Societies of Peace: Matriarchies Past, Present and Future
Edited By: Heide Goettner-Abendroth
In a time when it seems we have lost our sense of humane, egalitarian living Societies of Peace: Matriarchies past, present and future stands out as a guide to what we can learn from matriarchies in order to save ourselves from self destruction.
This book is a collection of the presentations from the two World Congresses on Matriarchial studies. The lecturers spoke about matriarchal theory and politics, the origins of patriarchy , and profiled historical and present day matriarchs. What you will learn from the first part is that matriarchs vary ideologically from patriarchs in four main societal sectors. Politically, matriarchies are free of power structures. Everyone in the clan has one vote and decisions are based on consensus. Hence, the society is politically egalitarian which allows for a balanced economy, the second variance from patriarchies. Most of these economies are agriculturally based making wealth hoarding impossible. Also, hospitality, compassion for those less fortunate is valued in the societies. Thus, without the ability to accumulate wealth, there is very little conflict or war. Socially, the mother is the center of society. Becoming a woman, being pregnant, giving birth and becoming a grandmother are sacred foundations of matriarchies. Clans all live together in the same house and family lineage is marked through the maternal bloodline. Daughters do not leave their homes. Rather, husbands join their wives’ clans. This social model is founded in the role spirituality plays. Spirituality is based on an omnipotent goddess, the creator of all and is manifested in every living person, plant and animal. From daily tasks to festivals, worship takes place making spirituality an integral part of the society.
The following seven parts of the book serve as examples of these differences in practice through individual community studies divided by global regions. My favorite essays included one describing the economic success of the Juchitán people in Mexico and the profile on the Islamic Berber women of Northern Africa .In “Matriarchal Principles for Economies and Societies of Today,” author Veronica Bennholdt-Thompson describes what the patriarchal Western economy can learn from the Isthmus-Zapotec community of southern Mexico. The market prices fluctuate depending in the customers’ loyalty to the vendor, thus encouraging a tight-knit, community–based economy. Bennholdt-Thompson also comments that Western woman finding salvation in wage working is alienating and unnatural. Rather, women are inherently linked to creation and thus not realizing their role as a giver of life is a betrayal of their female existance.
Author Makilam describes the influence of modern Islam on the ancient spiritual practices of the Berber people of modern day Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. The Berber language is only spoken, not written, so spirituality is passed down by elders who are considered living holy books. Accordingly, older tribal spiritual practices still have modern-day influence. These spoken word histories are called Taqbaylit which is also the same word for “woman.” Despite French colonization of the region and conversion into Islam, the traditions of this society still remain a stronghold.
The last remaining sections of the book offer theories of the origins of patriarchies. In “Saharasi: The Origins of Patriarchal Authoritarian Culture in Ancient Desertification,” James Demeo credits droughts, starvation and malnutrition for the fall of matriarchies in central Africa. The human body, when put under such circumstances, has less emotional and sexual energy putting a strain on the process of pregnancy, the ultimate foundation of the creation based matriarchies.
This collection of essays truly is fascinating on an anthropological level but also as a call to action on how to create a true, egalitarian and peaceful society.