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Updated on April 23, 2017

Making a Powerful Difference

Many people have lived in patriarchal societies for so long that they think it's always been that way, but the truth is the matriarchy is the most ancient social-economic system. In fact the matriarchy has been very effective in bringing about social change the patriarchy refuses to consider. This is part one of two part blog series on the Shakti Mother Power of the Matriarchy.

So what is a matriarchy? Gloria Steinen in the movie Equal Means Equal explains the difference between a matriarchy and a patriarchy. A patriarchy runs on the principle called hierarchy. A hierarchy is like a pyramid. There is an order where the person at the top makes most of the decisions. Certain people are more important in a hierarchy and are valued and treated better than others. It is a competitive society and not based on cooperation and collaboration. A matriarchy is based on the principle of the circle. In a circle all are valued and considered equal. It's a model based on cooperation and collaboration. People often take turns as leaders, but they get the opinions and ideas from others before making a decision.

A man could run a society on matriarchal principles or make decisions on some things in a matriarchal fashion. President Obama is an example of a man who does this. Bernie Sanders would be another male politician who runs more on matriarchal principles. Some patriarchal societies have matriarchal elements. For example a church may have a hierarchy or patriarchal system, but it may have circles run mostly by women which are matriarchal. These circles use cooperation and collaboration to achieve goals, not competition.

Ancient Kerala in India is one of the most well known of the matriarchies of the world. Modern Kerala still has some matriarchal elements, but it's not exactly the same as ancient Kerala. In ancient Kerala every extended family was self sufficient with a temple, granary and gardens. This extended family lived in a tarwad which was cooperative and collaborative in nature. The senior lady made the decisions consulting other members. Her brother would carry out the decisions. It was a superior social economic system. No one was hungry, elders and children were taken care of and little domestic violence existed. If a man abused a woman by violence, he was shown the door of the tarwad by other men. Men did not tolerate bad behavior towards women in this society. Women owned the property and the lineages were female. A man came to live in the household of his wife, not the other way around. Most patriarchal societies have hungry people, elders and children not being taken care of and an unequal distribution of wealth. Domestic violence is rampant in these societies. The women of Kerala did own the property, but they were not tyrants and consulted the men on important issues. Kerala became India's first 100% literate state. All were educated, not just the men. Women worked inside and outside of the home. Most patriarchal societies only educated some people, mostly men or very wealthy individuals.

The Kerala queens who administered the whole region abolished slavery and the over taxation of the poor. Education became universal. Marriage was by consent. Elders took care of the children and all took care of the elders. In the United States most of the abolitionists were women for they knew what it was like to be treated like a piece of property. Lincoln's wife convinced him to free the slaves.

Many people are not aware that many Native American tribes are matriarchal or have matriarchal elements. The West Coast tribes of North America had mostly medicine women rather than medicine men. They had strong female elders. The eldest grandmother was often the judge who meted out the punishment. Women choose the chiefs in many tribes. Although many tribes had male chiefs, some had female chiefs. There are many female chiefs and tribal chairs in modern times.

A number of months ago Hillary Clinton visited the Puyallup tribe in the state of Washington. She was honored with a blanket for protection. The gave her a Native American name which translated into English means Strong Woman. A video was made of the ceremony and you can see their relationship with her very clearly. It is very heart felt and significant. It was a very emotional scene and shows the sisterhood between them. It's a great honor to be called Strong Women in their culture.

When women received the vote in the America, health, safety and child labor laws were passed. The life span of all individuals doubled when these laws were enacted. Church circles formed to provide aid to the poor. Quilts were made by many women in these circles and helped poor people worldwide. This shows you the power of the matriarchy.

Australia had few women and it was a violent society. The enlightened men of that country decided women were needed to civilize their country and decrease the violence. They gave women rights they did not have elsewhere at the time. The right to own property, own businesses, and hold elected office was granted to them. The women came and the violence was greatly reduced. Makes you wonder if women would abolish war if given the opportunity. If we had more women leaders, we might have less war, too

The Turareg are Muslim men who wear the veil. They are semi-nomadic traders of Northern Africa who speak the Tamasheq languages. They also mine water for agricultural purposes. Today they are in Niger, Mali, Algeria, Libya, Senegal and Burkina Faso. The young men have a ritual passage where they receive the veil for life. Their society is matriarchal and has a female lineage. In this society men must earn a bride price and often do not marry until they are 30. In this society women and men have a more equal power level because the society is based on the matriarchy.

There are many other matriarchies all over the world. Next time I will write about some other important ones. The matriarchies of the world have done great good, and we need to adopt them in more places. India had one of the greatest matriarchies of all. Modern Kerala is only a shadow of ancient Kerala. The Mother Power of the Universe has changed society in great ways. Let us honor this Shakti Power.




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