(Posted 20 December 2011)

The Book of Genesis speaks about a primeval “Eve” who was “the mother of all living things” (Genesis 3:20).  But where did the Hebrew scribes of the 5th century B.C. (when that passage was written) get that idea from?   R.E. Witt, in his Isis in the Ancient World claimed that the people of Neolithic Anatolia eight thousand years ago worshiped an Isis prototype as the “mother of all living” (Witt, 1971, p. 130).

But that is not the beginning of it.  The further back we look the more we see female fertility figures predominate religious-related archaeological remains.  There may be good reason for this.  Imagine yourself as part of an early hunter-gatherer society.  All of the plants that you depend upon for your sustenance, do they not sprout up from out of the earth?  Does not the new life of members of your tribe sprout from the bellies of your women?


The next step in the process would be to make the obvious connection between the fertility of your women and the fertility of the land that produces your sustenance.  Therefore the earth becomes “Mother Earth.”  Now, the male hunters in our hunter-gatherer group may well have prayed to animal “spirits” such as “deer” spirit or “bear” spirit to aid them in the hunt and to propitiate these deities for having to kill their kinfolk in the real, material world, but all of these animal and nature “spirits” and “deities” are only different aspects of the all embracing “Mother Earth.”  


We can only guess how far back in time those concepts go.  There is some evidence that by the time of late Homo Erectus some 300,000-250,000 years ago, or even earlier, our ancestors were beginning to use ocher and ocher powder for body adornment (Marshack, Alexander, The Roots of Civilization, 1991, p. 20).  This indicates an ability to do some abstract thinking but we don’t know whether this red powder was used for ritual or not.  Neanderthals also began to bury their dead with possible ritual intent by 60,000 years ago (Guilaine, Jean, ed., PREHISTORY: The World of Early Man, 1986, p. 58; Marshack, p. 20; and Rowley-Conwy, Peter, Was There a Neanderthal Religion? in THE FIRST HUMANS: Human Origins and History to 10,000 B.C., 1993, p.70).  


Neanderthals burying their dead with ritual intent would indicate the existence of some sort of religious sentiments and a belief in some sort of life after death—somewhere in the womb/tomb of the “Great Mother.”  Indeed, the concept of the “afterlife” being somewhere in the bowels of the earth continued well into Neo-Babylonian times, and of course it was the female deity Erishkigal who was the guardian of the passages to the “underworld” where departed souls were to spend the rest of their eternity—at least until they could be born again into a new body.  (Erishkigal’s role as guardian of the underworld is depicted more thoroughly in the novel The Last King of Babylon).   www.lastkingofbabylon.com


By 26,000 years ago, during the “Cro-Magnon” age we begin to see the first solid evidence of Mother Goddess worship.  In France, Ukraine, Russia, and other areas of Europe our ancestors began to leave behind figurines of fertility figures carved out of Ivory (Marshack, 1991, pp. 282, 377, 378).   

Near Laussel, France there is a fertility figure dated at 15,000 to 20,000 years ago carved into the overhang of a rock shelter.  In her right hand she is holding a bison horn with thirteen parallel straight lines inscribed on it.  The female figure is overly plump with pendulous breasts—and, just in case some stupid cave man didn’t get the idea that this was a fertility symbol, her left hand rests on her swollen abdomen.  

The bison horn might well stand for fertility in the animals (from which we get our term “horn of plenty”) while at the same time standing for the new moon in its crescent manifestation which in turn stands for re-birth.  


The thirteen straight lines inscribed on the horn stand for the thirteen days of the moon’s growth before the full moon reaches its max, then thirteen days of decline followed by the three days and three nights in the womb/tomb of darkness.  Then after the third day of darkness in the tomb we see the resurrection and the rebirth of the moon, and the cycles start all over again (and obviously by this time mankind had made the association between the moon cycles and the woman’s menstrual cycles).


Marshack believes that this original Mother Goddess figure is the forerunner of the fertility goddesses seen in the Neolithic agricultural communities.  She is the Goddess called the “Mistress of the Animals” and she had a lunar mythology associated with her.  The lunar and fertility symbols associated with our original Mother Goddess included such things as the fish, the angle-signs of water, the vulva, naked breasts, plants, flowers, birds, trees, and snakes.  

