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The Evolutionary Perspective
Tag Archives: women
Posted: July 10, 2016 at 5:53 pm
Feature Video now available The Genomic Landscape of Breast Cancer in Women of African Ancestry
On Tuesday, June 7, Olufunmilayo I. Olopade, M.D., F.A.C.P., presented The Genomic Landscape of Breast Cancer in Women of African Ancestry, the final lecture in the 2016 Genomics and Health Disparities Lecture Series. Dr. Olufunmilayo is director of the Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics at the University of Chicago School of Medicine. Read more | Watch the video
The NHGRI History of Genomics Program closed its six-part seminar series featuring Human Genome Project (HGP) participants who helped launch the HGP with the talk: The Genome is for Life, by David Bentley, D.Phil., on Thursday, May 26th. Dr. Bentley is vice president and chief scientist at Illumina Inc. His long-term research interest is the study of human sequence variation and its impact on health and disease. Read more about the series
In this issue of The Genomics Landscape, we feature the use of model organisms to explore the function of genes implicated in human disease. This month’s issue also highlights a recently completed webinar series to help professionals in the health insurance industry understand genetic testing, new funding for training in genomic medicine research, and NHGRI’s Genome Statute and Legislation Database. Read more
Cristina Kapusti, M.S., has been named chief of the Policy and Program Analysis Branch (PPAB) at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). In her new role, she will oversee policy activities and evaluation as well as program reporting and assessment to support institute priorities. PPAB is a part of the Division of Policy, Communications and Education (DPCE), whose mission is to promote the understanding and application of genomic knowledge to advance human health and society. Read more
Last Updated: July 7, 2016
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Posted: July 5, 2016 at 11:30 pm
The Genomics Landscape The Power of Model Organisms for Studying Rare Diseases In this issue of The Genomics Landscape, we feature the use of model organisms to explore the function of genes implicated in human disease. This month’s issue also highlights a recently completed webinar series to help professionals in the health insurance industry understand genetic testing, new funding for training in genomic medicine research, and NHGRI’s Genome Statute and Legislation Database. Read more New training grants prime doctors to tackle genomic medicine The practice of medicine is expensive and doesn’t fit in a one-hour time frame. Tests can only eliminate one diagnosis at a time. Questioning and family history can help a doctor arrive at the correct diagnosis, but even with the information gathered upfront, there are a huge number of tests to consider, and many tests may still be needed. Training doctors to use genomic sequencing is a powerful solution to the challenges facing today’s medical practice. Read more One little fish hooks genome researchers with its versatility Modern molecular biology and the genome of a tiny silver and black striped fish – the zebrafish – are making waves in genomics research. This tiny fish is a powerhouse tool that helps researchers better understand the genes that are implicated in disease. Here, at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), researchers are working to advance human health by coupling the potential of this little fish with an institute-funded resource known as The Zebrafish Core. Read more New NIH studies seek adults and families affected by sickle cell disease/trait People with sickle cell disease (SCD) can experience excruciating pain, kidney problems, a higher risk of stroke and, in rare cases, chronic leg ulcers. Little is known about why the severity of these symptoms varies throughout a lifetime or why these symptoms differ from person to person. NHGRI researchers are seeking help from people affected by SCD to find the factors – environmental, social and genetic – that impact the severity of the symptoms. Read more Video now available The Genomic Landscape of Breast Cancer in Women of African Ancestry On June 7, Olufunmilayo I. Olopade, M.D., F.A.C.P., presented The Genomic Landscape of Breast Cancer in Women of African Ancestry, the final lecture in the 2016 Genomics and Health Disparities Lecture Series. Dr. Olufunmilayo is director of the Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics at the University of Chicago School of Medicine. She is an expert in cancer risk assessment and treatment for aggressive forms of breast cancer. Watch video | Read about the series
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National Human Genome Research Institute
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Posted: July 1, 2016 at 9:49 pm
Every year, 4.1 million babies are born in the USA. On the basis of the well-known risk of Down syndrome, about 6,150 of these babies would be expected to suffer from this genetic condition, which is caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21. In reality, only about 4,370 babies are born with Down syndrome; the others have been aborted during pregnancy. These estimates are based on a prevalence rate of 0.15% and an abortion rate of about 29% of fetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome in Atlanta, GA (Siffel et al, 2004), and Hawaii (Forrester & Merz, 2002)the only two US locations for which reliable data are available. Data from other regions are similar or even higher: 32% of Down syndrome fetuses were aborted in Western Australia (Bourke et al, 2005); 75% in South Australia (Cheffins et al, 2000); 80% in Taiwan (Jou et al, 2005); and 85% in Paris, France (Khoshnood et al, 2004). Despite this trend, the total number of babies born with Down syndrome is not declining in most industrialized nations because both the number of older mothers and the conception rate is increasing.
These abortions are eugenic in both intention and effectthat is, their purpose is to eliminate a genetically defective fetus and thus allow for a genetically superior child in a subsequent pregnancy. This is a harsh way of phrasing it; another way is to say that parents just want to have healthy children. Nevertheless, however it is phrased, the conclusion is starkly unavoidable: terminating the pregnancy of a genetically defective fetus is widespread. Moreover, because none of the countries mentioned above coerce parents into aborting deformed fetuses, these abortionswhich number many thousands each yearare carried out at the request of the parents, or at least the mothers. This high number of so-called medical abortions shows that many people, in many parts of the world, consider the elimination of a genetically defective fetus to be morally acceptable.
This high number of so-called medical abortions shows that many people consider the elimination of a genetically defective fetus to be morally acceptable
This form of eugenic selection is not confined to Down syndrome, which is characterized by mental retardation, a higher risk of various diseases, and a range of major and minor abnormalities in body structure and function. Fetuses with many disorders detectable by ultrasound in utero are also aborted. Data from the European Surveillance of Congenital Abnormalities shows that between 1995 and 1999 about 40% of infants with any one of 11 main congenital disorders were aborted in Europe (Garne et al, 2005). Similarly, the International Clearinghouse for Birth Defects Monitoring System (ICBDMS; Rome, Italy) provides data for the eight main industrialized (G8) countries. From this data, I calculate that in 2002, 20% of fetuses with apparent birth defects were aborted in G8 countriesthat is, between 30,000 and 40,000 fetuses. As a result, many congenital disorders are becoming rare (ICBDMS, 2004) and, as they do, infant mortality rates are also declining. In Western Australia, neonatal mortality rates due to congenital deformities declined from 4.36 to 2.75 per 1,000 births in the period from 1980 to 1998. Half of that decline is thought to be due to the increase in abortions of abnormal fetuses (Bourke et al, 2005).
The widespread acceptance of abortion as a eugenic practice suggests that there might be little resistance to more sophisticated methods of eugenic selection and, in general, this has been the case. Increasingly, prenatal diagnosis of genetic conditions is carried out on the basis of molecular tests for Mendelian disorders. There are few published data on the frequency and consequences of such tests, but a recent survey of genetic testing in Italy showed that about 20,000 fetuses were tested in 2004, mostly for mutations causing cystic fibrosis, Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy and Fragile X mental retardation (Dallapiccola et al, 2006). In Taiwan, screens for thalassaemia mutations have caused the live-birth prevalence of this disease to drop from 5.6 to 1.21 per 100,000 births over eight years (Chern et al, 2006).
However, such tests probably do not markedly decrease the mutational burden of a nation’s newborns. Usually, a fetus is only tested for a specific mutation when its family medical history indicates that there is a clear risk. If, as must often be the case, parents are oblivious to the fact that they are carriers of a genetic disorder, they will have no reason to undergo a prenatal diagnosis, which is both expensive and invasive. Fetuses are also not tested for de novo mutations. However, given that manyperhaps mostparents want healthy children, should all fetuses be screened for many disease-causing mutations?
It is a question that some geneticists are now asking (Van den Veyver & Beaudet, 2006). They point out that comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) microarrays could be used to screen a single embryo or fetus for thousands of mutations. One type of CGH microarray that is close to clinical application is designed to detect changes in gene copy number across the whole genome (Vissers et al, 2005). These arrays, which are based on bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) clones, can detect aneusomiesdeletions and duplicationsof about 100 kilobases in size. Such aneusomies are found in almost all individuals with no negative consequences, but a minority, which affect dosage-sensitive genes, cause disease. A recent study in which 100 patients with unexplained mental retardation were screened for aneusomies gives some indication of the importance of aneusomies in genetic disorders (de Vries et al, 2005). Most of the copy number changes found in these patients were also found in healthy parents or controls and thus were probably not responsible for the disease; however, ten patients had unique de novo mutations. Therefore, this study identified a likelyalbeit unprovengenetic cause of mental retardation in 10% of patients; a remarkable result for a single screen.
The virtue of a BAC-based microarray is that it can detect novel, as well as known, deletions and duplications; its limitation is that it misses the point mutations that are the cause of many, perhaps most, genetic diseases. Such mutations presumably account for at least some of the retardation in the 90 patients in whom no aneusomies were detected. At present there is no feasible method of screening the genome of a patient for all possible mutationsat least not without sequencing it. However, there is no technical obstacle to constructing an oligo-based micoarray able to detect all known disease-causing mutations.
there is no technical obstacle to constructing an oligo-based micoarray able to detect all known disease-causing mutations
How useful would such a microarray be? More precisely, if a geneticist were able to screen a randomly chosen embryo for all known disease genes, what is the probability that he or she would be able to predict a genetic disease should the embryo come to term and live to adulthood? At the time of writing, the Human Gene Mutation Database (HGMD; http://www.hgmd.cf.ac.uk) identifies 64,251 mutations in 2,362 human genes that impair health. Most of these mutations are individually rare, but collectively they are very common. Indeed, given that there are so many mutations, the probability that an embryo is at risk of a genetic disease caused by at least one of them must be quite high.
An individual’s risk of suffering from a genetic disease depends on the mode of inheritan
ce of the diseaseautosomal dominant (AD), X-linked recessive (XLR) or autosomal recessive (AR)and the global frequency of the causal mutation. A survey of 567 disease-causing loci from the Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man database showed that about 59% are AD, 32% are AR, and 9% are XLR (Jimenez-Sanchez et al, 2001). Using these percentages with the 64,251 known disease-causing mutations in HGMD, we can estimate that 37,908 are AD, 20,560 are AR and 5,783 are XLR.
To complete our calculation, we need to know the typical global frequencies of each of these three types of mutation. It is surprisingly difficult to obtain global frequency data for disease alleles; however, Reich & Lander (2001) give the total frequencies of all known disease mutations for 14 monogenic diseases: 4 AD, 3 XLR, and 7 AR. The HGMD then provides us with the total number of disease-causing mutations known for each of these 14 genes, which ranges from 31 for haemochromatosis to 1,262 for cystic fibrosis.
Using these figures, I have calculated average allelic frequencies (). The fact that AR mutations are more common than AD or XLR mutations makes sense, as selection acts less intensively on them. Multiplying these numbers by the number of mutations in each inheritance class calculated above, while taking into account the mode of inheritance and assuming global HardyWeinberg equilibrium, I calculate that the probability of predicting an inherited disease in a randomly chosen human embryo is almost 0.4% (). Therefore, it should be possible to predict a disease in 1 in 252 embryos.
The probability of predicting a genetic disease in a random embryo if it were screened for all currently known mutations
The prediction of a genetic disease in a fetus does not necessarily indicate that it should be aborted. This decision ultimately depends on the strength of the prediction and the nature of the disease, both of which vary greatly among mutations. A female embryo with a single BRCA1 mutation, which is dominant, has a 68% probability of developing breast cancer by the age of 80 (Risch et al, 2001). Conversely, an embryo with two copies of the HFE C282Y mutation, which is recessive, has less than a 1% probability of developing haemochromatosis, a relatively mild blood disease (Beutler et al, 2002). Whether such risks warrant aborting either fetus is a decision to be made by its parents and their clinical advisors, but it should be noted that most of the mutations in the HGMD cause classical Mendelian disorders detected by family linkage studies and so have fairly high penetrance.
