In Old Europe there were towns of up to 10,000 people. There were paved streets, small, two-story temples, and five-room homes with plaster floors and walls. There were beautiful frescos on the walls, vases and sculpture, shops where jewelry was produced and sold. Some homes were somewhat larger than others, but the larger homes were not set apart from the others. Towns had no palaces. This all would indicate there was no wealthy, dominant class. These cities had no perimeter walls. Where there is no war, there is no reason to build walls. (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. x, 326, 396.)
According to Gimbutas:
The absence of weapons of war and hill forts over two millennia, from c. 6500-4500 B.C.E. argues for an absence of territorial aggression. (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 331.)
Graves in Old Europe contain male and female remains. They were buried with beads, arm rings, stone tools, scrapers, arrowheads, grinding stones, jewelry, and flint tools for woodworking. There were graves of prominent women as well as prominent men. All this contrasts with graves found after the Aryan invasions, in which prominent males had big graves and women were buried only as consorts of males, perhaps killed or required to commit suicide to accompany the males into the afterlife. (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 331-341.)
Some societies in Old Europe had a written language, which appears on their pottery and in the frescos on their walls. It has not been translated, and it is unlikely it ever will be. The Aryan conquerors were illiterate and so would have created no Old European version of the Rosetta Stone.
At the time in which this script was in use, east-central Europeans enjoyed metallurgic industry, a high degree of architectural sophistication, extensive trade relations, a remarkable sophistication and specialization in the craftsmanship of goods, and an increasingly elaborate and articulated system of religious thought and practice. (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 309.)
Gimbutas summarizes what ancient writers remembered about Old Europe, some 4,000 years after its destruction:
… [T]he sources from Herodotus in the 5th century B.C.E. to Strabo in the 1st century C.E. speak of 1) matrilineal structure, inheritance in the female line, successor of the throne in the female line (queenship passed from mother to daughter); 2) endogamy [marrying within the tribe], matrilocal marriage and group marriage combined with common ownership; 3) metronymy (naming through the mother, father not recognized); 4) importance of the queen’s brother, no husband (only a consort); 5) the general high status of women, particularly in Minoan and Etruscan societies. (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 349. Comments in parenthesis are those of Gimbutas. Those in square brackets are mine.)
In matrilocal marriage the new son-in-law became part of the household of the mother-in-law. Probably women had developed farming while men were out gathering and hunting, and so property was owned and inherited by women and their daughters.
Infanticide, cult prostitution, and child sacrifice were practiced by some of the goddess-worshiping cultures in the First Millennium, B.C.E., however, by this late date, these societies had endured more than 3,000 years of patriarchal domination. One should not presume that such behaviors were part of the goddess religions before the patriarchs took them over. The Aryan invaders had themselves practiced human and child sacrifice and sex slavery and had probably introduced these vices. (Rian Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade, p. 49.)
Old Testament writers of the Sixth Century, B.C.E., condemned the sacrificing of children to Molech. The Hebrews had specifically rejected child sacrifice. (Genesis 22; Leviticus 18:21.) Molech was presumably a male god, since the word is a variant of the word melek, that is, king. The Hebrews also condemned the male and female temple prostitution practiced by the tribes that worshiped Ba’al, a male god, and his consort Asherah. (1 Kings 15:13, 18:19; 2 Kings 23:4-7; Judges 3:7; “Biblical Literature,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, Macropaedia, 1979 ed., p. 908.) The chief god was the father-god El, while Ba’al and Asherah were the chief, active male and female gods. (John Bright, A History of Israel, p. 108, 220.) There were goddesses such as these in whose name such reprehensible things were done. However, these again were religions where the goddess had long been subordinated by the patriarchs.
According to Gimbutas:
The earliest civilizations of the world—in China, Tibet, Egypt, the Near East, and Europe—were, in all probability, matristic “Goddess civilizations.” Since agriculture was developed by women, the Neolithic period created optimum conditions for the survival of matrilineal, endogamous systems inherited from Paleolithic times. (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 324.)
The people of Old Europe were not matriarchal in the sense that current society has been patriarchal for the last 6,000 years. Instead they were matristic, meaning “mother-centered.” Anthropologist Riane Eisler (Chalice and the Blade) and Marija Gimbutas (The Civilization of the Goddess and The Language of the Goddess) say the paradigm of Old Europe before 4300 B.C.E. was one of partnership as opposed to domination. Men and women were more or less equal. Cities were ruled usually by queens but sometimes by kings.
