Women, Venus and Magic

"It is fascinating to observe that the power shift from female to male was reflected in virtually all the ancient mythologies, as every Mother Goddess, one after the other, was deposed. This occurred after the actual subordination of mortal women, and the pattern was roughly the same. At first, an earth-centered Mother Goddess was pre-eminent. She created the world and had children as she pleased (by parthogenesis, as it were - no male needed.) Next, one of her male children was promoted to lover-consort, and she eventually shared her power with him. His identity conflated with that of a creator-sky god. In the ensuing power struggle between him and the goddess, he won, and he ruled, initially, with a whole galaxy of gods. She was demoted." - Shari L. Thurer

Aison, Aphrodite and Adonis lekythos, ca. 410 BCE.












Woman of Çatalhöyük, c. 6000 BCE.











Artist's rendering of Çatalhöyük, Anatolia (present-day Turkey), ca. 6500 - 5500 BCE.
Restored interior of typical Çatalhöyük dwelling











Re-constructed interior shrine with Bucrania at Çatalhöyük











Gobekli Tepe
Göbekli Tepe
(pronounced Guh-behk-LEE TEH-peh)
This site appears to have been used strictly for ceremonial rather than domestic purposes
Göbekli Tepe, ca. 10,000 - 8,000 BCE.











Göbekli Tepe excavation site
Researchers once believed that climate change permitted the development of farming, and that argiculture was the spark that suddenly prompted humans to create settlements, then writing, civilization, and finally, religion.
Göbekli Tepe suggests that spiritual sustenance was what drove early humans to live in larger groups, develop agriculture, domesticate animals, establish permanent dwellings, and finally civilizations.
Göbekli Tepe, ca. 10,000 - 8,000 BCE.












Humans were rarely depicted in paleolithic cave paintings, but we've found many statues of women
around the world from the neolithic to the ancient periods.  Why?
The Venus Figurines
More on "Venus Figurines"

Venus of Hohle Fels, 40,000 – 33,000 BCE.
Female Figure found at Çatalhöyük, c. 6000 BCE.











Why Venus?

Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C.











eurocentism = centered on Europe or the Europeans; reflecting a tendency to interpret the world in terms of western and especially European or Anglo-American values and experiences

sexism = attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of sexual roles
heterosexism = a system of negative attitudes, bias, and discrimination in favor of heterosexuality and relationships that can include the presumption that everyone is heterosexual or that opposite-sex attractions and relationships are the norm and therefore superior
Alexandros of Antioch, Venus de Milo, 101 BCE.











What if fertility was only a secondary (or unintended) connotative meaning of these works?

Venus or Woman of Willendorf, 25,000 – 20,000 BCE.
Woman of Çatalhöyük, c. 6000 BCE.











Old Babylonian representation of Goddess Inanna (aka Ishtar), 1800 - 1750 BCE.











Palette of King Narmer back
First known depiction of a historical figure identified by name
Pictographs at top spell “Narmer”

Horizontal fish = narå

Vertical chisel = mer
Enclosed by two heads of Hathor
Hathor = goddess who personified the principles of joy, feminine love, and motherhood. She was one of the most important and popular deities throughout the history of Ancient Egypt.
Back side of the Palette of King Narmer, ca. 3000 - 2920 BCE. Slate, height 25".











Isis Nursing Horus

"The sun god Ra shaped himself out of the waters of chaos, or unformed matter, and emerged sealed atop a mound of sand hardened by his own rays. By spitting (or ejaculating) he then created the gods of wetness and dryness, Tefnut and Shu, who in turn begat the male Geb (earth) and the female Nut (sky). Geb and Nut produced two sons, Osiris and Seth, and two daughters, the goddessess Isis and Nephtys.

Taking Isis as his wife, Osiris became king of Egypt. His envious brother, Seth promptly killed Osiris, hacked his body to pieces and snatched the throne for himself. Isis and her sister, Nephtys, gathered up the scattered remains of Osiris and with the help of the god Anubus (represented by a Jackal) they patched him back together. Despite her husband's mutilated condition, Isis conceived a son - Horus... who defeated Seth and became king of the earth, while Osiris retired to the underworld as overseer of the realm of the dead." - Marilyn Stokstad, Art History

Isis Nursing Horus, Late Period 664 - 332 BCE.





















Osiris flanked by Horus and Isis

Did women in Ancient Egypt have equal rights to men?
  • Goddesses are just as prominent in
    Ancient Egyptian mythology as gods
  • Isis appears to be the oldest Egyptian deity
    • Unlike most Egyptian gods, Isis was worshipped almost universally
Suggests that women were generally
respected and revered in Ancient Egypt
Osiris flanked by Horus and Isis, ca. 1069 - 404 BCE. Jewelery pendenant, gold and lapis lazuli.











detail of kneeling statue of Hatshepsut
Colossal seated statue of Hatshepsut, 18th Dynasty, ca. 1503 - 1482 BCE. Red granite.
Detail of a large kneeling statue of Hatshepsut, destroyed and restored, 18th Dynasty, ca. 1479 – 1458 BCE. Red granite.











Akhenaten and His Family
Akhenaten, Nefertiti and three daughters, Amarna, 18th Dynasty, ca. 1353 - 1335 BCE.
Limestone, 12 3/4 X 15 1/4".
Thutmose, portrait head of Nefertiti, from Armana, 18th Dynasty, c. 1353 - 1335 BCE.
Painted limestone, 1' 8" high.




















"From approximately 3100 to 600 BCE...with the coming of one God (Buddha, Yahweh, Christ, or Allah), women's standing in all realms was leveled to a position subordinate to males." "By 600 BCE, patriarchy was established over much of Europe, Asia, and Africa...and preceded the development of writing. Every written word, then, has been refracted through the prism of a male-dominated consciousness."

Idol from Amorgos

Snake Goddess

Idol from Amorgos,  30” high.  2500 – 2300 BCE.
Snake Goddess from Knossos, ca. 1650 BCE.












Toreador Fresco

Bull Leaping or Toreador Fresco, from the Palace at Knossos, Crete, ca. 1400 - 1370 BCE. 2' 8" high.


Modern Day Bull Leaping in Spain


Bulls and Bull Leaping in the Minoan World











harp player

Male harp player, so-called Orpheus, from Keros (Cyclades), ca. 2600 - 2300 BCE. Marble, 9" high.