The Earth Mother


Notes on ‘Mothers’

Spencer, B. & Gillen, F. J. The Native Tribes of Central Australia. Macmillan. 1889.

`A man, for example, will call his actual mother Mia, but at the same time he will apply the term not only to other grown women, but to a little girl child, provided they all belong to the same

group…the term Mia expressed the relationship in which she stood to  (58).

Bachofen, J. J. Myth, Religion and Mother Right. Princeton UP. 1967.

`Every woman’s womb, the mortal image of the earth mother Demeter will give brothers and sisters to the children of every other woman; the homeland will know only brothers and sisters until the day when the development of the paternal system dissolves the undifferentiated unity of the mass…’ (80).

Frazer, J. G. Totemism and Exogamy. Macmillan, 1910.

‘…we confuse our word “mother’ with the corresponding but by no means equivalent terms in the languages of savages who have the classificatory system. We mean by “mother” a woman who has given birth to a child: the Australian savages mean by “mother” a woman who stands in certain social relation to a group of men and women, whether she has given birth to any of them or not.’ (34, vol 1).

Briffault. The Mothers.

`The word “medicine” is derived from a root meaning “knowledge” or “wisdom” — the wisdom of the “wise woman”. The name of Medea, the medical herbalist witch, comes from the same root… ‘ (486, vol 1).

The power of witchcraft is universally regarded as appertaining specifically to women. The witch is a woman, the wizard is but a male imitation of the original wielder of magic power…every woman, wherever magic powers are believed in, is credited with the possession of those powers because she is a woman.’ (556, vol 2).

Malinowski, B. Argonauts of the Western Pacific. Dutton, NY. 1961. it is clear that in a matrilineal society, where the mother is the nearest of kin to ter children in a sense quite different to that in our society, they share in and inherit from her all her possessions.’ (178).

Reed, E. Woman’s Evolution. Pathfinder Press, NY. 1975.

`…the maternal clan system was the original from of social organisation.’ (xiii).

‘…a clan and tribal system based on maternal kinship and in which women played a leading role.’ (xiv).

the maternal clan…was founded upon a collectivity of women who were sisters to one another and mothers to all the children of the community…’ (14).

`…the maternal clan system, which gave an honoured place to women, was also a collectivist order where the members of both sexes enjoyed equality and did not suffer oppression or discrimination.’ (xiv).

matriarchy was the necessary first form of social organisation because women were not only the procreators of new life but also the chief producers of the necessities of life.’ (xv).

`To us as mother is an individual woman who bears a child; she does not become a mother until and unless she gives birth. But in primitive society motherhood was a social function of the female sex; thus all women were actually or potentially “the mothers’ of the community” ‘. (13).

`Women’s pre-eminence as cultivators was registered in the fertility rites and other practices conducted by the female sex, as well as their glorification as “goddesses”.’ (131-132).

The hearth fire has always been associated with women…The renewers of fire, the tenders of fire, and the transporters of fire were from the most ancient times women.’ (145).

The witch and the sorcerers were predecessors of the goddess. In primitive society women were witches because of their mysterious powers of production and procreation. They could bear children and make crops grow; they could control fire; establish settlements, and make rules for the disciplined social behaviour of men.’ (148).

`With the rise of patriarchal influences some of the witches became transformed into goddesses, the subordinate wives or companions of the gods. In the transitional period from matriarchy to patriarchy, former female deities were even replaced by male figures.’ (149).

‘…the male culture-hero of the matriarchal epoch evolved into the patriarchal god…’ (149). After this shift took place ‘…the mythical world was no longer populated by mothers and culture-hero sons and grandsons but by gods and their sons (sun-gods). The goddesses were by and large reduced to wives bearing sons for the gods.’ (149).

‘As Mother Earth or the Goddess of Fertility, women bring forth abundance of food from the earth and also bear children. In their cooperative groups they are known as “The fates”, the spinners and weavers of the destiny of mankind, as well as “The Graces” and “The Charities”. But whatever the specific names given to women — whether Pot or Venus, witch or goddess — in the beginning they were the mother-governesses of the matriarchy.’ (151).

‘Once men came into possession of their own disposable property, they could effect the full transition from the matrifamily to the one-father family…the new social order founded upon private property and the father family vanquished the matriarchy.’ (405-6).

‘Baal, the lord deity of the sacrificial era, now takes an earthly, patriarchal form as lord and master of livestock, of women and children, and other properties… a new posture is ordained for women… down on their knees in worship of their lords on earth and in the heavens.’ (428).

Smith, W. Robertson. Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia. Beacon, Boston. 1903.

On ‘dominion marriage’ — ‘Accordingly the husband in this kind of marriage is called, not in Arabia only, but also among the Hebrews and Aramaeans, the woman’s “lord” or “owner” (bag,

ba’al, be’e/) ….I propose to call it ba’al marriage or marriage of dominion, and to call the wife be-ulah or subject wife.’ (92-93).

Hoebel, E. Adamson. Man in the Primitive World. McGraw-Hill, London. 1949.

‘The word chattel, which means any object of personal ownership is derived from the Old French chatel… cattle has the same origin. Chatel has its ultimate etymology in the Latin caput, or head. Chatel in ancient France referred to the property of greatest value, head property. Cattle were so much the chief form of property among our pastoral ancestors that our specialised word for personal property grew from the same root.’ (342-43).

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