On a recent visit to France, I visited one of the last prehistoric caves sites open to the public where one can see authentic paintings from the paleolithic era. The Niaux Grotto is located in the northern foothills of the Pyrenees, just south of the French town of Foix. I made us a reservation months in advance for 1:30 in the afternoon – enough time, I thought, to drive from the small village of Sauve. We booked a rental car and set off – GPS said 3 1/2 hours to get there. It took 4 hours and we barely made our tour! Driving in a foreign country, sometimes on small windy roads, not knowing where we were going or if we would make it on time, added to a slightly stressful adventure.
But we did make it (at 1:15) and it was worth the stress! Like my traveling companion said, this was a once in a lifetime experience. (Actually, this was my third cave visit (See my blogs), but equally exciting. Ofcourse, no photography was allowed and veryone was given a flashlight to maneuver the unlit cave.
Once inside the cathedral like space, I felt a serenity and a connection to the ancients who walked this space 15,000years before us. On the left, a figure of a woman (not a painting- a spirit) greeted me. (This is not in the guide books, folks!) She was there to the left outlined in the gold and white granite rock. I pointed her out to my friend and she saw her as well. This sign of the sacred feminine spoke to me and let her presence known. Perhaps she created some of these drawings and wanted me to know it. Thats my story and Im sticking to it!
As we moved further into the cave, our guide pointed out the beautiful drawings made with black carbon – horses, bison, mountain goat, ibis etc. There was often a layering of images – implying motion and one could tell many hands created these images over time. One never knows what will inspire the artist – in my case it was something even more mysterious and ethereal than the ancient cave drawings themselves. It was the spirit of the cave and perhaps a whisper in my ear…