Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Following Reindeer Woman: Pazyryk Priestess & Deer Artifacts

Pazyryk mummy tattoo
In my post "Reindeer Goddess, Axis Mundi, & Axis Shifts" I began my journey to blog my findings regarding a reindeer goddess. Since then, I have come across reports of amazing finds throughout the EurAsian Steppes.

        The first picture on this page is a copy of a tattoo on the shoulder of a well preserved female mummy found by archeologist Natalia Polos'mak in a kurgan in Pazyryk. Discovered in 1995, 7,500 feet above sea level, the mummy was named the Ice Princess or The Lady. (This same tattoo design has been found on other mummies, both men and women in the Ukok Palteau.)

         The kurgan  and it's contents are at least 2,400 years old. The Lady was buried in a coffin carved from a larch tree trunk. The exterior of the coffin was appliqued with a leather deer design, the antlers moving back like the ones in the tattoo above. The chamber of this full burial was 7.5 feet by 11 feet and contained everything The Lady would need to continue her life in the Otherworld: clothing, food and furniture.  Astoundingly, buried around the chamber were 5 horses, each ornamented with reindeer antlers and elaborate deer embossed bridles. Quoting an article posted Mary Lynn E. Turner  : Culture on the Hoof: Kurgan Woman of the Pazyryk: "It is thought, though, that although the horses were symbols of the sun, the antlered headdress were a kind of throwback reminder to the the days before herding horses, back when people of the Steppe herded reindeer instead."

Pazyryk Horse/Deer Headdress
  These photos came from an exhibit in the State Hermitage Museum. To visit the site click here.

Pazyryk bronze mirror backing
In her book, The Deer Goddess of  Ancient Siberia, art historian Esther Jacobson traces the progression of the ancient Neolithic reindeer rock art images through to the the Bronze age, and into modern era. This progession of images also paralells the transformation of the the Reindeer Goddess as Animal Mother of a culture of matrilineal descent into the male dominated form of shamanism that we read about today.  (For more information on the roots shamanism in ancient women's mysteries, read The Woman in the the Shaman's Body by anthropologist  Barbara Tedlock, PH.D.) In Jacobson work, she repeatedly finds the deer antlers representing the Tree of Life. The Lady was buried in a tree trunk, ornamented with antlers. She was also buried in a 3-foot-tall pointed hat with gold foil images of branches, trees and cats. Was The Lady a priestess of the deer goddess as tree of life, a wisdom keeper? Is this hat the origin of the pointed "witches hat"?

        The bronze mirror above was found in another Pazyryk kurgan on the Ukok  Plateau. The Lady's coffin also had a similar deer decorated bronze mirror. In fact, these type of mirrors were found all through the EurAsian Steppes in Scythian, Pazyryk, Samaritan and Saka burials. (The Amazon women of myth and legend were also Samaritan. And, Buddha himself was a Saka prince.)   Reindeer images were also found on fabric and carpets. Other images include griffins, panthers, lemurs, house cats &  birds. These images are also created as combined, morphing hybrids.

            Interestingly, or tellingly, is what The Lady is not called. A male mummy nearby, with a less ornamented burial, is called a "tribal chieftain". The Lady is called "unknown woman".  Writer Vicki Noble (2003) calls her a "priestess shaman" and noted the parallels between The Lady's artifacts and those found in stories of Tibetan dakinis and yoginis. I agree.

             When I had my first dream/vision of  reindeer woman, she was showing me that there was going to be a pole shift & a severe earthquake. At that time, I had no knowledge of a "reindeer goddess" image. Through research I found that she is a ancient , pre-shamanic deity that is associated with a warning to humanity: if we stray from balance in our relationship to the earth, she will cause the earth to quake.  Coincidentally (or should I say, sychronistically?) I recently discovered a curious news story about The Lady. When her tomb was disturbed, and her body moved to a museum, the local Altai desendants of The Lady were very upset.  After she was removed from the tomb,  there were frequent quakes in the local area 2-3 times a week. The people warned the government that her removal from the tomb was the cause of the quaking. They felt that if she was placed back in her kurgan the quakes would stop. So far, the government has refused to take her home.

               Symbolically, The Lady's tomb and other tombs like hers represent the North Pole, or the spiritual orientation of the clans & tribes. This idea is found throughout EurAsia, Mongolia& Tibet. Disturbing the tombs is a metaphor for the loss of Spiritual North. Though I can't say that moving The Lady has caused the earth to quake, I can say that the people of earth have collectively lost their North Star & their spiritual orientation. All is not lost , though. There still remain Those Who point The Way.