The Emergence of the Goddess:
A Study of Venus in the Paleolithic and Neolithic Era
(Chaapter One from The Mythology of Venus Ancient Calendars and Archaeoastronony, Edited by Helen Benigni, With foreword by Morgan Llywelyn, University Press of America, 2013)
by Helen Benigni
In the evolution of human thought, both Carl Gustave Jung and Erich Neumann mark the development of what they believe are primordial archetypes. Neumann explains that the primordial archetype is most clearly defined in the writings of Jung as “the structural concept signifying ‘eternal presence’ ” manifested early in the stage of human consciousness before differentiation into particular archetypes. This myriad faceted stage of the archetype leads to the emergence of individual archetypes from a great complex mass to the formation of coherent archetypal groups. Parallel to the development of the primordial archetype into individual archetypes is the creation of symbol, symbol sets, and conscious ritual. What follows, eventually in the origins and development of human consciousness, is the organization of those symbols into mythology. For example, Neumann refers to the primordial archetype of what he calls “the way” or path of individual discovery beginning in the exploration and establishment of caves as temples adorned with magical and sacral art to the conscious ritual associated with shrines and temples in early myth (The Great Mother 7-9).
The formation of the primordial archetype of the sacred feminine follows similar lines of development merging into what Neumann terms “symbolic polyvalence” diversity, and multifarious diversity containing contradictory elements (The Great Mother 9). Accordingly, the primordial archetype of the goddess begins in the Upper Paleolithic era with the appearance of Venus figurines, the oldest to date being the Venus figurine recently discovered in Hohle Fels, Germany dating approximately 35,000 years ago. As many as 400 figurines depicting similar characteristics have been found in Central Europe and the Mediterranean as well as a few in sites in what was to become Anatolia or what we know as modern Turkey. The amazing similarities in figure, shape and sacral context reveals evidence as to the existence of a religious sentiment expressed in these figures. Although quite far from the establishment of organized religion, these Venus figurines are indicative of what Jung and Neumann see as the primordial or primeval, non-derivative expression of the idea of the feminine as sacred.
In the development of the primordial archetype of the feminine, variations or characters although sometimes multi-faceted and diverse may co-exist. Neumann distinguishes two distinct characters of the Venus figurines of the primordial archetype: the elementary and the transformative characters (The Great Mother 24-6). The elementary character of the goddess displays itself in what Neumann calls the Great Round or Great Container that “tends to hold fast to everything that springs from it and to surround it like an eternal substance,” whereas the transformative character of the primordial archetype expresses the need to change and is based on the blood-mysteries of the feminine. Neumann states that “the two characters are not antithetical from the very start but interpenetrate and combine with one another in many ways, and it is only in unusual and extreme constellations that we find one or the other character isolated. But although both are usually present at once, one of them is almost always dominant” (29). For example, in a Venus relief carving like the Venus of Laussel what Neumann states is clearly obvious in the sense that the goddess’ shape with long pendant breasts and massive hips delineate her purpose as container of life exemplar of her elemental character while the crescent-shaped auroch horn that she holds delineates her dominant purpose as keeper of female cycles and lunar time. When referring to the Venus of Laussel, Joseph Campbell notes the emergence of both characters of the archetype of the feminine as “time-factored.” Campbell states that: “It may therefore be that the initial observation which gave birth in the mind of man to a mythology of one mystery informing earthly and celestial things was the recognition of an accord between these two ‘time-factored’ orders: the celestial order of the waxing moon and the earthly order of the womb” (The Way of the Animal Powers 68).
While both characters, elementary and transformative, of the primordial archetype are equally necessary, the dominant mode of the depiction of the goddess outlines a progression that is followed through the Paleolithic art into the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages that acts as the basis for the formation of the archetypes of goddesses in several cultures. Hence the characters of the primordial archetype lay the foundations fr the goddesses of religions in the development of consciousness and culture. According to Neumann, the study of the transformative, regenerative character of the archetype connects with the celestial order of the universe as Regeneratrix, an intermediary position between worlds establishing the lineage of the goddess of regeneration, and cyclical and cosmic time whereas the goddess of earthly concerns has roots in the elementary character of the primordial archetype.
Marija Gimbutas makes a statement concerning the formation of the archetype in her studies by establishing the sacred feminine and its characteristics. In Marija Gimbutas’ text The Language of the Goddess (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1989), Gimbutas defines the emergence of the goddess and the symbolism attributed to the goddess as containing the mystery of birth and death and the renewal of life as well as its relationship to the cosmos. Gimbutas states: “Symbols and images cluster around the parthenogenic (self-genering) Goddess and her basic functions as Giver of Life, Wielder of Death, and not less importantly, as Regeneratrix, and around the Earth Mother, the Fertility Goddess young and old, rising and dying with plant life”(xix). Gimbutas adds that the goddess is the single source that took the energy from the sun and the moon and the life on earth in a cosmos that was represented by cyclical and not linear time. Gimbutas’ referral to the connection between the formation of the archetype and its association with the celestial cycles, like Campbell’s reference to the connection between cosmic time and the archetype, emphasizes a signifier of the primordial archetype whose development leads to the emergence of a goddess of the celestial cycles of the sun, the moon, the visible planets, and the constellations in Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Age cultures.
lthough the definitions of the elementary and transformative characters of the primordial archetype depict a co-existing duality of forms, and although Neumann, Campbell and Gimbutas delineate the earth-centered attributes as well as the regenerative and cosmic-centered attributes, the existence of a triad or trinity of feminine images also begins in the Paleolithic era and is duly noted in the emergence of the primordial archetype. This triad of feminine figures seen as the mothers of the Rhineland at Gönnersdorf from the Magdalénien period, the three inverse figures in low relief at Laussel, and the cluster of claviforms, or full-bodied female images, above the entrance of Lascaux Shaft all testify to a multiple image of the primordial archetype. This seeming contradiction establishes the importance of a triad of power emanating from the sacred figures that continues throughout the development of the primordial archetype into the formation of archetypes of several cultures in the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages. Therefore, the complexity of the primordial archetype contains both elementary and transformative characters, both orientation to earth and sky in its relation to the feminine mysteries, and is expressed in the power of the triad. Moreover, its complexity is magnified by the merging of all these characteristics often with one more dominant from the others, but with all magnificently present. This forms what Neumann so aptly calls the essential representation of the complexity of the feminine and what Campbell most affectionately admires in the Venus of Laussel “that stands before us like the figment of a dream, of which we dimly know but cannot bring to mind the meaning” (66).
