Title: Lost Goddesses of Early Greece: A Collection of Pre-Hellenic Myths
Publisher: Beacon Press
Author: Charlene Spretnak
Illustrator: Edidt Geever
In this classic text from the earliest days of Goddess Spirituality (originally published in 1978), Charlene Spretnak and Edidt Geever offer lyrical re-imaginings of ancient myths. Here, Gaia is the benevolent All-Mother who willed herself out of the Void. She birthed plants and animals, oceans and birds, and finally humans, whom she gifted with an Oracle to ease their fears. Pandora is the maiden form of the Earth Mother, the Giver of All Gifts: fruits and olive oil, justice and mercy, memory and peace.
And so it continues, with Spretnak (re)telling the tales of Themis, Aphrodite, the Triad of the Moon (Artemis, Selene, and Hecate), Hera, Athena, and Demeter and Persephone. Each myth is accompanied by beautiful ink illustrations by Geever: Pandora rises out of a chasm in the earth, flowers and fruits and seeds flowing from her hands. Aphrodite strides from the ocean, raining water and light. Hecate kneels beside her dark hounds, torch in hand, her head a bundle of snakes.
While some of Spretnak’s stories mostly align with the surviving ancient tales, others bear only a passing resemblance to those handed down by Hesiod, Homer, and others: Pandora is not the downfall of humanity, and Persephone willingly descends to the underworld to care for the souls of the deceased. This is a deliberate and welcome departure from the violence and misogyny of the classic stories. These Goddess-oriented myths are wholesome, holistic, nature-affirming, and celebratory; birth and death, creation and destruction, the cycles of nature; these take center stage over and above the blood and battles and sexual violence of the male- and God-oriented tales.
Does that mean that we need to cast aside the original myths? No, because they are not “original” either. Myths are constantly evolving, revealing old and new truths about us, the Gods, creation, and our relationships with one another. Reading the older myths alongside modern retellings, such as those by Spretnak, creates a spiritual and intellectual tension that can result in new insights and new truths (and even new myths, art, and poetry).
[Note that the 1992 edition of Lost Goddesses does not include Geever’s illustrations.]
Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in Goddess Spirituality and Greek mythology, as well as those who have enjoyed Ancient Mirrors of Womanhood by Merlin Stone, The Goddess by Christine Downing, The Myth of the Goddess by Anne Baring and Jules Cashford, and The Book of Goddesses by Kris Waldherr.