Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ancient female shamans part 2

A few years ago, I was obsessed with the Siberian Ice Maiden. I stumbled up on her existence by accident, while researching flying ointment lore in the book Pharmako/Gnosis: Plant Teachers and the Poison Path by Dale Pendell. It referenced items that were offered and found in the burial site of the Siberian Ice Maiden. This one sentence lead me on a odyssey of research and I now more about Pazyryk culture than any non anthropologist should. I have even considered getting a tattoo of the beautiful stag image above.

In 1993, a team on Russian archaeologists led by Nancy Polosmak, discovered a rare example of a single woman given a full ceremonial burial high in the Altai Mountains near the Mongolian border. She was buried alone—not a mistress or concubine—but a powerful figure in her own right. Called "The Ice Maiden," she had been buried for over 2,400 and was found perfectly intact, from her blond hair and beautiful tattoos to her clothes, which include a silk blouse and thigh-high riding boots.

Although her body had been carefully embalmed with peat and bark, it was the flooding and freezing of water that preserved the entire contents of the burial chamber. She was buried in a hollowed-out trunk of a larch tree, which was considered a sacred tree. The casket was so grand, the archaeologists initially thought it might contain two people. The outside of the casket was elaborately carved leather with stylized images of snow leopards and deer. The coffin itself, was made long enough to accommodate her 5 foot six inch frame and the 3 foot felt headdress she was wearing. This shaman's crown is thought to represent the tree of life and had 15 wooden birds sewn to it. She must have been an extraordinary woman of power, for six horses were sacrificed in her honor.

I often think about the young, tall, blond, heavily tattooed nomadic shaman, roaming the Siberian hills. I wonder if she traveled to India to select her blouse in person, or if it was found along the trade route. Was she a priestess? A warrior chief?

If you want to learn more, here are the transcripts to the PBS documentary

2 comments:

Connell O'Donovan said...

I am a Gay man (and practicing Radical Faeries since 1989) and in 2003 when I saw this documentary on the Ice Maiden on PBS, I was blown away by the ink found on Her. (I was also stunned that a pound of marijuana was found in Her coffin, along with a tiny smoking tent and "incense" burner.) As a trained (but not practicing) anthropologist, I was able to get photos from the excavation team, and I had a fellow Faerie inker come to my home, we opened a ritual circle in my bedroom, and he inked this running stag on my left shoulder blade.

Since then, I have met four other Gay men/Faeries who have also had the same tattoo inked on them. It's wonderful to see how this ancient shaman has spoken to us so deeply.

Blessed be,

Connell the Barbarian

Stop by for a Spell said...

Connell,

Thank you for sharing you experiences with our beloved Ice Maiden. Your post has made me reconsider getting my first tattoo, this image of the dancing stag.

Brightest Blessings to you!