European Catholics make a feast of herbs, flowers, and grain on August 15, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, the celebration of her ascent into heaven. This feast is a continuation of the primary feast day of the earth mother. The color black was good because it symbolized the productivity of the soil. The color white was bad, because it symbolized bones and death. In certain European cultures, goddess themes survived—for example, in Lithuania, which was not Christianized until the 1400s–, and so we know that the earth mother stood for law and justice:
The Earth is also Justice, social conscience, as represented by the Greek Themis, Russian Matushka Zemlja and Lithuanian Zemyna. The wide distribution of this idea points to its roots in prehistory. For centuries, Slavic peasants settled legal disputes relating to landed property by calling on the Earth as a witness… . The Earth Mother listens to appeals, settles problems, and punishes all who deceive her or are disrespectful to her. She does not tolerate thieves, liars, or vain and proud people. (Marija Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess, p. 159.)
Contrast this with the Indo-Europeans who glorified the stealing of cattle and land as a religious obligation.
In Old Europe one of the names of the deity was Diana or Dinah. The Don, the Danube, the Dnieper, and the Dniester were named after her, as was London. (Merlin Stone, When God Was a Woman; Elizabeth Gould Davis, The First Sex, 54.)
The people of Old Europe spoke non-Indo-European languages. The Aryans had not yet left the Caucasus to impose their Indo-European language on the rest of the world. Iran derives its name from the Aryans. Celtic is an Indo-European language. The non-Indo-European Etruscan language survived into Roman times. The non-Indo-European Basque language survives to our day in Spain and France. Some matristic customs survive among the Basques such as partaking of the sacred bread. The goddess had been patron of the grain harvest. This custom exists in competition with the Christian eucharist. However, most matristic aspects of Basque society disappeared when Napoleon imposed his legal code in the Basque region. (Marija Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess, p. 110, 147.)
The people of Old Europe were farmers, gathers, hunters, and fisher folk, but they did not keep horses, or large herds of cattle. They made flour out of abundant, high-protein acorns and chestnuts. Excavations of their settlements uncovered remains of fishing equipment, and the bones of deer, aurochs, sheep, goats, cattle, and other animals. (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 26-27; Henry Bailey Stevens, The Recovery of Culture, p. 90.)
According to the archaeological evidence, then, the goddess people of Old Europe were not vegetarians. Nevertheless, according to Riane Eisler meat constituted a relatively small part of their diet, an occasional addition to a diet that was primarily grains, nuts, vegetables, and fruit, in contrast with the diet of the Aryan invaders whose diet was meat-centered. The cultivation of land dropped off markedly after the Aryan invasions and pasturage increased. (The Chalice and the Blade—Our History, Our Future, p. 68.)
Among the matristic tribes, there may have been some which were vegetarian. Pythagoras (569-470 B.C.E.) as quoted by Ovid (43 B.C.E.-17 C.E.), Metamorphoses, XV, line 96 ff.) referred to the people of the Golden Age and said they ate a diet free of flesh food. Perhaps some of the goddess-worshiping tribes were the vegetarians referred to by Pythagoras and Plato. (Great Dialogues of Plato, p. 165 ff. See the section of this book entitled Socrates and Plato, p. 72.)
The favorite meal in Pythagoras’ day was the acorn-stuffed cabbage roll, one that probably went back to goddess times. (Lucretius, V, 692, 1414; Horace, Satires, I, 3, 100; Virgil, Georgics, I, 148; all cited in Rynn Berry’s, Famous Vegetarians and their Favorite Recipes, p. 7.)
The sea level rose some 400 feet following the end of the last ice age. Coast dwellers had to move inland to new coastlines, and they may have driven herders further inland as they advanced, creating hatreds. Perhaps the shepherds remembered this insult and later incorporated it into their mythology, which was filled with contempt for farmer folk and which was perhaps relied on later to justify attacks on them.
Due to the expansion of crop agriculture, herders had to lead grazing animals out ever farther. Gradually, many of these shepherds became independent of settled communities. They became different people with values oriented towards herding, not plant agriculture.
After the end of the last Ice Age, shepherds moved north and east, out onto the steppes with its endless sea of grass. The herding of cattle, sheep, goats, and later horses and camels became their major source of food and fiber. However, even the herders engaged in some planting and plant gathering. We would refer to them as semi-pastoral. Even the Eskimo eat the tiny plants that grow in the Arctic in Summer. Hunters in high latitudes often eat the vegetable contents of the stomachs of the grazing animals they kill.
