Wednesday 8 October 2014

The Mother Goddess delusion - trascendental inversion with reference to Neolithic temples (etc)

The idea that ancient societies were Matriarchal and worshipped a Mother Goddess has been extremely popular in neo-pagan circles for about five generations. I certainly used to accept it - having imbibed it from Robert Graves The White Goddess, and seen much the same thing seemingly-confirmed in other literary, anthropological and archaeological works.

It isn't true, as a matter of fact. Or at least there is no objective evidence for it - or at least nothing that would count as evidence in other discourses.

But leaving facts and their interpretation aside, it is clearly psychologically false as well - in the sense that there is zero subjective plausibility to a Mother Goddess worshipping Matriarchy. Such a society can neither be imagined nor depicted with plausibility, conviction and depth (and there are plenty of failed attempts - including those by Graves himself).

Or, perhaps, more exactly such a society cannot be depicted as the good, wholesome, 'golden age' kind of place that its devisers and believers hoped for.


The Mother Goddess/Matriarchy people were and are motivated by a very obvious (and often explicitly stated) anti-Christian, anti-men animus - so that the desirable societies they discover/ devise and advocate have features in opposition to what they suppose are intrinsic to Christian Patriarchies.

But the only convincing Matriarchies in fact and fiction (and I mean real and robust societies - not little recreational clubs) are those run by evil and/or insane goddesses and priestesses who implement cults of blood sacrifice, lust, torture, death - something like the Thugs, or She (who must be obeyed). These do not worship a benign, loving Mother goddess, but an evil female demon - a prima donna of wilfulness, spite, and cruelty.


Another reason why there never was a society which worshipped a supreme Mother Goddess who was loving and good; was that IF there was such a supreme Mother Goddess, she certainly would NOT want to be worshipped. Or, put is another way, worship would be an inappropriate attitude or relationship to a good Mother Goddess.

As an adherent of Mormon theology, I believe that the sex difference, male and female, goes all the way down; it is a fundamental and structural organizing principle of reality; and this is reflected by there being a Mother in Heaven, as well as a Heavenly Father.

However, the sexes are not symmetrical, but complementary - and while a relationship that could reasonably be called worship of the Father is appropriate and necessary (although requiring further definition of what constitutes 'worship') - this is not the case for Heavenly Mother. The proper relationship is of an entirely different nature - and a nature which seems intrinsically inexplicit.

(This position has consistently been supported by the LDS General Authorities, who clearly state that Mother in Heaven should not be formally worshipped nor prayed-to - although she is and should be loved, honoured and celebrated.)

This is just how it is. It is not accurate to believe that a good and loving Mother could, should or would evoke the same attitudes as a good and loving Father; in Heaven as well as earth.


Which is a roundabout way of discussing Neolithic temples- stone circles, hilltop earthworks and large ritual pathways. These are so obviously sky focused; astronomically orientated; sun, moon  and stars-worshipping temples (circular, like the horizon - un-roofed - positioned with reference to celestial objects) that it seems silly to argue the matter.

And yet many people purport to believe that the Neolithic temples are dedicated to the Earth Mother Goddess - a good, wholesome, neo-pagan hippy kind of goddess.

I don't know how anyone could stand in such a temple, look up at the sky and believe that it was dedicated to an earth deity! - but they apparently do, and in their droves.

Which just goes to show that radical, secular Leftist, politics gets everywhere, can shape anything and everything, and will always critique, subvert and finally invert it: in this instance, turning the nature, objective and direction of Neolithic worship literally upside-down.



Nicholas Fulford said...

Let's try looking at through the lens of Jungian archetypes. We can look at the dark and light aspects of the male and female. For men the light side has the warrior, protector, shaman, priest, king, father. For women the light side is nurturer, mother, fertility, priestess, wise-woman-physician. For men the dark side is tyrant, destroyer-rapist, defiler. For women the dark side is smotherer, sterile-witch, vengeful elemental force, withering crone, bringer of chaos, death.

Literary / mythological examples of light-dark: Gandalf-Sauron; Isis-Kali.

The basis for archetypal expression in literature and mythic narrative is found in looking at the personification and projection of male and female attributed qualities.

Adam G. said...

That's an excellent point about the neolithic ruins.

Here's a tentative thought (tentative because I haven't thought it through yet and tentative because the Catholic-Orthodox Mary is a glaring counter-example):

historically, men who were authorities and heroes could have something akin to worship. Little boys sometimes have hero worship for their fathers. But with women, the object of worship was the lover, not the mother, especially pre-consummation. It seems that awe of your father comes naturally but awe of your mother is something you acquire as you get older and look back and reflect.

Tim2 said...

I think the hippy types are reading into the "mother goddess" what they want to. They are projecting what they believe is in themselves on a non-existant deity.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Adam G - "awe of your mother is something you acquire as you get older and look back and reflect."

That has also been my experience.

Anonymous said...

What are your thoughts on the apparently peaceful matriarchal society of the Mosuo?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Anon - I am immediately skeptical of selective reporting, framing and fraud and the training of natives to say what (some) Westerners want to hear - on the lines of Margaret Meador the Tasaday with a large dash of sex tourism.

Underneath all this framing, it just sounds rather like a Western inner city type, collapsed and welfare dependent society - but with a different and more placid racial makeup.

I suppose modern societies which interact with (and live off) the rest of the world cannot really stand apart.

Anonymous said...

Well, we know about one apparently aboriginal "Mother Goddess" cult; that of the Magna Mater. It was imported to Rome in 200BC for military purposes; it was at least 6000 years old then. It was singularly unpleasant, even for Rome, and was considered quite scandalous by the old Roman families when it was introduced; though it was eventually pragmatically accepted by the Romans, as it was attributed credit for victory in the second Punic war. It also had broad support from the Patrician class, and was more or less imposed from above, which should remind you of something, though participation in the rites was forbidden to citizens, as they were seen as degrading. Flagellation, eunuch transsexual priests, frenzied bloody dances. Taurobolium was a more dignified part of the religion eventually allowed to Romans; it was effectively a baptism in bull guts.
Anyway, while the MM cult might seem normal in certain modern quarters, it seems pretty disgusting to me, and was hardly the hippy dippy peace cult moderns make it out to be.