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Continuation - Lectures by Western Scolars

Panel 7

Historical Matriarchal Societies – Research in the USA


Joan Marler (USA)

Joan Marler is the founder of The Institute of Archeomythology


Old Europe through a Matriarchal Lens


The concept of matriarchy as a nuanced model of "society in balance" provides an insightful lens through which to view the pre-Indo-European cultures of Old Europe. While archaeologist Marija Gimbutas rejected the term matriarchy to describe Neolithic Europe because of its common association with "female rule" (preferring the terms "gylany"and "matristic"), the redefinition of matriarchy brought into focus by contemporary scholars, articulates a cultural configuration largely unrecognized in the nomenclature of Western anthropology. This presentation examines this refined concept of matriarchy as a possible model for interpreting Old European ritual life, symbolism and social structure.


Litterature by Gimbutas / Maler:

- Gimbutas: The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe, London: Thames & Hudson 1974,1989
- The Language of the Goddess, San Francisco:Harper & Row 1989; in German: Frankfurt 1995
- The Civilization of the Goddess, San Francisco: Harper 1991; in German: Frankfurt 1996
- The Living Goddesses, Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press 1999
- Marler (editor): From the Realm of the Ancestors, Manchester, Conn. 1997


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Riane Eisler 


Riane Eisler´s Homepage - Transformation Theory


Building A Caring Economy


Riane Eisler is a social scientist, attorney, and author whose work on cultural transformation has inspired both scholars and social activists.

Her research has impacted many fields, including history, economics, psychology, sociology, and education.


She has been a leader in the movement for peace, sustainability, and economic equity, and her pioneering work in human rights has expanded the focus of international organizations to include the rights of women and children.

Prof. Lucia Chiavola Birnbaum (Italy/USA)


Black Madonnas, Cathars, and Witches – Peaceful Societies and Violence


Ancient African migration paths are marked in Europe by black madonnas, heresy, and witches. In France this pattern is characterized by black madonnas with african features, Cathar heretics so threatening to the church it tried to extirpate them with a domestic crusade, and witches whose rituals in France, as elsewhere, transmitted memory and values of the ancient African dark mother.


This contribution to matriarchal studies concentrates on these regions of France: (1) the Auvergne (reached in prehistory by Africans going upriver from Marseilles) which has a very high concentration of black madonnas and is renowned for its witchcraft. And (2) Cathar country of southwest France sharing Pyrenees culture (on another African migration path) with Spain. Cathars, under persecution in France, fled to Italy where the memory of the dark mother was alrady present; ancient Africans early migrated to Mediterranean islands and up both coasts of the Italian peninsula, leaving a collective memory of the dark mother that was deepened, in the period before Mary and Jesus, by Semites (who also venerated a dark mother) in migration from Sardinia (Danites, Canaanites) and from Sicily (Canaanites).


Litterature by Lucia Chiavola Birnbaum
- Dark Mother. African Origins and Godmothers, iUniverse 2004
- Black Madonnas. Feminism, Religion, and Politics in Italy, iUniverse 2000
- Editor, She is Everywhere. An Anthology in Womanist Feminist Spirituality, iUniverse 2005


Vicki Noble (USA)


Those Without Husbands: How the Amazons Got Their Name


Ancient civilizations, as documented by Marija Gimbutas, were composed of Goddess-worshipping clans governed by women. In matriarchal clans, marriage as we know it probably didn't exist. Like the contemporary Mosuo in China, women would have been free to take lovers and their children raised by the clan. Every mother's brother was the male authority and nurturing role model for his sister's children, as biological fatherhood was not institutionalized or deified.
When patriarchal tribes entered territories occupied by matriarchal peoples, the lack of obvious roles for husbands and fathers was a glaring difference that distinguished them from their neighbors. The Scythians, for instance, lived next door to the matriarchal Sarmatians among whose women were warriors and priestesses, and even ordinary women were buried at the center of their kurgans in honor of their centrality within the community. The Scythians would have no doubt named the Sarmatians "Amazons," meaning, "no-husband-ones."


It is time to lay to rest the tired mythology of the Amazons as male-hating females living in all-women tribes, burning off one breast in order to shoot better, and maiming or giving away their boy children. While colorful and sensational, these stories do an injustice to the many matriarchal tribes trying to sustain their original way of life in the face of great danger during the patriarchal transition.


