If Women Ruled the World – Is a Matriarchal Society the Solution?

If Women Ruled The World... Minoan_Queens_Fresco

By Steve Taylor Ph.D

Guest writer for Wake Up World

Is a matriarchal society the solution to our problems?

I’ve just returned from Crete, where I visited the ancient palace of Knossos, and the archaeological museum in Heraklion, where thousands of the artifacts and artworks of ancient Crete are displayed.

The most striking thing about the culture of ancient Crete (or Minoan culture, as it is often called) is how prominent women are. They are everywhere in Minoan artwork, on pottery, frescoes and figurines (small stone statues). They are shown as priestesses, goddesses, dancing and talking at social occasions, in beautiful dresses with their breasts on show. There is a striking fresco of a beautifully dressed woman surrounded by a group of half naked dancing men.

It is clear that –  as many archaeologists have agreed – this was a society in which women had very high status; at least as high as men.

Some archaeologists believe that the Minoans worshiped a goddess, and that women were the main religious leaders. Women certainly weren’t oppressed – they obviously took a full and active role in every aspect of life. As a result, some archaeologists have characterised ancient Crete as a matriarchal culture.

What is also striking about the artwork and decorations are the beautiful natural images everywhere  – colorful and vibrant images of flowers, birds, fish and other animals, together with beautiful symbols and patterns. These seemed to fill every piece of pottery and every wall space, expressing a deep connection to nature and a sense of its sacredness. The whole culture seemed to have an atmosphere of joy and lightness, a lack of oppression and fear.

In contrast to later cultures like Greece or Rome, the Minoans seem to have had little interest in war.

There are no images of warfare or weapons, and a lack of actual weapons. In fact, many archaeologists believe that ancient Crete was a peaceful, egalitarian society, which avoided any significant damage through warfare for hundreds of years. This lasted until about 1500 BC, when Crete was invaded by warriors from mainland Greece, and its culture began a slow decline – which is painfully obvious from the shift in artwork, away from images of nature to images of warfare and anthropomorphic gods.

Perhaps, you might think, it’s not coincidental that ancient Crete was apparently a peaceful, nature-worshipping culture, since women were in positions of power. You could see this as a good model for our societies: if more women were in high status positions, there would be less conflict and competition, and more empathy and equality.

If Women Ruled The World... Minoan artBut this is probably rather simplistic. In fact, women who take on high status roles in our societies tend to take on typically ‘masculine’ characteristics of competitiveness and emotional hardness. They often don’t behave with the empathy which we often associate with the ‘feminine.’ Perhaps this isn’t their fault – if you want to succeed in a competitive society, then you obviously have to be competitive yourself.

The “Over-Developed Ego”

What cultures like ancient Crete show us (and there do appear to have been others) is not simply what happens when women take on positions of power, but what happens when everyone, both women and men, aren’t afflicted with what I call the ‘over-developed ego’. This refers to our sense of being separate individuals, enclosed in our own mental space – the sense you have that you are a person ‘in here’ (inside you head), looking out at a world ‘out there’. We have a strong sense of individuality, which can make us feel disconnected from other people, from nature, and even from our own bodies.

I think that the main difference between the Minoans and later peoples like the Greeks and Romans (and indeed us in the modern world) is that the former didn’t possess this strong sense of ego, and so felt strongly connected to nature. They didn’t have the drive to accumulate power and wealth which comes from a separate and fragile ego’s need to feel more complete and significant. Perhaps for later cultures, the desire for control and power led men to oppress women, while a sense of ‘otherness’ produced negative feelings towards sexual desires and bodily processes. (I cover this in great detail in my book The Fall.)

But for me, the wonderful thing about experiencing Minoan culture is the hope and optimism it has given me. It has made me realise that the world hasn’t always been such a discordant and destructive place, and that it’s not inevitable for societies to be ridden with conflict and oppression. It sounds utopian, but it’s at least conceivable that such cultures could come into existence again. And if they do, it won’t necessarily be because women are in power, but because the drive for power and the structures that support it are absent, replaced by an empathic connection with nature, other human beings and other living beings, and the whole cosmos.

Previous article by Steve:

About the author:


Steve Taylor  holds a Ph.D in Transpersonal Psychology and is a senior lecturer in Psychology at Leeds Metropolitan University, UK.  For the last three years Steve has been included in Mind, Body, Spirit magazine’s list of the ‘100 most spiritually influential living people’ (coming in at #31 in 2014).

Steve  is the author of  Back to Sanity: Healing the Madness of Our Minds and The Fall: The Insanity of the Ego in Human History and the Dawning of A New Era. His  books have been published in 16 languages and his research has appeared in  The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, The Journal of Consciousness Studies, The Transpersonal Psychology Review, The International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, as well as the popular media in the UK, including on BBC World TV, The Guardian, and The Independent.


