Women Invent the Wheel
First Published in Matrifocus, Lammas, 2002
In a time when women were the first and all else followed from them, a council of women gathered to invent. For the first time, their tribe had to move from their motherland where every generation in memory had been born, lived and died. Finally their land had worn out and they were seeking refuge elsewhere until the fields were again fertile. Homes, clothes, crops, and tools could all be recreated from what the new land would sacrifice, but how could they bring with them their Goddess whose essence was their ancient homeland itself? How would they remember Her sweet breath on a summer’s morning, Her hands cradling them with leaves and feathers as they lay exhausted after giving birth, or Her tender rains that bled one season into another?
“We will make an object that is like Her, the best of all that we are and we will bring it with us,” said the wisest woman.
“What is the best about us?” the youngest woman asked.
“It is us when we are together, talking, as we are now,” the wisest woman responded. She stood and walked behind them with a stick, marking on the ground the shape they made. They carefully moved away and saw a circle on the ground.
A wood carver among them spent the next month cutting away at a slice of a tree until she had a perfect circle. When the women gathered again they looked at the wood, but knew that there was more about Goddess they had to remember.
“She is at the center of our tribe and equally close to all of us. She connects us all,” said a weaver whose webs were the finest in the tribe.
The women thought about this and drew with soot a second circle in the middle of the wood piece. They connected the center to the outer edge with ray lines. The carver took the circle and carved away at it again. When she was done she brought it to the women and they passed it one to another and were pleased with what they had created. One dropped the object and it rolled away until it fell against one of the women. She playfully rolled it back and each woman rolled it in turn to her sister across the circle when it came her way. Finally the women agreed that they had created the perfect symbol of Goddess to take with them.
“We have been given this object to remember all about Goddess no matter where we may go,” said a grandmother. “But what about other women, those who will come after us in many generations, who will move to other villages and beyond and will not know that they are meant to keep Goddess in their memories?”
“We have forgotten one important thing about Goddess,” said the wisest woman. “She is not just air above our heads. She is here with us as we plow the fields and bake our cakes and graze our herds. She touches the same ground and labors at our tasks with us.”
The women pondered this and decided that their symbol must be both practical enough to be used for generations and cover the same earth as they did. They asked the carver to make another circle just like the first. Meanwhile, their engineer who was their chief inventor designed an axle and a platform. The women assembled the pieces and found themselves with the first cart made from the first wheels.
“Now, in future times, whenever the tribe must move, they will load everything they have onto carts and by that act will be reminded that Goddess always comes with them, mingling her dust with theirs as her wheels labor together with them,” said the engineer.
“Our first cargo should be one that not only brings her with us, but into us, since the most important thing about Goddess to remember is that She dwells within. If we bring in our first cart the oven to make the cakes for the Queen of Heaven we will always remember Her sweetness and how She nourishes us,” said a baker.
The women hauled the oven and grain and honey and other ingredients onto the car and pushed it to their new village. When their temple was rebuilt and their oven was baking they sat in their circle. Someone from a nearby tribe, one that had a different kind of Divinity, came by and asked what they worshipped. The women detached one of the wheels, now muddy and patched from carrying the heavy oven many miles. “This is not Goddess, but it reminds us of Her,” the wisest woman said.
“But that object is not a remembrance of a Goddess worthy of adoration! It is filthy with earth and has been hard used by you!” the other tribeswoman said.
“But She is eternal like the circle. She brings us all together. She labors with us in our hardest times. She brings us that which is sweet and nourishing. This is the perfect reminder of Her. What do you have of your Diety?” the wisest woman asked the tribeswoman.
The tribeswoman brought out a golden statue encrusted with jewels. The women gathered around it, passing the statue from hand to hand, forgetting the wheel and all its virtues.
The wisest woman shook her head, then said to herself, “I will travel all over showing the wheel to everyone and when they see how it can carry them over to wherever they need to go they will make it the most used object in their village. It will be passed down as a simple tool for generations but each time a woman sees it something in her will remember.” By the time she died no one in any village was without a wheel of their own. For a time the statues of gold and jewels replaced the wheel as the reminder of the Divine, and many of the most important aspects of Her were lost. Yet long after the last statue was melted down and the jewels made into sheaths for swords, wheels have brought their message of Goddess from that inventing circle of women to us and we are once again remembering what they knew so long ago.