The Chalice and the Blade
by Riane Eisler
Goddess Worship in the Neolithic
Neolithic Archeological Evidence
Neolithic agrarian life was the basis for the development
of civilization (8,000 – 3,000 BC)
Neolithic societies almost universally worshiped the Goddess
Equality between the sexes was the norm
Both Priests and Priestesses important in religion
Nature in Neolithic Art
No imagery idealizing armed might, cruelty, and violence-based
No images of "noble warriors" or scenes of battles.
No signs of "heroic conquerors" dragging captives around
in chains or other evidences of slavery".
“For here the supreme power governing the universe is a divine
Mother who gives her people life, provides them with material and spiritual
nurturance, and who even in death can be counted on to take her children
back into her cosmic womb."
Rich array of symbols from Nature
Theme of unity in nature
Art was associated with worship of the Goddess
example: Goddess figurines
The Goddess was worshiped in all ancient agricultural societies.
Middle East and Southeastern Europe
Thailand in Southeast Asia
The Feminine Chalice
Gives birth and nourishment like the earth does
The Great Change
The feminine Chalice symbolized the source of life
The highest values were for the generative, nurturing, and
creative powers of nature, not the powers to destroy
The function of priestesses and priests was to benefit all
the people in the community
NOT to serve and give religious sanction to a brutal male
"But then came the great change--a change so great, indeed
that nothing else in all we know of human cultural evolution is comparable
Indo-Europeans (Aryan language) were nomadic tribes living
on the steppes of Asia
Warfare using horses
Swept into Old Europe, Middle East, India
“Ruled by powerful priests and warriors, they brought with
them their male gods of war and mountains.”
Indo-European conquerers were called:
Indo-Europeans gradually imposed their ideologies and ways
of life on the lands and peoples they conquered
Aryans in India,
Hittites and Mittani in the Fertile Crescent, Luians in Anatolia,
Kurgans (Battle-Axe People) in eastern Europe
Achaeans and later Dorians in Greece
"The Old European and Kurgan cultures were the antithesis
of one another.
The Old European were sedentary horticulturalists prone to
live in large well-planned townships.
The absence of fortifications and weapons attests the peaceful
coexistence of this egalitarian civilization that was probably matrilinear
“The Kurgan system was composed of patrilineal, socially
stratified, herding units which lived in small villages or seasonal settlements
while grazing their animals over vast areas.”
One economy based on farming, the other on stock breeding
and grazing, produced two contrasting ideologies.
The Old European belief system focused on the agricultural
cycle of birth, death, and regeneration, embodied in the feminine principle,
a Mother Creatrix.
The Kurgan ideology, as known from comparative Indo-European
mythology, exalted virile, heroic warrior gods of the shining and thunderous
Weapons are nonexistent in Old European imagery…
The dagger and battle-axe are dominant symbols of the Kurgans,
who like all historically known Indo-Europeans, glorified the lethal power
of the sharp blade."
"There were other nomadic invaders as well.
The most famous of these are a Semitic people we call the Hebrews, who
came from the deserts of the south and invaded Canaan.”
Jehovah was a war God
Peace and morality are now associated with both Judaism
But, is historical fact that these early Semites were a warring
people ruled by a caste of warrior-priests --the Levite tribe of Moses,
Aaron, and Joshua
Social system: Domination
“Like the Indo-Europeans, they too brought with them a fierce
and angry god of war and mountains (Jehovah or Yahweh).
And gradually, as we read in the Bible, they too imposed
much of their ideology and way of life on the peoples of the lands they
Indo-Europeans and Hebrews imposed a social system in
which male dominance, male violence, and a generally hierarchic and authoritarian
social structure was the norm.
Technologies of Destruction
The Masculine Blade
Societies that laid the foundations for Western civilization
acquired material wealth by developing technologies of production.
Conquering societies acquired material wealth by technologies
Women Reduced to Concubines
"At the core of the invaders' system was the placing of higher
value on the power that takes, rather than gives, life.
This was the power symbolized by the "masculine" Blade, which
early Kurgan cave engravings show these Indo-European invaders literally
For in their dominator society, ruled by gods--and men--of
war, this was the supreme power."
The New Norm: Male dominance
The Goddess and women were reduced to male consorts or concubines
Due to conquest by invaders
Not due to men’s gradual discovery that they too played a
part in reproduction
“Gradually male dominance, warfare, and the enslavement
of women and of gentler, more "effeminate" men became the norm"
The Story of Civilization
"The story of civilization, of the development of more
advanced social and material technologies, now becomes the familiar bloody
span from Sumer to ourselves: the story of violence and domination”
Foundation of Civilization
Foundation of civilization already developed by Goddess
worshiping people in Neolithic:
Civilization Invented by Women?
