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Chapter 11

The Making of the Goddess

Royal Red Regalia

The problem with everything that accrued to the power of blood is that it all had to be knit together and held in place with increasingly elaborate ritual. For as memory and predictive skills increased, so did the law of cause and effect that told people their own actions were what raised and lowered the light, kept the sky in place, held back the floods, and made the yams proliferate. The more the external mind knew about the world, the more effort was needed to maintain it. As technologies of household arts and food purification, of hunting and earliest gardening developed, people took on more complex and demanding work in every sphere. It must have seemed at times that the taboos knitting sacred human life together, with the growing multitude of deities and spirits, would collapse society under their weight. How could a woman be so many places at once? If her mate undertook a greater number of her taboos and offices in the home, who was left to tend the orchard, cut wood with appropriate mourning for the trees, dance the sun up, plant the millet, rice, or barley with the proper dances and sacrifices, plan the six-week wedding and the four-week earth renewal, lead the annual procession to the divine mountain that holds up the sky? And there were still the personal seclusions and ritual cleansings that had to be maintained.

The solution to the gathering burden of knowledge was the es- [p. 172]

tablishment of separate, select groups of people who would enact taboos in behalf of everyone else. Probably at first these were children of the tribal shamans and healers, expected to have as rigorous a training as their parents' in menstrual and hunting rites. Probably at first they were girls, menstruants secluded for years rather than weeks. James Frazer provides several examples that suggest this: In Dabadi, in British Papua New Guinea, "daughters of chiefs, were secluded inside raised houses for two or three years when they are about twelve or thirteen years of age, and never allowed to go down to the ground or have sunlight fall on them."[1]

Among other peoples, boys as well as girls would have been selected for a special life, a life of rigorous training and intense seclusion, to maintain the most extreme taboos for the people, to specialize in keeping certain rules of "the path" for the sake of the village as a whole. As these special groupings developed, the primary colors of their garments might have signified blood (red) and no blood (white), and words related to red, menstrual, and measure would describe them, as in English regal, royal, regalia, rule, ruler, regulations, regent, rex. Queenship, based in the word gyne, "woman," from cune, "cunt," embodied the collective power of the menstruant magnified to its greatest possible dimension. The parallel office of kingship imitated the rites of queenship; his blood was also often shed in sacrifice, and he would become a leader of the hunt (for the red fox, for example) and of other rites of bloodshed.

In some societies the royal or aristocratic --- that is to say, the collective --- menstruant personified the central cosmological principles. The queen, the holy mother, and the priestess were the living emissaries of deity, and deity likewise communicated through the externalized embodiment of the collective menstruant. The king and the priest, pharaoh, or holy men were also living emissaries of deity. In many areas, members of menstrual elites were considered divine. Like the earlier menstruant, they could cause and prevent flood, famine, disease, and the movements of planets and seasons. [p. 173]

Though in our time, we imagine them as having absolute power and unlimited resources, extremely rigid restrictions attended the position of early kings and queens, priests and priestesses, holy men and women. They reenacted menstrual seclusion rites, often taken to an excruciating level of self-discipline, perhaps because they had to hold the world-forming principles for so much larger a population segment of "the world" than did an individual menstruant. Like her, they were often responsible for regulating light, preserving the surface of the earth, and separation of the waters. Royalty's rules were regula. In West Africa, among the Ewe-speaking peoples, the king was also high priest, and in former times was completely secluded from his subjects. He could only leave his dwelling at night in order to bathe and attend to bodily needs.[2]

A surviving precolumbian people, the Kogi, live on the Caribbean side of Colombia in high mountains; their priests teach nonaggressive meditative practice to the men. They honor the Mother, the sea, who is spirit and who is all memory and all possibility: "the mind inside nature," the mind of the Mother earth, who they call aluna. They say that in the beginning the Mother bled and she was fertile, and so the world was fertile, and that blood and water are what is necessary for life. Their sun priests --- called "Mamas" --- are selected by divination and secluded at birth in the dark, sometimes in a cave, to spend their time meditating on the Mother, the world outside only an idea taught by the older priests until the moment of their emergence into light after nine years --- even as long as thirty years --- of darkness. During this time the sun priest initiates ate no meat, no salt, and drank only lukewarm water, proscriptions honored for millennia by menstruants around the world.[3] Water, as well as light, taboos can be found in the royal traditions of a number of cultures. The ruler of the Ewe-speaking people of West Africa could not look upon the sea, and for this reason he was never allowed to leave his capital.[4] The rulers of other West African kingdoms were also prohibited from beholding the sea. Chiefs, priests, and kings were placed under prohibitions against crossing any rivers, or certain rivers, in the south of Mad- [p. 174]

agascar, in Mashonaland (Zimbawbe), in Senegal, and also in ancient Ireland, especially on certain days.[5]

