from CHAPTER SEVEN
Penelope's Geese and the World Transformative Super-Shaman Flight Path from the Paleolithic to the Present
There are profound similarities at the hearts of other caves which bring a richness to these visions. Taking the shaman transformative flight as central and leading to the realization as it is in the epics, caves such as the oldest at Chauvet with the "Venus and the Sorcerer," and at the "Sanctuary" at Trois Frère with the "Sorcerer" and the oldest known sculptures, the two bison from the Salle des Bison in Tuc d'Audoubert, along with the birds carved on bison bone found in the in-between of Trois Frère and the junction into the Grotte d'Enlène, to the Venus of Laussel at the rock shelter at Abri de Laussel, the symbols open to this understanding. Leading into the hall before the "Venus and Sorcerer" at Chauvet is the Megaceros Gallery, which according to the Department of French Culture is: "as a whole is a very specific decorated space. Its primary material function is to lead to the End Chamber. Here we can observe unique decoration together with a variety of archaeological remains: flint, an ivory spearhead, and hearths on the cave floor producing considerable quantities of charcoal" (http://archeologie.culture.fr/chauvet/en/galerie-megaceros/notice/megaloceros-gallery). Here at this beginning hall to the complete transformation of the shaman in the End Chamber, which is beyond this, are the evidence of fires, the hearths, just as there are before Penelope and Odysseus go into the furthest chamber of the bed/tree. Furthermore, the Bradshaw Foundation describes: "Four other female representations limited to just the pubic triangle are in the cave; they are all in the system including the Galerie des Megaceros and the Salle du Fond [the End Chamber, where the "Venus and the Sorcerer" are], indicating each time the entrance to the most important adjacent cavities. The feminine is marking each of these deep "enterings" and marking them also with this "V" of other-wordly flight. These caves, too, are on the path along the flowing river through the Ardèche Gorges, the very path of the primeval art and voice to be found, the path engraving from the rocks the flow of life and forming these wombs, just as the natural flow and flight is shown throughout the epics.
And so in Chauvet, the oldest of the caves coming up through Paleolithic France, very much a probable path of immigration from Africa into the Mediterranean, just as this awareness also moved up the ancient rivers into Old Europe to be found in the Venus figurines and the carvings and figurines of birds and geese, the oldest depiction of the shaman here is shown with the "Venus" in the most enshrined possible expression and experience in the deepest and most reserved part of the most beautiful decorations of the cave. This shaman's transformed existence comes from her body. Just as Odysseus's "robe" of the shroud, the veil into eternity is woven by her, his very skin rewoven, just as she gives him the horns, the bow, the transformed power from which to speak, the flight into the eternal from which to speak, just as Osiris's mortal body is interwoven with the eternal back into form, the shaman is transformed through the Moon into his own immortal being in the form of the bison bull with the body of a man. This bison now emerges from the Venus, what is seen as the "Venus and the Sorcerer," and this also coming in the very natural forms provided by this other-worldly, terrestrial and eternal womb itself shaped by the water flowing, the shape of the vulva and Venus body already formed in the stalactite. This is the place "where the bears come," those that fearlessly walk this divide into the Earth womb and out, as will be seen more fully.
In an article on the "Goddess-Mother Creator: Neolithic and Early Bronze Age," which comes later but shows the continuation of this line all the way to Çatal Hüyük, Joseph Campbell writes:
In Çatal Hüyük is a ceramic figure of the Goddess with her arms and legs lifted in what has been called the birth-giving posture, and the child she is delivering is a bucranium, a bull's head. Where we saw her before she'd given birth to a child, and now she gives birth to a symbolic form of the moon bull. These are alternate personifications of the same power. The bull's horns facing the Goddess, or acolytes, are in an attitude of reverence to the event—they appear to be in adoration. With the idea of the deity you have the devotee, and the devotee is the one who just has a couple of clues about the fact that he really is one with the deity. Now, the horns of the bull represent the crescent moon, that celestial sphere that dies and is resurrected. The moon carries within itself its own death in the form of its increasing shadow, as we all do. It has, however, the power to throw off that shadow and be reborn. So the moon represents to us the promise of rebirth, of the power of life engaged in the field of time and space to throw off death and be reborn. That's the sense of these representations—that in procreation death has been thrown off and the seed has gone to rebirth through the miracle of the woman's body, which the navel represents (Goddesses 29).
