Stone Writing’s May

The image above is a painting by Belenus. It depicts the Venus of Willendorf and is entitled: Primordial Venus

Primordial Venus

Venus was the Roman goddess of love and beauty and worshiped originally as a goddess of fertility, both of the human and nature varieties. Her name has been assigned to the small prehistoric figurines that have been found throughout Europe, from western France, to western Russia. They are, essentially, small Paleolithic figurines of women. The age of the Venus figurines covers a time span from 27,000 years ago, to 20,000 years ago. The Venus figurines have been found in many forms, carved in stone, ivory and wood, and also crafted of clay.

One such figurine is the Venus of Willendorf, carved from limestone, and covered with a thick layer of red ochre when found. The figurine was unearthed in Austria, in the township of Willendorf on the left bank of the Danube in 1908.

The entirely preserved figurine is 4 3/8 inches tall and shows a fleshy woman with substantial hips, an ample belly and full breasts. A comparatively big head rests upon small shoulders. The legs are formed naturally, but shortened. The upper arms are close to the sides with the lower arms and hands resting on the breasts; the face is not detailed; and the feet have little detail. On the inclined head is designed a complicated hairstyle made of parallel curls extending to the neck known as cornrows. She is considered an idealization of the female figure.

Due to the fact that infant mortality was very high, it was extremely important to have many children for survival. This would imply that the figurine was probably a fertility symbol. Her genital area appears to have been deliberately emphasized with the labia of the vulva carefully detailed and made clearly visible with the absence of pubic hair. This, combined with her large breasts and the roundness of her stomach, suggests that the purpose of the sculpture is female procreativity and nurture.

The elaborate detail of the hair also indicates great significance. The ancient sculptor would have had to spend considerable time on the hair which is not typical for other statues dating from that time. In prehistoric times healthy hair would have been significant because of its protection from harsh solar radiation. Healthy hair also meant that the person had a diet rich in protein which signified that they were good at hunting and gathering food, both useful traits for survival of the offspring.

Some suggest that her corpulence would represent high status in a hunter-gatherer society, and that beside her obvious fertility she could be an emblem of security and success.

It is interesting to note that the statue’s feet are not shaped in a way which would allow it to stand on its own. This would imply that it was meant to be held, rather than simply looked at. This would form a tactile connection as well as visual one.

For many, the Venus of Willendorf represents the first primordial Mother Goddess, a goddess or female spirit representing the earth as the giver of life; the embodiment of the female principle of fertility. She is also referred to as Gaia, the earth mother. The following is an excerpt from the ancient Greek Homeric Hymns:

“To Earth The Mother Of All

I will sing of well-founded Earth, mother of all, eldest of all beings. She feeds all creatures that are in the world, all that go upon the goodly land, and all that are in the paths of the seas, and all that fly: all these are fed of her store. Through you, O queen, men are blessed in their children and blessed in their harvests, and to you it belongs to give means of life to mortal men and to take it away. Happy is the man whom you delight to honor! He has all things abundantly: his fruitful land is laden with corn, his pastures are covered with cattle, and his house is filled with good things. Such men rule orderly in their cities of fair women: great riches and wealth follow them: their sons exult with ever fresh delight, and their daughters with flower laden hands play and skip merrily over the soft flowers of the field. Thus it is with those whom you honor O holy goddess, bountiful spirit.

Hail, Mother of the gods, wife of starry Heaven; freely bestow upon me for this my song substance that cheers the heart! And now I will remember you and another song also.”

Whether the small statues represent Mother Goddess, Earth Mother, or other embodiments of womanhood, what we can agree on is that the Venus figurines represent a reverence of the female form and all that it entails.


author bio:

Stone Writings May 2006

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Belenus is a pagan artist who loves to travel, photograph, paint, and write. He believes that nature is the greatest gift mankind can share.

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