Where Some Ideas Are Stranger Than Others...
CHAPTER FOUR: CULTURES OF THE AMAZON NATION
The amount of information on Amazon culture preserved by Classical Greek writers and in other sources is small. True to their concerns, they recorded only when and if Amazons bore children, that they were heroic warriors, and that their capital was impenetrable. However, more detail can be gleaned from how people near Amazon territory lived, or how those who occupied it after the Amazons had left lived (e.g. the Scythians and Thrakians). The picture can be fleshed out further by studying the Goddesses the Amazons worshipped, since the rituals and stories told of them will reflect their lives. Ares and Dionysus have been omitted, because they are late additions used for two purposes: to recast the religious rituals of women as madness and disorder, and to channel women's spiritual energy into negative outlets. They also took over aspects of Artemis, Athena and so on which did not fit Greek preconceptions, from their associations with sex and rebirth to being the divine force women could make contact with.
The Northern Amazon Nation had three major cities, Themiskyra, Chadesia, and Lykastia. Various urns and amphorae with pictures of Amazons and Greeks in conflict give the names of three queens at a time. The name Tritonis/Tritonia/Tritone means 'Third Queen,' the eldest, or 'land of the three queens.' There were three Gorgons, three Graea, three aspects of the Sun, three aspects of the Moon, and most Amazon queens are named in trios, yet most scholars contend that there were only two queens, one dealing with internal affairs, the other leading the army. In part this is due to a conflation of Amazon government with that of Sparta, which is interesting in itself because both were considered perennial enemies of Athens. It is also due to Amazonian symbolism; two of the queens were symbolized by a golden double eagle, copied frequently by later cultures.
Why would one queen be unrepresented? For the same reason that the Crone has always been associated with the dark of the Moon and the worlds beneath the ocean and the earth, which are all symbolically invisible to the human eye. The third queen was always the eldest, embodying the Crone aspect of the Goddess. Her insignia was the Gorgon's head, and she wore the Gorgon mask as a royal prerogative. Lamia, a queen of the Libyan Amazons filled this role. Like Medusa or Isis, they were symbolically veiled, unseen except at death.
Based on the evidence given by relative dwelling sizes and home contents from archaeological digs at Çatal Hüyük (Neolithic), Minoan-Mykenaean sites (Neolithic-Bronze Age), and on Lemnos (also Neolithic-Bronze Age), rule was probably on non-authoritarian principles. The usual hallmarks of a centralized and hierarchical system including such things as large burials full of goods or propagandistic art have not been found associated with specifically Amazon regions. Moving beyond the local level, broader scale decisions may have been based on early forms of direct or representational type governments.
New tribes were added to the Nation by peaceful means, as evidenced by the addition of the Neuri and Hemikyne tribes. The former worshipped a Wolf Goddess (possibly glossed later as Hekate or Athena), wore wolf masks and participated in shamanistic ceremonies during their greatest religious festival. The Hemikynes were a people occupying the Black Sea shore, known for their dog masks. The non-Scythian Issedone and the Scythian Agathyrae were gylanic tribes that lived near the Danube and were probably allied with the Nation.
There are far more carvings and pictures of Amazons than most people realize. Besides the Greeks, whose pictorial records of women in general let alone Amazons are only enough to fill one slim volume, there are extensive carvings by the Hittites, and a variety of Roman mosaics. This is apart from descriptions in folklore from the former regions of the Amazon Nation in North Africa, Southern Europe, and Anatolia. Even the Muslim cultures of Anatolia preserve knowledge of how the Amazons presented themselves, for they once worshipped the Amazon Goddess Al-Lat. It is due to her some Muslim sects included women among the warriors of 'Allah.'