The estimate of the rate of disease prediction that I have given here is crude, but it is probably conservative. For convenience, I assumed a HardyWeinberg equilibrium, but in isolated populations or populations with a high degree of consanguinityfor instance, much of the Middle East through to Pakistanthe number of disease-causing homozygotes will be higher than my calculations. In addition, the rate of disease prediction will continue to rise as more and more disease-causing mutations are found. In 2005, 7,017 mutations were added to the HGMD26% more than in 2004.
One impediment to a universal, total prenatal screen for all known mutations is the invasive nature of the procedureit requires amniocentesis () or chorionic sampling to retrieve cells from the amniotic sacand the traumatic nature of the treatment, which is therapeutic abortion. Perhaps, then, a total mutation screen will not be used in prenatal diagnosis, but rather in preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). This procedure tests embryos produced by in vitro fertilization (IVF) for chromosomal abnormalities and specific mutations before implantation, by removing a single cell from the embryo at the eight-cell stage. Healthy embryos are then implanted; poor embryosshowing one or several abnormalitiesare frozen or discarded. As in prenatal diagnosis, PGD is generally carried out only when a family medical history suggests that the embryo is at risk of a specific disease (Braude et al, 2002). Since its introduction in the mid-1980s, the procedure has spread quickly, although it remains illegal in some countries, such as Germany, which does, however, allow prenatal screens for a range of severe inheritable diseases. Data collected by the European IVF-monitoring Programme for the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE; Grimbergen, Belgium) showed that 1,563 PGD screens were recorded in 25 European nations in 2002, compared with 882 in 2001 (Andersen et al, 2006). There do not seem to be any comparable data for the USA, but given the large number of US IVF clinics offering PGDand the lack of regulationthe number of people across the world who have survived a PGD screen must now number tens of thousands.
the number of people across the world who have survived a PGD screen must now number tens of thousands
Ultrasound scan to amniocentesis test. Amniocentesis is a diagnostic procedure performed by inserting a needle (seen on the left) through the abdominal wall into the uterus and withdrawing a small amount of fluid from the sac surrounding the fetus. The …
How common will PGD become? Is it possible that one day every citizen of an industrialized nation will have survived, as an embryo, a PGD screen? Most commentators who have considered such a scenariowhich was portrayed in the movie GATTACAdo not think so (Silver, 2000). Their main argument is that PGDand the need to use IVFis too expensive, inconvenient and limited in application to ever become widespread. They have a point: nature has contrived a cheap, easy and enjoyable way to conceive a child; IVF is none of these things.
However, the difficulties might be exaggerated. A course of IVF in the UK costs between 7,000 and 10,000expensive, but cheaper than a mid-range car, and trivial compared with the costs of raising a child. Conception rates using IVF are generally lower compared with the old-fashioned method, but that is because many of the women who undergo IVF are relatively old (CDC, 2003). For women under 35 who have no fertility problems, the success rate per cycle is greater than 50%, which is comparable to natural monthly conception rates. However, perhaps the most important evidence against the idea that IVFand PGDwill not catch on is the observation that it already has. At present, about 1% of Americans are conceived using IVF, and each year 4% of Danes start their life in a petri dish (Nyboe Andersen & Erb, 2006). It seems possible that if the cost of IVF decreases further and the number of PGD screens expands, an increasing number of parents will choose not to subject their children to the vicissitudes of natural conception and the risk of severe genetic disease.
It seems possible that an increasing number of parents will choose not to subject their children to the vicissitudes of natural conception and the risk of severe genetic disease
Ultimately, the argument for a universal, total mutation screen will be based on its economic costs and benefits. It is too soon to draw up a detailed balance sheet, but we can suggest some numbers. Congenital mental retardation afflicts about 51,000 children annually in the USA; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that each afflicted child will cost the US economy $1 million over the course of his or her lifethat is, a collective cost of $51 billion (CDC, 2004). This does not include the social and emotional cost that parents assume
in raising a mentally disabled child, which all but defy quantification.
Will neo-eugenics spread? Probably. At least it is hard to see what will stop it if, as I claim, it becomes possible to detect all known disease-causing mutations before birth or implantation, if the cost of IVF and PGD declines, and if eugenic screens have clear economic benefits. Some readers might find it peculiar that in this discussion of neo-eugenics, I have not considered the ethical or legal implications with which this subject is generally considered to be fraught. Although I do not doubt their importance, I simply have no particular knowledge of them. Peter Medawar put it best 40 years ago: If the termination of a pregnancy is now in question, scientific evidence might tell us that the chances of a defective birth are 100 percent, 50 percent, 25 percent, or perhaps unascertainable. The evidence is highly relevant to the decision, but the decision itself is not a scientific one, and I see no reason why scientists as such should be specially well-qualified to make it (Medawar, 1966).
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Posted: June 29, 2016 at 6:30 pm
I originally wrote this article for the Journal ReVision Winter 2003.
Female Shamanism, Goddess Cultures, and Psychedelics by Karen Vogel
The Goddess came consciously into my life after I moved to Berkeley, California, in 1975. I began attending Goddess rituals, studying with psychic healers, practicing yoga and looking at images of goddesses in prehistoric and indigenous art. Many experiences came together in rapid succession to lead me to co-create the Motherpeace Tarot deck with Vicki Noble. The Motherpeace deck is based on iconography and consciousness of the Goddess. The psychedelic world view is represented in the deck by Amanita muscaria, peyote, cannabis, morning glories, datura, poppies, and tobacco.
The viewpoint I gained from psychedelics and my ongoing relationship with the Goddess propelled me to search for the roots, the history and practices associated with the three important threads in my life, female shamanism, Goddess cultures and psychedelics. I want to know about my lineage. I’m following a calling to research these realms and create art that is informed by my exploration. As part of my quest, I carved in wood a close replica of a relief carving from the Louvre of two women, or goddesses, holding mushrooms (fig. 1). The original carving is on a funeral marker or stele from Thessaly in northern Greece, dated around 470 B.C.E. Through the story of this particular image I will explore what might have happened in ancient Greek culture to the Goddess, female shamanism, and psychedelics in the transition to a more patriarchal way of life.
Figure 1. Mushroom Shaman-Priestesses woodcarving in cypress 11″x15″ by Karen Vogel. Replica of Exaltation of the Flower, stele from Thessaly, 470 B.C.E., in the collection of the Louvre Museum, Paris.
Women healers have been around as long as there have been women. I think these early women healers had many skills and much knowledge, which eventually developed into a tradition of female shamanism.
Our human ancestors had the ability to self-medicate because of our animal heritage. Animals are incredibly discerning at diagnosing ailments and seeking out certain plants or minerals to treat a variety of ailments. Animals are also very precise about using the correct dosage. Animals also know how to get intoxicated. Some even use psychedelics. (2002, Engel,C.). Caribou seem to love to ingest the hallucinogenic mushroom Amanita muscaria. (1997, Devereux,P.). Our ancestors also knew about psychedelics. Human use of psychedelics may be as old as humanity.
The roots of female shamanism may go back more then 5 million years and be linked with our ancestors upright posture. Once our ancestors stood upright there would be a need for midwives, according Ian Tattersal, one of the leaders in the study of human evolution and curator at the Museum of Natural History in New York City (Ian Tattersal, Becoming Human p.121-122).
It is rare for women to give birth alone. Usually cultures have midwives. The !Kung San or Ju/’hoansi (pronounced: zhu-twasi) as they prefer to be known, a gathering and hunting people of Botswana in southern Africa, are reported to ideally give birth alone. Marjorie Shostack says in her book Nisa, that a woman may give birth alone, but close enough to camp that she could call out for help. Shostack explains:
“A !Kung woman will have on average, four of five live births during her reproductive life. With each successive birth, she is more likely to attain the ideal of delivering alone. Without telling anyone, she walks a few hundred yards from the village, prepares a cushion of leaves, and gives birth to her child. Accompanied or not, most births occur close enough to the village so that others can hear the baby’s first cries. This signals the woman’s female relatives and friends that the child has been born and that the mother may welcome assistance in delivering the afterbirth, cutting the umbilical cord, and wiping the baby clean. Perhaps carrying the baby for her, other women will accompany her back to the village. Only the most experienced and determined woman insist on being alone during these last stages.”(Nisa, p.181)
Humans are almost unique in our use of midwives. Most animals give birth alone, though midwives have been observed among elephants, dolphins and bats. The human need for midwives undoubtedly increased, as the size of newborns heads increased. In our evolution humans have struck a delicate balance with our large heads. Our big brains make for difficult births. The trend in the human line (hominids) has been for our babies to be born less mature so a great deal of the brain growth happens after a baby is born. As a result of this evolutionary strategy, human babies are born “immature” and need care for a long time compared to other animals. This puts all sorts of demands on social structure and nursing mothers in particular. It also must have increased the demands on midwives. Midwives have the experience of catching babies and usually at some points in their lives are also pregnant and give birth. This double experience, over millions of years, gives midwives a vast body of knowledge about pregnancy, birth and child rearing. This body of knowledge would include what to do if something goes wrong, or someone gets sick, or hurt. The importance in human evolution of the tradition of midwifery seems to me to be the logical root of female shamanism.
Shamanism is a concept that has many meanings attached to it. The more I study shamanism the broader I become in my use of the term. I think it encompasses a world-view as profound and yet very different from other world religions. I think there are many ways of being a shaman and using shamanic energy. We all have shamanic moments, such as in birth and death.
Some people draw distinctions between true shamans and herbal practitioners. Others draw the line between shamans, doctors, and priest/priestesses. I think it is impossible to make such distinctions. A shaman is a profession or calling with no set rules about how to enter the profession or precisely what is done once someone is a shaman.
A shaman can gain the position hereditarily through a lineage or family tradition. People in a community or extended family will see that a young child has talents or special experiences. The talents and experiences of an individual can grow into a calling to undertake a period of apprenticeship to become a shaman. Bonnie Glass-Coffin worked with female healers in northern Peru. Glass-Coffin reports that some of the healers inherited their mesa or altar and healing tools from relatives after the relative died.
The period of apprenticeship can include many ways of learning. A person may study with one or more shaman, or someone may study directly with a certain plant or substance. The apprenticeship may include accidental or chosen “ordeals” both physical and mental. Through this time of apprenticeship an individual develops a reputation based on results. Eventually the individual is acknowledged for her abilities as a shaman.
An individual may be recognized for certain talents such as midwifery or healing a particular class of diseases, protecting, or finding things (i.e. plants, animals or lost objects) or controlling weather. A shaman may use touch and massage, sweats, medicinal plants, animals and minerals. These techniques or substances can produce altered states or be medicinal in other ways.
A shaman may be particularly adept at entering trance and altered states and dealing with unseen forces, restoring balance and doing “soul retrieval”. The repair work or healing may be for an individual or community or the earth itself. These so-called world renewal ceremonies and dances are still performed by the local tribes, in many of the roundhouses all around northern California.
A shaman can also harm others by being a poisoner, sending darts or illness and death. A shaman can make or have power objects, which some shamans believe are the source of their power. A shaman can be an artist, storyteller or ritual leader. A shaman may use sandpaintings, songs, dances, sweats and community rituals to create and heighten the energy used to heal.
Shamans may use power for war and peace, to control weather and other environmental factors. Some shamans may be feared or be afflicted, with what might be called mental or physically illness. In other cases a shaman can be an exceptionally strong and clear individual who is loved and respected by an extended community.
