GRANDMOTHERS OF THE LIGHT by Paula Gunn Allen

GRANDMOTHERS OF THE LIGHT

A Medicine Woman's Sourcebook

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A scholarly yet charming compilation of distinctly feminine Native American legends--a continuation of the explorations that Allen (English/UCLA) began in The Sacred Hoop (1986) and Spider Woman's Granddaughters (a 1990 American Book Award). Concentrating on creation myths and their reflections in ancient and contemporary ritual, Allen, a Laguna Pueblo/Sioux Indian, blends a wealth of North American tribal tales into 21 elegantly phrased explications of what she terms the ``cosmogyny'' (the ``ordered universe arranged in harmony with gynocratic principles''), a concept all but lost, she says, with the incursion of European patriarchal thought. Far from a one-sided feminist view, the emphasis is on balance, with opposing forces (mortal/supernatural, masculine/feminine, individual/community) seeking ``completion rather than adversariness and opposition.'' As Changing Woman, one of the manifestations of the ``Great Goddess'' common to Native American lore, explains to her suitor, the Sun, ``You and I are of the same spirit stuff and so we are of equal worth...if there can be no harmony between us, then there can never be harmony any place in the universe.'' The best of the stories are respectful retellings of essentially timeless myths, suffused with a gently playful humor. Less successful are several slightly strained attempts to transport the narrative to present-day settings. Not that there isn't a purpose here, for Allen takes seriously Mayan prophecies of renewed attention to the supernatural within the next century, characterizing her work as a guide for ``...the process of return, enabling women to recover our ancient medicine ways...'' An unusual prescription, perhaps, but within the confines of this enchanting work, an effortlessly easy one to swallow. A winsome and valuable addition to the growing catalogues of Native American, spiritual, and feminist studies. (Seven b&w illustrations--not seen.)*justify no*

Pub Date: Sept. 23rd, 1991
ISBN: 0-8070-8102-7
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1991