The Old European Roots of Women's Circle Dance, illustrated presentation for the International Symposium of the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology, in cooperation with the Institute of Archaeomythology.
Saturday, 17. July 2021

The theme of this year's Symposium  is "Wisdom Across the Ages: Celebrating the Centennial of Archaeomythologist Marija Gimbutas." 


Symposium dates are July 16, 17, and 18, 2021. For more information, please visit


The Old European Roots of Women's Circle Dance

In traditional contexts, women's circle dances provide an embodied experience of community-oriented values including solidarity, shared leadership, mutual support, and a culture of peace. Archaeomythologist Marija Gimbutas associated these values with the egalitarian Neolithic civilisations she explored, and these are precisely the values which humanity needs to activate to ensure a viable future for our planet.
Women's ritual dances of the Balkans belong to an oral tradition which has been handed down through female generations through thousands of years, as Elizabeth Wayland Barber has shown. Laura Shannon has spent over thirty years learning these dances from grandmothers in villages in Greece and the Balkans, with a unique focus on the symbolic 'language' of dance and textile patterns reflecting the image of the Old European Goddess.
This illustrated talk suggests that the open circle of the ritual dance may represent a symbolic womb through which dancers experience a metaphorical journey of life, death, and rebirth, particularly through spiral dances associated with springtime. The sacred centre of the circle may be understood as a symbolic omphalós or navel, with the danced path as an umbilicus connecting dancers to the life-giving Mother Earth. Bread ovens in these cultures are often also shaped like an omphalós: the community is nourished with vitality both through the women's dance, and by the bread the women bake. 
Traditional women's ritual circle dances have relevance not only as living descendants of Old European Goddess cultures, but because of the insights and wisdom they offer participants today.