A. Gravettian-Aurignacian Cultures (25000 BC-15000 BC)
1. The Upper-Paleolithic period, though most of its sites have been found in Europe, is the conjectural foundation of the religion of the Goddess as it emerged in the later Neolithic Age of the Near East.
a. There have been numerous studies of Paleolithic cultures, explorations of sites occupied by these people, and the apparent rites connected with the disposal of their dead.
b. In these Upper-Paleolithic societies, the concept of the creator of all human life may have been formulated by the clan's image of women, who were their most ancient primal ancestors.
(1) It is believed that the mother was regarded as the sole parent of children in this culture.
(2) Ancestor worship appears to have been the basis of sacred rituals and ancestry is believed to have been reckoned through the matriline.
(a) The beginnings of Roman religion were based on survivals of the Etruscan culture and ancestor worship was the earliest form of religion in Rome.
(b) Even today, the Jewish people determine who is and is not a Jew through the matriline.
2. The most tangible evidence supporting the theory that these cultures worshipped a Goddess is the numerous sculptures of women found throughout most of Europe and the Near East. Some of these sculptures date as far back as 25,000 BC.
a. These small female figurines, made of stone, bone, and clay, most of which are seemingly pregnant, have been found throughout the widespread Gravettian-Aurignacian sites in areas as far apart as Spain, France, Germany, Austria, and Russia.
(1) These sites and figurines appear to span a period of at least 10,000 years.
3. Johannes Maringer, in his book 'The Gods of Prehistoric Man' says- "It appears highly probable then that the female figurines were idols of a Great Mother cult, practiced by the non-nomadic Aurignacian mammoth hunters who inhabited the immense Eurasian territories that extended from Southern France to Lake Baikal in Siberia."
a. It was from this Lake Baikal area in Siberia that tribes are believed to have migrated across a great land bridge to North America about this time period, and formed the nucleus of what was to become the race of American Indians.
(1) This tends to support the observation that European witchcraft and American Indian shamanism have similar roots.
B. The Roots of Western Civilization
1. Western Civilization began in Mesopotamia and the Nile Valley, where it traveled into Palestine and Greece.
a. From Greece civilization traveled to Rome,and as the Roman Empire grew it spread to Spain, France, Germany and England.
2. Mesopotamia ( 3500 BC - 539 BC )
a. Mesopotamia ("the land between the rivers") is the name used to describe the region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the southern area of which is mostly lowlying swampland and marshes.
(1) The fertile lands of Mesopotamia lie between the desert and the mountains. The northern part has regular rainfall while the southern part, stretching down to the Arabian Gulf, suffers dry scorching summers from May to October.
(a) In what is now the southern part of Iraq, Sumer existed as one of the world's first civilizations.
b. Between 2800 and 2400 BC the city-states of Sumer were at their strongest and wealthiest.
(1) The Goddess was worshipped under various names which were epithets, or characterizing phrases, such as 'Queen of Heaven' and 'Lady of the High Places'. The name of the city or town that She was the patroness for, was often attached to Her title making Her name even more specific.
(a) An example of this is the temple erected about 3000 BC in the city-state of Uruk which was dedicated to the Queen of Heaven of Erech.
(b) This city was made a major power and rival to its sister city Ur by Gilgamesh's son.
c. About 2350 BC an ambitious king, named Sargon, attacked Sumer, and made it part of his huge Empire. His capitol of Agade gave us the name by which Sargons empire is known- the Akkadian Empire.
(1) The Akkadian Empire was the first successful attempt to unite a huge area under the rule of one man. It eventually gained supremacy in about 1900 BC and gradually superseded the Summerians as the cultural and political leaders of the region.
(a) The Akkadian language of the Babylonians became the international language of the Near East, just as French would become the language of diplomacy thousands of years later.
(b) The new Babylonian culture incorporated the Sumerian religion, and the Sumerian language was adopted as the language of the liturgy much as Latin is used as the language of liturgy for Roman Catholics.
(c) The sumerian Goddess, under the names Inanna, Eriskegan and Irnini, evolved into the great Babylonian Goddess Ishtar.
d. Approximately 1600 BC Babylon was sacked by an Indo-European people known as the Hittites who came from Anatolia, off to the northwest.
