Societies of Peace: Matriarchies of Past, Present and Future


edited by Heide Goettner-Abendroth

464 Pages
October 01, 2009

Societies of Peace: Matriarchies Past, Present, and Future, edited by Heide Goettner-Abendroth, celebrates women’s largely ignored and/or invisible contribution to culture by exploring matriarchal societies that have existed in the past and that continue to exist today in certain parts of the world. Matriarchal societies, primarily shaped by women, have a non-violent social order in which all living creatures are respected without the exploitation of humans, animals, or nature. They are well-balanced and peaceful societies in which domination is unknown and all beings are treated equally. This book presents these largely misunderstood societies, both past and present, to the wider public, as alternative social and cultural models that promote trust, mutuality, and abundance for all.

Contrary to common belief, which misunderstands matriarchy as “women’s rule,” these societies are based on a tradition of gender equality, negotiate their political decisions through consensus, have intelligent rules to ensure a peaceful life, and are balanced both in regard to gender and with respect to the generations, and which demonstrates an ecologically appropriate way of dealing with all living beings. The example of matriarchal societies can inspire us to find better social and cultural models for the solution of many contemporary problems.

Contributors include, among others: Riane Eisler; Barbara Alice Mann; Peggy Reeves Sanday; Claudia von Werlhoff; Lucia Chiavola Birnbaum; Michael Dames;
Vicki Noble; Susan Gail Carter; Annette Kuhn; Lamu Gatusa; Bernadette Muthien; Fatimata Oualet Halatine; Wilhelmina J. Donkoh. Contributions come from around the world, with several based in the U.S.

This anthology is of interest not only to students and scholars but anyone interested in archaeology or anthropology, cultural and women’s studies, sociology, ethnography, comparative religious studies, mythology, folklore, northern and arctic studies, Native studies, ecocriticism/ecofeminism and feminist theory/body politics.

“This is a powerful life-affirming political book. The feminist theory, vision and practice reported in this volume draws its strength from humanity’s common matriarchal history—uncovered, honoured and analyzed here by women from Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Europe and the Americas. Deep personal and academic knowledge of, and reflection on, surviving matriarchal elements in some of the contributors’ own Indigenous cultures and archaeological accounts of lost cultures by others, shape the book’s ambitious and fully realized theoretical and political project. Common principles found in vastly different matriarchal societies across time and space are potent guides in our continuing struggle to recover the humanity and harmony lost to patriarchy not so long ago in the scale of these things. The global dialogues and solidarities among women reflected in this book, as much as its inspiring content, give us hope that this new world is possible.”
—Angela Miles, author of Integrative Feminisms and Professor of Sociology, OISE/University of Toronto, Canada

“Throughout the ages patriarchal capitalism has co-opted human energy and knowledge, in order to control and dominate other human beings—and the natural world. But in today’s twenty-first century reality, the worldview of matriarchy understands all forms of life as being interconnected with each other. Women should rise and reclaim matriarchy for the needs of our present reality, and for future prosperity.”
—Wahu Kaara,Executive Director of Kenya Debt Relief Network (KENDREN), Kenya

“Ground breaking feminist scholarship on matriarchal societies. Urgently needed insights for recreating equality, economic justice, and peace.”
—Linda Christiansen-Ruffman, Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax/Canada

Societies of Peace: Past, Present, and Future offers a comprehensive study of matriarchal societies. There is a wealth of insightful work in the book from the clarity in Heide Goettner-Abendroth’s article on definitions, and Genevieve Vaughan’s discussion of matriarchal societies as alternatives to market- based societies, and through the historical articles documenting past and present societies and their contributions and issues. From the discussion of Barbara Alice Mann of the Bear Clan of the Ohio Seneca, Iroquois, to Lamu Gatusa of Mosuo, Yunnan of Southwest China, the work is a rich and provocative reading experience. I look forward to the book’s availability in our university library.”
—Sandra Mayo, Director, Center for Multicultural and Gender Studies,Texas State University-San Marcos/U.S.A.

