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The death of the Goddess under exploitative economic, religious and patriarchal systems and the need for her resurrection
P.M. Staunton

The psyche of human beings is profoundly affected by the economic system that we live in. We are also programmed by the religious beliefs that we are exposed to. The social, economic, political and religious systems interact and function with each other The macrocosmic structures in society programme our personalities and provide us with roles and functions within society. I believe that human personal and spiritual relationships are both reflective and supportive of the economic system. These two things initially seem ethereal and created by forces outside the social system. Research shows, human sexuality and spirituality have had various forms and manifestations over the years. The human family and marriage has altered in accordance to the development of the State. The ideas of the creator(s) have changed from a universal conception of the femininity of the divine spirit, to the contemporary global belief that the Great Spirit is male. The transition from Mother God to Father God is correlated with the onset of patriarchy and the development of the State. Feminist anthropologists and historians have observed how this reflects the transition from a feminine cooperative society to a male centred society based on exploitation. Society must also reflect an element of the human psyche as it is we that construct it.

GoddessThere is human tendency called ethnocentrism, this is the assumption that the way one (and one’s culture) lives, eats, has sexual and economic relations are right and proper. For example ideas of polygamy and polyandry may seem strange in a culture that favours monogamous marriage. If people do things radically different it can create feelings of hostility. The in-group creates the assumption that that they are doing it the wrong way. Human brains and behaviours are an interaction of what we are by birth and what we are programmed with by society. We can prove this by looking at cases where children have been brought up by animals. These children exhibit the qualities of these animals rather than human characteristics. Our ancestors have all lived very different lives to our own, with different moralities, spiritualities and intimate relationships. Yet we came from them. We often assume that we have evolved beyond the primitive impulses of our ancestors and feel superior to them, yet a lot of people in contemporary western society complain of depression and feelings of alienation and loneliness. Perhaps the ancients knew things, which we have now forgotten.

Engels wrote, in 1884, a book called ‘The Origin of the Family, Private Property the State’. Although he based his work on Morgan (an anthropologist who was deemed to be unscientific in his research), the work is interesting and relevant to contemporary ideas. Engels divides human history into epochs according to human beings relationship to the means of production. Engels also analyses how human sexual relations and family structures are related and change with different relationships to the means of production. Engel’s argued that people are conditioned by their relationship to the means of production. Like most Marxists, Engels is critical of religious or spiritual phenomenon, regarding them as superstitious and another element of social control. However Engels and others have looked at how religious and mythological pantheons from a variety of cultures indicate a transition from a state of mother centeredness to control of the father. This coincided with the development of the State, which in turn comes from a gradual development culminating in the creation of a surplus. Archaeological and anthropological evidence indicates that in the beginning people did not have a state because they did not own anything - they were hunter-gatherers with little possessions and no land ownership.

In the early part of human development motherhood was the only recognised bond of relationship. The primitive human family was mother and offspring located in a group of other women and their offspring men were not at this time integrated in the main stream of the family. Kinship bonds are what held societies together - the connection between sex and childbirth was unknown. The decline of the matriarchy is shown in all cultures as a violent destruction or rape of the Goddess. As Engels noted ‘the decline of the mother-right was the world-historical downfall of the female sex’.

Hunter-gathers consist of the majority of human history. People of this epoch had detailed knowledge concerning healing, poisonous and nutritious plants, the life cycles and habits of game animals, the whereabouts of fresh water and raw materials to make tools and utensils. The natural world was understood and relative to the social world. Landscape was not a place of physical reality but a place of myth and spirit. The development of societies from hunter gatherers to modern capitalist have of course been unequal with some people today living nomadic hunter-gatherer type existences.

Human beings have always tried to come to terms with the complexities and finite natures of our existence with mythology and religion. It is through these symbols and archetypes that people make sense of the world. Many academics have deconstructed myths to understand their psychological and sociological significance. Engels looked at the work of Bachfen who interprets the ancient Greek Oresetia of Aeschylus as metaphor of the dramatic decline of mother right over the new father right that arose and triumphed in the heroic age. In this story Clytemnestra slays her husband. She chooses a queen’s right to choose her consort and each new one slays the old one. Her son Orates spoiled her plans by killing his mother. The patriarchal god Apollo defended him, suggesting that motherhood was not real parenthood. This myth indicates the human awareness of fatherhood, which was not always evident.

