Willendorf has been in the news this week with Facebook banning her image calling it ‘pornographic’, while that decision was reversed our reaction to these ancient female figurines (Venus’s) says volumes to our values. The Woman of Hole Fels – 40,000 BCE
In 2009 when the Woman of Hole Fels was discovered she was met with these headlines:
Even the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna where she is on display has a description which read ‘Early Mother or Pin-Up Girl’
When I hold replica’s of them in my hands I consider the intention, the hours of work that went into their creation, I wonder what intention the maker held and I wonder about the relationship these people had with the world around them. While we will never know for sure the intentions and the reasons for these figurines we do know that some interpretations are life-sustaining while others are life-threatening. There is a danger in interpreting these figurines in a purely sexual context as it results in unintended social consequences such as giving the message that objectification of women is acceptable. It is also ridiculous to try and interpret their meaning while you’re analysis is rooted in today’s mindset.
Gatherers and Hunters
To me, they form part of my own tradition in doll making. I interpret those ancients hands created these figurines in honor of their god – who was female. Ursula Le Guin in discussing Elizabeth Fisher’s work explains that some of the earliest cultural inventions came from women’s inspiration, this gather’s story birthed containers in a sling style, counting sticks used to measure the phases of the moon and the red ochre of handprints in dark cave recesses were predominantly made by women.
The hunter’s story, the one our patriarchal culture glorifies, lies in the hunter hero retelling the story of blood and guts, killing and slaying. When interpreting the practices of both into a modern context the gather’s story is one in which we care for each other, consider everyone’s needs and ensure all are provided for while the hunter’s story extends itself to the raping and killing story which is the dominating narrative in our culture today.
The Facebook censorship of the Woman of Willendorf (although that decision has now been overturned) invites us into this greater story we choose, do you wish to live by the gatherers or the hunter’s story? Willendorf stands powerful (at just 11.1 cm 4.4 inches) to remind us things weren’t always this way. God was female for THOUSANDS of years and cultures were rooted in those life-sustaining values. She stands to remind us that..
This is an excerpt from my essay ‘Radical Doll Making From Willendorf to Today’ – you can read the essay by clicking here