Keeping the “root” culture; for better and for worse

“Things were better before”. Yes, actually, some times it is true. When it comes to women’s rights, the introduction of Christianity around year 1000 was no good news for the Norwegian women in viking times. Slowly, but surely, women lost their rights and value as Christianity became the principal religion.

Some feminists and historians label the Middle East religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism as hostile towards women, and I tend to agree. According to archeologist Dr Marija Gimbuta (revised version of “Gods and Goddesses in Old Europe (7000 – 3500 B.Chr) ), old Europe was based on a matriarchal culture where the mother goddess had an important role in society.  I have read a couple of books that present some theories around what made the move from matriarchal to patriarchal society. It is too complex to write about here, but in short, it appears men increasingly wanted more control over property and the sexuality of women. The women became symbols of sin and should be controlled. Unfortunately, it is still a practice in extreme form in several countries today.

The Nordic countries (Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland and Finland) are the most egalitarian countries in the world, which tells me that even though external factors brought down women’s importance in society via Christianity, the root culture still remained – women have kept a more equal role in society compared to many others.

The inspiration of this blog posting is that I have followed two seasons of the series “Vikings”, and have been surprised at the historical accuracy. Not all facts are correct, but all in all I believe it gives a good insight into the life around year 800 of what we today call the countries of Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Denmark). It has been interesting to recognize the culture that is still so today, e.g. the role of the leader (participating), democracy (all voices heard), women’s situation (independence, power, female strength – e.g. as warriors). 1200 years later, still the same values.

Keeping your root culture isn’t always for the better, though. For example, the cast system in India is an ingrained part of the culture, even if external factors (new laws) have tried to get rid of it. Another example is female circumcision/mutilation, a pre-islam practice in several African and Middle East countries. Apparently, it has been confused as a religious requirement, but Islamic scholars have pointed out and tried to eliminate this practice, as it has no basis in Islamic law (source; Wikipedia).

My conclusion is that we humans are stubborn, we stick to our old ways, generation after generation. Some times that’s a good idea, some times it is not.