The Great Goddess is a book which presupposes an unbroken line of succession from the Palaeolithic until now in Goddess Worship, with a Cult of the Great Mother being subsumed by various local cults and eventually absorbed into the person of the Virgin Mary which acts as a subdued vessel for and repository of muted, ancient paganism and prehistory. The book is broken into two parts, each with several sections covering different phases of archaeological record. The author provides reflections on findings as he attempts to make sense of the information which comes to us. Follows is an encapsulation, summary of the book following roughly the same format he presents his data in, chronologically.
The Vast Mother
The Author pulls no punches and comes swinging from the gate with his determination that a supposed Goddess cult, which he seems to portray as potentially monotheistic, was eventually supplanted by the Abrahamic Religions, as an issuant symbol of “the patriarchy.” The Goddess Cult, he maintains was by default, matriarchal. However, despite the apparent victor of Semitic patriarchy, the victory was either pyrrhic or entirely hollow as the Goddess simply imbedded herself in the new culture. This is reflected in Wise King Solomon’s “weakness” in allowing temples of feminism, shrines to Ishtar, Tamit and so forth, to flourish in his domain.
The Semites were not alone in abandoning this matriarchic matrix, and indeed they owe great strides to the Greeks who cast off the oldest ways with great and zealous fervour. Markale suggests that encoded in the story of Apollo, a God from the North, arrives and slays a serpent. The serpent, Python, is an archetypal symbol for the old Goddess Culture itself. Many countless Goddesses with serpents have been found from the Near-East and into the Aegean Sea. Even the word Python lends us the Latin puteus, which in turn becomes our English pit. Meanwhile the “Pythia” becomes Apollo’s priestess, and conducts herself underground. As a seeming aside, it is noted that Apollo traces his name to the Indo-European word for apple. He was also, not always a Sun God. This role originally was filled by the Goddess with all of her curves.
The ancient Goddess religion naturally symbolised the bounties and fruits of the Earth. To Markale this is clear from the sheer magnitude of the Goddesses we have found. Their size indicates unearthliness, and divinity and is proof, therefore, that divinity was feminine. But it was all cast aside when the patriarchy happened. The patriarchy, which Markale believes is a by-product of ancient man’s slowly growing realisation that his penis, in fact, plays a role in creation whereas previously, he believes, mankind had no conception of the male role in procreation.
After that it was what another Frenchman, Jean-Pierre Gariepe, calls “infinite revenge.” Man felt slighted for having played second fiddle for countless generations, and he drove the goddess cult underground. Maybe literally as well as figuratively. Another facet of memory is Pandora, the giver of all evils. Markale maintains she is an image of the Mother Goddess inverted, and that originally her box dispensed blessings and not evil.
When it comes to the Old Testament, Markale has an interesting hypothesis. That being that Original Sin was not disobedience, but apostasy. Markale feels that Eve represents a wilful transgression against the Jew God, and active rebellion against it – but worse than anything, the serpent is again symbolic of The Old Ways, and by “heeding the serpent” Eve has returned to the Goddess. Women, formerly champions of beauty and fertility, become passive objects in this revenge porn. Childbirth, their blessing, now becomes their curse. Hereafter women would pursue husbands, rather than men seeking wives. Markale sees this tension as a cosmic struggle between feminine and masculine divine polarities, resulting in an apparent victory for the divine masculine embodied by the Jew God.
Beginning with the rise of patriarchic values, the genitalia of women in art are censored, covered or downgraded. The author believes it is either revenge this was done for, or else fear of organised return to the Old Ways. Either way, her secondary sexual characteristics are muted, toned down. Her breasts shrink, her belly flattens, her butt loses span, thighs are shaved down, even the lips of her vulva are purposefully ambiguated. From now on, with the victory of especially Semitic thought, to ‘retvrn’ to the Goddess tradition is now “prostitution.” This prostitution was likely either tantra, or non-genitive sex. This all apparently reached a peak in Ishtar’s cult where there was an allotment for sacred sex. Sacred sex being congress stripped of taboo, giving worshippers something of a pass to do what might not have been ordinary. The Indian equivalent of this, evidently, was Shakti who would possess an enthroned young girl who you could… “know” if you were deemed worthy, or were otherwise chosen.
