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Marija Gimbutas

great interest. Many things have been destroyed in this way. Some interesting excavations were made, especially in Greece and I started to understand more and more about sculptures. I don’t know how it happened, at what moment, but I started to distinguish certain types and their repetitions. For instance, the bird and snake goddess which are the easiest to distinguish.

So I slowly added more and more information. The first book was called Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe. Actually the first edition was called Gods and Goddesses of Old Europe, because I was not allowed to use Goddesses first.

David: According to who? Was it the publisher?

Marija: Yes. The publisher didn’t allow me. In eight years a second edition appeared with the original title, Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe.

Rebecca: That first edition could be very valuable one day. (laughter) Your work appeals to a very broad audience and even people who don’t have an academic background often feel they have an intuitive sense of what you’re saying.

Marija: The intuitive people are always the first to say that. Then eventually academia catches up, because these are the least intuitive. (laughter)

Rebecca: Could you briefly describe to us the major differences between the old European Goddess traditions and the Indo-European patriarchy which came to domite, and what aspects of the patriarchal culture caused it to want to control the matrifocal one?

Marija: The symbolic systems are very different. All this reflects the social structure. The Indo-European social structure is patriarchal, patrilineal and the psyche is warrior. Every God is also a warrior. The three main Indo-European Gods are the God of the Shining Sky, the God of the Underworld and the Thunder God. The female goddesses are just brides, wives or maidens without any power, without any creativity. They’re just there, they’re beauties, they’re Venuses, like the dawn or sun maiden.

So the system from what existed in the matristic culture before the Indo-Europeans in Europe is totally different. I call it matristic, not matriarchal, because matriarchal always arouses ideas of dominance and is compared with the patriarchy. But it was a balanced society, it was not that women were really so powerful that they usurped everything that was masculine.

Men were in their rightful position, they were doing their own work, they had their duties and they also had their own power. This is reflected in their symbols where you find not only goddesses but also, Gods. The Goddesses were creatrixes, they are creating from themselves. As far back as 35,000 B.C, from symbols and sculptures, we can see that the parts of the female body were creative parts: breasts, belly and buttocks. It was a different view from ours – it had nothing to do with pornography.

The vulva, for instance, is one of the earliest symbols engraved, and it is symbolically related to growth, to the seed. Sometimes next to it is a branch or plant motif, or within the vulva is something like a seed or a plant. And that sort of symbol is very long-lasting, it continues for 20,000 years at least. Even now the vulva is a symbol in some countries, which offers a security of creativity, of continuity and fertility.

Rebecca: Why did the patriarchal culture choose to dominate?

Marija: This is in the culture itself. They had weapons and they had horses. The horse appeared only with the invaders who began coming from South Russia, and in old Europe there were no weapons – no

daggers, no swords. There were just weapons for hunting. Habitations were very different. The invaders were semi-nomadic people and in Europe they were agriculturalists, living in one area for a very long time, mostly in the most beautiful places.

When these warriors arrived, they established themselves high in the hills, sometimes in places which had very difficult access. So, in each aspect of culture I see an opposition, and therefore I am of the opinion that this local, old European culture could not develop into a patriarchal, warrior culture because this would be too sudden. We have archaeological evidence that this was a clash. And then of course, who starts to dominate? The ones who have horses, who have weapons, who have small families and who are more mobile.

Rebecca: What was daily life like, do you think for the people living in the matrifocal society?

Marija: Religion played an enormous role and the temple was sort of a focus of life. The most beautiful artifacts were produced for the temple. They were very grateful for what they had. They had to thank the Goddess always, give to her, appreciate her. The high priestess and queen were one and the same person and there was a sort of a hierarchy of priestesses.

David: Was the Goddess religion basically monotheistic?

Marija: This is a very difficult question to answer. Was it monotheistic, or was it not? Was there one Goddess or was there not? The time will come when we shall know more, but at this time we cannot reach deep in prehistory. What I see, is that from very early on, from the upper Paleolithic times, we already have different types of goddesses. So are these different Goddesses or different aspects of one Goddess?

Before 35,000 or 40,000 B.C there is hardly any art but the type of the Goddess with large breasts and buttocks and belly, existed very early in the upper Paleolithic. The snake and bird Goddess are also upper Paleolithic, so at least three main types were there. But in later times, for instance, in the Minoan culture in Crete, you have a Goddess which tends to be more one Goddess than several. Even the snake Goddesses which exist in Crete, are very much linked with the main Goddess who is shown sitting on a throne or is worshipped in these underground crypts.

Perhaps, even in the much earlier times, there was also a very close interrelationship between the different types represented. So maybe after all, we shall come to the conclusion that this was already a monotheistic religion even as we tend now to call it – the Goddess religion. We just have to remember there were many different types of goddesses.

Rebecca: Do you see remnants of the Goddess religion in different religions throughout the world today?

Marija: Yes, very much so. The Virgin Mary is still extremely important. She is the inheritor of many types of Goddesses, actually. She represents the one who is giving life, she is also the regenerator and earth mother together. This earth mother we can trace quite deep into prehistory; she is the pregnant type and continues for maybe 20,000 years and she is very well preserved in practically each area of Europe and other parts of the world.

David: Do you see the Gaia hypothesis as being a resurgence of the original Goddess religion?

Marija: I think there is some connection, perhaps in a Jungian sense. This culture existed so deep and for so long that it cannot be uninfluential to our thinking.

Rebecca: It must have conditioned our minds for a long time. How do you respond to criticism that the Goddess religion was just a fertility rite?

Marija: How do I respond to all these silly criticisms? (laughter) People usually are not knowledgeable who say that, and have never studied the question. Fertility was important to continuity of life on earth, but the religion was about life, death and regeneration. Our ancestors were not primitive.

David: Did you experience a lot of resistance from the academic community about your interpretations?

Marija: I wouldn’t say a lot, but some, yes. It’s natural. For decades archaeologists rarely touched the problem of religion.

Rebecca: So far back in time, you mean?

Marija: Well, they probably accepted the existence of the Upper Paleolithic and Neolithic religion, but the training was such that the students have no occasion to be exposed to these questions. There was no teaching about prehistoric religion. Only in some places, like in Oxford University, sixty or seventy years ago, Professor James was teaching a course on the Goddess. Nobody at that time was resisting. Now we have more resistence because of the feminist movement. Some people are automatically not accepting.

This kind of criticism (ie. rejection of the Goddess) is meaningless to me. What is true is true, and what is true will remain. Maybe I made some mistakes in deciphering the symbols, but I was continually trying to understand more. At this time I know more than when I was writing thirty years ago. My first book was not complete, therefore I had to produce another book and another book to say more. It’s a long process.

Rebecca: Wasn’t it incredibly difficult to find written sources and references for your research?

Marija: There was so little, it was amazing! There were some good books in the 1950’s. In 1955 a book was published on the mother Goddess by a Jungian psychologist, Eric Neumann. Then there were very good works on symbolism by Mircea Eliade.

Rebecca: When I tried to get hold of some of your books from the library they were all checked out and the

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