My First Blood Story

by Karen Tinner
I wish that I could say my first blood was an encouraging departure from how menstruation is treated in Western cultures, but sadly, it wasn’t. Rather, it embodied every negative association. I had just turned 11 years old less than a week before, and had never been informed about menstruation. Although I was well-read for an adolescent, I was not yet interested in anything to do with maturation, reproduction or sexuality and no one, either at home or in school, had shared any information with me. Further, although I knew of one or two girls who had “gotten their period,” they were 2-3 years older than me. When I started bleeding, I remember running to my mother and telling her that something was terribly wrong, that I was afraid I was dying. She simply scoffed at me, took me to the bathroom and showed me the sanitary napkins. Still shaken, I remember telling her that I was “too young to go through this,” that I “wasn’t ready,” and that I was “afraid.” All of this fell on deaf ears. There was only the inference that menstruation was a dirty, distasteful fact of a woman’s life, an inconvenient reality to be endured as tidily as possible. The home I grew up in consisted of my mother (born in 1946) and her parents, and as an isolated only child, there were no other women in whom I could confide my feelings. This theme of isolation would be carried over into all of my journey to adult womanhood. Matters of romantic love and sexuality were never addressed, and my isolation was greatly compounded due to my mother and grandmother’s activities in the pseudo-Christian cult of Jehovah’s Witnesses. My grandfather was an emotionally cool, somewhat dictatorial man who demanded respect but never communicated with me with any degree of warmth or positivity. My mother and grandmother lived up to his expectation that women be uncomplaining and subservient. And my father was absent, divorced from my mother due to alcoholism when I was two years of age. Needless to say, I grew up feeling as if being female was an unfortunate accident. In the years since, I have been caregiver to all of my family of origin, saying goodbye to all of them within a five year span (my mother succumbed to terminal cancer in 1997, my grandfather to terminal cancer in 1998 and my grandmother to autoimmune disease in 2002); was married; birthed a son and a daughter; was widowed; remarried; birthed a second daughter; and have returned to school to complete my undergraduate education, switching from English (and Philosophy and Women’s Studies) to Psychology with an eye to obtaining a Master’s in Counseling. All of these experiences have helped me to replace the ambivalence, misogyny and emotional vacancies of my upbringing with healthy, positive and empowered images and narratives. My awareness of and appreciation for the unique emotional, intellectual and physical capacities of women grows with each day, and I am happy to say that I have embraced my good fortune to have been born female! My older daughter has just turned 7 and my younger daughter is 2 1/2. Even before I conceived my older daughter, I resolved to ensure any daughter I might birth would have a very different experience in growing into her womanhood. Both my daughers will be well-prepared to celebrate their first blood. Even now, they are aware that being female is a gift. Further, my son, who is 9, is being raised to appreciate the contributions of women, not least of which is the fact that all man- (and woman-) kind comes into this world by way of a woman’s love and physiology. In part through my children — and also through the career I am preparing for — I hope to make a meaningful contribution in effecting positive change in the way women experience their rites of passage, view themselves and their life experiences, and in the way women and men value one another.

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Filed under blood, coming of age, growing up, menstruation

How to Celebrate Menstruation

How would our world be different if girls were raised to honor their menstrual time? How would our world be different if our girls had some form of celebration when they first began to menstruate. How would your life be different if you were celebrated? Join us in the virtual “Red Tent” for today’s episode of Red Tent TV. After you’ve watched the episode, I’d love to know… How have you celebrated menstruation?

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Filed under ageing, and Hormone Cycle, blood, coming of age, From the filmmaker, growing up, Isadora Gabrielle Leidenfrost, menstruation, menstruation video, Mood, moon, Moon Lodge, mooncycle, parenting, PMS

The Xaghra Twins: Remembering the Neolithic Past

by Alexis Martin Faaberg, PhD student, CIIS

Introduction

            In my view, the Xaghra Twins figurine found on the Maltese island of Gozo epitomizes a belief system steeped in gender equality that fostered a harmony with nature to create a sustainable regenerative environment. The items left with the dead, including red ocher, some small stone objects, and figurines, as well as myths of corpulent women are some of the elements that scholars are using to interpret the past on Malta. The Xaghra Circle was in use between 4,100 and 2,800 BC and archaeologists estimate that it held over 800 burials.[1]

The Xaghra Twins

The Xaghra Twins

Careful study of the Xaghra Twins figurine, including its context, refutes the claims of some scholars who disregard the worship of the regenerative power of the female body as merely a depiction of a “fat lady.” These images provide a wealth of information Neolithic cultures are difficult to recreate due to the lack of written data; however, these sites often provide a wealth of artistic language that allows modern scholars to glimpse the past. Unfortunately, there is a tendency in academia to retrofit the symbols of the past to resemble our modern societies. Although the analysis of a single figurine may seem trivial, it is in fact crucial in terms of today’s concern over patriarchal attitudes towards women and the ecocide being waged against the very earth that sustains us. Ultimately, what is at stake within modern archeology is that if women, or their representations, are disregarded in our known history then modern women will be disregarded as well.

