The Evolution of Psyche and Society

(Part 2)
By Lloyd deMause


According to James Masterson, personality disorders are results of "false selves" that defend against painful affects of early life and present-day experiences, designed to camouflage the real targets of emotional life—the infantile feelings and memories—and based not on reality but on organized fantasies involving part-selves. Contemporary personality disorders as described in Masterson’s revisions of DSM IV75 form a series of personality types from schizoid to narcissistic, borderline, depressive and neurotic which conform to the stages of evolution of historical personalities that result from the childrearing modes described in the previous two chapters.






Early infanticidal



Devours, seduces, abandons child

To animal alter spirits

Late Infanticidal



Kills, punishes evil child

To human alter gods

Christian: Abandoning



Forgives hurt Self-child


Middle Ages: Ambivalent



Dominates, beats worshipful child

Subservient clinging

Renaissance: Intrusive


Holy Warrior

Disciplines obedient child





Manipulates child

Incomplete Separation

Post-Modern: Helping



Trusts, loves child

No sacrifice of real self

Illustration 9-1—Table of Historical Personalities


The schizoid personality cluster—including paranoid and psychopathic personalities—features magical, primary process thinking; periods of depersonalization, unreality and grandiosity; animistic fused subject/object experiences; an inability to experience intimacy; and extreme episodes of suspicion and rage. Because tribal mothering (see Chapter 6) is so primitive, so lacking in empathy for the child and so engulfing in overt maternal incest, the schizoid tribal personality has a fear of being taken over and a "profound inability to love himself."76 Schizoids therefore cannot stand close relationships and so cannot form higher levels of social organization based on trust. Tribal personalities since the Palaeolithic formed animal and organ alters containing dissociated Perpetrator and Victim Alters.

Animal alters were depicted in the cave paintings of early times and were sacrificially stabbed over and over again in ecstatic rebirth rituals held deep in womb-caves covered with several inches of blood-red ochre. The depersonalization of schizoids—the result of severe separation stress—is so extreme that they regularly felt themselves breaking into fragmented pieces, switching into dissociated states and going into shamanistic trances to try to put themselves together. During shamanistic journeys, schizoids experience themselves as sliced up, their bones removed, their flesh devoured by female monsters, and as repeating the tortures of childhood by being starved, burned, beaten, raped and lacerated.77

Like schizoid personalities today, much of their lives were spent in fantasy worlds that repeated the childhood isolation that resulted from their feeling that there was simply no path to a real relationship with parents or others. Since alters are formed to contain and control memories of early terrors, when defenses threaten to break down the schizoid is flooded with agony.78 In tribal groups, there is no hope for forgiveness, there is no "sin," no chance of atonement, only "eat mommy or be eaten by her," only sadistic master-slave fears and detachment-alienation defenses, all restaged in endless rituals and cannibalistic feasts where organ alters are eaten. Bourguignon found spirit possession rituals (where an alter totally takes over the host personality) only in simple hunter-gatherer societies, while possession-trance rituals (where various demon alters appear as spirits during brief ritual trances) were found in agricultural or animal herding societies.79

Possession rituals today feature a "judgement of the soul by an old woman, the mother-animal, the mistress of the dead," and in the past featured "human victims offered in sacrifice to propitiate the Master of the Animals."80 The animal masks of the shaman are familiar from the various cave paintings that have survived this early period, with the shaman’s drum said to be "the voice of the primeval mother" and with Mistress of the Animal representations continuing as late as the Greek goddess Artemis.81 Yakut shamans still hallucinate self-sacrifice to "a Bird-of-Prey-Mother, which is like a great bird with an iron beak, hooked claws, and a long tail [who] cuts its body into bits and devours it."82

Animistic alter fetishes surrounded early humans. As one Chukchi put it: "All that exists lives. The lamp walks around. The walls of the house have voices of their own, while the deceased get up and visit the living."83 Every alter fetish contains traces of the original trauma from when it was formed—even the shaman’s rattle betraying the routine raping of children by having a "gourd representing the womb and a penis-handle that inseminates it."84 Indeed, it is likely that most of the misnamed "Venus figurines" found in early caves were in fact raping wands similar to those used in contemporary cults that rape virgins in rituals,85 with faceless heads shaped like the glans of the penis, bulbous breasts looking just like testicles, a vaginal triangle carefully indicated and covered with red ochre representing the bloody results of the childhood rape.86