Yes, the serpent, in spite of its phallic shape (an aspect of fertility, even though its form is male), was a female fertility symbol and associated with water.  The serpent’s coiling path resembled the twisting courses of rivers.  “The serpent, with its quick and fluid shape and movement, came to symbolize the dynamic power of waters beyond, beneath, and around the earth, and appears in many different mythologies as the creative source or generator of the universe (Barring, Anne, and Jules Cashford, THE MYTH OF THE GODDESS: Evolution of an Image, 1991, p. 64).   

In the Sumerian creation myth, the goddess Nammu, the great serpent of the abyss, gave birth to both earth and the heavens.  In many cultures throughout the world, the serpent with its tail in its mouth represented not only eternity, or the alpha and the omega, but also the primordial waters (or ABZU in Sumerian) that circled the earth as described in the novel The Last King of Babylon.  


The umbilical cord that connects the child to its mother has the form of intertwined double snakes and to this day the intertwined copulating double serpents appear as an image of healing in modern western societies.  The resemblance of the snake to the umbilical cord may also be behind the image of the meandering, twisting, turning nature of the labyrinth which in many mythologies connects this world to the one beyond.  

And, because the snake appears to resurrect itself each year by shedding its skin it became an image of the goddess’s power of renewal, especially her power to restore life to the dead (Barring, 1991, p. 64).   All of these images, then, were thought of as manifestations of the female principle, the great Earth Mother Goddess, the “mother of all living creatures” as Genesis calls her (Gen. 3:20), as was the horn-shaped crescent moon and the crescent shaped horns of bisons and bulls (Marshack, 1991, pp. 334-355).


It is interesting that the Mesopotamians, from the Sumerians down to the Chaldeans and Neo-Babylonians, all thought of the moon as a male deity, as depicted in the novel The Last King of Babylon.  It is also interesting that while our earliest forms of monotheism, at least according to certain feminist and pro-feminist scholars, was this Neolithic “monotheistic Eve” revolving around the concept of “Mother Earth” (Eisler, Riane, THE CHALICE & THE BLADE: Our History, Our Future, 1987, p.21; Stone, Merlin, When God was a Woman, 1976, p. 24; and Gimbutas, Mariya, The Language of the Goddess, throughout; and Gadon, Elinor, The Once and Future Goddess, 1989, throughout),  the Semites (and the Egyptians probably influenced by the Semites) converted the monotheistic concepts from centering on a female life-giving figure to that of a male deity who resided either in the Sun (Shamash, Ra, Amun, Aten, etc.), or up there in heaven (Yahweh, El, Marduk, etc.) somewhere divorced from nature.


Ah, but the great Mother Goddess has the last laugh.  Not only has Christianity retained important symbols of the female deity such as the fish, whose oval shape represents the female vulva, and the trinity, originally representing the triangle of the female crotch, but even Islam, the most male extremist, anti-female religion in the history of the World has retained a veneration of the old female Mother Goddess.  One of the key symbols on most flags of Islam is the crescent moon.  Even though they (the founders of the Islamic religion) may have thought that the symbol came from the Last Babylonian king Nabu Na’id’s moon god (which in a sense it did), it was originally the old fertility symbol of our original Earth Mother Goddess.  


Likewise, our friends the Hebrews, felt compelled to convert the Mother Earth into a male figure they called “Adam” who gave birth to life called “Eve” (please refer to my essay on Adam and Eve for more details on this), in other words, to give the primacy of the male over the female.  However, in the Genesis creation myth, as noted in the previous essay on the matter, they were not entirely able to get away from the idea that “life” is somehow connected with the female figure, and so, once again the Mother Goddess had the last laugh since “Eve,” the personification of “life” in the Hebrew creation myth, was the “mother of all living creatures” (Gen. 3:20) just as was the Neolithic "Eve" mentioned above.  

It is also interesting that in our Hebrew creation myth, “Life,” as personified by “Eve,” came forth out of the earth (the Hebrew meaning of the word “Adam”), just as our Neolithic, Mesolithic, and late Paleolithic ancestors believed, with the only difference being that the writers of the Bible got the gender of “Adam” (the earth) all mixed up.  One might say, then, that from this standpoint “Adam” was a transgendered demi-god.  


As mentioned above, our stone age hunter gatherer ancestors paid homage to animal spirits that they considered to be aspects of the great Earth Mother.  The deer and the bear seemed to be the animals more closely associated with the Mother goddess—the deer perhaps because the deer was their primary source of food and clothing, and the bear because when the bear stands on its hind legs it most closely resembles mankind and may have also been an important food and clothing source.  

