This is a lucid, well-written and engaging book, and a timely one, bringing together many different aspects of the current Goddess movement and doing so in a way that encourages thought and discussion. I thoroughly enjoyed the reading process and kept wanting to enter into conversation with Judith – to ask a question, agree or argue a point, or discuss further.
It’s useful, especially now, when we’re losing so many foremothers of the second wave of feminist awakening, to have a history of the Goddess movement and I dare say the book will become even more useful as the years pass.
We try to keep reviews short, and so I have dipped into some of my favourite sections to try to give a flavour of the book – I could have carried on for much longer! For example, I was fascinated by the story of “Cakes for the Queen of Heaven”*, a course published in the mid-80s by the Unitarian Universalist Association, and revised and updated in around 2007/8 by Rev. Shirley Ranck. It’s hard to imagine any UK church, except perhaps the Quakers, running such a course in the 80s, but church membership in the USA is culturally different, I think – US churches include a social element that’s often missing on this side of the pond and although I know a number of Goddess people who belong to various churches in most cases there’s still a large gap between the church membership and Goddess activities.
Further on into the book, there’s discussion of thealogy, usefully giving us definitions and ways to understand “Goddess” both theologically and sociologically. Judith Laura isn’t afraid to deal with controversial material and meet challenges and I’m grateful for that. For a Goddess beginner this could save some heartache in trying to identify one’s path … and what to call oneself!
I didn’t realise that I never really thought of myself as a pagan until someone interviewed me a few years ago as part of a research project and asked how long I’d been one. To my own surprise I blurted out that I didn’t think I was a pagan. “So what”, the interview asked, quite reasonably, “do you think of yourself as?”
I couldn’t come up with an answer at that time. “Goddess worshipper” seemed to be the best I could do, followed (to my bemusement) by “extremely heretical Catholic”! I guess the saying that you can take the girl out of the convent, but never fully take the convent out of the girl, is true, then …
There’s a very useful discussion of the term “Goddessian”, which I must admit I didn’t take to on first coming across it – the word seemed awkward, a made-up word (not that there’s anything wrong with making up words, feminists have done it for decades, and come to think of it, Shakespeare was a dab hand. But I’m growing to like the term and it certainly fits better than pagan, for me. Once again, “Goddess Matters” gives us a full discussion and makes it easier for us to identify ourselves, and in her summing up at the end of the section we’re given a very useful broad explanation:
“Goddessian is a term used by people who revere Goddess(es) and strive for full participation of women in religion.”
Works for me.
I enjoyed the section on Mary Magdalene, with the caveat that I don’t accept the historical reality of most of the bible characters, but that hardly matters when so much of our present culture around women and spirituality is based on this mythology. Again, there’s a very useful and I think balanced discussion of the Magdalen in this book, pointing out, as have others, that there’s no real evidence for her ever having been a prostitute, and also looking at the meaning of Mary Magdalene both to contemporary Christians and Goddessians.
I particularly enjoyed the section on immanence vis-à-vis transcendence, but for me the most exciting section is that entitled Goddess as Flow. I’ve a strong left-brain bias, which has often seemed a disadvantage but here my scientific side comes into its own. The author says that the ancient Goddess epithet: “She who flows through all” connects us both to the past and opens the way to the future, and that is beautifully true. So while we have our precious ancient statues and other remains, our mythologies and stories, the concept of Goddess as Flow fits in beautifully with modern concepts in science. Yes, She flows, in our lives, in rivers flowing to the sea, in the circulation of our blood. But she also flows, for example, as an electro-magnetic wave, or as the particles that such a wave also, and mysteriously, appear to be. She IS the beginning, current state and currently unknown future of the universe. The Goddess says no-one has yet lifted her veil - I have a little fantasy that maybe when the currently-sought Higgs boson is found there will be another peek – but only serving, I suspect, to open up yet another layer of Her mysteries. And thus She remains, transcendent and unknowable, yet present, immanent, in every atom, every interconnected particle of our world and our being.
For anyone new to Goddess ideas, there are many more useful definitions, not given dogmatically but with plenty of room for people to choose their own interpretations within them. There’s much more to the book than the few sections I’ve highlighted and I’d recommend it to all kinds of people – anyone studying Goddess, who wants to understand the past and learn how the current Goddess spirituality movement got started, but even more so to anyone who wants to think about where we’re going, and how we can all influence that direction.
Goddess Matters is published by Open Sea Press and is available on Amazon.