There were three main groups of Amazons, with different styles of dress and adornment: Libyan, Anatolian, and Thermodontine. 'Libyan' referring to North African Amazons, Thermodontine strictly to those living on the European side of the Bosporus, and Anatolian to those on the Asian side of the Bosporus. Leather, cloth, and fur tended to be used by all three groups, and they had a number of things in common, variations due to climate and task aside. Clothing was decorated with embroidery or dyed patterns, usually with pictures of animals, patterns of meanders, chevrons, spirals, and so on, or both. Patterns could be bright, like those of North African kaftans or 'Thrakian' half length cloaks worn by the Thermodontines, or subtle, worked into the weave of the cloth or stamped into leather. Tattoos, earrings, and bracelets were also common. Besides indigo, black, red, and yellow were popular colours. Yellow was especially favoured among the Anatolian Amazons who cultivated saffron for dye and as a remedy for menstrual discomfort. Outer skirts could be constructed of vertical hanging strings of beads, or a lighter apron made of such beads could be worn over a regular cloth skirt. These garments were sacred, with an embroidered panel positioned over the groin to represent each woman's own life source, just as it was represented in early depictions of the Goddess Herself. This form of skirt and/or apron can be seen in traditional Greek and Makedonian women's dress.
A garment that was probably not actually worn by the Amazons was the short chiton which left the right shoulder and breast uncovered, as shown in many depictions of them in early Classical Athens. This type of chiton had become the running costume of unmarried young women and girls participating in the co-opted version of the Heraeon, a coming of age festival including female-only races. Nancy Serwint identifies the garments with a similar chiton Greek men wore during certain activities, especially during battles beneath their armour. The right shoulder was left bare because Greek hoplites wielded their spears and swords on the right, and otherwise their movements would have been restricted. It may be that the false belief that Amazons removed the right breast derived in part from ancient Greek men seeing pendulous breasts as analogous to a loose garment, as well they might be to a man who suddenly acquired them.
Libyan Amazons do not appear as such in any Greek art, having been reworked into half human Gorgons and Sirens, so descriptions of the women must come partly from mythology. Wearing their hair in dreadlocks or locks in front of the ears, a style carried to Krete, they were best known for their red leather. Red dyes were rare and sacred, hence the high value of Tyrian 'purple.' The Canary Islands still have a locally produced red dye, once used by the Amazons to colour their leather and cloth. Sometimes the Libyans left fringes on their leather garments, and while they were acutely aware of the symbolism of colour and shape, as people are at any time in history, the connections between fringes, snakes, and phalluses are coincidental in this case. The fringes developed for the same reason they did on the clothing of Aboriginal North Americans: as a handy source of leather thongs required for various purposes.
When not fighting or doing rugged work, the Libyan Amazons wore cloth tunics in black, red, indigo, or bright patterns. Knee high or shorter boots were made from cloth or leather with wooden or leather soles. Priestesses in particular often wore black or indigo robes with patterns worked into the weave. Their descendants can still be found in Morocco, wearing the selfsame robes with the two piece silver Moon necklaces of ancient times. Called 'guedra,' the wearers of these necklaces tell long, complex tales with movements only of their hands and forearms. Using incense, drumming, and dance, the guedra enter trances and speak or sing as the Delphic oracle must once have done. Their gatherings begin with the sharing of a large bowl of milk mixed with some other liquid, often something similar to a liqueur. They wear necklaces formed from what is known in India as a symbol of 'the seat of bliss' the yoni emblem, a small disk hung just above a crescent Moon with its concave side oriented upward, all made of silver or a silver coloured metal. Despite their trancing and ritualistic storytelling, observers refuse to admit the guedra are priestesses.
Most portrayals of Anatolian Amazons seem to show them at war because their image passed through the prism of the Hittites' warring mentality. Often only the lower half of their spiral decorated or plain tunics are visible. Other carvings do exist, however, and these show them in robes and togas, wearing shoes as opposed to riding boots. When it wasn't concealed below a skullcap or helmet, the Anatolian Amazons wore their curly hair loose or in pigtails. Some wore rosettes, which today are usually knots of ribbon, in their hair. The loose ends were left long enough to hang to or past the shoulder. The Anatolians heavily influenced their sisters further west, for the rosette is still worn by Scottish women and it can still be used to indicate rank... only a noblewoman can keep the ribbon ends draped across the front of her chest.
