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The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets

4.29  ·  Rating Details ·  1,120 Ratings  ·  59 Reviews
Do You Know...

where the legend of a cat's nine lives comes from?

why "mama" is a word understood in nearly all languages?

how the custom of kissing began?

whether there really was a female pope?

why Cinderella's glass slipper was so important to the Prince?
The answers to these and countless other intriguing questions are given in this compulsively readable, feminist encycloped
Paperback, 1136 pages
Published November 30th 1983 by HarperOne (first published January 1st 1983)
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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodThe Bell Jar by Sylvia PlathJane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëA Room of One's Own by Virginia WoolfThe Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
Best Feminist Books
1,447 books — 2,116 voters
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson BurnettMadeline by Ludwig BemelmansWhen Heaven and Earth Changed Places by Le Ly HayslipThe Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara G. WalkerRemarkable Minds by Pendred Noyce
Girl Power!
175 books — 12 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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colleen the convivial curmudgeon
Jun 04, 2008 colleen the convivial curmudgeon rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one who wants real representations of myths and/or history
Shelves: history, loathed
From my amazon review:

Barbara Walker has an obvious bias against all things male and/or Christian. She rewrites myth and history to make everything female-supreme, Goddess centric, anti-male, and full of sexual womyn power.
Now, before someone dismisses me as 'obviously anti-female and deluded by patriarchy' or some such, I should state that I am a female neo-pagan with no love for the Church and/or the views it supports towards women. That said - I don't like made up or revisionist history, even
Leah Lumsden
Jan 27, 2009 Leah Lumsden rated it it was amazing
A must read for anyone who would like to view a different view on 'history'

One of the things that I remember from this book intro(I think) was that throughout history anything to do with mens history is noted normally as history or fact. Alot of things with women's history is unknown, especially to women. Its a mans world, has been for a long time. Im not wanting to cause some big discussion on male vs female, thats not the intent of that statement.

The idea behind this book is kind of an A - Z
Jan 20, 2012 Vashti rated it it was amazing
Read it at age 18. Changed my life--best way to 'come of age'!
When I read this, I wasn't in a very skeptical place, so I took a lot of it at face value. After reading some of the other reviews on Goodreads, I think perhaps that wasn't the right thing to do. However, it's been years since I read this book and I don't remember many of the myths or secrets covered in the book. What I do remember is feeling a sort of enchantment reading the pages--feeling as if another world was out there that I had not before encountered. And, if for no other reason, I think ...more
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
I'm all of feminist examinations of history (for a stellar example, see Joanna Russ' How to Suppress Women's Writing) but Walker's works are, unfortunately, far from academic, poorly researched, and badly written. It's one thing if she stuck to novels, but sadly, she presents this volume as a piece of non-fiction, meant to be a reference. Unfortunately, she succumbs to the worst of the Burning Times Syndrome -- i.e., she inflates data and numbers for the sake of her argument, and leaps to conclu ...more
Dec 13, 2010 Arteyhviah rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book that I have used for many. many years as a REFERENCE BOOK. The Wisdom and Knowledge contained therein cannot be beat! I APPRECIATE Barbara G. Walker! THANK YOU..
Holy cow. What a treasure trove of information. Absolutely indispensable for the know-it-all uppity woman.
Cecilia Beltran
Mar 30, 2013 Cecilia Beltran rated it it was amazing
Invaluable for the student of mythology!
Jul 06, 2008 Leah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: yowzahs
[Review written by my younger self]
Despite the title, Barbara G. Walker's incredibly thorough handling of female connections and allusions in different cultures, ethnicities, histories, etc. is highly useful and engaging for anyone interested in myth, history, or society in general. In fact, the synopsis includes a highly praising quote from Russell Hoban, the author of _Riddley Walker_. The _Encyclopedia_ covers a huge number of interesting topics that is told in a style of writing that is not
Filled with fascinating entries on everything from "left hand" to "prostitution". I would not take anything in there as reliable without researching it elsewhere as well, but she has pulled on all sorts of sources and traditions for her entries- so it's a good jumping-off place. Some of her sources are shaky and she puts them forth as solid, others of her sources are solid and she may make leaps from them.

Some of what she says is as solid as it comes- you just have to sift it. Either way it's a
Mar 21, 2013 Tiffany rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: witchery
Didn't mind the bias so much--you should really expect a pro-feminist slant to a book of this stripe, that is if you didn't already get it from the title.

The reason I can not in good conscience give this book more stars is because every single time I've heard about or read about a new goddess or (in)famous witch-type and run to this book to look it up it is NOT to be found. Encyclopedias are no good if they don't provide the information you seek.

I gave this book two stars because it is necessa
Oct 21, 2012 Apollonia rated it really liked it
I have owned this book since 1986 and have used it so often, it doesn't look so good anymore. An indispensible work of reference. Some might say there is a bias. True. It is called "The Woman's Enc...." after all. Even today, with Wikipedia and so many other sources available on the internet, I find myself looking things up first in this one. A must for everyone interested in myths.
JK Canepa
I learned and will never forget that most of the biblical tales originated in India: Moses in the bullrushes, the concept of the trinity. Also the hidden stories behind my name and that of my son Apollonio.
Stephanie Christian
Mar 27, 2008 Stephanie Christian rated it it was amazing
A wonderful reference book for anyone. Uncovers the roots and origins of many myths. Very well researched. For those who love history, the occult, and are willing to understand how much women have contributed to all cultures.
Denise M
Aug 28, 2013 Denise M rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own-as-book
An excellent resource of information for anyone looking into female history, culture, sub-culture and anything goddess-related. A useful mind expanding tool. More affordable, inspiring and healthier than any drug. Go and blow your mind!
Apr 28, 2011 Aurel marked it as to-read
Shelves: recommendations
Self Reminder: this was recommend to me as an introduction to the Torah, New Testament, and Koran. Though from the review here, I'm not sure
Debbie Hoskins
Very interesting and fun reference book. All you need to know about religion, philosophy, etc. It would go on the desert island with me. If I could only take 20, 30, 40, 50 books...
Aug 18, 2007 Susan rated it it was amazing
This is really fascinating...and I love reading about some of the more unusual elements of different mythologies from a feminist standpoint.
Jun 28, 2015 jojo rated it it was amazing
This book is a fantastic compilation of interesting stories and symbols. It's a bit like a dictionary with extended entries that you can dip in and out of.

