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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Carol P. Christ
What Is “Egalitarian Matriarchy” and Why Is It So Often Misunderstood? by Carol P. Christ

In their purest form, “egalitarian matriarchies” place the mother principle at the center of culture and society. Their highest values are the love, care, and generosity they associate with motherhood. These values are not limited to women and girls. Boys and men are also encouraged to honor mothers above all, to practice the traits of love, care, and generosity, and to value them in others.

“Egalitarian matriarchal” societies are matrilineal which means that family membership and descent are passed through the female line. They are also usually matrilocal, which means that women live in their maternal home all of their lives. Family groups are usually extended rather than nuclear. Often there is a “big house” in which groups of sisters, brothers, and cousins live together with mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and great-aunts. In what I imagine to have been the original form of the system (still practiced by the Mosuo of the Himalayas), men also live in their maternal house, visiting their lovers at night, and returning home in the morning.

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  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Thank you, Carol, for this thought-provoking explanation of terms. From my own experience as a 70 year-old male who was put on te
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    Thanks Ted. Currently I am re-reading Women at the Center. The egalitarian matriarchal Minangkabau people believe that without (re
The Heraklion Museum: A Critique of the Neolithic Display by Carol P. Christ

If I had been asked to write the words that introduce visitors to the Heraklion Archaeological Museum of Crete to its earliest inhabitants, I would have said something like this:

While there is evidence that human beings visited Crete as early as 150,000 years ago, the first permanent settlers arrived from Anatolia in the New Stone Age or Neolithic era, about 9000 years ago, bringing with them the secrets of agriculture and soon afterward learning the techniques of pottery and weaving. As the gatherers of fruits, nuts, and vegetables and as preparers of food in earlier Old Stone Age or Paleolithic cultures, women would have noticed that seeds dropped at a campsite might sprout into plants. Women most likely discovered the secrets of agriculture that enabled people to settle down in the first farming communities of the New Stone Age. As pottery is associated with women’s work of food storage and preparation, and as weaving is women’s work in most traditional cultures, women probably invented these new technologies as well. Each of these inventions was understood to be a mystery of transformation: seed to plant to harvested crop; clay to snake coil to fired pot; wool or flax to thread to spun cloth. The mysteries were passed on from mother to daughter through songs, stories, and rituals.

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  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Testify, sister! They should have asked for your input. Didn't they realize that you actually live and work in their backyard?
Marija Gimbutas Triumphant: Colin Renfrew Concedes by Carol P. Christ

The disdain with which the work of archaeologist Marija Gimbutas has been held in the field of classics and archaeology was shown to me when I stated quietly at a cocktail party at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens that I was interested in her work. This comment, tentatively offered, unleashed a tirade from a young female archaeologist who began shouting at me: “Her work is unscholarly and because it is, it is harder for me and other women scholars in the field to be taken seriously.”

Responding to the backlash against her theories, Gimbutas is said to have told a female colleague that it might take decades, but eventually the value of her work would be recognized. It is now more than twenty years since Marija Gimbutas died in 1994, and the value of her work is beginning to be recognized by (at least some of) her colleagues—including one of her harshest critics. In a lecture titled “Marija Rediviva: DNA and Indo-European Origins,” renowned archaeologist Lord Colin Renfrew (allied with the British Conservative Party**), who had been one of Gimbutas’s most vociferous antagonists and a powerful gate-keeper, concluded the inaugural Marija Gimbutas Lecture at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago with these words: “Marija [Gimbutas]’s Kurgan hypothesis has been magnificently vindicated.”

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  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    It is so great to read this. The wedge has forced open the door, and it can never be closed again. It will only get wider and mo
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    I agree with you Ted, once the door is open, the waters will be rushing through.
  • Thesseli
    Thesseli says #
    So nice to read this! My undergraduate degree is in archaeology, and it's wonderful to finally see what was always there (but nev
Is This How Patriarchy Began? by Carol P Christ

In my widely read blog and academic essay offering a new definition of patriarchy, I argued that patriarchy is a system of male dominance that arose at the intersection of the control of female sexuality, private property, and war. In it, bracketed the question of how patriarchy began. Today I want to share some thoughts provoked by a short paragraph in Harald Haarmann’s ground-breaking Roots of Ancient Greek Civilization. Haarmann briefly mentions (but does not discuss) the hypothesis that patriarchy arose among the steppe pastoralists as a result of conflicts over grazing lands. As these conflicts became increasingly violent, patriarchal warriors assumed clan leadership in order to protect animal herds, grazing lands, and the women and children of the clan.

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The Mountain Mother: Reading the Language of the Goddess in Ancient Crete

Before he told the story of how his people received the sacred pipe, Black Elk said:

So I know that it is a good thing I am going to do; and because no good thing can be done by any man alone, I will first make an offering and send a voice to the Spirit of the World, that it may help me to be true. See, I fill this sacred pipe with the bark of the red willow; but before we smoke it, you must see how it is made and what it means. These four ribbons hanging here on the stem are the four quarters of the universe. The black one is for the west where the thunder beings live to send us rain; the white one for the north, whence comes the great white cleansing wind; the red one for the east, whence springs the light and where the morning star lives to give men wisdom; the yellow for the south, whence come the summer and the power to grow.

But these four spirits are only one Spirit after all, and this eagle feather here is for that One, which is like a father, and also it is for the thoughts of men that should rise high as eagles do. Is not the sky a father and the earth a mother, and are not all living things with feet or wings or roots their children? And this hide upon the mouthpiece here, which should be bison hide, is for the earth, from whence we came and at whose breast we suck as babies all our lives, along with all the animals and birds and trees and grasses. And because it means all this, and more than any man can understand, the pipe is holy. [italics added]

In this passage Black Elk illustrates the multivalency of symbols: the sacred pipe does not have a single meaning, but many meanings, in fact, more meanings than anyone can understand.

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Was There a "Golden Age" before Patriarchy and War?

Marija Gimbutas coined the term “Old Europe” c.6500-3500 BCE to describe peaceful, sedentary, artistic, matrifocal, matrilineal and probably matrilocal agricultural societies that worshipped the Goddess as the power of birth, death, and regeneration in all of life. Gimbutas argued that Old Europe was overthrown by Indo-European speaking invaders who began to enter Europe from the steppes north of the Black Sea beginning about 4400 BCE.  The Indo-Europeans were patrilineal and patriarchal, mobile and warlike, having domesticated the horse, were not highly artistic and worshiped the shining Gods of the sky reflected in their bronze weapons.

In the fields of classics and archaeology, Gimbutas’s work is often dismissed as nothing more than a fantasy of a “golden age.” In contrast, scholars of Indo-European languages, Gimbutas’s original specialty, are much more likely to accept the general outlines of her hypothesis. The German linguist and cultural scientist Harald Haarmann is one of them.

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Authoritarian Followers: What’s Feminism and Religion Got to Do with It? by Carol P. Christ

There are two types of authoritarians: those who jump out in front and say "follow me, only I can solve the problem"; the far greater number of authoritarian personalities are those who want to be told how to think, what to do, "this is daddy, I’ll take care of you." Those are the people who are the followers and while some of those would like to be leaders themselves, most of them are just happy to follow, and they don’t want to ask questions, and they want to be told what to do and how to think. And that’s a very scary lot. --John Dean

On her Saturday  program on MSNBC, Joy Reid asked former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean why those who support Trump seem so uninterested in facts that show a deeply troubled and compromised presidency. Dean’s response was that the authoritarian personality does not want to think.

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