Tuesday, 1 September 2015

The Palaeolithic artist: part 4

in the Brno museum Anthropos
photo: HTO
In the introductory quote of yesterday's post we hear of reactions to the Canyon Creek cave: dark, eerie, "I'm cold and I want to get out of here." Elsewhere I have heard damp, slippery, dangerous. My, my. They should really sell tickets.

You can see the potential for interpretations of the Palaeolithic caves based on modern experiences that could be projected backward "Caves symbolized the birth canal, with life emanating from within." Of course, no mother in the history of mothers would have said anything involving the words "get out!" right. What mother would ever say: "just GET. HER. OUT. NOW!!!!!!!"

And what of the baby? Some people say that the birth experience cannot be remembered, while others speak of such memories. Remember, too, that we have two minds and one is unconscious and contains repressed memories that can have an undesirable effect in our lives at some future time. Would anyone want to remember their birth? I'll take the repression please.

A woman from the Scottish Highlands told me a story that people where she had lived had believed that when a baby first cries, it is because the baby can feel the memories of the previous incarnation slipping away. This seemed incongruous to me, something more likely to have been overheard in a California hippy commune in the sixties, "and then we passed the bong around again". Yet, traces of a belief in reincarnation in the Highlands was recorded in 1911. Perhaps she was right. Perhaps there were some strange goings on up there. In Anthony Shaffer's Wicker Man, a thank you to a real Lord Summerisle in the credits got me thinking. I could imagine him telling the location scout "Of course, we hardly ever engage in human sacrifice anymore". It was all pure bunk.

Meanwhile, back on earth, the child's "I am cold" speaks nothing of the birth experience. Then again, this is Canada and it is an ice cave. But you would think that the cold would be repressed. Perhaps that is why we still live here: like the Scottish baby forgetting a previous life, perhaps every Canadian forgets the previous winter as soon as it starts to get warm again, and without such repression Canada would be abandoned after the first winter experience.

Even more prosaically, perhaps most of the complaints heard about the ice caves recently were due to having to endure a long hike followed by a thousand foot climb and the knowledge that you will have to go all the way back again afterward after being only able to explore the tourist area of the cave. And what of that sour gas leaking around there, or the sides of mountains coming down because of industrial goings on behind locked gates?

I wonder what real evidence could exist to say that the Palaeolithic caves symbolized the birth canal and why would new life be represented by bison, aurochs, boars and bears? Most of the animals were food animals, but the bear can be both: Sometimes you eat the b'ar, sometimes the b'ar eats you.

Are archetypal conversations often heard at the models of the Altimira Caves, or is it more often "Look at all the pretty animals! Perhaps we should grab a cappuccino after this; did you spot a gift shop for the postcards?"

Interpretation or projection? and of what? Tomorrow: me, boldly going where no man can go again. What is it like spending a couple of hours deep inside a mountain, and what happens when you come back into the light?

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