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There are two sexually polarized theories of human cultural origins, both of which have failed to stand the test of empirical evidence. The first is 'man the hunter' (Washburn R729, Morris R486) suggesting that male strength and hunting prowess led both to male dominance, and intelligence and culture, through skills of hunting, such as tool-making.
Dolni Vestonice in Czechoslovakia is a site of an encampment of mammoth hunters dating from about 30,000 years ago. The remains include a burial site apparently honouring people of both sexes ( a 'menage-a-trois' with a central female, apparently bonded to the right-hand male, red ochre between the female's thighs and a disconcerting 'spike' driven into the left 'male's' crotch) and a hearth site with a 'venus' figurine baked clay animal figures, tools, jewelry, and a carved head of a woman whose arthritic disfigurement appears to match a skeleton at the site. An additional female figure is drawn on a tusk. The coincidence of female representations and the apparent significance of the role of the 'hearth' woman amidst a hunting encampment attests to a respect for both sexes (internet).
Man the hunter theories are prone to stress male violence and treat women as mere possessions and tradeable items. While they do fit well with our cultural paradigm of male dominance, they do not well-explain the origin of intelligence (p 53), nor do they fit well with what we know of so-called primal cultures, where women bring in the majority of the diet by gathering (p 108), making them more autonomous as child-rearers than the theory would allow. As a natural successor of the 'killer-ape' theory it gives a pessimistic view of humanity's violence and viability.
The counterpoised matriarchal origin theory is the 'mother-right' proposed by Johan Jakob Bachofen (R31) - an evolutionary 'advance' in which an intervening stage of matriarchy led society out of barbarism into modern patriarchy, which he deemed the triumph of superior political and religious thought and organization, despite advocating the incorporation of the 'feminine principle' of nurturance and altruism in modern society. The Swiss philologist proposed an era of 'unregulated hetaerism' in which women were sexually degraded and defenseless, followed by an 'Amazon' revolt that inaugurated an era of matriarchy. In this stage, women created marriage to tame the male. This supposedly still-animalistic and 'backward' era was superseded by a 'higher' stage of human development: patriarchy. He never used the term matriarchy but 'mutterricht' and gynecocracy, for 'rule by women'.
Following him Engels (R193), used the term mother-right 'to describe matrilineal kinship relations, in which the property of men did not pass to their children, but to their sisters' children'. Both also accepted a progression from group marriage to monogamous marriage. Engels reasoned that a woman would seek monogamy because she 'acquired the right to give herself to one man only'. He also drew attention to prostitution as an indispensable prop to monogamous marriage. Engels went on to state (Taylor R683 77)"the first class antagonism which appears in history coincides with the development of the antagonism between man and woman in monogamous marriage, and the first class oppression with that of the female sex by the male". Both Engels and later Marx were strongly influenced by the work of Lewis Morgan (R485) who spent four decades studying the Iroquois, whom the French missionary Lafitau in Jesuit Relations 1724 had expressed astonishment at the power of Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) matrons: "All real authority is vested in them... nothing is more real than the superiority of the women" (Mann R436).
Joan Bamberger (R40) notes that myths of matriarchy - stories of prior rule by women are relatively widespread in patriarchal societies and that they function as social charters justifying male power (p 171). Several of the myths we have seen from the Hadza (p 131), through the Dogon (p 139), to the Mundurucu (p 164), and origin of Yaje (p 160) support this thesis.
The elevation of woman to deity on the one hand,
and the downgrading of her to child and chattel on the other, produce the same result ...
The myth of matriarchy is but a tool used to keep woman bound to her place.
To free her, we need to destroy the myth. Joan Bamberger (R40).
Top left: Hunting Chauvet (~30,000 BC). Bottom left: Shaft Scene Lascaux Man with erection apparently killed by a bison which is also disemboweled by a spear through its anus. The bird suggests a shamanic interpretation. Right: female relief at Laussel (~20,000 BC), associating fecundity, hand on uterus, the bull or bison horn as male moon with 13 notches of the menstrual year, (also the days of the waxing moon), suggesting her role was to promote fertility. She still shows traces of ochre, symbolic of menstrual blood. Horses were not domesticated until as late as 4,000-2,000 BC but caused explosive changes (p 183).
Central to the argument for matriarchy was ubiquitous evidence of 'mother goddess' figures (p 92), and founding myths in many ancient religions. Gerda Lerner (R407 29) notes: "the difficulty of reasoning from such evidence toward the construction of social organizations where women were dominant", particularly with the more ancient 'Venus' figurines such as Dolni Vestonice (p 173) and Laussel (p 174), is that we don't know the purpose they were used for, although their presence is suggestive. Were they goddesses, fertility symbols, subordinate tokens of femininity like the Virgin Mary, marriage tokens, or merely sexual objects? Certainly the female figurines express the fatness of fecundity, but there are no mother figures. Lauren Talalay notes many are neuter or hermaphroditic - with female breasts and male genitals. Cynthia Eller (R188) suggests some may have been shamanistic healing charms. Karel Absolon who excavated a number of the Dolni Vestonice figurines wrote that 'sex and hunger were the two motives that influenced the entire mental life of the mammoth hunters and their productive art', calling the phallic androgynous figurine below 'diluvial plastic pornography'. While the later cave paintings are full of dynamic representations, the 'Venus figurines' are faceless and show little indication of any form of activity, nor whether they were made by women or men or for what purpose. One from Kostienki apparently shows a pregnant female bound by the wrists opening serious questions as to the 'goddess' interpretation. One can also question whether the division of labour passed more to male hunters in the northern tundra of a Europe emerging from the ice age.
Above clockwise: Phallic batons from Dolni Vestonice,
Gorge d'Enfer, St. Marcel. Below: Kostienki bound figurine.
Lerner notes that, as we have seen (p 143), such ethnographic evidence, as is held up, turns out to be evidence not for a dominant 'matriarchy', but 'matriliny' and 'matrilocality' in which, while women do have participatory power, many or most of the economic and family decisions are made by male relatives. This is true both of societies like the Canela and the beena marriages of the Old Testament, such as that of Laban. Matrilineal societies are now a small minority and are currently vanishing, because they tend to succumb to the pressures of more competitive patrilineal societies and their exploitative techno-economic systems. Moreover, in the gatherer-hunter societies which stand at the root of our genetic tree, there is a complementation of a major gathering food resource brought in by women, who also do the bulk of the child-rearing, while the men hunt food prized for sexual favours and the relative status of men and women is separate but equal, rather than a dominant matriarchy. These also demonstrate that patrilineal descent does not have to involve subjugation of women, nor does matrilineal descent indicate matriarchal dominance. Finally because the genetic evidence emerging from mitochondrial mtDNA and Y-chromosome DNA studies (Seielstad et. al. R633) suggests that human emergence, like ape societies is dominated by female exogamous migration (p 143) in a context of moderate polygyny, it is unlikely that matrilocal societies have predominated on a population basis during the Paleolithic.
Claude Lévi-Strauss (R410) offers a single monolithic building block out of which men constructed culture - the incest taboo, linking this immediately to the exchange of women "The prohibition of incest is less a rule prohibiting marriage with the mother, sister or daughter, than a rule obliging the mother, sister or daughter to be given to others. It is the supreme rule of the gift." He reasons that in this process, women are 'reified' they are dehumanized and thought of more as things than humans. This then marks the beginning of women's subordination. Lerner (R407 25) also questions the assumption that men should invent this basic rule and apply it to trading women rather than vice versa, pointing out however that male exogamy could lead to armed treachery. There are several difficulties here. The genetic studies suggest female exogamy is not a cultural invention but an evolutionary trend. Unlike most other mammals, apes are broadly female exogamous possibly for similar reasons. We have seen that ape exogamy appears to be driven by the females and that other species as well as our own, through childhood hyperfamiliarity and MHC detection seek outside partners with complementary histocompatibility thus avoiding incest without imposing a cultural taboo. Ridley (R580) suggests the incest taboo is more a rule for deciding which cousins are permissible, because of these innate biological and genetic factors.
9000 year old stone masks from the transition from gatherer-hunter life to agriculture discovered near Jerusalem
A more plausible argument for the cultural institutionalization of exchange of women, or their capture, is directly their capacity for reproduction and its positive effect on a groups future viability. Lévi-Strauss and Meillassoux assert the exchange of women leads to private property, reversing Engels' position (Lerner R407 49-52), supported by Aaby (R1). The former see this as sourced in a phase of sexually egalitarian abundance resulting from horticulture, leading to reproductive competition and consequently abduction of females and on a less warlike basis their mutual exchange. The latter sees it in a more generalized ecological context consistent with Sanday's findings. Large scale agriculture and the struggle between urban states appears to have been one of the critical contexts.
Engels established several ground-breaking connections between class and property and the rise of patriarchy - changes in kinship and the division of labour and womens' position in society, a connection between private property, monogamous marriage and prostitution, economic and political dominance by men and their control over female sexuality, and finally in Gerda Lerner's terms (R407 23) "by locating 'the world historical defeat of the female sex' in the period of the formation of archaic states, based on the dominance of properties elites, he gave the event historicity." It is this process that we shall turn to next.
Like the evidence from societies such as the !Kung (p 106), Mbuti (p 120), Biaka (p 124) and Sandawe (p 118), the evidence from European paleolithic sites is at least consistent with a social structure in which the expressions of the activities and visions of both sexes and particularly of female fertility and supernatural power are regularly represented. It is significant at Dolni Vestonice that a prominent aspect of what is presumed to be an active mammoth-hunting camp site is a hearth with both a female fertility figure, figures of the hunt and a carefully sculpted female head possibly of the partly disfigured women whose skeleton lies nearby. This and the burial site indicate that respect for and even reverence for female fecundity and the spiritual importance of women are present in this hunting culture. Similar considerations apply to the Laussel site where the female figure has many features suggesting an active cultural respect for fecundity and its propitiation.
Three aspects of the feminine at Catal Huyuk: Left: The hieros gamos or sacred sexual union, leading to progeny. The hieros gamos continued in nymphete form with Inanna in Sumeria and Ishtar in Babylon, but Yahweh, Zeus, Enki and Indra assumed patriarchal dominion from Greece to Vedic India. Centre: The fecund fat Goddess of plenty. Right: Temple with portal surmounted by a pregnant 'goddess'. Houses are also arranged with the maternal bed oriented towards the central temples while the male sleeping platforms are arranged haphazardly. Motifs of bull's horns and headless corpses picked by vultures with human skulls also pervade the temples (Melaart R467, Eisler R183)
The Neolithic and the Great Goddess
The first signs of the development of urban culture appear in the Near East around 10,000 years ago in sites such as Jericho, associated with the cultivation of wheat, in areas where it is naturally adapted, and with the beginnings of animal husbandry. It is said that women invented agriculture, and consistent with this, we find the expression of agricultural fertility in the form of a fertility goddess, sometimes called the Great Mother, who is a creatrix of all, but particularly of the fertile Earth and the fertility that, season by season, is regenerated in the agricultural cycle that springs from the Earth. At the same time there is a celebration of human fertility in the form of the hieros gamos, or sacred sexual union, a theme of fertility, based also in animal husbandry. Later in the lean season this is accompanied by male sacrifice and the ploughing of fresh blood back into the soil to refertilize it. These two themes, of goddess as creatrix and goddess as lover, continue to be elaborated in a variety of forms and personae, from Canaan, through Sumeria, to all the cultures of the Near East. In Sumeria the cultural interaction of the Shepherd King and the Planter Queen formed a counterpoint which became the progenitor of civilization as we know it today.
Catal Huyuk was a Neolithic urban settlement of 6000 to 8000 people, a town built like a beehive of individual abodes showing little variation in size and furnishing, entered by a ladder from the roof and equipped with a mud-brick heath and an oven. The absence of streets, a large plaza or palace suggests a non-hierarchical society. Rush rugs, baskets and obsidian objects indicate a wide and healthy trade. Over a period of 1500 years from about 6200 BC new towns were built on the remnants of older settlements. Comparison of James Mellaart's (R467) excavations at Catal Huyuk with the smaller village Hacilar about 1000 years older in Anatolia give us an insight into these early transitions. Every house had a large sleeping platform, oriented towards the shrines, under which the buried skeletons of women and sometimes children were found. In all 136 of the 222 adult skeletons were women. Smaller platforms were found in varying positions in the different rooms with sometimes men or children buried, but not both together. Women were buried with mirrors, jewelry, and bone and stone tools, men with their weapons, rings, beads and tools. About one in forty had ochre burials. Most of these were women. Mellaart reasons that the women had high status and were possibly priestesses. The overall pattern is consistent with matrilocal residence.
The various layers reveal an extraordinarily large number of extensively decorated shrines. In the lower layers there are only bulls and rams, animal paintings and bull's horns, commonly interpreted as symbolic of male gods, although Gimbutas, by contrast, imagined they were abstract Fallopian tubes (Taylor R683 156). From about 6200 BC these give way to the earliest representations of female figures, with exaggerated breasts, buttocks and hips, seated, giving birth, surrounded by plaster breasts some shaped over animal skulls. Artifacts include a depiction of the hieros gamos in naked partners embracing, followed by a mother with child. They include motifs of both life and death - vultures pecking headless figures, breasts with jaws, and human skulls. They also involve associations with both flower, grain and vegetation patterns and with the hunt, in the leopard. In one hunting scene there are large numbers of men and two women with their legs spread apart suggesting sexual favours of the hunt. Mellaart (R467) argues that these were goddesses, that the male was an object of pride, valued for his virility and that his role in procreation was understood, and that men and women shared power and community control.
Although the presence of skulls and headless corpses is a little spooky, there is no evidence of warfare, or of blood sacrifice, suggesting there was no military caste. Mellaart concludes that women developed agriculture, created Neolithic religion and were themselves the artists. Some of these conclusions are debated. Lawrence Angel has found a significant increase in the average life span of women over this period from 28.2 to 29.8 years, still short of the male span of 34.3, but consistent with improving conditions. The sudden demise of the settlement is also consistent with an incapacity to cope with incursions by more militaristic patriarchal cultures (Lerner R407 34).
