few lines wouldn’t mind to be the nth elegy to the “eternal feminine”, a concept
fathered by Goethe who introduces it at the end of
Part II, who said: "The eternal feminine attracts us
to the highest", who reduced it to a gateway of salvation, a way of redemption
from suffering and evil. This expression has been coined to point out the
eternal, unchangeable features of feminine appeal. Femininity intended as the
wholeness of feminine qualities and skills, of the characteristics that mark
behaviors, attitude and intimate
soul of women. The eternal feminine is shortly the essential and eternal
principle of femininity. In
the light of it, we can note how exceptional women keep on marking our history
representing an bright expression of fulfilled femininity. A femininity that has
not hindered them from carrying out political, social, ecclesial and spiritual
roles of the first order. According to what nowadays Pope John Paul II has
is Father, and even more, He is Mother”, showing off the “Maternal face of God”
and stressing the importance of women in present day society. The eternal
feminine is what lends to the spirituality a compelling sense of poetry, magic,
enchantment, transfiguration and mystery. Jesus was born from a woman of this
Earth, Virgin Mary, “the Quintessential Woman". Also women were the greatest
antiquity goddesses. We couldn’t remember the creating and generating power
represented by Venus. And again the Ancient Greeks understood the fundamental
role played by women on our unconsciousness. This myth has many faces: the
sanctity of the mother, the purity of a virgin, the fecundity of the earth and
is the right key to interpret the matriarchal system of Iroquois social
organization. Peoples are generated by the creative power of Mother Earth, as
recounted in the Creation story, and that sees in every woman a source of life,
fertility and prosperity. They are the symbolic depositaries of the copious gift
allowed by Mother Nature to feed and to develop their population. Iroquois woman
is the Personification of Life and she represents the propellant power that
makes everything in society work well and in harmony. Most of Iroquois
ceremonies are to give thanks to the fertility of the earth, especially for
crops, which are women's main concern. The three main crops grown by the women
are corn, beans, and squash which are referred to as the "Three Sisters," "Our
Mothers," and "Our Supporters." These "Three Sisters" are revered among the
Iroquois, along with the female abilities of food provision and procreation.
Iroquois woman, in fact, has a predominant role both in public and private
realms. She’s an active agent, not a passive victim, kinship was traced through
the female line, children were raised and, sometimes adopted by women, they own
the land, the crops and the longhouses. They enjoy more privileges and greater
freedom in comparison to other American Indian women mainly because of the great
importance agriculture have in their economy. Not less important are the
decision-making and counselling powers accorded to them by The Great Peace of
Law, that considers them as “Progenitors of the Nations”, in the political
organization and in war strategy.
political powers are essentially based on the economy, since they control the
fields and the agricultural production, and it is an important part to
understand how Iroquois defined democracy: in order to be equal, one had to have
a stake in society.
They are pivotal political actors. The gantowisas enjoy sweeping political
powers, which range from the administrative and legislative to judicial. The
gantowisas run the local clan councils. They hold all the lineage wampum,
nominations belt and titles. They run funerals, retain exclusive rights over
naming, nominate all male sachems as well as Clan Mothers to office and retain
the power to impeach wrongdoers. They appoint warriors, declare wars, negotiate
peace and mediate disputes. The gantowisas speak regularly at men’s councils
through their official. It is women and women only that could nominate men and
women to office. In administering political affairs, they use white wampum that
symbolize peace and justice, the women’s gendered purview.
Women hold property and hereditary leadership passed
through their lines. They hold dwellings, horses and farmed land and a woman's
property before marriage stay in her possession without being mixed with that of
her husband. They have separate roles but real power in the nations.
starting where our feet are placed-on Mother Earth, the purpose of The Great Law
of Peace is to help us remember the natural laws of creation, according which
is the necessary precondition for material creation, and she, like all of her
creation, is fundamentally female. She’s the spirit that informs the right
balance, true harmony, and these in turn order all relationships in conformity
with her law. Beauty is wholeness. Health is wholeness. Goodness is wholeness
and they are symbolized in the sacred hoop, a female symbol. Life is a cycle and
everything has its place in it.
