We know there are no mainstream matriarchies, and the very few that do exist are viewed more as oddities than regular societal norms. We often say that we are living in a man’s world. The stack against women is obvious, patriarchy is the norm, male lineage had been in force for millennia and the sidelines have always been populated by women.
This is the reason why matriarchal societies today pose such an awe-inducing reaction from the majority of patriarchal societies that dominate the world. There are not many such societies left, but the few that still linger, offer a very different view on life.
The kingdom of women
16th century, England, King Henry VIII desperately wants a son and male heir. Such passion and zeal were in his heart that he dispensed with his wives every time one failed to grant him this heir. This is not a problem for the Mosuo people. They reside in the Yunnan and Sichuan Provinces of China, near the Tibetan border and Lugu Lake. Unlike western cultures, the Mosuo trace their lineage through the mother’s side. They thus practice matrilineality.
They live a self-sufficient life and produce their own goods and food. Here women lead the household, take business decisions, and pass property down the female line. The homes themselves are communal and many generations live under the same roof. The political spectrum though is mostly dominated by men and that may be due to the fact that as representatives to the outside, men are preferred.
Marriage is another matter that differs in Mosuo culture, they engage in walking marriages. Women chose a man and invite him to her private sleeping quarters. If the man reciprocates they spend the night together and upon the morning the man is to return to his mother’s home. The women may choose to find a different partner but it is not uncommon to have only one partner. The Mosuo people have been recently attracting curious tourists, eager to see a world run by women.
Mother Earth and woman
Costa Rica has a population of indigenous settlers who have lived on through the years. They are called the Bribri people and they live in the Talamanca region of the Caribbean Mountains. Clans are what define the social structure of the Bribri. A child’s clan is determined by the one his mother belongs to. Women are responsible for preparing the sacred drink of cacao for rituals.
Bribri women can occupy leadership positions in the form of shamans putting them in a very high position in society. Women are associated and considered an extension of the life-giving mother Earth, and so they do not become warriors or tend to the dead, so as not to associate with death. As far as matriarchies go, the Bri Bri people are amongst the ones that still exist today, though they do struggle under external pressures, such as the banana plantation industry, where male workers are preferred.
Maybe one of the most famous matriarchies is one that comes from mythology, a tribe of warrior women known throughout ancient times and into the present. The Amazons were believed to have lived in Asia Minor and were descendants from Ares, the God of war himself. This example, though is one of extremes and does not reflect actual real-life matriarchies. The fact that their name lingered for so long is a testament to either female empowerment desires or the strangeness that still fascinated patriarchies.
As much as a world ruled by the fairer sex may stir pride in some women, the reality remains. Women are still not in the limelight. One must wonder how the future may change. How societies will grow alongside powerful women hand in hand with men.