Im going for a culture which endorses and emphasizes gender roles in society. Men and women are equal, but in the complementary rather than egalitarian sense. Magic is only accessible by women. Like the myth will state, it is powerful, but slow, time consuming, and intensive. It may also require multiple ingredients or steps to work. This. along with the history and circumstances of the world, has led to a religious hierarchy where women hold the dominant positions of power.

God, known as the divine, possess a duel nature, each representing different aspects of humanity. The higher half represents the feminine, and symbolizes intuition, wisdom, strength, and life. The lower half, masculine, represents honor, courage, bravery, brawn, and death. These aspects are made manifest in the differences between men and women, and the social order depends on cooperation between the two. By working together, harmony and balance can be achieved. However, division between them causes chaos and strife.

God designed humans for different purposes in mind. He created woman first, and gave her dominion over all creation. The ability to access magic was given to her as proof of her divine authority. This magic was slow, complex, and intensive. However, it was very powerful, able to split oceans in half, rain down fire from the sky, or design new species of plants and animals. With patience, she was able to master it and bend reality to her whim. God then created man, and designated him with the role of defender of creation. He would be a companion to woman, to serve and protect her, and provide council. He was given the gift of physical prowess, which was quicker to access and use, and allowed him to act quickly and desicively when needed. For a time, things were peaceful, and humanity flourished in this golden age. However, although man was strong and quick witted, he was also impatient and overconfident. This made him rebellious, and he grew to disdain woman. Eventually, he sought to subvert her authority over him, and overthrew her with brute force. This is represented in the religion as God's lower half rebelling and subjugation it's higher half. This betrayal ushered in an age of kings, which introduced chaos and strife into the world.

In this new age, man competed and made war with each other, each seeking to dominate their rivals and rule undisputed over creation. The constant wars disturbed the veil that separated reality from the netherworld, where creatures hostile to humanity dwelled. In time, a breach in reality opened in the veil, allowing these demons to pass from their realm into reality. Millions died in the genocide as the demons sought extermination of the human race. Woman, using her intuition and magic, was eventually able to seal the breach and ending the flood of demons into the world. She then created weaponry specifically made to kill the demons, which man used to defeat them. Although humanity was eventually victorious, the world was permanently scarred. The veil was irrevocably damaged, remaining weakened in certain areas or had completely collapsed in others. This allows demons to cross over into reality, and they remain a constant threat to humanity.

With the end of the war, woman was able to reclaim her authority over creation. In her infinite love and wisdom, she forgave man for his betrayal, knowing that God's halves cannot exist without the other. However, men was punished for their arrogance by bearing the responsibility for causing the calamity that almost ended the human race. They must carry that shame throughout their lives making penance until god redeems them in the hereafter. The story is meant to be an inverse of the creation story in the bible, and used by the matriarchy to "justify" it's rule. Like Eve, who caused humanity to get kicked out of the garden of eden and the introduction of original sin, it was man who led to the end of humanity's golden age and introduced chaos into the world. Keep in mind while it embraces equality of the sexes, it's obviously skewed in benefiting one gender over the other, which is the point.

Taking human psychology and socialogy into account, Would this be a reasonable creation myth that a matriarchy could use to justify its authority? How can I make it sound more authentic?

  • $\begingroup$ "the higher part (female) would represent logic, wisdom, ... and strength." Women are traditionally known for feeling, emoting and caring. Who does that in your world? $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    May 24, 2017 at 2:48
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    $\begingroup$ Have you thought about looking at myths from other cultures? Or the older myths that the Hebrews borrowed from? They were originally much more pleasent toward women. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    May 24, 2017 at 5:45
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    $\begingroup$ technically the reference to "in his image" in the bible is Gen 1:24: "So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." - i.e. both male and female are "in his image" - the creation of Adam doesn't refer to God's image at all but simply that he was created "from the dust of the ground". All this is pretty inconsequential for your premise - Israel was still patriarchal, and this is still an interesting question $\endgroup$
    – danl
    May 24, 2017 at 8:38
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    $\begingroup$ The story of Lilith is essential reading for this. She was created at the same time as Adam and was his first wife but refused to be subservient. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    May 24, 2017 at 9:20
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    $\begingroup$ One thing you may want to pay attention to is the difference between sex and gender. When you drastically change cultures, the gender roles can change, though the sex designations do not. Make sure that, when you build this world, you don't accidentally haul antequated gender roles along for the ride. Make them earn their keep within the structure of your new system. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    May 24, 2017 at 15:07

