The Mystery of Money – Beyond Greed and Scarcity | Chapter 2 | Bernard Lietaer (2002)

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Chapter 2: The Case of the Missing Archetype

“The Tao is called Great Mother:
Empty yet inexhaustible,
It gives birth to infinite worlds.”
Lao Tzu1

“For a civilization, history is the unconscious.”
Richard Tarnas2

Question: How would Inspector Hercule Poirot (the Belgian Sherlock Holmes) discover that an important archetype is missing in the archetypal map of Figure 1.4?

A hint: If an archetype is deeply repressed in a society, it will not show up in its dominant mythologies.

Elementary, my dear Watson. The answer is that:

  • A repressed archetype would reveal itself by big “fingerprint” shadows in asociety;
  • One would know that two shadows belong to the same archetype when they are in Yin-Yang polarity and strongly linked by fear;
  • And finally, these shadows would be considered as “normal” human behavior and feelings.

I then remembered that there has been a rather important archetype – the Great Mother – that has been systematically repressed in Western civilization. Furthermore, its shadows fit like an iron gauntlet on the emotions that characterize our relationships with money as shown in Figure 2.1.

Figure 2.1 The Great Mother (Provider) Archetype and her shadows

These two shadows fit indeed all three of our detective’s criteria:

  1. Greed and the fear of scarcity are quite prevalent in our societies, and have been for extensive periods of time
  2. As mentioned in the previous chapter, these two shadows form a Yin-Yang polarity, and are linked by fear.
  3. They are considered “normal,” in fact so normal that Adam Smith felt the need to develop a whole theory – called economics – whose purpose is to allocate scarce resources through the means of the individual desire to accumulate. I will revisit Adam Smith’s theories later in this chapter.

Our detective would search for evidence in support of this intuitive leap forward, aiming at establishing the following three points:

  • That the Great Mother archetype was present and active when money was invented;
  • That there is evidence of an important direct connection – beyond the coincidence of time periods – between money systems and the Great Mother archetype;
  • That the Great Mother archetype was later repressed and that this affected the money system.

What follows is a synopsis of the evidence uncovered so far for each one of these points.

Starting at the beginning, we need to find out who is this Great Mother archetype in the first place.

The Great Mother

I will focus on the evolution of the Great Mother archetype in Europe, not because she is uniquely European (in fact she is truly universal) but because it is the shaping of the Western European unconscious that has determined the characteristics of modern money institutions that are now universally applicable in the world.

One should however remain aware that what follows is only one of the possible interpretations of the archeological evidence – a plausible interpretation within the constraints of the material evidence – but still not the only possible one. There is now a strident debate going on within the scientific community of prehistorians precisely on how to interpret the archeological evidence from the upper Paleolithic to the early Bronze Age periods (roughly from 30,000 BC to 3,000 BC).

Why does this debate matter? One of the most powerful ways to understand what a particular society is up to here on earth, is to look at its image of the divine. A view of the divine that denies any significant role to the feminine leaves little room for women to honor themselves or their bodies.

Contemporary “women’s issues” ranging from theological disputes about the right of religious ordination for women to fairer distribution of social power have a direct relevance with the claims that women had such roles in the past. Hence the strong feelings stirred up on both sides of the debate. People who prefer a patriarchal status quo will predictably interpret the evidence so that they can claim that there always has been a gender asymmetry that women should remain as “second sex” because it has always been so. People in favor of women’s emancipation and gender equality will just as predictably interpret the distant past from their perspective. All this should remind us that our working model should remain open to being confirmed, modified or rejected by new evidence or analysis. (See sidebar on the Goddess Cult controversy).

The Goddess Cult Controversy

Recent decades have seen a growing controversy between two diametrically opposed interpretations of the archeological evidence of the prehistoric period. Each side of the debate accuses the other of unscientific bias. On the one side, there is the traditional school accused of willfully ignoring the evidence of female power in prehistory. On the other there is the “Goddess movement” which is accused of reinventing the past on flimsy evidence.

The facts are that

  • Any historic and a fortiori prehistoric evidence will by definition remain more flimsy than is desirable;
  • Everybody is necessarily a product of his or her time, priorities and values, and will therefore observe reality through the filters of his or her own experience. Even in hard sciences like Physics, we have had to accept that a totally “objective” observer – capable of observing things the way they really are – cannot exist.3 This epistemological problem is of course amplified whenever we are dealing with human sciences, and more still whenever the issue is about interpreting the meaning of very ancient and highly fragmentary evidence and remains.


Furthermore, this epistemological issue exists by definition in any area of knowledge that tries to capture psychological or cultural realities – what Ken Wilber defines as the “Interior” dimension of reality (see on page 8 the “left-hand side” of Figure I.1).

Prehistory and history are therefore, by definition, about interpreting evidence, specifically surviving evidence. There is ample evidence that there has been over the past five millennia a substantial repression of the feminine, as will be shown below.

There is also little doubt – with evidence available even in contemporary issues – that “history is usually written by the winners”, and that the biases are therefore more likely to occur in favor of the views of this “top dog”. Although I have taken into account the arguments of both sides of the Goddess Cult controversy, I have attempted to compensate for the likely built- in bias by giving more voice to the side of the historical “underdog”.


Notice that the object of our search here is archetypal history. For instance, the question whether there was a single “Great Goddess” or “Great Mother” as the proponents of the “Goddess movement” claim, or whether there was a wealth of different Goddesses with different names, complex overlapping attributes or even in some cases only mortal women presented in a glorious light, as claimed by their detractors, may be important from an epigraphic and archeological viewpoint.4 For our purposes, this distinction doesn’t matter so much, as either way they point to a similar activation of the collective unconscious. For the sake of language simplicity, the vocabulary of a single “Great Mother” is meant here in the sense that the Great Mother archetype was honored and active, rather than implying that literally there was an identical uniform entity venerated across tens of thousands of years and vast geographical areas.

To begin, there are four times as many prehistoric representations of feminine figurines than masculine ones.5 Among those, one of the most frequent ancient figurines discovered all over Old Europe represents a plump, often pregnant, feminine figure that has been identified as the Great Mother or the Fertility Goddess. The Great Mother was part of the Great Goddess cult. “The Goddess in all her manifestations was the symbol of unity of all life in Nature. Her power was in water and stone, in tomb and cave, in animals and birds, snakes and fish, hills, trees and flowers.

Hence the holistic and mythopoetic perception of the sacredness and mystery of all there is on Earth.”6 The Great Goddess embodied in fact the entire archetypal map. She was Queen, Warrior, Lover, Magician and Great Mother. Marija Gimbutas claims to have inventoried some 30,000 pre-historic artifacts which show her in all these aspects, and which testify to the worship of the Goddess.7

Photo 2.1 (full page) Moreno Tomasetig

Great Mother of Willendorf (30,000-25,000 B.C.). This is an emblematic fertility figure, and not the portrait of a specific woman. Seven circles of ‘hair locks’ hide her face. The vulva is clearly marked. The bosom and the thighs are disproportional compared to the hands, in order to emphasize them.

Original drawing by Moreno Tomasetig.

What I will be referring to here is only the Great Mother component of the Goddess, the Fertility archetype that was probably the most ancient aspect of the Great Goddess. It is indeed understandable that the first form of religious expression would be the image of a mother pregnant with or nurturing her child. Modern psychoanalysis has amply confirmed the critical importance of the early bond between mother and child, when the child is utterly dependent for survival on the all-powerful mother figure. Her indifference or neglect meant certain death. The Great Mother, quite literally, had a similar power over the life and death of her children (sidebar on the “Power of the Breast”).

The Power of the Breast

“At the beginning was the breast. For all but a fraction of human history, there was no substitute for a mother’s milk. Indeed, until the end of the 19th century, when pasteurization made animal milk safe, a maternal breast meant life or death for every newborn babe. Small wonder that our prehistoric ancestors endowed their female idols with awesome bosoms…It takes no great stretch of the imagination to picture a distraught Stone Age mother begging one of those buxom idols for an ample supply of milk.”8 (See photo 2.1.)

But we need to transcend the reductionism that tends to see in Great Mother figures only sexuality, fertility, and nurturing of children. The Great Mother connects the human body and the earth to the mystery of the sacred. She celebrates the process of time cycles and life itself in all its forms, all renewal, all growth; the paradox of life-death, all change as well as all continuity. “She is first of all Earth, the dark, nurturing mother who brings forth all life. She is the power of fertility and generation, the womb, and also the receptive tomb, the power of death. All proceeds from Her, all returns to Her. As Earth She is also plant life, trees, and the herbs and grains that sustain life. She is the body, and the body is sacred” 9

The mystery is always of the body.

The mystery is always of the body of a woman.”10

Great Mother effigies were carved during the upper-Paleolithic period (ca. 30,000 to 9,000 B.C.) in mammoth-ivory, in reindeer antlers, on stone or in live rock at the entrance of the sacred caves symbolizing her womb11. As soon as pottery was developed, that new medium created a plethora of her representations12. In short her presence has been documented from the earliest times of human consciousness, uninterrupted until about 3,000 BC. Her unrivaled influence and imprint lasted at least ten times longer than the male Creator-Sky-God prevalent in today’s Judeo-Christian world-view.

The best-known economist of the 20th century, John Maynard Keynes, concluded: “Money, like certain other elements in civilizations, is a far more ancient institution than we were taught to believe. Its origins are lost in the mists when the ice was melting, and may well stretch into the intervals in human history of the inter-glacial periods.”13 This is, of course, the period when the Great Mother cults were in full bloom.

But we need more than mere coincidence of time period to establish a true connection between the Great Mother archetype and money systems. Is there any evidence that this Great Mother archetype has any direct relationship with the earliest money systems? This is what is scrutinized next.

Photograph 2.2 (each ¼ page)

Goddess of Dolni Vêstonice, in fired clay. Czechoslovakia (20,000 B.C.E.). Here again the facial features of the figurine are de-emphasized, in contrast while the ample breast and thighs.

Photo 2.3 (Goodison & Morris pg 53 Or Gimbutas)

One of the Earth mothers of Mal’ta, Siberia (16,000-13,000) carved out of mammoth-ivory. This goddess has tapering legs that would allow the figure to be fixed into the earth.

Photo 2.4 (2/3 page)

Goddess of Çatal Hüyük, Anatolia, in fired clay (6,000 B.C). Seated on an imposing throne whose sides represent two lionesses, the massive presence denotes the Great Mother in all her power.

Original drawing by Moreno Tomasetig.

The Great Mother Archetype and Early Money Systems

The best work on Primitive Money is still Paul Einzig’s.14 But even that pioneering research made barely a dent in what the historian Toynbee’s describes as the “terra incognita of currency systems in the 650 primitive societies” he had identified.15

Defining Money

Money is not a thing, although it may appear to be an incredible variety of things. For our purposes here, money is defined as an agreement within a community to use something as a means of payment. Jonathan Williams, curator of the Department of Coins and Medals at the British Museum, emphasizes “means of payment” rather than the more traditional but narrower “medium of exchange”. This is so, because most societies used their money in transactions that had ritual or customary purposes, in addition to the purely commercial exchanges. After all, it is only in modern Western culture that total priority has been given to commercial exchanges, neglecting any other purposes for payments (sidebar).

Means of Payment vs. Medium of Exchange

Jonathan Williams makes the point that “it is arguable that Western culture and its money systems, far from being ‘normal’, are actually an historical anomaly in their fixation on the commercial. If this is right, it would be an even greater mistake for Westerners to interpret other monetary systems as a more primitive version of their own.”16

He gives the example of the use of cloth currency among the Lele in Congo until well into the 20th century. Payments with specific cloths woven in raffia were supposed to be made to reinforce or heal social ties among the Lele. They were indispensable, for instance, in payments for initiation fees into religious groups, marriage dues, and rewards to wives for childbirths, compensation for fighting or wounds inflicted on others, or as tribute to chiefs. In addition, the same cloth currency could be used as payment for goods, but this medium of exchange function was considered marginal compared to the other social uses.17

Since money was invented in prehistory, there is no written evidence dating from that period.