Litterature by Vicki Noble
- Motherpeace: A Way to the Goddess
- Shakti Woman: Feeling Our Fire, Healing Our World
- The Double Goddess: Women Sharing Power

Dr. Susan Gail Carter (USA)


The Matristic Roots of Japan

and the Emergence of the Japanese Sun Goddess, Amaterasu-o-mi-kami


A strong case can be made that matriarchy (matristic culture) preceded patriarchy in Japan. Using a set of seven matristic cultural indicators, the hypothesis is set forth that Japan's prehistory (and proto-history) was matristic and provided fertile ground for the myth of Amaterasu-o-mi-kami and her emergence in female form.


Her spiritual reign and survival today as the preeminent deity in the Shinto pantheon can, in part, be attributed to the remaining characteristics of this earlier matristic culture. It can also be argued that her continuing spiritual presence might again make possible a female's ascendance to the Chrysanthemum throne.

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Marguerite Rigoglioso M.A. (USA)


In Search of the Libyan Amazons: Preliminary Research in Tunisia


Ancient historian Diodorus Siculus writes of various female warrior tribes of North Africa known as "Amazons," and Herodotus provides ethnographic detail on possible such matriarchal tribes of antiquity. The region corresponding most closely with their geographical descriptions has been identified as contemporary Tunisia. In my lecture, I share preliminary archeological, ethnographic, semiotic, and linguistic evidence gathered from my recent research expedition to Tunisia that may attest to the historical existence of the "Libyan" or North African Amazons.


I present information gathered from Southern Tunisia, where particular places are conjectured to be locations of the ancient Lake/Bay of Tritonis, the mythological birthplace of the Amazonian goddess Neith/Athena and a homeland of the African Amazons. I consider whether certain matriarchal aspects of Imazighen/Amazigh (Berber) cultures, local religious practices and legends, and ancient Berber symbols could be remnants of Amazon culture. I look at how the stories of two major female leaders associated with Tunisia could similarly be clues to a repressed Amazon history there. Finally, I address the broader question of the complexity that the "warrior woman/Amazon" concept poses for the field of matriarchal studies.


Litterature by Marguerite Rigoglioso

- "Persephone's Sacred Lake and the Ancient Female Mystery Religion in the Womb of Sicily," in: Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, vol. 21, no. 2, Fall 2005.
- "Stregoneria: The Old Religion in Italy," in She Is Everywhere: Anthology of the Dark Mother, Lucia Chiavola Birnbaum, ed. (iUniverse 2005).
- The "Other" Eleusis: Mysticism and Misogyny in the Navel of Sicily, awaiting publication.
- "The Oldest Labyrinth in the World? Paintings of the Polyphemus Cave," in Caerdroia 1998


Panel 8


Historical Matriarchal Societies – Research in Europe



Prof. Annette Kuhn (Germany)


Transitions of Matriarchal Power in the Symbolic and Social Sphere in History


When women in the past and in the present tell their life stories, they very often without much thinking disregard the limits of the patriarchal symbolic world. In their story telling they most often make use of an older more universal pattern of thought based on women's experiences within matriarchal societies of the past and present, and on later experiences with matriarchal and patriarchal mixed societies. In my feminist approach to history I am trying to decipher this older pattern of female thinking, which continually renews itself and is therefore a force in history, which continually contributes to a more human and universal view of society , politics and power.


Based on my own rereading and retelling of three well known patriarchal versions of creation myths – the story of Isis, Hesiod's creation myth in his Theogony, and the two biblical creation stories in the Genesis – within a feminist view of history, I wish to argue my leading assumptions on the transmissions of matriarchal power.


Litteratur by professor Annette Kuhn:
- Frauen in der Geschichte. Quellen-Reihe Geschichtsdidaktik, Düsseldorf: Verlag Schwann
- Kuhn (editor): Die Chronik der Frauen, Dortmund 1992
- Ich trage einen goldenen Stern. Ein Frauenleben in Deutschland, Aufbau Verl. Berlin 2003



Dr. Kurt Derungs (Switzerland)


Landscape of the Ancestress. Principles of the Matriarchal

Philosophy of Nature and the Mythology of Landscape


Quote from Wikipedia:  "Landscape mythology and anthropology of landscape (Landschaftsmythologie, Landschaftsethnologie) are terms for a field of study advocated since about 1990 by Kurt Derungs (born 1962 in St. Gallen, Switzerland). Derungs describes the field as an interdisciplinary approach to landscape combining archaeology, ethnology and mythology."