Some writers, including Melaart, have suggested the cult of Magna Mater (Great Mother) originated in Catal Huyuk. The statue of a woman upon a throne with two leopards at her side, is the form she is known for in Phrygia as Cybele. However, Hodder has later in a subsequent investigation of the site in the 1990s (Adovasio et. al. R792 254) refuted Melaart's goddess theory, claiming further excavations indicate an egalitarian gender status.
In Rome, Cybele came to be known as Magna Mater, the magical goddess raised by panthers and lions. The leaders of her cult were female priestesses and castrated male priests called Galli. During her festivals frenzied music was played and male followers would chop off their testicles and throw then to the crowd, in a re-enactment of Attis's self-castration in a fit of madness due to his infidelity to the Great Mother. He was turned into a pine tree. The Christmas tree and the social castration of the Roman Catholic priesthood stand in her long shadow. In the cult of Diana, human testicles were replaced by those of bulls, resulting in her 'many-breasted' form. The need for more sperm than one male could provide leads to the 'virginal' conception of Mary (Morris R488 201).
As we have seen (p 143), Peggy Reeves Sanday's anthropological work shows that horticultural societies often have female creatrix deities, which tend to be supplanted by male ones as cultivation moves through shifting to advanced agriculture. She also found societies with a constant food supply were more likely to be sexually equal and express female power. This is consistent with the historical idea of the rise of female power and female deities in the Neolithic contemporary with women inventing horticulture and agriculture through knowledge of plant reproductive cycles, establishing certainty of food supply, and its later supplanting by competitive warlike patriarchal cultures, upon the development of large-scale agriculture, property and kingships.
Modern concepts of the 'Mother Goddess' are shrouded in psychoanalytic notions which fail to understand the complexity of our sociobiological heritage and tend to rationalize the cultural motivations of the authors. Gerda Lerner (R407 40) in considering the Neolithic Mother Goddess, suggests: "we can understand why men and women might have chosen this as their first form of religious expression by considering the psychological bond between mother and child", going on to cite Freud's struggle of separation of the self from an all-powerful mother. Following a culturalist rejection of the 'essentialist' role of mothering in modern society, Lerner then attempts to discretely justify the same role culturally in the 'permissible' context of the Great Mother:
"under primitive conditions, before the institutions of society were created, the actual power of the mother over the infant must have been awesome. ... The life-giving mother truly had power over life and death. No wonder that men and women, observing this dramatic and mysterious power of the female, turned to the veneration of the Mother Goddess. My point here is to stress the necessity which created the initial division of labour by which women do the mothering. For millennia group survival depended on it, and no alternative was available."
Apparently it is fine for gatherer-hunter societies to depend on women as mother for both essential practical reasons of safety and survival and also for cultural constructions in which woman is venerated and enshrined as mother, but in any other cultural context this deeply biological relationship is an anathema. Furthermore in gatherer-hunter societies we do not find this infantile concept of deity-as-infinite mother, but sophisticated ironic portrayals of God. It is thus much more likely that the veneration of the Goddess is a Neolithic phenomenon associated with plant nurture and societies benefiting from the resulting abundance.
Gerda Lerner (R407 43) then uses Nancy Chodrow's psychoanalytic argument to outline a scheme for engendering of male and female roles:
"Boys and girls learn to expect from women the infinite, accepting love of a mother, but they also associate with women their fears of powerlessness. In order to find their identity, boys develop themselves as other-than-the-mother, and turn away from cultural expression towards action in the world."
This leads to a feminine view of connectedness with the world and a masculine one of separation and differentiation. However this is not just a psychoanalytic view but a deeply evolutionary one. There is a great deal of validity in the idea that male fear of paternity uncertainty in a world where men do not themselves give birth has led to a patriarchal reaction. This is consistent with Freud's idea of childhood frustration and Mary O'Brien's idea of the construction of institutions of dominance based on men's psychological need to compensate for their inability to bear children (R407 46), but places them on a valid genetic and biological footing in institutions establishing paternity certainty and patriliny.
However the idea that a psycho-analytic infantile view historically preceded a natural view of male and female fertility, proceeding historically from female parthenogenetic birth, for example from clay and menstrual blood, to a later construct understanding only the role of the male in fertilization, based on the discovery of animal husbandry is not supportable or realistic for several reasons. Firstly all animals consciously or unconsciously base their entire reproductive effort on an implicit acceptence of the mutual role of the sexes in fertility. It is fundamental to our sociobiological heritage. It has always been clear that only heterosexual intercourse produces babies and both sexes can recognize their offspring by smell and visual characteristics and can often tell that offspring resemble both their parents in various intimate ways. Secondly there is no evidence for a truly primal matriarchy, and egalitarian gatherer-hunter societies who practice neither animal husbandry, nor horticulture still show an understanding of paternity and maternity. Thirdly the incest taboo has no meaning except in a context where paternity is understood. Fourthly animal husbandry itself has an ancient origin. The sheep was domesticated by 9000 BC and the dog probably very much earlier in the Paleolithic. Goats, pigs and cattle were all domesticated in the Near East by 5500 BC. Elizabeth Fisher and Mary O'Brien have suggested male rape and paternity fears both source from the discovery of animal husbandry, leading to patriarchy. Lerner (R407 46) however acknowledges the ancient origin of animal husbandry consistent with its occurrence at Catal Hüyük, discounting a causal connection. Fifthly the hieros gamos is very ancient and occurs at Catal Hüyük. Sixthly patriarchal ideas of the female being the passive vessel of male fertility are sexually political cultural constructs designed to impose male institutions, rather than existing naive beliefs. Taking a cultural position, we would expect the 'Mother Goddess' to be equally a cultural overlay, and thus call her more honestly and simply the 'Neolithic Great Goddess'.
Similar, although less complete remains, indicative of societies with female power and reverence, are scattered widely across Old Europe, from Avebury to Bulgaria. Marija Gimbutas (R242) reports 30,000 miniature sculptures in clay, marble, bone, copper and gold known from some 3000 sites in Southeastern Europe and that these testify to the communal worship of the Great Goddess and that the Neolithic cultural symbols survived into the third millennium BC in the Aegean and the second millennium in Crete. Putatively 'uterine' temples with a possible funerary role occur in Malta around 4000 BC and the beginnings of 'snake goddess' representations begin around 6000 BC in Crete, whose later Minoan civilization (c 1500 BC), with its feminine motifs has been much extolled by Eisler (R183) and Gadon (R231). In the eighth century Hesiod spoke of the Minoan culture "the earth poured forth its fruits unbidden in boundless plenty. In peaceful ease they kept their lands with good abundance, rich in flocks and ... did not worship the gods of war". Archaeologist Nicolas Platon, notes that this was a "remarkable peaceful society" where descent was still traced through the mother and that "the influence of women is visible in every sphere"(Eisler R183), consistent with sexually-egalitarian culture. Later Minoan representations include the famous 'snake goddess' (p 178), the poppy 'goddess' with slit opium pods in her head dress (p 473), a fresco of 'darker-skinned' men attending a female priestess with bared breasts, and those of young men and women bull leaping, also associated with Europa and the legend of the Minotaur, through which Theseus the Greek king overthrew the culture. Zeus was identified by Greek settlers with the Year God of the Cretan Goddess, born in a cave sacred to her. At the site, later devoted to Zeus, horns and the labrys double-axe symbolic of the goddess are still present among the remains.
Genealogy of the Sumerian deities to Inanna and Dumuzi (Wolkenstein and Kramer). An, Enlil and Enki form a male trinity overthrowing Goddess culture. Ereshkigal and Gugalina the bull are sent to hell.
The Descent of the Queen of Heaven
There are also a profusion of archaeological finds scattered across the Near East emphasizing breasts, navel and vulva often in a squatting position characteristic of childbirth. However it remains unclear exactly what these represent, particularly in contexts like Israel where they may be an expression of the Canaanite Queen of Heaven or Qadesh in Hathor head dress, or a countercultural expression of such popular practice in the presence of other dominant patriarchal religious and social structures.
Lerner notes (R407 150) that in some of the most ancient depictions and myths the Great Goddess is a lone maternal creatrix, but she is 'later' joined by a consort who shares in the creative process in recognition of the sexual process of fertility. Founding myths of several cultures do allude to the Great Goddess as a virtually universal dominant figure in the most ancient stories. For example the Egyptian goddess Nun gives birth to the sun god Atum who then creates the rest of the universe, The Sumerian goddess Nammu parthenogenetically creates the sky god An and the earth goddess Ki, and in Greece Gaia parthenogenetically creates Uranos the sky. However as we have noted (p 179) the hieros gamos goes back to the paleolithic.
The difficulty with this idea is that these parthenogenetic myths may not be the most ancient human creation stories, but attest rather to a transitional period of neolithic matriliny associated with womens' discovery of horticulture and agriculture. The association between the planter goddess and shepherd kings, which the flowering of Sumer appears founded on, is a tale of fusion between a horticultural, presumably Great Goddess culture, 'overtaken' by nomadic, patriarchal shepherds. There is thus no single line of history, but two lines meeting. Gods are also extremely ancient and span diverse cultures.
The Babylonian Enuma Elish begins:
Firm ground below had not been called by name,
Naught but primordial Apsu the begetter,
(and) Mummu-Tiamat, she who bore them all.
Their waters commingling as a single body ...
In the Sumerian descent of Inanna the previous older tradition is hinted at in Ereshkigal condemned to the underworld and the death of Gugalanna the sacred bull of heaven, reflecting the ancient bull's horns we have seen already from Laussel to Catal Hüyük in association with the Great Goddess and the lunar cycle.
Although she dates from as early as 3000 BC in Uruk, Inanna herself appears as the daughter of the moon god and goddess Nannar and Ningal, suggesting she carries a different and probably later archetype, partially into the patriarchal transition. Dumuzi the shepherd king is also the son of Enki the god of wisdom and Sirtur the sheep goddess. These are in turn descended from liaisons between An the sky god and either Ki the earth goddess or Nammu goddess of the watery deep, indicating city states have established a turn over of civic deities. Inanna is no longer so much a mother goddess as a nubile sex goddess of heaven, Earth and the underworld, who celebrates the agricultural cycle in the hieros gamos - the annual mating with the young god-king and his death and rebirth in propitiating the cycle of the season of agricultural fertility. However the Goddess is now projected into a more celestial sphere of sacred power encompassing heaven, Earth and the underworld in a shamanistic circumnavigation of life and death.
The courtship of the planter queen Inanna and the shepherd king Dumuzi (Wolkenstein and Kramer R761) is followed by Dumuzi's sacrifice. The new king kills the old in the presence of the goddess, as typified by Mot killing Aleyin for Anath in Canaan. (Campbell R104).
The hieros gamos and its association with sacred kingship and seasonal male sacrifice is ancient and almost universal to the widest spread of Near Eastern religion, common to Inanna of Uruk and Dumuzi, Ishtar of Babylon and Tammuz, Cybele and her son Attis, Artemis and Hippolytus, Kali and Shiva of the Indus Valley, Anath of Canaan and Aleyin, Aphrodite and Adonis, and Diana with Actaeon and the hapless king of the grove of Nemi, whose grisly fate became the keynote for Frazer's "Golden Bough" (R222).
Multiple personae of the Near Eastern Goddess include clockwise from top left, Lilith, Ishtar a cake mold from Mari (Batto), Inanna, Syrian Qadesh in Hathor head-dress with 'ithyphallic' god Min (below inset Hathor, Egypt and Timna and figurine Palestine), Isis nursing Horus, and Canaanite 'queen of the wild beasts' (Minet-al-Beida) suggestive of Asherah. For descendents of the so-called 'Mother Goddess', motherhood is rare among fertility goddesses. Only Isis has a maternal persona manifesting as nursing Horus. Lilith has an aura of precocious sexuality and fecundity without regard for her offspring, suggestive of maternal ambivalence. She has webbed feet indicating her wild nature. She precedes Inanna. When Gilgamesh cuts down the hulupu tree to establish Inanna's throne of office, Lilith flies out of it and away. Qadesh is broadly identified with the 'sacred prostitute', Ishtar, Hathor, and the Canaanite Queen of Heaven for whom Jeremiah (44:19) notes cakes were also fashioned in Jerusalem.
Inanna's courtship of Dumuzi is one of fertile power and beauty between the sexes (Wolkenstein and Kramer R761):
"Great Lady, the king will plow your vulva.
I Dumuzi the King, will plow your vulva."
"Then plow my vulva, man of my heart!
At the king's lap stood the rising cedar.
Plants grew high by their side.
Grains grew high by their side.
Gardens flourished luxuriantly....
"Make your milk sweet and thick, my bridegroom.
My shepherd, I will drink your fresh milk".
I poured out plants from my womb.
He put his hand in her hand.
He put his hand to her heart.
Sweet is the sleep of hand-to-hand.
Sweeter still the sleep of heart-to-heart.
Inanna descends to the underworld, is stripped naked, removing her seven veils of clothing and the instruments of power and queenship, and hung as a corpse on a peg. After three dark days she is rescued, but the seven galla rise with her to the surface to take their compensation. Innana rejects her sister and kin as a sacrifical substitute, but fixes her eye of death on Dumuzi for forgetting her and assuming the powers of state in her absence.
Neolithic agrarian cultures displayed a disturbing trend towards blood-fests of male sacrifice, personified in the ritual slaughter and dismemberment of sacred kings, in a confusion between the transience of male fertility in the reproductive process and the notion of sewing blood back into the pasture to ensure a rich harvest in the coming season. Thus the themes of nubile love in the song of Inanna are overlaid with her Descent, and Dumuzi's persecution on the third day by the seven galla of the underworld, and his emasculation in breaking his reed sceptre, echoing darkly all the way to the Saturnalia performed during Jesus' crucifixion and the shadowy role played by the women of Galilee in the same event after he is anointed by a woman, sometimes assumed to be Mary Magdalen, 'for his burial'.
They broke the reed pipe which the shepherd was playing.
Inanna fastened on Dumuzi the eye of death.
She spoke against him the word of wrath.
