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Marija Gimbutas

splits and one part of it becomes earth and the other part becomes sky.

David: Have you found any Lithuanian folk-tales to correlate with the story of Adam and Eve?

Marija: No. But it’s interesting that Adam’s first wife was Lilith. And who was Lilith? She was a bird of prey, the Vulture Goddess of Death and Regeneration. She was the one who later became the witch, so she was very powerful. She flew away. He could not control her. Then the second wife was made from his rib, so she was naturally obedient and stayed with him. (laughter)

Rebecca: There are so many transmutations of the Goddess in mythology and folklore developing from a positive image into a negative one. Do you see this as a conscious attempt to distort the feminine?

Marija: Yes it is. This is really Christianity’s doing, because they felt the danger. They demonized the one who was the most powerful. The one who could perform many things, who was connected with the atmospheric happenings, with rains and storms. So this is the Goddess who rules over death and regeneration, the one who became the witch. So she was really powerful and in the days of the Inquisition, she is described as really dangerous.

From various descriptions you can sense that there was fear. She could control male sexuality, for instance, she could cut the moon and stop it growing, she was the balancer of the life powers. She could do a lot of damage, this Goddess. But you must understand why she was doing this. She could not allow things to grow forever, she had to stop, she caused the death in order to have the cycle from the beginning. She is the main regenerator of the whole world, of all of nature.

Rebecca: So the patriarchal culture had to make people afraid of her, so they would abandon her.

Marija: Yes. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, which are critical for this change, she became a Satan, a monster. This image is still with us. In each country she is more or less preserved. In the Basque, she is still there and very much alive. She is a vulture, she lives in caves. And sometimes shepherds arrange Christian Science crosses to remove the vultures. (laughter)

David: You have been largely responsible for the reemergence of Goddess consciousness in the Western hemisphere. How do you feel about the way that this perspective is being interpreted socially and politically?

Marija: The interpretation of Goddess in some cases is overdone a little bit. I cannot see that the Goddess as she was can be reconstructed and returned to our lives, but we have to take the best that we can seize. The best understanding is of divinity itself. The Christian God punishes and is angry and does not fit into our times at all. We need something better, we need something closer, we need something that we can touch and we need some compassion, some love, and also a return to the nature of things.

Through an understanding of what the Goddess was, we can better understand nature and we can build our ideologies so that it will be easier for us to live. We have to be grateful for what we have, for all the beauty, and the Goddess is exactly that. Goddess is nature itself. So I think this should be returned to humanity. I don’t think that Christianity will continue for a very long time, but it’s just like patriarchy, it’s not easy to get rid of. (laughter) But somehow, from the bottom up, it’s coming.

Rebecca: The patriarchy has been around for about five thousand years compared to the Goddess culture which was around for possibly millions. Why did it endure for so long?

Marija: Because of what I’ve been talking about. It was natural to have this kind of divinity and it is absolutely unnatural to create a punishing God and warriors who are stimulating our bad instincts.

David: A lot of the major themes you discuss: life-giving, the renewing of the eternal earth, death and regeneration, energy unfolding, are well-known archetypal themes that occur during a psychedelic experience. I’m curious about whether you think that the Goddess-orientated cultures incorporated the use of mushrooms or some kind of psychoactive plant into their rituals, and do you take seriously Terence Mckenna’s notion that the use of psychedelics was the secret that was lost at Catal Huyuk?

Marija: I’m sure they had it. This knowledge still exists in rituals like Eleusis in Greece where now it’s clear that psychedelics were used. From the depiction of mushrooms, maybe you can judge that his was sacred, but this was perhaps not the most important. From Minoan engravings on seals, for instance, you have poppies very frequently indicated. Also, poppy seeds are found in Neolithic settlements, so they were conscious about that, they were collecting, they were using and maybe growing poppies like other domestic plants.

David: Do you see it influencing the culture?

Marija: Yes. From Dionysian rituals in Greece which can go back to much earlier times you get all this dancing, excitement, always at the edge, to a frenzy, almost to craziness. That existed even in the Paleolithic times, I would guess, but what they used is difficult to reconstruct. We have the poppy seeds, alright. Mushrooms? Maybe. But what else? The hard evidence is not preserved by archaeological record. It’s disappeared.

Rebecca: What do you think are the signifying differences between a culture, like the Goddess culture, which views time as cyclical, as opposed to a culture like ours which sees time as linear, progressing towards some waiting future?

Marija: It’s much easier to live when you think of this cyclicity. I think it’s crazy to think of a linear development like in the European beliefs in life after death – if you’re a king, you will stay a king, and if you’re a hero, you’ll stay a hero. (laughter)

Rebecca: That aspect of the Goddess culture, the idea that things do travel in cycles. Do you think this made them much more philosophical about death?

Marija: Much more philosophical. And it’s a very good philosophy. What else can you think? This is the best. And the whole of evolution is based so much upon this thinking, on regeneration of life and stimulation of life-powers. This is the main thing that we’re interested in. To preserve life-powers, to awaken them each Spring, to see that they continue and that life thrives and flourishes.

David: What relevance do you think that understanding our ancient past to dealing with the problems facing the world today?

Marija: Well, it’s time to be more peaceful, to calm down, (laughter) and this philosophy is pacifying somehow, bringing us to some harmony with nature where we can learn to value things. And knowing that there were cultures which existed for a long time without wars is important, because most twentieth-century people think that wars were always there.

There are books still stressing this fact and suggesting such crazy ideas that agriculture and war started at the same time. They say that when villages started to grow, the property had to be defended, but that is nonsense! There was property, but it was communal property. Actually, it was a sort of communism in the best sense of the word. It could not exist in the twentieth-century. And also they believed that in death you are equal. I like this idea very much. You don’t have to be queen or a king once your bones are collected and mixed together with other bones. (laughter)

David: As rebirth is one of the major themes of your work, what do you personally feel happens to human consciousness after death?

Marija: Maybe in the way the old Europeans were thinking. That the life-energy continues to a certain degree, it does not disappear. Individual forms disappear and that’s the end.

David: Do you think part of your individuality perseveres?

Marija: Well, that’s what I leave around me now, my influence, what I’ve said in my books – this will continue for some time. So it does not completely die out.

Rebecca: Are you optimistic that a partnership society can be achieved once again?

Marija: I don’t know if I’m optimistic. In a way I think I am, otherwise it would be difficult to live – you have to have hope. But that the development will be slow, is clear. It very much depends on who is in the government. Our spiritual life is so full of war images. Children are from the very beginning taught about shooting and killing. So the education has to change, television programs have to change. There are signs for that, there are voices appearing. So you should be optimistic somehow.

David: Marija, if you could condense your life’s work into a basic message, what would that message be?

Marija: Well, I don’t know if I can say it in one sentence, but maybe the reconstruction of the meaning and functions of the Goddess is one of my major contributions. It happened to be me and not somebody else. It was just fate – Laima – that led me. (laughter)

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