There is apparently some debate regarding the plausibility of matriarchies among ancient peoples. This is interesting to me, as I wish to start down a path that will most certainly lead through periods in our ancient past, to a goddess so ancient that even the ancients couldn’t remember her with great accuracy. As a man, I am curious about how things work in a society that isn’t run by men, or doesn’t govern itself by idealized notions of masculine domains. I’ve never lived in such a society or culture, I simply have no experience with it. But I think before I get too far down this path I’m on, I should at least consider the matter.
First, I think the debates mostly center around the romanticized ideals of some anthropologists-turned-feminist, chiefly among them Marija Gambutas. I tend to disbelieve in romanticized ideals of just about anything – we have another word for this kind of thing these days, we call it advertising, where someone is trying to sell us something. Yet at the same time, the Picts – who would very likely have had at least a passing understanding and regard for the Cailleach – were known to be matrilinear at least at times. Yes, they still were governed by men (it would seem, for the most part); but a matrilinear society is at least to some extent influenced by powerful women. Perhaps the Picts were not always ruled by men – perhaps, as portrayed in the movie, The 13th Warrior, a matriarchy in pre-historic northern Europe would have had a man in charge of other men – warriors and / or hunters – yet reporting ultimately to a woman who governed spiritual matters as well as the tribe in general? I can see this as very plausible when dealing with a culture that still knew and venerated the Cailleach. I can see it as successful in that it allows men and women to be themselves and to work in harmony with one another. I do not see it as romanticized in this regard, and I would be surprised if it even approached idyllic … but I can see it functioning so long as the culture were able to remain more or less isolated from patriarchal structures.
I am also interested in this because I believe I have a strong line of Pictish blood in my veins … on my mother’s side, which descends from a mysterious stowaway from Scotland to the Americas, the dominant physical traits include shorter stature, legs proportionally shorter than the rest of the body (a common adaptation found among mountain-dwelling people), dark, wavy-curly hair and dark eyes, and a darker skin tone than one would expect coming from Scotland (my mother was often mistaken for a Mexican at various points in her life). These traits are described in generation after generation, going back to the early 1840’s. I wound up taking physically more after my German father – tall, broad-shouldered, with reddish-blonde hair and blue-grey eyes; but despite this, and my living in Germany, my psyche seems to align itself more with my mother’s side. Perhaps it is this that connects me to the Cailleach?
I believe very firmly that what attracts us or repels us from the various gods is the similarity of our energy to their own. This energy, our souls or psyches if you wish, is of course influenced by our ancestry – but it is also influenced by so many other things, I tend to discount ancestry as being an important factor in relating to gods. So, perhaps my goal to understand the Cailleach would benefit from an increased understanding of my own self? This, then, will also factor into my blog.
To bring myself back to my original topic, I think it quite likely that my main concern here is how a man would fit into a matriarchal spirituality. Especially considering that we have no records of the Cailleach having had a masculine consort or counterpart. It would seem she was willing to offer her wisdom to men who knew to value it; but otherwise there is no reference to her actually having had much need of men. This is something I find keenly interesting, coming from a patriarchal society, and having moved from a predominantly Christian Weltanschauung to a Heathen one. I do not consider myself chauvinistic, I am in fact very much pro equality – so much so, that I’m willing to be politically incorrect at times, because I think to some extent political correctness assumes a subtle chauvinist attitude that I simply do not identify with. I consider myself subservient to none – not because of my gender, but simply because of my independent nature. Thus I would not feel comfortable in a (McFarland) Dianic setting, where men are prohibited from leading, when they are even allowed to participate, due to their gender. Somehow or another, though, just as I do not sense that the Cailleach requires me to learn Gaelic to understand or appreciate her; I also do not get the sense that the Cailleach cares one way or another for my gender. My path at this point does not seem to be to walk with the Cailleach, so much as it simply seems to be to walk toward her.