Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Goddess for Our Times: A History of Goddess-Lore from Pre-Historic Times to the Contemporary Era

Gadon, Elinor W. (1989). The Once and Future Goddess. New York: Harper & Row.

Elinor Gadon write fluently about a wealth of goddess-lore research that encompasses archaeology, anthropology, ethnography, arts, and the emerging Gaia ecology. She distills these sources into a highly readable account of the virtues and qualities of feminine knowledge, from the pre-historic roots of humankind to contemporary times. The work is attractively laid-out with a readable font and wide margins that frequently feature photos and art that illustrates the ideas.

Among the well-known writers, artists, and researchers whose work is taken into account by Gadon are:

  • Judy Chicago, feminist artist whose best-known work may be The Dinner Party art installation;

  • Mary Daly, the scholar and interpret of feminist and feminine studies;

  • Mercia Eliade, specifically The Encyclopedia of Religion;

  • Robert Graves, The White Goddess;

  • Maria Gimbutas, the pioneering archaeological-anthropologist whose work was among the most to foreground a theory of pre-historic matriarchal societies;

  • Merlin Stone’s work along similar lines;

  • Starkhawk’s updating of the old religions and many, many more.

The most arguable part of the account of matriarchal pre-historic societies is, to my mind, the broadly interpretive speculations of how such societies functioned and worshipped on the basis of a few icons, ruins, and other shards of the past. Late in the work, Gadon admits that such speculations are debatable.

Gadon is truly in her element as she makes sense of the feminine artists’ emergence in the 1970s and beyond. She weaves together the artists’ own accounts of their works, her own and art critics’ interpretations, and photo illustrations in a persuasive account.

The idea of the planet Earth as a living goddess whose body has been tortured by the ecological offenses of humankind is another idea that is appropriate in our times of ecological crisis. Perhaps the softer arts of feminine nurture and collaboration are the healing unguent for a planet that has been contaminated by the masculine emphasis on science and technology.

If you are interested in a comprehensive and fluently written summary of groundbreaking feminist research and a new interpretation of human history, Gadon’s account is an excellent starting place.

No comments: