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Contents
Preface 2002 vii
CARL OLSON
Preface 1983 ix
CARL OLSON
• Introduction 1
CARL OLSON
1 • The Prehistoric Goddess 7
ANNE
L.
BARSTOW
2 • Ishtar and Her Cult 16
JUDITH OCHSHORN
3 Isis and Hathor: Two Ancient Egyptian Goddesses 29
C. J. BLEEKER
4 • The Mother Goddess Among the Greeks 49
CHRISTINE
R.
DOWNING
5 Magna Mater: Great Mother of the Roman Empire 60
M. RENEE SALZMAN
6 • The Canaanite-Hebrew Goddess 68
STEVE DAVIES
7 • The Virgin Mary: A Goddess? 80 —
E.
ANN MATTER
8 • Sophia and the Mother-Father:
The Gnostic Goddess 97
PHEME PERKINS
9 • Kali, the Mad Mother 110
C. MACKENZIE BROWN
10 • Sri Lakshmi and Radha: The Obsequious
Wife and The Lustful Lover 124
CARL OLSON
Vi .
THE BOOK OF THE GODDESS
11 • The Untamed Goddesses of Village India 145
RICHARD
L.
BRUBAKER
12
Kuan-yin: Savior and Savioress in
Chinese Pure Land Buddhism 161
DIANA PAUL
13 • The Significance of Amaterasu in
Japanese Religious History 176
KYOKO MOTOMOCHI NAKAMURA
14 • Oshun the Dancer 190
JOSEPH M. MURPHY
15 • The Religion of the Goddess in North America 202
AKE
HULTKRANTZ
16 • Hindu Female Deities as a Resource for the Contemporary
Rediscovery of the Goddess 217
RITA M. GROSS
17 • Symbols of Goddess and God in Feminist Theology 231
CAROL
P.
CHRIST
• Suggestions for Further Reading 252
Contributors 260
Preface 2002
B
eautiful and ugly, violent and benign, sexually aggressive
and sexually passive, terrifying and soothing, awe-
inspiring and capricious, loveable and terrible, close and remote,
violent and peaceful—these adjectives and many others characterize
goddess figures. Often, these seemingly contradictory features can be
discovered in the same goddess. Although scholars had neglected
goddesses as subjects of serious study for some time, this is no longer
the case, as evidenced by the many studies on them in the past few
decades. When I wrote the original preface to this book in 1982, I
referred to the return of the goddess to our purview, by which I implied
the Western viewpoint. Little did I realize then that the goddesss
return would be so overwhelming and dramatic. The recovery of
interest in various goddesses accompanied the rise of feminist
scholarship and its challenges to the field of religious studies and
beyond.
The re-publication of this book comes at the urging of many scholars
of religious studies conveyed to me personally over the past few years.
Some of these scholars had published books on goddesses themselves.
Numerous people combined their encouragement with comments
about
The Book of the Goddess
still being the best thing available for stu-
dents of the subject. Encouraged by such supportive statements by
well-meaning professional colleagues, I decided to look into the possi-
bilities of making the book available once again to students for course
use. After returning from my research fellowship at Clare Hall of the
University of Cambridge, I decided to take the advice of others and to
seek to re-issue a very successful book.
Through the contribution of the scholars represented in this book and
other fine studies, goddesses are much less strangers to those in the
West. These many scholarly contributions about various goddess figures
have enabled readers to broaden their religious horizons and under-
standing. The re-publication of this book continues the arrival of the
goddess to the religious awareness of Westerners.
Preface 1983
W
hile teaching a course on goddesses in the history of
religions a few years ago, I discovered that
there was no common source book available to my students. The
lack of an adequate source book for classroom use led me to
outline a work that would be faithful to the diverse religious
cultures and periods of history in which goddesses have played an
important role.
Without trying to be exhaustive or encyclopedic in scope, this
book includes examples of ancient and modern goddesses, encom-
passing Eastern and Western religious traditions, major world reli-
gions and tribal religions, living religions and those that have passed
into historical memory. Besides serving students of religion as an
introduction to the subject, this volume is intended to help the
reader understand the various manifestations of the goddess and
her often complex nature.
Throughout the course of the history of religions, the goddess
has manifested herself in numerous ways. She has been a source of
creativity and destruction, a passionate lover and a pure virgin, a
temptress and a repeller, beautiful and ugly, terrible and benign.
She has been a vivid symbol of fertility, prosperity, and wealth, as
well as a symbol of loss and death, both beckoning and repulsing
the religious devotee. Since I felt that it was practically impossible
for one individual to master the numerous and varied cultures in
which goddesses have appeared, I invited an international group of
scholars to elucidate various goddesses, thereby making a vast range
of information about goddesses available in a single source.
Besides discussing the manifestations of the goddess and her
complex nature, this book is also an invitation to the reader to share
in a renewal of interest in the goddess and in a celebration of her
return to the religious consciousness of those who have forgotten
her. The arrival of the goddess brings with it her message concern-
ing the earth, society, culture, the individuals place in the world,
the meaning of existence, and the nature of the divine. Finally, this
book attempts to discern the significance of the goddess for con-
temporary feminist thinkers.
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