Therefore, the best we can do is to select the oldest currencies in widespread use and which have remained in use late enough that we can identify and understand the symbolic associations attached to them. Two of the oldest items widely used as currencies happen to have remained in function all the way to the twentieth century, at least in some parts of the world, and therefore meet perfectly those requirements. They are cattle and cowries shells.

Cattle: the first working-capital asset18

Cattle has played a major part in primitive money as a medium of exchange, a means of payment, and a unit of account in much of the ancient world. For instance, Homer (7th century B.C.) invariably expresses wealth in heads of cattle (e.g. “Glaucos’ armor was worth nine oxen”19). The English word “pecuniary” (as in “pecuniary compensation”) comes straight from the Latin pecus = cattle; and the word “fee” evolved from Vieh = cattle in Old Germanic. The Indian currency rupee comes from the Sanskrit rupa meaning head of cattle.20 Even the word capital is a direct derivative from that same concept (capus, capitis = head in Latin)21 Heads are still used today in Texas and other ranching societies as a unit of measure (“He is worth a thousand head”). It has always been that way in pastoral tribes like the Wakamba in Kenya or the Watutsi in Rwanda. (Sidebar).

Nothing wrong with a Head

One side effect of the use of cattle for monetary purposes is that what counts is the number of head, rather than the quality or health of the animals. A contemporary agricultural expert had been trying to persuade the Wakamba tribal chiefs not to keep diseased and old cattle. He got the reply: “Listen, here are two pound notes. One is old and wrinkled and ready to tear, this one is new. But they are both worth a pound. Well, it’s the same with cows.”22

For our purposes, the key question is: what are the symbolic or archetypal associations of cattle?

The symbol of the cow personified the Great Creatrix and Great Mother everywhere in ancient myth. Milk-giving and ferociously protective of her young, the white cow was the classical symbol of the Moon Goddess, akin to the White Buffalo Woman of the American Indian traditions. Inanna first appears in the late fourth millennium as the patron deity of Uruk’s central storehouse, quite a literal connection to wealth in an agricultural society!23 At that time she is still the one who bestows the supreme kingship in Uruk. This is the same Inanna who is represented one thousand years later on the oldest Sumerian coins on the obverse of which a bushel of wheat is represented. Most significantly, it is also Inanna who claims proudly “Heaven is mine, the earth is mine…I am a splendid wild cow!”24

In Irish mythology the cow was Glas Galven, Goddess of the sky.25 In India she is Kali, who has made cows sacred to this day.

In Egypt, her name was Hathor, Goddess of beauty and plenty, whose udder overflowed to the point of creating the Milky Way of the heavens (as we still call our own galaxy). She is invariably identifiable because of her “cow ears” (see photograph). Hathor gave birth every day to the sun, her “golden calf.” Her horn was the sacred “Horn of Plenty” – the cornucopia – out of which pour all the fruits of the world.

Photograph 2.5 of Inanna-Ishtar from Getty Museum, 4th century BC. full page

Inanna-Ishtar, Goddess of fertility, life and death in Sumer and Babylon (terra-cotta figure 4th century BC) She initially was the Goddess of the Uruk’s food storage, and was represented on Sumer’s first bronze “coins” used in 3200 BC as tokens proving that one had paid the corn taxes to her temple and giving access to the fertility rituals at festival time. She characteristically offers her breasts, source of the milk of nourishment. In one of her hymns she explicitly claims ‘I am a splendid wild cow’. She embodies the connection between the feminine, fertility, abundance, money in general and the early cattle currencies in particular.

Photograph 2.6 of Inanna with full royal regalia ½

Inanna in another of her major roles. Here she stands in full royal regalia, wearing the high crown with its multiple horns and holding the lion-headed mace of the royal office. She marks thereby her power as the source of kingship.

Her flounced robe and multi-tiered crown marks her divinity. (Mesopotamia 2000 BC Clay plaque -Louvre)

(Reunion des musees nationaux Paris – Louvre #12456

Photograph 2.7 of Hathor’s cow ears (Goodison & Morris pg 103) ¼page

Hathor capital with a human face and cow ears, in the temple of Hathor built by Ramesses II in Memphis. Hathor, one of Isis’ forms, was the goddess of love, joy, fertility, and abundance.

Her udder was so overflowing with milk that it created the Milky Way. (Capital from Memphis, XIXth dynasty, Middle Kingdom, 1290-1224BC)

Original drawing by Moreno Tomasetig from photograph by Fekri Hassan, Prof. Of Archeology, University College London.

Photograph 2.9 (Top half of palette) (Goodison & Morris pg 102). ½ page

Detail of Narmer’s Palette from the First Dynasty (3000 BC). In both top corners of this most famous sculpture are representations of a cow goddess, presumed the first representation of Hathor.

This shows that the cow goddess is directly associated with the earliest kingships in Egypt.

(Cairo Museum)

Photo 2.10 1/3 page from Versunkente Kulturen pg 11)

Cattle herds in rock paintings dating to 3500BC in Jabbaren, in Tassili, in what is today the Sahara desert. Two different races of cows and bulls are represented with remarkable realism, differing by the form of their horns. It was from the intimate relationships with such cattle herds in what became the Sahara desert that the association of life and water, cows and the feminine archetype may have derived. (copied by HenriLhote)26

Fekri Hassan explains that “images of goddesses and their iconography were deeply embedded in the early phases of cattle herding (as far back as 7000 BC), where the concepts of the female as the source of life and nurture were depicted, as later in Nubia, to contrast with those of the male as a hunter.”27 He points out that cattle cannot survive without drinking regularly. Water vanished from the desert lakes as the Sahara gradually became a desert, so early proto-Egyptian cattle keepers had to dig deeper and deeper wells to supply cattle with the source of life – water. “As males ventured beyond the homestead searching for wild animal game, women protected cows, providing them with food and drink. Both cow and woman gave milk. Both were the source of generation and life. Water, cattle, milk and women were the source of regeneration and nourishment…These mental associations were of deep psychological significance. Together they laid the foundation of the fundamental notions of Egyptian religion: birth, death and resurrection… The severe droughts from 6000 to 5000 BC finally forced the cattle keepers to settle along the banks of the Nile. However, the deep religious beliefs developed in the Sahara were not forgotten.”28 The depiction of a cow Goddess appears prominently in Egypt from the very first Dynasty as shown in the famous Narmer Palette (photograph), and would remain honored until well into the Roman occupation.

Marija Gimbutas claims that even the bull is related to the Great Mother, because the bull’s horns suggest the shape of the moon crescent. In Çatal Huyuk, the oldest known urban settlement (7th Millennium BC), statues of the Horned Goddess are associated with images of women giving birth in shrines where actual bull horns jut out from the walls, joining in a harmonious male and female partnership of new life emerging.29 According to her, only after the Indo-European invasions did the bull get associated with the Thunder God, masculine power, virility and force.30 Among independent evidence in favor of such an archetypal connection, there is an engraving on a reindeer bone found in Laugerie Basse (Dordogne, France) dating back to the Middle Magdalean period (12,000 B.C.), which represents a bison bull standing over a very pregnant, naked woman ready to give birth.31 It was interpreted by Alexander Marshack as “both realistic and mythical… carved as part of a ritual to ensure human fertility, the fertility of the earth, or the increase of animals for the hunt.”32 Finally, in astrological lore dating back to before the second millennium B.C., the bull is the zodiacal sign of Taurus, the first Earthsign, and symbolically related to material possessions.


Photo 2.11 of the Bull Horn temple in Catal Huyuk ¼ page

Association between the bull symbol and twin goddesses indicating a direct connection of the bull and the feminine archetype.
(Reconstruction of the west and southern walls of Shrine VII.1, Çatal Hüyük c. 5800 BC)

In short, cattle seem to have been strongly related to feminine archetypes of fertility and abundance for as long as human memory or artifacts can trace it.

The ubiquitous Cowrie

“The cowrie shell, of all forms of money, including even the precious metals, was current over a far greater space and for a far greater length of time than any other… Cowries are durable, easily cleaned and counted, and defy imitation and counterfeiting…. For many people over large parts of the world, at one time or other they have appeared as an ideal form of money…They were still officially accepted for payment of taxes until the beginning of the twentieth century in West Africa.”33

The Chinese offer the longest sequence of well-recorded autonomous monetary development. The cowrie (Cypria) played such an important role as money in ancient China (before 2,100 BC) that its pictogram was adopted in their written language for money. (See below the evolution of words related to the cowrie shell in classical Chinese calligraphy).34

In China, the first manufacture of bronze and copper currency took the form of imitation “cowries”, and began at the end of the Stone Age. These imitations of the real shell must have represented very high values at least when they were introduced, and are considered by some numismatists as the earliest example of quasi coinage. Later, bronze cowries coinage was completed with other denominations in the form of bronze spades, hoes, adzes and knife money (all variants of the most common agricultural tools of the time). Together, these led to the “invention” of coinage.

Photograph of drawing of Cowrie Shell natural (2.12) and evolution into the Chinese ideogram for money
Full page

Sequence showing the evolution of the drawing of the cowrie shell into the symbol of money in Chinese ideograms. The words “desire”, “treasure”, “valueless” and “lending” have all kept the same cowrie shell root.35

But what is the archetypal content of the cowrie shell itself?

Photograph of bronze imitation of cowrie coin (photo 2.13)

Under the Chang dynasty (1766-1122 BC) bronze imitation of cowrie shells became standard currency in China. The one represented here comes from the state of Chu,

Contemporary coin from Ghana (2.14) ¼ page together

Similarly cowrie shells were extensively used as currency in Africa. The coin represented here is a contemporary 20 Cedis coin from Ghana (1991), commemorating the long history in the area of the cowrie shell currency.

The cowrie shell, with its vulva-like form, is associated with the water where it is formed, and the fertility specific to the water element. It is traditionally related to sexual pleasure, prosperity, chance and fecundity. In Spanish the common feminine name of Concepción (literally conception) is still abbreviated as Conchita (literally, little shell and also slang for the feminine sexual organ). To the Aztecs, the moon God Tecaciztecatl, meaning literally “the one from the shell,” has as main attributes the process of birth and generation, and is represented by a vulva36.

Interestingly, the cowrie shell also is associated with death, because its “useful life” as currency starts after the death of its original inhabitant. It appeared in burial ornaments as far back as Paleolithic times. The famous French archeologist Abbé Breuil explained their presence in tombs as follows: ”It connects the death with the cosmological principles of water, the moon, the feminine and rebirth in the new world.”37

In case there would still be some doubt about the association between the cowrie shell and feminine fertility archetype, we can return full circle to the earlier cattle example. Indeed, the word “cow” comes from the Sanskrit gau and the Egyptian kau. It is also at the origin of the words gaurie or kaurie, which became the cowrie shell in English…

Other “Primitive” Money

The first metallic coins date from the Bronze Age in China and had holes in them, to enable them to be strung together in bundles of fifty for convenience of transport and trade. What is significant is that the earlier versions have square holes, notwithstanding that such square holes make it harder to manufacture and tie together the “coins.” The definition of huan fa (“round coins”) was well established by the 11th century B.C. as “square within and round without.”38. This tradition of square holes in Chinese coins prevailed until the 20th century. For the little history, these Chinese coins even contributed to the modern vocabulary of money in surprising ways. For example, our modern word “cash” was originally the name given to these Chinese coins by Tamil traders in India; and the Japanese called them “yen”, which became the name given to today’s Japanese national currency.

But for our purposes the interesting question is: Why did the Chinese go to the inconvenience of making square holes instead of the round ones, which would have been easier to manufacture and to string together?

While the circle is the Yang symbol of heaven, the square represents the Yin element of Earth in the Taoist symbolic system. Here again the implied meaning refers to Mother Earth’s fertility at the core of money (photographs).

Photograph of Square holed coins (Williams) Photo 2.15 montage of 4 coins 1/3 page total.

