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am 21. Dezember 1999
One of the most frustrating books I have ever read. It reminds me of that old adage, "When all you have is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail." In this case, the hammer is some kind of generic goddess that the entire world's people, no matter how culturally different or geographically removed from each other, are presumed to have worshiped. The author writes as though every story, every historical event, every major religion was somehow the result of shifty eyed, evil-minded men conspiring en masse to erase the memory of the supposed primordial goddess and to suppress her natural priestesses, the women of the world. And if you think that sounds silly and far-fetched, you should read some of the topics in this book!
"The Woman's Encyclopedia..." views the history of the world through goddess-colored glasses that bend the scenery to suit the wearer's fancy. Simple, logical interpretations and well-documented evidence have no place if they point to any answer other than "goddess". The book is so peppered with illogic that it is easy to pull up nonsensical examples at random. Since it is about "Myths and Secrets," let's take two examples from the M chapter just for fun, starting with "Mama".
We'll begin with "why mama is a word understood in nearly all languages", to quote the book's publisher. Hmmm... Could it be because it is the easiest word to say? Or is it because, as Walker tells us, it is "Title of the Great Goddess Ma, or Mama, the world's basic name for mother's breasts."? Having said that, the author launches into a string of goddess name dropping that has nothing to do with the language of babies, unless babies are born knowing about Hindu goddesses and Mesopotamian "creatresses".
What's under "Mammon"? The first sentence says mammon is "the medieval demon of commercial acquisitiveness, whose name meant riches." The author then puts on her seven-league boots and leaps to the Middle East, where we are told "...the original meaning of this name was the rich outpouring of the Great Goddess's inexhaustible breasts (mamae), which nourished all her children." Really? "Mamae" is Latin, so the author must have missed the Middle East and leapt to Rome by mistake. She continues: "Babylon named her Mami or Mammitu (Mother), the biblical Mamre. Some Sumero-Babylonian scriptures called her Mammetun the mother of destinies." Maybe I missed something, but what's the connection between money, breasts and destiny? But it just keeps getting sillier: "Jesus's precept, 'Ye cannot serve God and Mammon' (Luke 16:13) meant a choice between God and Goddess, in a time when her temples were richer and more magnificent than his." By whose account? And where were these temples, in Jerusalem? (Recall that Jesus is addressing an audience of monotheistic Palestinian Jews). And how did the goddess connection creep into a sermon on the evils of money? Indeed, the following verse (Luke 16:14) says, "The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus." It seems these particular Jewish priests were really in love with a Babylonian goddess.
Of course, by this time Walker has strayed so far from any semblance of history, biblical storytelling or simple logic that we almost forget she began by telling us "Mammon" was a Medieval demon. If that's the case, how is it that Jesus was sermonizing about a demon that wouldn't be invented until the Middle Ages?
The author continues: "The Gospels demanded that her shrines be destroyed and her wealth taken away in an obviously jealous attack on the 'Many-breasted' Goddess 'whom all Asia and the world worshippeth' (Acts 19:27)".
Not only has the author inserted quotes around "Many-breasted" so as to make it appear to be part of the actual verse (which it isn't), she has launched an attack where none is warranted. In Acts 19:37, the city clerk of Ephesus (whom Acts presents as a defender of the goddess Artemis), tells the Ephesians who have captured the Christians, "You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess." The command for Christians to destroy and loot pagan temples clearly comes from Barbara Walker, not the New Testament.
Creating connections where there are none, inventing facts and ignoring the very sources she cites are tactics Ms. Walker employs with disturbing regularity in her book. Case in point: as we continue with the next sentence under "Mammon," Walker writes, "Like the Oriental Goddess Earth (Artha, "riches"), she stood for material wealth because her temples had a great deal of it and her soil was the ultimate source of all."
What oriental Goddess Earth? How was the connection made with Artha, since the word "earth" has a different derivation? Walker has now mysteriously connected money with soil. I'm surprised she didn't use this later in her book to invent a goddess-derivation for the terms "filthy lucre" and "dirt cheap".
As a reference book, "The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets" is about as reliable as "Chariots of the Gods". After all, the author creates connections to ancient goddesses the same way Erich Von Daniken created connections to ancient astronauts. In a rare fit of accuracy, Ms. Walker unintentionally summed up her own book when she wrote in the chapter on Religion:
"To purvey an unenlightened education, teaching myths as if they were facts, is another abuse of cultural communication". Amen to that.
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am 10. Dezember 1999
I had fun with this book and think it did open my mind, human brains get so clogged with formulas it's worth pursuing different points of view, clears away the cobwebs. I pity those who think this is a work of scholarship, however. Read, enjoy, then realize what you've read.
