When we think of the “patriarch” words like “outdated” or “dinosaur” or, better yet “obsolete” often come to mind. This institution of men in charge that keeps women and anyone other than white men from the top of the earnings charts and away positions of power is seen as old and ancient. In fact, we can trace it back pretty darn far to Ancient Greece and many other ancient cultures, but, perhaps ironically, when we peel back the curtain even further, we find that before the patriarchy we had the matriarchy. And since Mother’s Day is RIGHT around the corner I wanted to give the primordial Mother Goddess that has rule since before recorded history her due today:
The -relatively- modern patriarchy went through some lengths to bury this information (much like they did much information about paganism and any religion other than Judeo-Christian ones) by leaving information about these ancient goddess cults as foot notes and obscure texts hidden from the eyes of the general public. Often they are only accessible to a those attending whatever University happens to have the perceived misfortune of containing them. And, unfortunately, when Christianity began its systematic overtaking of world religions, it became the standard operating procedure to rip down statues and “pagan idols” and altars or sacred places due to a scriptural mandate that made it their divine right and calling to do so.
In most academic sources traces of the Goddess cults are coded under the term “fertility cult”; as if removing any words for “woman” makes it more palatable. It was also well-established that these cults placed a value on the magick and wisdom of the flesh; this connect made Christians (and men, of course) extremely uncomfortable. So, it was buried.
(But over time devoted scholars and anthropologies have unearthed the sparse clues and put together and painted profound and overarching painting of what was there BEFORE the patriarchy took hold. Centering primarily in Europe, but extending as far as into the Middle East, many a pagan idol (such as the Venus of Wilendorf shown above) has been rediscovered. Some dating as far back as 25,000 BCE, most of them are similar in shape; rotund with large breasts, wide hips, and a generous belly; undeniably female images. To the early Paleolithic peoples, the miracle of childbirth was a complete mystery. By their own understanding, a woman blossomed into pregnancy and childbirth spontaneously which gave the Mother great power and standing within society. This was seen as a divine power and right. So, the Goddess ruled, and women were the elders, wise women, and main providers of their communities as viewed within this matriarchal context. It wasn’t until the Neolithic Era that humanity seemed to catch wise to the male contribution to the process and so the God became the Goddess’s counterpart. (Want to learn more? When God Was a Woman by Merlin Stone is a must read! I also recommend The Sacred Hoop by Paula Gunn Allen if you’re more into Shamanism or enjoy studying indigenous traditions (written by indignous people!).
- One of the things that I love about paganism is how to uses the observable world and nature around to inform and explain life; whether it be magickal or “mundane”. (Although I frequently point out that the older I get, the blurrier the line between those two things grows!) The Goddess as the main, life-giving divine source just makes sense to me. I might be biased, being a mother AND a woman — but it is certainly a super power; the creative force and energy embodied by the Divine Feminine (embodied within those of all genders). That she would be the focus of worship and adoration seems natural to me.
- I often feel a stronger connection to this archetype; the primordial Earth/Fertility Goddess than I do to the Classical Olympians of Ancient Greece or the Aesir of Norse-Germanic Myth. I revel in the gritty, dark, visceral energy and sensation of this truly ancient Divine Feminine. Do you prefer to work with specific deities or archetypal energies? Tell me about it in the comments below!