An introduction to its Customs and History.
Have you ever heard of the term matriarchy? This blog post will delve into what matriarchy is and the history behind it. Johann Jacob Bachofen published a book called Myth, Religion and Mother Right in 1861, which donned the word ‘matriarchy’ so that it became more commonly known.
Unfortunately, historically speaking, research is male biased. Therefore, research carried out exploring any matrilineal societies, especially in the 19th century, is doomed to be dismissed and ignored. Under patriarchy, women weren’t even allowed into libraries so try to imagine the reception of matrilineal societies, where the rights are inherited from the mother.
The acceptance of Bachofen’s research into a Mother’s right would have caused the breakdown of patriarchal ideology and effectively the structure of most societies, especially modern societies. Due to this bias, his work and many other researchers work has not been acknowledged adequately.
What Is Matriarchy?
The structure of matriarchal societies is different than the structure of patriarchal societies as Dr. Heide Goettner-Abendroth explains in her article.
As Patriarchy translates itself into the “domination of the fathers” matriarchal societies by nature does not dominate!
Let’s have a look at the meaning of the Greek word “arché”. It has two meanings “beginning” and “domination”. By looking at the structure of matriarchal societies, it is safe to believe that the expression of “matriarchy” translates into “mothers from the beginning”.
The Story And Structure Of Matrilineal Societies.
The deciding factor was the birth. The seemingly endless chain of mothers and daughters have been considered as the living descendants of the Great Mother Earth.
There is much evidence to support the existence of million years old female hegemony. Comparison of different ancient language families, geological, archaeological, burial rituals and practices and cave paintings demonstrates the existence of such societal structure. Patriarchy as we know now it does not reach longer time than the recent four to five thousand years of our history.
Palaeolithic: Stone Age 2.4 million years – B.C.: 11,500
This was a gathering, fishing and hunting society. They were religiously motivated and their unwritten law was based on the Rights of the Mother.
The family tree was tracked on the maternal line. The matrilineal surnames or mother-line surnames were inherited from mother to daughter, actually are inherited since matriarchal societies still exist in some countries outside of Europe.
Women have always been the symbol of the continuity of life, they were the life givers. By given this extreme value of survivorship, women had a natural appreciation.
The Relationship Between Male And Female Was Free And Equal.
Matriarchal societies are not built on physical dominance but on men's respect, admiration, and appreciation toward women. Women represented survival, due to the ability to give birth. Women performed the socially important roles too e.g. priestesses. They performed the rituals, and they prayed to their Goddesses. In many culture’s creation myth, women created the Earth, or preserved the Garden of Eden.
Women were the source of power and the insurance of protection. This was depicted in a Saharan cave painting, which accurately illustrates this special role. A hunting man stands next to a woman with raised arms and their sex organs are connected with a line as if her sexual energies were acting as an insurance and a fuel source for his successful hunting.
In ancient Matriarchal societies, the expression of original sin did not exist. The ‘flesh’ was not related to the concept of uncleanness but was treated as a natural part of existence and so the mystery of creation was highly honoured.
In their beliefs the woman was able to connect with the creators and to keep the unity of people, nature, plants and animals. The body and mind were not separated, and every living thing was equally respected.
The Palaeolithic human observed the eternal cycle of nature and acknowledged that the world wakes up to new life from the lap of Mother Earth. Death was not considered a definitive element and their funerary customs were also influenced by their believes in rebirth.
The Moon As The Symbol Of The Life/Death/Life Cycle.
The first unit of time after the night and the day was the lunar month. Twelve lunar months constitute a lunar year. (At this point the night was more important than the day. They say the light is born from darkness).
Lunar calendars were carved in bones, stones and drawn on cave's wall. There was an incredible representation found in a cave in Spain; In the middle of the drawing the moon Goddess stands, surrounded by the growing and waning moon, a thin line marks the new moon, three points marks the full moon and the following day. They determined the months: 29 day and night passes between two new moons.
Our ancestors observed the lunar cycle, the moon represented a symbol for rebirth and fertility such as:
• Conception and birth – new moon
• Growth - the growing moon
• Decline - the dying and the waning moon
• Death - the three phases of the moon at night without a new moon
• Rebirth - the re-emergence of the crescent moon, new moon.
They used menstrual calendars as well, archeological artefacts found from B.C. 30.000.
These calendars can indicate the fertility days and the expected number of lunar months before birth.
This introductory article explained the basics of matrilineal societies where both men and women were aware of the internal laws of nature and human life, and this is reflected in their beliefs of the guise of Mother Earth.
We will continue to explore these societies in subsequent blog posts.