The Craddle of Civilization
Epigravettian - Y-DNA I2a & R-L754
History of Anatolia
Çatalhöyük (Central Turkey) is considered the most advanced of these, and Çayönü in the east the oldest (c. 7250 - 6750 BCE). We have a good idea of the town layout at Çayönü, based on a central square with buildings constructed of stone and mud. Archeological finds include farming tools that suggest both crops and animal husbandry as well as domestication of the dog. Religion is represented by figurines of Cybele, a mother goddess. Hacilar (Western Turkey) followed Çayönü, and has been dated to 7040 BCE.
It was long understood that the origins of agriculture and stock breeding should be sought in those areas of the Middle East where the wild ancestors of modern food grains and the natural habitats of domesticable animals were to be found. This line of inquiry pointed to the well-watered uplands around the fringe of the Fertile Crescent: Iraqi Kurdistan, northern Syria, and the eastern Mediterranean coast. Indeed, the first discoveries of Neolithic farming communities were made in these regions. Until the 1960s it was thought that, apart from the coastal plain of Cilicia, Anatolia had remained uninhabited until the beginning of the Chalcolithic Period. Since then excavations have completely changed the picture, although none has yet revealed a settlement earlier than about 8000 bce. The earliest settlements were characterized not only by the domestication of barley and sometimes wheat but also by the absence of pottery and of domestic animals other than the dog. Hacılar, near Lake Burdur, shows an earliest occupation about 8000 bce by a people living in mud-brick houses with plastered walls and floors, painted and burnished like those in contemporary Jericho. Afterward abandoned for nearly a thousand years, Hacılar was reoccupied in the late phase of the Neolithic by villagers of a far more sophisticated culture having advanced agriculture and pottery. The houses were symmetrically arranged; the discovery there of a striking collection of seminaturalistic figurines shed new light on Neolithic art and symbolism.
The gap in the archaeological record between the widely separated Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods was filled by the discovery (1961–65) at Çatalhüyük of a Neolithic settlement that was occupied from the mid-8th to the mid-7th millennium. The discoveries at Çatalhüyük not only amplified but also transformed the whole conception of human behaviour in Neolithic times. In the town, houses were built of sun-dried brick, closely contiguous like the cells of a honeycomb, but each had several rectangular rooms similarly planned and was accessible only by a wooden ladder from its flat roof. The contiguous roofs provided space for the communal life of the inhabitants. Some of these buildings appear to have been religious shrines, elaborately ornamented with heads or horns of animals, either real or imitated in plaster. The walls were decorated with coloured murals, repeatedly repainted after replastering, and some designs closely resembled the cave paintings of the Paleolithic Period. As a source of information about the activities, appearance, dress, and even religion of Neolithic peoples, these paintings are of great significance. Other arts and crafts were well attested. Human and animal figurines were carved in stone or modeled in clay. Bone was used for tools and implements, sometimes with finely carved ornamentation. Weapons included polished maces, arrows, and lances with tanged obsidian heads. Impressions of mats and baskets were found, as well as implements used in spinning and weaving. Miraculously, fragments of actual textiles were recovered and preserved. The presence of Mediterranean shells and of metal ores and pigments not locally available suggests extensive trade. Undecorated pottery was in use throughout the life of the settlement, its shapes often imitating those of wooden vessels, examples of which were found intact.
Agriculture and dairy farming probably formed the main basis of the economy at Çatalhüyük. The location of the settlement on a river subject to regular flooding suggests that irrigation may have been practiced; the presence of bones of wild cattle, deer, and boar confirms the implication of the wall paintings that hunting was still widespread. The existence of other, less precocious Neolithic cultures shows that the peoples of the Anatolian plateau generally played a significant part in the spread of early farming.
The transition from the Neolithic to the Chalcolithic phase of cultural evolution is thought to have taken place gradually in the late 7th millennium bce. At most sites where its progress can be traced, no perceptible break occurs in the continuity of occupation, and there is little reason to assume any major ethnographic upheaval. Archaeologically, the most conspicuous innovation is the decoration of pottery with coloured paint, a widespread development in western Anatolia. Late periods at Hacılar were characterized by the production of some of the most competently and attractively decorated pottery in prehistoric Anatolia, and in the subsequent middle phase of the Chalcolithic Period polychrome wares were produced in south-central Anatolia and Cilicia. Village architecture of this period is undistinguished but provides evidence for the necessity of communal defense, which was accomplished by means of a circuit wall or—as in Hacılar—a continuous wall formed by the outside rear walls of contiguous houses. At Hacılar and Can Hasan, the heavy ground-floor chambers of these houses had no doorways and were evidently entered by ladders from a more fragile upper story. Improvements in architecture at this period, however, can be seen at Mersin, where one of its later phases is represented by a neatly planned and constructed fortress. The steeply revetted slope of the mound was crowned by a continuous defensive wall, pierced by slit windows and entered through a gateway protected by flanking towers. Inside, there was formally arranged accommodation for the garrison and other evidence of military discipline as conceived in 5200 bce.