She uttered against him the cry of guilt:
"Take him! Take Dumuzi away!"
At his vanishing away she lifts up a lament, "My Damu!"
At his vanishing away she lifts up a lament, "My enchanter and priest!"
Like the lament that a city lifts up for its lord,
Her lament is the lament for a herb that grows not in the bed.
Her lament is the lament for the corn that grows not in the ear.
Her chamber is a possession that brings not forth a possession.
These are again echoed in the Song of Songs, which despite being the Holy of Holies of the Torah as the love of God and Israel (p 479) is believed to originate earlier, in love poetry and marriage ceremonies from Egypt and Sumeria (R220). The descent theme, paralleled in Esther (Ishtar) (p 220), is complete with the intimations of sacrificial thorns for the hero, as the red-streaked anemones of Adonis, the spikenared and myrrh of sexual union, searching for the lost Adonai or Lord, ritual wounding of the priestess, and verdant fertility even to the teeth of the beloved as a flock bearing twins (p 482):
I am the rose of Sharon, and the lilly of the valleys.
As a lilly among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.
As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons.
I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.
calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices:
A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.
I sleep but my heart waketh : it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh,
saying open to me my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled:
for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.
I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?
My beloved put his hand in the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.
I rose up to open to my beloved and my hands dropped with myrrh,
and my fingers with sweet-smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock.
I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself and was gone:
my soul failed when he spake : I sought him, but I could not find him;
I called him, but he gave me no answer
The watchmen that went about the city found me, they smote me and they wounded me;
the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me.
I charge you , O daughters of Jerusalem, that ye tell him, that I am sick of love.
Akkadian hymns of the sacred union (Pope R549 146) are couched in similar metaphors:
Thou hast caressed me, be thou my lord! The fragrance of cedar is thy love O lord!
Othmar Keel (R356) tentatively dates the Canticles to between the 8th and 6th centuries BC because Egyptian love poetry was still flourishing and ancient Near Eastern motifs were enjoying a final heyday in Israel. Egyptian love poetry (Fox R220) parallels many motifs in the Canticles, from the mandrakes through the love sickness, the smiting, and the hole in the door, to the kingly and pastoral motifs:
Your love is mixed in my body (like honey) mixed with water
like mandrakes in which the gum is mixed like the blending of dough with [yeast]
Hasten to see your sister, like a horse dashing on to a battlefield ...
Your liquor is your lovemaking. I will not abandon it until blows drive (me) away
to spend my days in the marshes, to the land of Syria with sticks and rods ...
I will not listen to their advice to abandon the one I desire
the mansion of my sister, her entry is in the middle of her house
her double-doors are open her latch bolt drawn back
and (my) sister incensed! If only I were appointed doorkeeper
I am yours like the field planted with flowers and with all sorts of fragrant plants
Pleasant is the canal within it which your hand scooped out
one alone is my sister, having no peer more gracious than all the other women ...
My brother roils my heart with his voice making me take ill
Though he is among the neighbors of my mother's house I cannot go to him
My heart quickly scurries away when I think of your love
It does not let me don a tunic I cannot put on my cloak ... "Don't stop until you get inside" ...
Don't let people say about me "This woman has collapsed out of love"
If only your heart would come to (your) sister swiftly like a swift royal messenger
(I) passed by her house in a daze I knocked but it was not opened to me
A fine night for our doorkeeper! Bolt I will open you, door you are my fate!
Descriptive wasf poetry strongly evocative of the Canticles is still found in the 19th century seven day marriage festivals of Arabs in Syria and at Damietta in Egypt, in which the bride and groom are crowned and enthroned on a threshing sledge (R549 55, 141) consistent with an ancient origin, going back to Sumerian marriage rites in the fertility tradition. There are also hints in love stronger than death and the banqueting house of an ancient ogiastic funeral rite of the life force having victory over death (R549 210).
The tragic sexual union of the sacred king and the goddess was later reduced to a seasonal stand-in ceremony where the king stood aside for a brief period and placed a surrogate in his stead, to perform the hieros gamos and suffer the ensuing indignities, in the Saturnalia. Such violence against the male hero is a distortion of sexual love, in which the female exerts not only reproductive choice, but whimsical betrayal for the new suitor, as simultaneous creatress and destructress, as Kali and the lifeless Shiva exemplify. This violence against the male formed a whetting stone for the patriarchal whiplash that was to follow.
"Something which has never occurred since time immemorial;
a young woman did not fart in her husband's lap,"
(Sumerian Proverb 1900 BC)
Indo-Aryan Origins and the Goddess of Old Europe
Gimbutas, using thousands of 'feminine' artifacts in Old Europe, sees the rise of patriarchy as a cataclysmic overthrow of a peaceful goddess culture by an oppressive patriarchal one:
"The Old European and Kurgan cultures were the antithesis of one another. The Old European were sedentary horticulturalists prone to live in large well-planned townships. The absence of fortifications and weapons attests the peaceful coexistence of this egalitarian civilization that was probably matrilinear and matrilocal. The Kurgan system was composed of patrilineal, socially stratified, herding units which lived in small villages or seasonal settlements while grazing their animals over vast areas. One economy based on farming, the other on stock breeding and grazing, produced two contrasting ideologies. The Old European belief system focused on the agricultural cycle of birth, death, and regeneration, embodied in the feminine principle, a Mother Creatrix. The Kurgan ideology, as known from comparative Indo-European mythology, exalted virile, heroic warrior gods of the shining and thunderous sky. Weapons are nonexistent in Old European imagery; whereas the dagger and battle-axe are dominant symbols of the Kurgans, who like all historically known Indo-Europeans, glorified the lethal power of the sharp blade."
The 'Kurgan' Aryan migration is said to have occurred in three surges. As termed by Russian archaeologists: the first "early Yamna" culture of the Volga steppe was from 4400-4300 B.C., the second "Maikop" culture of the North Pontic area was around 3500 B.C., and the third "late Yamna" also of the Volga steppe was after 3000 B.C. Prior to 4500-4300 B.C. Gimbutas (R242 352) claims that neither are weapons to be found among grave goods, nor are hilltop defenses to be found, until the Indo-Europeans arrived with metallurgy and weapons such as daggers, spears, and bow and arrows. Some archaeologists, however, have found that weapons already existed in the former non-Indo-European cultures. Mellaart as we shall note, reports that male burials at Catal Hüyük contained weapons: stone mace-heads, obsidian arrowheads and javelin heads, also daggers. Some critics point out that [later] cultures which still engaged in goddess worship were warlike, citing the Celtics as an example. Evidence for the appearance of the Kurgans and characteristics unique to them appear in a wide range of archaeological evidence. The earliest example of horses represented in sculpture were found in cemeteries from the Volga region dating back to 5,000 B.C. around when Kurgans arrived in Old Europe. Flint and stone daggers can be found in the cemetery of S'ezzhee after the arrival of the Kurgans, along with a unique burial style ( R242 355). Central to the thesis is the idea that the use of horses was combined with a conversion of existing metallurgy largely used for farm tools and jewelry into weapons of war.
Gimbutas also cites burials in the Kurgan tradition which have the characteristics of 'suttee' burials, 'chieftain graves', with a strong-man elite at the top. These graves are in Gimbutas's words clearly an 'alien cultural phenomenon'. In contrast to Old European burials, which showed little indication of social inequality, there are here marked differences in the size of the graves as well as in what archaeologists call 'funerary gifts': the contents found in the tomb other than the deceased. Among these contents, for the first time in European graves, we find along with an exceptionally tall or large-boned male skeleton the skeletons of sacrificed women - wives, concubines, or slaves of the men who died. Mallory (R435) disagrees however with her analysis of the northern Globular Amphora cultures.
Juliet Woods criticizes Gimbutas' example of the Celts as a pre-Indo-European Goddess culture because many current archaeological theories maintain that the Celts may have been a central part of Indo-European life. Certainly evolving Celt culture contains plenty of evidence for prominence being accorded to women, as noted by Davis-Kimball (R150):
"Hallstatt Culture [1200 -500 B.C.E.] In 1824 came the first signs of the existence archaeologically of an important Iron Age cemetery at Hallstatt, a small village in Upper Austria. The cemetery mostly dates to the seventh and sixth centuries B.C.E., and includes graves of many different classes. Warriors' graves made up only about a quarter of the Hallstatt cemetery. Women's graves tended to have masses of clanking jewelry and bulky fibulae. Rich graves in the cemetery often contained impressive sets of bronze vessels - buckets, situlae (buckets with rims turned inward), bowls, and cups, presumably imported from the Mediterranean. Hallstatt remains one of the richest known cemeteries of its kind, with a wide range of weapons, brooches, pins, and pottery. From these excavations, we can develop a comprehensive picture of who the early Celts were".
"La Tène Culture [500 - 50 B.C.E.] Located on the northern edge of Lake Neuchâtel in Switzerland, La Tène culture can truly be termed 'Celtic'. [It] evolved during the fifth century BC in part of the Hallstatt area. One most important and distinctively different feature of the La Tène culture is the unique art-style, usually represented in their metal-work. La Tène Culture generated some of the ancient world's most stunningly beautiful pieces of decorative art. The use of animals, plants, and spiral patterns in the art eventually epitomized and perpetuated the legend of the Celts. La Tène society seems to have risen to prominence through trade with the Mediterranean, with the Greeks and Etruscans, and later the Romans. La Tène Culture finds the Celts amongst wealth and glory and expression. In general, the technological level of the La Tène Celts, with very few exceptions, was equal to, and in some cases."
In "The Chalice and the Blade" (R183) Rianne Eisler posits the existence of an ancient 'gylanic' (gy- 'female' -an- 'male' -ic 'linked') culture, distinguished by the equal rule of men and women. However she also asserts that this period, marked by high cultural achievement, was supplanted some 5000 years ago by a baleful 'androcratic' regime, an event that, borrowing from Gimbutas, Eisler blames on a violent Kurgan invasion:
"At the core of the invaders' system was the placing of higher value on the power that takes, rather than gives, life. This was the power symbolized by the 'masculine' Blade, which early Kurgan cave engravings show these Indo-European invaders literally worshiped. For in their dominator society, ruled by gods, and men-of-war, this was the supreme power."
Judith Lorber (R425), likewise suggests a millennium of peaceful egalitarian horticulture in southeastern Europe followed by a gloomy oppression scenario, with populations transformed by warlike men into a vast exploited class of abused 'workers, sexual partners, child bearers, and emotional nurturers.' Although many contemporary archaeologists would support Lorber's conclusions about women's social roles in early cultures, most are wary of endorsing Gimbutas's Kurgan invasions as the cataclysm that destroyed the ancient order.
Gimbutas's findings are contradicted by Lotte Motz (R492), who argues that images of men and animals are just as prolific as goddess imagery in early European cultures. "There clearly was no introduction of warrior gods and warrior values, no imposition of a patriarchal system, and no humiliation of the Goddess." Cynthia Eller (R188) discounts the entire approach of the ancient matriarchy as a false icon developed by feminists.
Jani Roberts (R587) also notes there is evidence that in the British Isles and Ireland, a male dominated society replaced not a matriarchy, but a society in which women and men worked together as equals with safeguards and pledges to possibly control an innate male aggressive tendency. According to ancient legends the kings of Ulster had to pledge that they would look after the women's rights. Specifically they had to pledge that the harvest would be provided every year to the families, that there would be no lack of supplies of cloth dyes to the women and that medical supplies and midwives would be provided so that no women need die in child birth. If they broke this pledge they could apparently be deposed.
Evolutionary tree of Indo-European languages suggests the radiation corresponding to the Kurgans occurred around 4,900 BC (6,900 BP) and that they were preceded by Hittite migrations into Anatolia. Time scales in red are BP (Gray and Atkinson R255). Significantly Tocharian appears in Buddhist writings from China's Xinjiang province, indicating early far-eastern spread. Inset: hypothetical relationship between Indo-European and wider language groups such as Afro-Asiatic.
There is also contradictory evidence about how uniquely patriarchal the Kurgan Indo-Aryans were. 'Kurgan' culture is named from the burial mounds in which people are placed on a seasonal basis adjacent to pastures. Gimbutas has laid at their feet the prime cause of the rise of oppressive patriarchy in Europe. This is a very different picture of female social roles from the one Davis-Kimball (R150) has inferred from her Pokrovka kurgans - an Indo-Aryan society from around 500 BC in which women, not just men, apparently held military and social power (p 205). The simultaneous existence of nomadic warrior women and subjugated Athenian housewives suggests that two thousand years ago, relations between the sexes varied enormously from one population to the next. So why and when did patriarchy become the universal norm? Davis-Kimball thinks "Gimbutas may have been wrong about the mother goddess per se. But she may have been right about an underlying, unbroken tradition of female cultic power and wisdom, which has been suppressed since the Middle Ages and especially since the Industrial Revolution." Davis-Kimball on a later trip through the museums of central Asia found evidence of female warriors and priestesses "all over the place" including in the remains of what she believed was an ancient culture dating to around 2000 BC unearthed in the Takla Makan desert by Chinese archaeologists.
Timothy Taylor (R683 161) in discounting Gimbutas's thesis, makes a series of speculative claims for the rise of sexual inequality based on the growth of agriculture and animal husbandry in Europe. He claims that the culture named LBK (Linearbandkeramik for their pottery) who spread across Europe from about 5500 BC coincided with motifs of aggression leading to warlike patriarchy. Although he claims from their house styles that they may have been matrilocal and possibly monogamous, he then speculates that the shift to farming, and resulting shorted birth intervals and earlier weaning of infants introduced an infantile aggression syndrome, following French obstetrician Michel Odent, which he subsequently associates with evidence of mass murder and possibly child abduction at the Talheim pit. He then extends this argument to the 'secondary products revolution' of Andrew Sherratt around 3500 BC which along with wool and use of draught animals, saw the advent of milk production and further weaning to base the rise of patriarchy on. While it is tempting to blame patriarchy on a badly weaned enfant terrible there is no evidence to support it.
