Global Cataclysm through the eyes of Trypillians
Doctor of History, professor,
archaeologist Mykola Chmykhov
Any developed world-view, including ancient, was
presented as a cyclic scheme, beginning with genesis and ending
with apocalypse. Such system has formed along with the establishment
of the modern structure of mankind (stable family, kindred, tribe,
social inequality, linguistic families, termination of biological
development at the level of major races) and modern climatic conditions
of our planet. It corresponds to the Proto-Neolithic Epoch (for
underdeveloped peoples - to the Neolithic Epoch).
The Trypillian population of the Copper Age existed
during the third, late period of the Neolithic Epoch. It means that
is had to live through all three (Lower, Middle and Upper) phases
of the Epoch. It had to endure socio-economic and ecological crises,
that broke out at the turns between these periods. Such grandiose
events had to be remembered and passed on from generation to generation.
The forebears of Trypillians must have survived
a particularly serious disaster. We are talking about the period
of transition from the Mesolithic Epoch to the Proto- Neolithic
Epoch, or from the pre-boreal [climate] to boreal. It was then that
the real Holocene, the post-glacial epoch, had settled.
The level of groundwater fell. The cold hardpan
warmed up. Coniferous forests north of Ukraine were replaced with
the leafy woods. Cold-loving animals disappeared.
Probably, the crisis at the turn of the Proto-Neolithic
and Neolithic Epochs, during the transition from the boreal to Atlantic
climate, was somewhat milder.
Wherever our forebears had been - whether on the
territory of Ukraine, or Moldova, or in the Balkan Danube region
- they had withstood a real cataclysm. It is exactly due to this
cataclysm that the level of groundwater had fallen. Humus began
to form. The Black Sea that had used to be a lake, became connected
with the Mediterranean Sea through the strait Bosporus. Water covered
significant part of the land, especially in the North-Western Prychernomoria.
Our forebears suffered the second-powerful change
in society and ecology at the turn of the Middle and Upper periods
of the Neolithic Epoch and the Copper Age. We shall not dwell upon
the changes in society - they are nobody's secret. We would like
to emphasize the fact that from the beginning of the Copper Age
the ecological and climatic situation also became very much different.
In particular, the existence of Trypillia corresponded
to another climatic phase - the Atlantic phase. Obviously, its beginning
coincided with significant changes in the solar system. It happened
at the beginning of a new cycle (the next one since the beginning
of the boreal and the Neolithic Epoch) - a 2660-year serial of solar
eclipses taking place at the time of vernal equinox.
Therefore, it can be maintained that the population
of Trypillia had to realize the periodic character of global crises
and cataclysms as the moments, when the old ecological and social
situation stops to exist and the new one is being born. The people
of Trypillia couldn't help seeing that these crises and cataclysms
were related to changes in the Universe and to some special astronomical
phenomena. That is why some of the themes present in the monuments
of Trypillia may be explained by the idea of global cataclysm.
Ancient Indo-Europeans and Semites distinguished
several basic aspects of this theme. Let us expand upon some of
In ancient times people believed that the world
would come to its end, when the sun or the moon fell into the maw
of a beast. Gauls believed, that it would happen, when the wolf's
fangs clutched at the moon. According to Scandinavian Edda, at the
end of the world one wolf will swallow the sun and another will
clutch at the moon with its teeth.
Generally speaking, wolves appear in varying roles
in the beliefs of Indo-European peoples. Ukrainians call them St.
George's hounds. In Scandinavian sagas Hel - the goddess who ruled
the abode of the dead - had the maw of a wolf.
Quite often, snakes feature instead of wolves.
Snakes swallowed the sun, the moon and stars in the Slavic and Germanic
Satan who wanted to destroy the world in the
Bible also appeared as the Serpent. This is what the Apocalypse
"Then another sign appeared in the heaven:
an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven
crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of
the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front
of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour
her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male
child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And
her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman
fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where
she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. And there was war in
the heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon,
and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong
enough and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was
hurled down - that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan,
who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth and
his angels with him."
(The Revelation of St. John the
Divine. 12. 3-7).
The flying scroll in the vision of the Prophet
Zachariah, called into being by God to destroy violators of His
laws along with the rest of the world, is close to the described
"And I answered: "I see a flying scroll.
