Horse Whisper of Psychology
Categorized in these topics: Baba Yaga Feminine Matrix and Female Culture Interviews and Other Works about Danica Anderson Kolo Trauma Format Social Memory
Posted Sunday, November 18, 2007, 04:14 AM
Maire Mifsud- author of Seven Temple
NO END TO THE RITUALS, AND PILGRIMS WHO
TRAVEL HALFWAY ACROSS THE GLOBE TO
EXPERIENCE A HEALING ENERGY IN MALTA’S
NEOLITHIC TEMPLES. IS THE RE-EMERGING
GODDESS CULTURE A FACET OF NEWAGE
AND FEMINIST FEVER? VICTOR PAUL BORG INVESTIGATES
Steps To Heaven
Sometimes Willow LaMonte takes a handful of seeds, but she never forgets to bring the water that she pours down the libation holes. Another woman used to take menstrual blood for an offering. Others leave candles burning on the altars, or bread or pomegranate, even personal trinkets of sentimental value such as amulets; sometimes a bundle of flowers. To commune with the Goddess in her dreamscape, a young woman once slept on the stone floor at Mnajdra. Even now, with the fence up, the guards still hear the ghosts at night: the clank of clicking china, flickers of candles in a flurry silhouettes of circles of people dancing hypnotically chants of explosive emotion, the sweet narcotic whiff of burning sage.
These days there is no rest for Malta’s Neolithic temples. No end to the rituals, and an increasing number of pilgrims —hundreds if not thousands — travel halfway across the globe to experience the temples.
That experience is the orbit of energy in the temples: divine, infectious, an invisible force that gives meaning to hollow lives. Linda C Eneix, a tour designer for American pilgrims, says: ‘I get a real buzz. I have to get quiet first and wait for it, then it~ like all the molecules in my body start moving faster and something goes zipping up and down and all around.’ Danica Anderson, an American psychotherapist, recounts, ‘When we chanted in the Hypogeum, the voices accentuated the energy and the sound moved through our bodies. In Ggantija I had a flashback of the same feelings I had when I was pregnant.
The energy is not static. It directed Anna Grima’s painting brush like an invisible hand. For Jeni Caruana, another artist, it is a beacon of inspiration. Anderson now harnesses the energy for therapy For LaMonte, the force proved ground shattering: an accident left her hobbling on a stick, but in the temples she’s whisked in the field of orbit; and flinging her stick, she starts to dance in a flutter. Even her friends are startled.
I first heard about the temples’ energy when I took Stephan Remmer, a friend from Berlin, to see Mnajdra. Immediately he mentioned a sacred presence. We sat at the cliff’s edge overlooking Filfia, facing the afternoon corridor of sun. I felt a peaceful presence as subtle as the silky breeze on skin, but was it my imagination? Perhaps the fact that I strained to feel something would create the placebo psychological self-prophesy of actually experiencing the projection of desire. Or perhaps this supposed energy is the hallucination of New Age fever?
So I embarked on a quest to capture the nature of the energy shrouding Malta’s major Neolithic temples. Tens of people I spoke to, especially women and foreigners, speak of its existence. If there is nothing but thin air, can so many people be mad?
From the beginning, the picture promised intrigue. In the Neolithic world, Malta stands out - fourteen major temples and two underground burial hypogea, more shrines in an area half the size of London than the rest of Europe combined.
Some say that Malta was to the Neolithic cultures what Mecca is to Muslims — an ancient pilgrim site. Another theory is that the Neolithic Maltese were, like modern Maltese, steeped in rivalry, so each community attempted to outbuilt the temples of the rivalry communities. A third theory is that Malta lies at the major pathways and intersections of the ley lines — areas of highly-charged electromagnetic energy that traverse certain parts of the globe and connect like tributaries, and that run through all ancient Neolithic sites. Tuned to this cosmic force, the Neolithic peoples built the temples on the points where the force reverberated strongest. The last theory to emerge, purported by Maltese and British archeologists in the December 1993 Scientific American, professes that the temple people, isolated and threatened by dwindling resources, spiraled into an introverted religious obsession.
Numbering some 4,000 in Malta, the temple people were peaceful, resourceful, divine, artistic, intelligent, and for 1,500 years their community blossomed. They were healthy they venerated the earth, and they were tuned to the cosmos: Mnajdra is aligned with the solar equinoxes. The temples are architectural feats even by today’s standards, the smooth finish, corbelling for roofing, the sheer size of the megaliths, the symmetry of the lobed chambers, and all this when tools were made of bones, stones and flint. Ggantija towered sixteen metres high, and its largest stone, weighing 55 tons, would topple a crane that attempts to lift it.
Their art transcends into mystic realms. Think of the sleeping lady infused with metaphor and emotion and the elegantly dramatic shaman’s bundle. Their larger sculptures are a peaceful balance of composition.