Besides developing a balanced social structure, matriarchies have also produced an outstanding ecology and mythology of landscape. In the naming of landscapes (mountains, rivers, lakes, hills and so on), in burial site symbolism, in architecture, in rituals and mythology, they have documented ancient knowledge in which the principles of the matriarchal philosophy of nature can be read. Examples from still existing matriarchal societies and traces in the history of cultures depict the veneration of an ancestress or Great Goddess as creatress. She was regarded as the goddess of the landscape itself and was thus venerated. The mythology of landscape reveals numerous traces of the goddess cult which can also be found in European archaeology
and ethnology.


The "landscape of the ancestress" is the primary key for the recognition of many cultic sites and sacred places which would otherwise be overlooked or destroyed by the isolating patriarchal viewpoint. In this lecture, the matriarchal philosophy of nature is made evident by different examples from South-East-Asia and Europe, and it is shown how the mythology of landscape
can bring new ideas to other fields of knowledge.


Litteratur by Dr. Kurt Derungs

- Derungs/Göttner-Abendroth (editors): Matriarchate als herrschaftsfreie Gesellschaften, Edition Amalia, Bern, 1997
- Landschaften der Göttin. Avebury, Silbury, Lenzburg, Edition Amalia, Bern 2000
- The authors (editors): Die Diskriminierung der Matriarchatsforschung. The Discrimination against Modern Matriarchal Studies, Edition Amalia, Bern 2003, in German, awaiting translation into English (with contributions of Joan Marler and Charlene Spretnak) Früh/Derungs (eds.): Die Schwarze Frau. Kraft und Mythos der Schwarzen Madonna. Unionsverlag, Zürich 2003


Kurt Derungs Homepage »


Dr. Kaarina Kailo (Finland)


The "Ritvala Helka Fest" --Traces of a Finno-Ugric Matriarchy and Worldview?


The purpose of my lecture is to consider the historical possibility of a gynocentric Finno-Ugric matriarchy based on cross-cultural Northern materials from archaeology to ethnography and cultural studies (folklore studies, anthropology). I argue that one cannot get radically new glimpses into matriarchal times without a bold shift of methodological paradigms and theoretical attitudes. It is clear that research on matriarchies has been blocked or prevented by patriarchal attitudes, epistemic politics and desire – the ideological attempts to deny the very possibility of more peaceful, eco-socially sustainable societies. Because one of the ways to strengthen Christian patriarchy in Finland has been to rename and/or devalue female "haltias" (guardians of game and nature) and replace them with male gods or Christianized female characters, one gynocentric method consists in revisiting these various embodiments of "pollution" or impurity (eg. the Finnish Hiisi, sacred grove and being).


I will apply and test Heide Goettner-Abendroth's theory of matriarchy by revisiting the Finnish studies on the Ritvala Helka Fest, showing how this and other archaic rituals can help us reconsider and discover the (matriarchal) worldview of Northern European peoples.


Litterature by Kaarina Kailo
- Editor: The Gift Gaze. Wo/men and Bears  Transgressing Gender, Nature and Species, Inanna Press, Toronto, Canada 2005.
- "The Unbearable Gaze between Women and Bears - Arcaic Bear Ceremonials Revisited." In: Kailo (ed.): The Gift Gaze. Wo/men and Bears. Transgressing Back into Nature as Culture. Inanna Press, York University, Toronto
- Kailo/Elina (eds.): No Beginning, No End - The Sami (Lapps) Speak Up. Alberta: Canadian Circumpolar Institute 1998.
- "Monoculture, Gender and Nationalism: Kalevala as a Tool of Acculturation." In: Ethical Challenges for Teacher Education and Teaching. Special Focus on Gender and Multicultural Issues. Acta Univ. Oulu 2000, Eds. Rauni R�s�nen and Vappu Sunnari. E45. 13-37.


Articles on the net: 

Dr. Heide Goettner-Abendroth (Germany)


Notes on the Origin of Patriarchy


This presentation developed out of my research on matriarchy. My studies have firmly convinced me that it is impossible to hypothesize about the historical origin of patriarchy without first having researched the structure of matriarchy, which was prior to patriarchy. Otherwise false assumptions will be made about the constituent causes that brought patriarchal structures into existence; if the structures of matriarchy remain unknown or unclear, unconscious patriarchal assumptions are likely to creep into the explanation. To clarify how this happens, I will challenge some of the popular - but wrong - hypotheses about the rise of patriarchy.