The respect, participation, and belief of a community in shamanism enable individual talents to flourish and grow. Shamans interact and trade plants and techniques with each other. Shamanism is a group activity and a worldview. It is easy to be dazzled by someone’s talents and forget all that goes into making the magic, ritual or healing happen. Many people tended and collected the plants, gathered and ground the pigments, painted the rock walls, created and learned the songs and dances and made the regalia which were used in the rituals of the shaman.
Shamanism is a community activity especially it seems when it comes to female shamanism. Bonnie Glass-Coffin explains female healing traditions with the term coessence. “Coessence, in contrast to both transcendence and immanence, locates shamanic power and spiritual energy upon which shamans draw neither within nor without the boundaries of this world. Instead, coessence implies that this thing flows between worlds. When the shaman taps into this source of power, she is not transcending dichotomies and she is not healing”on behalf of” her patients. Instead, she is facilitating a reestablishment of the energy flow between spirit and matter, between individual and group, and between shaman and patient. Shamanic power and shamanic voyage is, thus, inherently relational.” (Glass-Coffin, 1998, p.188-9)
Human experience of altered states became evident in the Paleolithic, around forty thousand years ago, in a creative flowering of art and ritual. At this time what I call goddess culture took hold in the art in a number of places around the world, a significant milepost in the development of female shamanism.
My personal experience with the Goddess and discovery of prehistoric goddess cultures came after my first experiences with psychedelics. I felt immediately connected with early art because the things that I had seen and felt on psychedelics were reflected in these first images of forty thousand years ago. The geometric and other abstract patterns of the early art painted on rock and cave walls were often linked with female imagery. In my mind it makes sense to put together the great mysterious realm of shapes and colors of psychedelics, with my experience of the Goddess.
This eruption of art forty thousand years ago is remarkable because it happened in many places in the world around the same time. Paintings and engravings on rock walls from around the thirty to forty thousand years ago are found in Africa, Asia and Europe. The Americas may be added to the list, if controversial early dates are substantiated. I will use the term rock art to refer to paintings and engravings on rocks including those inside caves. Cave art in Europe is often called Ice Age art because forty thousand years ago Europe was in a period of glaciers called the Ice Age.
The sudden worldwide proliferation of art forty thousand years ago is shocking. The only vague explanation I’ve found is something called “a slow acting neural transformation in the human brain.” (McKie, R. 2000 p. 195). I think that is a fancy way of saying; we don’t know how or why art started at the same time, in different location that had no known contact.
Even if we don’t know why art began many scholars have tried to figure out what the early art means. David Lewis-Williams, a South African archeologist, has become well known in the field of rock art. He has used the innovative approach of interviewing people from cultures where rock art is still used. He discovered that the San (!Kung San or Ju/’hoansi) people go into altered states or trance by touching the images on rock walls.
Lewis-Williams also studied altered states with T.E. Dowson. They developed a system of three stages of visual imagery that people experience when in altered states. The stages are a way of recognizing and discussing imagery that can seem to be random. The incomprehensible array of dots, lines and geometric shapes are considered to be the first stage and supernatural beings are the third stage. The second stage is an intermediary between the two in which thing may be recognizable, but not animated or mythological as in the third stage. Lewis-Williams says that there aren’t hard and fast lines between the 3 stages.
In other work, Lewis-Williams collaborated with Jean Clottes, an eminent scholar of the rock art of Ice Age Europe. Lewis-Williams and Clottes believe that this early rock art is evidence of shamanism and that the art comes from shamanic practices, rituals and altered states.(Clottes,J. and Lewis-Williams,D.,1998).
Female figurines also say something about Paleolithic humans. These so-called Paleolithic “Venus” figurines are found in great numbers all over Europe. There is speculation about what they are ranging from Goddesses to early male pornography.
I think they are Goddesses. In particular they seem to be very good depictions of what it must feel like to be pregnant. I would venture to say that whoever made these early sculptures knew from the inside what it was like to be pregnant. If that’s true the artists of the figurines were mothers. This flies in the face of the assumptions that sculptors of hard materials, like stone, must be male. In order to gain understanding, anthropologists are encouraged to participate in the culture they are studying. In archeology this practice is called hermeneutic archeology. (Schaafsma,P. 1997 p.8)
I’m not Paleolithic despite what some of my friends might say, but I am a sculptor of hard materials. I’ve found that I need inspirations that are strong enough to motivate me to sit for countless hours chipping, etching and slowly, almost imperceptibly, grinding away at hard surfaces. I also need time to sit for long hours. No matter how much the Paleolithic mind and culture may differ from ours, I don’t see that a Paleolithic sculptor was all that different from me in these essential qualities, whether that person was male or female. We know the Paleolithic sculptors and painters had a good deal of time to be creative because we have the art as evidence of their labor-intensive work. The nature of the inspiration is open to speculation.
The goddess figurines are often said to be symbols of a fertility cult. I think that is too narrow. Instead I believe they speak of many things, including a profound sense of awe around birth and death. The Goddess is a midwife, as well as the mother from which everything is born. These early Goddesses are impressive expressions of the pregnant state. They are also good depictions of a baby’s view in which a mother is a large, round, encompassing being. In many of the Paleolithic figurines I also see old age and the forces of gravity and erosion returning matter to the earth. These figurines could represent the knowledge that we come from the mother in birth and we return to her in death. Perhaps these figurines were shamanic tools of midwives in their important role as priestesses to new life and healer/shamans when necessary.
Though the roots of shamanism are probably much older. Siberian shamanism is often used as the model for all shamanic tradition because it was one area where shamanism was first extensively studied. Among the many tribes found across Siberia, the word used to indicate a male shaman varied, whereas the term for female shaman was the same. Archeologist Jeannine Davis-Kimball concludes in her recent book “In fact, if we are to believe the linguists, women were also the first shamans. The roots of shamanism are to be found in Paleolithic Siberia, where a single term… always referred to the female shaman.” (Davis-Kimball, J. 2002 p.236).
So, here we are forty thousand years ago with evidence of female shamanism and goddess culture. What about the third thread: psychedelics? There is no direct evidence that our Paleolithic ancestors used psychedelics, yet I believe our animal lineage indicates humans always knew about them. “The use of hallucinogens is in fact one of humankind’s most widespread practices. Everywhere people in small-scale societies have remarkable knowledge of plants and there psychoactive properties, and this was almost certainly the case in the Upper Paleolithic.” (Clottes,J. and Lewis-Williams, D. 1998 p. 22).
Based on this assumption I would say that the use of psychedelics was an intricate part of the female shamanistic tradition and the developing goddess culture.
I use the term goddess culture not because I think there was a monotheistic ideology of goddess worship sweeping across the world during the Paleolithic. Instead I’m painting broad brush stokes across time to show a pattern and possible trend in human history. To me the widespread creation of female figurines means the great mysterious spirit realm began to be personified as the Goddess.
What I have always loved about the Goddess is that I have my own idiosyncratic relationship with Her. She can have many aspects or personas. I learn from others experiences and certainly have been inspired by all sorts of images, writing and rituals. Still it is all mediated through my direct experience and relationship with the Goddess.
Two intriguing images that come from widely separated cultures both around ten thousand years ago. To me both look like possible connections between Goddess cultures and the use of psychedelic mushrooms. The first is from a famous and extraordinary rock art complex called Tassilli in southern Algeria. (fig 2). In this image, a large goddess figure gesture to a smaller individual in a mask and a net garment sprouting four mushrooms. The other image (fig. 3), from a site in Turkey. depicts a mushroom headed goddess who, with her prominent vulva may be giving birth.
Figure 2. Rock painting from Tassili, southern Algeria, 6000 B.C.E. Drawn by Karen Vogel
Figure 3. Image on a rock wall of a ceremonial building in Gobelki Tepe, Turkey, 9000 B.C.E. Drawn by Karen Vogel
Currently I know of only two cultures that uses any psychedelics as part of labor. Midwives among the Mazatec of Mexico sometimes use morning glories (Kathleen Harrison, 2000 in Palmer and Horowitz p.304). Women among the Huichol may take peyote during pregnancy. (Susana Valadez, personal communication 2002). Stacy Shaeffer reports that Huichol women use peyote “especially while in labor, to ease the birth process” (Schaefer 2002, 56).
I would link female shamanism to midwifery and psychedelics, but I don’t think that psychedelics were necessarily used in labor. Psychedelic experiences are integrated into a culture as a whole. It informs and effects daily life in many ways, from the patterns in the artwork, to the entire worldview of a group. Even if a particular individual has not taken a psychedelic, they are already living in a psychedelic culture. Datura was used widely in a number of California Indian tribes yet some individuals may take Datura only once in their life. (Bean,J.L.,1992).
The gathering and hunting cultures of Paleolithic Eurasia lasted for around thirty thousand years from the emergence of art forty thousand years ago until around ten thousand ago. Then, most likely women since they were the primary plant gatherers invented methods to grow plants and select for more productive crops. This new subsistence strategy emerged in a number of cultures around the world. (Hawkes,J. 1976)
The tending plants and animals enabled settled agricultural civilization to flourish in what’s called Neolithic Europe from ten thousand to three thousand years ago. These cultures continued to make art. Goddess figurines were the predominant and pervasive features of the art created by the people of Neolithic Europe.
There is a great debate about how goddess centered cultures of Neolithic Europe ended. Some believe that warrior nomadic horse cultures invaded from the eastern steppes. Still others look to causes from within the cultures. There is also evidence for cataclysmic events, such as drought and flooding, displacing people.
The Neolithic was changed five thousand years ago by the discovery of metallurgy. This led to the need for huge amounts of wood for smelting the raw ore into usable metal. It began with copper, eventually leading to bronze and iron. One of the first large-scale operations was on the island of Cyprus. The island is endowed with an excellent source of copper, iron and trees. The forest was cut down and regrew at least 16 times over two thousand years of copper mining and smelting. (McPhee, J. 1993 p.143). Finally the trees were decimated and the island abandoned by 90 percent of the inhabitants. (Perlin,J. 1989)
The increased trade of metal and other goods created a need for bigger boats, which also required more and more, trees. Imagine this pattern occurring over and over across Europe for several thousand years. This had to be a tremendous factor in the development of warfare to find, control and steal resources and then move on. A familiar pattern to this day. Repeated raids and invasions transformed the Neolithic civilizations of Europe. People fought back, ran, hide and adapted.
The pressure of war and raiding may have been a major reason for the breakup of the large settlements that had developed across Neolithic Europe including cultures in Thessaly. I think that war came from many locations, including city-states expanding their domain and nomadic cultures raiding and conquering. I don’t know who started war, but once it got going it became impossible for large peaceful communities to survive. Some were able to continue for a time on islands such as Crete. By this time Thessaly had become a key factor in the struggle between the city-states of Athens and Sparta for domination of the Greek peninsula and lands beyond. This is the backdrop for life in Thessaly when the grave marker or stele was created in 470BCE that inspired my carving in figure 1.
Thessaly is in an important geographic location for a number of reasons. For one thing it sits at the doorway to the vast timber resources of Macedonia. Athens power was based on dominance of the sea. In order to maintain this position of power they needed reliable access to wood to build more ships and forge metal weapons.
Whoever controlled Thessaly could block attacks by land because they controlled the mountain pass that led from Macedonia into Thessaly and the rest of Greece. That would force anyone that wanted to attack Greece to do so by ship. Thessaly tried to make an alliance with Sparta. Sparta declined and Thessaly made a deal with Athens. Athens became the dominant power until it fell to Sparta in the Peloponnesian war fought during the later part of the 5th Century B.C.E.
By 470 B.C.E. earlier invaders of the Greek peninsula had already pushed many of the previous inhabitants of Thessaly into the mountains and off the rich soil of the plains of Thessaly. These former inhabitants are presumed to have been descendents of earlier Neolithic Goddess civilizations of Thessaly. These so-called mountain people are important links to the earlier female shamanism of the Neolithic Goddess cultures of Thessaly.
