At the beginning there was a mother

The Matriarchal Paradigm (Part 2)

Author: Dr. Heide Göttner-Abendroth
In the second part of our conversation with the founder of Modern Matriarchal Studies, Dr. Heide Göttner-Abendroth, we talked about unreflective structures of domination and hierarchy in our society. How patriarchy origined, and how the matriarchal paradigm, with its view that everything is animate and interconnected, carries a revolutionary and equally peaceful force.


Tattva Viveka: Both science and history lack examples of societies without hierarchy and without domination. Likewise, there is a lack of “encounters” with or knowledge about societies that are organized differently. In your articles, you explicitly address the almost unquestioned assumption that complex social forms with division of labor and multiple social relations require hierarchies and a ruling class to live in order and peace. Much criticism of patriarchy, capitalism, and also criticism of our ecologically reckless actions finds a voice, but this is a critique of domination. I realized that we have to change our whole thinking in order to be able to truly change our society, because we are mostly in this paradigm without being aware of it.

Göttner-Abendroth: What matriarchal research and related political thinking has found out is what I collectively call the matriarchal paradigm. I know that this paradigm is still revolutionary, because it undermines almost everything that we know in our society on the levels of the social, the economic and the ideological. It really brings down everything that we have internalized and that has been indoctrinated into us from our school days.



There is every reason that the mainstream media and universities block and refuse to acknowledge this research, because it is dangerous to the dominant worldview, to the patriarchal paradigm that has deeply infiltrated us all. If we have our Eurocentric glasses on, then we think Europe is the world, which is completely wrong, isn’t it? I have learned a lot through my involvement with matriarchal peoples, throwing away my Eurocentric glasses and seeing anew that there are peoples in Africa, Asia and the Americas who live completely differently and have different values. These experiences have taught me a lot.

The statement that societies exist that live free of domination is usually not believed.

They then say that this is completely utopian and that such societies cannot have existed. It all goes along the lines of: the way we know our world must always have been. When I started my research work, I felt the same as you, Ms. Deubzer. I was also a daughter of patriarchy and had to abandon much of what I learned because I was faced with a different worldview.


Am Anfang ist die MutterIn the beginning is the mother© Adobe Photostock



Göttner-Abendroth: Yes, always hierarchical. That is a patriarchal idea that people interpret constantly into history. Fortunately, more and more young critical archaeologists today are saying, “No, there were egalitarian societies in history, too.” They can be recognized by the fact that in some places no ruler’s insignia or ruler’s houses have been found archaeologically, and in fact people organized themselves from below. It’s coming through slowly, drop by drop. I’m always happy to see that there have been egalitarian societies throughout history. They are finding it out more and more, and the patriarchal stereotype is already showing the first cracks. Now, however, I say that these egalitarian societies were matriarchal. That’s taking it a step further. For who made them egalitarian? What was the value system behind it? It’s not the value system that we’re all equal, because we’re not equal, we’re different in gender, age, abilities.

Behind that is the matriarchal value system that all people are equal and accepted equally in their diversity.

These are matriarchal values that characterize matriarchal societies. For this kind of equality, as we formulate it today, levels out the diversity of age, gender, etc. Of course we humans are different, but there is no need to create a hierarchy out of diversity. Diversitymeans weakth in matriarchal societies. The wealth of people, the diversity of people and peoples, the diversity of beings in the world. Diversity is a richness and is at the same time lovingly guarded and protected by these maternal values. Just as a prototypical mother nurtures, supports and treats her diverse children all equally.



These egalitarian societies are essentially matriarchal societies. I would like to relate an anecdote in this context: The famous archaeologist Ian Hodder, who studied the Neolithic city of Çatalhöyük, found that people lived in a truly egalitarian way. The houses are the same, the burial customs are the same. It was even found through sophisticated archaeological methods that the table manners, that is, the distribution of food were alike. So there was no ruling male gender. Then I wrote to him, “How nice that you have proved equality. You have proved a matriarchal society. For example, look at the goddess iconography. From the worship of goddesses comes the equality of human beings.

Just as Mother Earth nourishes all her beings equally and the sun shines over all equally, so it is in matriarchal societies.



