While not a woman, I am over fifty and I have both a personal and professional interest in goddesses. Some friends recently asked how I came to write a dissertation on a goddess, and thinking about that has revealed some aspects about my outlook, but those will need to wait a little. We read Goddesses in Older Women by Jean Shinoda Bolen because my wife wanted my opinion on it. We read books together while washing dishes—we’ve been doing this since we married over thirty years ago—and despite my not requiring the subtitle, Becoming a Juicy Crone, I was game. I have been curious about the experience of others since I was quite young. Since half the others in the world are female, it makes sense to be in dialogue and to be willing to learn.
Bolen uses classical goddesses as Jungian archetypes to help post-menopausal women sort out their feelings and spirituality in what has been called the “crone” phase of life. This is part of an antique triad that many would rather dismiss: virgin, mother, crone. Still, Bolen embraces it as fairly common in women’s experience. Men, although they can be elected to the White House while doddering old fools, don’t pass through such distinctive stages. In fact, some never mature. Women’s lives are defined by reproductive capabilities in ways men’s simply aren’t. Instead of dismissing half of human experience as irrelevant, we should listen to the accumulated wisdom of women. Bolen, who is an M.D., isn’t an historian of religion, but her remarks about the various goddesses explored (Asherah isn’t one of them) are insightful. I listened as my wife read, and this was quite a learning experience.
We have, as a species, often failed our females. Males, using that “might makes right” physiology and theology, have often assumed masculine agendas are the only ones that matter. Look around the world today and see where that’s gotten us. We’re killing our own planet in the name of greed and ignorance just so that nobody can be richer than me. I think it’s time we let the women have a chance to run things. Even though ancient mythologies often reflect the patriarchies under which they were written, many allow women more powerful and authentic roles than they currently have. Even El, the head of the Ugaritic pantheon, could change his mind when approached by Asherah. I learned much from this book, just as we learn so very much by listening to those who differ from ourselves. And the goddesses, almost always, are the ones who possess true wisdom.