Then I will address the question of why the matriarchal form of society gave way to the patriarchal form. An answer is only possible if the many different constituent causes leading to such a complex and enduring transformation are taken into account. The change took place in different ways all over the world, and is still going on today. At different times during this process, new and different constituent causes have produced multiple changes. I will briefly outline the most important steps in this transformational process.
(As there seems to be no video with this lecture, I have linked to this one on Youtube instead. There you can find lots of ohter lectures by HGA)


Litterature by Heide Goettner-Abendroth:
- Matriarchy I. History of its Discovery, in German: Verlag Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1988, 1995
- Matriarchy II,1. Societies in Eastern Asia, Indonesia, Oceania, in German: Kohlh. Stuttgart 1999
- Matriarchy II,2. Societies in America, India, Africa, in German: Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2000
- Matriarchy in Southwestern China. A Research Travel to the Mosuo, in German: Stuttgart 1998
- The Goddess and her Heros. Matriarchal Mythology, Stow, Mass.: Anthony Publ. Comp. 1995
- The Dancing Goddess. Principles of a Matriarchal Aestetic, Beacon Press, Boston 1991


More books and articles »

Dr. Christa Mulack (Germany)


Matriarchal Structures in the Hebrew Bible


We all know the bible as one of the most patriarchal texts of Western tradition. Yet, the thorough study of these texts in combination with matriarchal studies brings forward some other aspects of biblical literature. We then come across old cultic passages with definite matriarchal contents. The discovery of these textural treasures allows us to identify a pre-Israelite Goddess underlying many texts coming from the culture of ancient Palestine which had a strong influence on the Israelite tribes immigrating into the area.


As a consequence, the conviction that Israel began with a patriarchal culture and society possessing a primordial monotheism has to be abandoned, even though the belief in an original patriarchy is actively promoted in ecclesiastical teachings and sermons from the pulpit. The prerequisite for this insight is a wide interdisciplinary knowledge which the theological research on the Hebrew Bible is lacking. This situation must be strongly criticized by contrasting the one-sided patriarchal dedication to "transcendence" with the matriarchal world view that can also be found in the bible.


Litterature by Christa Mulack

- Im Anfang war die Weisheit. Die Wiederentdeckung eins weiblichen Gottesbildes Edition fabrica libriae, Schalksmühle 2004
- Natürlich weiblich. Die Heimatlosigkeit der Frau im Patriarchat Verlag Pomaska-Brand, Schalksmühle 2004
- Maria. Die geheime Göttin im Christentum, Verlag Pomaska-Brand, Schalksmühle 2005
- Religion ist zu wichtig, um sie den Männern zu überlassen. Die Göttin kehrt zurück Kreuz Verlag Stuttgart 1998


Max Dashu


Mother-Right and Gender Justice


Matrix societies are not patriarchy in reverse, but an entirely different paradigm. I draw on my 14,000-slide archive to illustrate the egalitarian gender politics encoded in the social system of these indigenous cultures. Reckoning descent in the female line means no "illegitimate" or homeless children. Matrilocal residence effectively prevents battering and rape in the home.


Social motherhood spreads out responsibility for child-rearing and caring for old and disabled people. Values based on the life-support network protect all people and the Earth, and encourage sharing, consensus, and harmonious relations. Surveying aboriginal cultures in Niger, Yunnan, Ontario, Surinam, Vietnam, Micronesia, India and New Mexico, Dashu explores the implications matrix cultures hold for a future of gender equality.


Litterature by Max Dashu:

Slide series about the topics: Women's Power; Icons of the Matrix;


Female Rebels and Mavericks; Woman Shaman, and scores of in-depth regional surveys of women's history, from the oldest archaeological finds up to the present.


The Suppressed Histories Slide Series catalog is online, along with articles and excerpts from The Secret History of the Witches »


Lydia Ruyle


Icons: Sacred Images of the Divine Feminine Around the Globe


Goddess Icons Spirit Banners are sacred images of the divine feminine from the many cultures of the world. Life is about connections between humans, the world of nature and the world of the spirit. Icons connect to the deep soul expression of the divine mystery of life. Each image was created and revered at some time in human history. Each image has a Herstory. Some Goddess Banners flew for the 1st World Congress on Matriarchal Studies in Luxembourg and some will fly for the 2nd World Congress on Matriarchal Studies in Texas.


Litterature by Lydia Ruyle:


Lydia Ruyle
- Goddess Icons Spirit Banners of the Divine Feminine, Boulder, CO: Woven Word Press, 2002
- Turkey Goddess Icons Spirit Banners of the Divine Feminine, Istanbul, Hitit Publications, 2005

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