Chinese coins from different time periods, ranging from (a) the Qin dynasty (coin dated 221 BC); (b) the Han (118 BC) , © Tang (AD 621) and (d) Song (1101-1125 AD). They all have in common the ‘square within and the round without’ symbol. Similar coins were made in China all the way to the early 20th century, showing a continuity of that same symbolism for over 22 centuries. The square represents the symbol of Earth’s fertility, the Yin presence literally at the core of money. As quoted earlier from the Tao Te Ching

“The Tao is called Great Mother:
Empty yet inexhaustible,
It gives birth to infinite worlds.”39

We could multiply the examples but it would become both tedious and useless, given that many of the earlier currencies had their symbolism manipulated beyond recognition during patriarchal mythopoetic reprogramming over the past five millennia

China’s Cosmic Goddess

It is generally believed that Chinese culture has always been a strong patriarchal system. Not so, because China also had an all- powerful Great Mother archetype in Nu Kua. In texts from the Chou period (1,000 B.C.) Nu Kua was a snake-like Goddess who had created all people out of clay. She had also established the order of the universe by marking the four directions of the compass, creating the order of the seasons, and setting the stars and planets on their proper paths.40

An example of this process is the case of amber. Amber was an important commodity-currency in international sea-trade in early antiquity. In Egypt for instance, it was valued more than gold. It was found in its natural state of fossilized resin, then as now, on the beaches of the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe. Pieces of amber were considered the “tears of the Great Mother” identified with the primordial ocean. But in Greek mythology, amber became the “tears of Apollo” which he shed when he was banished from Olympus and took refuge in the country of the Hyperboreans. Apollo inherited a number of his key attributes from the Great Mother, including “Beauty of every sort, whether of art, music, poetry or youth, sanity and moderation – all are summed up in Apollo.”41 But after Apollo took over the amber symbol, the only trace that it may have something to do with the old fertility Goddess is the stubborn but meaningful superstition still surviving in the Mediterranean areas that if a man always carries a piece of amber on him, his virility will never fail him. This practice continued, notwithstanding an official condemnation by the Christian Church, which mentions specifically this superstition as a sinful remnant from pagan times (Codex Einsidlensis ca 750 A.D.)

Some Early Coins

Photo 2.16 1/3 page

Samples of the early Greek electrum coins found below the famous temple of Artemis at Ephesus during the excavations at the beginning of the 20th century. This early money ‘offering’ to the Goddess connects money directly to the feminine archetype even in patriarchal societies.

One of the oldest known “proper” looking bronze coins, the Sumerian shekel dating from 3,200 BC was already mentioned earlier in the context of the key role of Inanna (Ishtar to the Babylonians), the Goddess of life and death, fertility and abundance. Its original purpose was as a token proving that the bearer had paid the wheat taxes to the Goddess’s temple, and it was returned to the temple during the fertility rituals in exchange for sexual intercourse with a representative of the Goddess herself, what the Bible would call two thousand years later “the temple prostitute.” At the time, sexual intercourse with a priestess was not what we would understand today as prostitution, even from a woman’s viewpoint.

Early Greek money relating to Goddesses

“The most famous find of electrum coins (the natural alloy of silver and gold from which the oldest Lydian precious metal coins were manufactured) resulted from excavations at the temple of Artemis of Ephesus, where ninety-three electrum pieces and seven unstamped nuggets were found beneath the temple itself, suggesting that they were buried there as a religious dedication.”42 (See photograph 2.16 a)

Similarly, the equivalent of the state bank in Athens was the official “temple treasure” which was considered to be under the protection of, and belong to, Athena herself. There are several instances where the Athenians needed extra money to finance military operations, and they “borrowed” it from Athena with a promise to pay it back as soon as possible. For instance, the famous Athenian statesman Pericles in his speech on the eve of the Peloponesian wars against Sparta (431- 404 BC) said, “if all else fails they could use the gold which adorned the Goddess herself [i.e. melt down the gold cover of the colossal ivory statue of Athena on the Acropolis]. But he said that if the used cropolis]. But he said that if they used it for their own preservation then they must restore at least as much.”43

Nancy Qualls-Corbet, in “The Sacred Prostitute: Eternal Aspects of the Feminine”44 explains that women’s sexuality was part of the mythology of the creation of the universe and of earth’s fertility. So, having intercourse with a “temple prostitute” was having intercourse with the Goddess herself, a matter of life and death, and a way of honoring the Goddess. The priestesses were the gateway; they set up the system initially. Only later, under the patriarchal system, did these rituals degenerate into an exploitation of women.

Once again, all the key archetypal constellation of fertility, the feminine, sexuality, life and death are present.

Even under unquestionable patriarchal cultures such as the Greeks, early money was symbolically still tied to the Goddess cults (sidebar).

Coins of Contraception

Another way whereby early money was associated with the Goddess’ fertility was via control over her fertility, i.e. contraception. On an ancient coin of the city-state of Cyrene (in present day Libya) a woman points to a plant called silphium, which flourished in the area 2,500 years ago. According to John Riddle of the University of North Carolina, silphium was a powerful contraceptive that was exported all over the Mediterranean, to the point that it became extinct. A weaker kin, asafetida, is still extant, and has proven to reduce rates of conception in rats by 40 percent.

There is also explicit mythological evidence in several other cultures that feminine archetypes were originally related to gold currency. For instance, Hathor, the Egyptian cow Goddess was called the “Golden One”; just like Lakshmi, the

Hindu goddess of abundance and wealth is still called today the “Goddess of gold.” The ancient legends of the Edda describe similarly Gullveid as the “golden goddess” whose wealth in gold became the object of war between two warrior tribes.

Even our word “money” comes from the name of the Roman temple of Juno Moneta, in whose cave-like basement the original Roman mint was operating. The choice of the location of the Roman mint links it powerfully to the essential feminine (see sidebar).

Juno Moneta at the origin of the word “money”

Juno was a very ancient Italic Goddess, originally different from the Greek Goddess Hera with which she got amalgamated later, during the period of cultural assimilation at the maximum extension of the Roman Empire. Both Juno and Hera, however, were essentially Goddesses of womanhood.

Juno was part of the Capitoline triad, the Trinity that ruled Rome (with Minerva, Goddess of wisdom; and Jupiter, the sky God). To the Romans, just as every man had his “genius”; every woman had her “juno”, the essence of her femininity.

As daughter of Saturn, Juno was the Goddess of the feminine menstrual cycles and was therefore worshipped by Roman women every month at the Calends, the first day of the new moon. Juno presided at all key feminine occasions as is identifiable by her attributes. She was the Pronuba who made marriage abundantly fertile; Populonia, Goddess of conception; Ossipago, who strengthens fetal bones; Sospita, the labor- Goddess; Lucina, who leads the child to the light, the birth Goddess.

One relic of her tradition is that many brides still choose to marry in the month of June, ensuring for themselves the beneficence of the Goddess for whom that month is named.45

The continuity of the archetypal attributes of Juno with the cave of the old Paleolithic Great Mother is truly astounding. The famous Great Mother of Laussel, dating back to 25,000 B.C. was carved at the entrance of an initiation cave in the Dordogne Valley in France. With her right hand she holds her pregnant belly, positioned by the sculptor to take advantage of the naturally protruding rock. In her other hand she prominently displays a bison’s horn (a distant precursor of the “cornucopia” of the cow goddess 20,000 years later?) with 13 markings (the number of full Moons and bleeding periods in a year, and the number of days from the new moon to the full moon). She has been described as the oldest known calendar, bringing the rhythms of life in tune with those of the sky.

The cave she was guarding, representing Mother Earth’s own womb, is decorated deep inside with carvings of a couple in lovemaking posture, making obvious that the initiations involved had to do with sexuality.

So when the Romans placed their first mint in the cave-like crypt of the Temple of Juno Moneta they perpetuated an archetypal connection between the mysteries of the feminine and abundance which predated the founding of Rome by many thousands of years.

In summary, we have strong evidence that money was not only invented during the period when the Great Mother archetype was honored, but that all earliest forms of money were directly an attribute of that same archetype.

Of course all this happened when words reflecting feminine characteristics had not yet acquired their pejorative bias. Words like “silly” still meant “blessed by the Moon Goddess Selene”; “hysteria” was about having a womb, not a mental disturbance; and “Chaos” referred to “Unbounded Becoming” instead of being synonymous with disorder.

The Repression of the Great Mother

“What really matters is to choose what one should forget.”
Roger Martin du Gard

Not everything was Pollyanna-ish and rosy in matriarchal societies. (Note that a Glossary is available in Appendix that defines distinctions between “matriarchal” and “matrifocal” as well as other less familiar words.) For instance, there are indications, both mythological and circumstantial, that human sacrifices were performed in some places as part of fertility rituals. In Northern Europe, the rituals relating to the “Oak King” indicate that the head priestess would choose a companion every year, to be honored as the solar Oak King, but during the Midsummer festival “at the peak of his prime, he must be sacrificed before his decline.”46 Similarly in Greece: “in ancient times, the ‘Oak Goddess’ reigned at Thebes, and every year in July her priestesses, so the legend goes, sacrificed her king-companion, cutting him into pieces and eating him.”47 We know for sure that in Thebes at Midsummer festivals as late as 6th century B.C. live sacrifices of animals symbolically representing the Oak King were still being enacted, and their raw flesh eaten ritually. Were the earlier executions only symbolic or literal? Was there a reaction to such “matriarchal excesses”? We may never know.

Another hypothesis for the origin of the patriarchal repression of the feminine traces it back to the rise of warrior energy in the context of a massive climate change starting in the 4th Millennium BC: specifically the intense desertification of a wide area ranging from North Africa (the current Sahara) via the Middle East (the Arabian and Syro- Iraqi deserts) all the way to South-Western China (the desert of Gobi).48 As a survival mechanism, the communities affected by this brutal climate change put in charge absolutist rulers who institutionalized authoritarian and sadistic rituals (painful initiation rituals; human sacrifice; systematic military conquest and plunder; public torture of enemies; killings of widows, concubines and servants to accompany the chiefs after death). These groups became pillaging nomads who spread their violent behavior over very large distances. In such an environment, loving emotions are repressed and women lose status. The communities with which they came in touch were either exterminated, or survived only by “toughening up” and changing into warrior cultures themselves. According to this theory, the Indo-European invasions were a chain reaction of large-scale population dislodgements originally triggered by this climate change. Evidence supporting this hypothesis includes the geological and archeological proof of increasing desiccation of those now desert areas, and the geographical distribution of the societies where the feminine was most repressed. The maximum repression of women – still observable today – is around those big deserts. In contrast, the remaining Matrifocal societies are those that remained protected from the population displacements initially triggered by this cruel climate.49

Whatever the causes, we know for sure that after many millennia of an undisputed top role, the repression of the Great Mother archetype began.

Again let us follow only the main cultural-historical strands that have combined to shape the modern Western mindset. Specifically, this means the Indo-European Invasions, the Mesopotamian Civilizations, the Greek intellectual explosion, Judaism, Christianity and finally the Protestant Reform. The following graph shows how these civilizations have combined to create the Western mindset (Figure 2.2). During the discussion that follows, this graph will also help in keeping track of how the different cultural layers are related to each other.

Figure 2.2 Civilization Strands leading to the Western

This graph summarizes the different streams of civilizations that have shaped the Western consciousness, from which the contemporary Modern money system currently in operation everywhere in the world has emerged. Each civilization is synthesized by a characteristic figure represented in full elsewhere in the book. For each Matrifocal society this figure is inserted in a square (referring to the Yin aspect). Similarly each Patriarchal society is represented by an image figure inscribed in a circle (referring to the Yang).

