The Divine Feminine in Ancient Europe: Goddesses, Sacred Women and the Origins of Western Culture
by Sharon Paice MacLeod
Review by Karl Schlotterbeck
This work is an exploration of the presence of the Divine Feminine throughout European history in all her diversity. The book is intelligent without being dry, uses image without falling into fantasy, and is factual without boring the reader. Rather than some cold piercing gaze of analytics, Sharon Paice MacLeod embraces her subject with clear-eyed warmth.
She works through the first half of the book deconstructing our popular modern mythologies about the Feminine Divine by taking us through Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, and Bronze-age periods, describing what we can know of history based on burial practices, architecture, artistic creations, implements and other artifacts. She shows us a much richer tapestry of European development than would be evident in many popular accounts. In so doing, she restores the beautiful diversity and depth of the Feminine Divine by exposing modern myths promulgated by empire builders and cultural biases – such as myths about the singular basis of our culture in Greek and Roman civilization, and the reductionist notion of a pervasive Mother Goddess tradition. Goddess-based religions, she shows, were not uniform nor based only on fertility or mothering, but arose everywhere, in many different forms, reflecting every aspect of life.
Most chapters begin with a brief narrative story of how things might have been, given the information she then explores. She gives the reader a feeling of being inside the subject, from a place where the people lived out the things she discusses. She provides enough data to give us a feel for the times without getting lost in minutiae.
Recognizing that history is connected to the present, without being preachy, she calls attention to parallels between our own time, climate changes in the Paleolithic and Mesolithic times, and enriches her text by using quotes from indigenous peoples who still have a close relationship with the Earth as did our ancestors.
The Divine Feminine in Ancient Europe is a firm but gentle call to restore our ancestors’ place in history, which was shaped by the land, with recognition of the interactive relationship among humanity, the Earth and its cycles, and the wide spectrum of roles play by the Divine Feminine.
She helps us to remember – not just remember history, but to honor the breadth and intelligence of our ancestors’ lives and their spiritual relationships, as well as calling us to restore our own relationship with and responsibility to the world around us. I hear in her writing a call to heal our “collective soul loss” and recognize that our land, our culture and our interaction with the Divine all exist in living interactive relationships.
Published by McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2014.
Available at Amazon.com.
(On the basis of the intelligence, readability, perspective and depth of The Divine Feminine in Ancient Europe, I’ve purchased the author’s previous work, Celtic Myth and Religion: A Study of Traditional Belief, with Newly Translated Prayers, Poems and Songs.)