We have good reason to believe that many thousands of years ago, a good portion of human societies were essentially matriarchal, or centered around the mother. It is postulated that women were once the primary decision makers, the main tribal leaders, and nurturers of both family and society in prehistory. Though there seems to be much debate over the true legitimacy of the notion that matriarchal or matrilineal societies were ever the norm, history has shown that more egalitarian ways of living have been more prominent in the past, and still do exist among many indigenous cultures who don’t specifically embrace a male (or even female) dominated social structure.
Inevitably, there is much speculation and mythology involved in determining the belief systems, political life, and societal arrangements of humans that existed before recorded history. We must rely on archaeology to learn about how early peoples lived and what significance gender and sexuality held in how they ordered their lives. And there is no need to assume that male and female roles are merely reversed in matriarchal societies, with women dominating men instead of vice versa, which is typically the case within patriarchal social constructs. Max Dashu expresses this quite eloquently on his website about the suppressed historical accounts of the lives of women throughout history:
All this polarization and oversimplification avoids the real issue, which is not female domination in a reverse of historical female oppression, but the existence of egalitarian human societies: cultures that did not enforce a patriarchal double standard around sexuality, property, public office and space; that did not make females legal minors under the control of fathers, brothers, and husbands, without protection from physical and sexual abuse by same.
What’s really important here is the concept of egalitarianism and the idea that cultures who have traditionally placed emphasis on social equality have fared better throughout history. Their gender roles were not rigid and women often had a much more equal and public function. Most societies today, including our own, are nothing of the sort, of course. If anything, the patriarchal social groupings we live with are absolutely oppressive toward women, degrading them through sexual objectification and dehumanizing them with a general abusiveness toward the feminine spirit. This is not only evident within the hierarchical power structures but is manifest in everything from religious institutions and job markets to popular culture and the media.
It has also been ingrained into the psyche of Western civilization that Eve gave into temptation from the serpent and brought Adam down with her as they both ate the forbidden fruit together and were forced from the garden. With this mythos in place, most of the developed world has moved forward with the division of labor taking men out of the home to work, while women stay home to tend children and cook. More recently, women have moved into a more prominent place in the workforce, but often this occurs out of necessity, not necessarily because of any major strides in gender equality. Professional women often must sacrifice much more to progress in a career, since the gender role stereotypes persist and hold women back, as they are still expected to bear more responsibility for keeping up the home and childrearing. Generally speaking, men get more freedom to move about in life, in their careers, at home and in social situations. It seems as though Adam is still trying to keep Eve tied to that tree, even though he’s benefited greatly from the visions she’s helped him to see.
For thousands of years now, man has made woman the scapegoat for his disregard of the feminine, and his misuse of the nurturing sacramental plants that give us all strength, health, and knowledge. It is no wonder then that the battle of the sexes rages on, even though we have improved in working toward some kind of equality in the modern age. Even so, it is common knowledge that a woman is still typically paid a lower wage than a man would be for many jobs with comparable educational and skill set requirements. And it is also unfortunately true that women suffer much higher rates of domestic violence against them, are objectified for marketing purposes, over sexualized by Hollywood and the incredibly profitable porn industry, and are disrespected by dominating men in various ways. I propose that this is largely due to the inadequate respect for the feminine and the lack of knowledge of the sacramental use of entheogenic plants such as cannabis sativa.
Regardless of which sacred drug plant may have been symbolized by the apple, it was a controlled substance and eating it resulted in the “the first drug bust of pre-history” (according to drug historian M.R. Aldrich), for which Eve has borne the responsibility and blame. Some view the Eden myth as a patriarchal cover-up of suppression of the goddess religion that preceded it . (Palmer & Horowitz 1982) http://herbmuseum.ca/content/goddess-and-tree-life
We once knew a time place where all life existed and persisted in a more balanced state. Our relationships with one another, and with all the other animals and plants, was a beautifully intricate symbiotic dance. Medicine was less something you take when you’re sick, and more a daily routine of being nourished with various foods, like herbs, oils, and seeds, sometimes mushrooms, and occasionally some meat. We weren’t so concerned with deciding what specific roles a man or woman should hold, or even what particular uses certain edible and medicinal plants had in regard to health and nutrition. We just learned to live respectfully with them and with one another; we could live this way again and find our harmonious balance within the free flowing kinship we share. We are equal and we are one, if we care to have compassion with each other, embrace our sacred space, and our friendship with our Mother.