Thus through an enormous network of mythological narrative, every aspect of culture is cloaked in the relationship of ruler and ruled, creator and created. . . . [Sumerian] legend endows the Sumerian ruler-gods with creative power; their subjects are recreated as servants. . . . [This new narrative was] deployed with the purpose of conditioning the mind anew.(20, italics added)
This provocative statement is found in a chapter titled “The First Major Sexual Rupture” in a collation of the writings titled Liberating Life: The Women’s Revolution by imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan (pronounced Oh-cha-lan). According to Ocalan, who clearly had been reading authors like James Mellaart, Marija Gimbutas, and Heidi Goettner-Abendroth, the values of the societies that preceded Sumer in the Near East were entirely different.
Within the Zagros-Taurus system, Mesolithic and subsequently Neolithic society started to develop at the end of the fourth glacial period, around twenty thousand years ago. . . .
Many methods, tools, and equipment we still use today are based on inventions and discoveries most likely made by the women of this era, such as various useful applications of different plants, domestication of animals and cultivation of plants, construction of dwellings, principles of child nutrition, the hoe and hand grinder, perhaps even the ox cart.
To me, the cult of the mother-goddess in this age symbolized reverence for woman’s role in these great advances. I don’t see it as a deification of an abstract fertility. . . . The true reason for the longevity of the mother-concept is the fact that the mother concretely forms the basis of the of the social being, the human; it is not due to an abstract ability to give birth. (13-14)
According to Ocalan, earlier societies practiced “primitive socialism, characterized by equality and freedom, [which was] viable because the social order of the matriarchy did not allow ownership.” (14) Moreover, in such societies, [n]ature was regarded as alive and animated, no different from themselves.” (15)
Ocalan turns on its head the well-worn criticism that visions of societies so very different from those we know today are nothing more than fantasies of a golden age:
[I]t is our endless yearning to regain and immortalize this social order of equality and freedom that led to our construction of paradise. (14)
There are many insights in this small pamphlet that deserve discussion. Here I wish to focus on the idea that one of the main purposes of patriarchal mythologies is to restrict creative power to the Gods and their earthly representatives, while reconstructing other men, women, and nature as servants.
It is well-known that the writers of patriarchal myths, laws, and theologies have extended the notion of servitude to a hierarchical chain of being in which poor, enslaved, and colonized peoples are understood to have been created to serve the rich, women to serve men, the body to serve the mind, and nature to serve human beings.
In light of this, I am going to make the radical proposal that all notions that human beings were created to “serve” (God or anyone else) should be excised from our religious and political vocabularies.
What if no one was created to serve?
What if service from a servant or slave is not what the Deity asks of any of us?
It has been suggested that Biblical monotheism redefines the notion of service when (or insofar as) it insists that only God—not Kings or Mammon—is worthy of being served. Yet this leaves intact the notions that creativity is restricted to God and that the proper human role is to “serve” God. As we know all too well, the notion that only God is to be served easily reverts to the notion that God’s earthly representatives (kings, priests,ministers, rabbis, imams, gurus, holy men, generals, fathers, husbands, the wealthy, landowners, slave owners, and so forth) are to be served in God’s name. Certain Christian texts go a step farther, suggesting that the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve. Yet this also did not prevent Christianity from institutionalizing hierarchical notions of service.
What if the Deity does not want service? Not even to It-self?
What if creativity is found throughout the web of life?
What if Divinity inspires us to exercise our own creativity for the good of all?
To understand this insight and to incorporate it into our religious and political vocabularies would require a radical revolution in the way our thoughts and actions continue to be structured by the Sumerian legend.
No more service to God and country.
No more servants of God.
No more servants of all.
Isn’t it enough to love Goddess with all our hearts and all our neighbors–human and other than human–as ourselves?
Carol P. Christ is author or editor of eight books in Women and Religion and is one of the Foremothers of the Women’s Spirituality Movement. She leads the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete in Spring and Fall: Sign up now for the fall tour and save $150. Follow Carol on Twitter @CarolP.Christ, Facebook Goddess Pilgrimage, and Facebook Carol P. Christ. Carol speaks in depth about the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete in an illustrated interview with Kaalii Cargill. Photo of Carol by Andrea Sarris.