Licia Filingeri

The intimacy between man and nature has always impregnated the spiritual and aesthetic life of man. Therefore, it is not surprising that his first artistic expressions are reflecting it. The rhythms of nature, then, constituting its most immediately evident aspects, have always impressed the imagination, as well as the attention, of man, since the beginning. Every living being is subject to the rhythms of nature, birth, growth, death.
As soon as man looks up to the sky, in the dark nights, it is the moon, cyclically changing, but always returning, that appears to him, and so also on earth, reflected in the clear waters that it illuminates.
When our earliest ancestors conquered the upright station, and could more easily look up to the heavens, what must have been their astonishment mixed with fear to see floating in the purest cobalt-blue liquid of the uncontaminated atmosphere then enveloping the earth the silvery disk of the moon, among myriads of tiny twinkling, winking lights.
Certainly this unexpected, superb vision (not because the animals that had preceded them had never seen it, but because their eyes of human beings were looking at it for the first time with sensitivity, affectivity and new awareness, and with a rising capacity to think thoughts), this star of the purest light must have filled them with anxiety, of a fear and perhaps of a new anguish, suddenly being in the presence of something absolutely unexpected, inexplicable, uncontrollable, too big to be human, therefore certainly full of enormous power, much greater than that of any individual on the face of the earth.
And at the same time, that silver disc was soothing, it pierced the disturbing darkness of the night, it consoled the sudden loss of light, put away shadows that could hide sudden and terrifying dangers, so it was something good, like the caress of a woman, mother, sister, partner. But at the same time, it was cold, not as warm as the red-orange disc that had suddenly disappeared, not as warm as the warm caress of a woman, but as cold as the gaze of a woman who rejects us, who turns away, who retreats from our contact.
Well, the first association woman-moon may have arisen in the mind of man almost in this way.
It is not by chance that the moon's feasts are cultivation feasts, since the moon is the prototype of fecundity: it presides over the periodic renewal in the animal, vegetal and human world, fecundity merged in the cult of the Great Mother. It is therefore understandable how this cyclical movement can also be related to the lunar symbolism of Janus, two-faced god par excellence: the moon is the door of heaven and the door of hell. The moon is also a symbol of dream and unconscious, which are part of the night life.
There is a Paleolithic sculpture found in Liguria, Italy, representing a head of Homo Sapiens Sapiens, so described By Pietro Gaietto (see for greater details Museum of the Origins of Man,),Fig.4.26 :" an anthropomorphic sculpture (height 46 cm, Vara, S.Pietro d' Olba, Liguria, Savona Italy) represents a head of Homo sapiens sapiens. It has a stylistic deformation that emphasizes the re-entering face; and a similar representation is in an anthropomorhic menhir of Carnac (present in the same website). Being without beard, it could also be a feminine head . For the elevation of the head, it seems wearing a hat."

Paleolithic sculpture S.Pietro d'Olba, Savona, Liguria, Italy

The head, according to an interpretation of mine, remembers very closely successive representations, arrived until our days, of an anthropomorphic half moon, which for example already in the last centuries could be seen in the insignia of some botteghe. Even today, there are many places and hotels dedicated to the moon, which have this emblem as their symbol.
Savona's sculpture has a slight arched shape that follows the line of the profile of an anthropomorphic figure; it is evident, and can be clearly observed, the incision of the eye, which gives the sculpture a penetrating gaze, and the slightly pointed shape of the nose, the indentation of the lips and the pointed chin that forms the other horn of the half-moon . Headgear and hair also are divided by an incision, but other lines are appreciable on what has been interpreted by Gaietto as a hood, so one could also assume a notched calendar. The face could belong to a woman, in accordance with the association moon-woman that gets lost in the night of times. It could therefore be the oldest known representation of the moon, in the form of a humanized crescent moon.

Proceeding in the history of the representation, always in the Paleolithic era, dated 12000 years BC, we find the known Venus of Laussel, engraving on stone found at the entrance of a cave.

