Judeo-Christian negation/destruction of the "sacred feminine" seen in older religions

I hadn’t really considered it until I read a comment in this thread, but in thinking about it, it does seem that overall, women go from being fairly central and more or less co-equal in terms of deity ideation and representation in older belief paradigms, to a decidedly sidekick type role in the Judeo-Christian structure. Did this happen because Judaism was (in some way) a reaction against the polytheistic nature of the religions it was contending with at the time of it’s formation, or is it because the strictly top down diety organizational structure seen in Judeo-Christianity can’t work with an empowered co-equal (or near co-equal) female diety?

Why is the female so feared and stripped of supernatural potency in the Judeo-Christian setup. What was Judaism reacting to or against in the theological landscape at the time of it’s myth genesis that caused this

i think that it was due to the injection of Zorastim into Judaism. Zorastism also permeated Greek and Roman thinking as the Persians brought it along with them. It was the first religion known to have quite a mysogynistic origin of creation.

The unique element of ancient Judaism was its monotheistic covenant. The Hebrews chose Canaanite skygod El over all other deities, M or F (though, significantly, this didn’t mean denying their existance). Openly feminine religious practices were particularly vulnerable to persecution, since they could not be easily justified or transferred over to El. I think a great deal of the misogyny in the OT is a reaction to cultic practices that were very hard to extinguish. The cult of Asherah in particular was stubborn, but blaming polytheist worship for Israel’s woes pretty much snuffed it out.

So yeah, all the ancient Asherah/Anat/Ishtar-type goddess cults were destroyed by Judaism, but hey, so were the cults of Baal, Milcom, Moloch, Tammuz, etc. But they did come down especially hard on the goddess cults, since elements of worship of Canaanite male deities could be inconspicuously incorporated into Judaism. See the books I recommended in the other thread. They’re fabbo, although Graves was a little nuts and his scholarship is now outdated.

I think it’s tenuous to assume a link between (a) opposition to various female gods and (b) the change of the role of women in society.

The ancient Greeks, for instance, relegated women to the role in the home and kept them out of the market, and yet they had plenty of female gods.

In reviewing the OP, I don’t think I was positing any direct linkage between the everyday societal role of women in antiquity and the “sacred feminine” (although they may well exist) . Specifically, I wanted to know some possible reasons why organic Judaism delinked/negated the previously widespread, “sacred feminine” when assembing it’s mythos.

Why did the previously integral “sacred feminine” get left on the cutting room floor in the Judaic genesis, so to speak? Was it a reaction against other cultures and their religions that oppressed them or contended with them? Not to include a sacred feminine component is a fairly distinct choice, and a major break with the surrounding polytheistic landscape of the time and it’s pervasive sacred feminine components. What might have been going in the historical environment that caused this exclusion of the sacred feminine choice to happen?

Ah, sorry, astro, I was reading too fast and took your phrase <,women go from being fairly central and more or less co-equal >> out of context. Sorry for the off-track comment.

Basically, I’ll agree with 'possum, that it wasn’t just female gods who were dropped, but male gods as well.

For cultures with multiple deities, it made sense to think of masculine and feminine, thus a King and Queen of the gods or whatever. The gods are part of nature, and since life in nature is divided into male and female, so are the gods. They can reproduce, like the rest of nature. Reproductive power is seen as being feminine, and associated with the feminine god(s); the earth itself produces grain and fruit and so forth and so it seen as the essential female god, or “sacred feminine” as you put it. The main male god is thus usually the opposite of the earth, and associated with the sky or heavens.

Despite the archaeological theories of how the Hebrew notion of God may have evolved from Canaanite gods such as El, the Hebrew Bible depicts a very different perspective. The monotheistic God of the early Hebrews (say, around 1200 to 1000 BC) is not part of nature, but is above nature and creates nature. He does not reproduce and is not divided into male and female parts.

The monotheistic God is associated with the top of mountains and with the sky, above the earth (that is, above nature.) It is therefore a logical evolution from polytheism that a single God would be seen as primarily masculine. However, He was not only masculine, but has both masculine and feminine attributes. Yes, the attributes of strength and power and the view of God as a Warrior are certainly the masculine aspects, but the Shekhinah (the indwelling imminent presence of God) is feminine.

Now, later on, Christianity reverses much of this, since the Christian God does reproduce (has a Son through some magical impregnation). The pagans to whom the early Christians preached were quite comfortable with the idea of gods having sex with mortal women to reproduce; the Hebrews were not comfortable with that idea and rejected Christian theology. Once you have a monotheistic God who impregnates a mortal woman, you’ve got a masculine God and the feminine component is conveniently dropped.

And as society became more urban and heavily masculine-dominated (compared to the nomadic and agrarian society of pre-Hellenistic Hebrews), the concept of God became more masculine.

At bottom, I don’t tie this development to “historical environment” (if you mean sociology, economics, etc) but more to the philosophic or theological underpinings.

Though I agree that the greeks didn’t treat women necessarily better than Jews… their religion had older origins and women had a greater role.

Whilst Monotheism was “modern” and probably reflected the new and reduced female role more strongly.

