Merlin Stone passed away this weekend. As usual Jason Pitzl-Waters at The Wild Hunt has an excellent write up on her impact in goddess studies. I try not to engage in hyperbole, but I can honestly say her book, When God Was a Woman changed my life. That book started a process that totally changed the way I think about religion and spirituality, their place in human history, and what all of that could mean to me.
I came across her book by accident. I was shopping in the college bookstore my senior year and it was on the clearance rack, marked down to some ridiculously low price. It looked intriguing so I bought it and promptly put it in the books-I-am-going-to-get-around-to-reading stack. When I finally worked my way around to it, I was totally absorbed. I had learned about the Venus of Willendorf, and Crete, and Catal Huyuk, but the idea that deeply matriarchal and spiritually vibrant culture was not an aberration was earth-shaking for me.
It didn’t convince me to believe in a literal goddess anymore than I believe in a literal god, but those archetypal images and symbols stuck with me, as well as a desire to connect with what they mean. Reading Stone helped me to understand how totally out of touch I had become with Christianity. I read it a second time a few years later and it revitalized in me a determination that my daughters not be brought up in a faith that taught them they were second-best.
Thank you, Merlin Stone. May you rest in peace.