The archeologist Caroline Malone claims that very few of the figurines from Malta can be designated as female because “no systematic study has ever been undertaken where the material has been examined in detail” and has concluded that “the traditional ‘Fat Lady’ or goddess figurine, that is, the classic image of prehistoric Malta, is in fact no more female than it is male.”[2] There is a major problem with the current academic circles denying goddess images based on their own inward prejudices or lack of knowledge. Esteemed archeologist Marija Gimbutas has done extensive work on identifying the language of goddess figurines, which clearly identifies gender in prehistoric art.

Xaghra Twins figurine

Xaghra Twins figurine

Analysis of the Xaghra Twins Figurine

            The Xaghra Circle (sometimes referred to as the Broctorff Circle) is the most recently excavated site in Malta. Unfortunately, the site was poorly excavated and many archeologists have called into question the validity of the finds there due to their haphazard discovery.[3] Later more systematic digging resulted in much more informative data.[4] The most famous find is the Xaghra Twins statue, which depicts two skirted human figures. There is currently a debate about whether this image is male or female. The many fleshy female figurines found in Malta have led many to believe that the people worshiped a fertility goddess, which they connect to the culture’s lack of weapons for war. Some scholars have seized on the lack of a clear male deity to try to disregard theories of a Goddess cult on the islands by naming the faith of the prehistoric people as one of folly. In the article “The Death Cults of Prehistoric Malta” the authors suggest that the

worship of fertility may well have been a component of the prehistoric religion. But the recent findings argue that it would be a mistake to concentrate exclusively on any one facet or historical period: the prehistoric religion of Malta was not only an infatuation of fat females[5]

These authors overlook what I consider an important point about the Neolithic religion: that when viewed as a whole, the Xaghra Twins point to more than a gendered female deity, but also to entirely different concepts of gender equality and fertility which consequently led to a sustainable egalitarian society.

Caroline Malone, and others, disagree with “some archeologists [who] have hypothesized that Maltese society may have been a powerful matriarchy dominated by priestesses, female leaders and mother goddesses,” because they believe this is some sort of overzealous feminism.[6] The scholars who believe that many of the figurines from Malta are female also recognize many phallic images from the island as well. It is ironic that archeologists like Malone only question the validity of the female images, leading some to the conclusion that there is an unspoken gender bias within academia to only discover male artifacts. The artifacts, on the other hand, are unbiased. At Tarxien there is an abundance of female, phallus, plant, and animal imagery. Sharon Sultana, author of the Malta Insight Heritage Guides, states that some statues are considered to be “earth mothers” and acknowledges that there are male counterparts as well. She asserts, “There is the possibility that both sexes were venerated contemporarily.”[7] This gender variety indicates a holistic worldview where all people were represented.

The symbolism imprinted on the Xaghra Twins figurine points to a society that was invested in the regenerative powers of the land and the female body. The figurine was found among the collective burial of the dead. The early Maltese were deliberate in their care of the deceased and appeared to show great reverence to death as a process. British archaeologist David H. Trump states, “early depositions were pushed back or ejected to make room for later [bodies]. This seems to indicate the widely-held view that personality remained with the bodies only so long as they were clothed in flesh.”[8] The bodies were kept in rounded tombs and were built near above ground temples. Once the flesh decayed from the body and all of its nutrients had seeped into the soil the body was believed to have given life back to the earth through decomposition. Interestingly, this structure is mirrored in the shape design of both the tombs and the temples, indicating that their purpose was related. Trump seems to follow this claim by highlighting the value of red ocher, which the Maltese would have had to import. He says, “Hinting at strong religious beliefs, the bones were freely sprinkled with red ochre. This was used almost world-wide symbolically for blood, and so life.”[9] The combination of the value placed on the decomposition as a way to nurture life and the use of red ocher to sprinkle new life onto the bodies of the dead points to a belief system focused on the preservation of the entire life cycle: birth, death and regeneration. The early Maltese seem to have believed that they could intensify the process through their death rituals and, thus, enhance the presence of life above ground.

Marija Gimbutas asserts the

Maltese temples were used for specific religious functions, particularly for rituals of death and regeneration. Maltese temples intriguingly occur in pairs […] representing death and regeneration, maturity and youth, or winter and spring.[10]

Gimbutas references many reasons for these beliefs, but the most striking is that the bodies were often buried in a fetal position, as if being put back into the womb of the earth to be reborn.[11] The Xaghra Twins may be reflecting the above ground temple structures and may possess similar religious significance. Ggantija, a large Neolithic Maltese temple, is situated near the Xaghra Circle where the twin figurine was found and has the same double goddess structure. Gimbutas explains the double goddess temple structure:

The alignment here is significant and we may suppose the larger temple to be the mother and the smaller the daughter of the divine family, or we may see them as a pair of sisters […] Still another possibility is that the representation is of two different aspects of the same Goddess, symbolizing youth and maturity, or death and regeneration[12]

Gimbutas asserts that these figurines are extremely complex and cannot be classified as merely fertility figures or Venuses. The egg-shaped apses of the temple resemble the egg-shaped rounded burial tombs below ground. The temples and burial tombs likely worked in conjunction to enact the regenerative properties of the Maltese religious system to promote regenerative life.