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  • Lucy

    Great article and inspiring , it just goes to show that history has something to teach us in awakening the divine feminine values again across the world

  • Dawn

    Hi Steve
    It’s always good to hear theories about how humans have behaved in the past, at least from the archaeological record. I have been doing some similar theorizing about ancient egalitarian societies, based on Eisler’s and Gimbutas’ work, and countless works on Indigenous cultures. The trick is to avoid applying contemporary worldviews to historical behaviour. Your statement “women who take on high status roles in our societies tend to take on typically ‘masculine’ characteristics of competitiveness and emotional hardness”seems based on psychology regarding contemporary women’s battles for equality; since it is core to your logic, it needs to be backed up by some evidence and examples.There is also an error in use of the terminology “matriarchal”; there are mythical warrior women (Amazons) but the archaeological record does not support the existence of female dominance over men (matriarchal); but does support that when women have had high status, societies tend to be less war-like and more egalitarian, and are usually matrilineal (rights and title passing through female line) in nature. You might be interested in the work by Motesharrei et al (search HANDY model) that examines – mathematically – the environmental and social stability, and rise and fall, of various forms of society; it’s very intriguing.

  • John Nauss

    I enjoyed this article. I am originally from Nova Scotia where the first setters were French. The three provinces became known as Acadia. They basically flourished in an egalitarian way, intermarrying with the natives, cooperative village systems, trading with things they made, self sufficient etc. Because the area was traded back and forth between England and France for some war or other, there came a time when the Acadians were forced to pledge allegiance to King George. They decided to not do it and claimed neutrality like the Swiss. Interestingly enough a lot of them were Swiss. They were Catholic but in the end it did not matter. Even women administered the sacraments!! It was a happy society that the English displaced and caused a terrible expulsion, over 20,000, sent to New York. They stayed there for a bit but could not get along because they could not speak German nor English. New York in those days was Dutch. So they were sent to Louisiana, which belonged to France. They did not like it there either, some stayed but most went to England after that, thousands. The english sent them to France but they were not wanted their either because their French was over 150 years old and not spoken!! In the mean time, New Englanders came in their place and took over their land, some returned to New England and finally after 20 years, alot of them returned and reclaimed their homes and bought back their lands. Men and women were equal, all religions were accepted. If you go there to-day, Nova Scotia and indeed, the Maritimes are considered Matriarchal in nature mostly because of the ocean. The men folk went away to fish for the spring and summer and left women and children and old to look after the farms. I have a direct experience of what you are saying here and glad of my Acadian roots.

  • Heather

    The “myth” of the Amazon women warriors is no myth at all. It is the subject of my research and will be in part, the topic of an upcoming book. The well known ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, spoke freely about the women warriors of the sea. They later migrated into the Steppe region of Asia where skeletal female remains were found buried with bows and arrows. As for whether or not Matriarchal societies have existed in reality, the truth is that they still exist in various forms. Look up the Mosuo culture in China. They work far more smoothly than the male dominated cultures that are the norm.

  • It must have been a lovely time when men were men and women were women. Today, it is not clear what is actually “male” and what is genuinely “female”, for we are all caricatures of our genders… cartoon-like exaggerations of what we imagine we should be.

    If there was less war when women were sharing power with men, then I suspect that might have had something to do with the fact that women carried another’s life in their wombs for 9 months and they nurtured that life from their breasts for years after. One does not take lightly the destruction of a human life after all that.

    There are women today who appear to suffer from penis envy and rather than respect and treasure life, they mimic the cultural stereotype of “maleness” and leave their hearts behind, for they imagine men are without heart. To “prove” their “power”, some women work hard to outdo men in ruthlessness and warmongering.

    The “macho” stance, to me, is not masculine, but a fear response that many males in circumcising cultures adapt due to the extreme fear and trauma and powerlessness they feel when someone comes at them with a sharp knife while they are held down or strapped down, powerless… and that’s not difficult to do, to overpower an infant). We know what fear looks like, but we can only guess about natural masculinity. I do not believe it is a coincidence that the only three cultures that circumcise their young are at war in the Middle East: Jews, English-speaking Christians, and Muslims… three cultures that have terrorized their own first, who then feel a need to dramatize “what happened to them” by terrorizing others. Circumcision is a terrible legacy to pass on to our children.

    As a circumcised female, I too acted out the stereotypical “circumcised/ traumatized male” attitudes for most of my life – anger, rage, toughness, not crying, withstanding pain, emotional distance, “strong silent type” with lots of “fight” in me, seeing “enemies” everywhere. When I finally realized my attitudes and behaviors were due to trauma, I did what I could to heal myself, and released the fear from my mind and body.

