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Goddesses and the Divine Feminine

A Western Religious History

Rosemary Ruether (Author)


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This landmark work presents the most illuminating portrait we have to date of goddesses and sacred female imagery in Western culture—from prehistory to contemporary goddess movements. Beautifully written, lucidly conceived, and far-ranging in its implications, this work will help readers gain a better appreciation of the complexity of the social forces— mostly androcentric—that have shaped the symbolism of the sacred feminine. At the same time, it charts a new direction for finding a truly egalitarian vision of God and human relations through a feminist-ecological spirituality.

Rosemary Radford Ruether begins her exploration of the divine feminine with an analysis of prehistoric archaeology that challenges the popular idea that, until their overthrow by male-dominated monotheism, many ancient societies were matriarchal in structure, governed by a feminine divinity and existing in harmony with nature. For Ruether, the historical evidence suggests the reality about these societies is much more complex. She goes on to consider key myths and rituals from Sumerian, Babylonian, Egyptian, and Anatolian cultures; to examine the relationships among gender, deity, and nature in the Hebrew religion; and to discuss the development of Mariology and female mysticism in medieval Catholicism, and the continuation of Wisdom mysticism in Protestanism. She also gives a provocative analysis of the meeting of Aztec and Christian female symbols in Mexico and of today's neo-pagan movements in the United States.
List of Illustrations

1. Gender and the Problem of Prehistory
2. Goddesses and World Renewal in the Ancient Mediterranean
3. The Hebrew God and Gender
4. Savior Goddesses in the Mystery Religions and Gnosticism
5. The Spiritual Feminine in New Testament and Patristic Christianity
6. Feminine Symbols in Medieval Religious Literature
7. Tonantzin-Guadalupe: The Meeting of Aztec and Christian Female Symbols in Mexico
8. Mary and Wisdom in Protestant Mystical Millennialism
9. Contested Gender Status and Imagining Ancient Matriarchy
10. The Return of the Goddess

Rosemary Radford Ruether is Carpenter Professor of Feminist Theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. She is author of numerous books, including Sexism and Godtalk: Toward a Feminist Theology (second edition, 1993), Gaia and God: An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing (1992), and Women and Redemption: A Theological History (1998).
“Clearly written, erudite, lavishly detailed, and with unbiased analysis.”—Library Journal
"The scholarship in this book is superior, revealing a depth of insight and a scope of knowledge possible only from a scholar who has lived with the concerns of feminist theology for decades. Ruether is a gifted storyteller, and lucidly translates complex ideas and debates. This work is of the highest importance, and Ruether asks the right questions at the right time. The text is groundbreaking."—Nancy Pineda-Madrid, Saint Mary's College of California

"Ruether has provided a valuable introduction to an important feminist topic: what can we know about sacred female imagery in Western culture? She guides us through contemporary feminist scholarship, providing engaging narrative, and venturing her own interpretations. Ruether calls for feminists to move beyond divisions created by our different interpretations of prehistory and work together towards our common project of a more peaceful, just, and ecological world."—Carol Hepokoski, Meadville Lombard Theological School

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