I just learned about Jen Taylor who is a singer and songwriter and a woman who embraces the goddess. Her philosophical work focuses on re-wilding the body/mind – returning us to our source.
Jen Taylor writes:
“Statue-Menhirs are sandstone standing stones that were carved about 5000 years ago. They are also known as slabs or anthropomorphic steles (my italics). They are the earliest life-size representation of human beings known to date, appearing across Africa and Eurasia, engraved or carved in low-relief on both sides. Over 100 menhirs were found in the area of Southern Aveyron, France alone.
Female statue-menhirs are some of our earliest monumental art, though omitted by most histories and archeological surveys. Referred to as Grandmother stones, the megaliths were all erected at specific locations, generally isolated, indicating a link to religious or funeral rites or perhaps to the worship of ancestors. The Lady of St-Sernin Aveyron was discovered in 1888 standing in a field. She typifies the recurrent cultural patterns of these statues: dotted eyes, elongated (pillar-like) nose, no mouth, but markings on the face, breasts, hands toward the center of the body, a belt, and around the neck, multiple ropes of necklaces with a Y amulet. We suffer a cultural amnesia as to the meanings of these ancient images. Reproducing them is a kind of meditation on their lost messages.”
I was so intrigued by this particular stone image that seemed so familiar (Gimbutas?) I looked it up only to be somewhat disappointed. The Lady of Serin is about 5000 years old and was first found in a field somewhere in France; she now resides in a museum in that country. Nearly 100 of these megaliths were found in the Monts de Lacaune in Southern Aveyron. Nothing is known of the people who lived in this region between 3000 BCE and 5000 BCE. What we do know is that they erected the first megaliths. The most famous of these statues is the Lady of Saint – Sernin.
Some of the sources I consulted state that these menhirs were anthropomorphic images, the earliest representations of mankind known in Western Europe. I object to the word anthropomorphizing because it suggests that people are projecting human-like qualities onto these stone images that don’t belong there! Isn’t this a powerful way to dismiss the feminist goddess perspective? This was exactly what happened with Marija Gimbutas’s work on goddesses. Of course we know now that more and more research supports Gimbutas’s theses, but her work is still marginalized by the dominant culture. Use of the word mankind rather than humankind is also a give away. Patriarchy’s bias becomes obvious, at least to me. What follows is my own interpretation of this stone, and like Jen Taylor, I also ask the reader what s/he sees in this complex image. Taylor saw an owl…
When I first looked at this compelling image I immediately ‘saw’ the three phases of the goddess/woman imaged in “Grandmother Stone”. From the ground up the first phase of female growth is sculpted with feet that penetrate the ground and strong legs, indicating a solid foundation is necessary for growth and development during the first phase of female life. The second phase depicts the mother goddess. This largest phase is separated from the ground or foundation by two horizontal lines, which might indicate the vaginal opening. With breasts and hands clasped inward towards her belly this second layer suggests that as goddess/woman she gives birth, nourishes children, her own life, and creatures of the earth. This mother goddess wears ornate necklaces perhaps an indication of her power and honored place in the world. Both the first and second layers seem very human – like to me – five toes, five fingers. However, the curved wishbone image in the center reminds me of other ancient figures of the goddess with outstretched arms. This “Y” symbol may suggest that the mother goddess is developing or creating space to hold the third and final image, her spiritual self – that of the bird goddess who is more than human. With penetrating eyes and a beak that hides her mouth (it’s hard to see the beak in this particular image but it’s there) this bird goddess also has clasped ‘hands’, but instead of the five toes, five fingers of the first two layers this third has four horizontal lines suggesting something different – perhaps talons or wings. The third aspect of the goddess/woman is the visionary, the one the one with eyes that see into the past and future, the women with wings. Together all three indicate the three life stages of women’s development through the goddess ending with Grandmother as visionary and ‘more than human’ wisdom figure.
What do you think?
BIO: Sara is a naturalist, ethologist (a person who studies animals in their natural habitats) (former) Jungian Pattern Analyst, and a writer. She publishes her work regularly in a number of different venues and is presently living in Maine.