“The diversity and breadth of these papers, many by members of present day matriarchal societies throughout the world, is astonishing and inspiring.”
—Cristina Biaggi, editor of The Rule of Mars: Readings on the Origins, History and Impact of Patriarchy, New York/USA

Societies of Peace: Matriarchies Past, Present and Future

Heide Goettner-Abendroth has published various books on matriarchal society and culture and is the founding mother of Modern Matriarchal Studies. In 1980, she was visiting professor at the University of Montreal (Canada) and, in 1992, at the University of Innsbruck (Austria). In 1986, she founded the International Academy HAGIA: Academy for Modern Matriarchal Studies and Matriarchal Spirituality in Germany. Recent publications include The Dancing Goddess: Principles of a Matriarchal Aesthetic (1991); The Goddess and Her Heros: Matriarchal Religion in Mythology, Fairy-Tales, and Literature (1995). Her main work on Matriarchy (published in three volumes 1988, 1991, 2000 in Germany) is now translated into English. She organized and guided two World Congresses on Matriarchal Studies (2003 and 2005) which are presented in this book. She is one of the 1,000 “Peace Women” all over the world who have been nominated by the Swiss Peace Initiative for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.


Lucia Chiavola Birnbaum is a Sicilian-American feminist cultural historian and professor in the Women’s Spirituality program in Philosophy and Religion at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. She has devoted recent historical research to the rescue of submerged beliefs that point to transformation and wrote several books on this topic. She is the author of Liberazione Della Donna: Feminism in Italy (1986), which won an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation; of Black Madonnas in Italy (1994), which won the Premio Internazionle di Saggistica Salvatore Valitutti;  and of Dark Mother:  African Origins and Godmothers (2001), which was translated into Italian as La Madre O-Scura (2005), and into French as La Mere Noire (2008),

Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen is a German social anthropologist specializing in Rural Sociology, Economic Anthropology, and Women’s Studies. She has lived and worked as a researcher for many years in Mexico. Her main emphasis is on peasant economy and feminist research in Latin America and Europe. She is the director of the Institute of Theory and Praxis of Subsistence in Bielefeld, Germany. She is presently a Visiting Professor at the University for Culture of the Soil, Vienna, Austria.

Susan Gail Carter is an associate professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, where she teaches interdisciplinary courses in the humanities, women’s spirituality, and community activism. In addition to presentations on her thesis/dissertation research, she has presented nationally and internationally on topics such as community-based learning, engaged spirituality in higher education, and the critical intersections of women’s spirituality, women’s studies, and the processes of social change.

Hélène Claudot-Hawad is an anthropologist working in the Research Institute of the Muslim and Arabic World (iremam) in Aix-en-Provence, which is part of the National Centre for Scientific Research (cnrs) in France. She specializes in the Tuareg world, a society that has been split between five States (Mali, Algeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Libya) since the 1960s. Her books focus on the original socio-political organization of the Tuareg, their cultural and ritual manifestations, and the different ways in which, in the modern context, the Tuareg have been trying to extend, change, or accommodate their nomadism. She has translated the work of the Tuareg writer Hawad and other contemporary Tuareg poets.

Doña Enriqueta Contreras grew up in the arms of the Zapotecan forest in Oaxaca, Mexico. True to her ancestors, she learned the ways of the wilderness at the young age of seven as a goat-herder in the Sierra Juárez learning the power of nature, herbs, and water. Curious and gifted with a fearless commitment to help her people, Doña Enriqueta became a midwife at age seventeen serving the broad Oaxacan community of Zapotecan villages on foot and horseback. In fifty years of service as a midwife, she has never lost a child or a mother in childbirth. Her extraordinary gifts as a healer and a “seer” are widely known in Mexico, the United States, Europe, and Canada. She speaks often at conferences and offers workshops on a variety of topics ranging from midwifery to preparation of natural medicines, to spiritual connections with Nature and Mother Earth.

Michael Dames is an artist, writer, and pre-historian who has earned degrees in Geography and British Archaeology. From 1971 to 1976 he was Senior Lecturer in History of Art at the Birmingham Polytechnic. From 1977 to 1987 he was active in several art projects to illustrate the synthesis between landscape and the human figure. He is best known for his books The Silbury Treasure (1976), The Avebury Cycle (1977), and Mythic Ireland (1992). His recent publications include: Merlin and Wales (A Magicians’ Landscape) (2002); Taliesin’s Travels (2006); Roman Silbury and the Harvest Goddess (2007); and forthcoming in June 2010, Silbury: Resolving the Enigma (The History Press).

Hengde Danshilacuo / He Mei was born in Labo Ninglang in 1978. She attended her village elementary school, then was chosen to go to a top class in Tuodian. In 1990, she started at Ninglang No. 1 Middle School. In 1996, she went to the Yunnan Institute for Nationalities in Kunming. After graduating in 2000, she went back to her county city to become a teacher at Ninglang Hengde No. 1 Middle School. In December 2003, she received a Ford Foundation Fellowship from the International ellowship Program. Since January 2004, she has been pursuing her  Master’s degree in Educational Administration Program, at the College of Saint Rose.

