World-historic defeat of women

Chris Knight of the Radical Anthropology Group examines myths about a supposed "primitive matriarchy"

Take pretty much any hunter-gatherer society in which men monopolise ritual power. You will find a myth explaining how men once violently seized that power from women, the previous rulers of the world. Often, the myths are quite explicit about this - they do not need much decoding. But I would also include more cryptic, far-from-obvious fairy tales such as ‘Jack and the beanstalk’, ‘The sleeping beauty’ and ‘Little Red Riding Hood’.[1] The great French social anthropologist, Claude Lévi-Strauss, carefully studied 1,000 similar tales from North and South America. The final chapter of his monumental work The naked man - which he entitled ‘One myth only’ - concluded that humanity’s interconnected myths amount ultimately to just one. Like the shifting patterns seen through a kaleidoscope, all are clearly variations on a theme.

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