Gimbutas also comments on the Xaghra Twins directly, saying that it “quite likely symbolizes reemerging new life.”[13] Archaeology is evolving to incorporate the language of Neolithic art and understand the religion of the past without a modern overlay. In the introduction to her revolutionary work Language of the Goddess, Gimbutas asserts these ancient cultures “can best be understood on their own planes of reference, grouped according to their inner coherence.   They constitute a complex system in which every unit is interlocked with every other.”[14] The particular language of the Xaghra Twins, and the surrounding archeological finds, point to a belief system that is steeped in a co-creative process emphasizing regenerative life. The following paragraphs will illuminate the artistic language of the statue and its implications of the larger culture.

Xaghra Twins figurine

Xaghra Twins figurine

The Symbolism of the Xaghra Twin Figurine

In my view, the symbolic language of the Xaghra Twin figurine is an invocation for fertility and abundance. The most striking element of the statue is that there are two individuals, linked together by a pleated skirt. Gimbutas asserts that doubles equal intensification, which denotes potency or abundance.[15] The doubling of the figures indicates that the symbolism of the figurine must have been of great importance to the culture that created it.

The second most striking symbol is the steaopygia, which is a further intensification symbol, but of fertility. Thus, the imagery of the statue can be viewed as a physical prayer to bring forth fertility and abundance. However, some scholars have argued that the Malta figurines are not purely steatopygous because their fat is distributed throughout their bodies.[16] I concede that the larger statues are rounded throughout their bodies; however, the majority of the weight is situated around the buttocks and, therefore, should be acknowledged as having steaopygia.

Xaghra Twins figurine

Xaghra Twins figurine

Trump has stated that red ocher is a symbol for blood and life. The calves, feet and top front of the bed or couch that the twins are sitting upon is coated in red ocher.[17] Caroline Malone noted, “feet may have represented the means for the spirit to be transported to the next life.”[18] There has been some dispute over whether the Xaghra Twins are male or female.   Because Trump, and other scholars, do not account for this ocher to have meaning attached to the physical bodies of the statue; they have not been able to state conclusively that these statues are female. The figures do not have prominent breasts to identify them as female, but the red ocher, as a symbol of blood and life, does identify the sex. Based on the location of the red ocher it is obvious that it is representative of menstrual blood. The pleated skirt is slightly shorter on the front side of the figurines, exposing the red below. This intentional exposure is likely to emphasize not only painted red feet, but to make this area of the figurine the focal point. As women biologically menstruate once a month in the body’s effort to create life it is likely that the early Maltese recognized this ability and were showcasing the life-giving powers of menstrual blood through the ocher. A similar skirted figurine was discovered at Tarxien which had a number of small human represented placed below the skirt above the feet.[19] Such symbolic language makes it unnecessary for the genitalia of a figurine to be exposed for the gender to be apparent. As men do not experience this biological change it is unlikely that the artist would have created them to be so, especially when phallic images are present within the culture. Scholars who take a reductionist viewpoint to their studies are unable to see the language of such artwork in totality as Gimbutas and others have done.

The vine-like spirals that swirl beneath the Xaghra Twins goes further to accentuate that the ocher represents life, but in this case plant life. The spiral design is often described as volutes; however, their design is much more wild and natural. Gimbutas describes the spiral as “The energy inherent in the continually moving forms [that] awakens dormant life power and moves it forward.”[20] In essence, the spiral functions in the same way as the ocher. Both imbue the object with life. Archeologist Anthony Pace analyzes the spiral patterns in the Hypogeum.[21] He describes these spirals as a departure from the highly structured development of the temples and states that they are “organic” in design.[22] This root-like spiral design is also present above ground at Tarxien. David H. Trump appears to disagree with Pace. He says, “It is possible, though unlikely in view of its probable derivation from the volutes decorating local pottery that vegetative symbolism was intended for these spirals, and they could be simply abstract motifs.”[23] My own view is that what Trump insists is an abstract motif is in fact filled with natural symbolism of life’s cycles. This is based on artistic representations at Tarxien and the other temple sites, which are filled with spiral, animal, and human designs. While, the above-ground temple spirals are very structured, the tomb spirals of the hypogeum and the Xaghra Twins do not follow a linear path. Though viewers can only speculate on the meaning of these spirals it is plausible that they might indicate root patterns. This would be consistent with their presence below ground and by the presence of ocher to bring them to life. In the Hypogeum this root system could represent a pathway for the dead to be reborn to the living; whereas, the spiral root design beneath the feet of the Xaghra Twins could be the pathways of lifeblood flowing down from the figures to nurture the dead. These images together showcase the death and regenerative cycle that may have been part of the tomb worship of Neolithic Malta.