James DeMeo is director of the Orgone Biophysical Research Lab in Ashland, Oregon, which he founded in 1978. He studied Environmental Science at Florida International University, and received his doctorate in Geography from the University of Kansas in 1986 where he specialized in the social and environmental aspects of desertification. He was formerly on the faculty of the Geography departments at Illinois State University and the University of Miami, and has undertaken extensive field work in the deserts of the South Western u.s.a., and in Israel, Egypt, Namibia, and the Horn of Africa. He has published articles on the issues of energy resources, health, cultural history, environmental problems, and experimental life-energy research.

Kurt Derungs lives and works in Switzerland. He has studied anthropology, linguistics, philosophy, and history and holds a doctorate in ethnology. For more than twelve years, he has been developing a new field of knowledge that he calls Landscape Mythology, taking Modern Matriarchal Studies into account. He founded, together with Isabelle My Hanh, the publishing house Edition Amalia in 1995. In 2002, he designed the exhibit “Lenzburg—Landscape of the Goddess.” Since 2003, he has been lecturing at the University of Applied Science in Bern. <www.derungs.org>

Savithri Shanker de Tourreil was born in Kerala, South West India, in a matrilineal Nayar homestead with a depth of four generations, with her maternal great grandmother,  grandmother, her sisters, great uncle,  mother’s sisters, brothers, cousins, etc. All education up to a Master’s in English Language and Literature, completed in Kerala. She joined as Lecturer in English at the Maharaja’s College for Women, in Trivandrum, and taught there for five years. At age 27, she came to Canada, on a Commonwealth Scholarship, to do doctoral studies. She has taught at several Canadian universities and also in Brazil, and is presently member of the Faculty of Religion at Concordia University in Montreal. Ph.D. dissertation and area of specialization: Hindu women’s rituals, with special focus of Nayar female centred rituals.

Usria Dhavida is a Minangkabau and mother of a girl and boy who are now students. She studied linguistics and museology, and worked for 29 years at the Museum of West Sumatra in Padang, Indonesia, which collects and protects the Minangkabau cultural heritage. Today, she is the head of the museum. She is also an activist, and is particularly involved in organizations that are concerned with women, children,and social affairs.

Wilhelmina J. Donkoh has been teaching history at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana, since 1979, and has been Head of History there. Her research on colonialism and cultural change among the Asante earned her a Masters and a Ph.D. from the University of Birmingham, uk. She has published and travelled extensively, researching and speaking on a wide range of topics concerning Ghana’s history and culture, focusing on tradition and modernity. Her involvement in outreach programs has been extensive. She is currently the Chair of the History, Archives and Library Sub-Committee of the Kumasi Diocese of the Methodist Church of Ghana.

Shanshan Du is associate professor of Anthropology at Tulane University (U.S.A) and winner of the Elsie Clews Parsons Prize (American Ethnological Society) and the Sylvia Forman Prize (Association for Feminist Anthropology). Her book, “Chopsticks Only Work in Pairs”: Gender Unity and Gender Equality Among the Lahu of Southwest China was published by Columbia University Press in 2002.

Riane Eisler is best known for her bestseller The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future (1987), which has been translated into eighteen languages, Riane Eisler is president of the Center for Partnership Studies. She has taught at the University of California, is a fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science, and is a founding member of the General Evolution Research Group. She has done pioneering work in human rights, especially in regards to women and children. She has received many honours, including the Humanist Pioneer award and honorary membership of the World Commission on Global Consciousness and Spirituality. Furthermore, she co-founded the Spiritual Alliance to Stop Intimate Violence. Her most recent book, The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating A Caring Economics, was published in 2007.

Lamu Gatusa is Mosuo and is an associate professor at the Social Sciences Research Institute of Yunnan Province in Kunming, China. He devoted his studies to his own Mosuo people in order to preserve their unique social and spiritual heritage. In 1993, he took part in research travel with the International Academy hagia to the Mosuo as an Indigenous anthropologist. He is also a writer and has received awards for his work on Mosuo culture. He is a member of the Chinese Writers’ Union and the Chinese Minority Nationalities Writer’s Union.

