The Origin of Feminine Submission: The Chalice or the Blade?
Riane Eisler in her book The Chalice and the Blade asks the question “Why is our world so full of man’s infamous inhumanity to man – and to woman?”
Historically, Societies Were Partnership Based
According to Eisler there were ancient societies, in prehistory Western civilization, that were organized very differently from ours. They were actually egalitarian or partnership societies, where women and men had equal standing, both were honored for their place in society, contributing equally with their different skills. Neither gender ruled over the other.
The book proposes that war and the “war of the sexes” are neither divinely nor biologically ordained. References to a time when women and men lived in partnership have traditionally been viewed as no more than fantasy.
It’s hard to imagine society ever being egalitarian or partnership driven considering that recorded history tells us a very different story. If societies weren’t male dominated, which seems to be the case in recorded history, does that mean they were women dominated?
When evidence of non-male dominated societies was unearthed early in the nineteenth century, it was concluded that they must have been “matriarchal”. But the evidence did not seem to support that conclusion either.
Dominator or Partnership Societies
In the Chalice and the Blade, Riane Eisler proposes two models of society: the dominator model (patriarchy or matriarchy – the ranking of one half of humanity over the other) and the partnership model where diversity is not equated with either inferiority or superiority.
(The Chalice being referred to as the source of life, the generative, nurturing and creative powers of nature; the Blade is referred to as dominant, masculine, strong, powerful.)
The life-generating and nurturing powers of the universe – symbolized by the ancient chalice or grail – was interrupted around 4300 B.C.E. What appeared on the pre-historic horizon were invaders from the peripheral areas of our globe who ushered in a very different form of social organization. These invaders worshiped “the lethal power of the blade”, the power to take rather than give life, the ultimate power to establish and enforce domination. Survival was dependent on the “blade”, as land, food, water and persons were taken for survival.
This dominant culture was called Kurgan and the first wave happened 4300 B.C.E. to 4200 B.C.E. (Before Common Era or otherwise known as B.C. – Before Christ). Subsequent Kurgan waves followed. This theory is presented in Chapter 4, “Dark Order Out of Chaos: From the Chalice to the Blade”. Very interesting read.
The idea that society originally operated from a partnership perspective makes complete sense to me. I never liked the idea, and still don’t, that humans are innately aggressive beings. Maybe I am being naive but as Eisler points out, dominator societies are neither divinely nor biologically ordained.
A Good Read
If you would like to delve more into this amazing subject of the origin of patriarchal dominance and the minimization of the matriarch or the feminine, please refer to Riane Eisler’s “The Chalice and the Blade”.
As one more piece of information to support women and our aging process, the book gave me the intellectual piece that supported a knowingness within me that our world was a more peaceful place at one time and that women were equally revered as were men. Idealistic? I don’t think so. Read her book and let me know what you think.