Matriarchies are not just a reversal of patriarchy, with women ruling over men – as the usual misinterpretation would have it. Matriarchies are mother-centered societies: they are based on maternal values: care-taking, nurturing, motherliness, mutual support, peace keeping and building by negotiation, which holds for everybody: for mothers and those who are not mothers, for women and men alike. Matriarchal societies are consciously built upon the maternal values and motherly work, and this is why they are much more realistic than patriarchies. They are, on principle, need-oriented and not power-oriented, they are gender-egalitarian societies, and most of them are fully egalitarian. Their precepts aim to meet everyone’s needs with the greatest benefit. So, in matriarchies, motherhood – which originates as a biological fact – is transformed into a cultural model.
It is becoming increasingly clear that this radically different cultural model of matriarchy will have great significance for the future of women and mothers, and of humankind in general. We can gain much stimulation and insights from them, which – unlike abstract utopias – have been lived over millennia.
My suggestions refer to new matriarchal microstructures (part 1), matriarchal macrostructures (part 2), and matriarchal global structures (part 3).
At the social level, the model of matriarchy means escaping the increasing fragmentation of society, which drags human beings down into a state of separation and loneliness, and renders them sick and destructive. Rather, it means developing structures that foster various types of affinity, or intentional, communities, such as communes, alliances of neighboring communities, and networks. Affinity communities, however, are not created from mere communities of interest – entities that rapidly come together and quickly fall apart. Rather, affinity communities arise from a spiritual-intellectual common ground, through which a symbolic clan develops, resulting in a group that is more deeply connected than a mere community of interest.
The matriarchal principle here is that such affinity groups are generally initiated, supported and led by women. The determining criteria are the needs of women and children, who are the future of humanity, rather than the power-and-virility aspirations of men. In the new matri-clans men will be fully integrated, but according to a different value system, that is, one based on reciprocal care and love, rather than on power.
It would be a political goal to support the development of such communities in every way. Many of them are already existing, as the new Communities Movement can show us. Affinity communities of different kind are spreading in Europe and the USA and at other places. Unfortunately, they are usually not led by women, the result of which is that the traditional gender-roles are not reflected and overcome, i.e. men as the givers of ideas and founders are still at the center. To overcome traditional gender-roles, the diverse new Feminist Movements and the Matriarchal Movement are of utmost importance. They dismantle the deeply rooted patriarchal sexism and create models to bring it to an end everywhere in society.
At the economic level, further increase in large-scale industry, in expanding military, and in so-called “standard of living” would not be possible, considering the danger of complete destruction of the biosphere, of the life on earth. Here the perspective of alternative, local and regional subsistence economy arises, for the subsistence perspective means economic independence of the people. Subsistence entities engage in self-sufficient and independent activities in which quality of life takes precedence over quantity.
This does not only mean doing local gardening and agriculture, but also fostering regional communication, trade, technology and arts. Even producing high technology is possible on the regional level, if the monopolizing by the transnational corporations will be finished. These corporations try to make the peoples of the world dependent not only on their technologies, but also on the very basis of life, which is water and food. This must definitely come to an end!
Regionalization of agriculture, trade, etc. for the benefit of women and their families or clans is a matriarchal principle, because they are the basis of human life on earth.
In modern context, the diverse Ecological Movements are on the way to this goal. They are many and they are everywhere. They include the Movements of Urban Gardening and of Transitions Towns. These movements are complemented by the Movements for Gift Giving with their many gift giving circles, and the Movement for Regional Currency, at which the people of a region use their own interest-free currency to get rid of capitalist money and the manipulations of the international bank businesses.
At the level of political decision-making, the matriarchal consensus principle is basic for a truly egalitarian society. It can be practiced here and now, immediately and everywhere. It is the inspiring stimulus for creating any matriarchal community. It establishes a balance between women and men, and also between generations, as the elderly as well as the youth are able to have their say. In addition, it is really the basis of democracy, as it manifests what formal democracies promise but fail to deliver.
According to this principle, the small units of the new matri-clans are the actual decision makers. All the alternative movements mentioned above try to practice this principle more or less, and they have gained lots of experience in this way. To implement the consensus principle in future means to develop a system of councils, smaller and broader, which are all interconnected to make decisions on the communal, local and regional levels. The consensus principle cannot be practiced beyond the region, but in this vision independent flourishing regions remain the political goal.
At the spiritual-cultural level, it is mandatory that all hierarchical religions with belief in transcendent divinities and claims of absolute truth – which have deeply debased the earth, humanity, and especially women – must be rejected. Rather, we are looking at a new sacralization of the world, consonant with the matriarchal perspective that the entire world and all what it includes is divine. This leads to freely and creatively honoring and celebrating life and the visible world. In this way, matriarchal spirituality pervades everyday life and becomes a normal part of it.
Diverse movements are already on this way, such as the international Goddess Movement and the Movement of Matriarchal Spirituality, which developed within the Feminist Movements. Many women and some men began to celebrate the cycles of the earth and the cycles of life in many individual ways. There exist no hierarchical order or spiritual head among them, and of course, no missionizing.
One of the most important movements is the Movement of Indigenous Peoples, by which diverse indigenous peoples on every continent, starting from their own spiritual traditions which are central to them, claim the rights on their own land, language, and culture. Most of them still preserve matriarchal patterns or, at least, many matriarchal elements, and they continue with them, or re-organize them intentionally.
Thus, maternal values and matriarchal elements are included in all of the mentioned alternative movements, and in many more which have not been mentioned here. It is necessary to brigde the differences between these movements so that they would start to co-operate. This co-operation is urgently needed, and the vision of a new matriarchal society, which is all-embracing, might create the bonds.
The fact is even more important that the vision of a new matriarchal society radically changes the perspective, because it does not give remedies to the patriarchal problems, but is transgressing this system.
Dr. Heide Goettner-Abendroth is a mother and a grandmother. She earned her Ph.D. in philosophy of science at the University of Munich where she taught for ten years (1973-1983). She has published extensively on philosophy of science, in addition to various books on matriarchal society and culture, and is a founder of Modern Matriarchal Studies. Her magnum opus: Matriarchal Societies. Studies on Indigenous Cultures across the Globe, (Lang 2012, New York) defines the topic and provides a world tour of examples of contemporary matriarchal cultures. She has been visiting professor at the University of Montreal in Canada, and the University of Innsbruck in Austria. In 1986, she founded the International ACADEMY HAGIA for Matriarchal Studies and Matriarchal Spirituality in Germany is its director. In 2003, 2005 and 2011 she organized three World Congresses on Matriarchal Studies in Europe and the U.S.A. In 2005, she was elected by the international initiative “1000 Peace Women Across the Globe” as a nominee for the Nobel Peace.