With the help of dogs, shepherds on foot can herd sheep, goats, and even cattle. Horses are different; humans on foot cannot keep up with them. To herd horses, one must ride horses. Some time around 5500 B.C.E., it occurred to some tribesman out on the steppes, somewhere near where Kiev is today, to mount and break a horse for riding. The horse turned out to be an all-purpose animal, good for eating, milking, leather, as a pack animal, for riding, and later as a draft animal for pulling carts and plows. And it was the perfect vehicle for making war. Mounted warriors, each with a string of five mares, could milk and bleed them and live exclusively on this food while on the war path, covering 100 miles per day.
Which came first? The cart or the horse? Some anthropologists say we first used the horse to draw carts; others say that in a leap of faith, someone trained a colt to tolerate a rider. The latter is probably correct. Studies of the teeth of horses found in what is now the Ukraine show that by 4200 B.C.E. horses wore bits and therefore must have been ridden. (David Anthony, Dimitri Y. Telegin, and Dorcas Brown, “The Origin of Horseback Riding,” Scientific American, December, 1991, 365:6, p. 94-100; David W. Anthony and Dorcas R. Brown, “The Origins of Horseback Riding,” Antiquity, 1991, ?Vol. 65, p. 246 ff.) The use of the horse to pull carts could not have come first, because the wheel was not invented until around 3500 to 3300 B.C.E. On the other hand, from around 5000 B.C.E., reindeer had been used in the Arctic to drag sleds. Perhaps horses were used to drag sleds before there were wheels. Further south, animals were first used for traction starting around 3500 B.C.E. The plow was invented around that time, and stronger but slower oxen (neutered bulls) were used instead of horses to pull plows and wagons. Unless wheels are attached to plows, horses can be used for plowing only where soils are light. The North American pioneers invaded the American West in wagons pulled by oxen which were low on speed but high on strength and endurance. (Robert L. O’Connell, Ride of the Second Horseman, 72; “Wheel,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1979 ed., Micropaedia, Vol. X, p. 643, “Draft Animals,” Vol. 5, Macropaedia, p. 970 ff.; Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 353 ff.)
Humans attached axe head to handle around 30,000 years ago, and invented the bow and arrow around the same time. At first bows were made solely of wood; the best were made of yew: It’s heartwood has strength and resists breaking; it’s external sapwood has flexibility and resists splitting. Out on the steppes there was no yew, and bows, made of inferior woods, had to be long and heavy. They were too big to use from horseback. So it was almost certainly out on the steppes that the composite bow was developed. “[T]he wood strip bears the principal shearing stress in the bent limb; the horn bears the compression, and the sinew layer the tension.” It was an enormously powerful weapon and light enough to be used from horseback. (Robert O’Connell, Ride of the Second Horseman, p. 79.; “Ax,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1979 ed., Macropaedia, Vol. 1, p. 688; “Archery,” Ibid., Vol. 1, Macropaedia, p. 1082 ff.)
The steppe pastoralists, long before the bronze age, developed “[d]aggers… of flint and bone, some as long as 56 cm, which were truly formidable weapons. Flint or quartzite blades were set into shafts of bone on two sides.” (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 354.)
With the development of carts, the tribes of the steppes spread out over the entire length of Asia, all the way to China. With the domestication of the camel around 3000 B.C.E., even the deserts of central Asia were inhabited or at least contested by one tribe or another. When droughts were severe, sheep and goats would die first, then cattle, and then horses. Pastoral tribes on horseback would be forced to move, to greener pastures.
An obvious problem arose as soon as the migrants reached the greener pastures: They were already occupied by some other tribe. Only a limited number of animals can graze on semiarid lands. Conflict was inevitable. One tribe would win and confiscate as many of the loser’s animals as possible. The defeated tribe would retreat with its few remaining animals, searching for other pastures to the south or west—into the Fertile Crescent and southeastern Europe.
Thus, it was around 5500 B.C.E. that Semitic, patriarchal shepherds on horseback invaded the Old Near East, forcing the walling of cities and initiating an era of generalized warfare. A similar Indo-European, Aryan patriarchal invasion reached southeastern Europe around 4300 B.C.E. What I will say below about Old Europe—which means Europe before the invasions of the Aryan patriarchs—will apply generally to the Old Near East, except that the transition occurred around a thousand years earlier in the Old Near East than in Old Europe.
