It started in 1986, when Heide Goettner-Abendroth founded the International Academy HAGIA. Academy for Matriarchal Studies and Matriarchal Spirituality in Germany. The Academy is dedicated to the exploration of matriarchal societies past and present and their worldwide existence. In that way, modern Matriarchal Studies developed as a new socio-cultural field of knowledge.
Later, three World Congresses on Matriarchal Studies followed which were guided by her (representative: International Academy HAGIA), and here, modern Matriarchal Studies were presented to a large public by international scholars: in 2003, the first congress took place in Luxembourg/Europe, the second one was held 2005 in Texas/USA, and in 2011 the third one, held in Switzerland, was explicitly dedicated to Matriarchal Politics which meant the search for the implementation of matriarchal principles in modern times.
At the same time, these congresses made visible the Matriarchy Movement, for which Heide Goettner-Abendroth did pioneer work since four decades. It developed in Germany and Central Europe, and now is also initiated in Italy, France and the USA. It is becoming increasingly clear that this radically different cultural model, which transgreses the existing type of societies and will have great significance for women’s and mother’s future and for humanity in general.
Today, Matriarchal Politics mean to make suggestions for new mother-centered, egalitarian and peaceful societies to explain what new matriarchal societies could look like. Of course, traditional matriarchal societies cannot be imitated, but we can gain much stimulation and insights from them, which – unlike abstract utopias – have been lived over millennia. For all, who are looking to implement new matriarchal patterns, these theoretical and systematic suggestions can be the starting point. It needs a clear vision which can give a clear guidance to make the subsequent practice lasting and powerful.
The suggestions refer to new matriarchal microstructures, to macrostructures, and to global structures.
At the social level this means escaping the increasing fragmentation of society – which drags human beings down into a state of separation and loneliness, and renders them sick and destructive. For that fragmentation is the breeding ground of increasing violence. Rather, it means developing structures that foster various types of affinity or intentional communities, such as communes, alliances of neighboring communities, and networks. Affinity communities, however, are not created from mere communities of interest – entities that rapidly come together and quickly fall apart. Rather, affinity communities arise from a spiritual-intellectual common ground, through which a symbolic clan develops, resulting in a group that is more deeply connected than a mere community of interest.
The matriarchal principle here is that such affinity groups are generally initiated, supported and led by women. The determining criteria are the needs of women and children, who are the future of humanity, rather than the power-and-virility aspirations of men. In the new matri-clans women will fully integrate men, but according to a different value system, that is, one based on reciprocal care and love, rather than on power. In a community like this, men also live better than they do in patriarchy.
It would be a political goal to support the development of such communities in every way. Many of them are already existing, as the new Communities Movement can show us. Affinity communities of different kind are spreading in Europe and the USA and at other places. Unfortunately, they are usually not led by women, the result of which is that the traditional gender-roles are not reflected and overcome, i.e. men as the givers of ideas and founders are still at the center. To overcome traditional gender-roles, the diverse new Feminist Movements and the Matriarchy Movement are of utmost importance. They dismantle the deeply rooted patriarchal sexism and create models to bring it to an end everywhere in society. So, it is completely different if women give the ideas and create the communities, as can be seen by the examples of new women’s villages in Congo and Colombia. The women’s village of Nashira in Colombia is intentionally based on matriarchal ideas.
At the economic level, further increase in large-scale industry, in expanding military, and in so-called “standard of living” would not be possible, considering the danger of complete destruction of the biosphere, of the life on earth. Here the perspective of alternative, local and regional subsistence economy arises, for the subsistence perspective means economic independence of the people. Subsistence entities engage in self-sufficient and independent activities in which quality of life takes precedence over quantity. This does not only mean doing local gardening and agriculture, but also fostering regional communication, arts, trade, and technology. Even producing high technology is possible on the regional level, if the monopolizing by the transnational corporations will be finished. These corporations try to make the peoples of the world dependent not only on their technologies, but also on the very basis of life, which is water and seeds. This must definitely come to an end!
