Thursday, March 26, 2009

Rise of Patriarchal Society - VI

Matrilineal traditions:
If patriarchal traditions have their foundations in male centric ignorance about sexual reproduction, how about females of the past. I don't think unrelated males and females sit together and come to a common conclusion in the matters of knowledge. Any association should be strictly within the sex. The ideas that grow into ritualization are either matrilineal or patrilineal. If matrilineal ritualizations became powerful, males adopted it and vice versa.

In present times, especially in Indian traditions, we don't see clearly delineated male specific ideas or female specific ideas. But before dwelling into that the question needed to be asked, is it possible to have male specific or female specific ideas? I think it's possible. What we see here, the foundations(of ideas) are always misunderstanding about physio-chemical phenomena. The obvious physical differences manifest in differences in the world views based on them. Therefore, diversity in ways, paths, points of views are just a limitation of knowledge or pure misunderstanding.

At the next level, domination of either patrilineal philosophies or matrilineal philosophies result in one sex taking up prejudices of other sex, which can be unnatural for the borrower sex.

But ideas are not always linear. By this I mean, the foundations aren't just restricted to familiar domain. People develop ideas based on unfamiliar domains. Men can hold certain views about women and vice versa. This is ignorance multiplied and hence non-linear. And mainly responsible for many degrading practices where linear ideas and non-linear ideas mix.

Vagina and Menstrual Blood:
I would think the following linear ideas in the early societies.
- Men glorify their penis and its secretion semen
- Women glorify their vagina and its secretion menstrual blood

This of course makes sense. These glories are associated with bodily waste and hence dirty. But there is no reason to believe that women would be ashamed of their vagina and menstrual blood as men haven't. The association with creative power is the obvious reason for positive view. However, it appears in many societies (Not universally) men had developed non-linear idea about menstrual blood. And the result had been degrading menstrual blood practices where these negative ideas had been ritualized. However, it is unknown (to me) whether women had developed negative views about male glories and ritualized it in their matrilineal traditions.

Snake Worship:
This is a curious tradition. Generally, women are n the forefront of snake worship. Snake has generally (as far as I know) been held to be a representation of penis. Does that mean women had developed a positive attitude towards unfamiliar domain? Maju@Leherensuge in fact informed that some anthropologists consider snake a complete manifestation of genitals. The head as vagina and the body, penis. I would think early females most likely considered the only head part.

If you consider the ritual then it becomes very clear. Generally, snake is worshipped by pouring milk into the anthill. Milk of course here is the representation of semen. Matrilineal Musuo community in China considered semen as rain. If men thought women are mere nurturing condition, so did women. Semen is milk, a mere nurture for their glorious vagina.

7 comments:

Maju said...

Generally, snake is worshipped by pouring milk into the anthill.

What do you mean by "anthill"? The clitoris?

If men thought women are mere nurturing condition, so did women. Semen is milk, a mere nurture for their glorious vagina.

It is an interesting idea but the adjectives "mere" and "glorious" indicate a hierarchy that does not need to be real.

What matters in these issues is more the devotion for fertility itself, a common theme in many different cultures.

Maju@Leherensuge in fact informed that some anthropologists consider snake a complete manifestation of genitals. The head as vagina and the body, penis.

Serpents are associated with male gods more often than with females. Evil serpents or dragons' "victims" are almost invariably females (though C. RodrigaƱez argued that the maids are not victims but actually the Goddess, the serpent/dragon being the God, slain by the Indoeuropean archetypical dragon-killer deities).

In general the perception I'd say is that the serpent is the penis, though some have proposed it has dual meaning in fact, in this particular aspect of fertility. It would be then like an ouroboros: the serpent that eats its tail, meaning perpetuation through a circular perception of time.

Probably there's not a single valid universal interpretation but these diverse meanings have fluctuated an overlapped in time and space.

Serpents are not anyhow venerated only in relation to fecundity, they are also seen as cthonic manifestations, either as pillar of the tree of life and/or guardians of the underworld. It is therefore associated with fertility and perpetual creation but not only in humans but in all Nature.

