Kien documents a millennial-old problem that affects women in society and suggests a solution. She proposes that women used to be in charge of calendars because any woman would feel like their own physiological changes had a connection with the known universe via the lunar cycles. This link between the human and the elements was mysterious, but it gave women a position of importance in society. Older societies, for lack of the scientific understanding of today, assigned femaleness to the world around them and viewed the universe as a life-giving womb with nurturing attributes. However, the rise of societies and kingdoms led to changing concepts of the universe and fluctuating symbolism to maintain connection with the cosmos. Gods and the planets were increasingly assigned maleness, and this led to marginalization of women.
I share some of Kien’s passions—symbolism, science, archaeology, calendars, and religion—which attracted me to purchase her book, but my presuppositions prevented me from relating to it or giving it much credence. The first half of the book seemed jumbled to me, but the second half more technical and understandable. I do not have the archaeological background that she has, so some of her conclusions may or may not find resounding support among experts. But the thesis that ancient or primitive cultures attributed maleness or femaleness to the sun and moon, and that this in turn is a controlling force over society, is plausible. It mirrors our contemporary question whether media and its worldview influences culture or merely reflects it. But it hardly seems that
she’s uncovered an ancient plot to dissociate women from the spheres of leadership via the symbolism inherent in religions and calendar making. In Kien’s estimation, the moon (representing women) lost the battle with the Sun (representing men) and the present disrespect for, disfranchisement and marginalization of women is the result.
While I found the book interesting, I sensed that I would have enjoyed it more if it were organized along a historical timeline to demonstrate the fluctuating concepts, or to provide some timeline charts to organize the material. Also, I would like to have seen more evidence for some of the assertions she made. In the past, calendar systems ebbed and flowed, or flip-flopped, which demonstrates the practical difficulty in reconciling a lunar and solar calendar, but she didn’t link any of the calendar changes to actual historical evidence of changes in attitudes towards women.
As she reviewed the history of Judaism and Christianity with respect to the calendar, she made several statements that I think were erroneous. For example, she claims that the Jewish calendar evolved and that its lunar aspect is a vestige of previous æons when women priests were in control of the calendar. So she asserts that the twelve tribes of Israel are really thirteen tribes; and that changes in female-controlled calendars to male-controlled calendars are reflected as changes in the biblical story from thirteen to twelve tribes, which makes the Jewish luni-solar calendar male, because it has twelve months (or tribes). As evidence for this from biblical accounts, she cites that Moses counted thirteen tribes, but exempted Levi (which she labels “ephemeral”), and this narrative reflects an effort to remove the symbolism of femaleness in the number 13 to the symbolism of maleness in the number 12. The account is in Numbers 1. Moses is given the task of conducting a census of the tribes for the purposes of warfare. The tribe of Levi was to perform the sacerdotal services of the tabernacle, so they were exempt from warfare. There is an initial listing of twelve military “tribes” in Number 1:1-16—which I put in quotes because Levi is omitted and Joseph’s tribe is counted as two because he had two sons (Josh 14:4). The purpose for the census was to determine their military strength, and the division of Joseph’s tribe is to ensure that three “tribes” flank each face of the tabernacle. Moses then gives the results of the census in Numbers 1:17-46, and mentions in verse 47 that Levi was exempted from the census. The tribe of Levi is not “ephemeral,” but real, extant, and enduring. If one were to graphically represent the numbers of men counted in each tribe and station them by flanks around the tabernacle, then a bird’s eye view of the camp would show the figure of a cross (similar to the crucifixion cross). This is the intended symbolism, which is typological of Christ going to war to defeat His enemies and to give His people rest (Josh 21:44-45; Ps 98:1; Isa 25:11; Acts 2:23-24, 32-36; Col 2:15; Heb 2:14; 1Jn 3:8; Rev 12:9; 20:10).
Kien’s statement that 12 tribes is a “fiction” is nonsense. The twelve tribes are the twelve sons of Jacob, but in military terms, the twelve tribes are comprised differently. So when Moses sent the first spies into Canaan, he mentions Ephraim, and then “from the tribe of Joseph, that is Manasseh” (Num 13:11) so that each of the military tribes sent one man (Levi was exempt). Moses didn’t do this because of changing concepts in calendars, nor does this give evidence that the narrative was altered, and poorly though, as if it left clues of a previous matriarchal story of the events. Kien would have us believe that male priests re-wrote the stories but didn’t do the greatest job at removing all the evidence of a “moon womb 13 month calendar.”
Then Kien also wants to count Dinah as “a semi-matriarchal” tribe, that would bring the tribal count to thirteen. She seems to think that the historical accounts are biased in favor of the number twelve “at all costs” (I’m assuming she means at the cost of historical accuracy). After all, Dinah is mentioned regularly in lists of the twelve tribes (twelve sons) of Israel (Jacob). But Dinah is hardly the only daughter borne of Jacob. Her mention is to invoke the memory of Simeon’s and Levi’s sin of anger and Jacob’s curse upon their tribes to be divided and scattered among the other tribes (Gen 49:5-7). Kien notes that Simeon is not mentioned in Moses’ blessing and interprets this as another clue of the battle between the moon and the sun. But it is more reasonable to assume that Moses simply let Jacob’s curse stand (Josh 19:1); or even that Simeon’s name was inadvertently omitted.
Kien is not happy with Judaism or Christianity which propagate male centered symbolism, and seems more aligned with pagan religions of the past. The calendar by which most of the world orders itself today developed with the growth of civilization, influenced by politics and science, not because of misogyny. A solar calendar is as natural as a lunar calendar. She believes in nature, mystery, holiness, symbolism, and that in the beginning the world was female. She urges religions to adopt inclusive spiritual imagery and for cultures to embrace moon-related festivities as measures to restore value to women and menstruation. As I read the book, I wondered why Kien granted calendars the power to alienate women from nature, to marginalize women from positions of authority, to change men’s attitudes about menstruation, and estrange women from the “cosmic dance.” Why couldn’t women still garner that connection with the moon since it still appears every 29.5 days in the sky? Couldn’t women maintain their “cultic” calendar while the nation they live in uses a “male” solar calendar? She brought this up herself when she described the adoption of a lunar calendar by the Jews. “Using the Babylonian calendar for administrative purposes need not have affected the cultic calendar in any way.” The world still spins ‘round once every day, and that has not changed. But there is a reason why paganism has vanished and the God of Israel remains established: this is His world that He called into existence by the power of His word.