New prints by Max Dashu

The Makewana
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The Makewana

African priestess with basket in her lap
She was the oracular high priestess of the Chewa people, and the highest religious authority in the land. Her title means "Mother of Children" - all children, all the people. She belonged to a long non-hereditary lineage of women who were designated by spirit selection, by certain signs and manifestations. The Makewana presided over the Pool of Malawi, where the Python lived, and for which the country is named. These priestesses wore a spiral shell and carried an ebony staff. Another title, Mang'adzi, means "betrothed maiden," because of the oracle's spirit marriage to the python god, whose bow was the rainbow. Among the Banda clans, priestesses called Mwall called rain, prophesied, and presided over intitiation ceremonies. In southern Malawi, the Mang'anja people also had shamanic rain shrine prophetesses.

© 2013 Max Dashu - image created for Woman Shaman: the Ancients

 

Calling at the Pictish Stone

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Calling at the Pictish Stone

woman in medieval dress calling next to serpent stone

A medieval Scotswoman calling to the land spirits on a windswept hillside, next to a Pictish Stone inscribed with a serpent and other symbols. The 6th century monument, known as the Brandsbutt Stone, is at Inverurie, Aberdeenshire. It was broken up and used as building materials, so that its original location and context is unknown. But it belongs to the oldest groups of Pictish Stones, known as Class I, that predate the christianization of the Picts. It bears an Ogham inscription and mysterious symbols known from other stones: the crescent and V-rod and, behind the serpent, a Z-rod. This painting envisions a time in the early middle ages when the older traditions were still vibrant.

 

Cappadocian Firewalker

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Cappadocian Firewalker

Woman with drum dancing over burning coals at twilight

Greek sources give tantalizing glimpses of shamanic dancers in Anatolia. The entranced Cappadocian priestesses of Castabala walked on burning coals. In the Taurus mountains, the black-robed votaries of Ma whirled with unbound hair, struck themselves with blades, and prophesied. In one of these cermonies, a Phrygian priestess of Sabazios is described slipping a golden snake into her robes and through to the ground: “the snake through the bosom.” In Bulgaria, Thracian cousins of the Phrygians celebrated the Kotytia in honor of the goddess Kotys. In these torchlit ceremonies in the mountains, the baptai initiates made music, danced in rounds, and handled snakes in ecstatic states.

© 2013 Max Dashu - image created for Woman Shaman: the Ancients