Even religion and mythology in indigenous cultures was erased and replaced with new mythologies that elevated males over females. For example, Evelyn Reed described the transformation of female deities and holy women (also called witches) to male personifications as matrisocial societies were overthrown and disappeared:
With the rise of patriarchal influences, some of the witches became transformed into goddesses, the subordinate wives or companions of the gods. In the transitional period from matriarchy to patriarchy, former female deities were even replaced by male figures. This is the case with Ishtar, the Babylonian or Assyrian goddess, who is said to have originated as a primitive Semitic divinity. However, ‘as society passed from the matriarchal to the patriarchal organization,’a she changed from female to male. Ishtar became a male, Ashtar.162
In the Americas, sociologist Duane Champagne described the shift that began with colonization because “Europeans did not value women politically, economically, socially or spiritually.”163 Like indigenous women across the globe who were not already living in patriarchal societies, women of the First Nations were “pushed to the margins” as European values were imposed.
Conditions on reservations emphasized male dominance over females, and curbed the power of women by discouraging clans and extended family relations and obligations. Creation teachings began to change under direct and indirect influence of European and Christian ways. While the evidence is difficult to interpret now, it appears that the creation teachings of many Indian communities started to incorporate male creators that supplanted past female creator figures. For example, Ojibway and Shawnee creation stories focus on “Our Grandmother” or Nikomis, and the female creator Sky Woman. According to some accounts already by the 1800s, the female characters in the creation teachings start to be replaced by male creator figures. In some cases, Adam and Eve themes emerge where female subordination and marginalization are justified by disorderly acts, similar to Eve’s offering of the apple of knowledge to Adam in Genesis.164
The Iroquois confederacy, which is held up as a model of democracy and egalitarian matrisocial (and sometimes matriarchal) society, nevertheless credits two men, Deganawidah and Hiawatha, with the creation of the peaceful alliance between five previously warring nations.165,166,167 According to the myth, these two men formed the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) confederacy in the late fifteenth century, right around the first contact with Europeans, and created a constitution which guaranteed women more than equal social and political status.
However, journalist Charles Mann points out that Europeans chroniclers who recorded and popularized the mythb discounted the original Iroquois version which was that the confederacy had actually been founded many centuries before the arrival of the Europeans. In his book 1491, Mann reveals that Seneca historian Paula Underwood studied the pegs and carved images of the Iroquois pictographs which were used to record the succession of councils from its inception in order to calculate the age of the alliance. Underwood was able to confirm that, in fact, the Iroquois League of Nations was formed in 1142, making it “the second oldest continuously existing representative parliament on earth” after Iceland.168 So whether or not the two founding peacemakers of the Iroquois confederacy were male, or later transformed to men (following a virgin birth) really can’t be confirmed with any certainty.
The Notes to Worshipping Patriarchy
a: Evelyn Reed cites the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics.169
b: According to this newer, Europeanized myth, Deganawidah was “born to a virgin girl.”170