THE GODDESS: Mythological Images of the Feminine by Christine Downing

THE GODDESS: Mythological Images of the Feminine

Email this review


Greek mythology as a source of feminist wisdom: the rapturous account of one woman's search for the ""immanent She."" Downing (Religious Studies-Psychology, San Diego State) is a good amateur classicist, and her attempts to find matriarchal meanings buried in the patriarchal text, or palimpsest, of Hellenic culture are generally successful. But this is no mere scholarly exercise. With undisguised passion and sometimes embarrassing frankness Downing describes how, after sloughing off the Christianity of her childhood, she turned to Persephone, Ariadne (a mortal heroine but originally divine), Hera, Athena, Gala, Artemis, and Aphrodite, not as pale literary-philosophical emblems of the shifting patterns in her sexual experience but as living teachers, helpers, wellsprings of strength. So vividly, in fact, does she feel the reality of her goddesses that Downing writes the whole chapter on Aphrodite in the second person. ""Now that it is time to begin to discover who I am apart from you, I realize I must confront you directly,"" etc. Obviously Downing's more cold-eyed and secular-minded readers will have a hard time with this, but the weakest feature of her quest to satisfy her thirst for sacred images of ""the feminine"" is its pervasive narcissism. At one point Downing is lying naked and alone in the Southern California desert, communing with Daia, ""the divine presence of earth."" She is also, as it happens, erotically stimulating herself: ""And . . . my fingers in their wanderings came across the moist spot and followed the channel whose opening it marked, deep, deep down into the center within--her sacred place . . . I knew this was . . . a moment of completion, of finding Her."" Perhaps, but the masturbatory accents of this episode suggest that Downing's religion is still, in some respects, in an adolescent phase.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Crossroad