Rosemary Radford Ruether

in Goddesses and the Divine Feminine

Published by University of California Press

Published in print May 2005 | ISBN: 9780520231467
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520940413 | DOI:

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This book deals with goddesses of the ancient Near East and Greece. It expresses a critique of theories of ancient matriarchy, while at the same time affirming the movements that seek to reinterpret those roots today for a feminist-ecological spirituality. It looks at four major goddesses of the ancient Mediterranean world: Inanna/Ishtar, Anat, Isis, and Demeter; it explores how goddesses and female symbols of the divine functioned in two major movements that sought religious salvation in the context of Greco-Roman society, the mystery religions and gnosticism; it traces female symbols in early Christianity from the first to the fourth century; it describes the world of sixteenth-century Europe, in the German context of the Reformation, where the most extensive effort of patriarchal Christianity to repress all female symbols of the divine took place; and it comments on contested gender identities which took a more strident form with the emergence of feminism in nineteenth-century western Europe and America.

Keywords: Near East; goddesses; feminism; Greece; matriarchy; spirituality; mystery religions; gnosticism; female symbols; Christianity

Chapter.  4466 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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