GoddessAll authorities agree that all the worlds’ people in prehistoric times knew nothing of man’s process in reproduction. Because there was not always a subsequent pregnancy from copulation, metaphysical reasons were attributed to conception. Women were revered and the only parent was the mother, as people did not pair bond the father was not known. Children were brought up in a communal manner. In some instances all the women in the group were regarded as ‘mother’ and all the men as ‘father’. The reverence of the feminine of this time was reflected in the statues and artefacts that people of this era created. Many of the artefacts found from this time depict pregnant Goddess or female figures in ecstatic poses. These early religious icons feature goddesses as solitary figures who depict the great mother of the tribe/universe. Interestingly the Palaeolithic image of the mother does not show any corresponding father God.

Early creation myths often involve the universe emanating from a female. In Babylonia it was Traumata (Tiamat) that was the primordial Goddess. In Egypt she was Tem. Most creation myths look at how the dark formless mother splits and creates the universe. Illuminating the formless black void with her presence. The biblical God who says “Let there be light”, has borrowed these words from the Goddess. The oldest myths make the Goddess the maker of heaven and earth. When male deities first came into the picture they were as an inferior consort often her sons. If she creates everything it stands to reason that she must even create her own lover. These male figures provided a supporting role only. Frankfort said that the Goddess was supreme in Mesopotamia because the source of all life is female “ Sags said that she was the ”central figure in Neolithic religion in Egypt, she was the creative ruling force of heaven earth and the underworld and every creature and thing in them”.

ishtarThe advent of monogamy came late in human development nearly everywhere kinship bonds passed down the female line. Women were the first to hoe the land, cross-fertilise seeds, make clay pots etc. Generally all of very early technological advances stem from women. Archaeological evidence from Europe, China and the Middle East show how the mother’s name is mentioned in ancestry, while the fathers’ are often left out. Engel’s argues that the matrilineal decent and definition of the tribes of the Iroquois are identical to ancient Greek and Roman clans and similar to Celtic and ancient British. His research indicated that the Iroquois had a democratic social structure, decision and power being shared within the sexes. He says gentes was organised under ‘mother right’. Engels is scathing of the ‘civilisation of such people’ the power of their community being broken ‘by influences which from the very start appear as degradation. “The lowest interests - base greed, brutal pleasure seeking, sordid, averse, selfish robbery of common possessions – inaugurate the new civilized class society”.

Modern male scholars often indicate a distinct gender bias in their re writing of history. For example Great Mother is often translated as God.

Gnostic creation myths of the early Christian era were and are declared as heretical. They declared  “In his madness Jehovah claimed to be the only God because he had forgotten the mother who had brought him into being”. The description of the dying sun God and other themes and stories from the bible were published well before the bible in cuneiform - the language of ancient Mesopotamia. They are also occurring in mythological stories from a variety of other cultures.

Besides creating the world and everything in it the Goddess created the civilized arts, poetry, writing, building and generally all the aspects that make up science and culture. Hindu scriptures say that the Goddess invented alphabets, pictographs and mandalas. The great mother/destroyer Goddess Kali created the Sanskrit letters and could manifest phenomena just by proclaiming words. In the Middle East also numbers and words were inventions of the Goddess and of special concern to priestesses. Ancient beliefs from a variety of cultures linked women, linked motherhood, to superior intelligence and reasoning power making it hard for men to oppose the matrices. There may be real biological advantage to these beliefs being a mother then and now requires responsive alertness if the child is to survive and thrive.

Engels claimed that in primitive, communist societies the state did not exist - kinship or family relations formed the basis of social groupings. There was little division of labour and only a small amount of surplus was produced. Only when a surplus was produced was it possible for a state to arise. This also affected relationships because men wanted to be sure that it was their children who inherited their land property etc. In primitive, communist societies all individuals shared the same interests. In societies of social stratification the exploited majority had to be held down with a variety of legislative and diabolical frameworks that help the oppressed groups exert the status quo. Engels believed that people progressed from primitive communism to the social systems of barbarism, which moved to slavery, which evolved into feudalism, which then developed into capitalism. Each society has the seed of the next society within it. Engels described democracies as the highest form of state. However because the general consensus by the population regarding such democracies is that the government and ruling class is exerting the wish of the people, then the state does not need to exert much energy in the control or subjugation of the masses. Engels believed democracy to be illusory as real power is held in the hands of those who own and control society.

