The Gaean Path and Cultural Appropriation: Part 4 – A Prehistoric Goddess Religion

A Prehistoric Goddess Religion

With few potential exceptions, we largely have to reach into pre-history to find an authentic Native European spirituality. Even then, without original literary sources, we are often engaging in creative guessing about what these people believed. We know a fair amount of how they lived through archaeological discovery: what they ate, where they dwelled, and the technologies they employed. We can reasonably surmise a few things, such as they had little in the way of social stratification, based on the quality grave-goods and relative health of those human remains we find. We can surmise what they valued and worshiped through their extensive earthenware goods that they left behind. Sacred art has been our greatest clue to their spiritual beliefs. These guesses lack the backing of rigorous anthropological science, but were the brain-child of renowned anthropologist Marija Gimbutas. She drew criticism for her work on the “Kurgan Hypothesis” and “Great Goddess Culture” from mainstream anthropology, but some of her theories have subsequently held up, and they have inspired an entire genre of derivative archaeo-spiritual works, such as “When God Was a Woman” by Merlin Stone and “The Chalice and the Blade” by Riane Eisler.

The Tribe of Gaea has taken this request to “find your own religion!” to heart. We find our own spiritual roots in this deep, pre-Indo-European past. Going beyond the concept of “reconstructionism”, we are not trying to recreate the ancient religion, but using it as inspiration to develop our own contemporary religion with a uniquely European flavor. We are “reimagining” rather than “reconstructing”. We look to the works of Gimbutas and others in our quest to find an earth-centered spirituality that will work for us in this modern age. In the process, we strive to appropriate no living culture. Like the twin Titans Epimetheus and Prometheus, we look to the past as we envision the future.

But the bits and pieces from the past are incomplete, and some of what we do have is not necessarily suitable for us today. For example, it is imagined, due to a preponderance of artistic wares from that era which were feminine goddess-oriented, that their worship was nearly exclusively constrained to feminine deity. It’s possible to conceive that they also worshiped masculine gods, but we simply don’t have much evidence of that. It’s possible that worship of masculine gods was done without ritual implements at all, or done with implements that would not survive decay over millennia. Whatever the truth of this, we find it unacceptable to leave a divine masculine out of the picture entirely, or place him into a strictly subservient role to the feminine. Modern sensibilities ask us to consider female and male as complementary equals; while at the same time, we perceive a need to restore dignity, respect, and a sense of empowerment to women who have suffered in a secondary role for many thousands of years.

We feel that the abusive imperialism of Europeans over the last 500+ years, and of Indo-European imperialism over the last 5000+ years, is largely due to the elevation to divine status of masculine competitiveness, hierarchical thinking, and testosterone-fueled aggression in the religions of those civilizations. “When God Is a Man”, he is generally a warrior-king, wielding the scepter (mace) of his authority, which is obtained and maintained by violent rule. Christianity altered that god-image somewhat, giving us a meek, humble god who died for us; but they just transferred the violence away from God to the church-ordained kings who conquered in God’s name. In modern America, there’s less emphasis (although not completely gone) on conquering the in name of God, but we still see the same patriarchal patterns of hierarchy, competition, and aggression fueling our business and governmental institutions, and leading to a string of wars.

It is from this culture which a multitude of spiritual seekers wish to opt-out. They (rightly or wrongly) imagine the spirituality of indigenous peoples (“noble savages”) as being in deep communion with nature and sharing close-knit communal ties, and they seek a return to those values. They wish to live in harmony with the Earth, live in peace with other humans, and find fulfillment in living purpose-filled lives. Whether or not their perceptions are accurate, it is evident that indigenous peoples do have a different way of living and viewing the world than does Western Civilization. Does that make them idyllic utopias? Not at all, but Gaeans do believe we can learn some things from indigenes that can contribute toward such an ideal.

We have no need to project our ideals onto indigenous societies when we choose to take full responsibility and ownership of our own ideals. If we believe that living in sacred relationship with Mother Earth is important, rather than exploiting her, polluting her, and making her increasingly uninhabitable, then we don’t need to say, “that’s the Native {fill in the blank} way of doing things”. We can own that value for ourselves.

By the same token, we don’t need to appeal to any tradition, indigenous or otherwise, to proclaim that we wish to embrace non-violence and compassionate connection with our human communities. I choose non-violence and compassion because I believe those things contribute to the kind of world I wish to live in.

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