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The First Farmer
Article ID: 14721
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: September 4th. 2011
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Once upon a time, My Children, a very long time ago, a woman was out gathering seeds and grains. Her children were close, helping her and gathering berries. Her youngest was in a leather sling at her breast. They had to walk a long way; the wild grasses she was concentrating on had mostly sparse heads of poor grains. Only occasionally was there one worth plucking; a fat one, a plump one, a full head of grain. As the day began to close, and they made their way home, her day's work was one, nearly full, wicker basket of grain. The fat ones, the plump ones, the full heads of grain.
Their home was an oval wicker house covered with raw hides, with a hole in the roof, and a hearth in the middle of the house, bed spaces were arranged around the wall. This is where she lived with her children, her handmaiden, and her six husbands. Her husbands were never all at home, they were either on hunting expeditions, or they were trading; up river in coracles; pelts, wind dried meat and salt for polished flints from the mines; down river trading pelts, dried meat and flints, for salt from the salt pans. She companied with them when they were at home, and was content in their service to her.
It was as she approached the house, that it happened. In the mud, she caught her toe on a root and fell, automatically protecting the child at her bosom; she let go of the basket. The entire product of her days work was irretrievably lost, as her children gathered around to help her, it was all trampled and rolled into the mud, the fat ones, the plump ones, the full heads of grain. She picked herself up, cursed her luck and carried on with her life. The loss of the product on one day's work was not a major tragedy. She gathered grains every day during the season, winnowed them between her hands blowing away the chaff, and stored the surplus in rough clay pots buried in the earth under her bed.
The men preferred roasted meat, but she made broth for the children from the poorer cuts in the big leather cooking pot kept simmering with hot stones from the fire, this she bulked up with grains that swelled in the broth making it more nutritious.
Nearly a year passed, the hunters were well placed, the herds reliably followed the same route between their pasture and the water, effectively coming to the hunters, rather than the hunters having to follow the herds. They had not had to uproot their home and move on. During the year husband number two was killed by strangers for six packs of pelts he was bringing back from the hunting grounds. Husband number six had drowned when his coracle overturned with the loss of a consignment of salt. Husband number five was lazy, stayed at home and got drunk on fermented honey, she had given him the three times repeated command to pack his traps and leave her house. He had shamefacedly returned to the men’s lodge near the hunting grounds.
This was where the boys who had come of age but had not yet become husbands, lived with a couple of the men who chose to stay there, contenting themselves with the company of the boys, as did all the men when they were away from home. She named a son for husband number two, that he might be remembered in her family, and in conference with her remaining husbands, chose three young unmarried men to join that band who were brothers in their love and duty to her. She was content again in the service of her husbands.
That spring the patch of mud where she had tripped the year before sprouted a great verdant patch of lush grass, which in turn produced the finest grain she had ever seen in one place.
Thirty baskets full, which took her only half a day to harvest. All fat ones, plump ones, full heads of grain. This brought new knowledge to the community, the Earth Mother did not produce grain by her own magic, She had to be seeded first.
Over the succeeding years, patches of land near the houses were dug by the women with sticks and hoes for planting. These patches had to be protected by the children and with hedges and ditches, from wild animals. The houses became more permanent as the grain supply became more important than hunting, their lower walls reinforced by turves and stones. Straw thatch became a cheaper commodity than raw hides for roofing, as straw was now plentiful and hides could be bartered down the line in trade. But more than anything, the women discovered that the surplus grain could be ground on a flat stone, mixed into a paste with water, and baked on hot flat stones beside the fire. This hard, thin, dry “bread” was a new commodity, valued for its nutrition, and by the men for the ease of carrying it with them on their expeditions abroad. And, all this meant that the community expanded, more houses, more cultivated land, more people.
About this time, some of the hunters came home one day after killing a wild pig (a sow) with a couple of leather bags containing half a dozen squealing piglets. They were gorged on pig; they didn't want sucking pig that day. The children got to keep the piglets as pets, penned them at night and took them out during the day and fed them on acorns in the forest. They found an old hunting dog, too old for the chase, which was tractable when pampered and fed on scraps, and would herd and fetch them back at night. They could all eat the piglets when they were bigger. This was the first domestication of animals, followed by lambs and kids. (Dogs never counted as domestication. Dogs had attached themselves to the human community as scavengers long before, welcomed as pets, hunting dogs, and occasionally as an emergency food supply. Nobody had attempted to breed them, they too, just reproduced.)
Separate penning demonstrated that the new livestock would only reproduce after mating, this reinforced the concept that all females, even the Goddess Herself, had to be “seeded” before they could become pregnant and give birth, neither the north wind nor the Goddess's magic alone could quicken their wombs. Babies no longer haunted pools and streams, magically entering into women as they stepped over or waded through the water. This lead to a new belief system. The Earth Goddess needed consorts, just like the women themselves. She needed husbands.
The men had always venerated and propitiated the “spirits” of the animals that they hunted; these spirits were visualized as minor totem godlings. Rustic deities that were ceremonially represented by their chief priest dressed in the skin and horns of the animal in question. These were to become the Goddess's consorts, whose duty it was to company with Her on auspicious occasions and ensure Her continuing fertility.
This was the moment in time when the Great Goddess was at Her most influential. The women owned and commanded the family homes; owed and tended the farmland, such as it was. The prepubescent boys (and those girls who had not been exposed at birth as surplus to the community's requirements) herded the small flocks and herds close to home under their mother's control. The women effectively provided eighty or ninety percent of the food supply, the men's hunting expeditions accounting only for the rest. It would be some time before the domestication of the larger animals, and the invention of the plough, and men would start to regain some control.
The world had changed forever; humankind would never again be the same, settling down for the first time in permanent homes, their communities expanding.
And what was the name of the first farmer? Who was she? Her name was Ceres.
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