Return to the Garden of Eden and Partnership Culture at Rainbow Gatherings

A. Allen Butcher • The School of Intentioneering • Denver, CO • about 4,000 words • March 16, 2022

Maybe it was an intention for Rainbow Gatherings from the beginning, or maybe we can only see it now that we know the truth of the matter, yet we can justifiably affirm that Rainbow Gatherings are recreations of the partnership culture of the Garden of Eden.

It may seem obvious to some that Rainbow Gatherings recreate aspects of our pre-history, before the existence of money and even before writing was invented, yet not everyone can justify that belief. So, let’s go back in time and see for ourselves!

Amazingly, we have a cultural memory in Western civilization, coming down to us through various traditions, of a time when the living was so easy and the people so wonderful, that we have never completely forgotten how marvelous human society can be!

There are two primary sources for the story of a time of peace, harmony, and abundance, and both are couched in so much myth that the truth is hard to see. One telling is the story of a “Golden Age,” coming to us from Greco-Roman traditions. Look up that term to find that story, as for this article the focus is upon the other primary source, which we know as the story of the Garden of Eden.

We have the Jewish people and their traditions to thank for bringing down to us today the story of a marvelous time during the late Stone Age or Neolithic Age. The hunter-gatherer lifestyle would have been nasty and brutish at times, judging from how people act today in “civilization,” yet we now know that it was not always so.

Consider the time after humans left Africa and had settled six continents. This was after the last Great Ice Age ended, when what is now the Persian Gulf between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula was above sea level. While the climate changed several times prior to 6,000 B.C.E., it was here, between 6,000 and 4,000 B.C.E., that humans lived such an amazing quality-of-life that we remember it today. (Hamblin, pp. 129, 133)

The Judeo-Christian patriarch Abraham is said in the Bible to be from the Sumerian city of Ur (Genesis, 11:27-31), in what later was named Mesopotamia, just east of the Persian Gulf, in what is now called Iraq. He and his clan seem to have joined a back-to-the-land movement headed for the frontier land of Palestine about 1,200 B.C.E, eventually becoming the Hebrew tribe, then Jewish people. Centuries later, in 587 B.C.E. the Assyrians destroyed the first Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, called Solomon’s Temple. Between 597 and 582 B.C.E., the invading Neo-Babylonian Assyrians marched about 18,000 Hebrews to the outskirts of their capital city, and settled them as the song goes, “By the waters of Babylon.” This was standard procedure for the Assyrians, mixing up conquered peoples by relocating many of them to different parts of their empire, so that their different languages and cultures would keep them from working together to resist Assyrian rule. (Gardner, pp. 57, 77, 143-4)

The Babylonian Exile lasted about 50 years during the 6th century B.C.E. Here the Jewish people learned many ancient Mesopotamian stories about great floods, about an ongoing war between good and evil, and about a long-lost time of happiness and plenty. When the Hebrews were permitted to return to their homeland in Palestine, they took those stories with them, and as the Levite priests wrote their sacred texts to comprise the Torah, they drew from those ancient stories to write morality tales designed to instruct the Jewish people to live a patriarchal lifestyle under a theocratic government. While Jewish monotheism had long affirmed one god, often called “Yahweh,” the new influence of Persian dualism added lesser, evil spiritual influences. In the Book of Genesis the Hebrew Levite priests wrote their own version of creation to justify patriarchy, adapting from a more ancient memory the story of the Garden of Eden. (Stone, pp. 217-8)

A Sliver of Truth in a Haystack of Fiction

The Rainbow Family of Living Light is a multi-faith spiritual tradition, welcoming all religions, and at the larger, annual Rainbow Gatherings there is usually a Jerusalem Camp, practicing Jewish traditions, several Christian camps with their traditions, and many other religious groups, all open to Rainbow folks walking in to their camps to learn of those faiths. Of course, they all claim that their sacred books are entirely truth without error, yet understanding where biblical stories come from shows that typically, while there is often at least a sliver of truth involved in Bible stories, much morality-tale fiction is built around and upon it, to the point that the reader cannot tell truth from fiction.

The Book of Genesis gives clues to where the Garden of Eden had been, yet it was not until the 1980s that the mystery was solved by researchers at the Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield, led by the archaeologist Juris Zarins. Dora Jane Hamblin wrote about Zarins’ work and theories in her 1987 Smithsonian magazine article titled “Has the Garden of Eden been located at last?”

