God Was Pregnant ?
God Was Pregnant ?
by: Linda C. Eneix
"Fertility Cult." Those two words call up images of wild abandon and sexual
frenzy; wanton displays of unleashed libido; sweaty young bodies thrashing
a stone altar, accompanied by the fevered clapping of a hundred hands and the
pounding of wicked native drums.
Maybe. Maybe not.
But it does look like there was a time when pregnancy was next to
The term fertility cult is often used to describe pre-patriarchal societies
in most of the “civilized” world some 4,500 years ago, worshipped a Goddess.
course, we’ll probably never know exactly how those neolithic people lived
they worshipped. Not much survived of those early matrifocal people of
Europe once they were overrun and assimilated by aggressive Indo-European
identified by Archaeologist and author Dr. Marija Gimbutas in The Language
Goddess, (1989, San Francisco: Harper and Row.) With the mobility of mounted
and the authority of metal weapons, the invaders made relatively quick work
establishing a new order in the old world. A successful takeover would have
demanded the smashing and widescale eradication of any pre-existing goddess
spirituality. With a few exceptions, myths and legends were all that
carry memory of the ancient times. Over subsequent millennia, recorded
managed to distort or destroy most of that as well. The one clear remnant
comes down to us today is the use of such terms as Mother Nature and Mother
Earth. (The ancient goddess survives in a margarine commercial.)
Archaeological remains on the Mediterranean island of Malta, however, have
produced some remarkable and extremely interesting physical evidence. Huge
limestone structures which are acknowledged to be the earliest remaining
still standing on earth have yielded material which points to a much
than the one traditional reference books have given us. Not only have
found sculpture and carvings of plumply rounded devotional figures, but the
plans of the stone temples themselves are significant. Gimbutas referred to
clearly representing, above all else, the concept of regeneration. They echo
same maternal shape that is hauntingly familiar to many a mother who has ever
examined herself naked in a mirror. One can easily imagine the concept of
the “womb” of the temple for communion with the Goddess, and emerging
into the sunlight.
As humankind came out of the caves of Europe and western Asia, people
soon learned something about agriculture, animal husbandry and the production
a continuous food supply. They already knew that females, both in the fields
home, carried young within their bodies and gave birth. There was no great
about it. That was just how things happened. (It’s extremely difficult to
they didn’t also understand a need for the male of the species in
although some anthropologists argue this point.) When the people witnessed
earth bringing forth fruits and grains, they identified it with the same
characteristics of creation and nurturing. It was, after all, the mother who
young, and the earth that fed the people. In this way, the concept of a
deity of fertility and abundance would have been entirely natural.
When we talk about neolithic Malta, we are considering a time period long
before Buddha and Mohammed, before Jesus and Moses and even Abraham.
Sometimes it’s difficult to put aside those later influences and remain
objective about the existence of a civilization which is neither recorded in
nor described in the hieroglyphics of an Egyptian tomb. How is it that the
“fertility cults” have been such a secret? It’s likely that the early people
written language never knew about them.
As if by destiny, the megalithic temples of Malta were overlooked or ignored
for many thousands of years. Abandoned for some reason at around 2500 BC,
sat in isolated silence for centuries. The roofs fell in. Weeds grew
stones. Through a long and complicated history of foreign occupation and
resettlement of the Maltese archipelago, the debris of ages continued to
Malta’s temples until 1827 when Ggantija became the first to be cleared.
recently they were thought to be something the Romans left behind, or perhaps
heathen temples built by the Phoenicians during their long stay on the
Scientific excavation did not begin until the 1920’s when Malta’s pioneer
archaeologist Sir Themistocles Zammit undertook the project. In the
Dr. Colin Renfrew of Cambridge University in England used Bristlecone Pine
calibration to accurately date the earliest structures to a staggering 3,800
(That’s more than a thousand years ahead of the pyramids of Egypt.) There is
some further speculation that they may be even older than that.
Although there is evidence of trade and communication with other regions,
the “temple culture” of Malta developed their unique artistic expression and
iconography along lines which are totally unlike anything seen elsewhere from
same time period. For more than a thousand years they successfully existed
peace and harmony with themselves and their environment. No evidence of
weapons or warfare exists in the neolithic ruins.
All right. But god as a mother? There has been much said about the
“fertility” and “Goddess” idols which have been discovered inside the temples
the prehistoric underground burial chambers of Malta. Some of the excavated
figures are clearly feminine images, skillfully represented down to the
pleats in their
cloth garments, the carefully braided hair hanging down their backs and the
cane of their furniture. The carved heads in a group of stylized ritual
strongly suggest male features with long noses and wide jaws. The bodies of
are straight and angular. They too are clothed. Other representational
decidedly phallic in nature and leave no room for doubt.
The numerous “cult statuettes”, however, are something of a mystery. They
are posed both standing and comfortably seated in various positions.
headless, many are equipped with a socket between the shoulders, and tiny
for manipulating a cord. Several were found with separate heads nearby.
may have been designed to fulfill the function of some sort of oracle. The
locations in which they were found unmistakably point to ritual use.
It’s been argued that these graceful statuettes with their corpulent nude
bodies can’t possibly be female because they don’t have well-defined breasts.
Neither does any of them have a penis to make it unarguably male. There can
no denying, however, that they are curved in the way that a woman usually
when she lets nature take over. One modern Maltese gentleman proposes that
fat arms, thighs and calves on these figures are styled to signify strength.
Mr. Joseph S. Ellul, whose father was for many years caretaker at the
site, theorizes that this is the power which would have been required to move
massive stone slabs which make up the temples. (Malta’s Prediluvian Culture,
Malta: Printwell, Ltd.) The sculptures may simply be androgynous figures of
abundance. Perhaps, in a society where gender was not the issue that we make
today, they were designed to serve equally with the modeled head of either
priestess, depending on who was officiating at the time. We may never know
One thing is certain: whether or not they ever accommodated wild orgies, the
megalithic limestone temples of Malta were and continue to be places of
importance in human history. They are remarkable evidence of a people who
been described by cultural anthropologists as among the purest and most
impressive cultures that ever existed.
Personally, I have to wonder what our world might be like if the knowledge
were widespread that once upon a time, God looked just like my mother!
The author has been a researcher of the Maltese prehistoric period since 1990
is an advocate for conservation efforts at the temple sites. She has
novel about the “People of the Temple” pending publication in Malta.
information on visiting the temples, contact The OTS Foundation