6 Answers 6


Or, she was made second, because the male was imperfect. The male was the beta test...

First isn't best. It's just practice.

Women were given magic and the power to create life because they were deemed worthy. God was going to erase the male, but the woman intervened. "Though he be imperfect, he could be of use to me. He is stronger of limb. I will love him."

"But only you have the power to create life. He will wither, die, and be no more." said God.

And the Woman said "Let me share some of my power with him, so that we both are needed to create life, so that he will not die out, and I will not be alone."

Golly, this is fun!

Maybe don't say women are logical, but rather that they have a direct connection with God, and their intuition, even when it seems not to be logical is always the wiser course. Women, of course are inherently smarter, and men don't understand certain social concepts, the poor boorish things.

See in the Christian version it gets pretty demeaning--you left out the part about how ladies were made from left over parts of the male. So if you're going to skew to the matriarchy as hard as Christianity is skewed to the patriarchy, you may as well add details so that dudes are beholden to ladies FOR THEIR VERY EXISTENCE.

So yeah, what you've got is reasonable, but Imma say "Go Big or Go Home." Embrace the matriarchy! You can go bigger. Study the actual creation mythos--seriously, go back to the Bible and look at the language. Also, you want to look at how the ladies get blamed for the sin as well. It's pretty ridic. So flip the script--maybe have the men bring war, which is why women have to be in charge.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ +1 except that it's bronze-age Semites (aka "Hebrews") that wrote the patriarchal Biblical creation myth, not Christianity. They just tagged along for the ride. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    May 24, 2017 at 3:44
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    $\begingroup$ @RonJohn Eh, semantics, no pun intended. :) It's part of the Christian mythos now, even though it came from earlier iterations. Some of the more feminist stuff that was in earlier versions did get cut later on. The Apocrypha is especially interesting...ahhh! getting off track. There is a lot to mine though, from the King James Version source material, even if the translation was rough. $\endgroup$ May 24, 2017 at 4:13
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    $\begingroup$ "King James Version source material" is so stunning wrong that you must be trolling me. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    May 24, 2017 at 4:16
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    $\begingroup$ @RonJohn Yes, a tiny bit. It's the closest thing most people have to the original, which is pretty far off, and edited HEAVILY. It's better than the NIV, and it's what people looked to in Christianity for nigh on to, gosh, 300 hundred years. So culturally, yes, it's a pretty good place to start for source material--I'm not going to suggest they go back and learn about the Greek translations and all the early Church and Catholic councils that determined what was in and what was out. $\endgroup$ May 24, 2017 at 4:23
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    $\begingroup$ +1 purely for "First isn't best. It's just practice." One of my stories' creation myths involves exactly that principle (the gods created several failed worlds before they finally got it right) $\endgroup$
    – F1Krazy
    May 24, 2017 at 16:45

I suggest you read the book by Roy F. Baumeister Is There Anything Good About Men? (How Cultures Flourish By Exploiting Men), the Eppes Eminent Professor of Psychology at Florida State University.

It is written for popular consumption but backed up by plenty of real deal academic firepower (IMO, as always).

For example; on Page 61, he asks a question most people think is obvious: What percentage of your ancestors were Men? The answer is not 50%! Although it is true about 50% of all people born are male, this question is about men that have at least one living descendant today: You. And some of your ancestors had trainloads of descendants. In genetic studies, it turns out that only 33% of our ancestors were male, and 67% were female. Why is that?

