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Goddess Unmasked: The Rise of Neopagan Feminist Spirituality Hardcover – July, 1998

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 418 pages
  • Publisher: Spence Publishing Company; First Edition edition (July 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0965320898
  • ISBN-13: 978-0965320894
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,997,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Davis (religious studies, Univ. of Prince Edward Island, Canada) has written a comprehensive and revealing study of the history and development of modern Goddess spirituality. His examination of archaeological, historical, and literary evidence has lead him to conclude that the roots of Goddess spirituality lie not in prehistoric matriarchal societies, as exponents of Goddess beliefs have claimed, but rather in Western esoteric traditions and in the Romantic movement of the 19th century. Davis presents an abundance of evidence along with excellent documentation to support his theory and to point out the skewed historical paradigm presented by modern writers within the Goddess movement. While Davis's conclusions are likely to generate controversy, his work provides a thorough, well-researched, scholarly study of a new religious movement. Recommended for academic and theological libraries with collections on feminist spirituality.?Elizabeth Anne Salt, Courtright Memorial Lib., Westerville, OH
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

As a vibrant new faith, goddess worship has excited the hopes of millions weary of the repressive doctrines of traditional churches. But before he discards his Bible, Davis insists on a careful investigation into the claims made by goddess missionaries. Under his sharp scrutiny, these claims break apart, revealing the dubious motives and dishonest scholarship of some goddess-movement founders. Neither archaeology nor anthropology can substantiate the whole-cloth history of an ancient goddess spirituality brutally swept away by patriarchy. And goddess rites that celebrate a link with universal harmonies, he argues, are actually connected with nothing but the fevered fantasies of nineteenth-century occultists. Yet Davis shows that goddess worship, despite its doubtful origins, is rapidly seeping into mainline seminaries and even state universities, fostering utopian illusions and credentialed irrationality. Timely and cogent, Davis' analysis will help set the terms for the theological and cultural debates of the coming decade. An excellent resource with which to represent one side of a controversial issue. Bryce Christensen

Customer Reviews

It's definitely worthwhile reading and I highly recommend it.
James Watrous
A wonderful debunking of many of the most pervasive pseudo histories in modern western culture.
Rich Bryant
The book itself does not make an antifeminist argument and is not polemical in tone.
A. Bruce Miller

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A. Bruce Miller on June 29, 1999
Format: Hardcover
"Goddess Unmasked" is a readable and informative discussion of neopagan religious ideas, particularly those around the practice of "goddess worship." Goddess worship, nature worship, and the practice of "Wicca" (which has been in the news lately due to a controversy about Wiccans in the Army) are closely related concepts, as Philip Davis shows.
The book has an interesting similarity to Dennis Covington's "Salvation on Sand Mountain," which deals with Appalachian snake handlers, in that it's a study of an unconventional, contemporary religious movement which is basically a fringe phenomenon but which also turns out to involve a lot more than a bunch of dreary fanatics with weird beliefs.
What Davis does is this book is to trace present-day goddess-worship to its immediate roots in the Romantic movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries through the European esoteric/occult tradition down to today. Along the way, he examines seriously some of the key claims of goddess advocates about pacifist, egalitarian "matriarchies" that supposedly existed in very ancient times, and about the meaning of the witch hunts of the early modern period in Europe. He also looks seriously at some of the religious implications of neopaganism, raising some critical issues but without an obvious agenda of evangelizing supporters out of their beliefs.
Most of the book is actually taken up with a series of sketches of the lives and ideas of a variety of colorful characters - mostly men - that contributed in some way to the esoteric/occult tradition that led to goddess worship, as well as to a lot of other ideas that have become common currency in the "New Age.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 7, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The author sets out to analyze the history of modern goddess worship and debunk some of its more extravagant historical claims. He succeeds. His analysis is detailed and he supports his assertions with facts. Although he is obviously not a goddess worshipper, I did not detect any overt bias -- i.e. Scriptural quotes or the like. His resume indicates that he is probably Christian, but you can't tell from the text of his book where his own religious loyalties lie.
He doesn't explain much of the practices of modern Wicca, and the last sixty pages do seem a bit hurried (as another reviewer noted). If that's your focus, you need a different book. Still, I think this is a good basic explanation of the historical background of neo-paganism.
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22 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 7, 1999
Format: Hardcover
It's difficult to find unbiased research into the history of Wicca. Most writers are either Wiccan themselves, or are vehemently opposed to the religion. This means that, no matter how objective an author may try to be, the bones of agenda will show through.
This is so with "Goddess Unmasked," which, while it contains a great deal of useful information, is also colored by the author's fundamental objection to Neo-Paganism in general and what he terms the "goddess movement" in particular. It's an objection that many thinking Christians (as opposed to those who spout rhetoric) have, and therefore worth some consideration.
The Christian view of deity is transcendentalist; to them, deity exists outside our physical world. Neo-Pagans see deity as immanent, constantly present around us and within us. This idea is troubling to many Christians, and it's something that Davis runs up against again and again.
That said, the book's not some kind of hysterical anti-Pagan tract--I'd be impressed if *any* author could keep that up for several hundred pages. While Davis ultimately comes down firmly on the side of Christianity, he is at least a thoughtful author who's done some research--though as other reviewers have noted, he occasionally picks and chooses to cast certain researchers in a bad light. Pagans should read this book, not because it will attempt to convert them, but because it's important to understand the underlying objections many Christians have to Wicca and other Neo-Pagan faiths.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 9, 1999
Format: Hardcover
"Goddess Unmasked" has two main parts. The first, a description of the standard "goddess history": the claim that the first religion was worship of a single goddess, that peace-loving matriarchies were focibly overthrown by bad old warlike patriachy and all that. He then goes through a rather nice summary of all of the cultures that are supposed to fit the "matriarchal" mold and demonstrates that there really isn't much evidence there to support the assertions of the proponents. While he gives some good pointers for more in-depth reading, it would have been nice if he'd put in a little more detail. Illustrations would have been useful in the parts where artifacts were discussed, but these are minor quibbles. Overall, he's done a good job in picking the most respected authorities of the movement's "mainstream" and addressed their historical claims directly and evenhandedly.
In the second part, Davis traces the origins of the "Goddess movement", finding it's roots in the "esoteric tradition" of the West: Mesmerism, Theosophy, etc. It is, essentially, a history of ideas and good reading for anyone that likes to watch an idea slowly develop. Davis does a fair job of keeping focus and filtering extraneous detail on the movements discussed, but iwas sometimes frustrating when he'd say something like "we'll skip over the colorful story of XYZ because it's off the subject". Oh well. This section could have been organized better, but on a whole it is well-reseached and has a strong factual basis. Great stuff.
The conclusion of the book left something to be desired.
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