Learning the Language of the Goddess
"Through an understanding of what the
Goddess was, we can better understand nature and we can build our
ideologies so that it will be easier for us to live."
Marija Gimbutas is largely responsible for the resurgence of
interest in Goddess-oriented religions. Her discoveries were the
foundation for Riane Eisler
's (whom we interviewed in our first volume) highly influential book,
The Chalice and the Blade. For fifteen years, Marija was involved
with excavations in southeastern Europe and the Mediterranean, which
revealed the existence of a prehistoric Goddess-oriented culture. For at
least 25, 000 years this peaceful civilization seemingly practiced
complete equal rights between the sexes--socially, politically, and
spiritually. As Riane Eisler pointed out, the full implications of this
discovery have yet to be fully realized by the scientific community, or by
society at large.
Born in Lithuania during a time when 50 percent of the population
was still pagan, Gimbutas fled to Austria because of the war. In Vilnius,
Lithuania, and later in Vienna, Innsbruck, and Tubingen, she studied
linguistics, archaeology, and Indo-European cultures, obtaining her
doctorate in Tubingen, Germany in 1946. In 1950, as an expert in eastern
European archaeology, she became a research fellow at Harvard, where she
remained for twelve years. In 1963 she came to UCLA, where she served as
emeritus professor of European archaeology for many years. She is the
author of more than twenty books, including well-known works such as
The Language of the Goddess, The Civilization of the Goddess, and
Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe.
We interviewed Marija at her beautiful mountain home--which
overflowed with big-breasted wide-hipped goddess figurines and other
archaeological artifacts--in Topanga Canyon, California an October 3,
1992. When Marija died on February 2, 1994, we felt very sad bur also
fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend time with her before she
departed Even though she battled lymphatic cancer for many years, Marija
was vitally alive and active right up until the very end. On June 27,
1993, the Frauen Museum in Wiesbaden, Germany dedicated to her an
extensive exhibit, "The Language of the Goddess," and she was there to
receive the honor
After spending much of her life in relative academic obscurity,
Marija Seemed to be genuinely surprised to discover how popular she had
become. For all her accomplishments, she was always humble and gracious.
Marija had an incredibly warm, sprite-like spirit, lively eyes, and a way
ofl making you feel very comfortable around her She appeared delicate and
graceful, yet Jilled with strength. There was something timeless about
Marija, for she was a woman of many times and places, and the Goddess
seemed to shine right through her.
David: What was it that originally inspired your interest
in the archaeological and mythological dimensions of the Goddess
orientated religions of Old Europe?
Marija: It has to do with the whole of my life, I think.
I was always a black sheep. I did what I saw with my own eyes - to this
day, in fact. I was very independent. My mother was also very independent.
She was one of the first students of medicine in Switzerland and Germany
when there were no other girls studying.
I was born in Lithuania when it was still fifty percent pagan. I had
quite a lot of direct connections to the Goddesses. They were around me in
my childhood. The Goddess
was there, she could call at night and look through the windows. When a
woman is giving birth she appears, and the grandmother is there organizing
things. She has gifts for the Goddess towels and woven materials are laid
for her, because she weaves the life, she is the spinner. She may be on
the way to disappear, but fifty years ago she was still there.
Rebecca: When you say pagans, you mean people living in
the countryside, close to nature?
Marija: Yes, well Lithuania was Christianized only in the
fourteenth century and even then it didn't mean much because it was done
by missionaries who didn't understand the language, and the countryside
remained pagan for at least two or three centuries. And then came the
Jesuits who started to convert people in the sixteenth century.
In some areas, up to the nineteenth and twentieth century, there were
still beliefs alive in Goddesses and all kinds of beings. So in my
childhood I was exposed to many things which were almost prehistoric, I
would say. And when I studied archaeology, it was easier for me to grasp
what these sculptures mean than for an archaeologist born in New York, who
doesn't know anything about the countryside life in Europe.(laughter)
I first studied linguistics, ethnology and folklore. I collected
folklore myself when I was in high school. And there was always a
question; what is my own culture? I heard a lot about the Indo-Europeans
and that our language, Lithuanian, was a very old, conservative
Indo-European language. I was
interested in that. I studied the Indo-European language and comparative
Indo-European studies, and at that time there was no question about what
was before the Indo-Europeans. It was good enough to know that the
Indo-Europeans were already there.(laughter) The question of what
was before came much later.
