A short visit to Sumer
I have been studying ritual symbolism for at least twenty years. It is natural that when I fly to the Gwion Gwion I begin to look for ritual attributes and symbols. I do not know the Australian environment and leave to Michael and other Australians to interpret the practical attributes and symbols.What is culture | Invisible things | Gwion Gwion style | Back to first |Next page | links | sitemap | home |
I suppose this is when Inanna got the insignia of agriculture from Enki. This is detail from the Ur-Nammu stele from ca 2000 BC.
In the Sumerian City community agriculture was everyone's business. The high priest or priestess was in stead of the god and idol. The myth was simply the description in poems how to organise agriculture. Part of this was the symbolism and all the insignia and tools used. The leader of the city opened the season by ploughing the first furrow. The Japanese Emperor did it too until our time.
On the picture we see the symbols the Tree of Life, the measuring rod, the stick and the ring. They sit on temple symbols and they have crowns with four horns. Inanna was married to the herd Dumuzi. Observe the tree is a symbol/icon and not a natural picture even when it look like a date-palm. From about Sargon 2350 BC the gods wear flounced dresses.
All were connected to moments in agriculture and they amalgamated it with the herdship and priesthood. Especially in the flooded land they had to measure new land every year. The taxman needed to know how big was the field so that the temple got a part of the harvest. On the border stones they engraved season symbols showing that the field was occupied.
We see the bifurcated branch symbol in many places as for instance in the French caves and shrines on Malta. The logic in the shape is growing. It is logic and can be understood everywhere like many other symbols. It is independent of time.
We have the remains of the ritual year in the religious year. Originally the growers needed rituals to forerun the season and that is why they are in the spring. However mankind have surely used rituals for many kinds of common work. The ritual is a mix of instruction and timetables for the work and of course some fun to get everyone to like the work.
I cannot see that we can use the concept "religion" before Christianity: If we use it we just use our measures on distant things and a different relativity. The best word is perhaps "ritual", since we have it in the old Indo-European concept RTA or "rita" which is root in "ritual". I am mostly practical and look for some purpose behind rituals as I see them in the paintings and other remains. Religion and fundamentalism are for a minor part of mankind I think. That count also for deep spirituality practised by those who want to get paid for making life more mysterious than it is.
In Australia there were no agriculture perhaps because of the environment not suited for agriculture and rich enough to feed the population by other vegetables. Still I think they had other annual or seasonal rituals up to the nature of their environment. The Gwion Gwion images are very organised and almost standardised so we could expect some order or "round" in their collection.
How define culture
My simple definition of the concept culture is that "it is the addition of value to existing culture". The original reference is the day when our ancestors of mankind began to use tools or methods in gathering food and in social life. In scientific sense hunting is just a method of gathering and connected to the male gender. However in some places women have surely been hunters too. In other cases women may have assisted when driving animals to the slaughtering place ... in our male elk hunting they are "useful" as drivers with rattle I think. It was maybe only when hunting dangerous animals that women were forbidden. But when hunting big bevy of reindeer or deer to a trap surely everyone could join the game.
We have also to define the concept value. In real sense it can only be the local preference for physical items or virtual cultural elements. This is up to the theorem of special relativity that we can not measure other than the defined structure with the values given by its users. Value and culture are always depending on people being prepared "to pay the price" and preserve the culture. The value outsiders gives other cultures are mostly a matter of taste with no reference.
Since I am from a totally different culture and another way of defining structures it is easier to say what the Gwion Gwion are not.
The European culture is coloured by this century of wars and our last thousand years of power struggles on every level. So as soon as a European see some weapon on a drawing he is thinking about struggles and big chieftains. We see some weapons in the Gwion Gwion but the gestures are not offensive and we see no falling victims.
We have discussed why the Gwion Gwion culture disappeared. There are many possibilities but it may be as simple as with the Bronze Age culture in Scandinavia. It seems that people did not want to feed an upper class and it just faded out after a few hundred years. Another maybe far explanation is that maybe the kernel of culture they migrated to Indonesia where we see some small remains. Still today some ritual dressing is of the same kind as in GwionGwion.
I have studied a short period of about 6000 years of history in the Old World. It is natural to sort out things by chronology and development and search for causality since it is the natural way of thinking among westerners.
We have no adequate dating in Gwion Gwion and the longer time span we use the less importance has that way of defining things. I often look at history from the viewpoint aside or parallel to the flow of history. Then we can see that some periods in history affects culture for a long time.
Alexander the Great ruled for 13 years but still generals like MacArthur in USA thought he was a new Alexander and wanted that USA should be the World Ruler by power. The Roman Emperor Caesar is another of those admired however ordinary people and true republicans do not want World Rulers. They may dream on being a ruler but when it come to being under the boot they choose the blanket of democracy.
Photographs of the Gwion Gwion images is just great art as such
Maybe Pilbara was a special place and Gwion Gwion a special culture for a while in history. That may be compared with a time span of perhaps more than 10000 years. I think we have more than hundred pictures in nearly the same style. We can ask if it was one painter or a "school" that painted them in a short period. Or was it a style developed by a cultural centre, that we have to compare with the fundamentalism in Egypt. The ritual behind defined every detail and only the pharaoh Akhenaten could change it for a short while. He became like Alexander a milestone in history.
I saw parts of a TV-program made by photographers that documented cultures in Africa and Australia and some other places decades ago. In one New Guinean ritual they were dressed in straw with beehive headdress. When they showed more of it they ran in a pageant around a big common hall where they were covering the roof with straw (or reed). All the dancers or runners in the pageant throw bundles of straws towards those placing the straw. Then I came to think about that old strategy of Inanna when he wanted people to help her in the field. She made a funny pageant out of it ... However, the worst question is, did they make the pageant solely for the photographer?
