When I first heard of Tim Ward’s book, my immediate reaction was hostility. For a long time, I had been talking about MY BOOK – which was in my eyes going to be the definitive work about men and the goddess. But Tim had got there first. So I was not going to read him. So there!!!
Then I was asked to write this review.
Tim does not deal in detail with the type of antler-locking male rivalry that I felt but I think arises directly from the processes he describes. When he speaks of a “universal male longing, a psychic hole that has never been filled”, I find myself both agreeing with him and recoiling from that agreement. I, too, have experience that “when the feminine divine took shape within my psyche she often terrified me, evoking desperate longing, hostility, fear, shame – and also incredible beauty”.
In his journeys around the Aegean, Tim details much that is already familiar about Neolithic and later goddess imagery but there is also a lot of material that was new to me, particularly regarding new archaeological evidence. There are times when he engages critically, but without dogmatism, with beliefs that may be in conflict with the evidence, such as the matter of human sacrifice in goddess-centred cultures.
One of the most impressive aspects of the book is the honesty with which he details his struggles to reconcile all his conflicting emotions and come to a greater understanding and acceptance of goddess. This was distinctly uncomfortable at times, as he seemed to be talking about me. I also felt a of discomfort as he talked about his intimate life with his partner, Theresa. However, as his relationship with her is inextricably linked with his spiritual quest, perhaps all the details were necessary. Besides, I have no reason to believe that Theresa is unhappy about their publication.
Tim describes this as “one man’s search for the goddess” and it is precisely that. He searches in many ways, geographically, mythologically, archaeologically and psychologically as well as emotionally and spiritually. Much of his internal geography is familiar to me and I found myself cringing as I recognised the intellectual and other defences I use to avoid self-knowledge. There are other times, however, when this is not the case and herein, I think, lies the book’s major flaw. Despite the particular nature of his journey, Tim claims universality for some of his insights that may not, in fact, be the case. Not all men, for example, share his fixation with big breasts, although the success of the trashier tabloid newspapers indicates that many do. There are also goddess-loving gay men whose relationship with women’s bodies would differ substantially from either Tim’s or mine. This is a minor cavil, however, and I am glad that I was asked to read the book and had to overcome my irrational hostility.
For Tim’s book is not my book. It is very different, as our paths are different. Far from being disheartened, I am in fact, eager to further the long over-delayed conversation between goddess-loving men.
"Savage Breast: A Man's Search for the Goddess", by Tim Ward, is published by O Books