bears. Woman destroys. She also wars and hexes, mends and breaks. She brings
corn and agriculture, potting, weaving, social systems, religion, ceremony,
ritual, building, memory, intuition and their expressions in language,
creativity, dance, human-to-animal relations, and she gives these offerings
power and authority and blessed the people with the ability to provide for
themselves and their progeny. She’s the only creator of thought and thought
precedes creation. An American Indian woman is primarily defined by her tribal
identity. In her eyes, her destiny is necessarily that of her people, and her
sense of herself as a woman is first and foremost prescribed by her tribe.
maintains peace and harmony among the people of the band, village or tribe, she
presides over relations with other tribes and officiate over events that take
people away from the village. She is Thought, Memory, Instinct, Tradition, and
Medicine or Sacred Power; she is ritual, ceremony, food and shelter.
gantowisas are central to all spiritual endeavours: they maintain pivotal
medicine societies. Women’s medicine society are formed around these activities,
particularly “The Society of Sisters”, whose ceremonial dances allowed the
gantowisas to address and thank the sustaining spirits of the Three Sisters.
the power of woman is the center of the universe and is both earth (womb) and
thought (creativity), is the power of corn that holds the thought of the All
Power (deity) and connects the people to the power through the earth of Earth
Woman. She is the breath of life because she’s sacred. Her flesh and bones are
capable of generating life; because she is embued with power, she can share it
with human beings. Another important point is that the love of the first mother
carries several significances. The love of a mother is not a reference to
sentimental attachment. It’s a way of saying that a mother is bonded to her
offspring through her womb. Earth often means womb, except when it means vulva.
But this cannot be understood to mean sex as sex; rather, sexual connection with
woman means sexual connection with the womb, which is the container of power
that women carry within their bodies.
Menstruating women are not allowed among warriors getting ready for battle, or
those who have been wounded, because women are perceived to be possessed of a
singular power, most vital during menstruation, puberty, and pregnancy, that
weakens men’s power –physical, spiritual, or magical. Menstruation was
something sacred and a girl’s first period was greeted by celebration.
Menstruation had a strange power that could bring harm under certain
circumstances. Moreover, lesbians as well as homosexuality,
generally speaking, is as accepted as heterosexuality.
are considered the life givers, even if
control over conception and births in the name of the autonomy of their bodies
are admitted especially if they cannot support children comfortably, in respect
of a deep sense of community. The Iroquoian pedagogy is founded on peace and
harmony and on the exercise of moral virtues. No violence is allowed, being
considered sufficient the critical judgement of the tribe whose ethics is based
on the principle of living in peace and harmony.
life in the
harvest the crops and lead
the Iroquoian economy, not just through their ultimate legal ownership of the
means of all production (Mother Earth) but above all through their sole tight to
keep and distribute Her bounty.
was reinforced the image of “unjust drudgery” supposedly imposed upon Native
women by “barbarous” Native men. “In the nineteenth century the Quakers tried to
save the women from the fields but with shaky results, as the best-laid plans of
mice and Quakers came to nought. But the gantowisas refused to quit farming and
displayed a complete lack of interest in such home arts as spinning, knitting
and soap-making – except as entrepreneurial ventures. Even if accused of
drudgery, the gantowisas has always had a lot of free time and amused themselves
–going to dances and feasts, chatting and killing time, and doing just what they
like with their leisure. “Nothing was more real than woman’s superiority”.
The Gantowisas would hardly submit to be loaded with unjust or unequal burdens.
Iroquoian economic system is a spiritual one and sharing and cooperation are
paramount social values. The gantowisas own the means of production, plus all
products; they manage production for abundance; they achieve breath-taking
levels of plenty; they conserve the entire community and they maintain enough
surplus to nurture international alliances based on foreign distribution of
“gifts”. Progenitors of the Nations, they shall own the land and the soil. They
are Keepers of Mother Earth, not Her grasping overlords. What they hold is a
sacred trust, not an exploitative right. Balance not extraction is their must.
Earth was created for a woman, Sky woman. The Earth was a woman, the Lynx. Women
have the sacred right to bring forth new life from the Womb of Mother Earth –
i.e., the farm. The fertility of Mother Earth was thus seen as one of a thread
with that of gantowisas. It was especially invoked on nights of Full Moon, when
GrandMother Moon – Sky Woman- smiled down from space upon the reclining form of
her beloved daughter, the Earth.