At any rate, all of these things are toned down, muted, and slowly over time assumed into the person of the Virgin Mary. The word Virgin comes to us from Virgo, and has roots in the Latin “vir,” which is cognate to the Gaelic “fer” [and Old Norse “wer.”] Originally the connotation of this word referred to a woman independent from a man or otherwise not reliant upon a husband. It apparently did not necessarily mean unsexed. The Latin Maria, which gives us our Mary, is a feminine article of “Mare” meaning ‘of the sea.’ Thus, a whole new dimension of metaphorical communicability opens itself when coupled with the Genesis passage “and the spirit hovered over the deep.” In Hebrew, Miriam (the Anglicised Semitic form) is MRAM. This the author feels makes her a counterbalance to the tetragrammaton which is the masculine YHWH.
Markale goes on to note that in the New Testament are three Maries, and that it is not impossible that they are the same woman. This would put Mary on a par with the Triple Goddesses of the Celts. Simultaneously, Rome had adopted Mithraism in large part which had shaken hands with the Anatolian cult of Cybele to create a syncretic Mother Goddess, dieing, rising God cult. Mary was the only suitable competition the nascent Church could have. Gnostics, meanwhile, had the Sophia, Pistis Sophia here in her capacity as the Universal Virgin. A kind of intellectualised Mother Goddess who through reason ordered the cosmos. Sophia replaces the Pneuma as the creative force and for Gnostics of a stripe, becomes the Third Person of the Trinity. Mary, then, is rebranded as an omphalos. She becomes Theotokos, who cradled God in her womb. This transformation Markale likens to finding the philosopher’s stone. To obtain it, one had to procure earth’s hyla, a primitive latex. The Virgin Mary, mater dei, lends mater to materia, which is the stuff of the world.
Now Churches often replaced pagan sanctuaries, which often replaced Old European megalithic points. Studies having been done show that the standing stones of Old Europe often channel telluric energy, a kind of gravitic force which has demonstrable effects on the mind. Holy ground, Markale argues, was once a matter of sense. And by planting churches where the Pagans once worked their magick, Christendom in a way drew on that ancient energy. These churches, satisfactorily enough, were often dedicated to the Virgin who the author concludes is the ancient Goddess in disguise. Mary goes on to become the repository of suppressed paganism – even in her apparitions she appears with a diadem that invokes memories of Cybele. But gone is the sex, the earthiness which was the hallmark of the Goddess. These things Markale feels will be forever neutered.
1) Our Lady of Beginnings
The formerly Solar Goddess has been subsumed by the new Sun God. The Celtic Grainne becomes a masculine deity, as does the Goddess of the Japanese. Originally, the Sun Goddess needed the Lunar God to live. It is understood that their lives served each-other, and that a woman’s cycle was involved in this relationship.
Echoes of the Solar Divinity of the Goddess remain encoded in many epic poems and religious tenets. Perceval the Grail Knight sees a woman ensconced in light as he plumbs the underground during his quest. In this she betrays the solarity of the Goddess. Here, she embodies the grail, capturing light with her person. Lucifer, then, is her archetype, and she shines Venus’ light – as it were.
Later, Markale makes an analysis of the Sheela Na Gig statues of Ireland. He supposed them to be Venuses, despite their apparent intention of terrifying viewers. He points out that Sheela may be Morrigan herself, the phantom queen. [I might add that Morrigan is said to copulate with Dagda at a given point of the year, in what is likely a seasonal fertility rite.] The Sheelas exemplify the Goddess opening her womb. This itself hearkens to an initiation to the ‘cave of knowledge,’ where a rebirth into heat and new life are anticipated. [Seidr has been connected to both sex and heat, though to what extent is certainly debatable as all things are.]
As Markale moves on he comes to the Venus of Lausel which he asserts to be a Goddess, and one embodying ritual no less. She is among the most recent of the Venuses in her ‘family.’ That she holds her horn is interesting, the author notes, as it makes her quite unique. No other found Venuses prior bore items. Markale gives his interpretation that the horn she holds represents the masculine divine. It is an archetype of all masculinity can be, the horn symbolises her son, lover – whatever. This presupposes myths like that of Cybele and Attis, or Aphrodite and Adonis and anticipates the Goddess son/lover tragedy.