Because a very high percentage of females born will reproduce, but the chances are about half as good for a male; and even if they have a male child, that child has the same poor chance and the all-male genetic lines tend to die out in a handful of generations.

Why Do Females Reproduce More Than Men?

Baumeister makes a good case that cultures exploit men, because men are expendable.

Imagine a tribe of 100 men and 100 women. They are attacked! By a roughly equal opponent; so if both men and women fight, and our tribe prevails, we have 60 men and 60 women. Next year, those 50 women can be pregnant and we get 60 new kids: Tribe size 180. Now suppose only the men fight, and we prevail, but we still lose 80 men. Only twenty men survive. Well, those 20 men can impregnate the 100 women, and have 100 babies: Tribe size 220.

Men can be expended by society due to the differential in reproduction. As Baumeister notes; both history and legend are chock full of stories in which 100 men get together and risk their lives on a boat or campaign to get rich. Why are there essentially zero legends or historical stories about 100 women doing the same?

Because they don't have to! Except for some special circumstances, women are almost certain to reproduce if they wish to do so, it is only a question of how good a man they can get. But they can always get SOME man, and historically, it was not unusual for many women to get the same "good" man; a wealthy and/or powerful one. But men are in a different boat, historically they did not get children unless they could prove themselves; hence the need to go get rich, start a business, win races, fight battles and survive.

Should they die in the pursuit, society suffers little, the woman he wanted will find a substitute that didn't die in the pursuit.

How That Matters.

The point is, even our modern society is already structured around the idea that Men are expendable. Men are the soldiers, men are the risk takers. It is always "Women and Children First" when the boat is sinking: IRL we may call it chivalry; but the ideas are as if grown men are expendable and should know it, and this should be an integral part of their psyche.

How we might work these real-life ideas into a fictional setting.

It isn't a stretch to posit that in the fictional world, Baumeister's insights are explicitly explained, in more flowery language, to justify that women MUST be in charge: Men are servants of society: Their's is not to question why, their's is but to do and die!

The cultural training they receive can be that men die to protect women and children, even women that are not their mates and children that are not their own (We are close to that in real life, anyway); otherwise they are cowards and shunned, both romantically and financially. Perhaps even punished or imprisoned.

Also in their cultural training: Men are risk takers, impulsive, fighters prone to counter-productive violence, too hot to be good negotiators! You can see it in their childhood rough housing; even at two they are trying to establish dominance over their sisters by hitting, pushing, and force!

Only women, with a natural instinct toward care and patience born of their natural ability to raise children, are capable of leading the society forward without risking killing it. Of course, a mother's instinct will lead to fighting and violence and war when her children are in real danger, but (in their mythology) she will not over-react like men do, she will not be vindictive like men are: She will mete out proportional punishment and sanctions when that is due, no more and no less.

The justification for the Matriarchy is the obvious: Decades without war, and the clear bright line that only women are created by God to create and nurture new life; no man is born with what he needs to nurse a child. It is women that care for life, and part of that care is running the tribe, no matter how large it is. It is not just the creation story, for them it is reflected in real life, so even the "non-believer" variety of men can believe it to be true, and defend the Matriarchy with their lives --- as they are meant to do.

