The Earth Goddess and Fiction

 

Goddess by Baraka Berger
Goddess by Baraka Berger

With the Summer Solistice upon us, it’s a good time to revisit the Earth Goddess and her literary legacy. In sync with the first Earth Day in 1970, when I was an impressionable 14 year-old, women were throwing off the shackles of patriarchy in the streets and in their homes, even in churches, chucking out any male god who lived on a cloud. Many turned to the Old Religion, governed by the Goddess, who once reigned over a peaceful, matrilineal world in harmony with Nature. Then, according to legend, the priests came, driving her and her followers underground where they were called witches, and thus began civilization’s slide into constant war and ecological devastation.

 

Women writers of the 70’s and early 80’s incorporated this mythopoeic vision into their novels, and I read them all. Marge Piercy, in Woman on the Edge of Time, wrote about an ideal society based on the assumed female principles of peace and love of the earth, set against a cautionary tale of continued male domination and its attendant disregard for the planet. In The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood created a dystopia of sexism and violence after men become infertile by a toxic event of their own making. Other writers contemplated the past instead of the future. Marion Zimmer Bradley retold the King Arthur myth from Morgan le Fay’s point of view in The Mists of Avalon, making the goddess worshipper the heroine and not the villain. Jean Auel, in Clan of the Cave Bear, placed the goddess plunk in the center of the Stone Age.

mists-of-avalon

By the mid-80’s, as women put on their shoulder pads and floppy ties and went to the office, feminism began to pull away from the Earth Goddess. Flouting one’s fertility and innate peaceful nature at the office was not going to break any glass ceilings. The focus had turned to job equality and pay equity, so academic and political interests set out to prove there were no differences between the genders. And rightly so. It’s a small step from archetype to stereotype.

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Book Review: The Hidden Life of Wolves

THE HIDDEN LIFE OF WOLVES  Jim and Jamie Dutcher National Geographic Press $25, 210 pages For six years they shared a 25-acre enclosure at the base of Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains with a pack of wolves. Their office was a Mongolian yurt; their sleeping quarters a canvas tent. The path to the outhouse required frequent snow-shoveling …

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Book Review: Oceana, by Ted Danson

Cheers

“Sam Writes a Book”

FADE IN:

INT. BAR – HAPPY HOUR

IT’S AN AVERAGE NIGHT. USUAL CUSTOMERS PLUS REGULARS. SAM IS POURING A BEER FROM THE TAP AND CARLA AND COACH ARE TIDYING UP THE ROOM. FRASIER SITS AT THE BAR AND SAM PUTS THE BEER DOWN IN FRONT OF HIM.

 FRASIER

Well, I hear congratulations are in order, Sam. You, an author. Will wonders never cease?

 SAM

Thank you, Frasier. Coming from you, that’s quite a compliment.

 CARLA

A book? Your life in the Red Sox?

CLIFF

Your life as a drunk?

SAM

PICKS UP A GLASS AND STARTS CLEANING IT

Neither. It’s about how to save the oceans. I didn’t want to become a vain jerk who just thought about myself. So I started thinking about the sea.

 FRASIER

That’s commendable, Sam. There’s nothing worse than a vain jerk.

 COACH AND SAM ROLL THEIR EYES

 CARLA

Commendable? The only thing Sam could find bigger than himself was the sea? Isn’t that the thing that covers 75% of the world? What an ego!

 COACH

Leave him alone, Carla. It’s not easy being Sam Malone. What’s your book called, Sammy?

 SAM

Oceana. And for your information Carla, for modesty’s sake I use a pseudo.. pseudo ..

 FRASIER

Nym. Pseudonym.

SAM

Yeah, that’s right. As far as the world is concerned, I’m Ted Danson. Michael D’Orso wrote it with me, and the good folks at Rodale Press published it, and you know they don’t do any trash.

 FRASIER

I’ll be the judge of that.

 CARLA

Oh come on, snooty pants. Give him a chance. Tell us what it’s about, boss! Are there pirates and sea monsters?

 NORM

Is there seafood?

 WOODY

What about boats and surfing? I used to surf when I was a kid. I hit my head on rocks a lot.

 THEY ALL GIVE ONE ANOTHER A KNOWING LOOK

 SAM

It’s about all those things and more. It’s about what we’re doing to the oceans, with oil spills, climate change, plastic trash, acidification, over-fishing…

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Book Review: Beg: A Radical New Way of Regarding Animals by Rory Freedman

Rory Freedman’s new book, Beg: A Radical New Way of Regarding Animals, is a must-read for anyone who believes himself or herself to be an animal lover. The main idea behind this book is that many people who think they love animals in fact unknowingly participate in any number of things that do animals great …

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Diatoms & You

In a new book I’m just crazy about, The Book of Barely Imagined Beings, a 21st Century Bestiary by Caspar Henderson, given to me by Chris of the wonderful Longfellow Books in Portland, Maine, there is a shout-out to my favorite one-celled algae, the diatom. It is a crusty bit of plankton, a broad category …

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Celebrating eco-literature with ReadVeg stickers

If you love reading about environmental and animal-rights issues, you might want one of these ReadVeg stickers. We printed these up to celebrate all eco-literature, especially the great fiction we’re discovering that tackles these issues — and we decided that these stickers are a fun way to get the word out about eco-fiction and veg lit. Check …

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Writing for animals: Advice for writers of animal rights fiction

In mainstream fiction today, “normal” characters tend to be carnivores, or at least omnivores, and “fringe” characters tend to be vegetarian or vegan. Naturally, I disagree with this distinction. But I also understand that most writers are simply following convention, simply writing about the world as they see it today. But the world is changing. …

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Writing Opportunity: The 2014 EarthLines Essay Prize

The EarthLines Review has announced the 2014 EarthLines Essay Prize. The EarthLines Essay Prize is awarded annually for a piece of creative prose writing that explores the relationship between people and the natural world. It is open to writers of any nationality, over the age of 18. Entries will be accepted between July and December of this …

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