Then, because of the war, I had to flee from Lithuania. I studied in
Austria, in Vienna, then I got my Ph.D in Germany. I still continued to be
interested in my own Lithuanian, ancient culture and I did some things in
addition to my official studies. I was doing research in symbolism and I
collected materials from libraries. So that is one trend in my interest -
ancient religion, pagan religion and symbolism. My dissertation was also
connected with this. It was about the burial rites and beliefs in
afterlife and it was published in Germany in 1946.
Then I came to the United States and had the opportunity to begin
studies in eastern European archaeology and in 1950 I became a research
fellow at Harvard and I was there for twelve years. I had to learn from
scratch because there was nobody in the whole United States who was really
knowledgeable about what was in Russia or the Soviet Union in prehistoric
times. So they invited me to write a book on eastern European prehistory
and I spent about fifteen years doing this. So that was my background of
Rebecca: Did you anticipate the incredible interest that
this research would fuel?
Marija: No. At that time I was just an archaeologist
doing my work, studying everything that I could. And after than came the
Bronze Age studies, and
this gave me another aspect on this Indo-European culture. In my first
book I wrote about eastern European archaeology, I started my hypothesis
on the Indo-European origins in Europe and this hypothesis still works and
hasn't changed much.
Rebecca: Could you describe your hypothesis?
Marija: These proto-Indo-European people came from South
Russia to Europe, introduced the Indo-European culture and then European
culture was hybridized. It was the old culture mixed with the new
elements - the Steppe, pastoral, patriarchal elements. So already at that
time, thirty years ago, I sensed that, in Europe there was something else
before the Indo-Europeans. But I still didn't do anything about the
Goddess, about sculptures, or art, or painted pottery. I just knew that it
existed but I didn't really have the chance to dive into the field.
The occasion appeared when I came to UCLA in 1963 and from 1967 I
started excavations in south-east Europe, in Yugoslavia, Greece and Italy,
and did that for fifteen years. When I was traveling in Europe and
visiting museums I was already building some understanding of what this
culture was like before the
Indo-Europeans, before the patriarchy.
It was always a big question mark to me; what could it be? This is so
different. Painted pottery, for instance, beautiful pottery. And then the
sculptures. Nobody really was writing about it. There were so many of
them, wherever you went you found hundreds and hundreds. I was just
putting in my head what I saw. So then I started my own excavations and I
discovered at least five hundred sculptures myself.
Rebecca: How deep did you have to dig?
Marija: It depended. Sometimes at a site of 5,000 B.C, it
was on top. You could walk through the houses of 7,000 years ago! Other
times you have to dig deep to reach that. Usually you excavate sites which
are already exposed, which are known and where people are finding objects
of great interest. Many things have been destroyed in this way. Some
interesting excavations were made, especially in Greece and I started to
understand more and more about sculptures. I don't know how it happened,
at what moment, but I started to distinguish certain types and their
repetitions. For instance, the bird and snake goddess which are the
easiest to distinguish.
So I slowly added more and more information. The first book was called
Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe. Actually the first edition was
called Gods and Goddesses of Old Europe, because I was not allowed
to use Goddesses first.
David: According to who? Was it the publisher?
Marija: Yes. The publisher didn't allow me. In eight
years a second edition appeared with the original title, Goddesses and
Gods of Old Europe.
Rebecca: That first edition could be very valuable one
day. (laughter) Your work appeals to a very broad audience and even
people who don't have an academic background often feel they have an
intuitive sense of what you're saying.
Marija: The intuitive people are always the first to say
that. Then eventually academia catches up, because these are the least
Rebecca: Could you briefly describe to us the major
differences between the old European Goddess traditions and the
Indo-European patriarchy which came to domite, and what aspects of the
patriarchal culture caused it to want to control the matrifocal one?
