Heide Goettner-Abendroth is a philosopher and researcher in society, culture and civilization, with matriarchal societies her main focus.
She was born in 1941 as the second of three children to a couple who were both teachers. Born in the former GDR (East Germany), her interest in societies’ context was roused at an early age. However indoctrinating the theoretical background of her early years were, even as a child in her history class she had a level of understanding of the relationship between economy and culture, social systems and politics and was not forced to memorize dates of the coronations or of the battles of Emperors and Kings. After her family’s escape from the GDR, as a 12 years old girl, she was confronted with the school system of West-Germany and was deeply disappointed by the incoherent patch work she was presented with in class.
As a young woman she started her own family and had three children, two daughters and a son. At the same time, she officially studied philosophy, theory of science, and German literature. But off the records she was paving her own intellectual path, using the university libraries which were now available to her, researching social and cultural theories to quench her thirst for knowledge. But actually this endeavour increased her thirst even more as she arrived at the insight that all the philosophies and cultural theories which she encountered were not at all concerned with her as a woman. They reflected the world of men continually but were portrayed as reflecting the world of all humankind. From this time forward Heide Goettner-Abendroth studied philosophy with a critical distance, because she wanted to gain a “glance behind the scenes”. She grew more and more successful in doing this, concentrating on the immense contradictions in the prevailing conceptualization and reasoning. The insights she gained from her critical approach and her investigations upset her in the truest sense of the word, for it upset the complete world view and historical understanding which had been passed onto her through her schooling.
Period of Development:
In 1973 she took her doctorate at the University of Munich in philosophy and theory of science with her thesis: “The Logic of Interpretation”. She taught philosophy for ten years at the same university and published a number of books and papers, but did not find any support from the university as a young philosopher. When her female colleagues started to protest against the suppression of young women scholars at the universities, in 1976, she joined this part of the modern Women’s Movement in protest to institutionalized science and the discrimination against women within the University. Her insights into matriarchal societies – for which she elaborated a new theoretical framework – were heard publicly for the first time in this movement, and in that way she became one of the pioneers of Women’s Studies in West Germany. Her first publications were taken up well and widely distributed, and she was regarded as a profound and discerning critic of patriarchy and a researcher in matriarchal societies and cultures.
She became the founding mother of modern Matriarchal Studies through her research work spanning more than thirty years.
Modern Matriarchal Studies:
She wrote many articles and published her first books on matriarchy. Since 1988 her major work, “Das Matriarchat”, has been published in several volumes. This work presents contemporary indigenous matriarchal societies from around the globe, and she has gained rich insights from their community patterns for a vision of a more humane social structure for our Western society. (see books)
In her widely read books she debunks the prejudices against this misjudged and unrecognised type of society. First of all, she points out that modern Matriarchal Studies is in support of Women’s Studies, but goes far beyond it. For Matriarchal Studies do not only refer to women, but include both genders, and in this respect it has always been in the truest sense of the word Gender Studies. Furthermore it is much wider in scope than the latter, as it has always referred to the different generations, as well as paying attention to the relationship between humankind and the natural world, and has taken history into account – in short, it is a far reaching social and cultural theory. There is not one patriarchal social theory which has accomplished this, for they all equate being human with being male and therefore feature a number of blind spots.
In ihrer Matriarchatsforschung macht Heide Göttner-Abendroth stets sichtbar, dass jede Gesellschaft aus Zweien besteht, Männern und Frauen, außerdem bringt sie die eigenständige kulturschöpferische Handlungsweise von Frauen in der Menschheitsgeschichte ans Licht. Frauen schufen eine integrierende, menschen- und bedürfnisorientierte Gesellschaftsform, in der sie keineswegs „herrschten“, wie das gängige Vorurteil meint. Die von Frauen nach dem Prinzip der Mütterlichkeit geschaffenen Matriarchate stehen im scharfen Gegensatz zur ausgrenzenden und herrschaftsorientierten patriarchalen Gesellschaftsform mit ihrem hierarchischen Aufbau. Matriarchate folgen dem Prinzip der Balance zwischen den Geschlechtern, den Generationen und zwischen Menschen und Natur. Sie sind die einzigen wirklich egalitären Gesellschaften und besitzen äußerst intelligente Regeln zur Vermeidung von Gewalt und zur Sicherung des Friedens. Ihre politischen Formen beruhen auf Kommunikation und Konsens zwischen allen Mitgliedern. Ihr Weltbild und ihre Spiritualität sind getragen vom Respekt für alle Lebensformen auf der Erde. Aus diesen Erkenntnissen gewann Heide Göttner-Abendroth ihre konkrete Vision von einer herrschaftsfreien, friedfertigen Gesellschaft, die sie in allen politischen Zusammenhängen, in denen sie sprechen kann, vertritt.