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    $\begingroup$ I was going to "+1" you until... "she will not be vindictive like men are". Women are stunningly vindictive, petty and catty. To quote my wife, "Working with women is a pain in the a$$." $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    May 28, 2017 at 4:01
  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn You don't seem to understand there is a difference between story telling and real life. I was telling a hypothetical creation story and what a people believe; it is not even what I myself believe. This is the World Building forum, and the "reality check" here is whether a fictional Matriarchy far different from our own society could believe women are naturally superior to men in temperament: Yes, I think they could! After all scores of cultures IRL stupidly consider women inferior leaders, over emotional or mentally disabled by menses, I'm just inverting the bigotry. $\endgroup$
    – Amadeus
    May 28, 2017 at 10:03
  • $\begingroup$ I think you could make it clearer where the real-world reference stops and your world-building suggestions begin. For example, you're mentioning Baumeisters i signts explained in a world where he doesn't exist, then you suggest conceptions and methods of social pressuring that are actually present in reality. People are bound to get confused, and some offended. You're also not reversing the bigotry, it's more that you are repeating it. Just a hint. $\endgroup$
    – Estharon
    May 28, 2017 at 12:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Estharon I thought it was clear I was switching to fictional suggestions when I began a new paragraph with the words "The cultural training they receive can be that ...". I feel I am writing, conversationally, for fellow authors that should not need flashing lights to help them understand when I am plainly beginning a hypothetical proposition. $\endgroup$
    – Amadeus
    May 28, 2017 at 14:25
  • $\begingroup$ Hey, thanks for bringing that work to my attention. I had a similar idea: It is, briefly, that there has always been both a Patriarchy and a Matriarchy; but, as the Patriarchy in surviving cultures more and more concerned itself with War and the Matriarchy with Nurture, the Patriarchy seemed to be running the show. That belief is simply a conceit which the Matriarchy allows them to have. $\endgroup$ Jun 3, 2017 at 5:35

I think you are misrepresenting things a bit. It is true that, for centuries, Hebrews and Christians used the creation myth of Genesis to justify a view of women as a "secondary sex", but that is not because woman was created first as a gift for man.

Being created first had nothing to do with it. In fact, contrary to what you stated, the Bible doesn't say that only man was created in God's image.

From the KJV Bible (since it seems to be the translation that people are using here):

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." (Gen 1:27)

Mind you, this was written on a chapter that preceded the Adam's rib episode. What was created in God's image was man as in "human". Both man and woman were made in God's image.

So, where does it the idea of woman as a secondary sex come from? Well, what happens is that the Book of Genesis doesn't have one, but two creation accounts, written by two separate writers and then redacted into one book. But you can't read Gen 1 and then Gen 2-3 as a seamless story... it actually incorporates two different creation myths.

(on a sidenote, since it came up in a comment, the Lilith story is just a clumsy attempt to read both accounts chronologicaly, as if God created woman two different times... it is a late interpretation and one that was never really accepted, and with good reason)

The idea of woman as a secondary sex comes from the second account. Eve not only ate the forbidden fruit, but she also tempted Adam into sinning. So, Adam's punishment answers only to God, while Eve's punishment is related to Adam.

So, instead of focusing on which sex came first, what you need to do is create a story that justifies woman being ranked higher than man. Make man the sinner and woman the victim. Your narrative seems to fit that. Other answers have also given good ideas...

But if I were you, I would focus on a characteristic that only women can possess. After all, both men and women can be intelligent or strong. But only women can bear children.

Child bearing is super-important for the cohesiveness of society and for the perpetuation of civilization. Also, child bearing was connected in various myths with fertility in Nature, from which everyone's survival depends.

For example, the land would be feminine, since it would need to be impregnated with the farmer's seed, or with the sky's rain, for it to bear fruit and nourish mankind. Women could perform prostitution rituals in which they would be "possessed" by the identity of the "land goddess", in order to secure good harvests. This was a common practice in ancient times...

If I were you, I would explore women's child bearing potential as a way to make women gain the upper hand on religious grounds.

