(Essay) “The Language of the Goddess” In Minoan Crete by Carol P. Christ

While the “war against Marija Gimbutas,” rooted in what my friend Mara Keller calls “theaphobia,” is being waged in the academy, her theories continue to unlock the meaning of hundreds of thousands of artifacts from the culture she named “Old Europe.”

According to Gimbutas, the Neolithic and Chalcolithic cultures of Old Europe c. 6500-3500 BCE were peaceful, sedentary, agricultural, matrifocal and probably matrilineal, egalitarian, and worshipped the Goddess as the power of birth, death, and regeneration in human and all forms of life.  The cultures of the Old Europe contrasted with the Bronze Age cultures of the Indo-Europeans who brought the Indo-European languages and value systems to Europe and India and to all of the European colonies.  The Indo-European cultures were patriarchal, patrilineal, nomadic, horse-riding, and warlike, and worshipped the shining Gods of the sky.

“The language of the Goddess” includes a series of signs and symbols that the people of Old Europe could “read” as surely as you and I know that a cross on top of a building marks it as Christian or that a woman wearing a star of David pendant is Jewish.  Gimbutas identified the meaning of these symbols through a painstaking process that involved comparison of artifacts, attention to where they were found, and clues from the recurrence of similar symbols in later cultures.  In twenty years of leading Goddess Pilgrimages to Crete, I have found Gimbutas’ theories an indispensible “hermeneutical principle” which unlocks the meanings of the artifacts we encounter.

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(Read the remainder of the essay in Feminism and Religion.)