Metallurgy was beginning to be understood, and copper was used for pins and simple implements. But there are occasional glimpses of a greater sophistication: a copper mace-head from Can Hasan, more developed tools and the first occurrence of silver at Beycesultan, and a stamp-seal in tin bronze at Mersin. Little is known about the late phase of the Chalcolithic Period; soundings into strata below settlements of the Early Bronze Age, which the period anticipates, indicate that in western and central Anatolia this late phase introduced simpler rectangular houses and dark burnished pottery with simple incised, jabbed, polished, or white-painted decoration.
Superficially, progress during the Chalcolithic Period may appear to have been slight. This apparent lack of development, however, may instead reflect the inadequacy of our present knowledge. The energetic flowering of the Early Bronze Age that followed must have been based on an increased confidence and ability in agriculture and stock breeding and, most importantly, on a growth in metallurgical skills that is largely invisible in the archaeological record.
The occupants of Boncuklu Höyük, or literally the “Beaded Mound,” are thought to be ancestors of the people of Çatalhöyük, a very large Neolithic and Chalcolithic settlement in southern Anatolia. The deepest layers of the mound are thought to date from around 7,500 BC.
The settlement reveal information previously unknown about the lives of nomadic human communities in times before settlement, say archeologists. The settlement discovered in Konya dates back 11,000 years. It was a settlement occupied by a nomadic tribe 11,000 years ago.
Çatalhöyük and Boncuklu Höyük, with very similar artifacts found at both sites, cannot be thought of separately, according to Baird, whose team thinks the people of Boncuklu Höyük preceded those in Çatalhöyük by 2,000 years. Boncuklu Höyük is thought to have been a temporary settlement for nomadic tribes used for brief stays during the course of their journeys. In other words, they are the ancestors of Çatalhöyük.
The people of Boncuklu Höyük, like those of Çatalhöyük, did not have a completely settled lifestyle. According to Baind the descendants of that community might have migrated to Çatalhöyük, where they formed an early settlement, developing agriculture and raising stock.
Çatalhöyük, c. 7500 - 5700 BC
Çatal Höyük (çatal is Turkish for “fork”, höyük for “mound”) was a very large Neolithic and Chalcolithic settlement in southern Anatolia, which existed from approximately 7500 B.C. to 5700 B.C. It is the largest and best-preserved Neolithic site found to date. In July 2012, it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Catal Huyuk was one of the world’s first towns and its ruins demonstrate the agricultural techniques of some of the human race’s first farmers. This settlement, located in the present day country of Turkey, contained about 1,000 residences by the year 6,000 B.C. It sat at the northern end of what was apparently a trade route between itself and the city of Jericho. Here men and women tried to survive using the earliest farming methods known to our ancestors.
A proto-city is a large village or town of the Neolithic such as Jericho and Çatalhöyük, and also any prehistoric settlement which has both rural and urban features. A proto-city is distinguished from a true city in that it lacks planning and centralized rule. For example, Jericho evidently had a class system, but no roads, while Çatalhöyük apparently lacked social stratification. This is what distinguishes them from the first city-states of the early Mesopotamian cities in the 4th millennium B.C.Prehistoric Egypt and the Ubaid period of Sumer featured what some call proto-cities. The break from these later mentioned settlements and urban settlements is the emergence of Eridu, the first Sumerian city, in the Uruk period around 4000 BC. A European example of this would be the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture, which dates back to the fourth millennium BC.
The origins of the bull-cult began in the caves of Paleolithic Europe. Cave paintings of the divine bull, like those in Altamira, would continue in a similar form in the shrines of Çatal Hüyük. Depictions of bull-games and bull-leaping first found at Çatal Hüyük would be discovered in Egypt, and become synonymous with the Minoan culture of Crete. The bull would gain prominence in the literary traditions of Mesopotamia in The Epic of Gilgamesh and in Greek mythology through the stories of Theseus and the Minotaur and Zeus and Europa.
