Monday, July 30, 2012

Woman and Mother's Milk – From Slavery to Patriarchal Divinity

Numerous times in my life, there have been moments when I wished I could assimilate knowledge by osmosis. Then I saw the Matrix series. If I got nothing else out of those movies, it was the constant visual image and now unending desire, of being plugged into a system, downloading vast amounts of specific knowledge, in a matter of minutes. Sigh...

If such a thing were possible, ancient languages would be my drug of choice. Often, I will sit with an ancient language dictionary and just browse. Immediately I have to pull out the pen and paper, make notes because the epiphany light bulbs keep lighting up, making connections with ancient texts, mythologies, histories. “Ah! Now I understand what was really going on!” Ancient languages help me to better understand the peoples, the cultures and the remnants of what survives in our modern cultures.

An example of this is one of my favorite books, The Tao Te Ching, A New Translation With Commentary, by Ellen Chen. I have read several translations or editings of the Tao Te Ching. Since I have not learned Chinese, I am at the mercy of the translators for a good translation of these ancient writings. But, from a spiritual perspective, I really dont like being at the mercy of careless translations or worse, translations with an agenda that warp the original meaning. Having read so many versions and seeing such a diversity of thought, I was almost resigning myself to have to learn, yet another language, just to understand one writing.

Then I stumbled upon Ellen Chens work. She not only makes a literal translation (yay for women who have been marginalized by patriarchal culture and written out of life), but provides commentary, so that you will see the process of translation. Chen does not give you a modern translation of the word, but shows the ancient use and utilizes comparative linguistics from other writings of the same time period and culture. I was in heaven reading her work and continue to reread on a regular basis.

This is why I like to take a multi-disciplinary approach to my research. Without the detailed puzzle pieces of numerous disciplines, I dont think we will ever be able to assemble the puzzle, to see the big picture and therefore, understand who we are, what our culture is. Without that understanding, I dont believe that we will be able to remedy many of our current cultural woes. It is like the mantra of support groups – acknowledging there is a problem, is the first step to recovery/healing. With this in mind, I believe that ancient linguistics is vital to healing our current cultural problems. Yeah, I can already hear the “bullshits” of the readers. But, the proof is in the pudding.


The ancient matrilineal (not = to matriarchal) Sumerian writing system, before the Akkadian patriarchal (father rule, not = to all men, please see "On the Same Page" tab above) subjugation, began with pictographs and ideograms. A Pictograph or pictogram is a picture that resembles the image pictured. For example, an eye or an arm/hand or the modern men and womens images on bathroom doors. An ideograph or ideogram is an idea being written (grapho); a picture which represents an idea, similar to pictographs / pictograms, but they convey larger or multiple concepts, rather than just one picture. Examples of ideographs are an arrow g, which can convey direction of travel or location, a cardinal point or an arrow for hunting or warfare. Another example of an ideograph is the spiral which can represent the continuity of life and is frequently used on ancient womens images, especially with the womb area. Some ideographs are formed by combined pictographs, much like a compound word. 

The ancient pictograph for woman (munus) was a fertile triangle. This triangle is not isolated to the ancient Samarra culture, but occurs all over the ancient Meopotamian, Levant, northern Africa, Aegean Sea territory, up into Old South Europe and the Anatolia territory. This fertile triangle becomes a part of latter writings systems, such as the letter D, in our modern alphabet. But that is another rabbit trail. 

So lets take a look at the first recorded word for slave. In the patriarchally subjugating Akkadian (the nation that subjugated the Sumerians), the ideograph for the word slave is formed from the Sumerian pictograph for woman and the pictograph for mountains, because the patriarchal Akkadian slaves were first women that were taken from the nearby mountains. In a wee bit later ancient Akkadian texts, they boast of the tens of thousands of women that they captured, as well as the children taken and the young males, castrates, that were forcibly castrated and forced to work in the Houses of Weaving. These were the ancient sweatshops of their time. These sweatshops produced mass amounts of textiles for the ruling patriarchal elite, which they used for themselves and for trade to other nations – slave labor.