From a Marxist perspective religion has originated in oppressed classes. Religion can preserve the social order, can dull the pain of life by promising eternal bliss for those who follow the rules. Some religions make a virtue out of suffering and equate poverty with a dignity (blessed are the poor for they shall inherit the earth.) ’It is easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle than a rich man enter the Kingdom of Heaven”. Many religions offer a salvation for those that will happen in a supernatural way. For example President Bush is one of those Americans who believe in the ‘rapture’. This is a strange phenomenon that is believed to happen to people of Bush’s style of Christianity. Apparently all the good Christians in America will one day be miraculously transported to heaven. Hence America’s lack of environmental concern, for why should they care when they will be living it up in heaven. Jehovah’s Witnesses look forward to a similar magical event that will create heaven on earth (just for them).

Religion can explain and justify social order. If God is all-powerful and makes the decisions then God must ordain social order. In the Victorian hymn ‘All things bright and beautiful, - “The rich man in his castle the poor man at his grate, God made them high and lowly and ordered their estate“. This sort of belief allows people to accept their situation philosophically. By justifying the social order it dissuades ideas to alter it. By offering hope, it prevents a rebellious attitude. The ruling classes use religion to justify their position to themselves and to others. The slave owners in the southern states of America encouraged the conversion of black slaves to Christianity believing it to be a controlling and gentling influence. However religion can also be an impetuous for change. There are and has been a variety of Christian socialist groups and Christians and other religious groups have been instrumental in instilling positive social change for oppressed groups and the poor and the suffering. Early spirituality emphasised connection, there is no elite pyramid if every thing is essentially one.

The development of patriarchy is correlated with the creation and development of the state Engels observed that the husband and wife relationship reflects a micro cosmological description of the dominant and subordinate class, the wife being the under class. Although women ‘s position has improved somewhat since Engels made this statement, some aspects of this relationship are still apparent. Engels argues that the family is the smallest unit of capitalism, it is required to breed workers, to propagate the systems ideology and be a unit of economic consumption. Moreover at the core of patriarchy is the family. With the nuclear family originates the desire to see property transmitted to ones biological descendants. Simone de Beuvoir connects this desire with the longing for immorality. A crucial moment then for the development of human society was the awareness that the child does not come from the moon, spirits etc but from the seed originating from the male and transmitted during the sex act. This awareness represents a turning point in male/female relationships, which is then reflected in economic systems and spiritual viewpoints alike. Power relationships become much more of an issue now. Adrienne Rich argues, -‘power is both a primal word and primal relationship under patriarchy’. Through control of the mother, the man assures himself of  control and ownership of the children; through control of the children he assures the disposition of his patrimony and the safe passage of his soul after death. It would seem therefore that from very ancient times the very personality of the man depends on power, that of power over others, beginning with a woman and her children”. Rich argues that this relationship is reflected through the process of colonisation, where each colonised people is defined by its conqueror as weak, feminine, ignorant, uncultured and incapable of self government.

The transition from matriarchal to patriarchal societies usually destroyed the natural mammalian systems of birth control, which is no sex during pregnancy, and lactation, which could last for 6 years. Mainstream religion supports control of women by men, God announces to Eve ‘I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception, in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children and thy desire shall be subject to thy husband and he shall rule over thee.’ Control over women’s bodies is emphasised thus in a contemporary context. ‘Birth control is nothing less than mutual masturbation or unnatural lust‘ (according to Father Dominic Primmer in American Freedom and Catholic Power). The issue of abortion is often connected to fundamentalist religion. The ancients practised abortion and men did not see it as being any of their business. Early ideas on the outlaw of abortion focused on magical ideas of danger to the father. The male believing that destruction of his foetus could have a negative impact on him. Catholicism initially believed that the soul came from God and arrived in the foetus at the 5th month (the quickening) changing its opinion in 1869 to the assertion that the soul is apparent at conception. Philosophers and psychologists have revealed men’s envy at women’s ability to create life. From at least as early as Aristotle who attributed both spirit and form to male sperm whilst women merely provided the ‘matter’.

