Spider Grandmother and Other Avatars of the Moon Goddess in New World Sacred Architecture

By Schuetz-Miller, Mardith K. | Journal of the Southwest, Summer 2012 | Go to article overview

Spider Grandmother and Other Avatars of the Moon Goddess in New World Sacred Architecture


Schuetz-Miller, Mardith K., Journal of the Southwest


Introduction

Sacred Architecture among Ancient People of South America

The New World's Earliest Ceremonial Centers

Circular Temples and the Moon Goddess

The Cosmic Cross and the Artisans of Mexico

Anomalous Architecture and Final Statement

Notes

Bibliography

Introduction

"Pre-Euclidean Geometry in the Design of Mission Churches of the Spanish Borderlands" (Journal of the Southwest 48, no. 4, 2006) was the culmination of research begun years ago as a term paper tracing evidence of professional building artisans employed in the design and construction of colonial churches in Texas. My preliminary analyses of the church facades suggested that geometric canons of proportion were used in generating their designs. As soon as time allowed I delved wholeheartedly into the subject and found that geometry had indeed dictated the design of not only the facades but also the plans of the churches. In other words, the geometry was three-dimensional; it was volumetric. When I showed my drawings to the professor under whom I had studied he introduced me to the seminal research of Tons Brunes, the Danish engineer and author of The Secrets of Ancient Geometry and Its Use. In this two-volume work Brunes set forth the evolution of the early geometric system and demonstrated its application to Cheops's pyramid, Greek and Roman temples, and the Cathedral of Cologne. This simple form of geometry was derived from empirical experience based upon astronomic observation of the seasons prior to Euclid's expose of theorems. What I had uncovered in the Texas missions was no fluke. As time permitted over the ensuing years I put together a portfolio of analyses and research into the metaphysical background of geometry in order to explain the "why" of geometry in design, information presented in the 2006 publication.

Not explained in that study were two additional questions: How far back into antiquity could the use of geometry be traced? And how was knowledge of the early geometry transmitted? Research to answer these questions turned into two book-length manuscripts. The antiquity question was answered in my 2011 publication of Abodes for the Gods: The Symbolism of Ancient Sacred Architecture in Eurasia. My analyses of ancient sites demonstrated that by the Ubaid III period (ca. 4500-4000 BeE) Mesopotamian builders were applying geometric canons of proportion to their sacred sites. These are evident at level XIII at Tepe Gawra, where the square, the doubling of the square, the eight-pointed star, and perhaps what Brunes called the Sacred Cut were applied to the complex of three temples. It is evident at the enormous temple complex at Ur, begun by Ur-Nammu and his sons of Dynasty I, about 2560-2450 BeE. Mensuration derived from astronomic observation was also used in Egypt as well as to lay out megalithic sites in the British Isles. It spread eastward via trade routes to India, China, and Southeast Asia. The heavenly realm of the gods was duplicated in these sites in order to ensure their continued protection and goodwill. How the knowledge of sacred geometry was transmitted is explained in The Empire Builders: A Socio-Economic History of Architects and Building Artisans from the Neolithic to the Renaissance. In Neolithic states the arcane knowledge of astronomy and geometry was under the purview of the temple schools where princes, priests, and state officials were trained. The twin subjects were carefully guarded until the classical period, when the secrets began to be disseminated outside the temple schools by former students and transmitted through brotherhoods of masons, carpenters, and blacksmiths. Even though the brotherhoods were being brought under state control by the period of the Roman Empire, use of the sacred geometry remained a secret through the Middle Ages.

The years that went into researching these manuscripts led me into the mythologies of the people who produced sacred spaces in such multitudinous forms. …

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