Episode 2: The Chalice and the Blade, by Riane Eisler

Image of the book The Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler

The Chalice and the Blade tells a new story of our cultural origins. It shows that warfare and the war of the sexes are neither divinely nor biologically ordained. It provides verification that a better future is possible—and is in fact firmly rooted in the haunting dramas of what happened in our past.


Image of author Riane Eisler

“The Goddess-centered art we have been examining, with its striking absence of images of male domination or warfare, seems to have reflected a social order in which women, first as heads of clans and priestesses and later on in other important roles, played a central part, and in which both men and women worked together in equal partnership for the common good.”

The Chalice and the Blade

“Well into the Bronze Age, when goddesses in other places (Egypt, Babylon) were being subsumed by male gods, the Goddess reigned supreme on Crete. It is the Goddess who rides her griffin-drawn chariot to bear a dead man to his new life. And it is the priestesses of the Goddess, not the priests, who play the central role in the ritual depicted on its frescoes. It is they who lead the procession and who extend their hands to touch the altar.”

The Chalice and the Blade

“Eisler writes, ‘Equitable sharing of wealth. Standard of living – even of peasants – seems to have been high. None of the homes found so far have suggested very poor living conditions.’ This is a really important point in understanding the partnership model – a society that is based on the chalice or partnership model, is oriented toward giving, and nourishing all members of society, and on appreciating nature.”

Amy McPhie Allebest

“Now everywhere the men with the greatest power to destroy – the physically strongest, most insensitive, most brutal – rise to the top, as everywhere the social structure becomes more hierarchic and authoritarian. Women – who as a group are physically smaller and weaker than men, and who are most closely identified with the old view of power symbolized by the life-giving and sustaining chalice – are now gradually reduced to the status they are to hold hereafter: male-controlled technologies of production and reproduction.”

The Chalice and the Blade

“When compared to our modern world, in these prehistoric partnership societies technological advances were used primarily to make life more pleasurable rather than to dominate and destroy. This leads back to the fundamental distinction between the cultural evolution of dominator and partnership societies.”

The Chalice and the Blade

“Among the spoils of war taken by the invaders in their battle against the Midianites, there were, in this order, sheep, cattle, asses, and thirty-two thousand girls who had had no intercourse with a man.”

Numbers 31:32-35

“The Goddess herself gradually becomes merely the wife or consort of male deities.”

The Chalice and the Blade

“Definition-wise, patriarchy means ‘father-rule.’ (Pater in Latin, or like padre in Spanish + Archy = ruling structure, like a monarchy means the rule of one person). In practice, this ‘father-rule’ expands to mean ‘males ruling over females.’ The dictionary defines Patriarchy as ‘a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.’ So a matriarchy, in contrast, would mean ‘mother-rule,’ and would be implemented as a system in which women ‘hold the power and men are largely excluded from it.'”

Amy McPhie Allebest

“They all had in common a dominator model of social organization. At the core of the invader’s system was the placing of higher value on the power that takes, rather than gives, life.”

The Chalice and the Blade

“Archaeologists routinely ignore the implications of this gynocentric civilization. [Sir Arthur] Evans termed paintings of Cretan women the feminine ‘tittle-tattle’ of ‘society scandals.'”

The Chalice and the Blade

“In sum, the struggle for our future is…the struggle between those who cling to patterns of domination and those working for a more equitable partnership world.”

Riane Eisler

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