Monday, September 20, 2010

Virgin Mother Goddesses of Antiquity

by Marguerite Rigoglioso. (Palgrave MacMillan, 2010)

I have not yet seen this book, it's coming out at the end of September 2010. It's the second book by this author, who also wrote The Cult of Divine Birth in Ancient Greece. My interview with her about Virgin Birth can be heard at
There's another podcast about her new book at
Marguerite has forwarded a press release and the table of contents for the new book. - FW


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 16, 2010


Palgrave Macmillan announces the release of the pioneering new book Virgin Mother Goddesses of Antiquity by Marguerite Rigoglioso.

Various goddesses of the ancient Mediterranean world were once understood to be Virgin Mothers––creators who birthed the entire cosmos without need of a male consort. This is the first book to explore evidence of the original parthenogenetic power of deities such as Athena, Hera, Artemis, Gaia, Demeter, Persephone, and the Gnostic Sophia. It provides stunning feminist insights about the deeper meaning of related stories, such as the judgment of Paris, the labors of Heracles, and the exploits of the Amazons. It also roots the Thesmophoria and Eleusinian Mysteries in female parthenogenetic power, thereby providing what is at long last a coherent understanding of these mysterious rites.
"An original piece of scholarship that dares to imagine traditions at the foundation of Western culture in an entirely new light."
–– Gregory Shaw, author of Theurgy and the Soul: The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus

Marguerite Rigoglioso, Ph.D., is a member of the faculties of Dominican University of California, the California Institute of Integral Studies, and the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, where she teaches courses on women and religion. Her pioneering research on female deities and women’s religious leadership in the ancient Mediterranean world and beyond has appeared in various anthologies and journals, including Feminist Theology, The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature, Societies of Peace, She Is Everywhere, Trivia, and the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, where her paper on the cult of Demeter and Persephone in Sicily received an honorable mention for the New Scholar Award. She is also the editor of Where to Publish Articles on Women’s Studies, Feminist Religious Studies, and Feminist/Womanist Topics.

A detailed table of contents follows:


In the Beginning: Chaos, Nyx, and Ge/Gaia

Athena/Neith/Metis: Primordial Creatrix of Self-Replication
Neith as an Autogenetic Deity
Identification of Metis and Neith
The Greek Athena's Roots in North Africa
The Relationship of Neith/Metis/Athena to the Libyan Amazons
The Grecization of Neith/Athena and Her Cult

Artemis: Virgin Mother of the Wild, Patron of Amazons
Artemis as Creatrix
Artemis and Her Mother, Leto
Artemis's Connection with Athena/Neith
Artemis and the Amazons
Artemis as Parthenos

Hera: Virgin Queen of Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld
Mythological Evidence for Hera as a Great Goddess
Evidence at Samos for Hera as a Virgin Mother
Evidence at Argos for Hera as a Virgin Mother
Hera's Parthenogenetic Birth of Ares, Hephaestus, and Typhon
Hera as Guardian of Parthenogenetic Secrets
Hera, the Hesperides, and the Apples of Parthenogenesis
"Judgment of Paris" as Loss of Parthenogenetic Power
Heracles as Foe of Parthenogenesis
The Lernaean Hydra
The Nemean Lion
The Ceryneian Stag
The Oxen of Geryones and Stymphalian Birds
The Belt of Hippolyte
The Apples of the Hesperides

Demeter and Persephone: Double Goddesses of Parthenogenesis
Older Roots for Demeter as Great Goddess
Who Was Persephone?
Signs of Parthenogenesis in the Demeter/Persephone Mythologem
Reconstruction of the Demeter/Persephone Mythologem: Pure Parthenogenesis Interrupted
Persephone as Holy Parthenos
Persephone's Connection with Virgin Mother Goddesses
Persephone's Connection with Weaving
Persephone's Connection with the Bee
Persephone's Connection with the Pomegranate
Persephone's Connection with Flower Gathering
Persephone's Parthenogenetically Related Title
Persephone as Paradigmatic Raped Virgin Mother
Persephone as Virgin Mother of the God's "Double"
Persephone as Virgin Mother of (the) Aeon
As Above, So Below: The Appropriation of Divine Birth Priestesshoods
Daughters of Danaus as Divine Birth Priestesses
The Melissai of Paros as Divine Birth Priestesses
Metanaera of Eleusis as a Basilinna
Metanaera's Daughters as Divine Birth Priestesses
Divine Genealogies of Legendary Founders:
The Advent of Dionysus and Hieros Gamos in the Eleusinian Tradition
Degeneration of Esoteric Knowledge: Demophoön's Failed Immortalization
The Great Beneficence of Demeter: Making the Best of a Patriarchal Situation
The Thesmophoria: Known Fragments
Thesmophoria as Commemoration of Pure Parthenogenesis
Matriarchal, Amazonian Elements in the Rite
The Centrality of Chastity/Virginity
Bawdy Joking and Inner Tantra
Friendliness Toward the Pomegranate
Entering an Altered State of Consciousness
Altered-State Ascents and Descents
Pursuit, Penalty, and Beautiful Birth
The Eleusinian Mysteries: Known Fragments
The Lesser Mysteries
The Greater Mysteries
The Eleusinian Mysteries as Cosmic Rape and Birth of the God
Female Origins of the Rite
Entering Altered-State Reality
Being Raped: The Dildo of Descent
Baubo as Dildo
Grieving for the Matriarchy
Witnessing the Divine Birth
Uniting (with) the Ineffable

