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The Other Side of History | Griselda Steiner | Scene4 Magazine | April 2017 |

Griselda Steiner

From the ‘Burn Your Bra’ generation to the current ‘Pink Pussycat Hatters’, American women’s irreverence is still trying to turn social injustice into recognition and respect for their rights. As the pendulum swings many of the legal, reproductive, cultural and political gains won via the Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1960s are being challenged. In the protests during the Women’s March on Washington on January 21, 2017 and the rallies on International Women’s Day on March 8, 2017, women around the world have begun to fight back.


In the 1990s, I was involved in the Goddess Movement that spearheaded awareness of patriarchal dominance in world religions. I revered its scholars, reading the books of Margaret Starbird - “The Woman with the Alabaster Jar” who championed the idea of Mary Magdalene as the bride of Christ, Elaine Pagels author of “The Gnostic Gospels” and Vicki Noble’s “The Double Goddess”. I was friends with spiritual feminist scholars, architect Mimi Lobell and artist Cristina Biaggi.


These women, who were shedding light on the divine feminine while being debunked by traditional academics for challenging canon and proving that ancient cultural artifacts were indeed testaments of Great Mother Goddess worship, are now cast in the shadow of time and barely remembered. I believe the road to true power requires more than political change but also reflection on a higher vision of female identity.


The Living Goddesses

By Marija Gimbutas

Edited by Miriam Roberts Dexter


coverphoto-crEver since I attended the Memorial Service for Marija Gimbutas held at Manhattan's Friends Meeting House on May 7, 1994, both she and the Goddess have been in my life in a profound way. My memory of the event has faded, but what remains in mind are the testimonies of architect Mimi Lobell, actress Olympia Dukakis and artist Cristina Biaggi, who spoke of Marija's warmth and indefatigable scholarship in bringing to light the Goddess cultures that flourished thousands of years ago. Mimi Lobell shared her remarks, "I first knew of Marija Gimbutas as a Scholarly Resource - as the foremost authority on the Indo- Europeans, those Iron Age charioteers who ravaged the Goddess Civilizations of the Old World. In the mid 1970's I got her book “The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe”. Prof-Dr-Marija-Gimbutas-photo2-crHere was Marija, an internationally respected female professor of Archeology at UCLA, a mother of three and published author who had the courage to listen to Goddess voices AND who had the skill to convey their message both to the public and that hostile male secret society: the Academy."


For these women, myself and many feminists who sensed a deep spiritual depravity in our patriarchal society, Marija authenticated the other side of history. We embraced her ground breaking premise that, "In Old Europe the focus of religion encompassed birth, nurturing, growth, death and regeneration... The people of this era pondered untamed natural forces as well as wild plant and animal cycles and they worshipped goddesses in many forms. She revealed herself in multiple ways through the myriad facets of life and she is depicted in a very complex symbolism."


Marija's studied archaic remains from the Neolithic age (7,000 - 3,000 BC), Bronze Age (2,500 - 1,500 BC) through the First Millennium in what would now include the landmass from Sweden to Spain and Western Russia to the Greek Isles. She identified the "Kurgans" as Indo-European warrior tribes originating in the Caucasus who migrated and then assimilated with agrarian, Goddess worshipping, matrilineal cultures. The Kurgans imposed their patrilineal chiefdoms and male deities on the peoples they conquered, changing their religions forever. Marija's theories, which challenged traditional perceptions of European prehistory, have met with great controversy as well as enthusiasm. In countless articles, her best-known books, (“The Language of the Goddess” 1989 and “The Civilization of the Goddess” 1991), as well as excavations in Yugoslavia, Greece and Italy, Marija developed her concepts from studies of female oriented forms and symbols. Synthesizing her background in archaeology, linguistics, folklore and mythology into an interpretive approach she called "archeomythology", Marija's work has proved valuable not only in itself, but as canon for future research.