Royalty could not touch themselves, nor could ordinary folk touch them, as is still true of the queen of England today; Princess Diana was considered radical for breaking the taboo in the 1980s by shaking hands without wearing gloves. The traditions that grew up around royal menstrual taboos created the absolute formality and self-control of the traditional aristocracy. They often had to be fed and dressed by others all their lives; their hair and nails had to be especially protected so no one could steal them for magical purposes and do harm. Every substance of their bodies was imbued with extreme power; every part of their bodies had significance. A class of attendants developed around them for the primary purpose of caring for their dangerous, life-sustaining bodies: hairdressers, cosmeticians, tailors, body servants, handmaidens, kingsmen, emissaries, spokesmen, ladies of the bedchamber.

Like menstruants, royalty in many cultures could not touch the ground. They were carried everywhere on the shoulders of special servants, just as menstruants had once been carried on their grandmother's shoulders:

Formerly neither the kings of Uganda, nor their mothers, nor their queens might walk on foot outside the spacious enclosures in which they lived. Whenever they went forth they were carried on the shoulders of men of the Buffalo clan, several of whom accompanied any of these royal personages on a journey and took it in turn to bear the burden. The king sat astride the bearer's neck with a leg over each shoulder and his feet tucked under the bearer's arms. When one of these royal carriers grew tired he shot the king onto the shoulders of a second man without allowing the royal feet to touch the ground .[6]

In other cultures, royalty would be carried in litters and divan chairs, completely covered so no one could see them --- just as menstruants were carried in covered sledges on the North American continent, and as brides of north Africa went home from their weddings completely draped from head to foot, in tents atop their camels, unseen by strangers.[7] [p. 175]

The men of the royal class also inherited the menstrual and birthing thrones, the shoes, gloves, hats and long capes, and the bridal divans of women. The footwear of royalty provided ritual protection for both king and people: "According to ancient Brahmanic ritual a king at his inauguration trod on a tiger's skin and a golden plate; he was shod with shoes of boar's skin, and so long as he lived thereafter he might not stand on the earth with his bare feet."[8] The holy man of the Dogon is required to wear sandals, for otherwise his feet will burn the earth; the sandals cool him. In his sandals, he impersonates the sun, which for the Dogon is in the female domain. Among other restrictions, he is not allowed to sweat, and no one is allowed to touch him.[9]

Style of dressing, of movement, and of gesture would form the bodies of royal and holy persons just as it did those of women in general. The royal hands, like the hands of menstruants, were particularly dangerous, so they could not touch themselves or do ordinary work. Consequently, their gestures became very controlled, turned slightly outward, away from the body, in what came to be called "elegance," "delicacy," and "refinement" --- and also, and of course historically accurately, "effeminate."

The menstrual chair of the tribal and village woman became the throne of royal and priestly persons. The special furniture of the menstruant passed into the royal office, too: "Among the Bakuba, or rather Bushongo, a nation in the southern region of the Congo, down to a few years ago persons of the royal blood were forbidden to touch the ground; they must sit on a hide, a chair, or the back of a slave, who crouched on hands and feet; their feet rested on the feet of others. When they traveled they were carried on the backs of men; but the king journeyed in a litter supported on shafts."[10] Among some peoples, the king was sacrificed in ancient times, and his blood might have been sprinkled upon the throne in a manner imitative of menstruation. Kings cheated, after a while, using substitutes for the sacrifice. The royal stool's relation to menstruation and crossover use in parallel menstruation is evident in an example [p. 176]

from early twentieth-century Angola, in which the court literally bathed in the blood of a stand-in for the king:

On the day of the ceremony the king takes his seat on a perforated iron stool, his chiefs, councillors, and the rest of the people forming a great circle round him … The victim is then introduced and placed in front of the king, but with his back towards him. Armed with a scimitar the king then cuts open the man's back, extracts his heart, and having taken a bite out of it, spits it out and gives it to be burned. The councillors meantime hold the victim's body so that the blood from the wound spouts against the king's breast and belly, and, pouring through the hole in the iron stool, is collected by the chiefs in their hands, who rub their breasts and beards with it, while they shout, `Great is the king and the rites of the state!'[11]

