Naming the Goddess Edited by Trevor Greenfield
First published by Moon Books in 2014
I have come to the realm of the Goddess fairly recently and have a very strong academic and personal background in Christian theology and thought. Due to the patriarchy inherent in Christian doctrine and ritual, and in spite of valiant efforts by feminist and womanist theologians, I previously had found the idea of the Goddess to be existentially threatening. Well, that was until I had my own encounter with a goddess. Let’s just say it was my very own ¨road to Damascus¨ experience. Consequently I am now searching out Goddess literature, reading with a critical eye, and learning as much as I can. Greenfield has provided me with an approachable reference that is very useful.
¨Part 1 – Writing the Goddess¨ provides essays that are thoughtful and well-reasoned. For me, this first section is the most interesting and worth the price of the book alone. The essays are robust and invite the reader to really sink one’s teeth into the topic. I have found much in these pages to be of value.
More academic in feel than the latter section, Part 1 details concepts including:
- the intersection between concepts of the Goddess and stages of interpersonal development.
- abduction and seduction in the context of culture.
- the Goddess and Queer theory.
- reclaiming the Goddess role in Christianity.
- the interplay between Goddess depictions and culture.
- the salience of the Goddess for women in politics.
- uses of the Goddess and Goddess energy in ritual.
¨Part 2 – Naming the Goddess,¨ though valuable, is not as strong a contribution as Part 1. Consisting of the individual biographies of 72 goddesses, it reads as though the contributors were writing in a vacuum, only aware of their own subject. Consequently there are a few instances when the same goddess, called by different names, has multiple entries written by more than one contributor. The tone also varies from entry to entry; some are written with an eye toward a personal or ritual relationship between author and Goddess while others are written with an historical or academic tone. In spite of these shortcomings there are entries that resonate with me and I have come away from the book with a desire to know various goddesses better.
Part 2 presents goddesses that relate to our shadow selves (i.e. Kali) as well as those who are considered all loving (i.e. Kwan Yin). There are some excellent discussions of how these dark goddesses serve us in spite of our tendency to avoid them. One of the other strong points of Part 2 is that it represents a true worldwide sampling. There are so many goddesses and Goddess stories that I believe it would be nearly impossible to catalogue them all, but Greenfield does a good job of including contributions from a wide variety of cultures. Starting from the ubiquitous goddesses of the Egyptian and Greco-Roman world, it also includes Aboriginal, Afro-Brazilian, Australian, Aztec, Celtic, Chinese, Hindu, Inuit, Native American, and Norse representatives.
For those new to the realm of the Goddess, Trevor Greenfield has compiled a reference book of goddesses from multiple cultures. For those of you already familiar with the Goddess literature, and/or perhaps already working with goddesses of your own, it provides thoughtful essays that site the relevance of the Goddess firmly within the contemporary world. Naming the Goddess is a worthwhile addition to the libraries of students and practitioners alike.
Landis Vance, Ph.D., http://www.SpiritMountainWilds.com