Posthumous Book by Patricia Monaghan
Encyclopedia of Goddess and Heroines, Revised Version, by Patricia Monaghan Ph.D. (New World Library 2014), paperback, 9.6 x 8 x 1.5, 448 pages (also available as an e-book).
Patricia Monaghan finished her work on this revised version of what has become a classic and indispensable Goddess book shortly before her death in 2012. The book has been available in various forms since 1979. The most recent versions preceding this one include a two-volume hardcover set published in 2009 by Greenwood Publishing Group, priced over $100 (not surprisingly for a hardcover its size and for an academic publishing house). The next previous edition, now out of print, titled New Book of Goddesses and Heroines, was published in paperback by Llewellyn in 1997 as a single volume in its third edition.
New World Library is the first to make the book available in multiple e-book formats in addition to the large paperback printed on 100% post consumer-waste recycled paper, which is consistent with Patricia’s deep commitment to the environment. NWL is a “Gold Certified Environmentally Responsible Publisher,” as certified by the GreenPress Initiative.
The NWL edition doesn’t have the “Symbols and Associations” and “Approaches for Study of Goddess Myths and Images” sections of some previous editions. The information these contained has been incorporated into other parts of the book and can be looked up in its thorough index. Also, illustrations in previous versions are absent from this one. An NWL spokesperson describes the reason for this as “an editorial decision” by the publisher.
The aim was to make the book a size that could be printed in one volume. NWL succeeded in this, and also in keeping the list price of the large paperback below $30. In addition to the NWL staff and the author, according to Dawn Work-MaKinne, both she and Tim Jones took part in the final editing of the text. In a personal communication which she gave me permission to quote here, Dawn writes: “NWL gave Patricia a word count that needed to be cut before they could publish it in a one-volume paperback version. Tim finished the cutting, at Patricia's request, when she was feeling like she was fading and the job felt too big for her. He felt unsure, and that he may have cut things that were necessary for content comprehension. So then Michael [Patricia’s husband] asked me to edit the whole manuscript, from the point of view of a Goddess scholar which I did. Tim is a professional writer that Patricia trusted, but not a Goddess scholar.”
With information on more than 1,000 Goddesses and heroines and background information on their place in numerous cultures worldwide, the book is an essential resource for students, teachers, libraries, and really all people interested in this subject. As Dr. Monaghan writes in the book’s Introduction:
“This volume shows the breadth of possibilities associated with the feminine through many ages and cultures. Some figures will be familiar to the general reader….Others are obscure….Nor would all be called ‘goddesses’ by the people who told their stories, for that word generally refers to divine or supernatural beings. Between such figures and mortal women exists a category this work calls ‘heroines.’ Some were originally human woman who attained legendary status….Others represent a halfway category between human and divine….Finally, monotheistic religions often have female figures who function in goddess-like ways….these figures are listed in this work because such figures are often submerged goddesses or powerful goddess-like beings. Where such figures are included, the view of worshippers from that religion is clearly stated.”
The book has two columns per page, which makes for easier reading in its large format. Each section, which comprises a large geographical area, has its own introduction followed by pantheons for that area. Some of the sections are subdivided into more specific geographical areas, which also have introductions. The goddesses and heroines are presented alphabetically in each section or sub-section. The sections and pantheons are: Africa (pantheons: African Egyptian, African Diaspora); Eastern Mediterranean (pantheons: Eastern Mediterranean, Christian & Jewish); Asia & Oceania with sub-sections China & Korea, Circumpolar North, India, Southeast Asia & Indonesia, Japan, and Pacific Islands & Australia (pantheons: Chinese, Mongol, Taiwanese; Korean, Circumpolar North, Hindu & Buddhist of India, Nepal & Tibet, Southeast Asian & Indonesian, Japanese & Ainu, Pacific Islands, Australia); Europe with subsections Baltic, Celtic, Finno-Ugric, Greek, Rome, Scandinavia, Southeastern Europe, Slavic (pantheons: Baltic, Continental Celtic & Breton, Irish & Scottish, British & Manx, Welsh, Cornish, & Authurian, Finno-Agric, Greek, Roman & Italic, Etruscan, Scandanavian, Southeastern European, Slavic; and The Americas with subsections North America, Mesoamerica, South America & the Caribbean (with one pantheon each).
Each discussion of a specific goddess or heroine ends with names of sources in parentheses. Further information on these sources can be found in the extensive bibliography in the back of the book.
And then there's the beautiful cover with its reproduction of art titled “Perdita” by 19th century artist Frederick Sandys, which was inspired by a heroine in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. Translated from the Italian, Perdita means “loss.” To me "Perdita" is both an allusion to our loss of Patricia and a spiritual portrait of the red-haired author who has restored in this book so much of the history we had lost.
Thanks to Goddess for Patricia Monaghan’s life and work, which continues to enrich and inspire.
What is remembered lives.