It is twenty cubits long and ten cubits wide. And he said to me:
"This is the curse coming up to the surface of the whole land.
For every criminal shall be destroyed according to what is written
on this side of the scroll, and everyone who swears falsely and
who swears by My Name. And it will settle in his house and destroy
it and its trees and its stones."
(Zachariah. 5. 2-4).
Indians associated the land and the altar (models
of the Universe) with rawhide, picked up at the end of the world.
"...We pray to glorious Varuna, who pitched
the earth to spread a rawhide [of a sacrifice animal] for the
sun, like a priest."
(Rig-Veda. V, 85, 1)
"He [Varuna] pushed the heavens far up,
[Created] two heavenly bodies and spread the earth."
(Rig-Veda. VII, 86, I)
"Dabha, split the hearts of adversaries
and hateable ones, oh amulet!
As [the rising sun] splits the rawhide of the earth..."
(Atharva-Veda. XIX, 28, 4).
"Here they are, these three earths. Of
those, our earth is the highest. I took the cure off their rawhide."
(Atharva-Veda. VI, 21, 1).
"What is there in you, rawhide, What are
your hairs..." "Let your rawhide be the altar, Let your hairs
be the sacrifice straw".
(Atharva-Veda. X, 9, 2, 24).
"When people fold up the space as if it
were a rawhide, Their suffering will come to an end even without
their understanding God."
(Svetasvara Upanishad. VI, 20).
"Rudra owns these worlds through his power
- the sages know no other. Having created all the worlds, he stands
before people. He, the shepherd, folds them up in the end of time."
(Svetasvara Upanishad. III, 2).
In the end of the world the heavenly (cosmic)
tree will shed the stars, like fruit and leaves. The serpent-like
scroll of the heaven will gather carnivorous birds and adders. The
rope of devastation and the rope of destruction will stretch across
"... and the stars in the sky fell to
earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong
wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain
and island was removed from its place."
(The Revelation of St. John the
Divine. 7. 13-14)
"The heavenly bodies will disappear as
the heaven will roll up as a scroll of parchment and all its stars
will fall down as leaves from the grape vine or unripe figs from
a fig tree. It will be seized by a pelican and a hedgehog, and
an owl and a crow will lurk in it, and He will stretch a measuring
rope of devastation and destruction across it... A jumping adder
will nest in there and lay and brood its eggs... Hawks will gather
there, one to one..."
(Isaiah. 34. 4. 11. 15)
Let us compare all of this with the picture of
the heavenly parchment being rolled up by an Angel in the day of
the Last Judgment, depicted on a fresco in the Kyrillivska Church
However, the most important mission of the end
of the world must be its subsequent rebirth in a new, higher quality.
This feature is very well embodied in the motif of the holy marriage.
The rite was performed by representatives of the upper aristocracy
- the king and the queen, who personified a couple of supreme deities,
or a king and a priestess of the supreme god personifying the god's
At the cosmic abstraction level it was all about
the resurrection of the Universe and the unity between nature and
society. In the rite, the married couple personified the sun and
the moon at the same time.
Myths about numerous family relationships among
supreme deities are related to the holy marriage. The gods were
portrayed not only as people, but also as animals, birds and heavenly
bodies. The myths about marriages of Zeus, Apollo and similar deities,
who got married as serpents, dragons, bulls, etc., are good examples
to the above statement.
A child born from the holy marriage symbolized
a new world. Thus, it was also the token of the end of this world
through its destruction and that the Last Judgment would come. The
behavior of the child's father is very interesting. Being the personification
of the old world, he tries to protect the baby.
Let us remember Cronus, for example. He tries
to take their common children (including Zeus) away from the goddess
Rae to eat them and prevent the epoch of new generations from coming.
A while later Zeus tries to eat his son Apollo, because he knows
that the baby will bring about his new epoch, in which his father
will lose his power.