CHAPTER 6 by Angeleen Campra
Sophia: Divine Generative Virgin
Sophia as Bridge to an Older Paradigm
Sophia of the Valentinian Cosmogony
Summary of the Valentianian Creation Story
Parthenogenesis in Sophia's Story
Sophia in The Thunder: Perfect Mind
Parthenogenetic References in Thunder
Parthenogenetic References in Other Gnostic Texts
Wisdom as the Ability to Generate Life –– Parthenogenetically
The Legacy of the Loss of Female Parthenogenetic Power

For more about the author and her works, check this site:

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Rupert Murdoch vs. feminist writing: Vicki Noble

The following statement by Vicki Noble was written in the context of a discussion about how it has come to be that right-wing women in the US have appropriated the term "feminist." She gives a chilling insight into the difficulty of disseminating radical feminist writings and voices today. - FW

Yes, all wonderful questions—why indeed are there apparently no radical feminists speaking out these days in America, speaking to the younger women, writing books and communicating? I believe my personal experience almost certainly serves to generalize about the process by which our voices have been eliminated from the larger public discourse in this country.

In 1994, Rupert Murdoch bought HarperSanFrancisco, thus temporarily ending the long publishing careers of many early Bay Area feminist authors and creative artists (myself, Judy Grahn, Starhawk, for example). At that moment, all our most well-known classic books began, unceremoniously, to be put out of print. It’s not that we didn’t fight this, but I’m afraid it was a done deal. (Each of us has resurrected over the years, so I’m not whining, we’re all continuing to do our work—I’m just telling you the history, which for many people is unknown.) An excellent article in [The Nation] Magazine in the late 1990s, called “The Corporatization of Publishing,”* articulated the widespread negative effects of this phenomenon on a much larger (global) scale. (Independent bookstores, distributors, and publishers went out of business, along with individual artists.)

In case you might think this was subtle or negotiable in any way, or that I’m overstating the case, I’ll give you a blatant example of how direct the message was to us: In 1997, an editor at Three Rivers Press (an offshoot of Random House) told me, after publishing a book on Motherpeace and in response to a subsequent book proposal, “If you take the Goddess and the kundalini out of it, we might be able to publish it.” Since it was a book on ecstatic healing in the Goddess tradition, I’ll leave it to you to decide whether that could have even been possible for me to do (had I been interested in selling my soul so directly to the corporation).

During the same period of time (late 1990s), I stopped being invited to teach at places like Omega Institute in New York, I think because my radical feminist message is too “confrontational” in comparison to some of the new mainstream and corporate women who jumped on the Goddess bandwagon and began to produce and attend workshops and conferences for women (Women of Power; Women, Money, and Power; etc.). Groups like “Gather the Women” emerged with conferences on what they publicized as the brand new notion of women coming together to make changes in the world. Now the public commercial centers for growth and “new age” teachings can offer events for women without rocking the boat, offending anyone, or requiring any profound transformation or change (especially to social structures or capitalism). It was an effective marketing strategy. The success of this overall strategy can be seen in the emerging numbers of women who are excited, apparently, about having discovered that their gender gives them a step up the ladder right now—-while working actively in support of patriarchal corporate, capitalist and mainstream religious values and goals (i.e. They work against reproductive rights and threaten the gains we made three decades ago, they cut social services and gut social programs that feminists established in the 1970s, and they keep their eye on the money).

Even NPR (National Public Radio) has recently admitted that it no longer ascribes to its original mission of providing alternative programming to the mainstream. They have their marketing strategy too! Yoga Journal went mainstream in the last decade, changing its look and shortening its articles to please some imagined public that no longer has the attention span to read something thought-provoking.

We’re simply watching global capitalism do what capitalism has always done: It rapaciously sucks up everything interesting or profitable, turns it inside-out in the usual patriarchal mode of colonization and appropriation, and then spews it back out at us in a pseudo form that we can buy. Anything that holds to its original purpose or integrity is relentlessly denied or viciously stamped out, erased, made invisible. Anyone who can’t be bought just disappears from the public arena.