Idolatry of woman, thus, as astonishingly depicted by Cezanne (“The Eternal
Feminine”, 1877 – Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA,) an exceptional figure shown in
his nudity, as a gravitational point of attraction, surrounded by men, priests,
generals, a child, oldsters, workers and judges, even not exempt from a sexual
desire that makes her look bloody in her eyes. Woman as mother of complexity and
different aspects of reality, that by her inner peace-making attitudes,
harbingers of harmony, melt them together and let them coexist in the dynamic
rhythms and cycles of life. Far from being the man-killer praying mantis, as a
culture resonated in US, according which women kill the spirits of their male
mates, Iroquois culture is the dream comes true of many feminists battles who
lamented a chauvinistic mentality and claimed to upset an imbalanced way of
living imposed for centuries by the predominance of a patriarchal hegemony.
Iroquois culture overturns a dead-end way of thinking, founded in man’s
subjectivity rather than objectivity and who doesn’t accept what Simone de
Beauvoir called in her “The Second Sex” The Other, that is the Woman, that is
not inessential but fundamental as source of life, productive not only
reproductive, a womb for her men but from which springs out life, continuity,
cyclicity. A woman who is immanent but not static, introspective but who can
project her inner qualities in a real concretization on their communal life, who
rejects the passive role of “angel of the earth” behind a dictatorial
men-dominated scene, secluded in the closed-off realm of a domestic life. As
Simone de Beauvoir affirmed “man learn his power”, a power that instead
naturally belongs to women, a power which is displayed and manifested itself in
a swinging “waving” dance on a polyphonic choir of the cosmogonic elements, as a
routinary never-ending turning around of a carillon, which is our existence,
that is not the eternal return to the same asserted by Nietzsche, whose opinion
was that God is dead and who conceives the Eternal Feminine in the Will of
Power in the philosophy of opposing principles, but that is life coming from
woman, it is Beauty, Good and the True, the three Platonic ideals, that have
their counterparts in the following capacities of the soul: thinking, willing
and feeling, not just willing, as affirmed by Nietzsche, who believed thinking
and feeling stemmed from willing. The soul from the perspective of the Platonic
ideals is a multi-dimensional being connecting to the Reals through Ideals.
Nietzsche reduces soul to the dimension of a blind will.
we stressed, as Samuel Aun Weor did, the primogenial role of a Cosmic Mother,
which we see in the glow of the eyes of all the innumerable women of history,
who should love and in which we should figure out a mother, the living
representation of the Eternal Feminine Principle.
the consciousness of people were awakened, they would appreciate that being who
is the mother. We should thus remind more often ourselves what the Eternal
Feminine Principle is.
Therefore, in a matriarchal system, in which Mother Earth worship and the nature
play a fundamental role, at the basis of daily activities and development of
society were different values, such as collaboration and co-operation, replacing
domination and control, forgiveness, compassion, sensitivity, and the ability to
love and nurture life and one another were essential, women leaded the way
towards a quantum shift in consciousness that transforms divisive systems of
destruction into creative systems that served and sustained the sacred inherent
in all life.
social system inspired, then, contemporary democracies and feminist battles
during last centuries in Canada: first-wave feminism was oriented around the
station of middle - or upper-class white women and involved suffrage and
attempted to further combat social and cultural inequalities.
includes renewed campaigning for women's greater influence in politics.
For Iroquois women, who have
maintained many of their traditional ways despite two centuries of white
America's attempts to "civilize and Christianize" them, the concept of women's
"rights" actually has little meaning. It is simply their way of life molded upon
qualities such as sensitivity and an highly degree of collaboration and
diplomacy. Their egalitarian
relationships and their political authority are a reality feminists often
dreamed of. In facts, a feminist utopia would be the description of a
place where, emphasizing the differences between women and men, women's
positions are better than men's.
Notwithstanding with all these debates, we must say that even committed feminist
scholars knew little about contemporary Native American women and have a
tendency to miss the Native point and in their rush to demolish patriarchy don’t
hesitate to manipulate Native cultural truths, really oriented towards a
gendered and balanced society in which the role of women is prevailing in the
spiritual roots of its traditions but, in the matter of facts, is based on the
cooperation and communistic organization and has been subjected to different
attempts to be converted and reversed to a patriarchal system by the colonizers.