If we turn to the earliest origins of Indo-European language and culture especially associated with domestication of the horse, we find that linguistic tree modeling shows the origin of Indo-European languages appears to be older than the Kurgans and to originate from farmers migrating into Anatolia around 6,700 BC,(8,700 BP) with Hittite as one of its earliest branches, and was spread later by diverse migrations, rather than being specific to the Kurgan horsemen (Gray and Atkinson R255).
However detailed Kurgan cultural motifs do appear to penetrate to the Vedic tradition:
The oldest archaeological evidence for the Kurgan horse domestication is the Sintashta-Arkaim culture, found east of the Urals. The typical short bow of horse riding pastoralists was introduced in this period, and contact between the northern pastoralists and the Central Asian oases was established. Against the context of the Rgveda the Sintashta sites share some cultural features. These are simple settlements fortified with ramparts and ditches, with a circular or rectangular fence or wall built from unfired clay and wooden frames. And there are remnants of horse sacrifices and primitive horse drawn chariots with spoked wheels. A real "tripura", Arkaim, has two circular walls and two circles of dwellings around a central square. The settlements consist of frame houses, slightly sunk into ground (suggestive of Rgvedic kula "hollow, family"), with traces of copper (ayas) production. Apart from the development of the chariot, the Sintashta culture shows links with E. Europe both in pottery and bronze artifacts. The graves at Sintashta are mounds with burial pits and log and timber chambers. Horse sacrifices have been made both inside and on top of the burial chamber. The graves also contain some light chariots with wheels (Witzel R756).
These chariots still are very narrow in width, pointing to their origin from, by necessity narrow, oxen-drawn wagons (anas). Horse bits made of bone have also been found. Most tellingly, perhaps, at the site of Potapovka, a unique burial has been found. It contains a human skeleton whose head has been replaced by a horse head; a human head lies near his feet, along with a bone pipe, and a cow's head is placed near his knees. This looks like an archaeological illustration of the Rgvedic myth of Dadhyañc, whose head was cut off by Indra and replaced by that of a horse. The bone pipe reminds, as the excavator has noted, of the RgVedic sentence referring to the playing of pipes in Yama's realm, the world of the ancestors. Many interpretations have been suggested in relation to Arkaim - a military fort, proto-city, or a ceremonial and religious center. If we bear in mind that the sets of artifacts excavated were not characteristic of everyday usage, sites such as Arkaim are a combination of administrative and ceremonial centers. Possibly this was a location where about 1,000 to 2,000 people – aristocracy (and craftsmen) gathered periodically to perform rituals.
Davis-Kimball (R150) notes the broad influence of these motifs in espousing the 'Yamna' migration: "Over the course of 5000 years the Kurgans migrated from East-Indo Europe and established trade routes all over Europe and across the continental divide into North America; as time passed these areas gradually became known as Alaska, Canada, northern China, Greece, India, Mesopotamia, Italy, Austria, Hungary, the Balkans, Spain, Switzerland, and France! They finally emerged as a Celtic presence in Hallstatt, Austria around 700 BC" However the subsequent diversity found during the spread of these cultures indicates local adaptation of existing societies and a relaying of technological innovation and cultural values, rather than mass migrations of a 'Yamna people' as such.
By contrast with Gimbutas's apocalyptic scenario is a gradualist model which posits a slow and inevitable transition from prehistoric egalitarianism to male-dominated modernity. In "Is Female to Male as Nature Is to Culture?" Sherry Ortner (R516) declared that "the search for a genuinely egalitarian, let alone matriarchal, culture has proved fruitless." Ortner concluded that the ubiquity of male domination had its roots in the facts of sexual reproduction. Women are nearly everywhere associated with nature because of their role in procreation. (Women, as de Beauvoir put it, are more enslaved to the species by biology.) Furthermore, all societies concoct rituals that aim to manipulate nature in the interest of culture. Notions of purity and pollution, evident in taboos connected with menstruation, create a gendered opposition between nature (dirty women) and culture (clean men) attesting to a powerful societal impulse to control nature's threat. Physically unhampered by their role in reproduction and therefore free from any symbolic association with nature, men are assigned an antagonistic value-- namely, that of culture itself, whose duty it is to assert that control.
In "Making Gender" (R517), Ortner elaborates: "Men emerge as 'leaders' and as figures of authority, vis-a-vis both women and other men, as a function of engaging in a variety of practices, only some of which are predicated on power, including trade, exchange, kinship networking, ritual participation, dispute resolution, and so forth. That is, male dominance does not in fact seem to arise from some aggressive 'will to power,' but from the fact that--as Simone de Beauvoir first suggested in 1949 - men as it were lucked out: their domestic responsibilities can be construed as more episodic than women's and they are more free to travel, congregate, hang out, etc., and thus to do the work of 'culture.'"
Ortner's essay described an inexorable progression from biological fact to symbol to the gender stereotypes that enjoy nearly universal currency today. Patriarchy, she says, "arose as an unintended consequence of arrangements which were originally purely functional and expedient. That we demonize it as part of contemporary feminist politics unfortunately only confuses the issue". Elizabeth Barber, using textile production in ancient cultures, concludes that two fundamental conditions were necessary for patriarchy to emerge. First, there was long-distance trade in metal ores, which could be more easily conducted and monopolized by men, since women, burdened by infants and small children, couldn't travel long distances. Second, there was a "secondary products revolution" around 4000 BC, in which domesticated animals that had traditionally been raised for consumption were kept alive and exploited for their secondary products, including milk, wool, and drafting power. As a result, nutrition and clothing improved, and large-scale field cultivation became possible. This last development, she explains, was necessarily men's work as well. Echoing Ortner, Barber views the division of labor and gender as "an inevitable evil once subsistence farming had been left behind." She adds: "The communal, non-hierarchical model only worked in small, relatively poor Stone Age societies. As soon as people want and need commodities which they can't grow in their back yard, it breaks down irrevocably" (Osborne R518). Margaret Conkey notes: "By and large we now think of patriarchy as a by-product of technological and social upheavals." Nicola Di Cosmo concurs: "Gender divisions of labor were probably efficient and so were adopted as a matter of course. Warfare arises from a competition for resources as trading networks expand - not from some innate male aggression."
According to proponents of the gradualist school, patriarchy is less a male conspiracy to keep women down than a necessary by-product of a society in which progress increasingly depends on mobility and brute strength. Teenage girls and nursing mothers were simply impractical candidates for the heavy lifting required to build an infrastructure. Despite its sober tenor and considerable political appeal to some - neither sex is to blame for men having more power today. However our deeper investigation of sex differences, the innate basis of male jealousy and fear of paternity uncertainty, along with the many diverse and oppressive ways of combating it make this cultural approach seem a little innocent from all sides, from the sacrifices of male heroes and the castrating of male priests to stoning women for adultery and cutting out their organs of sexual pleasure.
Some suggest testing the gradualist theory against the future than against the past. If revolutions in technology once made dominance by men - and thus patriarchy - inevitable, it follows that when machines replace bodies altogether, as they have arguably begun to do today, patriarchy may well disappear. This is exactly what Ortner, among others, predicts. "Just as technological evolution created patriarchy," she says, "so technology now has the power to cancel it out because it obviates physical strength and equalizes the sexes." (Osborne R518)
Cultural prediction here becomes a significant danger. While technology can provide a much more sexually egalitarian society - 'gylanic' even as in Riane Eisler's words, unless we can approach this from a real basis of biological complementarity rather than mere cultural differences of pulling a plow or negotiating a computer maze we may lose our raison d'etre in a sexless or androgynous 'android' society rather than a 'gylanic' one.
We also need to consder the possibility that migrations, even in small waves of bands of warriors could alter the sexual demography of a migrating group to make them more patriarchally exploitative of societies they over-ran, for example abducting or seizing the women, consistent with Sanday's findings of increasing patrarchal emphasis in migrating peoples (p 143). Pinker (R544 327) notes also that in the context of herding and social chaos, more severe rules come to the surface:
"Cultures of honor spring up all over the world because they amplify universal human emotions like Pride, anger, revenge, and the love of kith and kin, and because they appear at the time to be sensible responses to local conditions. Indeed, the emotions themselves are thoroughly familiar even when they don't erupt in violence, such as in road rage, office politics, political mudslinging, academic backstabbing, and email flame wars. In 'Culture of Honor', the social psychologists Richard Nisbett and Dov Cohen show that violent cultures arise in societies that are beyond the reach of the law and in which precious assets are easily stolen. Societies that herd animals meet both conditions. Herders tend to live in territories that are unsuitable for growing crops and thus far from the centers of government. And their major asset, livestock, is easier to steal than the major asset of farmers, land. In herding societies a man can be stripped of his wealth (and of his ability to acquire wealth) in an eyeblink. Men in that milieu cultivate a hair trigger for violent retaliation, not just against rustlers, but against anyone who would test their resolve by signs of disrespect that could reveal them to be easy pickings for rustlers. Scottish highlanders, Appalachian mountain men, Western cow- boys, Masai warriors, Sioux Indians, Druze and Bedouin tribesmen, Balkan clansmen, and Indochinese Montagnards are familiar examples. A man's honor is a kind of 'social reality' in John Searle's sense: it exists because everyone agrees it exists, but it is no less real for that, since it resides in a shared granting of power. When the lifestyle of a people changes, their culture of honor can stay with them for a long time because it is difficult for anyone to be the first to renounce culture. The very act of renouncing it can be a concession of weakness and low status even when the sheep and mountains are a distant memory."
However, if the evidence of the Hittite arrival upon the Hatti culture of Anatolia is any indication, there was a great deal of cultural merging. The Hattis are believed to be one of the indigenous peoples in Anatolia. They lived around 2500 BC in walled city kingdoms and small tribes. The Hittites came to Anatolia over the Caucasus around 2000 BC. These newcomers did not invade the land suddenly. They settled alongside the existing people and established their own settlements over time. Only after about 250 years, as many Hittite principalities emerged, did they claim the rule of the land. Rather than destroying the existing people and their cities, they mixed with the Hattis and other people of Anatolia. The Hittites were influenced by the Hatti culture, religion, mythology and literature. They even shared their gods, goddesses, art, culture and many words from Hatti language. Not only did they take the names of mountains, rivers and towns from them; they preserved the country they lived in as "the land of Hatti". The Hatti art gives us the examples of a human-shaped pottery type, rather than an animal shape or a hybrid form. They worshipped such statues and figurines, and each one of them carried his or her name.
One can see a gradual transition to patriarchy in Hittite society in Anatolia 1700-1200 BC combining Indo-European with previous Hatti culture. Hatti right of succession was lodged in the prince's sister the tawananna. As in Egypt, a male ruler married his sister, who was a priestess with considerable powers, such as to collect taxes. Her male child inherited the right of succession rather than the son of the king. Later when brother-sister marriage was outlawed, the tawananna priestess continued to hold power of succession. This pattern was overthrown in stages. The first strong Hittite king abolished the tawananna when he took power. However matrilineal succession continued, shifting to joint succession and only finally being abolished after much friction between cntenders in the kingship which led to the Hittite empire. Even then it lingered in powerful queens serving a patriarchal society in the name of Ishtar (Lerner R407 155-7).
Abraham is said in the Bible to have made a journey from Ur of the Chaldees to Harran. These were the Southern and Northern centers of worship of the ancient Moon God, Nannar or Sin. When Woolley (R762, R763) excavated the Royal Tombs at Ur, he was surprised to find a 'ram in a thicket' echoing Abraham's sacrificial offer of Isaac and the 'scapegoat'. Many of Abraham's relatives and ancestors lived in the vicinity of Harran. Several key names in Abraham's family, Terah (compare Yerah Moon God of Canaan), Laban, Sarah and Milcah are all derived from worship of the Moon Deity (Bright R77 80, 91). The deification of Ab-ram in the earliest documents is a synonym for Ab-Sin (Briffault R76 v3:108).
Benjaminites were nomads on the outskirts of Mari around 1760 BC who had specific associations with Harran (Segal R631, R632). The names Abi-ram (Abraham) Yasmah-El (Ishmael) Yaqob-El (Jacob), a name also shared by a Hyksos chief and El-Laban (Laban) all appear at Mari. The root mlk denoting melech king or in its sacrificial form Moloch is also found. Another word at Mari in this time which will come to have significance in Islam is umma or "mother unit" of the nomadic tribes (Malamat R434 31, Bright R77 70).
Jacob's fourfold blessing is also of 'the deep' and 'the breasts and womb', hinting at the ancient 'mother' as well as the 'father' god and El Shaddai of the heavens:
Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee;
and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above,
blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb (Gen 49:25 )
Family tree of the tribes of Israel (Jay R338) illustrates a careful attempt to resolve dissonance between matrilineal and patrilineal paradigms, involving cousin or even half-sister marriage. Names like Terah and Laban are associated with the moon god, who presided at both Ur (Woolley R762) and Harran (Segal R631), the two towns spanning Abraham's migration (Briffault R76). Abraham takes both a wife and a slave concubine who is sent away and Jacob is polygynous with two wives and a slave concubine of each given to them by Laban with whom he also sires children in their mistresses stead.
Associated with this cultural complex is an older form of marriage called the beena marriage, associated with the matriarchs at the founding of Old Testament myth. The episodes concerning Laban in Genesis, hint at a matrilineal society in which partners are subject to the wife's family and are expected to do service in dwelling with them for years at a time. The seven years Jacob spent with Laban for each wife indicates the line of Laban was matrilocal and matrilineal in a way which gave power to the brothers of the mother. Moving to the family of the wife is consistent with the injunction in Genesis to "leave your father and mother and cleave unto your wife" and with Jewish marriage practice to go into the wife's tent. In such a society child-support is achieved at least partly by immediate relatives of the mother, in which uncles figure prominently thus compensating for their lack of their own paternity uncertainty by a commensurate investment in their sisters' children with whom they share a significant genetic bond.