Fatimata Oualet Halatine, a Touareg woman now residing in Mauretania, was born and grew up in the Timbuktu region of northern Mali (West Africa). After a career as a high school teacher, she continued her studies to obtain a Master’s degree in social and economic development. Fatimata now serves as consultant in various development and humanitarian relief projects organized by national and international organizations. Especially important among these activities is her work in several countries with African and European women’s organizations.

Carolyn Heath has worked for twenty years as a development consultant in Peru and also for shorter periods in Sri Lanka and Tanzania. In Peru she worked with the Shipibo, an indigenous group of the Upper Amazon, founding the Shipibo cultural centre Maroti Shobo, with the aim of reviving traditional artistic skills and generating income particularly for women. This experience aroused a keen interest in the intricate geometric designs painted by Shipibo women which symbolically represent a Shipibo vision of the cosmos. Returning to uk in 2002, she decided that an academic framework would enhance her fieldwork experience and embarked on the MA Women’s Studies at Ruskin College, Oxford. In 2008/09, she organized exhibitions about Amazonian people for promperu in London and Madrid.

Kaarina Kailo teaches at the Oulu University, Faculty of the Humanities, and has held several positions in Modern Languages and Cultures and in Women’s Studies both in Canada and Finland (Simone de Beauvoir Institute, University of Montreal, and Oulu University, Finland). She acted as professor of Women’s Studies and multiculturalism at Oulu University from 1999-2004. She has published over 70 articles and co-edited or edited numerous books on topics ranging from minority-majority relations, Indigenous literature, culture and postcolonialism, eco-feminism, women, globalization and technology, feminist perspectives on bear cults and bearlore, gift economy, mythology (Kalevala) and feminist literary criticism. Most recentely, she is the editor of Wo(men) and Bears: The Gifts of Nature, Culture and Gender Revisited (Inanna Publications, 2008).

Born in 1948 in Cham, Switzerland, Cécile Keller became a doctor in 1994. She has worked as a medical doctor in several hospitals, and from 1999 has worked as a gynaecologist in Switzerland. She also trained from 1993-1995 at the Centre for Shamanistic Wisdom and Knowledge, Quetzalcoatl, in Ronco, Tessin. In 1997, she started training with the International Academy hagia for matriarchal spirituality and is now co-director of the Academy.

Following the enforced flight of her family from Nazi-Germany in 1937, Annette Kuhn’s childhood was deeply influenced by the experience of emigration to the uk and then to the United States. She returned in 1948 to Germany and became, at the age of thirty, the youngest professor in Germany in the Department of History at the University of Bonn. In 1986, she gained the first professorship in the Studies of Women’s History and has since developed a critical feminist theory with numerous publications to her credit. She was visiting professor at the University of Bern in Switzerland and the University of Minnesota in the usa. Since her retirement in 1999, she is working on the foundation of a Museum for Women’s History.

Makilam is an historian, author, and Indigenous ethnologist of Kabyle lineage. She grew up in a Kabylian village in Algeria until she was seventeen. Her research is permeated by her personal experience and offers previously unpublished material about the rites and myths  of a society at the brink of extinction, where women and mothers play central roles. Two of her books, which describe the magical world of the Kabyle women, were published in France in 1996 and 1999. Both were translated into German and English.

Barbara Alice Mann lives, teaches, researches, and writes in Ohio, the homeland of her Seneca ancestors for the last 1,500 years. She is the author of The Tainted Gift: The Disease Method of Frontier Advance (2009); The Land of the Three Miamis: A Traditional Narrative of the Iroquois in Ohio (2006); George Washington’s War on Native America, 1779–1782 (2005); Iroquoian Women: The Gantowisas (2000/2004); and Native Americans, Archaeologists, and the Mounds (2003); editor and author of Native American Speakers of the Eastern Woodlands (2001); and co-editor and main contributor of Encyclopedia of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) (2000). She has also authored numerous journal articles and book chapters, including “Euro-forming the Data” and “A Sign in the Sky” (1997). She is currently a Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Toledo.

Joan Marler was born in northern California in 1947. She teaches Archaeomythology at California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco where she is on the faculty of the Women’s Spirituality, Philosophy, and Religion M.A. and Ph.D. program. She is the Executive Director of the Institute of Archaeomythology and is the editor of From the Realm of the Ancestors: An Anthology in Honor of Marija Gimbutas (1997).