Walker is a very perceptive writer- her style is very likeable, since it steers a course which avoids the worst of new-age hyperbole and she has a genuine interest in prehistory and mythology. It's definitely a varied mix of historical research and curious speculation, so if you are a researcher it would be best as a jumping-off point, not an
Jun 30, 2013 Heather rated it did not like it
This book is complete bullshit. The author blatantly makes shit up, has done barely any research, and what research she has done is of the worst quality.

For example, in the entry on Hathor, Walker claims that "in the earliest dynasties, her name was a component of all royal Egyptian names, indicating the archaic matrilineal queenship based on successive incarnations of her spirit."

Let's unpack this a bit, shall we? First off, her name wasn't included in early royal names. Djer, Djet, Narmer. N
Feb 09, 2016 Leslie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I found this about 20 years in a small bookstore...just browsing. It opened my eyes to a different kind of history that you will not find in any textbook...mostly about how Christianity took over so many matriarchal, pagan traditions and made them their own, and twisted the meaning. Lots of information on the origins of words and customs. It's the one book I have given the most as a gift to female friends...and it's always been a hit. Fascinating.
C.H. Scarlett
Jun 30, 2010 C.H. Scarlett rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite books and I think everyone should have. I have used this book so many times, that I had to buy two copies as the first one fell apart. It is an interesting read and an awesome reference book. It explains the origins on Fairy tales, Gods, Goddesses, Biblical characters, mystical creatures, etc. The book has so much information that is it nearly impossible to list them all.
Dec 04, 2008 Noelle rated it really liked it
I learned loads from this book.
I will say though I think much of the info is biased. However the bias is easy to see and sort out. The info is still good for all that. There's huge amounts of info, huge, huge.
It was eye opening and heartening.
Kinda wish I still had a copy for reference. Mine fell apart into 5 or more pieces after extensive use. I finally gave the pieces up when I moved some years back and was attempting to travel light.
Oct 29, 2011 F.T. rated it it was ok
Shelves: wicca, reference
There is a great deal of information in this book, but it's written with such a heavy bias that I found myself irritated and questioning the research. I would have preferred to get this information in a more thoughtful, well-researched way, instead of being bludgeoned by the author's slanted point of view.
Allyson Shaw
Jun 25, 2009 Allyson Shaw added it
Shelves: reference
The prolific Barbara G. Walker-- what would we do without her? I refer to this epic endeavor of hers quite often. It is a wealth of information, idiosyncratically presented in such a way that it reminds me of Johnson's first dictionary-- a willful presentation of a myriad silenced histories with no pretense of being objective about it.
Jun 25, 2007 HeavyReader rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: spiritual people
Shelves: feminist
My friend Amy gave me her copy of this book because she thought I would like it more than she did. I did like it a lot for a long time, but then I realized that I am not really a spiritual purpose. So I sold the book.

It is a huge book, several hundred pages (like five or six hundred). Contains fascinating information.
Robert Holm
I read this many years ago, during a sad little phase when I trawled my way through everything "alternative" I could find. Looking back on it now (with no small amount of embarrassment for having read the whole thing), the best I can say about this book is that it had the occasional moment as a work of fantasy, but those moments were not many.
Nov 24, 2009 Hannah added it
This is super neat and the kind of thing every writer needs on the shelf. It doesn't just answer the question- what is this? but the questions- what was it originally, how was it changed and for what political reasons, and what is it connected to?
Angie Curtis
May 22, 2009 Angie Curtis rated it it was amazing
Again this is more a reference book than a book that you sit down and read cover to cover but it's definitely one worth having. She covers everything, there is no bias here and I learned so much reading it that I often just flip through from time to time and find new things I missed each time.
Oct 17, 2007 Fostergrants rated it it was amazing
Shelves: learn-something
full of fun lore and info. of course i had to read a few things out loud to my husband....who of course had something snotty to say about whether or not the facts were stretched to suit the female persprective but it was all in good fun. fun!
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mythology 3 9 Sep 21, 2012 04:45AM  
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Barbara Walker studied journalism at the University of Pennsylvania and then took a reporting job at the Washington Star in DC. During her work as a reporter, she became increasingly interested in feminism and women's issues.

Her writing career has been split between knitting instruction books, produced in the late 1960s through the mid-80s; and women's studies and mythology books, produced from t
More about Barbara G. Walker...

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“Few words are so revealing of western sexual prejudice as the word Goddess, in contrast to the word God. Modern connotations vastly differ from those of the ancients, to whom the Goddess was a full-fledged cosmic parent figure who created the universe and its laws, ruler of Nature, Fate, Time, Eternity, Truth, Wisdom, Justice, Love. Birth, Death, etc.” 1 likes
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