This week’s prompt for Wicked Wednesday is, Venus in Furs after the erotic novel published in 1870. I don’t recall ever reading it—if I did, it left no impact—and besides that, it wasn’t the first thing that popped in my head when I read the prompt. This was:
From Wikipedia: The Venus of Willendorf is an 11.1-centimetre-high (4.4 in) Venus figurine estimated to have been made between about 28,000 and 25,000 BCE. It was found in 1908 by a workman named Johann Veran or Josef Veram during excavations conducted by archaeologists Josef Szombathy, Hugo Obermaier and Josef Bayer at a paleolithic site near Willendorf, a village in Lower Austria near the town of Krems. It is carved from an oolitic limestone that is not local to the area, and tinted with red ochre. The figurine is now in the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria.
My next reaction to the prompt was Lupercalia and the ancient concept of whipping to chase away evil spirits or to ensure fertility. There were and still are many cultures and places that have some variation of spring festivals echoing much older rituals of blood and appeasement to stern gods. [See Czech Easter whipping or Dominican Mardi Gras]
So imagine if you will, the above Venus as the leader of her tribe; perhaps a medicine woman, or mate to the strongest warrior. Now, it is nearing the solstice, winter has been harsh, some have died; the oldest and youngest: the shamans seek migrating herds in the spirit world while the remaining food is portioned out for the survival of all. They have fire, a large stack of dead-fall saved for this occasion when the snow has melted off the lowlands and green shoots are pushing up through fertile soil. The flames roar into the night sky, distant green and yellow eyes glow as the predators slink away hungry. The drums beating a steady pulse of rumbling noise, the flutes whistling while dancers stamp around the crackling pine boughs. Suddenly, the eerie moaning of flat bone on a string whirled above by spinning arms heralds the arrival of Venus in furs…
She appeared—as she had for the last fifteen springs—in a billowing cloud of red ochre tossed down by acolytes from the overhanging granite that loomed out over the winter camp. It drifted like snow, whirling in the heat of the bonfire and settling as ash upon the dancers, soon turning to scarlet streaks as the sweat mingled with the sacred powder. It fell too, on the smooth limestone slab supported by mammoth feet and centered within four large tusks at the cardinal points; the tips meeting above and lashed together with leather thongs. The carved ivory glowed deep orange.
Helga raised her arms to the stars above, the heavy cave bear pelt spilling off like a dark waterfall; her head covered by the furry mask of an ursine face snarling with bared teeth. The music built to a crescendo as she prayed out loud to the gods of her people, then slowly ebbed as the frenzy eased: there was silence by the time she’d finished chanting. She walked with slow, deliberate tread towards the altar, her cloak rippling leaving behind a wake of flesh tingling power that raised hairs on bare limbs.
Blessing each tusk in turn by grasping with powdered fingers and a firm kiss, she then poured hot water over the limestone and slid her palms in an intricate pattern until the surface turned red. She turned towards her dwelling and beckoned with upraised hands. All but her, knelt on one knee and bowed heads as the two bound figures were brought forth into the wavering light. Helga knew from her teachings that in the not-too-distant past, the slab would have been drenched with blood, instead of ochre dug from the earth. These were enlightened times, compared to the savage ancestors they still revered, but did not always follow.
The young man and woman were at their peak of physical perfection. Selected the previous autumn by contests of skill and prowess, they’d been given the best of provisions and pampered through the long, cold winter months. Now it was their time to give back to the community through sacrifice in hopes of a fertile summer of plenty. Naked, they’d been oiled and shaved completely bare, then painted with elaborate tribal markings and secret tattoos that would send the shaman’s messages, when activated, directly to the spirit world. Helga was responsible for the activation. She carried out her duty via a multi-thong whip created with soft strips of leather from every type of animal killed and consumed the prior year.
