“We would like women to remain women in their nature, in the whole of their lives, in the aim and fulfilment of these lives, just as we likewise wish men to remain men in their nature and in the aim and fulfilment of their nature and their aims.”—Adolf Hitler
National Socialism promoted two images of woman: the hardworking peasant mother in traditional dress, and the uniformed woman in service to her people. Both images were an attempt to combat two types of woman that are foreign to Traditional European societies: the Aphrodisian and Amazonian woman.
To understand the implications of these types, we must first outline J. J. Bachofen’s theory of the phases of human development and their relation to the Traditionalism of Julius Evola, who translated Bachofen’s Das Mutterrecht (Mother Right) into Italian and wrote the introduction. Bachofen posited a progressive view of history. The earliest and most primitive civilizations were earth-based, what Bachofen called “hetaerist-aphroditic,” since they were characterized by promiscuity.
As a revolt against the mistreatment of women in these early societies, Bachofen determined, agricultural-based Demetrian societies were developed. This phase of development was matriarchal, and exalted woman in her role of wife and mother, since it viewed woman and the earth as sources of generation.
Next, patriarchy developed, in which the sun and man were seen as the source of life. States of consciousness, correspondingly, went beyond the earth and the moon in solar-oriented societies.
Bachofen also outlined several regressions within his system. The cult of Dionysus was a regression from a Demetrian back into an earth-based cult, as exemplified by its emphasis on the vine (i.e., earth), a drunken dissolution into nature, and the promiscuous maenads who were its followers. Another regression was found in the various examples of Amazonian women in Western history, who did away with the need for a male principle.
Evola said that he integrated Bachofen’s ideas in “a wider and more up-to-date order of ideas.” . He posits the Arctic cycle of the Golden Age as the primordial tradition. Demetrian societies came later, and eventually declined into Amazonian and Aphrodisian cycles. Meanwhile, there were descents into Titanic and Dionysian cycles, with a brief revival of the Northern spirit in the heroic age. Although Evola and Bachofen disagreed about the primacy of the Northern tradition, their interpretations of Aphroditism and other degenerations are similar.
As an earth-based society, the Aphrodisian is entirely focused on the material world. These societies are ruled by “the natural law (ius naturale) of sex motivated by lust, and with no understanding of the relationship of intercourse to conception.”  Even the afterlife is viewed not as an ascent to a heaven, but a return to nature. Bachofen describes woman’s status in these cultures as the lowest—she is only a sex object, the property of the tribal chief or any man who wants her. Evola’s interpretation is that in Aphrodisian societies, it is man’s status that is the lowest, since woman is the “sovereign of the man who is merely slave of his senses and sexuality, merely the ‘telluric’ being that finds its rest and its ecstasy only in the woman.”  Whether interpreting Aphrodisian societies as degrading to men, women, or both, one aspect is clear: Such a worldview emphasizes the lower aspects of sex, and presents woman as an object of base lust. Contrasted to this are Demetrian societies, in which monogamy and the love of the wife and mother replace mere lust.
Such Aphrodisian cultures are found only in pre-Aryan and anti-Aryan societies. In the history of the West, Evola theorizes that solar-based societies originally were found throughout Europe. In the more southern areas of Europe, in the timeline of recorded history at least, the solar forces did not withstand opposing forces for long. According to Joseph Campbell, these earth and lunar forces migrated to the Mediterranean from the East, as the Oriental principle was found in the “Aphroditic, Demetrian, and Dionysian legacies of the Sabines and Etruscans, Hellenistic Carthage and, finally, Cleopatra’s Hellenistic Egypt.” Thus, much of what we associate with classical Greece cannot be assumed to be European, but must be interpreted in light of the degenerations that developed from its contact with the East. Rome, according to Evola, was able to ward off the influence of the telluric-maternal cult due to its establishment of a firm political organization that was centered on the virile principles of a solar worldview.
In addition to the spheres of love and family, Aphrodisian societies have far-reaching political implications as well. Earth and lunar cults were not necessarily (in fact, rarely) governed by women, yet like gynaecocracy, they foster “the egalitarism of the natural law, universalism and communism.” The idea is that Aphrodisian, earth-based societies viewed all men as children of one earth. Thus, “any inequality is an ‘injustice’, an outrage to the law of nature.” The ancient orgies, Evola writes, “were meant to celebrate the return of men to the state of nature through the momentary obliteration of any social difference and of any hierarchy.” This also explains why in some cultures, the lower castes practiced tellurian or lunar rites, while solar rites were reserved for the aristocracy.
