In 1898 during an excavation of the Demeter sanctuary at Priene, Turkey, a group of German archaeologists discovered an assemblage of very distinctive Hellenistic statues dated to around 400 BCE. These figures identified as being Baubo. The little figurines were indeed unique in their appearance, with their head attached directly to their legs, making the figure’s chin and vulva appear as one (a ‘chuff chin’ as my sister so neatly put it. And as a lewd joker, I think Baubo might approve of this title)
In some writings, researchers have translated the word Baubo to mean ‘belly’ or ‘stomach’, which is perhaps why this unusual depiction of Baubo with her face directly placed upon her stomach. It also recalls the phrase ‘to belly laugh’, which is possibly a reminder to all that it is essential to have a terrific laugh now and then. More often if possible!
In some versions of Baubo myths, she is said to see through her nipples and talks through her vulva. Making the eyes of the statue also her breasts and her mouth representative of her vulva. This depiction perhaps speaks of sexual liberation and the importance of accepting and enjoying the gifts that our bodies can provide us with if we are willing to listen to and understand our bodies.
Appearing as a crone in Greek mythology, particularly that of the early Orphic religion, Baubo is said to be the ‘sacred fool’ to Demeter (Ceres to the Romans), who danced Demeter out of depression.
Baubo has been called bawdy, vulgar and sexually liberated, but perhaps most importantly of all, she is wise and willing to share that wisdom to help Demeter, and others, thrive. She uses her fun-loving jesting to lighten even the darkest mood, allowing laughter to heal wounds whilst delivering knowledge that inspires action.
When I asked fans of Baubo to let me know what they thought of her, here is what they said:
‘the bawdy goddess of women’s talk’ Paula Bowman
‘She is the ‘stoma’: the mouth (in both senses) - she laughs, makes obscenities; she was an amazingly empowering figure for women in Ancient Greece, breaking the norms. LOVE HER!’ Professor Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones
And a massive thank you to Clare Jasmine Beloved for sharing her Baubo knowledge with me.
White Earthenware or Pipeclay
Approx. 138 mm tall, 45 mm width at base, 45 mm depth of the base
This replica has been hand made in Northumberland by Potted History, based on an original artefact. It has been fired to a temperature of between 800 & 1000 Centigrade to emulate the same techniques that the original potters would have employed nearly two thousand years ago. This process often results in variations of the surface colour and texture, a standard feature of the original pottery, giving each piece a unique character.
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