The rosette is closely related to an ancient symbol of priestesses in the Amazon Nation and other non-patriarchal cultures like that of the Minoans, the 'knot of Isis.' In fact a stylized image of the Goddess' genitals, Minoan priestesses are shown in murals wearing similar knots tied in scarves and worn at the back of their necks.
The Anatolian Amazons helped inspire the Thermodontines' signature accessory, the belt. It symbolized independence and self ownership, and an Amazon's first belt was given to her by her mother, as important a gift as the secret soul name her mother gave her at birth. That belt was worn until she had killed three enemies in battle or completed some other labours. Then and only then could she have children or craft her own belt, to be put on for the first time at the ceremony bringing her into the Nation as a full-grown woman. The Medieval chastity belt is a heinous corruption of this tradition.
Ultimately it was this complex of meanings, not greed for the materials Amazon belts were made of, which led to the Greek tale of Hippolyta's belt.
Related to the belt is the sacred string skirt, regularly worn for sacred dances. These skirts appear as early as the Neolithic, when they grace the hips of Goddess figurines. Aphrodite and Hera each possessed one, and their string skirts were considered so magical they were the physical representations of the irresistible will of each Goddess. Women's folk dress in Makedonia (mentioned previously) still include such skirts. Modern women, such as Elizabeth Wayland Barber have discovered the startling power of wearing such garments by trying on Makedonian ethnic costumes.
Of course, the Thermodontines could hardly have run around in only a belt or string skirt at all times. They wore thigh length tunics similar to those of the Greek hoplites shown with them, or the long sleeved shirt and trousers most familiar today from the Scythians. Unlike their sisters to the east and south, the Thermodontines seem to have rarely worn their hair long, and when they did, never wore it braided. Queens proved their worth by killing a wild animal barehanded, usually a great cat. The animal's skin was then used as a rough tunic or over a garment. Penthesilea herself was shown wearing such a pelt. Other times the Thermodontines could be seen in tailored jackets with thigh length tunics. Most Greek pictures showed Amazons on their way to a fight, practicing to fight, or fighting, but at least one other sort of headdress besides helmets and the problematic Scythian cap were shown, a headband with a few feathers in it... a curious parallel to movie portrayals of Aboriginal North Americans.
A few Amazon rituals or ritual practices were recorded in ancient times. Many others can be found in the sections on Amazon Goddesses, where they have been deduced or found preserved in the practices of their neighbours. Each important event in an Amazon's life was marked by ceremony, and numerous day to day tasks by short rituals. Surviving in the varied environments the Amazon Nation encompassed demanded a continued awareness of each part of the ecosystem. Paying respect to the Goddess, the souls of the ancestors, and the souls of the wild things helped maintain that awareness.
The most famous of Amazon rituals was the annual fertility festival, when a group of women who were ready and willing to have children had intercourse with men. Boys were returned to their fathers while girls were kept. Later claims that boys were crippled and kept as slaves were based more on the belief that Amazon society had to be an exact feminine mirror of Greek society than the truth. Amazons regularly rode bareback in other festivals, or in the 'circus,' demonstrations of horse riding skill. Perhaps then, it should no longer be a surprise that Kirke, whose name comes from the same root as circus and was always associated with it was said to live only with other women on a distant island, independent of men.
Even after sacrifices elsewhere had become when the priesthoods feasted on the meat and incinerated the rest, Amazons continued the original traditions. Menstruating women retreated to the forests to live in sacred women's houses, returning their blood to the Earth directly. Animal sacrifices as such were not carried out. Those animals killed in or near the shrines or temples were slaughtered as part of the food preparations for sacred communal feasts. Their blood was caught in cauldrons to form temporary scrying mirrors and their entrails read by grey haired priestesses. All parts of the animal had to be eaten or used, since to waste any part of it would be to insult its spirit and that of its maker, the Goddess Herself.
Among the animals eaten in such feasts were bulls and gelded horses, much to the disgust of Indo-European outsiders whose totem animals they often were. Death and rebirth rituals involving bull and horse meat feasts were carried out at a granite rock in the Kaukasus mountains, the island of Aretias on the Black Sea, and wherever a temple of Artemis Tauropolos was maintained. Aretias is particularly interesting, because a clear description of its temple remains.