Worldwide, the development of subsistence economy starts with strengthening and extending the structures of subsistence economy and gift economy that are still practiced, and in which women – who especially in the so-called Third World nurture their families – are usually the main stays. They give good examples how to develop similar structures everywhere. Regionalization of agriculture, trade, etc. for the benefit of women and their families or clans is a matriarchal principle, because they are the basis of human life on earth.
In modern context, the diverse Ecological Movements are on the way to this goal. They are many and they are everywhere. They include the Movements of Urban Gardening and Transitions Towns, which started in Europe, by which the citizens transformed public spaces like parks and parking grounds into gardens to grow food on their own. These movements are complemented by the Movement for Gift Giving with their many gift giving circles, and the Movement for Regional Currency, at which the people of a region use their own currency to get rid of the notion of capitalist money, i.e. the manipulations of the international capitalist bank businesses. This money is free from interest. It can only be used as “vouchers” to facilitate distant trade within a region that goes beyond the basic gift giving circles.
At the level of political decision-making, the matriarchal consensus principle is essential for a truly egalitarian society. It can be practiced here and now, immediately and everywhere. It is the inspiring stimulus for creating any matriarchal community, and its new, symbolic clans of all types constrain domination by individuals or groups. It establishes a balance between women and men, and also between generations, as the elderly as well as the youth are able to have their say. In addition, it is really the basis of democracy, as it manifests what formal democracies promise but fail to deliver.
According to this principle, the small units of the new matri-clans are the actual decision makers, but these policies can be implemented no farther than at the regional level. All the alternative movements mentioned above try to practice this principle more or less, and they have gained lots of experience in this way. To implement the consensus principle in future means to develop a system of councils, smaller and broader, which are all interconnected to make decisions on the communal, local and regional levels. In this vision flourishing, independent regions remain the political goal, rather than ever-expanding larger entities like nations, unions of states, and super-powers, which bestow ever-greater powers on their rulers and destroy step by step the remaining democratic principles.
At the spiritual-cultural level, it is mandatory that all hierarchical religions with belief in transcendent divinities and claims of absolute thruth – which have deeply debased the world, the earth, humanity, and especially women – must be rejected. Rather, we are looking at a new sacralization of the world, consonant with the matriarchal perspective that the entire world, with everything in it and on it, is divine. This leads to freely and creatively honoring and celebrating everything.
In this way, matriarchal spirituality can permeate everything and can become once again a normal part of everyday life. At the same time, this spirituality includes the matriarchal principle of tolerance, so that no one is forced to „believe“ something specific and no missionizing takes place. Matriarchal spirituality is neither a dogma nor a teaching of a powerful priestly caste, but the perpetual, multifaceted celebration of life and the visible world.
Diverse movements are already on this way: the international Goddess Movement and Movement of Matriarchal Spirituality, which developed within the Feminist Movements. Women celebrate the cycles of the earth and the cycles of life in many individual ways, and there exist no hierarchical order or spiritual head among them.
One of the most important movement is the Movement of Indigenous Peoples, by which diverse indigenous peoples on every continent, starting from their own spiritual traditions which are central to them, claim the rights on their own land, language, and culture. Most of them still preserved matriarchal patterns or, at least, many matriarchal elements.
Maternal values and matriarchal elements are also included, to some extent, in all of the mentioned alternative movements, and in many more which have not been mentioned here. But contrary to the Movement of Indigenous Peoples, they are not aware of it. Therefore, it is necessary to make it conscious to them and to brigde the differences between these movements so that they would start to co-operate. This co-operation is urgently needed, and the vision of a new matriarchal society, which includes them all, might create the bonds.
In a new matriarchal society, bigger is not necessarily better. The smaller units of society, responsible for engendering person-to-person and transparent politics, are given preference. They must not become so big that people cannot see through them, and cannot participate in their decisions, as is the case in so many of today’s governments and super powers. But they must be big enough to safeguard their self-sufficiency and the diversity of their handiwork, technologies and arts. The ideal dimension is that of the region. The borders of a region are not random, like national borders are; rather they have developed out of the conditions of the landscape and out of cultural traditions. Regional borders are formed by the decisions of the people themselves who want to live together on the basis of common cultural and spiritual traditions; this avoids any war of culture or religion. Often the landscape corresponds to these cultural borders, because natural borders can be formed by mountain ranges, rivers, big lakes, or the sea which bound people into their regional places.