Therefore, hypothetically the myth about the holy
marriage may be understood as follows: gods get married at the turn
of epochs anticipating the imminent global cataclysm. They plan
to give birth to a child who will become the symbol of the coming
epoch. Mother's task is to bring him to life. The father, who is
responsible for all existing life in the Universe, must render the
baby harmless. This should be done it the way that will allow the
baby's later revival and action, probably in a new capacity - the
baby is to be swallowed or cast into dungeons, etc. This victim
must disappear (sometimes for long) for the sake of its later appearance.
When the baby grows up, he will begin to struggle against his own
father. He will dethrone his father and assert a new cosmic order
- the order of the next historical epoch. At its end, the story
will repeat, but this time it will star the son of a new king.
Therefore, the holy marriage is the symbol of
the progress asserting itself through each next global cataclysm.
The history of Marduk's creating the world has
similar interpretation. The foremother Teammate and her husband
Kingu tried to fight against their own children. For some time they
were successful. However, their youngest sun Marduk, having defeated
Teammate and Kingu, asserted the new world.
This is not my purpose to offend Christians, but
I think that the Christian doctrine also preserved this traditional
formula. It is best expressed in the holy marriage (Immaculate Conception)
of the Virgin Mary, who played the role of the supreme deity's priestess.
It happened on the Lady Day, which used to be
considered the day of vernal equinox. Consequently, after the natural
period of foetal life, Christ was born on the day of Winter solstice
- which is Christmas. Born according to the tradition of the holy
marriage, Christ, who at the same time was the son of God, after
a while was killed and disappeared from the earthly life. However,
he is influencing this life and at the day of the Last Judgment
he will rule the assertion of a new cosmic (and social) order.
Probably, one can better grasp the meaning of
the holy marriage as the condition for the global cataclysm, if
he should study myths and fairy-tales, where a married couple is
represented as the sun and the moon or as the gods who personify
them. The meeting of these heavenly bodies - the eclipse - was considered
to be the most important and essential sign of the end of the world.
This suggests, that in the ancient art or myth
the pictures of the world's destruction and marriage may have the
same meaning. And the behavior of the devil Serpent in the Bible
quite logically causes one to think of Cronus, who also wanted to
eat his child.
In the Greek mythology the god-kings try to devour
their children. In the Bible the dragon wears crowns on all of its
seven heads, which indicates its kingly birth. The devil Serpent
also is a heavenly omen.
I believe that it preserves the characteristics
of the pagan king-god (who sometimes appeared also as snake) and
at the same time the father of a child to be born by the omen woman.
Thus, devil Snake's chasing a woman conforms to the old motif of
the holy marriage. In particular, this relationship may be seen
between the dragon snake Zeus and Persephone, between Apollo and
So, attempts by Indo-European gods to devour babies
and by the Semitic devil Serpent to devour the child of the omen
woman correspond to the most ancient concepts of global cataclysms
taking place at the turn of the epochs.
At such moments forces of the old epoch try to
fight the wind of the new epoch, but all in vain. The most ancient
realization of the meaning of such turning point belongs to the
time when the epoch of Cronus was replaced by that of Zeus and the
golden age was defeated by the silver age. To my point of view it
was then that the Proto-Neolithic Epoch ended and the Neolithic
One thing is obvious. The motifs related to the
above characteristics of the global cataclysm are well represented
in the remains of ancient cultures and, in particular, in those
of the Trypillian society. I am talking here about the themes of
sculptures, patterns and the ornamentation technique itself.
Those patterns include helical bodies of dragon
serpents (often depicted next to different cosmic symbols) in the
first place. There are also beaks of birds (sometimes clearly owls,
hawks or crows) formed by the same helical compositions where circles
and ovals become transformed into bird eyes. These mythical animals
with canine (wolf's) maws, heavenly flying dogs (wolves) and defoliated
trees; these figurines of women resting upon model thrones with
dragon snakes twined around them are the motifs of the holy marriage.
Quite often such images are accompanied by vertical
lines or stripes. Can those be the lines of destruction? Also, one
may come across rope-like compositions and ornaments. Don't they
resemble the rope of devastation?
We have also seen the symbol of the solar eclipse:
drawn on a piece of pottery was the sun that collided with the horns
of the crescent moon.
Therefore, we have grounds to believe that part
of the material pertaining to the Trypillian society as well as
to other cultures of the Copper and Bronze Ages could have depicted
the ancient concept of global cataclysm.
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