Beginning in Sumeria, the bull would be associated with the gods and this practice would continue in Egyptian and Greek culture. In Egyptian culture the bull would reach the pinnacle of its veneration. From the similarities of bull-influenced tomb decorations to the shrines at Çatal Hüyük, to the worship of the Apis bull as the god Ptah, Egypt was the most important center of the bull-cult in the ancient Mediterranean. Bull sacrifice was practiced throughout antiquity and its symbolism was central to Roman Mithraism. The divine bull was a symbol of fertility, the moon, and the gods, but above all a symbol of rebirth and salvation. - Sacred bull
The bull in Anatolia would influence a variety of religious cults in antiquity. From bull jumping in Minoan Crete, to the worship of the Apis bull in Egypt, to the sacrificial portrayal in Roman Mithraism, the bull was an integral part of many diverse and important religious traditions.
In the Ancient Near East the earliest evidence of a bull cult was found at Çatal Hüyük in Anatolia around 7000 BCE. Bull paintings are featured on the northern walls of shrines which are like simulations of caves. There are even early representations of bull-games, specifically bull-leaping. The paintings depicts young acrobats jumping over the backs of bulls. Besides paintings, the shrines also include three-dimensional model bull heads made from plaster. Some bulls are depicted being born of the Goddess indicating a connection between bull and Mother Goddess worship. Actual bull skulls and horns were used to decorate the shrines as well.
The image of goddess and bull, as well as the shoulder, shows that religious beliefs of Catal Huyuka inhabitants were aimed at death and re-birth. Huge cone images point to the practice of excarnation, where other bird cleaning organs choose clean. The first seal that could be used for body and textile decoration was found in Catal Huyuka. Seals bearing the bull figure are particularly common. The movement of people and traders from Catal Huyuka might have brought their religious and ritual activities to the bulls and other areas in the next several thousand years.
In Mesopotamia, the bull was to become a symbol of divinity rather than just an object of cult veneration. For the early Sumerians the bull symbolized divinity and power. Their chief gods Enlil and Enki would be honored as the “Great Bull” in song and ritual, and bulls would occasionally be represented on stamp seals with the gods.
In the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh the bull is represented as Gugalanna, the husband of Ereshkigal the Goddess of the Underworld. He is also called the “Bull of Heaven” and is sent by Anu to kill Gilgamesh and his friend Enkidu after Gilgamesh refuses to marry the goddess Inanna. Gugalanna is represented as an actual bull in the lines “with his first snort cracks opened in the earth and a hundred young men fell down to death”. There is even a bull-games aspect in the passage; “Enkidu dodged aside and leapt on the Bull and seized it by the horns”. Gilgamesh then succeeds in slaying the bull by thrusting his sword in its neck. The Bull of Heaven was not killed in the sacrificial manner by slashing the jugular which may be symbolic of the killing of the Mother goddess, in the form of Innana. This could indicate the rejection of the connection with Goddess worship as found in Çatal Hüyük thousands of years before.
One area where elements of Goddess and bull worship may have continued is Minoan Crete in the second millennium BCE. There is evidence that Crete was first inhabited by migrant peoples from Anatolia and possibly people from Çatal Hüyük. Walter Burkert in Greek Religion states “the finds from the Neolithic town of Çatal Hüyük now make it almost impossible to doubt that the horned symbol which Evans called ‘horns of consecration’ does indeed derive from real bull horns”. Arthur Evans discovered and restored the ‘Palace of Minos’ at Knossos on Crete. The ‘horns of consecration’ are large bull horns on the walls of Knossos that have to come to symbolize the bull-games Cretan culture is famous for. The ‘palatial buildings’ discovered by Evans may actually be religious temples rather than buildings of government administration or a king’s palace. Cretan religious practices may have its roots in the Goddess cult from Anatolia as the evidence suggests the establishment was predominantly female.
Besides the earliest depiction of bull-games at Çatal Hüyük, bull-leaping paintings have been found in Egypt at Tell el-Daba’a, the ancient city of Avaris. The culture synonymous with bull-games is undeniably Crete in the second millennium BCE. The earliest representation of bull-leaping on Crete is from a pottery figure dated to circa 2000 BCE which depicts small humans holding the bull’s horns. The wall decorations at Knossos show human figures, some women dressed as men, gracefully jumping and performing acrobatic feats over the backs of the bull. Other representations depict wrestling with the bull and images of unfortunate bull-leapers being thrown, trampled or gored by the bull’s horns.
The bull was commonly the symbol and depiction of ancient Near Eastern storm gods, hence Taurus the bull, and hence the name of the mountains. The moutains are a place of many ancient storm-god temples. Torrential thunderstorms in these mountains were deemed by the ancient Syrians to be the work of the storm-god Adad to make the Tigris and Euphrates rivers rise and flood and thereby fertilise their land. The Hurrians, probably originators of the various storm-gods of the ancient Near East, were a people whom modern scholars place in the Taurus Mountains at their probable earliest origins.
