000 bce.):
ut. - na -
pish - ti - im.
Here again we find that word 'immoral', and menstruation is called "urine". Quinn discussed the problem with John Allegro, of "Dead Sea Scrolls" fame, who pointed out that the male dominated church was, and still is, afraid of sex. He traced the rise of the Gnostic belief through the Essenes - the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls - right back to the Canaanites of Palestine. The name Essene translates to:
es. - .se
He did not dispute the relationship between the Gnostics and the Sheelas, and brought to Quinn's attention the writing of a fourth century bishop who had witnessed the rituals of a Gnostic group called the Phibionites:
"The shameless ones have sexual intercourse and I am truly abashed to say what scandalous things they practice ... following coitus in uninhibited lust, they proceed to blaspheme Heaven itself. The man and woman take the ejaculated sperm in their hands, step forward, raise their eyes aloft and with the defilement still on their hands, offer up prayers ... They then proceed it in their infamous ritual, saying: This is the Body of Christ, and this is the Pascha (Passover Meal) through which our bodies suffer and are made to acknowledge the passion of Christ. They behave similarly with a woman's menstrual blood: they collect from her the monthly blood of impurity, take it, eat it in a common meal and say: This is Christ's blood" (Quinn p.171). Quinn then goes on:
Accounts like this were written by Orthodox bishops who would naturally paint as lurid a description as possible of their opponents activities. "But there were many such equally disturbing accounts of "agape". As John Allegro said 'It must have been revolting', but the aesthetic sense of true believers is not often finely developed. (Quinn p.172)
The word agape means: "An abundance of impulsiveness" or "a free-for-all". Quinn then suggests that the Sheela na Gigs must have represented a very deep-rooted belief for such a bizarre idea to be adopted and incorporated into the Orthodox Church's own buildings. They must have been installed in a time that sexual prudery and chastity was not part of Irish morality. It is a rather bizarre thought that such a time actually existed, even though no living person can remember it.
The Sheela na Gig sculptures' raison d'être must have been to ridicule and stamp out the use of menstrual blood in religious observances, which had been practiced since time immemorial in the Goddess religion, later maintained by some Gnostic sects including early Irish Christianity. Joseph Campbell writes:
"For, as Ruth Underhill has pointed out, the mysteries of childbirth and menstruation are natural manifestations of power. The rites of protective isolation, defending both the woman herself and the group to which she belongs, are rooted in a sense and idea of mysterious danger, whereas the boy's and men's rites are, rather, a social affair".
There was little doubt expressed by Nyland (2001) that menstrual blood played an important role in the practices of the Goddess faith and in the Gnostic-Christian sect of Ireland and Scotland.