In Search Of…The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines

The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines
Patricia Monaghan, Ph.D.
Llewellyn Publications
St. Paul, MN 55164
ISBN 1-56718-465-0
$19.95 US

If you’ve spent a lot of time flipping through books of mythology, you might notice a funny little thing when it comes to the gods and goddesses that the books describe. Invariably, the gods are always given all the attention and the goddesses are practically an afterthought. (I’ll give you a moment to go dig up one of those books — most of us have at least one around. Go ahead, take a look. See what I mean?) I don’t know about you, but that always drives me crazy.

Sure, I know the reasons, and so do you; most societies extant today are male-driven, and why would they care about the goddesses anyway, when everyone knows it’s the gods who made the world and the people? Everyone knows the goddesses ARE an afterthought. (Okay, so I’m overgeneralizing. But I’ve got a point, don’t I? Not only that, I should point out that there are creation myths in which a female creates the world, but admitting to that would certainly ruin my diatribe. But I digress.)

Well, if you, like me, have keenly felt this unfairness, and even if you haven’t, here’s a book that’s right up your alley. Yes, as the title might indicate, it’s a book about those overlooked females of myth and legend, and although the title doesn’t indicate it, it’s a dictionary. One of the fun aspects of a book like this is the pleasure that comes from flipping through the pages, seeing the familiar name of a goddess or heroine we’ve forgotten about, becoming acquainted with ones we’ve never heard of, and finding out about goddesses and heroines of other societies.

There is, of course, an incidental that I must mention. Looking through this book, and other books like it, can also be handy as a plot-generator. After all, it’s a gimme; stories about goddesses, and even gods, are always based on human nature, and that’s what our stories should be. Here’s an example: “Fand: The greatest of the fairy queens of Ireland, Fand was the daughter of the sea and ruler of the beautiful Land-over-Wave, from which she flew as a seabird to our world, usually to entrap human lovers.” That description made me wonder, as it probably did you too: If she was the greatest of the fairy queens, why the heck would she bother to change into a seabird and come over here to entrap human lovers? One possibility is jealousy — and there you have the start of a story.

And the entry above “Fand” is “Fama,” Fama was a Roman goddess, according to author Patricia Monaghan, who could hear anything said about anyone, anywhere on Earth. She kept company with other divinities: Credulitas  (error),Laetitia (unfounded joy), Timores (terror), Susuri (rumor). Now that sounds like the makings of a story — one about a Southern family, maybe, with sisters having those characteristics. Boom, you’ve got another story.

You get my drift. This is a book made for plot-hungry romance writers who want to read about goddesses and heroines. Keep it in mind the next time you’re on the lookout for a new story!

Copyright 2009 Eilis Flynn