The Venus of Laussel, bas-relief on rock. Les Eyzies-de-Tayac (France)

The female figure holds in her right hand a bison horn, but it could also be a crescent moon, engraved with some marks referring to the lunar month. With the left hand Venus indicates her belly, but her gaze is turned towards the crescent moon, perhaps wanting to indicate the possibility of being pregnant, given the correspondence between the phases of the moon and menstruation of the woman. Not to mention that the red ocher of which Venus was covered could probably allude to menstrual blood. In any case, the horn itself is a sign of fullness, richness of life, from which probably the symbol of the cornucopia (from Latin cornu copiae, ie horn of opulence, horn of the Goat Amantea, mythical nurse of Jupiter, overflowing with fruit and adorned with herbs and flowers, a gift that Jupiter offered his nurse after having accidentally broken a horn in playing).
The horns of the bull are associated with the moon, as the horns of bovids are related to the Magna Mater, considered as the supreme deity of fertility. They also allude to the cows, always related to the woman, as a source of life through milk. It doesn't have to wonder the possibility of a similar metaphorical connection, since the same engraving introduces a sure degree of abstraction, in how much the prehistoric artist has represented with great realistic precision the body of the woman, while the face is represented with an abstract style.
Horns and moon are from time immemorial also associated for the sickle shape. In historical times, at Sumerians and Babylonians, moon and cow were then associated in the rites of fertility The horn therefore symbolizes both the crescent moon (a clue to this would be the way of saying "the horns of the moon", which certainly refers to the association moon-horn, and which is confirmed in that in many cultures the horn is considered a symbol of the new moon), that the vulva, the source of all life.
The horn of the Venus of Laussel, as we have already mentioned, is engraved with 30 notches, corresponding to the 13 lunar months of the year: in fact full moons and black moons are 13 in a year. It is Alexander Marschack who documented the oldest calendars in the world, dated 40 thousand years ago, with the lunar phases marked.

The Nile River Goddess (4000 BC), goddess of regeneration, has a head in the shape of a bird or snake and holds her arms raised in an arc around her head, forming a sort of half-moon, which could also represent a pair of horns. The gesture of the goddess could also allude to the mystery of the female rites of 'pulling down the moon'. This goddess appears among the Egyptian divinities under various names and appears especially linked to the lunar rites attributed to the goddess Hathor (or Nathor)

We have seen how ancient is the association of the crescent moon with menstrual cycles; it is also confirmed by the denomination of "horns of the womb"", symbolized by the sacred cows.
We know from anthropological studies that the gesture of raising the arms in an arc over the head can still be found in some African countries among the shepherds who guard the herds of cattle, as if there were a sort of identification with the guarded animals. On the other hand, in many mythologies of northern Europe, a powerful female divinity appears with the aspect of a cow.
In the most ancient civilizations the moon, both as half moon and as full moon or snake or wave, symoolizes the lunar cycle that repeats itself. Almost always the image of the moon is combined with that of the woman, as a symbol of fertility, but also, as we said, as a symbol of mutable behavior, as changing is the appearance of the moon, sometimes soothing, sometimes disturbing (black moon). At the most important historical civilizations, the Greeks and Romans, the moon was worshipped under many aspects and names: Cybele, Selene, Artemis, Hecate (the disquieting goddess of the over-grave) in Greece; Lucina, Trivia and Diana among the Romans.
The god Men of Phrygia received the honors due to the moon: from his name derives the Latin mensis, and the word moon in English (in Old English, Mona), as well as the Teutonic Mena and the Persian Metra: all evidently derived from the same root. Finally.the Minoan Goddess of the snakes (1600 a.C.), found in the royal palace of Knossos, to Crete, mother goddess of the fertility, central figure in the Minoan religion, has in her hand two snakes, symbol of death and rebirth, but which also represent, in their waving rhythmicity, the periodicity of the moon, so that this figure also reaffirms the identification moon-woman in its transmutative and generative aspects.

Goddess of snakes - Knossos

Also significant is the centrality of the myth of the Minotaur in Crete: again, an emblem of the moon, under the form of horns.

Recently, Dr. Michael A. Rappenglueck, researcher at the University of Münich, has assumed that the men of the Paleolithic of 16,500 years ago, the authors of the most famous cave paintings, such as Lascaux, have developed complex celestial maps for the observation of the stars. He described in particular a famous depiction of Lascaux, in which we see the charge of a bison against a man with a bird's head; presumably a shaman; we then see another bird's head; finally, joining the eyes of the three characters, we have what has been identified as "the triangle of summer" formed by very specific constellations, around the polar star. Still, at another point on the painted walls of Lascaux, a map of the Pleiades and other stars found in the same celestial region would be depicted by means of dots. According to the German scholar, this is the representation of the Paleolithic sky, full of animals and spirit guides, which also represents the various phases of the moon, and how important it was for Cro-Magnon man, so directly dependent from the rhythms of nature. The archaeologist is also the author of the discovery of another celestial map in a 14000-year-old Spanish cave, the Cueva de El Castillo, again in the form of dotted representations.
Recently, archaeologists at the University of Glasgow, Great Britain, discovered that there is a point at the top of the prehistoric grave in Orkney, Scotland, that is aligned with sunlight and moonlight. Other megalithic complexes, in Ireland, are reportedly aligned with moonlight.

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