Juris Zarins places Eden at the northwestern end of what is now the Persian Gulf, in eastern Iraq. Genesis mentions four rivers flowing out of Eden (Genesis 2:10-14), two of them being the Tigris and Euphrates which still flow, and two others which no longer flow, one from the south, long before the Arabian Peninsula became desert, and one from the mountains of Iran to the north. As Zarins stated, where there is abundant fresh water there will be a lot of vegetation, and with a verdant landscape there will be a lot of animals, all providing an abundance of food for humans. With the help of satellite ground imaging, Zarins found the courses of the two lost rivers, solving the mystery of the location of Eden, while at the same time showing an error in the Bible.

It is an open question as to whether it was a Levite writer error or a later translator or transcriber error that turned things around to say that the rivers ran out of Eden when in fact they flowed into Eden. In this error we can see that sacred texts are as fallible as the people who write them.

The story of the Garden of Eden and other parts of the Old Testament of the Bible were re-written from older stories to justify and support the religious ideals and lifestyle of patriarchal theocracy. For discussion of issues, problems and errors in the New Testament of the Bible see Bart Ehrman’s books: Lost Christianities (2003); Misquoting Jesus (2005); Forged (2011).

In her book, When God was a Woman, Merlin Stone quotes the mythologist Joseph Campbell writing about the Garden of Eden story in 1960 that, “This curious mythological idea, and the still more curious fact that for two thousand years it was accepted throughout the Western World as the absolute dependable account of an event that was supposed to have taken place about a fortnight after the creation of the universe, poses forcefully the highly interesting question of the influence of conspicuously contrived, counterfeit mythologies …” (Stone, pp. 7-8)

Juris Zarins affirms that the biblical story of the banishment of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden is based upon a great turning in human history. This was the turning from the hunter-gatherer lifestyle to agriculture and civilization. As the Persian Gulf flooded, the people pushed westward out of Eden and others began to build agricultural towns, then cities, and empires, with the first Mesopotamian city of Eridu founded about 5,000 B.C.E. A second great turning in human history also took place at about the same time, this being from matriarchal or partnership culture to patriarchy. (Hamblin, pp. 128, 133)

Dora Jane Hamblin quotes other researchers to explain that the term “Eden” did not come from the Sumerians of Mesopotamia, who created the first written language called “cuneiform” about 3,000 B.C.E. The names “Eden” and “Adam,” along with some place names of rivers and cities, come from an older, unknown language, possibly from the pre-Sumarian Ubaid culture. In Sumerian “Eden” meant “fertile plain” while “Adam” meant “settlement on the plain.” The Sumerians recorded the old stories that came down to them, while the Jewish priests later re-wrote those stories for their own purposes. Hamblin explains that the name “Eve” does not appear in Sumerian texts, and so came some time later. She writes that the Genesis story of Eve being fashioned from one of Adam’s ribs, most likely comes from a re-written story of the Sumerian Mother Goddess Ninhursag, in which the Sumerian god Enki’s rib was healed. (Hamblin, pp. 130, 132-3)

Merlin Stone and Dora Jane Hamblin both state that some names of trades “like weaver, leatherworker, basketmaker” and “like potter and coppersmith” used by the Sumerians were also from that unknown, possibly Ubaidian, pre-Sumerian language. It is said that women invented the domestic crafts of weaving, sewing, pottery, and even agriculture, learning these as Gifts of the Goddess, perhaps during or at least soon after the Garden of Eden. The Greek Goddess Athena is said to have taught crafts to humans, which is another version of the Neolithic “Gifts of the Goddess” story. In the book, The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers, Joseph Campbell states that, “We have Sumerian seals from as early as 3,500 B.C.E., showing the serpent and the tree and the goddess, with the goddess giving the fruit of life to a visiting male. The old mythology of the goddess is right there.” This is one of several ancient stories that were re-written by Jewish priests as late as 400 B.C.E. for the Book of Genesis to justify patriarchal culture. (Campbell & Moyers, p. 47; Eisler, p. 85; Gimbutas, 1989, p. 67; Gimbutas, 2001, p. 158; Hamblin, p. 130; Stone, p. 84)

Barter at Rainbow as a Wilderness Training Experience in Basic Market Economics

There are several ways that Rainbow is reminiscent of the Garden of Eden. First, consider that just like in the Garden of Eden primitive camping at Rainbow is easy-living for a few weeks before and after July 4th in the U.S.A., and at other times of the year around the world, as people bring to the Gatherings kitchen equipment to prepare donated food to be shared by all. Such gifting and sharing among people must be much like sharing the natural abundance of creation in the Garden of Eden!