The Western Mind: a Synthesis by Richard Tarnas

“The evolution of the Western mind has been driven by a heroic impulse to forge an autonomous rational human self by separating it from the primordial unity with nature. The fundamental religious, scientific and philosophical perspectives of Western culture have all been affected by this decisive masculinity – beginning four millennia ago with the great patriarchal nomadic conquests in Greece and the Levant over the ancient matrifocal cultures, and visible in the West’s patriarchal religion from Judaism, its rationalist philosophy from Greece, its objectivist science from modern Europe. All these have served the cause of evolving the autonomous human will and intellect: the transcendent self, the independent individual ego, and the self-determining human being in its uniqueness, separateness, and freedom. But to do this, the masculine mind has repressed the feminine. Whether one sees this in the ancient Greek subjugation of the pre-Hellenic matrifocal mythologies, in the Judeo-Christian denial of the Great Mother Goddess, or in the Enlightenment’s exalting of the coolly self-aware rational ego radically separate from a disenchanted external nature, the evolution of the Western mind has been founded on the repression of the feminine – on the repression of the undifferentiated unitary consciousness, of the participation mystique with nature: a progressive denial of the anima mundi, of the soul of the world, of the community of being, of the all-pervading, of mystery and ambiguity, of imagination, emotion, instinct, body, nature, woman -of all that which the masculine has projectively identified as ‘other’.”51

Richard Tarnas managed to summarize in less than one page how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together (see sidebar). What we will see now is how each one of these civilizations has contributed a particular layer to the collective repression of the feminine in general and the Great Mother archetype in particular. What needs to be looked at is the disturbing paradox that almost everything we have considered a “civilizing” process also has been feeding our collective shadow. Just to mention a few: the remarkable capacities of the Hebrew tradition for abstraction, of the Greek tradition for reason, or of the Christian tradition for mysticism should each be acknowledged as major positive contributions to the evolution of humanity. However, it also happens to be those same aspects in which each culture excelled, that ended up being used to repress the feminine archetype.

The first step in dealing with our collective shadow is to acknowledge it by mustering the courage to look it in the face, so that the immense suffering of countless millions over millennia will not have been in vain.

Rainer Maria Rilke put it this way:

“Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being
Something helpless that wants help from us.”

Indo-European Invasions

The first signs of repression of the Great Mother archetype can be traced back in Europe to the third Millennium BC with the successive waves of Indo-European invasions. At the risk of oversimplifying, Gimbutas contrasts the civilizations of “Old Europe” with the one of the newcomers as follows. Old Europe (c. 40,000 to 5,000 years ago) was primarily “matrifocal, sedentary, peaceful, art-loving, and earth-and-sea bound”. This civilization was overthrown around 3500 BC by a “patrifocal, mobile, warlike, ideologically sky-oriented society, indifferent to art”52. She brings as arguments that for instance, in Çatal Huyuk, there were no defensive walls around this oldest known urban settlement, and that no offensive weapons have been found. To the extent that this was typical of the Matrifocal cultures53, they would have been easy prey for a civilization that had an all-male caste of specialized warriors, made highly mobile by the conquest of the horse.54 Independently of Gimbutas, we know for sure that the Indo-Europeans had such a specialized warrior caste, and worshipped patriarchal sky Gods.55 “The influence of the Mother Goddess, who had been all powerful during the stone ages, now began to wane. Male deities, gods of war and conquest, were on the ascendant. Metal was the source of their might…Along with ruthless invasions, undeclared warfare, and appropriation of women as their rightful spoils, they were developing a society in which masculinity was supreme. An insatiable desire for property and power, together with insensitivity to pain and suffering in themselves as well as in others, characterized everything they did.”56

Photograph R6 of Indo-European Horseman ¼ page

The myth of Wotan, the Germanic God of war, incarnates the early horsemen, who were the specialized cast of warriors among the Indo-Europeans. (Wotan, Stela of Hornhausen, Halle Museum)

The archeological record also makes clear that superior weapon technologies (e.g. the “battle ax”) became possible with bronze metallurgy at that time, so that easy military conquest of comparatively pacific matrifocal cultures would be quite plausible. Some researchers have even made a direct connection between the brutal physical and psychological techniques used to conquer and domesticate wild horses (tellingly labeled as “breaking in a wild horse”) and those that were later used to dominate women.

After military conquest, the standard procedure was to kill off all the adult males of the vanquished group, then rape and enslave the females.57 This is where “ethnic cleansing” originated. In very few generations the genetic and cultural make up of the region was transformed. Thereafter, the mythologies of the vanquished people gradually would be converted into patriarchal systems, wherein the old all-powerful Goddess is split up in many separate functions which become attributes or partners of dominant male Gods. Repression, control and subservience of the feminine and particularly of the aspects of the Great Mother sexuality and fertility have been the practical outcome ever since that time.

Mesopotamian Civilization

Photograph 2.17 ½ page

The almighty king in his power to impose his will. King Ashurbanipal as represented in his palace in Nineveh. He was one of the “strong and imperial” Kings that enforced laws that would control female sexuality and fertility to the benefit of his warriors, a process which led to the concept of private property.

Gerda Lerner contributed remarkable scholarship by tracking The Origins of Patriarchy to Mesopotamian laws and traditions aimed at controlling female sexuality and fertility for the benefit of warriors. She provides convincing evidence for the following claims:

  • “The establishment of patriarchy was not an event, but a process developing over a period of nearly 2,500 years, from roughly 3,100 B.C. to 600 B.C. It occurred, even in the Ancient Middle East, at a different pace and at different times in several distinct societies.”58
  • ”The appropriation by men of women’s sexual and reproductive capacity occurred prior to the formation of private property and class society. Its commodification lies, in fact, at the foundation of private property.”60
  • “The archaic states were organized in the form of patriarchy; thus from its inception, the state had an essential interest in the maintenance of patriarchal family…. Thus women’s subordination was institutionalized in the earliest laws and enforced by the full power of the state. …The dethroning of the powerful Goddesses and their replacement by a dominant male God occurred in most Near Eastern societies following the establishment of a strong and imperialistic kingship.” For instance, we have actual texts showing the displacement of the Goddess Inanna from her key position at the origin of all temporary power in Uruk. In the earliest inscriptions she is still the source of the supreme kingship of Sumer, and kingly power is specifically derived from love to her. Later she is replaced in that function by the male god Enlil of Nippur.61
  • One interesting observation highlights the depth of the connection between public hierarchical systems and the private subservience of women. “The dependence of male family heads on the king and the state bureaucracy was compensated by their dominance over their families. Male family heads allocated the resources of society to their families the way the state allocated the resources of society to them. The control of male family heads over their female kin and minor sons was as important to the existence of the state as was the control of the king over his soldiers…. The kind of personality which can function in a hierarchical system is created and nurtured within the patriarchal familyThe family not merely mirrors the order of the state and educates its children to follow it, it also creates and constantly reinforces that order.”62

Greek Civilization

As all Indo-Europeans, the Greek culture transformed the archaic matrifocal mythologies beyond recognition into patriarchal ones.63 For the Greeks the very act of founding a civilized community was symbolized by “cutting the feminine” (see sidebar).

Cutting the Feminine” as Metaphor of the Civilizing Act

Joseph Campbell describes how the Greek head priests would found a new city by taking a large cow-skin and with a knife cut it into a single thin uninterrupted rope. That rope would then be spread out to create the perimeter of the new city. This ritual was a metaphor for carving out of the feminine nature (symbolized by the cow-skin) an ordered “civilized” space.

Founding Roman cities had the same symbolic content. Rome itself, and all other Roman cities were founded by ritually opening the earth with a plow pulled by oxen to mark the perimeter of the new town.

Photograph R8 1/3 page

Apollo from the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, (468-460 BC). Apollo took over and masculinized many attributes of the Great Mother, including beauty and the arts. (marble statue, Museum of Olympia)

In addition, the Greek awakening of the rational mind provided new arguments for the repression of the feminine that became cornerstones of Western thinking for the next twenty-five centuries. This includes Parmenides’ declaration of the independence, autonomy and superiority of Reason as the only legitimate judge of reality. For him, all senses mislead; only intellectual Reason perceives reality. Socrates and Plato built on that: Reason becomes associated with the transcendental, spiritual desire and the absolute. Everything outside of it becomes the “irrational,” associated with the imperfections of matter, instinctual desires, the relative. Finally, Aristotelian philosophy would claim that women are incomplete and damaged human beings of an entirely different order than men. “For the female is, as it were, a mutilated male.”64 Her womb is but a passive receptacle for the “divine male sperm”. His logical conclusion was “the male is by nature superior, and the female inferior…the one rules, the other is ruled.”65 Twenty-three centuries later, Freud would still refer to this “incompleteness” in women’s nature as proof of their “natural inferiority.”


The Ancient Hebrews originally were Semitic nomadic herders coming from the desert. Predictably, they had also a sky God. Sedentary cultures tend to have “earth bound” divinities, attached to specific mountains, springs, or other prominent geographical features. Nomads who roam the desert in contrast tend to have “sky based” divinities. Joseph Campbell notes: “Yahweh, the tribal God of the Hebrews, was also the first Godever to claim to be the only God.”66 However, as the first “People of the Book” the invention of writing made it possible for the first time to separate the act of creation from any feminine intervention. Just like a text can communicate independently of its writer, the Word can “take on a life of its own.” This made thinkable a single male God creating the world by the “power of the Word” without any role for the feminine principle. The religion of the ancient Hebrews has been described as a “male fertility cult… in which the ritual of circumcision, the symbolic sacrifice67 of the male genital organ, is the mark of the covenant that every Hebrew male makes with his God.”68 By this process, all women are by anatomical definition excluded from bearing the sign of the covenant.

“Monotheism, the belief that there is only one deity, was to prove an even more implacable foe of Goddess religion than the polytheism of the sky Gods… Although the Bible declares it to have been a stark choice between Yahwist monotheism and Canaanite polytheism worship, the situation was in reality much more blurred.”69

R7 Tetragram ??? 1/8 page

The religious prohibition to represent God has made the symbolic representations of the Hebrew God very abstract. Here is the Tetragram, the ‘name of God that cannot be pronounced’.

This blurring is precisely what the founders of Israel’s religion combated vigorously. This is reflected, for example, in the episode of the golden calf worship that drove Moses to break the first set of the Tablets of the Law that he had received on Mount Sinai. The strength of Moses’ revulsion against this relapse into Egyptian idolatry is explained when the Egyptian meaning of the “golden calf” is understood. This “golden calf” is none other than the son of Hathor, the Great Mother form of Isis.

Notwithstanding such strong anti-Great Mother beginnings, King Solomon, the builder of the Temple of Jerusalem (ca 950 B.C.), at the bidding of his Sidonite wife, officially restored the worship of Asherah, the Canaanite Great Mother “who had given birth to God”. Solomon’s son, King Rehoboam, even installed an image of Asherah in the Temple itself.70

Asherah was an important Great Mother goddess of the Mediterranean – worshipped for close to 2000 years – although we know remarkably little about her compared to other Great Mother cults of the area for reasons that will become obvious soon.71

“Yahweh and his Asherah”

The publication in 1967 of The Hebrew Goddess by Raphael Patai72 caused predictably quite a stir in a religion in which there is traditionally place for only one male God. However, even in the official Torah, explicit mention is made of “women kneading dough to make cakes for the Queen of Heaven” (Jeremiah 7:17-18), but the identity of that mysterious “Queen” is never spelled out.

Intriguingly, since 1967 new archeological finds have unearthed clear evidence supporting the claim of a historical role for a feminine deity in early Judaism. Inscriptions from an Iron Age Jewish tomb at Khirbet el-Qôm, a Judaean fortified city, and several others dating to 800-750 BC discovered in Kuntillet ‘Ajrud by Israeli archeologist Ze’ev Meshel in 1975-76, repeatedly mention “Yahweh and his Asherah”73. Scholars concluded “the frequency of the formula of ‘blessings by Yahweh and his Asherah’ is such that we must conclude that, in certain circles at least, Yahweh was conventionally associated with Asherah.”74

Over the next three centuries, “the worship of Asherah in the Jerusalem Temple came and went with the fluctuations of power politics.”75 Raphael Patai has calculated that in total, the statue of Asherah was present in the Temple for no less than 236 years, two-thirds of the time the Solomonic temple stood in Jerusalem (See sidebar). But during the reign of King Josiah (639-609 B.C.) the Jerusalem priesthood decisively won the upper hand when implementing the “Deuteronomic Reforms”. All “idolatry practices” were violently stamped out at that point by exterminating all non-Yahwists. “He brought out the image of Asherah herself from the Temple, had it burned in the Kidron Valley, ground it up into powder, and cast the dust over the graves of those who had worshipped her…Finally, he turned his attention to the countryside and cut down the Asherahs wherever they were found, filling their places with human bones. In a similar manner he destroyed, removed and defiled all the other ‘high places’ and objects of idolatry which were originally set up by Solomon.”76 As a consequence, practically all of the 40 references to Asherah in the original Hebrew Bible are hostile.77 And not a single one of her statues or ritual texts seems to have survived.