Like other Neolithic cultures they worshipped fertility They sacrificed animals and, like LaMonte with her water, poured blood into the earth’s bosom via the libation holes. In their view, life was a cyclical continuum (symbolized by spiral motifs), not simply the linear span between birth and death. In the book The Goddess of Malta, Lady of the Waters and the Earth, the Dutch cultural anthropologist Veronica Veen wrote: ‘They had a cyclical worldview in which everything was in a continuous state of transformation, under the guidance of the Goddess of life, death and rebirth. The changing of the seasons, the phases of the moon, the menstrual cycles of women, the stages of human life, form a true weaving of cyclical symbolism. Change, growth and flowering, death and rebirth are experienced as parts of the same ever on going process."
They painted the temples’ interior and the artifacts with red ochre, the colour of blood —the life stream. To bury their dead, they performed elaborate rituals, placing offerings in their graves and painting the dead with red ochre. In the Hypogeum, some extrapolate, they buried the dead in the crouching position, mimicking the foetus, and pregnant women would then recluse in the graves so the spirit of the dead would infuse them, to be incarnated in the child to be. In one grave at the Xaghra Stone Circle, a dog was buried with its owner —so they would be reborn together.
But the story has a tragic ending. In 2,500BC the temple people disappeared from Malta’s prehistory Archeologists believe that, in a likely period of chronic drought, they destroyed the environment. And their communities collapsed in hunger. Now they have come back to haunt us, entering modern mythology as if they were celestial beings, larger than life, and we feel nostalgic because these people represent an utopia: they are the antithesis of everything that is wrong in the modern world. ‘We can learn a lot from how they lived harmoniously their reverence for life,’ says Willow LaMonte. ‘They were more sophisticated than we can ever realize."
In our cynical and media-weary eyes they have the qualities of gods.
At forty-six, Danica Anderson, an American of Bosnian descent, is a balance of harmony A well-groomed’ petite woman, she sports an inviting smile. Dressed smartly she is sexy, and her elaborate voice exudes confidence. She makes you feel intelligent, and you will like her Her work has taken her to the Balkans, where she counsels war victims.’
Anderson is in Malta to conduct her yearly workshop in the new psychological field of Feminist Archetypal Psychology. When she saw that conventional counseling failed to heal deeply scarred patients, she made the leap to FAP: it employs the archetypal image symbolism of tarot cards and taps collective consciousness. Both lines of inquiry collude in the Neolithic temples, vessels and conductors of evolutionary consciousness. Anderson has become the horse whisperer of psychology.
Anderson believes that the energy in the temples arises from deep within our pool of collective consciousness (in itself another recent theory of evolutionary psychology). Layers of generations using the temples as shrines has build up the energy level to a din — and in the temples, if we are receptive, we activate ancient genetic memories that unleash the quasi cosmic force we experience. This year, Anderson’s workshop called In the Lap of the Goddess brought a clutch made of three pairs of mothers and daughters, including her daughter, and another teenager whose mum is absent. The point of the workshop is to improve the mother-daughter relationship and fortify the women’s confidence.
The girls are teenagers between the ages of 12 and 15, their mothers in their forties. Melanie Thubron and Andrea Benjamin, 15, have the most moving stories. Melanie has deep emotional wounds, and the therapy would blow her scars open. Andrea had attempted suicide and she grew up virtually motherless: her mum’s condition, Multiple Personality Disorder, gave Andrea little hope. She says: ‘I want a mum not a friend.’
I joined the women in Ggantija temples after hours. In the south temple the six women lay on their back, eyes closed. Anderson eased into a meditative monologue, guiding the women’s minds in meditation to dip into their genetic memories and summon the energy.
Writing furiously at first I ignored the subtle waves. Then a tickle crept behind my ears, growing into prickles rippling across the crest of my brain. I could not believe it despite myself. As the tempo pitched, the prickles intensifying urgently I started hearing the voices: there were thousands of them, but they were not discernible — a cacophony of voices submerged underwater I shuddered. Unwittingly I had coaxed the ghosts out of hiding.
Afterwards everyone laid the gifts to be blessed, a helter-skelter of personal belongings and offerings — pomegranates, bread, a crystal prism, an amulet of Medusa, six candlesticks, and a mound of jewellery my watch among them. The women burned the bundles of dried sage and the ceremonial purification began: an explosive chant and then running the smouldering bundle over the trinkets on the scarf, and up and down each other’s body.
Thus purified, we sat on our hunches, and Andrea unsheathed her guitar. She said, ‘Can someone cleanse me from fear?’ At first she strummed tentatively, then she suddenly burst out frantically singing Suicidal Dreams by Silver Chain. Fighting back the tears, I looked up at the sky: the wind had died and now flaky clouds patched the sky as if it was a living organ, the clouds its scales. The earth seemed suspended in vacuous limbo. There were tears trickling down Anderson’s cheeks.
