Last night I attended a discussion on the yonis that dot our desert. Yonis are naturally occurring rock formations recognized as fertility symbols – gives new meaning to the term “mother earth”. When you see one, you’ll know. What I didn’t know is that there is some controversy over whether or not they are traditionally significant, despite their current celebrity.

“How can archaeologist imbue cultural significance on a symbol when there is no oral history to back it up?” asked the archaeologist. A fantastic point. No matter how long you stare at the crevices and chips and flakes of a rock, it is not going to share its secrets – or lack their of. We are dealing with 10,000 years of history and just as many years of erosion. And anyway, it’s women’s business. You don’t need to know.

Women’s business. I’ve thought a lot about women’s business and men’s business over the last few years. The sanctity of women’s business. The difference between a girl and a woman, the high regard for a mother.  Do you discuss these things with your sons? Would you ever tell a stranger? Do you explain these things, or are they just present?

The lecturer told this story: A local tribe charged the last heir with carrying on the family knowledge. They taught him everything and he in turn taught it to his children. His daughter is attributed to have said that if yonis were culturally significant, he would have told her. But, the group wondered, would the aunties have shared women’s business with the young man during his teaching? No one in the room was qualified to answer. The lecturer also told of a woman in the southern tribes in Mexico who described a fertility ceremony involving yonis, but she had never seen it done. No one else would talk to the lecturer regarding these matters. Research stalled. It would take longer than the lecturer had to give to even have a prayer of opening up the conversation.

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