Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory

The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why An Invented Past Won't Give Women A Future by Cynthia Eller.

I first read about Eller in Slate right around when I'd read yet another fiction book presenting "the Great Goddess" as fact. Now, I know fiction is, well, fiction; but I also know, having learned about Eleanor of Aquitaine primarily through fiction books, that people believe what is found in books. And with good reason. And authors understand that and try to have the facts right; even in fiction.

It's one thing for someone to write acknowledging that they have fictionalized something (which is why I love notes in my historical fiction); and quite another to act as if the made up stuff is true (yes, I'm looking at you, Dan Brown.)

Aside from that, whenever I've read about the Great Goddess stuff, I'd always wondered about the basis for it. Considering the lack of records and all. And considering I'm a total History Channel junkie, this book called my name.

Eller answers these questions; sometimes a little to dryly and a little too academically for my taste. Aside from that, this is a fascinating look at myth, the origins of myth, it's importance, and it's problems. Eller goes to the source, to the digs, to the myths, and goes to the not that distant past of 19th century archaeology, to examine the belief in an ancient great Goddess and the "good" world before evil patriarchy.

The book is also discussed in detail at Salon. The Slate article also mentions another online article about this debunking at the Atlantic Online, called Scholars and Goddesses, for those who want something shorter than the Eller book.

(I know! I read books other than teen books and pop culture magazines! And they're long! With little plot or conversation! Sh, don't tell.)


christine M said...

This book sounds really interesting, I'm glad you brought it to my attention.

Chris said...

I just started "The Oracle: The Lost Secrets and Hidden Message of Ancient Delphi" by NYT reporter William Broad, on the Oracle at Delphi - it looks really interesting, and since a reporter wrote it, it is moving along fairly well so far. I just keep putting it aside to read all these other books you keep recommending! Anyway, it might make a good companion to this book you mention. The oracle was a major force in ancient Greek culture and history. The Greeks were pretty misogynistic, so it's ironic that a woman held so much power. And the oracle held sway for 1000 years, with traditions and secrets passed down generations. Broad is a science reporter and this book rattled him a bit and he alludes to allowing room for religion - okay I'll stop rambling on.