The temple had no roof, an altar described as 'made of pebbles' outside, and an aniconic black stone marked with a yoni inside the enclosure. The stone is still there, albeit weathered a reddish brown by the wind and rain. The island itself is thickly wooded. Rituals held in the temple must have been impressive, especially at noon or at the Full Moon. It may have been a preferred place for divination by willow rods in a system similar to the Tao te Ching, although this could be done anywhere sacred space could be created.
In the common event that there were none of the much preferred meteoric stones to install as embodiments of the Goddess in their temples, Amazons used pillars or cones. Typically these were made of stone, although a wooden pillar could serve if necessary. Stone cones represented Aphrodite on Paphos and Artemis at Pegae in Pamphylia. The famous lion gate at Mykenae shows two lions flanking the Goddess in the form of a distinctive Minoan pillar. Great effort was made to acquire and maintain a pillar or cone of the correct material, involving potentially lengthy searches and labourious transportation back to the shrine. The motivation for such effort was a powerful combination of ancient symbolism and thousands of years of precedent. Humans first performed rituals and left offerings around the natural stalagmites on the floors of caves in Palaeolithic times. In 'Women's Mysteries Ancient and Modern,' M. Esther Harding showed how pillar and cone iconography was gradually elaborated until they came to resemble a stylized vulva and the figure of a woman (the Goddess) at the same time. Today we are still familiar with this dual symbol, except now it is mainly limited to the angels placed on top of christmas trees.
The labrys, ceremonial sceptre and later signature weapon of the Amazons, was probably a major part of each full-scale ritual. Minoan portrayals of Rhea, mother of Hera, show her holding a labrys while surrounded by adoring people and animals. She corresponds to the leader of the ritual who 'becomes Goddess' for the duration of the ceremony. The labrys derives from Neolithic butterfly, bird, and labia motifs, and could also symbolize the phases of the Moon. Its rebirth symbolism has less to do with the butterfly and its chrysalis than it does with its stylized portrayal of a woman's genitals. Tiny labryses were often worn as amulets and full-size versions hung on walls 'upside down' from the ring at the end of their handles. In Anatolia Amazons were also associated with a second form of ax. It was a stylized right forearm with the digits of the hand separated. The palm of the hand contained the hole in which the top of the handle was wedged. Small models of both ax types were offered to the Goddess in her temples, the labrys as late as 600 BCE, the second type until at least until the 13th century BCE in Anatolia.
The labyrinth 'house of the labrys' was also used in Amazon ritual... the term originally meant a temple, a place where the labrys was used and kept. The symbolic labyrinth, like the spiral it derives from, represents travelling inward to beginnings and interior space, and out again in the original heroic journey. Labyrinth designs were walked as part of ceremonies, or formed by whirling dancers, as in the crane dance which was centred on a horned altar, or the noisy shield and spear dance of the Amazons at the founding of Ephesus. Patricia Monaghan discovered yet another mystery around the often misunderstood labyrinth: it shows the movements of the Sun in the far North, where it doesn't set at summer solstice, as well as the Moon's apparent path in the sky (counterclockwise until it is full, then clockwise until it is invisible near the Sun).
Music was as important in ritual as it was in leisure. The first flute invented by Athena was made from the hollow bones of predatorial birds. Flutes were inherently sacred because of what they were made of and their haunting, almost reedy tone. One of a set of flutes found in late 1999 in China made in the same way was used to play an ancient Chinese melody a short time later, sending usually sobre, clip worded scientists into ecstatic prose... after they recovered their power of speech. The lyre, built over the course of several years in the same manner as famed Amazon bows was commonly played, most famously by the Sirens. Various percussion instruments, especially drums and tambourines were used, and even among the Greeks often only by women. In fact, the names for most musical instruments in ancient Greece were culled from non-Indo-European languages.