Editor, Miriam Dexter Robbins was asked to complete “The Living Goddess” which is the last material Marija Gimbutas worked on before her death. This book integrates Marija's early work in addition to presenting new research. In unembellished prose that cuts to bone, Marija recreates structural models of matrilineal societies, Goddess myth and linguistic inheritance. In Part I "Religion in Prepatriarchal Europe", are chapters on 1) Images of Goddesses and Gods, 2) Symbols, Signs and Sacred Script, 3) The Tomb and the Womb, 4) Temple, 5) Sacred Stone and Wood Ceremonial Centers, and 6) Matrilineal Social Structure as Mirrored in Religion and Myth. The first chapter loosely categorizes groups of Goddesses based on the shape of statuettes and their inscriptions. The art of firing ceramics began around 7,000 BC and the variety of religious forms Marija deciphered include the birth-giving goddess, the mother and child goddess, the nursing goddess, the bear and deer goddess, the double goddess, the bird goddess and the frog goddess. She wrote, "The goddess of birth and life was also a goddess of death and regeneration. She represented the full cycle of the life continuum. Representation of the death goddess imbued with the promise of new life reminds us that the cycle was a totality." Not only did these goddesses serve as the ancestral paradigms for later mythologies, but their primal imagery is so vivid it can be traced to our own cultural icons. Of all the images of Marilyn Monroe, the one that has most captured popular imagination is of her holding her skirt blown up by the wind. In her explanation of the frog goddess, Marija wrote "Baubo is the goddess who displays her vulva, sometimes raising her skirt in a ritual that possibly dates to the Neolithic."


In Part II, "The Living Goddess” the chapters are 7) The Minoan Religion in Crete, 8) the Greek Religion, 9) the Etruscan Religion , 10) the Basque Religion, 11) The Celtic Religion, 12) the Germanic Religion, and 13) The Baltic Religion. In her chapter on Greek Religion, Marija wrote "During the Neolithic millennia, goddesses controlled birth giving, life sustenance, death bringing and regeneration. The Old European goddesses carried out these functions powerfully... By classical times, the Old European Goddesses were eroticized, militarized to various degrees (especially Athena) and made subservient to the gods." Marija traces the origins of later, more familiar Goddesses to their roots in Neolithic times. "Different aspects of the Neolithic pregnant vegetation Goddess can be recognized in Demeter, the queen of grain as well as her daughter, Persephone, who is both grain maiden and queen of the dead... Demeter and Persephone are sometimes called the Demetres, a name that stresses the oneness of their divinity... In fact, the two images represent one goddess in two guises, her older and younger aspects. The story of Demeter and Persephone recalls much earlier Neolithic depictions of the two goddesses, or the goddess portrayed as Siamese twins. It is likely that the double images and temples symbolize spring-summer and fall-winter seasons in a cycle of constant renewal."


Although conceived many years earlier, perhaps “The Living Goddess” was meant to appear in 1999 midst the confusion over the plethora of predicted natural disasters and millennium madness. In her last chapter, Marija discusses the Goddesses and folklore of her beloved Lithuanian homeland. In her section on Zemyna, the Lithuanian Earth Mother, Marija wrote, "Earth is justice, the social conscience, as represented by the Greek Themis, Russian Mat'Syra Zemlya and Lithuanian Zemyna. The earth mother listens to appeals, settles problems, and punishes all who deceive or disrespect her. She does not tolerate thieves, liars, or vain or proud people. In legends and tales, sinners are devoured by the earth, along with their houses or castles, the earth closes over them, and a lake or mountain appears on the site." Marija Gimbutas’ legacy is still being discovered. As we experience ecological devastation, perhaps the Goddess voices are the ones we should listen to and revere.

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Griselda Steiner is a poet, dramatist and a freelance writer and Senior Writer for Scene4. Her compilation of poetry and writings "The Silent Power of Words" is now available for order on Amazon Books.
Visit her website
For more of her poetry and articles, check the Archives.

©2017 Griselda Steiner
©2017 Publication Scene4 Magazine




April 2017

Volume 17 Issue 11

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