The Goddess:
Before there were gods and goddesses like the ones we know, there was something else.  Widely spread in the world, going back to about seven thousand years ago, there were little figurines like this one, which is from Mesopotamia.  She may be as old as seven thousand or a few thousand years younger. 

The photograph hardly does her justice.  As you can see she is a representation of a woman.  She is made of terracotta and her color is warmer than what you see here.   There are little lines made of a darker slip painted on her indicating that she is clothed in what appears to be a loose outfit, which is modest enough.  She supports her breasts with her arms.  Modern women often wear support garments that do the same thing. 

There are no written records of her, and it is by no means clear what she was all about, but certain things can be guessed.  For one thing, this is not a portrait.  Although the detail is otherwise good, the face is almost undefined.  So she is not a woman but an abstraction of womanhood.  Her nice clothing and good nutrition indicate she was well cared for.

Common wisdom is that she had something to do with fertility.  For once I am in sympathy with common wisdom. 

Once there were apes that looked a little like humans.  Then there were early humans, and they started using plain stone axes rather soon after they began to be what we call human, if not exactly like us.  The simple stone axe of the Paleolithic times continued to let’s say 30,000 years ago, when rather modern looking people started using stone in a more complex way.  This was the Neolithic time.  To oversimplify it, the Paleolithic technology was to take a rock and knock flakes off it to make a serviceable multipurpose tool; the later Neolithic people would take the flakes and make excellent single purpose tools like arrowheads. 

Then came the discovery of agriculture.  Call it about seven thousand years ago.  Agriculture meant you could stay in one place more or less indefinitely.  It was not as much fun as being a roving band of hunter gatherers, particularly for the young people.  In fact it was a lot of hard work.  But it had one enormous appeal.  Weak members of the community could survive.  You just had to feed them.  In a roving band, it may have been regularly necessary to walk off and leave the elderly to starve.  That would not have been much fun either.  There are no written records, but the logic seems inescapable. 

For whatever reason, agriculture became standard in a number of places.  Population densities were higher.  There were more people among whom to select a mate.  This led to infertility from excess population size.  Sure enough, there were soon these fertility artifacts.  Ceramics were used for thousands of years only for their production.  Dishes were introduced later.

According to my Encyclopedia Britannica, there have been excavations in the Balkans, then Yugoslavia, that revealed cities designed to hold 100,000 inhabitants built at the time of the very earliest of the Mesopotamian city states.  There was urban planning, as the streets were laid out in a regular pattern.  There were two story houses.  They know this because in the excavations they found toy houses that had two stories. 

The architecture was half timber.  You would take a tree trunk, trim it into a square beam and together with other beams build a framework.  You would set rocks into the frame and then mortar or plaster them in place.  In a forested landscape with suitable rocks, this was the best way to make a wall that would resist the weather until the Shakers of the United States invented the circular saw and planks became cheap.  Half timber cottages are still lived in today.  So if you see a picture of a street with two story half timber buildings, it could be a representation of any time in the past seven thousand years.

There were specialized buildings where images of the goddess were found.  Presumably there were places of worship, although again it seems rash to make guesses.  Conspicuously, there was no evidence of preparation for war, and there was no local color.  You could not look at anything from one of these towns and know where in all the mountainous territory of Yugoslavia it was.  That changed later.  And of course now you cannot move across the Balkans without crossing national borders and changing languages. 

So if there ever was a Good Old Days, there they were.  There was peace, brotherhood and good housing.  It was not necessary any longer to abandon friends or relatives who were old or infirm.  In economic terms, they lived better than maybe a fifth to a half of the world today.  In emotional terms they probably lived better than anyone today.  And over it all hung the presence of the goddess.  In a way, she is truly the mother of us all. 

I don’t think we should call her a figure of a fertility cult.  To my thinking a cult is a small exclusive group, smaller than a religion.  The goddess represented something bigger than a religion.  It was informal.  I think of it more like Christmas in the United States, involving everybody regardless of religion, regardless of whether they like being involved.  It was more a basic assumption.  In formal terms Christmas is a Christian holiday, but it is in some ways bigger than Christianity.