Hacilar, 7040 BC
Hacilar is an early human settlement in southwestern Turkey, 25 km southwest of present day Burdur. It has been dated back 7040 BC at its earliest stage of development. Archaeological remains indicate that the site was abandoned and reoccupied on more than one occasion in its history.
Female figurine Çatalhöyük & Hacilar
The earliest evidence of religious beliefs has come to light at the mound of Çatal Hüyük, to the south of modern Konya. Here in four seasons of excavations (1961–65), James Mellaart discovered remains of a Neolithic village of mud-brick houses, many of which could be identified as shrines. They are dated by radiocarbon to about 6500–5800 bc (calculated with a half-life of 5,730 years). Huge figures of goddesses in the posture of giving birth, leopards, and the heads of bulls and rams are modeled in high relief on the walls of some of these shrines. Others contain frescoes showing elaborate scenes such as the hunting of deer and aurochs, or vultures devouring headless human corpses. A series of stone and terra-cotta statuettes found in these shrines represent a female figure, sometimes accompanied by leopards and, from the earlier levels of excavation, a male either bearded and seated on a bull or youthful and riding a leopard. The main deity of these Neolithic people was evidently a goddess, a mistress of animals, with whom were associated both a son and a consort. Her character is vividly shown by a schist plaque carved to represent two scenes, a sacred marriage and a mother with child. The dead appear to have been excarnated in a mortuary outside the village by exposure to vultures, as shown in the painting, before being buried under the platforms in the houses.
At Hacilar, near Lake Burdur, a somewhat later culture was unearthed by the same excavator, and here again were found statuettes of goddesses associated with felines; but, as in the later levels at Çatal Hüyük, the son or consort is absent.
Entirely different and far removed in time and place are the discoveries at Alaca Hüyük and Horoztepe in northern Anatolia. Here, dating from the latter half of the 3rd millennium bc (c. 2400–2200), were found royal tombs richly furnished with artifacts in bronze and precious metals. Beside the heads of skeletons lay female figurines; one such figure found in a grave at Horoztepe represents a mother nursing her child. Many of the objects found in these graves must have had ritual significance. At Horoztepe a bronze sistrum, or rattle, was found. But the outstanding feature of the graves at both sites is the occurrence of bronze standards, which may have been carried on poles. They are openwork objects of circular or occasionally rhomboid form and are adorned with figures of animals (bulls, stags, and, in one instance, felines), birds, flowers, and swastikas and other geometric patterns. Other standards, consisting of simple statuettes of stags or bulls, also occur.
Hattian religion traces back to the Stone Age. It involved worship of the earth, which is personified as a mother goddess; the Hattians honored the mother goddess to ensure their crops and their own well-being.The Hattian pantheon of gods included the storm-god Taru (represented by a bull), the sun-goddess Furušemu or Wurunšemu (represented by a leopard), and a number of other elemental gods. Reliefs in Çatal Hüyük show a female figure giving birth to a bull, i.e. the mother-goddess Kattahha (or Hannahanna) was mother to the storm-god Taru.
Later on the Hittites subsumed much of the Hattian pantheon into their own religious beliefs. James Mellaart has proposed that the indigenous Anatolian religion revolved around a water-from-the-earth concept. Pictorial and written sources show that the deity of paramount importance to the inhabitants of Anatolia was the terrestrial water-god. Many gods are connected with the earth and water. In Hittite cuneiform, the terrestrial water god is generally represented with dIM. The storm gods of Anatolia were written with about one hundred catalogue variants of dU, mostly described as the Stormgod of Hatti or with a city name.
The Hittite legends of Telipinu and the serpentine dragon Illuyanka found their origin in the Hattian civilization.
A number of the Hittite texts concern mythological topics from Sumerian or Hurrian sources. The Telepenus Myth provided in extract form here, however, is one of a group of myths known to modern scholars as "Old Anatolian Myths." These are stories, learned and adapted by the Hittites during the early years of their spread throughout Anatolia, that played various roles in Hittite religious cult. The Telepenus Myth is one of a group of Old Anatolian myths, which modern scholars term "Vanishing God" myths. In these, a deity is offended and stomps off angrily, or is otherwise removed from the world of gods and humans with dire consequences for that world. Telepenus, son of the Hattic Stormgod, was a god of agriculture. His angry departure leaves the divine, human, and, animal world suffering hunger, thirst, and, sterility as described in the extract. The theme of these "Vanishing God" myths is, of course, reminiscent of the Greek myth of Persephone.