After that, Judaism’s monotheistic male God was finally permanently established, and the Canaanite Goddess would be referred to only as “The Abomination”. The only significant trace left of the “Jewish Goddess” cult are Her three great annual seasonal festivals: Passover (Unleavened Bread when springtime ended the winter rains); the early summer Pentecost Weeks (when the first fruits ripened); and the autumn Ingathering (when the harvest was completed).78 Some scholars have also made a connection between Asherah, the “Tree of Life” and the Menorah – the ritual candleholders of seven or nine branches.79


When the Christian Biblical canon was established by the church fathers in the fourth century A.D., the Hebrew Torah was included as the “Old Testament”. With it came the monotheistic male God reigning as an absolute monarch who could be served only by male priests. When the archetypal Trinity (as in Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva, Isis-Osiris-Horus, or Juno-Jupiter-Minerva, etc.) was reactivated, the Christian Trinity is unique in being the only one that is all male (Father, Son and Holy Ghost).

Photograph 2.19 ½ page

Christ Pantocrator, the All Powerful One. This is a gigantic mosaic covering the entire cupula of the cathedral of Monreale. The smaller figure below him is Mary, the Mother of God who is the intermediary to Christ. Other intermediaries such as angels and saints surround her. (1174-1182).

With the Old Testament, Genesis became the creation story for Western culture. Of critical importance is the story of Adam and Eve, wherein Eve (“the Mother of all living”) is responsible for the fall due to the temptations of the serpent (one of the oldest symbols of the Great Goddess).

Later still, the iconography of the Virgin Mary standing on a Moon crescent and crushing the snake with her foot makes the disconnection of the Great Mother fertility rites from the Christian Virgin even more explicit.80

In Christianity, the sin of Eve was overcome by the Virgin Mary, the second Eve, in whose Immaculate womb the Redeemer was conceived. Originally, “virgo” meant, “not controlled by a man” (i.e. “independent” or “one-in-herself”), as distinct from “virgo intacta” which refers to a woman who has not had sexual relationships. All the Love Goddesses of the ancient world were considered as “virgins” in the original sense of the word. Inanna, Ishtar, Astarte, Anath, Venus were free to accept and reject lovers on their own terms. The only two Greek Goddesses who systematically refused lovers altogether (i.e. who were “virgo intacta”) were Artemis and Athena. “The interpretation of the virgin birth as the moral sanction of the goodness of sexual chastity was the…. distinctive contribution of the Christian religion to the ancient mythological formula.”81 Some claim this was in fact due to a translation error when the Hebrew text was first translated into Greek. The Hebrew word almah denoting the social status of an unmarried girl was indeed translated in Greek as parthenos, a word that refers to a physiological state.82

Photograph 2.20

Adam, Eve and the Serpent 1/3 page

The snake is tempting Eve to convince Adam to eat the apple, which will precipitate them both ‘into sin’ and out of Paradise. Notice that the snake has a woman’s head, and thereby became the symbol of woman’s sinful nature. The snake used to be one of the positive symbols of the Great Mother in earlier time, referring to her wisdom, power and sexuality. (See the picture of the Minoan snake Goddess/priestess below). It’s reprogramming as the personification of evil started here, with the Hebrew story of Genesis.

These unique characteristics of Mary also made it impossible for ordinary human women to truly identify with this supernatural Queen of Heaven. She was the “only one of her sex not to be stained” by the nature of her womanhood (Immaculate comes from maculare = to stain.) Clement of Alexandria, one of the earliest Church fathers (c. 200 AD), proclaimed that “every woman should blush at the thought that she is a woman.”83 Educated women were particularly targeted for attack, even murder. For example, in 430 AD, St. Cyril of Alexandria encouraged the murder of Hypatia, the reputed mathematician-astronomer and beautiful daughter of the scholar Theon, Chief Librarian of Alexandria. Christian monks accordingly dragged Hypatia into a church, stripped her naked and scraped her to death with oyster shells. Every single copy of her published work was destroyed.84 Earthly women were supposed to be the daughters of Eve. “Eve, cursed to bear children rather than blessed with motherhood, was identified with nature, a form of low matter that drags man’s soul down the spiritual ladder. In the ‘feces and urine of childbirth’ – St. Augustine’s words – the closeness of woman to all that is vile, lowly, corruptible, and material was epitomized; in the ‘curse’ of menstruation, she lay closer to the beasts; the lure of her beauty was nothing but an aspect of the death brought by her seduction of Adam in the garden.”85 From this perspective, all the attributes of the Great Mother had now become negative, diabolic characteristics.86

The reason for the virulence of the Church’s attack on the remnants of the Great Mother cultures is explained by the historic context. Christianity initially spread most successfully in the cities of the Roman Empire. The main resistance to Christianisation after the crumbling of the Roman Empire came from the “pagans” (literally “pagani” = people from the countryside) who tended to maintain remnants of fertility rites more stubbornly than the city people. The most popular Goddess fertility rituals always involved women in an active role, and happened around the age-old standing stones, wells and sacred groves, as well as in the form of more recent imports dating from the Roman Empire (particularly the cults of Isis, Artemis, Cybele and Demeter). The Church used three ways to deal with these pagan Great Mother cults:

  • Whenever possible, the Church used the same approach that the ancient Hebrews had used with the Asheras – obliterate them. St. Patrick and St. Martin, among others, were declared Saints because they each had cut down sacred groves and destroyed standing stones by the hundreds all over Celtic Europe.
  • Whenever obliteration proved impractical, the Church christianized the local cult by building a church on top of the sacred place. It is not rare in churches and cathedrals (including Chartres or Saint Guidon among others), to find the original standing stones still embedded in the foundations. Another way was to absorb the attributes of the Goddess in a local cult to the Virgin Mary or some other saint. Jacques de Voragine’s Légendes Dorées is a remarkable compendium of such Christianized legends.
  • Finally, the Church also sublimated the energy of the feminine in another way, more original, by presenting the institution of the Church itself as the “Mother” in whose womb all who obeys her instructions will find solace and salvation.

Official Christian theology and the New Testament downplayed the role of Mary. Her birth and death are not even mentioned once in the Scriptures. According to the texts, Mary is entirely secondary: she is the inviolate vessel for God’s holy “Word”. She bears the Christ but is certainly not herself a Goddess. Mary is only a human woman, who “found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). Yet 2000 years later we find Her in the Catholic dogma as “Mother of God, Perpetually Virgin, Immaculately Conceived, and Assumed into Heaven with Body and Soul, where she reigns as Queen for perpetuity.” What has happened?

Photo 2.20 ???

Detail of a Virgin Mary crushing the snake.

The mythopoetic reprogramming of the snake as symbol of the sexually active Great Mother was completed by the symbol of the Virgin Mary crushing the snake with her feet, and/or the moon, another main symbol of the ancient Great Mother.

The short answer may be that popular demand and pressure for a feminine archetype to be honored has been so overwhelming over the centuries that even an all-male clergy gradually had to provide a space for it. A whole popular literature, called the Apocrypha, developed from the 5th century onward to flesh out many extraordinarily detailed episodes of Mary’s life, way beyond the bare bones of the official Scriptures. Some of the feminine Christian cults initially were considered heretical by Rome (e.g. the troubadour stories, the cults to Mary Magdalene, or to the Black Madonna).

But everywhere Mary kept accumulating almost all the attributes of the ancient Great Mother (see sidebar). Mary’s cult reached its height in the Central Middle Ages. In France alone, in just one century (from 1170 to 1270), over 100 churches and 80 cathedrals were built for Her! In contrast, not a single one was dedicated to Christ, astounding in a religion that is supposed to be all about Him.

The medieval Mary as the Great Mother

The archetypal couple of the Great Mother and her son is one of the oldest cult figures in existence. Just to mention the Mediterranean examples: the Middle Eastern Cybele and her son Attis, the Phenician Astaroth and Tammuz, the Egyptian Isis and Horus, and the North African Tanit and her son. But Mary has inherited more than just motherhood from the Great Mother cults.

The name “Maria” (in Latin mare=sea) refers to the primordial vast womb of the ocean where the Great Mothers were born: the Sumerian Goddess Nammu was represented by the ideogram of the sea, the Egyptian Isis was ‘born from the all- wetness”. The shell by which the initiates of Eleusis (Demeter cult) recognized each other became the talisman of the pilgrims to the famous shrine in Santiago de Compostella, which interconnected many Black Madonna sites. From Isis, she inherits her title Stella Maris (“Star of the Sea”), and Her role of patron of ships and sailors, life saving in an age when the stars directed all nightly navigation. “The stone boat of Isis that commemorates the ritual boat once carried in procession in antique Rome when the mystery religions flourished there, is still preserved outside the church called Santa Maria della Navicella (‘Our Lady of the Boat).”87

In Catholic monasteries, at the evening ritual when the sun sets, Mary is greeted by “Hail, Great Queen of Heaven” which used to be the exact ritual address for Inanna, Ishtar and Isis.

In many paintings, the “Grain Miracle” is represented, illustrating the legend that by Her presence on a field at the moment of sowing, instantaneously the newly sown seed sprouts and grows to its full height ready for harvest. Like all her ancient fertility predecessors from Inanna to Demeter, she is responsible for an abundant harvest that nourishes humankind. Mary thereby became widely known in Italy and Germany as the “Corn Maiden,” formerly the official title of Demeter.

Another popular image of Mary as a spinner appears in frescoes or paintings originated in one of the Apocrypha where Mary spins and weaves the veil of the Temple.88 She thereby perpetuates Greek, Germanic or Mayan archetypal image of the Great Mother as the spinner of Fate, or like the old Cretan Goddess of childbirth Eleithea.

The one feature of the ancient Great Mothers that Mary never acquired is her sexuality. That aspect was projected on Mary Magdalene, “the sinner” who anointed not the feet of Jesus, but his head, exactly as in the Sumerian ceremonies where the main priestess would anoint the head of the King before his ritual sacrifice. Jesus commented about this gesture that had scandalized the disciples. “Shield it for my burial” (Matt. 26:11-12; Mark 14:3-8) To the medieval mind, there was no doubt what Mary Magdalene stood for: they called a house of reclamation for prostitutes a “Magdalene.”89

The Burning Times90

Few people realize today that during the years Newton published his Principia(1687) or while Adam Smith wrote The Theory of Moral Sentiments (published 1758) and The Wealth of Nations (1776) witches were being burned in Europe. Estimates of the total number of victims over the more than 300 years of witch- hunts (1468-1784) vary between a low of 40,000 (counting exclusively those who were officially burned at the stake and whose judgment records have survived to today) to over 9 million (including the many who died under torture or in prison, or those who committed suicide once they were accused).

The 15th century was when witch-hunts became significant. In 1468, the pope defined witchcraft as crimen exceptum removing thereby all legal limits to torture. The Dominican Order, which had been created initially to combat the Cathar heresy, was now re-directed to specifically preach against witches. The Malleus maleficiarum was first published by two Dominicans in 1487 and went through 29 editions over the next 300 years! [This “Hammer to kill Evils” was the official manual that prescribed in great detail the questions, the correct answers and the inconceivable tortures to be applied to witches to make them confess those correct answers91]. Armed with this document, Pope Innocent VIII started officially a holy war on witches in 1488. Denunciators of witches were guaranteed anonymity, and the victims were automatically assumed guilty – the only purpose of the trial and the tortures was to obtain a “confession”of guilt.

