Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Bird of Lascaux, France

Nestled on a hill above the town of Montignac in southwestern France, the approximately 17,000 year old painted cave network of Lascaux carries an ancient and sublime tribute to our ancestors’ passion for transformative art. The location itself is testimony to the human aesthetic desire to live in beautiful places. The paintings contain symbolic mysteries that no one fully understands, but we intuitively connect with the vibrant, animated, and emotionally depicted images. 

As if to emphasize my deeply emotional inner state at being there, when I was leaving Lascaux II—a perfect replica of the original cave that is just a couple hundred meters away and closed to the public for protection—a red throated European thrush flew toward me and landed two feet away.

I had just been contemplating the possible meanings of the one human figure in the cave, a reclining man who seems to have just speared a bison and next to whom lies a staff capped with a bird figure. The man's face is bird-like, to me a seeming precursor to later Neolithic-era depictions of the goddess as wearing the mask or the face of a bird. That goddess also often dwelled in caves. So far, archaeologists see the Lascaux figure as carrying on some form of masculine magic for the hunt.  Perhaps it is a shamanic figure. I am sure there is something to all this but I also think that the total imagery is making a call to both the sacred masculine and the sacred feminine to strike a balance that will assure the continuation of life and well-being. This was what I was thinking when the little bird of Lascaux landed at my feet.

Is it synchronicity or simply a very territorial bird who lives at Lascaux?

And, after a day of hiking around the amazing hill in whose belly sits Lascaux, my belly was grumbling and ready for a good meal. I walked the few kilometers back into Montignac and, as truffle season had arrived, I found and enjoyed a quintessentially local omelet with shaved black truffles.

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