Gobekli Tepe: Ancient Pain & Expression
In Lorna Tedder’s absence, today’s Guest Blogger is Marc Rice.
Years ago I befriended an older man, Chuck Kennedy, who volunteered much of his time at local hospitals. He made it a point to visit one particular therapy group every Thursday afternoon, a group of small children, ages 4 through 9, that were a part of a program that specialized in something called Expressive Therapy. The purpose of Expressive Therapy is to examine feelings and thoughts through creative expression; art, poetry, story telling, and dance are all an integral part of this process. Most Expressive Therapists hold the belief that through this creative process, patients are able to come to terms with their suffering as it fosters human growth, social development, and healing. During one visit, I was introduced to a five year old girl whom we will call “Emily.”
Emily was much smaller than the other children, but there was an energy about her that immediately drew ones attention. During group art projects, she would occasionally walk up to the other children and give her support, telling them that what they we creating was wonderful, while gently placing her hand on their shoulder. Emily had been in this group for about a year, and though her appearance was soft and seemingly frail, one thing was crystal clear; she was more than their muse, she was their leader.
Late one night, after my encounter with Emily, I sat at my kitchen table looking at photographs of an ancient temple in Gobekli Tepe, Turkey a friend had sent me. The temple was unearthed in 1994 by German Archeologist, Klaus Schmidt, and it stands as the oldest temple in the world with portions dating as far back as 13,000 BCE. I had wanted to see these photo’s, especially ones that contained human and animal glyphs chiseled into stone monoliths. As a runemaster, the idea of examining these ancient symbols seemed exciting as I felt it would provide me with deep insight into the lives of its creators, these stone-age shamans that are at the root of everything. But, I couldn’t concentrate. The story of Emily kept entering my conscious thought; her abandonment at age 3, being left to fend for herself for days at a time, her grandparents gaining custody of her, and her inability to speak until she was able to express her feelings in her therapy group. As I forced myself to concentrate on my photo’s, images of ancient painted faces and mournful wails by the light of the moon began to merge with those of a little girl wearing a pink sweater and over- sized bunny slippers.
It would seem that there has always been a Universal cycle for all of humankind, one that has existed since time immemorial; we live, we love… and we hurt.
15,000 years ago, right after the end of the last ice age, humankind was still in the stone age and at least 90% of that population were nomadic hunter-gatherers. The diet of hunter-gatherer bands/tribes consisted of animal meat and wild vegetation, which meant following the same migration patterns as their prey. Hunter-gatherer bands/tribes consisted of roughly 50-100 people, with each member possessing a particular trade or skill. Though stone age hunter-gatherers were nomadic by nature, it is likely they had semi-permanent housing at various points to shelter them during a particular season. And though the average life span during this time is for the most part unknown, it is argued that approximately 25% of adult male deaths among hunter-gatherers is the result of homicide. Wars with other tribes may account for some of that percentage, but some of that must have been the result of internal conflicts within the tribe.
As many of us already know, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder that can occur for some individuals after experiencing the threat of injury or death. Those suffering from PTSD find it difficult to concentrate, have difficulty falling asleep, have intense guilt about surviving (survivors guilt), and can be very irritable with strong outbursts of anger. It’s very safe to assume that the daily life of hunter-gatherers during this period was continuously dangerous, stressful, and terrifying. When we look at these magnificent images of intricately designed stone temples, it’s easy to forget that these ancient builders were human, and that their hardships were very real, constant, and inescapable. To insure the success of the hunt and the very survival of the tribe, it stands to reason disciplines had to be put in place as a means to foster unity and deal with the reality of perpetual grief and fear. In some ways, these temples are the result of a kind of ancient Expressive Therapy.
The temples at Gobekli Tepe are considered by some to be an early “cult of the dead” with heavy emphasis on ancestor worship. Skeletal remains in the surrounding area, not within the temples, have been found with heads missing, giving way to the belief that they were carried inside the temple so that the spirit of the fallen may accompany those that loved them. While it is very likely that these temples served as an early cult of the dead, the “T” shaped stone pillars depict carvings that are rather peculiar; large, human figures, minus the head, cover the entirety of some pillars with animal carvings beneath them. The headless human engraving gives way to the practice of ancestral rites and the removal of the head, but the fact the animals carvings were much smaller than the human ones, and were deliberately placed beneath the human figures, suggests that the builders regarded themselves as masters of nature.
For years, historians held the belief that humankind went from hunter-gatherers to masters of agriculture and animal husbandry, THEN had the time to invent philosophies and religions. The temples at Gobekli Tepe proves that theory to be false. It was the pain and the therapy of remembering, the process of honoring those that have passed, that gave birth to the need for being still, for farming and creating. To truly understand these ancient builders, we only have to look within our own internal nature.
My memory goes back now to a powerful 5 year old girl and the gift she gave me at the end of one particular visit, and it’s one of my most prized possessions; a drawing of me and my friend, standing tall and proud… and both of us wearing over-sized bunny slippers.
Marc Rice is an Armanen Rune Master & Hermeticist with more than 25 years of experience (1987). His work can be found at runehealing.org His eBook, Mental Alchemy & The Emotional Network, is available for purchase at http://www.runehealing.org/mentalalchemy.htm.