Tag Archives: sacred feminine

The Monday Book: WHEN GOD HAD A WIFE

The Monday book comes from Paul Garrett this week.

Throughout history, deities have been both male and female; whether the Sumerian gods of Enki and Nammu, the Egyptian Isis and Osiris, or the pantheon of the Greeks and Romans. It seems Judeo-Christianity is one of the few religions with a singular male deity.

Or not.

 In When God Had A Wife, The Fall and Rise of the Sacred Feminine in the Judeo-Christian Tradition, Lynn (Bear and Company, 2019) Picknett and Clive Prince put forth the theory that this was not always so, even after the time of Jesus. Picknett and Prince relate the history of Judaism from the Egyptian enslavement through the 4th century BCE. Using the Bible and over 100 other sources, they attempt to prove that the so-called “sacred feminine” has been a major part of religious practice throughout the history of both sects.

Worship of a female goddess took many forms, until about 400 BCE when Nehemiah “discovered” the book of Deuteronomy. (Quotation marks by the authors; they posit that he actually wrote it.) Up until that time the Jews worshiped a goddess named Asherah, among others who is the female counterpart to Baal.  Asherah was a goddess of fertility and nurture. Hundreds of small Asherah statues litter ancient Jewish sites, including Jerusalem. There is some evidence that they once adorned the courtyards of the Jewish Temples. Asherah statues usually have large breasts and a prominent pubic triangle. This is not meant to be erotic. The breasts represent nurture and the pubic area creation.

The Old Testament mentions Asherah more than half a dozen times, mostly in Judges and Kings. One of the most interesting is from Judges 6:25-30 wherein the townspeople demanded the life of Gideon’s son after they found Gideon had cut down the Asherah statue.

Even though repressed by the religious elites, female worship did not go away, but took the form of Wisdom. According to the authors, the word wisdom (Sophia) in biblical writing echoes the sacred feminine, even when uttered by Christ.

In the New testament it gets more controversial. According to the authors, Jesus also had a female counterpart, Mary Magdalene, who took on the role of goddess. The Church falsely accused her of being a prostitute as a means of discrediting her. The Magdalene controversy is interesting, with some so-called Gnostic gospels, even indicating Mary was Jesus’ wife. The Church labeled the Gnostic texts heretical in the first Millennium, BCE.

The authors theorize that with Mary Magdalene out of the picture, it became clear that there was a void that needed to be filled, hence Mary, Mother of Jesus (the Madonna) was recruited to take her place, resulting in various Madonna cults arising throughout Christendom.

This is obviously a controversial topic among modern Christians. It occurs to me that only a few hundred years ago these authors might have been burned at the stake. But all nature is binary: up/ down, left/ right, dark/light good/evil, male/female, yin/yang. Why should the same balance not occur in the deity?

Was the sacred feminine suppressed by the chauvinistic church, or is it yet another of the myriad cults and fads in Judeo-Christianity that have come and gone through the centuries? After thousands of years, I doubt that the controversy will be laid to rest any time soon.

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The Monday Book: THE MAN WHO QUIT MONEY by Mark Sundeen

Jack handed me this book, said it had wafted into the bookstore, and that I would like it.

He was right. Daniel Suelo, the title character, grew up in a Christian household where, as he put it in an interview, he was at university before he realized “You could be a Christian and a Democrat at the same time.”

How this guy wound up living, not just off the grid, but out of the system, is a wonderful timeline in and of itself, but I admit freely I loved the book because he set up milemarkers at some of my favorite intellectual curiosity points.

Switching from pre-med to anthropology, he worked on a book about the sacred feminine, started thinking about social justice mixed with theology, joined the Peace Corps and watched what “missionary” meant when money turned into salvation, and pretty much decided “Nah.”

Sundeen is a sensitive writer, his telling of the story digging deep into roots but leaving blooms untouched. He handles very spiritual discussion with what can only be called pragmatic respect.

But his analysis isn’t limited to the big ideas. He also explains, in head-swimming detail, how to conduct a successful dumpster dive, one of the many ways in which Suelo eats. And eats well.

He sleeps in a cave, uses wifi at the library, will not beg or use social services, but does trade labor for stuff. Suelo volunteers at a women’s shelter. Sundeen takes care to paint a picture of a man who is not surviving, but thriving. And having fun thinking it through.

The discussions, the ideas, and the practical hints for people who may not want to get off the road entirely, but would like to travel more lightly, made this a lovely read for me. (Not that the book is a how-to; it’s a “what he did,” and Suelo takes pains to explain to Sundeen, and by proxy those reading about him, that there is no way to “sort of” live this lifestyle. If you use a little bit of money or trade or social services, you wind up using all of it.

And for all that the concepts are huge and thought-provoking, Sundeen’s writing style makes the words slide past your eyes so fast, you’re surprised later at how much you remember, how much time you’ve spent thinking about them. When Jack handed me the book, I was busy and started reading just to see if I’d like the writing. Sixty pages later, I glanced up, still standing up by the dining room table. Jack had just left me there when he couldn’t gain my attention.

This is Suelo’s Facebook page if you want to visit: https://www.facebook.com/themanwhoquitmoney.

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