While women in the West are trying to recover their goddess traditions which have been strongly suppressed under Christianity, the goddess tradition of Thailand has been alive and has coexisted with male-dominant religions until the present day. Thailand is a land of a great diversity of people and their belief systems. The goddesses and their veneration are carried on by these many different peoples. Yet, in the field of women's spirituality, the goddesses of Thailand are rarely known about. Therefore, this dissertation is an attempt to fill this gap. Using feminist cultural history and archaeomythology, this dissertation presents the history, myths, and rituals of these goddesses. These goddesses exist within the context of a matrifocal culture of Thailand. The Thai people often refer to their goddesses as "Mothers." Goddesses' roles reflect the authority of women in a matrifocal culture such as in the areas of fertility, spirituality, household, trade and politics. Influences from Indian religions, especially Buddhism, have devalued the goddess tradition. Nevertheless, the custom has survived into modern times. An overview of the tradition is explored in the first part of the dissertation.
To provide insights into the Thai goddess tradition, the Rice Mother is explored in detail. She is one of the most important goddesses because people depend on rice for survival. It is believed that rice comes from her and if humans respect her, fertility will be ensured. Conversely, disrespect will result in famine. Her myths and rituals provide a whole paradigm of how to live in harmony with nature and its cycle of birth, death and rebirth, creating equality in society, and respecting the feminine power as the source of life. Conflicts and compromise with Buddhism and Hinduism are clearly recorded in the myths. Plausible arguments for the veneration of her in the prehistoric period are explored. Impacts of the so called Green Revolution and capitalist economy in modern times have deteriorated her veneration more severely than at any time in history. However, the efforts coming from the alternative rice farming movement is a shining hope for the revival of the Rice Mother tradition.
|Advisor:||Birnbaum, Lucia Chiavola|
|Commitee:||Carter, Susan G., Jenett, Dianne E.|
|School:||California Institute of Integral Studies|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||DAI-A 74/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Religious history, Religion, Philosophy, Asian Studies, Womens studies|
|Keywords:||Feminist cultural history, Goddess, Thai goddesses, Thailand|
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