Another archetype for the Sacred Masculine is that of the hunter-gatherer. For 90 percent of our history, humans were almost exclusively hunter-gatherers. 

Today, we are farmers.  We tend, cultivate, and grow.  Living in a period of farming does not mean that we have thrown off our hunter-gatherer genius, the skills and intelligence learned from all those millennia of hunting.  One does not shuck off the souls of one’s ancestors.  Even if we no longer actively use them for day-to-day sustenance and survival, those powers and crafts and skills remain inside, as untapped potential.

Even in the twenty-first century, we are hunter-gatherers still—but the question becomes: What are we hunting and gathering for?  The latest shopping sale?  Parking places?  Or peace and justice and survival of the planet as we know it with all its amazing species, humans included?  And cures for diseases and antidotes to war?

Jared Diamond makes clear the deep intelligence of hunter-gatherers.  Studies indicate that hunter-gatherers were and are “walking encyclopedias of natural history, with individual names (in their local language) for as many as a thousand or more plant and animal species, and with detailed knowledge of those species; biological characteristics, distribution, and potential uses….”

The Hadza people of Tanzania are one of the last big-game hunters in Africa, and one of the last groups on Earth to still forage on foot with traditional methods. Photo: David Raichlen, courtesy National Science Foundation

Joy matters among hunter-gatherer peoples and so do rituals. As Barbara Ehrenreich observes in Dancing in the Streets, ecstatic ritual was part of the “hunter-gatherers of Australia, the horticulturists of Polynesia, the village peoples of India.”  Europeans called it “savagery,” because it often led to trance.  At first Westerners resisted “the contagious rhythm of the drums….”  Our post-modern times are welcoming that “contagious rhythm” back.  Rap is part of that new and ancient language.

Sometimes I wonder if the myth of the fall of Adam and Eve symbolizes a fall from the garden paradise of hunter-gathering  into the rigors of farming and city-building that followed on it.  Perhaps the metaphor of the “tree of good and evil” alludes to the decision to eat agricultural products such as fruit.  This decision was fraught with consequences, some favorable (more food, more people); some less so (more hierarchy, more technology, an increased capacity for destruction, overpopulation).

When we focus our hunter-gatherer energies on larger issues of social justice and healing we enter the realm of the spiritual warrior.  These hunters for justice include Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Oscar Romero and Malcolm X, Buck Ghosthorse and Nelson Mandela and Jesus.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, pp. 43-49.
Banner image: 7000-year-old petroglyphs, Teimareh, Golpayegan county, Iran. Photographer unknown.

Queries for Contemplation

In prayerful meditation, sit with the following questions: what are the insights that they open within you?

  • In what ways do the skills and intelligence learned by our hunting ancestors assert themselves in our lives today?
  • Which ways are positive and which negative?
  • How might we access these skills to benefit our communities and our very survival at this critical time in human history?

Recommended Reading

To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature,  to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.

Responses are welcomed. To add your comment, please click HERE or scroll to the bottom of the page.

Share this meditation


Daily Meditations with Matthew Fox is made possible through the generosity of donors. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation

Search Meditations





Receive our daily meditations

3 thoughts on “The Hunter-Gatherer”

  1. Avatar

    Matt, I’m so loving your daily meditations and posting about them on Facebook and sharing with colleagues and friends. Thank you for taking the time to do this and for still being out there, doing your good work at a time the world so needs it.

    The reflection on hunter and gatherers is wise. However, from my work on the Eleusinian Mysteries, where Demeter is honored as bringing agriculture to Greece (and everywhere), I know that she was also a loving caregiver goddess in her love for her daughter. In contrast to patriarchal ideas of God, she was not willing to have her daughter abducted against her will and enduring the suffering (of entrapment), she got busy creating the situation that brought Zeus, the god of patriarchal social organization, to his knees. After this, Persephone came and went as she pleased, rather than being the prisoner of Hades. She went back and forth, initiating the dead when she was in the underworld (with Hades) and the living in the upper world (with Demeter). The Mysteries taught a partnership between humans and nature and also fostered the idea of Demeter and Persephone as the friends of humankind, not their masters, mortals learn how to be happy and free of fear. In that context, they were also challenging the notion that men should be able to decide what women should be able to do and be, encouraging a relationship of equals. Persephone’s movement between the worlds was also taught to reassure people that when they died, they were buried (like a seed) and would live again (like a new plant).

    So maybe our current predicament happened later.

    Warmly, Carol

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Carol,
      Your comments about Demeter and Persephone are so wise, no doubt based upon your research and your breakthrough book, Persephone Rising: Awakening the Heroine Within. Demeter and Persephone represent a revolution of their own, a feminist one perhaps, happening long before our modern predicament. The harvesting of archetypes is endless, each generation gleaning the wisdom already present with us. Thanks for your work on bring them to life.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the DM Team.

  2. Avatar

    Thank you for considering the story of Adam and Eve being a story of eating of the Tree of Knowledge about how to grow food in gardens. This knowledge then separates us from God and our fellow men because we become selfish and think “I worked hard to grow this food. I’m not sharing it with hunter gatherers who did not help grow this food.” Did Jesus lay down his life to protect his hunter gatherer sheep? Did he imagine others would follow his example and lay down their lives for his hunter gatherer sheep until all could live as hunter gatherers? Is this a plan to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C and help everyone live as hunter gatherers?

Leave a Comment

To help moderate the volume of responses, the Comment field is limited to 1500 characters (roughly 300 words), with one comment per person per day.

Please keep your comments focused on the topic of the day's Meditation.

As always, we look forward to your comments!!
The Daily Meditation Team

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join us in meditation that supports your compassionate action

Receive Matthew Fox's Daily Meditation by subscribing below: