She Rises: A Book Review


She Rises: Why Goddess Feminism, Activism, and Spirituality?, edited by Helen Hye-Sook Hwang and Kaalii Cargill, brings together the voices of women and men who have vital news to share: we need the Divine Feminine to heal ourselves and our planet, and She knows it.  Now it is time for us to know it—to re-member her (as She has been dismembered, historically and methodically, for millennia). The voices in this anthology are varied—some urgent, some lyrical—but, like the Divine Feminine Herself, the many are also one.  And their message is clear: the spiritual is political, and it is time to act.

The book is separated into three Parts (or Mothers), one for each topic—Goddess Feminism, Activism, and Spirituality—each with three Chapters (or Sisters). There is great symbolism here, both in the triad of Mothers and in the parts forming a whole, as Hye-Sook Hwang explains in the Introduction: “The Nine Sisters issued from the Three Mothers are conjoined in a circle of the triple triad, which symbolizes for humans the self-contained beginning and the end with multiple centers….” The thoughtfulness in bringing the spirit of the Divine Feminine to the structure of the book shows throughout—here, you will find all you need to understand why the Goddess, and why now.

The word Goddess is still, for most people, a weighted one—the mainstream understanding of the word is that it is vaguely wrong, even somehow heretical. Our conception of the Goddess in this way is no accident, and history proves it—the essays in this book give you that history, both in archeological record and in social analysis. From Pegi Eyers, we learn that “Marija Gimbutas’ The Civilization of the Goddess (1991) outlined the archeological record of Old Europe and the history of matriarchal societies, and is considered to be a milestone in feminist scholarly research. This sacred history, or foundational myth, underpins the political and religious tenets of Goddess Spirituality today.” And Harriet Ann Ellenberger explains that “…the imagery and concepts of patriarchal religion justify and are embedded in the material structures of oppression.”

Second-Wave feminists studied the Divine Feminine and experienced Her, but their story is rarely told in books or movies about the rise of feminism: this book corrects that, and includes the voices of many of the women who helped to shape scholarship and theological thought (or thealogy) around the Goddess.  Here you will find, among others, the work of Carol Christ and Max Dashu and Starhawk and Barbara C. Daughter, who have helped bring an understanding of the Divine Feminine to many awakening women and men. In their words—indeed, in the words of all who poured their faith and intellect into this anthology—you will find Her spirit moving.  Playful, serious, full of the fire of change and the lullaby of self-love and self-care: oh, yes, She is here.

And She will challenge you. Confronting the blocks our patriarchy has constructed around the Divine Feminine is no easy task, as we have been taught that She is taboo. There is artwork here that will soothe you, but some may make you uncomfortable. There are words here that will draw you to Her, and some that will challenge your assumptions. This is good and necessary work—for it is in challenging our assumptions that we begin to grow.  You may not agree with everything you read here, nor are you expected to:  the book, like the Divine Feminine, accepts and embraces all perspectives, all ways of being.

A deeply spiritual, deeply political consciousness animates these pages, and that is the greatest evidence of the Divine Feminine there is, for She is not passive, but an active force moving in and around and through us all.  She rises, indeed.

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