Friday, January 26, 2007

FEMALE FIGURINE Festishes

Today I tried to digest an article* on the pre-Bronze-Age Goddess figurines on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. Beginning with a nice bang, the author tsk-tsks over the fact that textbooks still call female figurines “eroticism.”

After that, though, she kept smacking me in the eye with fly-speck stuff like this: “[female] figures may have [been] … teaching aids for transmitting … knowledge about pregnancy and birth, [and they may also have been] … fetishes….”

Try as I might, I can’t see a simple-society woman explaining birth-giving by molding statuary. Take Nisa, the !Kung woman interviewed back in the eighties by Marjorie Shostak.** Can you see Nisa taking three hours to make a statue when she can draw the same gosh-darn thing in the sand in three seconds flat? Or better, act it all out (in the time it takes to say “It’s a girl!”)? (If you’ve read Nisa, you know what I mean, here.)

And the “clutching the fetishes” line just raises the tiny hairs on the back of my neck. Anthropologists used “fetish” in days of yore -- and only about the religions of others. Never caught ‘em using ‘fetish’ about christian crosses! My stars! Same with communion bread and wine, their god’s blood and guts – er, blood and body.

“Fetish” has a nasty ring, a ‘dirty’-sex-thing ring. Like “foot fetish,” or “the ‘witch doctor’ [sic] cured me with a shrunken-head fetish.” In the vocabulary of the modern scholar, “fetish” should get zilch shelf-space.

Here’s the rule and don’t forget it: When archaeologists dig up a male figurine, it’s a god or a man. Period. End of story.

But female figurines – ooh la la! Different story! There’s a new explanation every hour (Gotta be something we can call them other than ‘goddess'…). So we get “child’s toy, sex toy, child’s creation, teaching tool, trading token, obscenity, masturbation tool, fetish, self-portrait – the list goes on and on (“No, no, please ma! [Whimper, whimper]…. I beg!! Don’t let them be Goddesses! I too, too scared!!!”)

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*Diane Bolger, “Figurines, Fertility; and the Emergence of Complex Society in Prehistoric Cyprus,” Current Anthropology Volume 37, Number 2, April 1996.
** Nisa: Kung Woman, 1982.
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Thnx to morellomat for the foto

8 comments:

Morgaine said...

How overt is the attempt in academia to suppress Goddess information? Is it just an unspoken understanding, or are they flat out trained to denigrate feminine imagery?

Athana said...

Well, all I can speak from is my own experience in academia. As a student in and instructor of anthropology/prehistory I was never “flat out trained to denigrate feminine imagery.” But feminine imagery was ignored. I don’t ever remember seeing any female figurines or images in anything I read or heard, or at any American Anthropology national meetings. What we studied ad nauseum were blades, weapons, flint, obsidian, stone tools, the changing typologies of weapons through time and space, the various kinds of weapons and tools, how they were made, how they were used, yada, yada, yada. Oh, and a little bit about pottery and early agriculture. And a little bit (can you believe this) about male figurines. I had to get out of academia to learn about female imagery and the Goddess.

Morgaine said...

Wow - that makes me sad, but it doesn't surprise me. Gotta keep that focus on war, you know, to make people think violence is normal.

How did you find the Goddess after?

Morgaine said...

Wow - that makes me sad, but it doesn't surprise me. Gotta keep that focus on war, you know, to make people think violence is normal.

How did you find the Goddess after?

Athana said...

How I found the Goddess: First, I found the Feminist Spiritual Community in Portland. I fancied myself into Eastern philosophy at the time, but no one at FSC would have anything to do with my Eastern philosophy. All they wanted to talk about was Goddess. I kept going, and began to see the light. Then a friend of mine at work told me about a great new book she'd found called When God Was a Woman. Then I read The Great Cosmic Mother. I think it was the combo of those two books + FSC that made it all click. I've never been the same since. Thank the Goddess.

Morgaine said...

Thank the Goddess, indeed. We need you doing what you do!

Morgaine said...

Thank the Goddess, indeed. We need you doing what you do!

sopka said...

I agree fetish is used in psychology to connotate a sexual psychopathy with objectified body part or things, using it in anthro and archeology should be verboten. It is very judgemental of non-mainstream cultures and religions.