On the Hunt for Grandmother Wildcat: Tracking the Origins of an Ancient Costa Rican Goddess to Paleolithic Europe

Bribri of Costa Rica recall their most important god was Namasia, first grandmother and feline, although today she is overpowered by a male avian god born of a virgin. Namasia is depicted in Costa Rican art of the first millennium BCE. Cultures to the south in Ecuador recount tales of Kela Ayan, an elderly woman with jaguar children. Perhaps reflective of Kela Ayan, women wearing jaguar-skin headdresses are seen in fourth-millennium BCE figures from Ecuador, one of the oldest art forms known in the Americas. Male-dominated religions (often with virgin-born boys as top deity), such as those from Mesoamerica and Europe, obscured Grandmother Wildcat goddesses. Still memory of her persists. She may be a carry-over from the earliest days of spirit worship in Paleolithic Africa, coming from Africa into Europe, the Near East, and eventually through Siberia to North America or via the Pacific to South America. Along these paths, I have been researching the art, archaeology, and anthropology of indigenous cultures to find evidence of Grandmother Wildcat. The most prominent linguistic scholar of Costa Rican cultures documented the connection between a tale of animals from Siberia to Costa Rica. I predict the path Grandmother Wildcat took was northerly and hope to come closer to proving this theory in this presentation.

Session Speaker(s)

Session Time and Location

3:20pm to 3:50pm
Room 460

Session Format

30 minute presentation

Session Track

Disciplinary Research and Creative Activity