Xaghra Twins figurine

Xaghra Twins figurine

The largest section of the figurine is the egg-shaped buttocks beneath the pleated skirt.[24] Though none of the current articles address the pleat design, the evaluation of the skirt is vital to understand the overall meaning of the figurine. There are several deliberate detail changes, which appear to be unique to this particular statue. From the front side the pleats look identical; however, the back shows that the figure on the right, holding the cup, has a separate design.[25] The front and back of the left figure have oblong pleats with two long centerlines. Gimbutas asserts that the bi-line is likely another symbol for intensification.[26] The backside pleats on the right figure has four oblong one-ended pleats, but with a singular dividing line reaching from the center of the inner pleat to the floor. According to Gimbutas this image represents the vulva.[27] The vulva, according to Gimbutas, represents “the birth-giving aspect of the Goddess in the sense of her protecting, promoting, and aiding in the act of birth.”[28] The context of the figurine is important to our understanding of the significance of the overall statue. With the addition of this symbol we now have seen that the figurine includes symbols of the entire life cycle—birth, death, and regeneration. It is likely that these symbols of birth and intensification are tied to the re-birth of life given the context of the site. Unfortunately, it is not clear if the number four, the number of pleats, is significant, but it is possible that this represents that seasons. The two large side pleats are unique in that they contain four lines within one larger oblong one-ended pleat. I have speculated that the number four might be interpreted as a sign of the seasons and as such may indicate a belief that the year-long life cycles of seasons are intertwined with the rebirth of the human deceased. Regardless of any of these speculations it is clear that the artist deliberately made these selections and therefore it is worth our effort to try and decipher their meaning.

Above the pleated skirt both of the figures hold an object. The left figure holds a small headless figurine slightly away from her body. The head was likely broken off at some point due to the vulnerability of the neck.   Malone describes this figure as a “tiny dressed person,” but does not compare it to the larger figurines.[29] While the pleated skirts of the Twins hug the contours of the body, the small figure’s diamond inscribed skirt flows outward in a full a-line pattern. Unfortunately, this pattern is not present elsewhere in early Maltese artwork nor is it common in Neolithic art. The hands of the small figure are clasped together. Given the context of regeneration throughout the overall statue it is likely that small figure represents a human rebirth, though likely symbolic. The small figure is being offered forward, leading to further speculation of the co-creative process. Without a stronger context for this design no successful guesswork can occur.

The right figure holds a cup or vessel in the right hand while the left hand is left loose near the belly area. The design and functional uses of the cup are essential for understanding the religious significance of the image. The design is a womb-shape and can be likened to a human female’s womb, which both fills with blood of life and empties. The round body of the cup can be viewed as a container for life and as a representation of fertility. While one hand grasps the cup the other hand is touching the womb of the figure with slightly splayed fingers. Since the red ocher exiting the bottom of the skirt has clearly defined these figures as female, it is possible that the hand is touching the empty or recently conceived womb-space. This assumption is based on the context of the female figurine. The breasts are flattened and there is not a protruding belly on either figure. Based on these details the hand likely represents the hope of new life.

While the loose ponytail hairstyle appears to offer little to understanding of the early Maltese it may allude to gender inclusivity so far unrealized by many scholars. Gimbutas contends that the Great Goddess of life, death, and regeneration is extremely complex and though she does not analyze the Xaghra Twins in as much detail as the work that she has done throughout the Aegean and Balkans it is clear from her expansive research that she believed that the symbolic language extended to the Maltese archipelago. According to Gimbutas, during the “sixth millennium the goddess becomes more vigorous and less obese with her shoulders, upper arms, and breasts accentuated” and while the heads of some goddess figures became “phallus-shaped suggesting their androgynous nature.”[30] It is my view that during this period the ancient peoples began to associate their female deity as containing the male aspect within her overall body. Malone, Trump and others seek to remove any identifying female aspect from figurines to make them male as if male gender were the default gender of the Neolithic peoples, as it seems to be in our modern societies. By looking at the Xaghra Twins from behind it is possible that the heads and long necks could be seen as phallic symbols and that the large bulging arms could represent the scrotum. Hamangian and Sesklo statues are described by Gimbutas as having male aspects though not to the detail that I am describing here. Both the Xaghra Twins and the Sesklo figurine were “long-haired.” The Hamangian sculptures are described as having “very strongly built bodies, muscular upper arms, huge abdomens and thighs, and folded arms.”[31] This analysis provides a view of images that have sexual properties of both genders, leading to the possibility that the figurines represent a being capable of containing all the necessary elements for fertility. However, the overall context of the Xaghra Twins is undoubtedly female.

The final section of the statue from Xaghra is the delicately inscribed base.   The couch or bed is very similar to the one on which the famous “Sleeping Lady” figurine reclines. A shorter and thicker base supports the lower wide base, which are marked by three small lines grouped together. This tri-line is, according to Gimbutas, associated with “beginning.”[32] She further states that the tri-line is often connected to the uterus and snake spirals.[33] Although there are no snakes present, both the organic spirals and the uteri of the Xaghra Twins are just above the couch. If the tri-line is a symbol for beginning then this figurine is likely the beginning or conception of new life given the context of the burial mound it was found in. The larger cultural implication of this assumption is that the early Maltese clearly had faith in their belief system to believe that life would return and that they encouraged this process through their artwork. Clearly they must have also believed that they could co-create with their deity by creating this small figurine and placing it among the dead.

