Reviewed by Jacqui Woodward-Smith
Cheryl Straffon: Daughters of the Earth – Goddess Wisdom for a Modern Age (O Books)
‘Daughters of the Earth’ is the latest offering from the prolific Cheryl Straffon, editor of ‘Goddess Alive!’ and ‘Meyn Mamvro’ magazines and author of books such as ‘The Earth Goddess’ and ‘Pagan Cornwall – Land of the Goddess’. This new offering is a wonderful addition to these, pulling together many of the ideas contained within them and bringing fresh insight and understanding.
The book is divided into eight chapters, each one dedicated to a festival in the Wheel of the Year, beginning with Samhain and ending rooted in the earth at Autumn Equinox. You might think that you have read many such books before but I can only say that, as someone who has indeed read many books on the festivals, I found something new and exciting in each chapter.
What makes this book different is Cheryl’s breadth of knowledge and experience, combining myth and folklore, knowledge of the goddesses, plants, and practices involved in each festival, and giving an account of the very personal rituals devised and performed by the women’s group that she is part of. She also includes wonderful information from archaeology, anthropology, and science to weave a beautiful web of Goddess-centred inspiration for each one of us. I certainly skipped about with excitement when I read about the Cave of Cats at Rathcroghan in Ireland, and Melangell, the (maybe) Goddess of Hares, in Wales and will definitely be making further investigations into both. That is the beauty of this book; that it seems like a gentle read until some snippet of information hits you right between the eyes!
Throughout Cheryl’s humour and passion for all things Goddess shine through, particularly in her writing about archaeology, folklore, and the landscape, making it in many ways a very personal exploration of the festivals and their meaning that any of us could draw deeply from. Its beauty is in its breadth, from the Palaeolithic and Neolithic to the present day, drawing in goddesses and folklore from all cultures, which begins to bring home to the reader just what an abundant path we follow; there is always more to discover, more to experience, and new ways to look at things. There is no dogma here, no lists of what to do or what to believe; just the excitement of a writer who has dedicated her life to the Goddess and that must be celebrated.