 Samples of surviving documents include the following episodes.92 In 1523, one thousand witches were burned in one single year in the sole diocese of Como, Northern Italy. In 1585, witch burnings in two Italian villages left only one woman alive in each. In 1609, the whole population of Navarre, Spain, was declared witches. In 1622-23 the Prince Bishop Johann Georg II of Bamberg, Germany, built a special house for trying witches, and burned 600 of them. In the sole year of 1628, 158 witches burned in Würzburg, including children under the age of ten. In a single day, in one French city 400 witches, and in a German town 900 witches were being burned. The Saxon jurist Carpzof boasted he had read 53 times the bible and executed 20,000 women. The Spaniard Torquemada personally sent 10,220 persons to be burned at the stake and 97,371 to be hung in the galleys.93

It should be mentioned that a number of men were also condemned as “sorcerers”, but the vast majority of the victims were women who lived alone on modest estates, and who were not protected by a man, preferably an influential man. Their official crime ranged from being a midwife (on the logic that reducing the pain of childbirth contradicted God’s order that women should give birth in pain), knowing about the ancient ways of herb medicine94, having had an abortion or owning a cat; to the more grotesque claims of provoking crop failures or having intercourse with the devil and various types of disincarnate spirits. The real reason for their murder was simply that they did not fit the pattern that patriarchal values had prescribed for them, such as being too independent, articulate, or simply too “uppity”.

Witch hunting was also a business. There were premiums for denouncing the “witch”, catching her, bringing her to justice, guarding her in prison, testifying against her, elaborately torturing her. These moneys were paid out of the estate of the victim.

To its credit, the Catholic Church has now acknowledged and apologized for its role in three centuries of witch-hunts, at the occasion of the Jubilee Year of the 2000.

However, at the same time great precautions were taken to avoid real-life feminine temptations to monks. For example, “the rules of Cluny did not permit a woman, for any reason whatsoever, to cross the bounds of a monastery. The rules of Citeaux are still more severe; for a woman might not even appear there at the gate of the monastery. The brother serving as porter was instructed to refuse alms to any woman. So that in self- defense the Cistercian even goes so far as to fail in charity. If a woman comes into the church for any reason, the service is to be suspended, the abbot deposed, and the brothers sentenced to fast on bread and water.”95 Paranoia would be a contemporary psychological assessment of such reactions.

Such paranoia would express itself violently during the Inquisition a few centuries later. The climax would last more than three centuries during which an estimated six million women ended up burned at the stake or otherwise murdered as witches.96 Although invariably we are being taught that witch-hunts and its elaborate torture equipments were typical of the “dark Middle Ages”, in reality they coincided with the Renaissance and early Modern period (15th- 18th century) (see sidebar).


Protestantism finally eliminated the last remnants of feminine archetypal influence that had crept back into Catholicism.

Photo 2.21 1/3 page

Print showing ‘three notorious witches’ of various ages being hanged in 1589 at Chelmsford, Essex, UK. The monstrous animals, a couple of which are copulating in front of them, hint at the ‘devilish practices’ for which they were condemned.

“The Protestant Reformation, with its unequivocal rejection of the veneration of the Virgin and use of devotional imagery, was so successful in making a radical break with old ways because the primary psychological and emotional connection to the sacred female image was completely severed…. While the onset of Protestantism in the fifteenth century was not the cause of the witch burnings, their historical coincidence dealt the final blow to Goddess values, to the freedom to practice a faith honoring the spirituality of nature and their own bodies.”97

Male Heroism and the Repression of Feminine

Joseph Campbell claimed that there has been one dominant myth shaping the development of male identity in all civilizations: The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Each culture may emphasize particular archetypal forces, but they have in common that the hero is a god or a mortal, young or old, rich or poor, king or commoner, but always male (see sidebar). These male myths are most often Warrior heroes: the Samurai in Japan, the crusading knight, don Quixote, the “rugged independent settler,” or Superman. Other cultures have emphasized the Magician hero, from the heroic Hebrew prophet to Dante, from the missionary to the scientist. The legends of Arthur or the divine origins of all early royalty were activating the King archetype.

The Problem with Heroes #1: The Problem for Others

Heroes of any kind need a victim to rescue, and therefore an oppressor from which that victim needs rescuing. That triangle is at the core of the history of humanity and particularly of the Promethean Western mind. Heroic knights need defenseless maidens to be rescued from dragons. Heroic Hebrew prophets were saving Israel from Yahweh’s wrath, just as Christian missionaries brought salvation from Hell to pagan souls. Scientists are battling obscurantism just as mountaineers defy mountains – “because they are there.”

This myth has generated many of the best of human actions. However, the problem for Others, is that when the Hero manifests, the other roles available are not that attractive…

Could the need for a heroic Provider in every family be at the origin of a scarcity-based, competition-inducing money system?

This bias toward heroic masculine archetypal energy is at the same time a cause and a result of the repression of the feminine in general and the Great Mother in particular. The net effect is that in our Western cultures there is now formally no Goddess myth and no feminine dimension in the collective image of the divine. It justifies the comment by Adrienne Rich: “I know of no woman – virgin, mother, lesbian, married, celibate – whether she earns her keep as a housewife, a cocktail waitress or a scanner of brain waves – for whom the body is not a fundamental problem.”98

Photo 2.21 a ½ page

The Hero battling a fierce dragon, with a defenseless maiden almost invisible in the background. (You may need a magnifying glass to find her…) (Altdorfer engraving)

In the Paleolithic, Neolithic or Cretan myths everything was considered to be alive, animated, sacred, with soul and purpose; and this made possible a totally different view of the body than our Modern view. Such beliefs are still common in what we call “primitive” societies, it is even the reason why we call them primitive. Five thousand years of patriarchal supremacy have shaped the modern view, which pushes to its extreme the separation between spirit and nature, mind and matter, or soul and body.(sidebar).

The Problem with Heroes #2: The Problem for Himself

Masculine heroic identity asks us to tolerate pain in silence, or even to deny its existence. “The dreaded truth of the soaring male is that in his attempt to get above the pain of life, he has succeeded in not feeling – not even really experiencing – either the painful aspects of life or its real joys. The horror of this condition, however, can’t really register, because he has short-circuited even the pain of being cut off. Thus, there is a vicious circle, a ‘Catch-22’ set up that the male can’t escape.”99

This is how – once split – the body remains split off from the mind, the cosmic from the individual, spirit from matter. And the first one to loose something important is the Hero himself. He has lost the taste of life itself.

Photograph 2.21 of MARDUK VANQUISHING TIAMAT Baring & Cashford pg 277 full page (Moreno Tomasetig).

Marduk represented as a dapper looking sky god in royal attire, holding thunderbolts in both hands, vanquishes the Sumerian Great Mother Tiamat. She still has the cow horns but is otherwise changed into a monstrous animal. After killing her, Marduk will fashion heaven and earth from her dead body, her ‘carcass’. This initiates the core metaphor in the Western worldview of a necessary separation from – and domination by – spirit over matter. (Original drawing by Moreno Tomasetig from Assyrian relief 9th century BC, British Museum).

Photo 2.22 ½ page

The Goddess with the double ax being honored by a group of young men. The double ax is a very ancient symbol going back to Paleolithic art (e.g. in Niaux, south western France). It referred to the cycle of death and rebirth. In Crete a female goddess or priestess invariably holds it. ‘Cretan art ignored the terrifying distance between the human and the transcendent…Here and here alone (in contrast to Egypt and the Near East) the human bid for timelessness was disregarded in the most complete acceptance of the grace of life the world has ever known.’100 (Goddess of the Double Ax, Palace of Minos, Knossos, Crete, 2nd millennium BC).

Among the landmarks on this path, we may think about Aristotle, Galileo101 or Descartes, but that process started much earlier. Already in the Bronze Age in Mesopotamia, the superior Marduk, the invisible sky God of wind-thunder-and-fire, had vanquished the Mother Goddess Tiamat. It is from her carcass that Marduk made heaven and earth. The same concept is provided in an even more gory and graphic way in the Teutonic creation myth, wherein Odin formed the earth by raising the corpse of the Great Mother Ymir from the vast ocean of Ymir’s own blood. Both mythologies convey the notion that the physical world is made of inert “matter,” which can be manipulated only by a superior “spirit.” It has led to our modern disease of materialism that may yet destroy our species and our planet. But the paradox is that, again, the word itself reveals the deeply hidden wound; “matter” and “materialism” derive directly from the Latin “Mater,” meaning Mother.

The extraordinary continuity in the repression of the feminine across civilizations can be summarized by a short set of quotes (regrouped in the sidebar).

Some Texts illustrating the Repression of the Feminine

  • “Such is the stupidity of woman’s character that it is incumbent upon her, in every particular, to distrust herself and to obey her husband.” Confucius (5th century BC)
  • “Sin began with a woman and thanks to her we all must die.” Ecclesiasticus 25:24 (2nd centuryBC)
  • “Women are the gate of the devil, the patron of wickedness, the sting of the serpent.” St Gerome (5th century AD)
  • “Women are your fields: go, then, into your fields whence you please.” Koran (7th century AD)
  • “Men have broad shoulders and large chests and small narrow hips and are more understanding than women, who have but small and narrow chests and broad hips; to the end they should remain at home, sit still, keep house and bear and bring up children.” Martin Luther (16th century)
  • “Husband and wife are one person in the law; that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage.” William Blackstone (18th century)
  • “The National Socialist movement is by nature a masculine movement… The outstanding and highest calling of women is always that of wife and mother.” Joseph Goebbels (20th century).

By now, it should also be obvious that such a long and systematic repression of the Great Mother archetype must have deeply etched Her shadows into the collective unconscious of our society.

Notwithstanding this systematic and cumulative history of repression, there have been exceptions: places and times where fragments of the Great Mother cult remained active later than in the rest of Europe. These exceptions are interesting because they give us at least some access to the characteristics of the Great Mother cults before they were crushed.

Exceptions: Pockets of Historical Survival of the Great Mother cults

The Indo-European invaders came by land; therefore, some pockets of old Great Goddess worship remained intact for thousands of years longer on islands where the invaders did not arrive en masse until much later (e.g. Malta, Crete, the British Islands). For instance, the largest prehistoric monument in the world, Silbury Hill, a giant earth mount in Wiltshire, England, has four times the volume of the Great Pyramid of Gizeh. It has now convincingly been linked to the Great Mother cult, proving the power of her cult at the time it was built (ca. 2240-2050 B.C.)102 In Crete, the Goddess cult was flourishing in the Minoan civilizations as late as 1,500-1,200 B.C. Even on mainland Greece, the most important initiatic tradition, the Eleusian mysteries, was all about feminine fertility (i.e. the mythologies of Demeter and Persephone) and remained active until the fourth century A.D.103 Egypt similarly kept its vital Isis cult – where the Savior is the feminine – intact until at least the second century A.D.

Photo 2.23 1/3 page

The Snake Goddess, shows the direct relationship between the age-old snake symbolism of the Great Mother, and the feminine-in-her-power in Knossos. Most scholars have concurred: “What we can safely say from the preponderance of feminine figures with their naked chests, expressive faces, and exquisite clothing is that women commanded power and prestige in Cretan culture.”104 (From the Temple of Repositories, Palace of Knossos, Middle Minoan, c. 1600 BC © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston).

Very important will also prove the emergence of the Black Madonna cults which spread like wildfire from the 10th to the 13th century all over Christian Europe, sometimes to the embarrassment of Rome. Only recently has the scale and the significance of this phenomenon been studied and understood. An inventory by Ean Begg105 identified more than 500 images representing this enigmatic figure, whose face and hands are pitch-black. Many of the cathedrals that spread all over France had been built for Black Madonnas, including Chartres, Reims, Rocamadour, St Michael’s Mount, Moulins, Dijon, Orcival, Vichy, Poitiers, Le Puy, Beaune- a total of 302 sanctuaries in France alone! Black Madonnas were unquestionably the most venerated effigies of the Middle Ages, and the most important pilgrimages were those that linked sanctuaries dedicated to Her (including the most popular of all, the one to Santiago de Compostella).

Perhaps the most striking feature of all – this happened despite periodic opposition by Rome!

