V: Of Martriarchies and Such


To those who may be receiving one of these post-notifications for the first time: This is not a blog; it’s actually part of a book, and will make little sense to you without knowledge of what has come before—which you can easily obtain, along with a goodly amount of satirical theatre as matters progress, by simply entering ttgftyri.org into your web browser, opening the menu, and starting at page one. J.J.


Today, the following fifty societies from throughout the world traditionally remain matriarchal (females hold the primary position in everything, including all property ownership), matrilineal (kinship and usually property is traced through the female line), and/or matrilocal (husband leaves his birth family behind and goes to live with his wife’s family).

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  • the Namibean Aawambos: matrilineal
  • the North American Acomas: matrilineal
  • the Akans Ghanese: matrilineal
  • the North American Apaches: matrilineal and matrilocal
  • the North American Arikaras: matrilineal
  • the European Basques: matrilineal and matrilocal
  • the North African Berbers: matrilineal
  • the West African Isla Bijagós: matrilineal
  • the Costa Rican Bribris: matrilineal and matrilocal
  • the North American Cherokees: matrilineal and matrilocal; in their native culture, the most important man in the life of a child is the mother’s eldest brother—to the extent that the child isn’t formally recognized as related to its father
  • the North American Cheyennes: matrilineal
  • the North American Chicasaws: matrilineal
  • the North American Choctaws: matrilineal; traditionally, only the mother is of more importance to children than their maternal uncles
  • the North American Crows: matrilineal and matrilocal
  • the Central American Cunas: matrilocal
  • the European Danes: matrilineal and matrilocal
  • the Indian Ezhavas: matrilineal
  • the Indian Garos: matrilineal and matrilocal
  • the European Greeks: various islands matrilocal
  • the North American Hidatsas: matrilineal
  • the North American Hopis: matrilineal and matrilocal
  • the North American Hurons: matrilineal; traditionally, tribal council consists of four-fifths women; kinship group or ‘clan matriarchs’, called Clan Mothers, choose tribal leader
  • the North American Iroquois: matrilineal and matrilocal
  • the Indian Jaintias: matrilineal and matrilocal
  • the Sumatran Kerenicis: matrilineal and matrilocal
  • the !Kung Sans of Africa’s Kalahari region: matrilineal
  • the Koms of Camaroon: matrilineal
  • the North American Lakotas: matrilineal
  • the Indian Malikus: matrilineal
  • the North American Mandans: matrilineal
  • the Marshall Islanders: matrilineal and matrilocal
  • the North American Mohawks: matrilineal and matrilocal
  • the Indian Nairs: matrilineal and matrilocal
  • the Chinese Nakhis: matrilineal
  • the Indian Nashuras: matriarchal
  • the North American Navajos: matrilineal and matrilocal
  • the Comoros Islands’ Ngazidjas: matrilineal and matrilocal
  • the African Nubians: matrilineal
  • the North American Onandagas: matrilineal, with women in charge of each individual clan
  • the North American Oneidas: matrilineal; women own everything, elect clan leaders, and to some extent control warfare
  • the North American Pawnees: matrilineal and matrilocal
  • the Pacific Islands’ Polynesians: matrilineal and matrilocal
  • the North American Seminoles: matrilineal
  • the North American Senecas: matrilineal; women own everything, also in charge of clans
  • the Taiwanese Sirayas: matrilineal
  • the Thais: matrilocal
  • the North American Tlingits: matrilineal and matrilocal
  • the Vanatinais of Papua New Guinea: matrilineal and matrilocal
  • the North American Witchitas: matrilineal and matrilocal
  • the North American Zunis: matrilineal

Actually, about fifteen percent, or some twenty-five hundred of the world’s seventeen thousand or so living peoples are found to still maintain this ancient, primary focus on the female—more than ten thousand years, or five hundred generations after the rise of patriarchal/patrilineal societies!

So just how did all these peoples manage to sustain their original concept of the family—albeit with various, local tweaks from time to time—down a couple of thousand generations?

Well, I imagine it went something like this . . .

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ACT TWO, cont’d

Scene 10

“Hm, if I’m going to be responsible for maintaining our relationship with the Great Mother,” First Person sighs resignedly as he lies alongside First Mother that evening staring up at the stars, “I figure I’d better start by teaching the young about her, lest some of them grow up to be like that idiot whom we had to chase away from here yesterday.”

“Hm, and you think you could actually manage that?” she turns toward him with real interest.

“Oh sure, just let me get to them early enough,” he responds easily, “—that is, before they might begin to form some idea of their own about everything—and I guarantee you there’ll be no more fools like him around here.”