There is much evidence to suggest that pagan and Goddess spirituality has been integrated in the Bible. In the Jesus Mysteries and Jesus and the Goddess Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy demonstrate clearly and unambiguously that pagan beliefs have been assimilated into Christianity. The book is meticulously sourced and annotated to provide compelling evidence of their thesis. For two thousand years the west has been dominated by the idea that Christianity is sacred and unique whilst paganism is primitive and the work of the devil .To recognise their connection is unthinkable to some. To examine the evidence requests a break from the traditions and norms of our culture. Evidence of ancient god men or son gods from a variety of pre Christian / Islamic culture is prolific but often hidden by Christian authorities. Various cultures talk of a god miraculously born on 25th December, before three shepherds, who came as a redeemer. He is often pictorially described as gentle looking with long hair. Famous mythographer, Joseph Campbell has described these ‘son god’ entities as all having ‘the same anatomy’.

Before Islam arrived in the 7th century, Arabia was matriarchal and royal descent was matrilineal. Allah the name for God comes from the feminine Al-lat. At Mecca the Goddess was Sheba. She was worshipped as a black anionic stone .The same black stone now enshrined at the Ka’ba at Mecca. Although originally a feminine symbol marked by the sign of the yoni and covered like the ancient mother by a veil. No one seems to know what it represents today. The fact that Islamic festivals are indicated by the phases of the moon is also reminiscent of the background of goddess worship. The history of the prophet Mohammed shows his own matrilineal family background. Female centred clans dominated pre-Islamic Arabia. Marriages were matrifocal, inheritance matrilineal. Polyandry, several husbands for one wife were common. The wife initiated divorce. As in Europe the transition from matrifocal communities to patriarchal structures came about gradually. Like Buddha, Jesus and Confucius, Mohammed lacks real justification.  However the position in women in this religion and so in general society is some times perceived as an inferior species to males. In some mosques it is not uncommon to see the sign ‘women and dogs and other impure animals are not fit to enter’. Fatima who is Mohammed’s daughter stems from goddess worship her name means the creatress. Her symbol as holy virgin (the crescent moon) still appears on Islamic flags. Within Islam, deviant sects continue to worship the feminine principle among them some Sufi mystics. This is in a similar fashion to Gnostic Christians.

The Bible like the Koran should not be considered to be an objective account of real events. The Bible was translated within the framework of feudalism and patriarchy. The word for the holy book came from the word Byblos or the city of the Great mother. The Bible has been written, amended added to and parts deleted, in accordance to the views held by the dominant social order. There are no known portions of the Bible older than the 4th century AD. The revised New Testament published in 1881 tried to correct errors and erased the spurious final twelve verses of Mark. It added- ‘he that shall believeth not, shall be damned’. Traditionally the church forbade not only research but also reading of the Bible by laymen. Students of the Bible will no doubt be aware of the many contradictions it contains. Organised religion had and has a vested interest in maintaining a none critical and unscientific approach to the Bible. A lack of information on the spiritual and mythological beliefs of other people creates a situation where these people could not see the many clear similarities. The creation myths detailing the fall from grace, virgin births, redeemers who rise from the dead, all are apparent in a variety of other religions and mythologies. The only way to heaven was through Christianity and the deities of other religions perceived as devils. The myths and stories in the Bible are irrefutably true - other religions false. It is widely believed that many feminine elements have been weeded out by male interpreters of the Bible. These men wish to propagate their perceived superior position . Only the Gnostic gospels contained hints that Mary Magdalene may have been one of Jesus’ disciples. Some scholars suggest that Jesus was closest to her. It is interesting that it is perceived as blasphemy to some that Jesus should have a woman and supposed prostitute as his favoured disciple.

Nearly all mythologies, religions etc speak of a fall, a time when people lived harmoniously with the land and nature and even had the power of magic. In Christianity it is depicted as the Garden of Eden. In this story it is the woman Eve whose weak character is seduced by the snake (knowledge) to taste the forbidden fruit and thus they became ashamed etc. This could also represent the transition from a living in and part of nature and the change of consciousness that creates the illusion that we are living outside of it. Matrifocal societies were egalitarian yet patriarchal societies insisted on pecking orders, violent overthrows and a disconnection of people from the rest of the natural world. Neolithic village cultures contained a spirit of life, loving and connectedness. Scholars who examine such things frequently discover that life, sex, food production, family life and spirituality are an integrated whole.