Without losing the idea of the complexity of Paleolithic art and the depiction of the primordial archetype in its original form, the emergence of the Regeneratrix, the goddesses’ connection to regeneration, rejuvenation, and cosmic and/or cyclical time, may be traced through the ages in order to signify the importance and re-establish the meaning of the archetype in mythology. The transformative character of the Regeneratrix has a cluster of images that are distinguished by two paths, both of which are oriented around celestial imagery. The first path of concern is the depiction of the Regeneratrix in connection with the moon and the feminine blood-mysteries, and the second path is connected with mutable change and the patterns of flux and change that are part of a more flexible pattern than that of the moon. The first pattern of the Regeneratrix’s time-keeping of the lunar cycles is represented by the auroch’s horn of the Venus of Laussel, crescent moons, the shape of the “U” to represent the cycles of lunar precession beyond the yearly cycles, and the dots of red and counting marks found in Lascaux which most likely represent the cycles of menstruation and pregnancy. The second pattern is represented by fluid marks of water, sacred water birds, emerging and reclining nude females, and an association with the columns of life.
Although precise notations of the cycles of the planet Venus do not appear until markings on the megalithic stones of the Neolithic era, such as those noted on Pierres Plates on the Locmariaquer peninsula in France and on the Brú na B?inne in Ireland, the distinguishing characteristics of the Regeneratrix in the Paleolithic era most closely identified with the cycles of Venus are those beginning with the sacred water and water birds, the reclining nudes, and the columns of life. These patterns, found on sculpture, cave drawings and on natural cave structures, have a mythological theme that pertains to the beginnings of life from uterine moisture, the miracle of conception, and the emergence of life from the waters of the womb. The path of the planet Venus represents these mysteries because its path, quite visibly noticeable to the ancients, not only unites the patterns of the moon and sun into a feasible calendar and time-keeper that is easy to follow and used in all ancient calendar systems including the Greek, Mayan, and Celtic calendars, but Venus also re-enacts the cycle of conception to birth in her rising as the Morning and Evening Star like a bird emerging from the watery realms. The periods of visibility of Venus between first appearing as Morning and Evening Star and vanishing takes an average of 260 nights that correspond to the time between conception and birth. Hence, Venus becomes an apt representation of the emerging forces of life from the waters of conception.
Furthermore, the images of the Regeneratrix associated with conception also connect the belief of a celestial watery realm to the body of women, often seen as water birds, and the mysteries of transcending one spiritual realm to another. Unlike the patterns of regeneration evident in the symbolism associated with the lunar cycles, the patterns of Venus ascending and descending from water to air are clearly marked by the five positions of Venus in the night sky. To the ancients this is represented by movement from the water to heights in the night sky. Markings on the columns of life in the Paleolithic stalactites are later transferred to the images associated with The Tree of Life and the goddesses’ ladder in the Neolithic era. The symbol of the pentagram also has its origin in the orbit of the planet of Venus. Finally, because Venus appears to travel through the sky close to the sun, it is also associated with brightness setting itself apart by its exceptional beauty and blue-white light and its ability to reflect light from the sun. These attributes are associated with the beauty and sexual appeal of women represented in the reclining nudes at La Madeleine cave and the figurines of Brassempouy in the Paleolithic art through time to the figures of Aphrodite in Greek mythology. The planet’s visibility and the dense cloud atmosphere surrounding the planet result in certain phases where Venus will outshine most objects in the night sky. Such magnificence at sunrise or sunset combined with the changing patterns and rising from the sea were noted by the ancient astronomers as miracles of life fit to be worshipped as sacred.
Even the disappearance of Venus below the horizon for 65 nights of its 584 night cycle is connected to fertility rituals and a return from the underworld or sleep to begin a new cycle through possible conception and birth. The largest cycles of Venus, a return to the same place in the night sky every eight years, also marks a time for celebration because the planet, seen as the Regeneratrix, coincides with 99 moons, seen as primordial goddess most closely associated with the moon. What began in the Paleolithic caves as an ideology and representation of the transformative or Regeneratrix aspect of the sacred feminine gains momentum and distinct expression in the evolution and emergence of the sacred feminine through time. The symbol of the ladder, represented in the night sky as the path of Venus, is described by Mircea Eliade as an important archetype in primordial symbolism as such: “It gives plastic expression to the break through the planes necessitated by the passage from one mode to another, by placing us at the cosmological point where communication between Heaven, Earth and Hell becomes possible” (Myths, Rites, Symbols 239). Thus, the planet and the goddesses it represents are transformative and regenerative in nature based on natural phenomena and the objective correlative of accurate observation and experience. We are connected to The Axis of the World and the cosmic mysteries of conception through the belief in the beauty and mystery of the feminine.
The fundamental aspect of the Regeneratrix as Venus is what Gimbutas calls the goddess as “Mistress of the Upper Waters” where the sacred feminine is worshipped in the Upper Paleolithic in the form of water as a life-giving source connected to the cosmos. Gimbutas states that at the Magdalenian sites of Montespan and Tuc d’Audoubert in France, a stream flows from the mouth of a cave (The Language of the Goddess 43). Likewise, at the site of Les Eyzies-de- Tayac where underground water flows from the sacred cave of the goddess through the town, the worship of water is evident in connection with the goddess. Many Paleolithic sanctuaries in caves contain lakes and subterranean rivers associated with what Gimbutas calls “a long-lasting belief in the magical potency of streams and wells.” On the Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic figurines Gimbutas notes: “Streams in the form of ‘comets’ or parallel lines in diagonal, vertical, or meander bands, are frequent motifs of Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic mobiliary and parietal art.” These comet streams are found on female images symbolizing the “divine moisture with the body of the Goddess” (43-4). On the Roc de Marcamps, Gironde, France, the comet striations closely resemble the pattern of Venus in the night sky where the planet moves from the horizon as the Eastern Star to the Western Star and then under the horizon forming a definite cone shape movement in later mythologies identified with the goddess climbing The World Tree.
The pattern of the movement of the goddess from the underworld to traverse the cosmos bringing the moisture from below into a transmogrifying blue comet-like striation of light and life is also marked on the bodies of the goddess in Paleolithic art where the goddess resembles a water bird. On a plaquette from Gönnersdorf, Germany the bodies of three water-bird goddesses are striated with net patterns and filled with divine moisture. Likewise, a relief of a bird goddess at Pech-Merle, France from the Early Magdalenian is over-painted with water striations as are many bird-goddess figurines from the Paleolithic era. Gimbutas comments: “The Bird Goddess was the Source and Dispenser of life-giving moisture, an early and enduring human preoccupation. As a waterbird, she united heaven and earth, and her terrestrial home was probably believed to be mirrored by a celestial watery realm” (29). In later mythologies, the association of the water bird with the goddesses of the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Age cultures persists most evident in the association of Aphrodite with the swan and the goose and with Caer and the swans at Newgrange, Ireland.