Patricia Mukhim was born in 1953 in Shillong, Meghalaya, in North East India and is a renowned columnist and social activist. She is currently the Director of the Indigenous Women’s Resource Center whose mandate is to train and build the capacities of indigenous women of the North East Province of India, a region largely inhabited by hill tribes with a strong cultural affiliation to the people of South East Asia. Coming from the Khasi matrilineal society, Patricia has interpreted her society for the rest of India and the world through her writings and independent research. For her free and frank views and her commitment towards a liberal democratic ethos, espoused through the columns of leading newspapers in her state and country, Patricia was conferred the Padmashree, a national award in recognition of her social services, by the President of India in March 2000. Earlier in 1996 she won the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding woman media-person. In 2003, she joined the North Eastern Institute of Development Studies (NEIDS) at the North Eastern Hill University (India) as Research Advisor.

Christa Mulack is a writer and lecturer living in Hagen, Germany. Her doctoral thesis was entitled: “The Femininity of God: Matriarchal Presuppositions of the Image of God.” She has held teaching assignments at several universities and has been working on the issue of matriarchy for the past twenty years.

Bernedette Muthien is based in Cape Town, South Africa, and is a member of the pan-African gender network, Amanitare, and served on the Executive Council of the International Peace Research Association (ipra) 2000-2006, for which she was Editor of Publications. She is co-convenor of the Global Political Economy Commission, as well as an active member of the Conflict Resolution & Peacebuilding Commission. She also serves on a number of international advisory boards, including for two international journals, Human Security Studies and Queries (Africa Editor). A former anti-apartheid activist who spent time in prisons during adolescence, Bernedette’s life’s work is centred on concrete consciousness transformation in the intersecting areas of genders and sexualities, justice and peace. She believes in accessible research and writing, and has published both academic and creative writing (especially poetry) locally and abroad. She is founding director of a registered ngo, called Engender: www.engender.org.za.

Vicki Noble is a feminist healer, teacher, artist, writer, and co-creator (with Karen Vogel) of the bestselling Motherpeace Tarot Deck. She is author of several well-known books including Shakti Woman: Feeling Our Fire, Healing Our World and Motherpeace: A Way to the Goddess. Her latest research encompasses the subjects of Amazons, matriarchy, and female shamanism. She is a professional astrologer, and she teaches female shamanism and archaeomythology in the Women’s Spirituality Masters program at the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, California.

Antje Olowaili was born in Berlin in 1968. While studying free arts she initiated women’s art projects and wrote articles about women’s rights in the former gdr. During the years 1992-94 she travelled through Latin America on her own and stayed one year with the Kuna people. There she was adopted by a shaman and his wife and went through months of treatment with indigenous medicine. She learned the Kuna language, their chants, and famous mola sewing art. Her book, Sister of the Sun: One Year in Kuna Yala was published in Germany in 2004. Today, Antje Olowaili is living and working as an artist and author in Leipzig, Germany.

Gad Agyako Osafo was born in 1945 in Ghana. He is an agriculturalist, engineer (for alternative energies), and a healing practitioner. Since 1998, he runs his own practice for Alternative Healing Methods in Unna, Germany. He has had contact with Songomas in Swaziland, was taught by a priestess-physician as well as by various herbalists in Ghana and Germany.

Marguerite Rigoglioso is the author of the The Cult of Divine Birth in Ancient Greece (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). An instructor at the California Institute of Integral Studies, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, and Dominican University of California, she teaches pioneering courses on female deities and priestess traditions of antiquity. She has travelled to Europe and North Africa on numerous occasions to conduct research on these topics, and has published related articles in journals and anthologies, including the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, which granted her 2005 article on Persephone in Sicily an honourable mention for the New Scholar Award.

Peggy Reeves Sanday is a pioneering feminist anthropologist and a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. Her landmark book, Female Power and Male Dominance: On the Origins of Sexual Inequality (1981) is a classic in its field. She has received numerous awards and is a member of the Board of Scholars of Ms Magazine. In her view, anthropology has to do with Enlightenment and she is a critic of the concept of universal male dominance. Her most recent book, Women at the Center: Life in a Modern Matriarchy (2002), is based on more than two decades of primary research among the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra who describe their society as matriarchal.

Taimalieutu Kiwi Tamasese is Samoan and works today at The Family Centre in Wellington on Aotearoa or New Zealand, where she is the co-ordinator of the Pacific Section. She specializes in family research as this applies to the Pacific nations and to Pacific people, for example, in relation to mental health, poverty, housing, unemployment, cultural and gender deprivation. In relation to social policy, Kiwi is engaged in the development of new social policy perspectives emanating from various Pacific cultural nationalities. She is also concerned with the impact of government policy decisions on the Pacific Sector of New Zealand society. Further areas of her work include: documenting and analyzing the effects of cultural dislocation upon the Pacific community in New Zealand; a focus upon Pacific youth; and patterns of migration to New Zealand from the Pacific. Kiwi is regularly contracted to speak and advise in areas of applied social policy at national and international levels.