2) Our Lady Underground
There is a hole in the archaeological record in which scarcely any anthropomorphic art is made. When this period finally ends, a new form of the Goddess emerges. New art forms flourish. These come with high volumes of spiritual signifiers, metaphor, ritual, symbolism, and so forth. The building blocks for what we consider religion, in other words, are now at play.
We see the rise of the cairns and mounds, and these in turn yield to the hypogea. Markale goes on to discuss, for example, how there is a network of some 37 hypogea interlinked in Coirard. These unite in a great necropolis leading toward a central chamber which contains a Goddess whose physical form stresses the paramount significance of lactation, and who wears a necklace which is a symbol of tribal importance. A woman’s milk, Markale suggests, represents a kind of immortality. The hypogeum, he asserts, is the natural successor to the caves which themselves were allegorical of the vaginal canal. The great burial mound, then, is nothing if not a kind of signifier for the Great Goddess’ belly, full to the brim with life she has devoured.
Interestingly, some hypogea were designed to channel light. The purpose of which is believed to have been a ritual regeneration of the dead, or a spiritual one at least. The light which moved along solstice lines, would flood the chambers at given times. The artificial womb of the worshipful hypogea draws in light to the Goddess of the inner earth which gives light and heat, even in the dark of death. She both devours and generates life, and thus, she holds eternity in the vastness of her form.
Symbolism is being developed among the cults of man. Here we see serpents, and more, axes which were to become the cornerstone of so much symbolic spirituality. These are accompanied also by ram’s horns, of the like the Goddess Lausel held. At Morbihan, for example, a Goddess is found whose hair is believed to be have been sun-rays. Another at Petit-Mond wears three necklaces – surely a symbolic number. Carvings begin to appear in subterranean tunnels bearing the image of axes and shields. Slowly these become spirals, sea waves and tree branches – of which all evoke creation. At Gavrinis is found a Goddess who is known by belly and vulva only, flanked by 11 handleless axes – phallic symbols – along with serpents. The axe, here, symbolises the destructive element, while the serpent symbolises pervasiveness.
We begin to see beast Goddesses with owl heads. The owl becomes the familiar of the Goddess in short order. This puts the Goddess on a track toward evolution into the Athena we know. Yet, the owl and its reverence was not local. It was widespread. The owl is a perfect totem because it can see in the dark, and so much of the chthonic Goddess worship was itself, dark. Athena, furthermore, is the incarnation of Zeus’ wisdom in service of man. Her name, Markale notes with intrigue, is plural. Is she a multiplicity? Athena he holds is identical to the ancient Artemis, who becomes the Diana of Ephesus and was the divine twin of Apollo. This, Markale suggests, ties her to the Scythian Sathana who is a Mother Goddess. She was known, apparently, for her sexual prowess and for her magical acumen. She was, naturally, satanised. Her name may even be related to Satan’s.
3) Eclipsed Virgin
During what is now known as the La Tene culture, no anthropological deities were made. The motifs which appeared in the last chapter slowly develop into what becomes prototypical Celtic culture. Here we see then the rise of Patriarchy. Celtic art is typified by geometry, and simulacra of divinity in the way of obtuse motifs. There was an intense solar worship here, with chariots and sun wheels being of intense importance.
As Roman dominance many years later grips the Celtic world, only then do the Celts begin to anthropomorphise their divinities. And by this time a Gallo-Roman cult has emerged. An example Markale gives is a Goddess found among the Cenomani in what is now Maine, France. Here is a naked woman with long hair and a sword charging, one presumes, toward an enemy. This presupposes Morrigan, Markale feels Another is a boat upon which a figure is styled. The boat holds spheres which are believed to be solar. Another was found among the Bituriges which depicts a woman, nude but for a great cloak, with her eyes closed and seemingly quite sad. Another Venus is found in the Carnutian forest and is believed to be engaging in a cosmic dance.