North African Amazons played instruments which are considered 'Berber' inventions. They included the lotar, similar to a long, narrow bodied lute, the rebab, ancestor of the violin, and the kemenja, another type of violin played upright like a cello, but small enough to brace against the knee. The Tauregs, close relatives of the Berbers, still have the imzad, a one stringed violin, and the tinde, a goatskin covered wooden mortar, both played only by women, also with roots stretching back to Amazon times. Music not only gave pleasure, it preserved history in songs and cured depression and indifference. Unlike today, when the power of faith is poorly regarded, Amazons and other ancient peoples applied both medical knowledge and faith healing methods to disease. They took for granted that faith healing sometimes works, and that giving the patient an active role in healing themselves improved their spirits and helped them persevere with 'regular' medical treatments.
With music comes dance, and the Amazons were famous for theirs, from the clashing shield and sword dance for Artemis at Ephesus to the crane dance. They often danced in circles or spirals, imitating the movements of the Sun and Moon in the sky and the continuous cycles of the seasons. Another dance, today so badly debased it is often performed solely by men in slippers, is still seen in Scotland and some parts of North America. Originally the dancers were Amazons who danced with their arms held over their heads, eyes never looking down, dancing in bare feet over the long blades of swords arranged in the form of a five pointed star.
The first and last harvesting were sacred rituals in honour of Rhea Kronia, wielder of the silver Moon sickle. The tool was also used in agriculture and war by the Amazons and their descendants among the Scythians, who gave the name of one of their Goddesses to the longer handled version, the Scythe. A bloody first encounter between early Hellenic tribes and Amazons may be reflected in the Rhea (Gaea)-Uranus myth. Hence Aphrodite's appearance in the tale, since she seems to have been brought to Greece by the Amazonian founders of Paphos.
Incense, candles, and various oils played a role as they have for many peoples in romance and religion. They also provided the materials used in the preparation of bodies for burial, cremation, and other types of treatment for the purpose of returning the soul to the Great Mother. Honey and wax were used to prevent decay while red ochre was used to give a red tint reminiscent of the womb. The famous burial mounds the Amazons built for their fallen sisters became part of Scythian burial rites as well, although in much altered form. The Scythians were symbolically providing the dead with pasture for their horses and a vast array of goods for a long journey. The Amazons were recreating the womb of the Earth Mother in preparation for the dead person's rebirth.
Henna also played an important role in body decoration through application to the skin or colouring of leather and textiles. Today it is still most used in areas Amazons formerly lived in or near: Morocco, Egypt, the Sudan, southwest Asia, Pakistan, Anatolia, and India. Highly valued for its antibiotic, cooling, and relaxing properties, henna has always been involved with ritual around times of transition and weakness. Various male centred religions have strongly condemned henna painting because it requires intimate touch between painter and recipient who are generally both women. The henna painter was and is in fact a type of shamanic priestess who carefully matches the design to the woman who receives it.
Heroic funerals, the events which often included the construction of a temple as well as a grave mound were held for three different groups of women: priestesses, warriors of good repute, and women who died in childbirth. What they had in common was a concern with bridging the gap between the worlds of the living and the dead. Priestesses as shamans, mothers in the act of giving birth, and warriors as death bringers, who then continued to act as assistant psychopompes to the Dark Goddess. This is another curious parallel with the Aztecs, who buried all warriors who died in battle, war captives who were sacrificed, and women who died in childbirth in the fetal position in their own graves rather than stretched ignominiously flat in someone else's tomb. They were all expected to go to immediately to pleasant afterlives, whereas others had to travel through the womb of the Earth again first. These three groups also served psychopompe-type functions.
The Thermodontine Amazons were often called enemies of the griffin, however, this is probably a projection of the attitudes of other cultures based on control. They were well aware of how keenly they had to observe their environment and how carefully balanced their activities had to be in the harsh, semi-arid conditions of the steppes around the Atlas mountains. The rituals, typically interpreted as a means to encourage better weather, healthy crops, and so on were never performed in the midst of a drought or other severe conditions. Rituals were performed at the first sign of a definite break in poor conditions, because all ancient peoples understood they couldn't force the weather or the Earth to obey their wishes. After all, the Moon and the Sea did just as they pleased, regardless of what any person might have wished. Change was instigated by the Goddess, and it was considered necessary to demonstrate respect and appreciation of Her actions, to insure She wouldn't change Her mind. This is the seed concept for the 'Wasteland,' a land abandoned by the Goddess because its inhabitants neither appreciated nor respected Her.