It was no coincidence that the very first art in the Upper Palaeolithic was mainly representations of the vulva.87 "Sacred rape" is part of shamanistic beliefs today,88 and virgins are still cut and raped as sacrificial offerings to gods in some areas of the world, giving as the reason: "Only blood satisfies the tius [avenging spirits]."89 Girls in some African tribes are still made to sit on erect penis figurines as punishment.90 That tunnels and caves were the locations of these raping rituals fits well with the frequent use of tunnels and caves by contemporary cults that rape schoolchildren.91

That the caves of the Palaeolithic are cultic sanctuaries for trance hallucinations is further confirmed by their being covered with "entoptic" images identical to those experienced by contemporary shamans engaged in trance vision quests.92

Plunging into the terrifying, hallucinatory world of "Dreamtime" trances meant revisiting the terrifying world of childhood, where mommies suck infants’ penises and fathers have seven-year-olds fellate them. Initiates felt so polluted by their early seductions that they submitted themselves at adolescence to initiatory group-fantasies of disemboweling and washing of their entrails and other body parts, while endlessly cutting themselves to cleanse their blood of their badness. The !Kung bushmen of the Kalahari still switch into cleansing trances once a week to experience their alter memories in convulsion-like tremors, ending in the usual temporal lobe seizures of tribal personalities, "bursting open, like a ripe pod" when "God killed my every thought. He wiped me clean."93

Body parts containing projected alters collected by early headhunters and cannibals existed with hallucinatory reality: "The Dyaks were obsessed with the notion that severed heads continued to exist as living beings…[they were] treated for months with deep reverence and flattering speech. Choice morsels from the table would be thrust into its mouth, and at the end of the meal a cigar would be placed between its lips."94 Alters in enemy scalps collected by warriors in many tribes were so real the scalps used to be taken home, called "my child" and fed regularly.95 Since "enemies" were usually quite innocent of any wrongdoing until a warrior’s alters were projected into them, captured enemies were often tortured—to punish the projected childhood alters—and then eaten—to return the punished alter to the original owner.96 Thus what Sagan calls "aggressive cannibalism" and ascribes to "vengeance" is in fact a punishment of a part of the self, projected into another body, and then returned after punishment to one’s own body by eating it.

Apparently the cultural explosion at the beginning of the Upper Palaeolithic some 35,000 years ago was the result of early language abilities affording the capacity to project alters into others and into shared cultural alter fetishes.97 Early humans were schizoid personalities who did not have unified real selves, only dozens of subselves which they projected into other people and objects. One archeologist suggests that the spectacular explosion of cultural developments 35,000 years ago came from "the appearance of a very simple additional cognitive affective mechanism—a disposition to engage in pretend play in childhood,"98 which in turn depends upon the ability to project parts of one’s self into others and into objects.

Contemporary tribal children have alters they play with, far more real to them than the "imaginary playmates" children in more complex societies have. In New Guinea, small children have alternate personalities called finiik that "temporarily depart from the body to wander abroad…during trances and other forms of mystical experience."99

Anthropologists are often startled to be introduced by a little child to his finiik, projected into a certain stone or bird, or be told about how witch alters regularly possess children’s bodies both in dreams and waking life—all spontaneously experienced, long before being taught in ritual.

Wars, too, are fought to cleanse internal alters of badness, repair the fragmented self and restore potency. Tribal warfare against alter container "enemies" is accomplished mainly through ambush, with warriors spearing unarmed men, women and children for wholly imagined grievances.