As Mistress of the Upper Waters, the bird goddess’ flight represents a type of epiphany where the feminine source of birth and creation traverses realms to reach celestial or cosmic heights. Her journey follows the patterns of Venus in the night sky and her image as a water bird emerges clearly in the Paleolithic era as an important element. Moreover, there is evidence that rituals in the cave sanctuaries used the naturally formed stalactites at the back of caves to represent The Column of Life, The World Tree, or The World Axis that the Regeneratrix climbs. To demonstrate the journey of the Regeneratrix from the waters of creation symbolized by the subterranean waters of the cave, the stalactites that formed a column were carved with symbols of the goddess. Her emergence from the caves symbolizes the emergence of the planet Venus from below the horizon at the beginning of her cycle through the night sky. Much like conception in the womb, the rituals of the goddess in the caves are steeped in sexual metaphor and meaning. It is here where fertility rites most likely took place.
In the cave of Lascaux in the town of Montignac, France numerous female signs are present in the seven naturally formed chambers of the cave that lead to the sanctuary at the cave’s end. The end chamber, called the Chamber of Felines, is reached by passing through several chambers where animals seem to run toward the end chamber aided by a male shaman. About sixty feet in the passageway from the first room called the Rotunda, are two rooms called the Apse and its Shaft. The formation of these rooms forms a 120º angle with the Apse as an ante-chamber to the angle. This exact angle formation and apse was built in the Neolithic structure of Pierres Plates in Morbihan, France near Carnac. In Pierres Plates, the tilted passage, the apse, the signs and symbols of the Venus cycle on the stones, and the location of the temple itself on the Bay of Morbihan attest to the fact that it too was aligned to the cycles of Venus and possibly modeled after Lascaux or other temple caves of the Paleolithic. In both Lascaux and Pierres Plates, the angled chamber serves as a view room where the light of Venus may be seen in the Shaft or Venus may be viewed from the Shaft. The Shaft has been noted by archeologists as a shaft that was definitely not used as an entrance.
he Apse is a small chamber of about five yards in diameter that is covered with thousands of engraved lines which are exactly like the comet streams on the female images symbolizing the divine moisture of the goddess. Here, too, are the only representations of the full-bodied female or what André Leroi-Gourhan identifies as the “claviform” of the goddess yet known in the Périgord (513). These female symbols are accompanied by quadrangular signs similar to the quadrangular signs on a necklace of what was most likely the high priestess’ body discovered in La Madeleine ou du Roc-de-Cave in nearby Tursac, Dordogne dating 15,780 B.C. and exhibited in the Musee de Les Ezyies-de-Tayac. Many similar quadrangles used for counting lunar cycles of months and precessional lunar cycles are also seen in Les Eyzies. This out of the ordinary Apse chamber and Shaft comfortably fits two people standing or sitting, with a backdrop of a Paleolithic scene framed by an immense chevron or “V” sign partially composed from the natural formation of the rock and man-made carving. On the stone rim of the Shaft are several more engraved claviforms such as those at Le Tuc d’Audoubert. In the painting scene is a rhinoceros with six dots in two rows of three under his tail, barbed signs with lateral dots, and a figure of a bird, another symbol of the Mistress of the Upper Waters, as well as a speared bison, an ithyphallic man and several horses.
Although an exact interpretation of the meaning of the prehistoric animals in their mythological context is speculative, the location, size and unmistakable immense “V” sign as well as the other symbols and signs connected with the Regeneratrix and Mistress of the Upper Waters is clear. Birds are rare in cave art and the presence of the bird, the “V” signs, the claviform signs, the quadrangles, and, most importantly the shape and orientation of the Apse and Shaft may bring to light another view of this ancient sanctuary and passage temple. The most curious display in the Apse painting is the series of horses that are running toward the immense “V.” The last horse in the series reaches the point of the “V” and is turned on its side. If the men and animals in Paleolithic art symbolize the masculine force entering the feminine sacred, which is the cave as the womb and/or uterus, then perhaps reaching the epiphany of the experience inside the womb and at the end of the Shaft at the point of the “V” might represent the orgasmic experience of losing one’s self to the eternal female as sacred thus implying that the sex act itself is one of a sacred nature. In the monuments of the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Age, the idea of sex as a sacred act in the name of Aphrodite, as well as parallel forms of this goddess of regeneration, are an essential metaphor in the worship of Venus found in Lascaux perhaps as one of the primeval temples of its kind.
Another cave temple attributed to the worship the goddesses of regeneration is the Chauvet Cave in the Ardeche Region of southern France. The end chamber of the cave, known as the Sacristy, is marked at its entrance with three abstract vulvas, and on its right wall is a painting called the Lion Panel. Opposite the Lion Panel, and the first image seen when entering the chamber, is a large stalactite with the painting of a half-man, half-bison seeming to mount a large vulva near the hip of the bottom half of a woman’s body. The vulva depiction is a filled oval, pointing downward with a very concave base emphasized with a mark indicating the opening to the vulva. The shape of the stalactite is unmistakably phallic and fleshy in appearance, and the chamber is unmistakably shaped like the womb of the goddess. Judith Thurman, in a recent article in The New Yorker (June 23, 2008) remarks that the depiction appears to be part of the bottom half of a woman’s body with heavy thighs and bent knees that taper at the ankle with a darkly shaded vulva and no feet, and the half-bison, half-man appears to have “an aroused eye.” A line branching from his shoulder looks like a human arm with fingers, and the woman seems to be in a squatting position as if giving birth to the images of the bison and felines that line the walls of the chamber (64). Again, this chamber is a small, sacred place at the end of the cave that evokes a highly sexual metaphor and most probably was used for fertility rites.
The stalactite formation, the womb cave and the sexual metaphors in the Paleolithic are the primary images related to what Marija Gimbutas calls The Columns of Life. Like the image of the bird and the striation marks of water and life, The Columns of Life, later known as The World Axis or The World Tree, is an inherent and necessary symbol in a complex of images associated with the goddess of regeneration and the planetary movements of Venus. The goddess in her many forms mounts The Columns of Life to her moment of epiphany and then descends into the underworld to conceive life from love in an ever returning cycle. Like the planet, rising and descending from the horizon in the east and the west, and then for a brief time remaining under the horizon, their paths are similar and cyclical. Gimbutas traces the origins of The Columns of Life from the Paleolithic caves of Dordogne and Tuc d’Audoubert to the Neolithic, womb-like caves such as those in Koutala, Crete and in Scaloria, Italy where more than 1500 vases with symbols of the goddess painted on them were discovered in the lower section of the cave (223). Gimbutas goes on to site caves used by the Minoans, such as the Cave of Eileithyia east of Herakelion and those at Psychro, Arkalokhori for rites associated with regeneration. On one Middle Minoan multi-faceted seal carved with a life column and a sprouting plant is “a whorl, or eight-pointed star,” a symbol of the regenerative forces of Venus in its eight year cycle (222).