    Now I understand from those who talk as if they know, that few make it to the top rungs of corporations or government, medicine, banking, education, etc, unless they have been “prepared” from childhood by deep, deep, cruelty, gender confusion and attitudes that are the current status quo. Do we need more of the same old, same old? No. We need a return to

    I pray that if we have women sharing power with men in government, that the women will be women and the men will be men, that those of both genders will have excellent communication and problem-solving skills and know how to negotiate, cooperate, compromise… to have been loved, respected and nurtured as children so they are wise, psychologically healthy, mature adults who respect themselves and others and life in general. May anyone who is in a responsible position – and may we all – be full of genuine good will toward everyone – everyone – everywhere.

    I am personally weary of watching people hurt themselves and others. There has to be a better way than what we see in the world today. The picture you paint of the past, Steve, is a vision to hold to.

    • Mark S Layhee

      If you do respond that would be excellent. I am a man and I have wondered everything throughout my life. I wondered why did patriarchal religions reduce the woman to an object? I am not saying that every woman is pure hearted. However women by nature are not destructive like men, hence all the wars we have wrought. I am willing to lower my pride and if I see a modern matriarchy work, I would be ok with it. Women can do science, arts and other skills males take dibs on unjustly. Sciences and the arts are not locked to a specific gender.

      I think men are just afraid to let women run things. Most animals on this planet, even the insects operate and center their existence around the female. It’s not just sexual it is because even men subconsciously project female idolatry onto objects or symbols.

      The jewish old testament is guilty of this and I find it confusing. In judaism women are told to be 2nd rate citizens and to be silent. But when you read the book of Proverbs, that is a book that calls Wisdom a woman/goddess and to be cherished among all things. So why are woman haters worshiping women?

      Even before I hit my 20s, I knew women were always a better gender. If they can lead the modern world, and we get REAL women in the offices, not monsters like Clinton and Merkel, we can stop all these male driven wars. Being a male, I believe men are meant to serve women. Even in a patriarchy men want the women to be happy, but get upset and lash at women for not feeding the male ego. So a matriarchy could be what the globe needs.

  • Ann

    A matriarchal society would naturally be a nuturing society. Women create life, they know how hard it is to produce and stroke a piece of art. They do not destroy thier hard work.

  • Thanda

    People say societies where women hold higher political power are more peaceful. That may be so, but correlation does not equal causation if course. Is the society peaceful because women have more power or do women have more power because because society is peaceful.

    I will give a few examples. Firstly, when there is a war that needs to be fought: how many women’s organisations clamour to have more women represented in the armed forces. Compare that to the times of relative peace.

    How many women’s organisations clamoured for more women in the work place during the beginning of the industrial revolution when most jobs consisted of hard labour under appalling conditions versus the number of women’s organisations that have popped since the advent of worker’s rights and greater safety standards – as well as generally safer jobs and industries that have proliferated in recent times.

    How many women clamoured for the right to vote when the right to vote was tight to the willingness to assist in battle.

    A careful review of the facts would suggest that women’s desire to participate more meaningfully outside the home is directly proportional to how safe, secure, peaceful and comfortable the environment outside the home is. This is also evidenced today by the clamour among women’s organisations for at work daycare, flexitime and other concessions and compromises to make life outside the home even easier so as to encourage even more women to enter the workforce.

  • Angela

    I am an animal communicator and trainer…all the most intelligent animals are familial and matriarchal…woman rule not from personal power but because we value all Life…and that is far more powerful than any energy that men contain…it is time for feminine Divine to re emerge and take it’s place as ruler through the power of LOVE…

  • Ottmar Straub

    It is a myth that matriarchal societies are more peaceful – matriarchal means power of one sex over the other as patriarchal, too. I have visited two matriarchal cultures and the women are as suppressive as men in patriarchal societies – to say that one gender is more peaceful as the other is utter stupidity.
    We are looking through female eyes having adopted the view of the mother with the female victim-consciousness which is a big trap.
    Violence acted out through men points out the fact that there is no love in a society and if we are honest we see that women are rarely able to love men. It is neediness and romance but not real love expressed through most women. The reality is just too hard to bear. Victim-consciousness is needed to avoid facing truth.
    Sorry to say that.

  • Giorgio

    There is no evidence, that the Minoian civilization was a matriarchy. Most of these conjectures came from the fantasy of Evans and then later picked up by Gimbutas. Most of the spectacular art work in Crete was commissioned by Sir A Evans, in other words…FAKES. Beside there are plenty of minoians male gods, but oh boy its a matriarchy so lets focus only on the goddesses. Oh the Minoians they had a powerful fleet and they bullied most of the Egean sea…and yes they had plenty of warriors,,,,but lets us fantasize about them being peaceful and pot smoking hippies.

  • Mark S Layhee

    Rosalinda Franklin also wrote the double helix model for DNA in the 40s, until two of her male colleagues stole it from her. DNA is not a small discovery, that is a big deal.