Similar customs are believed to have been practiced by early European royalty as well and may have been part of Celtic skull worship, the skull (of King Bran, for example) being obtained from the living king, who offered it to his suffering soldiers to use for prophecy after decapitation.[12]

The chairs of the Sumerian goddess Inanna were anointed with blood. One hymn to Inanna describes a procession in her honor: "The priest, who covers his sword with blood, sprinkles blood,/He sprinkles blood over the throne of the court chamber."[13] In miniature shrines at an ancient Cucuteni site, in present-day Moldavia, a chair of sacred significance was found, along with an altar and round oven. The chair, on which in all menstrual logic a goddess statue would have been placed during the dark of the moon, had decorative horn shapes on the back. Other miniature terracotta thrones, with large round cut-outs in the center, have been found in a Balkan site dating from the fifth millennium B.C.E.[14] One fat goddess figure from the Central Anatolian Neolithic period is seated, giving birth, chair flanked by two female lions, whose tails loop up over her shoulders. The lions are metaforms, not of her "protection of animals," as has been suggested, but of the predatory creator, the bloody-mouthed correlative of the jackal, or the [p. 177]

black leopard of menstrual origin.[15] The collective menstruant sits controlled in her chair, but her lion of death sits with her, for the danger inherent in menstrual consciousness never leaves us.

We know now what a chair is: a chair is a container for menstrual power and a conveyance of menstrual creation authority. The Greek word for menstruation is katamenia, "the moon below," and for chair katahedra, "the seat below"- --- hence cathedra, "bishop's chair" --- which came to be kept in a "cathedral." Even today, a university position or a judgeship is a "chair," and the head of a corporation is its chairman, or chairperson. In England at one time a newly elected member of Parliament might be carried in triumph in a chair.[16] The proper seating of royalty and deity was on the throne, and this scene of authority seated in place would have given subject populations a greater sense of security and well-being than almost anything else. The most respected gods, emperors, and holy figures worldwide would be those who sat on thrones, whether "in heaven" or on earth. The throne itself sometimes acquired the divinatory power of seated authority; passages in the Bible (Revelations 16:17 and 19:5) describe a speaking throne.

The cosmetikos of aristocracy and royalty would also have led to the idea of accumulated riches. "Rich" is another of those words of r'tu. Rich is related to color, especially red; the deeper and redder the color, the "richer" it is considered to be. Richness is a form of cosmetikos, and the more cosmetikos the queen and king wore, the more protected the people felt from the powers of destruction. So royalty was draped in rubies, amber, and other metaformic stones and metals. Their coffers were filled with excess jewelry, and their bodies and thrones were cushioned with deep reds, oranges, and purples. Red carpets were rolled out for their meticulously shod feet, and parasols and canopies were held over them to shield their heads from light. Their places of abode, and often of severe restriction, were draped with the rich cosmetikos as well --- the walls, floor, ceilings, the outsides of the buildings. The staff attending them, and the animals on which they rode (to be "off the [p. 178]

earth") -- elephants, oxen, camels, horses -- they, too, were draped with cosmetikos.

The Goddess as Collective Menstruant

The royal and priestly menstrual elites of the world were known into historical times as "divinities." It seems reasonable to suppose, then, that the prototype for their offices and rites was the central r'tu of the menstruant, which initiated and guided our comprehension of divinity. I consider deity, particularly "the goddess," any goddess, as the menstruant externalized in metaform, and synchronized with elements of wilderness, cosmetikos, and the narrative (or path) of the menstruant.

Being always within the metaformic equation, the menstruant was a version of "the goddess" whenever she was thought to embody the earth and its elements. In seclusion rites, her skin is "the same as" the earth's surface; her bones are the same as sticks; her hair is the same as flowing water or trees and plants; her moisture is the same as rain, dew, well water, lake water, the sea. Her placenta is the same as the ground; her vulva is the same as the red ant mound. The menstruant's blood is the same as animal meat and animal blood, and both are the same as the red hot embers of the fire.

