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  Matriarchy (Greek, ‘rule by the mother’) is a concept that has been used by feminists to describe a society or family in which motherhood, rather than fatherhood, is the central principle. Many feminists believe that before the emergence of patriarchal religions (in which there is a male central deity and men are seen to be made in the image of God; for example, Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Hinduism) there was a matriarchal, women-centred, religion. Archaeological artefacts such as female figurines and cave paintings, as well as the presence of goddesses in many world folk tales and myths, have all contributed to a growing feminist and woman-based spirituality that often worships a feminine or female principle in the form of a goddess. In redefining a matriarchal theology, feminist and women-centred spiritualist groups often draw upon the rhythms of female experience, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, as parallels to the rhythms of nature—the seasons, tides etc. In recognizing these parallels many feminist spiritualists have taken up radical and activist positions in relation to the misuse and abuse of the planet\'s resources.

In the visual arts many women artists have taken up the theme of women\'s spirituality and deified the female body. This is often a means of overturning the Christian desexualization of women (exemplified by Mary the ‘virgin mother’) by representing the role of female sexuality in a spiritual context. Other feminists have sought to create new words to counteract the patriarchal hold on spirituality—an example is Mary Daly\'s ‘Wickedary’. Monica Sjoo, a founder member of Goddess and the feminist arts movement in the UK, has criticized the patriarchal use of matriarchy to express the passive and instinctual primal age that pre-existed the rationality of patriarchy. Mariha Gimbutas also criticizes patriarchal formulations of matriarch or the earth mother passively lying in wait for the reception of the male seed of life. Many feminist spiritualists highlight, instead, the role of women as shamanistic guides who deal with childbirth and death, or priestesses who provide forms of medicine and therapy that have been hidden in patriarchal conceptions of matriarchy. TK

See also patriarchy.Further reading Mary Daly & , Jane Caputi, The Websters First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language; , Marija Gimbutas, Civilisation of the Goddess: The World of Old Europe; , Caitlin Matthews (ed.), Voices of the Goddess: A Chorus of Sibyls.



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