In prehistoric times, the mother was considered the "center of the universe". The mother was the only source of life, since the connection between pregnancy and sex wasn't known. People draw parallels between human life and other phenomena in nature. They compared the fertility of the earth with that of the mother. Everything depended on the (her) cycle of birth and death. Hence, all rituals were centered around fertility: the death of the seed and its rebirth. This earthly experience had its counterpart in a great intuition about the Essence of the universe. The latter was considered the Great Cosmic Womb, the Origin of birth and death.
This intuition might well have been there from a very early beginning: that of the black mothers in Africa, the neolithical mothers of Europe, those of the Middle East, India and China. The Mother has been the underlying principle of almost all ("great") civilizations. The first written accounts have been found in Sumer, at a time that patriarchy already made its first beginnings. "Women had the experience, men wrote it down". The Original Great Mother was the "Queen of Heaven and earth", the Womb that gave birth to both the Gods and the universe. She "embodied" (re)birth, preservation and death. Everything originated from and returned to Her. She was the All-Embracing One.
The first Great Mother we know of was Inanna (Sumer). Although some (early patriarchal) texts talk about Inanna "created by God", there is convincing evidence that She existed at "the beginning of time before anything else". She was the Origin of all things. Later Inanna turned into Ishtar, the Mother-goddess of Babylon. Through many clay tablets quite something is known about them. Especially the hymns are moving documents of the devotion people felt for the Great Mother. In later times Astarte was the Mother-goddess of Canašn. It was this goddess, whom the Israelites considered their most deadly enemy *, especially because she was revered by the Israelites themselves, a.o. many women and kings (Solomon, David). In Egypt it was the Mother-goddess Isis, who has had an astonishing long tradition. Her last temple was closed in Soissons (near Paris) in the year 550.
* Not by the people, but by the fanatic Levite priests! See chapter "The Bible".
Going deeper into:
* Han Marie Stiekema "The Lap of the universe"
* M.Sjoo & B.Mor "The Great Cosmic
* A.Harvey "The Return of the
Mother", 1995 Jeremy
* E.Neumann "The Great Mother", 1974 Princeton