Anyway, this woman-centred tribal societies, in which matrilocalocality,
matrifocality, matrilinearity, maternal control of household goods and resources
has been proved by the colonizers who persecuted and hung women as witches or
delimiting them within the house. It was a simple way to keep under control the
feminine hemisphere which man considered “the other”, ”the unknown”, and thus
“the uncontrollable” he was afraid of. By hanging women or “keeping them
confined, barefoot and pregnant, powerless, silent and endlessly available.
the Iroquois were settled in reserves, in 1870, and subjected to European laws,
the influence of women declined, although it has never been completely
annihilated. Eventually many families’ve become patrilinear, with respect to
both name and inheritance. Iroquois men took English names or an English
translation of Iroquois names. This transition was formally defined in Canada by
the “Act of For The Gradual Enfranchisement Of Indians” of 1869. By this act if
an Indian woman marry a non- Indian men they became non- Indian, subjected to
their husband, as European women ere and lost their property rights. It became
suddenly clear that European and American wished to deal only with men, no more
with women. Furthermore, women gradually lost their power within the political
structure of Iroquois society. Despite all these impositions upon Iroquois to
change, on most reservations “two” separated communities have emerged: one
derived from Christianity/European ethics and the other from longhouses ethics.
Traditional or longhouses Iroquois have not completely accepted Canadian and
European values and their attempts of assimilation but rather have retained much
of their own culture owed to what has been described as a sort of “superiority
complex” . Thus, although an Iroquoian child inherits the surname of his father,
he may at the same time inherit the title of sachem through his mother.
Furthermore, it is evident by the resurgence of interest in traditional present
day Iroquois that the role of women will continue to be of significance.
Nowadays, local and provincial governments are more remote from Aboriginal
peoples, both physically and culturally, and tend to be less responsive to the
Aboriginal electorate than would their own governments exercising greater
responsibility for their own affairs. Greater recognition of indigenous legal
traditions could provide some counter-weight to a dominant bi-culturalism and
bi-elitism, as a matter of facts, that sometimes infects Canada’s policy,
internationally recognized, instead, as a culturally diverse nation that
emphasizes the concept of "The Mosaic". From this point of view any efforts
should be made in order to protect Iroquois identity in the diversity and to
prevent the risk of extinction and the lost of significance of their secular
traditions, not forgetting that they are the precursors of contemporary
democratic systems of law.
illustrated in Marget Atwood’s novel Lady Oracle, Canadian culture is
like a mirror that doesn’t enframe the image of the subject who is reflected in.
Marget Atwood disrupts the traditional role of the mirror. By transforming the
closed, static mirror into an open one, she disrupts the conventional duplicated
mirror image of the body as an object, splitting and facing itself, remarked by
Umberto Eco and Lacan philosophy that established by the division of the subject
the predominant phallus as signifier, and she overcomes it by displaying a
multiplicity of divisions and a complete fragmentation of the self. Her fluid
vision opens, spreads, flows over, and multiplies boundaries.
other country in the world, in fact, encompasses inhabitants from so many
different backgrounds who exhibit strong loyalty towards Canada, while still
preserving their cultural heritage. All this in contrast with U.S.A. ideal of
the "Melting Pot", which attempts to shape all of their citizens into a set mold
and tells immigrants that no matter who they have been in the past, upon landing
on American shores, they are Americans and are expected to adopt and follow the
American way and laws.
the Third epoch is believed not be concluded because the Handsome Lake code and
all the consequences brought by the colonization and the establishment of
contemporary capitalistic democracies must be balanced with feminine element.
Iroquois believe women will be the guardian of next generation.
- Andersen Wayne Andersen Wayne, “Cezanne and The Eternal
Feminine”, Cambridge University Press, 2004, p. 26
-Simone de Beauvoir, Le deuxième sexe, Gallimard, Paris, 1949
- LeClerc, undated, as cited in Vachon, Andrè, Eloquence Indienne.
Ottawa, Fides, coll. Classiques canadiens, 1968, p. 87-91
- M. Burke, The Canadian Identity and Multiculturalism, Ethic
Canadians: Culture and Education, ed. M.L. Kovaca, Regina, 1978, p.419
- Jessie Givner, Mirror Images in Margaret Atwood’s Lady Oracle,
Studies in Canadian Literature, 1989, pp.139-143