Marija: The symbolic systems are very different. All this
reflects the social structure. The Indo-European social structure is
patriarchal, patrilineal and the psyche is warrior. Every God is also a
warrior. The three main Indo-European Gods are the God of the Shining Sky,
the God of the Underworld and the Thunder God. The female goddesses are
just brides, wives or maidens without any power, without any creativity.
They're just there, they're beauties, they're Venuses, like the dawn or
So the system from what existed in the matristic culture before the
Indo-Europeans in Europe is totally different. I call it matristic, not
matriarchal, because matriarchal always arouses ideas of dominance and is
compared with the patriarchy. But it was a balanced society, it was not
that women were really so powerful that they usurped everything that was
Men were in their rightful position, they were doing their own work,
they had their duties and they also had their own power. This is reflected
in their symbols where you find not only goddesses but also, Gods. The
Goddesses were creatrixes, they are creating from themselves. As far back
as 35,000 B.C, from symbols and sculptures, we can see that the parts of
the female body were creative parts: breasts, belly and buttocks. It was a
different view from ours - it had nothing to do with pornography.
The vulva, for instance, is one of the earliest symbols engraved, and
it is symbolically related to growth, to the seed. Sometimes next to it is
a branch or plant motif, or within the vulva is something like a seed or a
plant. And that sort of symbol is very long-lasting, it continues for
20,000 years at least. Even now the vulva is a symbol in some countries,
which offers a security of creativity, of continuity and fertility.
Rebecca: Why did the patriarchal culture choose to
Marija: This is in the culture itself. They had weapons
and they had horses. The horse appeared only with the invaders who began
coming from South Russia, and in old Europe there were no weapons - no
daggers, no swords. There were just weapons for hunting. Habitations
were very different. The invaders were semi-nomadic people and in Europe
they were agriculturalists, living in one area for a very long time,
mostly in the most beautiful places.
When these warriors arrived, they established themselves high in the
hills, sometimes in places which had very difficult access. So, in each
aspect of culture I see an opposition, and therefore I am of the opinion
that this local, old European culture could not develop into a
patriarchal, warrior culture because this would be too sudden. We have
archaeological evidence that this was a clash. And then of course,
who starts to dominate? The ones who have horses, who have weapons, who
have small families and who are more mobile.
Rebecca: What was daily life like, do you think for the
people living in the matrifocal society?
Marija: Religion played an enormous role and the temple
was sort of a focus of life. The most beautiful artifacts were produced
for the temple. They were very grateful for what they had. They had to
thank the Goddess always, give to her, appreciate her. The high priestess
and queen were one and the same person and there was a sort of a hierarchy
David: Was the Goddess religion basically monotheistic?
Marija: This is a very difficult question to answer. Was
it monotheistic, or was it not? Was there one Goddess or was there not?
The time will come when we shall know more, but at this time we cannot
reach deep in prehistory. What I see, is that from very early on, from the
upper Paleolithic times, we already have different types of goddesses. So
are these different Goddesses or different aspects of one Goddess?
Before 35,000 or 40,000 B.C there is hardly any art but the type of the
Goddess with large breasts and buttocks and belly, existed very early in
the upper Paleolithic. The snake and bird Goddess are also upper
Paleolithic, so at least three main types were there. But in later times,
for instance, in the Minoan culture
in Crete, you have a Goddess which tends to be more one Goddess than
several. Even the snake Goddesses which exist in Crete, are very much
linked with the main Goddess who is shown sitting on a throne or is
worshipped in these underground crypts.
Perhaps, even in the much earlier times, there was also a very close
interrelationship between the different types represented. So maybe after
all, we shall come to the conclusion that this was already a monotheistic
religion even as we tend now to call it - the Goddess religion. We just
have to remember there were many different types of goddesses.
Rebecca: Do you see remnants of the Goddess religion in
different religions throughout the world today?
