- Mother Goddess— When Women were Worshiped
In September of 2008, a team of archaeologists working in the Hohle Fels cave in Germany uncovered a remarkable find: a figurine made of mammoth ivory dated to between 40,000 and 35,000 years ago. Now known as the Venus of Hohle Fels, this figurine is the oldest known representation of the human form. The exaggerated anatomy and massive breasts are a powerful depiction of being female — symbolizing the fertility goddess’ characteristics of sex and reproduction.
Many such figurines have been found across the globe, generally interpreted as being mother goddesses — considered magical because of their ability to create life. The mythology of the mother goddess places them as part of a divine pair with a male consort — who could sometimes also be human.
While no one can definitely say what the Hohle Fels Venus actually represented to people at that time, and her symbolism comes entirely from anthropologists’ interpretations, what we do know is that such figurines continued to be created throughout history.
Some experts believe that women were at the top of societies — from perhaps as far back as the late Stone Age — the period to which the Hohle Fels Venus belongs, as does the Venus of Willendorf, a 30,000-year-old statuette discovered in 1908 in Austria. Alternatively, perhaps humans considered fertility an important aspect of a successful community.
We fast-forward to the start of the Neolithic period about 12,000 to 10,000 years ago and the advent of agriculture. Prior to this, humans were still hunter-gatherers and women were the original seed-gatherers. Perhaps women were behind the early development of agriculture when they started selecting the best seeds for the next year’s crop. It is not hard to imagine that this expertise combined with their ability to give birth and to bleed without dying, could have resulted in their association with a mother goddess.
Sometimes the mother goddess was a snake, sometimes she was the Moon, among a variety of other representations, each signifying a cycle of birth, death and regeneration. Around 12,000 years ago, some societies reached the cusp of moving from a nomadic…