Saturday, May 17, 2008
Womb - That from Which We Come, That to Which We Go
From Barbara Walker's "A Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Legend." Womb The Sanskrit word for any temple or sancutary was garbha-grha, "womb."(1) The great annual festival of Aphrodite in argos was called Hysteria, "Womb."(2) The oldest oracle in Greece, sacred to the Great Mother of eart, sea, and sky, ws named Delphi, from delphos, "womb." Megalithic tombs and barrow-mounds were designed as "wombs" to give rebirth to the dead. [New Grange, for instance.] Their vaginal entrance passages show that Neolithic folk went to considerable trouble to devise imitations of female anatomy in earth and stone. tomb and womb were even related linguistacally. Greek tumbos, Latin tumulus were cognates of tumere, to swell, to be pregnant. The word "tummy" is thought to have come from the same root.(3) Womb-temples and womb-tombs point backward to the matriarchal age, when only feminine life-magic was thought efficacious. Rebirth from the womb-tomb was the meaning of the domed funerary stupa of the Far East, where the remains of the sainted dead lay within a structure called garbha, the "womb."(4) The parallel with barrow graves, Mycenaean tholos tombs, cave temples, and other such structures is now well known. Even a Christian cathedral centered on the space called nave, originally meaning "belly." [hence "belly button" - navel]. Caves and burial chambers were said to be sunk in the "bowels" of the earth - that is, of Mother Earth. The biblical term for "birth" is "separation from the bowels." Archetypal womb-symbolism is as common today as it ever was, though not always rcognized as such. Paul Klee said, "Which artist would not wish to dwell at the central organ of all motion . . . from which all functions derive their life? In the womb of nature, in the primal ground of creation, where the secret key to all things lies hidden?"(5) Notes: (1) Campbell, C.M., 168. (2) H. Smith, 126. (3) Potter & Sargent, 28. (4) Waddell, 262. (5) Jung, M.H.S., 263. **************************************************************************************** I was rather curious about this festival of Hysteria, so I did a little research. At this website, I found this statement: As a matter of fact Kallimakhos (or Zenodotos), in Historical Notes, testifies that the pig is sacrificed to Aphrodite: "The people of Argos sacrifice swine to Aphrodite and the festival is called Hysteria (Feast of Swine)." - Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 3.95f-96a "Feast of Swine" certainly doesn't sound anything like "(Feast of the) Womb" - but, curiously, that same web site said that pigs were called hus in Greek. "Hus" as in "husband?" VI) SWINE (Greek "hus") Aphrodite had a curious relationship with the pig. The goddess supposedly hated the creature because her lover Adonis had been gored to death by a wild boar. Therefore arose the proverb 'he sacrificed a pig to Aphrodite' used to refer to someone who gave an innappropriate or unwanted gift. However, in Argos and Kypros at least, pigs were sacrificed to the goddess during the Hysteria (of the pigs) festival. The sacrifice was probably to assuage her grief for the loss of Adonis, who was slain by a wild pig. In other cultures, we know the white sow was sacred as an aspect of the Goddess. According to Barbara Walker, "The white corpse-eating Sow-goddess represented the death aspect of the Great Mother in cults of Astarte, Demeter, the Celts' Cerridwen, and the Teutons' Frya. As a death goddess, Freya had the title of Syr, "Sow." Demeter-Persephone or "Demeter the Destroyer" was sometimes called Phorcis the Sow, mother of the Phorcids or Fatal Women [from which we derive the word "porcine"]. One of these was Circe, swine-goddess of Aeaea, who could turn men into sacrificial pigs. Her island Aeaea meant literally "Wailing," a reference to the ritual laments accompanying sacrifices of the god in pig form." Stringing this all together, perhaps Adonis' being gored to death by a wild boar was a later Greek gloss of his original sacrificial death as a sacred king/husband of the goddess Aphrodite. Instead of being killed by a "pig," he was, in actuality, sacrificed as a "pig" himself. Therefore, the connection of sacrificing pigs and the "Fatal Women" would make sense in the context of an "hysterical" celebration to the Goddess Aphrodite. The sacrificing of pigs at the Hysteria was a throw-back to pre-Greek goddess worship. Also from Walker: Hysteria "Womb," the orgiastic religious festival of Aphrodite in Argos, where the Womb of the World was adored and symbolically fructified.(1) [by offering sacrifice, in this case, pigs?] Hysteria was given its present meaning by renaissance doctors who explained women's diseases with a theory that the womb sometimes became detached from its place and wandered about inside the body, causing uncontrolled behavior. My good old Webster's Collegiate Dictionary has this to say about hyster- or hystero- comb form [French or Latin, French hyster-, from Latin hyster-, from Greek, from hystera] 1: womb. So, Walker was absolutely correct - the Hysteria at Argos was the Festival of the Womb. But what about "pig?" I did a quick search for an English-Greek dictionary and came up with these words: choiros, gourouni. However, I believe those are in modern Greek, which probably bears litle relation to ancient Greek. This may be closer - under my Webster's definition for swine is Latin sus - see more at Sow. Pay dirt! In my Webster's under the definition of "sow": Middle English sowe, from Old English sugu; akin to Old English and Old High German su sow, Latin sus pig, swine, hog, Greek hys [emphasis added]. 1: an adult female swine. So, hys means sow in Greek; and hystera means womb in Greek. A rather interesting connection. A few interesting tid-bits: Sows killed at Yuletide - possibly traced to worship of Freya. Animal worship in Ireland - scroll about half way down to find extensive entry under Pig. Lots of intesting information here on Pig, Sow and Boar.