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Wednesday 15 February 2017

The Mysterious Bernera Goddess

The Bernera Goddess

Her home was once the sea (she is carved from the vertebra of a whale). Her expression is as ambiguous as the Mona Lisa’s smile.

The Bernera Goddess is an artefact so mysterious that there’s almost nothing to say about her. Her provenance is hearsay. Even her name has come to her as an arbitrary guess.

The gentleman who acquired her for Inverness Museum was told only that she had been found in an unnamed burial cairn somewhere in the Scottish Highlands, and that she was cursed. That’s her story in its entirety, with no details left out.

It’s tempting to believe the poor man was the victim of a hoax. And yet the Bernera Goddess has a striking presence, and a beauty that transcends the crudeness of her features. If you lean close she may even whisper something you find you needed to know. She seems wise – or is that a trick of the museum lighting?

My friend Sine in conversation with the Bernera Goddess

It’s difficult to believe her capable of harbouring a curse, this goddess with the gentle smile. She’s remarkably serene for a cursed object. You have to suspect that the supposed curse was thrown in by the vendor just to swing the sale. But then you never can tell….

Whose hand was it that carved her, and for what purpose? To her maker what was her significance? Does she even have any significance at all? It seems unlikely we’ll ever know anything more about her than we know now.

The Bernera Goddess's enigmatic smile

She is a beautiful enigma. The most non-specific of deities. She asks us to believe in nothing, to buy into no mythology. She brings us no scripture or doctrine. She just exists.

In an era of ‘alternative facts’ and fake news, when information comes at us too fast and from all directions, it can be difficult to know what to believe, or whether it’s possible to ever really be certain of anything at all.

Perhaps the counsel of a vague goddess is exactly what we need, to remind us that our hearts and minds are free. And that we do know after all what’s right.

Just lean in and listen carefully, open your mind….