Conversely, natural formations on the earth have been equated with parts of a woman's body: a chasm or cave whose vaginal shape made it sacred to local people; breast-shaped mountains, such as the "Paps of Anu" in Ireland; the delta areas where freshwater rivers run into the ocean were especially sacred to goddesses, for instance, Oshun of West Africa. The waters of the Tigris and Euphrates were said to have streamed from Tiamat's eyes. Ideas of divinity and cosmetikos seem to have worked back and forth between humanity and nature, as the elements came to be comprehended in menstrual terms, and conversely, as the menstruant embodied natural principles. At times the earth was dressed as a woman: at some very ancient locations caves were smeared with [p. 179]

red ochre as though their outside edges were the lips of a menstruating or birthing vulva. At times the woman was dressed as the earth, for example, when she cut the four directions into her flesh or cut her daughter's hair squarely at the forehead to signify the four directions, or when seeds or gems were embedded under her skin as they were also planted in the earth's flesh.[17]

Menstruants dressed themselves as trees, wrapping green boughs about their bodies and heads as protective garb. Trees might also be dressed as a woman. In Russian villages, a birch tree was cut, dressed as a woman, and thrown into the river on the third day of what surely was a goddess ceremony, the tree perhaps serving as substitute for earlier sacrificial menstruants.[18] The goddess Hera of early Greek religions was cared for by her priestesses in the form of a plain slab of oak about forty inches high. Later, a slab of wood was carved in the shape of a woman and became Hera's statue --- both tree and menstruant. Later still, Hera's "image" was worked in stone.[19] Asherah, an early Hebrew goddess, took the form of a tree, as did the goddess Helen on the island of Rhodes, and Yggdrasil, the World Tree of Nordic myth, whose roots penetrated to the underworld. The spirits of creation, the deities, that were defined by the collective powers of blood and by wilderness metaforms were encompassed by male rites as well. The divine principle, to which men entrained in parallel menstrual rites, was both male and female: Snake was sometimes a goddess, sometimes a god.

In trying to comprehend the central cosmological metaform expressed as an external creator, a goddess, I think again of the earth mother of the Dogon people, with her red ant mound vulva and her desirable sexual relationship with the sky god's rain and her undesirable sexual relationship with the jackal of death. When the people laid the red fiber skirt on the ant mound, the earth goddess was being dressed, just as the Dogon menstruant was presumably at one time dressed. It seems completely likely that goddess images, whether drawn on cave walls, pressed into clay, or carved in wood or stone, were icons of a figure that had existed since the first human consciousness: the menstruant in her mask of cosmetikos, im- [p. 180]

personating the metaforms of cosmological consciousness, enacting the cycles to which her blood entrained her.

Impersonating Birds and Other Emissaries of Light

In her analysis of the woman-centered religion of ancient Europe, Marija Gimbutas has examined hundreds of clay figures from the Black Sea area, some nearly thirty thousand years old. These female figures are ceremonially dressed, painted, and scored. Some are seated on chairs or stools, and many wear earrings and others cosmetikos. Sometimes they incorporate primary wilderness metaforms: snake-headed figures, and others that wear caps and dresses and tenderly hold long vaginal snakes with discernible lips, whose bodies twine up from between the women's skirted legs.[20] These clay goddesses seem to clasp the original "Female Instructing Principle" of synchroneity.

Bird forms are also included in these goddess figures, human and female from the neck down, but with a bird's head, the noselike beak accentuated. Little dovelike birds of clay were found with the fat goddess figurines seated in the miniature shrines of the Cucutem culture. Many other goddesses, both in mythology and archaeology, are closely connected to creatures, but only to certain creatures, repeatedly portrayed --- metaformic creatures.

It seems to me that for early peoples metaformic creatures, because of a particular shape, color, or habit, embodied a theological idea or spirit. When people "shaped themselves" to that creature, they were honoring and displaying their own mental principle of what organized and shaped their universe. Even today, many peoples venerate particular animals as ancestors.

The Snake we know as synchronous flow and cyclicity from its use in origin stories and menstrual stories. The meanings of birds and the reason for bird goddesses are also suggested in origin stories, and in cosmetikos. Birds wake at dawn, and so they are harbingers of light; birds who make the most noise at dawn became especially metaformic and were incorporated into human culture. [p. 181]

Their colors added to their significance. Both prairie chickens and turkeys, revered and imitated among the peoples of the North American continent, display prominent red, purple, and orange coloring. In Malaysia and India, cocks were bred solely for ceremonial purposes as fighters; they were released into a ring in order to draw blood from each other with their crescent spikes. They were bred not only for broad breasts and strength, but also for black feathers, black skins, and black bones, which gave them magic and medicinal value.[21] Other cultures used red, white, and black roosters and chickens for blood sacrifice. In one African folktale, the rooster crows at dawn, marking the red light as the first light and thus "creating" it. Three crows of the cock also signifies death, and betrayal, as we know from Christian myth. In Asian mythology, the red rooster is associated with the underworld.