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am 9. Dezember 1999
I don't think it holds up under scrutiny, but it's great to finally see a work of pop mythology. The incomplete scholarship and wild references are a constant chuckle and I would recommend the work to anyone who needed a pick-me-up. I do wish Ms. Walker would update it however - a lot of archealogy and research has happened since 1983! To see such divisive, one-sided, dogma proves there really isn't that much difference between the sexes...Good Show!
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am 11. August 1999
Women (and men) who are analytical readers will be frustrated by this book. It would be a browser's delight, except that some material is pulled out of nowhere and presented alongside verifiable facts (a tactic favored by the tabloids). Ms. Walker uses questionable sources in some instances and often goes out of her way to force-fit the square peg of the more reliable sources into the round hole of her belief system. The result is a lengthy New Age feminist tract passing itself off as a work of historical analysis.
The author's stance on religion is obvious. Christianity is derided at every opportunity, whereas pagan religions are spoken of in reverential tones--often ignoring the brutal realities of many "goddess religions" of ancient times. Indeed, Ms. Walker's personal bias so taints her writing that it grows tiresome even to the non-Christian reader.
A curious mix of factual data and fanciful revisionism, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets seems to be designed for the "Clan of the Cave Bear" crowd. It is simply too biased and unreliable for consideration as a reference book, though it might serve as a good jumping off place for further research. Given that it wasn't titled "The Woman's Encyclopedia of Facts", we should at least give the publisher credit for truth in advertising. I'll give it two stars--one for content and one for a very beautiful cover.
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am 11. Juli 1999
As a classically educated archaeologist, historian, mythologist and linguist, I can attest that Barbara Walker is an impeccable scholar who obviously put an enormous amount of time into thoroughly researching and understanding her subject matter. She has reached far back into time and, through painstaking analysis, recovered lost and suppressed information that is invaluable to the enlightenment of the human species and the recovery of the role of women. She makes very few mistakes and is abundant in her references.
Walker's work needs no faith but is based on sound reasoning and science, including the historical and archaeological record, which bears out her assertions quite abundantly.
I highly recommend this book to any and all who wish to know the hidden truth behind "modern" religions, which have their "pagan" roots in the hoary mists of time. Indeed, this book reveals the unity of human culture, reminding us that we are one planet.
Acharya S Author of "The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold" Member, American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Greece
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am 30. Januar 2000
"The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets" by Barbara G. Walker begins with the misleading advertisement Honored by the London Times Educational Supplement (TES) as 1986 "Book of the Year". In reality the TES of December 26, 1986 shows on page 10 that the book was a personnel recommendation from a Mr. Russel Hobson. It was in no way honored by the TES.The book is a unique collection of falsified citations, sloppy and biased information: Example for sloppy information: Page 263: <<Countries bore the names of female ancestors or of other manifestations of the Goddess: Libya, Lydia, Russia, Anatolia, Latium, Holland, China, Ionia, Akkad, Chaldea, Scotland (Scotia), Ireland (Eriu, Hera) were but a few.>> Comment: In The Encyclopaedia Britannica (1993, vol. 7, p. 336, Libya) we read: The Greeks designated most of North Africa west of the Nile Libya, deriving the name from a tribe living in eastern Cyrenaica during the 2nd millennium BC. AND: In (1993, vol. 26, p. 962, Russia) it says: There is little reason to doubt the predominant role of the Varangian Rus in the creation of the state to which they gave their name. AND: In (1993, vol. 28, p. 920, Turkey and Ancient Anatolia) we read: Turkmen tribes invaded the ancient region of Anatolia (a name derived from the Greek word anatole, "sunrise"; i. e. eastern land)... AND: In (1993, vol. 6, p. 7, Holland) we learn: The name Holland was derived from the region around Dordrecht, which was known as Holtland ("Wooden Land"). AND: In (1993, vol. 1, p. 192, Akkad) we can read: The name Akkad was taken from the city of Agade... AND: About Scotland The Encyclopaedia Britannica (1993, vol. 29, p. 103, United Kingdom) has to say: The name Scotland derives from the Scots, a Celtic people from Ireland who settled on the west coast in about the 5th century. The name Caledonia has often been applied to Scotland, especially in poetry. It is derived from the Roman name, Caledonii, of a tribe in the northern part of what is now Scotland. SO: Apparently quite a few continents and countries received their names without any connections to a female anceststor or a goddess.Example for falsified citation: Page 27: <<Ambrosia "Supernatural red wine" of Mother Hera, which gave the Greek gods immortality. (Reference: