Our Goddess Heritage

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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The Strettweg Chariot

Perhaps one of the most intriguing ancient items that I have come across recently is the Strettweg Chariot, sometimes called the Strettweg Wagon. While researching the pre-Christian chariot burial of an ancient woman for my first blog post, I found this unique vehicle. The central figure is female; she towers over those assembled around her. The true meaning of this item is lost to time, but that won't stop us from discussing the tantalizing possibilities that the Strettweg Chariot offers up to the mind.

Highlighting the history of women and our connection to feminine concepts of Deity is the central purpose of this blog. While I won't always focus on items from the ancient past, recovering the role that women and Goddesses have played throughout time often means turning to the pre-Christian era. That is the time period that this artifact hails from. The Strettweg Chariot rested in a grave of cremated ashes for over 2,500 years. It was buried sometime in the 7th Century B.C.E. in what is now Austria and has come back into human hands to proclaim its mysteries.

One of those mysteries is the potential symbolic meaning of the figures depicted. At each corner of the chariot is a wheel that has eight cleanly crafted spokes. There are two creatures that resemble stags and four horses. What appears to be animal heads, perhaps deer, are featured at the front on one side of the frame. Twelve human figures surround the tall female. The twelve appear to be naked, but the central female is wearing a belt. Wheels, deer, twelve naked figures with one woman leading the center, my mind immediately wants to draw wild comparisons to modern Pagan practice. I will mention it out of interest, but I won't go as far as to make that claim because to really know the symbolic meaning we have to try to discover what these things meant to the culture that produced the Strettweg Chariot.

For my purposes, I want to concentrate on the woman at the center of it all. She is over a foot tall (32 cm). Why? It might be natural to assume the other twelve are small because they are children. However, I hesitate to say that they are because some of them appear to have breasts, while a few others are shown in warrior regalia with shields and helmets. None of my research claims that they aren't adults, but I wanted to explore all of the possibilities. Further proof is shown when we look at the fact that the horses and people are approximately at the right scale for each other. Meanwhile, the woman in the middle grabs our attention. Her height suggests that she may be a Goddess or that her role is important enough to be portrayed in a visual metaphor of power, high above the other figures. I wonder if this the depiction of a priestess or shaman. To further examine this, let's turn our attention to the shallow bowl that she holds aloft

Some researchers believe that the bowl at the top is meant to depict a container for libations. If so, then this may give us a visual record of a ritual to a Goddess headed by a priestess. Intriguingly, this could also be a Goddess bearing the bowl. The design of this bronze sculpture shows Greek influence, and I believe the shallow libation bowl resembles those shown in Greek art. In ancient Greece, the Goddess Hebe was the original cup bearer on Mount Olympus. Finally, it has also been suggested that the Strettweg Chariot was used to hold something, perhaps an offering. In that case, this could have rested on an altar for religious use to contain items or small amounts of liquid.  

To conclude, let us think about this sculpture overall and ask a few questions. Are we looking at a holy relic portraying a positive female spiritual leader? Does the artifact show us a Goddess at work? What meaning does the Strettweg Chariot have for you today?

 

Photo by: Thilo Parg 
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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

  • Phaedra Bonewits
    Phaedra Bonewits Sunday, 21 July 2013

    Interesting that the 12+1 has shown up repeatedly in human mythology, including that guy Jesus and his 12 pals. Much later, before his involvement with the Romanovs, Rasputin was reputed to have participated in a rogue Christian cult in the Russian hinterlands where he played the priest in naked rites with 12 women followers.

    But I have no explanation for the chariot, other than it has a bit of a Steampunk vibe!

  • Emily Mills
    Emily Mills Sunday, 21 July 2013

    Steampunk! Ha. I love it. In that case she's taking a huge dish of oil to lubricate a large set of gears.

    The 12+1 repeated motif is interesting. I feel inspired for a future post.

  • Lisa Sarasohn
    Lisa Sarasohn Monday, 22 July 2013

    I'm loving your posts, Emily! Soul vitamins...

  • Kalyca Schultz
    Kalyca Schultz Saturday, 16 November 2013

    Also brings to mind the World Tree or Atlas, holding the cosmos upon his shoulders.

    Although it could've been used as an offering bowl or other ritual item, I'd say the fact that it's on wheels might make it a bit... wobbly... to trust its steadiness on an altar!

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