And Christmas is the celebration of the birth of a baby.  Angels sang, “Peace on earth, good will to men.”  Do you get the picture?  There was time when it was actually true.  There was peace for thousands of years.  No doubt there were bad moments, but never war. 

In the British Isles around that time, the goddess was not common.  I think only one example has been found.  That may have come from trade.  In Neolithic times, there was a sort of a bridge built at a place called Fengate, which crossed a bog to reach an island in the middle of the bog.  Somebody dropped a green stone axe head from the bridge.  Since the time of the bridge could be determined by looking at tree rings in the wood that was harvested to do the building, the age of the axe head is known.  It had never been used, as it had no signs of wear and had in fact no haft although it was designed to take one.  Looking at the stone, they could tell it had come from Switzerland.  There was trade going that distance.  A single figurine might have come the same way. 

But even in Britain, there was peace.  There are Neolithic fortifications, but they seem to be directed against the sea.  There was some sort of celebration of seasons, as some of the megalithic monuments are aligned with seasonal astronomical events.  There were no great cities, but the very size of the megalithic structures bespeaks a cooperation involving essentially the entire population of the Islands and resources beyond the needs of survival. 

Outside Europe, the situation is less clear to my understanding, but everywhere there was a time before war or at least before evidence of warfare. 

Yes, there was once a time of peace and plenty.  It is as if it was always Christmas. 

The other main Christian holiday is Easter.  The word comes from the same root as estrus, which refers to the time of female fertility.  Forget about the theological issue and just look at the imagery.  A man has risen from the earth.  New life, or at least newly recovered life, is celebrated.  In the United States, the celebration involves things like flowers, eggs and rabbits.  Like Christmas, the imagery is of fertility.  That is not to say sex.  Fertility and sex are different.  Sex does not guarantee fertility.  If it did, there would have been no more interest in a goddess of fertility than of a goddess of good digestion. 

The Virgin Mary figures in both celebrations.  The image of the Madonna has been likened to one of the ancient Egyptian goddesses.  That seems to me to be an understatement.  The Egyptians of the time we know much about had perfectly normal gods and goddesses.  The goddess was as I said not really a goddess.  She was far more than that. 

Also in Yugoslavia there were a few figurines of men.  They were represented as sitting with chin on fist.  There is a statue “The Thinker” by a French sculptor Rodin, which shows a man in the same pose.  It was once a far more popular icon than it is now.  I fear that modern society does not assign as much value to thinking as we once did.  We honor those who have thought deeply in the past, but we figure now we know everything, so it just is a matter of figuring out how to apply the old principles and a matter of continuing to develop our science and technology.  From my own perspective, there are a number of issues that have not received much thought from those paid to think.  Fertility is just the most critical. 

So in those old times there was peace and plenty and the life of the mind was more respected than it is today.  But over it all, at least in the British archipelago and the vast stretches of Europe and Asia where the goddess has been found, there was a brooding melancholy.  They were starved for children.  They didn’t have as many as they needed.  That was not because of childhood mortality.  They were far richer and presumably healthier than many societies today that are demonstrating rapid growth.  They were infertile because they had a social mating pool that was too big.  Otherwise it seems inescapable that our social fund of knowledge would have continued to grow from that time onward.  It did not. 

People love the goddess in various forms today.  Many love Christmas.  Many love the Virgin Mary.  Even Mohammed liked her and honored her above all other women.  She is the only woman named in the Koran.  She conjures up images of peace, plenty and the encouragement of thought, a world very different from our present one.  But she had one bad problem.

It didn’t work.  The goddess never made anybody pregnant, never produced a single child.  That requires an egg and a sperm.  In fact it requires a healthy egg and the proper sperm for that egg and even then a bit of luck. 

There have been 953 visitors so far.  This is research, not advice.  Linton Herbert

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