8.22.2009

Fertility Symbols, Feminine Principle and BA

It is very well possible that some of the symbols that became incorporated in the baybayin system were first used to denote ideas---with no specific sounds or words in mind. Objects and thought forms come before language so it is not unfeasible that the writing symbols of the baybayin evolved from pictographs that initially represented ideas/concepts and objects. That theory is illustrated here on how the BA baybayin symbol very well could have evolved from a Southeast asian fertility symbol called the lingling-o that dates back to 500 B.C. to 100 A.D.

I believe that the shape within an ancient fertility symbol called the lingling-o, evolved to become the symbol of BA in the writing system of the baybayin. 

The baybayin BA symbol represents the sound for "ba" the syllable found in girl or female in several Filipino dialects, for example Babae (tagalog) and Ba-i or Bai (Visayan).

When the Spanish first came to the Philippines to colonize they found that the native population was quite literate---they knew how to read and write. Spanish chroniclers documented (1500-1600 A.D.) the native writing script quite extensively. The native baybayin writing system was found on leaves, bamboo strips, wood and sometimes metal. The origins of the baybayin script cannot be accurately traced, but there has been agreement among scholars and researchers (Fletcher Gardner and Pardo de Tavera) that the script is quite similar to the Brahmic and Indic writings of the Asoka Inscriptions and Pallava Grantha palm leaf books (circa 500 A.D.) (Also see Ancient Philippines Scripts, Wikipedia)

BA has been chronicled by the Spanish as both a clefted circle or as a plain circle (depending on the geographic region in the Philippines):


Both of the above baybayin versions for BA are in fact yonni symbols or fertility symbols.

Some ancient cultures used the circle as a symbol of the sun or moon but many other cultures do use the circle to indicate the yonni too. (And let us not forget the circular donut sample in one of my other posts).

I wanted to share my findings that there exist, in the Philippines and around Southeast Asia, ancient fertility symbols that contain shapes the same as the BA symbol of the clefted version. They are called the lingling-o and the dinumug.

Samples of lingling-o at:

lingling-o on left and dinumug on right

The lingling-o is a common ancient artifact symbolizing fertility found around Southeast Asia and the Philippines(ca. 500 B.C.–100 A.D.); dinumug is a fertility symbol and symbol of prosperity and love found in the Ifugao, Bontoc and other Cordillera regions of the northern Philippines.

Take a look at the negative space formed within the above solid shapes, and you should be able to perceive the shape that can be considered the internal female reproductive system---the womb and the birth canal. (Some archaelogists interpret the shape as that of the uterus and the umbilical cord.)

As fertility symbols, these shapes captured the feminine essence --- that which nurtures life within itself and gives birth to it.

Now take a second look at the negative spaces within both the lingling-o and dinumug symbol --- they are very similar to the shape of the BA baybayin symbol version that looks like a clefted circle:


The lingling-o was worn by people in various regions of the Philippines but also all around Southeast Asia so it is obvious that this symbol and its meaning of fertility existed beyond words and language --- it was worn because of its "magical" or blessing qualities for fertility and prosperity, and at the same time it embodied an abstract concept of the Feminine.


Here are jade finds of lingling-o pendants and earrings (Kasaysayan: The Story of the Filipino People). Curious how the one of them has a main body that is also similar to the clefted ba shape(inverted).

If the current known periods are right or close to the time of the use of the fertility symbols and the development of the baybayin, then the shape of the clefted circle, within the lingling-o and dinumug, has been in the psyche of  people in the Philippines (and Southeast Asia) for a long while before the baybayin symbols were in use in the Philippines.

The image to the right is taken from GINTO, History wrought in Gold by Ramon Villegas. It is of 3 different styles of the fertility symbol lingling-o and dinumug. The top piece is another artistic rendering of the lingling-o, different from the preceding ones shown above. (These pieces are not dated in Ginto.) Despite the difference in artistic styles between these three, they all still have the negative space that is of the uterus and birth canal and also that of the baybayin BA rounded shape with the cleft.

I believe that the image of the clefted circle as a fertility symbol evolved to become the symbol for BA and included in the writing system of the baybayin, and that the BA baybayin symbol, not only represents the "ba" sound as a writing symbol, but that its deeper meaning is, in fact, the Feminine principle.



These findings were also shared at the First International Babaylan Conference 2010 on April 17, 2010, during the panel presentation of Baybayin Revival in the U.S. alongside Mary Ann ubaldo, Christian Cabuay, and
Christine Balza. Moderator: letecia layson.


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5 comments:

  1. When I first learned about the lingling-o amulets and their fertility significance a few years ago, I was quite amused with the name. "Lingling" in the ilonggo dialect that I spoke while growing up in the Phlippines means "peek". I thought the name "lingling-o" was quite descriptive of the action of "peering" internally into a woman's womb and exclaiming at the sight of it's shape----"lingling"--- "oh!". It is said that the lingling-o represents the shape of the uterus.

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  2. In another blog, they talk about the ling0ling-o's negative space as being the shape of the embryo and the umbilical cord. see http://interviewme886.wordpress.com/2009/01/30/taiwan-3000-bc/

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  3. I found out some new things about the ling-ling o this weekend from Virgil Apostol, a hilot/healer. The linglingo was used during the birthing process. The midwife would dip half of the amulet into a bowl of water and then the water was used to bathe a birthing mother!

    Virgil Apostol is now publishing his book "Way of the Ancient Healer: Sacred Teachings from the Philippine Ancestral Traditions" and its coming out this December 2010. Also visit his site for more info at rumsua.org

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  4. Virgil Apostol book "Way of the Ancient Healer: Sacred Teachings from the Philippine Ancestral Traditions" just got to me in the mail yesterday. One of the first things I read was all 21 pages on the Lingling-o today! thank you, thank you, Virgil, for the stories, the facts and the findings! the linglingo is powerful. I can't wait to finish the whole book.

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  5. How nice a Ling-ling o ang dinumog!!!!


    If we try to sell on the streets ,it will be a popular one,..its artistic style,...!!!!

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