8,000 years ago, people already knew how to make fire and drums, and so drumming and dancing around bonfires were very likely enjoyed in the Garden of Eden, much like at Rainbow Gatherings. While agriculture was not yet invented, the wolf had already long before domesticated us humans, while the horse would not yet be domesticated until a few thousand years later.

Whatever things people had learned to make during the late Neolithic era, it is likely that they also learned to barter those things amongst themselves. These would be articles of clothing and adornment, and probably things with which to carry other things, like woven baskets. In the midst of a natural world of plenty, the processes of bartering found-things and human-made things was likely already being developed and practiced.

While there is no use of money for buying and selling at non-commercial Rainbow Gatherings, there is almost always a Barter Lane, where people lay out blankets on either side of a trail displaying their offerings, then carry-on incessant haggling over the comparative value of different desirable articles, whether found in nature or crafted by skilled people. Coming together for bartering private property very likely predated agriculture, and was probably as much of an enjoyable pastime in the Garden of Eden as it is at contemporary Rainbow Gatherings!

Many Rainbow folk dislike the prevalence of Barter Lanes at Gatherings, since it involves an incursion of private property and competition into a gifting and sharing culture, yet the anarchist nature of Gatherings enables bartering, which is one of the main attractions at Rainbow Gatherings. Nearly every sunny day of the Gathering, the Barter Lane is a bustling, colorful feature of Rainbow, involving hundreds of people at a time.

Even young children enjoy barter, as they learn how to take a few simple things, like a hand-full of smooth quartz or other stones, and through a succession of clever barter exchanges, haggle their way up to ever more valuable items, until they can obtain an article of clothing or a knife or other commodity they desire. Essentially, the Barter Lane at Rainbow provides for children a wilderness training experience in basic market economics, as they learn to buy-low and sell-high, the discerning of comparative advantage for assigning value, supply-and-demand, commodity monopoly, and market crash.

Two of the most valuable commodities at Rainbow Barter Lanes are typically the consumables: cigarettes and chocolate. In particular, the value of chocolate tends to become so great in its scarcity that someone will buy up all the chocolate bars they can find in local towns, then bring them in a big clear-plastic bag to Barter Lane to hand out freely, in order to emphasize gifting over bartering, causing a Rainbow market crash in the value of chocolate!

Everyone, even children, can usually understand what is happening in the Barter Lane chocolate market. It under-mines the intent of Rainbow gifting, yet while some Rainbow folk complain, even their attempts to thwart the chocolate market end up teaching a lesson in market economics, as well as subversive market disruption.

The economic process of the Rainbow chocolate market is a reoccurring example of precisely the process that evolved from simple barter to indirect-barter, using commodities such as grain or cattle rather than chocolate, and then metals like gold, silver, and copper. Later, coins were minted, then paper bills were printed, then electronic forms of money created global neo-liberal market capitalism, and now digital currencies.

As it was in the Garden of Eden, so it is at Rainbow Gatherings

Over and over again, Rainbow Gatherings recreate the conditions of the Garden of Eden, and thereby the very processes that set us on the road to civilization as we know it today. Anyone can experience this dynamic simply by attending a Rainbow Gathering.

The fact that even the most dedicated countercultural people attending Rainbow Gatherings engage in barter shows that people compartmentalize different cultures, easily switching between common and private, sharing and competing, as desired. Contemporary secular and spiritual communal groups attend Rainbow Gatherings, explaining how we can live communally in spite of the tendency toward property and competition. Yet during our time in the Garden of Eden, communal sharing must have given way to possessiveness, property, and competition as invariably as it does today.

There is another way that some parts of the Rainbow Gatherings are reminiscent of the Garden of Eden. There are often Goddess camps and Pagan groups at Rainbow, and among them the concept of the Goddess Trinity of Maid, Mother, and Elder is well known.