The subjugation of women for slavery is a very ancient concept. Women, from the patriarchal Indo-European cultures perspective, are written about as livestock – a slave that reproduced more slaves -brilliant! Euripides (480 – 406 BC), an ancient Hellenes/Greek writer, wrote in his Greek tragedy Medea, through the character of Jason (almost halfway into the tragedy), “If only children could be got some other way without the female sex! If women didn’t exist, human life would be rid of all its miseries”. The real tragedy of the this is the misogyny of the patriarchal Indo-European culture. Women were not viewed just as convenient slave labor, but as livestock for breeding purposes. Increasingly you see the aspects of ownership, such as brands and veiling, being documented. Marriages, wives and concubines were used for political alliances and property distribution. A pattern which has continued for thousands of years.

Mother and her Milk

With all this hatred of women so rampant in the patriarchal Indo-European cultures, how on earth could an ancient Sumerian pictograph for mother, come to be used for divinity by the Akkadians? And yes, while the Akkadians did assimilate a Semitic tongue, their culture was that of the patriarchal Indo-Europeans that spread through that territory, continuing through to the northern parts of Hindustan, currently called Pakistan and northern India. But this subject is more than a mere rabbit trail, it is the infestation of a whole rabbit warren.

The ancient Sumerian word for mother is AMA, shown by the pictograph above. This pictograph began as a simple rectangle, representing a body (house) and what is frequently described by academics as a star – representing milk. The basic idea is – the woman who produced milk was a mother – AMA. Later variations included a roof with the milk in various locations of the “house”. This use of the word “star” to describe the milk is more of a backwards association. Due to the high celestial cosmology of the patriarchal Indo-Europeans, a star was part of the symbols associated with a god. So they refer to the original milk symbol, that had no celestial application at the time, as being a star, which it later came to be, removing the motherly association with the pictograph. Many of you may wonder why an image that looks so sprayed out, could possibly represent milk. You would need to see milk being expressed, either from a womans breast or an animals teat, to see the spraying action of milk. As a mother who nursed her children, I have no difficulty understanding the pictograph.

A major aspect of the patriarchal Indo-Europeans is that they became pastoralists, meaning they were pastors, their social and economic system based on the raising and herding of livestock. Pastoralist cultures are very dairy oriented. In life, mammals nurse their young and then wean them. Once weaned, mammals do not have a tolerance for milk, what is frequently referred to today as “lactose intolerance”. But this patriarchal Indo-European pastoral culture, over time, developed a lactose tolerance and carry that gene, even today. Bear in mind, there is a difference between small agriculture families or villages, that had a few domestic animals, and a pastoral culture with large herds. Also bear in mind that some of todays lactose intolerance issues are not necessarily from the lack of this gene (Asian and Africans do not carry this gene), but from the pasteurization of the milk, the heat destroying the natural enzymes that aid in digestion. This is a whole different subject of sustainability and control.

In ancient 3rd millennium Akkadian texts we see the original contest between the ancient Samarran culture and the patriarchal Indo-European Akkadian culture. In this tradition, Dumuzi (later came to be known as Tammuz) is represented as a shepherd, herdsman originally. “Dumuzi’s true nature was always that of the shepherd, best illustrated in the contest between Dumuzi and Enkimdu, in which Dumuzi competes with his animal products (mostly dairy) against Enkimdu, the farmer, who brings his farm products, in the competition to win the goddess Inanna’s favours as husband.” Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, pg. 829. In the original accounts, Inanna chooses Enkimdu with the agriculture of her people.This account gets written in the Tanak/Bible with a twist, in the Bereshiyth/Genesis account as the brothers Cain and Abel, bringing their sacrifices to God. The pastoral “brother” is the favored offering and the agriculture “brother”'s offering is rejected. Well what can you expect from a patriarchal shepherding Indo-European sky god?