  • $\begingroup$ I considered emphasizing the child bearing ability of women. Some thought that doING so would be a patriarchy by anot her name, and would be disturbing. Plus, what about women who don't want kids? Would they be ostracized for not doing their duty to society? It could seem like a reverse handmaid tail, and might offend female readers. $\endgroup$
    – user32862
    May 24, 2017 at 23:17
  • $\begingroup$ Thing about religion, is that things may happen not just biologically, but also symbolically. Infertile mothers could still perform those sex rituals that would "fertilize" the land. Catholic priests are called "fathers" toward their congregation, even though they take a vow of celibacy. There was an African tribe, where women would lay the children of another tribe on their belly and scream as in childbirth, in order to "give birth" to those children and strengthen the peace between tribes. $\endgroup$ May 25, 2017 at 6:46
  • $\begingroup$ Also, modern sensibilities are anachronistic and based on political movements that are completely foreign to religion. If you don't want to offend modern sensibilities, it is better to start a religion from scratch, incorporating modern values. But if you want to base yourself in real religions, then it is inescapable that they emerged in a time where womanhood was conflated with child bearing (even in matriarchal societies, for remember that etymologically "matriarchy" comes from the same root as "mother") $\endgroup$ May 25, 2017 at 6:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Shardmartin women had children whether they wanted to or not, because (1) their mothers expected it, and (2) there was no Social Security; children were how you didn't starve in your old age. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    May 28, 2017 at 4:05
  • $\begingroup$ @ronjon: Your comment regarding "social security" is true, but it applies mainly to patriarchal societies, not matriarchal ones. Also women didn't have children because their mothers expected it, but because everyone in their society expected it, including themselves. Separation of womanhood from child bearing is a relatively new phenomenon, AFAIK $\endgroup$ May 28, 2017 at 7:59

Maybe you should take care, that it won't become a too simple change of positions. While that change can be fun and might show some things it was already done so it might be more interesting if you add some more changes. Regarding that - you should definitely read "Egalias døtre" ("The Daughters of Egalia") of Gerd Mjøen Brantenberg https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerd_Brantenberg - a novel which deals with that topic!

Someone already wrote about the difference of sex and gender. I think that's a good point. But within both you don't have to rely on western/hegemonial perception of them.

You already changed the perception of female gender and their role in society. This is nice, maybe you could add land ownership and strictly female heritage as it is the only possibility to really know of which line a child is (as long as you don't have genome testing). This might likely result in a society where each woman is free to choose her lovers but may restict the choice of their men (you see - still one to one change).

So how could we add more variety?

Let us have a look on sex. While our perception is usually, that there ARE only two biological sexes this perception changed greatly over time and societies. E.g. in medieval europe people thought there was only one sex - what's on the outside with men is on the inside with women. Not only bleeding was perceived to be special with female sex as men also bleed but in other ways (thought was that the inner fluids were too much and needed to go outside; while this happened regularly with women men took care about it voluntarily using bloodletting or engaging in fights). So other aspects like class or religion were much more important than sex and gender. (I don't have English sources but I could give you source in German.)

Another example you can find in the history of some first nation peoples in northern America which differenciated in two more or less male and two more or less female sexes. (although I forgot the source)

In premodern Iran beautiful young men which were about to grow their first beard (amrad) were regarded to be a distinct group forming a kind of third sex. While usually amrad became (bearded) men later some of them became amrad namā - grown up men who shave and try to attract themselves to amrad or men. The latter group was often not well perceived but men loving amrad was pretty common. (You can find this very detailed and nicely written in Afsaneh Najmabadis book "Women with mustaches and men without beards" which I can really recommend!)

In Thailand there are Kathoey as a third sex. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kathoey (Although this article doesn't seem to cover the traditional understanding.)

Many cultures traditionally regarded shaman to be of a seperate sex/gender - while men and women had to follow specific roles shamans could do what they like as they were of a different category. (I heard about this in a radio report about I think Korean shaman some years ago.)

The paragraph about God with the goal of harmony and balance sounds like a Yin&Yang basis only with slightly different aspects which could totally work.

But later you state that women are superior to men and should be serving and protecting women. These are contrary approaches. If god seeks harmony god would give both distinct functions and areas of expertese which go hand in hand not making one part the ruler.