It would be interesting to know if women gradually lost “position” in judeo christian religions with time or if they were relegated to their role from the beggining.

I think it has more to do with the fact that prehistoric hunter-gatherers were more egalitarian in their division of sex roles, or at least less hierarchical concerning sex. With the movement of the early Hebrew society towards an increasingly agricultural lifestyle, with its accompanying subjugation of the female sex, then so too did the Hebrew religion move towards a lesser role for the female in worship. But that’s just what I think.

What is it about a mainly agricultural lifestyle that would devalue the sacred feminine vs the hunter gatherer social context? Weren’t other agricultural societies of the time (Egyptian etc) mainly polytheistic with fully empowered sacred feminine deities?

Per C K Dexter Haven’s point there appears to be a break with nature at some point in the construction of the mythos for a God that is “above nature”, which appears to be a key distinction. Is this simply some theological arms race vs other belief paradigms to claim bragging rights for your God as the strongest, or is this break with nature reflective of some more fundamental change rippling through human societies at the time?

I’d forgotten about another argument I had, this one involving the cultural materialist model (a heavily Marxist perspective) from anthropology.

Basically, cultural materialism says that the cultural forms and expressions of a society arise from that society’s material conditions. The devaluing of the feminine among the early Hebrews, then, would be as a result of that historical culture’s necessary material requirements.

What does that mean? What particular set of circumstances would exist for the devaluing of the feminine to be advantageous among the Hebrews? Well, among those ancient shepherds and farmers, labour was divided according to gender, and therefore having strong gender divisions would mean having a well-organized labour force. Strong cultural prescriptions against crossing gender roles would come about, including (male) devaluing of the opposite sex (as expressed in beliefs about spiritual pollution regarding menstruation, the lesser importance of the feminine in religious thought, and so on). But, moving on:

Well, the patriarchal lifestyle has been found to be correlated to agriculture and endemic warfare, where the men fight at or from home, whereas the matriarchal lifestyle has been found to be correlated to agriculture and endemic warfare, where the men fight away from home. (This correlation was found by anthropologists through searching Yale University’s Human Resources Area Files, a massive anthropological database). When I say away from home, I don’t mean off on campaign for a few months, in between years of staying at home. I mean that according to the lifestyle of that society, the men spend a large proportion of the time away from home.

So, why weren’t the Egyptians the same as the Hebrews? For one thing, they were one of the first state-level societies to emerge, and thus one of the first powers in the region. This meant that for a large amount of their history, they were the baddest asses in the region, and thus they were not as concerned with invasion or raiding, and thus had a culture that was not as fixated on glorifying warfare and masculinity, and conversely, putting down goddesses and femininity.

But that’s just the cultural materialist perspective.

Running through a search through the HRAF, I find that looking for agriculture and patriarchy gives 63 cultures that feature them, looking for pastoralism (i.e., herding sheep and goats) and patriarchy gives 69 cultures, and looking for hunter-gatherer and patriarchy gives 4 cultures.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have said “glorifying warfare,” but I hope you got the gist of what I was saying.

According to the book referenced in the thread that inspired this discussion (The DaVinci Code) the early Christians (or more specifically Constantine) when creating the Bible made a conscious decision to remove the “sacred feminine” from the religion. They did this because supposedly Jesus and Mary Magdelene were married and they had a daughter. The ideas they wanted to encourage were threatened by the idea that Jesus was a mortal with human needs. They discarded the gospel of Jesus and the Magdelene Diaries when they put the Bible together, along with tons of other texts that corroberated the story of Jesus and Mary’s relationship and the power that Mary had. The removal of the feminine power element was supposedly the purpose for the crusades. Every woman of influence was murdered. Dan Brown claimed in this book that over 5 million women (or was it 50 million - I can’t find it in the book) were killed during the crusades. I don’t know how true it is but it makes for an interesting story. Too bad it wasn’t executed so well. If you are going to read the story, don’t confuse the quantity of detail for truth. Just because there are tons of references about history, it don’t make these references true. Sure he did his homework, but he also made up quite a bit.

There are traces of evidence of the concept of the divine femininity in the early days of the People of the Book - something called the Shekinah. (Oddly enough, represented by the spears holding up the canopy over ummm, was it the Ark or the Altar? Anyways, represented by spears. Equally oddly, has anybody noticed that half or better of the war/death deities are female?) Haven’t found out too much about it, as there isn’t a lot of information readily available to me that isn’t part of somebody’s incredibly biased agenda, but it is there.

Archaeology is also showing tantalizing hints of perhaps an early association between Astarte and Yahweh, as well.

Minimizing the power and influence of women predates the crusades by quite a bit. St. Paul and St. Augustine are generally held responsible for a goodly chunk of it on the Christian side, fairly or un-. Beats the heck out of me where the Moslems and Jews got it - I don’t know enough about the history of the faiths past the schisms that created them. I do know that the present poor condition of most women in Islamic countries is NOT Koranic behaviour. The Prophet Mohammed’s own daughter did not take the veil, rode to war, and I believe (please correct me here) inherited like a son.