It is believed that Dumuzi was not originally a god, but a human being that came to be deified, as a number of deities originally were. Early second millennium BCE Sumerian/Akkadian King List, lists two rulers by the name of Dumuzi, one of which was called, “Dumuzi, the Shepherd.” This is a good example of the ruler/king dying and becoming deified, as covered in the Ancestor Cult/Cult of the Dead section of the Worthless Deities in the Hebrew Text book. Later, the characteristics of Damu, a vegetation deity, were assimilated to Dumuzi, becoming associated with vegetation of the subjugated matrilineal culture.

“The god Dumuzi evolved into the most complicated, multi-faceted deity in the Mesopotamian pantheon, becoming a syncretic figure embodying, as Jacobsen observes, the power behind the date-palm (Amausumgalanna), the power of the milk (Dumuzi the shepherd), and the power of the life-giving waters entering the tree sap (Damu).  Dumuzi/Tammuz was the power in the barley seeds planted in the fall, which ultimately would manifest itself in the bountiful harvest of the spring. Thus from the autumn through the first months of spring, Dumuzi – the grain – was growing and prospering. Yet by summer, the fourth month, the grain had been cut down and only the stubble remained – Dumuzi was spent. Thus the summer was the occasion to mourn for the dead Dumuzi, for the power in the seeds and grain which was no more. Jacobsen observes ‘His [Dumuzi’s] death, accordingly, is when the grain is cut at harvest And then brewed into beer which goes into storage underground; that is to say, into the netherworld.’ “ The Cultic Calendar of the Ancient Near East, Mark Cohen, pg. 263.

Power of the Milk – Sign of a God

This “power of the milk” is the key to understanding how a matrilineal cultures pictograph for AMA – a womans body with milk in it, became the patriarchal Indo-Europeans sign for a god. Understanding the misogyny that every patriarchal Indo-European culture has towards women, it is ironic that the very thing that a womans body produces, to nourish the life that her body creates and bears, was assimilated and distorted to become the sign of the deities in the Akkadian and later pantheons. 

Above you will see the progression and use of the pictograph for milk, which became AN, used for star. Since the cosmology of the patriarchal Indo-Europeans is very solar, with their main god being their solar All Father who throws thunderbolts and resides in the sky/heavens, the pictograph An came to be used next to a person or name to represent that they were a deity of the heavens. But this was not just any old star, this was the milk star, that nourished the gods. The patriarchal Indo-European culture despises women to the point that if they could, they would rather do away with women altogether. We are not crucial to slavery. Though we are easier to subjugate physically, the patriarchal culture is notorious for enslaving men of other cultures as well, it is just more difficult – hence castration as a means of pacifying some of the men. But, women are crucial to breeding.

Repeatedly in ancient patriarchal mythologies, the supreme male gods are reported as giving birth – a very unnatural and impossible act, trying to usurp the birthing process. The Greek Indo-European example is Zeus, who castrated his father Cronus, giving birth to Athene from his head. In much older Hittite Indo-European accounts, Kumarbi, the son of Anu, the god of heaven, tries to overthrow his father. When Anu tried to escape, Kumarbi bit off and swallowed the genitals of his father. When he discovered that this had impregnated him, he spat out the semen, but the pregnancy of Teshub, his son, remained and had to be cut out of his thigh. Another account has the deity, Kazal, emerging from his skull. In the Indo-Aryan accounts Vishnu gives birth to Brahma, from a lotus flower that sprouted from Vishnus navel (now why would a god have a navel I ask?).