Tribes switch into Persecutory Alters mainly on occasions of extreme growth panic, when new tasks such as building houses or expanding gardens threaten too much growth and after initiations that center on adolescents growing up. Homicide rates reach the highest levels anywhere in the world—up to 60 percent—in schizoid tribal societies, since extreme distrust of others is common: "Both men and women are volatile, prone to quarreling and quick to take offense at a suspected slight,"100 restaging the distrust and rage of their infanticidal mothers. Women are routinely viewed as secretly being witches "who can kill simply by staring at a person" and are often killed because they are believed to poison people.101 Wife-beating is nearly universal, female suicide rates from mistreatment often reaches 10-25 percent of women’s deaths, and routine torture and execution of women suspected of poisoning men is common.102

Supreme gods in schizoids—unlike the more personal gods of borderlines—are totally unloving and distant, reflecting the uncaring nature of the parents. Eliade points out that even when thought of as "eternal, omniscient and all-powerful," creator gods in tribal cultures "withdraw to the sky," too remote and uncaring to be prayed to or addressed.103 What takes their place is merging with guardian spirits—empowerment by first torturing yourself to cleanse your alters and then hallucinating an animal alter that might protect you against being devoured by cannibalistic maternal giant alters like the Australian "Old Serpent Woman" or the Kwakiutl giantess Tsonoqua, who roams the forest searching for children to eat.104 Even when schizoids try to incorporate paternal features to avoid being devoured, they end up giving their gods maternal features—like the Rainbow Serpents of Australia, described as "gods who are male but have a womb or female breasts…who look like snakes but also like a woman…the ‘bad Mother’…who swallowed children left in her care."105

The main content, however, of tribal rituals is constructed from fetal fantasies, because schizoid disintegration produces deep regression to bad womb and rebirth memories. Psychotherapists like Stan Grof—who regress their patients to fetal states—reproduce their drawings in their books, and these look very much like shamanistic experiences.108 Possessed shamans often describe switching into trances during their dances in language that closely resembles the birth experience:

The loa dance suggests water [amniotic fluid]…when the drumbeat quickens [mother experiences contractions]…the whole structure crashes like a cosmic surf over one’s head [breaking of the amniotic waters]…the terror strikes and with a supreme effort I wrench my leg loose, I must keep moving {trapped in birth canal]…My skull is a drum, my veins will burst my skin [bloodstream anoxic because placenta no longer delivers oxygenated blood]…I am sucked down and exploded upward at once [birth]…Finally it is as if I lay at the far distant end of an infinitely deep-down, sunken well, then suddenly: surface; suddenly: air; suddenly:dazzling white [born].107

Róheim describes the initiation ritual of the Australian aborigines in which initiates were forced to drink blood as "throwing the novice into the Old Woman whose womb is symbolized by a semi-circular trench…The Rainbow Serpent [Poisonous Placenta] is represented engraved on the walls of the trench. A bull-roarer, called the ‘Mother’ and also representing her womb, her ‘shade,’ is buried in the trench, his spirit [alter] later leaving it to return to his spirit home."108

Both initiation rituals and shamanistic journeys usually include going through long birth tunnels with umbilical ropes attaching them to visit placental World Trees, feeling body dismemberments like those fetuses feel during birth, performing bloody birth rituals in medicine wheel circles shaped like placentas and restaging the "poison blood" memories of birth by being covered by "the menstrual blood that can cause you to die, called ‘dead womb blood.’"109 Only after going through poison-blood rebirth restagings could tribal men hope for a time to put their Devouring Mommy alters at rest and go about with the daily work of living

The result of always being subject to infanticidal, incestuous abandoning maternal memories is that schizoid tribal personalities cannot tolerate separation or rejection in their daily life. "Rejection is unendurable…families cluster together in an encampment ‘often touching against their neighbors’ [because] separation and loneliness are unendurable to them. [They] cannot bear the sense of rejection that even mild disapproval makes them feel."110 What is misnamed "egalitarianism" is really mistrust and fear of being called "selfish" for owning.

