This weeks topic- Wisdom , immediately made me think about skills that have been passed on from the dawn of time.
Fire and toolmaking have obviously been hugely important in the development of Mankind, however i think that one of the earliest types of wisdom handed down must have been midwifery.
After all, many animal species are known to deliberately help other females in childbirth. Bottlenose dolphins often have a midwife dolphin who helps the mother push the new baby to the surface for its first breath. The midwife dolphin also helps protect the new mother and her baby from sharks for several weeks after the birth.
Flying foxes, a type of large bat, have been observed helping a labouring mother when the labour was prolonged by demonstating the correct birthing position and directly assisting in the birth.
Male Spiny mice al Acomys cahirinus actively assist their mates during labour.
Its likely that there are other animals who assist during the birth but have not yet been observed in this behavour.
In humans, midwifery has probably been essential from early times, due to the large size of the baby's head in comparison to the female pelvis.
Of course there is not much evidence for the practise of midwifery in prehistory but it would make a great deal of sense as it increased the likelihood of survival for both mother and baby if things went somewhat wrong. eg tight cord round the baby's neck or helping to guide a breech birth.
Early midwives were probably women who had either helped at a number of births or who had successfully given birth to a number of children herself.
In fact many of the so called Venus figurines ressemble women who have given birth to many children and are not young and fertile , but show that they have successfully lived through many years and have the wisdom to go with it.
This statue is the famous Venus of Willendorf
I took the picture at a special exhibition of Early Goddess statues at the museum of prehistory in Nice called Terra Amata.
Its not a brillaint photo due to the glass case, background and odd lighting -so i have knocked out the background in photoshop which makes it a wee bit better.
I decided to use the Venus of willendorf as a Goddess of Midwifery and Female Wisdom in the following image.
I have painted a pregnant belly and added some body paint to prepresent protective charms that are likely to have been used to safeguard both mother and baby.
Late Addition: I just found out today that the artist and writer Monica Sjoo died the other day -8th August 2005 -afyer a long illness. Somehow it seems appropriate to add this news to this post and artwork as i admired much of her work and found it thought provoking and inspiring.
A retrospective exhibition of her work is online here http://www.monicasjoo.com/
A brief obituary by Starhawk is here http://www.starhawk.org/monica_sjoo.html
venus of willendorf