A matriarchal society does not extend beyond its own region; it is a network of communities in villages and neighborhoods in towns. These are mutually independent village republics and town republics, and as such, the principle of consensus limits the size of towns and cities.
The same is true for the subsistence economy, it reflects the size of the region. It is based on intensive work and diligent, careful association with the earth; in addition it has been proven to be the most ecological and productive. Its dimensions are human-sized, rather than being mechanically super-sized. The result is a multiplicity of regional economies, varying according what is possible in the specific environment for the collective effort. Such local and economic diversity is a great advantage, because the diversity of lifestyles and cultures is based upon it.
These ideas are formulated in the modern Movement for Regionalism, which has been created out of the Communities Movement and is searching for political implementation.
The two faces of society
Humanity is made up of two – the men and the women. All traditional matriarchal societies have taken this basic fact into account, in that they maintain a social order based on complementary gender equality and perfect balance between the sexes. A modern matriarchal society will also be set up this way.
This means that in every realm of society women and men are equally represented. In matriarchal politics it is always a woman and a man together, as the chosen speakers for the clan, who represent it in the outside world. That also true at the levels of village, town, and region: here too, the speaker for the village, town or the whole region is always a woman and a man. They act together, representing the double face of society.
This is true not only in politics, but for every aspect society: for economic functions just as for spiritual offices, as well as for special groups and guilds such as handicraft workers, technicians, artists and scientists. Each post is simultaneously represented by a woman and a man, and so, doubly filled.
Culture and spirituality at the interregional level
Regarding culture at the regional level, spirituality is the connecting power between all the aspects and functions in a traditional, as well as in a modern, matriarchal society. Matriarchal spirituality is not institutionalized and is thus free, but it is not arbitrary. It has a binding foundation: Mother Earth, which holds everything, and the flow of life, which permeates everything.
Although a matriarchal society, as a structure, cannot be constituted beyond the regional level, it can create friendly alliances with other regions. These interregional associations are of a purely spiritual sort, and expressed symbolically. This means that people of neighboring regions might visit each other, giving gifts of friendship and celebrating festivals together in oder to learn from each other without any manipulation to convince the other from one’s own way of life. This avoids cultural hegemonism and spiritual colonialism. In this way a free, horizontal network of sister regions can be created, completely distinct from today’s centralist, hierarchal state structures.
In Europe exists a system of sister towns, at which town of the same size, but of different nations created a friendly relationsship to each other. The citizens make trips to visit each other and to share specialities of food or of culture during common festivals. Of course, these are patriarchally governed towns of today, but their examples show how these “symbolic relationships” among regions can be practiced.
In the age of modern communications technologies, these cultural and spiritual alliances are not limited to neighboring regions, but can link to other countries and even other continents. In that way, a sister region in Europe can be associated with a sister regeion in South America or Africa or the Middle East, and they can share communication and cultural gifts via internet – a practice which is already worldwide performed by individuals and groups of individuals. In this way, interregional associations among matriarchal communities, towns and regions will arise worldwide.
To solve global problems, these steps from below must nevertheless be supplemented with comprehensive structures. These are not „above,“ as there is no „above“ in this sense in matriarchal societies; they are simple more comprehensive.
National states no longer fit the bill: they are too big for humane, transparent political processes. At the same time, they are too small to solve global problems that the current patriarchy creates and leaves behind for posterity; this is especially true regarding problems related to advanced destruction of the biosphere on earth. It is no longer possible for national governments, or even regional ones, to solve these problems. They affect all of humanity, so global strategies are needed to solve them.