Now at this Venus and Sorcerer shaman at Chauvet, on the same stalactite, to the left is a feline emerging, the shadow-dweller who at night, in the complete darkness navigates its existence, just as Campbell shows there is the ability to exist in the eternal, in the complete darkness, in the dark of the absence of form and of the Moon before it is resurrected, rebirthed. From one perspective in looking at the image of the bison-man, the man's legs are below the feminine pubic triangle and vulva with the bison head above, also a part of her. The Bradshaw Foundation describes, "This Venus is absolutely classical and her proportions, the stylistic elements, the selection of the anatomical elements shown are all characteristically Aurignacian or Gravettian, as known from the small Venus statues of Central and Eastern Europe." They describe the combined details further: "The Venus is not isolated. Other lines and realistic representations are associated with her, directly on the outcrop. Higher and to the left of the Venus are two felines, a mammoth and a small musk ox. To the right of the Venus is the "Sorcerer" or man-bison. The relation of the Venus to the Sorcerer cannot be simply fortuitous." The characteristics of these other animals may help explain their positioning here. Musk oxen form a protective circle around their herds and their calves, just as this stalactite provides that shape, and they have the thick coat like sheep which would provide the warmest of protective clothing. The mammoth also had the coats of long hair along with the significant protrusion of the giant tusks of ivory, which, much like the bone and the color of the Moon, extended into the artwork as an expression of the life into the eternal, the emergence of the eternal. In leading to this, Marija Gimbutas describes the colors of ivory and white as to be referring simply to death in her expansive cataloguing of prehistoric artwork and sculptures. (However, it goes much further.) It is quite similar to even this rock stalactite itself. Mammoth, too, have been shown to have historically been known as water spirits (Patkanov) because of finding their bones near water left from prehistoric times, from which they surmised these beings lived underground. The waterways and source of life, also showing up of symbols of the eternal and inner Being, are of course here by the locations of the prehistoric caves and thus the presence of mammoths plays a role in the overall conception of the cave art where the water emerges these Beings.
The 'flight' into the eternal through the feminine first becomes evident at Chauvet with artwork 36,000 years old. The subsequent transformation through that is what informs life both waking and in the eternal, a seamless experience shown through the shaman, the goer of in-between. This transformed vision and path is shown in the End Chamber at Chauvet. This is how he comes to know himself as part deity, or as deity in transformed human form. The crucial element that works as the foundation of this opening to view is the "Venus and Sorcerer" pendant from which the rest of the cave can come into clearer understanding. The flow and aliveness of the life-like and now spirits of the illimitable river becomes known in the transformed vision, and this evident immediately behind the Venus and shaman in the shapes found naturally in the cave walls and accentuated by the animals who naturally emerge in the art spoken by the shapes to be in these positions. On either side of the Venus and shaman are "enshrined" horses, one in a curvy cove to the right, and one to the left in a "niche" which has been described to be chapel-like, with a horse enshrined inside in an evident place of honor or importance. In The Language of the Goddess Marija Gimbutas traces the collection of symbols throughout the Old European prehistoric portable art and attributes the "zig-zag and M Sign" to the image of water. She writes: "In the iconography of all prehistoric periods of Europe as well as of the whole world, the image of water is zig-zag or serpentine. The zig-zag is the earliest symbolic motif recorded: Neanderthals used this sign around 40,000 B.C. or earlier." She goes on to offer the proof in the art that even the tool used in one case was not lifted from the object to complete the turns forming the flow of the water in the zig-zag. Of these shapes, she continues, "In the Upper Paleolithic, the zig-zag is a common motif and appears in association with anthropomorphic bird, fish, and phallic images." She continues with a description of a very early connection of the water with the image of a bird: "At the site of Cro-Magnon in Les Eyzies, southern France, a reindeer rib dated to c. 30,000 B.C. (Aurignacian period) was excavated. Engraved on the rib was a crude anthropomorph with birdlike head overmarked with an M and a zig-zag motif. If the head of the figure is a waterbird, it represents the earliest human/waterbird hybrid marked with a symbol of water, a generative force" (19). This dates these types of understood images to the range of the age of Chauvet as well as placing this portable art nearby in Southern France. It links flight to the water. It additionally places the man/bird with the water sign, as of the river, on an interior eternal object: the reindeer rib (an importantly antlered animal). Bones are carrying the eternal/inward connotation (beneath the veil of skin), and so here the man, the antlered-animal, the flight, the bird, the internal, the eternal, and the water are present together. This carving might also be considered to be phallic shaped. Marija adds: "The zig-zag alternates with the M sign, an abbreviated zig-zag. In Magdalenian times and later in Old Europe, zig-zags and M's are found engraved or painted within uterine and lens (vulva) shapes . . . " Extraordinarily, all of these elements are present and suggested here in the Salle du Fond, or End Chamber, bringing this shaman "flight" and transformation into the eternal through the female body to the life-giving water, to the river, as would have been so well-known as the force in their lives on the Ardèche River, in the Gorges de l'Ardèche and throughout the networks of rivers. In the horse to the right of the Venus, known as the "Horse of the Passage," this 'cove' is actually "a corridor [that] communicates with the Sacristy, one of the last chambers in the cave," according to the French Ministry of Culture, where there is only one animal portrayed: "a mammoth drawn in black with tusks emphasized by engraving." (Further back the outlines of a horse, a half-drawn bison have been found, and deeper still a feline and horse, but the only animal in the hidden part of the cove is the mammoth.) [The mammoth was thought by much later tribes* to live beneath the water.