19.3.16

how do you solve a problem like marija?

Only a few months ago, I described a particular HAUNTING and promised updates --


-- and now! the longed-for update: Wittgenstein immaterial has left me (unfortunately, as I begin this semester to deal in logic). However, he didn't leave me alone for long; he's been replaced by the spirit of Marija Gimbutas! If you know me at all, you know that Wittgenstein's been part of my life (not in his true form, but in a form nonetheless) since my birth. But I didn't find Marija until February: no-holds-barred criticism of her research comprised the entire first chapter of a book titled Goddesses and the Divine Feminine: A Western Religious History that I'd picked up (as an exploratory measure, a foray into what it says on the tin) for my writing seminar. The author clearly couldn't stand that anyone, anywhere bought into Marija's ideas -- but her writing had the opposite of its intended effect, and it was love at first sight, you know, and I said --
Marija, I've just met a girl named Marija / and suddenly that name / will never be the same
Marija Gimbutas: Lithuanian-born archaeologist, originator of the Kurgan Hypothesis (which means that yes, you learned about her in AP Human Geo), pioneer of archaeomythology, and -- most importantly to me --  not the first but the most vocal proponent of the notion of a gynocentric, goddess-worshipping prehistoric society.

We'd all have liked to live in this society, I imagine. It wasn't matriarchal (as goes the common perception of Gimbutas's ideas); it was egalitarian. It was a society of peace, of mutuality -- it possessed all of these traditionally gynocentric values until the Indo-Europeans brought war and patriarchy to it. And here we are today, in a society of war and patriarchy.

Now, pretty much every other anthropologist and archaeologist (as laid out in Goddesses and the Divine Feminine and many, many other books) says and has always said that this idea is bullshit. Prehistory is a bit of a tabula rasa, so it's easy to project one's own beliefs onto prehistoric cultures; kindly put, Gimbutas's research involved more guesswork than hard facts. Less kindly put, she let her (feminist-agenda-fueled, some would say) imagination run wild -- she found very creative ways to convince herself that objects of ambiguous forms represented a woman, goddess. She had no evidence besides such tenuous claims to back up her goddess-worship theory.

(Gimbutas received plenty of fair criticism, but she received her share of unfair criticism, too. A male archaeologist, in a biographical essay on her, attributed her excessive identification of "fertility themes" in figurines as to Gimbutas's "overwrought imagination" -- because, by his reckoning, she'd just reached menopause.)

Of course, even if I do manage to work #GimbutasWasRight* into every interaction I have these days, I recognize that, well, she wasn't. The evidence against her claim is stacked. Ultimately, though, whether or not Marija Gimbutas was right is irrelevant to me: I'm much more interested in the neo-pagan 'goddess feminists' who wear #Gimbutas as an #aesthetic. To them, much like the existence of a Mother Goddess itself, the idea of an original goddess-worshipping society isn't something that's true or false; it's something you believe. It's a meta-religion. These 'goddess feminists' believe that a gynocentric society existed once, so it's easier for them to believe that one can exist again. Marija's given them hope.

*Woe betide us if we allow ourselves to forget that Marija Gimbutas is much more than a meme I've been propagating. She was, according to Wikipedia, a "world-class specialist on the Indo-European Bronze Age, as well as on Lithuanian folk art and the prehistory of the Balts and Slavs." Her Goddess phase came about only towards the end of her career.

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