The Rule of Mars
by Cristina Biaggi, Editor
Knowledge, Ideas, and Trends, Manchester, CT, 2005
447 pp. Paper, $40
Reviewed by Helen Levin
Cristina Biaggi’s The Rule Of Mars offers that rarest of commodities: a cogent and plausible paradigm for understanding the global dilemmas we are faced with in the world today: warfare, environmental devastation, and the permanent underclass of the poor and the ravished, particularly women and children. Published in 2006, hers is an anthology of scholarly research and opinion of over thirty writers in that new conglomerate field : archaeomythology,- adherents of the pioneering U.C.L.A. researcher and professor, the late Marija Gimbutas.
In the words of Biaggi, “Gimbutas is widely recognized for the revolutionary ‘Kurgan theory’ . . . [that posits that] . . . archaeological evidence shows that around 6500 B.C.E., the peaceful, agricultural communities of Old Europe were invaded by non-indigenous peoples whom we know as Indo-Europeans,” originating from the steppe regions of southern Russia. They were apparently compelled to migrate due to flooding, drought, and the subsequent starvation that ensued in the area north of the Black Sea after the Ice Age. The word “Kurgan” refers to the burial mounds that provided a rich resource for current information about the lives of these people; these were the folks who provided the matrix for most of our current nations-states today: the believers in sky gods, patriarchy, and domination through conquest. Other examples of that period, and in parallel cultural traditions were the Huns, Hittites, Vandals, Aryans, and Goths.
Perhaps Gimbutas’s greatest contribution, and manifest within her many books on ancient civilizations, was the debunking of the premise that humankind is naturally bellicose, with war as its inevitable and ultimate means of human conflict resolution. Gimbutas contrasted the earlier agrarian cultures of the Neolithic period that worshiped “earth” goddesses, had more matrilineal leadership patterns, and by and large, used mediation for solving conflicts. And, according to her, those early peaceful agrarian cultures existed in North and South America, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, as well as Europe––and for a far longer period than the present day patriarchal and aggressive cultures of today, America included. Interestingly, we are told that several subcultures in Asia, such as the Naxi people in China’s Yunnan Province still maintain matrilineal lines of leadership.
There is a tremendous emphasis on examining the patriarchal /domination model, its origins, its ramifications, and its manifestations throughout history in this book. One essay by Stephanie Hiller posits that it was women themselves who co-opted against their own best interests by passively accepting patriarchy, although most of the other authors trace the trajectory from the ravaging realpolitik of the Kurgun tribes, with their steel weaponry and domestication of the horse. Women too, were imitators of male ferocity, exemplified in the “herstories” of Amazonian culture, the exploits of Queen Nzinga Mbande of Angola, and even the powerful Kurgan queens of yore. Mara Lyn Keller describes how scriptural texts in the major religions condone violence against women. Still, Hiller, along with others contributors, such as Starr Goode, Susan Bellamy, Heidi Goettner-Abendroth, and Genevieve Vaughn, all proffer alternative, positive ways of creating a peaceful and harmonious existence for all through the restoration of ancient values and affinity groups, through networking, and finally in the creation of new mythologies that emphasize environmental ecology and respect for care-giving work.
Perhaps the most useful contribution in The Rule Of Mars is the essay by Riane Eisler, an activist scholar who transcends the category of Patriarchal Culture, in favor of the duality paradigms within the Domination System (as opposed to Partnership System). These present the template of opposition that is not necessarily gender-based. Eisler’s own PartnershipWay Foundation advocates for caring partnerships as the model for parents with regard to their children, between men and women, and ultimately, within international relations. In her essay’s conclusion, Eisler writes: “The struggle for our future is not between religion and secularism, capitalism and communism, East and West, or other conventional polarities. It is between those who hold the old view of power—the power to give orders, to control, to disempower others,—and those who want to use their positions of power to Empower the rest of us.” The activities of her foundation, accessed via www.partnershipway.org, help continue one of the great dialogues that Biaggi’s compendium opens for its readers.