These were the Aphrodisian elements that had made their way into the Weimar Republic and Third Reich, and which the National Socialists tried to restrain, along with modern Amazonian woman (the unmarried, childless, career woman in mannish dress). The Aphrodite type was represented by the “movie ‘star’ or some similar fascinating Aphrodisian apparition.” In his introduction to the writings of Bachofen, National Socialist scholar Alfred Baeumler wrote that the modern world has all of the characteristics of a gynaecocratic age. In writing about the European city-woman, he says, “The fascinating female is the idol of our times, and, with painted lips, she walks through the European cities as she once did through Babylon.”
(PICTURE: Hungarian-born singer Marikka Rökk)
The Nazis’ attempts to combat the Aphrodisian type of woman were manifest in various campaigns and in the writings of Nazi leaders. Most prominent was the promotion of the Gretchen type (the Demetrian woman, in her role as mother and wife), and the discouragement of anything that encouraged the fall of woman into a sex toy rather than a partner for men. Primary emphasis was placed on the discouragement of provocative dress, makeup, and unnatural hair, all which have associations with earth-based cults from the East. According to Evola, the Jewish spirit emphasizes the materialist and sensualist sides of life, with the body viewed as a material instrument of pleasure rather than an instrument of the spirit. Thus, ideologies such as cosmopolitanism, egalitarianism, materialism, and feminism are prevalent in a society that has a worldview infused with a Semitic spirit.
Evola categorized the Aryan spirit as solar and virile, and the Jewish spirit as lunar and feminine. Using Bachofen’s classification system, the latter classifies most easily with Aphrodisian and earth-based cultures — where woman-as-sex-object prevails over woman-as-mother. In fact, there were various versions of “royal Asian women with Aphrodisian features, above all in ancient civilizations of Semitic stock.” A review of archaeological evidence of Aryan and Semitic peoples reveals that, indeed, the only records of Aphrodisian culture in the West (as determined by a culture’s molding of woman into a sex object through fashion, makeup, and the idea of unnatural beauty) are the result of Eastern influence.
Aphrodisian Fashion and Cosmetics Are Absent from the History of Northern Europeans, and Found in Mediterranean Cultures as a Result of Eastern Influence
European civilizations unanimously associated unnatural beauty, achieved by cosmetics and dyed hair, with the lowest castes. This is because in Traditional societies, “health” was a symbol of “virtue” — to feign health or beauty was an attempt to mask the Truth. Although cosmetics and jewelry were used ritually in ancient civilizations, their use eventually degenerated into a purely materialistic function.
The earliest Europeans tended toward simplicity in dress and appearance. Adornments were used solely to signify caste or heroic deeds, or were amulets or talismans. In ancient Greece, jewels were never worn for everyday use, but reserved for special occasions and public appearances. In Rome, also, jewelry was thought to have a spiritual power. Western fashion often was used to display rank, as in Roman patricians’ purple sash and red shoes. The Mediterranean cultures, influenced by the East, were the first to become extravagant in dress and makeup. By the time this influence spread to northern Europe, it had been Christianized, and makeup did not appear again in northern Europe until the fourteenth century, after which followed a long period of its association with immorality.
There is no firm evidence, archeological or narrative, for the use of makeup among the Anglo-Saxons. Only one story exists about its use among the Vikings, that of tenth century A.D. traveler Ibrahim Al-Tartushi, who suggested that Vikings in Hedeby (in modern northern Germany) used kohl to protect against the evil eye (obviously an import from the East). Instead of makeup (outside of their often-described war paint), early northern Europeans focused on cleanliness and simplicity, as well as plant-based oils and aromatherapy. Archeological evidence reveals grooming tools for keeping hair tidy and teeth clean, and long hair was an essential beauty element for women. Much of the jewelry worn by Vikings was religious, received as a reward for bravery in battle, or used to fasten clothing (such as brooches).
Ancient Greece and Rome started out similar to northern Europe in the realms of fashion and beauty, but were quickly influenced by the East. Cosmetics were introduced to Rome from Egypt, and become associated with prostitutes and slaves. Prostitutes tended to use more makeup and perfume as they got older, practices that were looked down on as attempts to mask the unpleasant sights and odors of the lower classes. In fact, the Latin lenocinium means both “prostitution” and “makeup.” For a long time, cosmetics also were associated with non-white races, particular those from the Orient. As Rome degenerated, however, the use of makeup spread to many classes, with specialized slaves devoting much time to applying face paint to their masters, especially to lighten the skin color.
