on 1 March 2007
Prepare to be beguiled. This is not an ordinary book.
Finding it was a happy accident while I was researching artistic responses to the myth of Persephone and Demeter. I knew that Kris Waldherr had written an illustrated children's book about Persephone ('Persephone and the Pomegranate'), but it was out of print and had become a hard-to-find collector's item. So I turned to this more recent book of hers instead, and was captivated by it.
The book is designed as a complete whole, from its richly coloured endpapers with their jewel-like illustrations through to the lovely organic patterns of flowers, leaves, shells, rocks, birds and trees that run along the outer border of every page. Open it anywhere, and you'll see straight away that each double-page spread has been arranged with great care and sensitivity. Pictures are creatively balanced with text in a deeply satisfying way, from the evocative little vignettes inserted among the letterpress that give the words space to breathe, to the large richly coloured full-page illustrations. It doesn't matter if you think you're not interested in goddesses, and you don't have to be a woman to enjoy it; the book is so lovely that it will entice you in. Before you know where you are, you'll be immersed in the world of divine feminine archetypes that Kris Waldherr has laid before you.
This book is a wonderful demonstration of what can be achieved when an author/artist/designer has the inspiration, talent and vision to understand the potential of modern book production techniques, and take full advantage of them. 'Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful', advised William Morris. The Book of Goddesses fits both criteria, and here's the wonder: anyone can afford to buy one.
on 27 June 2004
Artist/Writer Kris Waldherr researched all of the major traditions of the world to come up with these twenty-six goddesses, from Athena the Greek goddess of wisdom to Zorya the Slavic guardian goddess. Waldherr shows how goddesses have been associated with not just love, fertility, food and the moon, but also creation, hunting, prosperity, knowledge and fire. I was interested to note that the only inhabited continent not represented was South America. Each goddess is presented in watercolor illustrations depicting traditional costumes and imagery, with intricate complimentary border designs (e.g., find the three birds from the Happy Otherworld who always accompany Rhiannon). Young readers who know of the goddess of classical mythology will there are even more interesting deities to be found from other cultures around the world. Waldherr provides a concise one page introduction to each goddess, with references sources listed in the back of the back for those who want to learn more about a particular goddess, because this lovely book is only going to whet their appetite for more of the same. Linda Schierse Leonard's introduction talks about the importance of the divine feminine in Jungian terms and how they continue to be inspirational and reverent figures today.