It is more likely the griffin, which is a beautiful, even benign looking beast before the arrival of the Mykenaeans and often shown caring for its young, is a calendar beast, composed from the lion, eagle, and snake. Not coincidentally, these are three of the main totemic forms of Athena and Hera. The snake probably corresponded to the spring when life seems to be reborn from the Earth, the eagle to the hotter months of growth and harvest when the Sun was both friend and enemy, and the lion to the winter, when the cold seems to force all life into hiding or death.
Ultimately, the Amazons' greatest influence can be seen all over Celtic Europe, especially at Uffington, where the outline of a white horse has been carved into the turf. They carried their horse-headed or bodied Goddesses from Anatolia, Libya, and Greece, called Daphoene, Demeter, Leukippe, Hera, and possibly Saranyu. The horse priestesses were referred to as 'man eating mares' or Leukippidae 'white mares,' the descendants of Hilaera 'bright one,' Phoebe 'Moon, or purifier,' and Arsinoe 'great in wisdom,' Leukippe's daughters. The Amazon's sacred horses who could sometimes fly appeared all over Greek myth, from Arrhippe and Pegasus to Psylla 'springer,' the divine mare who could leap over any obstacle. The Celts called the Amazon Horse Goddess Epona 'protector of horses', and built her monuments everywhere they lived. She could be a horse or a mounted woman carrying a bowl, plate, cornucopia, or goblet. Typically she was naked and associated with the Sun, and riding, walking, or lying beside a horse. Each horsewoman strapped a red crescent to her saddle in the Horse Goddess' honour.
Her debased legends survive as the stories of Peeping Tom and Lady Godiva. Other customs that derive from Amazon horse deities include: bleeding of horses on Boxing Day, the riderless horse at funerals, nailing a horseshoe over a doorway to hold or bring luck, and the symbolic relationship between horse riding and shamanism.
LEISURE AND TRADE
The Amazons worshipped many Goddesses, and among them Artemis, Athena, Aphrodite, and Hera in particular. The arts and crafts traded by the Amazons and their customs are reflected by these deities. Hounds closely resembling present day greyhounds were kept for hunting done with bow and arrow, spear, net, or javelin, and for guarding buildings. In Anatolia, the Amazons used the ancestors of the kangal, a large mixed breed looking sheepdog still guarding families in rural Turkey today. Athletic competitions probably began with hunts for sacred purposes.
Later this intersected with the Amazonian Heraeon, which grew to include running, wrestling, boxing, and weapons contests, crowned with mock war games. Among the Thermodontines, the taming of horses (probably by horse whispering) that ran free on the plains encouraged the addition of equestrian events.
In the arts, music, weaving, painting and so on produced works coveted far outside the Nation. Such works may have included tapestries and carpets, a trade which continues from Turkey to this day. Even now Turkish carpets can fetch huge prices, and the study of their designs and construction is a recognized university course. Other works may have been rubies, garnets, emeralds, and carnelians still found in North Africa, carved with the help of magnifying lenses. The only deity ever portrayed in this art was the Goddess, in designs unique to each city or region, which gives the lie yet again to the claims that Amazons worshipped Ares or Dionysus.
The Tritonian Amazons maintained flocks of goats, sheep, and cows. Their orchards may have helped inspire the tales of the apples of the Hesperides. Contrary to Greek accounts, not all Libyan Amazons were without bread. Grain was cultivated where conditions allowed, along with a variety of vegetables. Their orchards included hazelnut, almond, olive, apricot, orange, date palm, and fig trees. Spices such as cinnamon, rosemary, coriander, and pepper were also available. Myrtle, an evergreen shrub, supplied leaves, berries, and bark for perfume and tanning.