The most frequent birds in origin stories are white, however. Since the moon is also white and moves across the sky, white birds served a very special function in helping the human mind to "see" and understand the moon as a single entity. Birds also helped to "raise the sky" and to draw attention to its dimensionality. The white birds that land on the surface of reflective water and then fly up into the sky helped to differentiate the "water below from the water above," to explain how the moon could be seen in a lake and also in the sky.

The bird appears in mythology as a main character in the distinction between sky and land, and also between water and land. White birds appears in creation mythology, especially the water birds that resemble the full moon in their bodies and the crescent in their necks. These include the swan, crane, stork, and white goose. In East African myth, it was said "that once the moon was much closer to earth so that she looked like a lovely white bird." [22]

The flight of large white birds helped teach spatial relationships and perception of the moon as an entity in and of itself, rather than say, a hole in the canopy of sky. One interpretation of the Babylonian hero Marduk, who split Tiamat in half to form the world, is that he was a white dove.[23] Perhaps the white dove signified the [p. 182]

moon or particular star in this story, and people learned from following the movements of birds how to separate the sky from the earth and further their knowledge of orientation and the shape of the universe. The biblical flood, as well as other Flood stories, ends with a white dove sent out from Noah's ark, of which the third flight is successful in finding, that is, in re-creating, dry land. In the ancient Hebrew tradition, following instructions specified in Leviticus, at the end of seven days of menstrual seclusion the woman bathed in a special pool and took white doves to the temple for sacrifice, in payment of the blood debt of consciousness.[24]

Water birds are particularly associated with creation of the solidity of the earth's surface. They play a special part in many myths of North and South America, in which only water exists at first, and only later is the land built up out of clay or mud brought up by the birds from the bottom of the sea or lake. In an Iroquois creation myth, water birds break the fall of Sky Woman, who slips through a "hole in the sky" down into this world, which is made only of water. Sky Woman, who is also known as Falling Woman, holds a tree whose flowers are light. Turtle arrives in time for the birds to pile mud on its back, forming solid earth. Interestingly, before catching Sky Woman, some of the water birds see her as arising from below, others as falling from above. She is like the moon, sometimes mirrored in the waters of the earth, as the moon is in ponds, rivers, and lakes, sometimes in the sky.

Birds have been a major part of cosmetikos, not only because we have worn their feathers, but because entire cultures have built dances, songs, garments, and stories around the activities of significant birds. In some cultures, people have gone to spectacular lengths to form their bodies into the bodies of birds, surely a practice arising from the need to display metaformic ideas. The broad beaks of water birds were imitated on women's faces in parts of Africa: "Vast wedge-shaped or circular lip plates are worn by the Kichepo of south-east Sudan. They have long been considered an essential part of a woman's adornment and were traditionally worn in the presence of men or mothers-in-law." The women "extend [p. 183]

their lips to make themselves look like certain birds --- broadbills and spoonbills, for example."[25]

In ancient Europe, the large, sharp nose was revered as a beak; many clay figurines of the old goddess religion feature bird faces --- sharp protruding noses, large eyes, small chin, thin mouth and striped markings. These "bird goddesses" were kept in shrines and placed on altars. It seems reasonable to imagine that women in these ancient cultures set standards of beauty based in bird features and formulated menarchal rites equating themselves with birds.

Standards of beauty and desirability based in bird qualities have continued into recent times. The Romans considered a strong beaked nose to be a sign of strong character. In northern Europe, a long pale neck was a standard of beauty, after the swan; modern American advertisements for perfume and other beauty products often still associate a woman's resemblance, or desired resemblance, to the swan. Women on a restricted diet will be described as "eating like a bird," and in England, a slang word for a desirable woman is "bird."