By 5000 to 4000 B.C.E., North Africa, southern Europe, the Near East, and much of Asia were becoming much drier. The Sahara Forest and the Sahara Savanna, with their lakes and rivers, became the Sahara Desert, a process that was possibly hastened by animal herding.
One summer evening around 4300 B.C.E., in a town in Old Europe, in what is now Romania, men and women were sitting at a sidewalk cafe enjoying dinner and conversation. The sky was clear, but there was an odd, low rumble, like thunder in the distance. It grew louder and louder, like a stampede of wild aurochs. Into town suddenly rode hundreds of cowboys on horseback. They were Kurgans from southern Russia, all men, dressed in leather and skins. Some were armed with bows and arrows, some with flint sabers. There was fear in every heart. There was no communicating with these men. Their language was completely different.
The Kurgans entered the jewelry workshop, the temple, the market, and the sidewalk cafe, and slew all the men, all the women, all the old people, and all the boys. Those who tried to flee were pursued on horseback and killed with arrows or saber blows to the back of the head. The Kurgans spared only the virgin girls: They were smaller and more manageable than the others, and they could be made into breeding slaves. The Kurgans became the grandfathers of Europe; the surviving virgins its grandmothers.
My reconstruction of how it might have happened cannot be too far off. Gimbutas excavated one site in western Germany which contained 34 skeletons of murdered men, women and children. There were wounds in their skulls, typically in the back and in the top, as if they had been running away. (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 365.)
According to Eisler,
… [T]here now comes into play a new living war machine, the armed man on a horse—which in its time must have had the impact a tank or an airplane has among primitives in ours. And in the wake of the Kurgan devastation, we find their typical warrior-chieftain graves, with their human sacrifices of women and children, their animal sacrifices and their caches of weapons surrounding the dead chiefs. (The Chalice and the Blade, p. 49.)
The scene was repeated all across Old Europe by endless waves of invading tribes, through what is now Yugoslavia, Austria, Germany, up the Danube, down the Elbe and the Rhine, across the English Channel and as far west as Ireland. This was the first time that the people of Old Europe had seen anyone ride on horseback. The Kurgans were good at herding and slaughtering animals; this and their constant raids on other tribes of the steppes had prepared them to be effective invaders. The old civilizations of Europe and Asia were defenseless against them. The remnants that survived did so only by adopting the violent ways of the invaders. The peaceful values of Old Europe came to an end. There followed 6,000 years of Aryan kings constantly fighting among each other, with the farming and working people exterminated or enslaved.
Compare the two groups: On the one hand were the settled, village and city-dwelling, relatively vegetarian, goddess worshiping, and literate agriculturalists. They spoke non-Indo-European languages. On the other hand were the highly mobile, largely carnivorous, illiterate, mounted herders who spoke Vedic or some similar, early Indo-European language. They took what they wanted. They despised gentleness. For them might was right. To them conquest was noble. Fighting was recreation. These two societies had almost nothing in common. No compromise was possible.
There were Semitic patriarchs who conquered the Old Near East the way the Kurgans conquered Old Europe. One such patriarchal tribe was the pre-Hebrews:
And Moses was angry with the officers. Moses said to them, “Have you let all the women live? [They had already killed all the adult males.] Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves… . Now the booty… was:… thirty-two thousand persons in all, women who had not known man by lying with him. (Numbers 31:13-18, 32-35.)
I would rather not believe that Moses, Egyptian scholar, probable follower of the monothiest Akhenaton, Hebrew law giver, and Judaism’s greatest prophet, would have ordered such ethnic cleansing, rape, and child abuse. I will point out below that Moses tried to reinstitute vegetarianism among the Israelites. Perhaps some earlier Semitic ancestor of the Hebrews had done such things years before, and perhaps later patriarchal editors attributed them to Moses. Bear in mind that the book of Numbers was compiled and edited long after the events reported in it. (The Clementine Homilies, Roberts and Donaldson, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 3:47, p. 247.) This story of ethnic cleansing may have been wishful thinking on the part of later editors of the legends, ultranationalists who wanted rulers of their own day to exterminate or expel all non-Israelites from Palestine.
Although it may not be correct to attribute this incident to Moses, its presence in the Old Testament shows two things: that such behavior was a common practice in the Near East, and that there is at least some validity to my theory, discussed below, that the Hebrews represent a mixture of patriarchal and goddess cultures. Read the book of I Samuel, and you will see that King David practiced ethnic cleansing of the modern Bosnian type. What did “Moses” do with the 32,000 girls captured? His men took them as slave wives and had children with them.
