My initial entry to the goddess path began with a deep intellectual bent; I soaked up myths and studied archetypes like crazy, waiting until the day when I was ready to talk to goddesses on a more tangible, personal level. Because I’ve always been a bit of a myth junkie, and because I’m a scholar at heart, I jumped at the chance to read the late Patricia Monaghan’s revised and re-released Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines, published by New World Library. The book didn’t disappoint my thirst for information.
This large tome differs from Monaghan’s out of print title The New Book of Goddesses & Heroines in both its structure and its scope. Echoing Merlin Stone’s Ancient Mirrors of Womanhood, the Encyclopedia is arranged by continental region, with sections on Africa, Eastern Mediterranean, Asia and Oceania, Europe, and the Americas. Each section begins with a brief overview of cultural and historical information about the region in question, and as can be imagined, the regional sections are subdivided for clarity (and to offer more specific information about, say the Egyptian tradition within the African context).
In addition to the cultural context, Monaghan provides an extensive bibliography, plus a detailed description of how and why she chose to include the sources she did. Despite acknowledging the cultural limitations, Monaghan opted to draw her information only from works available in English, but the bibliography includes information about translations for the serious goddess scholar to track down on her own.
Chock full of information about both goddesses and heroines (historical female figures, or those with supernatural powers that don’t quite elevate them to goddess status), this is an excellent resource for anyone with an interest in goddess lore and the divine feminine. Scholars and casual browsers will both find something to appeal to them, since, as Monaghan notes in her introduction, the faces of goddesses around the globe are incredibly diverse; they “can appear as young nymphs, self-reliant workers, aged sages. They can be athletes or huntresses, dancers or acrobats, herbalists or midwives. We find goddesses as teachers, inventors, bartenders, potters, surfers, magicians, warriors, and queens. Virtually any social role women have played or are capable of playing appears in a goddess myth.” The vastness of goddesses, and, in truth, women, is represented in this volume, and it’s a resource I’m sure I’ll return to again and again.
Image retrieved from New World Library, http://www.newworldlibrary.com/BooksProducts/ProductDetails/tabid/64/SKU/82171/Default.aspx#