The text exists in several copies, the earliest of which follows the writing conventions of the Middle Hittite period, but is probably a copy of an even earlier version. For an English translation, see H. Hoffner, Hittite Myths 2nd. ed. Atlanta, GA, 1998, pp. 14-20. The very beginning of the Telepenus Myth is broken, so the exact cause of the deity's rage is not known. From what can be made out from the surviving fragments, however, the god was angry enough to have put his right shoe on his left foot and vice versa. After the failed feast described in the extract, the gods try various ways of finding Telepenus. The Sungod sends a swift eagle to fly over high mountains and deep valleys to look for him, but the eagle returns without success. Then the Stormgod searches for his son himself, again without luck. Finally, the Mother Goddess, Hannahanna, sends a bee. The little bee, although small and weak finds Telepenus asleep in a meadow and stings him awake. Needless to say, Telepenus is still very angry, but the gods appease him with various offerings in a ceremony that is a model of Hittite ritual practice. At the end of the story Telepenus releases the world from the consequences of his rage and departure, restoring the world to its normal order.
Mist seized the windows. Smoke seized the house. In the hearth the logs were stifled. At the altars the gods were stifled. In the sheepfold the sheep were stifled. In the cow barn the cows were stifled. The ewe rejected her lamb. The cow rejected her calf. But Telepenus had stomped away. He took away barley, fertility(?), growth, luxuriance(?), and abundance. To the steppe, to the meadow, to the swamps he went. Telepenus went to the swamp and hid himself in the swamp. Over him the halenzu-plant grew. Therefore barley and wheat do not ripen. Cows, sheep, and humans do not get pregnant. And those who are already pregnant cannot give birth. The mountains and the trees dried up; and the foliage does not come out. The meadows and springs dried up; and, in the land, famine came to pass. Humans and gods are perishing from hunger. The Great Sun God prepared a feast and invited the Thousand Gods. They ate but were not satiated; they drank but did not quench their thirst.
Although the Hittite political texts may be of greatest interest to us today, religious texts make up far more of the materials left to us. Among these are recordings of the rituals. In contrast with the festivals, which are elaborate celebrations involving the gods, the rituals deal with individual problems, such as the one represented here. They have been referred to as examples of sympathetic magic. They are carried out by qualified persons, who are referred to as Old Women when they are females, as in the Tunnawi ritual. Among their topics, specific rituals deal with birth and development of individuals, removal of deficiencies or evils like the uncleanness that has supposedly brought about the inability of the ritualist to have children. As in this ritual, which involves activity next to a river, there are specific steps that need to be taken to overcome the deficiency. These are elaborated in great detail in the remainder of the ritual, and presumably at the end have succeeded in "purifying the twelve parts of the body of the ritualist and also reestablished his or her generative faculty."
The first passage given here identifies the problem of the ritualist as experiencing uncleanness and then states items of the specific ritual that will lead to a cure. The second passage specifies the animals involved, and then the clothing of a female ritualist. The following paragraph does the same for a male, followed by a list of the ingredients that the Old Woman must take along to the river bank which should remove the "evil uncleanness". Some of these must be given to the spirit of the river, such as part of a thin loaf of bread and a jug of wine, as she collects clay for fashioning objects involved in the cleansing. In the morning the ritualist comes to the river bank, puts on the black clothes, and is subjected to various actions by the Old Woman, such as having objects made from the clay of the river bank passed over him or her, all with appropriate statements by the Old Woman. These are listed in thirty further sections, the last of which provides the assurance of purification as given above.
6 When she arrives at the river bank, she crumbles one thin bread for the Mother Goddess of the River Bank and places it on the river bank. She scatters sweet oil cake and meal on it. She libates wine and she says:
7 "O, Mother Goddess of the River Bank, behold, I have come back to you." "From whatever river bank this clay is taken, take the clay in your hand, scrub the patient with it and purify him or her in his or her twelve body parts." Then she takes clay of the river bank. And, moreover, she goes to the spring. And she crumbles one thin bread, and she takes it -- (namely) the mud of the spring. She scatters sweet oil cake and meal. And she libates wine and says:
8 "Just as you, O, spring, keep bubbling back up from the dark earth, in the same way, for the patient, from his or her limbs remove evil impurity." Then she takes clay of the spring. But while the wise woman is taking these things, meanwhile reed tents have been built previously beside the river. (The scribe:) "Where do they build them?" (The wise woman:) "Where there is no cultivation nearby, where the plow has not come, they build the tents there."
Goddess wearing a beehive as a tiara Hacilar, ancient Turkey. This is the origin on the beehive shaped Mitre of the Cohen Priests.
