Solstice and Equinox alignments / Lunar Metaphors / Venus Metaphors / Prehistoric Precedents

Geomancy / Construction and Maintenance / Uses of the Mound / Blue Prints

Mimi Lobell, Architect (July 18, 1942-April 7, 2001)

The architectural design of the Mound was influenced by many prehistoric precedents, and, like them, it incorporates several kinds of astronomical alignments and metaphors.

Solstice and Equinox Alignments

Archaeoastronomers have found that the most common horizon alignments in ancient structures and stone circles are toward sunrise and sunset on the Solstices and equinoxes. These quarter points of the year established the planting and harvesting cycle and were especially important to Goddess-worshipping Neolithic farmers.

Winter Solstice Sunrise Entrance Alignment

The most important alignment is from the Mound's entrance and passage to the Winter Solstice Sunrise, celebrating the moment of the sun's annual rebirth from the darkest day of the year. The Newgrange Passage Mound in Ireland was similarly oriented when it was built over 5000 years ago. To this day people enthusiastically witness the hierophany of the rising Solstice sun penetrating the dark of the mound's inner chamber.

Other Alignments
The relationship between the Mound and the surrounding landscape will, whenever possible, create exact alignments to Solstice and Equinox sunrises and sunsets.

Mound Siting
The final location and orientation of the Goddess Mound will depend on precise on-site surveys and observations of the significant sunrises and sunsets.

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Lunar Metaphors

The Mound's astronomical metaphors are of two types: those involving proportional dimensions and those involving numerical motifs. Through these the Mound and Sanctuary honor two heavenly bodies traditionally associated with the Goddess: the moon and Venus.

Of all the heavenly bodies, the moon has the oldest links with women. Alexander Marshack has deciphered carefully kept records of lunar cycles in Upper Paleolithic artifacts associated with female figurines, some over 20,000 years old! Some of the reasons for this linkage are well known: the correlation between women's menstrual periods and the moon; the effect of the moon on tides, fertility, birth, and growth, which are also provinces of the Goddess; the waxing and waning of the moon as a symbol of pregnancy and of a woman's entire life cycle from maiden to mother to crone.

The Goddess Mound symbolizes the moon through the various ways astronomers measure lunar cycles and eclipses.

The Moonstone Oval = 18.6 Year Cycle of Lunar Standstills
Surrounding the entire mound is an oval of 18.6 evenly spaced boulders, all of similar size and about 30 inches high, called the Moonstone Oval. (The partial or .6 boulder located at the entrance would initially be the same size as the others, but would have 4/10ths of its mass cleaved off.) The number of boulders, 18.6, is a numerical motif relating to the 18.6 year cycle of lunar standstills, the time it takes the moon to complete the circuit of its orbital extremes. This figure is also seen in Stonehenge's Aubrey Circle of 56 holes, which Gerald Hawkins claims marked 3 complete lunar cycles (3 x 18.6 = 55.98) and was used by its builders to predict eclipses.

The Namestone Circle = 18.03 Year Saros Cycle of Lunar Eclipses
Hidden within the mound is a ring of 18 dressed stones called Namestone Circle. Each stone is similar to a tombstone and is to be engraved with several names by which the Goddess has been known the world over.

The hidden nature of these stones was inspired by beautifully engraved stones turned inward against the body of the mound away from human eyes at Knowth, Dowth, and Newgrange in Ireland. The tombstone shape recalls the importance of the Goddess as a deity of death as well as birth, thus the names were not “dead and buried,” but rather are gestating like seeds in the womb of the Earth Mother awaiting rebirth. The number 18 is a numerical motif referring to the 18.03 year saros cycle, an important repetition of lunar eclipses recognized by several ancient cultures.