From Neolithic Thessaly, including the archeological sites of Nea Nikomedeia, come numerous female figurines. These artifacts as well as others, indicate a strong orientation to the Goddess existing in that part of Greece at least 6000 years ago. Vicki Noble (2003) believes the name Nea(new) Niko(victory) Medeia(wise woman) may be “referring to a “dynastic” legacy or lineage of shaman-priestesses.” (Noble,V. 2003)
The most compelling evidence that these Neolithic Goddess cultures may have used psychedelics comes from a site around 400 miles north of Thessaly near Belgrade. Mushroom stones from a Neolithic Goddess culture site from 7000 years ago were found in area known as Vinca. The archeologist and renowned scholar of Neolithic European Goddess civilizations Marija Gimbutas says: “The fact that the mushrooms were carved out of the best available stone alone speaks for the prominent role of the mushroom in magic and cult…and it is possible that the Vinca mushrooms were connected with intoxicating drinks.”(Gimbutas 1974 p. 220) (figure 4).
Figure 4. Stone mushrooms, approximately 3″, from Vinca, near Belgrade, 5000B.C.E. Drawn by Karen Vogel
By the time the stele was made, the earlier inhabitants, who had become the people of the mountains, were a number of different tribes renowned for their horse riding skills and herbal practices. In fact they are believed to be the legendary centaurs. One form of centaurs is the horse and human amalgam. But there are numerous other animals that are mixed together and also called centaurs. The centaurs were known as sorcerers or witches. They practiced the shamanic art of shapeshifting by turning into animals, or using animals as allies to augment their human power. (Lawson,J.C. 1964 p.252)
The ancient Greek writer Apollodorus said Thessaly was “always the home of magic” (Harrison,J.E. 1963 p.81). There is evidence that the people of Thessaly coped with drought by having rituals to make rain. According to Jane Ellen Harrison, a scholar of ancient Greece, “Magic was no hole and corner practice but an affair of public ritual, performed with full social sanction.” (Harrison,J.E. 1963 p.82). The rainmaking ritual is said to have included a dance on hobbyhorses, which is a further link to the centaurs. (Graves,R. 1996 p.199)
The Greeks were able to dominate the land of the earlier inhabitants, but not the spirituality and healing practices of the people. The name of the Thessalian Goddess is Enodia. She is represented riding a horse on the coins of a city in Thessaly beginning 480 B.C.E. (Rabinowitz,J. 1998 p.37). Enodia became the Greek Goddess Hekate in the fifth century. Hekate was originally a multifaceted Goddess who was associated with childbirth, death, the crossroads and healing. She actually embodied the mother (Demeter), maiden (Persephone) and Crone. She was also sometimes called Artemis and both were Goddesses of childbirth and of wild places. Eventually Hekate was relegated to the image of a crone and Goddess of witches and the underworld.
Hekate is considered a midwife to birth and death. The following quote from Hesiod speaks to Hekate’s power over birth and death: “and those whose business is in the grey discomfortable sea, and who pray to Hekate and loud-crashing Earth Shaker, easily the glorious goddess gives great catch, and easily she takes away as soon as seen, if she so will.” (Hesiod(Theo. 440-52) from Rabinowitz,J. 1998 p.20)
Thessaly is renowned for it’s female healers or witches, as they are called in the writings of Greek historians. Robert Graves says, “That Zeus did not deny her (Hekate) the ancient power or granting every mortal his heart’s desire is a tribute to the Thessalian witches, of whom everyone stood in dread.” (Graves,R. 1955 v1 p.124-5).
Part of what must have made people stand in dread is the female shaman-priestesses ability to use poisons such as aconite and hallucinogens such as datura. According to Robert Graves aconite was called hecateis, named for Hekate who first used it. Aconite, creates a numbing sensation and was used by the Thessalian witches to make a flying ointment. (Graves,R. 1955,1996 p.471-2). Datura stramonium is what the English herbalist Gerard thought the Greeks called hippomanes, known for driving horses mad. (Schultes,R.E. and Hoffman,A., 1992 p.109)
Originally when I carve my version of the stele from Thessaly I thought the figures were Demeter and Persephone. I had read that the stele was connected with the Eleusinian Mysteries, which is associated with Demeter and Persephone and the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms (Samorini, G. 1998 p.60). The initial assumption is that the two women are Demeter and Persephone. The reasoning goes that Demeter is associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries. Therefore the stele is believed to be evidence for hallucinogenic mushrooms being used in the Eleusinian Mysteries.
Ludovic Laugier, Scientific Collaborator of the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities at the Louvre Museum said of the stele: “Here, the dead woman seems to be on the right: she’s the one receiving gifts. We don’t know whether this indicates a mother and daughter or two sisters. Another mystery: The contents of the bag of seeds being handed over by the survivor. Perhaps in receiving seeds, the deceased is receiving symbols of renaissance? This is but a hypothesis”(personal communication, 2001).
Speculation is tricky business especially when it is based on an image. I want to see female shaman-priestesses. Ludovic Laugier sees flowers and seeds, in a funerary image of symbols of death and rebirth. Giorgio Samorini sees mushrooms and a mushroom presentation bag. In his opinion the presence of mushrooms connects the stele to the Eleusinian Mysteries, which is associated with Demeter and Persephone. So for him the two females appear to be older and younger or the mother goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone. (Samorini, G. 1998).
The site of the Eleusinian Mysteries was a temple 14 miles outside of Athens. The first temple was built in the 8th Century B.C.E. It was destroyed during the Persian Wars around 480 B.C.E. The temple was rebuilt after 460 B.C.E. It became widely known for the Eleusinian mysteries after it was rebuilt. This chronology seems important to me because the stele was made during a time when there was no temple at Eleusis and before the new one was built.
What actually occurred during the ceremonies in the temple is secret. We do know that participants drank something called kykeon and had amazing experiences of life and death. It certainly sounds as if the drink was hallucinogenic. Psychedelic or entheogen scholars have tried to discover what was in the brew.
Some people think it was ergot, a fungal parasite on grain that can have effects similar to LSD. There are many strains of ergot and it can be a tricky and toxic hallucinogen. Others think the Eleusinian drink contained some other hallucinogenic mushroom containing psilocybin. Some suggest it was a combination of ergot and psilocybin.
I think that hallucinogens were used in Greece at the Eleusinian Mysteries. Perhaps it was a combination of ergot and psylocibin or some other species of hallucinogenic mushroom such as panaeolus or Amanita muscaria. (Graves, R.,1960. Samorini, G. 1998.) Whatever the actual content of kykeon, it is an impressive feat to dose and conduct a ritual in a temple with three thousand people in an altered state.
The Eleusinian Mysteries seem to have provided a really important experience of ecstasy and Goddess energy through Demeter and Persephone. Women were virtual slaves in Athens during the 5th century B.C.E. Perhaps it was revitalistic practice and reaction to the repression of Goddess culture and ecstatic experiences of an earlier era.
Revitalistic is an anthropological term, applied to practices that happen when cultures are in times of great change. People create ceremonies to bring back old ways that are being swept away and repressed by new power. The Eleusinian Mysteries seem to me to be a revitalistic cult.
Women in 5th Century B.C.E. Athens were under male authority and expected to stay in the home. For all it’s so called democracy Athens was firmly in the grips of patriarchy. The Eleusinian Mysteries may have provided a controlled outlet for lost freedom. Through the power of psychedelics people could experience the Goddess and the mysteries of life and death.
I think the desire to link the stele from Thessaly to the use of hallucinogens at the Eleusinian Mysteries is important to psychedelic or entheogen scholars because it can be used to give a history and distinguished lineage to the use of psychedelics. Having a lineage or history has been important to many current users of psychedelics. If psychedelics were used in Greece, at the birthplace of western civilization, psychedelics are civilized. In other words the use of hallucinogens is can be associated with literate as well than as preliterate people.
But the stele comes from Thessaly. There is no reason to assume that the two women are Demeter and Persephone. Steles or funeral markers are thought to show the diseased person’s life and not to depict deities. Also the stele is dated 470 BCE, which is exactly the time when there was no Eleusinian temple, presumable there were no Eleusinian Mysteries. It was after the first temple was destroyed and rebuilt that the Eleusinian Mysteries gained widespread fame. In 470 BCE in Thessaly, it would be unlikely to have the Eleusinian Mysteries portrayed on a stele.
I think the stele is of two shaman-priestesses. I believe that the long tradition of shaman-priestesses played an important part in the development of cultures. It makes sense that the tradition be represented and honored on a funeral stele. The tradition of funeral steles is thought to represent an important event or aspect of someone’s life. Perhaps the stele is an image of two priestesses honoring the death of one of them.
The two women in the stele look the same age, not younger and older. To me the women in the stele are entranced with each other and the mushrooms. I think these shaman-priestesses of Thessaly were commemorating their relationship as colleagues and the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms.
What is that so-called bag in the hand of the woman on the left? In the carving I did of the piece, I left the object obscure, because it looked to me like she could actually be holding the end of the other women’s peplos (dress or robe). Were they lovers? Our perhaps the removing of the peplos had symbolic meaning. A Greek ritual existed in which a larger then life wooden “puppet” of a Goddess would be renewed yearly by redressing the Goddess with a new peplos or robe. (Jane Ellen Harrison 1913 p.179-80). The removing of the robe could be a symbol of rebirth.
In my own experience, death and psychedelics go hand in hand. In my first experiences with psychedelics over thirty years ago, I was mesmerized by the visual effects and sensations in my body. I’m still astounded visually and physically. Over the years, as I’ve developed in the rest of my life, I’ve learned to navigate the psychedelic terrain and stunning visual and body effects. I’ve also learned how to work with patterns and disharmony, repairing and soothing what is broken or tangled in the design of the world and in my life.
A near-death experience when I was eighteen preceded both the Goddess and psychedelics. I was unconscious for two days with a fractured skull, the result of a car accident. When I woke suddenly I was flooded with the most extraordinary and powerful feeling of love.
I know there are all sorts of brain chemistry reasons why I might have woke up telling my mother and everyone else I knew that I loved them. I was changed and opened in a way I’ll never forget. This experience as continued to fuel and inform my life. Certainly it deeply colors my expectations about death. It was my initiation into my future work with psychedelics, the Goddess and love. In the course of my research I found this quote from the Jungian therapist and scholar Nor Hall in which she refers to the stele. She thinks they are Demeter and Persephone holding poppies. No matter, she gives a lovely summing up of Goddesses, female shaman-priestesses and psychedelics. “The frieze of the poppy-bearing goddesses arrest them eternally in the moment of passing into each other. Sometimes the point of passage is thought of as the Maiden Well, where Demeter sat grieving awaiting “‘the flowering from the depths'”
“Hekate becomes a witch whose power is magic rather than realization, and the passing of the phases or psychological states into each other is accomplished -if at all- by the use of too many “aids” (seeds,brew,grass, chemical), rendering the experience inaccessible and antipodal to consciousness. Hekate can poison as well as intoxicate, turn ecstasy into madness, and cause death where incubation -or short journey- was intended.” (1980 p.63-64)
In this passage Hall is using Hekate to represent the negative or shadow side of psychedelics. Psychedelics are a powerful tool for healing. Psychedelics can certainly be misused or over used. People can become numb or deluded when the primary focus becomes high dosage, frequent use, and multiple combinations without a sacred setting.