Marija: Yes, very much so. The Virgin Mary is still extremely
important. She is the inheritor of many types of Goddesses, actually. She
represents the one who is giving life, she is also the regenerator and
earth mother together. This earth mother we can trace quite deep into
prehistory; she is the pregnant type and continues for maybe 20,000 years
and she is very well preserved in practically each area of Europe and
other parts of the world.
David: Do you see the Gaia hypothesis as being a resurgence of the
original Goddess religion?
Marija: I think there is some connection, perhaps in a Jungian sense.
This culture existed so deep and for so long that it cannot be
uninfluential to our thinking.
Rebecca: It must have conditioned our minds for a long time. How do you
respond to criticism that the Goddess religion was just a fertility rite?
Marija: How do I respond to all these silly criticisms?
(laughter) People usually are not knowledgeable who say that, and
have never studied the question. Fertility was important to continuity of
life on earth, but the religion was about life, death and regeneration.
Our ancestors were not primitive.
David: Did you experience a lot of resistance from the
academic community about your interpretations?
Marija: I wouldn't say a lot, but some, yes. It's
natural. For decades archaeologists rarely touched the problem of
Rebecca: So far back in time, you mean?
Marija: Well, they probably accepted the existence of the
Upper Paleolithic and Neolithic religion, but the training was such that
the students have no occasion to be exposed to these questions. There was
no teaching about prehistoric religion. Only in some places, like in
Oxford University, sixty or seventy years ago, Professor James was
teaching a course on the Goddess. Nobody at that time was resisting. Now
we have more resistence because of the feminist movement. Some people are
automatically not accepting.
This kind of criticism (ie. rejection of the Goddess) is meaningless to
me. What is true is true, and what is true will remain. Maybe I made some
mistakes in deciphering the symbols, but I was continually trying to
understand more. At this time I know more than when I was writing thirty
years ago. My first book was not complete, therefore I had to produce
another book and another book to say more. It's a long process.
Rebecca: Wasn't it incredibly difficult to find written
sources and references for your research?
Marija: There was so little, it was amazing! There were
some good books in the 1950's. In 1955 a book was published on the mother
Goddess by a Jungian psychologist, Eric Neumann. Then there were very good
works on symbolism by
Rebecca: When I tried to get hold of some of your books
from the library they were all checked out and the librarian said that
this was normally the case, so works on this subject are definitely in
Marija: I never dreamed of that. I always thought that
archaeology books are not generally read and that you just write for your
David: Were you surprised in yours and others'
excavations by the advanced designs of the habitats and the settlements of
the Goddess religion?
Marija: Yes, I was. This was a revelation, to see that
the later culture is much less advanced than the earlier one. The art is
incomparably lower than what was before, and it was a civilization of
3,000 years, more or less, before it was destroyed. For thirty years now
we've had the possibility to date items, using carbon dating. When I
started to do my research, chronology was so unclear and we were working
so hard to understand what period the object belonged to. Then in the
1960's it became so much easier. I spent a lot of time doing chronology,
which is very technical work.
That gave us a perspective on how long-lasting these cultures were, and
you could see a beautiful development from the more simple to the really
sophisticated, in the architecture and the building of temples. Some
houses and temples were two stories high and had painted walls. Catal
Huyuk was such a great discovery in Anatolia. The wall paintings there
were only published in 1989, twenty-five years after Myler's excavation.
One hundred and forty wall paintings - and archeologists don't believe him
because it's so sophisticated. And this is from the 7th millennium!
Rebecca: Do you think the matrifocal society could have
sustained cities, or do you think that the nature of the religion and the
lifestyle kept it small, usually no bigger than the average village?
Marija: It would have sustained cities. It did start to
develop into an urban culture, especially in one area of the
civilization which is presently Romania and the western part of the
Ukraine. There we have cities of ten to fifteen thousand inhabitants in
around 4,000 B.C. So urban development began, but it was truncated.
Rebecca: You have said that you think the meaning of
prehistoric art and religion can be deciphered and that we need to analyze
the evidence from the point of view of ideology. Do you think that we can
honestly do this without being unduly biased by our own ideologies?