The ecological situation on the Maltese archipelago is tenuous at best. Malone and other scholars, including Trump, have claimed that Malta was “an island world under powerful economic and environmental stress, where the communities were struggling to maintain their former standards of living and to feed the population.”[34] These scholars base this on the lack of trade and the preference to expend energy building communal temple and burial structures instead of homes. This assumption of the downfall of the culture suggests an internal prejudice of the scholars against female-centered religious systems. Trump has shown that the islands have sporadic rainfall and the summer is often a period of drought.[35] Soil erosion and lack of timber are also a problem on the island. However, the early Maltese were able to adapt; Trump states that they had methods of water catchment and storage, and knowledge of local springs.[36] While I do not deny that the islands were less than ideal for human habitation I look at the long history of progressive human habitation on the islands as proof that these early peoples thrived. Famed Malta archeologist Sir Themistocles Zammit stated that at the Hypogeum there was a deep-water cistern that has been in use by the public since ancient times.[37] The ingenuity shown by the early peoples is evidence of their ability to survive over time by utilizing the natural resources they had. This is confirmed, although not purposely, by Malone who stated “Their health was apparently very good, with few dental problems or other detectable illness,” meaning that these people lived well in contrast to many in developing countries today.[38] Furthermore, “The same anthropological features are present from the earliest Zebbug people to the late Tarxien population, which evinces little or no change in the genetic makeup of the early Maltese community.”[39] This time period is from 4,100 B.C. to 2,500 B.C. For over 2,000 years these peoples maintained cultural independence and environmental health. By demonstrating the veracity of the local people, Malone and her colleges extend the findings of Marija Gimbutas, and others, who believe that the Neolithic people were an extremely sophisticated society who lived well within the parameters of their environment.

Interestingly, Peg Streep writes that the temples were built to show “gratitude and honor due a deity who presided over a land that, while fertile, did not yield its fruit easy.[40] But to what deity were they praying? Malone, Trump and other prominent scholars have neglected to dig up the oral histories of the islands that contain the seed of their cultures early beginnings. Feminist Veronica Veen has researched the mythology of the islands and found existing living traditions of giantess stories told by local women. Veen states that the stories represent a matrilineal legacy and are passed from mother to daughter.[41] These stories are also place-related, meaning that they are linked to a particular physical place.[42] The stories are rooted to the places where they stem from, rooting them in the minds of the local people. This is a tale that Veen collected from Xaghra: “That a Giantess used to carry those stones from over Sannat to Xaghra: carrying it on her back, while she used to carry her baby-child, her baby, at the back. And during the way she used to eat beans.”[43] This story somewhat resembles the Xaghra Twins figurine in that a large woman with a child is represented. The Xaghra Twins may be a smaller representation of Gigantija. It is my view that such images lead to a larger cosmic worldview held by the Maltese in which female images hold power over life, death, and the continuation of both. Furthermore, the presence of the beans indicates that these few factors were important enough to pass on through the generations. This evidence shows that fertility and plant life were connected with the giantess.   Though modern archeologists refer to the corpulent figures as goddesses the folktales refer to them as giantesses, both possessing a supernatural width and whose primary concerns seem to be children and food.

Due to these somewhat harsh conditions the early peoples were adaptive and knowledgeable about their environment, including their food sources. Their connection to their deity and their food is apparent in the myths of the Giantess and her beans. Malone and Trump believe that environmental pressures caused the decline of the Neolithic Maltese, but their assumption is based on the lack of other data.[44] I agree with these authors that environmental pressure may have been a contributing factor, considering the evidence of soil erosion, but the health of the bodies do not point towards environmental destruction. x Thus, the lack of other data should not be brought forth as the proof for the decline of the culture. Instead, allow the early Maltese disappearance to remain a mystery until more evidence can be uncovered.

What we do know of the Maltese we know through the megalithic structures they have left behind and their own bones. The latter provides the most succinct data about the life and social structure. The dead at Xaghra Circle were buried in collective graves. This points to an egalitarian social structure. In her analysis of the Maltese temples Caroline Malone believes that the temples were ceremonial structures and that the culture was highly socialized under a chiefdom.[45] This theory is problematic given Malone’s own admission that “the Maltese evidence is more difficult here since the collective nature of the burial practice […] fail[s] to identify differential status in individual burial, even though the whole group could be seen as ‘wealthy.’”[46] Without evidence of a hierarchal social structure scholars should not attempt to put our modern societies social structure upon the Neolithic.

Conclusion

The finds at Xaghra Circle, and throughout Malta, indicate a society that recognized both female and male qualities as beneficial for the continued prosperity of their collective group. If a hierarchal ruler had led the people their high status would likely have been apparent in their burial by separating their body from the masses and marking it with jewelry or other treasures. Malone’s conclusion that the presence of a matristric, goddess civilization cannot be proven with the evidence available is interesting considering that she herself was unable to prove that a patrilineal clan structure existed. Instead the evidence points to an egalitarian society.

In their book “The Myth of the Goddess” Ann Baring and Jules Cashford discuss the findings on Malta,

The unity and coherence of the metaphysical ideas of these ancient peoples become more accessible if we are aware of the limitations of our own minds in approaching them. If earth and sky were more resacralized, it might be easier for us to rediscover the ‘language’ of the goddess […] The discovery of these centers of Neolithic civilization […] must have implications for our conception of the evolution of consciousness. We will at least have to give up the idea of primitive tribes lurking in the darkness of prehistory awaiting our civilized minds to enlighten them. We would also lose the condescending terminology of ‘idols,’ Venus figurines’ and ‘fertility cults’”[47]

Baring and Cashford bring to light an interesting facet of modern archeology. Though it is likely an unconscious act, many scholars try to silence any artifact, myth, or object that does not confirm the current androcentric chiefdom society that we currently reside in. In an effort to better understand such wellsprings of knowledge as the Xaghra Twins figurine we must step back and question what prejudices we are bringing to the academic conversation. Marija Gimbutas has given academia the language to read the Neolithic world. Her gift should be utilized and critiqued so that a conversation that includes the female perspective is heard. Without these added voices the archeological conversation is missing half of its voices and should this continue our megalithic past will ooze into silence. Though this paper investigates only on one small figurine from a small island, it is a small example of what is missing from the bigger academic picture.