Led to the altar, the man and woman were secured facing each other with wrists high at the top of curved tusks, while ankles were spread and wrapped around the base where the ivory posts sank deep into the soil. Helga tugged on each rope making sure the pair could not escape or slump to the ground. She checked each and every mark to make sure all were correct. When she finished her inspection, she once more raised her arms and chanted, this time joined by all present. The music started again when they finished. Dancers began to circle the sacrifices, each pounding the earth with a branch cut off at a wide base. The vibrations shivered through their soles. Her acolytes solemnly removed her cave bear cape and handed her the whip, the wooden handle freshly coated with red ochre. She drew back her arm—and struck on the beat.
The tribe triumphantly cried out as one as the ‘splat’ cracked in the cool night air. Helga alternated between the man and woman, each blow precise, starting at the shoulders and steadily working all the way down to the calves. Each turn around the limestone slab was slightly quicker until she was trotting, her heavy breasts wobbling, and feet kicking up puffs as she whipped past the writhing and groaning figures. The dancers too ran in a wide circle, the noise a loud roar as they witnessed the artistic designs dissolved by sweat and the remorseless whip being swung with ever increasing force upon the reddened naked backs and bottoms of the male and female. Helga stopped: the drums settled into a steady beat as the dancers slowed and then swayed in place gasping for air.
The man and woman were turned in place so that their decorated fronts now faced the whip. Helga changed the pattern. Starting with the female, she lashed the firm breasts, powder exploding in colorful poofs as the thongs impacted. Moving down, she whipped in a crisscross pattern across the abdomen, pelvis and thighs. With an upward motion, the last hard strike was between the wide stretched open thighs as the wet leather slapped against the red outlined vulva. The woman screamed as the force of the blow broke open the deer intestine capsule that had been glued in place. Blood spurted and splattered on the churned soil. Moving to the opposite side, Helga repeated her actions on the male, only this time, when the whip lashed his exposed genitals, the breaking capsule glued to his testes, gushed warm sperm in a parody of fertilization.
Their ordeal was not over yet; released from bondage, the woman was laid on her back, the damp limestone providing only slight relief to the raised welts. The man was placed on top, his flaccid penis rubbed and stroked by Helga until it became fully erect. At her command, he entered the oiled vagina with a deep thrust, the whip fell once more upon his red bottom. After twenty strokes, the entwined couple reversed and it was the woman’s turn to be lashed adding yet more red lines to her buttocks. The final position was from behind, mimicking how all the animals they observed mated. Bodies scoured, passions inflamed, nearly the entire tribe fell on each other in a massive celebratory orgy releasing the lust built by up the whipping.
Helga calmly stepped away and walked back to her abode: alone. She needed to travel deep into the spirit world to guide the tribes’ sexual energy to the proper place.
An utterly superb re-narration of ancient ritual, brimming with eroticism and symbolism. As ever, your knowledge and clever use of language permeates the story. Oh, and ‘acolyte’ is one of my favourite words! 🙂
Your choice of inspiration leading on from the prompt was an interesting one indeed, and certainly not one that would have occurred to me (as you can probably imagine, the Ancient Roman literary Venus would have been my inspiration of choice). But artefacts are a fantastic source for writers, and I find the one you’ve chosen fascinating. I didn’t know this one existed; ancient links with Mother Earth are everywhere!
I’m curious (not to mention utterly ignorant on the subject): the replication of the ancient ritual using the deer’s blood – does/did that actually happen in Shamanistic cultures, or is it a product of your wonderful creativity?
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In answer to your last question, this entire story comes from my imagination. I have read numerous novels based on this broad area of prehistory, but there is no attempt to be accurate as to place and objects. There are many Venus figurines that have been discovered over the century, and they all are very similar in design. We have a cellular memory that allows up to connect with our distant ancestors through words and songs. Whenever I hear drumming, I have a sense of that distant time deep within my DNA.
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How wonderful! I, too, feel a connection to my ancestry, but in a slightly different, and more visual, way. I thought the story would be entirely fiction, but I thought I’d check! Venus is a fascinating character, goddess, statue, and any other symbolic version of love one can create. I look forward to working with my own literary version very soon. In fact, after reading your post today, I’m rather excited about it!