For decades she has been doing lecture tours in Germany and abroad, in front of very varied audiences: women’s centres, adult education centres, church based as well as independent academies, universities, and political parties. It is mainly women who are interested in the subject matter, and her lectures were well attended. Solid facts are conveyed, but she also paints a vision of a new society, based on matriarchal values. Her discoveries and interdisciplinary research results are being used widely as the basis for publications and projects in different countries.
An Academy of her own:
Given that she was prevented from continuing to lecture at the University, she works as an independent scholar in a precarious and difficult financial situation. In 1986, she became the founding mother of the autonomous “International Academy HAGIA for Modern Matriarchal Studies” in Germany. It is the only academy of its kind, solely supported by private initiatives and donations, mainly by women, receiving no support from the government. Since its foundation she has been its director.
Organized by the Academy HAGIA, since 1987 she guided many study tours in Europe and abroad, including Ireland, Malta, Crete, South England, Scotland, Brittany, Sardinia, the Pyrenees, Syria, Egypt, Mexico, and South China. Furthermore, since 1983 she has been designing the new “Matriarchal Mystery Festivals” based on her studies and research. Participants receive not only an introduction to matriarchal cultural history, mythology and spirituality, but also are able to experience love and respect for every living being through the actual celebration of the cycle of the seasons and the cycle of life. Many women have gained a deep identity, far beyond the clichés of suppressed femininity within patriarchy, by celebrating these festivals. The festivals present an artistic and symbolic anticipation of a potential future matriarchal way of life; this is not merely an intellectual process but a holistic one. It is an authentic new creation of a part of matriarchal culture in this present day.
Both aspects of her work, the spiritual and the scientific, have drawn attacks and have been regularly subsumed under inappropriate categories. The impertinence and spitefulness of these attacks has upset her a great deal. From a spiritual and a political perspective she never used evasive terms for her research, but called the matter by its real name: Matriarchy, in the sense of “At the beginning the mothers” (Greek: arché means also beginning). Based on this fact she experienced the emotions research on matriarchal societies elicited directly and how inexhaustible the prejudices directed against it seem to be. She experienced attacks from all different directions of patriarchal institutions; so she has been able to assess the degree to which her insights and wide-ranging work have been perceived as a threat against the system by the different patriarchal schools of thought and institutions, by both men and women alike. She was finally excluded from the University because of her challenging subject matter, despite being invited to work as a lecturer at the German University of Hamburg, Bremen, Kassel and as a guest professor at different universities abroad: University of Montreal, Canada in 1980, and Innsbruck, Austria in 1992.
The international character of her work is reflected in her contributions to international conferences: Istanbul/Turkey in 1998, “Women and Earth” (about the importance of Chatal Hüyük for feminist research); Madouri/Greece in 1998, founding conference of the “Institute of Archaeomythology”; Las Vegas/USA in 2004, “The Gift Economy Conference”; Dallas/USA in 2007, “International Conference on Women and Peace“; Istanbul/Turkey in 2007, „Goddess Conversations“; 2008 in Toronto/Kanada: „Conference on Motherhood Studies“, and others.
Due to her international contacts, in 2003 she organized and lead the “First World Congress on Matriarchal Studies: Societies in Balance” in Luxembourg, which was generously supported by the Ministry for Women’s Affairs of Luxembourg. This congress was a personal triumph and a great success for the cause.
As a result she was invited by the “Center for the Study of the Gift Economy” (Director Genevieve Vaughan) in Austin, Texas, USA, to guide the “Second World Congress on Matriarchal Studies: Societies of Peace” in autumn of 2005. For this second congress, indigenous women and men from present-day matriarchal societies all over the world have been invited by her to speak and report about their cultures, who supplied first-hand authentic insights and research. Not only is Heide Goettner-Abendroth hoping to support these people from a societal structure that has been misjudged and is severely threatened in its existence, but also to make public modern Matriarchal Studies more effectively internationally.
In 2009, she was co-guiding the conference “A Motherworld is possible. Two feminist Visions: Gift Economy and Matriarchal Studies” which took place in Toronto/Canada.
In 2006, she was honored by putting a stone with her name into the “Women’s Memorial Labyrinth” in Germany. And she is one of the women across the globe who have been nominated by the worldwide initiative „1000 Women for the NobelPeacePrize 2005“.