Elevate Difference

Societies of Peace: Matriarchies Past, Present and Future

In a time when it seems we have lost our sense of humane, egalitarian living Societies Of Peace stands out as a guide to what we can learn from matriarchies in order to save ourselves from self-destruction. This book is a collection of the presentations from the two World Congresses on Matriarchial studies. The lecturers spoke about matriarchal theory and politics and the origins of patriarchy, and profiled historical and present day matriarchs who vary ideologically from patriarchs in four main societal sectors.

Politically, matriarchies are free of power structures. Everyone in the clan has one vote and decisions are based on consensus. Hence, the society is egalitarian. This structure allows for a balanced economy, the second variance from patriarchies.

Most of these economies are agriculturally based, which makes wealth hoarding impossible, and without the ability to accumulate wealth, there is very little conflict or war. Hospitality and compassion for those less fortunate is also valued in these societies.

Becoming a woman, being pregnant, giving birth, and becoming a grandmother are sacred foundations of matriarchies, and the mother is the center of society. Clans live together in the same house and family lineage is marked through the maternal bloodline. Daughters do not leave their homes; rather, husbands join their wives’ clans. Spirituality is based on an omnipotent goddess, the creator of all that is manifested in every living person, plant, and animal. From daily worship to festivals, spirituality an integral part of the society.

The following seven parts of the book provide examples of the differences in practice in matriarchies gained from individual community studies and are divided by global region. In “Matriarchal Principles for Economies and Societies of Today,” Veronica Bennholdt-Thompson describes what the patriarchal Western economy can learn from the Isthmus-Zapotec community of southern Mexico. The market prices fluctuate depending in the customers’ loyalty to the vendor, which encourages a close-knit, community-based economy. Bennholdt-Thompson comments that Western woman finding salvation in wage working is alienating and unnatural and that since women are inherently linked to creation, not realizing one's role as a giver of life is a betrayal of one's female existence.

Malika Grasshoff (Makilam) describes the influence of modern Islam on the ancient spiritual practices of the Berber people of modern day Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. The Berber language is only spoken, not written, and is passed down by elders who are considered to be living holy books. Accordingly, older tribal spiritual practices still have modern-day influence. These spoken word histories are called taqbaylit, which is also the same word for “woman.” Despite French colonization of the region and widespread conversion to Islam, the traditions of this society still remain a stronghold.

The last remaining sections of the book offer theories of the origins of patriarchies. In “Saharasi: The Origins of Patriarchal Authoritarian Culture in Ancient Desertification,” James Demeo credits droughts, starvation, and malnutrition for the fall of matriarchies in central Africa. The human body, when put under such circumstances, has less emotional and sexual energy, which puts a strain on the ultimate foundation of the creation-based matriarchies: reproduction.

Societies Of Peace is truly fascinating on an anthropological level. It is also as a call to action to create egalitarian and peaceful societies.

Written by: Sara Custer, April 3rd 2010