Numerous figurines embody the idea The Columns of Life as a vital force of regeneration by depicting what Gimbutas calls “a fusion of the phallus with the divine body of the Goddess, which begins in the Upper Paleolithic. Some of the ‘Venuses’ of this period have phallic heads and no facial features” (231). They have been found in northern Italy, Bavaria, France and, most importantly, in Cyprus, the mythical birthplace of Aphrodite in Greek mythology. On the figurines from Cyprus, Gimbutas notes: “Although the male element is attached, these figurines remain essentially female. They do not represent a fusion of two sexes but rather an enhancement of the female with the mysterious life force inherent in the phallus. The Goddess figurine creates a base from which the phallus, understood as a cosmic pillar, rises. It comes from her womb in the same way that stalagmites and stalactites grow from her womb in the cave” (232). In one “phallic figurine” from Cyprus, two views present anatomically correct images of both female and male genitalia where the female appears to be birthed from the testicles of the male when seen from the bottom. The figurine calls to mind the birth of Aphrodite herself. In Greek mythology, Aphrodite rose naked from the foam of the sea and stepped first on Cythera then on Cyprus, her principal seat of worship. According to Hesiod in Theogony, “As soon as he [Cronos] had cut off the members with flint and cast them from the land into the sea, they were swept away over the main a long time: and a white foam spread around them from the immortal flesh, and in it grew a maiden” (184-5).
Another characteristic of Venus seen in the emerging primordial archetype of the Paleolithic art that can easily be traced to later cultures, such as Greek and Roman culture, are the reclining, nude figures of the goddess. Although the furthest chamber of the caves with marked columns of life, such as those in the caves at Lascaux and Chauvet, are at the far rear of the cave, indicating a more likely place for fertility rituals, the entrance to the caves is where reliefs or carvings of female figures, such as the reclining nudes, have been found. At Les Eyzies-de-Tayac in Dordogne, there is a cave shelf with sacred water basins and an area large enough for a gathering, at Laussel, France, outside the cave entrance there are the reliefs of the triad of the goddess, and at Angles-sur-Anglin, Vienne three colossal female figures manifest above the head of a bull at the cave entrance. Most importantly, at the cave at La Madeleine, reclining nude women and large pubic triangles decorate the entrance. The most likely scenario in the ritual use of the Paleolithic caves would be that the entrance would serve for gatherings, and in the case of Les Eyzies and La Madeleine where the entrance is aligned northwest to southeast, they most likely were used for the siting of Venus rising as the Evening Star in the early or late spring while the inner chambers were used for fertility rites and rituals. In fact, the depictions on the outside or in the entrance area of the caves might act as an indicator as to the purpose of the caves.
At the entrance of La Madeleine, Tarn, which is some fifty miles south of Lascaux, on either side of the rocks are two reclining, nude figures that seem to lie upon the rocks in repose. H. Bessac, who discovered the female reliefs, remarks that, “ ‘Both figures lie stretched out in positions of utter repose, one arm bent and supporting the head. They rise from the rock as “foam-born” Aphrodite arose from the sea’ ” (Campbell 69). According to a well-known archeologist, Leroi-Gourhan, the attitude of the women reflects “a nonchalant freedom” (Campbell 70). If these figurines evoke the images of Aphrodite in the Classical era of Greece and later in Rome where the goddess is identified by her reclining position or her nonchalant leaning position when standing, then these figures might well be precursors of the Regeneratrix as a beautiful, reposed woman. Classical statues of Aphrodite in the Agora of Athens are identified as Aphrodite because each figure leans nonchalantly against a post, a symbol of The Columns of Life or The World Tree; on the base of the Hephaisteion in the Agora, the goddess leans against a small column while cradling Eros at her side. Likewise, many of the Greek vases portraying Aphrodite’s role in the marriage ceremony depict the goddess seated in a reclined position or leaning against a tree or column. The Roman copy of Aphrodite Olympias from the Circus of Maxentius seated in her reclining chair is perhaps the most impressive image of an alluring, relaxed goddess.
Another figurine that exists a bit closer in time to the reclining nudes of the Magdalenian era than those of Greece or Rome, is the figure of a reclining woman known as the Sleeping Lady of Malta from the Hypogeum of Hal-Saflieni. Discovered in a subterranean chamber with a four-columned trilithon altar, the Sleeping Lady and the two other goddess figurines found with her are examples of both the reclining attitude of the Regeneratrix and the early cave temples that were originally caves and then underground temples. In the side chamber, or apse, is an oracle room that produces a powerful acoustic resonance from any vocal sound made within it. The subterranean temple, like other temples of the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages, includes the same elements of the goddess temples of the Paleolithic era. Primarily, the temples were all modeled after the sacred caves with their walls painted in red ochre to imitate the womb of the goddess as Regeneratrix. Second, an oracular element, like the area for speeches on the entrance shelf at Les Eyzies-de-Tayac or the oracular chambers at Hagar Qim, Malta and Delphi, Greece, serves as a medium for the voice of the goddess to reach the people. Additionally, each temple or cave has an altar for the goddess in the shape of an apse with claviform and triangle signs, or in the case of the temples, a trilithon often with a large stone in the shape of a pubic triangle. In the Malta temples, the apse is entered through a stone doorway with a circle in the center perhaps to imitate the cave entrance to the subterranean world.
The temple-complex at Hagar Qim is a megalithic temple-complex facing the sea on the island of Malta dating to approximately 3600 B.C. with a trilithon entrance, chambers of red orchre, and doorways that open to small chambers, one of which is an oracle chamber. Most importantly, Hagar Qim was most likely used as a temple of the Regeneratrix associated with the planet Venus. The temple-complex faces the sea on its western side giving full view of Venus rising from the sea as the Evening Star in three distinct positions in relation to the moon. Each of three chambers on the western side of the temple-complex has outside entrances that orient to these celestial sitings. A small semi-circular niche housing a triangular altar stone outside the temple faces northeast to site the solstices, equinoxes, and the rising constellations as well as Venus. On the east side of the temple the oracle chamber views Venus as the Morning Star in position from due east. The third siting of Venus in the east as the Morning Star is through the Main Entrance which faces southeast, the position of Venus furthest in the east, most likely associated with her beginning and/or ending of each complete cycle. The Main Entrance itself is a spectacular trilithon with eight entrance stones, the number of the full cycle of Venus in conjunction with 99 moons.