 

Endnotes

[1] David H. Trump, Malta: Prehistory and Temples (Valetta: Midsea Books, 2002), 178.

[2] Caroline Malone, “Temple Art of Ancient Malta” in Ancient Goddesses, eds.Lucy Goodison, and Christine Morris (London: British Museum Press, 1998), 151.

[3] Trump, Malta, 176-181.

[4] Trump, Malta, 176.

[5] Caroline Malone, et. al., “The Death Cults of Prehistoric Malta,” Scientific American (1993): 116.

[6] Malone, “Death Cults,” 113.

[7] Sharon Sultana, The National Museum of Archeology: The Neolithic Period (Valetta: Heritage Malta, 2006), 28.

[8] Trump, Malta, 44

[9]Ibid., 45

[10] Marija Gimbutas, The Living Goddesses, Miriam Robbins Dexter, ed. (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1999), 95.

[11] Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess: The World of Old Europe (San Francisco: Harper, 1991), 174.

[12] Gimbutas, Civilization of the Goddess, 174.

[13] Gimbutas, Living Goddesses,, 95.

[14] Marija Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess. (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989), XV.

[15] Gimbutas, Language of the Goddess, 161-172.

[16]Isabelle Vella Gregory, The Human Form in Neolithic Malta (Valletta: Midsea Books, 2005.), 20.

[17] Gregory, Human Form in Neolithic Malta, 20.

[18] Caroline Malone, and Simon Stoddart, “Representations of Death – Discoveries at Xaghra Stone Circle, Gozo,” in Maltese Prehistoric Art: 5,000 – 2,500 BC, ed. Anthony Pace (Malta: Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti, 1996), 49.

[19] John Evans, “What Went On In a Maltese Megalithic ‘Temple’?,”in Maltese Prehistoric Art: 5000-25000 BC, ed. Anthony Pace (Malta: Fondazzjoi Patrimonju Malti, 2002), 42.

[20] Gimbutas, Language of the Goddess, 279.

[21] Anthony Pace, The Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, Paola. (Valletta: Heritage Books, 2004), 21. Note: the spirals in the Hypogeum indicate a strong religious connection between the main island of Malta and the smaller island of Gozo where the Xaghra Twins were discovered.

[22] Pace, Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, 21.

[23] Trump, Malta, 93.

[24] Elizabeth Wayland Barber, Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times, (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1994), 135-136.

Note: The oldest cloth artifact showing pleating is from 3,000 B.C. from Tarkhan, Egypt. Though it is not clear who invented the pleat design it is clear that the design was shared throughout the ancient world.

[25]Gregory, Human Form, 56-61.

[26] Gimbutas, Language of the Goddess, 167.

[27] Ibid., 100-107.

[28] Ibid., 104.

[29] Malone, “Death Cults,”116.

[30] Marija Gimbutas, The Gods and Goddesses of Old Europe (Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of Michigan Press, 1982),152.

[31] Gimbutas, Gods and Goddesses,153.

[32] Gimbutas,Language of the Goddess, 92.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Malone, “Death Cults,”117.

[35] Trump, Malta,19.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Sir Themistocles Zammit, Malta: Tarxien Temples and Saflieni Hypogeum (Malta: Interprint, 1994), 133.

[38] Malone, “Death Cults,” 115.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Peg Streep, Sanctuaries of the Goddess: The Sacred Landscapes and Objects (Boston: Little Brown, 1994), 83.

[41] Veronica Veen, Female Images of Malta: Goddess, Giantess, Farmeress (Haarlem: Inanna-Fia, 1994), 21.

[42] Ibid,

[43] Ibid., 27-8.

[44] Malone, “Death Cults,” 117.

[45]Malone, “Temple Art of Ancient Malta,” 163.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ann Baring & Jules Cashford “The Neolithic Great Goddess of Sky, Earth and Waters” in The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image, (London: ARKANA, 1993), 104-5.

 

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Ways to honor your menstrual cycle in your Red Tent

by Jane Hardwicke Collings & Susan Stark

This article is an excerpt from the eBook “How to Create a Red Tent

Keeping a monthly record of your cycle is a great way to connect in and identify recurring patterns or themes. As you record your experiences of each day of your cycle you will begin to see a common pattern emerging. Various journals and charts are available to support you in your charting. See the resource section for further information. Each week of the cycle offers a different opportunity or flow of energy that you can utilize in your life’s journey.

"How to Create a Red Tent" eBook. Available for $9.99 at: http://www.redtentmovie.com/eBook-create-a-red-tent.html
Below are some suggestions of how to work with the different energy inherent in each week of your cycle. This list is by no mean exhaustive and we would encourage you to be creative and adventurous in honouring your own individual cycle. Part of the journey is finding your own unique expression of your cycle and ways to support your own needs. Sharing your ways of being with your cycle in circle with other women is a great way to gather new ideas and ways of honouring yourself and others.