Hoarding and self-aggrandizement are simply not tolerated—people were often killed for trying to keep more than their share of goods—ambition was stopped by overwhelming schizoid envy, change was feared and the surpluses and savings which were necessary for future innovation were nowhere to be found. As Murphy found, in tribal societies "the mother is an eternal threat to self-individuation, a frustrater of urges, and a swallower of emergent identity" of men.111

The early incest was particularly destructive of separation and individuation. As one Maori sage put it: "That which destroys man is the mana of the vagina." Men are forced to merge with their mothers in order to appropriate the power of their vagina: "Warriors became the symbolic equivalent of menstruating women…[both] bloody warriors and menstruating women…were charged with powerful destructive energy…warriors’ bodies and weapons were decorated with designs marked in red hematite [and] they expropriated the destructive power of menstruating women [by] ritual nosebleeding or subincision."112 Often the bond between men was obtained by their sharing the mommy-alter in their blood, cutting their veins and smearing their blood on each other to form "blood brotherhoods."113

But strong leaders are avoided because they might bring back memories of maternal domination: "Australian aborigines traditionally eliminated aggressive men who tried to dominate them [and] in New Guinea, they execute prominent individuals who overstep their prerogatives."114 Personal loyalty to leaders is tentative because of their overwhelming schizoid mistrust and envy, so the most social organization that can be achieved is "Big Men" who do not threaten to subject others too much to maternal engulfment and despair—better to stick to alter fetishes and constant gift-exchange to ward off the return of childhood memories of starvation and abandonment. Every step toward personal closeness or trust brings flashbacks to maternal distancing, since "schizoid states often lead to acute paranoid regressions because the patient’s aggression becomes more threatening to him as he allows himself to get closer to other individuals."115

Thus wars in tribal societies often follow disappointments in sexual affairs—as men fail in achieving intimacy, they become paranoid and go off to kill imagined "enemies." Only when childrearing achieved the next highest mode were men able to achieve complex societies that allowed dominant male leaders and trust in others sufficient to permit ownership and complex hierarchical organizations that could permit development of higher levels of economic production and trade.


Narcissistic personalities ward off their sense of an empty, inadequate self by fusing with the harsh attacking parent alter and forming a grandiose self that identifies with the omnipotent parent. Or they become a latent narcissist and cling to and admire a grandiose other, a narcissistic hero who can stand up to the destructive mother alter.116 Whereas schizoid tribal personalities tried to maintain a safe distance to avoid engulfment, the narcissistic personalities of antiquity tried to maintain some sense of self by arming themselves with grandiose exhibitionism.

Thus they constantly live in the state of narcissistic display, as for instance early Greeks did when they spent their days displaying their bodies at gymnasiums and at night—rather than going home to risk intimacy with their wives —engaged in male-only drinking/raping parties. The narcissistic personalities of antiquity were exploitative, distrustful, ruthless and lacking in empathy,117 being preoccupied with fantasies of the power and brilliance of a world filled with arrogant, distant narcissistic heroes and gods and grandiose political leaders upon whom they depended to validate their weak sense of self. Their pedophilia was also a result of their only being able to have sex with a narcissistic double of themselves stemming from when they were beautiful youths and, like Narcissus, fell in love with themselves, avoiding women as "vultures" who were out to catch and devour them.

Early civilizations began with both gods and leaders who had maternal characteristics: devouring goddesses everywhere prevailed, and even chiefs seemed to be mommies—as the Anyi said: "When the king’s breasts are full of milk, it is his people who drink."118 Parin found the Anyi clung to their kings because "their fear of women was greater than their fear of men" and because of "their need to find a chief or master who enjoys prestige and power so that they can submit to him and introject power" and avoid maternal engulfment.119

As Galen put it: "Each man trembled forever on the brink of becoming ‘womanish’"120 —i.e., of switching permanently into his mommy alter and losing his self. The ever-present fear of turning into a woman found throughout early civilizations explains why religions and politics were defensive arenas filled with sadistic maternal alters and why periodic wars were desperately needed to attempt to restore men’s potency.