TV: We read that you oppose the integral consciousness evolutionary paradigm. This says that, for example, in the Paleolithic or prehistoric times, to summarize this briefly, people tended to live in an instinctual-magical view of the world, and from then on, consciousness continues to evolve and expand in a linear fashion, so that we are now in a higher level of consciousness, that is, that humans are evolving toward the more advanced.


Das matriarchale ParadigmaThe matriarchal paradigm© Adobe Photostock

Göttner-Abendroth: If this is true and our consciousness constantly evolved linearly, we would be living in the best of all worlds today. That can’t be true, because we face massive problems today. If one gets out of the habit of labeling other cultures or earlier societies as primitive, a different picture emerges. Let’s look at Paleolithic man, who had instinctive, emotional and intellectual sides just as we do. He was a holistic human being, just like us, only he was at the beginning of culture. That already changes the perspective. What you have just quoted are the stage theories of history, which come from the colonial period. This is typical of the 19th century. At that time, European conquerors came into contact with other peoples and had to confirm that they were still the best in the world.

As a result, they developed such tiered theories of history and other peoples, with the others always on the primitive tier and us as the European colonizers on the top tier. In my opinion, this is a politically and racially incorrect ideology that I vehemently disagree with. I believe that this idea of stages of consciousness still carries the traces of this stage theory of history. Thus, in my opinion, the demise of matriarchal societies through patriarchal developments is a step backwards in history. We have produced patriarchal societies with structures like the military, weaponry, and strategic thinking. These structures increase and increase today – until the extinction of humanity. But is this a positive development in human terms?



Göttner-Abendroth: In our conversation so far we have left out the important question of how patriarchy came about. I would just like to briefly touch on this extensive research topic: I have spent decades researching this topic and am now beginning to write about it. There is not one single cause for all times, all cultures and all continents. These are pseudo-explanations. We have to explain for each culture and each time what different causes led to patriarchy.

But it was fundamentally not due to the inner deficits of matriarchal societies, but to pressure from outside. For certain cultural regions, especially Western Asia and Europe, scientists found out that the first trigger was probably a climatic change that lasted for centuries. This pulled the ground out from under the feet of some cultures because there was a desertification and devastation of vast areas of land. Because of this cultural and regional uprooting, societies that had once been matriarchal probably developed in other directions. Also this led to violent forms. This was a pressure from the external environment. We can well imagine what that can mean today.

The Saharasia thesis is partly correct. It has its flaws, but the approach itself is good. The first pressure came from the outside, from the natural environment, whereupon, it must be admitted, people gave the wrong answers. The second pressure was from the social environment, when humans formed patriarchal patterns and societies. These put permanent pressure on their matriarchal environment and had a strong urge to conquer. Why and how patriarchy spread also needs to be explained. Why was it able to spread so strongly through certain patterns?


Das matriarchale ParadigmaThe matriarchal paradigm© Adobe Photostock

It has to do with the fact that initial natural pressure turned into social pressure, because these patriarchal societies always had to distract from their internal conflicts by conquering externally. Patriarchal societies were constantly subject to an inner pressure to spread. What did this mean for matriarchal neighborhoods? Either they did not fight back and were conquered as a result, or they began to develop a warrior system to defend themselves. Several such cases in history are based on evidence, for example, among the Iroquois in North America in the wake of the European invasion.

This is a problem for matriarchal societies, as they do not live in a warrior system and warrior box. This produced some erosion from within, as decades of defense against an aggressive patriarchal neighborhood led to the breakdown of their own matriarchal culture in the long run. Outside pressures ruined matriarchal societies. Not internal failures, as assumed.

The interview was conducted by Ronald Engert and Alice Deubzer.


About the author

Heide Göttner-Abendroth is a mother and grandmother. She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Munich, where she taught philosophy and philosophy of science for ten years. Through her lifelong research and her major work, The Matriarchy, she became the founder of Modern Matriarchal Studies. She was a lecturer at various universities (Bremen, Hamburg, Kassel), a visiting professor in Montréal in 1980, and a visiting professor in Innsbruck in 1992. 1986 Founded and directed the “International Academy HAGIA for Matriarchal Studies”. Direction of the three world congresses for matriarchal research. In 2012 she received an award for her research from the “Association of Women & Mythology”. She has twice been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.


This article appeared originally on the German Homepage of Tattva Viveka: Am Anfang war die Mutter (2)


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