Seven Ages of the Goddess

Title: Seven Ages of the Goddess
Publisher: Moon Books
Editor: Trevor Greenfield
Contributors: Dorothy Abrams, Sherrie Almes, Mat Auryn, Arietta Bryant, Morgan Daimler, Melusine Draco, Susan Harper, Robin Herne, Scott Irvine, Shawn Johnson, Laurie Martin-Garden, Irisanya Moon, Mabh Savage,  Elen Sentier, Jeri Studebaker, Jhenah Telyndru, Jennifer Uzzell
Pages: 216pp
Price: $19.95 (paperback) / $8.99 (ebook)

Divided into seven sections — Ancient Goddess, Jewish Goddess, Mystery Goddess, Christian Goddess, Hidden Goddess, Re-Awakened Goddess, and Tomorrow’s Goddess — Seven Ages of the Goddess chronicles the place and worship of female divinities throughout human history. While the essays are arranged chronologically, they can be read in any order.

Having read several of Moon Books‘ anthologies in the past, I had high hopes for Seven Ages of the Goddess. For the most part, those expectations were met. The essays are well-written and engaging. While mostly focused on the western world, they still managed to cover a wide swath of history and geography, from Neolithic Europe through the Middle Ages, the occult/mystical revival of the Victorian era, and into the modern United States; and a variety of Goddess figures and traditions, from Cybele to Isis to the Virgin Mary.

There were several notable problems, however. The first is that no sources are cited. While individual authors may reference primary sources in their essays (see Telyndru’s essay “The Celts and the Divine Feminine,” Studebaker’s essay on Mother Goose, Draco’s essay on the Goddess in witchcraft, et cetera) there are no formal citations: no footnotes, no endnotes, no works cited, no recommended reading. This is a problem not only for readers who want to continue exploring those Goddesses who have piqued their interest, but for those who want to double-check the information which has been provided. For example, in his essay “Stone Age Goddess,” Irvine makes sweeping statements about the world-view of neolithic peoples — without citing a single journal, paper, or book. Where is he getting his information? On what is he basing his conclusions?

The second problem is that several glaring factual errors were included in the final book. In his essay “Cybele,” Auryn points out that it wasn’t until 203 BCE that Rome welcomed Cybele, and then only because they were at war:

Cybele’s sacred black stone meteorite was brought to Rome [….] Emperor Trajan did so and they won the war. Under Emperor Augustus Caesar, Cybele became a wildly popular goddess among the Roman people [….] Emperor Claudius during the 1st century BCE lifted the ban and permitted citizens to be castrated up until the reign of Domitian during the 1st century CE who once again banned the practice.

Among the errors which should have been caught well before Seven Ages was published: Trajan ruled Rome from 98 to 117 CE, three centuries after Cybele’s stone was brought to the city; and Claudius ruled from 41 to 54 CE, not the first century BCE.

The unfortunate result is that I now call into question so many of the other factual statements made in the anthology. Are there other errors that I just didn’t recognize?

Overall, Seven Ages is a fair addition to modern literature on the divine feminine, but it should be considered only a starting point. I strongly recommend that those who do read it also consult secondary sources; if the essay on Asherah or Mary Magdalene or Gaia Theory strikes your fancy, keep digging; track down other resources and learn as much as you can. 

[Reviewed by Rebecca Buchanan, the editor of EHS.]