Mililani B. Trask was born and raised in Hawaii. She is an expert in international law and has served an inaugural term as the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Pacific Regional Representative. She is a founding mother of the Indigenous Woman’s Network (USA) and the Indigenous Initiative for Peace, a global human rights advocacy collective under the leadership of Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchu-Tum. Trask was elected the first Kia Aina (Prime Minister) of Ka Lahui Hawaii (The Sovereign Hawaiian Nation), an Indigenous Hawaiian initiative for self-governance, and has also served as a Trustee of the State of Hawaii Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Genevieve Vaughan is an independent researcher. In 1963, she moved to Italy from her native Texas. Her two early essays “Communication and Exchange” (Semiotica 1980) and “Saussure and Vigotsky via Marx” (Ars semiotica 1981) deal with language and economics. In 1978, she became a feminist, participating since then in the Italian, U.S., and international feminist movements. In 1983, she returned to Austin, Texas, where she created the Foundation for a Compassionate Society (1987-2005), an all-woman activist foundation, which initiated many innovative projects based on the politicization of “women’s values.” In 1997, she published her book, For-Giving: A Feminist Criticism of Exchange, and in 2004, she edited Athanor, The Gift: A Feminist Analysis. In 2007, Women and the Gift Economy: A Radically Different Worldview is Possible, was published by Inanna Publications. This book is a collection of essays from the 2004 conference on the gift economy, which she organized in Las Vegas. She also co organized the 2005 conference on Matriarchal Studies in San Marcos Texas under the direction of Heide Goettner-Abendroth, from which a number of essays in this volume derive. She is active in the feminist, anti-globalization, and peace movements. She coordinates the International Feminists for a Gift Economy network, a group of activists and academics devoted to promoting the gift paradigm. A film on her life, Giving for Giving, was produced in 2007 and aired on Free Speeech tv.The film and many of her books and essays are available free on her website www.gift-economy.com.

Claudia von Werlhof is the mother of a son, and professor of Women’s Studies at the Institute for Political Sciences, University of Innsbruck, Austria, since 1988. She co-founded Women’s Studies and Research in Germany, when Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Bielefeld. She has conducted years of field research in Latin America. Her work demonstrates trans-disciplinary attempts to define a feminist theory of society and nature that knows about matriarchy and knows how to analyze patriarchy, the new paradigm of the “Critical Theory of Patriarchy.” She is an activist against globalization as the globalization of capitalist patriarchy and modern alchemy, and has published numerous books and articles in different languages. At the moment she is preparing an international conference about “Ways to a Different Civilization?” in 2010 in Austria.

Ruxian Yan is a Professor of Ethnology at the Institute of Nationality Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing. Her decades-long research has focused on the social structures of ethnic groups in China, especially the matrilineal system among Mosuo people in Southwest China. She is actively involved in national and international academic activities and has served as an executive committee member of the Chinese Women’s Federation, vice-chairperson of the Women’s Committee in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, council member of the Chinese Ethnological Society, the Chinese Folklore Society, and the Chinese Association of Marriage and Family.



Heide Goettner-Abendroth

Part I. Theory and Politics of Matriarchal Societies 

The Deep Structure of Matriarchal Society: Findings and Political Relevance of Modern Matriarchal Studies
Heide Goettner-Abendroth (Germany)

The Utopia of a Motherless World – Patriarchy as “War-System”
Claudia von Werlhof (Austria)

Matriarchy and the Gift Economy
Genevieve Vaughan (USA/Italy)

Part II. Present Matriarchal Societies – America and Oceania

North and Central America 

“They Are the Soul of the Councils”: The Iroquoian Model of Woman-Power
Barbara Alice Mann (Bear Clan of the Ohio Seneca, Iroquois, USA)

Matriarchal Principles for Economies and Societies of Today: What We Can Learn from Juchitán
Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen (Germany)

Matriarchal Values with the Sierra Juarez Zapotecs of Oaxaca
Dona Enriqueta Contreras (Oaxaca, Mexico)

South America and Oceania

“Goldmother Bore Human Children into the World”: The Culture of the Kuna
Antje Olowaili (Germany)

Women and Power: The Shipibo of the Upper Amazon
Carolyn Heath (Great Britain)