Other symbolisms of the serpent are:

- Rebirth, resurrection - either mythical or symbolic (near death in life), because of their changing of skin.
- Poison and medicine. As such have been adopted by physicians and farmacologists in Western culture at least.
- Evil by those manichean doctrines that devilize sex, notably Judaic religions.

Manjunat said...

What do you mean by "anthill"? The clitoris?

Ant-hill is where you find the snakes.

It is an interesting idea but the adjectives "mere" and "glorious" indicate a hierarchy that does not need to be real.

What matters in these issues is more the devotion for fertility itself, a common theme in many different cultures.


The devotion didn't come out of neutral feeling. First of all, only when when they felt positive about their genitals and secretions further symbolisms developed. As you have pointed out in the latter part snake could be symbol of evil too. So basically, how people perceive the features, characteristics or attributes that would further develop into either devotion or despise.

As a owner of these devotions there arises hierarchies.

During old times, in matrilineal families of North Kerala, only females belonging to certain lineage(illam) had the right to enter and worship in their household(Taravadu) lineage shrine. These shrines are dedicated to a female spirit(Korati/Kurati). All men folk and females of other lineages were barred from entering it. I guess the ownership of certain devotion gives rise to hierarchy.

Maju said...

Ant-hill is where you find the snakes.

Aha. I did not know snakes nestled in anthills. Interesting piece of info, thanks.

The devotion didn't come out of neutral feeling. First of all, only when when they felt positive about their genitals and secretions further symbolisms developed.

But that seems natural, right? After all is about being ok with our bodies. Our sexual organs aren't but the flowers of our bodies - just that, as they don't need to attract insects (or birds or bats), they are not as pretty maybe but otherwise they are the same.

As you have pointed out in the latter part snake could be symbol of evil too. So basically, how people perceive the features, characteristics or attributes that would further develop into either devotion or despise.

Uhm, maybe. But Yahvism is a pervert religion that rejects life and the body - so they end up abusing children like so many Catholic priests.

So I don't really take them as equals but as natural and real, and deviant and pervert (Yahvism and other Patriarchal doctrines that reject the body).

During old times, in matrilineal families of North Kerala, only females belonging to certain lineage(illam) had the right to enter and worship in their household(Taravadu) lineage shrine. These shrines are dedicated to a female spirit(Korati/Kurati). All men folk and females of other lineages were barred from entering it. I guess the ownership of certain devotion gives rise to hierarchy.

That is very interesting. It's like the mens' houses in Papuan (and maybe other) tribes, where only men can enter. Just that the inverse.

On the other hand this ritual role of women in relation to family shrines seems common in other places. Among Basques (and, as far I as can see, in all West Eurasia) women have commonly been in charge (not exclusively but in a particular manner) of the care of ancestors' tombs - this known in Patriarchal contexts where these family ancestors were not hers but his. This may be simply related to the greater emotional implication of women (men are more detached in general) but in any case seems, to my eyes, to show some trend, where women, as givers of life are also in charge of crying and remembering the dead ones, estabilishing a living umbilical cord between the past, the present and the future.

If your Kerala women don't usually go around masked scaring the men in their communities and things like that, I guess that the hierarchy you see may not be that hierarchical after all. It rather reminds me of how matrons around the world have often been self-organized to the exclusion of men in matters of birthgiving and the like (that was before male physicians took over with the help of the Inquisition).

This kind of female self-organization you also see, ironically, in societies like the African ones who practice female castration, and are the ones that more emphatically insist in perpetuating such brutal practices (which are clearly Patriarchal in nature) normally against the desire of the young women suffering it. The hierarchy in both cases, I'd say, is more that of old women above the young ones than that of women over men. This may be beneficial when society is egaltiarian but seems to be harmful within patriarchy (as the older women take the role of enforcers of the Patriarchal order against the natural freedom and rebellion of the young ones).

But maybe it's different in Kerala. You tell me.

Manjunat said...

