Here is a new LWTM series that introduces you to the world of moon gods and goddesses – not strictly biodynamic, but nevertheless fascinating. We will delve into where the legend of some of these goddesses come from, and how people worshipped them…

For the last 2,000 years, the religious and political world has largely been male-dominated. But early men worshipped many goddesses, depicted as independent, intelligent, and fierce women.

The Earth Mother goddess 

The ancient societies recognized very early on that the moon and female fertility cycles go hand in hand. It is a well-known fact that women living nearby synchronize their periods and this close link led to a raft of moon goddesses being worshipped. Throughout history, humans worshipped moon goddesses. They were seen as the guardians of the female fertility cycle. Archeologists uncovered figurines of naked, heavily pregnant women from the Nile Delta, in the Pyrenees, most European countries including the British Isles. The mother gives birth to a child and cares for it. In a time when many newborns or small children died before the age of 6, motherhood and fertility were seen as an essential part of life and to keep the human race alive.

The responsibility of men was to hunt and provide food. The women’s task were to bear children and keep them safe. Since the woman was the bearer of life, it stands to reason that women and their gods were held in high esteem. This lifestyle gave women independence and wisdom and in some ways, their knowledge and crafts gave them equal if not superior rights. Most cultures dating back to 9 to 7,000 B.C. followed a matriarchal model.

What is the matriarch? 

The term ‘matriarch’ refers to the authority, influence, and strength associated with female leadership. It stems from the Latin word ‘mater’, meaning mother. It is mainly associated with older, experienced women in leadership positions and as central decision-makers.  It all goes back to the original female icon – the Earth Mother.

She is depicted as the mother, cradling her newborn child and nourishing it with her breast milk. In her honor, people made small female figurines with round features showing a pregnant belly and breasts.  Subsequent gods like Demeter came from this ‘Earth Mother image’, responsible for feeding the nations and bringing fertility to the land in the form of plentiful harvests.

The concept of a matriarch is more inspired by wisdom and guidance within a community, rather than strength and power. Historically women seek nurturing roles that enjoy empathy, and collaboration. Of course, this is a stereotype and I am sure there were also plenty of scheming and power-hungry women in charge.

On the whole, matriarchal cultures and their female leaders are revered for their wisdom, resilience, and ability to unite and guide their communities through challenging times. They often serve as pillars of strength and sources of inspiration for future generations, shaping the values and traditions of their societies.

One of the oldest ‘matriarchal cities to be unearthed is Catalhüyük. This ancient Neolithic site located in present-day Turkey, near the town of Konya,  is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world and is considered one of the earliest known human settlements.

Çatalhöyük was occupied roughly between 7500 BCE and 5700 BCE, making it one of the oldest known settlements. It predates many other ancient civilizations, including Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt.

The settlement is characterized by its dense, mud-brick houses built closely together, with rooftops serving as streets. The houses were accessed by ladders through holes in the roofs, suggesting that the community was primarily engaged in agriculture and animal husbandry. We know a lot about their culture as many wall paintings and intricate pottery survived. What was surprising is that shrines and many figurines depicting goddesses and animals were found, but no male statues. Therefore archeologists suggest that Çatalhöyük may have been a matriarchal society, based on the prominence of female figurines and the absence of male figurines.

Archaeological evidence indicates that Çatalhöyük was a relatively egalitarian society, with little evidence of social hierarchy. Houses within the settlement appear to have been of similar size and construction, suggesting a relatively equal distribution of resources in the throws of a hunter-gatherer society settling down to become dominated by an agricultural way of life. Since 2012  Çatalhöyük is inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage outstanding universal value and significance to human history.

Next time we look at the Minoan civilization and connections between the bull and the moon.

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