Essay and Illustration Corinna Heumann – In the worship of their deities the social structure of a society is reflected. At special sites, at the archaeological temple districts of the matrons in the forests of the Eifel region, one finds fresh offerings, flowers, fruits, candles and jewelry at all seasons. Are these little objects indications that parts of our society believe in goddesses? Are the mythical aspects of humanity today deliberately marginalized in such a way that they can only be lived in remote places? Is there a new longing for the experience of nature in art and culture? Could it act as an ethical corrective to threatening developments?
Matriarchies as early historical social organizations
The earliest social organizations in Stone Age Europe are thought to have been matriarchies. Unlike the patriarchal system of oppression of women, however, these did not involve domination over men. Rather, they were a division-of-labor order based on communal principles in which both sexes held equal hierarchical positions. Couple relationships were complementary. The partners shared everything. In the Neolithic period, with the advent of agriculture, women’s influence in arts, crafts, and social functions reached its peak. The (matrilineal) right of descent resulted from maternal succession.
The enthroned goddess was a metaphor for the mistress of nature and the community. She was worshipped as macrocosm and life-giver. Her image, that of the great clan mother in the circle of her advisors, symbolized a community structured into collective units. The woman as mother was the social center. Agricultural property was in female collective ownership.
No father concept
A comparable concept of the father was not known in the culture of the Stone Age (until about 12,000 BC). Male deities were the companions of the goddesses. As a complement to the Lady of Nature, the shaman appeared on the scene as the Lord of Nature. In spring, the mythical union of the goddess with her fertilizing partner took place. At harvest, the ripe fruit was born. The pregnant goddess, unfolding in harmony with vegetation, represented death and renewal. As the Lady of Nature, she followed a cosmic pattern that corresponded to the endless cycles of life, the phases of the moon and the seasons. She protected wild plants and the arable soil.
Matriarchies continue to exist
An interdisciplinary approach that explores the cultural development of Europe from its Indo-European, Minoan, Greek, and Roman roots shows that matrilineal cultures were never entirely taken over by patriarchal systems of rule. Matristic beliefs (Marija Gimbutas) have survived to the present day in diverse folk customs throughout Europe. In rural areas of Germany, for example, the May Queen and May King are married to each other on May 1 each year. Or, women rule at least one day of the year, as in the Rhenish Weiberfastnacht. In Slavic countries, the belief that one must respect the earth and not spit on it or hit it survived into the 20th century
Connection to nature
The most original, authentic and deeply human dream is to live in harmony with nature, to understand and preserve it. The ancient worship of Mother Earth, represented in the Goddess, is grounded in the conviction that the regenerative capacity of nature deserves deep respect. She views the entire universe as the breathing, living force of her divinity. Demeter, Persephone, the Germanic Nerthus, the Baltic Zemes Mate, Radegund, Macrine, Walpurga, Matrons, Mary, and the representations of the black Madonnas, whose dark color embodies the fertile soil of the fields, are still familiar to us.
Wealth and happiness
To this day, living in harmony with the cycles of nature embodies vitality, renewal and rebirth, health and continuity of life. Representations of the goddess serve as a metaphor for the desire for wealth and happiness. Her rich robes, hoods and turbans, precious cloaks held by valuable clasps, well-groomed and luxuriant open hair circumscribe it. For a while the matrilineal culture of Stone Age Europe continued on the island of Crete, as an enchanted fairy world (Knossos) as the most perfect affirmation of the grace of life the world has ever seen (Sir Leonard Wooley).
Patriarchy and Monotheism as Anomalies of History
Partiarchy and the power imbalance between men and women are anomalies of history. History is a nightmare from which we are trying to wake up, said Stephen Dedalus in a novel by James Joyce. Did patriarchy begin with the Fall of Man in the Bible or already with the competition between Cain and Abel? Has it finally been overcome today by the legal and economic equality of women and their regained independence?
In the Information Age the women‘s movement pushed forward. Far beyond legal and economic equality, important aspects of female independence have been restored: extended mobility without having to give up protective networks and alliances, constant contact with their children cared for by others even at a distance, self-determined sexuality.
Humans as mixed beings between nature and culture
In their existence as mixed beings, free human beings are changeable, capable of development and the capacity to shape their lives in a self-determined way. Culture is the decisive factor. The cultural developments in free, highly technical societies based on the division of labor show that new and at the same time very old forms of social cooperation are being explored. The concept of ownership in favor of a culture of sharing is being questioned. Traditional hierarchies with their power imbalances are being replaced by new cooperative forms of work and life. Technological progress and international agreements are being implemented to counter the exploitation of natural resources in order to develop alternative sources of food and energy. Natural habitats are respected and increasingly protected.
The DNA of the Stone Age
The free and flexible DNA of self-determined Stone Age women hunters, gatherers and goddesses could not be erased over the millennia. It becomes visible again in the small offerings at the matron monuments in the Eifel region in the 21st century. The veneration of nature and its artistic processing sense the emotional structure of our human spirit in contrast to artificial intelligence. Its tremendous computing power can, for example, credibly represent the various models of climate change in order to get some idea of future developments. But, it remains a one-sided system excluding a variety of valuable truths. The universe of human emotion is the basis of a creativity that manifests itself in ancient and at the same time new representations of goddesses.