(1) During the confusion that ensued, the Kassites seized the throne of Babylon and ruled peacefully for 400 years.
(a) Ishtar's power waned as the Babylonians were influenced by the warlike Hittites and Her temples were taken over by a male-dominated priesthood, which called the Goddess Tiamat and wrote stories of how their god Marduk had killed Her in the struggle for control of the region.
e. In the centuries following 1103 BC the Assyrians rose to power and expanded into most of Mesopotamia from their homeland which lay between the cities of Asher and Nineveh on the Tigrus River.
(1) In the eighth century, the Assyrians conquered most of Syria, Palestine, Phoenicia and had invaded Egypt as far as Thebes (Luxor) before the Egyptians drove them back.
(a) Looking to legitimize their new empire, they 'married' their god Asher to Ishtar, whose followers had secretly kept Her worship alive.
(b) The joining of Ashur with Ishtar produced a son named Ninurta, and this is the first formally recorded triad of Goddess, Consort, and Divine Child in the Near East.
(2) From 631 to 539 BC much inter-city warfare occurred as the Assyrian empire fell apart.
(a) In 539 BC Nabonius, the last king of Babylonia, surrendered to Cyrus II of Persia who was busy building the greatest empire ever attempted.
a. Anatolia, which is also called Asia Minor, is a broad peninsula jutting westward from the Asian continent itself. To the north lies the Black Sea, to the south the easternmost part of the Mediterranean. At the entrance to the Black Sea are the Dardanelles and it is here that Asia comes closest to the continent of Europe. Not surprisingly, Anatolia has always been the main link between the Orient and the Occident.
b. In Neolithic Anatolia (present day Turkey) the Great Goddess was worshiped in the shrines of Catal Huyuk around 6500 BC.
c. Anatolia was invaded sometime before 2000 BC by the Indo- Europeans and a group of them settled in a part of Anatolia known as Hatti. The invaders and local people came to be known collectively as the Hittites.
(1) These are the same Hittites who sacked Babylonia in 1600 BC and suppressed the worship of Ishtar in favor of their god Marduk.
d. Most of the references to the Goddess in the literature and texts of Anatolia alluded to the older Hattian deities despite the fact that the only records allowed to survive were written after the conquest of Anatolia by the Indo-Europeans.
(1) One of the most important female deities to survive was the Sun Goddess Arinna. After the conquest she was assigned a husband who was symbolized as a storm god.
(a) At the time of the Hittite invasions of other lands, many of the people who were Goddess-worshippers may have fled to the west. The renowned temple of the Goddess in the city of Ephesus was the target of the apostle Paul's zealous missionary efforts (Acts 19:27). This temple remained active until 380 AD.
a. The Aegean Sea is an area of the Mediterranean, lying between the mainland of Greece and the western coast of Anatolia. The Aegean Sea is dotted with a great number of mountainous islands and the largest of these is Crete, which is just about 60 miles southeast of Greece.
(1) Crete was the society that is most repeatedly thought to have been matrilineal and possibly matriarchal from Neolithic times to the Dorian invasion.
(a) Reverance of the double headed ax as a symbol of the Mother Goddess and a reverence for the sexual vitality of bulls were two notable aspects of Crete's early culture.
(b) Bull leaping is thought to have been the origin of Spain's bullfighting, although in Crete the bull was never harmed.
(2) After viewing the artifacts and murals at Knossos, the Archaeological Museum at Iraklion and other museums in Crete, there is little doubt that the principal sacred being on Crete for several millenia was the Goddess and that women acted as Her clergy.
5. Egypt (3100 to 30 BC)
a. Egypt is a hot, desert land divided by the fertile valley of the Nile river. Hardly any rain falls there and the summers are scorching hot. Even today, most of Egypt is arid desert.
(1) The Cultivation, a strip of land on each side of the Nile river, is one of the most fertile stretches of land in the world.
(a) Although the Cultivation is only 12 1/2 miles wide, it runs for about 620 miles from Aswan in the south to the broad farmlands of the delta where the Nile empties into the Mediterranean.
b. In prehistoric Egypt, the Goddess held sway in Upper Egypt (the south) as Nekhebt and She was depicted in the form of a vulture.
