Author Archives: Max Dashú

The Meanings of Goddess – Part 3

Essentialism or Essence? Out from the land of theory

by Max Dashú

I am the incomprehensible silence
And the memory that will not be forgotten
I am the voice whose sound is everywhere
And the speech that appears in many forms
I am the utterance of my own name

Thunder, Perfect Mind, Nag Hammadi
Scriptures, circa 200 CE

They have lost sight of the Mystery.

For at least twenty years the Goddess movement has been assailed as “essentialist” by post-modernist theorists. They mean that an innate female essence is being claimed, in a biological determinism and rigid gender categorization. Alison Stone is not alone in noting that “within academic writing the charge of essentialism is used in a very adversarial way, as an allegation of the worst crime.” [“What is essentialism?” Online: http://www.lancs.ac.uk/staff/twine/ecofem/essentialism.html (Link no longer available November 2015] Some theorists even equate talking about “women” with gender “essentialism,” although it is not biology but historical, cultural, political, social developments and patterns that are being discussed.

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The Meanings of Goddess – Part 1

Max Dashu, the Suppressed Histories Archives

So much confusion has been sown about goddess veneration. Resistance to seeing any sacral value in ancient female icons has been a particular sticking point in academia. There, emphasis is usually placed on theoretical frameworks that seem to ignore the sense of sacredness that pervades aboriginal cultures. And there has been fundamental misunderstanding of what the Women’s Spirituality movement means when we speak of Goddess or goddesses. These are some of my reflections on these gaps and what needs to be clarified.

Goddess is a contested word today. In popular culture it has been totally desacralized, disrespected, stripped down and trivialized. People talk about a sex goddess (movie star) or a diva, which is Italian for “goddess”— but used mostly to describe singers with overinflated egos. It’s hardly a reverent term. It has no cultural standing of its own in mainstream society.

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The Meanings of Goddess – Part 2

Max Dashu, the Suppressed Histories Archives

Goddess Heresies: the legacies of stigma in academia

The controversy over goddess figurines, and whether they should be so called, illustrates the chasm between spiritual feminists and most of academia. We especially need to look at the conflicting values and agendas that come into play when we discuss what “goddess” meant in historical context. Saying “goddess” causes nervous discomfort, whether out of fears of superstitious fantasy or political threat or cultural illegitimacy or out-and-out blasphemy. The interpretations offered by scientistic positivists, Marxists, orthodox theologians, post-structuralists have many differences, but in one respect they are similar. They don’t like to hear goddess talk, and especially don’t want to hear that it has any political significance.

I would like to turn the lens around to face this aversion, and trace the Western academic allergy to anything “goddess” back to its historical origins in the Catholic Church. The first professors were doctors of the Church, whose doctrine shaped all fields of study, and governed what could be said and thought.

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