Caves

   No one ever lived in the deep, dark, dank, and dangerous caves.  Those were reserved for the rituals of a male magic: converting boys into courageous men and instructing them in the rites of the hunt, and by means of those rites appeasing the beasts, thanking them for having given their lives, and magically returning their lives to the womb of the mother of us all, this Earth, the dark, deep, awesome womb of the great cave itself, for rebirth.  The beautiful animal forms on the rock walls of these earliest temples of humankind (wombs of the goddess Earth, as later the cathedrals were to be of Mother Church) are the seed forms of the animal herds above, on the surface of the upper-world animal plains.  It is amazing, how, when one is down in those caves, in the absolute dark with all sense of direction lost, the light world above is but a memory and, curiously, but a shadow world.  The reality is down here.  The herds and all the lives up there are secondary: it is from there that they derive, and to here that they will return.  In several of the greatest of these caves we have the portraits of the ceremonial masters – shamans, wizards, or whatever they might have been.  And they are not shown simply standing naked, like the little Venus figurines, but in costume, masked, doing something.  The great example is the so-called Sorcerer of the cave known as Les Trois Frères.  But there are others.  And they are always masked in semi-animal forms, doing something as magicians of the great hunt.   (G xv)

   The little standing Venus figurines are found in the shelters where Paleolithic people actually lived.  In contrast, men’s initiation rites were held in the deep caves, and there we see very little of the female.  No one lived in those caves.  They’re chilly, they’re dangerous, they’re dark, they’re awesome, the y’re deep.  Some of them contain miles and miles of dark corridor.  We see on those walls masculine shamans among multitudes of animals, images that have to do with the rites inviting the animals to be killed.  This is the fundamental theme in the hunting people: that the animals are willing victims and are offering themselves with the understanding that certain rituals – returning their blood to the soil, for example – will be enacted to return their life to the Mother Source.  The cult of the Goddess goes right back to those early caves.  There, She is the cave itself, so that initiates who passed through the rites deep under the earth were returning to and reborn from Her womb.   G5

In these caves where the boys went to be initiated, to be transformed from the children of their physical mothers into the children of the cosmic Mother, in the womb of the Earth, they experienced symbolic rebirth.  This is represented very vividly in a cave in the Pyrenees known as Les Trois Frères, where there is a long flume through which water had been running during the Würm glacial period, opening a kind of pipe through the rock that runs for fifty yards but is hardly two feet high.  Through this one has to wriggle to enter into a great chamber. The boys were sent through that canal in a symbolic rebirth – coming to birth not from their personal mothers but from the transpersonal universal Mother who brings each of us into maturity.  G7