Yesterday I went to the very excellent Brooklyn Museum of Art. They have a show on feminism that is quite provocative and an excellent exhibit on the creation of the American identity. Surprisingly, this blog will be about the feminist experience!
There was an excellent lecture on ancient Minoan Goddess worship. This genre of history is based on the findings of the minoan civilization on Crete that date back from 2500 - 1500. The lecturer noted that in over 1000 pieces of art there is no fighting or attacking of women. Females are central in many of the images and women are depicted participating in religious ritual. Symbols of regeneration, such as the bull, tree, and snake, appear frequently in this art. Then, according to the lecturer, it was wiped out in 1500 b.c.
I loved the art displayed and the idyllic civilization he portrayed. The problem stems from the constant beating up of Western civilization that such lectures are always enjoying. They contrast the peaceful images with the violent ones of Greece. Via art and reinterpretation of myths (such as the capture of the Amazons) writers claim that Western civilization was based on a patriarchal attack on peaceful female civilizations. Later, other authors show, that the bible starts by damning women and the bull (devil), tree (of life), and snake (in the garden) and establishing an angry sky god.
There are several problems to this condemnation of Western Civ. First of all, Homer does not even start writing until 1100 - 800 b.c. By this time the minoans would be gone for 400 years and on an island. Worse yet, though, is nearly every primitive culture we have found in historic times, no matter how isolated, is brutal and oppressive. If the goddess culture thrived, it did so for a short time in on an island. No major states that we know of, from Egypt to the Aztecs, to the Persians, have been paradisical. It is not fair to judge Western civilization by a standard that has only been found via archeological digs on an island.
In comparison to all the historic civilizations, primitive tribes, and current regimes, we are by far the most peaceful and respectful of women's independence and rights. A fair evaluation cannot be made to ruins and unrealized utopian goals. This is the real world. And the goddess worshippers should recognize which culture supports their right to pursue their dreams, create their religion, and feel empowered.
But again, aesthetically, the finds at Crete are gorgeous and the exhibits at the Brooklyn Museum very much worth visiting!!