Arameans are any people belonging to a confederacy of tribes that migrated from the Arabian Peninsula to the Fertile Crescent in the 2nd millennium BC. The Britannica notes that among them were the biblical matriarchs Leah and Rachel, wives of Jacob. They formed principalities around and including Damascus. Aramaic language and culture spread through international trade, reaching a cultural peak during the 9th–8th centuries BC. Aramaic became the universal language of commerce, culture, and government throughout the fertile crescent and remained so to the time of Yeshua and in some places to the 7th century. Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic and Akkadian all have a common origin in Afro-Asiatic. Aramaic script emerged in turn from Phoenician and old Canaanite phonetic.
Nancy Jay (R338) in "Throughout Your Generations Forever" draws attention to the schism between such societies probably originating in Canaanite planter cultures and the patriarchal traditions of shepherding tribes illustrated in Jacob's departure and many successive biblical invocations against the Queen of Heaven and her ways. The division between these two cultures cuts directly through the Gordian knot of paternity uncertainty discussed earlier. Despite the characterization of the Jews as archetypally patriarchal, the era of the patriarchs is noted for its strong independent women. The prominence and independence of Sarah 'the queen' as well as Rebecca, Rachel and Leah is notable. Briffault (R76 v1 372) comments: "the Jewish rabbis themselves, at a comparatively late date acknowledged that the four matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah had occupied a more important position than the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. According to Robinson Smith (R648) the tribe of Levi was originally metronymous (matrilineal), being the tribe of Leah." This matrilineal element still persists in Jewish descent coming through the mother, reflected in Gen 2:24:
'Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife.'
It was the matriarch Rebecca who ordered Jacob to trick Isaac with a fleece, to steal hairy Esau's blessing as firstborn: "Upon me be thy curse, my son: only obey my voice, and go fetch me them." She did so because Esau had 'married out', taking two Hittite wives, Judith and Bashemath. It is Rebecca who sends Jacob to Laban: "Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; arise, flee thou to Laban my brother to Haran." The moment he arrives, a cousin marriage is arranged with Rachel. Having served seven years with the matrilineal kin for the love of Rachel, Laban tricks Jacob into also marrying Leah, because the first-born daughter should proceed the younger in marriage, causing him to tarry another 'week' of seven years. In an ironic tilt at the matriarchy, when Jacob escapes Laban's clutches as mother's brother, to return as he promised to his father's line, it is Rachel who hides under her menstrual skirts Laban's stolen teraphim, suggested to be tokens of land and lineage - "Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father's house?" In Nuzi documents, possession of the 'house gods' are considered title to estate (Lerner R407 168). The entire myth of mutual deceit indicates a transfer from matriliny to patriliny in the name of the god of Bethel:
And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad
to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south:
and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed (Gen 28:13).
And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars,
if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be (Gen 15:5).
Jay makes a penetrating analysis of the transition between matrilineal and patrilineal lines of descent, in which sacrifice, or forgone sacrifice, and the paternal blessing were a way of recognizing the more ephemeral male line of descent through the father to the blessed son. The theme of the 'barren' woman in Sarah and Rachel is likewise significant, both in terms of close relative infertility, and the female line of descent it implies. "Israelite tradition did not deny descent from women and consequently faced the dilemma: How is a pure and eternal patriline to be maintained if descent from women is not denied? Endogamy appears to be a solution; marriage to a woman of the same patrilineage ensures the offsprings' patrilineage membership, even if it is figured through the mother. Close agnatic endogamy (marriage within the patriline) is extremely rare, except in Semitic traditions. In a way reminiscent of the Patriarchs, throughout the Arab world, families have preferred men to marry their father's brother's daughters. The descent line of the Patriarchs continued only through endogamy: Isaac and Jacob (but not Ishmael) married endogamously in cousin marriages. Joseph married exogamously but his sons were adopted by Jacob, correcting this, and other, irregularities of their descent".
"The 'Elohist E's account states that Sarah was a half sister of Abraham, having the same father but a different mother. Such a marriage would be impossible in any regular patrilineal descent system. Unless we reject E's account (thereby making the Patriarchs liars) we must see here a recognition of descent from women so pronounced as to be almost matrilineal, for if Abraham and Sarah had the same father but different mothers, it is only as their mothers' offspring that their marriage was not incestuous ... In Hurrian society the bonds of marriage were strongest and most solemn when the wife had simultaneously the juridical status of a sister, regardless of actual blood ties.... The practice was apparently a reflection of the underlying fratriarchal system, and it gave the adoptive brother greater authority than was granted the husband ... The patriarchal narratives tell the story of the resolution of this descent conflict, a resolution in which sacrifice plays a crucial role".
Centrally Abraham's covenant with God is sexually reproductive:
And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly....
And I will make thee exceeding fruitful,
and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. ...
It involves circumcision of the penis as a sacrificial token of male fertility, now thought to be a way of reducing illicit fertilization in polygynous societies:
This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee;
Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin;
and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
Idol with bull's head and phallus - Palestine (Zehren),Timna Phallic teraphim and 'Nehustan' brazen serpent from Midianite period.(Rothenberg R592)
Testifying was likewise, for Abraham, swearing by the testis (L. testis testicle, witness) and hence the entire Old and New Testaments:
"And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, ... Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh: And I will make thee swear by the Lord, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell: But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac. (Gen 24:2).
Malamat (R434 54) comments that the unusual genealogy of Nahor in Gen 22:20-24 suggests that Abraham was originally one of the wandering sons traditionally listed as children of concubines (Ishmael etc.) in the Old Testament as opposed to the blessed sons (Isaac, Jacob). The children of Israel are the wanderers from Aram-Naharaim on the upper Harbur. Such pastoral migrations were noted at Mari.
The Transition to Patriarchy in the Fertile Crescent
The mythology of a variety of our founding cultures displays a consistent trend in which male deities precipitated a transference of power to the male. These events are clearly detectable in the mythologies of cultures from Europe to Sumeria, from Enki in Sumeria, to Zeus in Greece, through Indra in Vedic India. Indo-Europeans had a pantheon of gods and goddesses headed by a sun god and a storm god and the dramatic shifts in the Greek and Dravidian pantheons typified by the turbulent relationship between Zeus and an uncooperative Hera, reflect these changes. Even in the Judeo-Christian tradition, Yahweh was the consort of Anath and Asherah, overthrown only later by the Yahweh-only movement in the reign of Josiah a mere 23 years before the exile. Driving these changes are major shifts of social and sexual power from partnership to frank male domination.
Once large urban societies developed, the rule of law and the patriarchal imperative passed the ascendancy to the male through social and military instruments of power. The males' jealously resulted in adoption of mores which ensured males could secure their own descendents from doubts about paternity which plague the male but are incontestable for the female. The sexual division of the female into two defined archetypes, faithful wife and whore, as illustrated in the game matrix (p 60) is firmly illustrated in the Biblical tradition running from the Proverbs to Revelation.
Male combat become cosmic sex war against the Mother (Cohn R126). Tiamat and Apsu's progeny disturb the peace. Apsu plots to smash them but Tiamat objects and he is 'put to sleep' by Ea. Later when Marduk again disturbs the gods with his storm winds, Tiamat is persuaded to attack and gathers an army of serpents. Marduk agrees to go to war if he gains kingship over all the other gods. Victorious, he splits Tiamat apart to become the Earth and sky. The patriarchal repression of the Mother Goddess is achieved in the victory of civic order over primal chaos in kingship.
We first see this attempt to deny women reproductive choice in legal terms in the Codex Hammurabi where death by drowning is the prescribed punishment for adultery. This initiative continues in Hebrew and Deuteronomic Law, which both prescribed stoning for adultery, and made it contingent on the tokens of virginity in the case of an unmarried girl, thus putting women uniquely in the firing line of male power. One should note how the invocation against adultery cuts unevenly between the sexes. Abraham sired children by both Sarah and Hagar, blessing Isaac and casting out Ishmael. This pattern of blessing one line and sending off another to outcross continued in a tradition in Judaic life in which a man would have a Jewish wife and Gentile concubine. What was not acceptable was any reproductive choice on the part of either the wife, the concubine, or the daughter who had at all costs to maintain her virginity under pain of death until formally married.
By degrees as cultures evolved, the position of women in society steadily deteriorated. In the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition of the West and Near-East, the females eventually became sequestered in the home, in the fields, in the chador and burqa, in harems, nunneries and brothels. The paternally ambiguous conjugal rites of the fertility goddess were repressed , women were treated as sexual possessions. In the Christian era a 600 year Inquisition and witch hunts were pursued, consuming 4 million European women (Walker R721).
Rianne Eisler (R184 216) writes: "The critical factors in politically repressive societies are, first, the repression of female sexual freedom and, second, the distortion of both male and female sexuality through the erotization of domination and violence".
Some of these manifestations resulted in frank sexual despotism. Betzig( R60) notes:
"Things became really extreme when people began to grow crops and live together in towns and villages. The leaders of these early societies ruled by terror, and were able to procure vast numbers of sexual partners. These guys had sexual licence." The record holder, she notes, was Udayama, who reigned in India around 500 BC and had a harem of 16,000. Powerful Romans often purchased female slaves for breeding. Historians assume the fathers of home-bred slaves, or vernae, were other slaves. But Betzig argues that the treatment of vernae only makes sense if they were the sons and daughters of the master himself. They were often educated with the master's children, shared the same wet nurses, and could even inherit his estate. In Europe, little changed for centuries. Huge domestic staffs of the English landed gentry, for instance, were primarily there to satisfy the master's sexual appetites, rather than to cook and clean (New Scientist Feb 22 1997).
Lyall Watson (R735) elaborates in in "Dark Nature":
"Men throughout human history have certainly been quick to treat power, not simply as an end in itself, but as a means to sexual and reproductive success. Laura Betzig, one of a new breed of Darwinian historians, set out to discover whether human sexual adaptations have been exploited to give individuals a selective advantage - and discovered that this is one of our most predictable traits. In all six of the great independent civilizations of early history, the rulers, always men, were despots who translated their power directly into extraordinary sexual productivity. That word 'productivity', usually used in an industrial sense, is totally appropriate here. Each emperor established a carefully controlled breeding machine, designed and dedicated to nothing more than the rapid spread and dominance of his own genes. Hammurabi of Babylon had thousands of slave 'wives'. Akhenaton, Egyptian pharaoh and husband of the gorgeous Nefertiti, was driven nevertheless to recruit at least 317 concubines. Montezuma, the last Aztec ruler, enjoyed the favours of 4,000 young women. Several of the Tang dynasty emperors in China demanded access to a minimum of 10,000 teenage girls. Udayama of India kept 16,000 consorts in palaces ringed by fire and guarded by eunuchs. And all of these rulers ran their gene machines in much the same way, recruiting pre-pubertal girls, pampering them under heavy guard, and servicing them as often as possible - sometimes even complaining of such onerous 'duties'. The measures adopted certainly seem to bear out the claim of duty rather than pleasure, but in a survey of 104 other societies, Betzig found that even when such super-polygamy was not being practised, there was always a direct correlation between power and sexual activity".
Gerda Lerner (R407 212) describes patriarchy as follows:
"Patriarchy is a historic creation formed by men and women in a process which took nearly 2500 years to its completion. In its earliest form patriarchy appeared as the archaic state. The basic unit of its organization was the patriarchal family, which both expressed and constantly generated its rules and values. ... Men as a group had rights in women which women as a group did not have in men. Women themselves became a resource, acquired by men much as the land was acquired by men. Women were exchanged or bought in marriages for the benefit of their families; later, they were conquered or bought in slavery."
"The archaic state in the Ancient Near East emerged in the second millennium BC from the twin roots of men's sexual dominance over women and the exploitation by some men of others. From its inception, the archaic state was organized in such a way that the dependence of male family heads on the king or the state bureaucracy was compensated for by their dominance over their families. Male family heads allocated the resources of society to their families the way the state allocated the resources of society to them. The control of male family heads over their female kin and minor sons was as important to the existence of the state as was the control of the king over his soldiers. This is reflected in the various compilations of Mesopotamian laws, especially in the large number of laws dealing with the regulation of female sexuality. From the second millennium BC, forward control over the sexual behavior of citizens has been a major means of social control in every state society. Conversely, class hierarchy is constantly reconstituted in the family through sexual dominance."
"Male hegemony over the symbol system took two forms: educational deprivation of women and male monopoly on definition. ... On the basis of such symbolic constructs, embedded in Greek philosophy, the Judeo-Christian theologies, and the legal tradition on which Western civilization is built, men have explained the world in their own terms and defined the important questions so as to make themselves the center of discourse."
We shall examine Lerner's thesis in detail in the context of Sumer and successive Near Eastern and European civilizations, which form the central arena of the cultural development of patriarchy in Western culture. We can see first signs of this in the transfer of reproductive power from female and the hieros gamos to purely male fertility:
After he had cast is eye from that spot,
After the father Enki had lifted it over the Euphrates,
He stood up proudly like a rampant bull,
He lifts the penis, ejaculates,
Filled the Tigris with sparkling water ...
The wild cow mooing for its young in the pastures ...
The grain he brought, ... the people eat it ...
(Thompson R688 162)
In Vedantic tradition, this patriarchal fertility take-over extends to the cosmological dominance of conscious spirit over material nature. In the Geeta 14:3 Krishna (an incarnation, of Vishnu the sustainer, who forms a trimurti with Brahma the creator and Shiva the destroyer just like Enki's trinity with An and Enlil), declares to Arjuna the wisdom beyond knowledge, that the sages neither die nor are reborn when the universe is recreated, for it it is He who ferilizes the womb of the cosmos:
The eternal cosmos is My womb, in which I plant the seed,
from which all beings are born
O Prince! O illustrious son of Kunti!
Through whatever wombs men are born,
it is the Spirit itself that conceives, an I am their Father.
This transition is also frequently accompanied by a shift in the emphasis of creation from natural to cultural in mental creations and written language, in the form of the 'word of god' in what Lerner (R407 151) calls the 'symbolification of creation', or in a creation by breath or by naming, rather than birth. We also see it in the establishment of civic gods representing the power of kingship such as Marduk of Babylon and Ashur of Assyria, and in battles for male supremacy such as Marduk slaying Tiamat. They are reflected also in the supremacy of the storm god Ba'al in Canaan and Yahweh in Israel.