In Scandinavia it is still custom in the countryside to make a "talkoo" as they say in Finnish, When someone is building his own house he gathers friends and neighbours for a day or two for making the ground or some other job, that needs many hands. After that there should be some good food or a GILLE. The structure in the behaviour is the same, but the outfit is different from the Aboriginal "talkoo".
The attributes at Gwion Gwion are much the same as in Arnhem Land. The difference is the tall and standardised figures with extraordinary artistic style. In Arnhem Land they are often running, while in Gwion Gwion they are just standing or showing aim to dance.
My friend Kjell is on holidays and last week he made a trip to the rockcarvings at Evenstorp and to our biggest stone circle. The Evenstorp carving consists mostly of symbols although some of them are arranged like a being of some kind. The carving is dominated by a tall figure seemingly speaking to a smaller figure.
With him were two friends that are dowsers and they tried to "feel in" at both places. They thought that both places have been used for healing. Of course they may partly be right since diseases have always been a plague to mankind. My foster father misused his body with hard work in younger days. Then he got much pain in his last days. In Denmark they have still "clever men and women" some people seek. I know that he would not spend money if he did not get anything.
Since I have two annoying problems with my tinitus or the million bells in my ear and my hip-joint I feel all the time, I know all about sublimating pain. I need no clever man ... since I am that clever by myself. I know also that the chemicals prescripted by my doctor would give me problems with my stomach if I eat too much of them.
It seems that science could only be made out of physical evidence. We cannot prove things like healing or religion. It has to be by speculation. Still we know about the sibylline cave at Malta and about the oracle in Delphi. Almost everyone is open for forecast about their life. Some methods have flourished everywhere through time. It is a need among people and we can set a value on it and connect it to culture as a special concept.
I think we should see things like these as natural and not make primitive behaviour out of it. The other man with Kjell meant that the big figure at Evenstorp is a shaman with a drum. It is only that we do not see shamans in agriculture pictures in other places. And I think the shamans were mostly doctors specialised in sublimation ... meaning giving people other things to think about.
I do not know how it is in English but in Scandinavian languages words like SHAMAN and TOTEM are worn out and misused. (In my old dictionary some tribes identify themselves with some animal and use its totem) Among scientist and those knowing the goblegedook in the discipline it is no problem, but when writing for the public it would lead people in the wrong direction.
Instead we should search for the concept "Big Man" known in Sumer as LU GAL. He was idol and concept for leadership but also a forefighter. Besides him were of course smaller figures.
We do not know if the colours are original. But does it matter?
One of the pictures showed in the above mentioned program showed tourists taking photos of Aborigines. Would you like someone to be around you with a camera taking pictures? They create a distance between us and them primitive objects for the ethnical research ... our youngsters would surely draw down their trousers and show the back.
Our totems are cars, attaché cases and golf bags. I thought that I am free from that kind of totems since I am the perfect man in my thoughts? But once in the eighties I was preparing for a competition in golf and it filled also my Dreamworld. One morning I dreamt that I used my dick as a club and it was long. Of course in a competition I am showing my male superiority. Still, I had some use of it because I told it to some competitor when I was behind. He got something to think about and missed, while I had success.
I am also curious about the meaning behind totems and remember when we as boy scouts made our totem for the squirrel patrol. There was a lot of thinking about what a squirrel is. We see in the Egyptian symbolism that they used the animals as abstractions for some qualities. Why do we not speak about totem in Egypt?
In other cases it was maybe picturing the method or work. The same is case with the attributes and totems we see in all rock art. Then it is also natural that they used their normal tools as attributes. In the Middle Age the peasants had their axe or riffle with them almost everywhere. That is why they made a special "weapons house" as an entrance to the churches.
We do not see much of women's work, but I think that generally harvesting the vegetables were women's work ... and of course cooking. From the Sumerian and Egyptian myths we know that the great goddesses lured the boys to agriculture. The crowded cities demanded for more food and secure delivery. Hunting is much a game with nature.
Gwion Gwion style
Wrongly they call the other tall figure "The White Lady from Brandberg".
Either I do not think the painted men are Norsemen "on tour" in spite of the fact that we find some rock carvings out of the Scandinavian family in Namibia.
These pictures break the rule that African art is always about collective work
In Namibia we find these pictures representing rock art that may be as old as 27000 years. Still it is only a fraction in time back to Lucy and her daughter. The figure to the right they call The Red Giant of Brandberg and maybe he was meant as the idol Big Man.
It differs a little from most of the Australian art, since we see many pictures with social life in Africa. Even hunting is like a social happening. They are masters in painting the beautiful animals of Africa. Another thing is that we do not know if the figures were painted at the same time.
The Australian art is more individual from the very beginning. Perhaps they use the painting as a mirror for their inner Dreamland. It is also like a stilleben that they express all their feeling in just one figure mostly ... Our painters have often a dialogue with their painting
From here I will use only black and a colour associated with Australian soil and cliffs, since the true meaning lies in the lines. The sources to this short presentation are often rock knockings and made on big stones for instance like the Pilbara images. However the meaning lies in figures, lines and attributes.
Once I have said that they do not paint social life I have to show the opposite.
It is always risky to generalise. Still we have to do it if we wish to catch the structure. We see the "jester" with some attributes that can be from vegetative life. The same is the case with the male with an odd head. That symbol we see on much later paintings. However the idol make us think about abstract images used to picture seasons for instance.
In Africa the male and male activities dominate the pictures. They are running very much … and still they have good runners in Kenya and other places.
In the Gwion Gwion corner of Australia our eyes … at least men's eyes … stay on the coquette girls.
And the Gwion Gwion girls had eyes for men ...To third section