Graves, G. M. 1, p. 118). In the Vedas it was soma, in Persia haoma, in Egypt sa: always associated with the moon and the maternal "blood of life," i. e., menstrual blood. (Reference: Budge, G. E. 2, p. 298; Hartley, p. 231). Comment: In Graves we read: Zeus's nectar, which the later mythographers described as a supernatural red wine, was, in fact a primitive brown mead; and ambrosia, the delectable food of the gods seems to have been a porridge of barley, oil and chopped fruit... In Budge we find on p. 298: ...Saa was the personification of the intelligence, whether of a god or of a human being, and the deceased coveted the mastery over this god because he could give him the power to perceive, and to feel, and to understand. The reference Hartley has not been available for a check. SO: Ms. Walker's own references do not support her statements in any way: Saa is a god. There is no mentioning of the moon, the maternal "blood of life", or menstrual blood in connection with this god. AND: In The Encyclopaedia Britannica (1993, vol. 11, p. 3, soma) we find: soma, in ancient Indian cult worship, an unidentified plant, the juice of which was a fundamental offering of the Vedic sacrifices... AND: The Encyclopaedia Britannica (1993, vol. 5, p. 691, haoma) says: Haoma, in Zoroastrianism, sacred plant and the drink made from it. Worst of all are the text passages of discriminating nature.Examples concerning Christianity:The Gospels are forgeries (p. 48), one purpose of the apostles was to kill and eat Jesus (p. 47).Saints are being ridiculed, and their existence is questioned - although the Encyclopaedia Britannica has ample proof for their lives. Following Ms. Walker the well attested Saint Catherine did not exist (p. 149). Pudens and Pudenziana are called a "naive Christian canonization of the symbolic genitalia of Rome's God and Goddess" (p. 827) although their names derive from Latin pudens 'bashful, demure, reputable, modest'.Mary, "the mother of Jesus, an object of veneration in the Christian church since the apostolic age" (Encyclopaedia Britannica, CD Version '97) served according to Ms. Walker "as a temple maiden" or "kadesha, the equivalent of the Hindu devadasi" (p. 311, p. 480, p. 1049). Ms. Walker's definition of kadesha is "a temple harlot" or a "sacred harlot" (p. 350, p. 487, p. 836, p. 973). According to the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition, a "harlot" is a "prostitute". Examples concerning Judaism:Deborah, Hebrew judge and prophetess, is confused with Jael, "possibly the same one patriarchal Persians called Jahi the Whore, an earlier feminine form of Yahweh." (p. 217). On p. 407 of Ms. Walker's book Deborah is made a priestess of [the Canaanite goddess] Asherah. On p. 459 Deborah serves as a mate of the [Canaanite] scapegoat-god, Baal-Gad. Why Deborah, judge and prophetess, a strong believer in the Lord, was a priestess of Asherah and mated to the scapegoat-god remains unexplained. And why Yahweh, the supreme deity of Judaism, should have the earlier name 'Jahi the Whore' is enigmatic. The Hebrew name Kohen or Cohen for hereditary priests derives according to Ms. Walker from Greek 'kuon' dog (p. 241). If one believes Greek dictionaries Greek 'dog' is 'kyon'. And in The Encyclopaedia Britannica (1993, vol. 3, p. 434, cohen) we find: cohen, also spelled Kohen (Hebrew: "priest")... On p. 464 Jews have cannibalistic sacraments.According to Ms. Walker Jews executed Jesus (p. 225) but the New Testament reports that Jesus was executed by Roman soldiers (Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, John 19).Horst G. Morgenbrod
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am 10. Mai 1999
While this work is well organized, the content is taken completely out of context and matched with unrelated materials throughout. At times the author will make leaps from pre-history to classical inorder to make her point...there is a obviose adgenda at work. I found myself raising my eyebrows and thinking "where did she get that conclusion...," so I decided to look up some of her referances and may of them don't match (not to mention I have trouble with anyone relying on other encyclopedic matterials to support their own....depth cannot be achieved). This is a fun read, but I would be highly suspicious of anyone using it for anything with substance. I felt she was streching scholarship to support a belief system of her own - a dangerous business to be in.
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am 25. November 1999
You know, it's amazing that the worst review here is by a man. This book isn't for everyone, yet, as a whole, I found it empowering, enlightening and a great source of previously unacknowledged actions of patriarchal societies.
Yes, it's biased. Yes, the author makes assumptions, but it's absolutely amazing how many times I disagreed with her statements, but had the intense sensation of seeing truth. Being a pagan myself I understand intimately the persecution of godess worshipers & predjudices of christian sects.
am 4. März 1999
As someone who has a passion for mythology, I was quite excited about The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. Unfortunately, as any careful reader versed in mythology and/or history will soon discover, this "scholarly" book is actually a collection of supposition, opinion tossed off as fact, flights of fancy, and misinterpreted quotations (many from spurious sources). Indeed, the book is so full of supposition and error that hardly a page is left unblemished.