The Bear also hibernates in caves, deep in the womb of “Mother Earth,” giving it a special relationship to the great mother, then it also is resurrected, or reborn, each Easter, excuse me, I mean each spring, just as is the rest of Mother Earth’s creations. 

Between 20,000 B.C. and 12,000 B.C., the hunting people of northern Europe began to sacrifice their children to mother deer by weighting them down with stones and throwing them into the water (another fertility symbol) as if mother doe demanded sacrifices each year to strengthen her powers and to be able to create new life (Gimbutas, 1989, p. 113).  Belief that the pregnant doe was mother life-giver persisted in Northern Asia (Siberia) right into the twentieth century.


While the bear was venerated for its massiveness and power, which are generally assumed to be masculine attributes, the female bear was considered to be an ancestress of the people and another form of “mother life-giver.”  We still have many traces of our primeval bear veneration as “mother life-giver” in our cultures.  From the linguistic standpoint, for example, a fertile woman “bears” children.  

In the cave of Acrotiri in Western Crete they still celebrate a festival in February in honor of “Virgin Mary of the Bear.”  In classical times the Greek goddess Artemis was associated with the bear (Gimbutas, 1989, p. 116).  The Ancient Celts had a bear-goddess called Artio (linguistically related to Artemis) who had a major cult at Bern (Bear City).  The early Anglo-Saxons called the bear “Bee-Wolf” because of the bear’s fondness for honey.  

“Bee-Wolf” in turn became “Beowolf” in Anglo-Saxon literature.  One of the Heros of medieval German legends was a Dietrich vone Berne, or Dietrich from “Bear City.”  This hero is usually associated with the Ostrogothic king Theodoric the Great of “Verona” (another derivative of “Bear”).  Theodoric is Latin for Dietrich, and Theodoric in English became Theodore and then “Teddy,” and of course “Teddy Bears” have always been among the favorite toys of children in the Western World (Campbell, Joseph, Historical Atlas of World Mythology, vol. I:  The Way of the Animal Powers, part 2:  Mythologies of the Great Hunt, 1988, pp. 154-155).


One of the most bizarre manifestations of Bear veneration in our “monotheistic” Judeo-Christian culture occurs in II Kings 2:23-25.  The prophet Elisha had just inherited the Mantle of prophethood from Eliyah (who then promptly ascended to heaven in a “fiery chariot and a whirlwind”) and after performing a couple of miracles himself he went on his way towards a town by the name of Bayt-El.  

A group of little children came forth from out of the city and mocked him about Eliyah’s recent ascension to heaven in a ‘fiery chariot,” which apparently a lot of people did not believe for some strange reason (obviously if such an event had actually occurred, everyone in the country, much less the local neighborhood, would have heard it and seen it).  

At any rate, the children teased him by saying:  “go up, thou bald head, go up, thou bald head.”  This ticked Elisha off big time so he cursed them in the name of the Lord, and wouldn’t you just know it, lo and behold, two she-bears came forth out of the woods and tore to pieces forty-two of the children.  (Perhaps echos of the Neolithic North European custom of sacrificing children to Mother life-giver in the water?).


Mother Bear the life-giver, was a stand-in for Mother Earth, as was Mother Doe.  As mentioned above, the earliest archaeological evidences we have of the veneration of deity by mankind was in Northern Europe and was directed towards the Bear, and then later Mother Doe—both of whom where manifestations of Mother Earth.  

And, all of this is why feminist and pro-feminists scholars have come to believe that mankind’s first religions were monotheistic and based on the Mother Earth female principle.  Based on the available archaeological evidence this is quite logical—logical but probably not correct.  At the very least it is an over simplification.  Somewhere along the way—and it must have been very, very early, perhaps way back into the early Paleolithic—people must have begun to also develop mythologies based on Male Sky Gods.  Consider the following from Jane Goodall’s field observations from Africa:


“It had been gray and overcast all morning, with thunder growling in the distance.  At about noon the first heavy drops of rain began to fall.  The chimpanzees climbed out of the tree and one after the other plodded up the steep grassy slope toward the open ridge at the top.  There were seven adult males in the group, including Goliath and David Greybeard, several females, and a few youngsters.  As they reached the ridge the chimpanzees paused.  

