Neolithic and Bronze Age matriarchal clans were shamanistic in nature
Their Priestesses were thought of as the Goddess’ earthly incarnation who, as part of their animistic rituals, mediated between the visible and spirit worlds . The holy women represented the feminine manifestation of the Trinity — Maiden, Mother and Crone. The primary role of the Shamanic Priestesses was to connect the clan to their deity through sacred rituals. Their ceremonial life, and that of the tribe was closely tied to the three phases of the moon — New, Full and Waning. These rituals reinforced the sacred cycle of creative force that brought both life and death and linked the tribe to their cosmic source of blessings. In their role as tribal seers, these revered wise women used Shamanistic trance-states and dances that channel the creative energy of the Goddess to the tribe.
In the view of Shamanic Pantheism, (Goddess is everything and everything is Goddess) all nature is animate, and therefore divine. Their belief system was based on the connection of all living things, bound together in a symbiotic celebration of life. Their worship centered on the founding theory that the Earth Mother is alive, and is due reverence and respect. She is part of us and we of Her. We are dependent on Her for our very breath. This mysticism of Immanent Divinity– “Thou Art God/dess”; we are one with the universe, differs greatly from the theology of Transcendent Divinity – “God is Up There”; separate from humanity, as espoused by later writings.
The followers of the Goddess viewed Mother Nature, as the embodiment of universal Life. She was Gaia, Earth Mother, and the living breath of planet. Reverence and respect for all nature was integral to the health and happiness of the people. They were spiritually connected to the blessing of the Mother. The Goddess culture intuitively understood the interdependences of Mother Earth and her people. The Goddess flourished or perished with the fate planet. She and her clan were one.
God, as worshiped by Christians, Moslems and Jews, is an indestructible, all-powerful, non-physical being, portrayed as an authoritarian father figure. He is a divine entity that existed apart from the world he himself called into being. This God was above all life, and HE made MAN in his own image, so man, in the name of God, had dominion over all of life on Earth.
Classically trained archaeologist, Marija Gimbutas, whose pioneering work, The Civilization of the Goddess, (Harper, 1991) chronicled Shamanic practices that survived a thousand year taboo in Britain, France and the rest of Western Europe. In the course of her research, Gimbutas  discovered Wicca traditions that survived from Lithuania miraculously revealing a continuum from the ancient times of the Divine Feminine. Up until the twentieth century, villagers under the guidance of their wise women, honored the old ways: healing rituals; midwifery practices; recognition of the moon menstrual link; sexual mysteries; and the celebration of seasonal folk festivals marking the points of power in the old calendar. The continued recognition of these ancient cross quarter holy days is particularly relevant to the Divine Feminine. These were fire celebrations that were symbolic of the female sexual fire, sometimes referred to as kundalini. In the Days of The Goddess, her people understood that sexuality was healthy, that the blissful joining of a man and a woman was blessed with the energy of the Goddess who granted her people good health, fertile fields and prosperity.
During the 1950s and early 1960s Gimbutas lecturered at the Harvard Department of Anthropology, and was a Fellow of Harvard’s Peabody Museum, earning a reputation as a world-class specialist on the Indo-European Bronze Age, as well as on Lithuanian folk art and the prehistory of the Balts and Slavs. In her definitive opus, Bronze Age Cultures of Central and Eastern Europe (1965), she reinterpreted European prehistory in light of her backgrounds in linguistics, ethnology, and the history of religions, and challenged many traditional assumptions about the beginnings of European civilization.
As a professor of archaeology at UCLA Gimbutas directed major excavations of Neolithic sites in southeastern Europe between 1967 and 1980, including Sitagroi and Achilleion in Thessaly (Greece). Digging through layers of earth representing a period of time before contemporary estimates for Neolithic habitation in Europe — where other archaeologists would not have expected further finds — she unearthed a great number of artifacts of daily life and of religious cults, which she researched and documented throughout her career.
Her book, The Civilization of the Goddess, articulated what Gimbutas saw as the differences between the Old European system, which she considered goddess-and woman-centered (matristic), and the Bronze Age Indo-European patriarchal (androcrati”) culture which supplanted it. According to her interpretations, gynocentric and gylanic societies were peaceful, they honored homosexuals, and they espoused economic equality. The “androcratic”, or male-dominated, Kurgan peoples, on the other hand, invaded Europe and imposed upon its natives the hierarchical rule of male warriors.
Joseph Campbell and Ashley Montagu each compared the importance of Marija Gimbutas’ output to the historical importance of the Rosetta Stone in deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs. Campbell provided a foreword to a new edition of Gimbutas’ The Language of the Goddess (1989) before he died, and often said how profoundly he regretted that her research on the Neolithic cultures of Europe had not been available when he was writing The Masks of God.
Excerpted with permission:
Goddess of Wonder, Goddess of Light, by Leslie C. Botha and H. Sandra Chevalier-Batik, 2004 Pleiades Publishing, ISBN 0-9716968-1-0