The approach to the temple is marked by an orthostat and several ruins of older phases of the temple as well as Il-Misqu or the watering place. The fact that Hagar Qim went through several stages of completion, each successively more complicated to represent the cycle of Venus more accurately, emphasizes the importance to the ancients of the Regeneratrix in her transformative state. The watering place itself also testifies to the importance of water in the cycles of earthly and celestial life. It is a flat area near the temple-complex that contains eight bell-shaped reservoirs that still retain water, eight again noting the Venus cycle. A monolith is near one well and a re-planted fig tree near another, perhaps signifying the goddess in her water character and identifying her with The Columns of Life or The World Tree, respectively. The fig tree is a symbol associated with the Regeneratrix in Minoan symbology where the goddess is seen in full glory as she mounts The World Tree depicted as a fig tree on the Ring of Minos worn by the high priestess of Knossos, Crete. The orthostat due north of Hagar Qim, the monolith near one of the wells at the watering place, and several representations of The World Tree or World Axis present inside the temple-complex of Hagar Qim are a reminder of the journey of the goddess in the night sky rising from the underworld and traversing the celestial and watery realms. The World Tree points to the pole star or due North, the center of numinous energy, much like the orthostat of the goddess that guards the temple-complex of Hagar Qim.
In a chamber to the left of the Main Entrance of Hagar Qim is another representation of The World Tree: a four-sided pillar. The four-sided pillar has a tree and an owl on each side of its base, a large bowl-shaped basin for water on its top, and cup-marks over it. All these carvings are images to reinforce the importance of the pillar as the The World Tree and the association of the goddess with the waters of renewal and new life. Next to the pillar is a carving of a decorated “V” with spirals on its legs and a bas relief of plant life; these images also establish the idea of regeneration from a feminine source. Again, the image-complex of water represented in the bowl, the bird with deep-set cup marked eyes, and the tree work together in the context of a growing ideology or a language of the goddess in symbolic form. Even the representation of twelve leaves on each side of the pillar might be connected with the twelve moons of the year connecting the moon with Venus in the night sky. Similar bas reliefs of plant life and spirals as well as a massive trilithon with a “V” shaped stone are found in other chambers of the temple. Likewise, the doorways of stone with circles or small openings are reminiscent of the entrance to the womb-caves of the Paleolithic.
Finally, the design of the Hagar Qim temple-complex itself is reminiscent of the sexual metaphors associated with the goddess of regeneration as Venus. Like the Apse with the immense “V” sign in Lascaux cave and the stalactite of the goddess and the aroused bull in the Chauvet Cave, the temple-complex of Hagar Qim has a massive, “V” shaped stone in front of a trilithon altar representing the vulva of the goddess. Moreover, the temple itself is designed for privacy with its six separate chambers, three on the west for the Evening Star and three on the east for the Morning Star. The three western chambers each with a separate entrance oriented to three of the positions of Venus and the moon when Venus is the Evening Star, intimates the necessity of privacy for fertility and/or sexual rites. The three chambers on the east are also chambers of a private nature. The stones used as doorways are small and separate the eastern chambers of the temple. Moreover, the images of reclining goddesses, four of which were found at Hagar Qim, only serve to add to the overall image of fertility, sex for relaxation, spiritual renewal and the beauty and magnificence of the goddess in her form of the Regeneratrix of life. Like most of the temples on Malta, Hagar Qim represents the earliest form of worship of the goddess where man channeled the energies found in the sacred caves of the Paleolithic era into man-made replicas that served an increasing population who began to formalize and structuralize long-held beliefs in the sacred nature of the feminine.
Another noteworthy Neolithic passage temple possibly designed for the emulation and worship of the Regeneratrix in association with the planetary cycles of Venus, is Pierres Plates which is on the eastern side of the Locmariaquer Peninsula in Brittany, France. At Pierres Plates, the massive stones used for the roof of the chamber are on ground level. The passage temple of Pierres Plates is an underground chamber with a 120º angle or tilt like the tilt in the Apse at Lascaux. It is an allée coudée type of dolmen whose corridor changes direction and slightly enlarges to form a chamber, sometimes separated from the corridor by an upright stone marked with the symbols of the goddess. Like many of the temples of Venus, such as the temple of Hagar Qim at Malta and the temple of Aphrodite at Acrocorinth, Pierres Plates faces the sea giving it a spectacular view of Venus being born by rising from the watery realms. This temple, like Hagar Qim and the other Malta temples to the goddess, is aligned on a southeast-northwest direction with the entrance facing southeast. The temples of Malta are designed this way because they are shaped like the body of the goddess where her womb opens to the southeast and her head is represented in the northwest. At Hagar Qim the entrance faces the southeast and the rear faces the northwest with a broad view of the sea to site Venus as the Evening Star from the most reclusive temple chambers. The shelf at Les Eyzies-de-Tayac is also aligned on this axis and because it is a shelf, with a double view like Hagar Qim, Venus is seen rising on both horizons.
When the temple of the goddess, like Pierres Plates or Hal Saflieni, is an angled-passage, a subterranean chamber or a cave, the northwest siting is not visible from inside the structure unless there is a Shaft like the one in Lascaux cave. In these cases, the end chamber serves as an altar of the goddess; in Hal Saflieni, the end chamber has an altar that is a massive trilithon structure with a “V” stone in front of it, and in Chauvet cave, the end chamber contains a stalactite decorated with the vulva of the goddess. The apse or turning point to the altar is used as an oracle chamber or a private chamber in these passage temples. In Pierres Plates, the angle contains an apse as the turning point to a back chamber decorated with feminine signs of the goddess that, as one tourist states, “get more exotic the further you get into the monument.” These chambers, which are aligned to the cycles of Venus, note both the planet’s rising from the sea and the goddess’ birth from the sea as well as its appearance in the evening sky as a symbol of beauty and fertility. In the northwest chambers, Venus reaches her most spectacular beauty in the night sky and as the goddess, she is mounting The Columns of Life or The World Tree in her epiphany through the realms of her journey. In the east, the birth of the goddess is celebrated and in the west, the re-birth of the goddess is celebrated in the passage temples.
Besides the passage temples’ alignments to Venus in the southeast as the Morning Star and Venus in the northwest as the Evening Star, the passage temples are aligned on the earth. Pierres Plates on the Locmariaquer peninsula, as well as Le Grand Menhir Briseé, the Kercado passage mound, Gavrinis and Carnac are all on the latitude of 47 º north. The latitude of 47º north at Carnac is where the sun, at both the Winter and Summer Solstices, forms a perfect Pythagorean triangle relative to the east-west equinoxial axis of the site. Likewise, Le Grand Menhir Briseé, once the largest known standing stone in Europe, is also in the center of a circle of sacred temples. Le Petit Mont, a dolmen transformed by the Romans into a temple for Venus, is in the circle of temples that radiate from Le Grand Menhir. It is an eight level temple with several antechambers and stone carvings similar to those in Pierres Plates. These temples all share a common symbolism in the markings on the temples which are associated with the goddess as Regeneratrix. More than likely, these temples to the goddess are aligned on the earth with the necessary sitings to the solstices, equinoxes, the moon and Venus to complete a calendar which uses celestial cycles and a symbolic language as a guide to the infinite. They are aligned to the sky, the earth, and the subterranean world simultaneously, and they are united by a single symbolic language.
