Humans have existed on earth for around 200,000 years. Around 60,000 years ago, humans first began to migrate out of Africa. Given this long span of time, it is surprising to learn that humans only began farming around 10,000 BCE. As you can imagine, the discovery of agriculture revolutionized how humans lived and even how humans evolved. Many evolutionary biologists believe that agriculture was discovered by women. Agricultural duties were also largely carried out by women while men hunted wild game. Women’s responsibility for agricultural food production and collection accorded them great power of a divine sort, as the mechanisms behind agricultural production were considered to be magical in nature. It was believed that women controlled agricultural food production by applying their own powers of reproduction to the soil that makes up earth. Based on this belief, fertile termite mounds came to represent the divine powers that females were believed to possess. More specifically, termite mounds became a cult symbol of the earth mother goddess in regions of India where agriculture was first practiced.
Even during the pre-agricultural period, it was believed that women channeled their own reproductive powers into earth by means of termite mounds. It was discovered early on that the soil that makes up termite mounds was more fertile than surrounding types of soil. During the neolithic era, termite mounds were far more abundant within the landscape than they are now, and mounds would often sprout vegetation while surrounding areas of soil would not. The divine power of fertility that termite mounds were believed to possess led prehistoric peoples to build entire villages around termite-rich landscapes. Another prehistoric legend put forth the idea that termite mounds contained the seeds of protector gods. Thousands of years ago, newly married women would worship termite mounds and the soil would be taken from the mound and offered up as a gift to the groom’s family. Termite mound soil was even believed to hold the magical powers that made conception possible. This is why pregnant women continue to literally consume soil from termite mounds to this very day in many regions of India.
Have you ever visited a country where termite hills are considered sacred?