“At that moment the storm broke (wide open).  The rain was torrential, and the sudden clap of thunder, right overhead, made me jump.  As if this were a signal, one of the big males stood upright and as he swayed and swaggered rhythmically from foot to foot I could just (barely?) hear the rising crescendo of his pant-hoots above the beating of the rain.  Then he charged off, flat-out down the slope toward the trees he had just left.  He ran some thirty yards, and then, swinging round the trunk of a small tree to break his headlong rush, (he) leaped into the low branches and sat motionless.”


“Almost at once two other males charged after him.  One broke off a low branch from a tree as he ran and brandished it in the air before hurling it ahead of him.  The other, as he reached the end of his run, stood upright and rhythmically swayed the branches of a tree back and forth before seizing a huge branch and dragging it farther down the slope.  A fourth male, as he too charged, leaped into a tree and, almost without breaking his speed, tore off a large branch, leaped with it to the ground, and continued down the slope.  As the last two males called (out) and charged down, so the one who had started the whole performance climbed from his tree and began plodding up the slope again.”


“The others (males), who had also climbed into trees near the bottom of the slope, followed suit.  When they (all) reached the ridge, they started charging down all over again, one after the other, with equal vigor.

“The females and youngsters had climbed into trees near the top of the rise as soon as the displays had begun, and there they remained watching throughout the whole performance.  As the males charged down and plodded back up, so the rain fell harder, jagged forks of brilliant flares of lightning lit the leaden sky, and the crashing of the thunder seemed to shake the very mountains.

“. . . .with a display of strength and vigor such as this, primitive man himself might have challenged the elements.

“Twenty minutes from the start of the performance the last of the males plodded back up the slope for the last time.  The females and the youngsters climbed down from their trees and the whole group moved over the crest of the ridge.  One male paused, and with his hand on a tree trunk, looked back—the actor taking his final curtain.  Then he too vanished over the ridge” (Goodall, Jane, In The Shadow of Man, 1971, pp. 52-54).


As Jane Goodall noted, earliest man must have responded to the unfathomable forces of nature in much the same way as her chimpanzees.  It is doubtful that the chimpanzees are thinking of deity when they do their rain dances—in fact they rarely put on such a well-choreographed performance as the one quoted above.  Nevertheless, it is apparent that the build up of the storm, the noise of the thunder, the awesome frightfulness of the lightning, and the rising ozone levels certainly stimulated their emotions and fueled the secretion of testosterone.  

And, though they don’t always go through the complicated routine mentioned above, they always do perform some sort of display at the onset of heavy rain.  A sudden burst of strong wind can also touch off brief displays (Goodall, Jane, The Chimpanzees of Gombe, 1996, p. 335).  

From this standpoint it does not take much imagination to visualize early man ritualizing a display such as the one above so that it became a regular, rather than random, occurrence.  From there, from the standpoint of ritual, it is only a small step to deifying these unfathomable forces of nature that seem to crop up now and then as if they had a mind of their own.


There is no way of knowing for sure whether deification of the forces of nature that come from the sky such as thunder, lightning, rain, and wind came first, or the deification of Mother Earth and its life-giving powers.  However, based on the sudden appearances of the forces from the sky, as opposed to the more gradual expression of Mother Earth’s creative powers, and judging by the reactions of Jane Goodall’s chimpanzees to these natural forces from the sky, my gut feeling is that mankind’s first gods were Sky gods rather than Earth Mother goddesses, in contrast to the interpretations of Godon, Gimbutas, et all.  

In this regard consider that near the equator, where mankind first evolved, vegetation does not die seasonally like it does in the more northern climates.  The plant life that the chimpanzees, and their cousins the early hominids, depended upon was there 24/7 year around.  Therefore there was nothing mysterious about them.  


However, weather phenomena such as wind, lightning, thunder, and rain are not around 24/7.  Therefore their sudden, and seemingly random, appearances are mysterious.  These are things that come from outside one’s everyday world and affect one’s life in a very profound way—not to mention causing the hormones (particularly adrenaline and testosterone) to flow in abundance.  

The randomness of these elements of nature makes it seem like they have a mind of their own—even though you can’t see where they are coming from.  The seeming randomness and vigor of these natural phenomena make them seem animate—yet the invisibility of their origins made them mysterious and outside the realm of what passed for mankind during the late Pleistocene.  All of this is what would have made them (these forces of nature from the sky) deities as soon as mankind, or his hominid ancestors, were capable of conceiving “deity.”


