“In the beginning…God was a woman. Do you remember?” Feminst foremother and author of these words Merlin Stone died in February last year.
I can still remember reading the hardback copy of When God Was a Woman while lying on the bed in my bedroom overlooking the river in New York City early in 1977. The fact that I remember this viscerally underscores the impact thatWhen God Was a Woman had on my mind and my body. Stone’s words had the quality of revelation: “In the beginning…God was a woman. Do you remember?” As I type this phrase more than thirty-five years after first reading it, my body again reacts with chills of recognition of a knowledge that was stolen from me, a knowledge that I remembered in my body, a knowledge that re-membered my body. My copy of When God was a Woman is copiously underlined in red and blue ink, testimony to many readings.
Though I could then and can now criticize details in the book, the amassing of information and the comprehensive perspective When God Was a Womanprovided was news to me when I first read it. Despite having earned a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Yale, I did not “know” that Goddesses were worshipped at the very dawn of religion. I had not heard of the theories of Indo-European invasions of warlike patriarchal peoples into areas already settled by peaceful matrilineal, matrifocal cultures in Europe and India. I had written my undergraduate thesis on the prophets, studying their words in the original Hebrew, but I did not understand that their constant references to the Hebrew people “whoring” after “idols” and worshipping “on every high hill and under every green tree” referred to the fact that many of the Hebrew people were choosing to worship Goddesses in sacred places in nature. Nor did I understand that the Genesis story which I had studied and taught took the sacred symbols of Goddess religion– the snake, the tree and the fruit of the tree, the female body—and turned them upside down.
(Click to read the rest of the article in Feminism and Religion.)