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In This Issue

Goddess "" Earth "" Cosmology "" Women's Health "" Reader Contributions "" Book Reviews "" Editor's Desk

Non-Fiction in Review: Vick Noble's The Double Goddess

The Double Goddess: Women Sharing Power -- by Vicki Noble
Illustrated by Kimberley Eve
Bear & Company: Rochester, Vermont., 2003

This book took Vicki Noble, creatrix of the Motherpeace Tarot (along with Karen Vogel), five years to write, and Noble pours the passion of a lifetime into this intuitive and academic research. The 149 simple, clear, and rich images show the archetype of the Double Goddess found in numerous cultures, such as Catal Huyuk and Gozo, across the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. The Double Goddesses are twin figures of two women or symbols (often animals or birds, connoting, I think, our connection with our wild, animal nature), intimately connected or sharing one body and found in sculpture, weaving, paintings, pottery, and jewelry.

Noble learned from the images that ancient cultures were intimately connected with a lunar menstrual model and the relation of the moon and sun. Noble says the Double Goddess represents women's "bipolar nature," by which phrase she means an expression of the dual poles of life: birth and death, dark and light, fertility and barrenness, yin and yang, full moon/Summer Solstice, new moon/Winter Solstice.

Rather than focusing on one pole as "good" or desirable, instead the archetype of the Double Goddess embodies the constant quantum flow between the opposite poles and further reflects and celebrates women's bipolar nature -- the innate back and forth mystery of ovulating and menstruating: what Noble calls "the vital missing piece" in today's fragmented culture. "The Double Goddess graphically portrays essential pulse and light, ebb and flow of energy in a positive healthy way."

Further, what Noble calls the Double Goddess represents "the idea of female sovereignty in a context of ancient female yogic and shamanistic practices and principles that formed the organizing structure of most ancient cultures in the world before patriarchy(4)." Noble describes this model of power, saying these icons "represent a female lineage (matrilinearity)" representing "quintessential female rule" and female bonding.(5) Noble's conclusions are radical and very affirming for women and particularly women-identified and lesbian women. "Unlike the linear, one-pointed man, women (and thus the ancient religions of the Goddess) flow with the cyclic rhythms of the waxing and waning Moon, with its birth, death, and rebirth(15)."

As I read this book, I thought this should be part of a lesbian manifesto, at the same time realizing that a large percentage of lesbians and feminists will never read this book because they eschew religion and spirituality, the reasons for which I've long questioned. Noble addresses this: "Lesbians . . . have shied away from the Goddess movement because of its largely unconscious, but profoundly heterosexist bias(218)." This statement was but one of many juicy, thought-provoking ideas Noble brought forth in this book. You may not agree with all she says, but this book is bound to engage you.

Noble fearlessly takes on the archaeological good old boys' club that has been so invested in the backlash against Marija Gimbutas' work and posits some highly intriguing questions about that backlash. "The Double Goddesses fit into a larger debate ('culture war' is more like it), in which the whole category of 'goddess' is being called into question by archaeologists who would prefer that all the thousands of female figures and images found all over the ancient world would be viewed as less than divine." She says that "there was -- in the first hundred years of archaeology -- no real disagreement about Her identity(7)." Noble goes on to explain that in the last 30 or so years, we Goddess women (and men) have created an entire subculture in celebration of Her at the same time that the mainstream media is claiming "that feminism is dead and that the Goddess is no longer fashionable for the hip, postmodern women of today." The backlash of the self-styled "New Archaeology" has worked most diligently to claim that Goddess figures, and in particular, the Double Goddesses, are described as "dolls, toys, or even reframed as men in skirts(6)." As a person who has followed the archaeological debates from the far periphery, I found that Noble's theories helped me understand some of what underlies those debates. Noble states that she used many older sources for her research because the more recent work is so strongly biased against her theories.

Noble continues her discussion of female shamanism began in her former works, such as Shakti Woman: Feeling Our Fire, Healing Our World (The New Female Shamanism). She uses the general definition from the American Heritage Dictionary to discuss this controversial term: "A member of certain tribal societies who acts as a medium between the visible world and an invisible spirit world and who practices magic or sorcery for the purposes of healing, divination, and control over natural events(9)."

Noble describes how "all the various collectivities of women" (Amazons, Maenads, and Valkyries, to name a few) all are archetypally related and may well be descended from a much earlier stratum of Siberian shamans(90)," the lineage of which began in Neolithic times. Noble's long-time curiousity was fueled, and she experienced an epiphany when in 1996 she met Berkeley archaeologist Jeannine Davis-Kimball, who was speaking on excavating the Russian "Amazons" -- warrior women and priestesses. Davis-Kimball served as Noble's mentor and their collaboration along with assistance from many others further Noble's quest to study and present this model of women sharing power.

Noble makes many intuitive leaps in describing how she sees disparate cultures and artifacts as being related. "...this lineage includes the Scandinavian Valkyries, Irish Banshees, Iranian and Tocharian mummies of theTarim Basin, and millions of shaman women murdered as witches during the European "Burning Times(91)." Some of the leaps seem rather dramatic and were hard for me to follow, yet I found them fascinating. I highly recommend this book as an essential piece of Goddess scholarship and religion.

Graphics Credits

  • Book Cover, The Double Goddess
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