Week One:

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It is often difficult to find time to rest and retreat from our busy lives. The demands of family life and work can feel like obstacles to creating quiet sacred space for you to rest. For some women this may feel like an unwarranted luxury that they cannot afford themselves. However, retreat time does not need to be three solid days alone. Of course if you can create this then fantastic, but for many of us we need to find creative ways to lessen our daily activities and finding means to honour ourselves. We can create ways of taking ourselves out of the busy routines of everyday life and with practice those around will grow more accustomed to our need for retreat. After all, a well nurtured mother is able to hold her family with more grace and ease than someone tired and unhappy without time for refueling and rest. Having a relaxing bath by candle light or ensuring the freezer is stocked with dinner for a few nights are great ways to create a bit of space or ease. Ensuring that you don’t schedule in big events or parties is another good idea in honouring your need to be less social.

Some women choose to create a bleeding necklace to wear or make a mooonstick as an expression of their prayers for the coming cycle. Wearing red or choosing special jewellery to wear can also let others know that this is your bleeding time. Paying particular attention to your dreams and setting an intention to remember them is another great way to tap into your night time wisdom. Drawing, crafting, journaling or meditating are also other great ways to slow down and reflect. Some women choose their bleeding time to rearrange their altar or read that great novel they have been saving! It is a time to go slowly and be gentle with yourself. By quietening we open ourselves to hear the messages of our body, our heart and our spirit. Want to read more….

ebook

 

barAbout the authors:

Jane Hardwicke Collings is amother, grandmother and an independent midwife, teacher, writer and menstrual educator. She gives workshops in Australia and internationally on mother and daughter preparation for menstruation, the spiritual practice of menstruation, and the sacred and shamanic dimensions of pregnancy and birth. Jane founded and runs The School of Shamanic Midwifery, which focuses on preparing women to practice and teach conscious rites of passage, awareness of cycles (Earth, lunar, life and menstrual cycles), and the mind/body/spirit connection. www.schoolofshamanicmidwifery.com. Jane is the author of Ten Moons, the Inner Journey of Pregnancy, Thirteen Moons, How to chart your menstrual cycle (handbook and journal), Spinning Wheels (a guide to the cycles), and Becoming a Woman (a guide for girls approaching menstruation). www.moonsong.com.au

Susan Stark is a home birth Mother of four children, a Shamanic Midwife, a practitioner and teacher of the Women’s Mysteries and Social Worker.  Susan is passionately committed to supporting women on their journeys of re-membering and transformation.  Susan currently offers circles and workshops in her own community and practices as a Counsellor working with children and young people.  Susan shares a deep connection to the Earth as Mother and Healer and honours every person’s unique journey to connection and wholeness.
Contact Susan: earthspiral@rocketmail.com

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How to facilitate a “circle” in your Red Tent

by Jane Hardwicke Collings & Susan Stark

This article is an excerpt from the eBook “How to Create a Red Tent

In creating a monthly Red Tent you may like to consider the inclusion of a sharing circle. This is a space where women have an opportunity to share what is arising for them in their lives. You may choose to offer this sharing along a seasonal or lunar theme such as sharing moon prayers or intentions or using the seasonal festivals to let go of things that no longer serve. Or you may invite women to share whatever is arising for them in that moment.

"How to Create a Red Tent" eBook. Available for $9.99 at: http://www.redtentmovie.com/eBook-create-a-red-tent.html

In inviting women to share and speak in the circle it is important to agree on some key parameters that ensure the integrity of the space is upheld and women feel safe and heard. It is rare in our modern world to be truly heard without judgment or interference. One of the greatest gifts of a circle is the opportunity for women to speak unhindered and be heard. We can trust that we will all find our pathway to healing ourselves and being witness to a woman is an honour and gift for all.

Photos from Red Tents hosted by Aurora Rae. For more info: ourredtent.com/ Photo copyright: chrisloomisphotography

Photo from a Red Tent hosted by Aurora Rae. For more info: http://www.ourredtent.com/ Photo copyright: chrisloomisphotography

In many circles a bowl or item such as talking stick is passed around to symbolize whose ‘turn’ it is to speak. If using a bowl you may like to add things such as crystals, rescue remedy or other treasures and symbols a woman (if she chooses) can hold as she speaks. The first important parameter in this sharing space is “She who holds the bowl, speaketh!” Speaking in circle can be a scary thing for many women and it is important to honour and respect each woman’s courage. Some women may choose to say very little or nothing at all. Regardless, when a woman is holding the bowl it is her space and opportunity to speak or sit uninterrupted. This is not a time to offer advice or interject but rather open ourselves to be fully present to another’s story and unfolding.

Encourage women to speak in the first person and take responsibility for what arises for them. The container you have created together is a safe place to express and be whatever we need to be in that moment. There is no need to ‘pat down’ a woman’s emotions with soothing words or tissues but rather allow and trust her unfolding as a trusted pathway to healing and transformation.

