We must refocus our collective memory. The necessity of this has never been greater as we discover that the path of ‘progress’ is extinguishing the very conditions for life on earth."
- Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess.
Marija Gimbutas was so many things: an extraordinary and indefatigable archeologist, linguist and mythologist, a lover and restorer of the Goddess traditions, a survivor of one of the worst nightmares of history, "an embodiment" (as her friend and editor Joan Marler puts it) "of an essence of the Lithuanian soul". Marija created the multidisciplinary approach she called "archaeomythology". It has taught us essential things about the Old Europe of the Neolithic that revive the hope that in our times we, too, can cherish the Divine Feminine and nourish a "partnership society" in which the sexes are balanced in a dynamic harmony that tends the earth, and the soul.
Marija's work is being continued and furthered by the passionate and scholarly work of Joan Marler and her colleagues at the Institute of Archaeomythology. From their base in the gentle wine-country town of Sebastopol, California, they reach across the world to support the work and publications of remarkable scholars like the Romanian linguist and archaeomythologist, Adrian Poruciuc. I have just read his recent book, Prehistoric Roots of Romanian and Southeast European Traditions, with great pleasure and profit.
Poruciuc is an etymological detective, and if you are a lover of words, and are willing to jump from Homeric Greek to Old Church Slavonic at the drop of a diphthong, you could find his work as exciting as an episode of NCIS on television. Take his investigation of the root meaning of two famous names from Greek mythology, Demeter and Dionysos. After tracking the components and variants of "Demeter" through many languages, he confirms what many of us knew in our gut and our atavistic memories, but many cavilers (nothing to do with "cavaliers") in the academic fraternity long doubted: Demeter means "Earth Mother." Then he takes us into fresh and thrilling territory by demonstrating that Dionysos, all but certainly, means "Bridegroom of the Mother." Drink that one in deep (as is Dionysos' way). Reflect on what the meaning of that name reflects from the civilization of the Goddess in Old Europe. The roistering, hard-drinking god of ecstasy is, first and last, the consort of the Goddess and her partners in the Mysteries that renew and fertilize the earth.
Poruciuc probes mysteries that are more arcane, to non-Romanians. Why are the folk songs or "carols" (colinde) sung around Romanian holidays full of references to a great flood that is clearly very different from the Biblical one, since it has nothing to do with rain but only with a wildly rising sea? Romania, after all, has only a small coast, on the all-but-tideless Black Sea. Do these songs of flood carry on the memory of an ancient event, older (perhaps) than the flood of the Book of Genesis? On those stormy waters, in some of the songs, comes a great bull or antlered deer with the goddess rocking between his horns, on a swing. Here we are, again, in realms of the Once and Future Goddess.
Lovers of mythic beasts will be intrigued by Poruciuc's mythic bestiary of creatures that populate those old Romanian folk songs and folk memories: of the sea-monster known as the dolf (which sounds like dolphin but probably isn't) that comes on land to steal apples; of a fish-goddess, and a snake-goddess; of a lion that is spoken to like a dog. I was hoping to find the wolf-headed dragon of the ancient Dacians here - terror of the Romans, and source of one of the most ferocious battle standards I have ever seen - but I gather we'll need to wait for another volume of Poruciuc's studies for that. I look forward to it.
The book discussed: Adrian Poruciuc, Prehistoric Roots of Romanian and Southeast European Traditions. Sebastopol, CA: Institute of Archaeomythology, 2010.
Rock carving at Lepensky Vir, Serbia