Marija: That's always difficult. Most archaeologists have
great difficulty in accepting that the life was so different. For
instance, an excavator publishes a plan of a village. This is a circular
village in a concentric circle of houses and in the center there is a
house also. The explanation at once is, here is a chieftain's house and
around him is his retinue and then the last ring around is everyone else.
And then, when you analyze the material, it is totally the reverse. The
large ring of houses were the most important houses, the largest houses
with the best floors and so on, then growing into the inside the smaller
houses are in the middle. So you can write anecdotes about the
interpretation because we see only through the twentieth century prism.
David: What does your research indicate about the social
status of women in the pre-Indo-European culture?
Marija: Women were equal beings, that is very clear, and
perhaps more honored because they had more influence in the religious
life. The temple was run by women.
Rebecca: What about the political life?
Marija: My findings suggest that the political life - of
course, it's all hypothesis, you cannot reconstruct easily, but we can
judge from what remains in later times and what still exists in mythology,
because this again reflects the social structure - was structured by the
avuncular system. The rulers of the country; the queen which is also the
high priestess and also her brother or uncle. The system is therefore
called avuncular, which is from the word, uncle. The man, the brother or
uncle, was very important in society, and probably men and women were
quite equal. In mythology we encounter the sister-brother couples of
female goddesses and male gods.
It is wrong to say that this is just a woman's culture, that there was
just a Goddess and there were no Gods. In art the male is less
represented, that's true, but that the male Gods existed, there's no
question. In all mythologies, for instance in Europe, Germanic or Celtic
or Baltic, you will find the earth mother or earth Goddess and her male
companion or counterpart next to her.
Also there are other couples like the Goddess of Nature, Regenerator,
who appears in the Spring and gives life to all earth animals and humans
and plants. She is
in Greek mythology. She is called Mistress of Animals, and there are also
male counterparts of the same kind called Master of Animals. His
representations appear in Catal Huyuk in the 7th Millenium B.C. and they
are there throughout prehistory, so we shouldn't neglect that aspect.
There is a balance between the sexes throughout, in religion and in life.
David: Is there any evidence that the takeover was
violent and how much did the people try to defend themselves?
Marija: It was violent, but how much they defended
themselves is difficult to tell. But they were losers. There was evidence
of immigration and escape from these violent happenings and a lot of
confusion, a lot of shifts of population. People started to flee to places
like islands and forests and hilly areas. In the settlements you have
evidence of murder.
Rebecca: What about the Kurgan, invading culture, were
they always patriarchal, when did the patriarchy begin?
Marija: This is a very serious question which
archaeologists cannot answer yet, but we can see that the patriarchy was
already there around 5,000 B.C for sure and the horse was domesticated not
later than that.
Rebecca: Do you think they came out of a previously
Marija: It must have been so. But the trouble is that
exactly there, in South Russia, where it is critical to know, we don't
have evidence. We have no extensive excavations in that area of before
Rebecca: The `sacred script' that you translated from the
Goddess culture, did it ever develop, as far as you know, into sentences
Marija: Again, that's for the future to decide. It is
possible that it was a syllabic script and it would have probably
developed into something if it were not for the culture's destruction. The
script is lost in most of Europe and it is the eastern and central Europe
where we have most signs preserved. In the Bronze Age, in Cyprus and in
Crete, the script persisted which is much related to what it was earlier
in the 5th Millennium B.C. Some is preserved but we do not have very clear
links yet because of this culture change.
Scholars are looking into this question and I hope it will be
deciphered somehow. The difficulty is that this pre-Indo-European language
is studied very little. People study substrates of languages in Greece and
Italy, but mostly what they can reconstruct are place names like Knossos
which is a pre-Indo-European name. The word for apple, for instance, is
pre-Indo-European and so linguists little by little, word by word,
discover what words are not Indo-European. Names for seeds, for various
trees, plants, for animals, they're easily reconstructed. And also there
exist several pre-Indo-European names for the same thing (like for the
pig) and both are used; some languages use pre-Indo-European, some
languages use Indo-European names, or both.