The Moonstone Oval Diameter = Synodic Lunar Month in Megalithic Yards
The synodic period of the moon, the number of days between successive full moons, is 29.53 days. A megalithic yard, which Alexander Thom asserts is the common unit of measurement in prehistoric megalithic structures is 2.72 feet. The lateral (short) diameter of the Moonstone Oval equals the number of days in the synodic lunar month, 29.53, translated into megalithic yards by being multiplied by 2.72 feet. The resulting measurement, to the nearest half inch, is 80'-4". This and the next two items are astronomical metaphors based on dimensional proportions.

Mound Diameter = Sidereal Lunar Month in Megalithic Yards
The sidereal period of the moon, the number of days between the moon's successive passages by a given star is 27.32 days. The lateral (short) diameter of the Goddess Mound is the number of days in the Sidereal lunar month, 27.32, translated into megalithic yards. The resulting measurement, to the nearest half inch, is 74'-4".

Mound Height = 28 Days of the Visible Lunar Cycle
The height of the Mound from the floor of the Sanctuary is 28 feet, which represents the number of days in its cycle that the moon is visible in the night sky. In the popular imagination, this is the length of the lunar cycle. The 28 day cycle is used by Native Americans, though not by astronomers. It is the most commonly cited average length of women's menstrual cycles.

Symbolically, the top of the mound represents the full moon and the fullness of the pregnant Goddess whose belly is the mound itself. The dark of the moon is symbolized by the darkness at the floor of the inner Sanctuary where the Goddess is giving birth to the new moon, along with all of creation.

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Venus Metaphors

After the moon, Venus is the brightest body in the night sky. It is the only planet that Western Civilization has named for a female--the Goddess Venus, the Roman version of the Greek Aphrodite--and its sign is the female symbol! In ancient Mesopotamia, Venus was represented by Inanna/Ishtar, and the Goddess's legendary descent into the Nether World was a metaphor for the times in its orbit when the planet is invisible because it is in front of the sun (for 8 days) or behind it (for 50 days). Between these disappearances, it spends 263 days as a Morning Star and 263 days as an Evening Star. Venus's movements baffled astronomers until Galileo was able to observe its moon-like waxings and wanings with a telescope and understand its orbit. Scientists still debate the reason for Venus's rotational direction, which is the opposite of the other planets.

Venus's disappearances influenced another major mythological system: that of the Mesoamerican God Quetzalcoatl, who represented the planet in the New World. After his death, Quetzalcoatl was subjected to various trials in the underworld (as was Inanna/Ishtar). His triumphant resurrection as the Morning Star, the form in which he was most beloved, is an example of the "Dying-and-Resurrecting-God" motif in mythology. Another example is Jesus’s resurrection at Easter, a time of year traditionally associated with fertility (eggs, rabbits, estrus, Spring flowers and budding trees). The transformation of the male through death and resurrection is part of the rebirth imagery of religion that the Goddess Mound seeks to reclaim.

The journey through the underworld can be seen also as a journey through the unconscious realms of the psyche, always a vital part of the path to enlightenment or individuation, and always an initiation into the deeper mysteries of the Goddess. Since the Mound embodies the elemental birth-giving Goddess, and entering Her is symbolic of entering the underworld to accept death and rebirth--the death of the ego and the rebirth of Goddess-blessed being--it is appropriate to incorporate Venus imagery into the design. This is done through the dimensional proportions of the Sanctuary itself.

Height of the Goddess Sanctuary = 263" = Venus as Evening/Morning Star
The height of the Sanctuary structure, 21-11" = 263", which stands for the number of days Venus is a Morning or Evening Star. Thus, the outer dimension of the Goddess symbolizes the visible phases of Venus, which, in turn, relate to the visitor's perception of her or his conscious life in the world.

Height of the Sanctuary Door = 50" = Venus “In the Underworld”
The door to he Goddess Sanctuary is 4"-2" high (one must stoop, but the passage is considerably easier than in one's first birth experience.) This equals 50", symbolizing the number of days in Venus's greater period of disappearance when it is mythologicallly said to be "in the underworld". A person entering the Sanctuary is, in effect, recapitulating Inanna/Ishtar's (and Quetzalcoatl's) descent into the Nether World and entering the depths of her own psyche.