Jane Harrison explains in her book, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion,that in women’s spirituality the nature of the Goddess mirrors the lives of women on Earth, not the other way around as in the patriarchal Judeo-Christian tradition. Harrison credits the philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras with relaying this to us through his revival of women’s spirituality, following his schooling by Themestoclea, a priestess of Gaia at the Oracle of Delphi. (Harrison, pp. 262, 645-67)

The Triple Goddess concept is exceedingly old. In her book, The Language of the Goddess Marija Gimbutas states that Goddess Trinity images have been found in western Europe from as far back as the pre-Neolithic era Magdalenian epoch, lasting from 17,000 to 12,000 years ago. This predates the Garden of Eden, suggesting that the “ancient mysticism” of the Triple Goddess, as Riane Eisler calls the concept, could have been known to people in the Garden. (Eisler, pp. 25, 112; Gimbutas, 1989, p. 97; Goettner-Abendroth, p. 21)

In prehistoric, Neolithic, Stone Age Europe, writes Heidi Goettner-Abendroth, there were no male gods only female goddesses as “visualized divinity.” Joseph Campbell writes that, “We have found hundreds of early European Neolithic figurines of the Goddess, but hardly anything there of the male figure at all.” From this we can get an idea of how much of an effort it had to be for Jewish priests to turn people from the extremely ancient Goddess worship to the creation of an all-powerful male God. (Campbell, p. 167; Goettner-Abendroth, p. 21)

The Hebrew Levite priests were not the first to “re-myth” the old stories, as Riane Eisler calls it, in order to justify the turning from matriarchy and partnership to patriarchy. In her book The Chalice and the Blade, Eisler writes that many Middle Eastern myths were created to cause or support the change to patriarchy, explaining that some of them involved the Goddess being slain, or subdued and humiliated by being raped, or otherwise subordinated as a consort or wife to a more powerful male god. Role-reversals were also used, with some goddesses like Athena taking on martial attributes, while original attributes of goddesses, like writing, were reassigned to gods, with male scribes subsequently emphasizing masculinity. (Eisler, pp. 85, 92-3)

In her books, Marija Gimbutas explains that once the horse was domesticated, successive waves of patriarchal nomads from the eastern grasslands invaded Europe between 4300 and 2800 B.C.E. (Gimbutas, 1989, p. xx), eventually replacing the goddess worship they found with the worship of the male gods they brought with them. These are called the “Kurgan” people by Gimbutas, with their language and war-like culture replacing the peaceful, partnership cultures of what Gimbutas calls “Old Europe.” The merging of the two cultures, Old European and Kurgan, resulted in what is called the Indo-European culture. Only a few European goddess cultures were able to avoid being subsumed by Indo-European culture, primarily those on the fringes of Europe, enabling them to keep their ancient languages and partnership ways. These are today the descendants of the Celts in the British Isles, the people of Finland today, and the Basque people of the mountainous region on the border between France and Spain. (Gimbutas, pp. 321; Gimbutas, 1991, p. 348; Gimbutas, 1999, pp. 130, 172, 175)

However much it may be said that Rainbow Consciousness includes the cultural attribute of gender-equality, Rainbow Gatherings today are another revival of the gender partnership ideal originating long before the rise of patriarchal culture.

Intentioneering a Preferred Lifestyle

People often think that if a culture is not patriarchal then it must be matriarchal, yet a female-centric culture does not rule men in the way that men own and rule the lives of women in patriarchy. Various writers make this point, including Marija Gimbutas and Heidi Goettner-Abendroth. One of the best terms for use in reference to the Garden of Eden, to indigenous cultures, and to Rainbow Consciousness, is “partnership,” referring to gender equality throughout society, and especially in our political-economy. (Eisler, p. 24; Gimbutas, 1991, pp. x-xi, 324; Goettner-Abendroth, pp. xv-xvi)

Partnership spirituality involves a Binarian monotheism as opposed to the Trinitarian monotheism of Christianity. While there is likely no gender in the spiritual world, there are the different views on the source of virtue and grace as coming to us through two different processes of transcendence (male) and of immanence (female). Gender equality is then expressed in the pairing of the Pagan Lord & Lady, the Christian Jesus & Mary, and the Jewish Yahweh & Shekinah/Sophia/Asherah. Such a binary religion continues the syncretizing or fusion of different spiritual traditions, which began in Christianity with its incorporation of aspects of Judaism, Stoicism, Dualism, and Paganism, now adding aspects of women’s spirituality for a balance of feminine and of masculine religious expressions.

