Dexter, Miriam Robbins. Whence the goddesses : a source book. (New York : Pergamon Press, 1990.) bibl., index., ill.
ISBN: 0080372813

If you read one source on the history of goddesses in religion, this is the one to read. The author, Miriam Dexter is a serious and scholarly anthropologist, which is what makes this volume both impressive and useful. Avoiding the controversial theories about why religions changed over time, she confines herself to facts and clearly labelled deductions and conclusions. A careful reader can easily discern the fact from the theory, and interpretations from both.

Dexter divides her text into three parts, the first on ancient/neolithic female and male centered theologies, the second on goddesses in post neolithic cultures (Latvian & Lithuanian, Slavic, Iranian, Indic, Irish & Welsh, Germanic, Greek, and Roman), and finally a section on the energies associated with goddess functions. Though each chapter is very short (over half the book is taken up by the references), and each goddess treatment is very generalized and concisely written, the book includes an enormous amount of information. The author's object is to produce a sourcebook of 'motifs', recurring goddess themes, as well as a broad overview of goddess myth.

Though readers may find the laconic style a bit tantalizing, the appetites thus whetted may be satisfied by reference to the enormous wealth of endnotes, references, and glossary. An excellent index covers most of the goddesses, though not their attributes. Illustrations in the chapter headings are not comprehensive but do add to the attractiveness of the book.


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