Although cosmetics became more accepted in Rome, their use was contrary to Roman beliefs and discouraged in their writings. Romans did not believe in “unnatural embellishment,” but only the preservation of natural beauty, for which there were many concoctions. Such unadulterated beauty was associated with chastity and morality. As an example, the Vestal Virgins did not use makeup. One who did, Postumia, was accused of incestum, a broad category that signifies immoral and irreligious acts.
In addition, Roman men found it suspicious when women tried to appear beautiful: the implications of cosmetic use included a lack of natural beauty, lack of chastity, potential for adultery, seductiveness, unnatural aversion to the traditional roles for women, manipulation, and deceitfulness. The poet Juvenal wrote, “a woman buys scents and lotions with adultery in mind.” Seneca believed the use of cosmetics was contributing to the decline in morality in the Rome Empire, and advised virtuous women to avoid them. The only surviving text from Rome that approves of cosmetics, Ovid’s Medicamina Faciei Femineae (Cosmetics for the Female Face), gives natural remedies for whiter skin and blemishes but extols the virtues of good manners and a good disposition as highest of all beauty treatments.
Originally, the simplest hairstyles were prized in Rome, with women wearing their hair long, often with a headband. Younger girls favored a bun at the nape of the neck, or a knot on top of their head. Elaborate hairstyles only came into fashion during the Roman Empire as it degenerated.
In ancient Greece, as well, makeup was the domain of lower-class women, who attempted to emulate the fair skin of the upper classes who stayed indoors. Rouge was sometimes used to give the skin a healthy and energetic glow. This tradition was continued by women in the Middle Ages, who also valued fair skin.
Cosmetics, dyed hair, and over-accessorizing continued to be associated with loose women as Western society was Christianized. Saint Irenaeus included cosmetics in a list of evils brought to the women who married fallen angels. The early Christian writers Clement of Alexandria, Tatian the Assyrian, and Tertullian also trace the origin of cosmetics to fallen angels.
Dress presents a more difficult area to examine. Although the Nazis associated skimpy dress with foreign elements, this has not always been the case in West. Aryan societies generally did not moralize sex, nor see the body as shameful; women could show a bare breast or wear a short tunic without being viewed as a sex object. In fact, Bachofen reports that more restrictive dress represented a move toward Eastern cultures, which, seeing woman as temptress, insist on extensive covering. According to Plutarch, speaking on the old Dorian spirit:
There was nothing shameful about the nakedness of the virgins, for they were always accompanied by modesty and lechery was banned. Rather, it gave them a taste for simplicity and a care for outward dignity.
Much of these distinctions in beauty treatments can be traced to deeper sources, to the differences in spirit of different peoples. Evola asserts the Roman spirit as the positive side of the Italian people, and the Mediterranean (more influenced by the East) as the negative that needs to be rectified. The first Mediterranean trait is “love for outward appearances and grand gestures”—it is the type that “needs a stage.” In such people, he says, there is a split in the personality: there is “an ‘I’ that plays the role and an ‘I’ that regards his part from the point of view of a possible observer or spectator, more or less as actors do.”
A different kind of split, one that instead supervises one’s conduct to avoid “primitive spontaneity,” is more befitting of the Roman character. The ancient Romans had a model of “sober, austere, active style, free form exhibitionism, measured, endowed with a calm awareness of one’s dignity.” Another negative trait of the Mediterranean type, Evola notes, is individualism, brought about by “the propensity toward outward appearances.” Evola also cites “concern for appearances but with little or no substance” as typical of the Mediterranean type. Such differences in spirit will manifest in the material choices that are inherent to different peoples.
1. Julius Evola, Revolt Against the Modern World, trans. Guido Stucco (Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 1995), 211, footnote.
2. Joseph Campbell, Introduction, Myth, Religion, and Mother Right, by J. J. Bachofen, trans. Ralph Manheim (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967), xxx–xxxi.
3. Evola, “Do We Live in a Gynaecocratic Society?”
4. Campbell, “Introduction” to Bachofen, xlviii.
5. Evola, “Gynaecocratic.”
6. Evola, “Matriarchy in J.J. Bachofen’s Work.”
7. Alfred Baeumler, quoted in Evola, “Matriarchy.”
8. Michael O’Meara, “Evola’s Anti-Semitism.”
9. Evola, “Gynaecocratic.”
10. Evola, Revolt, 102.
14. Fiona McDonald,Jewelry And Makeup Through History (Milwaukee, Wis.: Gareth Stevens, 2007), 13.
15. Wikipedia. “Cosmetics in Ancient Rome.”
18. Plutarch, quoted in Bachofen, 171.
19. Evola, Men Among the Ruins: Post-War Reflections of a Radical Traditionalist, trans. Guido Stucco (Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 2002), 260–62.