In another patriarchal Indo-European tradition of disassociating from the mothers, you see accounts of gods and patriarchal kings being nursed by animals instead of mothers. Perhaps that is how they simply viewed the mothers or once having given birth, which the patriarchs couldnt do, they could take a child from a mother and use an animal as a wet nurse, to remove any bonding between the child and the mother. Examples of these accounts are the Greek Indo-European Zeus being nursed by the goat Amaltheia, Dionysus nursed by bees and Telephus suckled by a doe, Lycastus and Parrhasius nursed by a she wolf, as well as Hippothous and the Macedonian general under Alexander the Great nursed by mares. The Indo-European Roman Romulus and Remus were nursed by a she wolf. A Similar Indo-European Anatolian account mentions an orphaned boy being nursed by a she wolf named Asena, who then bears half-wolf, half-boys who become the Turkic nation. The Indo-Aryan Indo-Europeans wrote of Krishna being suckled by a cow, Cyrus I being nursed by a dog, with Croesus and Xerxes nursed by mares. In the Indo-European Nordic tradition, Audhumla, the primal cow, suckled the forebears of the giants. The Nordic god Wodan was nursed by the dew (while not an animal, it was void of a mother). In the Indo-European Celtic tradition Oisin, the warrior poet was nursed by a she wolf.

It is not enough to replace the mother from culture, through wet nursing animals, but the Abrahamic faiths replaced the Mother, Shadday (the breasted one), with a male- monotheistic male, thunder bolt wielding sky god. Since when is a strictly male god the “One of the Breasts and the Womb? Was it not enough that the majority of the women mentioned in the Tanak/Bible are barren, the source of sin or prostitutes, did they have to usurp an ancient mothers title and make that patriarchal as well? If the breasts and milk are so important, return them to the women they originate with, instead of cutting the mothers out of history and spiritual matters.

Healing the Historical Cultural Wound

Having delved into the linguistics and comparative mythologies of the patriarchal Indo-European cultures, which affect so much of our current culture in Europe and the Americas, whether through Indo-European ethnicities and their traditions or the adoption of the Indo-European faiths, such as the 3 Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam (yes, they are patriarchal Indo-European through the Amurru Abraham and Hittite Sarah, with a Semitic language tradition), we will never be able to restore or bring about egalitarianism until the misogyny against women, mothers and their nursing is stopped.

Look at the media wars against images of mothers nursing, the Facebook bans of breastfeeding pictures. The breast, clearly is not at issue, since womens nude or nearly nude boobs are sexualized everywhere. 

Twenty minutes after drafting this blog, I was speaking with a young man in his late 20s about these issues. Now, this man has 3 children of his own, and as a child, he had been nursed, as well as his younger siblings. He was constantly around other mothers who nursed their children and was not raised with any misogyny towards mothers and their natural body functions. But at the mention of this subject, he went on a tirade, saying that these breast feeding images needed to be banned, not just from Facebook, but the internet, movies, etc. He said that he did not want to see people, “urinating, defecating, vomiting or breast feeding.” He stated that it was disgusting. Over and over he repeated the phrase of “urinating, defecating, vomiting and breast feeding” like it was some kind of misogynistic programing. After ending the conversation, I got online and and typed in that search string. I was hoping to find the origins of such misogyny. I still havent found the source of equating a life nourishing motherly process with urinating, defecating and vomiting, but sadly and angrily, I found that that exact phrase is quite rampant on the internet. That makes me even more concerned than just for this one man. Why are people associating mothers milk with waste and disease? How fucked up things still are for our culture.

A recent ironic cartoon by political cartoonist David Horsey, clearly depicted the hypocrisy against mothers. The ages old patriarchal industry still has the market on whose milk is acceptable, promoting synthetic formulas as being best for several generations now. The roots of the misogyny of the patriarchal Indo-European cultures need to be exposed and removed. Women and mothers need to be restored to their equal and necessary positions in society before there will ever be wholeness, healing.

After the Sumerians had been conquered by the Akkadians, there was a revolution to try and fight off the patriarchal Indo-Europeans who had devastated their culture. The revolution was call Amargi, which can mean freedom, but literally means– return to the mother. While there are a number of organizations using the name of "Amargi", often associating “freedom” with the cancellation of a debtor society, using the cuneiform of amargi on banners, logos and even tatoos, I believe the original association of the Sumerian amargi, the returning to the matrilineal culture that was egalitarian, where women were a valued part of the community, is the better goal. So heres to the value of women and mothers – Amargi!

Got Milk?

Hell Yeah!

Kathryn QannaYahu

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