04 April, 2016

Goddess Worship, Archaeology edition

When people confuse matriarchy with misandry, archaeology edition...

Hey, Readers,

I'm rereading The Spiral Dance by Starhawk and got to the part where she discusses that people say Goddess worship always included human sacrifice in a literal sense (as opposed to the symbolic sacrifice of burning poppets, etc), but archaeological evidence does not support this. She lists several sites determined to be home to matrilineal cultures where Goddess imagery was common, yet no evidence of human sacrifice was present.

One of the sites named was Çatalhöyük or Catal Hüyük, where she notes that many figures depicting the Goddess and animals were found, but there are no provisions for human or animal sacrifice. Not knowing much about Çatalhöyük, I decided to look it up and read a bit. 

It turns out that the original excavations found hundreds of figurines, most of which depicted the female, some of which depicted the male. Later excavation lead by another person (in the 2000s, decades after The Spiral Dance was written) found two thousand figurines, most of which were animals, and took that, along with a few other findings, to mean the city was not decidedly matrilineal or patrilineal.

Here is a quote from the Wikipedia article, quoting from an article in the Turkish Daily News:

In an article in the Turkish Daily News, Hodder is reported as denying that Çatalhöyük was a matriarchal society and quoted as saying "When we look at what they eat and drink and at their social statues, we see that men and women had the same social status. There was a balance of power. Another example is the skulls found. If one's social status was of high importance in Çatalhöyük, the body and head were separated after death. The number of female and male skulls found during the excavations is almost equal."[26] In another article in the Hurriyet Daily News Hodder is reported to say "We have learned that men and women were equally approached".[27]

This tells me that for this archaeological team to believe the culture was Goddess-worshiping or matriarchal, they believe they would need to see evidence that the female was more important than the male, or had more privilege in the society. In other words, the direct opposite of the system of patriarchy we see now in many places. 

Unfortunately, this is the view a lot of people have of reverence of the Divine Feminine--that it must mean the female is superior. This is a big issue with how some people use the word "feminism" today, as well. Some people, like these archaeologists, believe that Goddess worship and spirituality of the Divine Feminine would look exactly like the opposite of the many current examples of patriarchal power-over.

I would argue that these archaeologists actually just gave the greatest argument that Çatalhöyük was, indeed, a matriarchal culture. Because that's what the Divine Feminine wants for, and from, her children: equal treatment, support, sharing, working together, community. Hodder used a phrase that is precisely the goal of a Goddess-worshiping feminist Witchcraft tradition, such as Reclaiming: "a balance of power."

I'm excited to look into some of the other accepted Goddess-worship sites to see what kinds of statements have been made where people believe they see evidence for or against. I'm not an expert in this field, and we are always learning new things. But I am a Witch who reveres the Goddess, perhaps unlike these archaeologists. So we do have a different way of seeing the truth in what they say, even as they think they are negating a feminist myth. 

Here is the Wikipedia article. The quote I shared is from the "Religion" section: