1 RECLAIMING THE GREAT GODDESS
It can be argued that when the Great Goddess ruled the world it was, especially for girls and women, a better place in which to live than today’s world. Some archaeologists think that the reign of the Goddess dates back as far as fifty thousand years—all agree that by thirty thousand years ago She reigned supreme. Our knowledge of such long-ago times is naturally limited. By the time writing had become common and history began to be recorded, patriarchy was already in place and gaining ground. However, archaeological, mythological, and historical evidence shows that when the Goddess reigned, people led a female-centered way of life. Worship of the Goddess was not a religion in the sense that we think of religion today, but a way of living that honored both females and Earth, which was considered to be a living being—our Mother Earth, who gave birth to all things and provided for all. This Great Mother not only birthed everything in the Universe, she also arranged to have all returned to her bosom in death, only to be reborn in an eternal Great Round of Being.
The Earth Mother is a cosmogenic figure, the eternally fruitful source of everything. She is simply the Mother. All things came from her, return to her, and are her. The totality of the cosmos is her body, she gives birth to everything from her womb, and she nourishes all from her breasts. There is no essential change or individuation. Each separate being is a manifestation of her; all things share in her life through an eternal cycle of birth and rebirth.
Images of the Goddess have been found all over the world. Many symbolic representations of Her include animals, especially serpents, cats, and horned creatures, such as cattle. Archaeologists have found evidence in these images that the ancient cultures’ regard for the Great Goddess went beyond viewing Her as Nature and the Earth Mother. They revered her as the primary Source of Life and also as the Great Mystery that life is, always has been, and probably always will be, despite science’s best efforts to unlock Nature’s secrets.
However, to the Goddess people, there was nothing supernatural about Her. As Nature and All There Is, She was not an impossible ideal of some far-removed, judging deity who decided everything and who was to be worshiped by “sinners.” It is improbable that She was actually called Goddess, which is a feminine rendition of the relatively modern word God, but whatever they named Her, She was supreme.
One of the ways the feminine power is used in [the Shuar] community is to control the men. . . . By control I mean the way they fulfill their role as the nurturers, the ones who are taught by and who honor Nunqui, the Earth, and all that exists, the balance of creation over destruction. In Shuar culture it is the women who are turned to for wisdom. The women are the ones who say, “We don’t need a larger house; don’t clear any more trees” or “We have enough to eat; don’t kill more animals.” It is known that if the women fall short of their responsibility to Nunqui and don’t let the men know when enough destruction has occurred, Nunqui and the Earth and humanity will suffer in return.
In our culture, who says when enough is enough? What happened when the culture shifted from the fertility and goddess cultures to cultures of male domination, of dominion over the earth? Where is the nurturing? Where is the control? Where is the wisdom? When is enough enough? Who suffers from the dominion and destruction?
LIFE AMONG THE GODDESS PEOPLE
The first of these Goddess peoples were what are called “hunter-gatherers,” which means that the men hunted for large game and were sometimes gone from a settlement for weeks at a time, while the women and children gathered wild foods and small animals for daily sustenance. These people lived in fairly small groups and moved frequently as they exhausted the food resources of each temporary settlement.
Before long, however, the women who did the gathering realized that they could reproduce food plants and thus have a steady supply at hand without having to constantly move to a new territory. They credited their Goddess for giving them this invaluable knowledge, which by today has developed into not only agriculture, but into agribusiness, run by big profit-hungry companies that favor short-term gain over long-term sustainability. Such “progress” threatens our Earth’s delicate ecosystems.
It is difficult for us—with our TVs, radios, cell phones, automobiles, jet planes, internet, supermarkets, modern medicine, and the host of other conveniences and comforts we enjoy—to even begin to imagine what life might have been like when the Goddess was the model for life. For one thing, war was unknown. The people of the Goddess lived in unwalled, unprotected villages where cooperation was the norm. It had to be. And women were the originators of cooperative living. The idea of the “rugged individual” is recent, speaking historically.
We cannot deny that our modern patriarchal civilization has given us many benefits, if comfort and convenience are the preferred standards by which to measure life’s value. These modern conveniences, collectively known as “progress,” are the result of linear thinking.