At Chorey-Haut they found a statue of a young foal and running mare, which are thought to prefigure Epona. Now, Epona appears later in statuaries wearing a torque and great cloak, her hands on her knees as she rides saddleside on her horse. This, Markale insists, echoes the flight of the Virgin into Egypt later. Similar figures have been found riding rams and bearing flowers. Some Epona figurines have been nude to the waist, with diadems on their heads. Markale postulates that Epona in her aspect is a psychopomp. In this he feels she is like Artio, the bear Goddess, who helped the earth with hibernation cycles. Mangut, Ardenne, had a goddess holding an arrow in a short tunic riding a leaping boar. The interchangeability of land mammals has some significance we cannot be quite sure of. To complicate it further, there is also the name Vivien and her derivatives of which all stem from Bo-Vinda. Bo-Vinda, the cow Goddess, Markale suggests connects milk with inspiration and immortality. It is also probable that the Celtic Cow-Goddess was once more important.
Then at Menez-Hom there is a Minerva with an owl-feather helm, which evokes the Swan-Woman motif that would become common to Celtic [and Nordic] lore. These women were of the Sidhe, otherworldly beings with shapeshifting prowess. These, Markale suggests, are typified by Brigid, whose name is related to highness and mightiness. What remains a constant is the connection of Goddess homes and water.
Markale takes this time to remind us that Grannus like Apollo, have counterparts which were likely the original solar deities. The Celts have one Belisama, who is taken to be a lost consort of Belenos. Belisama relics have been found across Celtic lands, despite scarce mention of her. Markale suggests an archetypal conflation of Belisama into the person of Venus-Aphrodite proper, and further symbolised by the character of Cesair who was a heroine of the Irish Book of Invasions. She was famed simply for having come from the sea. Now there is in Ireland a temple or church which has a Venus emergent with dolphin motifs. Venus, we might know, was important to Gaul. She became conflated with Sulis, as did Minerva. Sulis, you’ll know, lent her name to many baths in the Anglo-Roman province of Britannia – the city of Bath being such a one.
As it went, the Celts, Markale believed, had a different conception of love than the highly sensorial Romans. Romans who left exquisite visual testimonies to what their senses craved. This, combined with the inclement views of Christendom, led to a paring down of the feminine divine archetype. This in a way is symbolised by a Venus at what is now Castenac. Here was found a statue of “the Virgin.” Who was deemed obscene by clerics due to her generous proportions. She was saved by a perverse churchman who had her sequestered in his study, but by then her breasts had been filed down. She wears a stole which reaches her belly. She is believed to depict Sulis. Another Goddess had stag antlers on her head and held a horn in her hand along with a peg in the other – symbols of abundance and plenty.
All this, Markale was influenced by the Scythians at some point in history. At around the time of their influences, he says, the Goddesses begin to appear with birds. The Irish Macha and Gaulish Epona [and Welsh Rhiannon of course] were all accompanied by birds. These were said to be able to put the living to sleep and wake the dead. At any rate, Mary succeeds all this, Markale says. Her variegated iconography carries bits and slivers of all these traditions – save but for the sacred sex which adorned the hips of every Goddess before. Still, to the degree she can with such restraint, she fulfils what Markale calls a uniquely Middle Eastern craving for a universal mother in the vein of Ishtar or Aphrodite.
4) The Triumph of the Mother
Christianity, while being an initially Jewish contrivance, nevertheless begins to rebel against itself as it is grafted onto Europe. The result is a pervasive antisemitism. What a mystery this is. [Perhaps the Goddess whom Markale indicates moves the unconscious moved us against the source of the most vicious and thoroughly, almost hilariously unqualified beat-downs against Her?] Paul is the epitome of this transformation, Markale writes. A Romanised Jew that once persecuted Christians, who, upon having a profound conversion, goes on to institute some of the more regressive and unfeminine reforms of what becomes the early Church. A psychological clusterbomb. Paul, Markale insists, is the true mastermind of early Christendom, and not the more relaxed and Gentile Peter. Thus, its character of cognitive dissonance stems from him. A likely story.
