A lively discussion of ancient and modern Pagan literature -- including children's books, graphic novels, science fiction, fantasy, and mysteries -- along with interviews, author highlights, and profiles of Pagan publishers.
On Goddess Spirituality, Part Two
In my last post, I discussed a few of my favorite nonfiction Goddess Spirituality texts; and those were only a few of the many, many books available on the subject. This time, we'll look at some of the fiction books which focus on Goddesses, the Goddess, and Goddess Spirituality. They include children's picture books, graphic novels, romance novels, fantasy, and science fiction.*
First is the picture book, Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave, by Mariana Mayer and KY Craft. Baba Yaga is an amorphous figure from Russian lore who is sometimes a Goddess, sometimes a malevolent figure, sometimes a shamanic guide, sometimes a witch, sometimes all four and more at once. Here, she reluctantly takes in the young Vasilisa, a courageous and clever girl eager to learn everything Baba Yaga can teach her. The Russian hag is a terrifying figure, making this book an excellent way to introduce children to more frightening Goddesses, or aspects of the Goddess.
The Books of Great Alta by Jane Yolen is an omnibus edition containing Sister Light, Sister Dark and White Jenna. In this epic fantasy, twice-orphaned Jenna is taken in by an Amazon-like community, learns to call forth her dark twin Skada by the light of the moon, makes war, takes a lover, adopts an orphaned one-armed girl as her own child, and faces death heroically. Yolen takes an unusual approach to the tale: she uses poems, anthropological reports, songs, garbled fragments of myths, and elegant prose to tell the story of Jenna and Dark Skada. This book had a huge impact on my teen self, and was definitely an influence on my later writing.
Unlike Baga Yaga, Earth Mother by Ellen Jackson and Leo and Diane Dillon is a wonderful, heart-warming, and humorous fable. Here, Earth Mother awakens with the dawn and sets out on a journey across her creation. Along the way, she meets Mosquito, Frog and Man, each of whom is grateful for her gifts -- but also has suggestions on how to make it even better. Jackson's sing-song text is perfect for reading aloud, while the Dillons' earth-toned artwork is serene and calming.
On the opposite end of the spectrum lies Goddess by Garth Ennis and Phil Winslade. This graphic novel is classic Ennis, meaning it is violent, crude, sexualized and did I mention violent? I am not a particular fan of Ennis' work; the only reason I am including Goddess in this list is because of the identity of the main character, Rosie. Suffice to say, the scene in which Mother Sun and the other eight planetary Goddesses meet Rosie and the Moon Goddess makes it (almost) worth slogging through all the gore and swearing. Plus, the very very end is very very cool.
I mentioned the graphic novel Inanna's Tears in a previous post on that ancient Goddess. It is definitely worth recommending again. This work of historical fiction includes unrequited love, gender politics, the beginnings of class warfare, and the creation of written language.
The Light Blade series by Kylie Griffin also came up in a previous post, on the subject of Pagan-friendly romance novels. Since then, the third book -- Allegiance Sworn -- has been released. These are fun, fast reads with a well-developed thealogy and strong characters.
Lost Goddesses of Early Greece: A Collection of Pre-Hellenic Myths by Charlene Spretnak was originally released in 1978. A founding mother of feminist spirituality, Spretnak has a number of important titles to her credit, but Lost Goddesses is too often overlooked. That is unfortunate. This is a wonderful collection of stories inspired by ancient myths, but which espouse modern ideals such as environmental stewardship, sexual equality, and respect for women. This is a great book to read at or present to a young woman at her menarche ritual.
The Prince and the Golden Ax: A Minoan Tale by Deborah Nourse Lattimore has the appearance of an ancient story, but is actually a modern creation. Here, Prince Akros of Thera covets the golden ax of the Goddess Diktynna. His boasting attracts the Goddess' attention, and she sets him three tasks. He accomplishes the first two only with the assistance of his sorceress sister, but, when he fails the third, he still demands the ax -- with disastrous consequences. A great story about filial loyalty, piety, and pride.
Alan Moore and JH Williams III initially released Promethea as single-issue comic books. It has since been collected in a series of trade paperbacks and as a massive hardcover omnibus edition. I adore this series. It touches on everything from Kabbalah to archetypal psychology to cloning to Golden Age science fiction to secret societies to romantic poetry to Graeco-Egyptian magic to ... well ... the end of the world. The opening sequence in which Thoth-Hermes appears to young Promethea totally needs to be a poster.
Like the Light Blade books, I mentioned the Sanctify series by Katee Robert in a previous post. It is worth mentioning again: science fiction which features a tarot-reading heroine who uses the cards to determine the will of her Goddess is unheard-of. I hope Robert continues with the series, if only because I want to know more about the complex cosmology of multiple Deities she only hints at in the first book.
Sita: Daughter of the Earth by Saraswati Nagpal and company is a gorgeously illustrated retelling of the strange birth, childhood, marriage, kidnapping, motherhood, and apotheosis of one of Hinduism's most beloved Goddesses. Similarly, Sita's Ramayana by Samhita Arni and Moyna Chitrakar focuses on the Goddess' perspective, carefully considering matters of loyalty, love, duty, and the terrible price of pride and suspicion.
As a teenager, I devoured Mercedes Lackey's Vows and Honor series. I could imagine no more exciting life than traveling the back roads and mountains and plains of Velgarth, battling evil both magical and mundane, saving those in need and helping Tarma rebuild her devastated clan. Though Lackey's theology is technically ditheistic, she focuses on the Goddess -- who, in this case, has a four-fold aspect. Even more unusually, the Goddess is self-limited; She denied herself omniscience at the moment of creation, wanting that creation to unfold of its own accord.
Finally, there is the children's book We Goddesses: Athena, Aphrodite, Hera by Doris Orgel. Here, each Goddess explains in her own voice the origins of the feud between the three of them, their many trials, and the eventual resolution of the conflict. Plus, the artwork is totally frameable; I could definitely see a devotee of one or all of these Goddesses placing these on an altar.
There are lots and lots of books out there which focus on the Goddess or Goddesses. I know I missed at least a few. Ping me. I always looking for something new to read.
*As much as I would like to do so, I cannot list Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon or PC Cast's Goddess Summoning series, as I have not read them. Nor can I recommend Elspeth Cooper's Songs of the Earth, because I simply did not enjoy it.
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