There were relatively few Kurgan invaders, and they needed slaves to work for them, so sometimes they merely enslaved and did not kill the Old Europeans. According to Eisler, “[j]udging from the archaeological evidence, the beginning of slavery seems to be closely linked to these armed invasions.” (Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade—Our History, Our Future, p. 49.)
Some indigenous tribes were able to escape and survive in remote areas, but gradually the new rulers subjugated all the original Old Europeans, except for the Basques and Etruscans, who alone of all the original pre-Indo-European tribes were able to retain their language and culture. The Etruscans later were absorbed by the Romans, among the most vicious of the Aryans. (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 389.) Gradually the Kurgans learned that sedentary life was a lot more comfortable than ceaseless migratory herding and pillaging. Most settled down, intermarried with their slaves, formed mixed societies, built fortifications, and enjoyed the fruits of Old Europe. They formed a fairly homogenous culture that later evolved into what we loosely refer to as Celtic, and it stretched from Eastern Europe all the way to the British Isles.
The Kurgans came in three major waves, first around 4300 B.C.E., then around 3500 B.C.E., and finally around 2900 B.C.E. The third wave was the most devastating, extending into the Adriatic and Greece, into western and northern Europe, and into Finland and Sweden. It represents the “… final Indo-Europeanization of Europe.” There were later waves, not of Kurgans coming out of the Caucasus, but of Kurgans already in Europe making further advances to the south, west, and north. (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 384 ff., 390.)
Agricultural practices changed. “There was a considerable increase in husbandry over tillage.”… “Pastoralism and seminomadism increased and tillage decreased.” (Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 365, 400.) What had been a predominately plant-based diet became predominantly meat-based.
The world of Old Europe was turned upside down. Where there had been culture, education, literacy, medicine, equality, and the rule of law, there was now rule by the most skilled rider, archer, and swordsman. Artistic traditions were disrupted. Women, who had been the owners of property, themselves became property, slaves forced to rear the next generation of warriors. Priestess-midwives were systematically exterminated. (Exodus 22:18.) Legends were changed to celebrate the sun god and the bull storm god. The languages and cultures of Old Europe were destroyed. With them perished a history we need to know but probably never will.
Herbal medicine had been well developed in Old Europe. (Marija Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess, p. 134.) One of the symbols of the female goddess was the healing serpent coiled around a cross, today known as the caduceus. Moses once employed it as a healing symbol (Numbers 21:8, 2 Kings 18:4)—another piece of evidence which would support the theory that the Hebrew tribes were a blend of Goddess and patriarchal cultures, in which the dominant patriarchs selectively adopted ideas from the mother religion. The caduceus was later the symbol of Hippocrates, the Pythagorean, and it remains the symbol of physicians to this day.
According to Eisler and Gimbutas, the prevailing paradigm changed from one of partnership between men and women to one of domination by men over women and the strong over the weak. Such rule by force is the antithesis of law. In a society of laws a woman might rule despite her lesser stature, because law and not strength is the ultimate authority. The modern symbol of justice is a blindfolded woman holding the scales of justice. The word “law” is of feminine form in many languages—Latin, Italian, French, and Hebrew, although not in German, Hungarian, or Russian.
Our Indo-European grandfathers left no written history. Their legacy is slavery, child abuse, the sujugation of women, warfare, horseback riding, horse and cattle herding, the composite bow, and the composite flint-bone dagger. We can identify the areas of Europe and Asia they conquered simply by drawing a map of those huge areas where language is derived from Indo-European root languages. This area extends from India in the east to Ireland in the west.
Linguists offer various theories of masculine, feminine, and neuter noun forms as well as different verb forms. I propose there are different genders and conjugations because different languages merged, from patriarchal and matristic civilizations, with nouns and verbs from each language retaining their original declensions and conjugations.
Subsequent Aryan history has been one long, bloody succession of patriarchal wars, with aggressive and suspicious Aryan tribes or nations attacking each other: the Celts, the Dorians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Sythians, the Romans, the Huns, the Goths, the Vandals, the Visigoths, the Norse, the Rus, the Normans, the Danes, the French, the Spanish, the Angles, the Saxons, the British, the Russians, the Germans, the Unitedstatesians, and so on. All these are successors of the Aryans. Recent wars are echoes of the wars of the original Aryan invasions of over 6,000 years ago. The cycle of violence has thus far been impossible to stop.