Patriarchal culture came about as men wanted to assure that their own sons inherited their property, and as sons wanted to know whose property they would inherit. This could not be easily tracked in a matrilineal culture in which women would typically have children with more than one man. Today this is called “multiple-partner fertility,” which involves about one-third of all women with more than one child in the U.S.A. With DNA testing, establishing paternity can be done today without resort to patriarchy. (Guzzo, 2014; Logan, Manlove, Ikramullah, & Cottingham, 2006)

In matriarchal cultures, which still exist in Asia especially, women own property and can marry and divorce as they wish, typically not choosing a life-long partner. Family clans are headed by women, and a council of women serve as the governing body of the village. Men typically build the housing and engage in business to support women and children, while they do not live with their own children. Instead, men are closest to their sisters’ children, supporting their mother’s clan household while helping to raise and educate their nephews and nieces. With partnership culture we can enjoy gender-equality today without resort to matriarchy. (Gimbutas, 2001, pp. 112, 114, 124; Goettner-Abendroth, pp. 471-2)

While the Rainbow Family is neither an indigenous culture nor a matriarchal culture, many Rainbow folk live a gender-equal partnership lifestyle, with similarities to indigenous cultures. For detailed information on traditional and contemporary non-patriarchal cultures, see the chapter summaries “Understanding the structure of matriarchal societies” in Heide Goettner-Abendroth’s book, Matriarchal Societies: Studies on Indigenous Cultures Across the Globe.

Knowing the truth about the Garden of Eden and what that says about how to understand the Bible, can help us to see that religion, like economics and governance, are all human-created features of our chosen way-of-life. Through our will to create, we can “intentioneer” a gender-equal society, involving social permaculture, a balance of private and common property systems, governance by an indigenous-culture-inspired democratic decentralism, and a partnership spirituality affirming that virtue and grace can come from either an innate aspect of life called “immanence,” or from an acquired aspect originating in an external source called “transcendence.”

While Rainbow Consciousness accepts all religions, it tends to emphasize Native American spirituality, which is more gender-equal, or partnership oriented, than the patriarchal Judeo-Christian tradition. The occasion of the 50th Annual Rainbow Gathering in North America, July 2022, provides a good occasion for presenting how Rainbow culture is a continuing re-creation of primitive, partnership society of the Garden of Eden, available to anyone to observe and enjoy today.


Campbell, Joseph. (1988). The power of myth; Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers. New York: Bantam, Doubleday, Dell Publishing Group.

Eisler, Riane. (1987). The chalice and the blade: Our history, our future. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row.

Gardner, Joseph L. (Ed.). (1981). Atlas of the Bible: An illustrated guide to the Holy Land, Pleasantville, NY: Readers Digest Association.

Gimbutas, Marija. (1989). The language of the Goddess (Joan Marler, ed.). San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row.

Gimbutas, Marija. (1991). The civilization of the Goddess: The world of Old Europe (Joan Marler, ed.). San Francisco, CA: Harper San Francisco

Gimbutas, Marija. (1999). The living Goddesses (Miriam Robbins Dexter, ed.). Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.

Goettner-Abendroth, Heidi. (2013). Matriarchal Societies: Studies on Indigenous Cultures Across the Globe. New York: Peter Lang.

Guzzo, K. B. (2014, July). New partners, more kids: Multiple-partner fertility in the United States. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Retrieved October 9, 2015, from

Hamblin, Dora Jane. (1987, May). “Has the Garden of Eden been located at last?” Smithsonian, vol. 18, no. 2. 127-135)

Harrison, Jane. (1903). Prolegomena to the study of Greek religion. New York: Meridian Books.

Logan, C., Manlove, J., Ikramullah, E., & Cottingham, S. (2006, November). Men who father children with more than one woman: A contemporary portrait of multiple-partner fertility. Child Trends research brief. Publication #2006-10 4301 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 350, Washington, DC 20008, 202-572-6000. Retrieved October 9, 2015, from htttp://

Stone, Merlin. (1976). When God was a woman. New York: Harcourt Brace.

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