by Jeri Studebaker
Sit down before you read what I'm about to say. Do not, however, ingest even the tiniest sip of tea (or any other liquid for that matter), because what comes next might very well affect your air-intake system -- and your air-intake system is part of the system that negotiates the progress of tea down one's upper esophageal tract.
Here it comes: The world is in desperate need of a Revolution - and there's no one to lead it but those of us in the Goddess community.
It's time to put our comforting, cozy and contemplative stories about our favorite goddess(es) on a back burner for a while, and get cracking. It's time to recognize that it's not just us, but the world that's in need of the feminine divine. According to our best and most current data, when we humans centered around Guiding Goddesses we basked in "utopia." But when the sky/father/war gods trounced the Goddess, they bumped the world into a "dystopia" we've never fully climbed out of. If we don't pitch the gods and resuscitate the goddesses -- and soon -- my guess is we're doomed as a species.
I know, I know. Every time anyone mouths anything about a Goddess/utopia-to-God/dystopia "metanarrative," the academic world blows a gasket. And the continuation of the species depends on bringing back goddesses?!? Heavy stuff, I know. But bear with me, because I have new evidence to back my claims.
First, let me introduce myself. I am a trained archaeologist and anthropologist with advanced degrees in both disciplines. I have archaeological fieldwork under my belt. No longer, however, do I depend upon the academy for my bread or my butter, or for keeping a live fire in my woodstove. So compared to those who are so dependent, I can look at academic issues with an eye less clouded by visions of personal disaster following any failure on my part to toe the academic party line.
When We Had Goddess, We Had Utopia
The fact is, for the time period before roughly 4,000 BCE, archaeologists have dug up no evidence of the kind of institutionalized warfare and full-scale social ranking that have dominated our planet since then. This indeed is "fact." Open any university archaeology textbook and you'll see what I'm saying is the generally accepted academic view. Also before c. 4,000 BCE, in many of the world's first farming communities all around the globe, archaeologists have dusted the dirt off evidence of -- ta dah! -- Goddess worship. This evidence comes primarily in the form of female figurines buried in the debris left behind by these communities. Sometimes so many female figurines are uncovered that they have to be carried off in carts.
University of California anthropologist Richard Lesure hit the nail on the head when he said that 'small ceramic figurines representing predominantly human females are characteristic artifacts of many of the world’s earliest settled villages'. Of course in some areas – China and India for example – they’re still being crafted today. But the difference is this: along with goddesses, modern Chinese and East Indians also produce tons of gods, while our Neolithic ancestors didn’t. As a matter of fact Neolithic male statues are scarce as hen’s teeth. That’s why Lesure, for example, can talk about the 'predominance of female imagery among Neolithic figurines' and 'the widespread occurrence of predominantly female imagery' during the long Neolithic era (The Goddess Diffracted 2002: 587, 600; Switching to Goddess 2008: 91-92).
In short, before 4,000 BCE, many all around the world lived in relatively utopian communities that crafted female but few male figurines. But were these figurines goddesses? Many British and American academics pant so hard to prove they're not, one might almost suppose these professionals are suffering heart attacks. The great French archeologist Jacques Cauvin, however, was certain these figurines were indeed goddesses (See The Birth of the Gods and the Origins of Agriculture, 2002), and archaeologist Lynn Meskell and religion professor Cynthia Eller, two of the harshest critics of the "figurines-are-goddesses" camp, admit in the end that one of the best explanations for these clay, stone and metal art objects -- many of them otherworldly -- is that they were, indeed, goddesses (Switching to Goddess, 2008: 120-21).
The Sky Gods Usher In Dystopia
Giant sky/war/father gods like the Indo-European Dieus, Indra of the Vedic Indus Valley, and Ninurta of the Bronze-Age Near East, often snap, crackle and pop into view at roughly the same time that the first institutionalized warfare, slavery, and big-time human social ranking rear their ugly heads. This too is accepted wisdom among archaeologists (look again in any archaeological textbook, under "the state, rise of"). And whenever and wherever the above uglies stomp into view, female figurines often disappear -- at least for a while.
In my book Switching to Goddess, I isolate five different "time-space slices" in which the above pattern plays out in each case. These five slices are (1) the Neolithic Near East, (2) early Bronze-Age Crete, (3) the early Bronze-Age Indus Valley, (4) Neolithic Japan, and (5) Neolithic Southeast Europe. I pull in archaeological data and analysis from Marija Gimbutas, but also from several other well-known archaeologists: Brian Fagan, Colin Renfrew, Keith Maisels, Peter Ucko, Jonathan Kenoyer, Jane McIntosh, Raymond Kelly, Kristian Kristiansen, Tatsuo Kobayashi and others.
In the first war-god societies that rear their ugly heads at the end of the Neolithic in the Near East, people were stuffed like sardines into dirty, brutish walled cities that "...tended to be disease-ridden places, with high death rates…. Dense population, class systems, and a strong centralized government created internal stress. The slaves and the poor saw that the wealthy had all the things that they themselves lacked…. The poor did not have enough space in which to live with comfort and dignity… Evidence of warfare is common…. As time went by the rich became richer and the poor poorer…. " (Human Evolution and Prehistory 1997: 305-06).