The daily life of the narcissistic personalities of antiquity was filled with projected alters, from the evil spirits, devils and dybbuks that Jews were constantly exorcising to the bloodthirsty female spirits, serpents and demons that Sumerians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans tried to ward off with their various religious fetishes. "At every corner evil spirits were on the watch…there was also danger from the spells of numerous witches, in whom everyone believed implicitly."121 Even supposedly rational Greeks were, as Gouldner put it, "deeply concerned about their capacity to go murderously berserk."122

Egyptians regularly talked to their avenging alters, as the "world-weary man" talked to his "double," his Ba, about suicide, making "suicide so common that the crocodiles in the Nile could no longer cope with the corpses."123 Hippocrates confirmed that Greeks often experienced "convulsions, fears, terrors and delusions," and physicians in every country of antiquity were expected to treat possessions, hallucinations, frenzies, lycanthropies and other symptoms of dissociated personalities (melancholy in Greek meaning "furor.")124 The average Greek acknowledged that his emotional life was constantly controlled by his alters, which were given names like psyche, thumos, menos, kardia, kradie, etor, noos, ate, and so on. Dodds says that Homer describes ate, for instance, as "a temporary clouding or bewildering of the normal consciousness…a partial and temporary insanity…ascribed to an external ‘daemonic’ agency."125 Medea says she did not kill her children, her thumos forced her to kill them.

One’s psyche looks and sounds like a living person, Odysseus says, but it flies off "like a shadow or a dream."126 Sometimes they were co-conscious with these alters, but often they were not, since they completely took over the self. Adkins wrote an entire book on how the Greeks of antiquity kept switching into their subpersonalities, describing their "low degree of unity and cohesion [as] one ‘little man’ (so to speak) within him after another addresses and prompts him…"127 Usually the spirits and demons of antiquity betrayed their maternal origin—not so surprising when one reads statements like that of Galen who said "my mother was so very prone to anger that sometimes she bit her handmaids"128 or that of Xenophon who said he would "rather bear a wild beast’s brutality than that of his mother."129

The earliest civilizations uniformly worshipped vampire goddesses who were devouring maternal alters. All were what Jungians term "Dragon Mothers"130 —from Lilith, Nin-Tu, Hecate and Ishtar to Moira, Shiva, Gorgon and Erinyes. They were usually called by their worshipers "Terrible Mothers," usually had serpentine features and were called terms like "cruel, jealous, unjust, her glance brings death, her will is supreme" by worshippers.131

Since contemporary multiple personalities also sometimes hallucinate gigantic serpents as alters,132 one must believe the witnesses in early civilizations when they insist they really saw these serpent-goddesses. The Dragon Mother Goddesses accurately embodied the infanticidal "infinitely needy mother who cannot let her children go because she needs them for her own psychic survival…giving her child the impossible task of filling her limitless void [and] engulfing them to prevent them from claiming a separate life for themselves."133 One of the earliest Vulture Goddesses can be seen on the shrine walls of the Neolithic town of Catal Hüyük, a bloodthirsty Goddess with wings of a vulture who is shown eating headless corpses. Corpses of people were actually thrown into the fields nearby so vultures could eat them in sacrificial rebirth rituals.134

That vultures were maternal was shown long ago in Freud’s paper showing that the Egyptian hieroglyph for "mother" clearly represents a vulture and that the Egyptians worshipped a vulture-headed mother-goddess.135 Even early Hebrews worshipped a mother-goddess, Asherah,136 who, along with Lilith, the other vampire goddess mentioned in the Bible, "ceaselessly devoured the blood" of her worshippers and "roamed the world in search of children to eat, rape and kill." Even the Sphinx (sphinx means "throttler") was a maternal monster who devoured youth.137

Most of the male animal gods of early civilizations were pictured as slaves of goddesses, like "the Bull of Heaven, the ferocious monster who killed three hundred men at each snort of his breath [whom] Ishtar in her rage sent down to devastate the land."138 But usually the Mother Goddesses accomplished their own slaughters: "Kali, the Black One, breasts big with milk, adorned with the blood-dripping hands and heads of her victims, devouring the entrails of a human victim or drinking blood from a human skull."139