The recurrent image of the water bird in cosmetikos and in myth may reflect the ancient need to enact the ideology of the separation of the waters as part of the creation story, and to that end to help the moon take on its own independent character. The moon was no longer simply a reflection or spirit moving in the waters of the earth and sky, but a body with its own nature, free moving in its own course, like a large white bird.

Icons and Images:
The Fat Red Moon Goddess in the Fitted Cap

The earliest goddess figurines stress the roundness of the female form --- of the head, breasts, hips, and stomach --- to such an extreme that the concept "round" itself is expressed. These figures were at one time identified as "Venuses" and later as "Earth Goddesses." They were called "Venus" because they are naked and be-

[p. 184]

cause their arms are diminished like the ancient Greek Statue "Venus de Milo" whose arms were broken off; they were related to "Earth" because of the heaviness of their bodies, with emphasis on breasts and belly. But we must remember that it is only relatively recently that the earth has been understood as round and imagined as a globe. For the last few thousand years most peoples portrayed the earth as a strip between the sky and the belowworld, as a floating island (Turtle), or as a square or rectangle with four directions or four legs. We must therefore pursue the goddess figures deeper into the ritual past.

The familiar fat goddess known as "The Venus of Willendorf," a stone statuette some thirty thousand years old, is about four and a half inches high and of a light red coloration. She has huge and emphatic round breasts, a round stomach, and round hips drooping over her large thighs. Her arms are prehensile, lacking muscle or bone, and are looped over her breasts. Her head is large and round, and bowed. She wears a close-fitting cap pulled down over her eyes and face; it is plaited, or perhaps knotted, in circular rows. In short, she fits the description of a royal menstruant selected to stay in seclusion for years without moving. She has become as fat and round as humanly possible. Emerging pale and moonlike from her menarchal seclusion, she is painted red. Her fitted cap protects the light, the landscape, and the people from the dangerous glance of her eyes. It comes completely down over her face so that her mouth is also safely covered, and she, having created speech, is silent so as not to misuse it.[26]

The goddess of Willendorf exemplifies the full moon metaform, the sculptural version of the Mystery. She has been identified as pregnant, and that is indeed probably one of the meanings of her shape. But to me she does not look so much pregnant as extremely fat, with emphasis put on her overall roundness, especially in her breasts and buttocks. There is no angularity in her, and her arms are tiny, expressionless, and still, resting on top of her voluminous breasts. Except for her cap and a bracelet --- the navel string --- she is naked, her head bowed in typical menstruant posture. Similar [p. 185]

figures have been found across southern and eastern Europe and in North Africa.[27] While many of these figures don't wear sculpted hats, and some of them are apparently pregnant, they all have their heads lowered in the posture characteristic of the menstruant emerging from her hut. Moreover, they have no faces, especially no mouths or eyes. Their legs are held tightly together, and their hands and arms are either prehensile loops or nonexistent --- no chance that they will scratch their bodies.

In various sites, the figures were often found in little compartments under the floor, with flat stones enclosing them, as though they had been placed there in seclusion to protect the household. These goddess figures thus may be seen as the collective menstruant, and all that she embodied of cosmology and cosmetikos. "Goddess" is indeed the correct title, for they captured the central embodiment of divine protection and creation. These icons were just as metaformic in their statement as Rainbow Snake, Coyote, earth's vulval red ant mound, or Red Eel Woman --- menstrual deities based in wilderness powers. Goddess icons were the cosmetikos of the collective menstruant translated into craft materials: clay, stone, and wood.

The goddesses of ancient Greece also displayed the characteristics of flesh and blood menstruants: Medusa, her hair writhing with vaginal snakes, had an ability that was also imputed to menstruants in some cultures: she turned living things to stone with her gaze. She is the menstruant naked, out of control, without protective cosmetikos. Gaia, the earth, was a chasm guarded by a great python. Long-tressed Demeter was also the earth, and her daughter Kore, or Persephone, the maiden, was portrayed holding the menstrual pomegranate. Kore disappeared and her mother went to look for her --- a common menarchal drama for some peoples. Hera was "the bride," dressed austerely in long gowns. Hecate was the dark moon, portrayed as an old woman. At Sumer, alabaster statues of the large-eyed moon goddess Ningal were dressed, fed, and washed; even the urbane goddess Inanna was portrayed in one statuette holding a scratching stick, adorned with the cosmetikos of a temple courtesan. [p. 186]