The excavations at Ur offer a startling insight into Sumerian society around 2500 BC. The collective burials of kings and their wives, along with retainers in robes of honour, buried alive, apparently without violence, in a state of sedation, with a drinking cup next to each body, offer an insight into the relative status of men and women. Only royal graves show these signs of human sacrifice. Lerner (R407 61) comments:
"The royal tombs at Ur tell us that ruling queens shared in the status, power, wealth, and ascription of divinity with kings. They tell us of the wealth and high status of some women at the Sumerian courts, of their varied craft skills, their obvious economic privilege. But the overwhelming preponderance of female skeletons over male among the buried retainers also speaks to their greater vulnerability and dependency as servants."
In Lagash around 2350 BC, Lugalanda seized power over the most important temples by installing himself and his wife and other members of his family as administrators, rather than a priest. He referred to the temples as the private property of the ruler. He and his wife Baranamtarra became the largest landholders, his wife also having the temple of the goddess Bau and her own estates. He was in turn overthrown by Urukagina, a populist leader acting on behalf of "boatmen, shepherds, fishermen and farmers." He claimed to be acting on behalf of the city god of Lagash to protect the weak and stop high level corruption and abuse of power, but further consolidated the power of kings against the priesthood. His edict is one of the earliest efforts to establish basic rights for citizens. Among his edicts are those against a practice of former times of 'a woman marrying two men', under pain of stoning. A women speaking disrespectfully is to have her mouth crushed with a fired brick. However this may not indicate a worsening of the position of women. The entire operation of the temple of Bau which extended over a square mile and employed over 1000 people the year round was under the legal and economic authority of his wife Shagshag who was also chief priestess. Both slaves and employees were harnessed as fishermen, spinners, wool workers, brewers, millers, kitchen workers, farmers, cowherds, singers, smiths, sometimes wet nurses and cooks (R407 62).
Shortly afterwards, the Semitic King Sargon of Akkad took control of the region and founded a vast empire including Sumer and Ashur, forming garrison cities and making alliances. His daughter Enkheduanna became high priestess of the temples of the moon god Nannar at Ur and supreme god An at Uruk, also fusing in her person the devotion of the goddess Inanna of Uruk and Akkadian Ishtar. Her poetry and hymns to Inanna have long survived her. This pattern of assigning daughters of kings as high priestesses to key temples continued for 500 years (66).
The 'Temptation Seal' Akkadian circa 2200 BC (Brtish Museum) Predates Eden in the seven branched tree of life, the serpent and the archetypal couple. In an evolution to patriarchy we also find Ur-Nammu as king taking over watering the tree of life although he offers libations to both Nannar and Ningal.
Later in the Ur III dynasty, a tradition of dynastic marriages between city states such as Ur and Mari (Batto R50, Dalley R143, Malamat R434) and other cities, involved exchange of women. Although these women were pawns in the families dynastic designs, they were frequently influential, politically active and powerful, despite shifting power struggles for several states and almost continual war from 2000-1800 BC.
Around 1760 BC at Mari royal documents describe a society which allowed elite women great scope in economic and political activities. Women just like men, owned and managed property, could contract in their own name, could sue in court and serve as witnesses. They took part in legal and business transactions such as adoptions, sales of property, the giving and taking of loans. They were scribes, musicians and singers, priestesses, diviners and prophetesses and hence sometimes royal advisers on an equal basis with men. A few women's gifts to the king in tribute indicate they had political standing. The queen, as the principal wife held power in the palace and temple and workshops and acted as a stand in for the king. The king's secondary wives in ranking order were installed in different palaces where their fortunes varied The wife's power, like that of the male vassal, depended on the will and whim of the king. Queen Shibutu, the wife of Zimri-lim "Her role is exceptional both in its scope and in the sheer multiplicity of activities in which she is engaged ... Her influence was felt everywhere. She offered sacrifices, she advised the king and carried out his instructions. She selected slave women for his harem." Of his twenty daughters, eight were married into vassal alliances. Some held influential positions for example as mayor of the vassal city. This marriage involved a stormy relationship between sister co-wives ending in effective divorce. Two were naditum - 'to lie fallow' - priestesses who were forbidden from having children, as dedicated sexually to the gods, but could adopt, and sometimes have husbands. They also brought with them rich dowries to the temple which they could also use as capital to do business and own property (Lerner R407 68).
These expressions of civic government were not shared by other Mesopotamian cultures. Amorite rulers retained many features of their tribal heritage. All authority was kept in the hands of the king, who directly oversaw, or personally delegated, all operations.
Diminishing the Moon: Patriarchal Law Codes
"From that time she, the moon as a female figure has had no light of her own, but derives her light from the sun. At first they were on an equality, but afterwards she diminished herself; for a woman enjoys no honor save in conjunction with her husband". (Zohar 1, 20a)
Throughout these periods and later, acts of warfare, besides resulting in wholesale slaughter, particularly of men, also became a basis for claiming captive populations as slaves. Raping women of a conquered groups was standard practice from the second millennium BC. Male slaves were more dangerous and frequently shackled, or subjected to other injuries such as blinding, castration or branding. Although slavery was a commuted death sentence, the slave experienced both natal and reproductive alienation, severance from kin and lack of parental rights over their offspring and general dishonouring. Women and children were thus selectively taken as slaves, both as labourers, as reproductive units and as prizes to win honour among men. Many of those taken in war became sick or died in transit (Lerner R407 76).
"Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves" (Num 31:17).
An idea of the treatment of slave women in Greece comes from Homer's Odyssey. Odysseus returns from many adventures sexual and otherwise to find a number of 'suitors' have besieged his wife and female slaves. His wife has stalled them off by promising herself when she finished a weaving which she unravels every night, but twelve of his fifty maidservants have been raped. Having bloodily eliminated the suitors he commands his adolescent son to get the twelve to carry out the dead and then to stab them all. He demurs and instead strangles them because of the dishonour they have helplessly brought to the family. Trophy wives were a standard feature of warfare. When his war bride is returned for fear of her priest father's curse, Agamemnon promptly seizes the trophy wife of his captain Achilles, leading her away by the wrist in a traditional sign of the submissive captive wife.
Slavery could also result from becoming indebted to another party. Slaves could be brought and sold at market. As a natural extension of the idea of 'exchange of women' as property, and abduction, a woman slave became the sexual property of her 'master'. He or a member of the family could cohabit with them without assuming the slightest obligation, or hired out as a prostitute. Slave women staffed the brothels as prostitutes and filled the harems of the ancient world. Slave couples could be forcibly separated and consensual 'wives' of slaves were obliged to submit sexually to their 'masters'. Slavery under varying circumstances and numbers is common to societies from Sumeria, through harsher treatment by the Assyrians, to Greece where captured men were frequently all killed and women and children taken captive in numbers. In China from the third century BC to the twentieth century AD, 'buying of concubines' was and established practice. Later in Roman times, formal monogamy existed in a polygnous context of slave concubinage.
Numbers 31 illustrates killing the men and taking the women as slave trophy wives: "And they warred against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses; and they slew all the males. ... And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods."
Deuteronomy 21:10 provides for relatively clement treatment of a woman taken in battle as slave concubine: "When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the Lord thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, and seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house, and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife. And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her."
The practice of using slave women as servants and sex objects became the standard for class dominance over women in all historic periods. Serfs, peasants and workers were expected to serve men of upper class sexually - exemplified by the droit du seigneur - the right of first night, after a master grants the marriage of a serf.
In the Codex Hammurabi CH (Lerner R407 101) a man could offer his wife, children, concubines or slaves for a debt either by outright sale or a pledge, which allowed redemption within a fixed time. Abuse was countered by fines, or in the case of death of the son of a free man, death of the son of the creditor in exchange. Wives and children of a debtor became free after three years, marking an improvement in conditions. A man thus had authority over his wife and children to the point of sale, with slaves and concubines faring worse.
Slave concubines performed a dual service, 'wife' of the master and slave of the mistress. This was of importance given patrilineal inheritance if the betrothed wife failed to deliver an offspring, particularly a son. Such is the case for both Sarai and Rachel:
"Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai ( Gen 16:2 ).
"And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, ... she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her. And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her" (Gen 30:1 ).
In the Codex Hammurabi, a naditum priestess, who could not bear children, could either give her husband her slave girl, in which case the children were considered to be of the first wife, as in Genesis, or he was entitled to a secondary wife. A slave wife who had born sons of the master could not be sold by her mistress but remained a slave. A master might legitimate sons by a slave and if he did not they became free without inheritance on his death. Lerner (R407 93) notes the pattern of freeing concubines who bore sons became incorporated into Islamic law and has become one of the most common features of world slavery.
The Babylonian Codex Hammurabi CH (c1750 BC), the Middle Assyrian laws MA and Hittite laws HL (c1500 BC) and finally Hebrew law of the Biblical Covenant Code BC (c800 BC) show an interesting evolution of social attitudes in Mesopotamia. Each of these cemented legal customs already in existence for several hundred years. In the CH 73 of 282 laws pertain to sex and marriage. In MA 59 out of 112 do indicating increasing stress in this area, with the much greater control of women being striking. Only 26 out of 200 do in HL. Not all these laws coincided with legal practice which tended to follow accepted norms. Neither were all enforceable under the principle of lex talionis - the punishment fitting the crime, such as surgeons having their hands cut off for performing an unsuccessful operation except in extreme cases.
CH deals with three social classes, patricians including priests and officials, the burgher and slaves, with punishments ascending for the severity of the impact each class can have. A great deal of mobility between classes is assumed and much is concerned with the plight of debtors and their families.
Biblical Code allows a male debt slave to go free after six years, with his wife if he married her previously but not if he has during his service: "If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself. And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever" (Ex 21:2)
A woman does not go free. She can however be redeemed if he has not taken her for a concubine, but might be sold into prostitution, although not exported: "And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her. And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish." (Ex 21:7)
In CH the power of a father over his children was unlimited. A son striking his father could have his hand cut off and one renouncing adopted father could have his tongue cut out. In Hebrew law, as in the 'Ten Commandments', this included the mother as well:
"And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death." (Ex 21:15)
If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear (Deut 21:18 ).
Daughters are not mentioned, presumably because they can be married off. The bride price received was usually used to finance the acquisition of a bride for a son. Marriages were usually arranged by the fathers of the groom and bride. Many laws in CH cover the exchange of gifts or money. The groom's father paid the bride's father a betrothal gift (biblum) and a bridal gift (tirhâtum), representing a 'bride price' of the older marriage by purchase. whereupon the couple were considered betrothed. Usually she stayed with her family but sometimes child brides were sent to their in-laws as a servant until the marriage was completed. There are penalties to try to prevent the obvious abuse this situation invites. If the betrothed pair had made love and the father-in-law raped her, he is drowned for adultery. If he does when she was still a virgin, he had to pay a fine and return her and any property or dowry she has provided to the house of her father. She might then marry "a husband after her heart" - a rare provision, probably taking into account her humiliation. Notice also the prospective groom can have sexual relations free of censure. There were also marriages by contract (riksatum), which could endow the wife with certain property rights and conditions in separation and avoid her becoming a debt slave to her husband. After marriage, the bride's father gave her a dowry (seriktum) or settlement (nudunnum) which was administered by the husband for her benefit to be transmitted to her sons and for her use in the case of his death or divorce . A wife divorced for not delivering sons or for illness also has the option of remaining with life time maintenance. If a wife who had not delivered sons died, the dowry and bride price were returned (Lerner R407 106).
Marriages tended towards homogamy - marriage into a similar propertied class. Dowry and settlement money made the marriage more stable by giving both partners an investment. Sons received their father's inheritance and daughters a dowry. Strict supervision of girls' chastity and strong family control over selection of marriage partners maintained the system. A marriage could be dissolved if the girl didn't possess the tokens of virginity.
Virginity was prized in Jewish society. It's mandatory prescription for priestly marriage reflects the staunchly demanding conservatism of the families of many bridegrooms: "And he shall take a wife in her virginity. A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife" (Lev 21:13).
The older form of marriage without joint residence where the wife remains in her father's (or mother's) house and the groom resides with her as an occasional or permanent visitor - the Biblical beena marriage is also noted as a Mesopotamian cultural practice overtaken by patriarchal Hammurabic law. This gave the wife greater autonomy and ease of divorce. The historical evolution appears to be from the beena marriage, towards a Semitic patriarchal marriage by purchase and then to a contract, the latter two preserved in CH. In a society where ownership of agricultural land and herds meant high status, the purpose of marriage became the continuation of the family line and property through sons. Marriage by purchase applied to lower class wives and contract to higher class ones where the bride had wealth.
Marriages were generally monogamous. The older practice of taking a second lower class wife being replaced by slave concubines who were clearly subservient. Men were free to commit adultery with prostitutes, concubines and slave servants. A man could reduce the status of a wife who was "behaving foolishly, wasting her house or belittling her husband" to a slave, divorce her or marry a second wife. A husband could file for divorce at any time but had to return the dowry and up to half his estate. Divorce was for the wife virtually unobtainable. If a husband philandered in a belittling way a wife could sue for divorce, but if her case was unproven she would be drowned. In Hebrew law a man had free right to divorce for an economic penalty, but women were barred. Marriages of the early patriarchs were polygynous, but later monogamous marriage became an ideal as in Mesopotamia with free access to slave 'servants' and gentile concubines, again consistent with the Jewish line being passed down to the children of the legitimate Jewish wife, as was the case with Sarah and Hagar where the son carrying the line is Isaac and not Ishmael, the actual firstborn. Frequent insertions of foreign Y-chromosomes into the Jewish line indicate this pattern of confirming biology in the face of religion has continued over historical time.
The practice of the Jewish line being inherited through the mother may have ben perpetuated under patriarchy because in biblical times (and in Mesopotamia into the middle ages) this practice continued with some Jewish men also taking a gentile wife or concubine in a polygynous family, with only the sons of the Jewish mother having the entitlement. The 'absence of adoption in Jewish law is probably also traceable to the fact that the Law is not in principle oriented to monogamy, and only reckons with the child's natural ties, based on birth. Adoption wasn't necessary in Judaism, since the husband could always entrust several wives with maintaining his ancestral line. A good many civil rights were bound up with a flawless genealogy ... all important public offices of honor and trust were reserved to the full-blooded Israelite. As part of this system, the choice of a wife played a major role. " (Ranke-Heinemann R565 65).
