Myths about sexuality

                          MASCULINE AND FEMININE MYTHOLOGY
                       (from the Usenet international network)

In _The Origin of the Idea of God_, Father W. Schmidt and his colleagues have
found it necessary to distinguish three basic types or stages of primitive
society.  The first is that of the simplest peoples knowd to the science of
ethnology:  the little Yahgans (or Yamana) of the southernmost channels and
coves of rugged Tierra del Fuago, an number of extremely primitive, scattered
tribes of Patagonia and Central California, the Caribou Eskimo of northern
Canada, the Pygmies of the Congo and of the Andaman Islands, and the Kurnai of
Southeastern Australia.

The ethnological curcumstances of these humble hunting, fishing, and
collecting peoples do not give rise to either a strong patriarchal or a strong
matriarchal emphasis; rather, and essential equality prevails between the sexes,
each performing its appropriate tasks without arrogating to itself any
special privileges or peculiar rights to command.  The ceremonies of
initiation at puberty are not confined to the boys and men, nor separated into
male and female rites, but are nearly identical for the two sexes.  Nor do the
rites involve any physical deformation or the communication of mystical
secrets.  They are simply concentrated courses of education for adolescents,
to the end of making good fathers and mothers of the initiates.  Special
tribal or group interests do not stand in the foreground of the teaching,
since the tribal feeling in such groups is not greatly developed--the typical
social unit being merely a cluster of twenty to forty parents and children,
whose main social problem is hardly more than that of living harmoniously
together, gathering food enough to eat during the day, and inventing pleasant
games to play together after dark.


The second stage or type of primitive society recognized by this
culture-historical school of ethnology is that of the large, totemistic
hunting groups, with their elaborately developed clan systems, age classes,
and tribal traditions of ritual and myth.  Examples of such peoples are
abundant on the plains of North America and the pampas of South America, as
well as in the deserts of Australia.  Their rites of initiation are secret.
Women are excluded; physical mutilations and ordeals are carried sometimes to
almost incredible extremes, and they culminate generally in circumcision.
Moreover, there is considerable emphasis placed on the role and authority of
the men, both in the religious and in the political organization of the
symbolically articulated community.  Not infrequently, the circumcision of the
boys is matched by comparable operations on the girls (artificial or
ceremonial defloration, enlargement of the vagina, removal of the labia
minora, partial or complete clitoridectomy, etc.), but in such cases the two
systems of ceremonial--the male and the female--are kept separate, and the
women do not gain through their rites any social advantage over the men.  On
the contrary, there is a distinct one-sidedness in favor of the male in these
highly organized hunting societies, the influence of the women being
confined--when it exists at all--to the domestic sphere.

The ledgend of the lodge (Hain) of the men's secret society:

"In the days when all the forest was evergreen, before 'Kerrhprrh' the
parakeet painted the autumn leaves red with the color from his breast, before
the giants 'Kwonyipe' and 'Chashkilchesh' wandered through the woods with
their heads above the tree-tops; in the days when 'Krren' (the sun) and
'Kreeh' (the moon) walked the earth as man and wife, and many of the great
sleeping mountains were human beings:  in those far-off days witchcraft was
known only to the women of Ona-land.  They kept their own particular Lodge,
which no man dared approach.  The girls, as they neared womanhood, were
instructed in the magic arts, learning how to bring sickness and even death to
all those who displeased them.

"The men lived in abject fear and subjection.  Certainly they had bows and
arrows with which to supply the camp with meat, yet, they asked, what use were
such weapons against witchcraft and sickness?  This tyranny of the women grew
from bad to worse until it occurred to the men that a dead witch was less
dangerous than a live one.  They conspired together to kill off all the women;
and there ensued a great massacre, from which not one woman escaped in human
form.

"Even the young girls only just beginning their studies in witchcraft were
killed with the rest, so the men now found themselves without wives.  For
these they must wait until the little girls grew into women.  Meanwhile the
great question arose:  How could men keep the upper hand now they had got it?
One day, when these girl children reached maturity, they might band together
and regain their old ascendancy.  To forestall this, the men inaugurated a
secret society of their own and banished for ever the women's Lodge in which
so many wicked plots had been hatched against them.  No woman was allowed to
come near the 'Hain,' under penalty of death.  To make quite certain that this
decree was respected by their womenfolk, the men invented a new branch of Ona
demonology: a collection of strange beings--drawn partly from their own
imaginations and partly from folk-lore and ancient legends--who would take
visible shape by being impersonated by members of the Lodge and thus scare the
women away from the secret councils of the 'Hain.'  It was given out that
these creatures hated women, but were well-disposed towards men, even
supplying them with mysterious food during the often protracted proceedings of
the Lodge.  Sometimes, however, these beings were short-tempered and hasty.
Their irritability was manifested to the women of the encampment by the shouts
and uncanny cries arising from the 'Hain,' and, it might be, the scratched
faces and bleeding noses with which the men returned home when some especially
exciting session was over."