In Pierres Plates, the symbolism of the goddess as Regeneratrix forms a set of images and symbols that is abundant in the early Neolithic temples of France. In Pierres Plates, multiple pillars are decorated with large amounts of cupmarks and striated lines signifying the water aspect of the goddess of regeneration and the waters of life. Like the cupmarks and markings of wavy lines emanating from the center of claviforms on other Neolithic temples, water is a symbol of the renewable energy of the goddess as a force of new life, hence her birth and re-birth from the sea. On the stones at Gavrinis temple which depict an extensive use of wavy and concentric arc motifs radiating from a central “vulvar” opening, Gimbutas remarks that, “The piled-up signs seem to say that the creativity of the Goddess is inexhaustible and comes from the cosmic deep, which is implied by a variety of adjacent aquatic configurations” (The Language of the Goddess 225). This cosmology of water and birth as well as rebirth is an essential element in the Venus temples, like Pierre Plates, that are in proximity to the sea and the rising of the planet from the waters of creation both in the east and in the west.
Moreover, at Pierres Plates, there are thirteen stones with what appear as figurations humaines later identified as the “Pierres-plates style” of feminine figures which typifies almost all of the Morbihan entrance temples, according to a study by A. Maudet de Penhouet in 1814 (Whitaker 1). In this highly significant art form, the cupmarks or open circles and the wavy lines of emerging energy fuse to form a symbol of the figure of the goddess. Instead of a basin which is seen at the top of the four-sided pillar at Hagar Qim, the water element of the goddess becomes a wide-open “U” shape at the top of the goddess figure. The striations of water are replaced by a single line intersecting the “U” and running down the center of the stone to create the body of the goddess. Although the figure is unmistakably human in form, she is headless and abstract. The “U” formation and the extended bodyline of the goddess forms a configuration seen in the upraised arms of adoration of the Minoan-Mycenaean and Greek goddess and priestess figures and in the letter “?” (psi) in the Greek alphabet. It is also reminiscent of the figure of the goddess as Venus being raised from the sea in her foam-born birth on several depictions including those in Minoan art and the Ludovisi Relief where Aphrodite is raised from the sea by two nymphs. On the stones at Pierres Plates, the ? is at the center of the stone dividing the stone into two spheres.
On one of the most decorated of the goddess figure stones at Pierres Plates, each side of the sphere contains four symbols; two symbols at the top and bottom of each column of four are concentric circles, and the two in the middle are half-circles. These might well be symbols for the phases of Venus in its full and crescent phases in its eight year cycle as the Morning and Evening Star. Moreover, at the top of this stone is a bowl shaped “U” that separates the two spheres of Venus with several lines indicating the cross-over from east to west that Venus travels in its cycle. Not far from this stone is another indication that the passage temple of Pierres Plates is a Venus temple: it is a stone with a clearly marked Tree of Life with its branches reaching to the night sky. Finally, what emerges from the Paleolithic and early Neolithic depictions of the goddess of regeneration associated with the cycles of Venus, especially in this part of France, is a single recurrent symbol that fuses the goddess’ attributes of renewing life from the uterine moisture of the feminine in the womb as basin and container of life and continuing cycles of feminine energy merged with a belief in the sacred. All this is contained in what the Greeks entered into their alphabet as ?, what the Minoans represent in the adoration figures, and what the French eventually call Mari, perhaps the “maria” of “Locmariaquer.”
The emergence of the goddess as Regeneratrix is depicted on the stones in the British Isles in an abstract method that is more accurate in detail than the abstract representations in France in its exactness of the cycles of Venus and in astronomy notations, overall. In Britain, the abstract symbols for the Venus cycle are intricate patterns that replicate the motions of the planet more than the symbols in France that merge the recurrent images associated with the Regeneratrix such as water, waterbirds, the tree of life, the “V” shapes and, finally, a human figure. However, in the emergence of the primordial archetype, the transformative element whether embodied in human form which eventually leads to language or embodied in a highly developed language of astronomy, dominates and identifies the archetype in both places. The transformative element of the primordial archetype in both cultures, is merged with one essential transformative characteristic of the archetype: the lunar cycle. Most prevalent is the merging of the archetype with the transformative symbols of the moon. For example, the Table des Marchand stone, discovered in the end chamber of the tumulus at Locmariaquer, is in the shape of a closed, pointed “U” with markings of the monthly, yearly, and precessional cycles of the moon. Likewise, at Knowth, one of three mounds of the Brú na B?inne, a stone, called “The Calendar Stone” displays both The Nineteen Year Cycle of the moon as well as the eight-year cycle of Venus.
In Ireland, this is particularly true of many of the stones such as those discovered at the Brú na B?inne which are unmistakably lunar-solar temples. The transformative character of the primordial archetype is therefore recognizable as both a spiritual and clearly observable essential in the understanding of the sacred feminine in conjunction with the moon. Moreover, as is the case with most accurate calendars, both ancient and modern, the lunar cycles and the cycles of Venus are also measured in conjunction with the cycles of the sun. These three celestial bodies, the moon, Venus and the sun, are essential to the forming of the transformative character of the archetype of the feminine because once again, they represent the powerful triad or trinity or what the Celts used as a central symbol in their religion: the triskele. In The Stones of Time, Martin Brennan remarks on the widespread distribution of this theme with the underlying assumption for its origins. Brennan states: “The separation of a formless unity into two reciprocal principles which generate a third and form the multiplicity of creation is a universal and archaic cosmological idea. In sky imagery the sun and the moon represent two opposite principles and the stars represent multiplicity. Together they make up time and space and the entire universe” (195). If the sun is represented as a masculine power to complement the transformative character of the sacred archetype of the feminine, then both the astronomy and the religious sentiment present a coherent ideology.
Brennan declares that the markings on the stones of the Brú na B?inne and other Neolithic monuments form geometric patterns that essentially unite these realms. Brennan states: “The megalithic artist apparently viewed the multiplicity of the stars and the multiplicity of the ‘world’ below as originating from the same source, and both are seen to conform to basic geometrical structures” (195). Because there are only three celestial objects capable of projecting beams of light and casting shadows, Venus, the sun and the moon, Brennan believes that Venus, with its brilliant light, “became an object of awe in early astronomies” and its “path in the sky bears a close resemblance to the elongated arcs” on the stones (170). The role of Venus both as a goddess of regeneration and a planet, acts as a guide to uniting the feminine and masculine forces as she transcends from the realm of the earth through the waters to the night sky traversing the universe. No wonder the Greeks refer to her as Aphrodite Ourania, a goddess of astronomy born from the cosmic force of Uranus who marries Mother Earth to create the universe. Both the pattern of Venus in the night sky and her brilliant light form a constant, yet traveling celestial body that completes the cycles by uniting the feminine and the masculine in a coherent triad of the cosmos. In terms of astronomy, Venus is the force that is able to measure the accurateness of the lunar-solar cycle by appearing every eight years in exact conjunction with the moon and the sun, and in theological or spiritual terms, Venus acts as the impetus to uniting the feminine and the masculine as a cosmic force. Venus may be seen as a kelson of creation that holds the universal triad together.