Meyers (R471) says that, despite the patriarchal, male-oriented nature of Yahwistic religion, the counterpoint between public and home life, which valued the home and its emphasis on procreation, gives rise to a centre of female power in the home and in intimate domestic matters. Aschkenasy (R24) has a much bleaker picture of the situation facing women:
"Patriarchal structure provided the woman with protection and shelter. She was declared the sexual mate of one man only, not to be touched by the other males. At the same time, the woman became the chattel of that male, part of his worldly possessions, and she lost her freedom to choose and decide for herself. Two types of feminine oppression come to the fore. ... As a minor and a dependent within the law, the woman found herself, in ancient times, within a legal system that was male-centered and designed to protect men's rights and interests. The woman also existed in a certain social and cultural ambience, not defined by the law, in which her femininity-her ability to arouse desire in man, and her reproductive powers-was regarded with a mixture of awe and jealousy. This resulted in a situation where the woman's sexuality was both guarded and exploited, and where she was often seen as a being tyrannized by her own anatomy, who had to pay the price not only for her own excesses but for those she may have aroused in the male".
She points out that "a husband who suspects his wife of infidelity, but has no proof of it, may require her to submit to a humiliating ordeal. If she is found to be innocent, the husband will have to pay no penalty for his false accusation."
If "he be jealous of his wife, and she be defiled; ... or not. Then shall he bring his wife to the priest. ... And he shall cause the woman to drink the bitter water that causes the curse, ... Then it shall come to pass, that, if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that the water that causes the curse shall enter into her and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall fall away, and the woman shall be a curse among her people". (Num. 5:11-28).
Women were unclean by virtue of menstruation and were thus barred being priests. Although women were allowed to read the Torah at congregational services they were forbidden to read lessons in public in order to 'safeguard the honour of the congregation'. In the first century AD Rabbi Eliezer said 'Rather should the words of the Torah be burned than entrusted to a woman'. It was for much the same reason that in the Synagogue women were seated apart from men. ... Their exclusion from the priesthood was based on their supposed uncleanness during menstruation as defined in Leviticus 15, a taboo which extends into the Christian church. A priest in Leviticus 21, 22 was to be clean and holy at all times to enter office (Haskins R297 12). Leviticus 12 extends uncleanliness to between 40 days after childbirth for a son and 80 for a daughter.
A wife having sexual relations with any other man commits adultery. A man, by contrast, married or not, commits adultery only by taking another man's wife. The penalty for adultery in CH was death by drowning for both parties, if taken before the king. The husband had the right to see his wife live. MA is more sadistic. A man can save his wife's life, but cut off her nose. The male lover is then turned into a eunuch and his face disfigured. In HL a man can kill his wife and the adulterer himself and not be punished, as in tribal customs. If he brings the case to court he can grant their lives but otherwise the king shall decide.
Death is also ordained in Hebrew Law: "And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death" (Lev 20:10 ).
In Deuteronomic Law and in its inherited sequel in Islamic Law, the penalty for adultery is death by stoning, both for promiscuity before marriage and after it: "But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house: ... If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel" (Deut 22:20).
The pattern here and in continuing passages is as follows. If a girl is engaged and gets married and the husband says she wasn't a virgin and the girl's parents have the tokens of virginity (the bloody bed sheet), he gets a fine and becomes a slave of the father-in-law. But if they can't find these tokens when accused, she is stoned to death. If a married woman commits adultery, both she and her lover are killed. If a betrothed virgin is raped in town she is also stoned because she didn't cry out. Only a virgin in the fields gets saved because no one could hear her. She is then forced into an indissoluble marriage with the rapist.
Rape, for example that of Dinah, is not seen in terms of the emotional damage it may cause to a woman, especially a young girl, and the perpetrator is not regarded as a vicious criminal. He must simply marry the girl, and make the appropriate marriage gift to her father. In matters of the heart, too, only the male's point of view is considered.
"Jewish girls usually got engaged when they were twelve or twelve and a half years old. ... An engagement was the first phase of getting married, which was followed after somewhat more than a year by the bride's being taken to her fiancee's home. Engagement counted as marriage, not de facto but de jure: The fiancee was already the man's wife. If the man died before bringing her home, she was already his widow. Infidelity by the fiancee was considered adultery. If the husband demanded that she be taken before the court and punished, a harsh sentence loomed ahead: A girl between twelve years and a day up to twelve years and six months would be stoned along with her lover. An older girl would be strangled; a younger one was considered a minor and went unpunished" (Ranke-Heinmann R565 65-6).
Ranke-Heinmann notes that the scribes added on conditions to the penal provisions for adultery by the fiancee, reducing its likelihood. At least two witnesses had to prove that they had warned the adulterous pair about the consequences facing them, and the couple had nevertheless continued in their sin. ... Yet executions did take place. Records note an engaged daughter of a priest was burned to death for adultery around AD 35 (R565 35-6).
"And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire" (Lev 21:9).
In CH a woman merely accused of adultery if so accused by her husband could swear by a god her innocence, but if accused by the locals, she was thrown in the river to sink or swim for her husband. In MA allows for a man's wife to be ordered to be publicly flogged, her breasts torn off, or her ears, or nose cut off by officials. A man may [scourge] his wife, pluck [her hair], bruise and destroy [her] ears with no liability.
In CH a widow with sons was favoured, protected by having permanent residence in her sons house. A propertied widow could if she chose return to her fathers house with her dowry and bride price, provided her sons are provided for. By by the time of MA "a young widow shall be who has no sons shall be given either to one of her husband's brothers or to his father. Only if there was no man to take her, could she "go whither she wishes".
The Decalogue lists a wife among the man's possessions, twixt house, slaves and cattle: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's" (Ex 20:17)
The preservation of the family line in the tribal patrimony rested with the patriarchal head of the family and usually fell to the eldest son. If there was no son it could fall to daughters, but they would have to marry into their tribe so their portion was not transferred out (Num 27:7-8, 36:6-9). If the owner died childless the inheritance went to his brother, uncle or nearest kinsman. This is reflected in the Jewish levirate where a widow was family property which was not allowed to lie fallow if the deceased had died without a male heir and the brother of the deceased could become her husband and sire heirs in his stead.
Inheritance through the female line and its relation to the levirate is elaborated in the story of Tamar. Judah's daughter-in-law Tamar (Gen 38) is left to confront widowhood because none of her surviving brothers-in-law will perpetuate their brother's line (Fox R221 407). Judah had children by the Canaanite Shuah, but his firstborn Er, Tamar's husband, was wicked and was slain. When asked to fertilize Tamar, Onan then spilled his seed on the ground to avoid 'giving it to his brother' in a sign of coitus interruptus rather than masturbation. Judah then says Tamar can have his son Shelah, but fails to come to the party. Tamar discards her widows garments, covers her face with a veil and sits in a public place. "When Judah saw her, he thought her to be a harlot because she had covered her face." She then keeps his signet, bracelets and staff as security for his payment of a sheep. She conceives by Judah. He condemns her to be burned to death for being pregnant by harlotry, but when she reveals his possessions, he realizes "that the child is his and that she has gained a well-merited heir by trickery". He acknowledges "She is more righteous than I"
CH deals with abortion and induced miscarriage as follows: a fine of ten shekels for a patrician's daughter and five for a burgher's. If the daughter dies it is death of the aggressor's daughter in the case of a patrician and a fine for a burgher's daughter. MA sees the wife of an aggressor having the fruits of her womb destroyed and an assault causing miscarriage of a first born son results in death for the aggressor. In both laws lex talionis applies. HL has a graded series of fines according to the age of the fetus. Hebrew law stipulates both fines and retribution on the same principle of 'an eye for an eye'.
In MA, with no precedent, a woman causing her own miscarriage is to be impaled and not buried - the ultimate penalty equivalent to that of treason. Although infants were subject to exposure after birth, this was the right of the father. Thus the mother, in usurping the right of the father, has upset the entire patriarchal order, from king to paterfamilias.
Iwan Bloch noted "prostitution appears among primitive people wherever free sexual intercourse is curtailed and limited. It is nothing else than a substitute for a new form of primitive promiscuity". Engels suggests "hetaerism derives quite directly from group marriage, from the ceremonial surrender by which women purchased the right of chastity [sacred prostitution] ... Among other people hetarism derives form the sexual freedoms allowed girls before marriage. ... With the rise of inequality of property ... wage and slave labour ... and as its necessary correlate, the professional prostitution of free women side by side with the forced surrender of the slave" seeing it to be a complement to monogamous marriage in patriarchal society predicting its demise with the rise of social property (Lerner R407 123-4).
The actual origin of our own terms is intriguing and informative. 'Whore' is an ancient European word huor whose root is 'adultery' and possibly relates to Latin carus 'dear' (cf charity). 'Prostitute' literally means pro- before -statuere cause to stand - expose publicly consistent with Assyrian law (p 201) requiring prostitutes and slaves to be unveiled.
Gerda Lerner (R407 127) notes a sequence from the highest en priestesses through naditum dedicated as consorts of the gods, to qadishtum who were lower ranking temple servants and finally harimtu, slave prostitutes attached to the temple. The goddess Ishtar is also referred to as a qadishtu. Harimtu are also associated with taverns and Ishtar is their patroness:
"When I sit in the entrance of a tavern, I, Ishtar am a loving harimtu" (Lerner R407 131).
Qadesh which has connotations of holy as 'sacred prostitute' is illustrated in the naked love goddess in Hathor head-dress standing on lion in the manner of Ishtar (p 181), also epitomized in many of the female goddess figures scattered throughout Israel-Palestine. She traditionally holds a lotus in her right hand and two snakes in her left, indicating renewal of life. Asherah, the old supreme wife of Canaanite El, and reluctant mother of Ba'al, was imported into Egypt, along with Anath, in the 13th Century BC as Qodshu, or Qedeshat. Rameses II called himself a companion of Anat (Warner R727 118). Asherah and Anath were paired with Yahweh at Gezeh and Elephantine. Asherah or 'the grove' stood before the Hebrew temple until the time of Josiah in the form of a tree or pole. Hathor also manifests as a golden cow or calf and has a strong presence in Sinai, from Serabit to Timna and Palestine from Hazor to Byblus.
Like Miriam, Hathor beats a timbrel or tambourine and like Mirian she is associated with water, issuing the waters of life from her sacred sycamore tree: "and the Lord brought again the waters of the sea upon them; but the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea. And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously" (Ex 15:19)
In Hebrew a prostitute is kadoshet, and it is at Qadesh that Miriam dies and Moses is cursed for not striking the waters in Yahweh's name:
"and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there.
And there was no water for the congregation" (Num 20:1)
In the accounts of Herodotus in the fifth century BC and later Strabo, Babylonian women were expected to prostitute themselves for the love goddess in return for a silver coin, after which no gift, however great, would prevail. One can see this as a token of female inscrutability characteristic of neolithic matrilineal societies who followed the beena marriage and unmarried sexual freedom as illustrated in the Canela (p 168). The token ceremony of promiscuity is then followed by marital compliance in the later patriarchal age. Thousands of Dalit (untouchable) girls in India are still consecrated to sacred prostitution in the name of the Goddess (p 294), often at the behest of Brahmin elders.
What has been called the 'oldest profession' harks back to the wild primal man Enkidu, 'tamed' by the harimtu Shamhat:
and he possessed her ripeness.
She was not bashful as she welcomed his ardour.
She laid aside her cloth and he rested upon her.
She treated him the savage, to a woman's task,
as his love was drawn unto her.
Like the Eden myth (p 211), McElvaine (R457 96) sees Enkidu's role as that of a reluctant primal hunter, drawn into the woman's arts of sexuality and civilized agriculture, later becoming mortally weakened by his new wisdom. Enkidu then curses the gateway through which he came and Shamhat for removing him from wild freedom in nature, consigning her to the seamy role of a street prostitute, rejecting her wiles in a statement of male rebellion, before forgiving her at Shamash's behest in coming to terms with civilization. Lerner emphasizes Shamhat's as a civilizing role, pleasing to the Gods - a woman's task not set off from others of the female sex, which attests as much to her original higher status and to the emergence of patriarchal sexual service based on slavery of women by debt and conquest.
Spintria, Roman brothel tokens, display various services in relation to the obverse value of the coin.
When we come to Assyrian law (Lerner R407 134) we are dealing with a frankly militaristic patriarchal society in which a clear wedge has been driven between virgin daughters and commercial prostitutes. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws which cover the earliest regulations known concerning the veiling of women. MA asserts that neither wives, daughters, nor widows of seigniors who go out in the street may have their heads uncovered. A concubine who goes with a mistress must cover herself. A married sacred prostitute must be covered but an unmarried one uncovered. A harlot or a girl slave must not veil herself. Sexually assigned women are thus to be veiled as 'private'. Others are 'public women'. The penalty for a harlot veiling herself was severe - to be stripped, flogged and tarred on the head, but her jewelry is untouched. A slave girl would be stripped and have her ears cut off. This has become an affair of state security and any man who failed to report it was treated similarly. Unlike in Islam, there is no specific penalty for a respectable woman being unveiled. Presumably social pressures were sufficient to cause 'respectable' women to avoid the harassment of 'publicity'. This represents an outstanding example of class-based discrimination applied to women on the basis of their ownership by men and their sexuality.
While feminist authors like Lerner demur at the negative connotations of 'prostitution' and seek to distinguish it from the fertility rites of the hieros gamos as a higher calling in the name of the fertility goddess, later sullied by patriarchal commercial exploitation, even questioning Herodotus' account, we need to understand that the confusion of paternity is central to all fertility rites, from the masked faces in Beltane to those in Biblical times, on every high hill and under every green tree, and the ritual prostitution of every woman before marriage at the blue gates of Babylon, all of which involve female promiscuity.
