SOC250 Lecture: October 27, 2010
The Mother Goddess thesis: when god was a woman
The historic decline of female metaphysical power: from Paleolithic-Neolithic Mother Goddesses to polytheistic
pantheons that elevated male war and storm gods and marginalized female deities
- Correlated with the rise of militaristic states and empires
- Marduk, Zeus, Jupiter, Yahweh/Jehovah, Odin
Laws of Manu (Manava Dharmashastra) codified in the 1 century CE = the First King and Sage, who saved
humanity from the great floor = a sacred law code
2.213 It is the very nature of women to corrupt men here on earth.
5.147 A girl, a young woman, or even an old woman should not do anything independently, even in the
5.148 In childhood a woman shoes be under her fathers control, in youth under her husband, and when
her husband is dead, under her sons control. She must never seek to live independently.
5.154 A virtuous woman should constantly serve her husband like a god, even if he behaves badly, freely
indulges his lust, and is devoid of good qualities.
5.155 For women, there is so independent sacrifice, vow or fast; a woman will be exalted in heaven by
the mere fact that she has obediently served her husband.
9.101 Calls for mutual fidelity in marriage as the supreme duty of man and woman; the gods are pleased
when a good wife is honoured, etc.
Malleus Maleficarum, or Hexenhammer/Hammer Against Witches (1487)
A practical manual to combat heresy and witchcraft, written by two German Dominican monks who served as
inquisitors of the catholic church; received papal approval, but eventually the church condemned the book in 1667
Went through numerous editions between 1487 and 1669, and spread widely throughout Europe. Played a
conspicuous role in the so-called witch craze of this era, and the deaths of thousands of women who were burned
or drowned or tortured to death.
Scholarly estimated: ~100 000 trials, roughly 15 000 documented executions, with extrapolations randing from 40
000 to 100 000 total dead [~80% of the accused were female]
The Malleus draws on earlier witchcraft texts and inquisitional liberation, such as Torquemada (1490-98) Grand
Inquisitor of Spain [2000+ heretics], and Niders Formicarius (1435).
Witchcraft/sorcery a longstanding and widespread social concern:
From the Code of Hammurabi, c. 18 century BCE
If a man has put a spell upon another man and it is not justified, he upon whom the spell is laid shall go to the holy
river; in the shall he plunge. If the holy river overcomes him and he is drowned, the man who put the spell upon
him shall take possession of his house. If the holy river declares him innocent and he remains unharmed the man
who laid the spell shall be put to death. He that plunged into the river shall take possession of the house of him
who laid the spell upon him.
The Malleus supports its claims by quoting the Bible and classical literature, and also features many contemporary
reports on witchcraft; its contents are organized in three sections:
1 Section One affirms the reality of witchcraft against critics and skeptics, and documents the close connections
between witches and the Devil:
The witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is insatiable in women.
2SOC250 Lecture 8: November 3, 2010
Outline of World Religious History
Phase One: Prehistory [~before writing]
Paleolithic Era, c. 2.5 million years to c. 10,000 BCE
Human evolution: australopithecines [~4 million years BP] homo habilis (handy skilled) [~2.5 years BP]
erectus = developing bipedalmism, brain enlargement, declining sexual dimorphism in body size, limb proportions,
jaw, teeth, lips, tongue, etc.
tools, language, hunting & gathering
Homo sapiens from c. 250,000 BCE out of Africa, into Eurasia
Mesolithic Era, c. 10000 to 7000 nomadism village life, grain cultivation
Neolithic Era, c. 7000 to 3500 = settled agriculture, domestication of plans and animals, pottery, wheeled
carts; first major towns: Catlhoyuk, Hericho, etc.
= the period of aboriginal or primoritial religion
[Animism, naturism, ancestor cult, totemism, earth mother as fertility and grain goddess]
Phase Two: History & Rise of the State
The first civilizations in the great river valleys: the Fertile Crescent, the Nile, the Indus and Ganges, the Huang He
and Yangtze rivers
Metallurgy, writing & record-keeping, astronomy and calendar