No more national states
Existing national governments must be dissolved in two directions: on one hand, in the direction of the autonomous regions, which are the basis for life; on the other hand, in the direction of a global structure with a purely executive status which has no state power. Such a structure could be a Global Council, which will be formed by the two halves of a Women’s Global Council and a Men’s Global Council. Today, the U.N. tries to form such a global council, but because of its patriarchal structure which excludes the issues of women, and the power plays of the super-powers on this level, fails to fulfill its ideals. In this form, such institutions are not much good when it comes to a radical change in the situation; rather, they just continue the patriarchal status quo.
Distribution of national wealth
An initial and fundamental challenge is therefore to dissolve the financial wealth of the national state, first to the regions, and in the regions to the communities. Of course, it does not mean that the money goes to individuals or patriarchal institutions, rather it is only distributed for matriarchal subsistence communities. Exactly half of this wealth must go to women of the communities, and half must go to the men of the communities, so each sex can develop their respective area of the society and region. As there is already a double-occupancy of every agency in a new matriarchal society, this can be independently accomplished by each sex.
This foundation, in which women get 50% of the national wealth, and 50% is left for the men, is quite moderate in light of the fact that women in most cases are the primary carers of children and the elderly; through this work alone they would have earned a larger share of the national financial wealth. However, this money is not a paying for motherhood and women’s work, but a small reward for all what women had done for free through long periods of time. This equitable division of wealth would enable women to stop begging for state aid – which for them is notoriously scanty anyway. They can start to build their own matriarchal communities, their own markets, theatres, and universities.
The constant social and economic crisis-mode in which all of today’s national states find themselves would come to an end. The current horrendous flow of money into male projects like the military, multinational corporations, monumental ego-architecture, and sports stadiums costing hundreds of millions of dollars means that there is nothing left but pitifully small amounts for social services, as women are expected to provide these for free – the usual situation of exploiting women. With the division of financial national wealth, women would probably establish infrastructures to fulfil social needs, with the likely result that culture and education would flourish. And women would establish their own universities, because their knowledge is never respected in patriarchal societies. But even men are not free to do what they want with their share of money, for the projects of women and men in the communities and regions would be agreed upon by the local and regional consensus councils, according to maternal values.
Global structures for global problems
The other direction in which the public wealth of national states should be dissolved would be the structures of the Women’s Global Council and the Men’s Global Council. An agreed-upon percentage of women’s and men’s wealth from all the regions would go to these two halves of the Global Council, conducted by delegates of both sexes, whose responsibility would be to direct and oversee these two halves. The Global Council’s assets would be used exclusively to solve the global problems of the polluted air and water and soil and the damaged life on earth, that means, to clean up the technology-caused legacy of pollution by military and industrial corporations.
Through the two-gender Global Council, the different perspectives of both sexes can be preserved. In this way, the “double face of society” is visible to the broadest institutions. Members of the Women’s Global Council and the Men’s Global Council are always elected delegates from each region, and are responsible to their region; they have no power to make decisions independently of their region’s determinations. They moderate and coordinate the decisions of all regions of the world in precisely the same sense that a regional or local council coordinates the decisions of the matri-clans.
With these structures, what we call a “state” dissolves, regardless of whether it is a monarchy, an empire or a national state. The concept and image of the hierarchical “state,” no matter how constituted, have become redundant. Patriarchal history of domination begins with the formation of “states” every time. With the development of new forms of matriarchal societies, which are free of domination, a new, humane cultural history could begin.
- Heide Goettner-Abendroth: Der Weg in eine egalitäre Gesellschaft. Prinzipien und Praxis der Matriarchatspolitik, Lassan/Klein Jasedow 2008, Drachen Verlag; translated into English, Italian, Spanish.
In English: The Way to an Egalitarian Society. Principles and Praxis of Matriarchal Politics, Edition HAGIA, Germany.
- Heide Goettner-Abendroth (ed.): Societies of Peace. Matriarchies Past, Present and Future. elected papers of the two World Congresses on Matriarchal Studies, Toronto 2009, Inanna Press, York University.
- Heide Goettner-Abendroth: Matriarchal Societies. Studies on Indigenous Cultures across the Globe; New York 2012/2013, Peter Lang.