As someone who comes to goddess spirituality from a feminist thealogy perspective, I have found it important to distinguish between the lineage and history of goddess spirituality and that of contemporary paganism as a broader and larger movement. While the roots of goddess spirituality are indeed entwined with paganism and Wicca, there is still a distinct “herstory” of the goddess movement in the United States, as well as qualities, traditions, values, perspectives, and tenants within it that are worthy of consideration on a stand-alone basis.
The Goddess in America, forthcoming from Moon Books this fall, is a highly recommended anthology of insightful essays about the meaning, role, expression, and experience of the Goddess in the United States. This is not a 101 or introductory book, but rather a complex exploration of a variety of topics including cultural appropriation, differences between feminist goddess spirituality and Wicca, contemporary priestessing, pop culture goddesses, goth goddesses, polytheism vs monotheistic concepts (i.e .the difference between “all goddesses as one” and each goddess as an individual), goddesses and the land and whether goddesses can be “transported” to other locations/lands, and much more. The book contains contributions from nineteen writers with diverse perspectives and experiences and it identifies the “enduring experience of Goddess Spirituality through a four-part discussion focused on the Native Goddess, the Migrant Goddess, the Goddess in relation to other aspects of American culture (Feminism, Christianity, Witchcraft, etc.) and the Goddess in contemporary America.” As someone who loves books, I believe that anthologies are possibly one of the greatest inventions of all time. Indeed, the only problem I had with this book was that the writers were so talented and have written so many other interesting books, that my to-read bookshelf now becoming even more extensive!
I teach goddess studies and priestessing classes and I sometimes feel as if I refer too often to books published in the 1980’s as my top recommended resources (I was still a child in the 80’s myself!), so it is refreshing to encounter a contemporary thealogical book of substance and depth. I often joke that books are my first and truest love and as a goddess scholar as well as devotee, I also find myself frustrated by contemporary goddess-themed books that come from a pop psychology perspective (i.e. liberate your inner goddess in six easy steps), preferring to dig deeply and turn over questions of thealogical complexity and insight. Phoenix Love touches on this issue in her essay, From Marilyn to Maleficent: Pop Goes the Goddess:
“In an era when self-help books reign supreme, one can find books everywhere telling women they can learn how to bring out their ‘inner goddess’…Yes, an inner goddess needs to be recognized, nurtured, and loved. Every woman contains within her a spark of divinity that needs recognition and nurturing. But the commerciality of this now very common practice comes with what? The cost of divinity? At the cost of possibly cheapening how a goddess should be considered is the modernization of what a goddess truly is versus what popular culture has made her really a good thing? Can we, as goddess worshippers, stand by and allow the divinity drained from our image of the Goddess to be replaced with popular cultural definitions of what a goddess should be?”
While there are many books available that catalog goddess identities, are paganism 101 starter guides, or list extensive correspondences, The Goddess in America is none of these and is instead an amazing balance of personal experiences, thealogical reflections, sociocultural musings and connections, and even some practical suggestions as well as questions to explore in your own life, community, and practice.
- Naming the Goddess, also published by Moon Books is another contemporary resource that I very much enjoy!
- I used some quotes from my favorite essay in The Goddess in America, written by Kate Brunner, in this past post: Burning Woman, Healing Woman
- For more thoughts on the bookish lineage of the Goddess movement see: Top Thirteen Most Influential People in Goddess Spirituality
I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.