The force that I think flipped the switch from Peace/Earth/Mother Goddesses to war/sky/father gods is something I call "starvation culture." In a nutshell, starvation culture is a kind of cultural virus that plays on peoples' unconscious fears of scarcity. It arose during the 5th and 4th millennia BC when a large part of the planet turned to desert. Hundreds of thousands of the world's first farmers probably starved to death. Among a few groups who survived, however, what should have been only temporary starvation-induced behavior became set in stone and passed along ad infinitum from one generation to the next.
In a chillingly accurate way, starvation culture explains the switch from near utopia to stark dystopia that occurred in several world areas when goddesses gave way to gods. It provides, for example, a logical explanation for the sudden birth of the world's first group-sanctioned "taking behavior" (institutionalized warfare, human slavery, and probably rape and incest). Likewise it explains the world's first human ranking systems. Modern studies of long-starving groups show that often the last to perish in such groups are young males. What's more, the males who survive are those who learn to accept stealing from, and abusing those weaker than they are -- and not only accept it, but see it as praiseworthy, admirable -- and even enjoyable (see Switching to Goddess, Chapter 6, "Bad Times").
Although it was probably starvation culture that paved the way for the first institutionalized warfare, it was war gods, I believe, that helped cement starvation culture (and institutionalized warfare) into place over the past 6,000 years. What's more, until we can neutralize the spell the war gods have cast over us, I believe we will continue to dance down a path toward world destruction.
War Gods Have Marched Us to the Brink
In summary, beginning around 4,000 BCE, the world began to suffer a double whammy: not only the loss of its peace-promoting Earth Mother Goddesses, but a massive sky/war/father god yoke suddenly thrust around its neck. For the past 6,000 years the war gods have steadily grown stronger. As of 2002, a whopping 53 percent of the world worshiped the war gods Jehovah or Allah, with another 13 percent worshiping Hindu war gods like Vishnu and Indra (World Almanac and Book of Facts 2004). Today the sky/war/father gods dance around threatening to crush and cream each other with nuclear and biological weapons. In order to squelch the power of the Earth/Peace/Mother Goddesses, these gods have sat and spat upon the earth so constantly -- for over 6,000 years now -- that many believe the Earth is beginning to self-destruct.
To duck destruction I believe we need to:
- become conscious of and crank up our understanding of starvation culture,
- revive our old Neolithic and early Bronze-Age Earth/Peace Goddesses, and
- neutralize our war/sky gods (mostly but not exclusively Jehovah, Allah, Yahweh and Vishnu).
There's no doubt these last four are war gods. According to mythographer David Leeming of the University of Connecticut, Jehovah is “triadic within himself,” a “warrior-sovereign-storm god who demanded sacrifice” (Oxford Companion to World Mythology 2005: 128-29). Jehovah himself admits he's a war god: "The lord is a warrior, the lord is his name," he says in Exodus 15:3. What's more, the Bible bulges with bloody descriptions of the wars Jehovah starts, and the grotesque horrors he visits upon the attacked -- his own children. SkepticsAnnotatedBible.com has gathered the cruelties in the Bible into two lists and published them on the Web. I challenge you to read beyond the halfway point in even their "Short List of Cruelties." The ugliness is so overwhelmingly varied, creative and oppressive that I at least couldn't read further.
Actually, YahwehAllahJehovah, who many consider three gods, is in fact only one -- the schizoid god of Abraham. By the time the three personalities of YahwehAllahJehovah get done warring among themselves (in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, etc.), we humans might very well be finished as a species. And if not, Allah and Indra will finish us in Pakistan or East Asia, as these two war gods too pound and rout each other, wondering daily if it's time yet to drag out their natty new nuclear weapons.
I believe it's up to the Goddess community to stage a bloodless coup to rid the world of sky/war/father gods and replace them with the Earth/Peace/Mother Goddesses these gods have, over the past 6,000 years, forced underground. Unfortunately, since the academy is scared sapless of the Goddess, it might not help us here. At the risk of sounding like an alarmist, however, I wonder if failure to complete such a coup over the next 25 years or so might mean the end of life on earth as we know it.
Personally I believe we need to act soon. As a target date for when the war/sky/father gods must be replaced by the Peace/Earth/Mother Goddesses, I'm suggesting the year 2035. Of course this won't be easy. (Who ever said it would be easy?) On the other hand, if we can get the world to see clearly the millennia-old, mist-shrouded source of our self-destructive behavior, I believe it would be relatively easy. Those who truly see the truth, here, will jump to switch to the Earth/Peace Mothers. For ideas on how to get the world to "see clearly," check out Switching to Goddess: Humanity's Ticket to the Future.
Cauvin, Jacques, The Birth of the Gods and the Origins of Agriculture, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002
Haviland, William A, Human Evolution and Prehistory, Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace, 1997.
Leeming, David, The Oxford Companion to World Mythology, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Lesure, Richard G, "The Goddess Diffracted: Thinking about the Figurines of Early Villages", Current Anthropology 43, no. 4 (2002).
Studebaker, Jeri, Switching to Goddess: Humanity's Ticket to the Future, Winchester, UK: O Books, 2008.
World Almanac & Book of Facts, 2004, s.v. “Adherents of All Religions by Six Continental Areas, Mid-2002.”
Latest posts by Jeri Studebaker (see all)
- Review: “Soul & Shadow: Birthing Motherworld”, by Kathy Jones - 18th November 2017
- “Dolls”, Fairy Tales, and Ancient Goddess Figurines - 15th April 2015
- The Princess Who Would Not Laugh: The Ancient Goddess as Revealed Through Fairy Tales - 13th April 2015