Aryan history is covered well enough in the history books, and so I will skip to 1492, when Spanish conquistadors, descendants of the Aryan Visigoths invaded the New World and made genocidal war on its inhabitants. Columbus enslaved the Arawak tribe of Haiti and impressed native girls to be prostitutes for his sailors. In a few decades every last native of Haiti was dead. The Spanish were followed in the Americas and on other continents by the Aryan English, French, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Russians, and Italians. I am amazed that we continue to celebrate Columbus Day in the United States and that the Catholic Church has not changed the name of its Knights of Columbus fraternal organization.
However, times are changing. The most significant theme in modern history is the gradual demise of the dominator culture of the patriarchal invaders and the resurgence of a partnership culture where the rule of law prevails, where slavery is illegal, where women have equal rights with men, and were children have the right not to be abused.
We are gradually recovering the balance of Old Europe, however, this positive change takes place alongside population explosion, environmental devastation, a form of capitalism that seems to know no limits, reckless experimentation with new life forms, and the development of the technology of warfare to frightening proportions.
It remains to be seen which tendency will win out: Will Old Europe’s matristic tendency and the rule of law prevail over the patriarchal tendency towards rule by force? Will we will civilize the world before we destroy it?
Who were our Kurgan, Indo-European speaking, Aryan ancestors, and what motivated them to be so destructive? They were one of the most successful of the mounted, cattle- and horse-herding tribes of the steppes of south central Asia. Probably they moved west and south because droughts dried up their grazing lands. Probably their own overgrazing of the steppes contributed to the droughts and a permanent and generalized desertification of their lands.
If there is such a thing as a heretical religion, theirs was heretical. In one of their myths, the hero Trito, is assisted by the bull and storm god in his theft of the serpent’s cattle. Recall that the serpent was the healing symbol of the goddess peoples. The Kurgans believed that they had a religious obligation to reenact this myth, and so they went forth in all directions to steal all the cattle they could, along with the land to pasture them and the slaves to do the hard labor. The warriors stole the cattle. The priests had exclusive rights to sacrifice them, bless the ritual, and take their percentage. The Sanskrit word for battle, gavisti, means “desire for cattle.” (Bruce Lincoln, Priests, Warriors, and Cattle, p. 101, 131; Norman O. Brown, Hermes the Thief, the Evolution of a Myth, p. 5.)
The adversary in Kurgan myth, just as in the Hebrew Bible, was the serpent, one of the symbols of the woman-centered religion of the peaceful farmer folk of Old Europe and the Near East. (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 342.) I speculate that the Kurgans had some deep-seated hatred for the people of the south. Perhaps the ancestors of the Kurgans had come from the south hundreds or thousands of years before. Perhaps their ancestors had been shepherds in the south, and had been forced to pasture their herds further and further away from cities and farming areas until they were forced out entirely. Perhaps this happened as sea levels rose after the end of the last Ice Age epoch. Perhaps the farmers of the south had considered them inferior. Perhaps the Kurgans remembered some such grievance at a deep level.
Henry Bailey Stevens suggested that animal were first domesticated in the south. First, dogs and cats were domesticated to protect the food supply from rodents and other animals. Later, he suggests, southerners kept a few grazing animals, doing so only on a small scale that was integrated with plant agriculture. The northerners had been hunting animals out on the steppes. Sometimes hunting was not good, and the northerners would have died out had they not learned herding from the southerners. For southerners animal husbandry remained small scale; for northerners it became the dominant life style. (Henry Bailey Stevens, The Recovery of Culture, p. 90.)
The way Kurgans buried their dead confirms their warrior orientation:
Their graves were almost exclusively for male burials, a distinct contrast to the even ratio of male-female burials in contemporary Old European cemeteries. In contrast to the simple pit graves of Old Europe, the Kurgan tombs were cairn- or earth-covered and were reserved for the warrior elite with their favorite war gear, the spear, bow and arrow, and flint dagger or long knife.
From graves that include both warrior and woman, Gimbutas concludes that the Kurgans practiced “suttee or sacrifice of the female consort or wife.” (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 361.) Gimbutas was the first to call this tribe “Kurgan.” She took the word from the Turkish and Russian word “kurgan,” which means “barrow,” which is a mound grave. (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 352.)