Next, the women formed a circle, hugging one another. The close-knit circle would protect the womb as energy is channeled through the circular container made of seven bodies. The womb supported, the energy flowing, they transferred and locked their hands behind their backs; now leaning back, mimicking a flower opening, so the energy could seep into them. When it was done, seven pairs of hands clasped the blessed loaf of bread and tore it apart in spasms of giggles. We ate raw bread smeared with honey.
Shadowing the group, at times I felt sidelined, even in the way. At one point, Lucia Ulc said, ‘1 am glad there are no men with us.’
On the second day Anderson told me that the women wanted to be left alone that day There was another observer, a woman student here to research her dissertation. Why had they objected to my presence yet accepted, even if coolly the woman student? Some felt the male vibe would taint the feminine divinity they were tapping. As I started to leave, Melanie Thubron stopped me and asked me not to use her name (her name here is fictitious). Her eyes fell on me savagely. I understand that women have suffered thousands of years of veiled slavery But how could I not be disappointed at the way some of them seemed to be unleashing a bitter vendetta against all males? Their grudge against males can’t open the way for reconciliation, it entrenches the battle of the sexes.
Linda C Eneix’s novel, People of the Temples, embodies the male-female dichotomy In the story Malta is home to the Great Mother’s shrines. There are both priests and priestesses, but it’s the High Priestess, whose story it is, and who is incorruptible, that somehow saves some vestiges of the temple culture if not their home. A fellow High Priest is scheming for power, and warring tribes — with male gods — are marching across Europe and dominating the Neolithic cultures, ending their peaceful utopia. To save her peopie from annihilation, the High Priestess prepares them for assimilation so their beliefs and culture would survive covertly until one day in the future (today?) it might be resurrected.
Marija Gimbutas, the person largely responsible for articulating the feminist Goddess culture, read the draft of the novel before she died and charged: ‘Why are there men in the temples?’
Indeed, why do more women than men seem to experience the energy in the temples? Is the energy feminine? And if it is, does that constitute proof that the temple people were a matriarchal society with female gods? Danica Anderson nods affirmation for each question. She says: ‘The only way to the divine is through the feminine, although the feminine has to be partnered with the masculine. If there were more men in the temples, then both sexes would feel the energy equally’ That allegedly matriarchal society has been bandied by feminists as an ally ‘We need to wake up to the fact that patriarchy is not working —look at wars, pollution, violence - while matriarchy [in the Neolithic cultures] worked for thousands of years.’
Proof that the temple people worshipped a Goddess comes from the various intact statues of fat ladies with female traits in their buttocks, thighs, arms. The shape and sheer size of the fat ladies — coupled with the fact that the majority of human images found have female characteristics — demonstrates undisputed proof of a Goddess.
‘Some of the artifacts make me think there was a respect and appreciation for the differences in the sexes without competition,’ says Eneix. ‘At the same time we are looking at a Neolithic culture that was very aware that it was the female of each species which reproduced and fed the young. This idea of an Earth Mother that is providing for all needs is so natural. Little girls have been taught for thousands of years that God is a Father. We’re not supposed to question that, so why wouldn’t it have once worked in reverse? Or why does God have to have gender at all? Every place in the world has at one time or another had a culture which worshipped female divinity and this seems to have been nearly universal in the Neolithic.’
But archeologists insist that we can’t be sure. Most statues have no breasts and no heads, which indicates changeable heads (maybe even animal heads) for different ceremonies. Other statues — with headdresses and pleated skins, and the shaman’s bundle — have male bodily characteristics, but these too are beyond gender, archeologists say Professor Anthony Bonanno, head of the -department of classics and archaeology at the University of Malta, says we can’t jump to conclusions. He sits behind a wide desk and as I walk in he~ meticulously leafing through celebrated British archeologist Cohn Renfrew’s latest book. With patches of silver white hair, well-tanned and handsome, Bonanno exudes an air of scholarly calm. It could have been a matriarchal society’ he says. ‘No one is denying that, but we have to be careful when interpreting archaeological evidence. The fat ladies are more of a concept than realistic representation; they might symbolize a divinity that was female but there is evidence that raises questions. The fat ladies could even be a representation of ancestors who founded society Besides, the double-figure found in the Xaghra Stone Circle could represent motherhood-fatherhood with the baby on their lap.’
For the feminists such cautiousness heeded in the name of open-minded scholarship is the coven resistance of a male-dominated world. Anderson says Cohn Renfrew is ‘sadly outdated’ and that ‘men are very afraid of the feminine.’ The feminists charge that archeology is dominated by men conditioned against the feminine.
