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Myth, Religion, and Mother Right: Selected Writings of J.J. Bachofen: Selected Writings of Johann Jakob Bachofen (Bollingen Series (General)) Paperback – 19 Nov 1973

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Product details

  • Paperback: 380 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; New Ed edition (19 Nov 1973)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691017972
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691017976
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.4 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 163,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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THE VILLA PAMPHILI, so celebrated because of its magnificient situation near the Porta San Pancrazio on the ancient Via Aurelia near Rome, has at various times attracted the attention of students of antiquity by the columbaria discovered in its grounds. Read the first page
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For anyone reading his or her way through D. H. Lawrence and the turn of the century European tendencies in art and thought the book is a must.
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Amazon.com: 7 reviews
New thoughts for your mind. 28 July 2014
By jabou - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very interesting book. Opens your mind to new things to think about. Makes clear ancient thoughts that have not been explored
much before. A challenge to your thinking!
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Steven H Propp - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Johann Jakob Bachofen (1815-1887) was a Swiss antiquarian, jurist and anthropologist, and professor for Roman law at the University of Basel. This volume is a translation of 'Mutterrecht und Urreligion,' a selection of Bachofen's writings that was first published in 1926.

He says, "Myth is the exegesis of the symbol. It unfolds in a series of outwardly connected actions what the symbol embodies in a unity." (Pg. 48) He adds, "Therein lies the spell of mythical representation, which shows us the great deeds of the primordial age in the muted light of distant melancholy recollection, and that is what lends them the aura of consecration characteristic of the ancient necropolises." (Pg. 50)

He admits, "The present work deals with a historical phenomenon which few have observed and no one has investigated in its full scope. Up until now archaeologists have had nothing to say of mother right... The most elementary spadework remains to be done, for the culture period to which mother right pertains has never been seriously studied. Thus we are entering upon virgin territory." (Pg. 69)

He argues, "The mythical tradition is seen to be an authentic, independent record of the primordial age, a record in which invention plays no part... There is scarcely a feature of the matriarchal system that cannot be documented in this way... There is still another reason why myth demonstrates the authenticity of mother right. The contrast between mythical conceptions and those of subsequent days is so marked that where more recent ideas prevailed, it would not have been possible to invent the phenomenon of matriarchy." (Pg. 72-74) Later, he argues, "All the myths relating to our subject embody a memory of real events experienced by the human race. They represent not fictions but historical realities. The stories of the Amazons and Bellerophon are real and not poetic." (Pg. 150-151)

He states, "The elevation of woman over man arouses our amazement most especially by its contradiction to the relation of physical strength. The law of nature confers the scepter of power on the stronger. If it is torn away from him by feebler hands, other aspects of human nature must have been at work, deeper powers must have made their influence felt." (Pg. 85)

He adds, "I shall pursue the religious basis of matriarchy no further: it is most deeply rooted in woman's vocation for the religious life... Seen in this light, matriarchy becomes a sign of cultural progress, a source and guarantee of its benefits, a necessary period in the education of mankind, and hence the fulfillment of a natural law which governs peoples as well as individuals." (Pg. 91) He contends, "Amazonism is a universal phenomenon... Amazonism, despite its savage degeneration, signifies an appreciable rise in human culture." (Pg. 105)

Bachofen's writings had a HUGE impact on feminist writers of the 20th century; and it's illuminating to read his own writings, rather than just the interpretations that are given by later writers.
A+ 7 Dec 2014
By cheryl gauvin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book
Five Stars 25 Aug 2014
By Tony S. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
very scholarly and a key to enjoying Nietzsche 4 July 2011
By Bruce P. Barten - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Since I bought this book, I have become much more interested in the nature of history at the level that Bachofen attempts to understand the religious basis for the nature of the laws adopted by ancient societies. The kind of considerations that society had before power structures imposed patriarchy on the Greek and Roman included transformations from hetaerism to the Demetrian regulation of motherhood before the exclusivity of the marriage bond was established. It is possible to search for a basis for history in the transition from the hetaerism of Aphrodite to the conjugal principle of Hera.

I quote:

But it is precisely the connection of the sexual relationship
and the lower or higher interpretation
with the totality of life
and the destiny of nations
that relates our study directly
to the cardinal questions of history.
The first great encounter
between the Asiatic and the Greek worlds
is represented as a struggle between
the hetaerism of Aphrodite
and the conjugal principle of Hera;
we shall find the cause of the Trojan War
in a violation of the marriage bed;
and by an extension of the same idea,
we shall date the ultimate defeat of
Aphrodite, mother of the Aeneads,
by the matronly Juno at the time
of the Second Punic War,
when the Roman nation was at the height
of its inner greatness.

According to Bachofen:

It cannot be doubted that the institution of marriage was the outgrowth of a very slow process.

I grew old in a time when attitudes were changing so much that Lois Roden, the widowed leader of Branch Davidians after the death of her husband Ben Roden, seems like a transition figure after her affair with Vernon Wayne Howells was a background for a gunfight on November 3, 1987, in which her son George was shot in the hands and chest and the trial of David Koresh for attempted murder ended in a mistrial. George Roden was committed in 1989 after he was charged with attempting an ax murder. The shift in religion near Waco, Texas, has something in common with Bachofen describing Dionysian religion coming to the Amazons:

Joyfully she welcomed this god whose combination of sensuous beauty and transcendent radiance made him doubly seductive. The enthusiasm of women for his cult was irresistible. In a short time the Amazonian matriarchy's determined resistance to the new god shifted to an equally resolute devotion; the warlike women, formerly locked in struggle with Dionysus, became his crusading army of heroes. One extreme followed the other, showing how hard it is, at all times, for women to observe moderation. The historical foundation is evident from the traditions which record the bloody events attending the first propagation of the Bacchic religion and the profound upheavals provoked by it. These upheavals recur independently among the most divergent peoples, but their character is always the same.
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