So—-where did all the feminists go? Well, I’d say we’re all still here, getting older but holding our own, disseminating our wisdom where we can, rocking the boat whenever possible, passing on our genes and our ideas, and always, ALWAYS, creating new forms that respond to the real needs of our communities.

A great and positive example of this creative feminist work behind the scenes is the steady building of the Matriarchal Studies and Gift Economy movements in the last decade. This creative international coalition of feminist activists, Goddess scholars, and indigenous healers, elders, and leaders who come together periodically to discuss, analyze, distill, and refine the discourse on Matriarchal Studies (thanks to Gen and Heide** and their pioneering leadership) is thrilling. It is one of the obvious places where the unstoppable underground stream of female intelligence is again springing up to the surface and taking form.

Perhaps we can begin to take some actions and make some international headway by speaking back (organizationally) to some of these emerging mainstream pseudo-feminists and celebrity political women who are being thrust in our face by the media. I’m up for it.

Love, Vicki

=========author note============
A bibliography of works by Vicki Noble appears with her Wikipedia entry at . Note that the article on her is currently rather slight - perhaps those who know her work would like to add to it. - FW


*The article appeared in The Nation June 3, 1996, and its author, publishing veteran André Schiffrin, also published a related memoir: The Business of Books: How the International Conglomerates Took Over Publishing and Changed the Way We Read (2000).

** Genevieve Vaughan; and Dr. Heide Göttner-Abendroth, Director of International Academy HAGIA.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

On The Farm, Robert William Pickton and the Tragic Story of Vancouver’s Missing Women

by Stevie Cameron (Knopf Canada, August 20, 2010: 768 pages)

With the Pickton serial murder case no longer under appeal, the publication ban is off, and Knopf Canada has released Stevie Cameron's book about the case. A government investigation of the handling of the case has now been promised. Cameron is best known for her investigative books about political corruption in Canada. One of the first to read and review On the Farm is Lee Lakeman. Here is her review:

In On The Farm, Robert Pickton and the Tragic Story of Vancouver’s Missing and Murdered Women, Stevie Cameron relays many details of the conviction of Robert Pickton for murdering and butchering six women and the likelihood that he killed fifty: poor, mostly prostituted, women, one third of whom were Aboriginal. She catalogues a decade of data into one readable narrative that some will see as encyclopedic, though it relies almost totally on the official versions, constructed by the police, the courts, the commercial media, local governments and the harm reduction networks involved.

Cameron includes simple biographies from the hierarchy of characters who usually define these issues and authorize these versions: mostly johns, pimps, wife beaters, boyfriends, sugar daddies, rapists, prosecutors, defense lawyers, handlers, reporters, police and politicians and those charged by the state or community services as ‘victim assistance’ or ‘harm reduction” workers to destitute women. Of Pickton, we get the cliché: he had a horrible mother and childhood and he is motivated by revenge against a prostitute he described as thieving and dangerous. Cameron seems not to notice the sex bias. She contradicts no authority.

Some compassion for individuals at risk or under pressure warms the bare facts but chafes against her over abundant regard for the professional (class) credentials of the hundreds activated after women are harmed or dead. We get many of their cv’s. But their credentials would not have saved us. Throughout, she seems to accept the current social relations that lead us to this colossal legal and social failure. No substantial investigative reporting here only those admissions that authorities have already packaged into their next demand (as in the 2005 Vancouver Police Review that insists it would all be over if we had a regional police force and a nicer attitude to “sex workers”). It is as though the material racism, class biases and sex discrimination are solved.

She reminds us that the murdered women were trapped but she understands that trap as the personal mistake they made of choosing boyfriends and husbands that introduced them to vicious drugs and the mistake they made of getting into the killer’s car. The violence, poverty and racism they suffered previously, the refusal of authorities to interfere with the men who preceded him or with Pickton’s pre murderous activity goes unconnected. She concludes only that “we do not know if women are safer”.

Women suffer hideous abuse including prostitution, disappear and die at the hands of men every year in every major city in Canada. Aboriginal women remain especially vulnerable. Women live without adequate incomes, social services or advocacy. The criminal law is applied in a discriminatory fashion that sustains male violence. The statistics are not even disputed anymore. But that hierarchical status quo maintains hundreds if not thousands of women in prostituted squalor and binds together three groups of women: Pickton’s dead, those still prostituted, and millions of other women in Canada. They are bound into a disadvantaged class that lacks adequate social and legal intervention, documentation or protection from violence against women. Cameron’s narrative, absent as it is of any other stated intention, upholds an unacceptable status quo in which fifty women or more went to their deaths.

No experts on the equality obligations of states to women, no police civilian oversight experts or media monitors or Aboriginal women or anti-violence feminists are consulted interviewed or quoted for expertise. Is there no need to change that hierarchy?