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Prehistoric Precedents

We have seen how the concept and design of the Goddess Mound have been influenced by Maes Howe, Silbury Hill, Newgrange, Stonehenge, Upper Paleolithic artifacts, and various Scottish and Maltese megalithic structures. Because of the archetypal nature of its imagery, the Goddess Mound relates to so many works of art and architecture that it would be impossible to note them all here. But a few additional direct sources of inspiration bear mentioning, along with notes on some design concepts not yet described.

Engraved Entrance Stone
The large reclining stone at the entrance to the Mound is designed to evoke the beautifully carved entrance stone at Newgrange, with its enigmatic spirals and lozenge motif. It is also related to spiral-engraved entrance stones at Maltese temples such as those at Tarxien.

Entrance Structure
The sloping walls of the entrance structure are inspired in part by the so-called Treasury of Atreus at Mycenae. Although this was built after the era of purest goddess worship and female- centered civilization in the Eastern Mediterranean, it perpetuated traditional forms built by the earlier cultures, such as the womb-like tholos tombs of Crete and "beehive" houses at Khirokitea on Cyprus.

Explanatory Illustration
To inform the visitor of some of the meanings of the Goddess Mound, an illustration of its astronomical correlations and underground Goddess Sanctuary will be inscribed in the concrete at the entrance. Explanatory drawings are similarly incorporated into the entrances of some of the Maltese temples.

Spiral and Yoni Motifs Above the Entrance
The double spiral above the entrance is based on a design from a Goddess Temple at Tarxien, Malta. In a broader sense, it is related to spiral designs found universally in Neolithic art and pottery. These may have symbolized the spiraling movements of atmospheric and earthly currents that the early farmers felt they had come to know and harness.

Above the spiral is an inverted triangle, a venerated yantra in India that represents the generative yoni of the Great Goddess in her aspect as the cosmic creative principle.

Horns of Consecration
Above the yoni, surmounting the whole entrance structure, are the Horns of Consecration. As old as the Hall of Bulls at Lascaux, this symbol figured prominently throughout the Old World and was specifically connected with female deities at shrines in Ç atal Hü yü k, Beycesultan, Dendura, Crete and Sabatinovka, among others.

A multifaceted symbol, the Horns of Consecration can signify the sacred bull or cow (e.g. Hathor), the crescent of the waxing or waning moon, the vulva of the Goddess, the gateway between the primal duality, and a valley between two mountain ranges (as in Egypt). It usually frames something highly revered--a sacred mountain on Crete, the solar disc in Egyptian art, the entrances to Dogon shrines in Africa, the axis to the holy-of-holies in New Kingdom Egyptian temples, an altar at Beycesultan, and so forth.

In the Goddess Mound, it is hoped the Horns of Consecration will resonate with all of these meanings. They frame the Goddess's vaginal passage through which one enters and leaves the Sanctuary.

Egg-Shape of the Earth Mound and Belly of the Goddess
Alexander Thom found that most prehistoric stone "circles" in the British Isles were actually either flattened circles or egg- shaped. Each of these shapes had their own geometric derivation, which Thom describes using the megalithic yard as the unit of measure. The Goddess Mound's shape (in plan) is precisely constructed according to Thom's principles for egg-shaped stone circles. Specifically, it is proportional to a stone circle at Clava Cairns near Inverness in Scotland.

Since the Mound and the belly of the figure underneath both represent the pregnant womb of the Great Mother, the belly of the Goddess Sanctuary is also egg-shaped (in elevation) and is exactly proportional to the Mound.