A similarly wide variety was cultivated and collected by the Thermodontine Amazons, although they seem to have hunted for meat instead of further stressing their environment with herds of cattle. From hazelnuts and cherries on the island of Aretias to apples on the mainland, their trees were almost as famous for their sacredness as their produce. Olives, honey, beeswax, and figs were as common as they were on the Greek peninsula, and settlements on the fertile southern shores of the Black Sea grew grapes and produced wine as well as pistachios and tea. Fisheries at the meeting of the Sea of Azov and the Don fed many coastal cities.
Not so common was their use of horses for meat, milk, and transport. When they lived on the steppes, they made use of Artemis' sacred wormwood growing wild and thick as far as the eye could see, just as it does today. Wheat, barley, and millet were grown along with flax and hemp, which were used for textiles and ritual. Legumes were planted for food and soil maintenance.
WEAPONRY AND ARMOUR
The Amazons were best known for their cavalry and archers. The former because they were the first to tame horses and form a force of mounted warriors and chariots using one, two, or four horses, the latter because of their range, accuracy, and ambidexterity with the bow. Besides the recurved bow, they wielded the labrys, the 'forearm ax' (see Ritual section above) various types of swords, slingshots, spears, and related weapons. The Amazons and later the Scythians were famous for their skillful use of the sagaris, a single edged sword or ax. Pictures of archers showed them with the gorytys, a case that held both bow and arrows strapped to their waists, later considered a signature accessory of the Scythians. Trumpets were used for signaling, and dogs may also have played a role in Amazon armies.
The Libyan Amazons were originally as famous for their skills with bow and arrow as the Thermodontines. Besides the Gorgons, the Tritoni, and the Pallantids, there were the 'Nine Bows,' a name the Egyptians later liked to apply to any of the tribes they encountered beyond the west bank of the Nile.
Typically they used crescent or ivy-leaf shaped shields, or the pelta, a rimless round shield later favoured by the Thrakians, although they were also known to use oblong, figure-eight shields like those carried by Greek hoplites. Their armour included greaves and plated belts. Often depicted in laced cuirasses, they probably also used plated jerkins and scale armour.
Again, Amazons never removed the right breast. The idea has origins in a spurious etymology of the word 'Amazon' and comparisons to images of androgynous figures found in some Goddess temples, as well as the clothing analogy mentioned earlier. Amazons often made certain their gender was apparent in battles, but the baring of a breast is ultimately unlikely. Later social convention and even laws would prevent women from crossdressing not for this reason, but because men in patriarchal societies feared mistaking women for men. To such men, trusting or respecting a woman as they would other men was dangerous, and every possible means of avoiding this had to be used.
The Anatolian Amazons whom the Greeks originally encountered are portrayed more accurately in their battle gear by the Hittites. In great murals carved into the walls of their fortress cities, the Hittites showed the Amazons in feather crested or cone shaped helmets. Both reappeared among the Thermodontine Amazons, although they often crested their helmets with horse hair. The cone shaped helmets have been mistakenly referred to as 'caps' despite how frankly useless they would be in battle. The Anatolians frequently added carefully shaped ear and neck guards, and wore chain mail over their torsoes. From these women may come the famous belt, which in their case was wide and covered in metal studs... studs probably used to attach metal plates to the cloth or leather of the strap.
Formidably armed, they fought with both hands, a short sword in the left hand and an ax (double or single edged) in the other, interesting for symbolism's sake let alone the ambidexterity this implies. The sword and ax commonly represent male and female genitals respectively in religious symbolism, while the right hand was considered 'male' and the left 'female.' Unlike the usual sword of such imagery however, the Anatolian Amazons used curved blades, their attendant crescent shaped scabbards and hilts always carefully rendered. Should one weapon be lost, a curved or straight dagger was always available at belt, thigh, or boot.
