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Women in ancient Egypt and the Matriarchal society that prospered for thousands of years


Has modern society continued to advance and progress since ancient times? That’s a general idea given the concept of evolution, but is it necessarily true with humans? If we consider the state of the world, we find civilizations with mostly patriarchal control. We see the rich few control the masses while equality is still a distant goal. Prosperity is out of reach for millions. It seems evolution has not necessarily created an advanced human race, but one that is dangerously out of balance with the natural world and perhaps the spiritual one.

Looking back at ancient times, we tend to think we’ve come a long way. But have we really? In America, millions reach for a more Egalitarian society that affords equal opportunity to all, regardless of gender or race. However, in 2019, we still struggle to attain this form of civilization.

Now consider ancient Egypt and the periods of a relatively prosperous matriarchal society.

“The status of women in ancient Egyptian society was of such importance that the right to the crown itself passed through the royal women and not the men. The daughters of kings were all important.”

According to the Pyramid Code documentary (see below), the ruling Pharaohs were open to recognizing the equality of the Sacred Masculine and the Sacred Feminine. The matriarchal consciousness was associated with eternity, cycles of time, ritual, magic, altered states, and art. The patriarchal consciousness was associated with history, linear time, dogma, rationality, waking reality, and science. Both were of equal value.

See this excerpt from the Pyramid Code below:

From the First and Second Intermediate Periods (2100 BCE–1550 BCE) to the Ptolemaic Period (300 BCE–30 BCE), we see periods where women were elevated to the highest levels of society. Women were educated business owners, and there were few limits. What happened as a result? Culture thrived.

“Not only were women in ancient Egypt responsible for the nurturance and admonition of children, but they could also work at a trade, own and operate a business, inherit property, and come out well in divorce proceedings. Some women of the working class even became prosperous. They trained in medicine as well as in other highly skilled endeavors. There were female religious leaders in the priesthood, but in this instance, they were not equal to the men. In ancient Egypt, women could buy jewelry and fine linens. At times, they ruled as revered queens or pharaohs.”

During the period called the New Kingdom (c.1570-1069 BCE), the mother, wife and eldest daughter of the king could be elevated to hold power equal to the Pharoah. They could hold the politically powerful and spiritually significant title of God’s Wife of Amun. Later, unmarried women of royal birth could hold the position, and they could adopt their own successor. God’s Wives were tax-exempt and owned personal property like the priests.

Wives of Amun via YouTube

Queen Ahhotep I (c. 1570-1530 BCE) held the powerful title of God’s Wife of Amun. She was the mother of Pharaoh Ahmose I. Queen Ahhotep commanded the troops, wielding almost as much power as the king.

Then she passed on her power to her daughter, Ahmose-Nefertari. In response, the Pharoah Ahmose I gave Ahmose-Nefertari more power, equaling the power of the High Priest. This move diminished the power held by the Priests of Amun. These priests were also tax-exempt and became wealthy and powerful by performing rituals they considered necessary to enter the next life. It seems they corrupted religion, something we see too often today.

“Ahhotep apparently commanded the respect of local troops and grandees to preserve a fledgling dynastic line and she continued to function as king’s mother well into the reign of Amenhotep I” (Shaw, 218). At some point she surrendered the role of God’s Wife to her daughter, Ahmose-Nefertari, who was also Ahmose I’s wife,” said Egyptologist Betsy M. Bryan.

One woman, the granddaughter of Pharaoh Amenhotep I, Hatshepsut, became a Pharaoh herself during the 18th Dynasty in c.1478 BCE. Interestingly, she was said to rule as both king and queen. Her statues sometimes depicted her as a man with a royal beard. She was “the most powerful and successful female ruler of ancient Egypt.” After she became Pharaoh, she surrendered her title of “God’s Wife” to her daughter, Neferu-Ra.

See more about Hatshepsut below:

Later, the ninth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty, Amenhotep III, and Queen Tiye would create one of the most prosperous and luxurious times in ancient history. Queen Tiye was the most influential counselor and support to the Pharaoh. Together, they were a united front considered “a high point in Egyptian history.” She and the Pharaoh disapproved of the cult of Amun, and she would help her son,  Akhenaten, abolish it.

Queen Tiye was also known to communicate directly with foreign rulers, in which role she excelled. The couple ruled effective for 38 years until Amenhotep III’s death. She then became the Kings’ Mother as her son Amenhotep IV took the throne. He changed his name to Akhenaten and ushered in another era of matriarchal rule with his influential wife, Nefertiti.

According to Ancient History Encyclopedia:

“Tiye ruled with the same authority as a man and exercised her power in equal measure with the great Kings of the ancient world.”

Centuries before the reign of Cleopatra, Tiye was revered as a queen with the same authority as any man. Queen Tiye was depicted in statues of the same height as her husband, symbolizing her equal status.

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Queen Tiye by Rama via Wikimedia Commons

Queen Tiy’s daughter-in-law, Nefertiti remains one of the most famous influential women in world history. Her name translates to `the beautiful one has come.’ Her fame is partly because we recognize her face from a sculpture discovered in 1912 CE. Her beauty was legendary.

During Nefertiti’s reign, she and her husband led a religious revolution against the Priests of Amun. These priests had gained great power and wealth for performing rituals at mortuary complexes, so much that they were essentially in control.

Akhenaten and Nefertiti led religious reforms that may have been as much to undercut the priest’s power in the cult of Amun as they were to convert to a monotheist religion based on the sun deity, Aten. They succeeded in wresting power away from the cult but would later be accused of heresy.

Was it heresy, or was it needed reform to restore true spirituality rather than feed a power-hungry religious cult? The title of God’s Wife of Amun also appears to have been eliminated but appeared again in the 19th Dynasty.

During Nefertiti’s reign, she, like her husband’s mother, ruled as an equal to the Pharaoh. Today, she appears to have been even more powerful than her husband. However, she disappeared from the historical record after the death of her daughter Mekitaten in childbirth. There is a theory that she continued to rule under the male name of Smenkhkare until her step-son, Tutankhamun, was old enough to assume the throne.

Later, Queen Nefertari continued the matriarchal rule of ancient Egypt with her husband, Ramesses II. Nefertari is one of the most famous figures in Egyptian history, with one of the largest tombs in the Valley of the Queens called the Temple of Abu Simbel. Nefertari appeared in equal size and stature in the sculptures of the time. She was highly educated and influential as a diplomat and at court. The Pharaoh revered women rulers so much that he also restored the temple of Hatshepsut in Deir el Bahri.

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Temple of Abu Simbel via Pixabay

The last great ruler of Egypt, the famous Cleopatra VII, is world-renowned as a feared and influential intelligent woman during a time of almost exclusive male rule. She would use her power, influence, and wealth to the benefit of her children as she became romantically involved with Roman military leaders Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. However, after her tragic death, Egypt fell to the Romans. The age of matriarchal prosperous rule was at an end.

For thousands of years, women held prominence and relative equality in Egypt. Was this a Golden Age, more advanced than what we see even today? You decide.

It seems clear we could learn quite a lot from ancient Egypt as mankind struggles for a better modern world.

See more in The Pyramid Code, now streaming on Netflix. Here is a clip from YouTube:

Featured image: Screenshot via YouTube