To the Jews, and thus early Christians, Yahweh is master of armies. He is the synthesis of masculine deity. While Jewish, Yahweh wears a sanitised Zeus and Jupiter as a skin to appeal to European converts, who otherwise would not see their Gods in Sin of Ai. Here is a god which exists to punish, and one that naturally opposes any tolerance or pardon. He orders and punishes while the Mother, who has yet to bless the nascent church, pardons and intercedes.
It is, again, no mistake that Mary is worshipped at Ephesus which has been the crucible of Near-Eastern Mother Goddesses. This Goddess, impossible to erase, can only breathe into Mary and inspire the puppet the Bible makes her out as into becoming the Queen of Heaven of the later medievalists. Mary’s Son reconciles the image of the dieing and rising God which was so popular in the Rome of the day, whose descent and rebirth is the victory of his followers. This was a blend of Mithraism, Cybele worship and reverence of Isis – and it was a deadly combination which nearly defeated the young church.
Any comparisons between Cybele and Mary can be drawn. Cybele’s son, Attis, had no father. And Cybele was crushed by Attis’ death. Indeed, his eventual resurrection became a pivotal passion play for her worshippers. This image inspires the Pieta, the famous statue of Mary cradling the dead messiah. Priests of Cybele castrated themselves physically and called it devotion, priests of Jesus castrated themselves spiritually and called it piety. Both were abstemious of women. What an awful sounding life. Both, were therefore free of temptation. Mary was first shown in grottoes and caverns in secret, much as the ancient Goddesses were worshipped in caves. Thus, the Divine Mother as Mary is the logical conclusion of the Great Goddess, in such times. However, because of the limitations of that time, she becomes the Magna Casta – the great chaste one.
Even this chastity was not enough, Iconoclasts would crush Mary’s statues fearing their intrinsic paganism. This would go on, and indeed has not truly stopped, until at least the 1600s. Mary’s dress, of course, evokes buried hints of Cybele, as do her often crenelated headgear. Sometimes she recalls aspects of the German Herda, other times the Celtic Dana, Turanna of the Etruscans, who lent her name to our “tyrant.” On and on it goes. Without effort, she calls upon racial memories Celtic, Germanic and Scythian. It is as if the Christianity of her is a very blatant and poorly affixed superficiality.
5) The Eternal Return of the Divine Woman
Paganism, being eternalised, if sublimated, begins to resurface in the 16th Century. Marian reverence abounds and a baroque verve recaptures something of the ancient, the grottoesque and the gravettian. Nude women and solar motifs adorn art once more. It is eventually squashed by the reduction of Maria into the commercial mould we know her from today. A stale, neutered slinking thing which reached the climax of boredom in the Victorian era where petty, weeping saints somehow became holy. The Virgin, therefore, has triumphed over satanic femininity by becoming tragically bland.
6) Sacred Places of Our Lady
Druids were said to worship what is called a Virgo Paritura, which is a virgin about to give birth. The likelihood of this being unadulterated truth is slim, and Markale concedes this is a likely Christian rationalisation for the presence of the Divine Feminine in their territory. The persistence of the Mother Goddess in the very landscape made it easy for Marianism to spread. After all, with peasants digging up Goddess votives which often bore children – the imagination requires little stretching before activity.
Indeed, this very ease with which Marianism threatened to overshadow the titular figure of Christendom is precisely why Church authorities are slow to dogmatise new apparitions. Every new one brings the faithful closer to a potential regress to Paganism. Heathenry. Idolatry. These apparitions, no doubt and wonder, begin to take place where the “white ladies” [variously interpreted as Banshees or Valkyries] once took place. Sacred springs and hidden grottoes are where Mary comes to.
Further on in the chapter, Markale makes his argument that the Mother of Mary, being Anne, is a blatant redirection of an iteration of the Ancient Mother Goddess in the form of Danu, Don and back to the Annapurna of the Vedas. This is especially clear in how the Welsh trace her genealogy, marrying her ancestry to Ablach (Avalon) and the feminine principle of Belenos. Not bad for a backseat character to most local parishes.
