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21 May 2016

Jerzy Tomasz Bąbel

Summary: The Symbolism of the Ram in the Beliefs of the Funnel Beaker Culture Peoples. An Interpretation

Category: Anthropology

To the main article, in Polish»

The author tries to interpret the religious symbolism of representations of the ram a pearing in figural art of the Funnel Beaker culture. He states that beliefs connected with the ram were brought to the lands which are now Poland from southern Europe by neolithic settlers. Sheep appeared in Poland for the first time together with these settlers. The author gives examples of neolithic representations of rams from the Balkans and Central Europe and the views of scientists on the subject.

A ram figure from Jordanow Slaski, now in City Museum, Wroclaw

He then assembles comparative material concerning the occurrence of rams and sheep in mythologies, religions and folk beliefs. He discusses the connection between clouds and gods, demons, the spirits of the dead and shee fleece used for rain magic. He talks about the association of t e ram and the sheep with gods: of the sky and storm, the waters of the sea, rivers and streams, the sun, fire and wind; with divinations, the earth, the world of the dead, fertility, shepherd deities, the moon and the world of plants. He explains the magic-religious meaning of sheep and ram blood, mentions the symbolism of the lamb in Christianity, the association of the ram with sacrifices of first crops, propitiation and substitute sacrifices, with the rites of reconciliation and makin a covenant, with the reckoning of time and the magic signi tcance of various parts of the body of these animals. He states that the fundamental, initial point from which all the above mentioned associations resulted in various magic-religious systems was the animal herding and breedin tra ition. The main feature, which caused such a wide-range symbolism of the ram, was the fertility of this animal, considered a great sacral power, raised in various magic-religious systems to a cosmic significance. This power was a beneficent magic remedy, protecting from all evil. Sacrum was manifested in the animal and so the ram and sheep were icons and attributes of many deities. The author notices that sacrifices were made of these animals to the gods whose incarnations they were. He is of the opinion that what was intended was the transmission and circulation (people — deity — people) of the same force.

When analyzing certain finds the author criticizes the excavation methods and hitherto into retation of a clay figure of a ram from Jordanow Slaski and the clay figures of “small oxen” in yoke from Krężnica Jara, Lublin voiv. These small oxen are in fact a pair of rams. He wonders whether the depiction of rams in a yoke was a reflection of reality or of a myth. He then analizes the ornament of vessels from the Funnel Beaker culture where rams are depicted. The author comes to the conclusion that the figure of a ram is associated with the “heavenly waters” and is a mythological image. The pictures show the god of heaven, storm and thunder, whose icons were both the ram and bull and whose attribute was lightning in the form of an axe. The mythhological ram of the Funnel Beaker culture had 4 or 6 legs. The deity had a strong sight and it was considered all-seeing and all-knowing. The images of rams and cattle in yoke known from Krężnica Jara and Ćmieléw, Tarnobrzeg voiv. are, according to the author, symbols of hierogamy, i.e. the holy marriage of heavenly deities.

The author next tries to explain the origin of the ram symbolism in the beliefs of the Funnel Beaker culture peo Ies and how it arose. He explains how the symbol of the go of the heavens originated. This symbol includes elements of an animal, a cloud (“heavenly waters”) and lightning. The author stresses the various factors influencing the creation of such a symbol and the enormous role in the life of shepherd-farmers played by the weather and animal fertility.

J. T. Bąbel supposes that during the “neolithization” process of mesolithic tribes, an evolution and mergin of beliefs also took place and, as a result, a hypothetical “Lord of the Animals” of the mesolithic peoples could have been finally identified with the Funnel Beaker peoples’ god of the heavens. The ram probably became the symbol of the gods of fire, sun, wind, etc., as the deities of the heavens underwent a process of specialization. It was probably borrowed by the specialized deities from the highest heavenly god.

The author thinks that the vessels of the Funnel Beaker culture, decorated with pictures of rams, were used to store grain for sowing, which was imparted fertile energy by the images (Figs 1a, c; 6) and for rain magic, which was probably the domain of women. J. T. Bąbel interprets pit 180 at Ćmielow, Tarnobrzeg voiv., a granary containing vessels with sacred images of rams, as a sort of cult repository, a grain store submitted to a powerful fertility magic. The presence of broken vessels with images of rams in waste pits of the Funnel Beaker culture is interpreted by the author as an expression of animism.


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