Once mankind began to think abstractly about some sort of spiritual world, a world completely unseen by mankind, that controlled and/or caused such things as the lightning, thunder, rain, and wind, and once he had moved out into more northerly climates where the vegetation did in fact die every winter, only to be reborn in the spring, it would not be long before he would apply the same “pseudo-religious” reasoning to such things as the power of the Earth to produce life (and to “resurrect” life each spring), the power of women to produce life, and then connect the two so that Mother Earth becomes the mother of us all.  

Connecting the idea of the fertility of women with their menstrual cycles and then women’s menstrual cycles with the phases of the moon, and then deifying all of that, was a process that I believe came relatively late in our cultural evolution and is a concept far removed from primitive ape-man creatures hooting and shaking branches at the thunder and lightning expressing their awe at the power of unseen forces in the sky.


To sum up then, in my view based on the above evidence, mankind’s first deities were sky gods representing the mysterious natural forces, rather than Earth Mother fertility goddesses.  The sky deities would have been male, if gendered at all, because of the testosterone-fueled displays of strength and energy these forces stimulated.  The belief in deities living in the sky, or up in the heavens, would have been reinforced by the mysterious appearance of lights in the sky (sun, moon, stars, etc.).  

The idea of the heavens as an abode for the “gods” would then have been further reinforced when mankind’s habitat in East Africa became more savanna-like and less covered with forest canopy.  Then, the deserts of the Middle East where the stars virtually jump out at you at night would have made the concept of “sky gods” the only game in town.  Only when mankind moved into more northerly latitudes where seasonal changes are more pronounced did he begin to deify fertility, the earth’s seasonal changes, and the concepts of “resurrection.”

I hate to say this, but for the sake of the new-agers out there Mankind’s belief in “sky gods” did not come about because he/she/they witnessed aliens arriving in space ships, but simply because the mysterious forces of nature that he was most impressed with during the earliest stages of his evolution from ape-hood “resided” in the sky.  (In that regard please refer to the essays on the construction of the pyramids and the Ziggurats).  

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 What if an ancient table was discovered that undermined the foundations of both Christianity and Islam while giving instructions for re-awakening an older god, a god who exacts frightful revenge while promising a utopia of eternal life, peace, and vast knowledge—in return for absolute devotion and loss of free will?

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 Highly original thriller by author with richly relevant background 

This thriller has movie written all over it. An ancient tablet is discovered that undercuts the foundations of both Christianity and Islam. That in itself is a gripping and original idea: imagine such a discovery in today's world, which in fact is the story's setting. But there's more. The tablet gives instructions for reawakening an older, vengeful god, who offers all humanity a kind of Faustian bargain: live forever, in peace, enjoying vast knowledge--but only in return for unquestioning devotion and surrender of free will. It's possible to imagine such a thing's happening; it doesn't sound like something beyond the realm of archaeology or related fields of scholarship. This "god" is an artifact buried on the moon by ancient space travelers.

The President of the United States sees himself as a messiah; stages his own fake assassination and, three days later, his resurrection, in order to emerge as the supposed "son" of this newfound "god" on the moon.   Protagonist Matt Nolan and his US intelligence services cohorts have little time in which to find out the secrets of the god/artifact, figure out how to destroy it and find a way to rein in the wildly out-of-control president, with their own survival at stake.  The Jericho Tablet does what a thriller is supposed to do, which in my view is: (1) keep you up all night reading, and then (2) keep you trying to mind-cast the movie.

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The Jericho Tablet is a fast-paced novel that is a genuine page-turner. The author uses his extensive background in archaeology, languages, Middle East cultures, and the NSA to tell a contemporary (although set in 2020) and original story that both entertains and educates. The Jericho Tablet is filled with believable characters and incidents in the USA, Russia, and the Middle East. The ending both surprised and worked for me. The author also deftly interweaves simultaneous events taking place in different locales. The Jericho Tablet has all the ingredients to make a great film.

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Government conspiracies, religious fanatics, ancient myths, global intrigue and science fiction spice this thriller. Barry Webb has used his knowledge of ancient history, near eastern culture and US government agencies to write a fast-moving story that is peopled with believable characters. I was caught up immediately and stayed captive until the end. Recommended reading!

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