Our Lady in All Things
Wisdom – this is a feminine principle, timeless, which has always been seen as female. She surfaces in Gnosticism, in the Old Testament, among the Greeks [and is sought by Odin in the Norse] under different names and guises. To the Christians she becomes the anima, for a lack of better terms, for the Christian God. To the Jewish god, she was his feminine side, without which nothing could be created. In this way Yahweh can hearken back to the Egyptian God which masturbated the cosmic seed into existence. The same Sophia which inspired the creation of the Gravettian Venuses eventually takes Mary as a skin, changing the ancient of days fertility cult into a chastity cult. The great, big bellies, breasts and thighs of the ancient Venuses elude to their exclusive power of creation. The ancient cult worshipped fecundity, while the new worships a kind of spiritual fertility made tame.
7) The Indian Subcontinent, The Far East, and the Americas
Kali/Durga is a devouring Mother. This Markale throughout the book classifies as the aspect of the Great Goddess which takes in, to nourish herself. She represents the “destructive” which one must remember always precedes the creative. She drains the life from Lord Shiva in order to prompt him to release his creations. She is what in alchemy is akin to a crow’s head, a black stone which dissolves and allows for the reorganisation of matter toward obtaining the philosopher’s stone. She is not a vile murderess, but an aspect of the Divine Mother which hearkens to an avenging deity like Nemesis. Likely, she was originally a defending mother
. 8) Ancient Egypt and the Near East
There was in Egyptian myth, to which so much is credited, an important motif of the Cosmic Egg. This was a feminine principle. As was the Eye of Ra – interestingly. The feminine Sky sometimes becomes Hathor, in myth. Hathor, sometimes, is a Cow Goddess emphasising her maternity, other times a Lioness her ferocity, and other times still a woman in her fertile aspect. Hathor is also likened to the Melusina, the Goddess of Snakes, and is called the Golden One because she is borne of the Sun.
Markale proposes that the role of the Woman in the transition from Palaeolithic to Neolithic art, and by necessity the Megalithic, was marked by the transition from a hunter/gatherer existence to an urban agriculture. Woman as the defender of the home, and thus the symbol of domestic life, became more important, not less, as time went on. [This presupposes that despite agriculture, the male carried on some vestige of the former hunter life, or was himself the carrier-out of the agriculture.]
Ishtar is a Great Goddess with attributes not unlike Hathor’s. She ruled over Nineveh and Babylon and was famed (among other things one hopes) for her use of worshipful temple sex. Here is symbolised a union to the divine, through sexual congress. As Ishtar moves West, she becomes Astarte. By the time she is fully Hellenised she has become Aphrodite.
9) Greece and the Aegean Sea
Greek Myth is a tangle of history and recollections from previous iterations of culture, that conservative Indo-Europeans were unwilling to sacrifice but not fully willing to embrace. This explains how so many Goddesses and Gods seemingly the same, and yet so different, inhabit so many different places. Crete, which often presupposes Greek Civilisation, was gynocentric. Markale goes on to make a breakdown of the Myth of the Labyrinth, he supposes, is an aspect of the womb, and that the hero who descends into it is undergoing an initiation at the behest of the Goddess Ariadne, whose womb he comes to know. This keeps with the theorem of descent into the womb as reincarnation.
The Goddesses and Gods are frequently given names which suit their function, rather than their form. As time moves on, the form and function are confused and new ideations of the old Goddess are construed. Artemis is an example, here. Artemis was originally a bear Goddess. She has ceremonies and stories centring around the bear. Yet, this is not what she is known for. Aphrodite, meanwhile, is a boar Goddess, and again, this is not what she is known for. Both come to be understood through the formula “kalos k’agathos.” This can be rendered as beauty within is beauty without.
The prime example is Demeter, whose name is merely “mother god/dess.” In her greatest surviving story, which we must assume was once accompanied by many more given her extreme antiquity, she is thrust into the role of attempting to save her daughter Kore, sometimes Persephone, from the clutches of Hades. Hera, it is suggested, is a function of Demeter, which over time became an independent notion. The mysteries of Demeter, as encapsulated by the Eleusian Mysteries, symbolise a clear return to a primal understanding of the Goddess for Markale. They also go far to equivocate the principle of “as above, so below.” But this further symbolises an understanding, primitive understanding, that the Goddess rules below as above. Hecate, as a note, is an aspect of Demeter and here is like Kali – a devouring Mother, an avenging Goddess.