Clearly our ideas on social change, religion and human relationships are influenced by our perceptions of morality. Morality is subjective. There are no universal morals, only those that a culture collectively agrees are the right ones. America at present rules the world and seems intent on forcing its culture onto everyone. In America were moral values are the most pressing issue of the day (22% of voters versus the economy 20%), 68 % of Americans believe in the devil. About half of Americans in certain areas do not believe in evolution and believe fossils of ancient creatures to be placed there by evil scientists to fool people. In Europe the church is diminishing yet according to US author Jeremy Firkin religiosity lies at the heart of the difference between America and Europe. In his book The European dream: ‘How Europe’s vision of the future is quietly eclipsing the American dream’, Firkin presents the American value system as a ‘cryogenic wonder’. Firkin (who is president of the Foundation on Economic Trends) argues that the American psyche perceives their god as “celebrating in the manifestation of materialisation and perceived personal happiness”. “The American dream, says Firkin is ‘indistinguishable from our religious beliefs’. He argues that Americans believe that God looks out for America and that is why the American dream is so optimistic. Rican points out those contemporary European values –inclusivity, sustainable development, quality of life, peace, universal human rights are more Christian than America’s guiding principles.

Humans have spent most of their time on the planet living and co-existing with Nature. We have been ‘civilized’ for only a short amount of time. The rationalism that dominates western thought processes, minimises the importance of life, which is often beyond analysis.  The earth is symbolised by the feminine, it is no coincidence that the rationalistic stifled polluted world is owned and controlled by male centred hierarchies at whose pinnacle is a male god. Human sexual relationships although sometimes causing happiness often create misery. One in three marriages end in divorce, one in three women in Britain are the victims of domestic abuse and generally people are often unhappy in their relationships. Surely the creator meant for us to be happy in our intimate relationships? Perhaps people in simpler, more holistic and integrated societies did not experience modern levels of personal dissatisfaction many people feel today. We may find that with global warming, and the decline of wetlands, forests and green spaces, that our dreams of a technological, machine mediated immorality, may not only deplete resources but also starve our souls and depress our minds.

As human economies have a history of change and evolution it seems logical that this trend will continue. Marxist predictions of a world wide economy based on socialism with an idea of the state being ‘withered away’ may or may not happen. There does however seem to be an international movement against globalisation, which is looking to instigate a more humanitarian approach to the organisation of our world? Also an escalating recognition that we are one world and every thing affects one another. In two thousand years of Christianity, a religion of peace, war has consistently been considered a solution to problems between countries. Gun crime is on the up, as is depression and illness caused by stress. The dream of a machine-mediated world is being paid for by a gradual destruction of a variety of ecosystems and resources.

Goddess philosophies represent a holism and connectedness that could be a salve to a world, who’s human population has created a reality which for some is good but for many others represents starvation, poverty and violence. People always assume that the present is an improvement on the past. That modern religion is a more civilised progression from ancient pagan religious ideas. Perhaps early religious and social structures created happier people. The Goddess as represented by the Irish Morrigan, the Indian Kali, and the Iraqi Ishtar is about the acceptance of death and yet explaining the illusion of the belief that identity ends with the demise of the material body. The Goddess teaches us to accept physical death, to lay prostrate to the unpredictable forces of nature, to accept our own mortality. We are all born to die we must accept that we like all other life forms, are bodily creatures made to die so others can flourish. Society must be organised with the benefit and sustenance of the land, its people and other life forms. The dominance of materialism ironically creates a rationale for environmental destruction and war as well as social inequality. Real freedom does not come from dogma of any description. Mainstream religion prevents the individual from connecting to divine consciousness by suggesting the need for an intermediary. Conventional social systems reflect many of the hierarchical and elitist aspects of monotheistic religions. Within these frameworks we can only try to be strong enough to express our selves authentically and allow others to do the same. The revolution begins with me in this simple recognition. Perhaps one day we will be able to embrace both technology and nature to accept the masculine, but also celebrate the feminine values embodied by the goddess religions. The propagation of these ideas is what may save us. These spiritual concepts (not dogma) with the political frameworks of cooperation and mutual aid could be the things that save us from ourselves. We should not be afraid of what we are and the beautiful earth that sustains us.

Ishtar, 2005

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