“Aia Na Ha’ina i Loko o Kakou”: The Answers Lie Within Us
Mililani B. Trask (Hawaii)

Restoring Liberative Elements of Samoan Cultural Gender Arrangements
Taimalie Kiwi Tamasese (Samoa/New Zealand)

Part III. Present Matriarchal Societies – Africa 

West and South Africa

Female Leadership among the Asante
Wilhelmina J. Donkoh (Ghana, West Africa)

Akan Healing Heritage
Gad Asyako Osafo (Ghana, West Africa)

The Practice Medicine in Matriarchal Societies
Cécile Keller (Switzerland)

Beyond Patriarchy and Violence: The Khoisan and Partnership
Bernedette Muthien (South Africa)

North Africa

“We Are the Shelter and the Protection”: The Representation of Gender Among the Tuaregs
Hélène Claudot-Hawad (France)

A Tuareg Woman in Modern Times
Fatimata Oualet Halatine (Central Sahara)

The Central Position of Women Among the Berber People of Northern Africa: The Four Seasons Life Cycle of a Kabyle Woman
Makilam (Algeria/France/Germany)

Part IV. Present Matriarchal Societies – Asia 

India and Sumatra

Khasi Matrilineal Society: Challenges in the Twenty-first Century
Patricia Mukhim (India)

Nayars of Kerala and Matriliny Revisited
Savithri Shanker de Tourreil (Kerala, India/Canada)

Matriarchal Values and World Peace: The Case of the Minangkabau
Peggy Reeves Sanday (USA)

The Role of Minangkabau Women
Usria Dhavida (Sumatra)


The Kinship System of the Mosuo in China
Yan Ruxian (China)

Matriarchal Marriage Patterns of the Mosuo People of China
Lamu Gatusa (China)

Mosuo Family Structures
Hengde Danshilacuo / He Mei (China)

Frameworks for Societies in Balance: A Cross-Cultural Perspective on Gender Equality
Shanshan Du (China/usa)

Part V. Past – Theory of History 

The Battle over Human Possibilities: Women, Men and Cultural Transformation
Riane Eisler (USA)

The Iconography and Social Structure of Old Europe: The Archaeo-mythological Research of Marija Gimbutas
Joan Marler (USA)

Nefertiti – “A Beautiful Woman Has Come”: Matriarchal Power in the Spiral of History
Annette Kuhn (Germany)

Part VI. Past Matriarchal Societies 


Footsteps of the Goddess in Britain and Ireland
Michael Dames (Great Britain)

Landscapes of the Ancestress: Principles of Matriarchal Natural Philosophy and Landscape Mythology
Kurt Derungs (Switzerland)

The “Helka Festival”: Traces of a Finno-Ugric Matriarchy and Worldview?
Kaarina Kailo (Finland)

Dark Mother, Dark Others, and a New World: The Case of Sardinia
Lucia Chiavola Birnbaum (Italy/USA)

North Africa, Israel, Japan 

How the Amazons Got Their Name
Vicki Noble (USA)

In Search of the Lybian Amazons: Preliminary Research in Tunisia
Marguerite Rigoglioso (USA)

Matriarchal Structures in the Hebrew Bible
Christa Mulack (Germany)

The Matristic Roots of Japan and the Emergence of the Japanese Sun Goddess, Amaterasu-o-mi-kami
Susan Gail Carter (USA)

Part VII. Origin of Patriarchy

Saharasia: The Origins of Patriarchal Authoritarian Culture in Ancient Desertification
James DeMeo (USA)

Notes on the Rise and Expansion of Patriarchy
Heide Goettner-Abendroth (Germany)

Part VIII. Matriarchal Politics

Declaration on Matriarchal Politics

2 reviews for Societies of Peace: Matriarchies of Past, Present and Future

  1. InannaWebmaster

    The Feminist Review – April 3, 2010
    Reviewed by Sara Custer

    “In a time when it seems we have lost our sense of humane, egalitarian living Societies Of Peace stands out as a guide to what we can learn from matriarchies in order to save ourselves from self-destruction. This book is a collection of the presentations from the two World Congresses on Matriarchial studies. The lecturers spoke about matriarchal theory and politics and the origins of patriarchy, and profiled historical and present day matriarchs who vary ideologically from patriarchs in four main societal sectors.

    Politically, matriarchies are free of power structures. Everyone in the clan has one vote and decisions are based on consensus. Hence, the society is egalitarian. This structure allows for a balanced economy, the second variance from patriarchies.

