PaganSquare


PaganSquare is a community blog space where Pagans can discuss topics relevant to the life and spiritual practice of all Pagans.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form
Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in William Dever

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

A few weeks back I took archaeologist William Dever to task for his unwillingness to extend to contemporary Goddess-worship the same sympathy that he clearly feels for ancient Goddess-worship in his 2005 book Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel. http://witchesandpagans.com/Pagan-Culture-Blogs/an-open-letter-to-william-g-dever.html I'd now like to return to this topic with greater attention to specifics.

Dever describes himself as a “former Christian now turned secular humanist” (46). He distinguishes between “mainstream”—i.e. secularist—feminists and “doctrinaire” feminists, for whom ideology trumps scholarship (xiii). These latter are the “more radical secular feminists” (309) who “style themselves [sic] 'Neopagans' or 'Wiccans' (witches)” (310). This “'Goddess movement'” (a phrase which he consistently delivers in quotes) preaches “without any evidence” a monolithic primal Great Mother who prevailed until dethroned by male deities in early historic times, evidence of whom was later suppressed. The prophet of these “various New Age Goddess cults and 'Neopagan' religions that selectively resuscitate the beliefs, images, deities, and practices of ancient religions” is Marija Gimbutas, whose “pseudo-scholarship” he dismisses without discussion (307). This movement, while it may have “comforted some women superficially, has left them still in need of the truth, not a naïve Utopia where all is women's supposedly unique 'strength, beauty, fertility, love, harmony, and peace'” (308-9).

This is pretty virulent stuff, coming as it does from someone who has worked hard for years to convince his colleagues in academia 1) that ancient Hebrew religion took many forms, some of them overtly polytheist, 2) that the Goddess Ashera was widely worshiped in ancient Israel, and 3) that what remains of her cultus offers a posthumous voice to the silenced women of ancient Israel.

Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Several years ago the Museum of Russian Art here in Minneapolis hosted a breathtaking exhibit of recently-found Trypillian (Ukrain
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    Steven, thanks for this. It is amazing to me that "academics" continue to caricature the Goddess movement and to disparage the wor
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I should add that he cites your anthology Womanspirit Rising as an example of a "much more radical" "'school' of feminists" who "e
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. Posch, I suppose that in the world of academia, where the purse strings are controlled by people often deeply hostile to Paga
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    I'm not sure, Posch, if the world of academia is still deeply hostile to Pagan beliefs. For example I would point to the Pacific

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Dear Dr. Dever,

Firstly, a word of thanks and appreciation for your work over the years, and in particular for Did God Have A Wife? To speak only for myself, the book has shaped my own thought and understanding of my ancestral traditions, and for this you have my deep and lasting gratitude.

Anent Wife, though, I would like to point out to you an irony which I suspect has heretofore escaped your attention. To this not-altogether-objective reader, it is striking how closely your denunciations of the excesses of contemporary Goddess worship and feminist spirituality—which is, in fact, modern folk religion—resemble the Deuteronomic and Priestly hostility toward the folk religion of their own time. I find it curious that, from the position of your own academic orthodoxy, your sympathy for folk—and in particular, women’s—religion apparently extends to ancient women, but not to your contemporaries. Plus ça change….

Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I've long been mystified by academia's general disinterest in the new pagan religions. As a historian of religion myself, I would
  • Mariah
    Mariah says #
    That's a shame. Though there are certainly valid critiques to be made of Goddess/feminist spirituality, I think it best if they we
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    My thoroughly un-nuanced reading of Frymer-Kensky is that she's an ideologue with a monotheist ax to grind, whose work is academic
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    I completely agree with your comments on Frymer-Kensky. I would have called her an apologist for the superiority of Hebrew monothe
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    Thanks for that Steven. I knew Dever quoted me in his book from a student, but I did not know he treated the Goddess movement nega

Additional information