Scene 11

And so late next morning, First Person stands alone in a nearby clearing, vigorously shaking an old, hollow animal hoof that he’s found and dropped a few pebbles into—while as the resultant clatter spreads about people’s camp, he calls out, “Children, come see what this new sound is all about!”

And when they’ve gathered curiously before him, he shakes the thing more emphatically, until finally he has their full attention.

“Listen to the rattle,” he commands them; “for it will bring you much important information about the ultimate mother of us all—whose humble, but undeniably responsible priest I guess I now am.”

* * *

Then he inserts his statue of the Great Mother into the ground before them and sits down facing it; closes his eyes as though beholding something that ordinary eyes are helpless to gaze upon; and proceeds to address the Great Mother directly: beseeching her to guide him and all the children along the great cerebral path that they’re now about to undertake together.

After which, he turns toward the mesmerized children and begins passing his great wisdom on to them: painstakingly reviewing the logic of the Great Mother’s existence; carefully portraying her as perrfect; glibly recounting his Great Story of how she created everything in the Beginning and even today sustained all her worthy children; describing her Great Realm, with its wondrous Lost Cavern, stupendous Elephant, and the celestial lights continually passing to and fro; and finally, telling them of the marvelous Stone and of the mighty Panther that was posted just beyond it, lest someone ever manage to roll back the Stone and re-enter that Divine Place.

“But why wouldn’t she want us to come visit her?” one of his brighter charges dares to ask when he’s finished.

“Ah, well you should understand that as the sustainer of the whole world,” First Person swallows hard, “she’s much too busy to receive visitors.”

After all, he figures, there’s no point in exposing these innocent youths to dangerous ideas.

Scene 12

“Listen to the rattle!” First Person calls out again next morning, soon bringing the children to him.

And then he describes life as some Great Tree that rises up from the Realm through the Cavern, grows taller and broader with each new generation, and will eventually spread unto the very limits of the universe!

“While in case you’re wondering just how our Divine Mother manages to keep up with all that,” he suddenly thinks to add, “why, she has only to wave a small twig or ‘wand’ from this tree where she wants something new to go, and Presto!”

Scene 13

“Listen to the rattle!” First Person summons the children again next morning.

And then inserting his familiar effigy into the ground before them, he lays some new carving of an infant before it and declares, “Behold we people as we ourselves first entered this ordinary world in the Beginning.”

Then beckoning to First Mother, he joins hands with her to form an arch and invites all the children to pass through it, thereby re-enacting that grand moment when people had first emerged from the Cavern to begin enjoying the wonderful world that their Divine Mother had prepared for them.

And the children find such fun in all this, they insist on passing through it again and again—laughing and giggling with such deep delight that indeed, it seems that he might never be able to get them to stop!

Scene 14

“Listen to the rattle!” First Person shouts once more the following morning; and now the children come running toward him to find out what exhilarating experience that he has for them now.

And setting up his new, Mother-and-child ensemble, he bids them face it and repeat after him,

“Up in this world we wouldn’t dare not to remain worthy of your care!”

And then he makes them repeat it over and over—until finally, they’re all chanting it as one, in perfect unison to the shaking of his rattle, and even taking great pleasure in shouting the rhyming word at the end!

Scene 15

And then next morning he continues, “So now, just how might we people seek to remain worthy of our Divine Mother’s care?

“Well for one thing, as with ordinary mothers, she likes to feel appreciated by her children,” he advises them. “And so once in awhile, you should compose some little paean or hymn to her, that she might be reminded of your eternal devotion!

“Here, let me show you what I mean,” he goes on; and turning toward his statuary, he leads them thus:

O Divine Mother, Creatrix of the earth and sky, and also of the sun, moon and stars; provider of all our food and water, of stones for our tools and weapons, of all our fuel, and the various medicinal plants; O ultimate replenisher of our kind, thou most glorious ruler of the Great Realm, where labors the Great Elephant and yawns the Great Cavern with its wondrous Tree, marvelous Stone, and invincible Panther; we people adore you, and would ever remain worthy of your perfect care!”

Scene 16

And next morning, First Person finds the children already waiting for him in the clearing and gazing ever so expectantly toward him as he sets up his customary paraphernalia.

“Now then, there’s another important way in which we all must demonstrate our devotion to the Great Mother,” he tells them, “and that’s by obeying her Great Laws.

“For same as your ordinary mother,” he continues, “she has rules that she expects her children to abide by—and woe unto those who’d disregard them!

“Her first, simple Law, then, is this,” he sets forth—and again shakes his rattle vigorously: “Always respect the Great Mother as your ultimate source and succor!

This means that you must never do, say, or even think anything that would disrespect her—do you understand?”

And when the children quickly nod, he shakes the rattle once more and continues, “Next, You must not associate with anyone else who would disrespect her!