Furthermore, the cult of this unorthodox Virgin spread later to other locations, and even became the most important national cult in places as disparate as:

Poland (the Virgin of Czestochowa);

Catalunia in Spain (Virgin of Monserrat);

Mexico (the national “Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe” and the regional “Virgen Negra de Zapopan” in Guadelajara);

Bolivia (“Virgen de Copacabana” carved in 1576 by Francisco Yupanqui after an Inca fisherman was saved by the Virgin on lake Titicaca);

Ecuador (“Nuestra Señora del Quinche”);

Cuba (“Nuestra Señora de Regla de Cuba” still the most worshipped image in Cuba);

and Brazil (“Nossa Senhora de Aparecida” formerly “de Conceiçao”).

We will discover why the Roman Church has been so concerned about the blackness of those Madonnas when we unearth the symbolic reason for it. I will also explore what it did to the collective unconscious during what has been aptly described as “Europe’s first Renaissance” (ca. 10th to 13th century). These are the topics addressed in Chapter 4 where the historical correlation between the attitude toward the Great Mother archetype and changes in money systems will be verified.

Finally, there are some individual exceptions that sometimes crop up in the most unexpected places. For example, there is the case of Miura Baien in Japan during the Edo period (1603-1867). (see sidebar).

Miura Baien: A Japanese Exception?

Can you imagine a Kant or Hegel that today’s mathematicians would consult for insights on chaos theory or fractals? Who was a liberal in terms of considering women as being co-equal partners in the social system, and at the same time recommended an Integral Economy based on a Yin-Yang currency system as will be shown in Part Two of this book? The person who matches all these descriptions is a Japanese philosopher called Miura Baien (1723-1789).106

Miura Baien was a true philosopher even in the Western meaning of that term. He not only studied old texts as did most of his contemporary Oriental scholars, but also studied nature itself, and worked from fundamental principles and universal categories as Western philosophers did. Although some of his ideas on nature were out of date (e.g. in his earlier work he still supported a Ptolemaic view of the solar system, although he questioned it himself later), in other respects he was way ahead of his time. He was for instance a precursor to Western philosophy on the issue of the linguistic problem in philosophy, and of the post-modern criticism of the capacity of the human mind to understand nature itself.

Miura Baien’s core principle was “jori”, the simultaneous observation of reality in its Yin-Yang polarities and their ultimate and necessary unity beyond the appearance of these polarities. He expressed this principle with a striking metaphor: “Whenever things we see as opposites combine as one they must be true opposites, and if they are true opposites they will become one when they are combined. We can illustrate this with an artifact such as a tenon and mortise joint. The tongue of the tenon is opposed by the groove of the mortise. If there is the slightest unevenness they will either come loose or jam tight. If they are not truly opposed they cannot become one. When artifacts are skillfully opposed they stand distinct, and when fitted together they will merge without trace of a seam.”107 Perhaps most surprisingly in as hierarchical and patriarchal society as Edo Japan, he advocated equal opportunity in work for all, based only on individual capacities. He advocated a particularly liberal view of the potential role of women. For example, he would always carefully use the term “danjo” (man-woman) to describe the human, instead of the less inclusive “hito”. 

He also proposed to use as local money system receipts of rice deposits quite similar in concept to the Egyptian money system, including its demurrage concept (which will be described in Chapter 6). According to Baien, currency should primarily be a medium of exchange, and he thought that there are detrimental implications when it simultaneously plays the role of store of value. This is a point scientifically demonstrated by our contemporary, the German economist Dietrich Suhr.108

However, although he was respected then as now as a philosopher, his proposed money system was applied only partially in some regions of Edo Japan, and his view on women not at all. His case remains nevertheless interesting because it provides additional historical evidence of the connection between the honoring of the feminine and the emergence of specific types of currency systems.

Monetary Consequences of the Repression of the Great Mother Archetype

When an archetype is repressed, it does not disappear. By definition, the rejected psychic content manifests in a destructive shadow form to haunt us. As Jung pointed out we have no longer sacred realm of Gods and Goddesses to hold this archetypal energy, and our collective unconscious projects it on and shapes the exterior world to match the inner one.

Among the many consequences of the repression of the Great Mother archetype in Western societies over most of the past five thousand years is the plausible notion that three key attributes of that archetype – such as sex, death and money – would have been impacted. It is the correlation between such repression and specific types of money systems that is of particular interest to us here. The maximum moment of repression was probably toward the end of the 350 years of witch burnings, and the beginning of the establishment of the Victorian lifestyle. By that time the shadows of the Great Mother (greed and fear of scarcity) were so deeply etched as to have become the norm.

When Adam Smith wrote his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1758) and his Wealth of Nations (1776) – which coincides with the period when the last witches were being burned in Europe – he observed that in all “modern” societies, the systematic desire for individuals to accumulate is almost universal. He would, therefore, consider that greed and fear of scarcity are “normal” in “civilized” societies. He did not approve of greed morally, but he felt that one couldn’t oppose “normal” behavior. “Normal” is different from “natural”, but Adam Smith did not make that distinction.109 It is on that basis that he would develop a theory – called economics – whose purpose would be to allocate scarce resources through the means of individual private accumulation. Smith duly notes that no complaint about the money system “is more common than that of a scarcity of money. Money, like wine, must always be scarce with those who have neither wherewithal to buy it, nor credit to borrow it.”110 He was just noticing an established fact. This was, after all, more than a century before the unconscious was discovered. Once accepted as “normal”, greed would even end up becoming a badge of honor in the financial markets. Gordon Gekko, would be quoted in 1987 by the Wall Street Journal: “the point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works.”

Photo 2.24  ¼ page

Adam Smith (1723-1790), is widely acknowledged as the founder of Modern Economics. His major works coincide with the end of the 350 years of witch hunting, arguably when the repression of the feminine in Western society was at its maximum. The unconscious shadows of that repression – the desire to accumulate, and the fear of scarcity – are built-in as basic assumptions in his theory. Engraving published the year of his death by JamesKay.

In light of what we know now from archetypal psychology, it is predictable that the money system that would arise from a collective unconscious where the Great Mother archetype is repressed would be marked by the shadows of that archetype. Specifically, the “modern” money system would provide systematic rewards (earned interest) for people who are willing to accumulate money, and would ruthlessly punish (bankruptcy, poverty) those who don’t play the game. We are still playing that game today.


