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The Goddess in America: The Divine Feminine in Cultural Context Kindle Edition
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Right off the bat, this book passes the first, most obvious and most often failed test when it comes to looking at Goddess spirituality in America. That is it starts before Columbus... long before Columbus and stays there for a solid chunk of the book. Kudos to the editor for that. It isn't a stance without its critics and dangers.
The issue of the uneasy relationship between Goddess-devotees of European descent, Native American Goddess spirituality and cultural appropriation is addressed without any definitive conclusion. It's a sticky subject and there is essentially no way to satisfy everyone. Several authors weigh in on the topic in this anthology, all offering various versions of a moderate viewpoint: i.e. people should be free to honor goddesses other than those from their own genetic background as long as they do so with true respect and take the time to understand the cultural context of the goddess and give something back to the culture and community that the goddess comes from. Some authors have more exacting standards than others when it comes to correct respect but that is the general consensus.
The book continues with a variety of perspectives on the historical development and contemporary character of goddess spirituality in America. Again, the editor has heard the calls for more racial diversity in such anthologies and the authors represent reasonable diversity within the movement, including Vodun and Hebrew goddess perspectives.
The book is generally well written, excellently edited and interesting to read. Unlike some similar books there is little attempt to make it easy or light reading, however. The authors state their issues in all their complexity, which will make the book appropriate for university programs and other scholarly considerations. It includes several sections on pop culture, including an essay on representations of the Goddess in pop culture as well as the Goth movement, but these issues are handled from an analytical perspective, with respect for those who are part of these trends and yet without playing to a pop culture tune.
If there is any issue in which I feel the book is not fully representative of American goddess-spirituality it is in the emphasis of several authors on Reclaiming. My broad experience of the on-line world of American goddess spirituality shows that both formal Reclaiming groups and the general values and ideals of Reclaiming are much less prominent in America than they are represented in this book.
I personally love the Reclaiming movement, however, and I wish these values and ideals had greater sway in the popular goddess movement in America, so I don't take offense at its exaggerated influence in the book. I dearly wish more people today took social and environmental activism to the core of their spirituality and acted on the principles they profess. Instead I find a media landscape which deadens passion and ridicules those who stand up for their beliefs actively.
Thus to paraphrase a motto of the Society for Creative Anachronisms, this is something like the Goddess in America--as she is and should be. This book sets out not just to document where we are, but also to point a conscious way forward for the goddess community in America.
All in all this is an excellent anthology on contemporary goddess spirituality and well worth the read.
For more reviews of Pagan books see [...]
The second part of the book, The Migrant Goddess, begins with tackling the topic of cultural appropriation – a great segway from the first part of the book discussing Native traditions. Thought-provoking and difficult questions and issues regarding cultural appropriation by those in Goddess Movements is presented and left as an open question, without any concrete answer. This is followed up with chapters discussing “imported” or “migrant” Goddesses that came from other non-American cultures such as Ireland, Africa, Creole Voodoo, Minoan and Hebrew traditions and how this has influenced the diversity of Goddess worship in modern day America. The third part of the book, The Relational Goddess discusses the Goddess in relation to very diverse areas of modern American spiritual life; Feminism, Modern Shamanistic Practices, Christianity, Psychology and Witchcraft.
The final section of the book, The Contemporary Goddess discusses how the Goddess has influenced pop culture – often through veiled guises. Next how Goddesses have changed since coming to America is discussed, examining different retellings of myths, reimagining attributes and reinterpretations of the Goddess as she made her way to America. The Goddess in relation to the Reclaiming Tradition with its focus on activism is discussed by a Reclaiming Witch. After that the importance of modern day priestesses is explored. Next up the Dark Goddesses and their relation to the goth sub-culture is examined. The book finishes with my favorite entry by Vivienne Moss, which creatively explores and honors nine women in American History who are revered in this as embodiments of different types of Goddess-hood, being likened almost to modern day saints and includes ways to honor their legacies today.
While some of the book definitely speaks directly to women, I think that men who are interested in the Goddess (or who have women in their lives who work with the Goddess) will find the book approachable. Because of the scope of the book, it offers plenty of food for thought for people who are new to thinking about and working with the Goddess as well as those who have worked with her for years.