Mother Worship

"During the 2500 year transitional period, in which patricarchal attitudes gained ascendency, woman was still valued for her ability to reproduce. Her fertility potential determined her worth as a commodity. But now woman was valued only for her maternity. Her scope and dignity were reduced; she had become an instrument for reproduction. And now this power was not solely hers." - Shari L. Thurer in Myths of Motherhood
Tondo of an Attic red-figured cup, ca 490 BCE.











"Mothers are fonder than fathers of their children because they are more certain they are their own" - Aristotle
Giovanni Pellegrini, Aphrodite and Eros, 18th century.












Venus or Woman of Willendorf,  25,000 – 20,000 BCE. 4 3/8” high. 











  • Over one hundred such figures found, from Siberia to Spain
  • Made out of soft stones, small in size, and dating between 35,000 to 11,000 BCE
  • All having pronounced breasts, buttocks, and bellies, with no faces or feet.
Woman of Willendorf and the Venus of Lespuge,
Mammoth ivory, height 7 13/16".
Venus of Dolni Vestonice 29,000 - 25,000 BCE, Ceramic.












Venus or Woman of Willendorf,  25,000 – 20,000 BCE.

pregnant woman











What if fertility was only a secondary (or unintended) connotative meaning of these works?

Venus of Hohle Fels

Venus of Hohle Fels (Germany)c. 35,000 BCE.
Venus or Woman of Willendorf, 25,000 – 20,000 BCE.
Woman of Çatalhöyük, c. 6000 BCE.











As Friedrich "Engels's [argues in] The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884) prehistoric matriarchies were the original sites of communism - and this was a compliment! ...mothers first controlled communal property, but when agriculture was introduced (in the Neolithic [period]), man used and therefore owned the farming tools, especially the ploughs and domesticated animals. Men thus became the first sex to have private property. Of course, by that time man had figured out his biological contribution to reproduction. And in order to pass on his property to his children, he had to make sure they were indeed his, so he introduced monogamy to control the descent system. As a result, women were subordinated economically and restricted sexually." - Shari L. Thurer in The Myths of Motherhood
Greek Menstrual Dress and Culture
Menstruation in Sacred spaces
Ancient Greek Home (note the clean division between public and private spaces)











Old Babylonian representation of Goddess Inanna (aka Ishtar), 1800 - 1750 BCE.











"The sun god Ra shaped himself out of the waters of chaos, or unformed matter, and emerged sealed atop a mound of sand hardened by his own rays. By spitting (or ejaculating) he then created the gods of wetness and dryness, Tefnut and Shu, who in turn begat the male Geb (earth) and the female Nut (sky). Geb and Nut produced two sons, Osiris and Seth, and two daughters, the goddessess Isis and Nephtys.

Taking Isis as his wife, Osiris became king of Egypt. His envious brother, Seth promptly killed Osiris, hacked his body to pieces and snatched the throne for himself. Isis and her sister, Nephtys, gathered up the scattered remains of Osiris and with the help of the god Anubus (represented by a Jackal) they patched him back together. Despite her husband's mutilated condition, Isis conceived a son - Horus... who defeated Seth and became king of the Earth, while Osiris retired to the underworld as overseer of the realm of the dead." - Marilyn Stokstad, Art History

Isis Nursing Horus, Late Period 664 - 332 BCE.











"From approximately 3100 to 600 BCE...with the coming of one God (Buddha, Yahweh, Christ, or Allah), women's standing in all realms was leveled to a position subordinate to males." "By 600 BCE, patriarchy was established over much of Europe, Asia, and Africa...and preceded the development of writing. Every written word, then, has been refracted through the prism of a male-dominated consciousness." - Shari L. Thurer in The Myths of Motherhood

Idol from Amorgos

Snake Goddess

Idol from Amorgos,  2500 – 2300 BCE.
Snake Goddess from Knossos, ca. 1650 BCE.











patriarchy = a form of social organization in which the father is the supreme authority in the family, clan, or tribe and descent is reckoned in the male line, with the children belonging to the father's clan or tribe.

To the Greeks, matriarchy represented chaos and disorder. It was in opposition to civilization and therefore, normalcy. - Shari L. Thurer
"Every woman is trouble, she has only two good times: one is the wedding, the other is her death." - Palladas
"O would that the female sex were nowhere to be found - but in my lap!" - Euripides
“AD” Painter, Women at the Fountain House,
Greek Hydria, 520 – 510 BCE.











androcentric = focused or centered on men

heterosexism = a system of negative attitudes, bias, and discrimination in favor of heterosexuality and relationships that can include the presumption that everyone is heterosexual or that opposite-sex attractions and relationships are the norm and therefore superior
eurocentism = centered on Europe or the Europeans; reflecting a tendency to interpret the world in terms of western and especially European or Anglo-American values and experiences
sexism = attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of sexual roles
Alexandros of Antioch, Venus de Milo, 101 BCE.











"Not surprisingly, there was a shift in magic, ritual, and imagery from the womb to the phallus. The number of female figurines diminished with respect to male figurines. The penis replaced the womb as the primary symbol of generation."- Shari L. Thurer in The Myths of Motherhood
Woman carrying a phallus painted
on ancient Greek vessel ca. 480 - 450 BCE
Dionysian Temple with phallic decorative elements, Delos











Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool at the National Mall





















Louise Bourgeois, Fillette (Little Girl), 1968.
Robert Mapplethorpe, Louise Bourgeois with Fillette, 1982.











What's a girl to do with all of that "free" time in the home?


Attributed to Amasis Painter, Lekythos, Women Working Wool,  c. 56 BC.








Women's magic becomes something to fear

Odysseus, Circe and transformed man, Athenian red-figure calyx krater ca. 5th BCE.











The sirens song from O Brother Where Art Thou






















"Man is the measure of all things." - Protagoras
  • Class was decided at birth, & upward mobility was impossible
  • Only native men of high social rank could be citizens
  • Only citizens could vote or own land
  • Citizens made up about 13% of the population
  • With the exception of slaves, women were rarely able to leave the home
  • Women of all classes were considered far inferior to males
  • Female infanticide was fairly common
  • Girls married once they began to menstruate, around age 13
  • Men married around age 30 after they'd had a few intimate relationships (preferably with other males)
Polykleitos, Doryphoros, 450 - 440 BCE.









Polykleitos, Doryphoros, 450 - 440 BCE.
Knidian Aphrodite, Roman copy
after Praxiteles of ca. 340 - 330 BCE.