On the 8th of March we are celebrating international Women’s Day. And yes, it’s time to be celebrating women again – past and present.
Are you going to do something a little different to treat yourself and your girl friends, or indeed your mum for Mother’s Day? I had a new experience the other day, leading me to celebrate women – prehistoric and modern.
Having recently become a member of the British Museum, I’ve made use of the free access to visit the exhibition ‘Ice Age Art – arrival of the modern mind’. Amongst the awe-inspiring 33,000 to 10,000 year old exhibits is a series of figurines of women in various stages of pregnancy. If I put myself in their ‘shoes’ (did they have any?) I imagine that the act of giving birth, creating life, must have been highly important for the survival of their group and highly revered. These figurines celebrated fertility by sculpting voluptuous bodies.
I also learnt while viewing ‘The Culture Show’ special broadcast on this exhibition that the earliest cave art discovered is of human hand imprints made with a type of red ochre onto the cave ceiling. Latest scientific research discovered that these were hands of women – they were responsible for the first act of creative expression around 33,000 years ago.
Looked at in this context, it makes me think of women’s hands turning red with blood when they give birth and embrace their newborn. So is it surprising that the act of creation of the earliest art is of red hand imprints by women?
It reminds me that for many years now, thanks to extensive research and science, there is so much more information available about ‘pre-history’ than is brought into the public domain. If you fancy dipping in there is some fascinating reading material on the topic by Marija Gimbutas, Merlin Stone, Heide Goettner-Abendroth (https://www.goettner-abendroth.de/en/biography.html) amongst others – good cause for celebrating women writers who published books on matrilineal and matriarchal societies in prehistory.
Today, there are still such societies alive, for example the Mosuo people in Southwest China (they call themselves the ‘Na’). Those societies have very different family structures from today’s Western society. They never have an issue with child care, no issue with divorce, nor inheritance. The land and homes belong to the beehive-like tribe of sisters with their children, and brothers/uncles, and with their oldest female as the respected matriarch. This cuts out a whole lot of stresses and pressures on our two-parent or single-parent families. See 24-minute documentary video (by Broadly) about their lives:
The matriarchal societies tend to have one thing in common, the worship of The Mother Goddess. She is a widely recognized archetype in psychoanalysis today.
Isn’t it about time we owned our history and reclaimed it, especially in our understanding as women? It’s time to take ownership and to celebrate our femininity on women’s day – in all our wonderful shapes and sizes.
The history lives on in our genes and in our names… Diana, Anna, Isis, Iris, Irene, Freya…
The history lives on in our genes and in our names. Let’s celebrate the goddess within, whether we call her Diana, Anna, Isis, Iris, Irene or Freya – just a few of the still very alive names by which she was known in different parts across the globe in ancient times. Beyond being the fertile one, the life giving force, the creator, she was revered as the wise being and the one universal source.
Celebrate your goddess – do something a little different, how about going to an exhibition or checking out the exclusive discounts on yoga retreats and wellness spa holidays that we have in store for our Neal’s Yard Holidays’ readers.
Wishing you a happy women’s day!
Photo: figurines from left to right –
Dolni Vestonice, from Czechia, clay; Willendorf, Austria, chalk; Lespugue, France, ivory.
Further reading material:
Societies of Peace. Matriarchies Past, Present and Future, edited by Heide Goettner-Abendroth.