Women understand that life is not linear but cyclical. Anyone can see that just by looking up at the night sky and seeing the Moon go through her phases from dark to shining sliver of crescent to full and back down again. Although the Goddess in some of her aspects is identified with the Sun and the starry heavens, She is mostly connected with the Moon, which is a common Goddess symbol. The tradition of lunar calendars goes back as early as 32,000 BCE.
Of course, you as a teen girl experience the cyclical nature of life every time you get your menstrual period. For the Goddess people, in their perception of life as basically feminine, the fact of the natural cycles of birth, youth, maturity, old age, and death were seen as sacred manifestations of the Great Goddess and the eternal Great Round, which was Her Being. We can assume that early peoples felt great awe and reverence for the life process. Some have speculated that they did not know the part men played in impregnating women and that therefore birth was considered totally the woman’s doing. Others have disputed that notion. We can’t know for sure either what the ancient people knew or how they felt, but we can make educated guesses from the evidence they left behind in the thousands of Goddess images that span centuries of time.
The Goddess in the Moon
Interestingly, both the Chinese calendar and the Jewish calendar are lunar calendars! Neither of these patriarchal societies was able to eliminate the Goddess entirely, just as the bright Moon continues to remind us of Her.
Another element of the Jewish religion is that in order to be considered a real Jew a person has to be born from a Jewish mother. Think about that for a moment. If a Jewish man marries a non-Jewish woman, his children are not officially considered to be Jewish. But if a Jewish woman marries a non-Jew, her children are Jews. Perhaps She still lurks behind the patriarchy’s best attempts to deny Her existence.
“It’s a wise child that knows its own father.”
The early Goddess people were matrilineal, which means that identity and property were passed down through the mother-line. Because the biological father of children may have been unknown, children were identified through their mothers. If it is true that men’s role in fathering children wasn’t understood, the identity of the father may not have been known.
Marriage as we know it today may not have existed. The men may have mated with many of the women of their community, and the women were likely in control of the food—a very powerful position. The identity of a child’s mother was self-evident, so it made sense to reckon kinship and inheritance of property through the mother and the mother’s family, both for individuals and for entire groups or clans. This form of reckoning is sometimes called mother right.
Archaeological evidence suggests that the Goddess people included ancestor worship in their sacred rituals. Ancestor-worship idols are female because they represent the human origins of tribal members. Thousands of sculptures of women have been found in ancient gravesites from as far back as 25,000 BCE. These Venus figures point to the importance of women in early clan society.
Among the Iroquois, a council of women chose the tribal chiefs. These women were known as the Clan Mothers, and they had the power to replace the chief if they did not approve of his actions and decisions for the tribe. The Clan Mothers did not dictate to the chief they selected, but it was assumed he would act in the tribe’s best interests, and these interests were determined by the Clan Mothers.
It’s possible that the mother’s brothers may have served the role of father, but it is fairly certain that she had no “husband,” and she answered to no man who was lord and master of the household. Thus it was that women owned property in their own names, and the central Goddess temples served as places where governing took place. Justice is always pictured as a woman! These early women formulated laws and created the architecture of the settlements, which grew to be cities in the course of time.
In addition, women were in possession of the knowledge that was vital to life. As food-gatherers, they were also herb specialists, and it was they who invented medicine.
In short, among the Goddess cultures women enjoyed full respect from and equal status with men. They made vital contributions to their societies and received appropriate recognition for their knowledge, wisdom, and creative abilities. So what happened? How did women become second-class citizens defined by the men in our lives, lacking equal rights, and expected to serve men’s needs before even considering our own?
What happened was the rise of patriarchy.
THE MYTH OF THE MIND/BODY SPLIT
Ever since René Descartes equated thinking with being with his famous 1637 statement, “I think, therefore I am,” the Western world has been hung up on the idea that the mind and body are separate realities. The result of this dogma has been to cut off the links of communication between the conscious and the unconscious spheres of the human psyche.
What happened—and is in place to this day—is that the non-rational right brain—considered “feminine” with all the negative connotations patriarchy brings to that word—has had to play second fiddle to the rational, linear-thinking left brain, considered “masculine,” with positive connotations. In the dispute, the poor human body—so long considered by patriarchal religions to be the evil repository of sin—comes in a miserable last.
Thus, analytical, logical, rational thinking has dominated our culture for centuries and continues to do so to this very day. However, there is good news: we are standing at the beginning of the twenty-first century and are now in a position to discard this outworn and destructive splitting of the human psyche into bits and pieces. We can declare ourselves to be the whole persons we in fact are—ones whose as yet undiscovered abilities are worthy of our awe and wonder and worthy of development.