Frequently ancient figurines portray two women together, sometimes melded like Siamese twins, side by side. Often these "dolls" wear skirts, eye and lip makeup, and hoop earrings. Frequently they are stained red. Similar dolls are still made for girls to play with in North Africa, India, and parts of the Middle East. Some of the modern dolls are of a man and woman side by side. My guess is that the paired icons were originally two sisters, representing synchronous flow. The dolls, I was told vehemently by the import shop clerk, have nothing to do with lesbianism, and I'm certain that in any current patriarchal religious system, that is true. But in more female-centered older societies, the Andean, for example, and in many parts of Western society, homosexual relations have a rightful, appropriate, and even sacred place. It thus seems significant that in the south of India, among goddess-worshiping Tamils of the Untouchable caste, a name for lesbian lover is "sister-sister."

Many goddess mythologies feature two creation sisters. Pele, the Hawaiian volcanic fire goddess who creates the earth's surface, has a sister who is "Sea Mist." Among the Pueblos, sister goddesses Naotsete and Uretsete create objects under a blanket they hold between them.[28] Sometimes one sister dwells in the world below, "in the shade," the place of the dark moon, while the other rules above, as with Egyptian Isis and her underworld sister Nepthys. The oldest known menstrual narrative of the meetings of two such sisters is the Sumerian poem, "The Descent of Inanna to the Underworld," whose metaformic meanings I will decipher later. A Caribbean proverb summarizes an ancient attitude of female "flow": "When a woman loves another woman, it is the blood of the Mother speaking."[29]

Goddesses of the Moon's Phases

Once the crescent shape was clearly identified, the moon's phases could be fixed at four: dark, full, and the two crescents. These shapes are still central to the designation of the moon's quarters. In India, each of four major Hindu goddesses is completely equated with a particular phase of the moon and with an aspect of the

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menstrual cycle. According to Nik Douglas and Penny Slinger, authors of Sexual Secrets,

the cycle of woman is compared to that of the moon, which changes and creates different influences at the different periods, ultimately returning to its original status. In the Tantric tradition a woman is viewed as a virgin (Kumari) just after menstruation, as a young wife (Saraswati) during the week following menstruation, as a worldly mistress of the house (Lakshmi) during the next week, and as a wise lady (Kali) during the approach to menstruation. During menstruation itself she is "beyond worldliness," "dead to the world and its responsibilities," and therefore freed from household duties. It is during this time that she serves as a link between this world and the next.[30]

These four names define the phases of the moon as a complex life cycle. Each of the names --- Kumari, Sarasvati, Laksmi, and Kali --- identifies an individual goddess, but at the same time each is part of the whole. They are "aspects" of the great mystery of moon and blood that gave us the ability to name "the goddess" in the first place. Specific metaforms have accrued to each goddess pertaining to her particular place in the life cycle, and believers devote themselves primarily or exclusively to one goddess, one aspect of menstrual arts.

KALI, as the dark moon, is associated with death, transformation, and blood sacrifice. Her worshipers in the past developed fierce arts and armies and have given to English such words as "assassin" and "thug," originally names of groups of her followers who in former centuries used violence to attain political ends. Nearly naked and warriorlike, she dances on the god Shiva's dead body with his intestines between her teeth, wearing a necklace of skulls --- her roses. Death is not her only attribute. She was also a primal creator and giver of life, love, and compassion. She is also associated with the weaving and cloth-dying arts; calico and Calcutta are both named for her. So though she is the most destructive aspect of menstrual power, she is also its veiling. The Scottish word for young woman, "colleen," derives from Kali's name, migrating [p. 188]

to the language of my mother's ancestral clans from India and Mesopotamia, across the channel from Europe, down from the North Sea and Scandinavia, to that part of the British Isles still called Scotia Kali.

KUMARI, the virgin, is renewal, the waxing crescent. "The view that a woman is renewed after the cessation of her menstrual period is supported by many ancient traditions. In priestly cultures the tradition is that menstruation renews virginity."[31] Having gone through the dangerous bleeding, the virgin emerges fresh, innocent, attractive, and demure.

SARASVATĪ is the half-moon position. She is the young wife (weef), very artful in her white dress. She is delicate, modest, and self-absorbed, an artist intellectual depicted with lute, gold ring, red book, and swan. The white swan shaped like the half moon swims up to her with a rose in its beak. She is connected to science, poetry, and the peacock, on the back of which she rides.