10) Continental Europe
It had been mentioned tangentially, but the Palaeolithic into Neolithic eras had a great deal of Great Mother stuff. Statues, but also carvings, wall art and the like. They were made from ceramic and stone. It is tempting, due to the concentration of goods found in Austria, to affix to her a point of origin for the Great Goddesses. However, in the wider world were many more found. However, this chapter speaks of Austria as a kind of special place in the Goddess’ heart, as it were.
It is hard to find the Goddess there, in Austria and the rest of the Germanic world such as it is now, due to the ravening influence of Charlemagne and his pit-dogs. However, before Charlemagne there was an exquisite Syncretism endemic to Roman Austria in which the Goddess was apparently quite at home. It is through this vector of Romanism, which the Catholics were naturally slower to rape and destroy, that She lived and breathed, in her way.
Hinting at the cult of Artemis, Markale takes time to explore Switzerland, where the hounds of God did not hit so hard as they did in Austria where resistance was hotter and heavier. Here there is the city of Berne. It goes without saying, he feels, there is a connexion between this name and the word bear. There were found there statues of what have been identified as Artio, mentioned earlier as a kind of forgotten Celtic Bear-Goddess who may or may not have directly led to the synthesis of the male Arthur, whose name draws from the same source. [The editor would like to draw notice also to the primitive Finnish Tradition which worshipped the Spirit of the Great Bear above many things, this Bear was recognised by Vainamoinen and the Virgin of the Air alike and seems to have been a token of Ukko- the High God. Which if true would lend credence to the Theories of Varg’s French wife, Marie Cachet, about there being a Bear Cult. Further investigation might be warranted. Consider this a note to himself, lest he forget to consult his notes for his next project.] Now to this day, as Markale notes, the most popular destination in Berne and the one about which the denizens are most proud, is “The Bear Den.” No commentary, as Markale pithily writes, is needed. The unconscious mind speaks for itself, he adds [how Jungian.]
11) Far Western Europe Now we come to the end of the world, as it were. Britain! Markale writes with his passion leaking through that in Britain there exists a primitive mind which has never been silenced. It is older than Christianity by aeons, older than Paganism, older even than the Celts. It is a mind we can never truly know, but one that permeates the actions of the denizens of the British Isles in a way that manipulates custom and action. None are exempt, neither the Celtic nor the Germanic conquerors in turn of that blessed Isle.
Britain is soaked in the Divine Feminine, though this makes the lack of official Marian shrines somewhat ironic, Markale feels. The Anglicans never banned the worship of Mary. An unbroken Marian allowance from English Catholicism into the Anglican Protestantism persisted. Feminine figures which predate the Anglo-Romanisation of what becomes England persists. These figures, Sheela na Gig, Sulis-Minerva, among others, adorn cities and are found in the wilds. Moreover, in folklore, there are the ever present “white ladies” which have haunted all of Europe [as Valkyries, as Banshees, as whatever the Slavs call their apparitions.] There has been the reportedly sensuous Coventina, reclined in her glory on a leaf.
Then of course is Ireland. Ireland never needed to officiate a Marian shrine, because Ireland is a shrine to Mary – in Markale’s estimation. Wayshrines to the Hidden Goddess abound. Ironically, Markale notes, the Sheela na Gig is a well-guarded secret in Ireland – apparently. He supposes this to be a conflict of interest for the Marian Irish to admit to the pre-eminence of what they might surely recall as a lewd Goddess. However, the Irish were no stranger to what later becomes known as a libertine pulse. The Irish Goddesses were sexually dominant creatures. Indeed, they held power even as late as the writing of the Tain. Noted is the story of Ailill and Maeve, Maeve being the true power behind the puppet King. Indeed, in Irish legend, and religion before Christ, the hero or God is informed by a Goddess who appoints his geas. [The geas I talked about in my Celtic Lorecast stuff. Markale doesn’t go overmuch into it.]
