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ANAHITA  July 1997

ANAHITA July 1997

Subject:

Re: No Subject

From:

Max Dashu <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Women and Gender in the Ancient World <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 9 Jul 1997 11:16:50 -0700

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Ever since the 60s, when I first began researching history re the status of
women, there has been this monolithic doctrine that the small goddess
figures were at best fertility idols, at worst of no significance. The idea
that they represented a female divinity and that divinity could be
considered on a par with the "great" male gods was dismissed. Back then
this view was doctrinal.

Now there is a furor as prominent feminist archaeologists like Gimbutas
advance  evidence that women once occupied a central, powerful role in
society. I am so sick of the criticisms of "sloppy scholarship," not
"rigorous," etc. The feminists are being accused of believing what we want
to believe. What about those who hew to the doctrinal view that men have
always dominated?

Gimbutas' offense was to dare to interpret, as a female, in the light of
her massive knowledge, not only of archaeology but of folklore and
linguistics. I would be hard put to think of a more learned scholar, so
well read in dozens of languages, who has also done extensive field work
excavating sites. Why such an uproar? Gordon Childe advanced a few theories
in his time which have been debunked, but no one has accused him of lacking
rigor or being sloppy.

We are looking at layers upon layers here in a complex picture. The goddess
figures in ancient Israel show that even though the *official* religion
worshipped an aniconic god, veneration of the goddess Asherah continued. I
can say this because references in the Bible back it up, as well as
scattered inscriptions that refer to the Hebrew god "and Asherah." Rafael
Patai has done an impressive job of documenting the survival of goddess
tradition, even within the Temple at Jerusalem itself, and others as well.
What is clear is that there was a concerted push to suppress this goddess
veneration, and not only in Israel.

I would say that the further back we go in time,whereever we look, the more
plentiful goddess images are, and the greater the historical documentation
for matrilineage and other female-centered social structures. Gradually
these cultural elements disappear, but the process is uneven, so that you
still find goddess statuettes and veneration in patriarchal empires like
Babylon and Rome. After many centuries of patriarchal law and repression,
they are found no more. There is no one chronology, as implied in Chalice
and the Blade with its heavy focus on Europe and west Asia. Brazil and
Sumatra and Tanzania and indigenous Arizona have their own chronologies.

I have spent nearly 30 years assembling a slide archives of goddess images,
and in the process I have been struck by how they have been deliberately
sidelined,trivialized as "dancing girls," etc,and squirrelled away in
obscure journals as poorly reproduced tiny B&W shots while the standard
lordly fare gets full page color treatment. They are not easy to find, even
when they represent the dominant iconograpy of a given culture. This trend
has only started to reverse in the last 10 years or so. I ask,if these
images really signify nothing, then why have they been so carefully
concealed, and ignored, and dismissed?

Max Dashu
Suppressed Histories Archives
Oakland CA

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