by Trevor Greenfield
There are a lot of books out there that speak about the Goddess in her many forms, but The Goddess in America looks at the Goddess from a specific viewpoint: that of the American. Speaking as an American, we have a national identity that is one of cultural melting pot. With many Goddesses being closely entwined with the culture and lands they belong to, it can be hard to find the right Goddess to connect with.
One thing I really like about this book is that it talks about some very hard subjects right from the start. While not everyone who works with Goddesses is Pagan, I am, and I do find that I am drawn to connect with not only the land I live in, but also the land where my ancestors are from, and even sometimes cultures to which I have no historic or blood ties, but rather a deep spiritual connection that I want to explore.
But for many people, this is a very touchy thing. Many people feel that in many ways, deities belong to a culture, and that those who are not steeped in the culture will not be able to fully understand or properly work with them.
Unfortunately, this leaves many of us in a place with no deities of our own. While I am half-Chinese, I wasn't raised in the Chinese culture. So what do are we to do, those of us who feel a calling, or are drawn to different Goddesses?
This book seeks to offer up different perspectives on how this may be approached. It examines the many ways that Goddess manifests in America and to Americans, and the ways in which Americans may connect with her.
The book itself is divided into four main sections. The first deals with Goddesses native to the land. The second looks at Goddesses that we may be tied to through our ancestry, and how their worship followed the people who came to this country. Then there is a section on how different categories of people might relate to the Goddess. And finally a look at how our modern viewpoint has changed how we approach the Goddess.
Each section offers several articles that give different perspectives and insights into how people are working with and understanding the Goddess. The reader is offered not only basic information, but food for thought. They are invited to consider their own thoughts on things and how the different visions of the Goddess might manifest in their own life, and what influences she may be drawing from.
When thinking about Goddesses native to the land, there is a lot of history to work through. But for many of us, this is our home, this land is the only land we have ever called home. The Goddesses who were here before our ancestors may call to us and we may not know how to respond or where to look for more information. The articles in this section offer an introduction, not only to some of the Goddess stories, but also the role they played in the lives of the people who worshiped them.
I enjoyed that South America was not forgotten either. I feel that the influence of Goddesses from South America reaches up and touches us through the people who have immigrated North, and these Goddesses embody part of what I feel is the spirit of America.
The section on migrating Goddesses starts with an article that looks at cultural appropriation, which I feel is something that deserves more discussion. This has become a huge hot topic within the Pagan community, and as it is expressed in this book I think it highlights one of the biggest issues that is often overlooked when people talk about appropriation.
I definitely identify as American, and I think that is a sort of culture all it's own, but I wasn't raised with strong cultural ties beyond that. By many cultural appropriation arguments, I have no rights to any cultural deities because I don't have those cultural roots. This is not a standpoint that I agree with at all.
I think we all are called by many different things, and it is through exploring where we are drawn to that we find the deeper meaning that makes our lives full and uniquely our own. What I really loved about this article on cultural appropriation is that it addresses the fact that we, as Americans, might not have any strong cultural upbringing, and yet may feel a need to explore cultures that we have blood ties too or deities that live in the lands we live. In light of that, the article offers up suggestions on how to explore Goddesses and cultures in a way that is respectful.
Another very deep question that is explored in this section is whether or not Goddesses themselves can migrate. Can we feel the presence of them in a land that is not their own? Do they travel with their people as they moved? This is something that I don't think has an ultimate answer, but many people feel the presence of Goddesses that originated elsewhere very strongly here in America.
I found the next section really interesting. I think that it can be hard for many people to start working with Goddesses because we live in such a masculine centered world. Many of us grew up only knowing of divinity in a male form. We may struggle to find our connection to the Goddess, or think that Goddess is a little woo-woo.
These articles explore several different ways for people to understand the Goddess in her many faces. And I really appreciate that they look at the Goddess in more than just a spiritual light. The Goddess has been a symbol used politically as well as psychologically, and there are a lot of really good ideas and concepts that center around these aspects of Goddess. I also like that Goddess spirituality is explored from different religious standpoints, so people who identify as Christian but still are drawn to the Goddess are offered ways in which they can connect to the divine feminine without stepping outside their faith.
In some ways, I think the final chapter might be the most controversial, especially for many modern Pagans. Pop culture crosses some lines that many Pagans have fought very hard to draw. We want our beliefs and practices to be taken seriously, and it can be hard sometimes to explain how ancient beliefs and modern culture can work with each other and don't have to be at odds.
One thing I found particularly fascinating was looking at the usage of the word Goddess in reference to non-traditional deities. Specifically, naming women (whether they are alive or important figures in history) as Goddesses. This is another place that I think has no absolute answers, there is no hard right or wrong way to use the label Goddess.
The book finishes off with a look at nine amazing women in American history, what their role was, and how you might work with them. I think it was a very powerful highlight of the role women have played in America but also how we can see the women around us as embodying different aspects of the Goddess. It provides a framework for working with other historical heroes that you might be drawn towards.
I think The Goddess in America is a unique book that explores a lot of ideas about working with Goddesses as an American, but even more than that, I think it can be used as a launching point for anyone seeking to explore connections that they have with the Goddess in whatever form they experience her in. It is thought provoking and encourages you to really examine what you believe and why, and to think about how you can embrace the Goddess as she calls to you. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in the Goddess, especially if you are struggling to figure out how to connect to a Goddess that may have originated far away or from a culture that is not your own.