Kurgans built their settlements on hill tops and then surrounded them with wooden palisades. They practiced animal, human, and child sacrifice. (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 364, 373, 375.)
After 2000 B.C.E., powerful Aryan tribes of semi-nomadic cattle herder-farmers, descendants of the Kurgans, invaded first Persia and later India. The Aryans established the religion of Ahura Mazda, which later became the Zoroastrian religion of Persia. Later they established the Brahman religion of India. These two religions are similar in many ways.
There was little recorded Indian history before Alexander the Great reached India in the 4th Century B.C.E. Alexander asked to meet the gymnosophoi, naked “sky-clad” philosophers, but they demanded he remove his armor first. They spoke fearlessly to him of the pointlessness of his conquests. Perhaps it was no coincidence that at this time Alexander’s men refused to fight and insisted on returning to Greece. Alexander died shortly thereafter.
There were two broad groups of Indians, first, the dark-skinned, indigenous Shramana or Dravidians, and second, the lighter skinned Aryan, Indo-European speaking Brahmans, who had invaded India and subjugated the Shramana. Out of the Shramana tradition developed the Jain religion and later Buddhism.
The Jains’ central teaching was and remains ahimsa, non-injury to all living creatures. They divided everything into life and nonlife and regarded all forms of life as equal. The devout are so strict that they wear scarves over their faces when there are insects in the air to avoid inhaling them. They sometimes use a broom to sweep the path ahead of them lest they step on them. They strain water before drinking it to avoid drinking tiny insects, and they do not eat after dark lest they accidentally eat the insects their lamps attract. They refuse to eat root vegetables because insects live in the ground around the roots. So as not to kill animal life, they avoid professions such as agriculture, and they instead have become prosperous merchants and professionals. Hindus expelled the Buddhists but allowed the Jains to stay and even intermarry with them. Even today, wealthy Jains maintain “retirement homes” for aged cattle and other animals.
The Jains claim that from time immemorial their Shramana predecessors had been vegetarians. Mahavira, the founder of the modern Jain religion in the Sixth Century, B.C.E., is said to have been the 24th incarnation of their Tirthankara. The 23rd Tirthankara was Parshwa, who lived in the Ninth Century B.C.E. and was probably a historical person and not mere legend. Perhaps most of the other Tirthankara were legendary, however, the legend at least emphasizes the Jain conviction that the Shramana custom not to harm any animal life or eat meat was ancient. (“Jainism,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1979 ed., Macropaedia, 10:8; Rynn Berry, Famous Vegetarians and their Favorite Recipes, p. 21-27.)
The goddess tradition has always been strong in India:
In the Indian religious tradition from the very beginning the divine reality is conceived of as both Man and Woman… . The divine essence is both Father and Mother, namely, the two Universal Parents who vitalise each other and become the progenitors of all living beings and the universe. (Vasudera S. Agrawala, The Glorification of the Great Goddess, p. i.)
There is archeological evidence that the indigenous people of India hunted and domesticated animals. There are animal bones in their town dumps, so presumably they ate animals. However, it appears that in Kashmir, cattle were not domesticated. (“History of the Indian Subcontinent,” Encyclopedia Britannica, 1979 ed., Macropaedia, 9, p. 338.) Perhaps some of the indigenous people of Kashmir and other parts of India were vegetarian.
The Aryan Brahman invaders initially sacrificed and ate meat on a grand scale, and this appears in the Rg Veda, their oldest holy book. Like the Hebrew Levites and the Celtic Druids, the Brahmans held a monopoly on the sacrificing of animals. Probably they donated or sold meat to the peasants. The Brahman caste of priests was supreme over the other three classes and was served by them—the Kshatria caste of warriors, the Vaisya caste of tradesmen, and the Sudra caste of farmers and laborers. Below the Sudras were the untouchables, who were not even regarded as a caste. The first three castes were of Aryan descent, while the Sudras and the untouchables were made up of the conquered, indigenous populations.
Population growth was rapid following the Aryan invasions. Forests were cut down, and arable land was usurped for cattle ranching. Indigenous peasants were left with ever smaller farms. They could not afford to kill and eat their few cattle, which were much too valuable for pulling plows and producing milk, butter, and manure. The peasants rejected eating cattle.
In response to the Buddhists and the Jains, the Brahmans renounced the eating of all meats in the 6th Century B.C.E. The other castes renounced beef eating, but continued to eat the meat of other animals. (Marvin Harris, Cannibals and Kings, p. 214.)