* (Campbell). Their tusks and bones were found near the water, perhaps suggesting where they had gone upon "death" beneath the water. Their tusks would also seem to arise on the horizon like the moon emerging from the earth or water.] This Horse of the Passage is described: "When viewers are facing the bison [the "Bison of the Pillar"], they see the foreparts of a horse facing left, as if it were entering the End Chamber." The edge of this corridor outlining the horse is a wavy pattern that closely resembles what would be seen as "zig-zag or serpentine" as Marija describes the symbols, and with the shaman/artists carefully following the natural expression of the walls, it may suggest the special placement of the horse in water, into the depths of this more "sunken" wall. This suggestion would be compounded in several ways: with the similarities of horses running, their flowing manes, and the movement of river water (and the later tie of the horses' spirit to the spirit of the river, or river spirits), and the next "enshrined" horse is clearly encased in a similarly "sunken" fashion and beneath the recognized sign of the "M" for water. In her extensive findings, Gimbutas even describes the "M" as finding its way into civilization and written language: "The aquatic significance of the M sign seems to have survived in the Egyptian hieroglyph M, mu, meaning water, and the ancient Greek letter M, mu" (19). Because of the placement of the horses drawing attention to these particular shapes in two references, this would place the entire scene at the now eternal water or river (and even beneath it) which was central to their daily lives and also brought the teeming animals/deities. It would be the very flow of life, the flow of the fluids through the female body and in the womb, and the water would bring the life and abundance. Bringing the phallus here in journey would also bring the continuation of the flow from the male (referencing copulation and not the fertilization of pregnancy—and yet there would have been an awareness like that of the bringing of the water like rain), closely linked in vision with "flight," trance and ejaculation, and this inside the female when he "enters" her as he does here now to be in god-like form. There is the suggestion also that in this act he mounts her like a bull by his placement, and also suggested in that Venus and female figurine buttocks in portable art were accentuated along with the other female attributes, and she making him into a bull in this physical way as well, another very real correlation to how he is transformed into the half man/half bull, but always with the understanding the bull is deity, and a Moon deity at that, and half-deity of man transformed by the Moon and feminine. (Man is transformed by mating with the goddess, which is much more than mating; here, as it is in the Homeric epics, it is coming to know the eternal world. The act of copulation would also not be shown, as being here in the cave is the thing itself, she and the eternal have been entered.) This is one point at which the Western mind has failed to conceive, even of scholars: this is not an "other" goddess worship or veneration to be seen with the same eyes as the patriarchal "other" god, simply replacing "God" with "Great Mother Goddess," although in new vision the universe would be opened to a completely different experience of it. This is a very real experience of what is. There would be no separation in thought from the female body to something "other." She clearly is the universe, and the universe is opened this way.
Here now on the panel the water and river would be in its eternal, original form, the art showing the eternal spirit, the deities in their very real eternal world. The art would be the spirit itself. Compounding this suggestion of water further, beside this Horse Alcove are three small mammoth as well, like there had been the one mammoth in the Sacristy beneath the water before the Horse of the Passage, these three now emerged and gathering at the "water." One of the mammoths is described as having ball feet, which could be the encasement of mud from having coming from the clay beneath and the clay still on his/her feet. It is showing even the emergence of the mammoth here. (Another very deep mammoth with only the back showing is in the Belvedere Gallery, a very difficult to reach spot further than the End Chamber.) In a deepening of understanding and in coming to see the importance of the mammoth, the ivory tusks, and even the mammoth bones that create their dwellings (and beginning to reveal the depth of importance and shelter this would convey, deities coming up from the other world and their giant bones and enamel-shiny ivory tusks are the art and protection, the deities' body the very home), Campbell connects the mammoth in many ways to what he calls a mammoth goddess, associated as he states with "little figurines of Our Lady of the Mammoth" (324). The many art pieces tell of their extraordinary importance and meaningfulness, the mammoth ivory Venus figurines linking these two profound images inseparably, she also a deity emerging into form here and bringing the abundance and protection of life. Campbell places these figurines in important revelatory finds which also link the female nudes with mammoth-ivory birds. (Primitive Mythology 327)
This transfer to "death" is viewed as likewise passageway, with no difference. To know the horse's spirit, for example, is to know what is unseen in the daylight. It provides that further dimension of knowing the river. This is a harmonious, flawless flow uninterrupted, but to be known through the feminine who through this will come to be seen as the path of the go-between, the "goddess of wild things." She holds in her body the very same thing as the waking animals and their spirits that also exist as and in the eternal. The 'water spirits' and the bear deities along the river come into vision. One's own Being is mirrored; too, the spirit of the animal deities can be experienced fully with one's own Being, as if entering into and knowing it completely as it runs or walks. The flow, the waterway, draws the deities and so the paths and positioning in the End Chamber offer view into that alive water, the alive spirit of it to be known in this journey into the eternal.