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Editorial: The Foremothers Speak
by Sage Starwalker and a Featured Foremother
Imbolc 2003, Vol 2-2
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Lysistrata Project poster,  with seated woman refusing a warrior
Lysistrata Project Poster
Courtesy of Lysistrata Project
For The Future
(Featured Foremother -- Merlin Stone)

I've just reread one of my favorite post-apocalyptic novels, The Postman (by David Brin). The film version is a macho cartoon. The book is a thoughtful tale about hope, connection, and, surprisingly enough, about the power of feminism. A group of young women takes action against war-making patriarchs to protect the fragile beginnings of civilization in their devastated, post-apocalyptic world. Their inspiration for taking responsibility for their species comes from reading the "pre-apocalypse" feminists and other works. (On their reading list was Aristophane's Lysistrata, a 2,500 year-old Greek comedy about how women strategize to stop the Peloponnesian War. To explore how this play is being used this spring as a worldwide theatre event for peace -- see the Lysistrata Project.)

With more than rumors of war swirling about us today, we see women and men taking actions to protest George Bush, Jr.'s war on Iraq -- a war that presents a real danger of nuclear and/or biological apocalypse. We also know that men and women, serving in the U.S., Iraqi and other militaries, and many civilians, including children, will die in this conflict. I've asked myself about the value of a web magazine for Goddess Women in a time when many sisters and brothers are out on the streets protesting war, others are headed to Iraq to create a human shield, and still others are preparing to fight and die for their countries.

Looking back through The Politics of Women's Spirituality (ed. Charlene Spretnak), I came across the following quotes in Margot Adler's piece, "Meanings of Matriarchy":

Two feminist anthropologists have noted that whatever matriarchy is, "the whole question challenges women to imagine themselves with power. It is an idea about what society would look like if women were truly free."

After all, if Goddess religion is 60,000 years old or 7,000 it does not matter. Certainly not for the future! Recognizing the divine Goddess within is where real religion is at. (Z Budapest as quoted by Adler)

A great reminder. For the future, feminism and Goddess Religion both are important, for they challenge us women to imagine ourselves with power. Kila, in her revisioning of the Adam and Eve myth ("Escape from Eden" in this issue), points to a path of power for contemporary women. Reading her article, I was reminded of an earlier treatment of this myth, from a historical perspective, by Merlin Stone. Stone's When God Was A Woman, published in 1976, is as relevant today as it was a quarter century ago:

Adam pushing away and Eve reaching to a snake woman in a tree (detail, Michelangelo's "Fall from Grace")
The Fall from Grace, Sistine Chapel
Michelangelo, courtesy of CGFA

Preface, When God Was a Woman, by Merlin Stone

How did it actually happen? How did men initially gain the control that now allows them to regulate the world in matters as vastly diverse as deciding which wars will be fought when to what time dinner should be served?

This book is the result of my reactions to these and similar questions which many of us concerned about the status of women in our society have been asking ourselves and each other. As if in answer to our queries, yet another question presented itself. What else might we expect in a society that for centuries has taught young children, both female and male, that a MALE deity created the universe and all that is in it, produced MAN in his own divine image -- and then, as an afterthought, created woman, to obediently help man in his endeavors? The image of Eve, created for her husband, from her husband, the woman who was supposed to have brought about the downfall of humankind, has in many ways become the image of all women. How did idea ever come into being?

Few people who live in societies where Christianity, Judaism or Islam are followed remain unaware of the tale of Eve heeding the word of the serpent in the Garden of Eden, eating the forbidden fruit and then tempting Adam to do the same. Generally, during the most impressionable years of childhood, we are taught that it was this act of eating the tasty fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil that caused the loss of Paradise, the expulsion of Adam and Eve, thus all humankind, from this first home of bliss and contentment. We are also made to understand that, as a result of this act, it was decreed by God that woman must submit to the dominance of man -- who was at that time divinely presented with the right to rule over her -- from that moment until now.

The expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden is not exactly the latest news, but few contemporary happenings have affected women of today any more directly. In the struggle to achieve equal status for women, in a society still permeated by the values and moralities of Judeo-Christian beliefs (which have penetrated deeply into even the most secular aspects of our contemporary civilization) we soon realize that a thorough examination of this creation legend, alongside its historical origins, provides us with vital information. It allows us to comprehend the role that contemporary religions have played in the initial and continual oppression and subjugation of women -- and the reasons for this.

In prehistoric and early historic periods of human development, religions existed in which people revered their supreme creator as female. The Great Goddess -- the Divine Ancestress -- had been worshiped from the beginnings of the Neolithic periods of 7000 BC until the closing of the last Goddess temples, about AD 500. Some authorities would extend Goddess worship as far into the past as the Upper Paleolithic Age of about 25,000 BC. Yet events of the Bible, which we are generally taught to think of as taking place "in the beginning of time," actually occurred in historic periods. Abraham, first prophet of the Hebrew-Christian god Yahweh, more familiarly known as Jehovah, is believed by most Bible scholars to have lived no earlier than 1800 BC and possibly as late as 1550 BC.

Most significant is the realization that for thousands of years both religions existed simultaneously -- among closely neighboring peoples. Archaeological, mythological and historical evidence all reveal that the female religion, far from naturally fading away, was the victim of centuries of continual persecution and suppression by the advocates of the newer religions which held male deities as supreme. And from these new religions came the creation myth of Adam and Even and the tale of the loss of Paradise.

What had life been like for women who lived in a society that venerated a wise and valiant female Creator? Why had the members of the later male religions fought so aggressively to suppress that earlier worship -- even the very memory of it? What did the legend of Adam and Eve really signify, and when and why was it written? The answers I discovered have formed the content of this book. When God Was A Woman, the story of the suppression of women's rites, has been written to explain the historical events and political attitudes that led to the writing of the Judeo-Christian myth of the Fall, the loss of Paradise and, most importantly, why the blame for that loss was attributed to the woman Eve, and has ever since been placed heavily upon all women.

Graphics Credits
+ Lysistrata Project Poster, courtesy of Lysistrata Project.
+ The Fall from Grace, Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo, courtesy of CGFA.

Resources
+ The Postman, David Brin, 1985, Bantam Books.
+ When God Was A Woman, Merlin Stone, 1976, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich.

Contributors retain the copyright to their work; please do not take art or words without permission. All other graphics and reference materials are used and attributed as per the Fair Use Provision of The Copyright Act and individual terms of use.
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