Patterns of Invocation in Neolithic Art:
Reclaiming the Indigenous European Mind
“We must refocus our collective memory. The necessity for this has never been greater as we discover that the path of ‘progress’ is extinguishing the very conditions for life on earth.”
Marija Gimbutas in her preface to The Civilization of the Goddess vii
The images and symbols found on the Neolithic artifacts of Old Europe are moving. Even after thousands of years and piles of controversy surrounding their meaning, they still seem to be in motion. The dynamic lines and spirals compel the human eye to follow the organic shapes of seeds, buds and shoots that circle and extend into patterns of natural symmetry. (Figure 1) This living art, found in abundance on Neolithic structures and the tools of daily living, (Language 141) celebrates the perpetual cycling of plant and animal life, and female forms of regeneration.
My fascination with these patterns originated a decade before I embarked upon my graduate work when I discovered Language of the Goddess, the monumental work of Archaeologist Marija Gimbutas. The simple but complex symbology adorning these ancient remnants resonated within me. I knew there was something very vital about these images, something that stirred me to the core.
My subsequent research has only deepened my desire to understand the prehistoric consciousness that created these sophisticated images and found them so important they were recreated on many thousands of diverse artifacts.
Gimbutas considered the Neolithic symbology to be a primary source for reconstructing European prehistory and integral to unraveling the many cultural threads that weave western religion and mythology. (Language xv)
However, the study of prehistory requires excavation of an ancestral past which seems to only partially reveal itself between the long gaps of history’s silence. The journey has intrigued a diversity of scholars from multiple fields of study who bring their refined intellects, academic authority and specialized expertise to the study of prehistory. Scrupulously, western scholars examine the remaining shards of a human existence that we do not remember.
Yet our research has failed to fully illuminate Neolithic Europe to our modern eyes because the contextual matrix which brings order to the data has not been comprehended by our best minds. (Marler 3) The answers we seek are written upon the artifacts we study (Reis 580) but have not yet fully deciphered.
We no longer remember how to read a language that is written, not with letters, but entirely in circles. It is not surprising then that the study of prehistoric Europe often produces more questions than answers. I am in good company when I ask: What do these symbols mean and what do they reveal about Old European culture?