LAKSMĪ is Sarasvati's older sister, the full moon and the matron. Dressed in deep rose with a touch of red, Laksmi is woman in the fullness of midlife. She looks out firmly and with confidence as her cornucopia flows down her lap the gold coins of fortune. Her demeanor is stately, her cosmetikos rich and complex, her dress layered. Laksmi has a son, Ganapathy, who has a plump man's body and an intelligent face with elephant features, including a serpentine trunk. His foot rests on a stool, and on one upraised finger he holds a lingum of male sexuality. In the Indian poster of Laksmi, Sarasvati, and Ganapathy that hangs on my wall, the two goddesses sit on floating lotus flowers. In the background, two white elephants stand in a shallow sea of water; they wear red blankets, and their trunks are raised in a watery coil over their crescent tusks.

In these four goddesses, the moon is completely expressed, its phases comprehended in the life cycle of every woman.[32] These goddesses combine in the person of Parvati, the Mother, who marries Shiva, the Bull, the god of creation and the male principle in whose behalf so much of female display is directed. [p. 189]

One of the most remarkable things about the development of deity was its ability to change or combine gender, so that male synchronicity became incorporated into the metaform at every stage of its development. The need to include the male no doubt provided the primary motive for the externalization and deification of creative comprehensions of origin as well as cause and effect relationships. At Hermione, Hera sat on a mountain named "Throne footstool," where Zeus seduced her, landing on her lap in the form of a cuckoo. Throughout his mythic history, Zeus took the form of several older wilderness metaforms, including Light, Snake, Eagle, Bull, Swan, as well as the harbinger of spring, Cuckoo.

Narrative Path of the Goddess

What we call "the goddess" --- the female creative principle as she has been retained in stone, clay, and wooden images, and also in mythology and living ritual, is a compilation of compound metaformic instructions. In her portrayal in a thirty-thousand-year-old stone carving with a round featureless face, holding a crescent horn with thirteen marks, she is a cipher of time, space, number, and synchrony. In association with wilderness creatures, she expressed ideas about the world at large. In bird form, she may have brought to consciousness the distinction between the moon in the sky and the moon in water and taught the shape of the space between earth and moon. In historic times, in the lives of sacred rulers, deity expressed ideas of reincarnation and the afterlife in rituals of separation, emergence, union, and death. In sum, our metaformic structures of deity retain and help develop our ideas of the shape and size of the cosmos and the interrelationships of its elements. Probably deity --- or families of deities --- constitute the most allencompassing compound metaforms the people who perform their rituals can imagine.

According to the mythologist Carl Kerenyi, Hera, the "origin of all things," was from early times identified with the moon.[33] In keeping with the Greek practice of assigning a sacred number to [p. 190]

each deity, Hera's number was three times three, nine. Her temple at Samos was a long narrow stone structure, eighteen feet across and one hundred feet long, and without light except that provided by a small door at one end. The wooden slab embodying the goddess stood in the "shade" at the other end. Her ritual included enactment of the course of the menstruant, and she was bound with lygos vines. On selected occasions, Hera disappeared from her temple "shade," and her followers, led by her priestess, searched for her. She would be found at the bank of the river Imbrasos, known for its growth of lygos, an emmenogogue. There she was unbound, washed and dressed, then carried back to her temple. Placed on a pedestal outside the door, she was the living moon "off the earth," in its light phases.

A different part of Hera's narrative metaform was enacted in Boeotia, where she (again in the shape of a wood slab) was carried to the top of a mountain in a cart pulled by oxen kept by her priestesses. There, as enactment of her "wedding" with Zeus in his form of light, she was placed in a special shed and it was set afire.[34] Hera's compound identity was thus intricately bound with trees, sacred number, seclusion and emergence, rivers, sacred plants, mountains, oxen and carts, and various kinds of light. Her narratives were called hieroi logoi, sacred stories. Logos is Greek for speech, word, and reason; hieros logos --- sacred story --- is thus Word in the Dogon sense of sacred communication, the Word that protects the womb of existence.

By identifying the menstruant's courses with the phases of the moon, early peoples were able to comprehend life as a cycle, an idea that could be applied to any number of elements: humans, animals, plants, the earth, the sky, minerals. In thus developing deity, the people entrained the menstruant's path to other forces in nature, which gave them a metaformic narrative logic that continued to expand the human mind, and the culture that embodies it, out into the wilderness.  [p. 191]

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