    Most of these economies are agriculturally based, which makes wealth hoarding impossible, and without the ability to accumulate wealth, there is very little conflict or war. Hospitality and compassion for those less fortunate is also valued in these societies.

    Becoming a woman, being pregnant, giving birth, and becoming a grandmother are sacred foundations of matriarchies, and the mother is the center of society. Clans live together in the same house and family lineage is marked through the maternal bloodline. Daughters do not leave their homes; rather, husbands join their wives’ clans. Spirituality is based on an omnipotent goddess, the creator of all that is manifested in every living person, plant, and animal. From daily worship to festivals, spirituality an integral part of the society.

    The following seven parts of the book provide examples of the differences in practice in matriarchies gained from individual community studies and are divided by global region. In “Matriarchal Principles for Economies and Societies of Today,” Veronica Bennholdt-Thompson describes what the patriarchal Western economy can learn from the Isthmus-Zapotec community of southern Mexico. The market prices fluctuate depending in the customers’ loyalty to the vendor, which encourages a close-knit, community-based economy. Bennholdt-Thompson comments that Western woman finding salvation in wage working is alienating and unnatural and that since women are inherently linked to creation, not realizing one’s role as a giver of life is a betrayal of one’s female existence.

    Malika Grasshoff (Makilam) describes the influence of modern Islam on the ancient spiritual practices of the Berber people of modern day Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. The Berber language is only spoken, not written, and is passed down by elders who are considered to be living holy books. Accordingly, older tribal spiritual practices still have modern-day influence. These spoken word histories are called taqbaylit, which is also the same word for “woman.” Despite French colonization of the region and widespread conversion to Islam, the traditions of this society still remain a stronghold.

    The last remaining sections of the book offer theories of the origins of patriarchies. In “Saharasi: The Origins of Patriarchal Authoritarian Culture in Ancient Desertification,” James Demeo credits droughts, starvation, and malnutrition for the fall of matriarchies in central Africa. The human body, when put under such circumstances, has less emotional and sexual energy, which puts a strain on the ultimate foundation of the creation-based matriarchies: reproduction.

    Societies Of Peace is truly fascinating on an anthropological level. It is also as a call to action to create egalitarian and peaceful societies.”

  2. InannaWebmaster

    Sage Woman
    Reviewed by Barbara Ardinger, PhD.

    “The word “matriarchy” has gotten a bad rap. That’s because it looks too much like the word “patriarchy.” Presumably, to those who contemplate words ending in “-archy,” it means powerover. Even the *American Heritage Dictionary *gets into the act, defining matriarchate” as “a hypothetical state in the evolution of primitive society in which authority is held by matriarchs.” Whoa —mother-rule is hypothetical? It’s primitive? It’s the mirror image of father-rule?

    Well, let’s look at history. Who’s been ruling church and state for, say, the past five thousand years? Popes, rabbis, caliphs, mullahs. Kings, emperors, presidents, prime ministers. Yes, we’ve had some female rulers, but how many have held true sovereignty as women? Hatshepsut wore a false beard and called herself king of Egypt. In her famous speech before the invasion of the Spanish Armada, Elizabeth I of England called herself a prince. It’s hard to think of a female ruler who truly ruled her land as a woman and stayed alive for long.

    Today there is a movement whose goal is to change the received knowledge. Modern Matriarchal Studies was founded thirty years ago, primarily by German scholar Heide Goettner-Abendroth, to study true matriarchal society, past and present. Yes, there are some matriarchies on the earth today, and some of them are very old. As Goettner-Abendroth writes in her opening essay ,”With matriarchies, equality does not mean a mere levelling of differences… The different genders and generations each have their own value and dignity, and through a system of complementary activities, are dependent on each other.”

    The bulk of Societies of Peace consists of presentations by representatives of matriarchal societies — which exist in various stages of stability in the Americas, Africa and Asia — and scholars of matriarchal studies. It’s significant to note that no matriarchal societies have survived in Europe; in her essay, “The Utopia of a Motherless World,” Claudia von Werlhof says that men are running on a war-system. She also presents an interesting view of alchemy; alchemy becomes capitalism, she writes, and it turns people, especially women, into commodities.
    For many of authors of these esaays, English is not their first language; for that reason, parts of the book are hard going. Nevertheless, *Societies of Peace *should be required reading for anyone who is politically active and/or concerned about issues like global warming, economics, and healthcare. There’s got to be a better way to manage the world. The essays in this book tell us what that better way can be.”

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