Before our ancestors looked to the sky to find the energy and light of source expressed by the masculine sun deity, they looked beneath their feet to the terrestrial earth-bound places, the dark womb-like caves, to find the feminine.
All life starts with birth, and in the remaining traces of our ancestor’s first religious expressions, we can find evidence of the celebration of the feminine life-giving principle of creation.
This is expressed by the caves as cathedrals, where paintings, including those depicting human hands, dating to 40,000 BCE decorate some of the deepest and most inaccessible rock bound places in Europe and Africa. The lack of any evidence of continual human habitation of these caves points to their religious nature, just as today we do not live in churches, as they are sacred, consecrated ground.
The cave is mysterious and dark, a womb-like interior recession with matrilineal implications. Its choice as a sacred space points to the feminine aspect.
Dualistically male and female are opposites. Male attributes include the warlike competitiveness that advanced us as it ensured our survival, while the feminine opposite is about life and nurturing, which we also needed to survive.
The Great Mother is the first mother, the universal mother of us all. Her ancient role was species survival. Her births echoed the Eastern idea of the births of successive universes. They echoed seasonal renewal of the fields, the reproduction of the livestock, and the experience of all mothers.
She is the life source, source itself. She could both give life and take it; her nurturing was balanced by destruction. She links us to the earth, and when we revere her, we revere the earth. We meet her in many guises along the way and ideally she balances the male sun deity.
As women were of the earth, of nature and the life force, they may have kept track of farming methods, and to ensure the harvest, either liaised with the divine or even become the divine.
There are no written records to consult, language had arrived but not writing. What we do have is the idea of the cave and the many, many Great Mother statues found worldwide, dating as far back as 29,000 BCE, all pointing to the feminine aspect.
As consciousness dawns on the human child, his first word is mother. At life’s end, his last word is also often mother, as he finally returns to the earth of the Mother. As we gained consciousness as a species, our idea of self required a nurturing counterpart, a great mother.
The Great Mother brings us home.
Mary Petiet is a reporter, writer and story teller. Her work is frequently inspired by her native Cape Cod, where she covers the local farm beat for Edible Cape Cod magazine. Mary is the author of Minerva’s Owls (Homebound Publications, April 2017) a book remembering the divine feminine to reenvision the world. She is currently divides her time between Cape Cod and The Netherlands.