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The Goddess.
Shahrukh Husain. 
Macmillan 1997.  Pb. 9.95.


This book is in the Living Wisdom series, for which the anthropologist Piers Vitebsky is consultant. All the books in the series are worth looking at (we have reviewed Vitebsky’s own Shamanism (
see review of the books on Shamans). They have semi-stiff covers, and have many colour illustrations, as well as considerable text. They are similar in some respects to Thames and Hudson’s Art and Imagination (or Art and Cosmos) series, but with more text and smaller illustrations. 

It is good to have a book on the goddess in this series. It is filled with information, though much of it will already be known to our readers, and the illustrations make it especially valuable. There are a fair number of errors, not fatal in a popular book, but worrying. The reference to a “temple of Artemis in Despoina” may be due to a misprint — Despoina is a title, not a place — and she writes of the Amazons as if they were clearly real women, with a name meaning ‘breastless’, although both these views are very much disputed. She has a background as a psychotherapist, and often sees the therapeutic interpretation of myths as the primary one, though she does not insist that it is the only one. It may also be this background which leads her to emphasise the ‘virgin, mother, crone’ triplicity, despite the many objections that have been raised to this classification. But unlike many other writers with this view, she also sees the independent sexual life of the goddess, and not just her fertility role. What I particularly like about this book are her general comments. She points out very clearly that the goddess is both one and many. And it is really refreshing to find her writing “In modern Goddess worship the construction of a glorious female past, however historically inaccurate, is seen as a legitimate exercise in fantasy and myth-making for the purpose of self-empowerment — a role that myth and the power of the imagination have played since the dawn of human consciousness.” Other authors would benefit by such insights as these, which are frequent in her book. Overall, the information, illustrations, and insights, combined with a comparatively low price, make this a welcome addition to the many goddess books now available. 

Wood and Water 62, Spring 1998
© Daniel Cohen

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