Title: The Hidden Goddess: The Quest for the Divine Feminine in the Judeo-Christian Tradition from Asherah to Mary Magdalene
Publisher: Moon Books
Author: Laurie Martin-Gardner
Price: $12.95 / $6.49
Did God have a wife? Was Jesus married? What were the asherah poles? Did Adam have more than one wife? What were “the high places” where so many Kings of ancient Israel prayed? And who were they praying to?
In this short primer on Goddess Spirituality, author Laurie Martin-Gardner takes the reader on a brief but informative tour of the divine feminine in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. Over the course of six chapters, she delves into the history and worship of Asherah, Lilith, Eve, Wisdom, the Shekinah, Matronit, the Virgin Mary, and Mary Magdalene. Drawing on both primary and secondary source material, The Hidden Goddess addresses the question of “who is the divine feminine in Judaism and Christianity?” while also providing those who are still curious with additional resources.
I was already familiar with some of the material laid out by Martin-Gardner, but it was still satisfying to go back and refresh my knowledge, and learn a few new things along the way. In the early chapters, for example, Martin-Gardner neatly lays out the chronology of the worship of Asherah in ancient Israel*. It was most definitely not a case of the Hebrews simply declaring Yahweh to be the One God and that was that. Hebrews themselves, including many of the Kings, worshipped Asherah, to the point that her idol was housed in the Temple of Yahweh for centuries. And, in the famous confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal, the latter are slaughtered to the last man — but the prophets of Asherah are spared.
Martin-Gardner continues forward through time, through the destruction of the Temple, the conquest of Israel by various foreign powers, and the rise and spread of Christianity. In the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene, she finds but the two most recent manifestations of the divine feminine; one, the perfect mother around whom numerous myths and miracles have collected; the other, an imperfect woman who loved and grieved and challenged the norms of her society.
If I have one complaint, it is about the use of the term Judeo-Christian. It has (rightly) come under criticism in academia for conflating the two traditions into a single whole; for sublimating Judaism under Christinaity; for assuming an uninterrupted lineage stretching from the ancient Near East through the modern-day West; and for assuming too much similarity between the many, many different sects of Judaism and Christianity; among other things. A better term would have been Abrahamic religions or Abrahamic traditions (which also would have allowed for an examination of the divine feminine in Baha’i, Islam, and The LDS Church, among others, if the author had been interested in doing so).
The Hidden Goddess is a terrific introductory text on the divine feminine in Judaism and Christianity. As the author herself notes, though, it is just that: an introduction. Take what you learn here, pick up a few of the recommended texts, then a few more, and keep learning.
*Personally, I would love to see Moon Books release a text on the Canaanite pantheon, as they have other pantheons.
[Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine, Eternal Haunted Summer. A complete list of her publications can be found there.]