Transcript of Disc II, Chapter VII: Crowns and Headresses
© 2013 Max Dashu

Battle Cave, Natal
Ceremonial headdresses are part of shaman’s regalia in many places. In a San rock painting at Battle Cave, Natal, women dance among eland spirits. They have long peaked hats – and wings.

Sanogo initiation
Among the Senufo, every initiate into womanhood was crowned by a majestic cowrie shell headdress. The elders of this female Sandogo society were powerful medicine women.

Ahmose Nefertari
The crowns of Kemetic queens are replete with sacred symbols, like the vulture crown of Mut, a goddess whose name means both “mother” and “vulture” in the Kemetic language.

Priestess of Amun
The ritual role of the queens seems to decline in the Middle Kingdom, but was revived under new titles in the New, with Nubian women like Ahmose Nefertari and Amenirdis, shown here in her double feather crown.

In Cambodia, sacred dancers of the Khmer embodied the goddesses of Earth and Water from the moment they put on their ritual crowns.

Women wear diadems in many Spanish stelas, from about 1500 to 900 bce -- here from Arrocerezo and Capilla I. Their curved headdresses, with their vertical dividers, end-loops, and topped with small round ornaments...

La Columbine
... matches that of a woman buried around the same time, in a mound at La Columbine in France. Hers was made out of bronze wire wrapped around a huge boar tusk, and encrusted with coiled metal spirals.

Almadén de la Plata
A Spanish diademada at Almaden de la Plata has exactly the same shape: tapered at one end just like the boar tusk crown. These diadems only appear on female stelae in Spain, and in women’s burials in France

Les Grèves
This one is from Les Grèves, Barbuise-Courtavant, in the Aube region.

Idia I
Here queen Idia of old Benin wears a peaked headdress of coral beads. Nkiru Nzegwu has written that these queen mothers—iyoba—were reputed to have spiritual powers and occult knowledge. [See her article "Iyoba Idia: The Hidden Oba Of Benin," linked]

Tradition says that Iyoba Idia, whose portraits are shown here, used her powers to put her son on the throne, and later to heal his madness.

In southern Mexico, a Zapotec goddess wears a magnificent headdress of pleated paper surmounted by an animal head. Women wore such regalia in ceremonies and processions.

Maya women are shown wearing elaborate headdresses, often of quetzal feathers, and wielding ritual objects [from Justin Kerr's Maya vase database]

K554a Crown
or chanting, passionately intoning invocations, making ritual gestures -- dancing.

Aztec goddesses, or those who embody them, have similar feathered crowns and ritual bundles. We might read these as windows into ancient ceremony. [Chicomecoatl is a Corn Mother, whose name means "Seven Serpent."]

Jamacoaque whistle
Magnificent headdresses appear in ancient Ecuador, like this butterfly-crown of a Jamacoaque woman who is invoking with a whistle.

Cao Crown
In northern Peru, the Lady of Cao was buried with a horn-like crown of beaten gold chased with a solar jaguar-mask.

Cao 2
This 5th-century Moche priestess bore serpent and spider tattoos on her arms. Her mummy was buried atop the pyramid of Huaca Cao Viejo, with crowns, golden staffs, numerous necklaces,and 44 figured nose rings.

Three golden cone-peaked “hats” have been found in Germany, including this one from Speyer, and another in France

Golden "hats"
They were buried as ritual deposits between 1400 to 800 bce. No one knows how they were worn, or if, or by whom.

Sarmatian woman's crown
Women across Eurasia wore high tapered headdresses, some golden like this Sarmatian crown with griffins

This gold headdress panel from Karadeuashkh, Ukraine, depicts a Sarmatian woman wearing the same kind of tall crown: clan mother, shamanic priestess or both?

The crown at Khokhlakh is a low golden band showing Greek influence, but with shamanic themes of the steppe: the Tree of Life growing out of a goddess, and flanked by sacred deer.

Ak Alakha
Deep in central Asia, at Ak Alakha on the Ukok plateau, a woman was buried in a 3-foot-tall headdress symbolizing the Tree of Life.

Ak Alakha 2
Its black felt crown, three feet tall, was studded with 15 swans; a gilded stag stands upon a tiered pillar, itself resting on a mountain goat.

Ak Alakha 3
Preserved by permafrost, the body of this ice priestess was tattooed with spirit deer and winged snow leopards.

In nearby Pazyryk, another woman was buried in an elaborate leather hood topped with dancing birds

In the Tarim basin, certain women were buried in conical black hats three feet long, whose resemblance to European “witch hats” caused archaeologists to dub them “the Witches of Subeshi”.

Tilya Tepe
Further south, at Tilya Tepe in Afghanistan, a woman was buried with rich regalia, including

Tilya Tepe tree crown
a spangled golden tree-of-life crown designed to be collapsible for nomadic travel. The birch leaf symbolism is widespread in central Asian shamanism.

Tomb 98 Silla
That crown has been compared with the spangled Tree of Life and antlered crowns of Korea, several centuries later. This one, from Tomb 98 at Silla, was long assumed to belong to a shamanic king,

Silla Queen
but grave goods identify her as a queen, in an inscription of “a belt for Milady.”

Belt Tomb 98
Her golden belts are loaded with amulets in the form of fish and curled gogok jades

Feather crown
These shamanic crowns of Silla date to the 5th and 6th centuries. Some are in the shape of feathers, connecting them

Krasnoyarsk shaman
with the myriad feathered shaman’s caps of Siberia, Mongolia and central Asia, where bird and deer symbolism prevails in shamanic regalia.

Numinchen headdress
A Numinchen shaman’s hat from Manchuria is topped by a bird rather than feathers, and has antlers – horns being an extremely widespread insignia of medicine people.

Featherd and horned headdresses were common in North America, here worn by a Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwakiutl) woman in western Canada.

Brulé Lakota
In the Great Plains of North America, a Brulé Lakota holy woman was depicted wearing a buffalo crown, along with sacred staffs.

Buffalo headdresses were regalia of female elders of the Motokiks society in the Kainai nation of the Blackfeet [Confederacy]. For the Cheyenne, the Sacred Buffalo Hat is the embodiment of female energy.

The Natoas headdress was worn by the Sacred Woman in the Blackfeet Sun Dance, which she convoked. This Piikani lady was keeper of the Natoas [in Alberta, Canada, 1957]

One of the places in Africa where women still dance the masks is Guinée-Bissau, where this matriarchal Bidjagos woman wears a crocodile mask.

And we have much more to learn about women wearing masks, like this polar bear medicine woman from Greeland

In Vanuatu, the women of Malekula keep sacred masks in forest shrines off limits to men. These masks are the most igah objects, concentrated female potency.



Woman Shaman: the Ancients © 2013 Max Dashu

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