Quite a strange question, I know. The title sums it all up pretty much, as for potentially affecting factors:

  • Magic is present, it's not extremely wide-spread though.
  • Resources aren't that much of a problem. (Whales, Mammoths, Agriculture that is pretty advanced)
  • Not sure if it affects much but the human population in said setting is around 100,000.

So, considering these, how can this actually work?

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ What exactly do you mean by "a matriarchal society in a Medieval Fantasy setting"? The actual western European medieval world was not only not matriarchal, it was very patriarchal. Compared to medieval western Europe, the Roman empire of the 1st to 3rd centuries was a hotbed of radical feminism. Thus you have to explain what attributes of the medieval society are of interest to you and you want to be kept, and, optionally, which are discardable. Once you explain what parts of the medieval world are to be kept then you may get some cogent answers. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jan 6 '18 at 23:31
  • $\begingroup$ Short comment, dont have time for full answer but link magic with pregnancy, so that women with family have more power $\endgroup$ – Kepotx Jan 7 '18 at 0:05
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ What exactly do you mean by "quite a strange question"?? Why wouldn't this work? I mean, it's a fantasy setting (with medieval flavour), so it'll work if you want it to! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jan 7 '18 at 0:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Matriarch as in (a) the head of state is a woman always or (b) culturally women have all the power by dint of custom, law or religion ? Note that if women had all the power and held all the powerful jobs, I betcha we men would be the ones complaining about a gender gap now ! :-) $\endgroup$ – StephenG Jan 7 '18 at 1:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If you want a matriarchal society in your world you write a matriarchal society into your world. I'm not sure what problem you're trying to solve here. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Jan 7 '18 at 1:07

I've seen an opinion that patriarchal society was a logical consequence of settled agriculture as opposed to hunters-gatherers. Our traditional medieval society as we know it was not really fit for matriarchy.

But you have magic and mammoths, it may help! Let's achieving equality first and then see if we flip the bill.

Fantasy equality

Basically, it's a known argument in modern fantasy. Arguably it's because our modern readers would flip out at the real medieval amount of harassment and inequality the historically correct medieval society had. But for an in-world argument: magic!

Magic powers and prowess do not depend on gender. So, there are women fully capable to kick ass and unwilling to be treated as second-class citizen.

Let it boil for few centuries at least (magic is by far not new in your setting, I would guess), bam! Modern western society in the aspect of gender inequality.


Arguably, you'd need something that would give women a more advanced standing as men. As the society is medieval and ugly, they'd need to kick ass.

  • More magic powers.
  • Longer life.
  • Biological affinity to magic.
  • Mammoth taming and riding powers!

It depends on you and your story.


Magic within

An original option is to let the society develop with magic from the basal gatherers and hunters. Both genders get magic powers. It is initially matriarchy, because someone need to keep fire burning and people fed. It never turns to patriarchy with the advent of agriculture. Women manage to defend their standing through magic or something, but the change to the mindset woman-belongs-to-a-man never happens. Ancient World and medieval history are very different now. Maybe, dunno, Aztec civilisation did not get that gory and that decadent.

I fear, you'd need to dive head-first into some anthropology books to make it believable. You would also need to redo the whole history since invention of agriculture.

There was a Russian fantasy/SciFi book (how can I not mention something from over there!) where one of societies was a classic matriarchy with a twist. Life was dangerous, women were capable of wielding some really cool (but also grim) life-threating magic, hence statistically lower life-spans and population bias. It was basically medieval Middle East / Japan with genders flipped: long-living, intriguing men behind political groups, reverse harems, that sort of thing. The situation was getting better in the book, but the traditional structure remained yet.

  • $\begingroup$ So what makes such a world "medieval"? What aspects of the medieval world are present? $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jan 7 '18 at 0:17
  • $\begingroup$ I would go for time afer a global (by that time's terms) empire of the Ancient World collapsed. Combined with crusades, full-blown religious fanatics at large, and slow-crawling boost of intellectual and cultural re-discoverage from that collapsed Ancient World. More or less nothing here is bound to patriarchy, as far as I understand. $\endgroup$ – Oleg Lobachev Jan 7 '18 at 2:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "Nothing here is bound to patriarchy": And nothing is bound to a specifically medieval world. The three essential attributes of the medieval world are the feudal hierarchy (every man owes allegiance to another man), the relations of production based on serfdom (leasing part of the land to the peasants in exchange for labor or for part of the produce), and the almost complete lack of state cohesion (society is based on small almost autarkic and almost isolated communities). Then of course you have the pervasive influence of the church, almost total dissolution of monetary economy etc. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jan 7 '18 at 2:25
  • $\begingroup$ @OlegLobachev that link is only in russian.what is the book in english? $\endgroup$ – user32862 Jan 8 '18 at 2:21
  • $\begingroup$ It's in Russian because I did not found it on English Wikipedia. Unsure, if it got translated at all. Basically, it is about post-human societies, but with a hefty bit of a girlish love-story. $\endgroup$ – Oleg Lobachev Jan 8 '18 at 9:37

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.