Irish nomenclature betrays a residual adherence to the Great Goddess of Beginnings. Often one has to look no further than the naming of Armagh. Armagh can mean “Mighty Macha,” Macha you’ll recall is an Irish Goddess, a rider, who is likely an aspect of Epona whom Markale believes predates her. Then of course, the Druids came to Ireland. We know this from Caesar and other records. We know the earliest Irish Priests were ordained Druids, and it was these that made “Celtic Christianity” a unique strain which the later, stodgy Roman Saints would rightly fear as a stilt, a return to Paganism. Indeed, the conflict of interest, for Markale, is no better summed up than the battle of wills between Pelagius who should be a saint, and Augustine who was so named. Pelagius argued in favour of untapped, unlimited free will. Augustine, meanwhile, was what he was. This monism of Pelagius is owed the Druidic notions of the unlimited conscience. [Even today, if one reads the Roman Catholic Catechism it is admitted that the Conscience is the Voice of God within the individual soul.] To the Druids, and thus early Celtic Christian priests, the freedom of will thrust to any extreme becomes a kind of insular poison which delineates the existence of either absolute good or evil. The Druids, we are told, detested absolutism. Thus, the only way to experience God for them, was through acts of will. What a concept.
So ends my review of Jean Markale’s “The Great Goddess.” In reflection, I am incredibly pleased with what I read. Despite some humps and occasional eyerolls, there is nothing in the book which I find so disagreeable as to prompt me to return her to my shelf unmarked, without underlines or margin notes. I learned a few things, quite a few, from this book. None of my preconceptions were so much challenged as confirmed, which is a good feeling. Indeed, my appreciation of what I perceive to be my relation to the Folksoul which I believe underlies the strains of modern Paganism, the thing I seek which I feel will flesh out so many other riddles, is now deeper for having read it.
For folks interested in this sort of thing, I cannot recommend the book quite highly enough. The biggest, and most pleasant surprise for me was the lack of punches pulled. Because of the contrivances of modern political correctness, many writers assume a kind of preemptive regressivism which suggests all religion was destined to become a kind of corrupted Wicca whose only doctrine is holding hands across the world and spooning. None of that occurs here. Goddesses were capable of violence, they didn’t necessarily breed utopiae smashed by the evil, evil, evil, mean, evil, mean and evil, very, very mean and also evil Patriarchy. The “Patriarchy” disrupted the growth of the principle Goddess Cult, but could not destroy it. For someone like me who believes there are really very few broken threads in history, I appreciate the far-sightedness of his connections. He implies no disconnection between “us” and “them,” them being our Palaeolithic Ancestors who spanned the British Isles as far as Tocharia. Nor does he shy away from those inconvenient little “pseudo” “sciences.” Atlantean lore is mentioned, and he admits that there are likely grains of truth there. He does not shy from the Aryan influence over India, and vice-versa. His honesty is refreshing, even if I know I will never meet him at a Pool Party. Or New England, for that matter.
I might have liked to have seen more connections between the Great Goddess and Her influence over primitive Paganism, rather than Her survival through Marian seed. But one acquainted with our myths and legends can infer easily enough. And really, that is not so vast a non-complaint as to have reduced the value of the book at all.
The book varies in price depending on where you go. I had mine special-ordered through the local Bullmoose Music and paid app. $16.50usd for it. I could shill for buy local and say they have a points programme which allows you to rack up purchase records and get some things half off. Which is great for larger purchases. But there you go. It is for sale also on Amazon, and you can find it on eBay and AbeBooks. Likely because of the lack of kowtowing to PC gobbledygook you are unlikely to find it at your local metaphysics shoppe and/or hippy outlet.
Because I know you’re waiting with bated breath (that was sarcasm.) With this book now shelved, almost sadly, I shall now move on to the next items on my research queue, being Margaret Murray’s “The Witch Cults of Western Europe,” Annie Dieu-Le-Veux’s “Stories in the Stars,” and a reread of the Rees’ “The Celtic Heritage,” which I’m reading with the wife. These as I ever so slowly chew through Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s opus Vril.