It has been important to me to link the use of psychedelics to shamanism and the Goddess. Susana Valadez says of women’s ritual among the Huichol, who use peyote and other hallucinagens:”Women perform many rituals for healing and shamanic powers where they invoke the Mother Creator, Tacutsi. The goddess reveals knowledge the women seek only after a long arduous path. Magical plants and animals provide the women with the power objects and “tools” they need in order to successfully channel communication from the spirit world into their everyday lives.” (1992, 39)
Shamanism, the Goddess and psychedelics are widespread despite the concerted efforts to stamp them out. The inquisition did significant damage wherever the hand or ideas of the church reached. But people are good at hiding, retreating to wild places, disguising and adapting practices. The Mazatec Indians pray to the Virgin of Guadeloupe in their mushroom ceremonies. Ayahuasca takes on a Christian flavor in Santo Diame. Southern California Indians developed Chingchinix, a syncretic mix of Christianity and Datura.
Our modern day inquisition makes hallucinogens and other mind-altering medicine illegal. In addition, tactics of ridicule, accusations of pre-scientific thinking, superstition and co-opting have made inroads in old, well develop practices of shamanism, Goddess worship and psychedelic use. Much is lost, yet many practices remain, some taking root in new soil.
There is an image from a Greek vase that I found instructive (fig. 5). The horned snake is coiled around a tree. Two mushrooms grow at the spring flowing from the roots of the tree. One priestess steps on her vase to begin her ascent. The second priestess floats beside the tree offering the snake a plate. The third priestess descends with her vase filled.
Figure 5. Image on a Greek vase, from a latern slide in the collection of Jane Ellen Harrison (1963, p.431). Drawn by Karen Vogel.
To me the ritual use of psychedelic mushrooms is clear in this image. Go to a sacred space. Empty yourself as you begin the climb. Enjoy yourself, and honor, respect and feed the snake guardian of the medicine. Receive the healing and descend back to the ground with you vase refilled.
My hope is that everyone, who wants to, can find productive, healing and ecstatic uses for psychedelics. Female shamanism, the Goddess and psychedelics have a long history and lineage. I hope in particular, women can continue to develop psychedelic healing traditions that serve us all in the future.
Bean, John Lowell, editor 1992, California Indian Shamanism, Ballena Press, Menlo Park
Clottes, Jean and Lewis-Williams, David 1998 The Shamans of Prehistory: Trance and Magic in the Painted Caves, Harry N. Abrams, New York.
Davis-Kimball with Behan, Mona 2002 Warrior Woman: An Archeologist’s Search for History’s Hidden Heroines, Warner Books, New York.
Devereux, Paul 1997 The Long Trip: A Prehistory of Psychedelia, Penguin/Arkana, New York
Engel, Cindy 2002 Wild Health, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston and New York.
Gimbutas, Marija 1974, 1982 The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe 6500-3500BC Myths and Cult Images, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles.
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Posted: June 21, 2016 at 6:47 am
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Updated February 29, 2016.
Definition: Oppression is a type of injustice. Oppression is the inequitable use of authority, law, or physical force to prevent others from being free or equal. The verb oppress can mean to keep someone down in a social sense, such as an authoritarian government might do in an oppressive society. It can also mean to mentally burden someone, such as with the psychological weight of an oppressive idea.
Feminists fight against the oppression of women. Women have been unjustly held back from achieving full equality for much of human history in many societies around the world. Feminist theorists of the 1960s and 1970s looked for new ways to analyze this oppression, often concluding that there were both overt and insidious forces in society that oppressed women.
These feminists also drew on the work of earlier authors who had analyzed the oppression of women, including Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex and Mary Wollstonecraft in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.
Many common types of oppression are described as isms such as sexism, racism and so on.
The opposite of oppression would be liberation (to remove oppression) or equality (absence of oppression).
In much of the written literature of the ancient and medieval world, we have evidence of women’s oppression by men in European, Middle Eastern and African cultures. Women did not have the same legal and political rights as men, and were under control of fathers and husbands in almost all societies.
In some societies in which women had few options for supporting their life if not supported by a husband, there was even a practice of ritual widow suicide or murder. (Asia continued this practice into the 20th century with some cases occurring in the present as well.)
In Greece, often held up as a model of democracy, women did not have basic rights, and could own no property nor could they participate directly in the political system.
In both Rome and Greece, women’s very movement in public was limited. There are cultures today where women rarely leave their own homes.
Many cultures and religions justify the oppression of women by attributing sexual power to them, that men must then rigidly control in order to maintain their own purity and power. Reproductive functions — including childbirth and menstruation, sometimes breast-feeding and pregnancy — are seen as disgusting. Thus, in these cultures, women are often required to cover their bodies and faces to keep men, assumed not to be in control of their own sexual actions, from being overpowered.
Women are also treated either like children or like property in many cultures and religions. For example, the punishment for rape in some cultures is that the rapist’s wife is given over to the rape victim’s husband or father to rape as he wishes, as revenge. Or a woman who is involved in adultery or other sex acts outside monogamous marriage is punished more severely than the man who is involved, and a woman’s word about rape is not taken as seriously as a man’s word about being robbed would be.
Women’s status as somehow lesser than men is used to justify men’s power over women.
In Marxism, women’s oppression is a key issue. Engels called the working woman “a slave of a slave,” and his analysis in particular was that oppression of women rose with the rise of a class society, about 6,000 years ago. Engels’ discussion of the development of women’s oppression is primarily in “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State,” and drew on anthropologist Lewis Morgan and German writer Bachofen. Engels writes of “the world historical defeat of the female sex” when Mother-right was overthrown by males in order to control inheritance of property. Thus, he argued, it was the concept of property that led to women’s oppression.
Critics of this analysis point out that while there is much anthropological evidence for matrilineal descent in primal societies, that does not equate to matriarchy or women’s equality.
In the Marxist view, the oppression of women is a creation of culture.
Cultural oppression of women can take many forms, including shaming and ridiculing women to reinforce their supposed inferior “nature,” or physical abuse, as well as the more commonly acknowledged means of oppression including fewer political, social and economic rights.
In some psychological views, the oppression of women is an outcome of the more aggressive and competitive nature of males due to testosterone levels. Others attribute it to a self-reinforcing cycle where men compete for power and control.
Psychological views are used to justify views that women think differently or less well than men, though such studies don’t hold up to scrutiny.
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Posted: June 19, 2016 at 3:44 am
Transparent, flexible supercapacitors pave the way for a multitude of applications
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(Phys.org)A new semiliquid battery developed by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin has exhibited encouraging early results, encompassing many of the features desired in a state-of-the-art energy-storage device. …
(Phys.org)Researchers have proposed a new type of artificial neuron called a “straintronic spin neuron” that could serve as the basic unit of artificial neural networkssystems modeled on human brains that have the ability …
(Phys.org)Researchers have developed the first imaging technique that can clearly see inside molecular structures, and have used it to create 3D holograms of the atomic arrangements inside these structures. Before now, …
Electronic materials have been a major stumbling block for the advance of flexible electronics because existing materials do not function well after breaking and healing. A new electronic material created by an international …
An International Space Station crew including an American, a Briton and a Russian landed safely Saturday in the sun-drenched steppes of Kazakhstan.
Hackers invited by the US government as part of a pilot program to find flaws with five Pentagon websites discovered 138 security vulnerabilities, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Friday.
A simulation of the powerful jets generated by supermassive black holes at the centers of the largest galaxies explains why some burst forth as bright beacons visible across the universe, while others fall apart and never …
On December 26, 2015 at 03:38:53 UTC, scientists observed gravitational wavesripples in the fabric of spacetimefor the second time.
If you’re expecting to hear from aliens from across the universe, it could be a while.
First postulated more than 230 years ago, black holes have been extensively researched, frequently depicted, even featured in sci-fi films.
The Earth passed another unfortunate milestone May 23 when carbon dioxide (CO2) surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm) at the South Pole for the first time in 4 million years.
(Phys.org)European astronomers have uncovered evidence of a small glitch in the spin of a millisecond pulsar. According to a research paper published on June 13 on arXiv.org, the pulsar, designated PSR J0613-0200, exhibits …
Carbon dioxide emissions from dry and oxygen-rich environments are likely to play a much greater role in controlling future rates of climate change caused by permafrost thaw than rates of methane release from oxygen-poor …
Northwestern University astrophysicists have predicted history. In a new study, the scientists show their theoretical predictions last year were correct: The historic merger of two massive black holes detected Sept. 14, 2015, …
May’s temperatures broke global records yet again, as the northern hemisphere finishes its hottest spring on record, statistics released Tuesday by NASA showed.
(Phys.org)A large team of researchers from across the U.S. studying data sent back from Mars by the Curiosity rover has found evidence of tridymite, a type of mineral associated with explosive volcanoes here on Earth. …
When an astronomical observatory detected two black holes colliding in deep space, scientists celebrated confirmation of Einstein’s prediction of gravitational waves. A team of astrophysicists wondered something else: Had …
Women live longer than men. This simple statement holds a tantalizing riddle that Steven Austad, Ph.D., and Kathleen Fischer, Ph.D., of the University of Alabama at Birmingham explore in a perspective piece published in Cell …
In the Canadian province of Quebec, a study of more than 26,000 trees across an area the size of Spain forecasts potential winners and losers in a changing climate.
Light and matter are typically viewed as distinct entities that follow their own, unique rules. Matter has mass and typically exhibits interactions with other matter, while light is massless and does not interact with itself. …
A facial recognition database compiled by the FBI has more than 400 million images to help criminal investigations, but lacks adequate safeguards for accuracy and privacy protection, a congressional audit shows.
Cats understand the principle of cause and effect as well as some elements of physics. Combining these abilities with their keen sense of hearing, they can predict where possible prey hides. These are the findings of researchers …
Young stars much less massive than the Sun can unleash a torrent of X-ray radiation that can significantly shorten the lifetime of planet-forming disks surrounding these stars. This result comes from a new study of a group …
Like a pair of human hands, certain organic molecules have mirror-image versions of themselves, a chemical property known as chirality. These so-called “handed” molecules are essential for biology and have intriguingly been …
(Phys.org)A team of researchers with the University of Queensland’s Centre for Sensorimotor Performance has found that running shoes alter the natural spring-like mechanics of the foot while a person is running. In their …
Giant Ice Age species including elephant-sized sloths and powerful sabre-toothed cats that once roamed the windswept plains of Patagonia, southern South America, were finally felled by a perfect storm of a rapidly warming …
A Stanford University research lab has developed new technologies to tackle two of the world’s biggest energy challenges – clean fuel for transportation and grid-scale energy storage.
Weak coal and gas prices will not stop record investment in renewables over the coming decades as the cost of generating clean energy drops, a key energy report said Monday.
SpaceX successfully launched two satellites into orbit on Wednesday, but failed in an attempt to land the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket undamaged on a barge in the Atlantic.
In the lead up to the World Barista Championships, University of Bath scientists say brewing more flavoursome coffee could be as simple as chilling the beans before grinding.
Researchers are investigating a new material that might help in nuclear fuel recycling and waste reduction by capturing certain gases released during reprocessing. Conventional technologies to remove these radioactive gases …
In an essay to be published on June 17, 2016 in Science magazine Susan Landau, professor of cybersecurity policy at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), argues that the FBI’s recent and widely publicized efforts to compel …
The organic molecule methyl alcohol (methanol) has been found by the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) in the TW Hydrae protoplanetary disc. This is the first such detection of the compound in a young planet-forming …
A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the government’s “net neutrality” rules, preserving regulations that force internet providers such as Comcast and AT&T to treat all online trafficeverything from Netflix and cat …
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Posted: June 17, 2016 at 4:53 am
Seasteading is the concept of creating permanent dwellings at sea, called seasteads, outside the territory claimed by any government. Most proposed seasteads have been modified cruising vessels. Other proposed structures have included a refitted oil platform, a decommissioned anti-aircraft platform, and custom-built floating islands.
No one has created a state on the high seas that has been recognized as a sovereign state. The Principality of Sealand is a disputed micronation formed on a discarded sea fort near Suffolk, England. The closest things to a seastead that have been built so far are large ocean-going ships sometimes called “floating cities”, and smaller floating islands.