This is a field of research which should be further developed in the
future and I think I am creating an influence in this area. It's extremely
important to have inter-disciplinary research. For a long time in the
universities, there was department, department, department, and no
connection between departments. Archaeology was especially so, with no
connection to linguistic studies and no connection with mythology and
Rebecca: You've talked about the need for a field of
Marija: Yes. And when you don't ignore the other
disciplines, you start seeing many more things. That is such a revelation,
to see in mythology really ancient elements that you can apply to
archeology. To some archeologists this is not science, well, alright, let
it not be science! It doesn't matter what you call it. (laughter)
Rebecca: Many people used to believe that language
started with men in the hunt, and now there's more leaning towards the
idea that it began in the home. When and how do you think language first
Marija: Early, very early - lower Paleolithic. And it
developed in the family. Some linguists are doing research in the earliest
known words, and some formations show that certain words are very, very
old and they exist all over the world.
David: You've collected a lot of European folk-tales. As
creation myths are found in almost every culture in the world, have you
found any that are relating to this theme?
Marija: Yes. Like, the water bird and the cosmic egg. The
world starts with an egg and the water bird is bringing the egg, then the
egg splits and one part of it becomes earth and the other part becomes
David: Have you found any Lithuanian folk-tales to
correlate with the story of Adam and Eve?
Marija: No. But it's interesting that Adam's first wife
was Lilith. And who was
She was a bird of prey, the Vulture Goddess of Death and Regeneration. She
was the one who later became the witch, so she was very powerful. She flew
away. He could not control her. Then the second wife was made from his
rib, so she was naturally obedient and stayed with him. (laughter)
Rebecca: There are so many transmutations of the Goddess
in mythology and folklore developing from a positive image into a negative
one. Do you see this as a conscious attempt to distort the feminine?
Marija: Yes it is. This is really Christianity's doing,
because they felt the danger. They demonized the one who was the most
powerful. The one who could perform many things, who was connected with
the atmospheric happenings, with rains and storms. So this is the Goddess
who rules over death and regeneration, the one who became the witch. So
she was really powerful and in the days of the Inquisition, she is
described as really dangerous.
From various descriptions you can sense that there was fear. She could
control male sexuality, for instance, she could cut the moon and stop it
growing, she was the balancer of the life powers. She could do a lot of
damage, this Goddess. But you must understand why she was doing
this. She could not allow things to grow forever, she had to stop, she
caused the death in order to have the cycle from the beginning. She is the
main regenerator of the whole world, of all of nature.
Rebecca: So the patriarchal culture had to make people
afraid of her, so they would abandon her.
Marija: Yes. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries,
which are critical for this change, she became a Satan, a monster. This
image is still with us. In each country she is more or less preserved. In
the Basque, she is still there and very much alive. She is a vulture, she
lives in caves. And sometimes shepherds arrange Christian Science crosses
to remove the vultures. (laughter)
David: You have been largely responsible for the
reemergence of Goddess consciousness in the Western hemisphere. How do you
feel about the way that this perspective is being interpreted socially and
Marija: The interpretation of Goddess in some cases is
overdone a little bit. I cannot see that the Goddess as she was can be
reconstructed and returned to our lives, but we have to take the best that
we can seize. The best understanding is of divinity itself. The Christian
God punishes and is angry and does not fit into our times at all. We need
something better, we need something closer, we need something that we can
touch and we need some compassion, some love, and also a return to the
nature of things.
Through an understanding of what the Goddess was, we can better
understand nature and we can build our ideologies so that it will be
easier for us to live. We have to be grateful for what we have, for all
the beauty, and the Goddess is exactly that. Goddess is nature itself. So
I think this should be returned to humanity. I don't think that
Christianity will continue for a very long time, but it's just like
patriarchy, it's not easy to get rid of. (laughter) But somehow,
from the bottom up, it's coming.
Rebecca: The patriarchy has been around for about five
thousand years compared to the Goddess culture which was around for
possibly millions. Why did it endure for so long?
Marija: Because of what I've been talking about. It was
natural to have this kind of divinity and it is absolutely unnatural to
create a punishing God and warriors who are stimulating our bad instincts.
