New Age is Ancient
New Age is Ancient
by: Linda C. Eneix
adj. 1. Of or relating to a complex of spiritual and consciousness-raising
movements of the
1980's covering a range of themes from a belief in spiritualism and
advocacy of holistic approaches to health and ecology.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition ©
Houghton Mifflin Co. Electronic version lic'd from and portions © 1994
Inc. All rts rsvd.
Six thousand years ago, in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, a
“new age” society flourished in peace and harmony with each other and
their surroundings. A thousand years before the great pyramids of Egypt
and the palaces of Crete ~ two thousand years before Stonehenge ~ four
thousand years before Jesus, this civilization began raising megalithic
stone temples to the earth goddess of fertility and abundance. Today,
standing in the remains of those ancient sacred spaces, it’s easy to evoke
an image of mystic ritual:
A long row of people garbed in red and in black move like a pulsing artery
toward the mammoth stone edifice. One by one they enter the squared
portal of the Goddess’s temple. Curved interior spaces form the shape of
The Mother’s body. Drums beat the pulse of the earth. Spirals, painted in
red ochre and carved in stone, thunder the unending cycle of daylight and
darkness, winter and summer, birth and death and regeneration.
Despite incredible antiquity, the prehistoric temples of the islands of
Malta and the people who built them are news to most of us. Identified as
the earliest existing structures by humankind which define space, they are
acknowledged by the Guinness Book of World Records, although they
haven’t yet found their way into most reference books or encyclopediae.
Slowly, one by one, they are being added to the UNESCO list of World
The limestone temples are staggering feats of engineering, even by
the standards of today. Site planning, retaining walls, corbelling, the
horizontal arch, the earliest use of forecourts -- all are demonstrations of
the birth of architecture in the Maltese Archipelago. Within the temples,
stone benches are decorated with carved parades of sheep and goats,
fish and birds. Elsewhere, a sow suckling her piglets, a bull in bas
a four-sided "tree of life" and the rolling waves of the sea adorn haunting
The people who built the temples left behind a physical legacy of a
time of peace and spiritual communion with the Mother Earth which has
been called the purest and most impressive in the world. (dra. Veronica
Veen, 1992, Inanna-Fia, Haarlem, Holland.) For more than a thousand years,
the "temple people" lived in harmony with their surroundings: weaving fine
fabric, grinding grain, harvesting crops, tending animals, and communing
with their Goddess. They had buttons and they had furniture. They did
not have metal tools, wheels or weapons. They decorated pottery and
sanctuary alike with the red ochre color of life and the cyclical spirals of
unending turning. This was the "fertility cult" of prehistoric Malta --
successful for centuries and then suddenly gone without a trace by the
time of Abraham, ca. 2,500 B.C.E.
A priestess stands at the altar, a blade of obsidian in one hand and
the horns of a sacrificed goat in the other. The horns are placed
carefully into a niche at the back of the chamber. Another priestess
pours dark liquid into a hole drilled into the stone floor of the temple
~ an offering to The Great Mother. Fire burns in the sacred pit. The
animal, taken with reverence and respect, will feed the community.
Its hide and sinew will provide vital materials; its bones will become
Contrary to popular belief, these neolithic, or “new stone age”
people were not savage cavemen. The culture is described by J.D.
Evans as “unequaled in Western Europe in their time and for many
centuries later.” (Ancient Peoples and Places - Malta, 1959, Frederick A.
New York.) They looked very much like us, were intelligent and creative.
They had learned how to assure themselves of a continuous food supply
via agriculture and domesticated livestock. They knew the sky, aligning
their temples to solar and lunar events. They knew the earth, choosing
the right stone to hold water and the right stone for carving statues.
Theirs was a world pervaded by a spirituality that could not be separated
from any act or thought, and their faith was expressed in astonishing
accomplishment. Pottery, sculpture and the structures themselves speak
a language of sensitivity and awareness.
Just as the green plant withered in giving seed for the next crop,
death was understood as a natural event in the cycle of a larger whole.
The dead, with ceremony and ritual, were returned to the earth in specially
prepared underground chambers to await regeneration. Recently
discovered burials of the period indicate no class or gender differentiation.
A young woman with her infant in her arms, a man with the head of a
boar, a boy with his puppy -- are all laid with the same care. The only sign
of special treatment is in the elaborate seashell headdress of an arthritic
A woman prepares herself for the oracle. An oil lamp flickers
against shadows as she listens for the voice of the Goddess to
give her guidance. The stone speaks. When it is done, she will
emerge, reborn, into the piercing sunlight of the courtyard.
There is also evidence to suggest that the living used the vast
underground crypts for re-incubation and dream divination. (Certainly,
after a stuffy night underground with the bones of the ancestors, morning
and the sunlit outside world would be greeted with new enthusiasm.) But
it would be the above-ground temples, roofed and kept in cool darkness,
which would have served as daily reminders of renewal.
Unlike tombs to hold the dead, the Maltese temples were a
celebration of life. The temple was the social center of the community.
While serving as foodstore and school, hospital and theatre, it’s primary
function was always spiritual. Thus, every aspect of life was imbued with
the spirit of the temple.
Why Malta and its tiny sister island Gozo? It’s thought from the
number of known temple sites that the islands were probably places of
pilgrimage in early times. People from all over the known world may have
come for healing, for learning and for communion with the Goddess.
Researchers are exploring the theory of magnetic “power lines” running
through the region. Perhaps something in the perfect wedding of sea and
sky, sun and stone spoke to the people of that time. There’s no question
that it speaks to the people of today.
Five thousand years later a woman steps down from the same
stone portal and crosses the same paved courtyard. The
polyester collar of her shirt chafes a little at her neck. She picks
up a discarded plastic table-water bottle and, with a sigh, drops it
into the refuse can.
It’s not unusual to see visitors who have walked in the temples
deeply moved by what they’ve experienced. It would be difficult to
imagine a more suggestive environment for pondering a life decision.
Guards tell stories about strange goings-on in the dark of the night;
dancing and candles; people who sleep on the cold stone floors; sunrise
ceremonials and odd gifts left on the altars.
How does this relate to our New Age? There does seem to be a
“seeking” in our culture today. There does seem to be a movement to
“find something”; to replace something which isn’t working in our society.
Many of the children of the twentieth century have found themselves with
an empty place in their lives and a yearning for a peaceful, simpler, more
“grounded” life. They’re reading books and taking classes in the hopes
of discovering or recovering some lost secret to a more fulfilling existence.
According to dra. Veen, Art Historian and Cultural Anthropologist,
“Many people in the Western world, not only women but men as well,
have started realizing during the past years, that they have to cope with
living in a patriarchal society and culture. However, male dominance, as
expressed in the great world religions and most social systems as well, is
only extremely young compared with the history of mankind. Of the
proverbial 24 hours, maybe just five minutes.
“During the past 15 years the book market, especially in America,
has been flooded with the so-called goddess-books. These often display
an admittedly enthusiastic, but carefree amateurism in which the
supporting archaeological evidence is rather outdated, apart from the
numerous wild associations and interpretations. But recently also a few
serious volumes, like that of [Dr. Marija] Gimbutas have been published.
Although ancient Malta has started to be included now, real insight is still
lacking. Malta’s prehistory is clearly a case on its own and has to be dealt
Perhaps the ancient temple people of Malta have something to say
to the New Age people of today.
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