The passage temples of the Brú na B?inne represent the triskele which uses the unifying forces of Venus and its transformative properties in much the same way as other Neolithic temples. The shape and recesses of the temples, the measuring of celestial light in the passage, the associations with water and waterbirds, and the intricate patterns in the language of the stones all reflect characteristics of the goddess as Regeneratrix. Like the trilithon altars at the temples of Hagar Qim and Hal-Saflieni in Malta, the passage temple of Knowth East at the Brú na B?inne has a triple-alcove chamber. Likewise, the Newgrange passage temple of the Brú na B?inne has a cruciform chamber with three recesses to represent the triad of Venus, the moon and the sun. Brennan cites three roofboxes in prominent Neolithic temples that mark the cycle of Venus on the entrance of each passage temple. The first is a sillstone at Gavrinis marking Venus in eight quadrangles, the second is the lintel at the entrance of Fourknocks, Ireland, using watermarks and quadrangles for the eight years of the Venus cycle, and the third is the roofbox at Newgrange (168). Brennan believes that “inherent in the structure of the quadrangle are the concepts of the center and the unification or reconciliation of opposites” because it is basically comprised of two triangles (183). Like the goddess herself as transformer of the feminine and masculine, her symbol is one of uniting opposites and is placed as such at the entrance to the temples.
According to Anthony Murphy in Islands of the Setting Sun (Dublin: Liffey, 2008), the bright light of Venus shines into the chamber of Newgrange once during its eight year cycle. That one moment of reconciliation of the cosmos, according to Murphy, is year four in the eight year cycle of Venus when the planet is the Morning Star at the Winter Solstice at the declination of Venus when it is 18º west of the sun (166). Here, the goddess lingers for several days before and after the Solstice in a different position in the roofbox at twilight where an observer would be able to see Venus through the roofbox if sitting on the floor of the chamber. This moment of reconciliation might have been marked by the ancients as a time of birth, re-birth and regeneration typical of the functions of the goddess as Regeneratrix. According to Murphy, the word “Brú” may relate to “the notion of a ‘rebirth ritual’ coincidental with the solar and lunar functions of Newgrange” (172). Murphy goes on to explain that the Brú na B?inne complex might be considered The Womb of the Moon where the temples take the form of the body of the goddess (172-73). The light of Venus shining into the roofbox would play the role as a powerful Regeneratrix for The Womb of the Moon when the light of the Sun as a masculine energy force at the Winter Solstice enters the womb temple. The two phallus-shaped stones in oval settings filled with white quartz that were discovered at the entrances of Newgrange and Knowth contribute to this theme. Here, as in the caves of the Paleolithic and the temples of the Neolithic, the entrance is the vulva of the goddess and the passage chambers act as temples where re-birth and fertility rites most likely took place.
At the end of the cruciform chamber at Newgrange is a basin used for ceremonial rituals most likely in association with the water aspect of the Regeneratrix. According to Murphy, Joseph Campbell cites a local legend about a “morning star” that cast a beam of light into the basin at Newgrange. Murphy believes that this local legend might well be an enduring myth perhaps as old as five millennia (165). Noticeable too at Newgrange on several stones on the outside of the passage are cupmarks and other water symbols of regeneration and rebirth from the watery realms of the goddess. Most notably, is Murphy’s research on the nearby site of Baltray where Venus is seen rising from the sea. Although the major connection with water as a sacred source of birth and re-birth at Newgrange is the Boyne River that gracefully flows around the Brú and whose later namesake is Boann, the river goddess of the Tuatha Dé Danaan in Celtic mythology, the passage temple is also associated with another sacred water source: the sea at Baltray. Murphy remarks that Venus is a female deity represented in Celtic mythology as a calf whose mother cow is the moon, and both rise from the sea at Baltray where they have been transformed into stones. Venus rises from the sea in the southeast at the time of the Winter Solstice not far from the Rockabill Islands at Baltray in her new sacred form (11-15). Like the sitings of Venus rising from the sea at Malta and in France, Venus rising from the sea at Baltray is marked at the Winter Solstice, as it is at Newgrange, as a sacred re-birth.
Although one animal associated with the waters of the goddess at Baltray is a white cow and her calf, and the same association with bovine figures is seen in connection with the goddess of the Boyne River, Boann, these later Celtic myths also include an association of the water sources with waterbirds which may be traced to the regenerative rather than the elementary character of the archetype. The bovine figure, which enters into the Bronze and Iron Age mythologies of the Celts and the Greeks, in the form of Boann and Hera, respectively, may be said to represent the elementary character of the feminine archetype which clearly emerges in later mythologies in bovine form with the domestication of animals. The transformative animal form associated with the sacred feminine is the bird, a creature seen as early as the Paleolithic as a force that transcends ordinary human consciousness by transcending from the watery realms to the sky. This form most closely associated with the flight of Venus from its rising as the Morning Star in the eastern twilight, is represented at Newgrange by the whooper swans (Cygnus Cygnus) who winter at the mound in significant numbers, the marking of the constellation of Cygnus as the shape of the passage of the mound, and the later associations of the Celtic goddess Caer who is transformed into a swan and dwells at Newgrange. Moreover, the tales of Dechtine, who births the famous Celtic hero, Cúchulainn in the mound, and the Children of Lir who transform into swans at the mound adhere to the waterbird significance at Newgrange (Murphy 142-48).
Nearby Newgrange, there are two interesting sites to include in the sacred sources for water and waterbirds in association with the Regeneratrix. Both are mentioned by Murphy as the man-made circular ponds at Newgrange and the “Newgrange-Fourknocks harmonization” (148-152). Along the Boyne River not far from Newgrange, there are four circular ponds, reminiscent of the man-made wells at Hagar Qim, where swans winter and feed in the shallow waters. Murphy notes that the swans were “held in great reverence” as was the constellation of the giant swan as Cygnus. In addition to these water sources and waterbirds, the nearby passage temple of Fourknocks reflects the same motifs in its structure and artwork. The egg-shaped chamber of Fourknocks might be seen as a cruciform design with three recesses, much like those recesses in other regeneration chambers. Fourknocks also has zig-zag water patterns that mark the passage temple as one of regeneration as does its central lintel, the west recess lintel, and the entrance lintel with eight quadrangles for the Venus cycle (Brennan 185). According to Murphy: “Of significance is the fact that both Newgrange and Fourknocks have as an integral element of their design, the shape of an egg, the symbol of fertilization, of reproduction, of new birth. We are reminded of the fact that the primordial cosmic egg has its roots in much more ancient times, and is connected with symbolism which includes water, a bird, a woman and an egg. The woman in this case is Caer” (152).
