|I'd rather be a|
|Suckled in a creed outworn|
Goddess movement and the Matriarchal religion are all terms for a post-feminist movement (1970) to "reinvent" religion to glorify the woman. It is often tied into Wicca, neopaganism, or other New Age beliefs. This religious and cultural movement is based on a pseudohistorical claim that all cultures were once matriarchal, and that matriarchal cultures would clearly have been superior to the war-mongering, penis-worshiping patriarchal cultures that quickly dominated the world with the advent of technology.
Like many instances of pseudo-history, there is a grain of truth to the theories, but the vast majority of it is just woo.
 Claims of the historical religion
- All religions in the world started with a goddess religion
- The vast majority of ancient agrarian cultures not only worshiped goddesses, but were run by women.
- These cultures were more peaceful than their male counterparts, since women respect love and emotions, and men are war mongers.
- It is likely that one of the first deities in the world was "woman" because she brings new life into the world and because she bleeds without being ill or dying. Both of these could well appear to be magical to a population that did not know better. Some of the earliest religious artifacts are in fact female fertility figures (Venus figures) with large breasts, large hips, and often with child.
- Goddesses were important to agrarian religions. Male and female come together to make babies. It is not at all clear that a female goddess translated into a matriarchy, though in some cases it might have.
- Even in cases where there were women in charge or shared power (some recent examples include the Unida, and the Onindaga), there is no indication they are less warlike, more successful, or more egalitarian.
 Pseudoarchaeological claims and statuettes
 Venus statuettes
Much of the basis for the claims of an ancient matriarchy are based on the arguments put forth by the late archaeologist Marija Gimbutas (although Gimbutas herself preferred the term "matristic" to denote a sense of egalitarianism). Gimbutas' claims are recycled in many works of Goddess pseudo-scholarship, most famously Riane Eisler's The Chalice and the Blade. This hypothesis is widely regarded as crackpot within both "mainstream" and gender/feminist archaeology. It relies on a specious interpretation of ancient "Venus" statuettes and figurines. One of the glaring problems with this is that the artifacts range greatly in their depictions -- the "Venus of Willendorf," pictured at right, is a famous example but not wholly typical. Positing a single religion and social structure on this basis would requires a massively speculative hypothesis that much of the peoples of the Eurasian landmass shared either a unified or very similar social structure and religious ideology over a period of approximately 30,000 years from the Late Paleolithic to the Neolithic. Besides this tiny complication, there is also no reason to assume that all the figurines represented a goddess. In fact, there is no definitive consensus on how the various statuettes should be interpreted. In addition, even if they were meant to represent goddesses, that doesn't necessarily imply that these societies were matriarchal or matrifocal. The ancient Greeks and the Catholics produced many depictions of Athena and the Virgin Mary respectively, but neither came out of a matriarchal society. This interpretation also ignores the numerous depictions of animals, violence, and death in Neolithic-period art. Animals were widely depicted in prehistoric art, therefore our ancestors worshiped and were ruled by animals, QED.
 Snake Goddess statuettes
Another set of statuettes claimed to be evidence supposedly depict a "Minoan Snake Goddess." The original Snake Goddess figurines were found in Crete during the early 20th century by Arthur Evans. What, exactly, the figurines represent is also unknown, but Evans claimed them to be central to a Minoan religion of goddess worship. Contemporary reanalysis demonstrates that many of the them were forged or made to conform more to Evans' idea of the alleged goddess during restoration, though a couple of the statuettes and some shards appear to be legitimate. After Evans had completed his excavation, claims for the existence of the Minoan goddess religion were further inflated by a cottage industry of Snake Goddess forgeries and other fake "Minoan" artifacts.
Before the modern iteration of this idea came about, it was originally popularized by J.J. Bachofen in his 1861 book Das Mutterecht ("Mother-Right"). Bachofen, however, did not view this ancient matriarchy as a golden age, but as a dark age before patriarchal systems arose due to the "natural superiority" of men. And so the story is today repackaged and sold as a tale of empowerment to women.
 Pseudohistory of the European witch-hunts
Goddess worshipers rely on a pseudohistorical account of the European witch-hunts, usually inflating the number of casualties to the absurd figure of nine million. They are also fond of calling it the "burning times" or "patriarchal genocide," selectively leaving out male victims of witch-hunts.
 See also
- Did a Peaceful Matriarchy Once Rule the Earth? The Straight Dope
- Goddess Worship: That Real "Old Time Religion?", Religious Tolerance
- The Scholars and the Goddess, Charlotte Allen, The Atlantic
- Women and Men at Catalhoyuk, Ian Hodder, Scientific American
- Ancient Goddesses: The Myths and Evidence, Lucy Goodison and Christine Morris (eds.), review by Cosma Shalizi
- The Goddess Lives, Sara Olchowski, Pseudoarchaeology Research Archive (directory of goddess websites)
- Richard G. Lesure. A Comparative Perspective on Figurines from Early Villages. Sixth Gender and Archaeology Conference Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Oct. 6-7, 2000. (An actual attempt at interpreting Venus figurines.)
- Lynn Meskell. Goddesses, Gimbutas, and New Age Archaeology. Antiquity 69, 1995: 74-86
- The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory by Cynthia Eller
- ↑ Idyllic Theory of Goddesses Creates Storm, New York Times
- ↑ Beth Grindell. Rewriting the Past to Save the Future: A Review of The Chalice and the Blade. Arizona Anthropologist 10:119-130.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Ruth Whitehouse. "The Mother Goddess Hypothesis and Its Critics," in Handbook of Gender in Archaeology, Sarah Milledge Nelson (ed.), pp. 756-758
- ↑ Margaret Conkey and Ruth Tringham. "Archaeology and the Goddess: Exploring the Context of Feminist Archaeology", Ch. 8 in Feminisms in the Academy, Domna C. Stanton (ed.)
- ↑ Ian Hodder. Catalhoyuk in the Context of the Middle Eastern Neolithic. Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 2007. 36:105–20
- ↑ Breathing New Life Into Old Art: The Minoan Snake Goddess Meets the Internet, Melissa Benne, Drury University
- ↑ Kenneth D.S. Lapatin. Snake Goddesses, Fake Goddesses. Archaeology, Volume 54 Number 1, January/February 2001