The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image was written by Anne Baring and Jules Cashford, first published in 1991 by Arkana, a division of Penguin Books.
Anne Baring has also written:
- The Mystic Vision
- The One Work
- The Divine Feminine
- The Birds Who Flew Beyond Time
Jules Cashford has also written:
- The Moon: the Myth and Image
- The Homeric Hymns
- The Myth of Isis and Osiris
- Theseus and the Minotaur
Each of these writers has their own website, www.annebaring.com and www.julescashford.com, respectively.
The Myth of the Goddess was written in two major parts, "The Mother Goddess and Her Son-Lover" and "The Sacred Marriage" with two appendices, "Prehistoric Times" and "The Christian Gospels." The 782-page book is generously illustrated with photos, drawings, and maps. The index is 29 pages long and the bibliography 11 pages.
The Preface sums up the role of Mother Goddess:
The Mother Goddess, whereever she is found, is an image that inspires and focuses a perception of the universe as an organic, alive and sacred whoel, in which humanity, the Earth and all life on Earth participate as 'her children'. Everything is woven together in one cosmic web, where all orders of manifest and unmanifest life are related, because all share in the sanctity of the original source.
The book neatly divides the times in history when females were regarded as deities from that when males were regarded as deities. The book says,
the goddess myth was lost(p. xii) and traces the earliest known references (or reverences) to appreciation of the role of females at least 20,000 years ago and possibly 50,000 years ago through the abrupt change about 4,000 years ago when mythology made women subject to men.
From Map 1 we can see the vast extent of Upper Paleolithic goddess figurine findings, from Lespugue in present-day France to Malta near Lake Baikal in Siberia. Most of these goddess figurines are rotund adult females with broad hips and heavy breasts, no doubt appreciating fecundity and abundance. Some of them show coifed hair (Willendorf and Brassempouy) as if to show that these revered women were well groomed and cared for (there were no mirrors then, so grooming was a group effort). Later, the nether parts of women were appreciated as in the ivory pendant found at Dolni Vestonice, Czechoslovakia (Figure 9).
The book discussed the ancient correlation of lunar cycles with reproductive cycles of women. Ancient understanding of the archtype concept, the book details, is found in notations of lunar cycles drawn on bone and stone, in motifs of snakes (which shed their skin and seem to renew), in wave patterns (and tide), in spirals and helical motifs. The coming and going of life, of nature, is the essence of womanliness, of goddessness. This was also a time when agriculture was starting, taking the place of hunting and gathering.
Moon, woman, earth--and the cycle of gestation in all three--can be seen to be goverened by rhythm, order and an exact sequence of development. Woman, with the formation of the child in her womb tied to the precise time of ten lunar months, continues to embody a sacrality that is possibly even more pronounced than it had been in the Palaeolithic.(p. 49)
By the bronze and iron ages new concepts were forming, new legends and myths. The book says,
The Enuma Elish--the Babylonian epic of creation--tells the story of the conquest and murder of the oroginal mother goddess, Tiamat, by the god Marduk, her great-great-great-grandson.(p. 273)
From there the book follows the decline in status of not only the goddesses but women in general. Eating the fruit was Eve's fault. The book goes into a lot of fine detail of the derivation of words and names relating to the legends and myths. Correlation and continuum are well documented.
The last 2,000 and even 4,000 years have seen the demise of the feminine principle just as they have seen the increasing mastery of nature. This process seems both inevitable and, in broad outline, lawful, but from the historical moment, when the earth is progressively being laid waste by those who depend on it for their life, it also seems to have gone too far.(p. 554)
Some of the goddesses discussed are Inanna/Ishtar, Isis, Tiamat, Gaia, Hera, Artemis, Athena, Aphrodite, Demter, Persephone, Cybele, and the legendary or mythical women, Eve, Lilith, Mary the Mother of Christ, Sophia, and Mary Magdalene.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in ancient history, anthropology, religion, or women's studies. It is well written, well documented, and generously illustrated. It is engaging and intelligently written.