The passage mound of Knowth at the Brú na B?inne may also be associated with birth and re-birth in the cosmology of the sacred waters of the feminine because it contains a basin in its cross-shaped eastern chamber. Knowth and Dowth, which combine with Newgrange to make the sacred Brú, according to Murphy, “utilized differing methods to evaluate, enumerate, and predict the same thing—the standstills, or ‘lunistices of the moon” (195). Their connections to the cycles of Venus may be seen on the stones and, in particular, in the markings on the stone basin at Knowth. The stone basin found in the East Passage of Knowth is decorated on the outside with a pair of concentric arcs with a circle in the center of each. It seems as if there are eight concentric circles with a spiral dissecting the fourth circle on the left. The arc may well be a symbol of the rising of Venus, and the fourth year marked by the spiral may well be the rising of Venus in the Winter Solstice twilight of the fourth year in the eight year Venus cycle. On the bottom of the stone basin is a circle with arcs that resemble halos around the center circle with six radiating lines on each side of the space beneath the circle. Whether they are configurations of the Venus cycle is speculative; however, the markings in the basin are clearly associated with water and the radiating energy produced by water as a sacred life form. The fact that the basin is in the East Chamber of Knowth is also indicative of the birthing aspect of the waters of the feminine.
Finally, and probably most dramatic of all the evidence of the Venus cycle and the Regeneratrix in the Brú na B?inne, are the markings of cosmic cycles on the kerbstones of the mounds. These markings depict the cycles of Venus, the moon, and the sun in an intricate art form that has not been superseded in detail and accuracy in any other culture proving the ancient astronomers of Ireland masters at their art. At Newgrange, the Entrance Stone, the stones in the passage chamber, and Kerbstone 52, which is half way around the outside of the mound, are decorated with the symbols of Venus, the sun and the moon in varied patterns that seem to express the merging cohesiveness of the cosmos in all its complexity. According to Murphy, the astronomical alignment of these stones is of central consideration to the monument because they mark the light of Venus, the moon, and the sun at the Winter Solstice as they enter the mound, reach the back chamber and pass over Kerbstone 52 (168). The Entrance Stone depicts this cosmological triad with triple-spirals and quadrangles in complementary patterns on either side of a central line of a giant egg-shaped stone that guides the light into the mound; the roofbox with the Venus lintel that guides the light of Venus is positioned directly above the dividing line of the Entrance Stone. As the light passes through the chamber, stones decorated with triple-spirals are illuminated. Kerbstone 52, on the outside of the mound, is also bisected with patterns of the triple-spiral and quadrangles as well as cupmarks which suggest the watery element of the goddess as Venus.
On the passage temple of Knowth, Kerbstone 52 has been called the Calendar Stone by Martin Brennan. This stone which combines a spiral, wavy lines and a series of circles and crescent shapes depicts the Nineteen Year Cycle of the moon. According to Murphy: “The numbers and arrangements at Stone Age sites were chosen so that there were several ways of counting them. Thus, the Calendar Stone can be counted as a 62-month metonic interval, or a 99-month eight-year Venus-moon interval” (197). Likewise, at the mound of Dowth, Kerbstone 51 on the eastern side of the mound has sundial shapes containing stars with radials that count 99 months which brings the eight year cycle of Venus together with the cycles of the sun and the moon. Brennan states that on Kerbstone 52 the eight circles and ovals very likely represent the eight years which are reduced to terms of months on Kerbstone 51 (166). On Kerbstone 52, eight circles and ovals of varying shapes are decorated with small black circles. The pattern of the circles and ovals resembles the journey of Venus where it may be sited in the east on three occasions in relation to the moon, in the west on three occasions and below the horizon in two positions. Like many of the patterns of Venus on ancient monuments of the Brú na B?inne, Venus is seen as a vital part of the cosmic unity of Venus, the moon, and the sun at Dowth.
A relatively small passage temple in the British Isles that indicates a purpose similar to the temple of Hagar Qim in that the pattern of the temple displays more qualities of a Venus temple rather than the grand passage temples of the Brú na B?inne which represent a cosmic calendar of magnificent proportions, is the passage temple of Bryn Celli Ddu on the Isle of Anglesey in northern Wales. Bryn Celli Ddu, like Hagar Qim and Pierres Plates on the Locmariaquer Peninsula in France, faces the sea. Bryn Celli Ddu is approximately a mile from the channel that separates the Isle of Anglesey from the mainland of Wales with a dramatic view of the water from the typically steep stone cliffs off the coast of northern Wales. The opening to the chamber of the mound faces northeast; however, a slot or opening, reminiscent of the oracle chambers in the passage temples of Malta and the Shaft at Lascaux, faces the southeast with a view of Venus from the chamber. Two pillars, one on the outside of the passage temple and one free-standing pillar in the chamber, may be seen as symbols of The Columns of Life or The World Tree. The outside pillar is decorated with waving lines of watery energy and the inside pillar, according to Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas, marks the light of Venus: “Around the winter solstice, the slot and the pillar of the chamber accurately measure the angular distance of Venus from the sun, using the difference between daggers of light cast by the sun and Venus onto the pillar. The positioning of the slot has been carefully designed to make this possible.” According to Knight and Lomas, in Welsh mythology, this passage temple is associated with the mythic astronomer Gwydion ap Don, the son of Don, the mother goddess of Wales (234).
Whether grandly overpowering and magnificent, as seen in the passage temples of the Brú na B?inne and Hagar Qim, or startlingly remote and private, as seen in the passage temples of Bryn Celli Ddu and Pierres Plates, the connection to the starry dynamo of energy worshipped as the regenerative forces of the sacred feminine is evident in the temples of the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras in the history of human consciousness. The development of an emerging archetype given the characteristics of birth and re-birth, avenues for the immortality of the spirit to transcend this reality to other worlds, is worshipped in distinct forms that guide our imagination. The symbols of birth and re-birth with Venus rising from the watery realms as the Eastern Star, the waterbird as a messenger and guide of the immortal soul, the journey from east to west and then to the world of darkness and sleep, and the mounting energy of the planet as it traverses the night sky seen as a sexual metaphor contribute to the overall complex of images of the transformative character of the goddess. The Columns of Life, The World Tree and The Axis of the World that the goddess mounts with energy and glory, all intensify the experience of the fertile and nubile feminine in the universe. Most of all, the abundance of female symbols and the emerging language of the goddess that crystallizes into the language and worship of the organized religions of the Minoan-Mycenaean civilizations that follow becomes an overwhelming symbol of the feminine in human history. Known as Regeneratrix in her transformative character, she is seen in the night sky as Venus.
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