But that seems natural, right? After all is about being ok with our bodies.

The concept of being okay with our bodies presupposes the negative feeling about it.

This may be simply related to the greater emotional implication of women (men are more detached in general).

That is a stereotype.

If your Kerala women don't usually go around masked scaring the men in their communities and things like that, I guess that the hierarchy you see may not be that hierarchical after all.

That probably is the case in societies that create hierarchies based on economic might. However, religious sphere need not exert force. The fear of supernatural is enough for common people to obey the people supposedly close to supernatural.

But maybe it's different in Kerala. You tell me.

I don't think there were any female enforced restrictions. Though matrilineal system could be easily made to work to its advantage by males of a patrilineal community. Of course, it had upper hand as it was a literate caste close to supernatural in contrast to illiterate matrilineal females.

There was a case where a queen ordered a female's breasts to be cut off for daring to cover them. For some reason it appears many Dravidian tribes thought covering the upper part of the body as taboo. It appears Malayalis continued the tradition after their transition to non-tribal life. In some Dravidian tribes a woman after marriage required to keep her breasts uncovered though as a young girl she was allowed to cover it. I guess it has something to do with a positive view of breasts for a woman ready to bear child. Or a taboo against a change (as in old days everyone was generally naked and covering the body might have been considered as a change).

In Kerala(most likely only in North Kerala), non-tribals had two levels of hierarchies in this. In matrilineal hierarchy, the upper class women tend to view covering upper body as immodesty and a sign of lower class women. The patrilineal hierarchy (enforced by patrilineal priestly caste) required every lower caste man/woman to go upper body uncovered in front of a higher caste man. I guess the idea was same; that by covering themselves women are presenting their immodest self. Weirdly, a Brahmin woman should go upper body uncovered in front of gods, the only caste higher to them. It should be noted here that even today men are not allowed to cover their upper body while entering Kerala temples.

But as I have already said in the beginning patrilineal hierarchy built upon matrilineal taboo was strictly enforced by men and women of matrilineal identity.

Maju said...

The concept of being okay with our bodies presupposes the negative feeling about it.

Does it? Does the concept of admiring flowers presuppose a negative feeling about them? Does the concept of enjoying food presuppose a negative feeling about eating?

That is a stereotype.

I wrote that because I just happened to read an outdated news itmes (from several years ago probably) on how men react agressively and for shorter time, while women react in a more complex emotional manner and for longer time to the same hostile exposures.

So maybe it's not any stereotype after all, though sure: there must be some variability.

That probably is the case in societies that create hierarchies based on economic might.

Well I was thinking in pretty primitive societies like Papuans.

However, religious sphere need not exert force. The fear of supernatural is enough for common people to obey the people supposedly close to supernatural.

You might be right on that - but up to a point. People is not as naive as to accept "magical" (or "religious") power if this is not manifest also in reality. Medicine men who do not deliver have problems. Same for medicine women surely.

Manjunat said...

Does the concept of admiring flowers presuppose a negative feeling about them? Does the concept of enjoying food presuppose a negative feeling about eating?

You make analogies first and then argue by taking that as a proto-type. First of all, I don't consider your analogy is analogous to a model. They are not better than analogy given by ignorant wise men of the past about various phenomena. Hence credibility of any argument built upon it is non-existent.

On the other hand, whatever I read feeling okay with our bodies always comes with an understanding that many people have inferiority complex about it. Otherwise, people would be plain indifferent.

And frankly, it is not even relevant for this post. The concept of feeling okay with body is a modern phenomenon. We are talking about a period when people were mostly naked or covered themselves to protect themselves from temperature variations or dust and not because they were prude. If you check Kerala society covering upper body was considered immodesty.

Maju said...

The concept of feeling okay with body is a modern phenomenon.

Why? Healthy people would naturally feel ok with their bodies. Unhealthy ones probably not so much.

It's only natural to feel ok with what you are. It's not any modern phenomenon at all. If anything is "modern" is the hatred of the body and the enhancement of a detached intellect (sometimes called "soul").