Greece is central to the development of Western civilization in terms of philosophy and science and the development of historical thought, all of which became separated from religion by the sixth and fifth centuries BC. As was the case in Mesopotamia and Israel, Greece was a patriarchal class-driven society with slavery, in which women were excluded from political life and were lifelong minors under the guardianship of a male. City states were established and defended on the basis of a phalanx of male defenders who fostered a spirit of egalitarianism, responsibility and discipline. We can thus see a paradoxical link between egalitarian democracy and hierarchical patriarchy - all things being equal, but among men only. The right to a voice in public affairs thus spread from the nobles to all citizens having the means to equip themselves. However this definition resulted in the exclusion of women. Premarital and marital chastity were strictly enforced on women, but their husbands were free to enjoy sexual gratification from lower class women, heterae, slaves and young men. In Sparta both men and women figured in the equality of the phalanx women as necessary bearers of children. Adultery and legitimacy were not so clearly defined as in Athens. Other cities associated oligarchy as opposed to democracy with the higher status of women. Reacting to increasing class divisions caused by commercial development of agriculture, the laws of Draco and Solon laid the foundations of democracy in the classical age.
Hesiod's theogeny describes in mythical terms the rise of patriarchy and the suppression of the female's role on procreation. First comes primal Chaos and in turn Gaia the Earth Goddess and Eros the god of sexual desire. The sky god Uranos is created parthenogenetically by Gaia, whom she made her equal in grandeur, so he might surround her and cover her completely and be a secure home for the blessed gods forever. Uranos tries to prevent a challenge from his son Kronos, by hiding his children in the womb of Gaia. But she and Kronos castrate Uranos and overthrow him. Kronos fearing in turn he will be overtaken by his sons with Rhea, swallows them alive. Rhea hides her son Zeus in a cave protected by Gaia. When he is grown, Zeus overthrows Kronos and to avoid suffering the same fate, swallows his wife Metis thus preventing her bearing a son, but in the same process assimilating to himself her power of procreativity. He is thus able to give birth to Athena. We thus see not just woman but the very capacity of women to contribute to the nature of the offspring unraveled by the patriarchy (Lerner G R407).
Aeschylus' "Eumenides" or "Furies" lays waste to the last defense of Mother Goddess power against the patriarchy. Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter Iphigenia to propitiate the wind god on his journey to defeat Troy. On his return, his wife Clymenestra kills him in revenge. Their son Orestes then kills his mother for treason against the king. The furies excuse her actions on the primacy of mother-right "The man she killed was not of her own blood." Orestes then asks "But am I of my mother's?" The furies retort "She nourished you in her own womb. Do you disown your mother's blood?" To which Apollo replies, speaking directly of the penis:
"The mother is not the true source of life.
We call her the mother, but she is more the nurse,
The furrow where the seed is thrust.
The thruster, the father is the true parent:
The woman but tends the growing plant".
Left: Zeus abducts his great-grandson Ganymede in an incestuous homosexual act of paedophilia to become his lover and cup bearer on Olympus. 470 BC Temple of Zeus, Olympia. Right Priapos (god Bes) c500 BC from a brothel in Ephesus.
Athena then chimes in with her 'virgin' birth from Zeus to prove the point, banishing the furies and mother-right and freeing Orestes (Lerner R407 205, Friedman R227 19). Apollo in his free-wheeling chauvinism was renowned for rape and abandonment "What's wrong with him? He rapes young girls, then takes off? He fathers children secretly and then lets them die" says Euripedes (Hrdy R330 239). This false 'maternal' birth from Zeus continues with the second Dionysus, born out of the knee of Zeus, after he has copulated with human Semele and she is killed by a bolt of lightning after asking to see him in his full power, leading to a parallel with Yeshua born of the human 'virgin' Mary by the father god Abba.
Having swallowed Metis, the avowedly polygynous Zeus marries Themis goddess of order, spawning the fates and then his own sister Hera, herself a much more ancient fertility goddess, after whom the heroes were named (Walker R721 392). However the women didn't take this frontal assault lying down. The turbulent and tempestuous sex war between Zeus and Hera becomes a principal source of conflict in Greek mythology. Hera is now depicted as a jealous wife pursuing Zeus for his multiple philandering and pederastic ways. Zeus became so angry with Hera that he attached anvils to her legs and hung her from Mt. Olympus. Hera, the disaffected matriarch in the dysfunctional family whom Zeus heads, has remained stranded, strung upside down ever since, their 'sacred marriage' lying at the very heart of the 'deadlock of wedlock' in Greek culture (Willis R748 132).
Aristotle took up the theme of women as 'mutated males' accepting that women also contributed catamenia a female discharge comparable to semen but in need of working up by the more active semen. Females to him were too 'reptilian' - too cold in the blood to produce a fully viable fertility substance, passive rather than active in creation, in affinity with primitive matter. Man is thus the maker and woman just the 'labourer'. The female as a 'mutilated' male was thus seen as devoid of 'soul' and liable to give birth to monstrosities, leading to a view that the entire female anatomy, and with it the vagina and uterus, was a kind of inverted penis, reflecting in a male dominant myth the homology of the sex organs (p 358). Running counter to this trend, Plato in the voice of Socrates in his "Republic" advocates equal education for girls and boys, freeing guardian women from housework and child care, but the aim of this was the destruction of the family in the interests of the state. The idea that only the male was procreative, made iconic in McElvaine's (R457) "Eve's Seed", spilled over into excessive absorbtion with male sexuality in men loving men, and 'passing on one's manhood' to under-age boys. Pederasty was an institution sanctioned by the Olympian gods and mythical heroes. Zeus, Apollo, Poseidon and Heracles all had pederastic experiences. So did many of the most illustrious real-life Greeks including Solon, Pythagoras, Socrates and Plato. The act was part of the foundation of an elitist, military culture that elevated the idea of the penis beyond biology and religion to the rarefied heights of philosophy and art. The pederastic act was the culmination of a one-on-one mentoring aimed at passing on arete a set of manly virtues including courage, strength, fairness and honesty. Believing Anaxagoras, in a bid to father only sons, men even had their left testicle removed.
Left: Greek Dionysian Statue Right: Homosexual lovers in the gymnasium
The city and country were dotted with Hermae, posts with the head of Hermes and marked at the mid-point by an erection. When the Athenians prepared to attack Sicily in 415 BC, in an apparent war protest by women the penises of hundreds of the city's hermae were smashed off. The Sicilian invasion failed and Athens' defeat by Sparta confirmed the men's worst fears. When Dionysus introduces drink to a farmer Icarius, he is killed by his friends who fear they are poisoned. In revenge Dionysus appears as a beautiful boy who vanishes leaving them with priapism, which the Delphic oracle ordains can be cured only by carrying penises in Dionysus's honour. In a Dionysian festival in Alexandria around 275 BC there was a golden phallus 180 feet long topped with a gold star. Following the penis was a golden statue of Zeus and fifty thousand foot soldiers (Friedman R227 19).
Lefkowitz (R405) explains Greek patriarchy as a result of the Athenians' obsession with racial purity and with keeping the city's wealth in the hands of its own citizens: "It was their pursuit of pure citizenship that made them obsess about the patrilineal bloodline. To control those lines they had to control women directly. They had to know who the fathers were."
In the backdrop of female resentment towards the Greek patriarchy lurks a mythical matriarchy whose possible existence as a culture has recently received new credibility:
"We are riders; our business is with the bow and the spear,
and we know nothing of women's work." Herodotus IV, 114
Numerous myths and legends grew up around women or tribes of women in ancient times, who either fought alongside or alone against men. The Greeks and Romans called some of these Amazons. They gained their warlike reputation because of reported attacks they launched on the lands of Greece and Asia Minor. According to one classical account, they were besieging Troy when Archilles killed their queen, Penthesilea, and then fall in love with her dying face. They were given credit for founding many cities such as Ephesus, Smyma, Cyme and Myrine. Monuments and tombs are ascribed to them on the plains and mountains about Thermodon. The Amazons were eventually driven from these cities. By all accounts, the principal land of the Amazons lay in the plains north east of the Black Sea near the Caucasus Mountains. The Greeks said that the Amazons were a self-sufficient society of women without men, in which women ploughed the fields, looked after cattle and particularly trained horses. They reported that this society was the result of a rebellion of women who, in company with some other rebellious women from the Greek related cities of the Thacians and Euboeans, set up their own army and founded independent settlements. They were said to be consecrated to Cybele, the Mother Goddess of Nature, whose rites included much dancing and music. These were traditionally presided over in the Middle East by priestesses including some who were 'transgendered' castrated men. For procreation they had an agreement with the neighbouring Gargarian people (whom Gimbutas accused of having introducing patriarchy to Europe some 2 to 4 millennia earlier) to meet once a year at a spring festival ritual held on a mountain between their territories. Afterwards the Amazons would lie in the dark with Gargarian men selected at random for the purpose of gendering children. The boys born from these encounters would be returned to the Gargarians. They also hunted on horseback and made their shields, helmets and clothes from the skins of animals. They used a wide range of weapons including the bow and arrow, the sagaris and especially the javelin. It was said, in accounts that they would cut off their right breast if it interfered with their throwing of the javelin (Roberts R587).
New excavations from a time contemporary with classical Greece (c 500 BC), at Pokrovka on the Kazakh-Russian steppes have yielded evidence that women among the Sauromatian and Early Sarmatian (Early Nomad) tribes are warriors (Davis-Kimball R150). Because they are located much further to the east of the north Black Sea region where the ancient Herodotus gathered his information, the female warriors at Pokrovka were most probably not the Amazons that this ancient Greek historian wrote about in the 5th century B.C. The populations in this region are Indo-Europoids and spoke an Indo-Iranian language. A skull of one such women was reconstructed. At this early date there is no Mongoloid admixture.
Offerings in the burials in their 'kurgans' or burial mounds that the nomads needed for their journey to the next world included ordinary household objects, religious and cultic items, horse trappings, and weaponry for both men and women alike. Male roles are predominently warriors, although there is a wide variety from rich to poor. Three quarters of women in domestic burials have many imported artifacts including gold-covered bronze earrings, imported jet, and other semi-precious stone beads, as well as faience and magical glass eyebeads. They also frequently contained spindle-whorls. The women's occupations during their lifetime run the gamut from housewife, to herder, to priestess 7%, to warrior horsewoman 15%. Two cemeteries had significant numbers of female burials with mortuary offerings indicating they were priestesses of various degrees of rank or importance. Gold artifacts including animals style plaques and temple pendants, fossilized sea shells, a beautiful bronze mirror, and a ceremonial altar were all part of her accoutrements. The burial of one young female warrior contained 40 bronze arrowheads in a quiver and an iron dagger. At an average of five foot six, the women were exceedingly tall for their time. (Modern American women average five foot four); the skeleton itself had bowed leg bones, possibly, Davis-Kimball speculated, from a lifetime spent in the saddle. Lodged beneath the rib cage of another was a bent arrowhead--testimony, perhaps, to a violent death in battle. The occurrence of such a large class of woman warriors among these graves which relate strongly to an Indo-Aryan culture raises very significant problems about identifying the early Aryans who migrated into wide aras from Greece to India with the onset of patriarchy.
However patriarchal dominance became a theme across almost all developed cultures. Patriarchal cultural patterns became established and continued uninterrupted to the present day from China through Asia and Mesopotamia to Europe. In Vedic India, gods of thunder such as Indra and those of marital conformity, such as Vishnu and Shri, who epitomized the model Indian wife, loyal and submissive to her husband, continued in Vishu's many incarnations, including Rama and Sita, who immolated herself to prove her chastity, only to be abandoned by her husband even though she was innocent to avoid tarnishing his family name. Brahmanic widows were expected to throw themselves on their husband's funeral pyres in the name of Sati the faithful chaste wife, in the rite of suttee, young wives were frequently burned for their dowries, and high class girl infants were frequently killed at birth. In China, women remained marginal outsiders in their kin groups. While men 'belonged in' a household or lineage, women 'belonged to' males who had acquired rights in them. Foot-binding became a symbol of the confined upper-class woman rationalizing the fact that she didn't need to serve by her own actions. Paradoxically, under certain circumstances, concubines could rise to the highest positions in society. Some became empresses and the mothers of kings. As in many other places, male slaves were castrated for harem service. The wives and children of criminals were subject to enslavement. In Rome the male head of the family continued to hold rights of life and death over his children as the paterfamilias until 312 AD when Christian Constantine finally banned it. However the historical theologian Constance Parvey writes, "within the Roman Empire in the first century AD many women were educated, and some were highly influential and exercised great freedom in public life." There were still legal restrictions. Roman women had to have male guardians and were never given the right to vote. But, particularly in the upper classes, women increasingly entered public life. Some took up the arts. Others went into professions such as medicine. Still others took part in business, court, and social life, engaged in athletics, went to theaters, sporing events, and concerts, and traveled without being required to have male escorts.
Although the seemingly commensurate ideal of monogamous marriage between husband and wife became gradually upheld by Christian influences, despite the polygynous practices of European societies, such as the Visigoths who sacked Rome, the doctrine of coverture (covering; shelter; defense; hiding) inherited from feudal Norman custom, proclaimed that wives were the property of their husbands, the rights of the husbands being unlimited and permanent. Marriage thus dissolved all independent rights of a woman under the law. The pattern of repression of women and of feminine religious motifs continued unabated in the Inquisition and witch hunts (p 246), and in the exploitation of women as female serfs, servants and sexual surrogates, to the 20th century. In closing, Gerda Lerner (R407) comments:
"Today, historical development has for the first time created the necessary conditions by which large groups of women - finally, all women - can emancipate themselves from subordination. Since women's thought has been imprisoned in a confining and erroneous patriarchal framework, the transforming of the consciousness of women about ourselves and our thought is a precondition for change. We have opened this book with a discussion of the significance of history for human consciousness and psychic well-being. History gives meaning to human life and connects each life to immortality, but history has yet another function. In preserving the collective past and reinterpreting it to the present, human beings define their potential and explore the limits of their possibilities. We learn from the past not only what people before us did and thought and intended, but we also learn how they failed and erred."