Transcript of Disc I, Chapter II: Dance
© 2013 Max Dashu

Las Moriscas                      
Sacred dance pervades ancient art, like these women dancing in a Spanish forest, arms to the sky.

Chikupa, Zimbabwe
A mural at Chikupa, Zimbabwe shows women dancing in a procession, waving wands or staffs

Odzi, Umtali
The dancer enters a transformative state, to the clapping and singing. Dance is a pathway to ecstasy, literally “beside the self.”

MakondeDancers, Zimbabwe
Along with chant and rhythm, dance is a core element in ceremony. The dancers raise and direct power, unifying mind and body, connecting with the greater whole.

Mtoko, Zimbabwe
Sacred dance propels them into altered states of heightened awareness and potency. In this rock painting, they wear feathers, ritual ties, and tails; dotted lines of power shimmer across their bodies

Teshuinat, Libya
These youthful Libyans in elaborate headdresses may be dancing in womanhood initiation ceremonies

Majenje, Matapos Hills
Some of the oldest rock art shows hunting ceremonies. At Majenje in the Matopos hills, an antelope hunter may be connected to the ritual of women below, some in horned headdresses.

Prospect Farm, Zimbabwe
A horned woman is the central figure in this ceremony, while others chant and dance, and the men take up their bows and arrows.

Polvorin, Spain
In this ancient Spanish rock mural, a dancing woman appears to call deer to the hunters.

Tiout, Algeria
An Algerian petroglyph from Tiout clearly displays the woman’s hunting magic; she invokes the power, arms upraised, and it runs directly from her womb to the hunter.

Mizumo collection (ropey bronze)
In China, many ancient bronzes show the Wu dancing with bows and arrows, bringing success in the hunt.

Quechua Keru
In Peru, masked women do a circle dance with birds, around the sides of a ritual pot.

Laud Codex 1
Glimpses of women’s sacred dance can be seen in the Laud Codex of Mexico, a cosmological work on Time and the calendar

Laud Codex 2
The painter shows women dancing to bell rattles, and they go into trance, entering into spirit realms, into vision and inspiration.

Phaistos clay dancer
In Crete, archaeology reveals a culture in which women dance and lead ceremony. Legend remembers the priestess Ariadne as a sacred dancer and guardian of the labyrinth

Cretan seal, oval
On this seal where women dance before an animal staff planted on the ground, we catch sight of a sanctified moment in the Mysteries.

Knossos Dancer
On another seal from Knossos, the dancer throws back her head in ecstasy. Even the shrine in the background bends to her movement, and a butterfly hovers over her.

Vapheio cylinder seal
An ecstatic dancer wields a wand and reaches toward the sky in a Greek seal from Vapheio. [Mycenaean period]

Dancer, arms flung out and running
Even in patriarchal times, Greek women conserved their ancient ceremonial culture of ecstatic dance—and drumming.

Etruscan dancer with wings
An Etruscan woman dances above a snake head, wearing a cloth tied like wings around her waist

Similar winged skirts are worn by Khmer apsaras (nature spirit) in Cambodia, across a vast distance and 15 centuries.

Khmer yogini  (two views)
Though these bronzes represent goddesses, actual Khmer temple dancers embodied them in ceremony, after making invocations and offerings to the headdresses and masks they wore.

Cham dancers and drummer
In southern Vietnam, the Cham had a similar temple culture, with female dancers who acted as conduits for divinities of Earth and Water.

Cham dancers 2
Like many cultures of Southeast Asia and Indonesia, they fused Indigenous themes with influences from India.

In Bali, women and girls performed powerful trance dances like the sanghyang dedari, in which goddesses descend to bless the villages and banish malign spirits.

Chidambaram, bharata natyam
The devadasi were the temple dancers of ancient India, literally the servitors of deities. The tradition grew out of inspirited dance in arul, a state of grace.

Tamil art at Chidambaram shows the temple dancers as yoginis, as they dance the many karanas, or  movements, of bharata natyam.

19th dynasty drum dance Kemet
In Egypt, women’s ecstatic dances have been overlooked in the focus on male priesthoods—but they loomed large in local village life, and the temple dancers should not be disregarded either.

Circle dance, Bactria-Margiana
The literature on shamanism also passes over women’s sacramental dances, here in west central Asia, because they are collective rather than individual

Persian women and goddess
A chased silver disc depicts Persian women dancing around a goddess with her chimeric animal, under the moon

Historical sources refer to the Soghdian whirl, a shamanic dance of central Asia, here danced by a Uighur woman in Xinjiang.

Uzume staff dance
In Japan, the first mikogami was the strong and fierce Ame-no-Uzume, who danced with her torimono staff, wreathed with sacred plants.

Uzume Staff 2
Uzume chanted and danced, stamping her feet, next to a sakaki tree adorned with mirrors and streamers, while all the spirits kept time with clappers. [She also played a catalpa bow, shamanic instrument of old Japan]

Zhou dancers
In China, the Wu were female shamans famed for rain dances and for performing marvels in their trance dances

Jade sleeve dancers
They too whirled, waving their long sleeves like wings. They spit fire, spoke in tongues, slashed themselves with knives, yet no blood flowed, or their dance caused objects to rise in the air around them.

Zhengzhou, Henan
Birds and other spirits came to their haunting call, the xiao. This clear, prolonged sound was compared to the cry of a phoenix, a zither, and a long sigh. It had the power to rouse winds and call spirits; in the Songs of Chu it calls the souls of ancestors.

Ruslanie sleevedancer
Ecstatic sleevedances spread all the way to Russia, where bishops inveighed against the pagan revelry of the Ruslanie holidays.

Old Ryazan hoard
A bracelet from pagan Ryazan, circa 1300, shows a dancer and guslar zithirist amidst birds, a griffin and sphinx. [This eastern Russian city, like legendary Murom,

Ryazan sleevedancer
The dancer’s sleeves have water patterns, suggesting rainfall. Below them, a spirit mask peers out...

Sleevedance on vessel
A 9th century Russian sleevedancer appears with animals and the pagan symbol of growing plants, called Zhivitye, “Live.”

This old Russian sign connects the sacred dancer with the life-force that pervades all Nature.

Chang E
The long-sleeved arms of these dancers move like wind, like wings, like a bird taking flight... like the spirits, immortals, and deities. [This painting is modern but shows an old theme.]



Woman Shaman: the Ancients © 2013 Max Dashu




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