The term combines the words sea and homesteading. At least two people independently began using it: Ken Neumeyer in his book Sailing the Farm (1981) and Wayne Gramlich in his article “Seasteading Homesteading on the High Seas” (1998).
Outside the Exclusive Economic Zone of 200 nautical miles (370km), which countries can claim according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the high seas are not subject to the laws of any sovereign state other than the flag under which a ship sails. Examples of organizations using this possibility are Women on Waves, enabling abortions for women in countries where abortions are subject to strict laws, and offshore radio stations which were anchored in international waters. Like these organizations, a seastead would take advantage of the absence of laws and regulations outside the sovereignty of nations, and choose from among a variety of alternate legal systems such as those underwritten by “Las Portadas”.
“When Seasteading becomes a viable alternative, switching from one government to another would be a matter of sailing to the other without even leaving your house,” said Patri Friedman at the first annual Seasteading conference.
The Seasteading Institute (TSI), founded by Wayne Gramlich and Patri Friedman on April 15, 2008, is an organization formed to facilitate the establishment of autonomous, mobile communities on seaborne platforms operating in international waters. Gramlichs 1998 article “SeaSteading Homesteading on the High Seas” outlined the notion of affordable steading, and attracted the attention of Friedman with his proposal for a small-scale project. The two began working together and posted their first collaborative book online in 2001, which explored aspects of seasteading from waste disposal to flags of convenience.
The project picked up mainstream exposure in 2008 after having been brought to the attention of PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel, who contributed $500,000 to fund the creation of The Seasteading Institute and has since spoken out on behalf of its viability, as seen in his essay “The Education of a Libertarian”, published online by Cato Unbound. The Seasteading Institute has received widespread media attention from sources such as CNN, Wired,Prospect,The Economist Business Insider, and BBC American journalist John Stossel wrote an article about seasteading in February 2011 and hosted Friedman on his show on the Fox Business Network.
On July 31, 2011, Friedman stepped down from the role of executive director, and became chairman of the board. Friedman was replaced by Randolph Hencken. Concomitantly, the institute’s directors of business strategy and legal strategy went on to start Blueseed, the first commercial seasteading venture.
Between May 31 and June 2, 2012, The Seasteading Institute held its third annual conference.
In the spring of 2013, the Institute launched The Floating City Project, which combines principles of both seasteading and startup cities, by seeking to locate a floating city within the territorial waters of an existing nation, rather than the open ocean. The institute argued that it would be easier to engineer a seastead in relatively calm, shallow waters; that the location would make it easier for residents to reach as well as to acquire goods and services from existing supply chains; and that a host nation would place a floating city within the international legal framework.
The Institute raised $27,082 from 291 funders in a crowdfunding campaign and commissioned DeltaSync to design a floating city concept for The Floating City Project. In December 2013, the concept report was published. The Seasteading Institute has also been collecting data from potential residents through a survey.
The first seasteads are projected to be cruise ships adapted for semi-permanent habitation. Cruise ships are a proven technology, and they address most of the challenges of living at sea for extended periods of time. The cost of the first shipstead was estimated at $10M.
The Seasteading Institute has been working on communities floating above the sea in spar buoys, similar to oil platforms. The project would start small, using proven technology as much as possible, and try to find viable, sustainable ways of running a seastead. Innovations that enable full-time living at sea will have to be developed. The cruise ship industry’s development suggests this may be possible.
A proposed design for a custom-built seastead is a floating dumbbell in which the living area is high above sea level, which minimizes the influence of waves. In 2004, research was documented in an online book that covers living on the oceans.
The Seasteading Institute focuses on three areas: building a community, doing research and building the first seastead in the San Francisco Bay. In January 2009, the Seasteading Institute patented a design for a 200-person resort seastead, ClubStead, about a city block in size, produced by consultancy firm Marine Innovation & Technology. ClubStead marked the first major development in hard engineering, from extensive analysis to simulations, of the seasteading movement.
At the Seasteading Institute Forum, an idea arose to create an island from modules. There are several different designs for the modules, with a general consensus that reinforced concrete is the most proven, sustainable and cost-effective material for seastead structures, as indicated by use in oil platforms and concrete submarines. The company AT Design Office recently made another design using the modular island method.
Many architects and firms have created designs for floating cities, including Vincent Callebaut,Paolo Soleri and companies such as Shimizu and Tangram 3DS.Marshall Savage also discussed building tethered artificial islands in his book The Millennial Project: Colonizing the Galaxy in Eight Easy Steps, with several color plates illustrating his ideas. Some design competitions have also yielded designs, such as those produced by Evolo and other companies.
In 2008, Friedman and Gramlich had hoped to float the first prototype seastead in the San Francisco Bay by 2010 but 2010 plans were to launch a seastead by 2014. The Seasteading Institute projected in 2010 that the seasteading population would exceed 150 individuals in 2015.
The Seasteading Institute held its first conference in Burlingame, California, October 10, 2008. 45 people from 9 countries attended. The second Seasteading conference was significantly larger, and held in San Francisco, California, September 2830, 2009. The third Seasteading conference took place on May 31 – June 2, 2012.
As of 2011[update], Blueseed was a
company working on launching a ship near Silicon Valley which was to serve as a visa-free startup community and entrepreneurial incubator. The shipstead planned to offer living and office space, high-speed Internet connectivity, and regular ferry service to the mainland. The project aims included overcoming the difficulty organizations face obtaining US work visas, intending to use the easier B-1/B-2 visas to travel to the mainland, while work will be done on the ship.[dated info] Blueseed founders Max Marty and Dario Mutabdzija met when both were employees of The Seasteading Institute.
Seasteading has been imagined numerous times in pop culture in recent years.
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Posted: June 16, 2016 at 5:44 pm
Seasteading, ein Kofferwort aus engl. sea (Meer) und homesteading (Besiedlung, Inbesitznahme), ist das Konzept der Schaffung von Sttten dauerhaften Wohn- und Lebensraums auf dem Meer, genannt Seasteads, auerhalb der von den Regierungen jedweder Nation beanspruchten Gebiete.
Mindestens zwei Menschen haben unabhngig voneinander den Begriff geprgt, Ken Neumeyer in seinem Buch Sailing the Farm (1981) und Wayne Gramlich in seinem Artikel Seasteading Homesteading auf hoher See (1998). Auf Deutsch taucht gelegentlich der synonyme Begriff Seenahme auf, der in Anlehnung an Landnahme geschaffen wurde.
Auerhalb der ausschlielichen Wirtschaftszone von 200Seemeilen (370km), welche die Lnder nach Seerechtsbereinkommen der Vereinten Nationen beanspruchen knnen, unterliegt die hohe See keinen Gesetzen auer denen des Staates, unter dessen Flagge ein Schiff fhrt. Beispiele von Organisationen, die von dieser Mglichkeit Gebrauch machen, sind Women on Waves, die Frauen eine Abtreibung ermglichen, in deren Lndern Abtreibungen strengeren Regeln als in den Niederlanden unterworfen sind, sowie Radio Veronica, ein Piratensender in der Nordsee, der in den Sechziger Jahren auf die Niederlande gerichtet war. Wie diese Organisationen knnte ein Seastead Vorteile aus den losen Rechts- und Verwaltungsvorschriften schpfen, die auerhalb der Souvernitt der Nationen bestehen, und unter weitgehender Selbstverwaltung stehen.
Das Seasteading-Institut wurde am 15. April 2008 von Wayne Gramlich und Patri Friedman in Sunnyvale (Kalifornien) mit dem Ziel gegrndet, die Errichtung autonomer, mobiler Gemeinschaften auf schwimmenden Plattformen in internationalen Gewssern zu erleichtern. Gramlichs Artikel SeaSteading Homesteading auf hoher See aus dem Jahre 1998 erlutert den Begriff der erschwinglichen Besiedlung und zog mit seinem Vorschlag fr ein kleines Projekt die Aufmerksamkeit von Friedman auf sich. Die beiden begannen zusammenzuarbeiten und verffentlichten im Jahre 2001 ihr erstes gemeinsames Buch im Internet. Dieses behandelt alle erdenklichen Aspekte des Seasteadings, von der Abfallbeseitigung bis zur Ausflaggung.
Das Projekt wurde im Jahr 2008 der breiten ffentlichkeit bekannt, nachdem PayPal-Grnder Peter Thiel darauf aufmerksam geworden war, der 500.000 US-Dollar in das Projekt investierte und sich seitdem fr dessen Realisierung ausgesprochen hat, dies zuletzt in seinem Aufsatz The Education of a Libertarian, online verffentlicht von Cato Unbound. Dem Seasteading-Institut ist daher weitgefcherte und mannigfaltige Aufmerksamkeit der Medien zuteilgeworden, von Quellen wie CNN und Wired Magazine.
Wenn Seasteading eine realisierbare Alternative wird, braucht man fr den Wechsel von einer Regierung zur anderen nur zur anderen hinzusegeln und muss dafr nicht einmal das Haus verlassen. so Friedman auf der ersten Seasteading-Jahreskonferenz.
Seit 2011 hat das Seasteading-Institut ein Botschafterprogramm, mit dem durch lokale Botschafter die Idee weltweit weiter verbreitet werden soll. Botschafter werden nach Prfung durch das Seasteading-Institut ernannt und mssen sich verpflichten, regelmig an der Verbreitung der Idee mitzuarbeiten.
Das Seasteading-Institut hielt am 10. Oktober 2008 seine erste Jahreskonferenz in Burlingame, Kalifornien ab. 45 Personen aus 9 Lndern nahmen daran teil.
Die zweite jhrliche Seasteading-Konferenz fand in San Francisco, Kalifornien, vom 28.30. September 2009 statt.
Eine weitere Konferenz, in der hauptschlich die geschftlichen Mglichkeiten des Seasteading errtert wurden, fand vom 31. Mai bis zum 2. Juli 2012 in San Francisco statt.
Bei den meisten der vorgeschlagenen Seasteads handelt es sich um modifizierte Kreuzfahrtschiffe. Bei anderen vorgeschlagenen Strukturen handelt es sich um umgerstete Bohrinseln, stillgelegte Flak-Plattformen, bewegliche schwimmende Inseln und mageschneiderte knstliche Inseln. Das Seasteading-Institut arbeitet an einem neuen Ansatz, der Gemeinschaften vorsieht, die ber dem Meer auf Spar Bojen schwimmen, hnlich wie bei lplattformen. Das Projekt wrde zunchst klein anfangen, mit bewhrter Technologie so weit wie mglich, und dann versuchen, tragfhige und nachhaltige Wege zu finden, eine Seastead zu fhren. Innovationen, die ermglichen, stndig auf See zu leben, mssten entwickelt werden. Die Entwicklungen der Kreuzfahrtschiff-Industrie deutet an, dass dies mglich ist.
Ein vorgeschlagener Entwurf fr eine mageschneiderte Seastead ist eine schwimmende Hantel, in denen der Wohnbereich hoch ber dem Meeresspiegel liegt, was den Einfluss der Wellen minimiert. In den letzten paar Jahren wurde die Forschung in einem Online-Buch ber das Leben auf den Ozeanen dokumentiert.
Das Seasteading-Institut konzentriert sich auf drei Bereiche: erstens Aufbau einer Gemeinschaft, zweitens Forschung und drittens Untersttzung fr den Bau der ersten Seasteads. Das Seasteading-Institut selbst plant nicht den Bau eines eigenen Seasteads, da es sich selbst als Non-Profit-Organisation sieht, die fr einen geschftlichen Bau und Betrieb von Seasteads ungeeignet ist. Diese Aufgabe soll Unternehmern und Firmen zufallen.