• "Fairy Rings"
If it were possible to get mushroom spores to create "Fairy Rings" around the Mound, that would be ideal. Since that probably will not happen, the effect of ripples of plant life encircling the Mound will be achieved through landscaping. Rings of ground covers of different textures, colors, and flowering periods will encircle the Mound, spreading its "energy" into the surrounding field.

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The siting of the Mound will be determined in part by the astronomical considerations described earlier, and in part by geomancy (geo = earth, mancy = divination). The art of "earth divination" was developed most highly in China, where it was widely used until it was outlawed after the Communist Revolution. But it was used also in many parts of the ancient world to determine the most propitious sites for buildings, tombs, towns, roads, and the like.

To the geomancer, the earth is a living body (e.g., the goddess) with currents of energy coursing through its surface much like the meridians of energy perceived in the human body by acupuncturists. Since they function like acupuncture needles in the earth's surface, buildings and other structures must be carefully positioned lest they adversely affect the flow of energy and create dis-ease in humans and the earth.

The earth energies that are manipulated (which appear to be low level magnetic currents) are sometimes called "Tellurian Currents" in the West, after the Roman earth spirit Tellus, and "Dragon's veins" in the East. Many spirit beings in folklore--mermaids, sprites, nymphs, genies, fairies, and especially dragons and serpents of all kinds--are personifications of these energies, and the legends about them colorfully encode folk wisdom about the earth.

Some myths can be interpreted in terms of the imagery of geomancy. Apollo's slaying of the Python at Delphi to wrest control of the Oracle from the Earth Mother Gaia is a vivid metaphor for the new Indo-European heroes' and gods' theft of the earth's most sacred sites from pre-existing priestesses and goddesses. It also captures the heroic nature-conquering rather than nature-embracing stance of the new culture. The Dragon-Slaying theme of so many heroic epics is another metaphor for the patriarchal destruction of the earth's Telluric currents (see Neumann).

Though geomancy is not a living tradition in the West (aside from the skills of a few dowsers), we will try in the siting of the Mound to apply as many sound geomancy principles as can be reconstructed from research into the subject.

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Construction and Maintenance

The entrance, passage, and Goddess Sanctuary will be constructed of reinforced concrete with red-ochre painted interiors and stone, slate, or concrete floors. Water resistant coatings and good drainage will protect the structure from rain seeping both through the Mound and down the sloping entrance passage. Since the Sanctuary is underground, insulation will not be used. The Mound will be constructed of packed earth, with a slope not exceeding the soil's angle of stability. The surface of the Mound will be sown with wild grass, ground cover, or perhaps wheat.

Mechanical Systems
The structure need not contain electrical wiring or plumbing (other than the pipes required for drainage). Ventilation shafts will be incorporated into the design.

The Mound and Sanctuary should require minimal maintenance. The materials are fireproof, weather resistant, and virtually indestructible. If grass covers the Mound, it should be mowed regularly, but the surrounding landscaping will minimize maintenance by using ground covers and planting techniques that retain their shape and need little care.

The sliding security door at the entrance to the Mound will prevent vandalism (however, it must be operable from inside as well as outside to avoid accidental entrapment). To prevent erosion and deterioration of the Mound, people should be discouraged from climbing it, except perhaps at special times of the year (see "Uses of the Mound" below).

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Uses of the Mound

The Goddess Mound is intended to be used by individuals and groups for viewing and private meditation, seasonal rituals and celebrations, and calendrical observances. The structure would be open and staffed at times appropriate to these uses. At other times, access would be restricted for security reasons, but interested visitors should be given permission to enter the Mound.

The opening year of the Goddess Mound would be accompanied by a symposium or lecture series or both, and by an exhibit exploring the cultural and symbolic meaning of the Mound, its artistic and architectural antecedents, and the emergence of Goddess imagery in contemporary art.

An ongoing program of events could be planned to coincide with the times of the year when the Mound is most meaningful, for instance, the Solstices and Equinoxes. Annual public celebrations of these dates would be a most appropriate use of the Mound.

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