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This blog seeks to explore the divine feminine by examining the history of women. The analysis of archaeology and history found here is meant to raise questions, not necessarily find answers. In addition, by looking at our female ancestors, we can seek to make connections in our current lives and define ourselves as women in fresh ways.

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Chariots of the Goddess

b2ap3_thumbnail_Emily-Mills_Queen_Boudica_137.jpgWe look to the past to inform the present and to help define ourselves in relationship to those who have gone before us. For women that type of reflection can be clouded by the assumptions made by researchers operating in patriarchal environments. The role of women throughout history was often over-looked or even misinterpreted. This can still happen today, as we all have internal biases inherited from what our cultures teach us. When we think of women in the distant past, what picture forms in our minds? How does that shape how we feel about ourselves as women today?

In reality, the story of women is far richer, varied, and dynamic than we are taught in our schools and in our popular history. Like the Goddesses we read about, or worship, or simply respect, we have played an active part in all facets of human culture. The amazing legacy of women is one that archaeology and history is constantly uncovering.

I like to think of this as looking back in time with the eyes of the Goddess. We can see Her at work throughout history in our female ancestors. Whether in pre-Christian cultures that worshiped Goddesses, or in the divine feminine that still breaks through in Christian history, we can search through the mists and find Her. We do this by examining the lives of the women who came before us.

Let’s start our journey, with an appropriate travelling symbol of the past, the chariot. Chariots may conjure up images of men racing in ancient Greece or men hunting in Egypt, but were women absent from charioting? Let’s look at some famous examples. We know that Queen Boudica drove a chariot against Rome. In addition, the philosopher and mathematician, Hypatia steered her chariot through Alexandria. Goddesses like Freyja and Artemis are depicted as charioteers. We have more evidence of the relationship between women and these vehicles thanks to an Iron Age burial site.

In 2001 the Wetwang chariot burial was discovered in East Yorkshire, England. It proved to be the remains of a woman who died over 2,300 years ago. According to the British Museum this find, located at the top of a hill, included the following:

The body of the woman lay in a crouched position at the south end, with a mirror propped against her legs. Her upper body was covered with joints of a pig, perhaps placed there as food for the Afterlife. The dismantled pieces of a chariot were then placed around her, the box platform carefully positioned so that it covered her body. 1

This woman came from a Celtic tribe and a limited amount of information is known about her, but we can ask questions to think about her life. Any time a body is found with useful goods I think about the sacrifice that accompanies a community giving up something, like a chariot, that had to be made from hand. Who was this woman? She was buried on a hill, perhaps giving her a view of those she left behind. What significance did the mirror play? Did she need it to see herself in death, or was it a tool she used in life, perhaps for scrying? Finally, the presence of the pig bones is interesting because of the important of pigs in Celtic daily life and in spiritual beliefs. Based on her grave goods, I wonder if she was a priestess or spiritual advisor to her village. What do you think this woman could mean to us today?

These are the questions that I will continue to ask as we examine more finds in the future. How does discovering our past help us define ourselves today, especially in spiritual terms? Mother Earth gives up to us our female ancestors, cradled in soil, who whisper to us from beyond death. It is up to us to ask, listen, and tell their stories as best we can.

1 http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/online_tours/britain/the_wetwang_chariot_burial/the_grave.aspx

 

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Emily has a master's degree in literature with a focus on women's history and works as a writing teacher. She is a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids.

Comments

  • Tammye McDuff
    Tammye McDuff Tuesday, 16 July 2013

    I was born to my mother, taught by my grandmothers and birthed by Gaia, she continues to define me.

  • Emily Mills
    Emily Mills Sunday, 21 July 2013

    What a blessing to have that background Tammye. Thank you for sharing about your experience.

  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Tuesday, 23 July 2013

    Thank you for your thoughts and questions. I look forward to hearing the whispering from beyond death that your thoughts and questions stir.

  • Kalyca Schultz
    Kalyca Schultz Saturday, 16 November 2013

    I've never made the connection before that both Freyja and Artemis (another Goddess important to me) are charioteers-- perhaps that is partially why I enjoy driving so much! :)

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