Statues of these bloodthirsty goddesses were set up in ziggurats and temples all over the world, daily washed, dressed, fed, talked to, and heard to speak their commands,140 so hallucinatory was the power of the alters. The statues were such bloodthirsty maternal alter fetishes that often priests would take the blood of the sacrificial victim and anoint the face of the idol so She could drink of it.141 "Divinely-induced madness"—as in the Dionysian rituals of ancient Greece— would sometimes even cause women to become possessed by their Terrible Mother alters and act out the killing of the victim, especially when they were experiencing post-partum depressions. As Euripides describes them: "Breasts swollen with milk, new mothers who had left their babies behind at home…clawed calves to pieces with bare hands [and] snatched children from their homes."142

The fetal origins of early religions were everywhere evident. Actual human placentas were often hung on trees, worshipped and offered human sacrifices.143 Goddesses like Tiamat were referred to as "poisonous wombsnakes," Sumerians and Babylonians worshipped "placenta-ghosts," and even the Hebrew name for Eve (Khawwa) meant "the Serpent Lady."144 Peruvians used to place their actual placentas into the womb of their religious statues,145 just as most nagual worshipped in ancient Meso-American religions were real placentas.146

All the "Cosmic Trees" found in early religions—from the Tree of Eden to Jesus’ Cross—were placental in origin, and the priest was often portrayed as a fetus: "He has become a fetus. His head is veiled and he is made to clench his fists, for the embryo in its bag has its fists clenched. He walks around the hearth just as the fetus moves within the womb…he unclenches his fists, he unveils himself, he is born into divine existence, he is a god."147 Carthaginian and other child sacrifice religions used both fetuses and newborn in their rites,148 and cults even today often kill real fetuses in rebirth rituals.149 Even the Deluge myths—from Gilgamesh to that of the Hebrew Bible—contain many elements of the rush of amniotic waters prior to birth.

Every detail of the worship of Mother Goddesses has its origins in actual traumatic childrearing experiences of antiquity. Most "Terrifying Mothers" had divine sons who were forced to commit incest with them,150 similar to the Japanese mothers and others described in the previous chapter,151 with "every mother goddess having their son-lovers, Inanna and Tammuz, Isis and Osiris, Cybele and Attis, Aphrodite and Adonis."152 The religious rituals restaged accurately the maternal seduction: "Not only does the Mother Goddess love her son simply for his phallus, she castrates him, taking possession of it to make herself fruitful."153 In India until recently, "visitors to many ancient shrines used to have symbolic intercourse with stone-cut female deities by thrusting their fingers into deep touchholes, worn by generations of finger-thrusters, at the deities’ sexual centers."154 Thus it is quite mistaken to call ancient sexual seduction rituals "Sacred Marriages." They are in fact "Sacred Maternal Incests."

When the incest is complete and the "insatiable appetite" of the Goddess assuaged, the Mother Goddess then castrated her son155 and even, in the case of Ishtar, "wore a necklace of testicles in depictions of her. The Great Mother was gentler to women than to men, who had great reason to fear her dark side as Devouring-Mother. [She] existed not to be loved, but to be placated."156 Worshippers of the Magna Mater, called galli, castrated themselves for her, "wishing to be like a child, the better to serve the goddess,"157 "running through the city with severed organs and throwing them into any house."158

That sacrifices of all sorts are for "wiping out evil and guilt" of the community is well-established,159 but that sacrifice was usually equated with childbirth ("man’s childbearing") and sacrificers serve inner maternal alters and often pretend to be mothers ("the priests masqueraded as pregnant women during the sacrifice")160 is less well known. Astarte "massacred mankind, young and old, causing heads and hands to fly and tying heads to her back, hands to her girdle."161 Drawings of the goddess "show her perpetual hunger for human sacrificial victims."162 Visnu particularly favored devouring the victims’ genitals.163 The sacrificial rituals made a point of saying the victim must be innocent, like a child. Ancient religions used to blurt out alter beliefs that we today only tentatively suggest might be true.

