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216 × 138 × 20 mm
176 pages
29 illustrations
01 Feb 2016

The Goddess Myths of the Great Mother David Leeming, Christopher R. Fee

For as long as humans have sought god, we have found the goddess. Ruling over the imaginations of our earliest civilizations, she played a critical spiritual role as a keeper of nature’s fertile powers and an assurance of the next sustaining harvest. As people began to migrate across the world, the faces of the goddess and the roles she played were forever changed. The Goddess takes us back into prehistory, tracing the evolution of the goddess across vast spans of time to trace the transformation of belief and what it says about who we are.

The metamorphoses of goddess figures that have taken place and the patterns we may discern in these changes, which span the millennia and a wide spectrum of cultures, have much to teach us about the development of human societies and values. This book shows us that the faces of gods and goddesses reflect the lives and souls of the peoples who worship them. It charts the development of traditional Western gender roles through an understanding of the shifting concepts of the goddess, from her earliest roots in India and Iran to her more familiar faces in Ireland and Iceland, and analyses the eventual subordination of goddesses to gods.

From Demeter to Kali and Guanyin to Gaia, and from mother goddesses to warriors, virgins and destroyers, powerful female figures of worship continue to play a crucial role in belief systems today. The Goddess reveals how spiritual thought ties humanity to its ancient origins and shows us that the story of the goddess is also the story of ourselves.

‘This is the perfect book for anyone who wants to understand the evolution of the woman as deity. The Goddess: Myths of the Great Mother tells the intriguing story of the feminine principle as worshipped in dozens of cultures and across thousands of years. Just about every goddess from Indias Kali to Irelands Morrigan puts in an appearance in this amazing and sprawling saga. Learn about Krishnas wives, the footrace run by Macha (and how she cursed the generations of men), and the fate engendered by the sexual voracity of Fergus. Enjoy the visual pleasures of the illustrations. Open The Goddess to a random page, begin reading, and prepare to be seduced by tales as old as Eve herself. You will not be disappointed.’ — Jeffrey P. Cain, Associate Professor and Chair, Sacred Heart University

‘Spanning the cultures of ancient India, Iran, the Near East, classical antiquity, and Celtic and Germanic Europe, and ranging from the paleolithic to the ascendancy of monotheism, the authors unveil the many faces of the Goddess: Embodiment of wisdom, the incarnation of sexual desire, living nurturer of field, forest and sea, Lifegiving Mother and Sacred personification of Death. The Goddess will stimulate readers eager for an introduction to the cultural and religious identities of these ancient cultures.’ — Stephen Lahey, Happold Professor of Religious Studies, University of Nebraska

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David Leeming is Emeritus Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Connecticut. He is the co-author of Gods, Heroes, and Kings: The Battle for Mythic Britain (2001) and author of numerous books on mythology including Myth: A Biography of Belief (2002), The Oxford Companion to World Mythology (2005) and Medusa: In the Mirror of Time (Reaktion, 2013). He lives in Stonington, Connecticut.

Christopher R. Fee is Professor of English at Gettysburg College, Pennsylvania, and the author of The Goddess: Myths of the Great Mother (Reaktion, 2016), Mythology in the Middle Ages: Heroic Tales of Monsters, Magic, and Might (2011) and Gods, Heroes, and Kings: The Battle for Mythic Britain (2001).

Introduction: The Many Guises of the Goddess

1. The Dawn of the Indian Goddess

2. The Religious Conversion of the Near Eastern Goddess

3. The Scourge of the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean Goddess

4. The Battle Lust of the Northern Goddess

5. The Seductive Destruction of the Goddess of the Western Isles

Conclusion: The Identity of the Goddess

Further Reading


Photo Acknowledgements