[Descriptions of the various monsters deleted.]


The mythological 'apologia' offered by the men of the Ona tribe for their
outrageous lodge was marvelously close, as the reader may have noted, to that
attributed to Adam by the patriarchal Hebrews in their Book of Genesis;
namely, that if he had sinned, it was the woman who had done so first.  And
the angry Lord of Israel--conceived in a purely masculine form--is supposed to
have allowed a certain value to this excuse; for he then promptly made the
whole race of woman subject to the male.  "I will greatly multiply your pain
in childbearing," the Lord God is declared to have announced; "in pain you
shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he
shall rule over you."

A very different course of development is to be traced, however, in the
sphere of the tropical grdening cultures, where a third type or stage of
social organization matured that was almost completely antithetical to that of
the hunting peoples.  For in these areas it was the women, not the men, who
enjoyed the magico-religious and social advantage, they having been the ones
to effect the transition from plant-colletors of roots, berries, grubs of
various kinds, frogs, lizards, bugs, and other delicacies.  Societies of the
second type evolved in areas where an abundance of large game occasioned a
herculean development of the dangerous art of the hunt;  while those of type
three took form where the chief sources of nutriment were the plants.  Here it
was the women who showed themselves supreme: they were not only the bearers of
children but also the chief producers of food.  By realizing that it was
possible to cultivate, as well as to gather, vegetables, they had made the
earth valuable and they became, consequently, its possessors.  Thus they won
both economic and social power and prestige, and the complex of the matriarchy
took form.

Said an Abyssinian woman:

"How can a man know what a woman's life is?  A womans life is quite different
from a man's.  God has ordered it so.  A man is the same from the time of his
circumcision to the time of his withering.  He is the same before he has sought
out a woman for the first time, and afterwards.  But the day when a woman enjoys
her first love cuts her in two.  She becomes another woman on that day.  The man
is the same after his first love as he was before.  The woman is from the day of
her first love another.  That continues so all through life.  The man spends a
night by a woman and goes away.  His life and body are always the same.  The
woman conceives.  As a mother she is another person than the woman without
child.  She carries the print of the night nine months long in her body.
Something grows.  Something grows into her life that never again departs from
it.  She is a mother.  She is and remains a mother even though her child die,
though all her children die.  For at one time she carried the child under her
heart.  And it does not go out of her heart ever again.  Not even when it is
dead.  And this the man does not know; he knows nothing.  He does not know the
difference before love and after love, before motherhood and after motherhood.
He can know nothing.  Only a woman can know that and speak of that.  That is
why we won't be told what to do by our husbands.  A woman can only do one thing.
She can respect herself.  She can keep herself decent.  She must always be as
her nature is.  She must always be maiden and always be mother.  Before every
love she is a maiden, after every love she is a mother.  In this you can see
whether she is a good woman or not."

The men, in societies of this third type, were within one jot of being
completely superfluous, and if, as some authorities claim, they can have had no
knowledge of the relationship of the sexual act to pregnancy and birth, we
may well imagine the utter abyss of their inferiority complex.  Small wonder,
furthermore, if, in reaction, their revengeful imaginations ran amok and
developed secret lodges and societies, the mysteries and terrors of which were
directed primarily against the women!

"The men's festivals not only were addressed to an ignoble, immoral aim, but
strove for it through ignoble and immoral means.  The aim was to undo the
harmonious state of equal privilege and mutual reliance of the two sexes that
originally had prevailed in their simple society, supported by economic
circumstance, and to establish through intimidation and the subjection of the
women, a cruel ascendancy of the males."


It is surely in the interplay and mutual spiritual fertilization of the sexes,
no less than in the lessons learned of the animal, plant, and celestial
kingdoms of the gods or in the profundities of the shamanistic trance
experience, that the motivations of the metamorphoses of myth are to be
sought.

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_The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology_ but not nececerily in the same order
I presented it.

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Let us say, then, to summarize, that a mythology is an organization of images
conceived as a rendition of the sense of life, and that this sense is to be
apprehended in two ways, namely: 1) the way of thought, and 2) the way of
experience.  As thought mythology approaches -or is a primitive prelude to-
science; and as experience it is precisely art.  -  Joseph Campbell
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