Because these goddesses were also "The Mistresses of Battle," soldiers killed in battle were also seen as sacrifices to her bloodthirsty appetite. "The goddess brings destruction to enemies; she drinks the blood of the victims who were formerly her children…she could not be halted in her slaughter of the human race."164 Since these deaths originated in such memories as watching his mother strangle his little sister when she was born, war goddesses particularly needed the death of their own soldiers. As an early Ugaritic text says of the goddess Anat: "She is filled with joy as she plunges her knees in the blood of heroes."165

Often the sacrificer was actually female, as was the chief priestess of the Celtic moon goddess, who cut off the victims’ heads with her own hands, restaging the maternal infanticide.166

But rituals don’t just repeat early trauma: they restage them—rearrange them to include elements of both the violence of the Perpetrating Alters and the rage of the Victim Alters. Thus the murderous goddess Tiamat is killed by her son Marduk in a tremendous battle by an "arrow that tore through her belly and inner parts."167 Only by defeating the infanticidal mother could sons "overcome chaos." As Halpern says: "The hero is one who slays his mother [and] institutes a new order on earth…culture is the work of the hero, the mother-killer, and represents his attempt at self-generation."168

That the killing is the rage of the infantile victim alter against the mother is seen by the fact that the Mother Goddess, after being killed, is nevertheless identified with: for instance, the Aztecs beheaded women representing their Mother Goddesses and flayed them, donning their skins so that they can become them and acquire their dangerous powers, their mana.169

The acquisition of the powers of the Terrifying Mother by a male God was only slowly and partially accomplished in antiquity. Yahweh might conquer the primordial female monster, Leviathan, symbol of chaos, and He might demand complete obedience, "with all thy heart and all thy soul and all thy might." He might even take over sacrificial demands, as when He tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac to found Israel in a blood-brotherhood convenant. But behind what Maccoby calls "The Sacred Executioner"170 lies the sacrificial mother alter; behind every adored Adonis lies the cruel Astarte.

Greeks may have tried to defend against maternal engulfment by holding annual processions where they marched with giant phalli, but the vase illustrations of the phalli show women holding them up in the air. Even powerful kings, like Odin or Wodan, had to be periodically sacrificed to the Mother Goddess, the World Ash, to assuage her blood thirst and cleanse the people.171 Only by sacrificing together could men establish patrilineal kinship and political power. Even in Greece and Rome, patrilineal kin only knew they were kin because they sacrificed together: sacrifice was called "a remedy for having been born of woman."

Even death in war strengthened the weak bonding between males—when an Aztec captured an enemy, he called him "my beloved son" and the captive answered, "my beloved father," then killed him.172 That the sacrificial victim contained the Bad Boy Alter can be seen at the beginning of the ritual, when the victim is "injected with the poison" of childhood sin, rubbed with dirt if the victim was an animal or given many sexual partners before the sacrifice if the victim was a human. That it was internal alters who demanded the sacrifice was indicated by the priest saying, "The gods have done this deed; I did not do it!" or, as in Athens, by holding a trial after the sacrifice in which the full blame for the slaying was attributed to the knife, which, "having been found guilty, was punished by being destroyed."173

The more wealthy and successful ancient societies became, the more guilty they felt, the more their growth panic led them to defend against their avenging maternal alters by clinging to a more and more powerful male leader.

As Earle observes, "chiefdoms are states of mind [and] chiefs rule not because of their power but because of their place in a sacredly chartered world order"174 —the world order of alters and their containers. The more kings appropriated maternal alter power—her mana—the more they had to go through seasonal cleansing ceremonies, including ritual abasement and even "killing of the king," in order to punish themselves for their hubris.175

In these ceremonies, the king was ritually called "a turd [who] has come to save us,"176 hit in the face with a sword, and only then invested with Heil,177 his portion of maternal mana. But everyone in antiquity knew where his power really came from: the vaginal maternal crown, which was addressed by the king as "O Red Crown, Let there be fear of me like the fear of thee;" the throne, called the "mother" of the king; and the sceptre, "a branch from the placental Tree of Life."178


Article Citations

This article is Part II of Chapter 9 of deMause's new book The Emotional Life of Nations (New York: OtherPress, 2002). For more by deMause, see his website,

Go to Part III of Lloyd deMause's The Evolution of Psyche and Society

Read Dr. James C. Duffy's article about why deMause's findings are believable and why resistance persists despite the overwhelming evidence he presents.

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