Thursday, November 03, 2005

Matriarchy: Model for a Sustainable Future

Today I treated myself to another of the amazing presentations at the fabulous Societies of Peace, 2nd World Conference on Matriarchal Studies held at the beginning of October in Austin, Texas. This one was by Heide Goettner-Abendroth, the Conference moderator and person responsible for getting the conference together. Heide’s German, and her presentation – delivered in a rich, melodius, and commanding voice and accent that you’ll love -- was titled “Matriarchal Societies – Definition and Theory.”

Here are some highlights: ~

Hiede begins by saying that she’s a philosopher, not an anthropologist. But in order to develop her understanding of matriarchy, she’s focused on anthropology for the past several years; she says she’s found prejudices among anthropologists (against the idea of matriarchy) (BWA HAHAHAHA).

Matriarchies are not just the reverse of patriarchy. They are not societies in which women dominate men. On the contrary, they are free of hierarchy and domination. The differences between the genders are honored, not muted. The same is true with the various age groups.

In matriarchal societies there is an attitude of peace making. Matriarchal societies are great models, she says, for a just and peaceful society.

The rest of her speech centered around five levels: economic, social, kinship, political, and spiritual/cultural.

In matriarchal societies, goods circulate as gifts! For example, wealthy clans invite all to be their guests at a festival, at which they give gifts to everyone. The wealthy clans gain nothing but honor. The term for this is the “gift economy.” This leads to economic equality.

The gift economy is based on the value placed on “motherliness”. It allows a balanced economic system.

In matriarchies, mothering is transformed into a behavioral model. Patriarchies, in contrast, make mothers into slaves.

In matriarchies, people live in large kin groups based on the female line, the mother’s line. In most living units there are usually three generations of women and their brothers. These live in a big clan house. The daughters never leave this house.

In the most ancient matriarchal patterns, men practice “visiting”: They are guests for overnight only, and must leave in the morning.

In a matriarchy, everyone is related to everyone else, if not by blood, then by marriage. This promotes strong bonds of love and care among equals.

In matriarchies a primary political tool is consensus. Before a decision is made, all must agree to it. When a decision must be made, everyone gathers in the clan house. First there’s discussion. Then there’s a vote. If there’s no consensus, more discussion follows until consensus is met.

Each clan house sends a delegate to the village council. A vote is taken. If there’s no consensus, the delegates travel back and forth between the clan house and the village council until a consensus is arrived at.

At the next level is the Regional council, where the same process takes place, with delegates traveling back and forth between their villages and the regional council meetinghouse until consensus is met.

This, says Heidi, is true grass-roots democracy. But the basis for it is the gift economy and matrilineal kinship.
Matrilineal societies are free of domination. There is no ruling class. There is no subjugated class.

Matrilineal societies are not based on a god that is untouchable, unseeable, and unattainable. Divinity is immanent. The entire world is the feminine divine. It is the Great Goddess, the Great Mother.

All is imbued with divinity – men and women, pebbles and the stars. There is no separation between the sacred and the secular. Building a house, sewing, taking a journey – everything has ritual significance.

Matriarchal societies are peaceful.

The knowledge of matriarchies is urgently needed in the shrinking world of destructive patriarchy. Matriarchies are not abstract utopias. They have existed! Until today [a few matriarchies still exist -- and their representatives spoke at the Conference -- but these are weak and getting weaker as the patriarchy batters away at them]. They embody an enormous amount of knowledge that we can use [to heal the world]. Matriarchies can be our guiding light toward a just and peaceful world society.

Go HERE to hear Heide's entire presentation (you can still hear many of the Conference speeches on FIRE, but I don't know how much longer they'll be there).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you want, look up the book 'The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past Will Not Give Women a Future' on Amazon...all of the praising reviews are just so depressing.