For an infidel, I seem to care a lot for religion. My stock answer is psychological: I reckon that religion is hard wired into our unconsciousness; an evolutionary advantage from our earliest and most mysterious times. If Joseph Campbell is anything to go by, deep and juicy archetypes lie in there aplenty. And so I’m attracted to it, yes, as a source and guide for good creative work.
Just don’t expect me to don anything holier than a bathrobe any time soon.
As it happens, I’m fresh from watching two thirds of the latest series by Bettany Hughes, called Divine Women. I’ve been a bit of a fan of hers since The Minoans and finding she was ahead of me on a subject I’m already into, this was a natural watch. Off to the, ugh, iPlayer.
To be fair, I scarcely watch any television at all. So I’m not sure how much of the new-shot-every-half-second or NYPD Blue-grade shaky cam was new to this or just standard operating procedure lately in documentaries in general. I’m sure I’ll sound an old git to contemporary ears, but I really did like NYPD Blue back in its day, especially as a credulous young teen, and I’ve nothing against kinetic editing when it’s in sync with the content. This one just seemed jarring to me, for what it’s worth. And occasionally, unwittingly, amusing. Once or twice the cameraman couldn’t help but just wander off entirely.
My main focus in archaic religion has been Sumer. Inanna, alas, gets only passing mention in this show. And that’s to its detriment, as her parallels with Aphrodite and the other featured goddesses are deep. The Sumerians, crucially, did well to record her and thus the earliest traces of her prehistoric ancestors. One such motif which slipped the show found itself in parentheses in the Telegraph’s poor review:
(in common, it seems, with many other ancient goddesses, Durga is often pictured with lions)
Indeed, Inanna too. And I do wonder why. Another aspect of the archetype? Along with gender bending devotees and ritual frenzy. Told you this is lively stuff.
Anyway, I disagree that the show was quite as bad as the paper said. Hughes has the good sense to visit Göbekli Tepe, after all, and serves up a fitting introduction for that assumption-shattering place. (A subject I must write about sometime in its own right.) But the complaints are mostly true. There’s good stuff in here, and a decent theme, it’s just the small matter of bringing the whole to completion which is, as ever, the ordeal.
But as for my work?
Well, I’ve been developing a religion for the Ana and Azu on Andala. This wasn’t part of my original vision but has grown along with the tale, such that I can’t see Andala without it now. That world and its people pose such a question for us that the best way I know to approach it is by this comparison. To understand them, we have to figure out what they believe. Why, it’s archaeology in novel form! With my taste in reading, who could have ever guessed?
My natural instinct was to focus on a goddess. Who else but a woman makes a world? (Ahem. Realises self.) Little did I know what riches I would find in going back to writing’s origin. I’ll set about describing what I’ve come up with, and from what sources, another time; but for now I will leave with this. The primal goddess Hughes begins her series looking for was alive and well, I think, long before even stunning Göbekli Tepe. She is as hard wired into us as breath and thirst. And of course has just as firm a home on Andala.