This was originally posted on October 12, 2020
Prehistoric and indigenous religious traditions are often disparagingly mischaracterized as primitive fertility religions, concerned not with higher morality, but rather with the processes of reproduction of humans, animals, and plants. When these religions feature a Great Mother Goddess, it may be assumed that these religions are primarily focused on birthing human babies. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Indeed, archaeologist Marija Gimbutas discovered that in the symbol systems of Old Europe, the Goddess is only rarely imaged as pregnant or giving birth. Nor is She portrayed solely in human form. Rather, She is portrayed with a bird head, wings, and a plethora of other animal and plant features. If She is a Great Mother Goddess, She is revered as the Source of Life, not simply as a mother of human babies. Gimbutas states that in Old Europe the Goddess was worshiped in as a symbol of the powers of birth, death, and regeneration in all of life. Gimbutas said these societies were matrilineal and probably matrilocal. Recent research into matrilineal and matrilocal egalitarian matriarchies provides insight into the values of prehistoric societies. The Minangkabau of West Sumatra, Indonesia are matrilineal and matrilocal, with family ties being traced through the mother line and land being held communally and in perpetuity by the maternal clan. Though the Minangkabau trace their ancestry through their mothers and grandmothers, it is important to note that, as Peggy Reeves Sanday discusses in Women at the Center, it is not birth or the ability to give birth that is celebrated as the highest value, but rather the nurturing of the weak and the vulnerable.Continue reading “Legacy of Carol P. Christ: “Fertility” and the Regeneration of Life”