Indian peasants were confined in a rigid caste system that offered them no escape. Once poor people married and had children, they were trapped in a life of constant labor and poverty and could only offer the same to their descendants. One option that Brahmanism did allow was the path of asceticism and celibacy. This became a way out of poverty and at the same time a way of slowing the Indian population explosion.
Gautama Buddha (557-477 B.C.E.) was a contemporary of Mahavira. They were from the same part of India and they both spoke the Magdhi language. Perhaps they met at some point. The Buddha followed the Jain path for many years. However, after fasting to the point where he was skin and bones, he decided the Jain path was too rigorous, and he created a “middle way,” which was still vegetarian and still a path of meditation, renunciation, and asceticism, but which dispensed with ultra-strict Jain rules, for example, those which called for severe fasting and rigorously avoiding harming insects.
Most historians say that Buddhism and Jainism grew out of Brahmanism, however, my theory is that Buddhism grew out of Jainism, while Jainism grew out of the indigenous Shramana tradition. This is true despite the fact that both Buddha and Mahavira were of the Hindu Kshatria or warrior caste, the caste immediately below Brahman, and thus were of Aryan descent. They were intellectual but not biological descendants of the original Dravidian Shramana.
Buddhism grew rapidly after King Asoka in 256 B.C.E. made it the state religion. Buddhism championed equality and opposed the class system. It taught nonviolence and pacifism, reincarnation, respect for women, renunciation of materialism, separation of church and state, and an optional celibacy. Asoka sent missionaries west as far as Greece, Egypt, and Israel and as far east as Southeast Asia and China.
If the Buddha wrote, his writings did not survive, and his followers split into two broad division, the Theravada who followed the tradition of the Shramana and refused to eat meat, and the Mahayana, who held that one could eat meat if someone else killed the animal and if the one eating the meat believed that the meat came from an animal that was not killed specially to provide him a meal.
Buddhist scholars of the Theravada tradition contend that Gautama Buddha followed Shramana tradition and held to a strict vegetarianism. They point out that he spoke and perhaps wrote in the Magdhi language, whereas the oldest Mahayana writings in which the Gautama allegedly authorized the eating of meat—if someone else had killed the animal, and if it was not killed specifically to provide him a meal—were written in the Pali language of the early Mahayana sect. (Roshi Philip Kapleau, To Cherish All Life: A Buddhist Case for Becoming Vegetarian, p. 29 ff.)
Buddhists are not vegetarians for health reasons but for ethical reasons, for reasons of taboo, and because of their belief in reincarnation.
The Brahmans, faced with the growing popularity of Buddhism and Jainism, adopted some of their principles. The resulting synthesis was what we know today as Hinduism. Brahmanic literature extols the sacrificing of animals and the eating of meat, because the predecessors of today’s Brahmans were serious beef eaters, while today’s Brahman sect of Hinduism is strictly lacto-vegetarian.
While the caste system of Brahmanism survived in Hinduism, including its ruthless oppression of women, Hinduism did become more environmentally sound. In Hindu culture the cow and ox (a neutered bull) are revered and worshiped as humanity’s best friend, plowing, and clearing weeds and stubble. They provide dung which is useful as fertilizer and fuel. Cows are a source of milk and butter. When they die a natural death, their bodies are taken away to rendering plants and turned into leather and other goods. There are tens of millions of gaunt cattle roaming the streets and fields of India. (Martin A. Larson, The Religion of the Occident, 107 ff.; Marvin Harris, Cannibals and Kings, 211 ff.; and Jeremy Rifkin, Beyond Beef, 30-39.)
While observant Brahman Hindus are strictly lacto-vegetarian, Hindus of lower castes eat mostly vegetables but will eat any kind of flesh they can afford except for beef. They reject beef because there is a strong Hindu taboo against eating the meat of their friend the cow. However, respect for cattle is not complete; some Hindus will starve cattle to death once they are old and useless, and some will sell their cattle to Moslems or Christians, who in turn will sell them to the slaughter house.
Mohandas Gandhi was a strict lacto-vegetarian. He taught ahimsa and influenced millions of Indians to give up the eating of all meats. Later in life he said he deeply regretted that he had not eschewed the consumption of milk. Gandhi encouraged cultivation of flax, saying that wherever it grew, people were healthier and more prosperous. Flax not only contains essential fatty acids, it is also good for making clothing, paint, and lubricating oils.