Im Januar 2009 lie sich das Seasteading-Institut einen Entwurf fr ein Seastead patentieren, ClubStead genannt. Dieses htte die Gre eines Wohnviertels und bte Wohnraum fr 200 Personen. Der Entwurf wurde vom Beratungsunternehmen Marine Innovation & Technologie hergestellt. ClubStead ist die erste grere Entwicklung der Seasteading-Bewegung in der Konstruktion, von umfangreicher Analyse bis zur Simulation.
Ephemerisle ist ein Kunst- und Kultur-Festival auf dem Wasser. Es findet seit Oktober 2009 im Mandeville Tip County Park im San Joaquin River Delta statt. Die erste Veranstaltung zhlte etwa 150 Besucher. Mitorganisator war unter anderem einer der Grnder des Burning Man-Festivals. Ziel des Ephemerisle-Festivals ist es, eine Gemeinschaft temporr auf dem Wasser lebender Individuen zu schaffen, die sich Jahr fr Jahr fr zunehmend lngere Zeitrume treffen und einen Kondensationskern fr eine Seasteading-Kultur und -Gemeinschaft bilden.
2010 gab es kein offizielles Epehemerisle-Festival, da der vorjhrige Veranstalter nicht nochmals ohne Versicherung agieren wollte, jedoch die sehr hohen Versicherungsbeitrge scheute. Daher fhrten die angereisten Teilnehmer das Festival in Eigenregie unter dem Namen Non-Ephemerisle statt. Ab 2011 durfte die weiterhin in Selbstverantwortung ablaufende Veranstaltung wieder ihre ursprnglichen Namen tragen.
Der Sink or Swim Contest, war ein im Jahr 2011 ausgelobter Wettbewerb, fr das beste Seasteading-basierte Geschftskonzept.
Der Poseidon Award ist ein Preis fr die Etablierung des ersten unabhngigen Seasteads und der Samen fr die weltweit erste Ozean-Stadt. Es ist ein Meilenstein fr die Seasteading-Bewegung.
Teil des Poseidon Awards ist die Verleihung des Poseidon Monumentes, einer Statue, als Ehrung fr die ersten Seasteading-Pioniere. Diese wird die Namen der Seasteading-Argonauten eingemeielt haben, groen Spendern, die mit ihrer Spende dabei mitgeholfen haben, Seasteading Realitt werden zu lassen.
Der Poseidon Award wird an das erste Seastead verliehen, das:
Ziel war, den Poseidon Award bis zum Jahre 2015 zu vergeben.
Das bisher am weitesten fortgeschrittene Projekt ist das Blueseed-Venture. Die Grnder wollten ursprnglich noch im Laufe des Jahres 2012 ein umgebautes Schiff als Seastead vor der Kste Kaliforniens betreiben, das als Wohn-, Bro- und Geschftszentrum fr Nicht-Amerikanische Unternehmer bzw. Fachkrfte konzipiert ist, die noch auf die Visa-Freigaben der amerikanischen Behrden warten und sich solange auerhalb amerikanischer Gewsser aufhalten mssen. Das Projekt wartet allerdings noch auf vollstndige Finanzierung. Als Starttermin haben die Blueseed-Manager Herbst bis Winter 2014 ins Auge gefasst.
Niemandem ist bisher die Grndung eines Staates auf hoher See gelungen, der als souverne Nation anerkannt wurde. Am ehesten kommt diesem Ziel das Frstentum Sealand nahe, eine umstrittene Mikronation auf einer ausrangierten Flak-Plattform vor der Themsemndung in der Nhe von Suffolk, England. Ein vergleichbares Projekt war die Mikronation New Atlantis auf einer Hlfte eines 30 m groen Floes rund 15 Kilometer vor Jamaika. Gegrndet am 4. Juli 1964 durch Leicester Hemingway erlitt es einige Jahre spter dasselbe Schicksal wie sein mythisches Vorbild; es versank in einem Sturm.
Tomasz M. Froelich: Festland ad! In: Henning Lindhoff (Hrsg.): Freiheitskeime 2013. Ein libertres Lesebuch. Norderstedt, 2012, Seite 45-56. ISBN 978-3-8482-5247-3.
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Posted: June 12, 2016 at 12:39 am
I divided the books into three sections: Childfree Book Shelf (non-fiction books written specifically about the childfree movement), Fencesitter Book Shelf (non-ficiton books on parenting to help people decide if parenting is for them), and Additional Books of Interest (novels and books that might not exactly be “childfree” but are childfree enough to be interesting to us). If you see a book you find interesting, click on the name, it will take you to a review of the book farther down on this page. Another site has a list of French-Language books.
Note: I didn’t write the reviews below — I borrowed them from Amazon.com. My notes (if any) on the book are in italics under the review.
Will You Be Mother? by Jane Bartlett
Setting out to dispel the myths that women without children are either infertile or “hard-driven career women,” freelance journalist Bartlett draws on interviews with 50 British women who have chosen, for a variety of reasons, to remain childfree. She uses the women’s own words to describe their reasons for choosing to be different in a world where childbearing is seen as a part of the “normal” lifecycle.
The Baby Boon : How Family-Friendly America Cheats the Childless by Elinor Burkett
Tax credits, childcare benefits, school vouchers, flextime for parents, parental leaves–all have spawned what journalist Elinor Burkett calls a “culture of parental privilege.” The Baby Boon charts the backlash against this movement and asks for a reevaluation of social policy.
The Childless Revolution by Madelyn Cain
Due in part to birth control, later marriages, and the emergence of two-career couples, 42 percent of the American female population is childless, representing the fastest-growing demographic group to emerge in decades. These women are reshaping the definition of womanhood in a fundamental way, yet they are largely misunderstood. Whether childless by choice or by chance, they are alternately pitied and scorned, and are rarely asked directly about their childlessness; like the elephant in the living room, childlessness is a taboo subject.
Childfree and Sterilized: Women’s Decisions and Medical Responses by Annily Campbell
Campbell, a feminist researcher and counselor, examines the relatively new social and medical phenomenon of women in the developed countries of the world choosing to remain childfree and electing for sterilization. She allows 23 voluntarily childfree, sterilized women to tell their stories and to reveal the struggles they faced in being women without children in a society which expects women to be mothers. She employs feminist and sociological perspectives to highlight the fact that voluntarily childfree women are perceived as abnormal and are often the target of negative and critical comment.
Families of Two by Laura Carroll
Families of Two: Interviews with Happily Married Couples Without Children by Choice, takes us into the lives of the growing number of couples who are choosing not to have children, and dispels the myths commonly associated with this choice. Families of Two provides insight for couples who are deciding whether to have children, and to friends and family of couples who have chosen or may choose not to have children. It celebrates the many people who are living lives that do not include parenthood, and the many ways to live happily ever after.
Pride and Joy : The Lives and Passions of Women Without Children by Terri Casey
This is an enlightening collection of first-person interviews with twenty-five women who have decided not to have children. This book shatters the stereotypes that surround voluntarily childless women–that they are self-centered, immature, workaholic, unfeminine, materialistic, child-hating, cold, or neurotic.
Childfree and Loving It! by Nicki Defago
Recording the opinions of childless women from all over the world and letting this growing band answer their detractors, this investigation looks into the world of those who choose not to have children. Interviewees speak freely and honestly about their experiences, providing readers with both the many reasons people choose to live child-free and insight into what seems to them an unhealthy amount of societal pressure to become mothers and fathers. This book also presents interviews with parents who wish they had not had children while offering their reasons for feeling regret. Concluding with a look into the workplace, this title evaluates the fairness of allowing parents shorter days and time off to accommodate children, compared to the working environment of those who have chosen to live without children.
I read this book and LOVED it! I highly recommend it! It’s my favorite childfree book!
I Hate Other People’s Kids by Adrianne Frost
From the dawn of time, other people’s kids have found ways to spoil things for the rest of us. Movie theaters, parks, restaurants — every venue that should be a place of refuge and relaxation has instead become a freewheeling playground complete with shrieks, wails, and ill-timed excretions.
Now, I Hate Other People’s Kids delivers a complete handbook for navigating a world filled with tiny terrors — and their parents. It boldly explores how children’s less- endearing traits have disrupted life throughout history (“And they say Jesus loved the little children, all the children of the world, but he never had to dine with one. He chose the lepers”) and classifies important subspecies of tyke, from “Little Monsters” (Dennis the Menace, Bamm-Bamm Rubble) to the “So Good It Hurts” variety (Dakota Fanning, Ricky Schroeder in The Champ). Dotted with illuminating sidebars such as “Parents Think It’s Cute, but It Isn’t” and featuring tips on ingeniously turning the tables without seeming childish yourself, I Hate Other People’s Kids is clever, unforgiving, and sidesplittingly funny.
I have this book and it was okay. I didn’t think it was all that funny but there were some chapters of the book I found interesting.
Reconceiving Women: Separating Motherhood from Female Identity by Mardy S. Ireland
Although surveys suggest that some 40 percent of American women between the ages of 18 and 44 do not have children, most scholarly and popular literature continues to assume that motherhood is the defining role in women’s lives. Here a Berkeley psychologist shares data from her survey of 100 such women, revealing significant differences,
depending on whether they are childless by choice, by chance, or because of infertility. Rejecting conventional interpretations, which emphasize the childless woman’s infertility, Ireland offers new, more positive interpretations, drawn from Lacanian and object-relations theory, for all three categories and ends by summoning the legendary first woman Lilith to represent the nonmaternal creative energies that exist in every woman and by which childless women can define themselves and their experience. Recommended for specialized collections.
Why Don’t You Have Kids?: Living a Full Life Without Parenthood by Leslie Lafayette
From the founder of the Childfree Network, a national support group for childless adults, comes this insightful exploration of the pros and cons of parenting and not-parenting, filled with anecdotes, interviews, and statistics. To have or not to have children-it is one of the most important decisions any of us will ever make. The fact that many American households today do not include children has dramatically changed the way we all live.but not necessarily the way we all think. Drawing on the experiences of both parenting and non-parenting adults, she explores this subject from a social, spiritual, and psychological perspective. Defining the term she calls “pronatalism,” Ms. Lafayette shows how people can be pressured into having kids—and even end up having them for the wrong reasons. In Why Don’t You Have Kids? author Leslie Lafayette strips away the many myths surrounding childfree living and discusses what is truly involved in choosing to parent or not to parent. With rare insight and unflinching honesty, she helps you face this crucial turning point so that you can reach your ultimate decision with confidence and joy.
I have read this and it’s very good. I recommend this book.
Women Without Children: The Reasons, the Rewards, the Regrets by Susan Schneider Lang
According to various studies Lang cites, over 15% of women now in their childbearing years will remain childless for various reasons: infertility; belated, unstable, or failed marriages; lack of maternal or paternal interest (50% of 1100 women interviewed in one study considered their husbands “lousy” fathers); financial strain (30% of an annual income can be required to support a child); demanding careers (60% of top female executives are childless but only 10% of the comparable males); demanding stepchildren; or lesbian orientation (only 15-30% of lesbians have children). The disadvantages, Lang says, include occasional “feelings of sadness and loneliness,” “regret” over missing a major life experience, social and parental pressure, and an assortment of health problems. Women with children also have health problems, many associated with obesity, and suffer “pain and disappointment” over children who fail and stress from their “incessant demands,” reduced financial resources, and loss of time–three months a year are spent on child-rearing. The child- free, on the other hand, use their time and money for “nurturing and networking,” traveling, raising pets; they enjoy “an exceptionally intimate relationship” with their mates, and continue their “self-growth.”