There is another problem: As the feminine aspects are intuition, wisdom, strength, and life why should they produce weaponry to solve the demon problem? This approach makes them kind of better men entering the realm of death. So either in the same time this was an entry of death logics into female superiority explaining bad things although women rule or they choose a different solution staying in the realm of life.

To make this work you could make a change in the original society before the imbalance caused by men. I am thinking about a harmonious society without any rulers, neither of men nor of women but just harmonic balanced living together as a complex society with distinct roles and areas of expertese and autonomy. Then men destroyed the balance and women had to solve it.

To see what this solution could be you'd need a story, why the realm of demons was in harmony with the world before and what motives they have to kill humanity (just being evil can be a religious interpretation but as a story background or game dynamic it is IMHO kind of boring).

Whatever this motivation is, it would make more sense if the women found a way to bring the balance with the demons back. But them being vengeful and overly cautious demanded the absolute suppression and subservience of men under the rule of women.

You can still rely on the broken veil and the weakness of the new treaty between humans and demons. But that would be of a different and IMHO more interesting nature as demons however evil and unfathomably they might seem have a reason to watch over humanity and punish them breaking the treaty maybe no living human anymore knows about. This way you even open up a possible large scale plot finding out details about the nature of demons and that treaty.

  • $\begingroup$ Okay. What do you think of the creation story itself? Does it sound authentic given the setting? It's an interpretation of the truth, the reality is more complicated, but often gets dumbed down to this version. These kings were the most visible leaders of the time and many instigate these wars for one reason or another. Some were petty, some had understandable motives. Regardless, they get thrown into the same boat. $\endgroup$
    – user32862
    May 28, 2017 at 13:54
  • $\begingroup$ I made some more thoughts - I hope this is what you are looking for. I didn't got exactly what you meant about interpretation of truth and reality. $\endgroup$
    – Olga Maria
    May 28, 2017 at 18:05

It could do with a touch of "original sin", like in Christianity it was because of the woman that mankind was kicked out of paradise. There could be some misdeed by the men that led to the end of a mystical golden age.


Honestly, I think you answer your own question in the setup.

Form follows function. This is one of those fundamental truths that underlies most social constructs, regardless of the morality or myths or constructs of said society. Slavery has been both condemned and propped up by careful choice of holy text - but during the American Civil War, a largely homogenous populace was driven into a long and bloody conflict because slavery was a foundation of the economy for the South and had largely become irrelevant in the North. Actions are typically driven by what is necessary or desired, and dressing it up comes afterwards.

My point is, the reasoning and justification should follow naturally from why it's a matriarchal society in the first place.

I see other posts encouraging you to draw on things that set women apart biologically, such as the ability to reproduce. But carrying child has set women apart from men since the dawn of time, and as of yet, there have been few if any cultures that were truly matriarchal - though some have managed to be egalitarian.

Man has historically held power because men were relied on to deal with physical activities, which were vital to historical civilizations. They were the shields by which a tribe was defended, the swords by which new land was taken. Without having to worry about carrying child, they were the ones who could engage in strenuous physical labor year-round. As technology changes how wars are fought and how labor is carried out, you see the whole world becoming more and more egalitarian.

So day to day, I think you need to figure out why tribes, clans, kingdoms, and states are reliant on women. And I think you have that in magic. This magic may take a long time to wield, but if it is necessary to, for example, turn away the storms that ravage the planet, or to make the crops grow when the long winters come, or to hold the demons at bay, then their power will flow from that. That's what will make the society believable. The justification is just the window dressing.

I think the creation myth sounds great as it is, and as you tie the myth into the world's history, I think it will get fleshed out even more. If I had to change one thing, I would point out that God felt both Adam and Eve were to blame for the fall. Some theologians have blamed Eve for everything, but others have pointed out that Eve was tricked, but Adam chose to eat - and God made no distinction when he cast them out of the garden. Whoever bore more of the blame, both were punished, and punished equally.

But, again, that didn't stop a long line of holy folk from pointing to Eve as justification for man's rule over women.


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