The author seems more interested in pushing a radical feminist agenda than in presenting and analyzing myths and historical facts. She consequently creates a history for which there is little or no evidence, and one in which there is a woman lurking behind every rock and tree. The author invents her own etymological system as proof that a god worshiped in one corner of the world must have originally been a goddess from another corner of the world--never mind that one may have been in Rome and the other on a south sea island! Her word play often becomes so silly as to be almost insulting to the reader's intelligence. Example:
Mare Nostrum: "Our sea," or "our mother"; Roman title of the Mediterranean, or "middle-of-the-Earth Sea." All seas were maria, "Marys," symbolized by the Goddess in her blue robe, sometimes a mer-maid (literally, Sea-Virgin) often named Aphrodite Marina. See Mary."
Huh? What a jumble of nonsense! Where did the mother connection come from ["Mother" in Latin is mater or genetrix]? Also note how "mare" (sea) jumps to maria (?) and from there to "Mary". Of course, the Biblical Mary "the Goddess in her blue robe" takes her name from Miriam, but facts don't matter when you're goddess hunting. And where mermaids enter the picture, I don't know.
Speaking of Biblical, the author very obviously holds a strong disdain for the church and her words often border on vitriolic. She even goes so far as to let Nero off the hook and blames the burning of Rome on Christians. In fact, the depraved and insane Nero was the first to offer this explanation (much as Hitler blamed Germany's woes on the Jews) and the Romans, rather than buying it, ran him out of town.
To the author, Christianity is simply another anti-woman myth, but her attempts at proof often fail miserably because of her poor scholarship. When she isn't missing the obvious point of a verse, she's making up new "facts" to support her thesis. For example, on page 470 she states that "..Herod also made a sacred marriage, and had John the Baptist slain as a surrogate for himself." Nowhere in the New Testament does it state that Herod "made a sacred marriage," and John the Baptist, as every Sunday school child knows, was killed at the request of Salome [who isn't named in the Bible, but is named by the ancient historian Josephus] as a prize for her dance. Indeed, the entire chapter under "Jesus Christ" is so full of errors that it would take an entire essay to debunk them all. For example, the author proclaims that the darkness during Jesus' crucifixion mentioned in Luke 23:44 was caused by an eclipse, though Luke doesn't say that and no other source for this opinion is cited. Having established this straw man "fact" of an eclipse, she then delves once again into Christian bashing: "In their ignorance of astronomical phenomena, Christians claimed that the moon was full at the same time."
Ever on the lookout for nefarious woman-suppressing Christians, the author is willing to misinterpret just about any Biblical story or verse that comes her way. In a well-known story from Mark, Jesus curses a fig tree for not producing fruit for him out-of-season (meaning that Christians are to be ever watchful for the coming of their lord and willing to bear spiritual fruit at all times). But the author ignores the obvious to further her own agenda, stating that "The story probably was intended to express hostility to a well-known goddess-symbol." [p.307]
In another chapter, she claims that Revelation 1:8 ["I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.] was originally a reference to Medusa (!). The path by which she arrives at this preposterous conclusion is so convoluted as to be almost comical [see "Medusa", p. 629]
Of course, when she isn't Christian bashing, the author is male bashing, and the practices of any society deemed as "patriarchal" are condemned carte blanche. Ancient Greece and Rome are favorite targets, and their statesmen and gods are treated as usurpers. Even the months aren't spared. Thus August is no longer named after Caesar Augustus, as history records, but for "...the oracular Juno Augusta." [p.79] January is no longer named for the god Janus (god of endings and beginnings) but for Juno [p. 461]. Then, in typical fashion, the author plays yet another silly name game to "prove" once again Christianity's pagan, goddess-usurping role in all this: "[Janus] was another form of the Petra, pater, or Peter, keeper of the keys to the Goddess's Pearly Gate."
To fully debunk this book would require a volume three times the book's size and I am already nearing the 1000-word limit for a review. Suffice it to say that The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets is so full of mistakes, fallacies and distortions that it borders on being a hoax.
am 26. Januar 1999
This book was not created by a professional scholar, but a "professional researcher" whatever that means. It stands on the "Myth of the Burning Times" when this is all it is, a MYTH. When you use this book as source material, you are giving yourself over to questionable, refutable evidence. This book should be listed under "popular" or "New Age" history, for it misleads the reader to believe that women have practiced paganism and witchcraft from time immemorial;it tells women that they were innocent victims and helpless bodies of torture and death throughout Western Civilization. Not only is this unheartening, it simply isn't true. Always question what you read and check the source material. Apparently, Ms. Walker has grossly failed to do so. This book is not a classic, it is classically wrong!