Monday, February 15, 2016

Sacred Shapes

The shapes and designs on Paleolithic European artifacts display an ancient language called Proto Indo-European script. Deciphering the meaning of this script would reveal a significant amount of information about the culture, religion and lives of women in Old Europe. Marija Gimbutas began this process. She deciphered the written designs and shapes on thousands of artifacts in what she titled Old Europe, a civilization from 7500-3500 BCE in Europe and Asia Minor (now Anatolia Turkey.) Some of these designs are circles, spirals, waves, straight lines (bi-lines and tri-lines) and chevrons or v shapes. The similarities in theses shapes around the world are remarkable. One can view ancient Chinese pottery for instance and see similar designs to Old European pottery. Serpentine or spiral designs in particular inspired Gimbutas to theorize an ancient world-wide Goddess worshipping culture. Bird Goddess figurines show x’s, v’s, chevrons, meanders and parallel lines similar to those found 15,000 years earlier on vases and ritual objects serving the Bird Goddess. The cow, bull, ox, crescent and egg symbols belong to the category of regeneration. I am particularly enthralled with these shapes because I recognize that oriental dance, demonstrates these same shapes. I see belly dance as an enactment of an ancient language, a language which Marija Gimbutas called the Language of the Goddess. Belly dance may predate the writing of these shapes on pottery or clay tablets as a form of language. There may be some similarities in the meaning that Marija Gimbutas deciphered and the meaning of similar African shapes, yet I will not assume this in my research. I will approach each culture individually in their interpretation of these sacred shapes. Sacred Shapes of Belly Dance In belly dance the sharp or fire-like movements are the straight lines. These movements are hip twists, hip drops, hip lifts and hip V's, torso slides and head slides. All of these shapes can be made with a dancer's floor pattern as well; for instance one may dance in a straight line, a V shape up and back, in a circle, or a spiral, or in a figure eight shape. Undulations are the soft or fluid movements of the dance. These movements are called figure eights and circles in the belly dance community. The figure eights are actually mimicking the snake and when used as a floor pattern may outline a double spiral. Shimmies or vibrations are the third category of movements and vary in direction by the country of origin. Layering one move on top of another, such as a hip shimmy or vibration and simultaneously moving the hips in a circle create the most complex form of belly dance. All of these movements may be viewed as movements that an actual snake would make. A snake is fluid when it slithers and sharp when it strikes. This movement is intimately connected with child birth. The soft undulating movements of the “camel” and then the pelvic drop or sharp pulling in of the abdomen were utilized in the birthing dance we will experience, witnessed through the renowned bell dancer and teacher Morocco. The sleuthing off of the snake skin has been a symbol of the release of the menstrual lining of women as well. Birds are also symbolized in belly dance. The most obvious example is the use of Isis Wings in modern Egyptian dance. Amel Tafsout also uses a more subtle hand flutter in her Algerian tribal dances. The moon is symbolized repeatedly in belly dance through the numerous circular and crescent shaped moves. There are circles and crescent shapes drawn with the hips, the torso, the head, the hair, the arms and the floor pattern of a dancer. In the menarche and birthing rituals women dance in a full moon shaped circle around the celebrant.


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  2. This is an excerpt form Dance of the Dark Mother a large paper I wrote for The California Institute of integral Studies when I was working on my PhD in women's Spirituality. I quit my PhD when my daughter became very sick.