THE RISE OF PATRIARCHY
Today, we live under a patriarchal system that, though it has been moderated by recent social and political advances for women, has been in existence for more than two thousand years. The ancient Greeks were the first Western people with a large, settled civilization to develop a patriarchal system of religion and government. They had many gods under a head god, Zeus, and many goddesses split off from the original One Goddess. Though the Greeks were pantheistic (worshiping multiple deities) and many aspects of the Goddess still found representation in their recognized goddesses, they embraced patriarchy by giving Zeus the ultimate power over all. The Greeks had learned about the patriarchal system from nomad hordes of barbarian invaders. Waves of Indo-European warriors descended on the communities of vast numbers of people who had followed the ways of the Great Goddess for thousands and thousands of years.
Following the Golden Age of Greek civilization, circa 500 BCE, the rise of Judaism amplified the patriarchal system and added to it another element: monotheism. Monotheism means that there is only one God—and in the Jewish religion, that single God was male. The Jewish god, called Yahweh or Jehovah, was stuck firmly in place by the patriarchs who wrote the Old Testament of the Bible.
WHAT IS PATRIARCHY?
Patriarchy: A socioreligious system that declares the Supreme Being, the Creator of the World and all in it, to be male. Under patriarchy, women are considered inferior to men. In the past, patriarchal systems actually relegated women (and their children) to the status of property belonging to men, just as donkeys, horses, houses, and household goods were deemed exclusively male property.
What is not generally known is that it took a long time for patriarchal religions to finally eliminate the way of the Goddess. In fact, for centuries the female-centered populations and the invading patriarchal populations lived side by side. But the invaders were extremely warlike. In their quest to rule the world their way, with their male God in charge, they persecuted and suppressed their Goddess-loving neighbors for centuries. The Bible is full of tales of war and the conquering of nonpatriarchal peoples by the Jewish invaders.
Jewish priests, called Levites, created the story of Adam and Eve to firmly establish the inferior status of women and gain control over them. Their ultimate aim was to conquer the lands and the people who followed the old Goddess ways.
In the wake of the Jews came the Christians—who were, of course, Jews themselves when they started Christianity. In fact, the orthodox Jews considered the Christian cult to be a heresy and tried to stamp it out.
Christians found the story of Adam and Eve much to their advantage and incorporated it and its concept of “original sin” into their developing doctrines. How convenient that man was created in God’s image and that woman was an afterthought, fashioned out of an insignificant part of Adam, his rib. She was not created as an equal or even as a mate, but to be man’s servant. And just as God had authority over the man, the man was to have total control of the woman. As the great mythologist Joseph Campbell has remarked, “The story of Adam and Eve was a political document.”
The later Christians were equally fierce in their determination to rid the world of the Goddess and all who followed her ancient ways. They embarked on a calculated destruction of Her shrines and temples. Many of today’s ancient ruins were not destroyed by the natural processes of time but were deliberately knocked down.
The Jewish War on the Goddess
“You must completely destroy all the places where the nations you dispossess have served their gods, on high mountains, on hills, under any spreading tree; you must tear down their altars, smash their pillars, cut down their sacred poles, set fire to the carved images of their gods and wipe out their name from that place.” (Deut. l2:2, 3)
“This anti-sexual attitude was not the result of a more inherent purity or lesser sex drive among the adherents of the Judeo-Christian belief . . . it was probably developed and propagated for purely political motives, aiming at goals that would allow the invading patrilineal Hebrews greater access to land and governmental control by destroying the ancient matrilineal system.”
When God Was a Woman
Then the prophet Mohammed created what is now known as Islam, claiming to take dictation direct from a God called Allah. This religion spread like wildfire in the Middle East, where it still dominates today. Under Islamic law, the subjugation of women was even more complete than under the religions of Judaism and Christianity. Women were—and in fundamental Muslim countries still are—hidden under heavy veils from the age of eleven on, at which time they were considered to have reached adult womanhood. This age coincides, more or less, with puberty and the beginning of menstrual periods.