Material Technology developed by Goddess worshiping people:
container, and clothing technology
sophisticated wood, fiber, leather goods
Non-Material Technology developed by Goddess worshiping people:
Art developed by Goddess worshiping people:
oral or folk literature
Trade developed by Goddess worshiping people:
trade by land and sea
forcasting the future: prophetic power of the priestesses
of the Goddess
example: Oracle at Delphi
"In many surviving ancient religious texts it is the Goddess--not
any of the then already dominant male deities--who is identified as the
one who gave the people the 'gifts of civilization'.
The myths attributing our major physical and spiritual inventions
to a female deity may thus reflect their actual invention by women”
“ Such a hypothesis is just about inconceivable under
the prevailing paradigm.”
A Different self-image
The current paradigm pictures woman as dependent and secondary
Less spiritually developed than man
Thus women are to blame for our fall from grace according
to the Bible
"But in societies that conceptualized the supreme power
in the universe as a Goddess, revered as the wise and just source of all
our material and spiritual gifts, women would tend to internalize a very
Goddess a powerful role model for women
Replacing a partnership social organization
With the Goddess as a powerful role model women would tend
to consider it both their right and their duty to actively participate,
to take the lead in developing and using both material and spiritual technologies.
They would tend to see themselves as competent, independent,
and most certainly creative and inventive.
"In order to replace a partnership social organization
with one based on force-backed domination, fundamental changes in replicative
information had to be made.”
Imprinting a new code
“...a new code would have to be imprinted in the mind
of every single man, woman, and child until their ideas of reality had
been completely transformed to fit the requirements of a dominator society".
Shows of Force
Will of God?
Behaviors, attitudes, and perceptions that did not conform
to dominator norms were systematically discouraged.
Directly, through personal coercion
Indirectly, through intermittent social shows of force such
as public inquisitions and execution
“This fear conditioning became part of all aspects of daily
life, permeating child rearing, laws, schools”
"Undoubtedly many of these men believed that what they
did was also the will of their gods and felt divinely inspired.
Chalice Replaced by Blade
Norms were changed by constant fashioning and refashioning
of oral and written literature
New male-dominated, violent, and hierarchical society gradually
began to be seen as not only normal but also as RIGHT
"It had to be established that the old powers that ruled
the universe--as symbolized by the life-giving Chalice--had been replaced
by newer and more powerful deities in whose hands the Blade was now supreme”
Goddess Pulled Down
“And to this end one thing above all had to be
accomplished: not only her earthly representative--woman--but the
Goddess herself had to be pulled down from her exalted place.”
Justifications of Male Dominance
Goddess became consort or warrior
“In some Middle Eastern myths this is accomplished by a story
of how the Goddess is slain.
In others she is subdued and humiliated by being raped...
Such tales served a very important social purpose.
They both symbolized and justified the imposition of male
“Another common device was to reduce the Goddess
to the subordinate status of consort (wife) of a more powerful male god.
Still another was to transform her into a martial deity."
Goddess Absent in Hebrew Bible
In Cannan: "...the invasions of the thirteen Hebrew
tribes not only accelerated, but also radicalized, this process of social
and ideological transformation. For only in the Bible is the Goddess
as a divine power entirely absent…”
New Male Social Order
“If we read the Bible as normative social literature,
the absence of the Goddess is the single most important statement about
the kind of social order that the men who over many centuries wrote and
rewrote this religious document strove to establish and uphold”
Wrongs inflicted by Men
“For symbolically the absence of the Goddess from the
officially sanctioned Holy Scriptures was the absence of a divine power
to protect women and avenge the wrongs inflicted upon them by men".
Women in Old Testament
“By and large, ancient Hebrew society was run from the top
by a small elite of men.
Most critically, as we can still read in the Old Testament,
the laws fashioned by this male ruling caste defined women, not as free
and independent human beings, but as the private property of men.
First they were to belong to their fathers. Later on,
they were to be owned by their husbands or their masters, as were any children
“In Numbers 31, for example, we read of what happened
after the fall of Midian. Having slain all the adult males, the ancient
Hebrew invaders 'took all the women of Midian captives, and their little
ones'…” “ And now they were told by Moses that this was the command of
the Lord: 'Kill every male among the little ones and every woman who hath
known man by lying with him, but all the women children that have not known
a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves'... for these could
be sold for concubines, slaves, and even wives".
We are still Imprisoned in a Dominator System
"Millions of people still today seem incapable of perceiving
what our sacred literature really says, and how it functions to maintain
the boundaries that keep us imprisoned in a dominator system".
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