Bonanno accepts the male bias in archeology, so I search for his feminine side. He’s soft spoken, sensitive, but he’s also systematically scientific, and he believes in science without a blink — and science has traditionally trumpeted an objective infallibility But there is no such thing as objecuvity Bonanno says We shouldn’t promote a theology like Mana Gimbutas did’.
OUTLINING THE DIFFERENCE
Nowhere are the news as fiercely diametrical as in the temples’s outline. The fat ladies’ outline fit into the temple’s outline like a clay statue in its mould. Hence the extrapolation: the temples were shaped on the image of the Goddess. Veronica Veen, employing cultural symbolism, explained the parallels between the outline and divinity: sliding through the vagina into the womb (incubatory vessel of revered fertility), then into the inner folds of feminine mystic intuition. (Anderson’s therapy follows a similar path.) But at the National Museum of Archaeology it’s John Evans’ theory of outline-evolution from the Zebbug Phase tombs that is presented. A more recent theory is that the tempIes evolved as individual unit chambers. Which is the dominant theory? ‘Interpretations can be varied,’ Bonanno says, ‘but the danger with that theory [the outline modeled on the fat ladiesi is that it is one-track-minded.’
I threw Bonanno another curveball: did chanting tone the Hypogeum walls? Goddess followers have proposed this theory Bonanno laughs, then his face screws as if I had insulted his and my intelligence — ‘You don’t believe that, do you?’ I replied, ‘I don’t know what to believe.’
If the temple people were in tune with nature, why did they overrun Malta’s environment to the point of making it uninhabitable? Feminists reject this interpretation, and argue —as the story in Eneix’s novel — that Neolithic cultures were subdued by Bronze Age people (however, the evidence recovered so far suggests a clear time-line break between the Neolithic and Bronze Age). They also reject the view that the temple people, facing environmental collapse, spiraled into a suicidal religious obsession.
Both factions have well-thought-out arguments for their perspective, but like all historical extrapolations, each view is impossibly slippery On the one hand we have the feminists clutching to the image of a matriarchal culture: there, you hear them saying triumphantly a Goddess culture worked with healthy perfection. And, on the other hand, we have male archeologists whose interpretations are tinted by our fears (cults, religious obsessions, environmental degradation — all raise alarm), and who unwittingly seek a contemporary cultural resonance in their subjects. The theory of environmental collapse to account for lost civilizations has also been proposed for the natives of Easter Island and the Mayas in South America.
Perhaps history, for all its supposed moral objectivity tells more about the present than the past.
Life is not a problem to be solved, it’s a mystery to be lived,’ Anderson puts it.
~We will never know for sure what happened in the temples, and we would defeat our purposes if we drown in the moshpit of arguments. Everyone I spoke to said divinity should transcend gender. What is important is that the temples, over 5,000 years later, remain a source of wonder and inspiration, and we can’t help feeling a sense of modest shame because they remind us of qualities we have lost.
The temples, six of which are World Heritage Sites, have inspired a cultural renaissance. Look at the exhibits in the art exhibition Seven Women — Seven Temples; the mystical and emotional resonance of the abstract evokes the temples dramatically All the seven women artists report the temples’ living energy and their sojourn in the temples redefined their art and inner landscape — forever Now five of the artists are working on another collective temple exhibition. Echoing the comments of the other six, Ebba von Fersen Balzan says: ‘I can’t stop working on the temples: I’m hooked.’
Perhaps no one is as hooked as Willow LaMonte, a 47-year-old American. When she visited Malta in 1993 to see the temples, she was infected. Afterwards she launched the biannual publicarion Goddessing Regenerated. Her publication flies to subscribers in twenty-nine countries. She runs articles about Goddess experiences, arts and arising Goddess issues. It lists upcoming events, and the publication has set a home-base for networking by like-minded people. Goddess culture, she says, is an evolving, living culture not a relic — hence the title, Goddessing instead of Goddess, for forward motion.
To gauge the process of healing, I visited Danica Anderson’s flock on their last night. All were in upbeat, vivacious moods. Melanie Thubron said: ‘the first workshop a year ago, shattered my whole belief system and I went away hating Danica.’ But then she found a semblance of meaning — so she came back for a second round. This time she’s more sure-footed, through she has yet to exhume her one hundred demons.
Referring to Andrea Benjamin’s attempted suicide, Anderson confides, ‘She’s lucky to be alive.’ Is she healing now? I remembered when she lifted the guitar to sing Suicidal Dreams in Ggantija and she hesitated in frozen fear. Then her voice burst, and Anderson cried, while I fought back the tears, and when Benjamin put the guitar down her mouth and hands were quivering with emotion.
She said: ‘Now I feel free.
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