Queen Bee. The Anatolian Goddess is often shown wearing a beehive as a tiara, most frequently at Hacilar. This is the introduction of a motif that would flourish in historical times. Of all the insects represented in the ancient world, bees are foremost in ritual and symbolic meaning. The Goddess's tiara announces her status as a queen bee and suggests that she streams with honey, a much-revered substance in ancient times.
Bees also represent birth, death, and reincarnation. Bees have an acute sense of time. They appear to use their internal circadian clocks in conjunction with the Sun's position in the sky to navigate. Because their time memory is so advanced, they can be trained to appear at certain times of the day for feeding. An individual bee within the hive an communicate the location and richness of a newly discovered food source by dancing and drumming with its wings. The queen bee, deep in the hive, lays up to two thouand eggs a day, but only a few male drone mate with the queen - and just once, since the sexual act ends in his death. All these properties are echoed in historical rituals and mythologies.
Bees and Bulls
One clue most of us know is the bible and other holy books scribing about how "the Lord promises to bring the Israelites out of Egypt and into a land flowing with milk and honey" described as a mythical utopia; symbolic of the image of the Mother Goddess, the Bee Goddess?
Milk of the cattle, honey of the bees.
Some more clues have come from Catal Huyuk, an ancient town or city in southern Turkey, that was first discovered in 1958 and later dated as being of around 6500 BC, over 8500 years ago. This is regarded as the oldest find of a truly farming and craft based culture. Catal Huyuk is the only ancient place discovered so far that features images of a Mother Goddess, Bull and Bees together. However, this is about 2500 years before the Age of Taurus time, in fact toward the end of Age Of Cancer.
Huge statues from the Assyrian cities of Nimrud, now in today's Iraq, and Persepolis , now in today's Iran, appear to have evolved the Sumerian 'winged tradition' by transforming bees into bulls with wings.
It is said that ancient Assyrians believed that when Bees were found on the carcasses of dead bulls this represented a sacred regeneration of souls. Their art included placing a Beehive in the head of a bull as a sign of some kind of soul purification, but this interpretation is vague..
This developed into a belief that Bees were born from Sacred Bulls that became a leading belief in Egypt that spread through Mediterranean cultures, on both sides of the Mediterranean through to what is now Spain and transformed into its bullfighting tradition.
Was bullfighting related to an encouragement to release the Bees within the Sacred Bulls they fought or for the Bulls to attract the Sacred Bees.
I somehow feel all this is are fragments of tradition and wisdom from the Bee Goddess reverence Age of Taurus.
It is worth considering how Bull Fights were an important part of Erin Mythology. The well known epic, The Tain, is completed with a bullring fight between the Brown Bull of Cooley and White Bull of Achill, and the Bull Ring rath is still visible there at Rathcroghan, Co. Roscommon.
Lesser known, and only slightly visible now, is the ancient bullring by the stone circle of Castleruddery in Co. Wicklow but I do not personally know of stories from there. Nearby is evidence of a settlement that is said to be the second oldest known in all of Erin.
To me this is another indication of Minoan and Sumerian Ways arriving in Ancient Erin. Even the words Iran, of the Sumarians, and Erin are said to come from the same word, but that is another feature for another time.
From Mother Bee to Mother Goddess
The Mother Goddess image manifesting from the life of a Queen Bee is an interesting speculation.
Bees are a true matriarchal society and this seems to be a perfect example than many of the Goddess pilgrims that visit Erin seem to see..
The Queen Bee is the mother of all bees in the hive. Her power is absolute and she can be fierce.
A Queen Bee grows in a pouch while worker and drone Bees grow in six sided honeycomb cells. The Queen Bee grows in16 days while the rest of the bees take about 21 days.
While growing and as an adult the Queen is fed "royal jelly", a high protein substance produced from the heads of Worker Bees.
The Queen Bee, in the hive, fights to be the sole queen, the sole mate to all male drone bees present and will aim to kill all female queen competitors in her way. To do this, unlike all other bees, she can sting repeatedly without dying herself..
Surprisingly the life of the Queen Bee has not manifested itself into mythology stories of Brighid, that I am aware of, but it certainly fits close to the stories of lusty Queen Maeve of Connaught. Maeve, the lusty queen taking on the attention of many male pursuers and disposing of them too.
Maeve the queen who sent many men out on quests including the fetching of the Brown Bull of Cooley, another link in mythology to the symbolism of Bulls and Bees.
The Dance of the Bee Goddess
Bees are the only insect that communicates through dance. When bees find a new food source, that is too far away to be smelled or seen, they go back to the hive and dance.