Nor did Stevie Cameron give voice to a single escaped victim although she does relay two second hand stories of the anonymous women she calls Jane Doe and Sandra Gail Ringwald. The first is a name given to half a skull found in a local slough in 1995 that leaves us to worry how long ago Pickton began killing. The second is the story of a woman who survived in 1997, reported Pickton to authorities, but was left to protect herself from further violence. Case dismissed. The attempt to murder her never did result in a case, even of solicitation. Eliminating her evidence from the Pickton murder case accounting for the missing women prevented his conviction of first degree murder by blinding the court to the extent of his evil planning.

The book confirms the mind-numbing bigotry and ignorance of individuals with the criminal justice system but more importantly, the common ideology underpinning our institutions and their functionaries: women are not trusted as victims or witnesses, are deemed unreliable, exaggerating their plight and in themselves dangerous, unworthy of the protection of law. Poverty is constructed as individual responsibility separate from race and sex. In praising tiny accommodations and kindnesses (like the lunch passes for those at court or the tent supplied by the police so the families could see the killing fields) and in refusing to rage against the status quo, the book seems to accept the steady application of social and legal policy that replicates these deadly horrors over and over again.

Prostitution remains unchallenged as an activity of men as though women don’t mind and are not at risk or harmed. Like most women’s legal and social complaints of men’s sexual violence, prostitution is not treated like a serious crime. Only weeks after an apologetic review of police failures in the Pickton case, the new police chief, challenged to explain a 20% increase in sexual assault cases excused his force by saying the cases were not “aggravated by violence” as though he didn’t know that all sexual assault was against the law and a serious transgression of the collective rights of women.

Almost all the women victimized by Pickton first suffered criminal beatings, assaults and sexual exploitation at the hands of other men, assaults either from fathers or step- fathers, husbands, boyfriends, or pimps, assaults that should have been prevented and went unpunished, that rendered the women broken and vulnerable to this deadly predator. To three women he was a “sugar daddy” who paid for wife-like duties then threatened with violence if not obeyed. Those women entered Wish Drop In and “low barrier shelters” where prostitution is talked about as a job and successfully they solicited more vulnerable women to “service” Pickton. Of these, many were disabled physically and mentally. Some were not in a state to give consent to anything.

Uncontested too is that he was known as an “ordinary john”. In spite of the law, unimpeded by police, social workers or hotel staff, Pickton solicited women on the street, in the bars where he was known and through pimps in the downtown eastside ghetto. It is likely he solicited too for the men around him at his brother’s Piggy’s Palace, in the butchery, for the truckers he employed, for the Hells Angels across the street. Such facts should give chills to those promoting a laissez fair attitude to the sex industry.

Virtually all workers against violence against women know the ongoing systemic failure to protect women from the men who abuse them including those women who offer themselves as complainants and witnesses. The failure to properly investigate, prosecute and convict, insulated Pickton in the 1997 events that Cameron tells of Ringwald. That woman, whose consent was impaired by drugs, was solicited in Vancouver, confined in Pickton’s house in Coquitlam, sexually assaulted if not raped, beaten and threatened with death. She was stabbed when she defended herself with a knife from his kitchen and although badly bleeding managed to run across the street nearly nude and still in a handcuff. She was rescued by a passing couple and hospitalized. She told. Police retrieved the key to the handcuffs from his pocket. Those in the criminal justice system judged her inadequate and themselves as helpless. They abandoned her and the case. Pickton disintegrated over the decade into his life as serial killer convicted of murdering six women, confessing to killing 49 and dreaming of killing 75. #

Lee Lakeman is a longtime Canadian frontline worker and activist, best known for her work with the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres and Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Max Dashu reviews Agora, the movie

I did not go see the film Agora - about the revered ancient female philosopher and scientist Hypatia - during its short stay in Vancouver; I was put off by the trailer, which looked artificial and pompous to me. Nevertheless, quite a few women I know did go see it in theatres. One of those is the remarkable Max Dashu, whose review (link here) goes into far more and more accurate background and detail about Hypatia than the film did. Be sure to visit and read the review and look around her website.

Quoting Max's biography from the review page:

Max Dashú is known for her expertise on ancient female iconography in world archaeology, goddess traditions, and women shamans. In 1970 she founded the Suppressed Histories Archives to research mother-right cultures, female spheres of power, and the history of their repression. Drawing on her collection of over 15,000 slides, she uses images to teach global womens' history and cultural heritages. Her critique of Cynthia Eller's The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory (2000) has been influential in opening up space for consideration of egalitarian matrilineages. (“Knocking Down Straw Dolls" (2000) republished in Feminist Theology 13.2 (2005), Sage Publications, UK)