Seasonal Salon

By Their Lives

Merlin Stone 1931-2011

In the preface to When God Was A Woman, Merlin Stone writes, “How did it actually happen? How did men initially gain the control that now allows them to regulate the world in matters as vastly diverse as deciding which wars will be fought when, to what time dinner should be served?”

When she wrote those words in 1976, seldom were these questions even considered, certainly never seriously researched. Yet, Merlin Stone dared to set out on a lonely quest to know about the ancient Goddess religion…a quest that began, she would tell us, when a dusty book on mythology fell off the top shelf of an old bookstore onto her head and took her around the world.

Her journey was not an easy one as she encountered challenges of the ancient writings and statuary that more often than not had been intentionally destroyed or re-written in patriarchal language that, with intention, obliterated and/or distorted matriarchal herstory. Yet, she persevered. “The enormous number of Goddess figurines that have been unearthed…suggest that it may well have been the evident female attributes of these statues that irked the advocates of the male deity. Most pagan idols had breasts.”

Additionally she encountered the sexual and religious bias of the scholars whose works were to be found in museums and universities. For example, most archaeological texts refer to any female religion as a fertility cult!

Revolutionary as it was to consider God as a woman, Merlin opened the mind of many of us who’d never even considered that the legend of Adam and the fallen woman, Eve, was just that: a mythological hoax.

Now, forty years hence, Stone’s words ring true—alarmingly so—as we women find ourselves embroiled in a patriarchal retrograde.

When Ancient Mirrors of Womanhood was published three years later, she admitted, as she sent the manuscript off, “to feelings…of waiting to watch loved ones open presents for which they had yearned—but never really expected.”

Indeed to read that the “Goddess” known as Mami pinched off fourteen pieces of clay and, making seven of them into women and seven into men, She placed life upon the earth….”

And that the Australians tell us that it is to the Goddess Kunapipi that our spirit returns upon death, thus remaining with Her until the next rebirth….

And that the Goddess Coatticue lived, according to Mexican records, “high upon a mountain, in a misty cloud, and there She gave birth to the moon, the sun, and all other deities…

And that the Navajo know that Changing Woman is Sacred Nature in all She enfolds…

How can we not know that we women are sacred, have value…that we are not fallen as we have been taught by Eve’s story.

From Morgan LeFay to Mawu, from Saraswati to Buffalo Woman, Stone gifts us with stories that strengthen and honor us. How grateful we are to this ardent feminist who courageously traveled the world gifting us with the wisdom of her extensive research and the beauty of the sculpture she created; for she was an artist and mother, art historian and wise woman who was the first to give us a new mirror in which to reflect.

She led the way, and by her life we are inspired and affirmed as women.


Suggested reading: When God Was A Woman, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York and London, 1976

Ancient Mirrors of Womanhood, Beacon Press, Boston, 1979

Merlin Stone Remembered, Llewellyn Publications, Woodbury, Minnesota, 2014

By Her Lives is the first in an ongoing series re/membering and honoring our foremothers.

Nancy VanArsdall is an ordained Priestess of the Re-Formed Congregation of the Goddess. She has completed an historical fiction novel, A Thousand Tellings, based on her suffragist grandmother. She published Coming Full Circle, Honoring the Rhythms of Relationships, in 1996, available through RCGI. She has returned home to Indianapolis with her beloved.


Category: Summer Solstice 2017