(1) The people of Lower Egypt, including the northern delta region, worshipped the Goddess as Ua Zit (Great Serpent) and depictions of Her show Her as a cobra.
c. From about 3000 BC onward the Goddess was said to have existed when nothing else had been created.
(1) She was known as Nut, Net, or Nit which was probably derived from Nekhebt.
(a) According to Egyptian mythology, it was the Goddess who first put Ra, the sun god, in the sky.
(b) Other texts of Egypt tell of the Goddess as Hathor in this role as creatrix of existence, explaining that She took form as a serpent at the time.
d. In Egypt the concept of the Goddess always remained vital. Eventually the Goddess evolved into a more composite Goddess known as Isis.
(1) Isis (Au Set) incorporated the aspects of both Ua Zit and Hathor. Isis was also closely associated with the Goddess as Nut, who was mythologically recorded as Her Mother; in paintings Isis wears the wings of Nekhebt.
(a) Isis was also associated with another triad which included Her husband, Osiris, and their son Horus.
(b) Isis' cult was introduced into Rome and the last temple of Isis was closed in 394 AD by Theodosios.
6. Canaan (8000 - 63 BC)
a. The biblical land of Canaan, the 'land of milk and honey' was an area about 90 miles wide running north and south along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean.
(1) In modern times the region includes the states of Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and part of Syria. The area made up of Jordan and Israel used to be known as Palestine.
b. Images of the Goddess, some dating back as far as 7000 BC, offer silent testimony to the most ancient worship of the Queen of Heaven in the land that is most often remembered today as the homeland of Judaism and Christianity.
(1) In exploring the influence and importance of the worship of the Goddess in Canaan in biblical times, we find that as Ashtoreth, Asherah, Astarte, Attoret, Anath, or simply as Elat or Baalat, she was the principal deity of such great Canaanite cities as Tyre, Sidon, Ascalon, Beth Anath, Aphaca, Byblos, and Ashtoreth Karnaim.
c. In Egypt, the Hebrews had known the worship of the Goddess as Isis or Hathor. For four generations they had been living in a land where women held a very high status and the matrilineal descent system continued to function at most periods.
(1) Judging from the number of Hebrews who emerged from Egypt in the Exodus, as compared with the family of the the twelve sons who supposedly entered it four generations earlier, it seems likely that a great number of those Hebrews known as Israelites may actually have been Egyptians, Canaanites, Semitic nomads and other Goddess-worshipping peoples who had joined together in Egypt.
d. Archaeological records and artifacts reveal that the religion of the Goddess still flourished in many of the cities of Canaan even after the Hebrews invaded it and claimed it as their own on the authority that their god had given it to them.
(1) And just to the east, all most at their doorstep was Babylon, where the temples of Ishtar were still going strong.
7. Persia (3000 - 331 BC)
a. Throughout its early history Iran was often invaded by nomadic peoples.
(1) Some came through the Elbruz mountains east of the Caspian Sea.
(a) Others, like the Medes and Persians, entered Iran through the Caucasus mountains in the Northwest.
b. By the 9th century BC the most powerful group in Iran was the Medes, who kept the Persians as their servants.
(1) In 612 BC the Medes, together with the Babylonians, captured Nineveh, Ashur, and Kalhu, which were in the heart of the Assyrian empire.
(a) The Assyrian empire collapsed and its vast territories were divided between the Medes and the Babylonians.
c. About 550 BC the king of the Persians led a revolt against the Medes and from that point on the Persians, led by their King Cyrus the Great, ruled over Iran.
(1) Cyrus captured Babylon and gained control of the whole former Babylonian empire.
(a) Virtually all of western Asia was now under Persian rule.
(2) The nest two kings extended Persian rule to Egypt in the south and to the borders of India in the east.
(a) Egypt revolted later and won its independence for a short time, but was forced back into the empire just in time to be part of the prize won by Alexander the Great of Macedonia when he conquered the Persian empire in 331 BC. _______________________________________________ From the book of Lessons in Goddess Spirituality: Wicca 101 by Athena Gardner.