An English Translation of Mother Right (mutterrecht 1861): A Study of the Religious and Juridical Aspects of Gynecocracy in the Ancient World Volume Three

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Mother Right (1861) by Johann Jakob Bachofen (1815-1887) was the seminal document of the nineteenth century concerning the role of women in ancient societies. The title and term "mother right" requires explanation because its sense is not evident in English. The meaning of "mother" as the one who bears life, then cares for her child with selfless love, devotion, and sacrifice clearly imparts Bachofen’s point of departure. In this sense, Mother Right is a celebration of motherhood as the origin of human society, religion, morality, and decency.

The term “right” in English does not sufficiently convey the various meanings of the German term. Bachofen means at once maternal rights, birthrights, justice, laws, interests, authority, and privileges. He explores all these aspects of “mother right” in ancient societies, specifically Lycia, Crete, Ancient Greece, Egypt, India, Central Asia, Northern Africa, and Spain. He concludes his work by connecting ancient mother right with Christianity.


“Besides being a scholarly work, Mother Right is a myth in its own right about the struggle of human beings to overcome materialism and barbarity. Bachofen does not simply contrapose the material and spiritual, but rather he shows their complex relationship and the social dynamics they induce. His stages of human development are ubiquitous forces in human life, both personal and social. The character of life is determined by how a person, generation, or society deals with the clashing forces of brutish corporeal desires, devotion to family, and reverence for the divine. The values attached to the mother and to the father are no less significant today. Mother Right provides a mythological and symbolic framework for understanding such trends in our society as feminism, consumerism, populist democracy, and statism. According to Bachofen, individuals, societies, and cultures become the deity they worship. They deify what they value as justification for their view of the world and behavior in it. Mother Right traces the history of mankind as it worships and serves goddesses and gods, mother right and father right.” – from the Translator’s Introduction

Table of Contents

Translator’s Introduction
India and Central Asia
XCIII – Candace as a Meroitic-Indian character
XCIV – Accounts of gynecocracies in India and Central Asia
XCVII – Comparison of the myth of Candace with the rivalry between the Kurus and the Pandus in the Indian epic, Mahabharata
XCVIII – Exaltation of mother right among the Persians
XCIX – Amazonianism in Central Asia
C – Chinese Accounts of matriarchies in Tibet of Northern India, in the southern Deccan Plain, and the region of Bactria
Orchomenus and the Minyans
CI – Myth of the Orchomenian murderesses in contrast to Minyan mother right and Dionysian religion
CV – Religious significance of the Argonauts and their association with gynecocracy
CVI – Voyage of the Argonauts as the encounter between the Apollonian-Orphic mysteries and the Colchian-Indian cult of Helios
CIX – Manifestations and consequences of the intrinsic affinity between the Bacchic cult and the feminine temperament
CX – Erotic evolution of the Dionysian lifestyle among women and its general impact on ancient cultures
CXI – Description of the various levels of Dionysian masculinity from the lowest Poseidonian to the highest solar
CXII – Formation of Dionysian and Apollonian paternity
CXVII – Higher levels of adoption
Works Cited

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