Without Child: Challenging the Stigma of Childlessness by Laurie Lisle
Heavily weighted to history, a defense of women who, by choice or by chance, are not mothers. Author Lisle, now in her 50s, chose not to have children–she is, to use one of her favorite terms, a nullipara (the medical term for a woman without a child)–and found the decision subject to attack from within and without. “To this day, women without children . . . share a common stigma,” she quotes one expert as saying, and Lisle goes on to note that such women are often portrayed as “damaged or deviant” or “just not nice enough.” Lisle rallies the nulliparous troops by foraging through history for childless, though not always virgin, role models. Among them are the Hellenic goddesses Artemis and Athena, Queen Elizabeth I, Florence Nightingale, and Louisa May Alcott. Closer to home are what used to be called maiden aunts, energetic examples of “social mothers” who worked in orphanages and poorhouses or served as caretakers (and inspirations) for their nieces and nephews.
No Children, No Guilt by Sylvia D. Lucas
“Oh, don’t worry,” they say when you tell them you don’t want children. “You’ll change your mind.” (Pat on knee.) What does it mean to be sure you dont want children? Arent you supposed to want them? What if the person you’re in love with wants them? And why do you feel so guilty for not wanting them? From the shocking abuse of her childhood doll to the demise of two marriages, Sylvia shares her vibrant humor and offers insight into what it really means to be child-free – without the guilt. All it takes is – Accepting your disinclination toward motherhood – Recognizing you WILL be looked at funny – Understanding that you will, in some ways, be a perpetual child (but whos complaining?) – Being prepared for people to think they know you better than you know yourself – Knowing it could mean losing the person you love – Finding a partner who doesnt want children – and never will (and a little bit more)
The Chosen Lives of Childfree Men by Patricia W. Lunneborg, Marilyn Mei-Ying Chi, Clara C. Park
More and more couples are choosing not to have children. While much attention has been paid to this trend from a woman’s point of view, men are often seen as having a secondary role in this choice, as ready to accept whatever their partners decide. In an age when men are expected to be caregivers as well as breadwinners and encouraged to take on more parental responsibilities, this volume argues that they need to be active participants in this crucial, life-altering decision. Based on in-depth interviews with 30 American and British childless men, this is the first book to explore the motives and consequences of voluntary childlessness from a man’s perspective.
No Kids: 40 Good Reasons Not To Have Children by Corinne Maier
When the original edition of No Kids was published in France in 2007, it was an instant media sensation and bestseller across Europe. Now, for the first time in English, Maier unleashes her no-holds-barred treatise on North America with all the unabridged force of her famously wicked intellect. Drawing on the realms of history, child psychology and politics, she effortlessly skewers the idealized notion of parenthood, and asks everyone to reject the epidemic of “baby-mania.” Are you prepared to give up your late nights out, quiet dinners with friends, spontaneous romantic get-aways, and even the l
uxury of uninterrupted thought for the “vicious little dwarves” that will treat you like their servant, cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars and end up resenting you? Within these pages lie truths a mother is never supposed to utter and whether you’re a parent or childfree, Maier’s message won’t fail to impress.
I read this and found it somewhat interesting, but it’s obviously about European culture and thus would be appreciated more by a European audience.
Cheerfully Childless: The Humor Book for Those Who Hesitate to Procreate by Ellen Metter, Loretta Gomez
This cartoon-filled humor book brings cheer to those who are leaning against parenthood but don’t get much support from a society that teaches the four R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, ‘Rithmetic, and Reproduction! Serious books on the subject of choosing to be childless abound, but nothing light-hearted — until now. Emotions run high on this topic, and that’s precisely the sort of issue where humor thrives. Erma Bombeck looked at family life, Scott Adams took on work life, and Ellen Metter and illustrator Loretta Gomez tackle the question with a life-altering answer: Is it my fate to procreate?
Unwomanly Conduct: The Challenges of Intentional Childlessness by Carolyn M. Morell
Provocative study of women who chose to be childless based on extensive interviews with women aged between 40 and 78. A significant contribution to debates about choice, the private and the public, gender and diversity.
The Baby Trap: The Controversial Bestseller That Dares to Prove That Parenthood is Dangerous by Ellen Peck
The best book for the childfree woman. A must read for all. It should be a requirement for all teenage girls. Rather than lots of statistics from poorly funded studies, this is a true life example and entertaining look at the reproductive choice.
I LOVE this book! It’s from the early 1970s and now out of print, but if you can find a copy of it, snatch it up! Ellen Peck is childfree herself and outlines all the ways society and our peers try to pressure us into having children and highlights the downsides of parenthood (especially motherhood). Some of the information is a bit dated (the whole chapter on birth control and abortion, for instance) but it was an easy, interesting and enjoyable read. I highly recommend it.
Beyond Motherhood: Choosing a Life Without Children by Jeanne Safer
This book is about making a conscious decision not to have a baby — how to do it, how it feels, what it means, and the impact it has on your life.
Two Is Enough: A Couple’s Guide to Living Childless by Choice by Laura S. Scott
In Two Is Enough, Laura S. Scott examines the most compelling motives to remain childfree and the decisionmaking process, exploring the growing trend of childlessness through her own story and those of others who have made this choice.
Baby Not on Board: A Celebration of Life Without Kids by Jennifer L. Shawne
For anyone who’s wondered, “Why have kids when I could have fun instead?” here’s a warm and hilarious welcome to the wonderful world of unparenting! The childfree life is growing in popularity, and finally here is a book that celebrates the wisdom and wonder of that choice. For those who cherish their white shag carpet and glass coffee table, this highly interactive bookwith quizzes, sidebars, and handy checklistsoffers a range of helpful, unparenting information including ways to throw oneself an unbaby shower and strategies for coping with dreaded OPCs (other people’s children). Baby Not on Board reminds us all that having a baby is great, but NOT having a baby is really, really great.
I’ve read this and found it to be amusing, but it’s not to be taken too seriously. You might enjoy it!
The Case Against Having Children by Anna and Arnold Silverman
There is nothing spiritual, biological, or genetically inherited about the desire to be a mother. For many women, this book sets out to show, motherhood is a substitute, a second choice for the things they wanted to do but weren’t able to. For others, it is a way to gain social acceptance and approval, keep their husbands, prove their femininity. And fathers, too, may exploit their children as a way of proving their manhood or their wives’ faithfulness. This book explodes the myth of the maternal instinct, disproves the idea that marriages with children are happier, explains why large families can limit the personal freedom of all Americans, and show that children from small families are brighter, more creative, and better adjusted. Most important, The Case Against Having Children shows women that motherhood isn’t their only option.
This book was published in the 1970s, so some of the information is dated, but otherwise it’s a very good book!
I Don’t Have Kids. The Guide to Great Childfree Living. by Ellen L. Walker
Written by a psychologist who is herself childfree, I Don’t Have Kids. The Guide to Great Childfree Living, was written for adults without children and also for those considering becoming parents. This book features the personal stories of childfree adults, exploring the psychological processes influencing individual decisions. It provides an inside perspective about what life without children can be like. You will gain useful, unbiased information on how to deal with the problems and opportunities that come with not having kids. I Don’t Have Kids will empower you to embrace your own situation and find ways to have the richest, most fulfilling life possible. Ellen L. Walker, Ph.D. 2010
Complete Without Kids: An Insider’s Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance by Ellen L. Walker
A comprehensive resource on the rewards and challenges of childree living from a unique, unbiased perspective. Childfree singles and couples often wrestle with being a minority in a child-oriented world. Whether childless by choice or circumstance, not being a parent can create challenges not always recognized in a family-focused society. Women feel the pressure of a real or imaginary biological clock ticking. Careers, biology, couples priorities and timing influence the end result, and not everyone is destined for parenthood, though there is a subtle assumption that everyone should be. In Complete Without Kids, licensed clinical psychologist, Ellen L. Walker, examines the often-ignored question of what it means to be childfree and offers ways to cope with the pressure, find a balance in your life and enj
oy the financial, health and personal benefits associated with childfree living.
The Parenthood Decision by Beverly Engel
In The Parenthood Decision: Discovering Whether You Are Ready and Willing to Become a Parent, Beverly Engel, a licensed marriage, family, and child counselor and bestselling author, takes a look at all the issues potential parents face, posits important questions, and leads readers who are struggling with a variety of dilemmas through compassionate and thoughtful decision-making exercises.
I’m Okay, You’re a Brat!: Setting the Priorities Straight and Freeing You From the Guilt and Mad Myths of Parenthood by Susan Jeffers
Whether you are already a parent or just suspect you will be one someday, I’m Okay, You’re a Brat is sure to change your perceptions about the responsibility. With individual chapters devoted to topics such as full-time parenting, breastfeeding, custody in case of divorce, and remaining childfree, the realism presented will shatter any remaining illusions you may be harboring. Determined to explode the myth of continually joyous parenting, author Susan Jeffers replaces it with a more realistic view of the life changes and emotional difficulties associated with such a long term and essentially thankless task. Jeffers accomplishes this by emphasizing the difference between loving your children and actually enjoying parenting them, a difference that is rarely examined in this age of guilty, overworked parents.
Mask of Motherhood: How Becoming a Mother Changes Everything and Why We Pretend It Doesn’t by Susan Maushart
Everything changes when a woman becomes a mother, but society–particularly women themselves–often colludes to deny this simple truism. In The Mask of Motherhood, author Susan Maushart (a nationally syndicated columnist in Australia and the mother of three children) explores the effect childbearing has upon women. In the process, she removes the veils of serenity and satisfaction to reveal what she holds to be the truth: the early years of motherhood are physically difficult and can be emotionally devastating.
What to Expect Before You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff
More and more couples are planning for conception, not only for financial and lifestyle reasons, but in response to recent recommendations from the medical community. In the same fresh, contemporary voice that has made the 4th edition of What to Expect When You’re Expecting so successful, Heidi Murkoff explains the whys and wherefores of getting your body ready for pregnancy, including pregnancy prep for both moms and dads to be. Before You’re Expecting is filled with information on exercise, diet, pinpointing ovulation, lifestyle, workplace, and insurance changes you’ll want to consider, and how to keep your relationship strong when you’re focused on baby making all the time. There are tips for older couples; when to look for help from a fertility specialist–including the latest on fertility drugs and procedures–plus a complete fertility planner.
What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff
Now comes the Fourth Edition, a new book for a new generation of expectant moms–featuring a new look, a fresh perspective, and a friendlier-than-ever voice. It’s filled with the most up-to-date information reflecting not only what’s new in pregnancy, but what’s relevant to pregnant women. Heidi Murkoff has rewritten every section of the book, answering dozens of new questions and including loads of new asked-for material, such as a detailed week-by-week fetal development section in each of the monthly chapters, an expanded chapter on pre-conception, and a brand new one on carrying multiples. More comprehensive, reassuring, and empathetic than ever, the Fourth Edition incorporates the most recent developments in obstetrics and addresses the most current lifestyle trends (from tattooing and belly piercing to Botox and aromatherapy). There’s more than ever on pregnancy matters practical (including an expanded section on workplace concerns), physical (with more symptoms, more solutions), emotional (more advice on riding the mood roller coaster), nutritional (from low-carb to vegan, from junk fooddependent to caffeine-addicted), and sexual (what’s hot and what’s not in pregnant lovemaking), as well as much more support for that very important partner in parenting, the dad-to-be.
What to Expect the First Year by Heidi Murkoff
Parents-to-be are likely to find themselves quickly immersed in this highly authoritative manual by the collaborators of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Nearly 700 pages of snappily written, friendly advice, constructed in the form of chatty answers to hypothetical questions, are arranged on a month-by-month basis. For each of 12 months, there are a guide to the progress the baby may be expected to be making at this stage, a list of potential health or other problems and paragraphs on the myriad questions all new parents ask–on subjects as various as in-home care, birthmarks, circumcision and breath-holding. Other sections cover what to buy for a new-born, first aid, recipes, adoption and even how to enjoy the first year, in terms of the parents’ own activities, such as social life and sex. An extensive index leads the reader to information that wouldn’t normally be accessed using the month-to-month arrangement–and also serves as an indication of the book’s all-inclusiveness.
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