All of the patriarchal, monotheistic religions have one thing in common: The followers of each consider their own religion to be the only true religion. The Jews declare themselves to be “God’s chosen people.” The Catholics claim to be the “one true religion,” and fundamental Muslims consider non-Muslims to be the work of the devil. And each has a holy book that sets down truth and law. The Jews have their Torah, both the Jews and the Christians have the Old Testament of the Bible, and the Christians have the New Testament as well, while Islam has the Koran. All of these holy books are claimed to have arrived by direct revelation from God. However, “God” does not seem to be a single entity, as there is one god for the Jews, another for the Christians, and a third, Allah, for the followers of Islam. So, monotheism isn’t really about a single God after all. It’s just that each religious system recognizes a single God of its own. And each regards other people’s God as a false God.
Followers of these monotheistic religions are often called “people of the Book,” and the book is all that matters. This causes confusion and dispute, and countless scholars spend their lifetimes trying to interpret the various religious writings. Disagreement is inevitable.
Mohammed and the Bible
Though Western society isn’t usually aware of the fact, Mohammed incorporated many of the legends and attitudes of both Old and New Testaments into the Muslim Koran, which is the bible of Islam. For example, Sura 4:31 states that “Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. So good women are obedient, guarding the unseen parts as God has guarded them.” An obvious reference to Islam’s male ownership of female sexuality!
According to legend, the prophet Mohammed could not read, but where did Mohammed obtain that information if he didn’t have access to the Bible? In his Occidental Mythology, Joseph Campbell proposes a logical explanation. “One need only suppose a boyhood and youth of alert interest in the oral lore and religious life round about: a little pitcher with big ears; and then a youth of high intelligence, ardent religious sensibilities, and an extraordinary capacity for extended periods of auditory trance.”
Is it any wonder the world breaks out in religiously based wars that spread over the face of our beautiful, abundant, irreplaceable Mother Earth? Because humans no longer follow the Goddess, whose Way requires no book but only reverence for life and Her peaceful Earth-honoring ways, we could bring our species to the brink of extinction. Our contentious ways have polluted the planet, its air, and its waters, endangering not only human health but contributing daily to the extinction of nonhuman species.
Just the Facts, Ma’am
It is time to bring the facts about the early female religions to light. They have been hidden away too long. With these facts we will be able to understand the earliest development of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and their reactions to the female religions and customs that preceeded them . . . we will understand how these reactions led to the political attitudes and historical events that occurred as these male-oriented religions were forming. . . . We will be able to clear away the centuries of confusion, misunderstanding, and suppression, [and examine] the image, staus, and roles still assigned to women today . . . to refute the ideas of ‘natural or divinely ordained roles,’ finally opening the way for a more realistic recognition of . . . individual human beings . . . and regard the world and its riches as a place that belongs to every living being on it.
When God Was a Woman
GODDESS POWER NOW!
Perhaps, until now, nobody ever told you about the Goddess and the Goddess-loving people who once populated our planet. If so, it’s not surprising. As you can see, there has been a vast conspiracy to wrest power from the Goddess and drive Her from Earth. The good news is that, outward appearances to the contrary, the conspiracy has failed. The Goddess has been driven underground, but she has not been driven away. And today’s teenage girls have the unique and marvelous opportunity to bring Her back into the light of day. You can use your inner Goddess power to cut through the many oppressive and falsely founded patriarchal images of females as second-class citizens. You can see to it, one girl at a time—burgeoning into millions of girls all over this lovely Mother Earth—that a contemporary awareness of the once worldwide veneration of the female deity as the wise and all-giving Creatress of the Universe becomes the new reality for us all.
You can bring about the changes necessary to erase the oppressive laws and customs that have been developed by the patriarchal, monotheistic religio-political systems in their attempt to destroy the Goddess. Your hope for the future—and that of all girls and women—lies not in some return to a mythical golden past where the Goddess ruled. It lies in the here and now, and in your future.
Claim your Goddess power and use it well. Be a Goddess Girl!
What Is a Virgin?
What the word virgin originally meant was a woman who was “unto herself,” that is, not dependent on a man for her identity or livelihood. It was a title of honor.
THE GREAT GODDESS AND THE VIRGIN MARY
The Great Goddess, often called “Lady of the Beasts,” wore many titles including “Mother of All” and “Mother of the Gods,” which clearly show Her to be the direct ancestress of the Catholic Virgin Mary—Mother of God.
