Gynocentrism & Matriarchal Societies: Past and Present

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Much of the modern world is, without a doubt, governed by men. While gender equality has improved in many parts of the world, there is still much progress to be made in this realm.

Considering that patriarchy is so normalized today, it may be a bit tough to wrap our heads around the idea that perhaps, at one point in time, women ruled the Earth. It might even seem like a far-fetched concept that’s perpetuated by feminists or idealists.

Whether or not a matriarchy (also known as “gynocentrism”, which literally translates to “female centered”) is a fantasy or reality is still up for debate. However, there is much to explore about this fascinating subject.

The Gynocratic Age

In 1972, Gloria Steinem, a popular feminist author, publicized the concept of the matriarchy, which gained notoriety in the years that followed. While the validity of this theory is still questioned today, it has sparked discussion about the possibility and viability of gynocratic societies.

During a time period known as the Gynocratic Age, women were allegedly worshipped and praised for their ability to give birth. Childbirth was a great mystery at the time, and men, not realizing that they actually played a role in it, held the belief that women “bore fruit like trees, when they were ripe.”

The Gynocratic Age allegedly lasted from around 2 million years ago to 3000 BCE. At that point, it is said that a great transformation occurred, perhaps due to a cataclysm or a groundbreaking discovery, and sparked patriarchy.

The Fall of Matriarchal Societies

As mentioned above, women were praised and worshipped for their ability to give birth. However, it is said that once men discovered their role in women’s ability to conceive children, they began to covet their power. This was the catalyst for the Gynocratic Age’s demise.

Evidence

Archaeologists and other researchers have uncovered much evidence that supports the theory that gynocratic societies once existed:

An 8,000-year-old sculpture discovered in the fall of 2016 depicts some sort of goddess. Some speculate the figurine depicts a fertility goddess, while others believe her plump figure represents a woman of social prominence. Literature such as the Bible (the Virgin Mary) and Homer’s The Odyssey highlight the importance of women in society. The Book of Enoch, a Biblical text that is omitted from the standard Christian Bible, also features more stories of women than other Biblical texts. Scholar Lotte Motz observed that women appear just as frequently as men in ancient artwork.

Skeptics point out that just because women are depicted as goddesses in artwork and literature doesn’t necessarily mean they were equal or more powerful than men. With no written historical records, we can’t be 100-percent sure as to the authenticity of a truly gynocratic society.

Other Gynocentrism Theories

Although Steinem is credited with bringing the theory of the matriarchy to prominence, she was not the first person to position such an argument.

Gynocentrism has been discussed throughout the ages. Female writers Lucrezia Marinella and Modesta Pozzo are credited with exploring gynocentric concepts in their work, namely “sexual feudalism,” which can be traced back to the Middle Ages.

Johann Jakob Bachofen, a Swiss anthropologist, also explored matriarchal societies throughout his work in the 19th century. He often cites the Greek goddesses Aphrodite and Demeter, who held significant power in ancient Greece, as evidence of women’s prominent role in that culture.

Robert Graves, an English poet and writer, was also fascinated with matriarchy in Greek culture. He attributes societal pressure to the eventual downfall of gynocentrism.

Modern Matriarchal Societies

Several matriarchal societies exist today all over the world.

  • The Mosuo tribe of China is referred to as the “Kingdom of Women” throughout the country. Unlike most parts of China and the world, the Mosuo women are in charge of everything from finances to land and home ownership.
  • Indonesia’s Minangkabau also places women at the forefront of society. When a man marries a woman, he is the one to move into her family’s home, and women pass inheritances such as land and homes onto their daughters like fathers do with sons in much of the world.
  • Similar, the women of Costa Rica’s Bribri tribe are the ones who can inherit land. They also enjoy the right to prepare cacao, which is used in various sacred rituals.
  • The United Kingdom’s monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has ruled the nation since 1952.

Are these and other modern matriarchal societies representative of a more women-centric past, or are they an indication that matriarchy is on the rise once more?

Society has experienced some pretty dramatic changes throughout history. Only time will tell if matriarchy becomes the norm once more.

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Decoding the Actual Age of the Great Sphinx

Posing as a sentinel on the Giza plateau is the weathered and colossal figure that stands 66 feet above the desert sand, the Great Sphinx, a limestone sculpture with the head of a lion and the body of a human. While we now know much about the history and mythology of the ancient Egyptians, the mystery of the Sphinx has yet to be truly unraveled. 

An ongoing battle between mainstream Egyptologists and a more recent wave of independent thinkers debates the age of the Sphinx by thousands of years. The latter insists the imposing limestone statue is much older than mainstream archaeologists, and Egyptologists claim it to be.

Mainstream archaeologists determined the Sphinx to have been built between 2558 and 2532 BCE. But in 1992, John Anthony West rocked the scientific community with his claim that the Sphinx was actually carved 10,000 years earlier before Egypt was a desert. West and others argued that academia had overlooked an important detail—the body of the sculpture bore distinct markings of water erosion. 

After his assessment of the Sphinx’s age, West found fellow scientists who shared his observation about uncovering an entirely different history than was commonly accepted. West’s search led him to Robert Schoch, a geology professor at Boston University, willing to pursue an open-minded, out-of-the-box investigation into the origins not only of the Sphinx but the entire region, as well as its implications for the origin of the human species.  

In Gaia’s original series, Ancient Civilizations, Schoch explains his first encounter with the figure in 1990, at which time he immediately noticed there was a disconnect between the statue’s academically accepted date of origin and the truth staring him in the face. Upon careful inspection, Schoch realized the Sphinx survived intensely wet weather conditions that stand in stark contrast to the now hyper-arid conditions of the Sahara Desert. 

Schoch concluded that academia had determined the Sphinx’s age by overlooking signs of erosion due to heavy rainfall. The deluge that eroded the Sphinx was uncommon to the Egyptian plateau 5,000 years ago, but very common 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. For Schoch, this was an exciting find, but for mainstream science, it was met with derision and denial.

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