“In other words, stay away from those who for whatever insane reason might seek to impugn, malign, or generally vilify her—and in fact, feel free to defend her honor by forcing such people to desist! Have I also made myself clear on this?”

And when the children again nod, he goes on, “Next then, Respect First Mother as her personal representative in this ordinary world!

“After which, comes Respect your own mother as the head of your family!

“Which is followed by, Respect her eldest brother as her chief support and all-around aide!

“And now, Respect your siblings as no less dear to her than you!

“This especially means that there should be no lying or cheating in your dealings with one another—and try to hold your sibling brawls to a minimum.

“While next one finds, Men shall not kill one another without the sanction of the Queen!

“And next, Men shall not covet woman’s power, but be satisfied to support it in the heroic spirit!

“You boys will learn more about all that as you grow up.

“But now, note that it’s also commanded, Women shall not treat men arrogantly!

“I mean, as you girls too grow older, you’re going to find it virtually impossible to handle all your responsibilities without men to help you, and you should respect them accordingly.

“And finally, let it be made absolutely clear, No one but I may touch the rattle!”

And leaning forward to shake it again beneath their very noses, he notes with satisfaction that not one of his young charges are inclined to make the slightest contact with it.

“Very well, those are enough of her Laws to have to commit to memory for now,” he dismissed them more calmly after a moment, “—we begin with as many as you have fingers.”

And so it all continues—until suddenly one evening just as they’re entering adolescence, they find themselves driven by their mothers into some new, larger clearing; where before the biggest fire that any of them have ever seen, they encounter, well, Panther-man.

Scene 17

Or at least, there’s someone fully cloaked in the hide of a panther, including its skull and fangs, effectively masking himself.

“Behold the Great Panther!” he roars at the startled youths in a wild, gutteral voice that no one can remember ever having heard before, “—ultimate guardian of the Great Realm, and no-nonsense leader of the Panther Society!”

And as the youths gape at the bizarre apparition before them, several ordinary men emerge unsmiling from the shadows and take up a position of absolute solidarity alongside the speaker.

“Now then, I’ve come here to examine you all,” Panther growls—so menacingly that many of the youths instinctively take a step back despite themselves—”to find out whether any of you pose a threat to people’s relationship with the Great Mother as you approach adulthood.”

And then with nary a trace of humor, much less sympathy, he proceeds to examine them for their understanding of the world, their knowledge of the Laws—and especially, their personal attitude toward the whole business.

* * *

And when at last he has finished, he declares—with just a trace of personal satisfaction—that they’ve done well.

“And so now I must tell you that come daybreak,” he further informs them just as the youths are noisily starting to congratulate each other, “each of you shall be sent alone into the wilderness, with no thought of food, drink, or any of the other usual things, but only of the adult state toward which you’re all, yes, still but presently striving!

“For now you must seek out the Great Mother in your own consciousness,” he gave them their final instruction, “and find out just how She would have you serve her in this whole business.

“And in fact, only when you’ve found that out—and vowed to remain faithful to her will for all eternity,” he declares firmly, “may you finally return here as budding young adults: that is, as people committed religiously to their own inner vision of all this, in the way of all people.”

Scene 18

And then gazing toward the dark forest, he warns them of the Ogre.

“And now I must caution you to beware of an unbelievable stupid old man out there,” Panther growls once more, “who not only cares nothing about the Great Mother, but would actually hope to usurp her divine role in all this!

And as the youths turn to gape with widening eyes at the forest’s shiftng shadows, he continues, “I should inform you that he too once dwelled among people; but they were forced to run him off, lest his continued presence among them ultimately draw her divine wrath upon them.

“So now he just wanders about, utterly despised—and as you might imagine, quite lonely. For he yearns for followers—that is, for some like-minded company—while his only hope of attracting any,” he notes with a particularly loud roar, ‘is by seducing innocent youth!

“And so should he indeed approach any of you out there today,” he moves on quickly, “best just to ignore him as not only your greatest enemy, but my personal archenemy—whom I certainly shall not hesitate in tear to pieces,” he concludes with his loudest roar yet, “should he ever actually have the temerity to come sniffing around the divine place that this Panther is eternally sworn to ptotect!”

Scene 19

And later that evening, when the entire next generation has safely returned from the forest as earnest young adults eternally consecrated to the Great Mother, First Person turns to First Mother with his deepest sense of satisfaction yet and sighs, “Well, I guess that’s that—I mean, I sure don’t know of any reason why now we shouldn’t all just be able to live happily ever after!”

“Yes, oh you did such a great job—really!” she responds with a rare tone of complete approval. “But then, I certainly knew what I was doing when I agreed that you should handle it, didn’t I.”

And taking him by the arm, she steered him away to watch the sunset.