For years I resisted the lure of Dan Brown’s mega-hit "The Da Vinci Code;" the buzz continued to build, passed on mostly by word of mouth at first, and then things reached a critical mass and poof – the world had a "hit". From time to time Isis would suggest - for what seemed ages – that I read the book – you’ll like it Sis, she said. Nah, I said. As a joke, I went so far as to book us into the "Da Vinci Hotel" in New York during our 2005 Goddesschess anniversary trip, one of my more quixotic decisions that (except for the tub faucets that would NOT work in my bathroom) turned out perfectly delightful and were really cheap digs. (Image: modern choron).
I finally broke down and purchased the book when it came out in paperback. I read it quickly, nodding my head through much of it because, I have to say, the man certainly did do his research (although he was way off on some points, he was right on regarding others). Then I shipped it off to Don, who dutifully read it but I don’t think he cared for it very much :). Maybe one has to be a woman to fully appreciate – well, that’s a really sexist comment, isn’t it! Ha!
Now darlings, I’ve not paid particular attention to the legend of the Holy Grail nor to Da Vinci Code’s assertion that the Holy Grail was not a chalice, but was actually a metaphor for the womb of a woman – in particular, the womb of Mary Magdalene. I can appreciate the truth about the often brutal and vicious suppression of the so-called "divine feminine" by patriarchal-biased religions without going overboard and swallowing Brown’s story hook, line and sinker. And I am probably more familiar with so-called "goddess" symbolism than an average member of the public, having been studying such things since I first got hooked into the unlikely Goddesschess Partnership way back in December, 1998. So yes, I know about the "delta" and the "V" being symbols for the vulva, being symbols for the womb, etc. etc. etc. and how Brown (and others) drew the comparison to the chalice (grail). But I cannot recall that I’d ever read anything specific linking the symbolism of the chalice/cup (grail) to a woman’s vulva/womb. Lots of supposition and suggestion, but nothing concrete.
Well then, imagine my amazement early this morning when I read this, while checking out a totally unconnected research subject:
[images of] Megalithic women with hands clasped around a large vulva are found in the Bada valley of Sulawesi in eastern Indonesia. They too have abstract mask-like faces, somewhat concave with upturned edges, and no mouths. Menhirs known as bülbül ("grandmother") are scattered across the central Asian steppe, from Mongolia to Ukraine. Some place their hands over the womb; others hold a chalice there. The Yakut people still make carvings of women holding a ceremonial choron in this manner; in their religion, it is women who preside over the great spring festival in which people gather in great circles to dance around chorons elevated on pillars. (Excerpted from Max Dashu’s online essay "Icons of the Matrix.")
Hit me over the head with a hammer, hey – "some place their hands over the womb; others hold a chalice there." Well, Jan, duh! The symbolism is obvious. I think I need to dive back into Gimbutas, Jean Kimball and others and read with more attention…
Choron – a goblet for koumiss. A sacred vessel of our ancestors – choron – has come to us from time immemorial. And today the Sakha people take choron filled with invigorating drink koumiss with deep respect and trepidation. See also here and here.
I haven’t found any specific images of a carved Yakut image showing a female holding a choron, but the vessel at the beginning of this article is an example of a 3-horse leg choron used to serve the kumis (fermented mare’s milk) that was carved by the modern Yakut artist Ammosov. I find it extremely interesting that according to DNA evidence the Yakut may be traced back to northern India! And check this out for a very good synopsis of Yakut history and some images.
Just before the turn of the 20th century, the Yakut and Aleut (living on both sides of the Bering Strait) played (perhaps still play?) one and possibly two variants of chess, one of which Waldemar Jochelson wrote about in 1933, the other of which was described by Frederica de Laguna in later work. I’m working on articles on both of these games – hopefully they’ll be ready for publication at Goddesschess soon. It seems I've been working on them forever, but actually it's only been off and on for the past eight months or so...
It seems to me that the three "hitching posts" depicted in the 1993 school wall painting from Zhigansk look a lot like chess pieces. And there is an image of several people, including one "lady," holding a choron in front of her. The ancient traditions live one – perhaps in a somewhat garbled manner, but they still live...