Table of Contents | INTRODUCTION











  1. Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching translated G-F Feng and J. English (New York: Vintage books, 1972) number 6.
  2. Conference in Sausalito, CA, on June 12, 1998.
  3. One key breakthrough of 20th century Physics has been that it became aware that it deals with symbolic representations of reality, not reality itself. For instance, the Nobel laureate and physicist Sir James Dean concluded that “the essential fact is simply that all the pictures which science now draws of nature, and which alone seem capable of according with observational facts, are mathematical pictures. They are nothing more than pictures – fictions if you like, if by fiction you mean that science is not yet in contact with ultimate reality.” (Sir James Dean: The Mysterious Universe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1931) pg 111 (italics in original). There is a whole range of similar quotes by other 20th century physicists available in: Wilber, Ken Quantum Questions: Mystical Writings of the World’s Greatest Physicists (Boston: Shambhala, 1985).
  4. For instance, Lynn Meskell in “Twin Peaks” and Joan Goodnick Westenhol in, “Goddesses of the Ancient Near East 3000-1000 BC”, both in Goodison, Lucy & Morris, Christine Ancient Goddesses (British Museum Press, 1998) pg 63 criticizes Mellaart and Gimbutas’ interpretations of figurines found in Catal Huyuk in this respect.
  5. Barnes, Craig S. “The Great Goddess Debate” in The Salt Journal: Reconstructing Meaning (Vol 2, #3, March-April 2000) pg. 6.
  6. Gimbutas, Marija The Language of the Goddess (Thames and Hudson, 1989) pg 321.
  7. Although Gimbutas’ work has done more than most to attract the attention of the general public to the ancient Goddess cults, it is also being sometimes legitimately criticized for overstating its case on the basis of technical grounds, such as archeological context and dating (see Meskell L. “Goddesses, Gimbutas and the ‘New Age’ Archeology” Antiquity (1995: Volume 69, pg 74-86).
  8. Yalom, Marylin A History of the Breast (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1997) pg 9.
  9. Starhawk: The Spiral Dance.
  10. Helene Cixous
  11. See Baring, Anne & Cashford, Jules: The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image (London: Arkana, Penguin Books, 1993) and Cadon, Elinor The Once and Future Goddess (Harper and Row, 1990). More recent examples of the Great Mother effigies of Old Europe (6,500-3,500 B.C.) are described by Gimbutas, Marija The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1982).
  12. Gimbutas, Marija The Language of the Goddess (Thames and Hudson, 1989).
  13. John Maynard Keynes A Treatise on Money (London, 1930) chap 1, pg. 13
  14. Einzig, Paul Primitive Money (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2d edition 1966).
  15. Toynbee, Arnold A Study of History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1960) chapter 3.
  16. Williams, Jonathan: Money: A History (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997) pg 207.
  17. Williams, Jonathan: Money: A History (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997) pg 209.
  18. This title is borrowed from the section on Cattle currency in Davies, Glyn Opus Cit.
  19. Homer Iliad book VI verse 236.
  20. Ifrah, Georges Histoire Universelle des Chiffres (Paris: Robert Laffont, 1995) pg 180.
  21. From the same origin comes the word “capital punishment” refers initially to execution by severing the head.
  22. Farson N. Behind God’s back (London, 1940) pg.264.
  23. Westenholz, Joan Goodnick “Goddesses of the Ancient Near East 3000-1000 BC” in Goodison, Lucy & Morris, Christine Ancient Goddesses (British Museum Press, 1998) pg 73.
  24. Jacobsen, Thorkild: The Treasures of Darkness: A History of Mesopotamian Religion pg 138.
  25. Demetra George Mysteries of the Dark Moon (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1992) pg 162.
  26. Versunkene Kulturen (Droemer Knaus Verlag) pg11.
  27. Hassan, Fekri A. “The Earliest Goddesses of Egypt” in Goodison, Lucy & Morris, Christine Ancient Goddesses (British Museum Press, 1998) pg 101.
  28. Hassan, Fekri Ibid. pgs 102-105.
  29. Gadon Ibidem Introduction pg xvi
  30. Wokstein, Diane & Kramer Samuel Noah Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth (New York: Harper and Row, 1983) pg 127.
  31. Reproduced as Figure 9 “Pregnant Woman with Bull” in Gadon, Elinor The Once and Future Goddess New York: Harper and Row, 1990) pg 11.
  32. Marschack, Alexander Roots of Civilisation (New York, Mc Graw-Hill, 1972) pg 286.
  33. Davies, Glyn A History of Money from Ancient Times to the Present Day (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1994) pg 35.
  34. Price, M.J. (ed.) Coins from 650 BC to the Present Day (London, 1980) article by Cribb, J “The Far East.”
  35. Fazzioli, Edoardo Gemalte Wörter (Bergisch Gladbach: Gustav Lübbe Verlag, 1987) pg 177.
  36. Chevalier, Jean & Gheerbrant, Alain Dictionnaire des Symboles (Paris: Robert Laffont 1982) pg 283.
  37. Abbé Breuil quoted in Servier, J. L’homme et l’invisible (Paris, 1964) pg 37-38.
  38. Williams C.A.S. Outlines of Chinese Symbolism and Art Motives: An alphabetical compendium of antique legends and beliefs, as reflected in the manners and customs of the Chinese (Kelly and Walsh, Ltd. Third edition of original edition of 1932) pg 72.
  39. Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching translated G-F Feng and J. English (New York: Vintage books, 1972) number 6.
  40. Stone, Merlin Ancient Mirrors of Womanhood. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1990) pg 25.
  41. 70 Guthrie W.K.C.The Greeks and Their Gods (Boston: Beacon Press 1950)
  42. Williams, Jonathan Money: A History (New York: St Martin’s Press 1997) pg 24.
  43. Thucidides Peloponesian Wars (2.13)
  44. Qualls-Corbet, Nancy The Sacred Prostitute: Eternal Aspects of the Feminine (Toronto: InnerCity Books, 1988). Also see Metzger, Deena “Re-vamping the world: on the Return of the Holy Prostitiute.” Critique (PO Box 91980, Vancouver B.C. V7V 4S4.
  45. /Monaghan, Patricia The Book of Goddesses and Heroines (St. Paul, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications, 1990) pg 185.
  46. Williamson, John: The Oak King, the Holly King and the Unicorn (New York: Harper and Row, 1986) pg 146.
  47. Paris, Ginette: Pagan Grace pg 29.
  48. DeMeo, James Saharasia: The 4000 BCE Origins of Child Abuse, Sex-repression, Warfare and Social Violence in the Deserts of the Old World (Greensprings, Oregon: 1998).
  49. See particularly maps of figure 1 to 4 in DeMeo, James Ibid. pg 9-10.
  50. Adapted from Quigley, Carol: The Evolution of Civilizations: an Introduction to Historical Analysis (Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1979) pg 83.
  51. Tarnas, Richard The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas that have shaped Our World View (New York: Ballantine Books, 1991) pg 441-442.
  52. Both Gimbutas quotes from Gimbutas, M. “Women and Culture in Goddess-oriented Old Europe” in Plaskow J. & Christ C. (eds.) Weaving the Visions: New Patterns in Feminist Spirituality (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989) pg 63.
  53. “Matriarchal” means that all power structures are exclusively in the hand of women, and therefore exclude men. “Matrifocal” indicates a cultural context where the Feminine archetype is honored, but which has not necessarily created an organized power structure which excluded men. There is no historical or archeological proof that there ever was a true matriarchal culture (for instance, the Greek myth about a matriarchal “Amazon culture” have not been supported by archeological or historical evidence). However, there have been a number of well-documented Matrifocal societies. In contrast, our mainstream culture has been predominantly both Patriarchal and Patrifocal for centuries.
  54. Georges Dumézil spent his entire 40 year career at the Collège de France researching and publishing about the common patterns in all forms of Indo-European mythologies. One of his main conclusion is that there were 3 official castes operating: the Priests out of which a King was chosen; the Warriors and the Providers. This tripartite division can be traced back into their mythologies, theology, political social and economic organization structures. See Dumézil, Georges Mythe et épopée: l’Idéologie des trois fonctions dans les épopées indo-européennes (Paris: NRF Editions Galimard 1986) 3 Volumes.
  55. Dumézil, Georges Mythes et Dieux des Indo-Européens (Paris: Flamarion, 1992).
  56. Stern, P. Prehistoric Europe from Stone Age Men to the Early Greeks (NY: W.W. Norton, 1969) pg. 302 and pg 230.
  57. This tradition became common in Mesopotamian wars and many future invasions. This recipe is explicitly recommended in the Bible: “Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife – except abroad. Then you should put all males to the sword, and the women you shall take as booty to yourself.” (Deuteronomy). It still happened recently during the “ethnic cleansings” in Yugoslavia and Ruanda.
  58. Lerner, Gerda The Origins of Patriarchy (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986) pg 8.
  59. Ibidem pg 8-9 italics in original.59Ibidem pg 8-9 italics in original.
  60. Westenholz, Joan Goodnick “Goddesses of the Ancient Near East 3000-1000 BC” in Goodison, Lucy & Morris, Christine Ancient Goddesses (British Museum Press, 1998) pg. 71.
  61. Lerner, Gerda The Origins of Patriarchy(New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986) pg. 216 italics added.
  62. For example, Greek mythology is the result of such a transformation. The Temple of Apollo where the Pythies became only the “seers” while the interpretation of the messages became the function of the male priests who ran the temple replaced the Great Mother temple of Delphi where the priestesses provided oracles since time immemorial.. Apollo also took on the old attributes of the Old Goddess in the domain of the arts and music, and only the comparatively secondary role played by the Muses is a remnant of the feminine role in these domains. For an architectural and archeological analysis of this process, see Scully, Vincent: The Earth, the Temple and the Gods: Greek Sacred Architecture.(New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1979).
  63. Aristotle The Complete Works (Revised Oxford Translation, 2 Vols Jonathan Barns ed. 1984) pg 737a: 27-28
  64. Aristotle Ibid. “Politics” pg 1254b: 6-14
  65. Campbell, Joseph in a conference cycle on the Evolution of Myth (conference #3).
  66. As mentioned earlier, sacrifice means literally “making sacred” as its etymology reflects: it comes from sacer facere= sacred making. From a Judaic perspective, the Covenant exists with the entire Hebrew people. But the circumcision makes an indelible mark of the Covenant exclusively on the male.
  67. Dodson Gray, Elisabeth Patriarchy as a Conceptual Trap (Wellesley, Mass: Roundtable Press, 1982) pg. 26.
  68. Grant, Michael The History of Ancient Israel (New York: Charles Scribner and Sons, 1984) pg 61.
  69. The Bible 1 Kings 15:13.
  70. Maier, Walter A. III Asherah: Extrabiblical Evidence (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986); and Freedman, David Noel “Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah” Biblical Archeological Review 50 (4), 1987.
  71. Patai, Raphael The Hebrew Goddess (New York: Avon Books, 1967)
  72. Hadley J.M. “The Khirbet el-Qôm inscription” Vetus Testamentum 37 (1987) ; and Lemaire, “Les Inscriptions de Khirbet el-Qom et l’Asherah de YHWH” Revue Biblique 84 (1977) pgs 595-608
  73. van der Toorn, Karel “Goddesses in Early Israelite Religion” in Goodison, Lucy & Morris, Christine Ancient Goddesses(British Museum Press, 1998) pg 89.
  74. Davies, Steve “The Canaanite-Hebrew Goddess” in Carl Olson The Book of the Goddess: Past and Present (New York: Crossroads, 1983) pg.72.
  75. Patai, Raphael The Hebrew Goddess (New York: Avon Books, 1967) pg 37.
  76. Typical example: “Tear down their altars, dash in pieces their pillars and burn their Asherim with fire” (Deuteronomy 12:2). Notice that in the English text of the Bible, translated from the Latin Vulgate version, you will find no references to Asherah because the Hebrew words “Asherah” or its plural “Asherim” had been translated in Latin as “nemus” or “sacred grove”. Sacred trees and groves were indeed associated with Asherah cults, her main symbol was a living tree and her statues were made of wood, so the confusion is understandable. See Day, John “Asherah in the Hebrew Bible and North Semitic Literature” in Journal of Biblical Literature 1986 Vol 105, #3.
  77. Grant, Michael The History of Ancient Israel (New York: Charles Scribner and Sons, 1984) pg. 62-63.
  78. Taylor, J. E. “The Asherah, the Menorah and the Sacred Tree” in Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 66, 1995; Kien, J. Reinstating the Divine Woman in Judaism (Internet publishing at, 2000 ISBN: 1-58112-763-4) ; Long, A. In a Chariot drawn by Lions: the Search for the Female in Deity (Freedom, CA: Crossing Press, 1993) and “Asherah, Goddess of the Grove, the Menorah, and the Tree of Life” Goddessing Regenerated Issue #9, Summer 1998.
  79. Pagels, Elaine Adam, Eve and the Serpent ( )
  80. Warner, Marina Alone of all her Sex: the Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary (New York: Random House, 1976 pg 48.
  81. See Kristeva, Julia: “Stabat Mater” in Susan Rubin Suileman, ed. The Female Body in Western Culture (Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press, 1986) pg 101.
  82. Lewinsohn, R.A. History of Sexual Customs (Greenwich CT: Premier, 1964) pg. 95.
  83. Intriguingly, recent scholarship indicates that some of her work survived by being attributed to the Church Father Denis the Aeropagite, the most significant philosopher of this time period besides Plotin. See Maeger, Annemarie Hypatia, die Dreigestaltige (Hamburg: Reuter und Klöckner, 1992) and Hypatia II (Hamburg: Autorenverlag, 1995). This was also the time when Christians burned the famous library of Alexandria. See Jeans, J. The Growth of Physical Science (NY: Premier, 1958) pg. 99-100.
  84. Warner, Marina Alone of all her Sex: the Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary (New York: Random House, 1976 pg 58.
  85. See Pagels, Elaine : The Origin of Satan (New York: Random House, 1995) for a well-researched thesis on how the diabolization of the “Other” started in Christianity at the time of the Roman occupation of Israel.
  86. See Baring, Anne& Cashford, Jules: The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image. London: Arkana, Penguin Books, 1993) pg 557-558.
  87. The Proto-evangelium, also known as the book of James, possibly dating back to the 2nd century.
  88. Rossiaud, Jacques Medieval Prostitution (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995) pg 84.
  89. Title of a PBS special on the same topic.
  90. 119 Voss, Jutta Frauenrequiem:Totenmess für alle Frauen die als ‘Hexen’ ermordet wurden (Stuttgart: Kreuz, 1989)
  91. Gage, M.J. Women, Church, and State (Watertown, Mass: Persephone Press, 1980) ; Griffin, Susan Woman and Nature (New York: Harper and Row, 1980) pg 17-18; Ehrenreich B. & English D. Witches, Midwives and Nurses (NY, Feminist Press, 1973) pg 6-14.
  92. Taylor G.R. Sex in History (London: Thames & Hudson, 1953) pg. 126-7. DeMeo, James Saharasia: The 4000 BCE Origins of Child Abuse, Sex-repression, Warfare and Social Violence (Greensprings, Oregon, 1998) pg. 312-313.
  93. See Geise, Gernot “Der Ursprung der ‘Hexen’ und die Verungplimpfung der weisen Frauen” Tattva Viveka (#8, March 1998) pg. 8-14.
  94. Male, Louis quoted by Gadon, Elinor The Once and Future Goddess New York: Harper and Row, 1990) pg 221
  95. Voss, Jutta Frauenrequiem: Totenmesse für alle Frauen die als ‘Hexen’ ermordet wurden (Stuttgart: Kreuz, 1989).
  96. Griffin Ibid. Pg 113-114.
  97. Rich, Adrienne: Of Woman Born: Motherhood in Experience and Institution (New York: Norton & Co, 1976) pg. 236.
  98. Mazis, Glen The Trickster, Magician and the Grieving Man (Santa Fe: Bear & Co, 1993) pg 44.
  99. Groenewegen-Frankfort, H.A. Arrest and Movement pg 186
  100. Galileo would assert that only mathematical measurements (such as size, shape and weight) are “real”, the rest are illusory because “This grand book the universe is written in the language of mathematics…without these, one wander about in a dark labyrinth.” (Galileo quoted in Jones, Edwin Reading the Book of Nature (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1989) pg 22.
  101. Dames, Michael: The Silbury Treasure: the Great Goddess Rediscovered (London: Thames and Hudson, 1976, 1992).
  102. Kerényi, Carl Eleusis: Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press; Bolingen Series LXV #4, 1967).
  103. Yalom, Marylin A History of the Breast (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1997) pg. 15.
  104. Begg,Ean : The Cult of the Black Virgin (London:Routledge, 1985). Or Gordon, Pierre Essais sur les Vierges Noires (Neuilly sur Seine: Arma Artis, 1983).
  105. I am endebted to Mr. Eiicho Morino who drew this case study to my attention in a private communication in Tokyo in September 1999.
  106. Miura Baien “Reply to Taga Bokkei” (part 4) translated in English by Mercer Rosemary Deep Words: Miura Baien’s System of Natural Philosophy (Leiden: Brill) See also website
  107. Suhr, Dieter, Capitalism at Its Best: The Equalization of Money’s Marginal Costs and Benefits; (Augsburg, Germany: Universität Augsburg, 1989).
  108. Another example of the confusion between “natural” and “normal” is Smith’s description of the social order. “Nature has wisely judged that the distinction of ranks, the peace and order of society, would rest more securely upon the plain and palpable difference of birth and fortune, than upon the invisible and uncertain differences of wisdom and virtue…In the order of those recommendations, the benevolent wisdom of nature is equally evident.” Smith, Adam : The Theory of Moral Sentiments (original edition 1759). This was Smith’s first book, published during his tenure of the Chair of Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow. The version quoted is the one edited by D.D Raphael and A.L. Macfie (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1984) pg 226.
  109. Smith, Adam The Wealth of Nations Book 4, chapter 1.