Their dance tells the other bees both the direction and how far away the food source are. The dance is complex and seemingly too inspired to be a life feature that evolved.
The scout bee dances on the honeycomb in the hive. The other bees then follows the dancer and imitate her movements precicly, because all worker bees are female. The bees also take in and memorize the fragrance of the pollen in the nectar.
If the food source is within about 50 meters of the hive, the scout bee bee does a circular dance on the honeycomb.
If the food source is further away the scout bee does a figure of eight dance, known as a "waggle dance".
The direction and angle the dancing bee cuts across the diameter of the circle also reveals the direction of the food.
In ancient times, especially through the Age of Taurus, it appears that the dancing of Bees was inspiring, special, sacred especially when visioned with the Queen Bee being central to all movement by the bees.
The "dancing Bees" would have been an imagery to impersonate dancing around the Queen Bee of all life, the Mother Goddess the connecting spirit of us all and all life that is seeded, born, grows and matures. The Goddess Queen Bee of plants, trees, insects, fish, reptiles, mammals and ourselves, the humans.
I believe this is the origin of several ritual dances and folk dramas that have evolved, and still performed today, to celebrate and promote fertility and nature's abundance.
Wherever the bloodline families have been, they have carried the teachings of the Bee Goddess, the Divine Feminine is denied by so many, yet strong in the hearts of the TRUE bloodline families.
Bees, like all insects that spin cocoons or weave webs, serve as images of the miraculous interconnectedness of life. The intricate cellular structure that secretes the golden essence of life is an image of the network of invisible nature that relates all things to each other in an ordered harmonious pattern. Perhaps this is the meaning of the tale in which the infant Zeus is fed on honey in Crete, and why honey was the nectar of the gods. Furthermore, the busy bee, following the impulsion of its nature to pollinate the flowers and gather their nectar to be transformed into honey, was an example of the continual activity required of human beings to gather the crops and transform them into food. The queen bee, whom all the others serve during their brief lives, was, in the Neolithic, an epiphany of the Goddess herself.
For a watchful eye, the relationship between the queen bee and the Goddess and her Priestesses, dressed as bees must have seemed irresistible, and in Minoan Crete 4,000 years later the Goddess and her Priestesses, dressed as bees, are shown dancing together on a golden seal found buried with the dead. In Crete also the bee signified the life that comes from death, as did the scarab in Egypt. Probably for this reason, the gold ring seal was placed in a tomb. Here the bee Goddess, the figure in the centre descending to earth among snakes and lilies, is being worshipped by her Priestesses, who, characteristically, take the same form as she does, all raising their ‘hands’ in the typical gesture of epiphany. Honey was used to embalm and preserve the bodies of the dead.
Honey also played a central part in the New Year rituals of the Minoans. The Cretan New Year began at the summer solstice, when the heat was at its greatest, and 20th July was the day when the great star Sirius rose in conjunction with the Sun, as it did also in Sumeria and Egypt. In these two other countries Sirius was explicitly the star of the Goddess (Innana in Sumeria, and Isis in Egypt), and Minoan temple-palaces in Crete were orientated to this star. The rising of Sirius ended a 40-day ritual during which honey was gathered from the hives of the bees in the darkness of the caves and the woods. The honey was then fermented into mead and drunk as an intoxicating liquor, accompanying the ecstatic rites that may have celebrated the return of the daughter of the Goddess as the beginning of the new year – as, perhaps in the seal of the double axe.
All these rites are present in the classical Greek myths of Dionysos, himself originating in Crete and called the Bull God. A bull was sacrificed with the rising of the star Sirius, and the bees were seen as the resurrected form of the dead bull and also as the souls of the dead. This festival for the rising of Sirius that initiated the New Year was thereby raised to the level of a myth of 'zoe' (indestructible life):the awakening of bees from a dead animal.
This intense drama of epiphany suggests that, as well as these connotations, the humming of the bee was actually heard as the voice of the Goddess, the sound of creation. Virgil, for instance, describing the noise of howling and clashing made to attract swarming bees, says: They clash the cymbals of the Great-Mother.
Knosis Crete 1500 BCE. The importance of bee-keeping to the Minoans is documented in the Linear A hieroglyphs, where there are already drawings of actual beehives, testifying to a long history probably going back to the Neolithic era. The onyx gem from Knossos shows the Bee Goddess bearing upon her head the bull’s horns with the double axe inside their curve. The dogs – later the dogs of the underworld belonging to Hecate and Artemis – are winged and flying so close to the Goddess that their wings, at first glance, appear as hers.