David: A lot of the major themes you discuss:
life-giving, the renewing of the eternal earth, death and regeneration,
energy unfolding, are well-known archetypal themes that occur during a
psychedelic experience. I'm curious about whether you think that the
Goddess-orientated cultures incorporated the use of mushrooms or some kind
of psychoactive plant into their rituals, and do you take seriously
Terence Mckenna's notion that the
use of psychedelics was the secret that was lost at Catal Huyuk?
Marija: I'm sure they had it. This knowledge still exists
in rituals like Eleusis in Greece where now it's clear that psychedelics
were used. From the depiction of mushrooms, maybe you can judge that his
was sacred, but this was perhaps not the most important. From Minoan
engravings on seals, for instance, you have poppies very frequently
indicated. Also, poppy seeds are found in Neolithic settlements, so they
were conscious about that, they were collecting, they were using and maybe
growing poppies like other domestic plants.
David: Do you see it influencing the culture?
Marija: Yes. From
Dionysian rituals in Greece which can go back to much earlier times
you get all this dancing, excitement, always at the edge, to a frenzy,
almost to craziness. That existed even in the Paleolithic times, I would
guess, but what they used is difficult to reconstruct. We have the poppy
seeds, alright. Mushrooms? Maybe. But what else? The hard evidence is not
preserved by archaeological record. It's disappeared.
Rebecca: What do you think are the signifying differences
between a culture, like the Goddess culture, which views time as cyclical,
as opposed to a culture like ours which sees time as linear, progressing
towards some waiting future?
Marija: It's much easier to live when you think of this
cyclicity. I think it's crazy to think of a linear development like in the
European beliefs in life after death - if you're a king, you will stay a
king, and if you're a hero, you'll stay a hero. (laughter)
Rebecca: That aspect of the Goddess culture, the idea
that things do travel in cycles. Do you think this made them much more
philosophical about death?
Marija: Much more philosophical. And it's a very good
philosophy. What else can you think? This is the best. And the whole of
evolution is based so much upon this thinking, on regeneration of life and
stimulation of life-powers. This is the main thing that we're interested
in. To preserve life-powers, to awaken them each Spring, to see that they
continue and that life thrives and flourishes.
David: What relevance do you think that understanding our
ancient past to dealing with the problems facing the world today?
Marija: Well, it's time to be more peaceful, to calm
down, (laughter) and this philosophy is pacifying somehow, bringing
us to some harmony with nature where we can learn to value things. And
knowing that there were cultures which existed for a long time without
wars is important, because most twentieth-century people think that wars
were always there.
There are books still stressing this fact and suggesting such crazy
ideas that agriculture and war started at the same time. They say that
when villages started to grow, the property had to be defended, but that
is nonsense! There was property, but it was communal property. Actually,
it was a sort of communism in the best sense of the word. It could not
exist in the twentieth-century. And also they believed that in death you
are equal. I like this idea very much. You don't have to be queen or a
king once your bones are collected and mixed together with other bones.
David: As rebirth is one of the major themes of your
work, what do you personally feel happens to human consciousness after
Marija: Maybe in the way the old Europeans were thinking.
That the life-energy continues to a certain degree, it does not disappear.
Individual forms disappear and that's the end.
David: Do you think part of your individuality
Marija: Well, that's what I leave around me now, my
influence, what I've said in my books - this will continue for some time.
So it does not completely die out.
Rebecca: Are you optimistic that a partnership society
can be achieved once again?
Marija: I don't know if I'm optimistic. In a way I think
I am, otherwise it would be difficult to live - you have to have hope. But
that the development will be slow, is clear. It very much depends on who
is in the government. Our spiritual life is so full of war images.
Children are from the very beginning taught about shooting and killing. So
the education has to change, television programs have to change. There are
signs for that, there are voices appearing. So you should be optimistic
David: Marija, if you could condense your life's work
into a basic message, what would that message be?
Marija: Well, I don't know if I can say it in one
sentence, but maybe the reconstruction of the meaning and functions of the
Goddess is one of my major contributions. It happened to be me and not
somebody else. It was just fate - Laima - that led me. (laughter)