So important was Mary to the Catholic Church that an enterprise called Maryology sprang up within the Church itself. Many of the great cathedrals of Europe, built in the Gothic period and in the Middle Ages, are named after Our Lady. Although Mary supposedly kept her maidenhead (the colloquial term for the intact hymen, which is thought to be evidence of “virginity,” or lack of sexual intercourse), she lost her rightful status as Goddess.
The early Catholics’ attempts to extinguish the Goddess resulted in the watered-down Virgin Mary, a human being instead of a deity. In accordance with their hatred (and quite probably fear) of the Goddess and anything having to do with sex, the priests of the new religion made Mary totally asexual. However, the Christian God, being born of a woman and therefore part human, had to have a Mother. He couldn’t just pop up out of nowhere.
Mary did not become an important figure until 431 AD, when she was proclaimed Theotokos, Mother of God, at Ephesus. The cult of the Virgin Mary blossomed during the eleventh and twelfth centuries in Europe when the romantic troubadours idealized love in their songs, reawakening ancient images of the pre-Christian divine female. These images were dangerous to the patriarchy, so the Church quickly locked “proper” femininity into the shape of the Virgin Mary. Much later, in 1854, the pope created the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Now, as well as being a virgin who had given birth without mating with a man (a well-known ability of the ancient Great Goddess), Mary was totally “pure,” the only human born without “original sin.”
When Protestantism took root, it would have nothing to do with the Divine Feminine. So out Mary went and in came even more severe restrictions for women.
AN INTERESTING QUESTION
“Why do so many people educated in this century think of classical Greece as the first major culture when written language was in use and great cities built at least twenty-five centuries before that time?” asks Merlin Stone in When God Was a Woman.
“And perhaps most important, why is it continually inferred that the age of the ‘pagan’ religions, the time of the worship of female deities . . . was dark and chaotic, mysterious and evil, without the light of order and reason that supposedly accompanied the later male religions, when it has been archaeologically confirmed that the earliest law, government, medicine, agriculture, architecture, metallurgy, wheeled vehicles, ceramics, textiles, and written language were initially developed in societies that worshipped the Goddess?”
The answer to Merlin Stone’s most interesting questions is that until very recently all scholars who investigated these matters were men, and the great majority of them were either Jewish or Christian. Could their interpretation of the artifacts and data have been biased? There can be no doubt about it, as mentions of the Goddess were always tucked away in obscure references, hidden as much as possible from view.
The Goddess Web of Life
Mother consciousness makes women aware that their bodies and lives are the thread and web that connects all of humanity. And the web is boundless. Because she is in the image of the Cosmic Mother Goddess, a woman’s sexuality and creative powers also reflect the divine, life-giving, nourishing energies and powers of the universe.
Virgin, Mother, Crone
Fingerprints in Clay
In addition to providing food, women created weaving [which] led to the making of pottery and its decoration. We know this was done by women from the fingerprints left in the clay. These female contributions to the civilizing process led directly to art and culture.
Lady of the Beasts
A GODDESS EXERCISE
THINKING ABOUT WOMEN AND SOCIETY
Keep your Goddess journal close while you read this book. In it, write a short essay, story, or poem on how you feel about the patriarchal system that suppresses women and makes girls feel inferior.
Write a short essay, story, or poem about what you imagine life would be like for women who lived in a society that revered and respected women and believed in a female Creator.
Develop Your Feminine Power
The Goddess in Every Girl
Develop Your Feminine Power
Written to empower and inspire, this positive book teaches you how to connect with your inner Goddess, uncover your true goals, and create a healthy plan for achievement. With fun games and exercises, along with a list of additional resources, The Goddess in Every Girl will start you on a path of self-discovery and expression—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Be confident. Be creative. Be beautiful. Be the person you want to be!
Complete astrological tables let you look up your own personal Goddess ally in the areas of life purpose, emotions, body awareness, love, nature, energy, and passion. With more than fifty activities—such as a guided journey to the Goddess center, directions for keeping a Goddess journal, breathing exercises, meditations, and instructions on creating a sacred ritual space for self-transformation—you will find the answers within yourself.
It doesn’t matter who you are, where you live, what you look like, how much you weigh, what your parents do, whether you are rich or poor, popular or not—you have the power of the Goddess within you. You only have to set it free!
- Simon Pulse/Beyond Words |
- 240 pages |
- ISBN 9781582704272 |
- August 2013 |
- Grades 7 and up