The following quotes deal directly with lay Christian culture’s slow descent into the gyneolatry as exemplified in many modern Churches. In a nutshell, the historical focus of Christendom evolved from the initial view that men and women are both born in original sin, to only men being so.
While official Church doctrine changed little in regard to original sin, with men and women being equal in their sinful inheritance, grassroots Christian attitudes toward gender began to evolve in the twelfth century. At this time there arose a new veneration of women as “counterparts of the Virgin Mary,” along with the rise of chivalry and courtly love, which had the effect of elevating women’s status and eclipsing the earlier emphasis on women inheriting original sin.
Like Mary, the notion of ‘woman’ as pure and holy became venerated among the laity.
After that change men continued to be viewed as sinners attempting to imitate Christ, whereas women were increasingly viewed as the Holy Virgin’s counterparts on earth, pure and perfect from the moment of birth, each a virgin with less focus on their need for redemption.
Said another way, after the Middle Ages less emphasis was placed on women’s inheritance from Eve, and more on her likeness to Mary. Even with the Protestant split from Catholicism, the lay idea of woman as pure and holy that had developed from veneration of Mary was carried forward, sans the Catholic emphasis on the person of Mary.
From this belief system arose the modern Goddess Movement which sees car bumper stickers which read “Goddess Onboard” – ie. you will never see an equivalent bumper sticker for males.
Note: While gynocentric elevation of women took root in the Church, its source came largely from outside it in a complex intersection of pagan beliefs, Arabic worship of women, chivalry, courtly love, heretical Marian sects, and especially among the aristocratic classes who stitched these elements together into a popular gynocentric worldview.
■ H.J. Chaytor, The Troubadours: “In the eleventh century the worship of the Virgin Mary became widely popular; the reverence bestowed upon the Virgin was extended to the female sex in general, and as a vassal owed obedience to his feudal overlord, so did he owe service and devotion to his lady… Thus there was a service of love as there was a service of vassalage, and the lover stood to his lady in a position analogous to that of the vassal to his overlord.
■ C.G. Crump, Legacy of the Middle Ages: “The Aristocracy and Church developed the doctrine of the superiority of women, that adoration which gathered round both the persons both of the Virgin in heaven and the lady upon earth, and which handed down to the modern world the ideal of chivalry. The cult of the Virgin and the cult of chivalry grew together, and continually reacted upon one another… The cult of the lady was the mundane counterpart of the cult of the Virgin and it was the invention of the medieval aristocracy. In chivalry the romantic worship of a woman was as necessary a quality of the perfect knight as was the worship of God. It is obvious that the theory which regarded the worship of a lady as next to that of God and conceived of her as the mainspring of brave deeds, a creature half romantic, half divine, must have done something to counterbalance the dogma of subjection. The process of placing women upon a pedestal had begun, and whatever we may think of the ultimate value of such an elevation (for few human beings are suited to the part of Stylites, whether ascetic or romantic) it was at least better than placing them, as the Fathers of the Church had inclined to do, in the bottomless pit.”
BELOW: Robert Briffault discusses Mary’s influence on women’s status (click images to enlarge)
The following reflection was penned by a Mrs. Marion Reedy and published in The Philistine in the year 1897, giving evidence that gynocentrism had already been established as accepted truth within Church circles.
Ave Maria indeed!