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Red Tent Temple hosted by ALisa Starkweather at the Grail Lady Faire in Bancroft, Ontario, Canada

The remainder of the women are encouraged to sit in witness, holding space and listening with compassion. Encourage women to withhold their judgment and understand that any feelings that arise in listening to another woman are opportunities for our own insight and understanding. The Red Tent is a place where we can be true to ourselves. It is a safe place with many opportunities for insight and transformation. You may like to consider asking for an agreement of confidentiality in supporting to maintain this integrity.

ebook

barAbout the authors:

Jane Hardwicke Collings is amother, grandmother and an independent midwife, teacher, writer and menstrual educator. She gives workshops in Australia and internationally on mother and daughter preparation for menstruation, the spiritual practice of menstruation, and the sacred and shamanic dimensions of pregnancy and birth. Jane founded and runs The School of Shamanic Midwifery, which focuses on preparing women to practice and teach conscious rites of passage, awareness of cycles (Earth, lunar, life and menstrual cycles), and the mind/body/spirit connection. www.schoolofshamanicmidwifery.com. Jane is the author of Ten Moons, the Inner Journey of Pregnancy, Thirteen Moons, How to chart your menstrual cycle (handbook and journal), Spinning Wheels (a guide to the cycles), and Becoming a Woman (a guide for girls approaching menstruation). www.moonsong.com.au

Susan Stark is a home birth Mother of four children, a Shamanic Midwife, a practitioner and teacher of the Women’s Mysteries and Social Worker.  Susan is passionately committed to supporting women on their journeys of re-membering and transformation.  Susan currently offers circles and workshops in her own community and practices as a Counsellor working with children and young people.  Susan shares a deep connection to the Earth as Mother and Healer and honours every person’s unique journey to connection and wholeness.
Contact Susan: earthspiral@rocketmail.com

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Menstrual Hut and Moon Lodge History

Menstrual hut and moon lodge traditions show us that the Red Tent has a history: The idea of a separate women’s space or menstrual hut is not a new idea. Anita Diamant claims that the Red Tent in her book was fictionalized, but is rooted in research from Africa. Menstrual hut and moon lodge traditions shape women’s understanding of the Red Tent as a women’s power space. There are menstrual hut and moon lodge traditions all over the world that date back to 800 C.E and in some places are still practiced today. These spaces offer a unique view of the Red Tent, but do they reinforce or contradict patriarchal oppression?


To learn more about the history of menstrual hut and moon lodges read our new eBook/Audiobook “The Red Tent Movement: A Historical Perspective” by Isadora Gabrielle Leidenfrost, PhD and ALisa Starkweather. To purchase the eBook or Audiobook for $9.99 go to http://www.redtentmovie.com/audio-book.html

ebook-and-audiobook copy

I look forward to reading your comments below.

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Filed under From the filmmaker, Isadora Gabrielle Leidenfrost, menstruation, menstruation history, menstruation video, Moon Lodge, mooncycle, Red Tent TV

How to Create a Red Tent Altar

by Jane Hardwicke Collings & Susan Stark

This article is an excerpt from the eBook “How to Create a Red Tent

"How to Create a Red Tent" eBook. Available for $9.99 at: http://www.redtentmovie.com/eBook-create-a-red-tent.html

An Altar can be your own private Sacred Space in your home, or work place, or a group altar in a shared space, or the central altar or direction altars in a ceremony. In holding a Red Tent you may like to create a central altar around which you will sit as a group.

The altar contains symbols and talismans of the work you intend to do together. For example, if your focus is on women’s cycles you could have a collection of treasures that map the cycle around a circle, or perhaps various items that the participants have brought with them.

Red Tent altar examples from around the world

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You can also have either around the outside of your seated or standing circle or within the central space, an altar to each direction (East, North, West, and South). These will serve the purpose of assisting you in invoking the directions and holding the sacred space you create by making a literal ‘container’ in which you sit. A central candle or Mother Candle may be placed in the centre of your altar. As part of your opening ritual you may like to light this candle and invoke deities or say a prayer for your circle. Women may also like to bring special treasures or things from nature to add to the Red Tent altar. These could be along a theme such as connecting in with our cycles or the season. Together you will weave a focal point of your Red Tent and use the altar as a way to set intention and holding.

ebook

barAbout the authors:

Jane Hardwicke Collings is amother, grandmother and an independent midwife, teacher, writer and menstrual educator. She gives workshops in Australia and internationally on mother and daughter preparation for menstruation, the spiritual practice of menstruation, and the sacred and shamanic dimensions of pregnancy and birth. Jane founded and runs The School of Shamanic Midwifery, which focuses on preparing women to practice and teach conscious rites of passage, awareness of cycles (Earth, lunar, life and menstrual cycles), and the mind/body/spirit connection. www.schoolofshamanicmidwifery.com. Jane is the author of Ten Moons, the Inner Journey of Pregnancy, Thirteen Moons, How to chart your menstrual cycle (handbook and journal), Spinning Wheels (a guide to the cycles), and Becoming a Woman (a guide for girls approaching menstruation). www.moonsong.com.au

Susan Stark is a home birth Mother of four children, a Shamanic Midwife, a practitioner and teacher of the Women’s Mysteries and Social Worker.  Susan is passionately committed to supporting women on their journeys of re-membering and transformation.  Susan currently offers circles and workshops in her own community and practices as a Counsellor working with children and young people.  Susan shares a deep connection to the Earth as Mother and Healer and honours every person’s unique journey to connection and wholeness.
Contact Susan: earthspiral@rocketmail.com

 

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