The tombs at Mycenae were shaped as beehives, as was the omphalos at Delphi in Classical Greece, where Apollo ruled with his chief oracular Priestess, the Pythia, who was called the Delphic Bee.
In the Greek Homeric Hymn to Hermes written down in the eighth century BC, the God Apollo speaks of three female seers as three bees or bee-maidens, who like himself, practiced divination:
There are some Fates sisters born, maidens three of them, adorned with swift wings.
Their heads are sprinkled over with white barley meal, while they make their homes under the cliffs of Parnassus.
They taught divination far off from me, the art I used to practise round my cattle while still a boy.
These sacred bee-maidens with their gift of prophecy, were to be Apollo’s gift to Hermes, the God who alone could lead the souls of the dead out of life and sometimes back again. The etymology of the word ‘fate’ in Greek offers a fascinating example of how the genius of the Minoan vision entered the Greek language, often visibly, as well as informing its stories of Goddesses and Gods. The Greek word for ‘fate’, ‘death’ and ‘Goddess of death’ is e ker (feminine); the word for’heart’ and ‘breast’ is to ker (neuter); while the word for ‘honeycomb’ is to kerion (neuter). The common root ker links the ideas fo the honeycomb, Goddess, death, fate and the human heart, a nexus of meanings that is illumined if we know that the Goddess was once imagined as a bee.
Text from The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image by Anne Baring & Jules Cashford.
Birds of the Muses "Bees have an ancient reputation as the bringers of order, and their hives served as models for organizing temples in many Mediterranean cultures. Priestesses at Cybele's temples in Asia Minor, Greece, and Rome were called Melissai or Melissae, the Greek and Latin words for bees. These Priestesses were often prophets or oracles who entered an ecstatic trance enduced by preparations that included ingesting honey. (The Greek word for this state of transfigured consciousness is enthusiasmos -- 'within is a god" -- the root of our word enthusiasm.) Bees, familiars of the Goddess since Catal Huyuk, appear frequently in classical mythology. They are called the "Birds of the Muses" and are attracted to the heavenly fragrances of flowers, from which they make the divine nectar, honey. Honey is antibacterial, and its mildly laxative properties and sweet taste made it a primary ingredient in ancient medicines. It was widely believed to be a source of divine nourishment. In the myths of the ancient world, honey often nourished a divine child raised in secret by a Goddess in the depth of caves. " Quoted from When the Drummers were Women by Layne Redmond.
Signs of her worship are evident in the Mediterranean cultures of around 3,000 years ago at the temples of Artemis. She is one of the oldest and most popular aspects of the Divine Feminine. Born on the Greek Island of Delos, Artemis was sister of Apollo and daughter to Zeus and Leto. When she was a young girl, her father, Zeus, asked her what was her dream? She answered that she wished to never have to marry a man and to always be free to roam in the wild forest. Artemis was known as a patron of young virgins, and a powerful protectress of the natural world of fertility. As with other early Goddesses, ceremonies to invoke Artemis were held in groves of trees, at places of special rock outcroppings, at sacred sites along rivers or at quiet springs. Ironically, Artemis's blessings were eventually cultivated at exquisite temple sites constructed throughout the Mediterranean region.
Artemis was and is to be known as one of the most powerful mistresses of magic. She's allowing us to feed our imaginations with many possibilities, all of which are symbols of fertility that can suit our needs. The breast-like objects growing out of Artemis' chest look very much like bees eggs!
The Priestesses of historical descendants of the ancient Bee Goddess -- Demeter, Rhea, Cyble -- were called Melissae, the ancient Latin word for bees. The Bible mentions a ruler and prophetess of ancient Israel called Deborah, the "Queen Bee", her Priestesses were known as Deborahs as well. Some say that the Priestesses of the Moon Goddess were called bees because 'it was believed that all honey came from the Moon, the hive whose bees were the stars.
Melissa, the Goddess as Queen Bee, taught mortals how to ferment honey into mead. In the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, the Melissai feed on honey and are inspired "to speak the truth". These traditions made the omphalos the place of sacred utterance -- the oracular power associated with the buzzing of bees and the buzzing vibration of life. . . . .
The Omphalos is shaped like a bee hive. Paphos, Greece, the site of Aphrodite's tomb, was known as the navel of the Earth. The Greek word for navel -- omphalos -- also refers to the sacred stone found in temples or shrines. Symbolically, the omphalos brought together a number of important spiritual concepts. The heart-seat of the great Earth Mother was the very centre of the navel of the world. The navel cord connects the foetus with outer and inner worlds, and is the source of nourishment until it is time for birth. Similarly, Aphrodite's temple was the place where initiates were nourished and birthed into higher planes of consciousness.
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