The Dorian Greeks must have found their initial encounters with the Amazons especially frightening. Not only were the Amazons fighting to defend their homes, themselves, and their way of life, a position that encourages the fiercest of efforts, they fought mounted or on foot... and switched easily between the two. Furthermore, they were practiced in battle cries that opponents found so disarming they froze or panicked, and which were also not in any language the Greeks recognized. It's no surprise the Greeks believed that the Amazons were casting spells on them. Understanding that the strength of an army lies in its unity, the Amazons used a feigned retreat to break the front, firing arrows back at the enemy from horseback, then wheeled and attacked. When moving their cavalry and hoplites, they travelled in single file to disguise their numbers. War queens went bare headed or wore tall, ornate helmets in battle, while other Amazons wore peaked or flat helms, or Thrakian or Greek style helmets.
Despite repeated attempts and later claims, the Greeks never scored a clean victory over the Amazons. When faced with maintaining their Nation's physical boundaries by becoming what they despised, the women chose instead to remain Amazon. Many began retreating to the mountains and further, across the land and sea, and they eventually camouflaged themselves from the patriarchs. Some fought until they were utterly destroyed, like the Kimmerians, who believed that if in death they could not be reunited with the land they had been born on they could not be reborn. It may well be that other Amazons solved this ideological dilemma by literally carrying some of the soil of their former lands away with them, an action that reappears in modern vampire folklore. In any case, the Amazons knew that a society that abandons the Goddess cannot survive, and that in time She and the Nation would return.
- Their lives and not those of the latest tellers because such stories were changed very little as they were passed down first in an oral tradition, where memorizing by rote or at least by the correct word sound was all important. Early written versions still had not changed much of the basic material, and they were soon abandoned by writers in favour of other tales.
- There is a recognized correlation between the status of women and what form of government is developed by the society they live in. Totalitarian societies tend to enshrine the repression of women in the foundation of their philosophies. Where a society has few or no men, a similar philosophy of male repression has not been found.
- 'Scythian' and 'non-Scythian' are designations partially reflected by geography. The non-Scythian peoples all lived east of the Tanais river.
- In ancient Arabic, as in ancient Egyptian (both being Semitic languages), 't' is a feminine ending, a fact which has led to new questions about the Egyptian god Ra, due to Isis-Maat's title 'Ra-t.'
- Serwint, Nancy, 1993, 'The female athletic costume at the Heraia and prenuptual initiation rites': American Journal of Archaeology, v. 97, p. 403 - 422.
- Derived from Norma Lorre Goodrich's 'Priestesses.'
- This naming tradition persisted among Scythian, Babylonian, and Germanic tribes despite efforts to stamp it out.
- An experience she describes in her book 'Women's Work: The First 20 000 Years.'
- The headband with a few feathers stuck in it was not an original part of North American Aboriginal costume, but was adopted by younger Aboriginal North Americans at the beginning of their cultural reclamation after open government efforts at assimilation were finally abandoned. The headband's origin may actually be continental African costume.
- The Island of the Amazons: Aretias - Giresun Adesi.
- Minoan pillars taper towards their bases, whereas Greek and modern day pillars taper towards their crowns.
- In 'O Mother Sun: A New View of the Cosmic Feminine.'
- Oldest playable musical instruments found at Jinhu Neolithic site in China' Nature, Vol. 401, pages 366-368, 1999.
- The name is quoted here not because the instruments were not invented by these people, but because the name 'Berber' is derived from Greek 'barbaros' and was imposed on them by the Romans. The information on these instruments comes from the cassettes Amazigh: Ensemble Tartit and Morocco, Crossroads of Time (full details in the bibliography).
- A listing derived from Norma Lorre Goodrich's 'Priestesses.'
- This explanation of the role and timing of rituals in non-patriarchal societies was first developed by Heide Göttner-Abendorth in 'The Dancing Goddess: Principles of a Matriarchal Aesthetic.'
- Called Hippona by the Romans, who may have wondered how such a curiously Greek sounding name came to Britannia, although it is now known the similarity exists because the Celtic and Greek languages have common Indo-European origins and more similar word roots for the word 'horse' than Latin, another Indo-European language.
- The Amazons were self-sufficient, and did not need to trade for staples such as grain.
- Hence the god Pan's ability to strike terror into armies by shouting in later Greek myth.